Cleveland December 19, 2017
14 Rare Photos Taken In Cleveland During The Great Depression
When the world is blanketed in a soft sheet of snow and bathed in warm green and red lights, we oftentimes find ourselves reminiscing on what or where we have come from. Like many of us, the City of Cleveland has grown and changed throughout its existence, and it has had high points and low points in its history. The Great Depression, while generally remembered as one of the toughest times in the history of the country, was actually a bit of both; while unemployment rates soared, charitable figures also stepping in to inspire and lead a community ravaged by economic hard times. The fluctuating emotions of the era are best captured in photographs, which will leave you entranced.
Unemployed men gathered outside of City Hall (1930)
All of these men showed up to accept a donation of sandwiches from restaurateur George Dallas. Dallas set out to provide a Thanksgiving meal to those who were in need. It would become a tradition that grew in attendance until he fed an astonishing 10,000 people in Public Hall in 1932. He was dubbed the "Samaritan of West 3rd" by
The Plain Dealer, who reported that the same event in 1929 required Dallas to use 1,200 loaves of bread.
State Theater (1930)
During the Depression, locals tried to keep spirits high with cheap entertainment. The theater and vaudeville of yore were suddenly less favored than movies, which provided affordable entertainment in the time of a crisis.
A Federal Customs Agent examining a box car shipment (May 1930)
Here in Cleveland, Prohibition was taken very seriously. This photo was snapped when Federal Customs Agents searched a box car and found $36,000 of Black Label Canadian beer stashed inside.
Locals lined up for relief and charity (1933)
By 1933, industrial workers in Cleveland were experiencing an unemployment rate of 50 percent, and those that still worked faced the possibility of reduced hours or cut wages. The city was in need of assistance, and many locals moved out to the countryside, where they hoped to grow their own food.
Cleveland City Hall treasury (1935)
A glimpse into the Brewery Workers Union strike (June 1935)
The Fishel Brewery was established in 1904 and was one of the few breweries to remain open through Prohibition. They produced soft drinks, but sales were disappointing and production costs were cut back by closing the main plant and operating only at the smaller Schlather bottling plant. However, when Prohibition ended, the main plant reopened and operations resumed. Cleveland breweries experienced industry-wide strikes. The sign in the background of this photo reads, "Brewery Workers Union Still on Strike in all Cleveland Breweries."
Penguins take a vacation in Cleveland (1936)
These penguins were guests at the Great Lakes Exposition, a gigantic festival designed to improve Cleveland's financial situation. Its exhibits were unique, featuring Streets of the World and carnival-style entertainment, to name just a few among many incredible attractions.
Herbert Hoover in Cleveland (June 1936)
President Hoover was greeted by the masses as he arrived at Union Station for the Republican Convention. Among those in the crowd are Mayor Harold L. Burton and Chief of Police Matowitz.
Yugoslav Cultural Garden (1937)
Anton Grdina (far right), general chairman of the Yugoslav Cultural Garden in Cleveland, stands with notable persons that hail from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Groundbreaking for the Cleveland Arena (1937)
Here, Harold "Happy" Holmes, founder of the Cleveland Indians hockey team, stands with team owner Al Sutphin. Sutphin, known as "the man in the red necktie," renamed the team and broke ground for a brand new arena. It stood at 3717 Euclid Avenue until it was razed in 1977.
Nonunion workers walk through picket lines (April 1937)
Around 10,000 factory employees from Akron and Cleveland were affected when the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. was shut down by a walkout. Though there was no violence, you can feel the tension as United Rubber Workers Vice President Joe Calamia (center left, with a cigar) leads in the nonunion "scabs."
Union members picket (October 1939)
Even though Clevelanders tried to remain spirited during the Great Depression, the entertainment industry still felt the rumblings of unrest. Here, union members picket outside of the The Cleveland Play House. They hoped to persuade their employer to hire only skilled stagehands that were part of a union.
A young star enjoys a Cleveland Indians game (April 1939)
A month prior to the moment this photo was snapped, Judy Garland had just finished work on
The Wizard of Oz. Garland attended the Indians home opener to sing the national anthem. Fortunately, the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers and treated Garland to a spectacular experience. Maybe locally-born Margaret Hamilton (who played the Wicked Witch of the West) even tagged along!
While not as iconic as the photos of Wall Street as the stock market crashed or the families ravaged by the Dust Bowl, Cleveland had its own memorable moments in the Great Depression. What stories have you heard from family members that experienced it?
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