Camera Rolls: 30-34
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Joseph Harsch , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on , for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
It's 1928, Herbert Hoover has just been elected President of the United States. He wins in a landslide. How would you account for his appeal?
I don't—let's see now—why was Hoover so popular, so successful in 1928? We were at the peak of prosperity. I guess there was a general feeling that Hoover was the ideal man to keep the prosperity going. He was the great engineer. He had ideas about how you stimulated the economy still further. It was a tremendous boom, you know, the mid-20s. Everything was roaring ahead. The stock market was soaring, going higher everyday, and somehow or other Hoover's reputation for competence seemed to make him the man to manage what was going on. He was running against Al Smith—
Excuse me one second sir.
Mr. Harsch, it's 1928, Hoover is a very popular candidate, why?
Well, there was a tremendous wave of prosperity. He was an engineer. He was supposed to be very good at economics. We all assumed that he was the man that would keep things rolling the way they were. Continuity, make things even better. He promised more prosperity than ever before. Why change—what is the great thing—why change horses in the middle of the stream, why change horses? The Republicans were in the saddle, everything was booming, everything was rosy. Al Smith was talking about better times, yes, but Hoover does seem to represent continuity. You were voting for more of things as they were. There was no great dissatisfaction. True, there was economic trouble brewing under the surface, but the fact that there was rising unemployment was not generally realized. We didn't realize until the bottom dropped out of the stock market that there were nearly ten million people out of work, that unemployment had been growing all the time. It was a period, of course, when after the war there had been a great deal of change in the American economy. The new labor saving devices that were developed during the war, and sometimes as a by-product of the war, were driving people off the land. There was a tremendous migration of workers out of the farmlands to the cities. And then we were developing an unemployment problem, but most of the people weren't aware of it. Those who weren't on relief and in the soup kitchens didn't know they happened. They hadn't been publicized.
You just assumed that everything was rosy.
OK, I'm going to ask you this question again because we have new lighting conditions. In 1928, President Hoover, Herbert Hoover was very appealing as a candidate, why?
Oh, because we had prosperity and everybody wanted to keep it going. They weren't quite sure of Al Smith, would he, what would Al Smith do with the existing situation. He sounded like somebody who might want to change something and, you know, the ruling class, the older upper class was perfectly happy with things the way they were. There was growing unemployment, of course, in places, but somehow or other you didn't know about it at the top. The fact of the boom market—stock market—rather tended to conceal the fact that there was rising unemployment due to new technologies. Remember that that was a period when corn huskers and corn harvesters and all sorts of new high-tech machinery were coming in to save labor, to reduce the dependency of the large landowner on farm labor. You were unemploying [sic] people on the farms by the hundreds of thousands, and they were moving out of the farmlands of the South and West and into the cities. But, as long as the market was booming, the majority of people who took the trouble to vote, the existing middle and upper classes, didn't realize that there was anything wrong. They thought that prosperity was eternal, that we were in a new kind of wonderful era, the affluent society was here and it was going to continue. And why upset it? Here was Hoover, the great engineer who's supposed to be good at managing economies, and then besides you had the tremendous force then of the religious factor. The fact that Al Smith was a catholic had a big affect on how the vote went. Remember that the great majority of Americans at that time were protestants, protestants, protestant Christians, and they were afraid of the Pope. I know that my mother voted for Herbert Hoover out of fear that if Al Smith were elected, the Pope would be running the White House. The Republicans put out a rumor that the Catholics already owned the house across the street from the White House on 16th Street...on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that they would dig a tunnel for the Pope so that he could get from his house across the street into the White House and run the country. Lots of, lots of people believed that sort of thing, and they didn't realize because their stocks were making more money everyday, that the country was on the verge of an economic disaster, they didn't know that. Hoover was, he, he radiated confidence in his ability to manage things. After all, he'd saved the Belgian orphans during the war, and he was just the man to see to it that everything was kept on an even keel.
Great, perfect, let's cut. That was great.
—play this, how, how was—you have personal experience with your own paper—how did, how did they react to this economic crisis?
To, to the great, to the great crash?
