A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 22, 2013
We Piddle Around (Works Progress Administration or WPA nickname)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) gave jobs to the unemployed during the Depression. The WPA was nicknamed “We Piddle Around” by at least May 1936.


Wikipedia: Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. In much smaller but more famous projects the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the agency. The WPA’s initial appropriation in 1935 was for $4.9 billion (about 6.7 percent of the 1935 GDP), and in total it spent $13.4 billion.

9 May 1936, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, “Waste Scored By ReverComb,” pg. 12, col. 8”
“We Piddle Around.”
“We have nothing to show for this vast outlay,” Mr. Lively said, except the discredited AAA, the NRA, now dead, and the WPA which translated, means “We Piddle Around.”
(Letter by “Al Fresco”—ed.)

4 March 1937, Iola (KS) Daily Register, pg. 4, col. 6:
I note from reports from the seat of a good many of our troubles that the lower house of the legislature has joined forced with the W. P. A. (We Piddle Around) and passed a bill ...

Google Books
The Dawson-Graham and Allied Families
By Gid Graham
Collinsville, OK: s.n.
1938
Pg. 121:
Millions of office-holders and WPA (We Piddle Around) are costing the taxpayers one million dollars per hour and fostering hordes of “gimmes” who have lost the rugged spirit of independence of pioneer Americans and now depend upon the Government.

27 August 1938, Greenboro (NC) Record, “Now and Then” by Colvin Leonard, pg. 10, col. 8:
Yes, one of the alphabetical agencies inspire the “pome.” Mr. Michaux explains further. You know, the one taxpayers think of when somebody say “we piddle around.”

27 December 1939, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 12, col. 7:
“WE PIDDLE AROUND”
WINS IN CONTEST
SAN BENITO—Identification of organizations by initials was a feature on the Kiwanis club program at the regular meeting in the Stonewall Jackson hotel Wednesday noon. The team headed by Chauncey L. Milner defeated that led by Dr. James D. Casey. Highest score was that of George Gibson, who stated that the New Deal WPA stands for “We Piddle Around”

Google Books
The WPA Guide to Wisconsin:
The Federal Writers’ Project guide to 1930’s Wisconsin

By Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Wisconsin.
St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press
2006 (originally published 1941)
Pg. ? (Introduction):
Employed city folk scorned the agency for its make-work projects, insisting that its letters stood for “We Piddle Around,” and rural folk, regardless of how they felt about the New Deal, became uncooperative when they learned that the person making inquiries was “from the government.”

Google Books
First Timers and Old Timers:
The Texas Folklore Society Fire Burns On

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt
Denton,TX: University of North Texas Press
2012
Pg. 131:
The WPA (We Piddle Around) put a lot of men to work building dams and paving roads. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, April 22, 2013 • Permalink