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Full Speed Ahead in the Great American Depression

By Frank Van Valen, Cataloger & Numismatist

Author: Frank Van Valen / Thursday, May 26, 2016 / Categories: Exonumia Corner

​My parents turned 18 in 1930 and were wed in October of that year at the height of the Great Depression. Millions of previously gainfully employed American workers were out of work due to the Depression, and countless thousands of these unemployed workers lived in "Hoovervilles," ramshackle gatherings of shacks and people that were named for Republican president, Herbert Hoover, and his policies that brought the world to bankruptcy and the American way of life to a screeching halt. In 1930 my dad had a job delivering hardware on foot throughout Bergen County, New Jersey. He also had a "shadow," a peculiar off-shoot of the Great Depression. In dad's words "all workers had a 'shadow' that followed them around hoping they would drop dead so the 'shadow' could slip into their job." Dad never did drop dead, at least not during the Depression, and the four Depression-era children my folks had beginning in December 1931, always had a scrap or two to eat and clean clothes to wear.

In 1932 the Democrats took over the White House by a landslide. The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, promised a "New Deal" for America, and he delivered. One of the highlights – if you can call it that – was the Bank Holiday Roosevelt declared in March 1933. All banks shut down and ceased operations while the government took further stock of the situation. Americans, except coin collectors, were ordered to turn in all gold coins to the government, and they did so in great numbers.

The economy got better bit by bit and many companies were "Full Speed Ahead" with the recovery. The focus of this week's entry in the Exonumia Corner is a timely sticker put out in 1933. It features Uncle Sam decked out in all his colorful regalia zipping along at seemingly breakneck speed, his hands clutching a giant gold coin with a "$" at the center. The item – which I couldn't resist when I saw it on the Internet – was copyrighted in 1933 by the W.O. Co., and was licensed to the Luberite Refining Corporation, which had its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri during the Depression. This neat reminder of tough times past is colorful and full of promise. It sits on my desk at work, and every time I look over at it the question arises – why in the world did mom and dad get married at the height of the Great Depression? However, I'm certainly glad they did!