Measuring just 7/8” in length and just 1/4’” tall, this small, unassuming lapel pin bears little resemblance to flashy political campaign buttons of today. Its original background of deep blue paint did not survive the four decades it spent lodged in a wastewater pipe underneath the streets of Baltimore, overlooked by its owner and lost from a garment during a visit to a commercial laundry.
Herbert Hoover, who ran in the 1928 presidential election against Al Smith (whose similarly-shaped campaign pin had a red background), easily won the election, carrying 40 out of 48 states. As a Republican, he had strong support from northern Protestants and western farmers, as well as support from minority groups. In Maryland, Hoover won the primary and had a majority vote in all but two counties during the election.
Hoover ran on a platform of tax reduction, and an increase in government spending for public projects and services, as well as a continuance of prohibition. Americans identified Republicans with the booming economy of the 1920s and Hoover, in his acceptance speech, promised “a final triumph over poverty” (Miller Center 2014). Little was he to know that a few short months later, in October of 1929, the New York Stock Exchange would suffer major losses, hurtling the country into the Great Depression.
Over the next three years, the stock market lost 89% of its value (Paracalls 2010). More than 9,000 banks across the county had failed by the end of the 1930s and unemployment reached 15 million by early 1933 (McElvaine 1993). Despite efforts to improve conditions for the country, Hoover realized little success and became the target of frustrated Americans. Shantytowns known as “Hoovervilles” filled with the homeless and unemployed, who slept under “Hoover blankets” (newspaper) and drank “Hoover soup” (ketchup, salt and pepper mixed into tap water).
Maryland escaped the earliest effects of the Depression (Brugger 1988:495). Baltimore’s diverse economy cushioned the impact somewhat and businesses there described the city as in better economic condition than other eastern port cities (Chapelle et al. 1986: 233; Brugger 1988:495). Tobacco prices remained steady at first, but by 1933, one out of every seventeen citizens in the more rural parts of Maryland were on relief (Chapelle et al. 1986:236). Relief agencies were formed at the state and local levels, with private charities distributing the majority of relief funds in the early years of the Depression.
The presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt—which began in 1933—introduced the New Deal, initiating programs to assist families in need through the creation of jobs and financial assistance. Greenbelt, Maryland was one of three planned communities created through the Resettlement Administration, a New Deal program. Envisioned as a model for future town planning, Greenbelt provided work relief through construction jobs, as well as affordable housing for the working class.
Maryland, as well as the rest of the United States, continued to suffer the financial effects of the Great Depression until the beginnings of World War II in 1939.
Brugger, Robert. 1988 Maryland; A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Chapelle, Suzanne E., Jean H. Baker, Dean R. Esslinger, Whitman R. Ridgway, Jean B. Russo, Constance B. Schulz and Gregory A. Stiverson. 1986 Maryland; A History of its People. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
McElvaine, Robert S. 1993 The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941. New York: Times Books.
Miller Center. 2014 American President: Herbert Clark Hoover: Campaigns and Elections. The Miller Center. http://millercenter.org/president/hoover/essays/biography/3.
Paracalls. 2010 10 American Financial Meltdowns in the Past Century.Website accessed 4-10-2014 at http://www.paracalls.com/article/10-american-financial-meltdowns-in-the-past-century/212#