The October '39-, '29-
—crash...thinking about it I, I'm,
I look back myself now and am surprised at how little awareness there seemed to be in Washington of what was going on around the country.
** Remember there was no television. We were only at the very beginnings of radio. Most news was obtained from newspapers, most newspapers were owned by Republicans. Opinion in the newspapers was pretty much Republican, and it was in the interest of the Republican owners of the newspapers to play down bad news about the state of the economy, and play up good news because bad news would suggest that there was something wrong with the Hoover Administration,
** that it wasn't doing what it ought to be doing. Besides which it seemed so remote, remember that Washington is the federal city, the federal government is the principle employer, there is not and never has been any other large source of employment in the federal government in Washington. The federal government doesn't go bankrupt, there were no layoffs. The federal government was hiring more people all the time, all during that period of history so that you didn't have real unemployment in Washington, and you didn't have much awareness of it until the Bonus March—which came later—until you began to get serious unemployment and agitation in the outlying regions of the country. But you didn't feel it directly in Washington. The government didn't really feel it. It was slow coming and who was unemployed anyway? The unemployed people were recent immigrants mostly. They were people from strange countries who didn't speak English very well. Mostly the old established element of the population was still getting along pretty decently. It took quite a while, remember, for even the break in the stock market to produce the real depression. The Depression was quite slow in coming, and—
Well that's fine—
I don't think Washington really understood what had happened in the country
** and began to realize that something had to be done about it until you got the Bonus Marchers coming there
** and descending on Washington, and lobbying the Congress everyday, and settling into makeshift dwellings all around the Capitol. That was what brought the Depression home to government
** ...and what brought Hoover down of course.
What was, what was Andrew Mellon and Herbert Hoover's theory about what the economic crisis was doing?
I don't think that they were the same. I think Andrew Mellon at the treasury, where he was running the money side of it, was an old fashioned capitalist who resented having a lot of cheap people getting into the market anyway, I think he thought that the stock market crash was probably a good thing, it squeezed a lot of water out of the market. Hoover had more—I'm sure more than Mellon—of a sense of caring about what was happening to people, and I think if it hadn't been for Mellon, Hoover would have done more than he did to try and ameliorate the unemployment that was rampant by, by '32 of course. But Mellon had more actual power, I think, with the Congress on the hill than Hoover actually did. The most that Hoover could do,
the most positive thing he did about the economic depression that was spreading over the country, was the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which was founded on the idea that if you could stimulate business at the top, the proceeds would trickle down through the economic layers to the people at the bottom. The idea was not to put purchasing power in the hands of the people at the bottom, but to stimulate business and industry.
** That was, the real difference between the New Deal and the Hoover-Mellon approach to the economy, was over the importance of purchasing power. I think that Hoover and Mellon did not think that you could solve the problem by directly increasing purchasing power at the bottom, which is exactly what the New Deal did. It was to stimulate purchasing power, after all, what was wrong with the country anyway? We had vast productive capacity, but inadequate consumption capacity. Unemployment on the farms had reduced purchasing power, the purchasing power of the masses. Over-production on the industrial side had filled the country with goods that a reduced number of employees could afford. So that was the real trouble, the gradual drying up of purchasing power. It never occurred to Hoover or anybody else in his administration, that you could do anything about this by working from the bottom with purchasing power. They were always going to let prosperity trickle down from the top.
OK, thanks. That's great.
Do you remember Walter Waters, can you describe him? Walter Waters, the leader of the Bonus—
The leader of the Bonus March. I have a vague recollection of a man rather neatly dressed in semi-military-looking clothes, creased cocky trousers, walking around sort of organizing things in an efficient but not very aggressive manner. He was no, he was no potential Hitler or anything like that, but he did have some personality. And he was able to persuade the Bonus Marchers to more or less do what he wanted them to do.
Some people were afraid of him, right?
Well, yeah I suppose they were. After all they came to Washington, they cluttered up the central part of city. They filled Pennsylvania Avenue with people who were dressed in the most upper class manner. They were a bit messy, they occupied some semi-demolished buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue. Food and dirty laundry were all over the place. Yes, there was a little fear of them, although—
Do you remember walking throughout the bonus encampment?
