President Hoover and the Great Depression

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Timeline of key dates

      • 1929 - Presidency of Herbert Hoover began. Agricultural Marketing Act.
      • 1930 - Hawley-Smoot tariff.
      • 1931 - Moratorium on foreign debts. National Credit Corporation set up.
      • 1932 - Johnson Act. Federal Home Loan Bank Act. Reconstruction Finance Corporation set up. Emergency Relief and Construction Act. Bonus Army march on Washington. Hoover defeated in the presidential election.

"In Hoover we trusted

And now we are busted"

Herbert Hoover (1929-33)

  • Hoover could not shift from his fundamental beliefs. 
    • Self-Reliance
      • People should be responsible for their own welfare.
      • The government should not try to solve people's problems. However, it was up to the government to give people the ability to solve their problems by themselves.
    • "American individualism"
      • Equality of opportunity. 
      • Everyone could, with hard work and initiative, become rich just as Hoover had. 
      • Hoover felt a balance should be struck between people's desire to do whatever they wanted themselves and the needs of the wider community.
      • Emphasis was always on the responsibility of the individual, the curbing of excesses in one's personal life and treating others fairly. 
      • "American individualism" was regarded as the best system in the world. The role of the government was helping its development. 
      • A belief in self-help and voluntary co-operation to solve problems. People should help themselves and each other.

The USA during the Great Depression

  • The economic effects
      • One historian wrote that the unemployment figures matched the casuality figures from WW1. An official government source suggests that it rose from 3.2% of the labour force in 1929 to 25.2% in 1933. Another source suggests that by 1933, one third of the work force was unemployed.
      • The national wage bill in 1932 was only 40% of the 1929 figure.
    • Uneven distribution of unemployment
      • African-Americans
        • The number of African-Americans out of work was four to six times higher than whites.
        • Poorly paid jobs traditionally reserved for African-Americans were now being increasingly offered to whites.
        • "Most blacks did not even know the Great Depression had come. They always had been poor and only thought the whites were catching up."
      • Women
        • Those in unskilled jobs were likely to be laid off before men, and those in domestic service suffered because families could no longer afford to keep them on. 
        • Married women often needed to work to keep the family solvent. However, because they were employed, they were often accused of being responsible for male unemployment. 
        • It was common for women to be dismissed so that their job would be given to men. 
        • In 1930 over 75% of American school authorities refused to employ married women.
    • Effects on individual industries
      • Although some industries escaped the effects of the depression, by 1933, nowhere in the USA could wholly escape its effects. 
      • With fewer in productive work, the growth rate went into decline, from 6.7% in 1929 to -14.7% in 1932, representing a fall in gross national product (GNP) from $203.6 billion in 1929 to $144.2 billion in 1932. 
      • General price levels fell by 25%, farm


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