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Pittsburgh
1930's
"If at first you don't succeed, try again.
Then quit. There's no use being a damn
fool about it." - W.C. Fields
ALL THINGS PITTSBURGH
The protests of the unemployed reached a peak in 1933 and 1934. In March, 1933, 40 members of the Wilkinsburg
Unemployed Council seized a Duquesne Light truck, which was about to shut off the power to their apartment building.
Hundreds of Rankin Unemployed Council members jammed the home of an unemployed man and his invalid daughter to
stop a planned sheriff's sale of his furniture. The crowd halted any bidding on the goods by the speculators. When a
policeman tried to clear the way for the bidders, the crowd took his gun and blackjack, bought all the furniture for a
total of 24¢, and returned it to its owner.
Because of actions like these across the nation, President Roosevelt and Congress were forced to act. The WPA, PWA,
and CCC Provided millions of temporary jobs. In 1935 the Social Security Act established old age pensions,
unemployment compensation and public welfare. It was clear that the organized unemployed had played a major part in
winning these gains. Many took this lesson with them into the struggle to build unions in steel and auto.
1930's in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh was a Republican stronghold starting in the 1880s, and the Republican governments provided jobs and
assistance for the new immigrants in return for their votes. But the Great Depression starting in 1929 ruined the GOP
in the city. The Democratic victory of 1932 meant an end to Republican patronage jobs and assistance. As the
Depression worsened, Pittsburgh ethnics voted heavily for the Democrats, especially in 1934, making the city a
stronghold of the New Deal Coalition. By 1936, Democratic programs for relief and jobs, especially the WPA, were so
popular with the ethnics that a large majority voted for the Democrats.
Joseph Guffey, statewide leader of the Democrats, and his local lieutenant David Lawrence gained control of all federal
patronage in Pittsburgh after Roosevelt's landslide in 1932 and the election of a Democratic mayor in 1933. Guffey and
Lawrence used the New Deal programs to increase their political power and build up a Democratic machine that
superseded the decaying Republican machine. Guffey himself acknowledged that a high rate of people on relief was not
only "a challenge" but also "an opportunity." He regarded each relief job as Democratic patronage.
ABOUT THESE PHOTOS:
ALL PHOTOS ON THE 1930 SITE WERE TAKEN FROM THE PITT DIGITAL LIBRARY
http://digital.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/

PHOTOS RESTORED TO THEIR ORIGINAL BRILLANCE BY THE STEELCACTUS FOUNDATION
"I once spent a year in Philadelphia, I think it was on a Sunday" - W.C. Fields
The impact of the Great Depression in Pennsylvania was as complex and as varied as the state itself. This was
particularly true during the early 1930s, before wide-scale federal relief helped reduce unemployment and some of the
worst suffering. The broad diversity of communities and institutions in the state also resulted in a broad diversity of
reactions and responses to the crisis.