Cultural policy emerged in the United States in the 1950s and coalesced in the early 1960s. During this period, a nascent set of policy principles guided the key government actions that intervened in culture, but those actions were not formed in reference to a coherent or well-plotted cultural policy in any substantive way. Instead, other prevailing factors determined how those interventions took shape. The most important of those factors include: the lasting influence of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, new postwar structures of power that blurred the boundaries between government and civil society, and pressing Cold War political imperatives. History and politics are at least as important to policy formation as is any governmental or administrative technique. To understand why and how U.S. cultural policy developed in the way it did, a careful look at the midcentury historical and political context is necessary.