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At the beginning of the 1930s, more than 15 million Americansfully one-quarter of all wageearning workerswere unemployed. President Herbert Hoover did not do much to alleviate the
crisis: Patience and self-reliance, he argued, were all Americans needed to get them through this
passing incident in our national lives. But in 1932, Americans elected a new president, Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, who pledged to use the power of the federal government to make Americans
lives better. Over the next nine years, Roosevelts New Deal created a new role for government in
American life. Though the New Deal alone did not end the Depression, it did provide an
unprecedented safety net to millions of suffering Americans.
The Great Depression
The stock market crash of October 29, 1929 provided a dramatic end to an era of unprecedented,
and unprecedentedly lopsided, prosperity. This disaster had been brewing for years. Different
historians and economists offer different explanations for the crisissome blame the increasingly
uneven distribution of wealth and purchasing power in the 1920s, while others blame the
decades agricultural slump or the international instability caused by World War I. In any case,
the nation was woefully unprepared for the crash. For the most part, banks were unregulated and
uninsured. The government offered no insurance or compensation for the unemployed, so when
people stopped earning, they stopped spending. The consumer economy ground to a halt. An
ordinary recession became the Great Depression, the defining event of the 1930s.
President Herbert Hoover was slow to respond to these events. Though he believed that the
crazy and dangerous behavior of Wall Street speculators had contributed in a significant way to
the crisis, he also believed that solving such problems was not really the federal governments
job. As a result, most of the solutions he suggested were voluntary: He asked state governments
to undertake public-works projects; he asked big companies to keep workers pay steady; and he
asked labor unions to stop demanding raises. Still, the crisis worsened. Between 1930 and 1933,
more than 9,000 banks closed in the U.S., taking with them more than $2.5 billion in deposits.
Meanwhile, unemployed people did whatever they could, like standing in charity breadlines and
selling apples on street corners, to feed their families.

Poor figures from depression breadline

A New Deal for the American People
By 1932, many Americans were fed up with Hoover and what Franklin Roosevelt later called his
hear nothing, see nothing, do nothing government. The Democratic presidential candidate, New
York governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, promised a change: I pledge myself, he said, to a
New Deal for the American people. This New Deal would use the power of the federal
government to try and stop the economys downward spiral. Roosevelt won that years election
(Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
The First Hundred Days
Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected President of the United States in November 1932. Roosevelt
initiates a widespread social welfare strategy called the "New Deal" to combat the economic and
social devastation of the Great Depression. The economic agenda of the "New Deal" was a
radical departure from previous laissez-faire economics.

New Deal: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, 18 May
The new president acted swiftly to, he said, wage a war against the emergency just as though
we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe. First, he shored up the nations banks. Then he began
to propose more comprehensive reforms. By June, Roosevelt and Congress had passed 15 major
lawsincluding the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Glass-Steagall Banking Bill, the Home
Owners Loan Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act and the National Industrial Recovery Act
that fundamentally reshaped many aspects of the American economy. This decisive action also
did much to restore Americans confidence that, as Roosevelt had declared in his inaugural
address, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

The Second New Deal

President Roosevelts early efforts had begun to restore Americans confidence, but they had not
ended the Depression. In the spring of 1935, he launched a second, more aggressive set of federal
programs, sometimes called the Second New Deal. The Works Progress Administration provided
jobs for unemployed people and built new public works like bridges, post offices, schools,
highways and parks. The National Labor Relations Act (1935), also known as the Wagner Act,
gave workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively for higher wages and fairer
treatment. The Social Security Act (also 1935) guaranteed pensions to some older Americans, set
up a system of unemployment insurance and stipulated that the federal government would help
care for dependent children and the disabled.
In 1936, while campaigning for a second term, President Roosevelt told a roaring crowd at
Madison Square Garden that The forces of organized money are unanimous in their hate for
meand I welcome their hatred. He went on: I should like to have it said of my first
Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match, [and] I
should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces have met their
master. He won the election by a landslide. Still, the Depression dragged on. Workers grew more
militant: In December 1936, for example, the United Auto Workers started a sit-down strike at a
GM plant in Flint, Michigan that lasted for 44 days and spread to some 150,000 autoworkers in

35 cities. By 1937, to the dismay of most corporate leaders, some 8 million workers had joined
unions and were loudly demanding their rights.
The End of the Depression
By the end of the 1930s, the New Deal had come to an end. Growing Congressional opposition
made it difficult for President Roosevelt to introduce new programs. At
the same time, as the threat of war loomed on the horizon, the president
turned his attention away from domestic politics. In December 1941, the
Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered World War II. The
war effort stimulated American industry and the Great Depression was
After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the largest stock market crash in
American history, most of the decade was consumed by an economic
downfall called the Great Depression that had a traumatic effect
worldwide, leading to widespread unemployment and poverty. In response, authoritarian regimes
emerged in several countries in Europe and South America, in particular the Third Reich in
Germany. Weaker states such as Ethiopia, China, and Poland were invaded by expansionist world
powers, the last of these attacks leading to the outbreak of the Second World War a few months
before the end of the decade. The 1930s also saw a proliferation of new technologies, especially
in the fields of intercontinental aviation, radio, and film.
Major political changes
The rise of Nazism German dictator Adolf Hitler (right) and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
(left) pursue agendas of territorial expansion for their countries in the 1930s, eventually leading
to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rise to power in Germany in 1933, forming a fascist
regime committed to repudiating the Treaty of Versailles, persecuting and removing Jews
and other minorities from German society, expanding Germany's territory, and opposing
the spread of communism.

