These unhappy times call for the building of plans that . . . put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
-- PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt, radio address,
Albany, N.Y., April 7, 1932
The New Deal was carried out under the most tumultuous economic circumstances in the nation's history and amid turbulent social conflict. After the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, the economy began a long descent lasting for the next four years. Manufacturing output fell by half, unemployment rose from 3 percent to 25 percent of the labor force, more than nine thousand banks closed their doors, and personal incomes declined by more than half.1 Unemployment led to the spread of malnutrition, disease, and shanty towns and, according to sociologists of the era, threatened family life, in as much as men's authority and stature stemmed from their roles as breadwinners.2 Mobs looted stores in search of food; jobless persons organized through the communist-led Trade Union Unity League demonstrated in cities across the nation; and groups engaged in "rent riots" aimed to forestall evictions.3 The traditional poor-relief apparatus of the states and localities were strained to the breaking point by the depth of the crisis.4