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March 12 marks the anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 fireside chatOn the Banking Crisisthe first of 30 chats he hosted on topics that included banking, the dust bowl, economic conditions, and World War II. The speech was broadcast by radio as the nation's banking system teetered on the brink of collapse and nervous Americans looked to their new president for a solution.
The years following the 1929 stock market crash were difficult times for the United States marked by the extreme economic hardships faced by businesses, farms, and families. At this time, bank deposits were not insuredthe Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) would not be established until June 1933so a bank's failure meant depositors lost their savings. By 1933, an increasing number of nervous bank customers withdrew their money. In Detroit, MI, depositors panicked after learning the city's largest banks could not cover the growing number of withdrawals and Henry Ford threatened to withdraw his money. Michigan's governor was forced to declare a bank holiday on February 14, 1933. Similar events occurred nationwide so that by FDR's March 4, 1933, inauguration, 37 states had declared bank holidays.
Roosevelt's Sunday evening broadcast On the Banking Crisis summarized the events leading up to the suspension of all banking transactions and actions the federal government was taking to strengthen the nation's banks. Under the direction of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, additional currency was distributed, more liberal provisions were enacted for healthy banks to borrow money, and troubled banks were reorganized during the bank holiday. As a result of Roosevelt's emergency measures, banks controlling 90 percent of the country's assets reopened by March 15, and deposits soon exceeded withdrawals.
Although 82 years have passed since the 1933 banking crisis and Roosevelt's first fireside chat, the data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies illustrate the severity of the economic hardship American's faced in the 1930s. The examples below are just a few ways statistics help us understand the Great Depression and allow us to make comparisons to more recent economic booms and busts.
On March 12, 1885, Charles W. Seaton died at his home in Vermont. Seaton served as chief clerk during the 1870 Census and superintendent of the census from 1881 to 1885.
In 1872, Seaton invented a machine that sped data tabulation by isolating and organizing lines on tally sheets. The Census Office purchased the "Seaton Device" to help tabulate 1870 Census data.
Even with the device, clerks were overwhelmed by the volume of data collected by the 1880 Census. Motivated by the clerks' struggles, Herman Hollerith developed electronic tabulating technology for the 1890 Census. Variations of this technology would be used until it was replaced by computers in the 1950s.
Interested in the 1790 to 1940 census records of our nation's presidents, movie stars, and other celebrities? Check out our Famous and Infamous Census Records page!