Wikiquote:Transwiki/American History quotes Stock Market Crash

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STOCK MARKET CRASH AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION

1929 “It came with a speed and ferocity that left men dazed. The bottom, simply fell out of the market..... The streets were crammed with a mixed crowd — agonized little speculators,... sold-out traders,... inquisitive individuals and tourists seeking ... a closer view of the national catastrophe..... Where was it going to end?” Account of the stock market crash in the New York Times.

1929 “The wires to other cities were jammed with frantic orders to sell. So were the cables, radio, and telephones to Europe and the rest of the world. Buyers were few, sometimes wholly absent.... This was real panic.... When the closing bell rang, the great bull market was dead and buried.” Jonathan Norton Leonard, in Three Years Down.

1929 “Wave after wave of selling again moved down prices on the Stock Exchange today and billions of dollars were clipped from values. “Traders surged about brokerage offices watching their holdings wiped out.... It was one of the worst breaks in history.... “For a time, in the morning, the market was showing signs of rallying power.... Then new waves of selling out of poorly margined accounts started another reaction...” Minneapolis Star account of “Black Tuesday” (October 29, 1929), when the stock market “collapsed”: panic selling took place, with owners of stock wanting to sell, no matter how great their loss.

And Depression Follows

1930 “Our children have Schoolless days and Shoeless days.... [W]hy are we reduced to poverty and starving and anxiety and sorrow.... Why not end the Depression have you not a heart...” Letter from a New Jersey resident to President Hoover.

c. 1930 “We do not dare to use even a little soap, when it will pay for an extra egg or a few more carrots for our children.” An unemployed father in Oregon.

c. 1931 “You can get pretty discouraged and your soles can get pretty thin after you’ve been job hunting a couple of months.” Unemployed man in Minnesota

1931 “One woman said she borrowed 50 cents from a friend and bought stale bread for 3 cents per loaf, and that is all they had for 11 days except for one or two meals.... Another family did not food for two days. Then the husband went out and gathered dandelions and the family lived on them.” Report of an investigator in Philadelphia.

c. 1931 “Hoovervilles” (shabby shantytowns with unemployed people) “Hoover hogs” (armadillos, large rodents eaten in the South) “Hoover blankets” (thrown-away newspapers) Depression-era terms


c. 1932 “They hung around street corners and in groups. They gave each other solace. They were loath to go home because they were indicted, as if it were their fault for being unemployed. A jobless man was a lazy good-for-nothing.... These men were suffered from depression. They felt despised, they were ashamed of themselves.” Psychologist Nathan Ackerman, reporting on the impact of long-term unemployment on coal miners. At the height of the Great Depression in late 1932, about 22% of the work force was unemployed.

c. 1933 “We had a coal stove, and we had to each take turns, the three of us kids, to warm our legs. It was awfully cold when you opened those garage doors.... In the morning, we’d get out and get some snow and put it on the stove and melt it and wash our faces. Never the neck or anything. Put on our two pairs of socks on each hand and two pairs of socks on our feet, and long underwear and lace it up with Goodwill shoes. Off we’s walk, three, four miles to school.” Dynamite Garland

c. 1933 There were “people living in old, rusted out car bodies.... There were people living in shacks made of orange crates. One family with a whole lot of kids were living in a piano box.” One woman’s memories of the Depression.

c. 1933 “Everyone was emotionally affected. We developed a fear of the future which was very difficult to overcome. Even though I eventually went into some fairly good jobs, there was still this constant dread: everything would be cut out from under you and you wouldn’t know what to do. It would even be harder, because you were older.” Ward James

c. 1933 “My children have got no shoes and clothing to go to school with, and we haven’t got enough bed clothes to keep us warm.” West Virginia man to his senator.

c. 1933 “Can you be so kind as to advise me as to which would be the most human way to dispose of my self and family, as this is about the only thing that I see left to do.” Despondent Pennsylvania man who was considering suicide.

c. 1933 “The great majority reacted by thinking money is the most important thing in the world..... And there was a small number of people who felt the whole system was lousy. You have to change it.” Virginia Durr, a Federal employee, on ways that people reacted to the Great Depression.

c. 1933 “We got enough to get along on, and we got each other. That should be enough to make anyone happy.” A shoe factory worker.

1934 “Fathers feel they have lost their prestige in the home; there is much nagging, mothers nag at fathers, parents nag at the children. Children of working age who earn meager salaries find it hard to turn over all their earnings and deny themselves even the greatest necessities and as a result, leave home.” Chicago social working, reporting on the impact of the Depression on family life.

c. 1934 “It’s perfectly true that my word is not law around here as it once was. When they see me, hanging around the house all the time and know that I can’t find work, it has its effect all right.” An unemployed father to a social worker.