Oh, heavens yes, I remember walking through it. I watched Douglas MacArthur give the order to a sergeant, give an order to a sergeant. I didn't hear his voice, but I saw him speak to the sergeant. Then I saw the sergeant gather a squad of men and then walk down the row of bonus huts made of plywood and scraps of wood, and they'd throw a wad of newspaper into a corner of the hut and set it alight. And I saw the whole thing burn. Yes, I was there among the Bonus Marchers. I was also behind the cavalry when the cavalry moved against one group of Bonus Marchers—
I'm sorry, could you start out at the beginning, say "I was behind the cavalry" and then go on to the burning. Tell that story again, but start out, "I was behind the," you know that, sort of put it in sequence as—
Well actually I saw the burning before I was behind the cavalry.
In actual memory, I'm giving the sequence as I remember it.
OK, well go ahead, go on then. You were, just start out by saying you were behind the cavalry, because you did that section about the burning well. So just tell the part where you saw the—
Are you running?
OK...At one point, I was behind a line of cavalry troopers and I heard the—a bugle sound, and they all started—well, first of all, there was a bugle sound and they all drew their sabers and the sabers went up to their shoulders. And then another bugle sounded and then they started walking their horses forward. And the Bonus Marchers sort of gave way before the line of horses walking towards them, except that one Bonus Marcher right in front of the horse I was following, stood his ground for a moment, and I saw that saber flash down and I saw blood on the man's ear. And I, my own guess is, is that's probably the last time that any blood was drawn by an American cavalry saber.
That's great. Could you tell me about the fires again? I'll keep your sequence true, but—
Well, at one point, I saw General MacArthur, in his regimentals, in his full-dress tunic with his, all his med—what is it?
OK, let's cut for a second. The—
OK, so could you tell me that again, that story?
Well at one point during that final push of getting the Bonus Marchers out of Washington,
I happened to be near General MacArthur,
** who was standing there in his dressed tunic with all the med—not the medals, but the decorations, the ribbons on his left chest. And I saw him speak to a sergeant, and then I saw the sergeant collect a squad and then go down the row of ramshackled [sic] huts. And they'd throw a wad of newspaper into a corner of a hut and set that alight, and they went right down the whole row in that way. And pretty soon the whole row was burning.
What about later on, you were behind the line of cavalry, can you tell me about that?
Well at one point, I think that it was the clearing out of people from the area in the mall below the Cap—below Capitol Hill. I was behind a line of cavalry—mounted men on horseback—and
I heard a bugle sound and they all drew their sabers, and then another bugle sound and they started, the whole line started forward at a walk.
** And most of the Bonus Marchers went away in front of the horses, but one man held his ground, and I saw that saber swing down and hit the man on the side of the head, and I saw blood on the ear. Whether he sliced the ear off, I'm not sure, but the man turned and went, and that was the end of the Bonus Marchers at that particular area.
Great, let's cut. That was wonderful.
You're keeping your eyes, your eye contact is good. Can you describe Pelham Glassford for me?
Wait for a second.
OK, let's cut.
Sir, could you describe Walter Waters?
Well I have a vague recollection. I saw him walking among the Bonus Marchers, sort of rallying them and directing them, and my impression is of a man dressed in semi-military clothes, clean, pressed cocky trousers, cocky shirt, with sort of things on his shoulders as if he were an officer. He was not overbearing in his manner at all. He wasn't very military, it was quasi military, mostly leadership by persuasion. He had some charisma. He did seem to influence his people and had a good deal of control over them.
Who was Wal—I mean, who was Pelham Glassford? Can you describe him to me?
