1930s Staten Island

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The Great Depression and Its Aftermath

Like other Americans in the 1920s and 1930s, Staten Islanders witnessed dramatic changes in these decades of technological and cultural innovation. Radios, movies, home electricity and automobiles became commonplace; three bridges were built connecting Staten Island to New Jersey. Prohibition Park and Stapleton, home to major breweries, were intertwined with the rise and fall of 18th Amendment (1920-33). The economic collapse of 1929 brought high unemployment, while the New Deal recovery brought jobs as well as the Nation’s first educational zoo, elevated trains, the South Beach Boardwalk and art and museum projects. Women became more visible through their vote (19th Amendment), employment and civic activism after WWI.

Although the immigration laws of 1924 had cut off immigration, the diverse ethnic groups who had come over the prior half century, notably Germans (including Jews), Scandinavians and Italians, were transforming local religion and politics. New Yorkers elected Fiorella LaGuardia as mayor on a "Fusion" ticket, to end the 80-year reign of Democratic Tammany Hall and overcome traditional Republican conservatism. New York got more Public Works Administration (PWA) funds than any other city in the nation, $116 million in grants and $136 million in loans. Staten Islanders also elected an Italian-American Palma for the first time.

To consider: How hard did the great depression hit Staten Islanders? Did hard times lead to increased strikes among unionized workers? How were new immigrants and African-Americans affected? Was there support for cultural and environmental programs? Did the New Deal benefit Staten Islanders differently than in other boroughs? How did Staten Islanders react to international political changes, notably Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany?


National/New York City Background (timeline)

1928: Republican Herbert Hoover defeats Democrat Alfred E. Smith for President

1929: Stock Market Crash in October

1930: Smoot-Hawley Tariff adopted, linked to European economic collapse.

1932: Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Republican Herbert Hoover for President. He promises "New Deal" and in inauguration speech reassures audiences they "have nothing to fear but fear itself." Later fireside chats utilize new radio technology to reach audiences of 60 million.

1933: Hundred Days Congress enacts Emergency Banking Act, Civilian Conservation Corporation (employed 500,000 youth in parks work), Homeowners’ Refinancing Act, National Industrial Recovery Act (established minimum wage as well as founding Public Works Administration or PWA, with 160,000 workers to build highways, schools, etc., later called Civilian Works Administration or CWA) and other measures. Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany. New York City elects Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia, on a Fusion ticket, ending the 80-year reign of Tammany Hall.

1934: Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Communications Commission is established. The FCC succeeded the Federal Radio Commission and was chaired by Anning S. Prall of Port Richmond, SI frm 1935-37.

1935: Works Progress Administration (WPA, spent over $11 billion dollars by mid-1940s, on construction and four cultural projects: Federal Writers Project, Federal Art Project, federal Theater Project, Federal Music Project), National Labor Relations Act, Social Security Act (for retirees, unemployed, blind, dependent children of single mothers, excluded farm laborers and domestic servants).

1936: President Roosevelt Re-elected

1938: Fair Labor Standards Act adopted, making common the forty-hour, five-day work week.

Economy, including WPA programs

By Anthony Cipriano

In 1929 on a day called “Black Tuesday”, an event took place that would change the world forever. The crash of the stock market on Wall Street would utter in more than a decade of unemployment, poverty, deflation, and overall economic hardships. The Great Depression affected the entire country from the streets of Los Angeles to the busy streets of New York City. These economic hard times affected people from all styles of life including the people living right here on Staten Island. How did people in New York City and specifically Staten Island get through the Great Depression and what kind of government aid, including works projects, did the people receive?

1937 WPA Poster, created by Jack Rivolta, for the City of New York Department of Docks, showing five ocean liners.


By Michael Marando '11


By Joshua Piper '11


Ethnicity and Immigration

By Giovanna Colasanto '12

In 1924, the Immigration Act was passed in the United States. This Act greatly reduced the number of immigrants that were permitted into America. New York City was the main area of immigration. As the passage of this act shows, tensions between immigrants and Americans were rising. Staten Island was a great example of the "melting pot" that huge increases of immigrants resulted in, consisting of primarily Jewish, Italian, Irish, German, and African American Immigrants. After the stock market crash of 1929, New York City, along with the country, was thrown into a depression, known now as the Great Depression. The Great Depression resulted in an increase in discrimination and tensions between immigrants, Americans, and different ethnicity's in New York City, focusing mainly on Staten Island.


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