Government Responds to the Depression: The Hoover Administration

1929 “The fundamental business of the country, that is production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.” President Hoover, in a press conference on October 30, the day following the Stock Market crash. That was in fact true, but the great losses of money, especially by speculators, caused people to stop buying things. The stoppage of purchases by large numbers of consumers put the country into the Great Depression.

1929 “Any lack of confidence in the economic future of the United States is foolish.” President Herbert Hoover (November 15, 1929). 1930 “I do not believe that the power and the duty of the [Federal] Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering.... The lesson wqhould be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.” President Hoover, rejecting calls for the Federal Government to provide direct relief to the unemployed.

1931 Federal relief aid to end the Depression would cause “degeneration of that independence and initiation which are the very foundation of democracy.” President Hoover

1931 “For eighteen months, unemployment has been spreading poverty and acute suffering through industrial and agricultural areas alike. No one yet knows when the present economic disaster will be brought to an end.... “The administration’s efforts to attain economic security have consisted of attempts to minimize the serious of the Depression, of bold assurances that steps would restore prosperity were about to be taken, and of a woefully unsuccessful program to stimulate private or local agencies to undertake tasks which the administration was determine to shirk... “Timidity and disingenuousness have marked the course of the administration at a time when heroic courage and bold frankness were necessary.. Vigor and firm leadership have been displayed by the president at times, but only to resist proposals which would have mitigated suffering but which necessarily involved an additional levy upon wealthy income taxpayers.... “The third winter of unemployment is approaching. Responsibility for the failure of the federal government to provide a program for the relief of distress among millions of pour people rests squarely upon President Hoover. The bankruptcy of his leadership in the worst economic crisis in our history reveals the tragic failure of rugged individualism and places the major cost of deflation upon those least able to bear it — the unemployed.” Robert M. La Follette, Jr., in The Nation magazine

1931 “Our people are providing against distress from unemployment in true American fashion by magnificent response to public appeal and by action of local governments.” President Hoover, 1931 State of the Union Address.

1932 “My sober and considered judgement is that at this stage Federal aid would be a disservice to the unemployed.” President Hoover, 1932 State of the Union Address.

1932 “If you want to hear discussions on the future revolution in the United States, do not go to the breadlines and the mill towns, but to Park Avenue and Wall Street, or to the gatherings of young literary men. Well-fed people will anxiously inquire when you think the revolution is coming. They will admit in a large way that profits must be abolished and that some form of Communism might be desirable. In the next breath they may express doubt whether the Democrats can muster enough votes to defeat Mr. Hoover for reelection, or they may they may oppose moderate reforms like unemployment insurance.... “But you find that searching for actual flesh-and-blood revolutionary proletarians is a thankless task. Most of those who really suffer from the depression are... simply stricken dumb by it. Like the Republican administration, they await nothing more drastic than the return of prosperity.... “As long as people wait for the downtrodden and the hopeless to produce a revolution, the revolution is far away. Revolutions are made, not by the weak, the unsuccessful, or the ignorant, but by the strong and informed. They are processes, not merely of decay and destruction, but of advance and building. An old order does not disappear until a new order is ready to take its place.” George Soule in Harper’s magazine.

1932 “When the veterans of the Bonus Army tried to escape, they found that the bridges into Virginia were barred by soldiers and the Maryland roads blocked against them by state troopers. They wandered from street to street or sat in ragged groups, the men exhausted, the women with wet handkerchiefs laid over their smarting eyes, the children waking from sleep to cough and whimper from the tear gas in their lungs.... “Their shanties and tents had been burned, their personal property destroyed, except for the few belongings they could carry on their backs.... “Two days before, they had regarded themselves, and thought the country regarded them, as heroes trying to collect a debt long overdue.... When threatened with forcible eviction, they answered that no American soldier would touch them: hadn’t a detachment of Marines... thrown down its arms and refused to march against them? “But 1,000 homeless veterans, or 50,000, don’t make a revolution.... No, if any revolution results from the flight of the Bonus Army, it will come from a different source. The army in time of peace, at the national capital, has been used against unarmed citizens — and this, with all it threatens for the future, is a revolution in itself.” Malcolm Cowley, in The New Republic, on the rout of the Bonus Army, war veterans demanding that the government pay a bonus that had been promised to them after World War I.

1932 “I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. Let us here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms.... “[Government must help solve] the problem of underconsumption” and help in “distributing wealth and products more equitably.” Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-NY) speech accepting the nomination of the Democrat Party to be its presidential candidate.

1932 “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, campaign speech.

1932 “Any party which accepts credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.” Dwight Morrow on President Hoover