What Was the New Deal?

The New Deal was the set of federal programs launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after taking office in 1933, in response to the calamity of the Great Depression, and lasting until American entry into the Second World War in 1942. It had four major goals and achievements:

Angell St. WPA PlaqueEconomic Recovery

The New Deal stabilized the banks and cleaned up the financial mess left over from the Stock Market crash of 1929.  It stabilized prices for industry and agriculture and aided bankrupt state and local governments.  Most of all, it injected a huge amount of federal spending to bolster aggregate incomes and demand.

Job Creation

One in four Americans was out of work by 1933, after four years of depression.  The New Deal created a multitude of agencies to provide jobs for millions of workers and paid wages that saved millions of destitute families. It also recognized the rights of workers to organize in unions.

Investment in Public Works

The New Deal built hundreds of thousands of highways, bridges, hospitals, schools, theaters, libraries, city halls, homes, post offices, airports, and parks across America.  These investments helped underwrite postwar prosperity and most of the New Deal infrastructure is still in use today.

Civic Uplift

The New Deal touched every state, city, and town, improving the lives of ordinary people and reshaping the public sphere.  New Dealers and the men and women who worked on New Deal programs believed they were not only serving their families and communities, but building the foundation for a great and caring society.

Iron Truss Bridge, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio TXIn less than a decade, the New Deal changed the face of America and laid the foundation for success in World War II and the prosperity of the postwar era – the greatest and fairest epoch in American history.  Most of all, the New Deal inspired a civic, cultural, and economic renaissance. But the New Deal is fading from collective memory—a casualty of time, neglect, and politics.  The Living New Deal is making visible that enduring legacy.

One of the ways we are doing that is to create brief introductions to New Deal laws and programs, a year-by-year timeline of New Deal legislation and events, and short bios of major New Deal figures.

To find out more, use the pull down menu or click on the following: 

New Deal Programs

New Deal Timeline

New Dealers

For a further introduction, see the New Deal in Brief by Richard Walker (2011).

For a more complete overview, see R. Walker & G. Brechin, The Living New Deal: the Unsung Benefits of the New Deal for the United States and California (2010)