The Great Depression devastated Pennsylvania's bituminous and anthracite coal industries. Between 1926 and 1933, operators cut Pennsylvania anthracite production by one-third and laid off nearly 67,000 miners, almost 40 percent of the workforce. In northeastern Pennsylvania, unemployed miners worked illegal "bootleg" mines on company-owned land. By the mid-1930s, bootleg mining accounted for 10 percent of the total anthracite produced. In 1941, it still accounted for one out of four jobs in Schuylkill and Northumberland Counties
In 1936, George Earle became the first Democrat elected governor of Pennsylvania since 1891. In office, Earle and a new Democratic majority in the state legislature pushed through a wave of progressive legislation quickly dubbed Pennsylvania's "Little New Deal." In November 1937, Earle traveled to Coaldale to meet with miners conducting a sit down strike 1,300 feet underground in the Number 8 mine. There, the governor conducted a mine inspection and asked the miners to select a representative for an upcoming conference in Harrisburg.
During the early years of the Great Depression, runs on deposits forced the closure of hundreds of banks throughout Pennsylvania. Allentown lost six of its ten banks. In Philadelphia more than fifty banks, most of them small, also failed, taking with them all of their depositors" savings.
The Great Depression sped the abandonment of farms on marginal lands through foreclosures on mortgages. In June 1939, Farm Security Administration photographer Marion Post Wollcott took this picture of the public auction of a farm near York.
Left: Beaver FallsRight: Pine Grove Furnace, 1933
Parker Dam was one of ninety-eight dams constructed by the CCC in Pennsylvania.
Between 1933 and 1941, almost 200,000 men labored in 114 CCC camps in backwoods areas across Pennsylvania. In the Commonwealth, Roosevelt's "Tree Army" constructed 6,300 miles of roads and trails, 98 dams, and 86 fire towers, planted 50 million trees, and spent more than 65,000 man-days battling forest fires. They also built campgrounds, picnic areas, and recreation areas, many of which continue to benefit Pennsylvanians today.
Many young men came to the camps hungry and poorly clothed. They were issued uniforms and given three meals a day. Most young men gained about 40 pounds while in the CCC. The men earned $30 a month, most of which was sent home to their families.
Centre County Within four years of the stock market crash of 1929, national unemployment reached 25%, but in Pennsylvania it was a staggering 37% pushing 1.4 million people into joblessness and poverty. By the end of the Great Depression, Centre County lost a quarter of all its business establishments including four of its five laundries, it's only sporting goods store, and six ice cream parlors.
WPA From 1935 to 1943, Works Progress Administration workers built: • 650,000 miles of roads • 78,000 bridges • 125,000 civilian and military buildings • 800 airports (built, improved or enlarged) • 700 miles of airport runway Workers also were responsible for: • 900 million hot lunches served to school children • 1,500 nursery schools operated • 225,000 musical concerts presented to 150 million people • 475,000 art works 276 books and 701 pamphlets created