Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview
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10
Strike!

My boyhood was a pretty rough passage. I came through it, yes. But that was luck, luck, luck! Think of the others!

-- New York senator Robert F. Wagner

Despite Roosevelt's fulminations against business, and despite the fumbling performance of the NRA and AAA, as early as 1935 the economy had begun to show at least modest signs of recovery. In the hollows of Appalachia, miners were retimbering coal shafts dank and rubbled from years of disuse. Workers oiled rusty spindles in long-shuttered textile mills from Massachusetts to the Carolinas. The clang of stamping presses and the buzz of machine tools split the stillness that had descended in 1929 over the great industrial belt between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes. Stevedores were once again winching cargoes onto the docks of Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. Tugs taken out of mothballs nudged barge-rafts up the Mississippi from New Orleans. Along the Monongahela and the Allegheny, banked forge and foundry furnaces were coughing back to life. Haltingly, hopefully, America was going back to work.

Official figures confirmed the extent of the revival. Gross national product for 1935 stood at nearly $88 billion, well above the low point of some $73 billion in 1933, though still below the 1929 high of $104 billion. A more sensitive gauge of economic performance, measuring the volume of industrial output on a monthly basis, confirmed the steady and even accelerating pace of improvement. On a 1929 base of 100, the Federal Reserve Board's Index of Industrial Production climbed from less than 50 in 1933 to 70 in 1934 and was rising above 80 as 1935 drew to a close. These favorable trends gathered still more momentum throughout 1936 and on into early 1937. By the time of Roosevelt's tri

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