Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution early in the nineteenth century the United States experienced recessions or panics at least every twenty years. But none was as severe as the Great Depression. At its depth, in 1933, one American worker in every four was out of a job. The great industrial slump continued throughout the 1930s despite president Hoover's efforts. Western capitalism continued to be shaken until president Roosevelt's reign. With him, he brought the hope of a "new deal" and the declaration that "the only thing we have to fear is fear." Through his presidency, Roosevelt led the turn around of America's economy.
The 1920's was a time of great prosperity in the lives of most Americans. We had just come out of the Great War and business was booming, along with agriculture and the stock market. The outlook for the future was great, but people failed to understand that economies can't be on the rise forever. All of the signs of a depression were there; the farmers were producing too much, the uneven distribution of income, easy credit/huge debts, and imbalance of foreign trade. In 1928 and 1929 the average price of stocks rose over 40 percent. The stock market was totally unregulated. Margin buying in particular proceeded at a "feverish pace" as customers borrowed up to 75 percent of the purchase price of stocks. That easy credit lured more speculators and less creditworthy investors into the stock market. The Federal Reserve board warned member banks not to lend money for stock speculation because if prices dropped, many investors would not be able to pay back their debts. No one listened. The stock market began sliding in the early September, but people ignored the warning. Then on "black Thursday" (October 24, 1929) and again on "black Tuesday" (October 29, 1929) the ball dropped. More than 28 million shares changed hands in hysterical trading. Overextended investors, suddenly finding themselves in heavy debt, began selling their stocks.