A History of an Ohio Steeltown from Recession to War

Lorain, Ohio  U.S.A.  1937-1941
A History of an Ohio Steeltown from Recession to War

CONTENTS:

- Introduction

- 1937: High Hopes

- 1938: Recession

- 1939: Contentious Politics

- 1940: Fragile Prosperity

- 1941: A Year of Renaissance

- Conclusion

- Appendix

- Bibliography

- Maps of Lorain

- About the Author

By: Michael H. Fenton

Honors Thesis
Oberlin College
Department of History

Clayton Koppes, Supervisor

May 2000
© 2000 Michael H. Fenton

Introduction

Lorain, Ohio. The painting reproduced above conveys the image of a thriving industrial city, full of activity. Ships, trains, buses, and trucks arriving and departing, all set against a backdrop of black smoke, that unmistakable sign of industrial prosperity. Such apparent prosperity is somewhat at odds with the fact that this picture originally graced the cover of a 1940 study written and compiled by Lorain men and women on relief. The Works Projects Administration, or WPA, financed the Real Property Inventory of Lorain, Ohio both to provide the city with a survey of land and structures and to provide jobs to some of the city’s unemployed.1

Colliding images of prosperity and poverty were common in the years surrounding the publication of the report. Lorain and the nation had partially recovered from the devastating economic crash of 1929 and the long period of stagnation that followed, but the years from 1937 to 1941 were nevertheless as much depression years as 1932 or 1933 had been. The relatively prosperous 1937 still struggled with symptoms of the Great Depression, and 1938 faced an even larger problem in the recession. Nineteen thirty-nine, though economically a step up from 1938, was marred by political conflicts and continued hardship; 1940 and 1941 were still dealing with the effects of 1929 even as federal defense spending brought the depression to a close.

World War II, without a doubt, did end the depression, but our knowledge of that fact can cloud our understanding of the actual experience of these years. For those who lived then, the future was still uncertain, so the recession and the persistently high unemployment that appear to us sixty years later as minor setbacks often led people at the time to bleaker interpretations.

My objective in this thesis is to recapture some of the original meaning of the years between 1937and 1941 as they unfolded in the city of Lorain, Ohio. The Great Depression did not disappear from the nation when the Munich Pact was signed, as the textbooks I remember from high school implied. The end of the depression was a more gradual process, full of hopes and disappointments. A related objective is to tell one small part of Lorain’s story. This city is a fascinating one, with many tales to tell. By way of introduction to the city, rather than beginning with the first settlement in 1807, I will take M. Kacur’s painting as a starting point.

In the extreme foreground are the two railroads that transformed Lorain from the small agricultural town of the nineteenth century to the modern industrial city of the twentieth. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ran roughly north-south in the city, connecting Lorain with the coal fields of southern Ohio, while the Nickel Plate Railroad ran east-west, linking the city to other major industrial centers, from Toledo and Chicago to Cleveland and New York City.

On the right side are two large ships, in all probability Great Lakes freighters carrying ore shipments from Wisconsin or Minnesota. Right from its founding, Lorain was an important port, located at the point where the Black River—the first navigable river west of the Cuyahoga in Cleveland—meets Lake Erie. The excellent natural harbor (“acknowledged to be the best harbor on Lake Erie,” according to the editors of the Real Property Inventory2 ) combined with the railroad connections inland to make the city attractive to shipping companies.

That harbor also made shipbuilding a natural choice for Lorain entrepreneurs, and indeed, it was the town’s first industry, with the first ship launched in 1819. In the center of our picture is a freighter in a dock, perhaps ready to be launched—a depiction of the shipyards of the American Shipbuilding Company, located in east Lorain, across the river from downtown.3 Founded just before the turn of the twentieth century, the company owned yards all around the Great Lakes, including ones in Cleveland, Toledo, Buffalo, and Chicago, and for decades, it was the most important shipbuilder on the lakes. In the 1920s and 1930s, Lorain’s yards were among the best and largest on America’s  “north coast.”

Just to the left of the dry dock is a steam shovel with the words  “Lorain Diesel” on the side, referring to another of the city’s industries: the Thew Shovel Company. Founded by a sailor, Thew Shovel built cranes and steam shovels for use in construction and excavation. Its facilities were in south Lorain, along the B&O tracks. The company was comparable in size to the shipyard, employing a few hundred workers.

But behind all of these industries stand the smokestacks and buildings of Lorain’s steel plant: the National Tube Company. The space given to the plant in the picture is easily proportional to its actual importance to the city, for the coming of the steel plant was the most important event in Lorain’s history. Attracted by Lorain’s location midway between the coal of southern Ohio and the iron deposits of the Great Lakes, and between Chicago and New York, Tom Johnson moved his steel plant to Lorain in 1894, forever reshaping the city. The plant itself covers one-fifth of the area of the city, and by the 1930s it directly employed the same proportion of the city’s population. One estimate in 1935 suggested that through its more than 9,000 employees, the company supported between 20,000 and 30,000 people, at a time when the total population was about 44,000.4  In good times, the monthly payroll was about $1 million, thus Herbert Krauss hardly exaggerated when he wrote in 1941,  “Lorain lives from one National Tube pay day to the next.” 5 Peak annual production of raw steel, rails, pipes and bars usually exceeded one million tons.

The plant even reshaped the city itself. Its need for workers was the major reason for the tenfold increase in population, from 4,863 in 1890 to 44,512 in 1930. The company developed the 2,300 acres just south of the plant for employee housing, dramatically shifting the distribution of the city’s population. Many, even most, of the newcomers to Lorain were European immigrants, especially from eastern and southern Europe. In 1910, an astonishing 69.4 percent of Lorain’s population was born either abroad or to foreign-born parents. Even in 1930, whites born to native parents made up only 29.9 percent of the city’s population.6 This diversity meant that Lorain developed all of the foreign-language parishes, the nationalist clubs, and mutual aid societies usually associated with the larger cities. The contrast between the industrial city with its immigrant population and the rural county with third- and fourth-generation American families could not have been more stark.

Lorain was, of course, more than the sum total of its industries, but those industries were its defining characteristics. The compilers of The Ohio Guide, another WPA project, concurred with this judgment in their description of the city:  “lilacs (flower of the French province of Lorraine)...are glorified by a yearly Lilac Festival. But these flowers bloom and smell sweetly for only a few weeks in the spring, and after the festival Lorain again becomes a steel city with a beautiful name.” 7

We now leave behind this portrait of Lorain and pick up the city’s story in 1937. The hardest years of the Great Depression seemed to have passed, and Lorain—its people and its industries—appeared to be on the verge of a  “boom year.”

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NOTES:

1. WPA et al., Real Property Inventory of Lorain, Ohio (Lorain, Ohio: n.p., 1940). The WPA was the Works Progress Administration until 1939, when it was renamed by Congress. [return]

2. WPA et al., Real Property Inventory, 4. [return]

3. Spelling of the company name varies. The Lorain Journal, R. B. Frost and the Real Property Inventory consistently used  “the American Shipbuilding Company,” whereas Richard Wright and Robert Nicholls preferred  “the American Ship Building Company” (see bibliography for the Frost, Wright, and Nicholls). The choice is arbitrary; I use the former. [return]

4. R. B. Frost,  “Lorain, Ohio: A Study in Urban Geography,” Ohio Journal of Science 35, no. 3 (March 1935), 184. [return]

5. Herbert M. Krauss, “Immigrant Organizations in Lorain, Ohio” (master’s thesis, Oberlin College, 1941), 33-34. [return]

6. S. Clayton Newman, “Immigrant Adjustment: An Observation of the Process of Assimilation, based on a sociological study of The Hungarians in South Lorain, a section of Lorain, Ohio; 1931-33” (master’s thesis, Oberlin College, 1934), 54. [return]

7. Federal Writers’ Project, The Ohio Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 1940), 285. [return]

1937: High Hopes

As 1936 drew to a close, Lorain looked forward to the New Year with high hopes. All indications were that 1937 would be a good year, perhaps even a boom year. Ever since the Great Depression bottomed out in the winter of 1932-33, each year had been economically better than the last. Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs were usually credited with that recovery, had just been reelected in November 1936 by a large majority, and people hoped his second term would be just as successful as the first. Lorain, like other American communities, wondered if 1937 might not even be the last year of the depression, the year that would restore the prosperity lost in the Stock Market crash. Nineteen twenty-nine was the measuring stick for the Great Depression. Only when the levels that had been set early in that year were surpassed could the end of the depression be announced. Thus, as business picked up, everyone wondered, “Would 1937 be ‘another ’29?’”

Indeed, 1937 was a good year for Lorain, but it was not “the” year. Some of the city’s hopes were fulfilled, but many were not; 1937 in sum fell short of matching—let alone surpassing—1929. The depression had proved so resistant to a solution that some people speculated that the crisis had, in fact, ended, and that high unemployment and achingly slow economic growth were actually the characteristics of a new “normal” period. This bleak outlook on the future received further support when the stock market began to slide in August, setting off a general economic collapse. If Lorain was still asking in December if 1937 would be “another ’29,” they now feared a repetition of that earlier year’s terrible economic crash, having postponed all hopes of regaining the old prosperity.

Although not a “great” year, 1937 was still a good one for the city, better than all previous years of the decade. Lorain’s industries showed renewed vigor, cheering the city with increased production and higher payrolls. The National Tube Co. certainly had its best year since 1929. Production from the furnaces and finishing mills fell about 80 percent from 1929 to 1932, but by 1937, levels had recovered to just under (or, in bar and pipe manufacture, just over) those of 1929 (see table).

Production at the National Tube Co. (in tons) 8

  1929 1932 1937
Blast Furnaces 1,055,450

237,736

1,001,710
Bessemer Steel Works 520,818 109,276 407,725
Rail Mills

150,785

51,628

116,084

Bar Mills 194,717 47,862

366,218

Pipe Mills

517,155

95,851 577,696

The plant again employed 9,000 workers-the usual number in the 1920s-representing a marked improvement over the low of 1,500 full-time workers in 1932.9 Monthly payrolls averaged $1.4 million in 1937the highest in eight years and doubtless a source of much comfort for plant workers.10 Nationally, U.S. Steel—of which National Tube was a subsidiary—operated at 71.9 percent of capacity, up from only 17.7 percent (15 percent in Lorain) in 1932.11

The fortunes of American Shipbuilding fluctuated with those of the steel industry since most of its business related to the ore trade. Thus, 1937 was also a good year for the shipyards. The best news of the year was the announcement that the Pittsburgh Steamship Company had commissioned two huge ore freighters from the Lorain yards. With the exception of a few tugs, the shipyards had had no construction contracts since 1929, subsisting in the interim mostly on repair business. The order for the two 600-foot freighters was welcome indeed. The launchings of the William A. Irvin (named, incidentally, for the president of U.S. Steel) on November 10 and the Governor Miller on December 1 occasioned numerous civic celebrations in Lorain, marking the occasion of the first ships launched in a decade. With the end of the shipping season in mid-December the harbor closed, but the company announced that there was enough repair work to be done to keep its 800 workers employed until April.12

This revival of industry made 1937 a prosperous year for all of Lorain, since the payrolls of American Shipbuilding and National Tube helped keep the wheels of retail, finance, and construction turning. Retail sales, for example, were the best since the Crash, totaling almost $19 million over the year. The furniture business was up between 25 and 50 percent from 1936. Car and truck sales were the best of the thirties, total sales being more than five times those of 1932.13 Check clearings in the five Lorain banks, which had “dropped with a sickening thud”—in the words of The Lorain Journal—to $3.7 million in 1933, approached $20 million in 1937 falling only $4.5 million short of the 1929 record.14 Account withdrawals were the best since 1930.15 The construction business also did well. Although the $575,000 total for new permits was less than half of the $1,170,000 peak in 1928, this was nonetheless a distinct improvement over the $24,000 total in 1933 when, according to the secretary of the Lorain Contractors’ Association, “building in the city practically sank out of sight.” 16 Probably most encouraging of all were the signs that the enormous burden of relief was diminishing. “Direct Relief in Lorain Shrunk to 1929 Level,” announced one newspaper headline. By March, there were only 330 cases in Lorain, as compared to 2,863 in 1933 and 261 in 1929.17

Thus 1937 was a good year for the city, certainly the best so far in the decade; however, hopes for the bounty of “another ’29” and an end to the depression went unfulfilled. Asked in a nationwide poll during January, “Do you believe the depression is over?” only 25.5 percent of Americans said “yes;” 31.9 percent said “no” and 34.8 percent said “partly.” 18 Conditions seemed to support the perception that the depression continued. Taking economics, politics and relief into consideration, 1937-despite the recovery made thus far-was decidedly a Great Depression year.

Signs of relative prosperity could not hide the fact that 1929 levels had yet to be matched or surpassed. Nearly all of the industrial statistics cited above, though better than recent years, fell short of the peak values of 1929. In its year-end issue, The Lorain Journal even included a set of graphs comparing the two years nationwide. The heading read bluntly: “Why 1937 Isn’t ‘Another ’29.’”19 American Shipbuilding, despite the launching of the two freighters and the 12 percent wage increase early in the year, still felt the pinch of the depression, since later in the year, “to provide work for themselves” machinists had to agree to a 15 cent per hour wage cut “in order to permit the company to bid on a contract for the construction of two engines for the Inland Waterways Corporation.” 20 The foreclosure sales of two transportation companies serving Lorain-the Lake Shore Electric Company and the Lorain Street Railroad Company-also offset some of the rising statistics. True, the day of small-town and interurban railway systems had passed (track mileage of interurban railways in Ohio fell from 2,600 miles in 1920 to only 164 miles in 1940 as car sales increased and bus systems expanded21 ), but set against other headlines of the year, boasting of the new prosperity, the forced sales must have been jarring.

Politically, 1937 was also disappointing for many. Franklin Roosevelt had been reelected in 1936 by one of the largest margins in American history. In Lorain, 73 percent of the voters chose Roosevelt; statewide he carried 67 of Ohio’s 88 counties. The election seemed at the time to be a resounding affirmation of Roosevelt’s New Deal, but by the end of the year that “mandate” had evaporated, leaving the New Deal in full retreat. Increasing congressional opposition in 1937 was one cause of that turnaround, as the rise of a coalition of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats successfully challenged the power of liberal New Dealers. Roosevelt’s administration had faced resistance since its beginning in 1933, but in 1937 the tone of that opposition changed. Historian Richard Polenberg wrote, “Where in 1935 Congressmen had sometimes stood to Roosevelt’s left, after 1937 they invariably stood to his right; and where once Congress had diluted New Deal measures, now it defeated them.” 22 Congress rejected a number of the administration’s proposals, from executive reorganization to projected regional planning organizations modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority. In that increasingly conservative atmosphere and in the context of the recovering economy, Roosevelt himself began cutting back parts of the New Deal in an attempt to balance the federal budget. Decreased funding caused WPA enrollment in Ohio to fall from 187,000 in March 1936 to only 81,000 in September 1937.23

If Lorain voters had hoped for further reform and innovation to deal with the depression, those hopes were generally disappointed in 1937. The federal cuts in relief spending combined with the inadequate handling of relief by the state government to push much of the burden of poor relief back on the city, making budgets uncertain. The Lorain City Council was even briefly forced to consider refunding $83,000 worth of bonds in September in order to “meet payrolls and other operating expenses.” 24 Lorain lost a $45,000 grant from the Public Works Administration for a new elementary school because of tightened federal budgets, and the Federal Housing Administration offices in Lorain and Elyria were both closed as part of “a national retrenchment program.” 25 “Direct Relief in Lorain Shrunk to 1929 Level,” The Lorain Journal had announced in March, but rising unemployment signaled that this situation was not to last long.

