The Great Depression Era

  • With the Stock Market Crash of 1929, millions of Americans lost their jobs.
  • Unemployment averaged 25%
  • Cleveland 40% Toledo 80%
  • Jobless minorities averaged +45%


FDR and the First 100 Days

  • 1932 landslide – 57.4% to 39.7% = 472/59
  • March 4, 1933 FDR Inaugurated
  • Calls special session of Congress
  • Goals:

– Recovery of the economy

– Relief for individuals

– Reform of govt. to avoid recurrence

By March ‘33, all banks closed

  • Bank Reform – Congress argued for 20 minutes and no one knew what to do.
  • March 9th, Emergency Banking Act
  • Bank Holiday – close all banks (done!)
  • Audits
  • Strong banks reopened [3/4 over 3 days]
  • $1billion poured back into the banks
  • Many hurt from stock market (margins)

National Recovery Administration

  • NRA created June 1933
  • Bring about stability and recovery in the nations industry and manufacturing
  • 1. suspends anti-trust laws
  • 2. Industry representatives create “code” to govern practices – standards, wages, no child labor, minimum wage, etc.
  • 3. NRA licensed the code

The 3 R’s and alphabet soup

  • March 31st, FDR creates CCC
  • Civilian Conservation Corps

— one of FDR’s favorite programs

250,000 young men, 18-25, $30/month and part of it went to your dependents

By 1941, over 2 million served

State Parks – retaining walls, bridges, paths, fire pits, picnic tables…..

  • May 12th
  • FERA created

Federal Emergency Relief Act

— $500 million = ½ to states for direct relief

— Harry Hopkins appointed director

— nation’s unemployment rate, avg. 25%

— Cleveland = 40% Toledo, Ohio = 80%


Agricultural Adjustment Administration

  • May 12th, AAA created
  • Eliminate surplus agricultural products
  • Stop the cycle = production controls
  • Destroyed over 6 million pigs, milk, butter mountains, cotton plowed under
  • Interest Group Democracy
  • Soil Bank (after Supreme Court said no)
  • Headed by Henry Wallace (Iowa)

African-American sharecroppers


Tennessee Valley Authority

  • TVA
  • Multipurpose Organization
  • Flood control for Tennessee River farmers
  • Produce electricity
  • Recreational areas (develop later)
  • Electric = consumer durable purchases
  • “Priming the pump”


  • All were meant to help out public, stabilize economy and recovery will come – BUT, until it does recover,
  • Unemployment Relief Program (FERA)

— focused on work relief = govt. job

— good for training

— great for morale

— Harry Hopkins and the “deserving poor”

Harry Hopkins
and the “deserving poor”

  • FDR brought him to DC from New York
  • All unemployed were deserving (Massive!)
  • 25% unemployed rested with banks and industry not the trained workers
  • Largest non-military operation the US government has ever undertaken
  • Hopkins – one of the greatest administrators in US history


  • Firm with authority but in a kind way
  • Sense of humor
  • Good judge of people – understood people and used people’s skills where best suited
  • Demanded honesty – programs fail if not
  • Courageous – made the tough decisions and was responsible for them

(can’t please everyone all the time)

Public Works Administration

  • Build roads, bridges, public buildings
  • White collar – VP’s, writers, artists, etc.
  • Works Progress Administration will be a similar offshoot (1935)
  • Interest Group democracy

— WPA, AAA, NRA = people voted on their involvement, projects, etc…


  • Bank holiday
  • Banking Act of 1933 [Glass-Stegall Act]

— created FDIC to insure deposits ($2500)

— gave Federal Reserve Board more power

separated commercial & investment banking

— banks out of investment business

— restricts use of bank deposits

Securities and Exchange Commission

SEC created 6/6/34

The Second New Deal, 1935

  • WPA established – +3 million work by 6/36
  • REA – Rural Electrification Administration

— electrify rural areas, leads to elec. co-op’s

National Labor Relations Act (NLRB)

Social Security – govt. insists you save for retirement + opens jobs for younger workers, and primes the pump

Wealth Tax Act – “Soak the Rich Tax” 75%

Limits of Change

New Deal and American women

Expanded presence of women in federal government

Political decline in feminism

Depression-era resistance to women’s employment

Exclusion of blacks from key entitlements of welfare status

Reflection of southern Democrats’ power

Eleanor Roosevelt

Limits continued

Hardships for African-Americans

“Last hired and first fired”

Disproportionate rates of unemployment

Growing black focus on economic survival

“Black Cabinet”

Native American Indians

John Collier

Indian Reorganization Act (1934)

1930s Culture

  • Hollywood:
  • Bob Hope Marx Brothers Wizard of Oz
  • Dick Tracy Superman
  • Lone Ranger The Green Hornet
  • Marian Anderson – Lincoln Memorial steps
  • Communism and HUAC
  • House Un-American Activities Committee
  • Many intellectuals described hardships.
  • Others sought escape, into the past or the future.
  • Some described others’ wars and conflicts
  • Some documented their personal struggles.
  • Many artists were employed by WPA/PWA

American Intellectuals & Culture

  • Woody Guthrie
  • John Steinbeck “Grapes of Wrath” (1939)
  • Aldous Huxley “Brave New World” (1932)
  • Pearl Buck “The Good Earth”
  • Margaret Mitchell “Gone with the Wind”
  • Ernest Hemingway Carl Sandburg
  • Thomas Wolfe “Look Homeward Angel,”
  • “You Can’t Go Home” (1929 & 1940)


Black Sunday, April 1935

April 14, 1935 Texas


Alf (Alfred) Landon

Alf Landon

  • Only Republican to win Governor’s seat west of the Mississippi in 1932
  • 26th Kansas Governor, 1933-37
  • Republican party nominee for President against FDR in 1936
  • Landon vs FDR, bad outcome – Landon not only did not win Kansas, he even lost his home county
  • Still had close, working relations with FDR

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