A Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh

By Kenneth J. Heineman | Go to book overview
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Pilgrimage Father James Cox and the Awakening of Catholic Social Activism, 1932, 1932

Father James Cox of Pittsburgh leads Catholic clergy and laity into a new era of social activism and political mobilization. Cox's march on Washington in 1932, and his subsequent campaign for the presidency, galvanizes the unemployed of Pennsylvania. President Herbert Hoover and the Republican Party, having neglected the needs of working-class Catholics, and having failed to deal adequately with the crisis of the Great Depression, are on their way to electoral defeat in 1932.

As the Great Depression entered its third year, Pittsburgh residents marveled at the pristine skies above their city. When the steel mills and coke ovens had been operating at full capacity, the city's fathers turned on the street lamps at noon so downtown office workers could find their way to diner and curbside vendor. Meanwhile, the white-collar employees of Mellon National Bank & Trust used their lunch break to change soot-filled clothes. Pittsburgh was known throughout the land as a three-shirt-a-day city and office workers rarely left home without at least one change of clothing. However, life in Pittsburgh had drastically changed since the 1929 stock market crash. Now that the American steel industry was operating at 12 percent of capacity, and 31 percent of white and 48 percent of black Pittsburghers were unemployed, the glorious days of full employment and foul air had become mocking memories.1

Even though U.S. Steel had taken the lead in reducing wages, slashing

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