The FSA was the successor to a line of New Deal programs designed to take control of agricultural problems and alleviate rural poverty. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration was the first, responsible for engineering the now-famous strategy of paying farmers to reduce agricultural production. This tactic had been successful in raising commodity prices, but had the detrimental effect of punishing small farmers and sharecroppers, for whom reduced production meant the loss of their tenancy or entire livelihood. The Resettlement Administration, which replaced the AAA, was created out of the need to combat just such unforeseen results of prior ineffective policy (Fleischhauer and Brannan 2). The RA was ultimately renamed and became the Farm Security Administration.

We can infer, at the least, from the turnover in agencies (a New Deal phenomenon often referred to by detractors as "alphabet soup") that the need for public relations mediation was great. The struggle between the New Deal administration and the Congress that controlled funding was fierce, and the public image of the agencies fluctuated greatly. Rexford E. Tugwell, the former professor of economics from Columbia and Roosevelt braintruster (Fleischhauer and Brannan 2) who headed the Resettlement Administration, established an Information Division for this very purpose (Carlebach and Provenzo 20). He appointed Roy Emerson Stryker in the summer of 1935 to head up the Historical Section of the Information Division, the project that would come to produce perhaps the most famous body of documentary photography in American history.



Juliet Gorman, May 2001