Demand for public aid throughout the year stayed high, almost greater than the city’s ability to supply it. In November, the Lorain branch of the Ohio Workers Alliance coordinated a march of WPA employees to the local agency office on Broadway to demand “relief for all unemployed and jobs for those able to work.” 26 Earlier in the year Essie Angleoff and Frank Rychicik of the Workers Alliance sent a letter to the Lorain City Council complaining about the employment of women from Sheffield Village on the Lorain WPA Sewing Project. “Be it resolved,” they wrote, “that we, the members of the Ohio Workers Alliance and citizens of the city of Lorain, protest against the using of outsiders on this project, and request that those not citizens of Lorain be removed and replaced by our own citizens of this community.” 27 If full recovery had been achieved, such a letter would have been unnecessary.

The persistent economic stagnation in Lorain and elsewhere raised some difficult questions for Americans. The New Deal had alleviated much human suffering, and it had arguably created the conditions necessary for the recovery business had made thus far. But, New Deal reforms had yet to end the depression; they also seemed incapable of preventing future cyclical downturns. The number of unemployed and those on work relief never fell below seven million in the decade.28 It began to seem that the recovery most people hoped for might even be an impossibility. As the humorist Will Rogers said earlier in the decade, “Depression used to be a state of mind. Now it’s a state of coma, now it’s permanent.” 29 Asked in August 1937 “Do you think poverty will ever be done away with in this country?” fully 86 percent of those polled said “no.” 30 Perhaps, Americans began to wonder, the depression actually had ended, and the lingering effects of the Crash were now to be accepted as inherent in a new “normal” period of the nation’s history.

“Sluggish growth and high unemployment which had now continued for nearly a decade were beginning to seem part of the natural order of things,” writes historian Alan Brinkley. “Out of such fears emerged the concept of the ‘mature economy.’”31 Brinkley compares that idea of the “mature economy” to Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous “frontier thesis” of the turn of the century. Just as the nation’s period of territorial expansion had come to an end with the closing of the frontier, so the period of economic growth might have ended in October 1929. Several prominent economists began arguing that the future would be characterized by either glacial growth or outright plateau. “After a decade of economic stagnation,” Brinkley writes, “and after the failure of what seemed to be daring policy innovations to produce a genuine recovery, many Americans were beginning to conclude that the current economic crisis was not a temporary aberration, but part of a fundamental transformation.” 32

In 1937 it was not difficult to imagine unemployment in the millions stretching indefinitely into the future. Harry Hopkins, prominent New Dealer and head of the WPA, said that it was “reasonable to expect a probable minimum of 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 unemployed even in future ‘prosperity' periods.” 33 The President’s Committee on Administrative Management recommended in 1936 the creation of two cabinet posts, Welfare and Public Works, an indication of the permanent role envisioned for governmental relief. In Lorain, city engineer Harry F. Alexander also expected the need for programs like the WPA to continue. In December 1937 he submitted a report to the City Council listing possible work projects, from street paving and sidewalk repair, to sewer and water line construction. “From the above list of possible W.P.A. projects,” he concluded, “it is evident that Lorain can provide employment for a considerable number of W.P.A. employees for several years should W.P.A. continue indefinitely.” 34

Summing up the year, the editors of The Lorain Journal wrote, “In retrospect the year 1937 was a year of sharp contrasts-a year of paradoxes. Last January it made its bow with high hopes and optimism, and it comes to a close with dark pessimism and fear riding the general industrial scene.” 35 The cause of that pessimism was the stock market crash in August and the subsequent economic collapse. Now, Lorain was asking if 1937 would be “another ’29” fearing a repetition of the original Crash that began the Great Depression. The Journal, worried about the coming year, did express some modest hopes: “Not until late in 1938, probably, will business volume swell to the point where optimism will have again become the popular fashion, but the trend of the last half year should be far more encouraging than it was in the panicky fall of 1937 when memories of 1929 brought vivid nightmares.” 36 With much of the progress made in the 1930s erased by the recession of the fall of 1937 Lorain looked ahead to another long year of the Great Depression.

Notes to 1937

8. D. W. Lawrence, Lorain Works, Lorain, Ohio...A Historical Sketch (n.p., [1938?]), table. [return]

9. Daniel Hoffman, “When Boom Town Goes Bust” (honors thesis, Oberlin College, 1976), 42. [return]

10. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937 [return]

11. United States Steel Corporation, Annual Report (1957), 30-31; Hoffman, “Boom Town,” 42. [return]

12. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937 [return]

13. Ibid.; and The Lorain Journal, 30 December 1939. In 1932 only 953 cars and trucks were sold in the city, as compared to 5,552 in 1937. [return]

14. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937 [return]

15. Each issue of the Monthly Business Review (Cleveland, Ohio) included the dollar amount withdrawn from individual accounts in Lorain. I compiled a list of withdrawals from 1929 to 1945. The total for 1929 was $78,309,000; for 1930, $69,608,000; for 1933 (the low point of the Depression), $27,301,000; and for 1937 $65,834,000. [return]

16. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937 [return]

17. Ibid., 30 March 1937 [return]

18. Hadley Cantril, ed., Public Opinion, 1935-1941 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1951), 61. The remaining 7.8 percent said they didn’t know. [return]

19. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937 [return]

20. Richard Wright, Freshwater Whales: A History of the American Ship Building Company (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1969), 215. [return]

21. John Merrill Weed, “The Traveled Ways,” in Ohio in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1938, comp. Harlow Lindley, vol. 6 of The History of the State of Ohio, ed. Carl Wittke (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1942), 138. Henceforth I will refer the volume as a whole using “Wittke/Lindley, The History of the State of Ohio.” [return]

22. Richard Polenberg, “The Decline of the New Deal, 1937-1940,” in The New Deal, vol. 1, The National Level, ed. John Braeman et al. (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1975), 247. [return]

23. J. Otis Garber, “Depression Activities,” in Wittke/Lindley, The History of the State of Ohio, 465. [return]

24. The Lorain Journal, 1 September 1937 [return]

25. Ibid., 30 September 1937 [return]

26. Ibid., 1 November 1937 [return]

27. Journal No. 16, City of Lorain, from Jan. 1, 1934 to Dec. 31, 1937 [City Council Minutes], 2902. I used three volumes of the City Council minutes for this study: vol. 16 (1/1/34-12/31/37), vol. 17 (1/1/38-12/31/39), and vol. 18 (12/27/39-12/21/42). Henceforth I will cite these minutes according to the formula “CC Minutes [volume]: [page number]” as, for example, “CC Minutes 16: 2902.” [return]

28. Michael R. Darby, “Three-and-a-Half Million U.S. Employees Have Been Mislaid: Or, an Explanation of Unemployment, 1934-1941,” Journal of Political Economy 84, no. 1 (1976), 7. Unless otherwise cited, all national unemployment statistics in this study are from Darby’s article. [return]

29. Quoted in Raymond Boryczka and Lorain Lee Cary, No Strength without Union: An Illustrated History of Ohio Workers, 1803-1980 ([Columbus, Ohio]: Ohio Historical Society, 1982), 223. [return]

30. Cantril, Public Opinion, 800. [return]

31. Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 132. [return]

32. Brinkley, The End of Reform, 133-34. [return]

33. Quoted in William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), 263. [return]

34. CC Minutes 16: 2959-61. [return]

35. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937 [return]

36. Ibid. [return]

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1938: Recession

Nineteen thirty-eight began with little of the optimism that had opened 1937. In December 1936, Lorain had dared to hope that the New Year would bring the end of the depression, but a year later, the city was reeling from the effects of an economic “recession,” and at best, Lorain expected to achieve only a modest recovery by the end of the year. Some even feared that the economic slide that had begun in the fall of 1937 would continue throughout 1938. The author of one article in The Lorain Journal tried to put a brave face on the crisis: “The year 1937 opened with hope and confidence—over-confidence and too-high hopes. The year 1938 starts with pessimism and fears—over-pessimism and excessive fears.” 37

There was much to be pessimistic about. The recession of 1937-38 set the city’s industries and economy back three or four years, and increased demand for relief. Had the federal government not resumed public aid spending, the crisis might soon have swelled to the dimensions of the early thirties. The second half of 1938 did turn out to be much better than the first, as the national economy made a swift recovery, but, after two severe crashes in the space of nine years, that recovery must have seemed uncomfortably fragile.

The recession of 1937-1938 began much as the depression did in 1929, with a stock market crash late in the year setting off a general economic decline. Beginning to slide in August 1937, common stocks lost one-third of their value by December 31, and they fell even further in the first few months of 1938.38 In the wake of that crash, business and industry contracted, cutting wages and laying off thousands. In December 1937 Harry Hopkins estimated that two million workers had been laid off since September and predicted (correctly) that another two million would lose their jobs in the coming months.39

No sooner had the recession begun than intellectuals and officials began debating its causes. Business blamed the “remedies” of the New Deal, arguing that federal intervention had undermined the confidence of investors. Government, in turn, blamed business for a “capital strike,” insisting that investors were deliberately withholding funds to sabotage federal recovery programs. Orthodox New Dealers attributed the collapse to the cuts in federal spending in 1937 (WPA rolls had been cut in half by August 340 ); and other economic observers highlighted the fact that the first Social Security deductions took some $2 billion out of circulation. Exasperated by the contradictory explanations of the “experts,” The Lorain Journal offered its own tongue-in-cheek assessment of the recession in an editorial entitled “Explaining It”:

Here are some of the explanations, heard and read lately, for the present business slump:
  1. Wall Street control. Washington control.
  2. Speculation. Lack of speculation.
  3. Overproduction. Underproduction.
  4. Criticism of business. Criticism of government.
  5. Large inventories. Small inventories.
  6. Excessive credit. Inadequate credit.
  7. Extravagance. Stinginess.
  8. Economic planning. Lack of economic planning.
  9. Profiteering. Lack of profits.
  10. Communism. Fascism. Democracy.

It’s all very illuminating.41

Whatever the causes of the recession, Lorain faced the more urgent question of what to do about its impact. The city had not faced an economic crisis of this magnitude since the early years of the depression. Lorain’s industries buckled under the weight of the recession. Production at National Tube in 1938 was 50 to 60 percent of the previous year’s, and employment had fallen by at least 1,000.42 The Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland estimated that steel production in its district had fallen from over 90 percent capacity in 1937 to about 20 percent in 1938.43 Likewise, the American Shipbuilding Company had a poor year, with no new construction contracts and none in sight by December. At the American Stove Company, operations were one-third of 1937, and Thew Shovel also reported a slow year. Overall, The Lorain Journal estimated that payrolls in city industries were down 10 percent from 1937.44 As a result, account withdrawals fell 17 percent from the previous year, and all city businesses began to feel the effects of the recession.45 To give just one example, car and truck sales plummeted from 5,552 in 1937 to only 1,602 in 1938.46

Layoffs, wage cuts, and shortened hours destroyed the ability of many households to be self supporting; as a result, increasing numbers of Lorain’s residents applied for public relief. As early as December 1937, there were already 472 cases (double the number from March of that year), costing the city between $7,000 and $8,000 per month.47 On December 8, E. E. Holmes, director of the Lorain County central relief unit, gloomily announced that “Relief rolls are rising at a rate comparable with the worst days of the depression,” with around 60 to 75 new applications daily.48 Councilman Nelson Miller estimated in February 1938 that 5,000 Lorain residents needed WPA jobs.49

With the New Year came a new city government, and Lorain looked to its elected officials to address the problems caused by the recession. The Democrats had swept the November 1937 election, winning every city office on the ballot and seven of the ten seats on the City Council. Mayor George Bretz, the new mayor, recognized the crisis and promised action. In his inaugural address he accused the previous administration and its Republican mayor of “scoop[ing] the City Treasury bare” with reckless spending, and also pledged to deal swiftly with the growing relief crisis. Bretz’s “Message on Relief and Unemployment” read, “We pledge ourselves to a sympathetic administration of relief and to apply the golden rule. Proven need will be adequately provided for, but chiselers will be weeded out. If big business and our industries throw the workman out of employment, we will have to find a way to tax them to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the unemployed. No one will go hungry, freeze, or starve.” 50

Lorain could not afford to wait long for campaign promises to be carried out. Ben Gray, secretary of the Workers Alliance of Lorain County, addressed the City Council at the end of January, outlining the problems facing Lorain, and stressing the urgent need for action on the part of the Council. As recorded in the minutes, he said

that the people are crying for work and bread and that the City Council should not cut out any provisions made for W.P.A. projects and work. He stated that Congress has legislated money for this department and it is up to Council to see that they have work. No one who is out of work wants a measly hand out, and it is the right of every citizen to work and it is work that is wanted.

