History 1501: American Dreams
Professor Daniel Griesemer
The Great Depression
“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933). President Roosevelt stepped into office in the middle of everything hitting the fan. This is not an easy task to handle, he had millions of Americans looking up to him for guidance in what must have been the most darkest moment in history. A lot of things played a big part in the making of The Great Depression. These things included the stock market crash of 1929, the New Deal, and World War II. The United States is still trying to recover from this big blow to our economy and to the lives of so many people. October, 1929 began the most devastating economic collapse in modern history. People lost everything. Everyone was affected in some shape or form. To this day people that were alive back then still don’t trust the banks. They keep their money in boxes and hiding places around their home. The Depression traumatized them. Let’s talk about what happened prior to the stock market crash. Benjamin Roth recorded what he experienced before, during, and after the Great Depression. He had just returned from world war I to Youngstown, Ohio where he says that, “I found business humming. The return of thousands of soldiers to civil life had brought a boom to real estate, clothing, and other retail trades. I also had learned that during the war and still in 1919 these mill workers had earned enormous wages from $ 10 to $35 a day”.1 When talking about the 1900’s ten to thirty five dollars was probably a small fortune in comparison to what it is today where it is lucky to get ten dollars an hour. To be able to go back to that time would be amazing. There is probably so much to learn.
After reading how successful the war had been on the economy in the 1900’s, Benjamin also said, “This feverous prosperity and easy money continued through 1919 and 1920. In 1921 came a steel strike in Youngstown and for awhile it looked as though we were heading for a depression but in 1922 things picked up again and continued in a hectic spiral upward until the big stock market crash in October 1929”.2 If I lived in this time I would be so angry that the stock market collapsed because Youngstown was doing so good and even though many women did not work I would have been happy that my husband was making a lot of money. It would probably be a big let down to see all of the hard work go down the drain. The economy was booming for seven years and then out of no where one day the bubble broke spilling out so much hard work and crushing so many people.
By summer of 1929 stocks were selling at twenty, thirty, and forty times their earnings. All sense of caution was lost, stocks were bought blindly and good bonds earning 4% or 5% were sneered at. Even though the air was full of warnings, very few people took heed and when the crash came in the fall of 1929 the casualties were terrific.3 People were buying stocks without a care in the world. They were splitting their stocks and re-splitting them. This didn't make the problem any better for the United States. One way this can be taken is that a lesson was to be learned. Everyone was getting really comfortable with how everything was and they were starting to take it for granted. One thing that is certain is that this was a major heartbreak for America. Many families lost their homes and jobs. The President must have been under a lot of pressure with everyone looking to him for answers and help. It can be safe to say these were not good times for Americans.
While a small percentage of the public was directly affected by the collapse of the stock market in october 1929, it is still a moment of history shared by nearly every american. Like the Japanese Attack on pearl harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy,...
Bibliography: Etienne, Christian. The Great Depression, 1929-1938: lessons for the 1980s. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1984. Print.
McElvaine, Robert S.. The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941. New York, N.Y.: Times Books, 1984. Print.
"The Great Depression Causes." The Great Depression Causes. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2013. .
Thomas, Gordon, and Max Witts. The day the bubble burst: a social history of the Wall Street crash of 1929. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979. Print.
Walker, Richard. The New Deal in Brief. (2009), 1.
Watkins, T. H.. The Great Depression: America in the 1930s. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993. Print.
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