Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Market Crash of 1929, and The Depression That Ensued

Throughout the 20th Century many exciting, devastating, and legendary events occurred throughout both the United States and the world. Newseum collaborated with USA Weekend to construct the top one hundred stories of the 20th Century. Among them was the stock market crash of 1929. After the market crashed a depression like nothing America has ever seen set in, while millions of Americans and their families came into direct contact with the disabling reality of being poor, homeless, and left destitute on the very streets of the United States. The Stock market crash had affects on almost every person in the country, from Wall Street to Main Street, no one was safe. The story coverage of the market crash quickly jumped from the financial pages of newspapers to the front pages of both major and local newspapers. Newseum, a museum dedicated to news and the art of journalism, rated the Crash as the number eight most memorable and top stories of the twentieth century. While watching the video provided on the website, there was a total of three sources used for the interview and critique of the fascinating coverage of 1929. Of the sources, there was a historian, professor, and author used for the discussion. One of the sources stated that the coverage of the story in the newspapers across America made it seem as if the depression would last forever. There were also a number of newspapers that were flashed across the screen showcasing various headlines from the days that followed the Stock Market crash in October of 1929.

During this intense time in America’s history, journalists played a key role in transmitting important information to the general public. Reporters worked to give the facts to the public, providing the numbers and figures of the devastating fallout of the stocks. The stories were framed in a very different way than the stories of the current recession are being covered now, in 2009. Following the Stock Market crash, many headlines and newspapers reported optimistically, claiming that the, “future looked bright”. (Headlines of the Greatest Stock Market Crash of 1929) One headline from the new York Times, for example, stated, “Brokerage Houses Are Optimistic on the Recovery of Stocks,” and, “Brokers in Meeting Predict Recovery” (Headlines of the Greatest Stock Market Crash of 1929). It was through the news gathering and reporting that many of the American people were able to withstand the optimism during such a gruesome and low time in the country’s history. Many of the stories were therefore framed around any “good” news rather than the more important and relevant “bad” news. Newspapers worked to keep the people of the United States as positive as they could through upbeat and exciting news stories. It was during this time that journalism embarked on a new era. While many people got their information from the newspapers, photos depicting the misery of the American people began to surface. Photojournalism became very popular as many journalists turned to the images taken to portray to subscribers what they could not report in words alone. It was photojournalists such as Doretha Lange who launched the industry of photojournalism during the Great Depression by depicting the Dust Bowl and for the Federal Emergency Relief Act and for the Farm Service Administration.

Much like the Great Depression, contemporary news stories of the modern recession are flashed across the television and newspapers alike. Although depicted in a very different way, the stories from the 1920’s and stories from 2008 and 2009 follow the devastation that follows a country during a time of great monetary, political, and social depression. One distinct difference, however, was that the depression of the 1920’s and 30’s had a much more optimistic way of depicting the Great Depression. In modern journalism, reporters prefer to tell the hard facts rather than painting a rosy picture for readers and viewers.


"Headlines of the Greatest Stock Market Crash of 1929". PBS. 04/22/09 .

Norris, Floyd. "Looking Back at the Crash of 1929". The New York Times. 04/22/09 .


  1. Your post made me wonder if journalists today covered the current recession like they did the stock market crash if we might be in a better state. Although it wasn't until WWII that the country finally recovered economically, at least they had optimistic views. News coverage today does nothing to lift my spirits. Journalism is supposed to serve the facts to the public, but if people remain too terrified to buy, then we won't make any progress. When the stimulus was yet to be passed, I remember a point being made that action needs to be done immediately, so the naysayers should leave it alone. Nobody knows if it will work, but they have to at least try. I'd prefer to hear about what's working, rather than what's not and whose upset about it.

  2. This is such a good topic to choose to write about. The recession ties in so well - it's almost a parallel of what happened back then. I liked the way you included the fact that the good news was pushed the front of the bad news, so as to help the public try to keep a positive attitude during a time of such darkness.

  3. i also enjoyed reading your post as well. this was such a relevant topic to choose to discuss and analyze. i feel that the optimism during the 1920s did seem like a form of escapism but all in all helped the people of that depression get through the day. i think that journalists should, of course, inform the public about what was going on in the world but the same time provide some sort of solace to get readers out of their everyday chaos. i think the coverage of the recession today is so focused on facts and problems instead of solutions and plans. great insight on these articles though. awesome job!