Electricians from Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation (BEMC), Shallotte, NC. The BEMC was often referred to as the REA, or Rural Electrification Administration, by people living in this part of the country.

Both the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) strove to build and improve the public sphere by employing workers, both skilled and unskilled, to create public buildings and roads, and to bring essential utilities to Americans. Perhaps most notable is the role the PWA, WPA, TVA, and other New Deal agencies played in providing electricity and other basic services to rural areas of the US for the first time.

The Rural Electricity Administration (REA), for example, sought to make electricity and electric lines more easily available in rural areas of the country in order to redress disparities in electricity use between the US and Europe. Before the organization’s founding, only 11% of US farms had electricity; by 1952, less than two decades after the founding of the REA, nearly all US farms had electricity. From electric lines to dams, public works projects boomed as a result of the New Deal, and many of the projects implemented by New Deal agencies served as integral steps in the development of today’s infrastructural and agricultural landscape.