Tag Archives: Great Depression

Historian’s Almanac for October 29, 2013

President Herbert Hoover.

President Herbert Hoover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 25, 1929, President Herbert Hoover gave a glowing assessment of the nation’s economic health.  “The fundamental business of the country,” he said, “is on a sound and prosperous basis.”  Four days later the Stock Market collapsed.  The Great Depression began.  Workers lost their jobs and millionaires became paupers.  Hunger and despair stalked the land.

People began to speak of “Hoovervilles,” shanty towns where unemployed and homeless people lived, “Hoover blankets,” newspapers used as blankets by unemployed who slept on park benches, and “Hoover flags,” pockets tuned inside out because there wasn’t anything to put in them.

Sir Walter Raleigh lost his head—literally!—on this day in 1618.  Accused and convicted of treason, Sir Walter was sent the scaffold in London.  He was a man of many talents, a poet, historian, adventurer, soldier, and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, who knighted him in 1584. But as the sages say, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and when Raleigh caught the eye of one of Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting, she sent them both to the Tower.

In 1945, Gimbal’s Department Store in New York City began selling the first commercially-made ballpoint pens.  They were an immediate success.  Selling for $12.50 each, $162.41 in today’s money, they earned Gimbal’s a nice profit of $500,000 ($4,496,583.33 today) in the first month.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always go under the mercy.

The Greek Election: Eve of Destruction or Dawn of Correction?


There is an election taking place in Greece today that could have serious consequences for us folks in the USA.  I imagine that few Americans are even aware that it is taking place, especially those who will be impacted the most by the outcome.

The Greeks are making a choice between two major parties with two different plans for getting Greece out of the economic mess they find themselves in.  The Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras promises to cancel the austerity plan imposed by the European Union.  A victory for Syriza is likely to lead to Greece leaving the Eurozone and replacing the Euro with a return to the Drachma.  The New Democracy party led by Antonis Samara promises to adhere to the austerity plan.

A possible victory for Syriza has the financial markets around the world in near panic mode.   Why?  We live in a global economy.  No longer can we afford to ignore the economic problems elsewhere in the world.  The butterfly flaps its wings in some far off corner of the world, and within no time dangerous winds are blowing in America.

I am not a fan of either the European Union or the Euro.  Frankly, I liked the old Europe where each nationality remembered their heritage and the barbarian hordes were kept beyond the gates of Vienna.  But those days are long gone, and no amount of nostalgia will bring them back.  The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that as the world grows increasingly more “flat,” as Thomas L. Friedman puts it, the better it is to think of the whole and not the individual parts.

That said, I return to the significance of the Greek election.  If the leftist Syriza wins, those many Americans glued to their televisions watching an athletic event, may not be able to pay for their cable or satellite connection.  Those who will suffer the most are the hard working people wh0 don’t know where to look for Greece on a world map or a globe.

I’m not sure that things will be that much better if the conservative New Democracy wins.  Conservatives abroad and at home seem not to have learned anything from the Great Depression.  A return to Adam Smith and Herbert Hoover will only make things worse.  It was the economic philosophy John Maynard Keynes and the decisive action of Franklin D. Roosevelt that brought an end to the Great Depression.  Would it work again?  I don’t know, but I do know that the economic turmoil of the 1930s ended with a big bang.  Let’s hope that the world economic crisis of today doesn’t end the same way. 

The election in Greece is important for all of us.  As I write this, exit polls are forecasting a slim victory for the New Democracy party will win.  Is that good for the Greeks?  For us?