The American People on the Eve of the Great Depression
We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. -- Herbert Hoover, August 11, 1928
Like an earthquake, the stock market crash of October 1929 cracked startlingly across the United States, the herald of a crisis that was to shake the American way of life to its foundations. The events of the ensuing decade opened a fissure across the landscape of American history no less gaping than that opened by the volley on Lexington Common in April 1775 or by the bombardment of Sumter on another April four score and six years later.
The ratcheting ticker machines in the autumn of 1929 did not merely record avalanching stock prices. In time they came also to symbolize the end of an era. The roaring industrial expansion that had boomed since the Civil War hushed to a near standstill for half a generation. The tumult of crisis and reform in the ten depression years massively enlarged and forever transformed the scanty jeffersonian government over which Herbert Hoover had been elected to preside in 1928. And even before the battle against the Great Depression was won, the American people had to shoulder arms in another even more fearsome struggle that wreathed the planet in destruction and revolutionized America's global role.
None of this impending drama could have been foreseen by the tweedy group of social scientists who gathered at the White House for dinner with President Hoover on the warm, early autumn evening of September 26, 1929. The Crash, still four weeks away, was unimagined