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Archival Chronicle

March 2009:  Volume 28, Number 1

Feature: Taxes | Gallery: Alphabet Soup in the Great Depression | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage

The Alphabet Soup Defined

The New Deal Spawned a host of new federal agencies, all intended to restart the nation's financial system. Their long names were usually abbreviated to their initials, and it wasn't long before Americans joked about an "alphabet soup" of programs. All the agencies below are identified on the map in this issue's Gallery.

AAAAgricultural Adjustment Administration
Enacted May 12, 1933) paid farmers subsidies for letting a portion of their fields lie fallow, reducing crop surplus in order to raise the value of the crops, thus stabilizing prices. It is often considered the first modern U.S. farm bill.
B for CBanks for Cooperatives
A system of twelve district banks whose purpose was to make loans to small farmers for the production and marketing of farm products.
CCCCommodity Credit Corporation (not to be confused with the Civilian Conservation Corps)
A Government-owned and operated entity that was created to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices. Still in existence today under the Department of Agriculture.
CWACivil Works Administration
Established to create temporary construction jobs for millions of unemployed, for the duration of the hard winter, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on March 31, 1934. Created in tandem with the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933-1942) which focused on natural resource conservation.
DADepartment of Agriculture (relief)
Crucial to providing assistance to rural families, helping to ensure that food continued to be produced and distributed, assisting with loans for small landowners, and contributing to the education of rural youth.
ECWEmergency Conservation Work
Better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps, it employed thousands of men to help with natural resource conservation. Members lived in camps, wore uniforms, and lived under quasi-military discipline. Among the most popular of the New Deal programs.
EHFAElectric Home and Farm Authority
Established to provide low-cost loans to help farmers purchase major electrical appliances.
E-IBExport-Import Banks
An independent agency established in 1934 to create jobs through exports of American goods, it is today the official export credit agency of the U.S. government, financing and insuring foreign purchases of American goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk.
FCAFarm Credit Administration
Established by the Farm Credit Act of 1933, its goal was to help farmers in danger of losing their land to refinance their mortgages over a longer time at below-market interest rates at regional and national banks.
FDICFederal Deposit Insurance Corporation
An independent agency designed to promote confidence in banks and to provide insurange for deposits up to $100,000. By 1934, over one-third of all U.S. banks had failed. Still in operation, the corporation derives its income from assessments on insured banks and interest on government securities.
FERAFederal Emergency Relief Administration
The first direct-relief operation under the New Deal, the programs emphasized work, to alleviate unemployment, providing state assistance for the unemployed and their families. Operated from 1933-1935, it gave states and localities $3.1 billion to operate local work projects and transient programs, providing work for over 20 million people.
FFLBFederal Farm Land Banks
Originating in 1916, these regional banks were established to assist farmers to purchase land. Additional funding was granted under the Hoover Administration in 1932, and in 1933, all then existing federal agricultural-credit organizations were unified into one agency, the Farm Credit Administration.
FFMCFederal Farm Mortgage Corporation
An agency created with authority to borrow up to $2 billion for use in making emergency farm mortgage loans, to prevent farmers from losing their farms by foreclosure.
FHAFederal Housing Administration
Up until the early 1930s, most home mortgages were three to five years long and refinancing was not available. With the failure of the banking system, thousands of people lost their homes. This agency, still in operation today, had as its goals to improve housing standards and conditions, provide an adequate home financing system through insurance of mortgage loans, and to stabilize the mortgage market.
FICBFederal Intermediate Credit Banks
Established in 1923, the agency was intended to finance and discount the paper of agricultural credit organizations, commercial banks, savings institutions, and cooperatives, in order to channel funds to individual farmers.
FSHCFederal Subsistence Homesteads Corporation
In a back-to-the-farm" movement, existing farmland was purchased and subdivided into one to five acre plots where low-income families were relocated so that they could produce their own food and find non-farm employment nearby. Some 43 projects were constructed around the country, ranging in size from 25 to 300 homesteads each.
FS&LAFederal Savings and Loan Association
In conjunction with the FHA, established to help people purchase homes via mortgages.
FSRCFederal Surplus Relief Corporation
This agency helped farmers by removing surplus commodities from the open market. With a smaller supply, farm prices would rise. The agency also made the surplus commodities available for distribution to local relief agencies.
HOLCHome Owners Loan Corporation
In a program applicable to nonfarm homes worth less than $20,000, this agency refinanced problem loans, usually by extending the loan period to 20-25 years. Over a million people were assisted. The agency stopped lending about 1935 and ended operations in 1951, by which time it had turned a small profit.
JSLBJoint Stock Land Banks
Joint-Stock Land Banks were chartered in 1916, financed with private capital and permitted to make loans for agricultural purposes. The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act of 1933 ordered the joint-stock land banks liquidated and the Farm Credit Act (1933) provided the Land Bank Commission with $100 million for two years, renewed through 1937.
LBCFLand Bank Commissioner’s Fund
Another of the agencies established about 1916 to assist farmers with loans, folded into the Farm Credit Association under the Roosevelt Administration.
NRANational Recovery Administration
The NRA allowed industries to create "codes of fair competition," to help workers by setting minimum wages and maximum weekly hours, and allowed industry heads to collectively set minimum prices. In 1936, the Supreme Court unanimously declared the NRA as unconstitutional. The NRA quickly stopped operations, but many of its labor provisions reappeared in the Wagner Act of 1935.
PCC&AProduction Credit Corporations and Associations
The Farm Credit Act of 1933 established a system of production credit corporations and associations, with financing from the Federal Intermediate Credit Banks, to provide operating loans to farmers on a short-term credit basis.
PWAPublic Works Administration
One of the largest agencies of the New Deal, its purpose was to administer the construction of various public works, such as public buildings, bridges, dams, and housing developments, and to make loans to states and municipalities for similar projects. The PWA was liquidated in the 1940s.
PW-IPublic Works (federal projects)
See PWA.
PW-IIPublic Works (non-federal projects)
Local projects funded by the PWA
PWEHCPublic Works Emergency Housing Corporation
Provided federal assistance for the construction of local public housing projects.
RFCReconstruction Finance Corporation
Chartered during the Hoover administration in 1932, it was modeled after the War Finance Corporation of World War I. The agency gave $2 billion in aid to state and local governments and made loans to banks, railroads, farm mortgage associations, and other businesses. The loans were nearly all repaid. It was continued by the New Deal and played a major role in handling the Great Depressiom.
RFC-IReconstruction Finance Corporation (direct loans and expenditures)
SLCPLSeed Loans and Crop Production Loans
Another agricultural assistance program to aid farmers having trouble getting conventional bank loans.
TVATennessee Valley Authority
One of the most successful New Deal programs, the TVA was created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region especially affected by the Great Depression.
TVACTennessee Valley Authority Associated Cooperatives
Related regional electric cooperatives created from TVA work.
XOther Administrative Agencies

Gallery:  Alphabet Soup in the Great Depression | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage