“Breadline at McCauley Water Street Mission under Brooklyn Bridge, New York ca. 1930.” Farm Security Administration, Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Library of Congress.

The stock market collapse in 1929 initiated a cascade of economic effects that devastated American businesses. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, with the unemployment rate reaching as high as 25%, and even those lucky enough to keep their jobs saw their wages and incomes decline by 40%. The result was unprecedented levels of hunger, and the scale of need quickly overwhelmed charities. Images of blocks-long breadlines in cities across the country made hunger visible in ways it had never been before, convincing many Americans that government intervention was needed. 

Statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Where is it located in the Museum?
Highsmith, Carol M. “Depression breadline, F.D.R. Memorial, Washington, D.C.” Between 1980 and 2006. Library of Congress. 

“The Test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The shocking image of the breadline endures in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC. The outdoor installation features sculptures of five men waiting in a breadline, alongside a farmer and his wife – symbols for the crisis of the Depression. 

Where is it located in the Museum?

On the Breadline