He ended with an almost threatening tone, urgently reminding the newly elected council of their responsibility to the people: “If Council can set down (sic) on the mandate of the people from the last election they will find that they are sitting on a powder keg.” 51

The city government responded on several fronts. One strategy was to economize as much as possible, directing the maximum amount of funds to poor relief. In May, the United Federation of Hungarians and the Hungarian Citizens Club wrote to the Council opposing the proposed purchase of land for a park in the fifth ward. Though approving of the project in principle, they firmly believed that “the City should direct all efforts in obtaining money to employ men now unemployed.” 52 Council decided to delay action on the park. In March, Mayor Bretz vetoed City Ordinance 4557, which would have added two paid firemen to the department, stating that the money was urgently needed elsewhere. His veto message to the City Council read,

First Things First—The administration feels this $4,320 for two regular firemen on the east side should be spent for other purposes, more essential to the welfare of our citizens. The fund set up for medical care of relief clients and indigents is already all but depleted, due to doctor bills coming in that were contracted under the former administration. Four to five thousand dollars more will be needed in this fund during the year. The administration has just signed a contract with Federal authorities to continue the [WPA] Sewing Center from June 1938, through to June 1939, providing for the employment of up to 46 women if necessary. This will require about $250 a month as the city’s portion of the project.53

A desire to economize no doubt also motivated the City Council to approve in an 8 to 2 vote an appropriations ordinance for 1938 that cut thousands from the budget, including nearly $4,000 from the WPA recreation program, the sewing center, and miscellaneous city public works projects. The mayor, in this case believing economizing would hurt the city, vetoed the ordinance and, citing the urgent need for relief, demanded the restoration of the cuts.54

“To spend or not to spend,” noted The Lorain Journal. “That was the question in Washington as business slumped.” 55 On the answer to that question hung the well-being of the city of Lorain as the recession deepened. The municipal government could only do so much with the funds at its disposal, and the burden of relief was threatening to grow beyond the city’s ability to cope. In May, the City Council estimated that the municipal government would be $125,000 over budget by the end of the year if conditions continued as they were.56

Lorain could expect little aid from the state government. So far in the depression, the response of Ohio’s governors (with the exception of Governor George White in 1931-34) and the General Assembly had been totally inadequate. “Without seeking any permanent solution to the relief question,” wrote historian Thomas Smith, “the Ohio General Assembly enacted a crazy quilt of relief legislation.” 57 The state relief administration had to be renewed almost every year, and funding was unstable and insufficient, coming as it did mostly from commodity taxes. In 1933, for example, the Assembly passed legislation to fund relief, levying “a ten per cent tax...upon amusement admissions costing over forty cents, upon the retail price of cosmetics, and upon the greens fee at golf clubs, with a five-per-cent tax upon golf club memberships.” 58 Democratic Governor Martin Davey (1935-38) was more intent on criticizing the federal administration of relief and investigating alleged graft than with setting up an effective relief system. (Incidentally, if there was graft to be found, it was in Davey’s own administration. An investigation in 1935 found enough evidence of political meddling with relief to warrant taking all federal relief out of state hands.) C. C. Stillman, director of the WPA in Ohio, wrote in 1935, “It is the opinion of many close observers...that the Governor of Ohio is not interested in suggesting or encouraging any suitable program to meet the needs of Ohio people on relief.” 59 In another strong indictment of the Ohio government’s response to the depression, historian David Maurer wrote, “The state shirked its financial responsibility for relief of those not enrolled in various federal programs. It also dragged its feet in establishing an effective permanent statewide relief organization even after it became evident that the local communities lacked the financial resources for providing relief.” Therefore, “between 1935 and 1940, the state of Ohio depended on the WPA to provide relief for the bulk of the unemployed, and on the local communities for aid to the remainder of those persons not covered by the categorical aid provided by the Social Security Act.” 60

Thus Lorain was forced to look to the federal government for help; within a few months, help arrived. After waiting in vain for the economy to right itself, Roosevelt finally announced in April a return to policies of deficit spending, and asked Congress for a $3 billion relief appropriation. Congress, mindful of the weakened state of the economy and of the election in November, quickly obliged. Federal spending for public aid in Ohio nearly doubled as a result, from $101 million in 1937 to $192 million in 1938. In that latter year, Washington paid 82 percent of the total public aid spending in Ohio, with the state government providing only 15 percent.61 State WPA employment skyrocketed from a low of 85,347 in September 1937 to 279,067 in October 1938 WPA earnings tripled in the same period, from $4,966,265 to $16,244,991.62

Citizens of Lorain urged the city to take full advantage of these renewed federal programs. In February, the Lorain County Industrial Council of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the Workers Alliance of Lorain sent a list of demands to the City Council. The list is interesting for its discussion of both the concrete, immediate needs of the community—jobs and relief—and also the larger issues exposed by the depression—notably racism and the new role of the welfare state. The list ran as follows:

  1. For an immediate 50% increase in all Food Orders for relief clients. Budget to also include adequate clothing, free medical care and dental care.
  2. 3,000 more W.P.A. jobs for Lorain, no discrimination against Negroes and foreign born.
  3. Supplementary relief to all mill and factory workers on part time work whose pay does not promise [to be] sufficient to feed their families.
  4. Increase rent allowance to relief clients with a minimum of $8.00 for single men and $16.00 for families.
  5. Endorsement by City Council of Schwellenbach-Allen Resolution in Congress, which will make it possible for all unemployed able to work to secure W.P.A. employment.
  6. Keep Sewing center going by returning the $1,000 from the city appropriation for this purpose.
  7. Establish recreation projects in line with proposals of Mayor Bretz.
  8. Persons receiving mother’s pension to receive supplementary relief.63

Many, though not all, of these demands were met, as in 1938 the city used federal funds to embark upon an expansion of public works and direct relief, surpassing even that of the early thirties. To begin with, Lorain had its share of “pick and shovel” projects. The biggest project of the year—employing about 1,000 men—was the repaving of a large portion of Broadway, Lorain’s main street. Begun in September, the project was finished by late December. A bond issue, passed in the August primary election, allowed the city to pay its share. The WPA contribution amounted to $140,000 in wages in addition to a few thousand for materials.64 Other federal funds financed sewer and water line improvements. A $67,300 Public Works Administration (PWA) grant allowed the city to build a $150,000 building at Lorain High School for the “industrial arts and vocational trades,” completed in 1939.65 The City Hall was continually considering other proposals for works projects, from the construction of a new city hall to a police firing range.66 The National Youth Administration, another federal relief agency, announced in June that it would pay two-thirds of the cost of a $4,300 project at Riverside Park that would employ fifty young men and women. The staff of a WPA recreation program organized year-round indoor and outdoor activities for Lorain residents of all ages.

Most of those employed on the manual labor projects were men, but there were other programs intended specifically for women. The WPA Sewing Project employed some forty women making clothing and blankets. A WPA Housekeeping Project also operated in Lorain, helping the community by employing eighty-three women countywide and furnishing about 150 families with “free home assistance in housework and care of children in the homes of the needy when the housewife herself is totally or partially incapacitated because of ill health or confinement.” 67

Care was also taken to provide for unemployed white-collar workers. WPA workers, for instance, compiled a book of the codified City Ordinances. At the end of 1938, they were at work on the Real Property Inventory, collecting statistics on land, structures, dwellings, and ownership.

By the end of the year, private industry had begun to revive, but the federally funded relief projects had served as a vital support in the interim. For the 1,700 Lorain workers on the WPA payrolls, the federal paychecks alone kept them from destitution.68 Those paychecks were equally essential for the health of the city, since they kept municipal direct relief cases to a manageable number.

If persistent depression in 1937 had been unsettling, then the renewed depression of 1938 must have been even more discouraging. One columnist writing at the end of 1938, though himself holding an optimistic view of the future, conceded that “the general psychology today is that poor times will remain indefinitely.” 69 Some optimism, especially by December, was justified by the remarkable recovery made by the economy in the summer and fall, accomplishing in six months what had taken three years earlier in the decade. But that recovery seemed exceedingly fragile. G. F. Swift, a national business leader, wrote at the end of the year, “The experience of 1937-1938 has shown us that our business system is still susceptible to severe depressions. We have had in the last year-and-a-half one of the sharpest declines followed by one of the sharpest advances on record. Any period of rapid change in social and economic arrangements is not conducive to business stability.” 70

Discouraging as it was to the business community, the situation was also upsetting to Americans as a whole. The lesson of 1929 and 1937—that a collapse can come when least expected—made even “good times” untrustworthy. As October rolled around, millions of Americans fearing and perhaps even expecting a new crisis in that unlucky month, tuned in their radios on October 30 and found unexpected confirmation of their fears in the extraterrestrial invasion described in Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds. Some six million Americans heard the broadcast, and an estimated one million listeners, believing the program to be factual, were frightened or actually panicked. Unfolding in a series of fictional news reports and interviews, the program began with a monologue by Welles. “In the thirty-ninth year of the twentieth century came the great disillusionment,” he said. “It was near the end of October. Business was better. The war scare was over. More people were back at work. Sales were picking up.” 71 Then, just as in 1929 and 1937, everything fell apart.

Hadley Cantril, in his study of the panic caused by the broadcast, discussed a number of psychological causes, but suggested also that the historical context predisposed people to such a reaction. Rumors of war, economic instability, and fresh memories of a recession easily made for uncertain times. Discussing the general mood, Cantril wrote,

Particularly since the depression of 1929, a number of people have begun to wonder whether or not they will ever regain any sense of economic security. The complexity of modern finance and government, the discrepancies shown in the economic and political proposals of the various “experts,” the felt threats of Fascism, Communism, prolonged unemployment among millions of Americans—these together with a thousand and one other characteristics of modern living create an environment which the average individual is completely unable to interpret. Not only do events occur that he is unable to understand, but almost all of these events seem to be completely beyond his own immediate control, even though his personal life may be dramatically affected by them. He feels that he is living in a period of rapid social change, but just what direction the change should take and how it may be peacefully accomplished he does not know. For the most part, the potential consequences of forthcoming events are unpredictable.72

Under such conditions, even a fantastic story, dramatically but plausibly presented, might be believable. As one person interviewed for the study put it, “Everything is so upset in the world that anything might happen.” 73 Calamity seemed as likely as prosperity to be “just around the corner.”

Lorain and the nation were probably glad to put 1938 behind them. If the international scene by December looked bleak, at least the domestic one was hopeful. Although the depression continued, the recession was over, and the economic recovery made the prospects for 1939 good. The New Year did turn out to be better in some respects than the previous year, but if economic hopes were fulfilled, political ones were not: 1939 was to be a year dominated by political controversy and deadlock.

 

Notes to 1938

37. Forrest H. Graves, “Expect Business to Start Upward March Next Year,” The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1937. [return]

38. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1931. [return]

39. Ibid. [return]

40. Robert McElvaine, The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 (New York: Times Books, 1984), 297. [return]

41. The Lorain Journal, 29 November 1937. [return]

42. D. W. Lawrence, Lorain Works, table; The Lorain Journal, 1 December 1938 [return]

43. Monthly Business Review 22, no. 10 (October 1940): 1. The district covered by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank was made up of Ohio, part of Pennsylvania, and part of Kentucky. [return]

44. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1938 [return]

45. Monthly Business Review 21, no. 1 (January 1939): 7. [return]

46. The Lorain Journal, 30 December 1939. [return]

47. Ibid., 21 December 1937. [return]

48. Ibid., 8 December 1937. [return]

49. CC Minutes 17: 627. [return]

50. Ibid., 17: 603. [return]

51. Ibid., 17: 615. [return]

52. Ibid., 17: 732. [return]

53. Ibid., 17: 644-46. The City Council later passed the ordinance over Bretz’s veto, having decided that, regardless of financial concerns, East Lorain would be inadequately protected from fire without the additional firefighters. [return]

54. CC Minutes 17: 617-18. [return]

55. The Lorain Journal, 4 January 1938 [return]

56. CC Minutes 17: 737. [return]

57. Thomas Smith, ed., An Ohio Reader: Reconstruction to the Present (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975), 269. [return]

58. Eugene Roseboom and Francis Weisenburger, eds., A History of Ohio (Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1953), 364. [return]

59. Quoted in David Maurer, “Relief Problems and Politics in Ohio,” in The New Deal, vol. 2, The State and Local Levels, ed. Braeman et al., 95. [return]

60. Ibid., 93. [return]

61. The Ohio Institute, Public Aid in Ohio, 1937-1939 (Inclusive): A Comparative Picture of Non-Institutional Public Aid in Ohio (Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio Institute, 1940), 4. [return]

62. Ibid., tables 3 and 4. [return]

63. CC Minutes 17: 641-42. [return]

64. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1938. [return]

65. Ibid. [return]

66. CC Minutes 17: 804, 811. [return]

67. Ibid., 17: 716. [return]

68. Ibid., 17: 776. The city’s WPA quota was 1,700. [return]

69. H. N. McGill, “Expansion Above 1929 Peaks Seen,” The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1938. [return]

70. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1938. [return]

71. Hadley Cantril, The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), 5. Cantril’s book includes the full script of the broadcast. [return]

72. Ibid., 154-55. [return]

73. Ibid., 157. [return]

TOP

1939: Contentious Politics

In the final 1938 issue of The Lorain Journal, H. N. McGill offered some predictions for the nation in the coming year:

The year 1939 will bring among other things the highest volume of building activity since 1929; automobile production comparable with the banner year 1937; huge armament expenditures; expanding employment and purchasing power; greater political cooperation; stimulation in new financing; and last but not least, higher commodity prices.74

As it turned out, McGill was right on almost all counts. The New Year, especially in comparison with 1938, moved decisively in the direction of economic recovery. The Great Depression continued, but at least Lorain was able to shake off the effects of the 1937-38 recession. The value of building permits in Lorain reached $700,000—the highest point since 1929. Car and truck sales were up more than one thousand from 1938. Business was still slow at the shipyards, but steel operations were improving. “‘As the steel plant goes, so goes Lorain,’ is a familiar saying,” wrote The Lorain Journal. “In 1939 this was ‘up’ definitely.” Production, payrolls, and employment were all much improved, with 9,000 employed by December.75 Steel was doing better throughout Ohio, as the payroll index of metal products industries rose from 77.2 in 1938 to 105.9 in 1939.76

If McGill was reasonably accurate in his economic predictions, he could not have misjudged the political situation more. The Lorain Journal caught the mood better when it topped off its first issue of 1939 with the headline, “‘Fighting’ Congress Convenes.” 77 Far from being a year of “greater political cooperation,” 1939 was one of the most politically contentious years of the decade. This year was the one in which the Republican Party was “resuscitated as a national power.” 78 The Democrats remained the majority party, but Republicans made considerable gains at all levels of government. Ohio was a state with a strong Republican tradition extending back to the Civil War, and although it supported Roosevelt and the Democrats in the early years of the depression, by the end of the decade, Ohio led the movement back to the G.O.P.

Politically, Lorain was influenced by that trend, but on the whole, it remained with the Democrats, following the pattern of the other industrial cities of the state. In municipal elections, the Republican Party did make some gains, but in state and national elections, Lorain stayed solidly Democratic. Even so, 1939 was a tumultuous year for politics in the city. With the New Deal being attacked on the state and national levels, Lorain was increasingly left to handle poor relief on its own.

Roosevelt and the Democratic Party had won a resounding victory in 1936, but the consensus that that triumph seemed to represent began to dissolve almost immediately, allowing a coalition of conservatives from the two parties to block most liberal legislation. Scholars suggest a number of reasons for the growth of opposition to the New Deal. Roosevelt’s “court packing” plan in early 1937 alienated a number of his allies and gave his opponents an issue around which to rally. Ironically, the economic recovery also undermined support for reform, since rising indicators made the New Deal seem increasingly unnecessary. In short, the administration may have been “a victim of its own success.” 79 The recession was even more damaging politically, placing the New Deal on the defensive. Having taken credit for the recovery, Democrats now had to shoulder the blame for the recession. Furthermore, Roosevelt’s intervention in the 1938 primaries—seeking to prevent conservative Democrats from winning the nominations—further alienated members of his own party, and worried the public, since the attempted “purge,” as it was called, seemed uncomfortably close to the techniques of fascism. All of these factors combined to increase the amount and intensity of opposition to the New Deal. “Through 1938, conservatives had fought chiefly a defensive war against the expansion of the New Deal,” historian William Leuchtenburg observed. “By 1939, Congress was moving aggressively to dismantle the New Deal.” 80

In November 1938, conditions were ripe in many parts of the country for a shift away from the Democrats. In Ohio, Republicans made tremendous gains. John W. Bricker (R) was elected governor, and Robert A. Taft (R) won the Senate seat—"two vigorous anti-New Dealers,” according to The Lorain Journal.81 (Those two were also prime candidates for the 1940 Republican presidential nomination.) Most of the other major state offices—from lieutenant governor to attorney general—also went to Republicans. In 1936, Ohio elected 2 Republicans and 22 Democrats to the House of Representatives, but in 1938, there were 15 Republicans and 9 Democrats. In 1942, the 1936 results were reversed, as voters elected 20 Republicans and only 3 Democrats. This pattern was similarly clear in Ohio’s General Assembly. In the State Senate, the ratio of Republicans to Democrats went from 5:31 in 1936 to 27:8 in 1938, and in the State House of Representatives, from 33:105 to 100:36. The 1940 and 1942 elections were also dominated by Republicans; in 1944, Roosevelt actually lost the state to Thomas Dewey.

