By: James C. Garland and Edward P. Costigan
Source: "Statement of James C. Garland, of Pineville, Ky." In Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Manufactures, United States Senate, 72nd Congress, 1st Session, on S. Res. 178. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1932, 6–7, 8–11, 12–13, 17–18.
About the Authors: James Garland was a coal miner from the Harlan Coal District. His family was from the region for as far back as Garland could recall. The twenty-seven-year-old miner had joined the United Mine Workers (UMW) union when he was thirteen.
Edward P. Costigan (1874–1939) was a Democratic Senator (1931–1937) from Colorado. The Harvard-educated lawyer began his career as a Progressive Republican. He helped form the Colorado Progressive Party in 1912 to support Theodore Roosevelt's presidential campaign of that year. Costigan held office in Woodrow Wilson's administration but did not formally join the Democratic Party until 1930.
In 1930, one out of every forty employed males over the age of fourteen worked in coal mines. Coal fueled industry, heated homes, and generated electricity. Like the agricultural industry and despite steady...
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"On the Bank Crisis"
By: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Date: March 12, 1933
Source: Roosevelt, Franklin D. "On the Bank Crisis," Fireside Chat, March 12, 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu (accessed March 17, 2003).
About the Author: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) was the thirty-second president of the United States. Born to an old-stock, New York patrician family, Roosevelt was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1920. Stricken with polio in 1921, Roosevelt never regained full use of his legs. He was governor of New York between 1928 and 1932. Roosevelt was elected president four times and led the nation through two of the defining events of American history—the Great Depression and World War II. He died shortly before the German surrender in April, 1945.
By 1933, into the fourth year of the Depression, the financial system of the United States was under great strain. Confidence in business in general, and the banking system in particular, was extremely low. There were legitimate reasons for this lack of faith.
During the boom years of the 1920s, many...
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"Code of Fair Competition for the Men's Clothing Industry, as Amended"
By: National Recovery Administration
Date: July 19, 1933
Source: "Code of Fair Competition for the Men's Clothing Industry, as Amended," 1933. Reprinted in Connery, Robert H. The Administration of an N.R.A. Code: A Case Study of the Men's Clothing Industry. Chicago: Public Administration Service, 1938, 162–173.
One theory of the cause of the economic crisis of the 1930s was overproduction, insufficient worker wages, and a cutthroat competitive environment. Clearly, the United States had the resources and productive capacity to feed, house, and clothe its population. The problem, most agreed, was distribution—not production. A fundamental issue of the era was how to modify the "distribution system" in order to permanently solve the problems of unemployment and poverty.
One of the first programs to attack some of the root causes of the Depression was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). This act created the National Recovery Administration (NRA). It was an effort to address economic problems by creating a planned approach to managing the economy. The NRA tried to establish a cooperative relationship between employers, workers, and government in order to improve the economy for the good of all. Prices, wages,...
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By: H.L. Lurie
Source: "Statement of H.L. Lurie, Director of the Bureau of Jewish Social Research, New York City, New York." In Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Manufactures, United States Senate, Seventy-second Congress, Second Session on S. 5125. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1933, 64, 65, 70–73.
About the Author: Harry L. Lurie (1892–1973) was the Director of the Bureau of Jewish Social Services in New York City. Lurie was also a member of the American Association of Social Workers, and it was in this capacity that he testified before the Senate Committee on Manufactures regarding unemployment, living conditions, and relief efforts. In this instance, the so-called La Follette–Costigan committee was hearing testimony on Senate Bill 5125: A Bill to Provide for Cooperation by the Federal Government With the Several States in Relieving the Hardship and Suffering Caused by Unemployment, and for Other Purposes.
Historically, relief to the needy was the concern of local government and charitable organizations. In fact, the traditional relief system was inadequate in urban settings, particularly during severe economic downturns. The system was...
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Securities Exchange Act of 1934
Source: Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Reproduced by the Center for Corporate Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law. Available online at http://www.law.uc.edu/CCL/34Act/index.html; website home page: http://www.law.uc.edu (accessed April 17, 2003).
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the growing uncertainty of the financial systems of the United States prompted critical examination of those systems. Spurred by the collapse of three thousand banks between 1930 and 1932 and by revelations of unscrupulous dealings by powerful financial leaders, greater regulatory control of key institutions seemed necessary.
