Posts tagged american history
Posts tagged american history
Roosevelt was born Jan. 30, 1882.
Happy belated birthday, FDR! Yesterday marked the 32nd President’s 131st birthday. The four-term P.O.T.U.S. is best known for his New Deal plan during the Great Depression and his leadership during World War II. Despite losing the use of his legs at age 39 after a battle with Polio, Roosevelt is remembered for his sense of humor and optimism.
This Roosevelt campaign poster from 1936 can be found in the online collection of the Kentucky Historical Society.
This photo has been reproduced a billion times, almost never with any context. I know a doctor who has this framed on the wall of his office. So now you know: RCA Building (GE Building, 30 Rock), 1932, photo by Charles C. Ebbets.
“Lunch atop a Skyscraper”
Known as “New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam”, The photograph depicts eleven men eating lunch, seated on a girder with their feet dangling 840 feet above the New York City streets. The men have no safety harness, which was linked to the Great Depression, when people were willing to take any job regardless of safety issues. The photo was taken on September 20, 1932 on the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of construction. Men are talking and smoking while taking out their lunch boxes and generally not paying any special attention to the unusual setting. The relaxed state of the construction workers paired with the backdrop of New York City has captivated viewers ever since it was first popularized. I love this photograph because it shows the dedication that these men had to build the skyscrapers of New York City. The overcast day gave the set a perfect example of diffused light. Wonderful photograph that captured one of most famous photographs during the Great Depression.
Photograph by Charles C. Ebbets
Decidedly NOT Deco, but still, Happy Birthday to NYC’s Grand Central!
From today’s NY Times article, “100 Years of GrandeurL The Birth of Grand Central Terminal”:
One hundred years ago, on Feb. 2, 1913, the doors to Grand Central Terminal officially opened to the public, after 10 years of construction and at a cost of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars. The terminal was a product of local politics, bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle and visionary engineering. No other building embodies New York’s ascent as vividly as Grand Central. Here, the tale of its birth, excerpted from “Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America,” by Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, to be published later this month by Grand Central Publishing.
Photo credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
U.S. Courthouse and Post Office, Meridian, Mississippi
Photo by James Patterson for The New York Times
Noticed this news item in the NY Times:
Even on a steamy humdrum Thursday afternoon, this city’s stately federal courtroom looks like the kind of place where momentous things could happen, as they once did. The legal campaign to integrate the University of Mississippi got under way here in May 1961, and it was here that a local posse of Klansmen who murdered three civil rights workers faced justice at the hands of their neighbors, the first time that had happened in Mississippi….
The 79-year-old building itself is not closing. Meridian’s main post office still takes up the ground floor, and residents would not let that go without a fight. But as in so many downtowns throughout the country, the central outpost that once reminded everyone that there was a federal government at work has over time been stripped of its purpose.
While I’m sharing some pictures of Atlanta’s past, thought I’d share some videos as well, like this 18-min. one on the New South of the 1950s. This documentary includes footage from Georgia at Louisiana, I can see, and probably other states. I gather from the second half of this show that Southern Bell was the sponsor.
Note the remarks about existing facilities having to be enlarged and things redone in the rush to progress. Many, many historic Atlanta buildings were lost in the 1950s. And of course note the bit about building the suburbs.
And there’s so much more in this video! Female auto workers, the Savannah River atomic plant, vintage transportation, telephone cable installation, phone operators, for example. (Also there’s so much not shown, like say, any black people.)
This Fabulous Century: 1920-1930
by Editors of Time-Life Books
The 1930s were bleak coming after the 1920s and the highs set there (and lows that were largely hidden). Seem familiar to anyone?
From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:
In product design they used materials like chrome, plastic, and aluminum, not the precious materials of early Deco; they oversaw the transition of elegance from the luxury market to the wider world of ordinary consumption. In the process they became figures of vast cultural influence as well as commercial wizards who, in a stagnant economy, could somehow sell products that exuded elegance, optimism, and energy.
It was one thing to use a sheath of metal to give an aerodynamic look to the sleek locomotive of the new Twentieth Century Limited. It was quite another to give the same look to farm equipment or to a household iron, a pencil sharpener, or a cigarette lighter, associating them too with the aesthetics of the machine, the modern, the thrust toward a utopian future.
Working with curved lines, they used bullet shapes to suggest dynamic force and teardrop shapes to imply graceful flow. They could make a teapot look like Aladdin’s lamp and give rounded, futuristic lines to a toaster, a mixmaster, or the Bakelite portable radios that could be found in every modest American home when I was a kid in the 1940s.
These new industrial products and their designs paved the way for the postwar world by democratizing consumption itself.
Photos: 1930s toasters, all pulled from eBay.
Taken from the New York Times’ Great Depression archive…
A Short History of the Great Depression
By Nick Taylor , the author of American-Made, a 2008 history of the Works Progress Administration.
The Great Depression was a worldwide economic crisis that in the United States was marked by widespread unemployment, near halts in industrial production and construction, and an 89 percent decline in stock prices. It was preceded by the so-called New Era, a time of low unemployment when general prosperity masked vast disparities in income.
The start of the Depression is usually pegged to the stock market crash of “Black Tuesday,” Oct. 29, 1929, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 23 percent and the market lost between $8 billion and $9 billion in value. But it was just one in a series of losses during a time of extreme market volatility that exposed those who had bought stocks “on margin” – with borrowed money.