A similar, clear cut pattern in Lorain’s political scene is somewhat more difficult to discern, because the Republicans dominated municipal elections even as Democrats carried the city in state and national elections. The clearest political trend in Lorain was the consistency of the party affiliation of each ward. With the exception of the presidential election in 1940, the outcome of the vote in each ward was almost entirely predictable (see Lorain ward map and Appendix).

The first, second, and seventh wards voted consistently Republican. Those three wards lay along the shores of Lake Erie, and their population was relatively well-to-do, mostly descended from Lorain’s oldest, colonial-American families. These wards included the downtown business district and probably had a higher percentage of merchants and businessmen than the rest of the city. Throughout this period, Republicans almost always carried these wards, usually with pluralities around 2 to 1. In the 1937, 1939, and 1941 elections, these three wards always gave majorities to the Republican candidates for mayor, City Council president, and councilmen-at-large. The ward councilmen were invariably Republican throughout this period. In 1938 and 1940, the lakeside wards gave majorities to the Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and representative to the General Assembly.

By contrast, the third, fifth, and sixth wards voted solidly Democratic. The population of these wards was working class, since these were the districts with Lorain’s largest industries, including American Stove, Thew Shovel, and National Tube. Much of the population—as shown in a map of Lorain’s ethnic groups in Herbert Krauss’s 1941 study—was made up of first- and second-generation European immigrants. Labor unions also played a much larger role in these wards than in those along the lake. The industrial workers had been the hardest hit in the city by the depression and were the group most helped by New Deal relief agencies, especially the WPA. These characteristics of the population partially explain the strong support given to the Democratic Party. In the municipal elections, whenever Republicans won the first, second, and seventh wards, Democrats won the third, fifth, and sixth. Typically two Democratic votes were polled for every one Republican vote in these wards. The Democratic candidates for mayor, Council president, and councilmen-at-large always won a majority. The ward representatives to the City Council were invariably Democrats, often winning around 70 percent of the vote. John C. Jaworski of the third ward served eight years in Council, and John Repko in the fifth ward—the heart of industrial Lorain—served fourteen years! Democrats running for state and national office also carried these wards, usually by large margins.

With six of the seven wards displaying remarkable regularity in party affiliation, the outcome of each election hung on the fourth ward and on the percentage of the electorate that voted. The fourth ward, in southwest Lorain, had a mixed voting pattern. Elections were always close between the parties. Often fewer than 100 votes out of 2,000 cast separated the candidates. Overall, though, the ward moved from supporting the Democrats in 1937 to supporting the Republicans in 1939 and 1941. Electoral outcomes also hinged on the turnout in each ward. A large enough minority vote in three wards combined with a sufficient majority in the others could give a candidate the victory.

The municipal election of 1937 was a Democratic sweep, paralleling the national election in 1936. Democrats won every open city office, and controlled the City Council 7 to 3. The six wards voted according to their usual pattern, and the fourth ward voted Democratic. In the mayoral election, the Democratic majorities in the third, fifth, and sixth wards joined with the large minority vote in the Republican wards to give George Bretz (D) the victory.

A year later, in 1938, Lorain continued to vote for Democrats, in spite of the recession and the shift to the right elsewhere in the state. The six wards again voted true to form, with the fourth ward still Democratic. Charles Sawyer (D), who unsuccessfully opposed John Bricker for the governorship, carried the city 7,984 to 4,706, though he lost Lorain county by a narrow margin. Lorain city rejected the conservative senatorial candidate, Robert A. Taft, by a similar margin: 7,412 to 4,934. As with Bricker, however, Taft won both in the county and the state.

Affiliations began to shift in the 1939 municipal elections. Harry Van Wagnen, a Republican, was elected mayor by a large margin. Democrats held on to the offices of City Council president, treasurer, and city solicitor, but they lost control of the Council. The fourth ward elected a Republican councilman, and Republicans won two of the three councilmen-at-large races, so the party now had a 6 to 4 majority in the City Council.

In 1940, Democrats continued to poll well in the city while losing in the county and the state. Martin Davey (D), running for governor, won 10,725 votes to John Bricker’s 7,157. The other Democratic candidates for state and national office also carried Lorain, though occasionally by narrow margins. As in the election of 1938, even a substantial majority in the city was not enough to offset the strong Republican vote in Elyria—the county seat—and in the remainder of Lorain county. The presidential election was a special case to which I will return shortly.

Finally, the municipal election in 1941 was a virtual repetition of 1939. Harry Van Wagnen won reelection as mayor, though by a smaller margin than two years before. Democrats still held the other city offices, as Republicans continued to dominate the City Council 6 to 4.

Thus, the Republican Party did make some headway in the city during this period, but the Democrats remained the major political force. Though some voters opposed further reforms, few wanted to overturn those already made. Leuchtenburg points out that even late in the 1930s, “if the country no longer quickened to the promise of the New Deal, and had wearied of assaults on business, it still placed more faith in the Democrats than in the Republican Party, and it wanted none of the Roosevelt reforms undone.” 82

This thesis seems justified by political trends in Lorain. Lorain was decidedly pro-New Deal, perhaps because it benefited so much from federal relief agencies. City voters tended to reject strong opponents of the New Deal, like Bricker and Taft. The Republicans who were elected in the city were likely to be friendly toward the New Deal: they may have opposed it in principle, but they were usually willing to accept it in practice. Mayor Van Wagnen worked as hard as any of his predecessors to bring work relief projects to Lorain. William Ashbolt (R), Lorain’s representative to the General Assembly, was similarly tireless in acting as the city’s advocate with state relief administrations.83

That Lorain had not rejected the New Deal is further demonstrated by the fact that the city decisively reelected Roosevelt to a third term in 1940. Roosevelt carried Lorain by a margin of more than 2 to 1: 12,412 votes to Wendell Willkie’s 5,717. (In 1936, he carried the city 10,575 to Alfred Landon’s 3,875.) Every ward but the seventh gave Roosevelt a majority in 1940—small in the first and second, but large in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. In the three Lorain wards dominated by industry (the third, fifth, and sixth), Roosevelt won 84 percent of the vote. In the fifth ward, Roosevelt won seven times the number of votes given to Willkie—2,401 to 335. Even in 1944, when Dewey won in Ohio, Lorain still favored Franklin Roosevelt 11,842 votes to Dewey’s 6,103. If support for the New Deal, for Roosevelt, and for the Democrats was thinning elsewhere in the nation, it was clearly still strong in Lorain. Together with Toledo, Cleveland, and Akron, Lorain and its “city vote” provided the bulk of Roosevelt’s support in northern Ohio.

Ohio’s political shift to the right, in combination with Republican gains all over the country, meant that 1939 would not be a year of “greater political cooperation.” Even Lorain’s municipal government had a tumultuous year, navigating between relief disputes and arguments between the mayor and the City Council.

In December 1938, the city relief situation had reached a crisis as Lorain, having exhausted its funds, turned the relief program over to the county on December 5.84 A week later, on December 14, the county announced that it was forced to return relief administration to the city because of a lack of county funds.85 A special session of the City Council was called for December 30 to deal with the crisis, but fortunately, though the city was prepared to create an Emergency Relief Bureau and to manage direct relief cases as well as it could, the county stepped in at the last moment to again take over relief. The county continued to administer the public aid programs for much of 1939, turning public relief back to Lorain on September 18.

Funding was similarly contentious. In November 1939, Lorain was again at the point of running out of money for relief, but a $15,416 grant from the county poor relief fund carried the city programs through December. Earlier in the year, the county had issued $151,000 in relief notes as part of a state matching program. Once the notes were issued, however, the state declared that Lorain county was no longer in “need,” and it refused to provide the promised matching funds. An editorial in The Lorain Journal gave vent to citizens’ frustration: “No consideration was given the fact that Lorain-co[unty] had gone into debt for this money and that counties that had refused to go this far in aiding the unfortunate did receive state money.” The editorial writer went on to say that the city and county were being given “the old runaround,” and that it was “high time Lorain-co started demanding its right loudly and vigorously.” 86 By the end of the year, the state did begin to make payments.87 In the end Lorain, with help from the county, was able to pay for the city’s relief cases without running a deficit or sending a special tax levy to the voters in November. By December, the number of people on the relief rolls had declined to 326 from 479 in October, somewhat easing the situation.88

Neither did politics function smoothly when it came to relations between the mayor and the City Council. George Bretz died in office on November 25, 1938, and though another Democrat, the City Council President Albert Matuszak, stepped in to fill the office, the new mayor never had the full support of the Council. They did cooperate in order to fund a number of public works projects, but the Council rejected the mayor’s $150,000 plan for a road under the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks, and refused to seek federal funding for Matuszak’s $10 million list of civic projects. The relationship between the Council and the mayor eventually deteriorated to such a point that seven of the ten councilmen ignored Matuszak’s call for a special session on December 30, 1939, forcing the mayor to call off the meeting for lack of a quorum. Disputes continued early in 1940. Harvey Irish, first ward councilman, was elected in November, but subsequently disappeared from the city. The remaining five Republican councilmen tried to get the seat declared vacant so that a replacement could be appointed, but the four Democrats blocked such motions. Six votes were needed to declare the seat vacant, so the issue was deadlocked until finally in a special session in May, one Democrat switched sides, the motion passed, and Virgil L. Gayner (R) was appointed to the first ward seat.89

State politics in Ohio was also marked by division and deadlock, and the relief program suffered as a result. Harry Hopkins, on a visit to Ohio in 1937, stated flatly, “In this state the relief problem isn’t being met. The relief policy of Ohio has been one of the most backward in the country.” 90 The situation had improved little in the two years since Hopkins’s statement. Throughout the depression, the General Assembly remained tied to orthodox fiscal ideas, believing that townships and cities could and should handle all direct relief. Even in the face of evidence that the situation exceeded the capacity of localities to cope, and that “stop-gap” taxes were not sufficient to raise funds for relief, the Assembly refused to change its approach. Historian Otis Garber wrote, “Neither the governor [Davey] nor the legislature showed any recognition of the fact that relief was a permanent problem. The State of Ohio skipped from one piece of ‘stop-gap’ legislation to another. There was no permanent planning and no continuity of administration. As a result of this temporizing attitude, the progress made during the Federal Government’s handling of direct relief was almost completely nullified and the State reverted to the principles of the old seventeenth century Elizabethan poor laws.” 91

Governor Martin Davey, despite the fact that federal funds were the only thing keeping state relief administrations operating, criticized the federal government’s power over relief, believing it to be an infringement of state’s rights. His successor, John Bricker, continued the feud, and charged that the federal government was cutting relief rolls in Ohio to punish the state for voting Republican in November 1939. Meanwhile, the actual relief situation was languishing. The announcement in December by Mayor Burton of Cleveland that relief in his city was approaching a crisis came as a national embarrassment to Bricker. Burton blamed the governor and the General Assembly for the inadequate approach to relief, claiming “that the governor’s scheme to enhance his political prestige by balancing the budget, creating a general fund surplus, and by refusing to contract a state debt for relief caused misery throughout the state.” 92 Burton’s accusation seems at least partly borne out by the facts, since relief rolls were rising while state spending declined. As David Maurer notes, “The number of general relief cases (families and individuals) rose from 86,737 in 1938 to 94,161 in 1939. On the other hand, Ohio’s general relief expenditures decreased by nearly $2,000,000. More than ever before in the depression years, the relief burden fell on the local communities and the WPA.” 93

All of this political upset meant that Lorain, along with the rest of the nation’s cities and counties, was faced with the challenge of dealing with continuing poverty even as federal and state programs were being cut back. Lorain was lucky in that it benefited from county help as well as from federally funded works programs. Many other communities were not so fortunate. With federal funds diminishing, state funds unreliable, and local funds often inadequate, things might soon have reached a crisis on a par with the winter of 1937-38 had it not been for the war. Hostilities broke out in September 1939, and even before the United States was directly involved, the economic effects of the arms buildup invigorated the American economy. Already transformed by the New Deal, Lorain was now to be shaped by the international crisis.

Notes to 1939

Election returns between 1937 and 1941 (inclusive) came from the Board of Elections in Elyria, Ohio. All other voting statistics were taken from issues of The Lorain Journal following the election in question.

Though the Board of Elections gave totals for each precinct, I was unable to find a map of the precincts. Thus I was only able to analyze ward totals. The boundaries of the wards I established from Lorain City Ordinance 3941 (26 February 1931).

See the Appendix for some tables of election results.

74. McGill, “Expansion,” The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1938. [return]

75. The Lorain Journal, 30 December 1939. [return]

76. Sam Arnold and James C. Yocum, Ohio Business Data, 1926-1948 in Charts and Tables, rev. (Columbus, Ohio: Bureau of Business Research, 1949), 40. [return]

77. The Lorain Journal, 3 January 1939. [return]

78. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 272. [return]

79. Polenberg, “The Decline of the New Deal,” 255. [return]

80. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 272. [return]

81. The Lorain Journal, 9 November 1939. [return]

82. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 274. [return]

83. Additionally, Mrs. Gertrude Ashbolt was the director of relief in Lorain, and it is possible that she was a relative or even the spouse of Mr. William Ashbolt. [return]

84. CC Minutes 17: 864. [return]

85. Ibid., 17: 874. [return]

86. The Lorain Journal, 1 November 1939. [return]

87. Ibid., 30 December 1939. [return]

88. CC Minutes 17: 1168. [return]

89. Ibid., 18: 1258. [return]

90. The Lorain Journal, 12 November 1937. [return]

91. Garber, “Depression Activities,” 469. [return]

92. Maurer, “Relief Problems,” 97-98. [return]

93. Ibid., 96. [return]

TOP

1940: Fragile Prosperity

The normally staid Monthly Business Review, a publication of the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, opened its September 1939 issue saying, “The business picture has changed so completely in the past four weeks that it is difficult as yet to report with any accuracy what actually has happened.” 94 The cause of that change, of course, was the outbreak of war in Europe. Although the United States was still neutral and the hostilities were thousands of miles away, the war had an immediate impact on Lorain. Defense spending by the United States and armament orders from abroad fueled a tremendous economic recovery. In its year-end summary, The Lorain Journal celebrated the transformation wrought by that spending:

The thunder of war and preparation for it, got most of the top headlines during 1939, but for Lorain the big news noise of the year was the steady hum of industrial recovery. While soldiers tramped to the front in Europe, Lorain men and women marched back to work. Long-idle machines started to roar once again in the city’s factories.

