Archive for the ‘Great Depression’ Category

Bank run from It’s a Wonderful Life, take 2

Here it is again.


Chapter 34 questions

Due Monday, March 3.

1. What was the position taken by FDR in his foreign relations policy during the early years of his administration, with regard to: Latin America, the Philippines, the USSR, and economic cooperation with Europe and foreign trade? You can make a chart if you like. What was the overall effect of these moves?
2. How did FDR respond to the early aggressions by what would eventually be the Axis powers? What WERE these early aggressive acts? What were some indications that the American people did NOT want the government to intervene?
3. What were the specifics of the various Neutrality Acts between 1935-1937? What happened to the international sale of American goods, particularly weapons?
4. What position did the American government and the American people take on the Spanish Civil War? What American involvement was there?
5. What were the specific circumstances that led to the “Quarantine” speech? Explain the use of the term “quarantine,” and what it implies. What resulted from this speech, and why?
6. What agreements did Hitler conclude in 1938-1939 that allowed him to strengthen his military position? What was he preparing to do after each agreement, specifically? Which countries had Hitler annexed/ conquered by June of 1940?
7. How many Jewish refugees did America give shelter to, and why? Be specific in your answer.
8. What finally caused Congress to pass a conscription law? What did that signify about American neutrality?
9. What was the destroyers deal about? How had public opinion changed in regard to helping Britain?
10. Why did FDR decide to run for a third term in 1940? Who was his opponent? What was the platform of each candidate? What did they both agree upon?
11. What were the details of the lend-lease program? How was this different from the destroyers deal?What did the US do when the Germans invaded the USSR?
12. What is the significance of the Greer, the Kearny, and the Reuben James?
13. What demand did FDR make that convinced the Japanese that war was inevitable with the US?
14. Why was the attack on Pearl Harbor a surprise? What had FDR believed about the site of a possible attack?
15. By December 1, 1941, what opinion did most Americans hold about joining the war?
16. What was the purpose of the Atlantic Conference, and who attended it? What was decided there, specifically, about war aims?
17. Create a timeline of the following events: Pearl Harbor attack, Munich Conference, Atlantic Conference, German-Soviet non-aggression pact, Fall of France, invasion of Poland, German invasion of the USSR.
18. What did FDR do in regard to the London economic conference, and why?
19. Explain this quote from the text: “Congress was one war too late” with its neutrality legislation.
20 Compare the aims of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies with the America First Committee. Who were the famous people associated with each group?
21. How and when did FDR’s foreign policy change from isolationism to interventionism?
22. Why did FDR’s policy change from isolationism?

Route 66

At the top of this page is a drawing of Route 66 with the main towns that lay on the route:

Route 66 now lies alongside Interstate 44 to Oklahoma City and then Interstate 40 to Santa Monica.

The most famous song version is Nat King Cole’s:

And then there’s St. Louis’s own Chuck Berry, for a rock version (he mispronounces Barstow, grrr):

And then it was redone in Cars by John Mayer:

A WPA film: “We Work Again”

What is fascinating is that this was aimed specifically at African Americans and showed how FDR had not forgotten them.

The First Fireside Chat

Read the excerpt from the First Fireside Chat. You can find it on this website:

Or you can download it as a word document: First Fireside Chat

You can hear a recording of FDR reading most of this excerpt here:

Chapter 33 questions

Questions 1-20 are due Monday, February 24! Questions 21-30 are due Tuesday, February 25. You will still have a terms check over the entire chapter on Monday, so make sure you have at least read the chapter carefully.