Efforts to regulate financial institutions were helped by dramatic hearings of the Senate Banking Committee, which investigated Wall Street practices. The Pecora Committee (named for its chief counsel, Ferdinand Pecora) took on the leaders of Wall Street. He showed that they were motivated by self-interest and not inclined to operate in the best interests of the public.
The revelations of the Pecora Committee were instrumental in building support for the passage of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933 and the...
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"Redistribution of Wealth"
By: George W. Norris
Date: February 25, 1935
Source: Norris, George W. "Redistribution of Wealth." Speech presented at the Charter Day celebration at the University of Nebraska, February 15, 1935. Vital Speeches of the Day I, no. 11, February 25, 1935, 327–329, 330–331.
About the Author: George W. Norris (1861–1944) was a senator from Nebraska from 1912 to 1943. Ohio-born, Norris settled in Nebraska in 1885. He practiced law and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1902. Norris was an independent-minded Republican with strong ties to the Progressive wing of the party. He was eventually pressured to resign from the Republican Party in 1936 for supporting Franklin Roosevelt. A person of high principles and integrity, Norris is particularly known for his advocacy of democratic election reforms, the Tennessee Valley Authority, labor, and a progressive tax structure.
In the United States, the idea of an inheritance tax goes back at least to the Revolutionary era. Thomas
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The National Labor Relations Act
By: Senator Robert F. Wagner
Date: July 5, 1935
Source: The National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, July 5, 1935. Reprinted in The National Labor Relations Act: Should It Be Amended? Julia E. Johnsen, comp. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1940, 355–356, 357, 359–360, 361–362, 363–365.
About the Author: Robert F. Wagner (1877–1953) was the chief architect of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when he was representing New York in the Senate as a Democrat. German-born, Wagner became active in Democratic politics early in his career. He served as a justice of the New York Supreme Court before his election to the U.S. Senate in 1926. A strong supporter of labor, Wagner was a key congressional leader supporting the New Deal programs of Franklin Roosevelt. In addition to the NLRA, Wagner sponsored and helped draft such key legislation as the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration Bill (1933), the Social Security Act, and the Wagner-Steagall Act that created the U.S. Housing Authority in 1938.
Since the late 1800s, unions representing skilled trades, primarily associated with the American Federation of Labor, had been reasonably...
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Progress in Michigan
By: Works Progress Administration
Date: December 1935
Source: Works Progress Administration. Progress in Michigan 1, no. 2, December 1935, 1, 8–11.
About the Organization: The passage of the Federal Emergency Relief Appropriations Act in 1935 allocated nearly $5 billion for work relief. The goal of the Roosevelt administration was to create employment rather than rely on direct relief to aid the unemployed. The Works Progress Administration (WPA), which produced this pamphlet, was created to administer those funds, finding appropriate projects upon which to employ millions of workers.
Administration of the WPA was placed under the control of Harry Hopkins. Funds were allocated to states. They were responsible for identifying worthy projects and providing some of the funding, often as little as 5 percent. The balance was provided by the WPA.
In the first six months of the program, the state of Michigan was allocated $35 million. It was the responsibility of Harry L. Pierson, Michigan's WPA Administrator, to develop project ideas, arrange funding, and monitor project status. Priority was given to labor-intensive activities that required minimal capital investment. Given that WPA...
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Works Progress Administration Reports
Report on the Works Program, 1936
By: Works Progress Administration
Date: March 1936
Source: "Value of Projects Approved for W.P.A., by Types and by States, January 15, 1936"; "Works Program Employment by States, Dec. 28, 1935." In Report on the Works Program. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1936.
Report on the Progress of the Works Program, 1937
Report, Illustration, Tables, Graph
By: Works Progress Administration
Date: March 1937
Source: "Security Programs"; "Selected Accomplishments on WPA Projects"; "Average Hourly Earnings of Persons Employed on WPA Projects"; "Employment on WPA Projects, Emergency Conservation Work, and Projects on Other Agencies, By States"; "Hours and Earnings of Persons Employed on W.P.A. Projects, Cumulative through Dec. 31, 1936, by Type of Project." In Report on the Progress of the Works Program. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1937.
