Public Works Administration

The Public Works Administration (PWA) was headed by Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior. Congress gave permission for the PWA to spend $3,300,000,000 for various public works projects. This included the construction of schools, hospitals, post offices, roads and dams. By June 1934 the agency had distributed its entire fund to 13,266 federal projects and 2,407 non-federal projects.

Jerry Doyle, Philadelphia Daily News (3rd March, 1933)
Jerry Doyle, Philadelphia Daily News (3rd March, 1933)

Primary Sources

(1) Harold L. Ickes, The Autobiography of a Curmudgeon (1943)

I have attempted to sketch briefly PWA's direct contribution to national defense. Because of the leeway that it had under the law to make grants to cover the entire cost of Federal projects, PWA was able to undertake some others that, while useful in peacetime, are just as important for war purposes as are munitions themselves.

I particularly have in mind hydroelectric power developments. Where would we be today with a scarcity of power already making itself felt, and a greater lack facing us during the next few years, if we had not gone in for the most stupendous program of power development in history?

We claim no credit for the conception of Boulder Dam or of the TVA. But we hurried Boulder Dam to completion after we came in in 1933 and finished it two years ahead of schedule. The power now being generated there is indispensable to the war. And while the main credit for the TVA must gratefully go to that really fine elder statesman, George W. Norris, the records will show that it was PWA encouragement - encouragement in the form of coin of the realm - that gave it not only the means but the opportunity to expand into the vitally important project that it is.