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A photograph shows a line of men being served soup in front of St. Peter’s Mission in New York City.
In the early 1930s, without significant government relief programs, many people in urban centers relied on private agencies for assistance. In New York City, St. Peter’s Mission distributed bread, soup, and canned goods to large numbers of the unemployed and others in need.

Unable to receive aid from the government, Americans thus turned to private charities; churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations; and state aid. But these organizations were not prepared to deal with the scope of the problem. Private aid organizations showed declining assets as well during the Depression, with fewer Americans possessing the ability to donate to such charities. Likewise, state governments were particularly ill-equipped. Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to institute a Department of Welfare in New York in 1929. City governments had equally little to offer. In New York City in 1932, family allowances were $2.39 per week, and only one-half of the families who qualified actually received them. In Detroit, allowances fell to fifteen cents a day per person, and eventually ran out completely. In most cases, relief was only in the form of food and fuel; organizations provided nothing in the way of rent, shelter, medical care, clothing, or other necessities. There was no infrastructure to support the elderly, who were the most vulnerable, and this population largely depended on their adult children to support them, adding to families’ burdens ( [link] ).

A photograph shows an elderly destitute man leaning against a vacant storefront in San Francisco, California. The window is covered with signs indicating various properties that are “to lease.”
Because there was no infrastructure to support them should they become unemployed or destitute, the elderly were extremely vulnerable during the Great Depression. As the depression continued, the results of this tenuous situation became more evident, as shown in this photo of a vacant storefront in San Francisco, captured by Dorothea Lange in 1935.

During this time, local community groups, such as police and teachers, worked to help the neediest. New York City police, for example, began contributing 1 percent of their salaries to start a food fund that was geared to help those found starving on the streets. In 1932, New York City schoolteachers also joined forces to try to help; they contributed as much as $250,000 per month from their own salaries to help needy children. Chicago teachers did the same, feeding some eleven thousand students out of their own pockets in 1931, despite the fact that many of them had not been paid a salary in months. These noble efforts, however, failed to fully address the level of desperation that the American public was facing.

Section summary

The prosperous decade leading up to the stock market crash of 1929, with easy access to credit and a culture that encouraged speculation and risk-taking, put into place the conditions for the country’s fall. The stock market, which had been growing for years, began to decline in the summer and early fall of 1929, precipitating a panic that led to a massive stock sell-off in late October. In one month, the market lost close to 40 percent of its value. Although only a small percentage of Americans had invested in the stock market, the crash affected everyone. Banks lost millions and, in response, foreclosed on business and personal loans, which in turn pressured customers to pay back their loans, whether or not they had the cash. As the pressure mounted on individuals, the effects of the crash continued to spread. The state of the international economy, the inequitable income distribution in the United States, and, perhaps most importantly, the contagion effect of panic all played roles in the continued downward spiral of the economy.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the government was confident that the economy would rebound. But several factors led it to worsen instead. One significant issue was the integral role of automobiles and construction in American industry. With the crash, there was no money for either auto purchases or major construction projects; these industries therefore suffered, laying off workers, cutting wages, and reducing benefits. Affluent Americans considered the deserving poor—those who lost their money due to no fault of their own—to be especially in need of help. But at the outset of the Great Depression, there were few social safety nets in place to provide them with the necessary relief. While some families retained their wealth and middle-class lifestyle, many more were plunged quite suddenly into poverty and often homelessness. Children dropped out of school, mothers and wives went into domestic service, and the fabric of American society changed inexorably.

Questions & Answers

who organized the most massive attack in American History, which caused the Germans to begin to retreat in September 1918?
Jmora Reply
Is there answers anywhere to all of the critical thinking questions?
Heather Reply
What were the direct causes of the civil war
Trinity Reply
How did slavery issues effect the war
Trinity
How were politics involved
Trinity
north wanted to unify the south
Maleek
south wanted independence
Maleek
freeing slaves was just a way to recruit black soldiers to fight for north
Maleek
Lincoln couldn't let the south separate from the union , agriculture was way to valuable
Maleek
progressive reforms under Theodore Roosevelt
Karpi Reply
what was the main thing suposed to happen when the tea party
Gavin Reply
Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution?
Nichole Reply
The plan which became known as the seventeenth amendmet.
WIlliam
amendmet because not an article of bill of rights.
WIlliam
Which of the primary features of grassroots Progressivism was the most essential to the continued growth
Ren Reply
The institution of a steady currency.
WIlliam
who invented the comedy movie without soun
Sami Reply
Comedy in film ad early as 1895 in film by Louis Lumier. Utilized slapstick.
Victor
Louis Lumier
WIlliam
Comedy in film as early as late 1895, there were no film adds because pictures could not be paired or arranged with words, quotes, or small phrases. Utilized slapstick.
WIlliam
which of the following is not one of the tasks women performed during the revolution?
Donna Reply
Women were gen not involved in politics or combat
Victor
Women were generally not involved in combat, but went inside the lines however and worked as nurses
WIlliam
Which country etablished the first colonies in the americas
Alex Reply
which part of the America's? what year?
Kyle
Jamestown = England. if I had to guess that's the one you are looking for
Kyle
Spain. area of new Mexico I think.
Christie
the first encounter with Americans in this te Indian was Christopher Columbus from spain bt he not establish a colony and the first colony was Britain in Jamestown I think
Bernard
Spain, first settlement was La Navidad est on Columbus' first voyage and which was destroyed by natives by 1493. on subsequent voyages of Columbus and others, Spain colonized Carribean islands such as Cuba.
Victor
Spain its colonies would become known as new-spain.
WIlliam
in what ways did westward expansion provide new opportunities for women and african americans?\
cavausier Reply
Women were involved in establishing communities. They did a lot of work in turning roughboomtowns into more civilized places that had all the benefits of such. The West was characterized by greater freedom for women e.g. women were first granted suffrage in Wyoming and other Western states.
Victor
Women were involved in establishing new communities within the States'. They helped men turn rough boomtown into a more modern version of civilization for the westerners moving the expansion forward. These communities later provided jobs for Afro-Americans after the civil war.
WIlliam
[.../e.g Suffrage for women was first was granted in The West in Wyoming and other Western states]
WIlliam
It was not a lot of work for them their forefathers all the work actually
WIlliam
What source did the Roman Catholic church have
robbie Reply
Please clarify: do you mean what sources do they made their authority on?
Victor
They established their authority in administering their mission in a last ditch effort to convert native Americans to christianity
WIlliam
yes, what sources? sources of domesticating the Native Americans.
WIlliam
part 1 and part 2 in 2 segments
WIlliam
impact of coming of Portuguese in kenya
Brian Reply
impact of coming of portuguese
Brian
impact of coming of portuguese
Brian
introduced new crops, disrupted local trade and communication, introduced Christianity but had limited success converting locals
Victor
The coming of the Portuguese impacted farming, farmbills caused non-levys in trade, miscommunication in the two governments and our United States Enviormental Protection Agency (USEPA).
WIlliam
What was the first problem that Franklin Roosevelt dealt with during his "First Hundred Days"?
Bryan Reply
The Great Depression
wy
worst cover up! they should feel dumb! they we're trapped in, on both sides of the East and West borders of the Islamic forces, Columbus was desperate and started voyage due to the events of his time!
Abdul
The Banking Crisis
Victor
a better word for Columbus is "determined" not "desperate."
Victor
Which of the following protests was directly related to federal policies, and thus had the biggest impact in creating a negative public perception of Hoover presidency
Steven Reply
the Bonus Army
Victor
The Bonus Army.
WIlliam

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Source:  OpenStax, U.s. history. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11740/1.3
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