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The Great Depression in the United States

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The Great Depression in the United States was the worst and longest economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. It lasted from the end of 1929 until the early 1940’s. Beginning in the United States, the depression spread to most of the world’s industrial countries, which in the 20th century had become economically dependent on one another. The Great Depression had quick declines in the production and sale of goods and a sudden and severe rise in unemployment. In 1933, at the worst point in the depression, more than 15 million Americans were unemployed. Starting the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He brought hope as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, the son of James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. He attended Groton, an impressive preparatory school in Massachusetts, and received a BA degree in history from Harvard in only three years. In 1905, he married a distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt next moved to New York City and studied law at New York's Columbia University. He passed the bar examination in 1907 and left school without finishing his law degree. For the next three years he practiced law with a major New York City law firm. He entered politics in 1910 and was elected to the New York State Senate as a Democrat. Roosevelt was reelected to the State Senate in 1912, and supported Woodrow Wilson's candidacy at the Democratic National Convention. Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913 as a reward for his support, a position he held until 1920. Roosevelt's popularity and success in naval affairs resulted in him being nominated for vice-president by the Democratic Party. However, Republican Warren Harding got into the presidency, and Roosevelt returned to private life.

In the summer of 1921 Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis, which is infantile paralysis. Despite efforts to overcome his crippling illness, he never regained the use of his legs. With the encouragement and help of his wife, Eleanor, and political close friend, Louis Howe, Roosevelt resumed his political career. In 1928 he became Governor of New York. Following his reelection as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency. In Chicago in 1932, Roosevelt won the nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for president. He then campaigned energetically calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery, and reform. His activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November 1932 by seven million votes.

Roosevelt took on immediate actions to initiate his “New Deal”. To stop depositor panics, he closed the banks temporarily. Then he worked with a special session of Congress during the first "100 days" to pass recovery legislation, which set up alphabet agencies such as the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to employ young men and the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) to support farm prices. Other agencies assisted business and labor, insured bank deposits, regulated the stock market, subsidized home and farm mortgage payments, and aided the unemployed. These measures revived confidence in the economy. Banks reopened and direct relief saved millions from starvation. Another aspect of the New Deal legislation followed in 1935 including the establishment of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) which provided jobs not only for laborers but also artists, writers, musicians, and authors, and the Social Security act which provided unemployment compensation and a program of old-age and survivors' benefits. Roosevelt defeated each of his next three candidates running for the presidency becoming the only American



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