Smoke, sure sign of fat pay envelopes, returned to shroud South Lorain. Old Lorainites didn’t mind the way it spoiled clothes drying on the line or dirtied faces and nostrils. They sniffed it in and knew it meant jobs and security—at least for a time.95

Lorain’s economy did reach new heights in 1940, mostly as a result—direct or indirect—of defense contracts. Just as in 1937, however, the boom did not mean the end of the depression or its effects. Looking back, we can identify 1940 as the penultimate year of the Great Depression, aware that the rearmament program soon lifted the nation out of economic stagnation and high unemployment. Nevertheless, at the time even optimists were cautious in their outlook. The end might have been in sight, but the poor relief programs of the New Deal were still needed. In addition, many were deeply concerned about the prosperity the war might bring, fearing that when peace returned, fundamental problems might remain unsolved.

Lorain closely followed the European situation as it developed throughout the 1930s. For city residents, this was no mere academic exercise, since for many, Europe lay close in their own past. According to the 1940 census, 9,410 of Lorain’s 44,125 inhabitants were foreign born.96 The census ten years earlier found that 65.2 percent of Lorain’s population, or 29,016 people out of 44,512, were first- or second-generation immigrants.97 The majority of these families and individuals came to Lorain because of jobs at the steel mill, and most hailed from Eastern and Southern Europe. In 1940, the four largest foreign-born groups in Lorain, incidentally, came from four nations heavily involved early in the war: Hungary (1,799), Poland (1,274), Czechoslovakia (1,067) and Italy (1,017).98 Italy and Hungary were part of the Axis Powers; Czechoslovakia was surrendered to Hitler by Britain and France with the Munich Pact of 1938; and Germany’s invasion of Poland sparked the official outbreak of war. Members of those groups—no doubt with close relatives still in Europe—must have anxiously followed the reports of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. In October 1939, a month after the invasion of Poland, Archbishop Joseph Schrembs came to Lorain to lay the cornerstone of St. Stanislaus, a new church for a 95 percent Polish parish. Speaking to the fears of the community, he affirmed, “Poland today is prostrate, but the Spirit still remains—it will not die.” 99 Lorain had a sizable German population, but the bulk of German immigration took place early in the nineteenth century, so these third- or fourth-generation Americans probably followed the crisis with less of a sense of personal involvement.

Lorain’s concern with the war was evident in the extensive coverage given to foreign events in the Journal. The front page always had a number of articles on Europe and Asia, and usually at least one of the editorials—especially after 1939—dealt with foreign events. The City Council—including members with names such as Parobek, Jaworski, Svete, and Repko—showed a surprising degree of involvement in foreign affairs when it approved Resolution 1997 on November 21, 1938 (two months after the Munich Pact and eleven days after Kristallnacht) “commending the President of the United States on his stand of [sic; against (?)] the persecution of the racial and religious groups in Germany and Austria.” 100

Although the actual conflict was an ocean away, the war soon came to Lorain. Even before the beginning of the draft in October 1940, many Lorain residents enlisted. But for those who stayed behind, the most important effect of the war was its impact on the economy. The national rearmament program combined with the demand for war materiel abroad to boost production and raise wages far beyond the levels of the previous decade. Lorain actually received few direct defense contracts in 1940, but it benefited considerably from the prosperity indirectly generated by government spending.

In 1940 the American Shipbuilding Company was the only industry in Lorain awarded a defense contract. Late in the year the Navy announced that it was giving the company a $6.3 million contract for the construction of twelve anti-submarine net tenders.101 The company yards in Cleveland and Lorain split the contract. For the Lorain yards, which had received no contracts for new construction since 1937, the Navy commission was marvelous news. All told, the Lorain shipyards would build twenty-eight ships during World War II: eight minesweepers, six frigates, and six net tenders for the Navy, in addition to two trawlers and six ore freighters for private companies.102 By 1941, 1,200 workers were employed at the yards where less than half that number had worked a few years before. Employment peaked in 1944 with 4,000 workers.103 Additionally, with the Great Lakes ore fleet operating “on a full basis for only the second time since 1928,” the shipyard did a good business in repair and retrofits.104

Other Lorain industries, though not receiving government contracts, prospered as an indirect result of defense spending. Thew Shovel, for example, had one of its best years ever as private construction for the army and various defense industries skyrocketed. An advertisement published in The Lorain Journal showed Thew machines being used in construction projects all over the country, from the Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant in Maryland to a Navy Air base in California.105

The rearmament program meant a huge increase in the demand for steel, so 1940 was a very good year for National Tube. Production reached record levels, surpassing 1937 and 1929. Employment was over 9,000, and payrolls were the largest in a decade. The plant also completed nearly $2 million worth of construction in 1940: a new $1.5 million blast furnace and a $400,000 sintering plant. By late 1940, all four blast furnaces and all seven pipe mills were in operation. Statewide, the steel industry operated at above 90 percent capacity, having recaptured all of the ground lost in the recession.106

With the revival of industry came better times for the whole city. No sooner had the results of the 1940 census been announced—showing a 0.9 percent drop in Lorain’s population since 1930, from 44,512 to 44,125—than the city began to grow.107 By the middle of the decade, Lorain had an estimated 48,000 residents; the 1950 census recorded over 51,000.108 This pattern was repeated all over the country, as rural Americans migrated to urban areas in search of defense jobs.

The population influx together with rising wages made 1940 an excellent year for construction. The Real Property Inventory, published in December 1940, found that barely 2.5 percent of Lorain’s 11,011 dwelling units were vacant,109 so demand for new housing was great. In 1940 the values of building permits totaled $887,898—a figure falling only slightly short of that for 1929, but surpassing every year since.

Increasing payrolls and a growing population also meant better times for city businesses. Car and truck sales, for example, were up almost 1,000 from the previous year to 3,851. A 5 to 20 percent improvement was noted in attendance at the city’s movie theaters. Merchants estimated that retail sales were 10 to 27 percent higher than in 1939.110 Citywide, bank withdrawals from individual accounts totaled $68,325 for the year—the highest since 1930.111 The Lorain Journal enthusiastically noted the transformation of the city as a result of the economic trend: “Broadway’s ‘blank look’ of not so far back took on a new expression. Store after store has been remodeled, new fronts added, new signs hung, indicating that business blood is surging thru new arteries with pronounced speed.” 112

With so much evidence of a good year, the obvious question is what happened to the Great Depression. The answer is that prosperity notwithstanding, 1940 was surprisingly as much a “depression year” as any of the eleven preceding years. Conditions were improving, and the optimists claimed the end was in sight, but few believed the depression was finished. Even war could not abolish the Great Depression by fiat. Nationally there were still over 5 million unemployed—more than three times the number in 1929—with another 2.8 million Americans employed on federal work projects. The 1940 census found that 15,442 Lorain residents were employed, 2,175 unemployed, and another 799 on emergency work. Thus, eleven years after the depression began, 16 percent of the city’s workers were still seeking private employment.113 Demand for work relief and direct relief, therefore, continued even as industry revived. Local, state, and federal agencies spent a total of $1,371,760 on public aid in Lorain county—27 percent less than 1939, but still $300,000 more than 1937.114

Works projects continued in Lorain and new ones were proposed—an indication of the continued need for them. The two PWA-financed bridges over the Black River, one downtown at Erie Avenue and the other in central Lorain at East 21st Street, were completed in 1940 at a cost of almost $3 million. The dedication ceremony on September 25 drew a crowd of 25,000, “the largest crowd ever to attend a civic affair in Lorain.” 115 Lorain’s Congressional representative, Dow W. Harter (D), was one of the speakers, and Ohio senator and former Cleveland Mayor Harold Burton (R) was the other. (Incidentally, both bridges are in daily use today, and the Erie Avenue bridge still displays plaques acknowledging the Public Works Administration and President Franklin Roosevelt.) Other city works projects in 1940 included $10,000 worth of sidewalk repair, a “tree census” and city surface survey, and assorted street and sewer improvements.

Despite the continued activity of work relief programs in Lorain and elsewhere, those very programs were being cut back. Congress in 1939 and 1940 was on the offensive against the New Deal, cutting budgets and abolishing agencies. The 1939 Relief Act slashed $150 million from a proposed relief appropriation, ended the Federal Theater Project, and required that all workers who had been on WPA rolls for eighteen consecutive months must be laid off. Probably as a result of this bill, WPA earnings in Lorain county fell from $1,060,206 in 1939 to only $555,778 in 1940, while December enrollments decreased from 1204 to 604.116

These statistics are difficult to interpret. To be sure, decreased relief spending is partially a sign of a reviving economy. Doubtless, many people who left the rolls (or were fired) were able to find private employment. Others enlisted in one or another branch of the armed forces. But to an extent, relief fell in 1940 in spite of continued demand for it. Funding cuts must have led to needy and deserving clients being dropped without prospect of employment. In the city of Lorain, a similar issue comes up with regard to the defeat of a tax levy for poor relief in the May primary elections. Only 2,706 voted for the levy, whereas 6,235 voted against it.117 The motivations are difficult to unravel: did those rejecting it believe that the economy had revived to an extent such that those funds were no longer necessary, or were they simply unwilling to pay for poor relief, regardless of actual need? No conclusive answer can be given, but it is important enough to recognize that the transition between New Deal relief and wartime prosperity was not seamless.

Indeed, the year 1940 highlights the fact that the New Deal ended before the Great Depression did. Of course, many New Deal agencies continued functioning for several years. The WPA, for example, was not officially terminated until 1943. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Social Security Administration (the first checks were distributed in January 1940) continue to this day. But as a movement, as a source of reform, the New Deal had ended.

Scholars debate the causes for the end of the New Deal. Congressional opposition certainly played a role, as had growing concern over events abroad. Robert McElvaine also suggests that the New Deal had, in his metaphor, “played out its hand by 1936.” In other words, “The attempt...to bandage the economic system without making fundamental changes had reached its limits.” 118 Alan Brinkley, in his book The End of Reform, probably the most important study of this period, argues that liberals deliberately abandoned the involved, New Deal-type reform in favor of a more detached, regulatory approach. Within the new philosophy of post-New Deal liberals, Brinkley writes, “In pursuit of full employment, the government would not seek to regulate corporate institutions so much as it would try to influence the business cycle. It would not try to redistribute economic power and limit inequality so much as it would create a compensating welfare system (what later generations would call a ‘safety net’) for those whom capitalism had failed. It would not reshape capitalist institutions. It would reshape the economic and social environment in which these institutions worked.” 119 Perhaps America had also reached a point of “emotional exhaustion” with the depression and New Deal reform. Altruistic periods in American history can only be sustained for so long. The same forces that led voters in 1920 to reject Woodrow Wilson’s progressive vision and to embrace Harding and his “normalcy” seemed to be at work in 1940. Especially as modest recovery had been achieved, desire for further reform dissipated. William Leuchtenburg writes, “The more successful the New Deal was, the more it undid itself. The more prosperous the country became, the more people returned to the only values they knew, those associated with an individualistic, success-oriented society.” 120

Thus, the New Deal “simply faded away.” 121 With the declaration of war in Europe and the ever-increasing expenditures for defense powering economic recovery, it did not seem to matter much that an era of reform was ending. It did, however, worry many, especially those uncomfortable with the basis of the new “prosperity.” The costs of war might well outweigh any benefits of war-inspired prosperity, and the problems facing the nation might only be postponed. Norman Thomas, the leading American Socialist of the time, wrote, “wars do not stay ‘good,’ that is to say, they do not continue to be wars which we can provision and finance with little loss of American life, and the tonic effect of war upon a disintegrating capitalism is precisely the equivalent of a shot in the arm to a drug addict.” 122 Thomas offered a radical phrasing of the issue, but many, at least in principle, agreed. Anyone over the age of about thirty-five had vivid memories of the depression following World War I. A poll in July 1941 found that 77 percent of Americans believed the nation was more likely to have “another depression” after World War II than “greater prosperity.” 123 Robert McElvaine writes, “While people were...encouraged by the trend back toward prosperity, they generally believed it would not continue.... The source of the boom, after all, was clear for all to see, and it appeared unlikely to outlast the military crisis. The nation seemed to be faced by the horrible choice of war or depression.” 124 Historian Otis Garber, concluding his chapter on the depression in the 1941 History of the State of Ohio, worried about post-war America: “The defense program has temporarily absorbed many of the unemployed, but no one expects this activity to provide a permanent solution of the problem. What will happen after the war is over and defense industry ceases to function as an important factor remains for future historians to record.” 125 Those future historians know, of course, that the war did end the depression, and ushered in a period of prosperity unmatched by anything that had come before. But given the events of the first four decades of the twentieth century, Garber’s concerns were not unjustified.

Thus 1940 was a paradoxical year for Lorain and the nation. As in 1937, times were “good” but not “great,” since economic prosperity coexisted with persistent signs of depression. The end of the New Deal and worries about the war and war-inspired prosperity also offset much of the enthusiasm generated by the rising economic indexes. By December 1940, though, Lorain was able to look forward with some hope to the New Year. All signs were that defense spending would bring the city undreamt-of prosperity—“at least for a time.” When Franklin Roosevelt, ending his 1940 campaign in Cleveland, prophesied, “I see an America...where there is no endless chain of poverty from generation to generation,” such a vision seemed just possible, for the first time in over a decade.126

Notes to 1940

94. Monthly Business Review 21, no. 9 (September 1939): 1. [return]

95. The Lorain Journal, 30 December 1939. [return]

96. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, vol. 2, part 5 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1943), 604. [return]

97. Newman, Immigrant Adjustment, 54. [return]

98. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census, vol. 2, part 5, 604. [return]

99. The Lorain Journal, 2 October 1939. [return]

100. CC Minutes 17: 853. [return]

101. Wright, Freshwater Whales, 217. [return]

102. Nicholls, Robert Mervyn, “A History of the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio, 1899-1963” (master’s thesis, Kent State University, 1964), 24. [return]

103. Ibid., 30. [return]

104. Wright, Freshwater Whales, 216. [return]

105. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1940. [return]

106. Monthly Business Review 22, no. 10 (October 1940): 1. [return]

107. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census, vol. 2, part 5, 664. [return]

108. Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1945 (Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1945), 13; Boryczka and Cary, No Strength without Union, 290. [return]

109. WPA et al., Real Property Inventory, 14. [return]

110. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1940. [return]

111. Monthly Business Review 23, no. 1 (June 1941): 7. [return]

112. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1940. [return]

113. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census, vol. 2, part 5, 680. [return]

114. The Ohio Institute, Public Aid in Ohio, 1937-1939, table 8; Department of Public Welfare and Bureau of Research and Statistics, Public Aid in Ohio, 1939-1942: A Four-Year Picture of Non-Institutional Public Aid in Ohio (Columbus, Ohio: n.p., 1943), table 8. [return]

115. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1940. [return]

116. Department of Public Welfare, Public Aid in Ohio, 1939-1942, table 21. [return]

117. CC Minutes 18: 1269. [return]

118. McElvaine, The Great Depression, 309, 310. [return]

119. Brinkely, The End of Reform, 268. [return]

120. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 273. [return]

121. McElvaine, The Great Depression, 309. [return]

122. Quoted in Bernard Sternsher, ed., The New Deal: Laissez Faire to Socialism (St. Louis: Forum Press, 1979), 63. [return]

123. Cantril, Public Opinion, 64. [return]

124. McElvaine, The Great Depression, 321. [return]

125. Garber, “Depression Activities,” 474. [return]

126. Quoted in McElvaine, The Great Depression, 319. [return]

TOP

1941: A Year of Renaissance

“Roaring furnaces, throbbing engines, spinning wheels sent Lorain industry zooming to new heights, greater even than that of the lush ‘prosperity days’ of the roaring twenties.” So The Lorain Journal summed up the year in December 1941—the year in which “Lorain once more became the boisterous, swashbuckling city of old.” 127 The cause of that transformation, of course, was World War II. Rearmament proceeded slowly in 1940, but in the following year, defense spending kicked into high gear, and Lorain and the nation prospered as a result. If 1941 was still a year of the Great Depression—in many respects, despite the prosperity, it was—at least most people agreed that it was the last of the long crisis.

