The Great Depression was a devastating economic crisis that began in 1929 and lasted through most of the 1930s. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, and savings as banks failed and businesses went bankrupt. During this bleak time, an ambitious infrastructure project provided a lifeline for struggling families.

The Rise of Electricity and the Power Grid

In the early 20th century, electricity was transforming American life. New inventions like refrigerators, radios, and electric lights were becoming common household items. However, only urban areas had access to electricity through a centralized power grid. Rural areas still lacked electrical power.

To bring electricity to more citizens, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in 1935. The REA gave out low-cost government loans to build electric systems in rural areas. One of their first projects was an ambitious secret plan that became vital during the Great Depression years.

Stringing Wires Across America

In the 1930s, only around 10% of rural farms had electricity. Farm work was extremely laborious without electrical tools and lighting. The REA planned to change this using a massive public works project.

Their goal was to install thousands of miles of wiring to create a rural electric grid. Hundreds of electricity cooperatives applied for REA loans to fund construction. The project provided much-needed jobs for Americans from all walks of life. Engineers, electricians, surveyors, linesmen, and laborers worked on the rural electrification project.

Keeping the Project Secret was Vital

The REA knew they had to keep the rural electrification project secret for two important reasons:

Only REA administrators in Washington D.C. knew the full scope. Local cooperatives saw only their small sections without knowing the bigger picture. This secrecy was crucial to the success of rural electrification.

Providing Relief During the Great Depression

Bringing electricity to rural America proved to be perfectly timed. The REA's actions resulted in:

The REA brought direct relief when it was needed most in rural communities.

Transforming Life After the Depression

While initiated as a Depression-era public works project, the impact of rural electrification lasted far beyond the 1930s. Access to electricity completely transformed life in rural America over the following decades.

With electricity, farming became much more efficient with equipment like irrigation pumps, milking machines, and refrigeration. Electric lights allowed children to study and families to complete chores after sunset. Home appliances like stoves, irons, and toasters reduced domestic burdens. Radios and telephones connected isolated homesteads.

The REA's secret endeavor brought power to the people when they needed it most. Their wiring project delivered hope during the Great Depression and a better way of life for generations to come.