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The Great Depression


Arson on the Rise (New Outlook Magazine, 1933)

When economic opportunity disappeared from the American landscape during the Great Depression, it was replaced by numerous unheard-of options that would have been judged unthinkable in previous decades. Among these was the scheme to burn your own house down in order to collect the insurance premium check(s).

 

The Era of Bartering (Pathfinder Magazine, 1934)

"Scrip (sometimes called chit) is a term for any substitute for legal tender and is often a form of credit" - so reads the Wikipedia definition for those items that served as currency in those portions of the U.S. where the bucks were most scarce. If you've been looking for an article that showed that not every American had faith and hope in the "economic genius" of FDR and his "Brain Trust" - you found it.

The attached news column tells a scrip story from the early Thirties - the type of tale that was most common on the frontier in days of old.

 

The Plummeting Salaries (The Age of the Great Depression)

"For the country at large, per-capita realized income tumbled from $681 in 1929 to $495 in 1933... Many industries and small businesses denied even lip service to the administration's plea for maintenance of wage rates... As usual, unskilled workers had been the shock troops, followed by white-collared workers and technicians. Professional classes felt the jar a little later, as teachers and ministers' salaries were cut or fell into arrears, and the practice of other groups declined, with fees increasingly hard to collect."

 

The Wages and Hours Bill (Pathfinder Magazine, 1937)

This article recorded portions of the battle on Capitol Hill that were waged between the Spring and Winter of 1937 when Congress was crafting legislation that would establish a minimum wage law for the nation's employees as well as a maximum amount of working hours they would be expected to toil before additional payments would be required. This legislation would also see to it that children were removed from the American labor force. The subject at hand is the Black-Connery Bill and it passed into law as the Fair Labor Standards Act.

 

Understanding Unemployment (Pathfinder Magazine, 1937)

In order for FDR's Federal Government to plan their planned economy they had to be able to forecast the future trends in unemployment, and with that in mind it was deemed suitable that a committee be convened to study the matter. The board of brainiacs called themselves the National Resources Committee and their study was boundless and all encompassing. This article summarizes the findings of one of the organization subcommittees; their 450,000-word report was titled "Technological Trends and National Policy, Including the Social Implications of of New Inventions". The head of this subcommittee was the famed sociology professor William F. Ogburn, and as the title implied, the report studied the blessing and the curse that is the nature of technological innovation:

"Because 'inventions create jobs as well as take them away,' the subcommittee would term invention neither an unmixed bane nor an unmixed blessing. But inventive sciences influence labor, natural resources, human minds and social institutions."

The inventions they were most curious about were television, plastics, air conditioning, synthetic rubber, synthetic fabrics, prefabricated housing, fax lines, long-distance air travel, automobile trailers and mechanical cotton picking.

 

Farmers in Flight (Pathfinder Magazine, 1937)

A report from the regional directors of the Resettlement Administration (an arm of the FDR's Department of Agriculture) stated that:

"15,000 farmers have moved out of the Dakotas, Western Kansas and Eastern Montana, leaving soil which because a aridity or exhaustion could not yield any crop... [Having moved to the states of the Pacific Northwestern] Some of them are squatting in shacks and makeshift dwellings made of tree branches, stray boards [and] strips of tin."

 


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