Chapter 33 questions


1. What was FDR’s background and previous career information? What made him able to connect with the suffering of the common people even though he was wealthy?
2. How did Eleanor help him and influence him? What was her background? Which one of them was more progressive?
3. During the campaign, what did FDR say he would do to combat the Depression? How did this contrast with what Hoover had done, specifically?
4. How did FDR use the time in between the election and his inauguration to his advantage? What did Hoover keep trying to do during this “lame duck” period, and how did FDR respond?
5. Look it up: How was this similar to the lame duck period before Lincoln’s inauguration over the Crittenden Compromise?
6. How did voting patterns change in the election of 1932 and throughout the Roosevelt years, and why? Consider subgroups—women, African Americans, etc.—in your answer. Which groups made up the “New Deal coalition” of voters? What long-term effect did this have on the major parties?
7. What was the relationship like between Congress and FDR upon his taking office in March, 1933? What were the major pieces of legislation passed?
8. What are “the three r’s?” Give an example of a program that accomplished each of the r’s and explain your reasoning.
9. What did the Glass-Steagall Act do, and why? (Also, look it up—what eventually happened to the Glass-Steagall Act, when, and why?)
10. What was the most pressing need for FDR to address upon taking office? How did he specifically address it?
11. Explain this line from FDR’s inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” How could that sentiment be applied to the economic situation?
12. Explain the “managed currency” policy. What was the intended result?
13. What were the historical antecedents that influenced New Deal programs (see pp. 828-9)?
14. What was the most popular early New Deal program? Describe it.
15. What was the most ambitious program seeking to help the economy recover? Describe it.
16. What was the most radical New Deal program, accused of introducing “socialism” into the American economy? Describe it, especially which aspect of it was considered to be most controversial.
17. What role did Harry Hopkins play in the New Deal? Include how much money he oversaw.
18. List and summarize the points of the main critics of the New Deal from the right.
19. List and summarize the points of the main critics of the New Deal from the left.
20. Who were Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict? What field did they specialize in, and what were their main theories?
21. Explain the roles that each of these played in the New Deal: Robert Wagner, Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Norris,
22. Explain the goals and programs of the NRA (not the modern one). Why did it fail?
23. Explain how the Supreme Court resisted early New Deal reforms, including specific cases.
24. What constitutional amendments were added during the New Deal?
25. How did the New Deal attempt to help farmers and sharecroppers? Explain each program and evaluate its effectiveness.
26. What were the causes and effects of the Dust Bowl? What happened to the Okies? Where exactly were they from, where did they go, and why?
27. What dud the Indian Reorganization Act attempt to do? What attitude did John Collier take, and why?
28. What did the Federal Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Commission attempt to do, specifically?
29. Exactly how radical was the New Deal? Why did some people argue that it was actually conservative?
30. Which New Deal programs are still in effect today, and what effect does that have on both what citizens expect from the government and upon the federal budget?

Chapter 32 questions

Chapter 32 Questions- Due next Tuesday!
I have moved this up… but there are newer posts below this one!

1. What were the specific weaknesses of Warren Harding? Why did he get elected anyway?
2. Who were the members of Harding’s cabinet? List them with their areas of responsibility. Who were the best and the worst of the bunch?
3. What specific economic policies were advanced by Harding’s administration under the secretary of the treasury? How much did this typify a laissez-faire attitude? Which groups benefited or were harmed by demobilization after WWI? How did businessmen get around government regulation?
4. What attitude did the Supreme Court take toward business? Explain the significance of the Adkins decision, and its relationship to the earlier Muller decision.

5. How was labor specifically affected during the 1920s? What was the cause of the 1919 steel strike, and what lingering effects did it produce?
6. How did veterans receive benefits far beyond their actual time in uniform? What was the American Legion, and what did it accomplish in the 20s?
7. What were the prime motivations of our foreign policy during this decade? What agreements did we pursue with other countries during this time? What about the Middle East? Be through in your answer.
8. What tariff policy did the US follow in the 1920s, and why? What were the tariff laws passed, and what long term effects did they have on international trade?
9. What major scandals erupted during the Harding Administration? Describe each one. What effect did they have on Harding himself? How did the American people react?
10. How was Coolidge different from Harding? What was his nickname, and why? What was his governing philosophy?
11. What was the situation with farmers, and how did WWI make this worse? How did Coolidge respond to farmers’ difficulties, specifically? What was the McNary-Haugen Bill? What did the Agricultural Marketing Act attempt to do?
12. What divisions kept the Democratic party weak during the 1920s? What did the Progressive party stand for? Why didn’t it do well in 1924?
13. What economic effects lingered from WWI? How did the Dawes Plan attempt to address this?
14. What were the unusual characteristics of the candidates in the 1928 presidential election? What elected experience did each man have?
15. What were the causes of the Great Depression, here in the US? What caused this to be a global economic disaster?
16. What was the philosophy of Hoover toward government intervention in the economy? What were the actions Hoover took to ease the effects of the Great Depression? What was he not willing to do, and why?
17. What did the Reconstruction Finance Corporation do? How effective was it in easing the suffering of everyday Americans? Why?
18.What did veterans do when the Depression struck? How did Hoover specifically respond? What effect did this have on his image, specifically?
19. What was the situation with Japan during Hoover’s presidency? How did the US respond to Japanese expansion? What was the Stimson doctrine?

