|All rights reserved.
|"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New Deal programs to increase their political power and build up a Democratic machine that superseded the decaying Republican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
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.