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History of Social Welfare Policies & Programs Up to the 1930s: The 20th Century

This guide focuses on resources that you can use when seeking information on the history of social welfare policies and programs in the U.S. up to the 1930s.

What's Here?

A Collection of "primary sources"--reports, works of literature, articles designed to acquaint the general public with social issues, photographs, and other documents that were produced in the first third of the 20th century. These can give you a sense of how issues were viewed and reported at the time.

How They Saw It

How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York.
Jacob Riis. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890.
The Slums of Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia
Carroll D. Wright. Seventh Special Report of the Commissioner of Labor. Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1894.
On the Lower East Side: Observations of Life in Lower Manhattan at the Turn of the Century
A collection of turn of the century articles and other documentary sources accompanied by introductory materials.
The Jungle.
Upton Sinclair. New York, Doubleday, 1906.
Novel focusing on the Chicago stockyards at the turn of the 20th century and often credited with being the catalyst for the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration and the subsequent meat industry inspection standards.
Poor Law Aspects of National Health Insurance: An Address Read at the National Conference of Social Work, New Orleans, La., April 21, 1920.
Frederick L. Hoffman. Newark, N.J., Prudential Press, 1920.
"The poor law aspects of national health insurance best illustrate the fallacy of the alluring promises held out by those who are making propaganda for compulsory health insurance, indifferent to the facts and the lessons of past experience."
Forty Years at Hull-House; being "Twenty Years at Hull-House and "The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House"
Jane Addams and Lillian D. Wald. New York, Macmillan Co., 1935.

Survey Graphic
Survey Graphic began publication in 1921 as a companion to The Survey, the premier social work journal in the 1920s. Written in a stytle that was accessible to the general public, Survey Graphic focused on important social issues such as race, housing, labor, unemployment, education and healthcare, and had considerable influence on public policy.
Dana Library has volumes 16-37, 1929-1948, of Survey Graphic downstairs in the Lower Level (Shelved by Title).

Volumes 22 to 37 (1933-1948) of the Survey Graphic are available online from the Internet Archive.

Selections from Survey Graphic are also available at the following sites:

New Deal Network
Virtual library of over 20,000 photographs, political cartoons, and texts (articles, speeches, letters, and othe documents). Includes a Document Library organized by topic, a New Deal Photo Gallery, selections of the press conferences of the various New Deal Work Relief agencies, and a Labor in the 1930s Bibliography.