The Great Depression Timeline
How It All Went Down
Unemployment Low in 1929
Unemployment averages 3.2% for the year.
Wall Street Crash
The American stock market collapses, signaling the onset of the Great Depression. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaks in September 1929 at 381.17—a level that it will not reach again until 1954. The Dow will bottom out at a Depression-era low of just 41.22 in 1932.
Unemployment in 1930 at 8.9%
Unemployment averages 8.9% for the year.
Congress passes the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, steeply raising import duties in an attempt to protect American manufactures from foreign competition. The tariff increase has little impact on the American economy, but plunges Europe farther into crisis.
Unemployment in 1931 at 16.3%
Unemployment averages 16.3% for the year.
Major Bank Collapse
New York's Bank of the United States collapses in the largest bank failure to date in American history.[M31] $200 million in deposits disappear, and the bank's customers are left holding the bag.
Unemployment in 1932 at 24.1%
Unemployment averages 24.1% for the year.
Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover in a landslide to win the presidency.
Unemployment in 1933 at 24.9%
Unemployment averages 24.9% for the year.
"Radio Priest" Charles Coughlin's weekly broadcast draws an average of 30-45 million listeners.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is inaugurated into office as 32nd President of the United States.
Townsend Proposes Pension Plan
Dr. Francis Townsend sends a letter to the Long Beach Press-Telegram proposing state-funded pensions for the elderly to boost consumption and employment.
Upton Sinclair Publishes Treatise
Upton Sinclair publishes I, Governor of California and How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future, a fictionalized political treatise that lays out the agenda of a communitarian movement Sinclair calls EPIC—End Poverty In California.
Unemployment in 1934 at 21.7%
Unemployment averages 21.7% for the year.
Townsend Plan Incorporated
Dr. Francis Townsend formally incorporates Old Age Revolving Pensions, Ltd., to lead the Townsend Plan movement.
Share Our Wealth Society Founded
A West Coast longshoremen's strike, conducted with significant aid from the Communist Party, paralyzes shipping and trade in California, Oregon, and Washington. The strike ends with a victory for the longshoremen's union; cooperation between the longshoremen and West Coast Communists represent a first successful venture of the so-called "Popular Front" between Communists and liberals, which won't officially be authorized by the Comintern in Moscow until 1935.
Upton Sinclair Wins Primary
Charles Coughlin Establishes the National Union for Social Justice
Upton Sinclair Defeated
Following a two-month campaign in which EPIC is subjected to ferocious attack by both Republicans and Democrats terrified by its radical communitarian agenda, Upton Sinclair is soundly defeated by conservative Republican Frank Merriam for governor of California. Sinclair writes of the experience in I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked.
Unemployment in 1935 at 20.1%
Unemployment averages 20.1% for the year.
Townsend Support Grows
More than 5000 Townsend Clubs nationwide together represent more than 2 million members. An estimated 25 million Americans have signed petitions asking their representatives to back the Townsend Plan in Washington.
Huey Long Support Grows
Huey Long Assassinated
Huey Long is assassinated inside the Louisiana Capitol Building.
Unemployment in 1936 at 16.9%
Unemployment averages 16.9% for the year.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected to a second term as president, winning in a landslide over Republican Alf Landon. Roosevelt wins every state but Maine and Vermont.
Unemployment in 1937 at 14.3%
Unemployment averages 14.3% for the year.
Unemployment in 1938 at 19%
Unemployment averages 19.0% for the year.
Unemployment in 1939 at 17.2%
Unemployment averages 17.2% for the year.
Nazi Rally in New York City
The German-American Bund stages a huge rally of fascist sympathizers supporting what they call "True Americanism" in Madison Square Garden in New York. Anti-Semitic Hitler admirer and Bund leader Fritz Kuhn calls Franklin Roosevelt "Frank Rosenfeld," the New Deal "The Jew Deal."