General Pelham Glassford was a U.S. Army general who had retired or had been retired and became Chief of Police of the District of Columbia, and was greatly respected and admired. His handling of the Bonus Marchers was generally regarded as excellent. He was very careful to avoid confrontation and trouble as much as he possibly could, and I think the general feeling there was that if he had been left in control of the whole thing, you might've avoided the dramatic events that occurred when President Hoover finally called the cavalry down from Fort Meyer and sent General MacArthur in to get the Bonus Marchers out of Washington. General Glassford would not have been willing to drive them out. I don't think he would have been capable of it. It took the army, if you were really going to clean Washington up, clean the Bonus Marchers out of the city, I guess it took the army to do it. But there never would have been as much drama had Glassford remained in control. He was very good at not allowing episodes to get out of hand, and to get violent. There was a little bit of trouble when he was ordered to evict the Bonus Marchers from a row of half-demolished buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue. When the Bonus Marchers arrived those buildings were in the process of demolition, and the side walls had been knocked out, but the floors were there. And
they set up housekeeping in the floors without any walls. And of course that made
** a slight, a somewhat unsightly appearance,
** and eventually the authorities decided to clear that out. Well that was when the first trouble occurred, and there was stone throwing, and somebody did throw a stone, and somebody took a shot, and somebody was killed. It got a little unpleasant, and that's when, I guess, Mr. Hoover decided that he had to end it all and clear it clean up the city, and sent for MacArthur and the cavalry.
All right, thanks. Let's cut for a second.
Could you describe Pelham Glassford to me? What kind of figure did he cut?
Well all I remember is Glassford—who was a rather handsome man—riding his motorcycle, motorbike. He wasn't driven around in a car by a chauffeur, he got on his own bike and he rode right down into the action and among the Bonus Marchers, and talked to the Bonus Marchers himself. He was the kind of soldier who wants to be in the front line himself. He was slender, handsome, well-dressed, much respected in Washington, people had a lot of confidence in him. And he did not antagonize the Bonus Marchers, he tried to work with them and get them to do what he wanted by persuasion rather than by force. And he was much respected for the way he handled the situation.
Sort of a hero.
Yes, he was, Glassford was something of a popular hero, yes, because for quite a while he kept the thing under control with no violence. Of course, he didn't clear the Bonus Marchers out of Washington. I don't think he could have done that himself. I don't think he had enough manpower, but when the decision came to force them out of Washington, then they had to call in the troops. And then they did call in the troops, and they brought the cavalry down from Fort Meyer. And there was a little bit of a rumpus, and it made tremendous news all over the country, and I think probably had more to do than any one other thing—next to the stock market crash—with the fact that when Roosevelt ran against Hoover in '32, it was a landslide against Hoover, after his own landslide in '28 for him. But the fact that they called in the troops to drive the Bonus Marchers out of the city, just kind of turned the tide the other way. Here was Hoover, who had not been able to get the stock market back on a profit run again, not been able to get the Bonus Marchers out of town without force and violence, without the use of the army, created the feeling that we needed somebody else in there who could manage things in a different and better way.
That's great, thank you. Cut.
Sir, can you tell me about President Hoover's last press conference?
I can't remember whether there were twelve or fifteen of us—I think it was fifteen only—who went to Herbert Hoover's last press conference. It was kind of an embarrassing situation and very stiff and formal as it always was with Hoover. You never had the easy give-and-take with Hoover that we of the press had since with, first with Roosevelt, and then with Truman, and with Kennedy, and Johnson. It was all fairly easy and relatively friendly. With Hoover, you—
—you had to submit questions in advance, and you only got answers to questions you'd submitted in advance.
What was your personal reaction to the Bonus Marchers? How'd you feel about those men and women?
Oh, I just felt that somehow or other the Bonus Marchers weren't getting their fair due.
Could you, I'm sorry, could you start that again?
I personally felt a sympathy for the Bonus Marchers. I had a feeling that somehow or other the government should be doing more for them than it was doing, after all they had been wartime heroes. They'd gone to war and defended the country or its interests, they had been promised a bonus. They wanted it sooner than they were supposed to get it under the existing law, that's perfectly true. But, just the same, I did have sympathy with them. They were unem—they'd come home from the war, the next thing they knew they were unemployed, and on the street, and they wanted whatever money was coming to them then and there. I don't think I'd thought through the fact that this would have increased the purchasing power of the masses of people. It would have. It would have stimulated the economy to have given it to them then, but under Hoover the answer was no. Then of course, Roosevelt saw what happened to Hoover for refusing to give them the bonus, and when they came back under Roosevelt, the treatment was very different. They were, they had tents, camps set up for them outside of Washington with regular bus schedules to bring them into Washington at will. They could go where they pleased around the Capitol, they could go back to the tent camps and have plenty of food. They were taken care of and they got their bonus, and the economy was stimulated to some extent.