Woody Guthrie– This Land is Your Land


Woody Guthrie was a fold singer/songwriter as well as being a union organizer– which affects the interpretation of the entire song.

WPA Slave Narratives from Missouri

During the Great Depression, the WPA hired writers to collect oral histories from former slaves, who by this time ranged in age from their 70s to the 100s. This video is a student project using Slave Narratives that were gathered in from former slaves living in Missouri. Some of the writers wrote down the narratives phonetically based on the pronunciation of the former slave; others were recorded in standard English.

This video can also be accessed at

This is an excellent site to learn more about the Slave Narrative Project, and it contains transcripts of some of the oral histories that were collected:

The First Fireside Chat

Here is an audio file to listen to excerpts if you wish (Uses Quicktime)

What positive emotional words does Roosevelt use?

On the Bank Crisis

March 12, 1933

Address of President Roosevelt by radio, delivered from the President’s Study in the White House at 10 PM today.

I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking — with the comparatively few who understand the mechanics of banking but more particularly with the overwhelming majority who use banks for the making of deposits and the drawing of checks. I want to tell you what has been done in the last few days, why it was done, and what the next steps are going to be. I recognize that the many proclamations from State Capitols and from Washington, the legislation, the Treasury regulations, etc., couched for the most part in banking and legal terms should be explained for the benefit of the average citizen. I owe this in particular because of the fortitude and good temper with which everybody has accepted the inconvenience and hardships of the banking holiday. I know that when you understand what we in Washington have been about I shall continue to have your cooperation as fully as I have had your sympathy and help during the past week.

First of all let me state the simple fact that when you deposit money in a bank the bank does not put the money into a safe deposit vault. It invests your money in many different forms of credit-bonds, commercial paper, mortgages and many other kinds of loans. In other words, the bank puts your money to work to keep the wheels of industry and of agriculture turning around. A comparatively small part of the money you put into the bank is kept in currency — an amount which in normal times is wholly sufficient to cover the cash needs of the average citizen. In other words the total amount of all the currency in the country is only a small fraction of the total deposits in all of the banks.

What, then, happened during the last few days of February and the first few days of March? Because of undermined confidence on the part of the public, there was a general rush by a large portion of our population to turn bank deposits into currency or gold. — A rush so great that the soundest banks could not get enough currency to meet the demand. The reason for this was that on the spur of the moment it was, of course, impossible to sell perfectly sound assets of a bank and convert them into cash except at panic prices far below their real value.

By the afternoon of March 3 scarcely a bank in the country was open to do business. Proclamations temporarily closing them in whole or in part had been issued by the Governors in almost all the states.

It was then that I issued the proclamation providing for the nation-wide bank holiday, and this was the first step in the Government’s reconstruction of our financial and economic fabric.

The second step was the legislation promptly and patriotically passed by the Congress confirming my proclamation and broadening my powers so that it became possible in view of the requirement of time to entend (sic) the holiday and lift the ban of that holiday gradually. This law also gave authority to develop a program of rehabilitation of our banking facilities. I want to tell our citizens in every part of the Nation that the national Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — showed by this action a devotion to public welfare and a realization of the emergency and the necessity for speed that it is difficult to match in our history.

