The stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, plunging the nation into “The Great Depression.” The Depression was further complicated by several years of drought. The Dust Bowl, encompassing eastern New Mexico, forced homesteaders to migrate.
After Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1933, his administration quickly implemented large-scale economic and social relief programs. Those programs were expanded, adapted, and evolved over the course of the next decade to include infrastructure, agriculture, education, public art and architecture initiatives, and to become what is referred to as “The New Deal.”.
Between 1933-1943, various federal programs, including—perhaps most famously-- the Works Progress Administration (WPA), hired artists to create murals and artworks for public buildings, such as state houses, schools, and courthouses, trained and commissioned decorative furniture makers and tin workers to provide the interior details, and also funded preservation of culture and heritage, from traditional crafts to oral histories. Photographers, like Russell Lee, John Collier Jr., Dorothea Lang, and Jack Delano, were dispatched to capture scenes of everyday life in New Mexico's small towns.