Also termed as the Great Slump, the Great Depression was a powerful, global economic recession phase that kick-started in few nations as early as 1928. In the United States, the initiation of this Great Depression stands marked with the massive crash of the stock market on 29 October in 1929. This depression had ruinous effects in both countries - the industrialized as well as those who sold raw materials overseas. As Global trade fell drastically, so did peoples’ income, tax revenues, costs and profits.
All over the world, the economy of cities especially ones majoring in heavy industry were badly affected. Construction was terminated in many nations, whereas rural areas got hit by a significant decline in crop prices by 40 to 60 per cent. Faced with continuously plunging demand coupled with few substitute job options, areas reliant on primary sector industries like agriculture, mining, etc endured the maximum. Majority nations underwent varying degrees of political mayhem, with distressed citizens turning towards nationalist demagogues like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, thus setting stage for 1939’s World War II.
Great Depression Timeline & Summary
1929 October - The stock market undergoes a massive crash underscoring a tragic termination of the six years of unmatched prosperity in maximum zones of America’s economy.
November - "Any lack of confidence in the economic future or the basic strength of business in the United States is foolish," said President Herbert Hoover, the then US President.
1930 March – A whooping 3.2 million people or even more lost their jobs, up from 1.5 million recorded prior the "crash" of October, 1929. President Hoover nevertheless remained optimistic.
November - New York City street corners got crowded with apple-sellers. Almost 6,000 individuals were engaged in selling apples for five cents apiece.
1931 January - Texas Congressman Wright Patman levies legislation ordering instant conferment of "bonus" funds to World War I veterans.
February - Food riots start in various pockets of the United States. Grocery shops get looted by people. Hatred towards "foreign" laborers crop up among natives while unemployment rolls. Many are deported.
March – About 3000 jobless workers march on the Ford Motor Company's plant at River Rouge in Michigan. They get attacked by police and Ford's company guards. Four gets killed, others injured.
December - Bank of the United States at New York collapses.
1932 January - Congress sets up the Reconstruction Finance Corporation that is made to lend $2 billion to banks, insurance firms, building and loan associations, agricultural credit organizations and railroads.
April – Over 750,000 New Yorkers listed reliant on city relief, with an added 160,000 on waiting list.
May – Over 300 World War I vets from Portland, Oregon head for Washington D.C. to request Congress to pass the Bonus Bill.
June – Resolute about collecting the "bonus" money for their service, around 15,000 to 25,000 World War I veterans collect and start erecting camps near the White House and the Capitol in Washington, D.C. till their demand got fulfilled.
July – President Hoover allows a $100,000 transportation bill to help the "bonus Army" demonstrators in returning home. When few members refuse to budge from their camps, violence kicks up resulting in the deaths of two veterans. Hoover instructs Federal troops to assist D.C. police in shooing away the veterans.
July - Reconstruction Finance Corporation is asked to lend money from the national treasury for relief and public works projects.
November - Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) is appointed the new US President.
1933 March – Roosevelt is anointed President in front of a crowd of 100,000 at the Capitol Plaza in Washington, D.C. FDR declares a four-day bank holiday from 6 March. He promises Congress would come up with a plan to rescue the failing banking industry by then. By 9 March, Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 and by the month's end, a number of the nation's closed banks begin to operate. On 12 March, FDR requests the nation to help him in "banishing fear."
April - Under the Emergency Banking Act, President Roosevelt instructs the nation to get off the gold standard. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is set up as a relief and employment project targeting young men between 17 and 27 years of age. It shows reasonable success results.
May – Congress sets up the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Harry L. Hopkins is made its chief administrator. By his first day’s end on the job, Hopkins delivered grants amounting over $5 million. Further on, the National Industrial Recovery Act is presented in the Congress designed to govern some form of price and wage controls. As per this act, the National Labor Board was organized for settling disagreements between labor and management.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is set up. Seen as a major experiment in social planning, the TVA constructed dams, manufactured and sold fertilizer, reforested the Tennessee Valley and set up recreational lands.
June - The Glass-Steagall Act was passed by Congress that segregated commercial from investment banking and also built the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to guarantee bank deposits.
August - Federal government introduces Soil Erosion Service aiming to encourage farmers into soil conservation districts.
September - To steady down the prices, the federal agricultural program commands slaughter of over six million pigs. Many citizens dissent this move as maximum meat went waste.
October – Civil Works Administration is set up as an enormous project which would gives jobs to four million people through building of bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, parks, etc.
1934 May - A dust storm for three days blows away approximately 350 million tons of soil off the West and Southwest terrain and deposits it far east at places like New York and Boston. Few East Coast cities lighted street lamps during the dust storm to see through the blowing dust.
November - The Union for Social Justice is set up by Father Charles E. Coughlin, who via radio airwaves rebuked "predatory capitalism." His candid criticism of banking system and communism soon vented a worrying gospel of anti-Semitism.
1935 April – President Roosevelt signs legislation setting up the Works Progress Administration, whose name got altered to the Work Projects Administration later. It employed over 8.5 million people in 3,000 counties across the nation. Drawing salary of just $41.57 each month, the unit reconstructed or built highways, roads, bridges and airports.
WPA also put thousands of artists to work on varied projects, but remained in existence only till 1943. The magazine "Business Week" pronounced that "Depression is a forgotten word in the automobile industry, which is forging ahead in production, retail sales, and expansion of productive capacity in a manner reminiscent of the 'twenties.'"
June - National Youth Administration (NYA) is formulated to cater to needs of youth, whom the CCC did not cover.
July – President Roosevelt introduces the Wagner National Labor Relations Act to legalize union authority as well as monitor union elections.
August - The Social Security Act of 1935 is signed into law by President Roosevelt of US. Among contentious provisions of this Act was that Social Security be financed through a payroll tax.
1936 March - Photographer Dorothea Lange went to a pea-pickers' camp in California's San Joaquin Valley and clicked some images. The San Francisco News displayed them in the form of a photo essay highlighting the plight of these workers.
October - The San Francisco News brings out articles penned by John Steinbeck titled "The Harvest Gypsies." They highlight the hardships undergone by those living and working in migrant labor camps.
November – Roosevelt is nominated for his second term as US President.
1937 January - United Automobile Workers strike at the General Motors Plant in Flint, Michigan, which turns violent after strikers clash with police hired by the company.
May –Ten got killed and a dozen people injured in the "Memorial Day Massacre" at Republic Steel's South Chicago plant. The workers with their families tried combining a picnic with a rally and demonstration.
March – The sluggish economic recovery guided by the New Deal programs undergoes a setback when joblessness ups.
1938 April – US President Roosevelt demands the Congress to sanction $3.75 billion in federal spending to boost the drooping economy. Economic indicators work positively the next few months, but situation remains more or less static.
1940 November - Franklin Roosevelt is elected for a record third term as the US President. His success is interpreted as proof of the nation's support for his war policies. About a year later ensuing Japan's December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. enters the war in the Pacific and in Europe. The war effort kick-started the U.S. industry and successfully brought the Great Depression to its end.