Depression of 1929

I spoke to you last week about Al Smith of New York who was defeated by Herbert Hoover in 1928. President Hoover carried the election with 21 million votes to Al Smith's 15 million. Herbert Hoover was inaugu rated in March 1929 and had served only about six months when the whole world collapsed with the beginning of the Great Depression.
The beginning was on October 24th 1929-Black Thursday-when the stock market started on a downward trend that soon became a panic. Thirteen million shares of stock were dumped on the market that day. On October 29th, sixteen million shares were dumped on the market and the total collapse of the stock market was averted by large purchases of stocks by a banker's pool formed in an emergency meeting in the offices of J.P. Morgan and Co. Despite efforts by the bankers, the market prices continued to decline and by November 13th, 1929, the market hit the bottom.
The market value of listed stocks had been reduced by thirty billion dollars and by the middle of 1932, 2 1/2 years later this figure rose to seventy-five billion dollars. This was only the beginning of disaster. Unemployment mounted steadily all through 1930, and before the year was out 1300 banks had closed. 1932 was worse . Industrial production was about half of what it had been in 1929. The automobile industry was only operating at one-fifth of its capacity. Steel plants were twelve percent of capacity. Payrolls were being slashed and farm income was down fifty percent.
Unemployment doubled in 1931-doubled again in 1932 when from fifteen to seventeen million workers were unemployed-a fourth of the nation's labor force. There was then no unemployment insurance. Congress made some effort to relieve the terrible conditions by passing the Bonus Bill authorizing the government to pay war veterans the two and a quarter billion dollars due them under the existing system, but President Hoover vetoed the bill. The result was that a bonus army of from twelve to twenty thousand jobless veterans moved into Washington to protest the President's veto and demand full payment of their bonus. The veterans occupied vacant buildings and makeshift camps in and around the city of Washington and their protest was generally peaceful, but finally things got out of hand and a riot ensued and seve ral of the veterans were killed by the police. President Hoover ordered the Army to clear the veterans out of Washington and Gen. Douglas Macarthur who was Chief of Staff of the Army moved into Washington with six thousand troops and six tanks and routed the veterans. Some of the veterans had no place to go and no way to go anywhere. Some were offered jobs in Florida working on the overseas highway that was being built from Miami to Key West as a government works project. They lived in work camps down on the Florida Keys and when the hurricane of 1935 struck the Florida Keys over five hundred of these men were drowned. As you drive down on the Keys near Islamorada, there is a monument placed there as a memorial to these men who perished in that storm.
The business life of the country was stagnated and getting worse, but President Herbert Hoover was a "rugged individualist" who had come up the hard way. An orphan at twelve, he worked his way through college and had made his fortune in the mining industry. His th eory was that the country must pull itself up by its boot strings and he would not agree to commit the help of the Federal Government. His reluctance to do anything to help in this crisis caused his defeat in the general election in 1932 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York.
Roosevelt was inaugurated as President on March 4, l933. In his inaugural address he made that famous statement, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." During the four years of the Hoover administra tion, fifty-five hundred banks had closed with total deposits of three and a half billion dollars-and no insurance for the depositors. The first act of President Roosevelt was to close all the banks in the U.S. for four days. Then he went on radio and explained why. He said that runs on banks had caused many banks to fail, so what the government wanted to do was to arrange for banks to draw cash from the Federal Reserve Banks to protect them in case of runs. He assured the people that the government was standing behind the banks and there would be no more closings. This master stroke by President Roosevelt overnight restored the confidence of the people in their banking institutions and the slow march back to prosperity and full employment had begun.
Over the next few years some of the greatest changes in our government and society were brought about by the policies of President Roosevelt. Here are just a few of the important pieces of legislation that came out of the Roosevelt years: Emergency Banking Law - De posit Insurance, the Civilian Conservation Camps - C.C.C., Federal Emergency Relief Act - F.E.R.A., Tennessee Valley Authority - TVA, Federal Housing Administration - FHA, Civil Works Administration - C.W.A., Railroad Retirement Act - R.R.A., Social Security Act - S.S.A.
Some good things such as the Social Security Act came out of the Great Depression but there were terrible days for millions of our people who suffered through those bleak and dreary days. B ut better days were to come and soon everybody was singing that familiar theme song of the Roosevelt Administration "Happy Days are Here Again."

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