OK, thanks. What was the editorial line of your paper toward these Bonus movements?
Well most newspapers, I think, felt that, editorially opposed granting the bonus on the ground that this was unfair demand, that they had been paid properly when they were in the service, and they would get their reward eventually in the bonus sooner or later. I don't think that the majority of newspaper editors in the country favored granting the bonus ahead of time.
That's great. How do you explain the difference between the way the reporters seemed to have felt, and the editorial line in the papers?
Well, reporters always tend to see things a little differently than the editors. Remember, the editors are older, they're working for the publisher. In those days, most publishers were Republicans and tended to be rather conservative, and to favor the conservative line to oppose higher taxes. Paying the bonus would have caused higher taxes or more borrowing, one or the other. It would have meant higher taxes, and the chief, the bulk of newspaper opinion, was opposed to anything that would raise taxes.
When you went back to Toledo, what did you see? And you can, can you describe what kind of a, what's the economy of Toledo based on?
Oh, Toledo had quite a lot of different industries. It was really better off than Detroit. Detroit had only automobiles. In Toledo, my hometown, you also had DeVilbiss atomizers, you had Libbey-Owens-Ford plate glass, you had Holton elevators. You had quite a variety of industries there, the biggest single thing was Willys-Overland of course, but a year after the stock market broke, Toledo was just as badly off as anything else. I remember going downtown and realizing that every third window front in downtown was empty, and, as I recall, roughly a third of the workforce was on relief, was on the dole, was lining up for soup kitchen food, that sort of thing. Unemployment was roughly a third of the workforce.
How'd you feel about that?
Well it frightened everybody. One of the interesting things, my family was accustomed to having a live-in maid—cook maid—who did all of the work around the house. The time came when my mother had to say to her, "We're awfully sorry, but we can't pay you a salary anymore. We'll have to let you go." So she left. She came back a couple of weeks later and said, "Please could I come back and live here, and just work for room and board? I won't ask for any wages." Well they paid her a very modest wage, but she had to come back for a bed and board, a place to live. She couldn't find a wage paying job anywhere else. Jobs were very scarce.
OK, all right-
Could you describe what a typical press conference would be like with President Hoover?
Well, it's totally different from press conferences that we're familiar to now from television. The average Hoover press conference had maybe fifteen, at most twenty, reporters present. Usually about twelve to fifteen. His last one there were about twelve of us as I remember. They were pretty stilted. You had to submit your questions in advance, and you got answers one day to questions you'd submitted the day before.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Mr. Harsch, what was a typical Hoover press conference like?
The exact opposite of what we have today. There were very few reporters compared to a present White House press conference where you have a hoard, a couple hundred or more. Then, the average Hoover press conference would be, oh, at most twenty. I should think the average would be about fifteen, as I recall there were twelve at his last one. You would come in and you would wait for him to respond to questions you'd submitted in writing the day before. It was all very formal, very stylized, ritualistic. There was no easy give-and-take between the press and the president, particularly after the stock market crash when the relationship became even more difficult and formalized and stylized.
Could we change focal lengths and just start, start again? Particularly after, could you say "particularly after the stock market crash..."
Particularly after the stock market crash, the relationship between the president and the press at the White House became even more formal and stilted. You still had that problem of having to submit your questions in writing. You could ask a follow-up when he'd answered your written question of the day before, but there was none of that easy exchange that came later with Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, and Jack Kennedy. With Hoover the relationship was strictly formal and he did not answer extraneo-, extemporaneous questions.
OK, I was wondering, do you think the stock market, how do you think the stock market crash effected him from what you saw of him?
