The Prints & Photographs Division’s collection of posters produced for the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in the 1930s and 1940s is one of many highlights among the division’s extensive poster holdings. These posters touch on a number of themes, including public health and occupational safety, travel and tourism, recreation and educational programs and World War II. Luckily for researchers, the more than 900 posters have long been digitized and are available for viewing from anywhere.
As Jan Grenci, our poster specialist, notes: “The WPA posters continue to be of interest not just because of their historical significance as a product of a New Deal program, but also because they stand the test of time as examples of great design.” Jan shared this poster, which promotes resources provided by libraries, as well as winter sport!
WPA posters advertise a variety of other educational community services, including adult classes on a number of subjects. This one lists pottery, sewing, metalwork and photography among a number of subjects students could explore at New York’s Henry Street Settlement Craft School.
Other WPA posters promote health and safety. Like many in the collection, this poster proposes solutions to dangers in the workplace.
Others offer reminders of the risks inherent in certain kinds of work, promoting general awareness and vigilance.
These two posters by Erik Hans Krause emphasize the importance of cleanliness as part of a public health campaign.
Posters promoting the beauty of America’s National Parks and other protected spaces are among the most popular.
If you were not already familiar with the WPA’s posters, or with the collection at the Library of Congress, we hope these examples show why these resources are a perennial favorite. Please feel free to use the links below to explore further.
- Explore the WPA Poster Collection in this overview, which includes background information about the collection as well as options to search or “view all” of the digitized images.
- Read other Picture This blog posts featuring the WPA posters: Keep Mum: WPA Posters Do the Talking and New Deal in the New Year: WPA Posters on Flickr.
- WPA posters are prominent among the New Deal-era primary sources and teaching guide offered on the Teachers portion of the Library of Congress web site.
- See this guide to the many New Deal-related collections at the Library of Congress.