The stock market crash of October 24, 1929 (called Black Thursday) marked the beginning of the worst depression in American history, from which the country didn't really begin to rebound until the start of World War II. By 1933, more than 13 million Americans were out of work, tens of thousands of businesses had failed, and the number of farm foreclosures grew.
Direct federal relief to the unemployed ran counter to President Herbert Hoover's strong beliefs about the limited role of government. As a result, he responded to the economic crisis with a goal of getting people back to work rather than directly granting relief. In October 1930, he established the President's Emergency Committee for Employment (later renamed the President's Organization for Unemployment Relief) to coordinate the efforts of local welfare agencies.
As the Great Depression worsened, however, charitable organizations were simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, and Hoover tried new ideas to stimulate the economy:
- The Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (1932) provided railroads, banks, and other financial institutions with money for loans.
- The Glass-Steagall Act (1932) made getting commercial credit easier and released $750 million in gold reserves for additional business loans.
- The Emergency Relief and Construction Act (1932) provided funds to the RFC to make loans for relief to the states and included additional money for local, state, and federal public works projects.
Despite Hoover's efforts to revitalize the economy, the public blamed him for the Great Depression — and the Republicans lost control of both Congress and the White House for almost two decades.