Oh I think that the stock market crash was a terrible surprise, a terrible blow. I, my guess would be that he was aware that it was dealing a terrible blow at the underpinnings of administration. He had to do something about that, he had to reverse the economic trend if he was to go down in history as a successful president. He was not able to persuade his own administration of the Congress to do things that could have made a decisive difference if any were possible. How do we know what he couldn't done that would have made a difference? The New Deal came on later and did the reverse of what he was doing. He was trying to stimulate the economy from the top, the New Deal was trying to stimulate the economy by building purchasing power at the bottom. Hoover and his party were incapable of taking that approach, so I say the poor man was doomed to political disaster from the moment the bottom dropped out of the stock market.
Great. Could you describe who Douglas MacArthur is in 1932, the image that Americans had of him?
In 1932, Douglas MacArthur was a national hero. He was remembered for his role in World War I. I think he was probably the most famous division commander in World War I, or got the most publicity. I don't remember any other division commander that got as much of a good press as MacArthur did. He commanded the Rainbow Division, which is a division made up of men from a lot of different places. Most divisions were from one state usually, or even one city pretty much. One division was pretty much made up of New York, one from Massachusetts around Boston, one Ohio, but the Rainbow Division had men from everywhere. MacArthur had flare. He was famous for walking, climbing up on the parapet, and with an aviator silk scarf around his neck and a cigarette in a [sic] ivory holder, striding up and down as if no bullet could touch him. Well, he was lucky no bullet did, and I don't remember that he ever did that at a time the firing was very heavy, but he did do that sort of thing that got him attention. And he became a national hero as his father and grandfather before him. His father had been governor of the Philippines. His grandfather, Arthur MacArthur, was the man who first planted the flag on the top of the-, at, at—What was the mountain? The battle of Chickamauga? Missionary, no, what was the name of that?
We'll cut there [laughs] 'cause—
So, my question is a question that we've talked about before. Communism, was there a real threat of Communism at this time?
Oh, that's a big, big question. Was there a real threat of Communism? Communism had a great deal of appeal in those day, the new generation. It's very interesting that the rise of Communism followed after the Depression. I don't think Communism really took very much until after the stock market crashed and the Great Depression. Interestingly enough, all of those people in the British foreign service who became traitors, went to Cambridge University in England after the Depression. I don't know of any who—graduates before the Depression—who went communist and were traitors. They were all people who had lived through the Depression in their student days. It had happened before they went to college, and they felt that Communism was the answer. The fact of the Depression gave a black eye to capitalism of course, and made Communism seem—It was unknown. Nobody knew what Communism really meant. But it was different, it proposed something different, and it had a good appeal, deal of appeal for that very reason. Today of course, it's been, it's been exposed as not being a true answer to economic problems. It's been discredited by what's happened in Europe, in Eastern Europe particularly, in Russia itself. Communism doesn't work. But in those days, it was novel, it was different, it was something new, it was an alternative to what we had. And it had a great deal of appeal. Yes, it was a serious thing. The younger generation was greatly attracted by the novelty of it.
OK, that's great.
Want to cut?
Sir, there were, there was talk that there were Communists amongst the Bonus Marchers, what's your opinion of that?
Oh, I don't think there were many real Communists among the Bonus Marchers. The Bonus movement was something that, of course, the Communists tried to climb aboard, as they did all sorts of things. The Bonus Marchers grew out of—the Bonus Marches grew out of unemployment, period. The Communists didn't create the unemployment, they didn't create the condition, they didn't create the Bonus March, but I'm sure there were Communists among them...I don't think there were very many.
Good. When...let's see here...can you tell who, Wright Patman, who was he?
Wright Patman was...I'm trying to remember, he was very important in the Congress. Wasn't he chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which is a committee that frames tax legislation?
I think so. He was important.
He pushed the bonus.
He pushed the bonus, yes, which was one of the new things that the Democrats proposed—
Hold on one second, let's cut.
OK, Wright Patman is proposing a bill to provide the bonus, who is Wright Patman?
Wright Patman was a very aggressive, able, political figure from Texas who saw the political mileage in the bonus issue. He was the one who seized it, and put the bill, proposed the bill to the Congress and saw it through. And ultimately became, as I recall, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which is one of the most powerful positions in the Congress.
So, another question, did President Hoover, did he do all that he could do?