The industrial revival did not, however, solve all of the nation’s problems. Lorain had to face new challenges in 1941, some partially brought about by the recovery. First was the issue of housing, as the city government and the residents debated whether or not to accept a federal loan for a low-income housing project. Second was the question of labor, since 1941 witnessed more union activity—from lobbying to strikes—than had any previous year. The New Year did bring the depression to a close, but it did so without a “happy ending” or even a clean resolution of the issues raised by the crisis. Those issues would be left for later generations to confront.

Whatever the particular challenges Lorain faced, 1941, picking up from where 1940 left off, was still the most prosperous year in the city’s history. After the Crash, the long period of stagnation, and the slow recovery, Lorain was finally flourishing. As it had in 1937, industry led the way. At the end of 1941, the Journal wrote, “carried along on the wings of the national defense ‘boom,’ wheels of Lorain industries soared into high gear during the past year, surpassing even the days of the first World War and the prosperity hey-day of the late 1920’s.” 128

National Tube—the core of Lorain’s economy—made a phenomenal recovery in 1941. Production was the highest in the company’s history. All five blast furnaces—the one built in 1940 opened in March 1941—were in operation. Company representatives announced that the demand for steel was on the verge of exceeding the plant’s ability to supply it. In 1942, for the first time in decades, there would be no need to worry about buyers. The company expected that output “will be governed entirely by the capacity of the mills to produce.” 129 Wages and employment also reached record levels. By year’s end, National Tube had 10,700 workers. U.S. Steel raised the wages of its workers nationwide 10 cents an hour in April. On average, National Tube in Lorain dispensed $1 million in wages every two weeks in 1941. By comparison, in 1937, a reasonably prosperous year, the average payroll was about $1.4 million per month.

The Lorain shipyards also “regained their days of former glory,” thanks mostly to war-related spending. The U.S.S. Palm—the first of the six net layers ordered by the Navy in 1940—was launched in February, the first warship launched in the city. The other five were completed in March, and the company immediately began work on other Navy commissions. By December, four minesweepers and two ore freighters were under construction. The machine shops attached to the yards also built fifteen steam engines for ships under construction in other yards of the company. Two other ships built this year, the trawlers Drift and Calm, were an indirect result of the war effort; they were ordered by the General Foods Corporation to replace vessels taken over by the Navy. To fulfill all of these construction contracts and repair projects, the company increased employment to over 1,200 by December, and expected to employ at least 2,000 in 1942.

Other Lorain industries also prospered in 1941. Thew Shovel received a $29,340 defense contract in August for revolving truck cranes, and the American Crucible Products Company began manufacturing airplane parts. Overall, The Lorain Journal estimated that employment was up 20 percent from 1940, with city workers earning well over $25 million in wages during the year. No surprise, then, that bank deposits were the highest since 1929 ($15,299,790) and retail sales were the highest ever ($21,643,798). City government benefited from the increases as back taxes began to be paid and new ones collected. The city’s bonded debt was reduced to the lowest level in 15 years, and municipal employees even got a pay raise.130

The shrinking relief rolls also eased the burden on city government. Whereas in 1940 the declining number of cases was an ambiguous sign of prosperity, the vastly improved conditions in 1941 made it more likely that those leaving relief rolls found private employment. Herbert Krauss in his 1941 study noted that the direct relief program in Lorain had declined 73 percent from 1940, from 1,176 relief cases (252 families—equaling 996 people—and 180 individuals) in March 1940, to only 204 relief cases (57 families—equaling 225 people—and 69 individuals) by February of the next year.131 Finally, in December 1941, The Lorain Journal announced that relief rolls had reached their “irreducible minimum.” 132 Krauss attributed that decrease directly to the economic revival: “The declining relief load indicates how workers were being once more absorbed by industry.” 133 WPA employment was also shrinking as the economy revived. Some projects were even held up because of a lack of workers. In Lorain county, there were only 229 WPA employees in December where there had been 604 a year before. One can infer a similar drop in WPA employment in the city of Lorain itself.134

Wartime prosperity did not reach everyone equally. Many people were still in need of public relief—even in 1941 there were 3.4 million unemployed and 2.2 million public relief workers—and society now faced the issue of caring for the poor in “normal” times. For Lorain in 1941, this fact arose primarily in connection with a proposed federal housing project. Early in the year the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority announced that it could provide the city with a $645,000 loan toward the construction of housing for low-income families and individuals. The city was required only to pass an ordinance making official the cooperation between the city and the Housing Authority. Debates sprang up at once. The Lorain Journal cautiously endorsed the project in an editorial on March 1:

Lorain fortunately has none of the slums that have disgraced metropolitan centers and many industrial cities. But we do have a fair share of housing that can hardly be called fit for decent, comfortable habitation. If the community has an opportunity to take advantage of a federal appropriation to improve this condition, it should seize it, providing it does not promise to bring more harm than good to the community as a whole.135

Most observers of Lorain, from the scholar R. B. Frost in 1935 to the compilers of the yearly City Directory, agreed that Lorain had no real slum district. The Real Property Inventory of Lorain indicated that the majority of houses were in good condition. Of the total number of housing structures, only 0.6 percent were declared “unfit for human habitation” (59 buildings), though another 8.1 percent were said to be in need of major repairs.136

There was, nevertheless, a need for good, low-rent housing. After a decade of little construction, the city was ill equipped to handle the tremendous influx of defense workers. Housing became scarce and expensive, causing special hardship for the poor. In 1940, only 2.5 percent of the dwelling units were vacant; of those, 33.4 percent were deemed less than desirable, being either unfit for use or in need of major repairs.137 Tenants suffered disproportionately from substandard housing. Although only 4.9 percent of owner-occupied units were unfit for use or in poor condition, 17.2 percent of tenant-occupied units were in those conditions.138

Debates over the housing plan took up much of the four City Council meetings in March. A number of organizations wrote letters in support of the cooperation ordinance: the Lorain Federation of Labor, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) Local 1104 (the union for National Tube) and the Lorain Progressive Club of Colored Voters.139 Other groups wrote to oppose the ordinance, though few of them denied the need for affordable housing. The Hungarian Citizens Club was against the proposal because “no provision is made for home ownership on the part of the tenants. The membership of this club likes the project in principle, but it does not feel that the proposal offers a correct solution.” 140 The Central Business Men’s Association opposed the project for that same reason, while the Lorain Builders Exchange worried that it would not benefit local contractors.141 One concern of some on the City Council was that the “cooperation agreement” would require Lorain to sign away all control of the project to outside authorities, especially as regarding the sensitive and as yet undecided question of location.

In the end, the City Council rejected the ordinance and in so doing lost all claim to the $645,000 loan. The measure was defeated 6 to 4 in a special session on March 31, just before the deadline set by federal officials.142 Three Democrats—Repko (fifth ward; the sponsor of the ordinance), Svete (sixth Ward) and Findley (at-large)—and one Republican—Munro (at-large)—voted for the ordinance. The other five Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. Later in the year, after Lorain was designated a “defense zone” because of its industries, federal funds became available for housing, but the effect was merely to delay the issue of low-income housing until the later 1940s and 1950s when it again needed to be addressed.

In 1941 Lorain also faced the challenge of adjusting to the new role played by organized labor in city affairs. Labor unions in Lorain were formed in the 1930s. As the decade progressed, their influence and involvement in politics and industry grew markedly, and strikes became more common. The Lorain Journal, betraying its critical view of organized labor, noted, “Labor strife which had plagued the rest of the nation for several years past, finally reached Lorain during 1941 as strikes hampered production at several local industries.” 143

Labor had been quiet throughout Lorain’s history. Even the tumultuous wave of strikes that swept the nation after World War I seemed to pass Lorain by. The city took a sort of pride in being non-union. The City Directories invariably commented on Lorain’s “unusual” situation stating, for example in 1929, “All the city’s factories operate upon the open shop basis, and have been unusually free from labor disturbances.” 144 The lack of organized labor occasionally took a sinister turn for workers elsewhere, since Lorain could be used to break strikes at other plants around the nation. One U.S. Steel official said in the 1930s, “Lorain is unusually fortunate in that unions have never had a hold here. When other plants of U.S. Steel have trouble with unions, more work is sent here to the Lorain plant. Thus the company benefits by being non-union.” 145 The company itself may have benefited, but it is debatable that in the long run workers were more “fortunate” without collective bargaining.

The obvious question, then, is why unions had made so little headway in the city up to this point. In the case of National Tube, a number of factors were involved: the lack of industrial unions, repression, “welfare capitalism,” and ethnic and linguistic diversity.

Before the emergence of the CIO in the late 1930s, there really was no national union for Lorain’s biggest industry. The American Federation of Labor was well established, but it focused exclusively on skilled laborers, ignoring the new mass production industries. The AFL did organize some locals in other Lorain industries, but faced with the 9,000 unorganized National Tube employees, labor could not hope to exercise much influence in the city.

Because community leaders and heads of industry and finance usually found unions threatening, those individuals did all they could to prevent unions from developing in Lorain. Daniel Hoffman, in his study of Lorain labor at the steel plant in the 1930s, discussed several cases of union organizers being mistreated or fired because of their efforts. Bosko Desich, interviewed by Hoffman, was a worker and early activist at National Tube who was suspended because of his attempts to organize his fellow employees. Desich told Hoffman another story of how organizing was “discouraged” in 1937:

...things got a little rough. Bill Donovan [CIO district director] had taken a room in the Hotel Antlers. He was awakened one night to find four prominent Lorain men—one a well-known doctor—pointing pistols at him and ordering him out of bed. They escorted him to the city limits, pushed him around, and told him to get back to Cleveland, to stay the hell away from Lorain, and that if he ever came back he would be shot.146

Fortunately it never came to that, but even if violence and intimidation never reached the extremes common to other major industrial centers, repression undoubtedly played some role in delaying the emergence of unions.

Demand for unions was also undermined by “welfare capitalism” on the part of employers. Lorain industries, by meeting some of the requests of their workers—especially during poor years—eased the discontent that might otherwise have flared up into demands for collective bargaining. Historian John Weed suggested, in a statement well characterizing Lorain, though perhaps slightly romanticized, “Theoretically, the best combination of industry and country life would seem to be attained when a nationally known manufacturing establishment grows up in a small community. The danger that the community, with its economic life based on a single industry, will lack the safety of diversification is somewhat offset by the civic consciousness of the management.” 147 There did seem to be an unwritten pact between workers and industry in Lorain whereby the latter took some responsibility for the care of the former. In the 1920s, the steel plant had a cheap loan program to enable industrial laborers to buy their own homes. During the hard years of the next decade, the steel plant gave parcels of land to workers for vegetable gardens and even, for a time, set up a program of relief payments for those laid off. Further displaying its “civic consciousness,” the plant gave $8,700 to the Community Chest in 1937 towards the goal of $40,000 for relief.148 With a union, workers would no doubt have won more concessions from industry, but as it was, even these small gestures of concern on the part of the plant were sufficient to cool much of the demand for a union.

Lorain’s tremendous diversity also made the task of organizing difficult, especially during the first two decades of the century. Signs at National Tube were often printed in five or six different languages for the benefit of its immigrant workforce, and those linguistic barriers must have been a major obstacle to the formation of unions. Since ethnic groups tended to live in distinct geographical communities, often grouped around a parish church or nationalist association, it would have been difficult to convince the workers that what they had in common might outweigh their differences. Though language and ethnicity were less important by the thirties as the immigrants assimilated into American society, and as the second and third generations grew up, they must still have been influential. Even at this late date, 21.3 percent of Lorain’s population was foreign born.149

These four factors contributed to delays in organizing Lorain’s workforce, but a fifth factor, probably the most important of all, was the sheer size and power of the steel plant. To be sure, much larger industries had been organized elsewhere in the country decades before, but the combination of a small city and a massive plant made Lorain’s case almost unique. Discussing the tendency of the city government to cave in to all requests from the mills, John Lawrence concluded simply that “the reality of economic dependence eliminated the possibility of political challenge.” 150 In other words, it was a near impossibility for a city government with a budget of half a million dollars in 1941 to seriously challenge a company paying out $2 million monthly in wages. Plant taxes paid a large share of the budgets of the city and the school board, and we have already seen how the prosperity of the whole city fluctuated along with production at the steel mills. In all likelihood, National Tube hardly had to actively use its influence to deal with potential challenges, since few were ever voiced. In 1941, for example, scarcely had an ordinance limiting smoke emissions been proposed in City Council than it was amended to exclude industrial areas, leaving the bill virtually toothless.151 If politicians were unable and unwilling to challenge the plant, it must have been even more difficult for labor, facing the combined forces of industry and the community.

Though all of the preceding factors delayed the arrival of unions in Lorain, they were unable to delay it indefinitely. By the late thirties, and especially by 1941, conditions were right not only for labor to organize, but also to wield considerable power. New Deal reforms, from the original National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) to the Wagner Act (1935), gave unions the legal backing they needed to grow. The formation of the Committee for Industrial Organization—later the Congress of Industrial Organizations—and its auxiliary, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, finally gave National Tube workers an appropriate union. Additionally, as defense orders began piling up, industry leaders wanted to keep production at levels as high as possible, so the threat of strikes was a powerful one. With the draft absorbing millions of young men, replacement workers were no longer easy to find. By contrast, in the 1937-38 recession, unions had little to bargain with, since there was a surplus of labor, and the threat of curtailed production meant little when inventories were already large and stagnant. Nicholls, in his study of the Lorain yards of American Shipbuilding, similarly concluded that “the disputes between labor and management occurred largely at times of high employment, increased production, and indeed at times when there was a shortage of skilled workers.” 152

The possible threat to production in a prosperous year was the major factor contributing to the unionization of U.S. Steel and National Tube. In March 1937, after watching the UAW/CIO strikes in January and February bring production at General Motors to a halt, the chairman of U.S. Steel signed an industry-wide contract with the SWOC. Organizers arrived in Lorain (Bill Donovan was one) that year to begin their work; five years later they had reshaped Lorain’s industrial situation. By March 1941, the Lorain SWOC Local 1104 announced it was 99 percent organized, with a membership of over 8,000.153

The stage was set in 1941 for new levels of labor activism. For Ohio, the year 1941 was one of the most tumultuous in its history. There were 341 strikes in 1941, involving 164,000 workers. The number of strikes more than doubled from 1940, and the year’s total was equal to the sum of the previous three years.154 Labor activism in Lorain paled in comparison with other parts of the nation, but in the context of the city’s history, it was quite significant.

