The Great Depression & Halloween

I got to thinking about the fact that the historic Stock Market Crash of 1929 took place two days before Halloween, ruining the holiday for millions.

The Crash was actually a two-day affair, with the market plunging 12.8% on October 28th, and another 11.7% the very next day, loosing nearly a quarter of its total value in just two days (today's equivalent of losing 3,200 points). With no safety-nets like the FDIC or Unemployment Insurance, the Middle Class was devastated as banks lost people's entire life savings in the stock market. Try to imagine, your bank "losing" all of your money, and not a damn thing you can do about it. What would you do? No job, no money, and no help on the way (until Roosevelt promised "a chicken in every pot" "a New Deal between the government and the American People" in 1932. [correction: actually, it was a 1932 GOP ad that promised everyone chicken.])

In the immediate aftermath, crime spiked (uncorroborated) just as it does every time people become desperate & easily irritable. Halloween became "Hell Night" as mischievous kids with no money and lots of time on their hands turned to acts of vandalism on Halloween.

By 1936, to curb this rise in mayhem among kids with nothing better to do, the Roosevelt Administration encoraged the creation of local events to provide activities for children and their families:

WPA posters of Halloween Skating Carnival in Central Park, 1936
1936 WPA Halloween poster 1936 WPA Halloween poster

By 1939, the rash of vandalism was no longer a common occurrence, giving birth to the term "Tricks or Treats" as an idle threat for neighbors that if they didn't provide candy... well... remember all than vandalism a few years back? (okay, it was "extortion"... but the cute kind.)

Under FDR, government stepped in and changed peoples' lives, not just the big stuff like protecting your money and providing jobs, but even expressing concern for families because back then, people understood that the future of our country depended on the future of our children.

A little thought to carry with you this holiday. Happy Halloween.


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