Oh, I think he did all he could do within the limitations of what his party, his administration would permit him to do. I think he would have done a good deal more than he did if he could have carried his party with him, but he was blocked by the conservatives of his own party.
Do you remember any bank closings?
Do you remember any bank closings?
Oh, one of my, one of my school mates at school suffered an embarrassing situation. Her father went to jail. His, he was an officer at the bank, the bank was closed, it was found that he had sold some of his—I think it was selling his bank stock in knowledge that the bank was in trouble, thereby violating some of the rules at the time. He literally went to jail. Yes, it came pretty close to home. When one of your schoolmate's father goes to jail.
OK, what place in history, in American history, do you think the Bonus March has?
Oh the Bonus March was the thing that brought home to Congress the fact that there was a great deal of unemployment, and mass distress, and mass resentment. It caused the incoming Democratic administration to do all kinds of things that might not have otherwise have done. Had there not been a stock market crash followed by Bonus March, Hoover might have been re-elected and we'd have gone on as we were. But the Bonus March and Hoover's treatment of the Bonus Marchers, I think made his defeat inevitable in the next election.
Great, let's cut.
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] in a second.
Could you describe to me President Hoover's last press conference?
As I recall, there were only twelve reporters who bothered to go to Hoover's last press conference. It was a very stilted affair. The dean of the Corp—a dear old fellow from the as I recall—made a kind of formal, ritualistic tribute to Mr. Hoover, telling him how much we'd enjoyed our association with him. Everybody was sort of embarrassed and shuffling their feet, and Mr. Hoover made a suitable reply, and told how much he enjoyed it, which everybody knew wasn't true. He couldn't possibly have enjoyed it. I don't think he enjoyed any press conferences. He just didn't have an easy rapport with the press the way other people did. It didn't last very long, and we all trooped out, and that was the end of the Hoover administration as far as we were concerned. Last time most of us ever saw him.
That's great. Could you tell me, did—and mention his name—do you think President Hoover did all he could do?
I suppose he did all he could do within the circumstances.
But could you mention President, could you start by saying President Hoover?
I think President Hoover did all he probably could have done under the circumstances of those days. Remember that he represented the Republican Party, he was the leader of the Republican Party. The other members of the administration, particularly the Secretary of the Treasury, Andy Mellon, and the other members of the Cabinet were all conservatives, economic and political conservatives. And the Republican Party itself was conservative. I don't think that the Republican Party of those days would have conceived of doing things to stimulate the purchasing power of the masses of people, which is what the New Deal was all about, providing increasing purchasing power. The things Hoover did were designed to stimulate the economy at the top by making money available loans to industries to stimulate industry. But of course the problem wasn't sufficient capital for industry, industry was over producing. It was a decline in consuming power that brought on the Great Depression. There weren't enough people earning enough money to consume the output of America's factories, which had become more productive particularly during, in the early post-war period. We could produce more than we could consume, and that's where Mr. Hoover, by force of circumstances, failed to do what might have made a difference, might've cured the Depression sooner than it was cured. After all, it was not cured at all until World War II. It was the enormous outflow of government money that stimulated consuming power to the point where we could consume all that we could produce.
Great, let's cut. Where are we at?
Now could you describe the inauguration in 1933?
Oh, the inauguration of '33 was a great big wonderful parade bringing together everyone who suffered under the, through the Depression and therefore hated Herbert Hoover. A collection of people who looked towards Roosevelt as the savior who was going to rescue the country from the Depression. There was almost a feeling about...that Roosevelt was a messiah. I've seen women hold up babies just to get a look at Roosevelt, the man who was going to save the country. And the inaugural parade was made up of those people who saw in him the answer to their miseries, of whom there were very many.
We're very close to—
I do have a slight recollection of Walter Waters, watching him collecting his people and directing them, telling them which way to go and what to do and what to say. He was an attractive, slender figure as I recall, dressed in neat, clean cocky shirt and trousers. He looked quasi military, not really, he didn't look like a dictator or an authoritarian figure at all, but he had a little bit of soldierly bearing.
That was sound without the film. It was wild sound.
Please include it in the reel.