Images of the Great Depression in Ohio: Documentary Portraits Revisited

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The 1930s provided a New Deal for artists and scholars who, like everyone else, felt the sting of hardship and unemployment.  Established in 1935 as a division of the Works Projects Administration, Federal Project Number One had two goals - to provide work relief to artists and to enrich Americans' everyday lives with free concerts, murals in libraries, and statuary for parks.

In Ohio, Federal One employed 1,500 writers, painters, actors, stagehands, playwrights, musicians, teachers, librarians, and researchers who contributed to countless projects.  Federal One artists were assigned practical, creative work that was considered "socially useful," such as creating reproductions of art collections for classroom use and posters promoting health and education.  The Ohio State School for the Blind kept a team of craftsmen busy creating models and replicas to help sight-impaired children learn world history.

Writers and historians gained employment working on The Ohio Guide, interviewing ex-slaves, and cataloguing historic records in towns across the state.  Like the FSA photographers, Federal One writers were often assigned to other government agencies to produce reports and brochures.  The Ohio writing team was prolific, producing more pamphlets, books, maps, and county histories than any other state in the nation.