Portrait of America: Survey Graphic in the ThirtiesHomeIntroductionEditor's NotesArticlesReading


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Established in 1921 as a companion to the social work journal The Survey, Survey Graphic targeted a mainstream audience interested in social and cultural issues.

Paul KelloggIn the 1930s, Survey Graphic provided a public forum for discussions about unemployment, labor unrest, race relations, healthcare, and technological change. According to the magazine's editor, Paul Kellogg, Survey Graphic relied on "social team play," bringing together writers from different fields and with different viewpoints to discuss issues that Americans were concerned about, but mainstream media publications seldom discussed. [1]

Historians have noted that Survey Graphic's predecessors, Charities and Charities and the Commons, were ahead of their time in their coverage of social issues. [2] Throughout the 1930s, Survey Graphic continued this tradition, breaking new ground with articles on topics such as police brutality in the Harlem riots (August 1936), the silicosis hazard in American industry (December 1936), and the consequences of new technologies for workers (May 1937).

"Old Progressives" and the New Deal

Key to many Survey Graphic articles was the role that government—federal, state, and local—played in shaping the lives of Americans. Like many social workers in the thirties, Paul Kellogg worked through government channels to effect the kinds of changes he believed were necessary to help Americans out of the Depression crisis. [3]

President Franklin Roosevelt selected Kellogg to serve as vice chairman of the President's Committee on Economic Security. Kellogg also served on the Federal Action Committee of the American Association of Social Workers. [4]

Historian Otis Graham has noted that "old progressives" such as Kellogg were supportive of New Deal reforms because they offered what progressives had spent many years working for—a minimum wage for workers, housing relief, insurance for the elderly, and unemployment compensation. [5]

While Kellogg did praise government programs that had far-reaching results (he was particularly impressed by the Tennessee Valley Authority work), he was equally committed to convincing government officials to generate more comprehensive planning programs for Americans. This necessitated discussing the weaknesses as well as the strengths of Roosevelt's New Deal efforts.

Arthur KelloggKellogg and his brother Arthur, Survey Graphic's managing editor, invited government officials to write feature articles explaining their policies to readers. The editors and writers of Survey Graphic analyzed the findings of government committee reports for the public. They also selected local, state, and international programs they believed should serve as models for federal policies. According to Paul Kellogg, Survey Graphic gave conservatives and liberals a "threshing floor for discussion." [6]


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003