The WPA (Works Progress Administration, 1935-1943) Collection contains about 1,400 prints, drawings and posters created by artists hired by the federal government to work in the Philadelphia Graphic Arts Workshop during the Great Depression. Among the artists represented are Julius Block, Sam Brown, Claude Clark, Mildred Elfman, Michael Gallagher, Hubert Mesibov, Raymond Steth and Roswell Weidner.
One of the most prolific and important printmakers working in the Philadelphia Graphic Arts Workshop was an African American artist, Dox Thrash (1893-1965). In 1941, the federal government asked the workshop to produce images that would support the war effort. Thrash created a print called Defense Worker, a carborundum mezzotint over etched guidelines that shows an African American man at work using a jackhammer or a similar tool.