Monday, 16 August 2010 14:08

75 Years Ago Late Winter/Early Spring 1933

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the general news sources of the times, the Breeder's Gazette
and the Percheron Review.

If the first three months of 1933 didn't scare the living daylights out of most Americans, it was probably because they were overwhelmed by their own problems or, in the case of nitwits, unaware that the whole world seemed to be coming unglued. There were farm foreclosures in the country and mass unemployment in the cities. There were soup kitchens in the cities and plenty of despair to go around. It seemed like everything was going to pot, but as bad as it was, it was not as bad as the witches brew that Europe was serving up.

On January 30, after a month of backroom deals and secret negotiations between Adolf Hitler and more reasonable political leaders such as Chancellor Franz von Papen and ex-president von Hindenberg, a coalition emerged–making for all practical purposes, Adolf Hitler the head of the German government. Hitler, as subsequent events confirmed, had no room for compromise of any sort. I suspect he was a certifiable lunatic, but a spellbinder. I suppose von Papen and other reasonable politicians thought they could control him. Rabid dogs cannot be reasoned with or controlled.

Hitler moved quickly and on the night of February 27, a fire broke out which pretty much destroyed the German Reichstag building in Berlin. By the next nightfall President von Hindenberg had signed decrees which suspended all manner of freedom and the communist newspapers were shut down until the election. The police state that was Nazi Germany was birthed on that long, dark night of the fire.

Clear on the other side of the globe, the Japanese withdrew from the Assembly of the League of Nations because they were censured due to their assault on Manchuria. When Japan was censured they simply pulled out of the League. If a lot of Americans didn't notice that the world, both east and west, was falling to pieces, they had a pretty good excuse. The U.S.A. wasn't hitting on all cylinders either.

And on February 15, 1933, our own president-elect Franklin Roosevelt was a near victim of a nutcase named Giuseppi Zingara. The occasion took place in Miami, Florida. FDR had just completed a speech when shots rang out. It was a close call. Chicago's Mayor Anton Cermak, who had accompanied FDR that evening, paid the price. A woman standing nearby grabbed the gunman's wrist and deflected the final shot. Mark one up for the ladies.

The would-be assassin, unlike several of those in Europe, was not political–merely a simple nutcase wanting, I suppose, five minutes of the world's attention. For what? Who knows?

The police quoted the gunman as saying, "I'd kill every president" and that he was carrying a newspaper clipping telling of the assassination of President William McKinley by an anarchist in 1901–some 30-plus years before that attempt on FDR's life.

And finally (so far as international news is concerned) it took less than a month from the night of the Reichstag burning to the first so-called concentration camp. By March 20, 1933, the Nazis had arrested so many political opponents that they had run out of jail room. That month alone saw 15,000 people arrested in Prussia. So Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi head cop in Munich, came up with a solution and called it a "concentration camp"–the first being a place called Dachau, just ten miles out of Munich. As FDR would say, "A place that will live in infamy." With that let us leave geopolitics behind us for a minute–you can only stand so much of that stuff at a time.

A Balanced Budget

This issue is skimpy. So are the times skimpy.

It is a humble confession, but certainly no abject apology, that we must bring out only a 16-page book, with self-cover, in February. Ordinarily the February issue, preceding springtime activity, is the biggest, brightest and most prosperous looking number of the year. But 1933 cannot be so with any farm paper. As for Breeder's Gazette, we would rather have a small book with a balanced budget than a showy issue which would carry us into the red.

Many of you believe that you are suffering as are few others on account of the depression. We find commercial advertisers in all sections of the country locked in the throes of indecision caused chiefly by their doubt of the buying power of the farming public. Moreover, business men like farmers are suffering acutely from lack of credit–lack of confidence.

–Samuel R. Guard, Editor.

So we will just vacate political news and take a look at the February 1933 Breeder's Gazette. This has to be about the smallest Gazette ever published. It has a picture of a rooster on the cover and says "Sweepstakes–New York Poultry Show." It probably was the smallest ever Gazette and following is Sam's explanation right on page 1.

With that explanation out of the way, Sam got right down to business ... advising the new president. Such as ... "Breeder's Gazette urges Mr. Roosevelt to call the Congress into session immediately after the 4th of March (his inaugural day). And the special session should be devoted primarily and exclusively to the farm problem. The railroads and the banks, the insurance companies and the others have had their inning. The special session we repeat, should not only be called at once, but it should devote itself with a single mind to this one question of farm relief. And what shall be done? First and foremost there must be some immediate re-adjustment of agricultural debts. Temporary moratoriums will not suffice. Farm mortgages must be refunded at greatly reduced interest charges and a reasonable extension of maturities. This is a hundred times more important to this country and even to the world at large, than the re-adjustments to international debts to which the ambassadors and the executives are devoting so much attention."

Sam Guard was not a pussy-footer.

