President Franklin Roosevelt signed the ambitious but controversial Tennessee Valley Authority Act 80 years ago on May 18, 1933, to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression.
An enduring legacy of the New Deal, FDR established the Civilian Conservation Corps with an executive order signed April 5, 1933.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the program put thousands of unemployed young men to work, planting trees, building roads, improving State and National Parks, even combating forest fires and other natural disasters.
Never a permanent agency, the scale of the CCC was reduced as the economy improved, and it was disbanded in 1942 as the country geared up for World War II.
The Beer-Wine Revenue Act - March 22, 1933
80 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Beer–Wine Revenue Act into law on March 22, 1933. This law amended the Volstead Act and permitted the sale of beer and wine with an alcohol content of less than 3.2% by volume. The act represented the first relaxation of the prohibition laws since 1918 and was followed up at the end of the year with the passage of the 21st Amendment repealing prohibition. Repeal of prohibition laws was a key plank in the Democratic platform during the 1932 Presidential election as reflected in Clifford Berryman’s cartoon.
March 12, 1933, FDR’s First Fireside Chat on the Banking Crisis
As one of his first acts to confront the worsening impact of the Great Depression, newly elected President Roosevelt declared a nation-wide bank holiday starting on March 6, 1933 effectively shutting down the American banking system following a month long run on their reserves. Roosevelt went on the radio in his first “fireside chat” to dispel rumors and explain his actions. When banks reopened on March 13th, the public lined up to redeposit their cash. The bank holiday, along with the Emergency Banking Act passed on March 9th, is credited with restoring public confidence in the banking sector.
“This Counter Restaurant is at CCC Camp, TVA #22, near Esco, Tennessee. Temporarily the boys are eating outdoors and using for a lunch counter lumber which is to be used in the construction of their winter barracks. The barracks are being built by local labor. The cook’s tent, officers’ mess tent, etc., are in the background.”, 11/17/1933
In 1933, after submitting an outline for an introductory photographic survey of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) projects, Lewis W. Hine was hired to do a one month assignment in East Tennessee. This photo of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers was taken November 17, 1933.
“Give the boys a chance”
1934 found this country in the middle of the Great Depression. The competition for jobs was so fierce that some demanded women leave their jobs so that unemployed men could work. The writers of this letter, like people everywhere, were desperate.
“Bonus Army” driven from Washington, DC.
In the summer of 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, World War I veterans seeking early payment of a bonus scheduled for 1945 assembled in Washington to pressure Congress and the White House. After the Senate rejected the bonus, most of the protesters went home, but a core of ten thousand members of the “Bonus Army” remained behind, many with their families. On the morning of July 28, violence erupted between the protesters and police, and President Hoover reluctantly sent in federal troops under Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Ignoring the President’s order for restraint, the flamboyant general drove the tattered protesters from the city and violently cleared their Anacostia campsite.
Civilian Conservation Corps in California, Camp Wolverton, Sequoia National Park, 06/27/1933
John Dillinger was the nation’s top public enemy in 1934. He was charged in a string of bank robberies and for the murder of a police officer after being released from prison on parole for robbing a grocery store. Once again in police custody, Dillinger broke out of prison and fled the scene in a stolen car. He drove the car across state lines, violating the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act (a federal offense). The investigation was then turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This wanted poster was printed by the government in June 1934. Dillinger was located and surrounded by FBI agents at the Chicago Biograph Theater on July 22. Dillinger reached for his gun, and was shot and killed at the scene.
FBI Wanted Poster of John Dillinger, 06/25/1934, Publications of the U.S. Government (ARC 306713)
In 1932, home economists championed this thrifty couple’s use of home canning to provide fruits and vegetables for the family throughout the year.
Negro Family Budget of Canned Fruits and Vegetables, Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Bryan Expert Canners in Their Community, 05/19/1928