The unions frequently lobbied politically, writing letters to the mayor and the City Council as well as sending representatives to Council meetings. If they had a mixed record of success (the housing ordinance, for example, was rejected despite a letter stating that the membership of the SWOC Local “unanimously went on record asking city council to approve the housing act”), their voices were at least being heard more than ever before.155 There was also a notable sense of camaraderie, as unions frequently lobbied to support fellow workers in their campaigns. In July, for example, Lorain Local 146 of the American Federation of Musicians and Local 240 of the Painters, Decorators and Paperhangers of America both wrote to Council in favor of a proposed pay increase for employees of the police and fire departments.156

The clearest demonstration of labor’s new activism—unfortunately also an example of the lack of cooperation between labor unions—was the strike at the yards of the American Shipbuilding Company in September. There had been other strikes in the city throughout the thirties, including some short disputes at Thew Shovel and even at The Lorain Journal, but they were usually settled after only a few days. The 1941 shipyard strike lasted two weeks, and flared into mild violence on two occasions.

On August 29, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supervised an election at the six Great Lakes yards of the American Shipbuilding Company to determine which union—the AFL or CIO—would represent the workers. Both unions were present in the Lorain yards, and both claimed a majority of the workers. The election returns announced a few days later showed that the AFL had won 1,264 to 799. The CIO immediately challenged the election, claiming that although the AFL might represent the majority in all the shipyards, the CIO had a 2-to-1 majority in Lorain. On September 4, CIO workers walked out, and vowed not to return until their union was recognized. Frank Domanski, president of the CIO Local 45 for the yards, told the Journal, “We make no unfair demand. We ask only that the American Shipbuilding Co. recognize the union which the workers in Lorain have democratically chosen to represent them.” 157

The situation quickly reached a deadlock. The NLRB stood by the results of the election, and said that in any event, since the votes of all of the shipyards had been mixed, there was no way to know which union had the majority in Lorain. The CIO workers refused to go back to work, and the AFL refused to recognize the CIO. By Friday, September 5, Domanski estimated that 85 percent of work at the yards had been tied up, and that only 300 of the 1,200 employees remained on the job.158 Other CIO locals including 1401 at the American Stove Company and1104 at the steel plant announced their support for the strike, and promised to send members to join the picket line at the Colorado Avenue gate. The AFL, increasingly frustrated with the strike, asked the local court to issue an injunction, which it did, limiting the picket to six men.159

Some minor fights broke out on Saturday as AFL workers tried to cross the picket. On Monday, September 8, though, the top headline of The Lorain Journal announced “New Strike Violence Flares.” The accompanying article described the conflict that resulted when seventy-five AFL members tried to force their way through the CIO picket. Only one person required medical treatment, so the violence was not very severe, but the event nevertheless came as a shock to a city unused to such tumult. The next day, the AFL decided to abandon attempts to cross the picket line in order to avoid further violence. As James McWeeney, representative of the AFL Boilermakers Union, colorfully put it, “We’re not sending men to have their brains batted out by a bunch of Communists.” 160 There was no reason to believe that the Communist Party had any involvement in the strike, but such red-baiting was common and emblematic of the almost irrational intensity of the rivalry between the unions.

Production at the shipyards virtually ceased, though the company refused to close them officially. Walter Pollard, an official of the Office of Production Management (OPM), one of Roosevelt’s wartime agencies, arrived from Washington to negotiate, but he was forced to conclude that “As the situation stands now, there is little hope of settling this strike.” 161 The AFL stood by the election, and the CIO was no less adamant that it represented the majority of the Lorain workers, a claim somewhat bolstered now by the effectiveness of the strike. On Wednesday, Frank Domanski, himself a former AFL member, told the Journal, “All the AFL ever got us was a pay cut. Even when we wanted the company to give us salt tablets in hot weather, the AFL did nothing. The men had to fight for them. We don’t want the AFL in that shipyard.” 162

Concern was rising about the impact of the strike on defense production, especially as news from the European front worsened. Three of the net layers ordered by the Navy were still under construction at the docks, and winter was only three months away. Pressure to end the strike began to mount. The AFL, for its part, moved to end the dispute by indicting fifteen CIO members for violating the court injunction, and announced that if provided sufficient police protection, its members would return to work on Monday. The CIO, no less desiring of a speedy resolution, appealed personally to President Roosevelt to settle the strike.

On Monday, September 15, AFL members returned to work, and passed peacefully through the picket lines. The CIO announced it was holding a meeting that evening to consider a message received from Sidney Hillman, one of the founders of the CIO and the current director of the labor division of the OPM. The message ran as follows:

Stoppage of work in the American Shipbuilding Co. yards in Lorain not only is delaying the shipbuilding program, but also threatens the loss of required ships this year because of the impending seasonal changes.
Knowing the spirit of the employees of the yard, I appeal to you and to them to return to work immediately while negotiations for final settlement of the dispute underlying your stoppage are continued. Your support and cooperation in this great national crisis will be greatly appreciated.163

That night, CIO Local No. 45 voted to return to work while they waited for the decision of the NLRB. The strike, although it was tiny in comparison with the 1941 strikes at Ford Motor and in coal mining, had a strong influence on Lorain, serving as a vivid example of the changing times. Organized labor was here to stay, and would make every effort to try to negotiate on an equal basis with management. The thirties had ended without a strike at National Tube, but labor action was now no longer outside the realm of possibility.

Just as October 29, 1929 forever changed the history of the United States, so too did December 7, 1941. After that date, all of the problems facing Lorain were temporarily forgotten, as the nation, stunned by Pearl Harbor, entered the war. No longer would the United States be simply the “arsenal of democracy,” supplying distant belligerents. Now, it had to commit its own people to the front lines. The meaning of this change came home to Lorain when Mrs. Margaret Fuzi, city resident and wife of three months, received word on Christmas Eve that her husband had been one of those killed at Pearl Harbor.164 Many sacrifices followed that one, as Lorainites took their place on the battle lines and on the home front, but the city could take some comfort in at last putting the Great Depression behind it. The past five years had been difficult, perhaps just as difficult as the early thirties, but Lorain looked forward with high hopes and resolution. The city newspaper concluded in its last issue of 1941, “Thus did Lorain Journal headlines write into history the news of the year that ends at midnight tonight. It was a year of renaissance, a year that started with optimism and closed as a city, shocked into wakefulness, grimly prepared for the future, determined to ‘Remember Pearl Harbor,’ determined to stick to a successful finish.” 165

Notes to 1941

127. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1941. [return]

128. Ibid. [return]

129. Ibid. [return]

130. Ibid. [return]

131. Krauss, “Immigrant Organizations,” 48. [return]

132. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1941. [return]

133. Krauss, “Immigrant Organizations,” 49. [return]

134. Department of Public Welfare, Public Aid in Ohio, 1939-1942, table 22. [return]

135. The Lorain Journal, 1 March 1941. [return]

136. WPA, et al., Real Property Inventory, 12. Interestingly, Nearly half (46.1 percent) of the Lorain’s residential structures dated from the years 1895-1914, the period of the steel plant’s tremendous expansion. Another 27.6 percent were built in the “roaring twenties”; only 4.7 percent, however, dated from the thirties when the depression brought new construction to a halt. [return]

137. Ibid., 14, 18. [return]

138. Ibid., 15, 16. [return]

139. CC Minutes 18: 1389, 1387-88, 1370. [return]

140. Ibid., 18: 1389. [return]

141. Ibid., 18: 1389, 1377. [return]

142. Ibid., 18: 1391. [return]

143. The Lorain Journal, 31 December 1941. [return]

144. Polk’s Lorain (Ohio) City Directory, 1929 (Detroit, Mich.: R. L. Polk and Co., 1929), 6. [return]

145. Hoffman, “When Boom Town Goes Bust,” 106. [return]

146. Ibid., 110. [return]

147. John Merrill Weed, “Business-As Usual,” in Wittke/Lindley History of the State of Ohio, 172. [return]

148. The Lorain Journal, 16 November 1937. [return]

149. Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census, vol. 2, part 5, 664. [return]

150. John Lawrence, “Industrialization and Urbanization in Lorain, Ohio, 1894-1900” (honors thesis, Oberlin College, 1970), 95. [return]

151. CC Minutes 18: 1441. [return]

152. Nicholls, “A History of the American Ship Building Company,” 64. [return]

153. CC Minutes 18: 1387. [return]

154. Boryczka and Cary, No Strength without Union, 285. [return]

155. CC Minutes 18: 1388. [return]

156. Ibid., 18: 1434, 1443. [return]

157. The Lorain Journal, 4 September 1941. [return]

158. Ibid., 5 September 1941. [return]

159. Ibid., 6 September 1941. [return]

160. Ibid., 9 September 1941. [return]

161. Ibid. [return]

162. Ibid., 10 September 1941. [return]

163 Ibid., 15 September 1941. [return]

164. Ibid., 31 December 1941. [return]

165. Ibid. [return]

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Conclusion

The five years between 1937 and 1941 constitute a crucial transition in American history—the transition from the Great Depression to World War II. Like all transitions, this was a “messy” era, full of rapid change, contradictory patterns, and power struggles. At first, the period seemed to me a confused mix of depression and recession, New Deal and war, and it was difficult to see where one ended and another picked up. The transition was anything but smooth, since the New Deal effectively ended before wartime prosperity restored the strength of the economy. The depression was the one constant throughout these years. The confusion began to clear when I realized that the history I wanted to write was neither a study of the decline of the New Deal nor of the early home front, but simply the story of the American experience in the transition from depression to war. The path from the Great Depression through recession and war to recovery was not easy for the citizens of Lorain, Ohio.

Knowing what happened after the war, we can easily minimize the hardships of this period, assuming people knew that the end of the depression was only a few years off. Hindsight is, of course, the prerogative of the historian, but here, this approach obscures the truth of the time. If we are to understand the experience of these years, we must try to reconstruct a “historical present” and forget for a moment the “future.” Only then does the severity of the last part of the Great Depression become clear. Once we let go of the assumption that recovery was always visible on the horizon, the recession, the simultaneous poverty and prosperity, and the war-based recovery take on darker meanings—ones closer, I think, to those of the time.

My study of Lorain during the depression would not be complete without at least mentioning the fact that the city today is not flourishing. This is not to paint some condescendingly tragic picture of the city, but merely to point out that recent years have been difficult ones. One of the city’s high schools closed in 1995 due to financial problems of the School District. Downtown, while not deserted, is very quiet. Many storefronts on Broadway are empty. The IGA supermarket in a downtown shopping center closed just a few weeks ago. American Shipbuilding went bankrupt in the 1980s and closed the shipyards, while National Tube, now U.S.S./Kobe, employs a fraction of the workforce it did during the 1930s. A Ford plant came to the city in the 1950s, but recent years have also been rough on automobile manufacturers. Like many of America’s small cities, Lorain has suffered the effects of everything from downsizing to the growth of suburban malls. (Not all, of course, is bleak. A plan to convert the abandoned shipyards into apartments and businesses is currently underway, and should revitalize many neighborhoods. Similar projects, though on a smaller scale, have already had a very positive effect on downtown Lorain.)

But most of all, this city has suffered from invisibility. The national media has largely turned its eye away from the country’s small communities, usually giving coverage only to events like plant closings, natural disasters, and school shootings (like that in Flint two months ago). Lorain did not make national headlines weekly in the 1930s, of course, but there was considerably more attention paid to those sorts of communities. It is that attention, in my opinion, that we as a nation need to recapture. Thus, while I could defend the value of this local study by describing how it illuminates national trends (which I hope it did), I would also stress that its most important use is to tell a small part of Lorain’s story. That story needs to be told, thereby establishing the fact that it is worthy of telling—something many people I talked to throughout the research process doubted.

America is only as healthy as its smallest city, whatever the stock market analysts may say. On January 1, 1941, The Lorain Journal addressed this point in an editorial. True in war, it was no less true in peace; true then, it still holds true today.

The potential strength of the United States does not lie just in an air force of 50,000 planes, or an army of 5,000,000 soldiers, or a two-ocean navy, though these are important. It lies in a way of life, nurtured and fostered for 150 years and with its roots in each individual community, from the smallest to the largest. It lies in a strong central government, but it also lies in the well-being and prosperity of the City of Lorain.

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About the Author

Michael Fenton, a native of Oakland, California, graduated in May 2000 from Oberlin College with a
B.A. in history (with high honors) and a B.Mus. in
viola performance. This thesis was a product of a
three-semester-long honors program during which time the author was guided by Prof. Geoffrey Blodgett, Prof. Wendy Kozol, and Prof. Clayton Koppes (all of Oberlin College).

The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge the support of those three faculty members, as well as to thank the staff of the Black River Historical Society, the Lorain City Hall, the Lorain Public Library, and the Lorain County Board of Elections.

At the time of this writing, the author is working towards an M.Mus. degree in viola at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He would welcome comments from any readers of this thesis. E-mail can be sent to michaelfenton@world.oberlin.edu.

Certificate of Appreciation
from the Office of the Mayor, City of Lorain, Ohio, 31 May 2000

About the Author

Michael Fenton, a native of Oakland, California, graduated in May 2000 from Oberlin College with a
B.A. in history (with high honors) and a B.Mus. in
viola performance. This thesis was a product of a
three-semester-long honors program during which time the author was guided by Prof. Geoffrey Blodgett, Prof. Wendy Kozol, and Prof. Clayton Koppes (all of Oberlin College).

The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge the support of those three faculty members, as well as to thank the staff of the Black River Historical Society, the Lorain City Hall, the Lorain Public Library, and the Lorain County Board of Elections.

At the time of this writing, the author is working towards an M.Mus. degree in viola at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He would welcome comments from any readers of this thesis. E-mail can be sent to michaelfenton@world.oberlin.edu.

Certificate of Appreciation
from the Office of the Mayor, City of Lorain, Ohio, 31 May 2000

Bibliography

Books

Arnold, Sam, and James C. Yocum. Ohio Business Data, 1926-1948 in Charts and Tables. Research Monograph 43 (rev.). Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State University Bureau of Business Research, 1949.

Black River Historical Society. Images of America: Lorain, Ohio. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 1999.

Boryczka, Raymond and Lorin Lee Cary. No Strength without Union: An Illustrated History of Ohio Workers, 1803-1980. [Columbus, Ohio]: The Ohio Historical Society, 1982.

