80 Years Later: Great Depression Tales

Eighty years ago, the world changed forever. Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, launched a Great Depression that rippled across the globe and lasted for more than a decade. It set in motion the ascent of great leaders and despots, a World War and a Cold War, and became the single defining financial event against which all others will always be measured.

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    1929 Stock Market Crash

    Oct. 29, 1929: Crowds panic in the Wall Street district of Manhattan due to the heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange. At the end of the Roaring Twenties, the stock market crash was rumored to be fueled by industrialization, such as the mass production of the car, and new technologies such as the telephone.   American's investments in "safe stocks" like Ford and RCA created quick millionaires between 1921 and 1929, with most mortgaging their homes and investing their life savings in the stock market. After the crash, stocks fell 40 percent and 9,000 banks went out of business -- making the millionaires of the '20s the unemployed of the '30s.     
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    The front page of the New York Times, Oct. 30, 1929, the day after the stock market crashed.  Click here to read the original stock market crash article.
    1929 AP
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    The West Coast

    In Seattle, the Depression resulted in tens of thousands unemployed and underemployed. The most enduring symbols of the hard times were "Hoovervilles," tent cities thrown up by the homeless and named for President Herbert Hoover. The largest Hooverville in Seattle existed on the tidal flats adjacent to the Port of Seattle, and lasted from 1932 to 1941.
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    Migrant Mother

    Florence Thompson, 32, and her children in a camp of destitute pea pickers in Nipomo, central California, in 1936.  This picture, one of a series photographer Dorothea Lange shot of  Thompson and her children,  became symbols of the Great Depression.  The series documented Thompson and her family on the brink of starvation.  As a result of the published photos, the government rushed 20,000 pounds of food to the camp.
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    Eleanor Roosevelt

    Dec. 1, 1932: Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ladles soup into a bowl as she helps feed unemployed women in the Grand Central Restaurant kitchen in New York City. After she became first lady, Mrs. Roosevelt received thousands of letters from women and children for relief during the Depression.  Later, she helped establish the National Youth Administration, which helped millions of students stay in school with grants and work-study programs.   The program offered equal opportunities to women and minorities.
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    Unemployment Line 1933

    Nov. 24, 1933: Five thousand unemployed people wait outside the State Labor Bureau, which housed the State Temporary Employment Relief Administration in New York City. The crowd began to gather at 5 a.m. to register for federal relief jobs during the Great Depression.  Unemployment, which peaked at 24.9 percent in 1933, had fallen to 9.9 percent by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of 1941 and America entered World War II. The jobless rate dropped to 4.7 percent during the war.
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    Civilian Conservation Corps 1933

    Single unemployed men who passed the physical exam to become part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, President Roosevelt's program to train and employ them, are seen having their first mess at Fort Slocum in New Rochelle, N.Y. The program offered work relief for unemployed men, providing vocational training in the areas of conservation and natural resources.  Typical programs included planting trees and fixing irrigation systems. 
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    The WPA

     July 26, 1937: Workers demonstrate in San Francisco against a reduction in the number of Works Progress Administration jobs and salary cuts. The WPA, created as part of Roosevelt's "New Deal," employed millions of people across the U.S. The demonstrators, numbering several hundred, marched to the offices of various governmental agencies.  Here they are in in front of Marshall Square, adjacent to City Hall where their representatives called on Mayor Angelo J. Rossi. One banner reads: "Less Battleships, More Food for Children." 
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    On Strike 1937

    March 24, 1937: Packed tightly in Cadillac Square are thousands of people who gathered for a mass demonstration against police eviction of sit-down strikers in Detroit, Mich. during the Great Depression.
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    Red Cross Emergency Relief

    Jan. 26, 1937: Red Cross workers are shown handing out clothing in one of the many emergency stations set up in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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    FDRs New Deal 1933

    May 7, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt is shown at his desk at the White House, when he outlined his ideas to the nation on a partnership between the government and agriculture, industry, and transportation. 
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    Hunger March

    Dec. 2, 1932: A group of prominent women called at the White House to present a petition asking favorable reception for Hunger Marchers.  Bearing placards and signs, the marchers paraded through the city to the Capitol, where their petition for the relief of unemployed was presented to House Speaker John N. Garner.   
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    The Public Works Bill

    June 16, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Industrial Control-Public Works Bill at the White House, calling it "the most important and far-reaching legislation ever enacted by the American Congress."
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    Cabbage Line

    A long line of jobless men wait in 1933 to receive cabbage and potatoes from a federal relief agency in Cleveland, Ohio. Soup kitchens and government relief programs handed out whatever food they had to serve every night. Charity gardens were cultivated to ensure kitchens could offer fruit and vegetables.   The most notorious soup kitchen was owned by the  gangster Al Capone in Chicago. The kitchen served three meals a day to ensure people who were hungry could be fed.
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