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Workers in Hard TimesA Long View of Economic Crises$
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Leon Fink, Joan Sangster, and Joseph A. McCartin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038174

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038174.001.0001

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Working People’s Responses to Past Depressions

Working People’s Responses to Past Depressions

(p.45) 2 Working People’s Responses to Past Depressions
Workers in Hard Times

David Montgomery

University of Illinois Press

This chapter sketches out a broad overview of economic panics and workers' responses to them in the United States from Jacksonian times to the Great Depression. Since the founding of the Republic, working men and women have been all too familiar with alternating periods of boom times and hard times, with seasonal unemployment, with marked differences in availability of jobs among various parts of the country, and with general depressions abruptly precipitated by overproduction of wares or by bank panics. Not all downturns struck with the same severity. The crisis of the early 1840s pitched nine state governments into default (primarily in the rapidly expanding cotton kingdom), while the depression that began in 1873 sent ten state governments into default over the ensuing eleven years. The sharp collapse between the spring of 1907 and the spring of 1908 so crippled the economy that for many months more immigrants left the United States for their homelands or other countries than disembarked here. The depressions of 1873–79, 1893–98, and 1929–40 set the stage for fundamental restructuring of industrial, agricultural, and political life.

Keywords:   economic panics, economic crises, workers' response, Great Depression, working people

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