Braeman, John, Robert H. Bremner and David Brody, eds. The New Deal. Vol. 1: The National Level and vol. 2: The State and Local Levels. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1975.

Brecher, Jeremy. Strike! Rev. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 1997.

Brinkley, Alan. The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Bustard, Bruce I. A New Deal for the Arts. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration in association with London: University of Washington Press, 1997.

Cantril, Hadley. The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1940/1966.

_____, ed. Prepared by Mildred Strunk. Public Opinion, 1935-1946. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1951.

Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Conkin, Paul K. The New Deal. 2d ed. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1975.

Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Projects Administration. The Ohio Guide. New York: Oxford University Press, 1940.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Gregg, Catherine. Comparative Social Assimilation: A Study of the Rate of Social Assimilation in an Ohio Steel Town. Philadelphia: Ivy Press, 1955.

Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. Vol. 9 of The Oxford History of the United States, ed. C. Vann Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Knepper, George W. Ohio and Its People. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1989.

Leuchtenburg, William E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963.

Lindley, Harlow, comp. Ohio in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1938. Vol. 6 of The History of the State of Ohio, ed. Carl Wittke. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1942.

Lowitt, Richard, and Maurine Beasley, eds. One Third of a Nation: Lorena Hickok Reports on the Great Depression. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981.

McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941. New York: Times Books, 1984.

Nash, Gerald D. The Crucial Era: The Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945. 2d ed. The St. Martin’s Series in Twentieth-Century U.S. History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Porter, David L. Congress and the Waning of the New Deal. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1980.

Robinson, Edgar Eugene. They Voted for Roosevelt: The Presidential Vote, 1932-1944. London: Oxford University Press, 1947.

Roseboom, Eugene H., and Francis P. Weisenburger. A History of Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1953.

Smith, Larry. Beyond Rust. Working Dog Series. Huron, Ohio: Bottom Dog Press, 1995.

_____. Steel Valley Postcards and Letters. Youngstown, Ohio: Pig Iron Press, 1992.

Smith, Thomas H., ed. An Ohio Reader: Reconstruction to the Present. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.

Sontag, Raymond J. A Broken World, 1919-1939. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Sternsher, Bernard, ed. Hitting Home: The Great Depression in Town and Country. Chicago: Quardrangle Books, 1970.

_____, ed. Hope Restored: How the New Deal Worked in Town and Country. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1999.

_____, ed. The New Deal: Laissez Faire to Socialism. St. Louis: Forum Press, 1979.

Terkel, Studs. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.

Watkins, T. H. The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1999.

Wiebe, Robert H. The Search for Order, 1877-1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.

Wright, Richard J. Freshwater Whales: A History of the American Ship Building Company and Its Predecessors. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1969.

Articles and Pamphlets

Darby, Michael R. “Three-and-a-Half Million U.S. Employees Have Been Mislaid: Or, an Explanation of Unemployment, 1934-41.” Journal of Political Economy 84, no. 1 (1976): 1-16.

Frost, R. B. “Lorain, Ohio: A Study in Urban Geography.” Ohio Journal of Science 35, no. 3 (March 1935): 139-238.

Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce. Lorain, Ohio: The International City. Chicago: Windsor Publications, 1968.

_____. Century: 100 Years of Lorain and Lorain Business History. Lorain, Ohio: Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce, 1983.

Higgs, Robert. “Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed after the War.” The Independent Review 1, no. 4 (spring 1997): 561-90.

Lawrence, D. W. Lorain Works, Lorain Ohio: Successively Known as The Johnson Company, The Lorain Steel Company, and The National Tube Company, a Subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation; 1888 thru 1938: A Historical Sketch. n.p., [1938?]. [In the archives of the Black River Historical Society, Lorain, Ohio.]

Lorain Centennial Program, 1834-1934. Lorain, Ohio: n.p., [1934]. [Photocopy in the holdings of the Lorain Public Library.]

Sesquicentennial: Lorain, Ohio, 1834-1984. Lorain, Ohio: n.p., [1984].

Periodicals and Newspapers

The Lorain (Ohio) Journal.

Monthly Business Review (Cleveland, Ohio).

Theses and Dissertations

Boyer, Robert C. “The Czechs in Lorain, Ohio.” Master’s thesis, Oberlin College, 1937.

Hoffman, Daniel. “When Boom Town Goes Bust: The Impact of the Great Depression in Lorain, Ohio.” Honors thesis, Oberlin College, 1976.

Krauss, Herbert M. “Immigrant Organizations in Lorain, Ohio.” Master’s thesis, Oberlin College, 1941.

Lawrence, John A. “Industrialization and Urbanization in Lorain, Ohio, 1894-1900.” Honors thesis, Oberlin College, 1970.

Newman, S. Clayton. “Immigrant Adjustment: An Observation of the Process of Assimilation, based on a sociological study of the Hungarians in South Lorain, a section of Lorain, Ohio; 1931-33.” Master’s thesis, Oberlin College, 1934.

Nicholls, Robert Mervyn. “A History of the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio, 1899-1963.” Master’s thesis, Kent State University, 1964.

Government Documents and Statistical Sources

Arnold, Sam and James C. Yocum. Ohio Business Data, 1926-1948 in Charts and Tables. Research Monograph, no. 42 (rev.). Columbus, Ohio: The Bureau of Business Research of the College of Commerce and Administration at the Ohio State University, 1949.

Coordinating Committee of the Central Statistical Board; the Work Projects Administration; and the Division of Economics and Statistics [of] the Federal Housing Administration. Real Property Inventory of Lorain, Ohio. Lorain, Ohio: n.p., 1940.

Journal No. 16, City of Lorain, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 1937. [Minutes of the City Council. Copies are held in the office of the Clerk of Council in the City Hall of Lorain, Ohio. Note that “Journal” in the text of this study refers to The Lorain Journal, not to the City Council Minutes.]

Journal No. 17, City of Lorain, from Jan. 1, 1938 to Dec. 31, 1939.

Journal No. 18, City of Lorain, from Dec. 27, 1939 to Dec. 21, 1942.

Ohio Department of Public Welfare and the Bureau of Research and Statistics. Public Aid in Ohio, 1939-1942: A Four-Year Picture of Non-Institutional Public Aid in Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: n.p., 1943.

Ohio Institute. Public Aid in Ohio, 1937-1939 (Inclusive): A Comparative Picture of Non-Institutional Public Aid in Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Institute, 1940.

Ohio Social Planning Committee. Social Data in Ohio: Statistics on Education, Health and Welfare Services in Ohio and in the Counties and the Cities of the State, 1938. Columbus, Ohio: n.p., 1941.

_____. Social Data in Ohio: Statistics on Education, Health and Welfare Services in Ohio and in the Counties and Cities of the State, 1939. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Public Health Association, 1942.

Polk’s Lorain (Ohio) City Directory, 1929. Detroit, Mich.: R. L. Polk and Co., 1929.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1931. Detroit, Mich.: R. L. Polk and Co., 1931.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1933. Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1933.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1937. Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1937.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1939. Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1939.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1940. Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1940.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1942. Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1942.

Polk’s Lorain (Lorain County, Ohio) City Directory, 1945. Cleveland, Ohio: R. L. Polk and Co., 1945.

Appendix

Selected election results by ward in the city of Lorain, 1937-1941

Presidential Election: 1940

Gubernatorial Elections: 1938 and 1940

Mayoral Elections: 1937, 1939, and 1941

City Council Elections—Council President: 1937, 1939, and 1941

City Council Elections—Councilmen-at-Large: 1937, 1939, and 1941

City Council Elections—Ward Councilmen: 1937, 1939, 1941

Note: There were occasional discrepancies in the records of the Board of Elections. Numbers in parentheses are the total number of votes obtained from adding the ward totals. The other number is the total given by the Board of Elections. I tried to be as accurate as possible in copying down the records, but it is possible some errors crept in. It is equally possible that the Board of Elections was in error, since these enormous sheets of numbers all had to be written out and added by hand. The winner of the election is given in boldface.

Presidential Election: 1940

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1940
1st
Ward
2nd
Ward
3rd
Ward
4th
Ward
5th
Ward
6th
Ward
7th
Ward
Total
President                
Franklin D.
Roosevelt (D)
1222
1350
2220
1985
2401
2377
857
12,412
Wendell L.
Willkie (R)
1179
1289
554
772
335
493
1095
5,717

Gubernatorial Elections: 1938 and 1940

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1938
1st
Ward
2nd
Ward
3rd
Ward
4th
Ward
5th
Ward
6th
Ward
7th
Ward
Total
Governor                
John W.
Bricker (R)
837
1092
456
597
373
468
851
4,706
(4,674?)
Charles
Sawyer (D)
835
900
1503
1290
1482
1354
620
7,984

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1940
1st
Ward
2nd
Ward
3rd
Ward
4th
Ward
5th
Ward
6th
Ward
7th
Ward
Total
President                
John W.
Bricker (R)
1341
1518
743
997
531
887
1240
7,157
(7,257?)
Martin L.
Davey (D)
1031
1089
1982
1713
2178
2050
682
10,725

Mayoral Elections: 1937, 1939, and 1941

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1937
1st
Ward
2nd
Ward
3rd
Ward
4th
Ward
5th
Ward
6th
Ward
7th
Ward
Total
Mayor                
George P.
Bretz (D)
694
804
1263
1187
1172
1075
488
6683
E.A.
Braun (R)
946
1213
642
733
443
602
978
5557

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1939
1st
Ward
2nd
Ward
3rd
Ward
4th
Ward
5th
Ward
6th
Ward
7th
Ward
Total
President                
Harry Van
Wagnen (R)
1386
1572
918
1082
721
829
1166
7674
Albert R.
Matuszak (D)
440
593
1298
1001
1296
1196
409
6233
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1941
1st
Ward
2nd
Ward
3rd
Ward
4th
Ward
5th
Ward
6th
Ward
7th
Ward
Total
President                
Harry Van
Wagnen (R)
1386
1407
745
1178
756
927
1188
7569
Albert R.
Matuszak (D)
519
615
1485
1141
1409
1515
397
7081

City Council Elections — Council President: 1937, 1939, and 1941

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1937

1st Ward

2nd Ward

3rd Ward

4th Ward

5th Ward

6th Ward

7th Ward

Total

City Council President

               

Albert R. Matuszak (D)

574

698

1282

1064

1153

982

432

6185

John J. Baird (R)

1004

1240

535

785

378

622

978

5542

cellspacing="0" border="2">

1939

1st Ward

2nd Ward

3rd Ward

4th Ward

5th Ward

6th Ward

7th Ward

Total

City Council President

               

Andrew A.
Parobek (D)

612

749

1352

1150

1387

1303

520

7073

Charles Cunningham (R)

1078

1280

712

728

472

553

967

5790

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1941

1st Ward

2nd Ward

3rd Ward

4th Ward

5th Ward

6th Ward

7th Ward

Total

City Council President

               

Andres A. Parobek (D)

622

681

1458

1340

1492

1587

451

7631

Albert E. Ford (R)

1096

1189

567

853

449

590

1010

5754


City Council Elections - Councilmen-at-Large: 1937, 1939, and 1941

1937

1st Ward

2nd Ward

3rd Ward

4th Ward

5th Ward

6th Ward

7th Ward

Total

Councilmen-at-large

               

Andrew A.
Parobek (D)

585

743

1225

1109

1165

985

463

6275

Maurice Brown (D)

516

642

1200

975

1033

889

413

5668

William Findley (D)

531

635

1145

925

1034

964

407

5631 (5641?)

Alex Mollison (R)

967

1158

596

789

414

644

952

5514 (5520?)

Charles Peterson (R)

971

1075

504

710

361

460

877

4958

Leroy P. Burgett (R)

887

1129

472

624

357

448

873

4790

1939

1st Ward

2nd Ward

3rd Ward

4th Ward

5th Ward

6th Ward

7th Ward

Total

Councilmen-at-large

               

Leslie M. Burge (R)

1250

1342

805

978

628

660

1092

6755

Alexander Munro (R)

1118

1332

743

908

546

820

1035

6502

William W.
Findley (D)

454

585

1184

976

1209

1185

399

5995 (5992?)

Alfred W. Thomas (R)

1061

1292

675

815

499

555

987

5884

Maurice C. Brown (D)

476

608

1228

985

1224

939

395

5855

Mary F. Blackman (D)

449

634

1130

846

1076

957

342

5434

1941

1st Ward

2nd Ward

3rd Ward

4th Ward

5th Ward

6th Ward

7th Ward

Total

Councilmen-at-large

               

William W.
Findley (D)

545

647

1249

1047

1220

1366

424

6498

Leslie M. Burge (R)

1239

1240

614

982

505

664

1072

6326 (6316?)

Alexander Munro (R)

1140

1209

583

906

428

815

1049

6130

John A Golska (D)

422

523

1296

1006

1248

1218

302

6015

James A. Stewart (R)

1111

1178

589

867

421

629

1066

5861

George Kokinda (D)

350

399

1166

939

1354

1378

222

5808


City Council Elections - Ward Councilmen: 1937, 1939, 1941

First Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

Charles James (R)

959

 

August Bailey (D)

583

1939

   
 

Harvey L. Irish (R)

1319

 

William G. Lefever (D)

415

1941

   
 

Cloyd H. Felix (R)

1077

 

Edward J. Watling (D)

668

Second Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

Arthur  Matchette (R)

1051

 

Elias G. Thomas (D)

791

1939

   
 

LeRoy P. Burgett (R)

1428

 

Vernon W. Parker (D)

511

1941

   
 

LeRoy P. Burgett (R)

1287

 

Carl Riesman (D)

507

Third Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

John C. Jaworski (D)

1249

 

Joseph F. Glorioso (R)

515

1939

   
 

John C. Jaworski (D)

1185

 

Joseph F. Glorioso (R)

945

1941

   
 

John C. Jaworski (D)

1505

 

— none —

 

Fourth Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

Joseph R. Petrosky (D)

990

 

Alex Dobras (R)

788

1939

   
 

Alex Dobras (R)

1159

 

Joseph R. Petrosky (D)

829

1941

   
 

Carlyn F. Rogers (R)

1094

 

Joseph R. Petrosky (D)

1016

Fifth Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

John A. Repko (D)

1192

 

Lester L. Llewellyn (I)

72

1939

   
 

John A. Repko (D)

1170

 

Andrew Shullick (R)

730

1941

   
 

John A. Repko (D)

1328

 

Anthony Fior (I)

424

Sixth Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

Leo C. Svete (D)

1003

 

Michael G. Gasper (R)

524

1939

   
 

Leo C. Svete (D)

915

 

Martin Zadorozny (R)

564

 

John Ligas (I)

346

1941

   
 

Joseph B. Grubic (D)

1505

 

Henry Lange (R)

606

 Seventh Ward

Candidate

Vote

1937

   
 

Nelson Miller (R)

859

 

Jasper W. Kuebler (D)

510 (509?)

1939

   
 

Nelson Miller (R)

1069

 

John Fischer (D)

393

1941

   
 

C. W. Anchors (R)

938

 

Earle T. Andrews (D)

455