Last week I rescued this wooden box from an estate sale in Southern California. It's about 12 x 12 x 6 inches, and it intrigued me for many reasons:
It was obviously handmade and hand-painted;
It appears to date from the World War II era;
It contains a number of handmade wooden games, markers, marbles and a spinner....
...and it must have been made after the Works Progress Administration's name was changed to Work Projects Administration in 1939, and almost certainly after December 1941 because of the "War Services Section" on the hand-painted lid.
A little history: America was reeling from the effects of the Great Depression. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the Works Progress Administration (later renamed the Work Projects Administration), basically to create jobs for the unemployed. It appears that more than 7,000 communities across the United States operated WPA-sponsored Recreation Programs in school buildings, community centers, libraries, private homes, and other locations, in partnerships with local organizations such as local government agencies, school boards, civic groups, churches and the like. Game room activities were some of the most popular; others included basketball, swimming, arts and crafts, dancing and so on. The WPA paid workers to operate the Recreation Projects.
But I wasn't able to determine where this box might have been used, nor how the games were played. Perhaps someday the wooden box can become part of a collection where it will help inform our understanding of how Americans moved through the Great Depression and World War II, together.
Here's a slideshow of WPA Recreation & Child Care Programs in Kentucky, courtesy of the University of Kentucky's WPA Collection.