So long as we are waiting around for FDR's inauguration, we may as well take a peek at the 1933 Percheron Review. It, too, was pretty skinny, but the fact that feed grains were cheap and horses ran on home-raised fuel (such as oats, corn, hay and pasture) had given the draft horse business a considerable edge. Raising colts had even become respectable and prices reflected that. I would wager that there were more stallions traveling the country roads of the mid-'30s than ten years earlier.

The annual report that appears in the 1933 Review has the following to say: "An increase of 18% in receipts for the months of August, September and October over the same period in 1932. During that fiscal year that ended on October 31, 1932, 1,852 Percheron colts were registered, 757 of which were stallions and 1,095 were mares." One imported stallion had been recorded and the five top states were Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, Kansas and Indiana.



LEFT: Sylaet, senior and grand champion and undefeated in 1932 winning the grand championship at the Ohio and Indiana State Fairs as well as Chicago. This 3-year-old was owned and exhibited by a farmer breeder, Otho H. Pollock, Delaware, Ohio.

RIGHT: Premier Laet, also a 3-year-old who went on to be reserve champion in 1932. He was bred and owned by W.H. Butler, Woodside Farms, Columbus, Ohio. Premier Laet had a full brother named Perlaet who was reserve grand at the 1925 International.

I just picked up my 1933 Iowa Yearbook of Agriculture and here is part of the introduction to the section dealing with the activities of the Iowa Horse & Mule Breeders Association. It reads as follows: "The horse and mule staged a come-back with a vengeance during the year of 1933. The demand for horses and more especially for mares is continually increasing, so that the scarcity of these animals assumes a serious national problem, etc., etc." What do you think of that? That was published by the state of Iowa! So, curiously enough, that acute shortage of money of the kind that jingles made the draft horse a little more attractive during the dirty '30s.

On March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as president of the United States. It was a dark and gloomy day that mirrored the widespread despair and the fears of millions of his countrymen. Thirteen million of those countrymen were out of work–and our population was much smaller than it is now.

It was not difficult to understand why Lincoln and Roosevelt, coming from totally different backgrounds, are so often considered in the same light–namely, as nothing less than the saviors of their country. That is not to say that they were flawless by any means, but only that they were at the helm of the two most perilous times of this nation.

Roosevelt moved in bold strokes. Just a day or two after taking office, he ordered a seven-day banking holiday–by March 6 all the banks were closed.

FDR also called Congress into emergency session and legislation was passed in days that in any kind of normal times would have taken months or years or would have been dead on arrival. In April, FDR took the dollar off the gold standard (for the time being). This bugged the French and British. On April 28, 1933, a massive bill to aid America's farmers was passed. FDR had asked for power "as great as the power that would be given me if we were, in fact, invaded by a foreign power." He made the most out of that inaugural honeymoon.

If, on the other hand, you wanted to cover more miles with your horse, you might have wanted one of O'Neill's stallion trailers–advertised in the late 1930s. Above is their 1940 Belgian Review ad. Since their ads speak of being in the stallion business for 1/3 of a century, I assume they started as builders of stallion carts and when the Model T trucks came along they "mechanized."

Ok, that really is enough politics, New Deals, Old Deals and all the rest. I want to end this 75 Years Ago section with a story told to me by my good friend, Earl "Bud" Sorensen, from Goldfield, Iowa. If that name doesn't mean something to you, it is probably because you don't pay close attention to Belgian horses. Bud has raised some great Belgians. He lives over in Humboldt County some 70 or 80 miles west of Waverly and maybe 40 miles north of where I grew up. This part of the state was once populated with farms with four or five homesteads per mile. Square 640 acre sections supporting four or five families were the norm.

Now for people who live in the hills and hollers, allow me to describe much of Humboldt and Webster Counties in north central Iowa. The majority of it is as flat as a pancake, except for where the Des Moines River winds its way south. There must be plenty of gravel because almost every square section of ground is surrounded by a fairly decent farm-to-market road. In the early '30s there were a few tractors around but most of the farming was being done with horses and mules. And some of the tractors were sitting idle because everybody was broke ... and they ran on gasoline ... not the home-raised oats and hay.

Now, back to Bud's story. Imagine yourself as a rabbit sitting under the mailbox on a rural intersection. It is a June day. You hear some loud hoof beats coming your way so you scurry over the fence line and hunker down. Pretty soon, you hear more hoof beats–and they aren't being made by some kid's Shetland pony either. And glory be–there are more until, one by one, four men each driving from a different direction meet up on the intersection, each with either a Belgian or Percheron stallion on a stallion cart (what else would you call it in 1933?) and find themselves discussing the weather, crop predictions and exchanging lies on how many mares their horse had covered in the week just past.

By this time the 'boy' who had hunkered down beside the rabbit decided that it would be best if he just kept still–because no one would believe him anyhow. Yes, Bud walked around with that true story in his cranium for almost 70 years before he confided in me. And it is my privilege to bring Bud's Big Day With The Rabbit on to you.

Bud and I have contemplated who the stallion owners might have been. There is no shortage of might-have-beens, in both the breeds at that time. As for frugality, you just can't beat the idea of allowing a stallion to get himself around on his route.

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