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The New Deal

President Roosevelt’s New Deal

By Catherine A. Paul

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

William Gropper's "Construction of a Dam" (1939)
William Gropper’s “Construction of a Dam” (1939)
Photo: United State Department of the Interior


Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Photo: FDR Library

The New Deal was enacted from 1933 to 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide immediate economic relief from the Great Depression and to address necessary reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, water power, labor, and housing. The New Deal was grounded in the belief that the power of the federal government was needed to lift America from the Great Depression (Library of Congress, n.d.). These programs signaled both an expansion of federal power and a transformation in the relationship between the federal government and the American people (Hopkins, 2011).

Public Works Administration Project: Bonneville Power and Navigation Dam, Oregon.
Public Works Administration Project: Bonneville Power and Navigation Dam, Oregon
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration
ID: 195806

Many of the New Deal policies were enacted in the first three months of President Roosevelt’s time in office, which became known as the “Hundred Days.” Roosevelt’s first objective was to address widespread unemployment by establishing agencies such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Such agencies dispensed emergency and short-term government aid and provided temporary jobs, such as work on construction projects and national forests (New Deal, n.d.).

Before 1935, the New Deal’s primary focus was on revitalizing business and agricultural communities. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) shaped industrial regulations governing trade practices, wages, hours, child labor, and collective bargaining. Moreover, the New Deal sought to regulate the country’s financial hierarchy to prevent another incident like the stock market crash of 1929 and the bank failures that followed. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) granted federal insurance for bank deposits in Federal Reserve System member banks, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) protected individuals from fraudulent stock market practices. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) controlled the production of staple crops through cash subsidies to farmers in order to raise prices, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) covered seven states to supply cheap electricity, prevent floods, improve navigation, and produce nitrates (New Deal, n.d.).

1935 New Deal parody cartoon by Vaughn Shoemaker
1935 New Deal parody cartoon by Vaughn Shoemaker
Photo: Public Domain

In 1935, the New Deal shifted its attention to labor and urban groups. The Wagner Act increased the authority of the federal government in industrial relations and gave further organizing power to labor unions under the execution of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In addition, one of the most notable New Deal programs, the Social Security Board (SSB), was enacted in 1935 and 1939, providing benefits to the elderly and to widows, unemployment compensation, and disability insurance. Moreover, maximum working hours and a minimum wage were set in some industries in 1938 (New Deal, n.d.).

While many New Deal reforms were generally met with acceptance, certain laws were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, which stated that the federal government had no authority to regulate industry or undertake social or economic reform. In response, Roosevelt proposed in 1937 to reorganize the court. Ultimately, this effort failed, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the contested legislation (New Deal, n.d.). By 1939, the New Deal had improved the lives of Americans suffering from the Great Depression, set a precedent for the federal government to help regulate economic social and economic affairs of the nation, and insisted that even poor individuals had rights, (Venn, 1998).

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For Further Reading:

“1934: The Art of the New Deal,” courtesy of the Smithsonian

“New Deal,” courtesy of the National Archives 

“The New Deal: Primary Source Set,” courtesy of the Digital Public Library of America

“The New Deal,” courtesy of the National Museum of American History


Hopkins, J. (2011). The New Deal. A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt (238-258). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Library of Congress. (n.d.). President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-1945. The Library of Congress. Retrieved from

New Deal. (n.d.). In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from

Venn, F. (1998). The New Deal. Edinburgh, SCT: Edinburgh University Press.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Paul, C. A. (2017). President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from