Prior to the New Deal, direct relief in the United States combined the work of charitable organizations, often church-...
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Settlement of a Sit-Down Strike
"General Motors Agreement: February 11, 1937"
By: United Automobile Workers (UAW), represented by Wyndham Mortimer, first vice president of UAW; and General Motors (GM), represented by William S. Knudsen, president of GM. The chief mediator was Frank Murphy, governor of Michigan.
Date: February 11, 1937
Source: United Automobile Workers. "General Motors Agreement: February 11, 1937." Walter Reuther Papers, Box 18-1, Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich.
About the Authors: Wyndham Mortimer (1984–1966) was the chief United Auto Workers (UAW) representative in negotiating a settlement in the Flint sit-down strike. Mortimer, who was a Communist sympathizer, was also UAW vice president and a founder of the UAW. He initiated and led the Flint strike, and was backed by the more influential and dynamic John L. Lewis.
Frank Murphy (1890–1948) was an ardent New Dealer and supporter of Franklin Roosevelt. He was frequently mentioned as a successor to Roosevelt. Murphy, mayor of Detroit during the bleakest years of the Depression, had returned to Michigan in mid-1936 following a three-year assignment as Governor General of the Philippines. Pro-labor, Murphy was adamantly opposed to the...
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"Armed Rebellion on the Right"
By: Paul Y. Anderson
Date: August 7, 1937
Source: Anderson, Paul Y. "Armed Rebellion on the Right." The Nation 145, no. 6, August 7, 1937, 146–147. Available at the New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/nation/na37145p146.htm; website home page: http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 17, 2003).
About the Author: Paul Y. Anderson (1893–1938) was a highly respected investigative journalist, described upon his death (by suicide) as the "last muckraker." Anderson spent most of his career with the St. Louis Dispatch and covered many of the great events of his era. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of the Teapot Dome Scandal in 1923–1924.
Violence was an integral part of the labor movement. Management, often backed by local law enforcement, was frequently guilty of initiating attacks on union organizers, strikers, and union sympathizers. Crushing unions and all attempts at labor organization were deemed acceptable behavior among large segments of the population. During the Depression, however, popular support of unions and a more sympathetic stance by the federal government...
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Farmers on Relief and Rehabilitation
By: Berta Asch and A.R. Mangus
Source: Asch, Berta, and A.R. Mangus. Farmers on Relief and Rehabilitation. Research Monograph VIII. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1937, 7–12.
About the Authors: Berta Asch and A.R. Mangus were part of a team of researchers for the Works Progress Administration's Division of Social Research. They helped produce a series of research monographs on various social aspects of the Depression. These monographs focused on rural life and the condition of migratory workers.
The American farm underwent considerable change between 1910 and 1930. At the beginning of this period, farms were gradually becoming more mechanized, larger, and increasingly affected by global markets. These gradual trends were rapidly accelerated by World War I (1914–1918).
The demand for American farm products during the war caused tremendous growth. Unable to feed itself between 1915 and 1920, Europe turned to America. To meet this need, farmers took advantage of powered farm equipment (especially the tractor), increased fertilization, and brought marginal land into production. Tempted by high prices and short-term profits, they went heavily into...
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John Maynard Keynes to President Roosevelt, February 1, 1938
By: John Maynard Keynes
Date: February 1, 1938
Source: Keynes, John Maynard. Letter to President Roosevelt, February 1, 1938. Reprinted in Current, Richard N., and John A. Garraty, eds. Words That Made American History Since the Civil War. Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown, 1965, 480–484.
About the Author: John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) was an English economist whose revolutionary economic theories (Keynesian economics) have dramatically affected economic policy throughout the world since the early 1930s. His most important work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1935), formalized his theories. In this work, Keynes sharply opposed traditional, laissez-faire doctrines that argued that the natural operation of the marketplace would correct economic downturns. Keynes played a major role in developing policies to fund World War II (1939–1945) and post–World War II economic recovery.
At the time of the Depression, traditional economic theory held that the economy was self-correcting. It said that left alone, natural economic forces would restore prosperity within a relatively short time. Employment could be restored if workers accepted lower wages, and sales/production would return...
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