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Imagine—you can have anything you want. Just take it. You can pay for it later…but don't worry your pretty little head about that now.
The idea of credit took the U.S. by storm in the 1920s, and new conveniences such as radios, sewing machines, and wristwatch-maps (yes, those were a thing) started flying off the shelves.
The mindset of "buy now, pay later" took over American society.
Henry Ford made automobile history during this time, cranking out a whopping fifteen million cars and selling them to a nation of people whose only prior knowledge of private transportation had been their horses. The Model T was one of many commodities that lured people into buying on credit—one piece of the Great Depression puzzle.
"Black Tuesday" as it came to be called, was the major drop in stock prices that began the downward spiral of the American economy into the Great Depression. While not the sole cause of the Great Depression (only a very small percentage of Americans actually owned stock, after all), the crash is often seen as the beginning of the Great Depression.
The worst economic disaster in American history, the Great Depression lasted for at least ten years. It didn't "end" the way a war might end, with a truce or a peace treaty, but slowly by recording small gains in the economy.
Some historians push the end of the Great Depression to the United States' entry into World War II, because the war opened up tons of jobs to turn America into a war machine.
The 32nd President of the United States, FDR (as he became known) created the New Deal, helped steer America out of the Great Depression, was Commander in Chief during World War II, and was elected a record-setting four times.
Generally remembered as a strong leader, FDR has sometimes been criticized for wielding his power like a king. (For those curious, the rule limiting a president to two terms was passed right after FDR's death.)
Immediately upon taking office, FDR put his plan to end the Great Depression into motion. His central goals were to get Americans jobs, fix the banks and protect the money within them, get help to the sick and elderly (since the people paying for them needed to be spending their money in other ways to help the economy), and get industry and agriculture running again.
In an attempt to calm and win over the American people, brand-new president Franklin Roosevelt went on the radio and gives his first of several "fireside chats" (as they came to be called).
He focused on fixing the banks (9,000 had closed and $2.5 billion had been lost), and reassuring the public that their money would be safe.
FDR's plan to reopen the banks (remember, no credit cards or ATM's back then—the only way to get money was to go to an open bank) began the very next day after his "First Fireside Chat." He started small, with only twelve major cities, but other banks began to open a few days later.
The best news? The banks remained stable, with minimal bank runs.
Over in Europe, Hitler invades Poland to begin what would become the deadliest conflict in the history of the planet. While WWII was absolutely devastating to lives, families, property, and entire nations, it did bring America out of the Great Depression.
The U.S. put hundreds of thousands of people back to work building weapons, tanks, ships, uniforms…and sold these items to the warring nations of Europe.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States became 100% committed to World War II. All traces of the Great Depression evaporated as Americans filed into the military or industries that provided supplies for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
In his record-setting fourth term as president, Franklin Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in Georgia. Vice President Harry Truman took over as president that same day.
FDR passed away eighteen days before Hitler committed suicide, and four months before the final end of World War II with the surrender of Japan.