The year was 1935 and the United States was in the midst of the â€œGreat Depression.â€Â The unemployment rate was 20.1 percent, meaning roughly one in five workers was out of a job.Â In his State of the Union address, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt states that â€œA large proportion of these unemployed and their dependents have been forced on the relief rolls.â€ He is concerned that, â€œTo dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers.â€
To address these concerns, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) is created. The WPA ultimately employed more than 8 million workers and built 116,000 buildings, 78,000 bridges, more than half a million miles of roads, airports, and parks. Other projects that are of particular interest to family historians include the indexing of many government records, most notably the creation of the Soundex indexes to the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 federal censuses. Other projects included indexes to vital and naturalization records, inventories of archives, and oral histories.Â
But relief was not available to everyone. There were still 5 million people out of work, and for farmers in the drought stricken Midwest, the â€œDust Bowlâ€ years were coming to a peak. On 14 April, â€œBlack Sunday,â€ a swirling cloud of dirt darkened clear skies and turned day into night. Images from the Dust Bowl can be found through the Library of CongressÂ and through Ancestry by searching the photos and maps section for â€œdust bowl.â€
In Florida, a Category 5 hurricane surprised residents of the Keys, and then moved on to make landfall again in the Big Bend area of Florida. The Labor Day Hurricane claimed more than 400 lives and retained its hurricane strength for more than a week moving up past the Canadian Maritimes.Â
Another government program popular with genealogists also began in 1935. The Social Security Act of 1935Â sought to â€œprovide for the general welfare by establishing a system of federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health, and the administration of their unemployment compensation laws. . .â€
Europe was creeping closer to World War II and in Germany, Chancellor Adolph Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws in September, which began stripping Jewish people, and those whom they deemed Jewish by ancestry or marriage, of their rights as German citizens.
Benito Mussolini led Italy to invade Ethiopia in defiance of the League of Nations, who in turn imposed sanctions.
The United States, battered by the Depression, turned to an unlikely hero in the boxing ring as the ten to one underdog, James J. Braddock, took on Max Baer in the World Heavyweight Championship on 13 June.Â Braddock, who had been down on his luck and out of work with millions of other Americans, earned the nickname â€œThe Cinderella Manâ€ as he defeated Baer.
Popular movies of 1935Â included Top Hat, Mutiny on the Bounty, David Copperfield, and Bride of Frankenstein. Fibber McGee and Molly debuted on NBC Radio, and Parker Brothers released the board game of Monopoly which quickly became the best-selling game in America.
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