Jump to Content

Help and a New Deal

Questions to Consider

How did the federal government attempt to help citizens affected by the Great Depression?

What sorts of work did the New Deal offer people?

Did everyone support the New Deal?

What solutions did people create to combat unemployment outside of government programs?

About the Images

These images show how the US government responded to the widespread unemployment of the Great Depression. They also illustrate the unique solutions people created outside of government-funded programs.


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (photographed in 1935 with his wife, Eleanor) created the New Deal as a solution for bringing the United States out of the Great Depression. The New Deal created a new role for the federal government, one that involved infusing money into the economy largely through the creation of new jobs and social programs. One photograph shows Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act of 1935, which was designed to keep citizens from becoming destitute.

The New Deal also created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which funded artists to create public art projects and others to complete a wide variety of work projects, such as the construction of roads, trails, theaters, and public buildings. Several images show the wide variety of work that the WPA helped fund: an artist painting a mural, a man tending a butterfly collection in the Natural History Museum, and people clipping articles.

Not everyone supported the government's new, expanded role. The image of men holding a banner that reads "Against Roosevelt's New Deal" was taken at a Communist demonstration in San Diego in 1933.

Still others created their own solution to the Depression's hard times by forming cooperative organizations. The aim of the co-op movement was for people to work together and share the proceeds of their labors. In the early years of the Depression in California, many sorts of self-help cooperatives were formed by individuals (often called "cooperators"). The images in this group show cooperative pie-making, sewing and quilting ventures, and a cooperative barber shop, art studio, construction enterprises, and cannery.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s. (4.4.5)

Grade 11:

11.6 Students analyze the different explanations for the Great Depression and how the New Deal fundamentally changed the role of the federal government. (11.6.3)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)