The third stage has been the series of regulations permitting the banks to continue their functions to take care of the distribution of food and household necessities and the payment of payrolls.

This bank holiday while resulting in many cases in great inconvenience is affording us the opportunity to supply the currency necessary to meet the situation. No sound bank is a dollar worse off than it was when it closed its doors last Monday. Neither is any bank which may turn out not to be in a position for immediate opening. The new law allows the twelve Federal Reserve banks to issue additional currency on good assets and thus the banks that reopen will be able to meet every legitimate call. The new currency is being sent out by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in large volume to every part of the country. It is sound currency because it is backed by actual, good assets.

A question you will ask is this – why are all the banks not to be reopened at the same time? The answer is simple. Your Government does not intend that the history of the past few years shall be repeated. WE do not want and will not have another epidemic of bank failures.

As a result we start tomorrow, Monday, with the opening of banks in the twelve Federal Reserve Bank cities — those banks which on first examination by the Treasury have already been found to be all right. This will be followed on Tuesday by the resumption of all their functions by banks already found to be sound in cities where there are recognized clearinghouses. That means about 250 cities of the United States.

On Wednesday and succeeding days banks in smaller places all through the country will resume business, subject, of course, to the Government’s physical ability to complete its survey. It is necessary that the reopening of banks be extended over a period in order to permit the banks to make applications for necessary loans, to obtain currency needed to meet their requirements and to enable the Government to make common sense checkups.

Let me make it clear to you that if your bank does not open the first day you are by no means justified in believing that it will not open. A bank that opens on one of the subsequent days is in exactly the same status as the bank that opens tomorrow.

I know that many people are worrying about State banks not members of the Federal Reserve System. These banks can and will receive assistance from member banks and from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. These state banks are following the same course as the national banks except that they get their licenses to resume business from the state authorities, and these authorities have been asked by the Secretary of the Treasury to permit their good banks to open up on the same schedule as the national banks. I am confident that the state banking departments will be as careful as the National Government in the policy relating to the opening of banks and will follow the same broad policy.

It is possible that when the banks resume a very few people who have not recovered from their fear may again begin withdrawals. Let me make it clear that the banks will take care of all needs — and it is my belief that hoarding during the past week has become an exceedingly unfashionable pastime. It needs no prophet to tell you that when the people find that they can get their money — that they can get it when they want it for all legitimate purposes — the phantom of fear will soon be laid. People will again be glad to have their money where it will be safely taken care of and where they can use it conveniently at any time. I can assure you that it is safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress.

The success of our whole great national program depends, of course, upon the cooperation of the public — on its intelligent support and use of a reliable system.

Remember that the essential accomplishment of the new legislation is that it makes it possible for banks more readily to convert their assets into cash than was the case before. More liberal provision has been made for banks to borrow on these assets at the Reserve Banks and more liberal provision has also been made for issuing currency on the security of those good assets. This currency is not fiat currency. It is issued only on adequate security — and every good bank has an abundance of such security.

One more point before I close. There will be, of course, some banks unable to reopen without being reorganized. The new law allows the Government to assist in making these reorganizations quickly and effectively and even allows the Government to subscribe to at least a part of new capital which may be required.

I hope you can see from this elemental recital of what your government is doing that there is nothing complex, or radical in the process.

We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people’s funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. This was of course not true in the vast majority of our banks but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity and to put them into a frame of mind where they did not differentiate, but seemed to assume that the acts of a comparative few had tainted them all. It was the Government’s job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible — and the job is being performed.

I do not promise you that every bank will be reopened or that individual losses will not be suffered, but there will be no losses that possibly could be avoided; and there would have been more and greater losses had we continued to drift. I can even promise you salvation for some at least of the sorely pressed banks. We shall be engaged not merely in reopening sound banks but in the creation of sound banks through reorganization. It has been wonderful to me to catch the note of confidence from all over the country. I can never be sufficiently grateful to the people for the loyal support they have given me in their acceptance of the judgment that has dictated our course, even though all of our processes may not have seemed clear to them.

After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work.

It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.