Hoovervilles: 1932 Do-Nothing Economics

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    By 1932, the Great Depression had spread across America causing tremendous suffering and hardship.


    A Hooverville was the popular name for a shanty town built by homeless men during the Great Depression. They were named after the President at the time, Herbert Hoover, because he allegedly let the nation slide into depression. The term was coined by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee. The name Hooverville has also been used to describe the tent cities commonly found in modern-day America.

    Homelessness was present before the Great Depression, and hobos and tramps were common sights in the 1920s, but the economic downturn increased their numbers and concentrated them in urban settlements close to soup kitchens run by charities. These settlements were often formed on empty land and consisted of jerry-built shacks and tents. Authorities did not officially recognize these Hoovervilles and occasionally removed the occupants for technically trespassing on private lands, but they were frequently tolerated out of necessity. The New Deal had special relief programs aimed at the homeless, the Federal Transient Service (FTS), which operated 1933-35.

    Some of the men who were forced to live in these conditions possessed building skills and were able to build their houses out of stone. Most people, however, resorted to building their residences out of box wood, cardboard, and any scraps of metal they could find, together with a stove, bedding and some cooking utensils.

    Most of these unemployed residents of the Hoovervilles used public charities or begged for food from those who had housing during this era. Democrats coined other terms, such as "Hoover blanket" (old newspaper used as blanketing) and "Hoover flag" (an empty pocket turned inside out). "Hoover leather" was cardboard used to line a shoe with the sole worn through. A "Hoover wagon" was an automobile with horses tied to it because the owner could not afford gasoline; in Canada, these were known as Bennett buggies, after the Prime Minister.


    (This is a real sign from the 1932 presidential campaign, when Democrat FDR defeated Republican Herbert Hoover. I found it in an antique shop in Washington State).

    AdamVandenberg, Gregory Go, and 14 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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    1. Trysk  63 months ago | reply

      Your photo deserves a Ruby

      Please add this photo to the The Ruby Awards group
      You can tag your photo RubyPhotographer

    2. Trysk  63 months ago | reply

      You're invited to post this picture in Everyday is SUNday!
      Everyday is SUNday!
      (INVITED photos - COMMENT on 2) NEW RULES!

    3. Trysk  63 months ago | reply

      Wonderful Shot
      My creation
      Post Group Wonderful world Mix

      Please tag with "WonderfulworldMix"

    4. ~Sir Duke~ 63 months ago | reply

      Love the concept! Truth is... we have a long way to go!

      Seen on your photo stream. (?)

    5. Kamoteus (A New Beginning) 63 months ago | reply

      scary find my friend..... just praying for the best to our country!

      thanks for the add my friend!

    6. Kamoteus (A New Beginning) 63 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called www.flickr.com/groups/751580@N20/, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    7. lensjockey™ 63 months ago | reply

      This is pretty incredible. Glad you made me a contact - I really am going to look at your work alot...

    8. kerrins_giraffe 63 months ago | reply

      wow that is really cool. I don't have the time to read the info right now, so I will have to come back latter and read it. I wonder if things will get that bad again. What is the difference between a recession and a depression?

    9. Tony Fischer Photography 63 months ago | reply

      Recession is (technically) 2 quarters of negative economic growth. A depression is much more serious and much longer. In 1932 we probably had 1-2 more people unemployed for every person we have unemployed now. Housing foreclosures and bankruptcies were more frequent as well. There is little or no money flow in serious recessions or depressions.

      "Analysts" are usually behind in their assessment of what is going on economically because they rely on statistics which are quickly out-of-date and they aren't usually surrounded by the working poor or the non-working poor in their everyday life.

      These same analysts (usually found on CNBC, in financial sales, in the government, etc.) identified us as being in a recession long after it began. So where are we at now?

      I usually look around at family and friends and simply ask myself how are they all doing? I'd say we are in trouble and have to create more jobs while helping those who have needs, like uneployment insurance and health care.

      Thanks for asking.

    10. jamesvoves 63 months ago | reply

      Look Hoover did not cause the great depression, Clinton did

    11. Double_Nickel 63 months ago | reply

      “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. ... I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... and an enormous debt to boot!”
      Henry Morgenthau FDR's treasury secretary

    12. pixieclipx 63 months ago | reply

      Hmmm. all very interesting. It seems so bad, but then, I am still spending money. Yet, I fear every time the phone rings, it will be my husband or son telling me they lost their job. And still, I came home with yet another pair of shoes and a new dress.
      -- confessions of a real Shopaholic in need of rehab

      Seen on your photo stream. (?)

    13. ddittell [deleted] 57 months ago | reply

      Tony the Misfit,

      This is about as good of a campaign slogan as you're gonna get. I wanted to thank you for releasing this photo; I've used it at my blog Alphabet Soup Kitchen with full attribution and a link. Again, thank you.

    14. bretonfilms 5 months ago | reply

      Hi Tony, I'd like to use this picture for a documentary TV show I work for. It's a non profit historical show called "American Ride." I don't see your contact info on your profile page. Will you email me? My email is bretonfilms at gmail.com Thanks!

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