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Things had to be started quickly. Local officers were to suggest projects, state officials were to 0. K. them, without waiting for approval from Washington. Furthermore, all projects were to be entered upon without contracts which have to be passed on by many legal authorities, and thus slow down any emergency program. No stipulation was made that local authorities had to contribute money, but CWA made many promise to pay the costs of materials.
A special effort was made to find CWA projects for women and for skilled laborers. Actually about 5% of those hired were skilled. Many strange things had to be found for the white collar people to do. For example, last week in Missouri a group of professional singers headed by Miss Edna Haseltine was hired at 35¢ an hour, sent out into the Ozark hills to give grand opera—only it was not called that for fear the natives would not attend. Admissions charged in different towns were turned back to buy materials for local CWA projects. Elsewhere unemployed musicians were hired to give public symphonies, unemployed actors to give public plays. Said Mr. Hopkins: "Great art ... is confined to a few people. If it is good for 20,000 people it will be good for 20,000,000." Similarly two men with a reading knowledge of Russian were hired to study the effect of temperature and rainfall on the Russian wheat crop. Twelve others arranged the books on the shelves of the Department of Agriculture library, cleaned the volumes, oiled their leather bindings.
Other CWA projects now in progress: 4,464 Indians to repair their own houses on Indian Reservations; 1,104 to excavate prehistoric Indian mounds for the Smithsonian Institution; 211 men to pull up seaside and swamp morning-glories, hosts of the sweet potato weevil; 198 men to remove debris from Alaskan rivers so salmon can swim up and spawn; 94 Indians to transport snowshoe rabbits to those of the Kodiak Islands that need to be restocked; 1,112 men to eradicate phony peach; a group to wash Manhattan's civic statues; unemployed colored girls to keep house for destitute families.
Graft. All this haste in pushing out Federal money has resulted in cases of padded payrolls and political favoritism. Last week PWA had 130 investigators looking into CWA & PWA frauds. Mr. Hopkins had to appoint Army Engineers to take charge of CWA work in Chicago and Los Angeles. In Colorado he supplanted a state committee that was not getting action because of political quarrels by one of his own administrators.
His chief field representative and investigator is Miss Lorena Hickok who for eight years worked for the Associated Press. She is a rotund lady with a husky voice, a peremptory manner, baggy clothes. In her day one of the country's best female newshawks, she was assigned to Albany to cover the New York Executive Mansion where she became fast friends with Mrs. Roosevelt. Since then she has gone around a lot with the First Lady, up to New Brunswick and down to Warm Springs. Last July Mr. Hopkins, who is a great admirer of Mrs. Roosevelt, hired Miss Hickok and now she travels all over the country using her nose-for-news to report on relief conditions. Last week when it was announced that Mrs. Roosevelt planned to visit Puerto Rico in March, it became known that Miss Hickok would also go along to look into Mr. Hopkins' relief work there.
Besides investigators Mr. Hopkins keeps busy a set of accountants who have set up books for state relief and CWA projects, supply him with complete reports of every cent spent in every state. He was quite candid in speaking of graft to Congressional inquirers: "On work relief we may have an occasional padded payroll. . . . I think in the main [Civil Works projects] are three or four times as good as the projects under relief. . . . Political interference has been a difficulty. I would not say it is serious but it has been a difficulty. I have quit getting mad about it. . . . I am amazed at the number of people who are trying to horn in on making a little money. . . . The number who have been implicated in graft is very small although it looms large in the public's mind. It may be my own fault. . . . I may have made a mistake in kicking a lot of this stuff outdoors. But I don't like it when people . . . finagle around the back door."
Of the $950,000,000 given him by the new law, Mr. Hopkins said he intended to use $450,000,000 to taper off CWA gradually and $500,000,000 for direct relief. Congress would like him to use more for CWA but he came out strongly against it, declaring that CWA was an emergency measure, should not be permanent, should be gradually demobilized.
The Professional. The New Deal's head of the Treasury is a scientific farmer. The New Deal's lender of money is a successful promoter from Texas. But the New Deal's giver of relief is a professional giver of relief. Father Hopkins was a retail leather merchant in Sioux City and Mother Hopkins was a devout Methodist, an active member of the Iowa Home Missionary Society. Harry ("Hi"), 43, the third of their five children, takes after neither. Like his elder sister Adah (now selling insurance in Manhattan) and his elder brother (now a doctor in Tacoma), he worked his way through Grinnell College. He was also a member of the state tennis team. He wanted to publish a newspaper in Montana, but instead he took his first job as a Director of Boys Work with Christodora House, a "settlement" institution on Avenue B, Manhattan. From that time on he held nothing but jobs as a social worker or relief giver—with the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, largest private charity in Manhattan, with the Reform Administration of Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, with the Board of Child Welfare, with the Red Cross during the War, with the New York Tuberculosis & Health Association. Governor Roosevelt made him New York's Relief Administrator in 1931.
But Harry Hopkins is no typical settlement worker. He plays bridge and poker, takes a drink now and then, belongs to no church. He married a social worker, had three sons, was divorced and married again. A psychoanalyst told him he was repressed because he had been the middle child in his family, had had little attention. He makes friends easily not only with spinster social workers whom he kids along but with politicians, artists and writers.
Last spring he moved to Washington with his second wife and their two-year-old daughter, took an apartment in the Kennedy-Warren apartment hotel and set to work in an office in the Hurley-Wright building overlooking the Washington Monument. It is so small that it will not hold more than three people comfortably. It has no clock because Harry Hopkins does not want to know how late he works. Frequently he skips lunch altogether. Last week New York's Mayor LaGuardia and the New York State Relief Director called on him. Since they had no time for lunch either they shared a bottle of milk and some sandwiches which Mr. Hopkins' secretary had brought to the office for herself.
In Washington CWAdministrator Hopkins has made a reputation for himself that is wholly independent of his fortuitous political popularity as the greatest disburser of ready cash in the country's history. Not eloquent as a speaker, he knows how to josh politicians, how to keep them in order. When he got the 1,000 mayors and others together to start the CWA he cut the mayor of Duluth short after two sentences by asking whether he was making a speech or asking a question. When the mayor of Chicago asked a question with a political implication he stopped him with the remark that the Century of Progress must be over if Chicago was asking for help. When the mayor of Seattle wanted to know whether he had to go home to make an application for a project Mr. Hopkins told him that, for all he cared, the mayor could meet the state director in front of the Lincoln Memorial. To a question from the mayor of Savannah about seashore erosion he answered: "You will have to ask us officially, and then somebody who knows more about it than I do will write a letter for me to sign."
In spite of his lack of eloquence and his gift for wise cracks, his sincerity has so impressed Congress that one profane Senator after hearing him remarked: "If Roosevelt ever becomes Jesus Christ, he should have Harry Hopkins as his prophet."
* All records for cold were broken in New England where temperatures as low as —56° were reported. In Boston it went to —18°, in Manhattan to —14°, in Philadelphia to —11°. Florida had snow and hail (which killed two cows). Dwellers on islands off the North Atlantic coast were icebound and had to be fed by airplane. Temperatures recorded included —4° at Lynchburg, Va., —6° at Washington, —8° at Richmond, —8° at Atlantic City, —26° at Buffalo, —12° at Toledo, —34° at Sault Ste. Marie, —10° at Duluth, —2° at Chicago, —16° at Detroit. Total death toll from cold: 40. *Biggest year's expenditure for the British dole: £49,000,000 in 1932 ($239,000,000 at par).