Hitler pulls Germany out of the League of Nations, but hosts the 1936 Summer Olympics
to show his new reich to the world as well as the supposed superior athleticism of his
Aryan troops/athletes.

Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (19371940), attempts the
appeasement of Hitler in hope of avoiding war by allowing the dictator to annex the
Sudetenland (the German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia). Later signing the Munich
Agreement and promising constituents "Peace for our time". He was ousted in favor of
Winston Churchill in May 1940, after the Invasion of Norway.

The assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a German-born Polish Jew
triggers the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) which occurred between 9 and 10
November 1938, carried out by the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo, and the SS, during which
much of the Jewish population living in Nazi Germany and Austria was attacked 91
Jews were murdered, and between 25,000 and 30,000 more were arrested and sent to Nazi
concentration camps. Some 267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and
businesses were ransacked. Kristallnacht also served as the pretext for the wholesale
confiscation of firearms from German Jews.

Germany and Italy pursue territorial expansionist agendas. Germany demands the
annexation of the Federal State of Austria and of other German-speaking territories in
Europe. Between 1935 and 1936, Germany recovers the Saar and remilitarizes the
Rhineland. Italy initially opposes Germany's aims for Austria, but in 1936 the two
countries resolve their differences in the aftermath of Italy's diplomatic isolation
following the start of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Germany becoming Italy's only
remaining ally. Germany and Italy improve relations by forming an alliance against
communism in 1936 with the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact. Germany annexes
Austria in the event known as the Anschluss. The annexation of the Sudetenland followed
negotiations which resulted in the Munich Agreement of 1938. The Italian invasion of
Albania in 1939 succeeds in turning the Kingdom of Albania into an Italian protectorate.
The vacant Albanian throne was claimed by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. Germany
receives the Memel territory from Lithuania, occupies what remains of Czechoslovakia,
and finally invades the Second Polish Republic, the last of these events resulting in the
outbreak of World War II.

In 1939, several countries of the Americas, including Canada, Cuba, and the United
States, controversially deny asylum to hundreds of German Jewish refugees on board the
MS St. Louis who are fleeing the Nazi regime's racist agenda of anti-Semitic persecution
in Germany. In the end, no country accepts the refugees, and the ship returns to Germany
with most of its passengers on board. Some commit suicide, rather than return to Nazi


During the Depression, most people did not have much money to spare. However, most people
did have radiosand listening to the radio was free. The most popular broadcasts were those that
distracted listeners from their everyday struggles: comedy programs like Amos n Andy, soap
operas and sporting events. Swing music encouraged people to cast aside their troubles and
dance. Bandleaders like Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson drew crowds of young people
to ballrooms and dance halls around the country. And even though money was tight, people kept
on going to the movies. Musicals, screwball comedies and hard-boiled gangster pictures
likewise offered audiences an escape from the grim realities of life in the 1930s.

1930s Hollywood Opens The Door To The Golden Era

By the 1930s Hollywood films had made a major transition from slient pictures to films with
sound. This was an historic advancement that at times must have felt like one giant step forward
and one step back. Progress can sometimes cause problems and this was the case in Hollywood.
Production costs soared, technical difficulties multiplied, and many of the studio most popular
silent film stars were unable to adjust to the new sound technology.Opportunities for actors and
directors to work abroad almost came to a standstill. Hollywood owned the patents on the new
sound system and the costs to European film makers to puchase and use the system for the
production of their films was extremely expensive.
With the five major studios, Paramount, Warner Brothers, MGM, RKO, and Twentieth Centurz
Fox, controlling Hollywood, the industry was now being run by a monopoly. In 1934 another
problem surfaced as certain religious organizations insisted that the studios follow a strict cod of
decency forcing Hollywood to implement a censorchip code for all productions. This would be
known as the Hays Code, insisting that all film productions would omit bad language, sexual
innuendos and deviancy, drug use, excessive violence, and a host of other perceived
And if that wasnt enough, the country was still reeling from the ecomomic effects of the Great
Depression. Then a collective lightbulb went off among the Hollywood studios as they realized
the need for pictures that would help the public to temporarily escape from this negative reality. A
door opened and Hollywood stepped in.
The Golden Age of Hollywood was about to begin. The
studios began to produce motion pictures that served to
lift up their audiences during this very tough American
economic period and the public loved them.


Even though people were broke in the 1930s they still

didnt dress like it!

Men still dressed up nice, sporting fedoras and double-breasted overcoats. The boys wore short
shorts and tall socks.
The women wore dresses and kept their hair close to their head. Fur was in and so were floral
patterns. Makeup was chic and shoulder pads were very important until the late 1930s. Although
hats were still popular for women, they were gradually becoming less popular. One way to tell if
something is from the Thirties is if it has initials engraved or stitched. This was a common free
service that stores offered. Fashion in the 1930s was just as glamorous as the 1920s, just in a
different way.