Depression-era New York

Depression-era New York

RETROSPECTIVE  ON THE 1929  WALL STREET STOCK MARKET CRASH,  NEW YORK,  AMERICA...Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sipa Press / Rex Features ( 280579a )

        In the near four hundred years since the first Dutch settlers stepped foot on its lands, the city of New York has overcome countless struggles as a city. Among the struggles the city faced were being a key military stronghold during the American Revolutionary War, suffering numerous fires that caused mass damage to its infrastructure, rioting, and even terrorist attacks. In the 20th century, New York, and the United States as a whole, faced one of its most tolling struggles to date: the Great Depression. The era of the Great Depression lasted from 1929 up until the late 1930’s. The Depression saw millions of Americans lose their employment, housing, and entire financial savings after a colossal crash of the New York Stock Exchange. Over the period of just one year after the crash, unemployment rates “would rise to 13 million – one quarter of the nation’s workforce.”[1]

     Americans all over the nation felt the effects of the Depression in varying degrees, but truly all men and women felt it nonetheless. For millions, life had changed drastically, as they found themselves financially exhausted, unemployed, and even homeless. When unemployment rates were at their peak, nearly one third of New York city’s population was out of work, and those who kept their jobs often had to accept drastic pay cuts. The struggle with unemployment and deductions of pay forced Americans to adopt new ways of living.During the era, the city of New York was no exception in the struggle that the entire nation faced. In fact, New York became “the symbolic capital of the Depression, the financial capital where it had started, and the place where its effects were most keenly felt, and thanks to the media, readily visible”.[2]

     The city of New York did not recover from the market crash easily, taking nearly ten years and the implementation of an entire federally funded recovery program known as the New Deal. The New Deal was the work of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt realized that the best way to get New York and all of America back on their feet again was to create as many jobs for the unemployed as possible. However, many politicians doubted his plan to pump billions of federal dollars into economy as a means to help the economy recover. Roosevelt expressed that he believed the country “need[ed] and, unless [he] mistake its temper, the country demand[ed] bold, persistent experimentation” and that “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.”[1] An ex-politician who spoke before a crowd to support Roosevelt’s efforts stated that she agreed that creating jobs was the most ideal step forward, and that it is “necessary that we preserve to our people the morale and will to fend for themselves” in order for America to “pull itself out of this new morass.” [2] Roosevelt’s program created the Works Progress Administration, funded public works programs that improved the infrastructure of New York city, and created jobs while doing it. In the city of New York alone, Roosevelt’s programs commissioned the construction of the Lincoln Tunnel as well as the restoration of the Central Park Zoo and LaGuardia Airport. When all was said and done, Roosevelt’s New Deal and the WPA had “funded over three million jobs throughout the nation”.[3] With this incredible feat, Roosevelt had done his country a great service as he helped it climb out of the biggest financial crisis it had ever seen.  

[1] Badger, A. J. (1989). The new deal : the depression years, 1933-40. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1989., 190

[2] Baruch, Bernard. “The Present Morass: HOW AMERICA CAN PULL HERSELF OUT.” Vital Speeches Of The Day 4.11 (1938): 322. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.

[3] Badger, 190- 245

[1] Ric Burns and James Sanders, New York: An Illustrated History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 413

[2]Ibid, 426

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