Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION GRIPPED ALBION IN 1933

Morning Star, February 8, 2009, pg. 10

The early 1930s were trying times for our residents in Albion, as the Great Depression tightened its grip upon our city. The local Albion Evening Recorder printed headlines in early 1933 about bank “moratorium” closings, first by Gov. Comstock in February, and then by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in March. The local Commercial & Savings Bank (presently Citizens Bank) was closed twice during those “events.” When the bank reopened a week or so later and for the following year, you could only withdraw 2% of your “old” funds; the rest was “frozen” until reorganization. The same rule was applied for municipal and school funds, although 25% of public funds was released on April 13. It was not until June 14, 1934 that the reorganization of the Commercial & Savings Bank took effect. The City of Albion issued scrip via the city payroll in the denomination of 50˘ to its employees in March, 1933, to spend locally during the cash shortage.

There were stories in the Recorder about payday shortages and salary reductions for both Albion city employees and the Albion Public Schools. There were numerous stories about bankruptcies, home foreclosures, frozen assets, and page after page of properties listed by the county for non-payment of taxes. The situation only got worse as the months went on.

People lost their jobs or had their hours reduced and could not feed their families. There were various local fund raisers held to help those in need. A massive “Welfare Drive” was held in January, 1933 in which $12,000 was raised “for the relief of Albion’s indigent families.” A benefit play was given on January 26 and 27 at the Washington Gardner High School to raise money for the high school undernourished children’s fund, and local welfare work. A special concert was held on March 7 to raise money for the “milk fund” by the Albion Federation of Women.

Marc C. Reed (1879-1966) (a descendant of Tenney Peabody) was named City Welfare Director in early 1933. He was responsible for the acquiring and distribution of food, clothing, and fuel. It was he who made the decisive decisions as to who received what and when and how much in Albion. Already in January, 1933, there were over 900 persons in Albion receiving welfare, representing 236 different families. Each applicant family had their application checked by the City Assessor William Bemer who verified the information before any aid was given. Clothing was distributed at the Red Cross room upstairs in the Parker-Kessler block.

Particularly hit hard by the Depression were residents of the “West End” of town whose breadwinners worked at the Albion Malleable Iron Company. Most of these were either African-American, or European immigrant families. It was reported that there were approximately 70 children at the all-black West Ward School who were receiving complete breakfasts there each morning. Another 30 children were receiving similar meals at Dalrymple School.

It was a time of economic distress, and each Albion family has its own stories of how they “lived through” this difficult era. Those who had gardens and farm animals fared better than those who didn’t. Did your ancestors live through the Great Depression here in Albion? What are their stories? Post them on the Albion History Blog on the www.Albiomich.com website.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a young photograph of Marc C. Reed, Albion City Welfare Director during the Great Depression.


Marc C. Reed (1879-1966), Albion City Welfare Director

Next: THE FATE OF THE ALBION VICTORY SHIP


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