Alphabet agencies

Editorial cartoons parodied the New Deal as Roosevelt's private game with alphabetical agencies.

The alphabet soup (also New Deal agencies) were the U.S. federal government agencies created as part of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The earliest agencies were created to combat the Great Depression in the United States and were established during Roosevelt's first 100 days in office in 1933. William Safire notes that the phrase "gave color to the charge of excessive bureaucracy." Democrat Al Smith, who turned against Roosevelt, said his government was “submerged in a bowl of alphabet soup."[1]

In total, at least 100 offices were created during Roosevelt's terms of office as part of the New Deal, and "even the Comptroller-General of the United States, who audits the government's accounts, declared he had never heard of some of them."[2] While previously all monetary appropriations had been separately passed by Act of Congress, as part of their power of the purse; the National Industrial Recovery Act allowed Roosevelt to allocate $3.3 billion without Congress (as much as had been previously spent by government in ten years time), through executive orders and other means. These powers were used to create many of the alphabet agencies. Other laws were passed allowing the new bureaus to pass their own directives within a wide sphere of authority.[2] Even though the National Industrial Recovery Act was found to be unconstitutional, many of the agencies created under it remained.

Some alphabet agencies were established by Congress, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. Others were established through Roosevelt executive orders, such as the Works Progress Administration and the Office of Censorship, or were part of larger programs such as the many that belonged to the Works Progress Administration. The agencies were sometimes referred to as alphabet soup. Some of the agencies still exist today, while others have merged with other departments and agencies or were abolished, or found unconstitutional.

Partial list of Alphabet Agencies

Initialism Year Agency
AAA 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Administration
CCC 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps
CWA 1933 Civil Works Administration
DRS 1935 Drought Relief Service
DSH 1933 Subsistence Homesteads Division
EBA 1933 Emergency Banking Act
FAA 1933 Federal Aviation Administration
FAP 1935 Federal Art Project (part of WPA)
FCA 1933 Farm Credit Administration
FCC 1934 Federal Communications Commission
FDIC 1933 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
FERA 1933 Federal Emergency Relief Administration
FHA 1934 Federal Housing Administration
FLSA 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act
FMP 1935 Federal Music Project (part of WPA)
FSA 1935 Farm Security Administration
FSRC 1933 Federal Surplus Relief Corporation
FTP 1935 Federal Theatre Project (part of WPA)
FWA 1939 Federal Works Agency
FWP 1935 Federal Writers' Project (part of WPA)
HOLC 1933 Home Owners' Loan Corporation
NIRA 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act
NLRA 1935 National Labor Relations Act
NLRB 1934 National Labor Relations Board/The Wagner Act
NRA 1933 National Recovery Administration
NYA 1935 National Youth Administration
PRRA 1933 Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
PWA 1933 Public Works Administration
RA 1935 Resettlement Administration
REA 1935 Rural Electrification Administration (now Rural Utilities Service)
SEC 1934 Securities and Exchange Commission
SSA 1935 Social Security Administration
SSB 1935 Social Security Board (now Social Security Administration)
TVA 1933 Tennessee Valley Authority
USHA 1937 United States Housing Authority
USMC 1936 United States Maritime Commission
WPA 1935 Works Progress Administration


  1. William Safire (2008). Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 15.
  2. 1 2 Flynn, John. The Roosevelt Myth, Garden City Books, 1948.
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