The History Herald
Rolling in the Deep....And I do Not Mean the Adele Song!
When the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, few Americans believed that a decade long depression was underway. After all, only 4 million Americans had money invested on Wall Street. 90% of American households owned precisely zero shares of stock. President Herbert Hoover quickly addressed the nation, professing his faith in the soundness of the American economy. But soothing words were clearly not enough to stop the shrinking of a deeply flawed national economic system.
The stock market crash had many short-term consequences. Banks that improvidently lent money to futures traders to buy stock on margin found that many of those loans would go unpaid. Consequently, a rash of BANK FAILURES swept the nation. This had a tremendous ripple effect on the economy. If a working-class family was unfortunate enough to have their savings held in trust by a failed bank, too bad for them, all their money was lost.
Get In Line
Despair swept the nation. In addition to the nationwide 25% unemployment rate, many laborers were forced to choose between wage cuts and a PINK SLIP. Most people who retained their jobs saw their incomes shrink by a third. SOUP KITCHENS and CHARITY LINES, previously unknown to the middle class, were unable to meet the growing demand for food.
Desperate for income, thousands performed odd jobs from taking in laundry to collecting and selling apples on the street. College professors in New York City drove taxicabs to make ends meet. Citizens of Washington State lit forest fires in the hopes of earning a few bucks extinguishing them. Millions of backyard gardens were cultivated to grow vegetables.
Americans prowled landfills waiting for the next load of refuse to arrive in the hopes of finding a few table scraps among the trash.