The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948

By Stefano Luconi | Go to book overview

5
The Depression Years

THE ECONOMIC CRISIS THAT FOLLOWED THE COLLAPSE OF THE STOCK market in late October 1929 helped keep a majority of ItalianAmerican voters in the Democratic column one year later. Unlike what had happened in the late nineteenth century, it was the Republican Party that was now identified with hard times. On the eve of the 1932 presidential contest, companies such as the Sayles Finishing Plants, Inc. placed slips in their workers' pay envelopes that read [the management… is of the opinion that the prosperity of this company and, therefore, the prosperity of all who are employed by it, require the re-election of President Hoover and the continuance of his policies.] But the [full dinner pail] slogan of the GOP was definitely no longer viable to win votes, especially while Democratic propaganda systematically held the Republican administration in Washington accountable for the economic slump and almost 20 percent of Rhode Island's labor force was jobless by election day.1

The Providence Italian Echo was very concerned about the rise in unemployment in March 1930. But the situation got even worse in the following months. The economic problems in Providence's [Little Italy] were so devastating that some Italian Americans ended up feeding themselves on waste food. As Evelyn Cavalloro Denucci has recalled,

Market owners and peddlers would throw their food out at the dump
which was located where the Almacs is near the Neutaconkanut Park.
Peddlers and market owners would tell the people when they would be
dumping their goods, and some of the people would go there in time to
get some fruit and vegetables. They would bring the food home and
wash it.2

Indeed, the Depression heavily hit the community because it severely affected the three sectors that, as data in chapter 2 have

-71-

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The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • 1: Introduction 11
  • 2: The Setting 19
  • 3: Rhode Island Politics and the Italian-American Vote Before World War I 28
  • 4: The Postwar Decade 49
  • 5: The Depression Years 71
  • 6: The Late New Deal and the Impact of World War II and Its Aftermath 91
  • 7: Conclusion 120
  • 8: A Methodological Note on Electoral Sources 132
  • Notes 136
  • Bibliography 168
  • Index 186
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