The stock market continued to decline despite brief rallies. Unemployment rose and wages fell for those who continued to work. The use of credit for the purchase of homes, cars, furniture and household appliances resulted in foreclosures and repossessions. As consumers lost buying power industrial production fell, businesses failed, and more workers lost their jobs. Farmers were caught in a depression of their own that had extended through much of the 1920s. This was caused by the collapse of food prices with the loss of export markets after World War I and years of drought that were marked by huge dust storms that blackened skies at noon and scoured the land of topsoil. As city dwellers lost their homes, farmers also lost their land and equipment to foreclosure.
President Herbert Hoover, a Republican and former Commerce secretary, believed the government should monitor the economy and encourage counter-cyclical spending to ease downturns, but not directly intervene. As the jobless population grew, he resisted calls from Congress, governors, and mayors to combat unemployment by financing public service jobs. He encouraged the creation of such jobs, but said it was up to state and local governments to pay for them. He also believed that relieving the suffering of the unemployed was solely up to local governments and private charities.
By 1932 the unemployment rate had soared past 20 percent. Thousands of banks and businesses had failed. Millions were homeless. Men (and women) returned home from fruitless job hunts to find their dwellings padlocked and their possessions and families turned into the street. Many drifted from town to town looking for non-existent jobs. Many more lived at the edges of cities in makeshift shantytowns their residents derisively called Hoovervilles. People foraged in dumps and garbage cans for food.
The presidential campaign of 1932 was run against the backdrop of the Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination and campaigned on a platform of attention to “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” Hoover continued to insist it was not the government’s job to address the growing social crisis. Roosevelt won in a landslide. He took office on March 4, 1933, with the declaration that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Roosevelt faced a banking crisis and unemployment that had reached 24.9 percent. Thirteen to 15 million workers had no jobs. Banks regained their equilibrium after Roosevelt persuaded Congress to declare a nationwide bank holiday. He offered and Congress passed a series of emergency measures that came to characterize his promise of a “new deal for the American people.” The legislative tally of the new administration’s first hundred days reformed banking and the stock market; insured private bank deposits; protected home mortgages; sought to stabilize industrial and agricultural production; created a program to build large public works and another to build hydroelectric dams to bring power to the rural South; brought federal relief to millions, and sent thousands of young men into the national parks and forests to plant trees and control erosion.
The parks and forests program, called the Civilian Conservation Corps, was the first so-called work relief program that provided federally funded jobs. Roosevelt later created a large-scale temporary jobs program during the winter of 1933–34. The Civil Works Administration employed more than four million men and women at jobs from building and repairing roads and bridges, parks, playgrounds and public buildings to creating art. Unemployment, however, persisted at high levels. That led the administration to create a permanent jobs program, the Works Progress Administration. The W.P.A. began in 1935 and would last until 1943, employing 8.5 million people and spending $11 billion as it transformed the national infrastructure, made clothing for the poor, and created landmark programs in art, music, theater and writing. To accommodate unions that were growing stronger at the time, the W.P.A. at first paid building trades workers “prevailing wages” but shortened their hours so as not to compete with private employers.
Roosevelt’s efforts to assert government control over the economy were frustrated by Supreme Court rulings that overturned key pieces of legislation. In response, Roosevelt made the misstep of trying to “pack” the Supreme Court with additional justices. Congress rejected this 1937 proposal and turned against further New Deal measures, but not before the Social Security Act creating old-age pensions went into effect.
Brightening economic prospects were dashed in 1937 by a deep recession that lasted from that fall through most of 1938. The new downturn rolled back gains in industrial production and employment, prolonged the Depression and caused Roosevelt to increase the work relief rolls of the W.P.A. to their highest level ever.
Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, following Japan’s invasion of China two years earlier and the continuing war there, turned national attention to defense. Roosevelt, who had been re-elected in 1936, sought to rebuild a military infrastructure that had fallen into disrepair after World War I. This became a new focus of the W.P.A. as private employment still lagged pre-Depression levels. But as the war in Europe intensified with France surrendering to Germany and England fighting on, ramped up defense manufacturing began to produce private sector jobs and reduce the persistent unemployment that was the main face of the Depression. Jobless workers were absorbed as trainees for defense jobs and then by the draft that went into effect in 1940, when Roosevelt was elected to a third term. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that started World War II sent America’s factories into full production and absorbed all available workers.
Despite the New Deal’s many measures and their alleviation of the worst effects of the Great Depression, it was the humming factories that supplied the American war effort that finally brought the Depression to a close. And it was not until 1954 that the stock market regained its pre-Depression levels.
Collection of NY Times articles & photos related to the Great Depression. I’m going to pull out a few of these individually but in the meantime sharing the main link.
From WABE News here in Atlanta:
Today is November 29th, and if we were to turn Atlanta’s clock back 76 years to this date in 1935, we’d find President Franklin Roosevelt in town for the official dedication of Techwood Homes—the first public housing project in the United States. Here, WABE’s Steve Goss talks with Georgia State University historian Dr. Cliff Kuhn.
Click the link for a radio feature with background on public housing in America.
Techwood was not Deco but it was a major New Deal project in Atlanta and one of hundreds of projects in the U.S. As the decades ran on, the initial vision crumbled into one of despair and hopelessness, not only in Atlanta but nation-wide. Today only one building of Techwood Homes (now Centennial Place) remains; it’s an nice L-shaped 1930s brick apartment building with individual entrances for each unit. I used to walk by it every day on my way to work, which at the time was Georgia Tech.