Tuesday, 17 August 2010 11:32

75 Years Ago Late Autumn/Early Winter 1929

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the Breeder’s Gazette of October, November and December 1929 and the general new sources plus the 1929 International Livestock Show Album)

There is a poem by T.S. Eliot entitled “The Hollow Men” and I think it ends somewhat like this: “and this is the way the world ends, and this is the way the world ends, and this is the way the world ends…not with a bang, but a whimper.”

On Thursday, October 24, 1929, the stock market binge that was soon a decade old (that is why they called them “The Roaring ‘20s”) experienced the most spectacular one day bust ever on the New York Stock Exchange. It was a bang that produced whimpers from sea to shining sea. The party was over. They say that in just a few hours princes of commerce became paupers, small investors were wiped out or reduced to dead broke ex-investors, and a few even jumped out of windows in tall buildings. I oversimplify, of course. It was, however, merely a grim day –not a cosmic event. It was is the economy.

Nor was it a total surprise to everyone. The stock market had been a “Nervous Nellie” for much of the 1920s as the fever of speculation and the lure of sudden riches became ever more prevalent. Black Thursday, as it came to be called, was just the day it all came unwound. Why black? Why not red, for all that red ink or blue, for sky high, etc.

Since the New York Stock Exchange defines what this country is all about to many people, it was scary to everyone–not just investors. Meetings were called in the offices of major banks and brokerage houses. President Hoover quickly formed a high powered council of business and banking leaders to advise and assist in “keeping the country’s business on an even keel.” From all such meetings, important folks would emerge with calming statements such as “this reaction has badly overrun itself” and “the country’s business and banking is basically sound,” etc., etc.

Henry Ford, who was a man of action, met with Hoover at the White House. Ford was not “old money” neither was he an inheritor of a fortune nor an intellectual. He was a gifted mechanic who had built a great company, and was frequently both direct and plain-spoken.

On November 23, after meeting with Hoover, he announced from his car that he was about to give his workers a raise. He also scolded other business executives for having spent time chasing paper profits instead of tending to the shop-or business. Or in other words-DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Henry is said to have sort of hated horses. So I’ve had a little trouble liking him but I did like his plain vanilla approach to a lot of situations.

So America’s best and brightest in the world of commerce and banking did their best to put a hopeful face on it. Things did stabilize a little, and then less than three weeks after “Black Thursday,” on November 11 (Armistice day, for heaven’s sake!) the market took another gigantic drop.

As people like J.P. Morgan, and the rest of them said, “Things were not as bad as they seemed.” They were worse.

One of Hoover’s plans (and it made sense) was to ask Congress for $175 million for new government buildings around the country. He also appealed to all 48 governors to speed up their public works programs. P.W.A.-Public Works Programs-so it wasn’t F.D.R. that hatched that particular chicken, it was Hoover. So that unlikely duo (they did not like each other at all) can share the credit for the bumper crop of post offices, court houses, libraries, gymnasiums, etc., public buildings of all kinds that were built in the 1930s.

I mentioned in prior “75 Years Ago” columns that our government was pushing our WW I allies as hard as possible to reduce the yearly reparation payments from Germany. Owen Young was our leading negotiator. His plan was ultimately adopted and I think it was an honest effort to help (or at least let up) on a Germany that was struggling. Watching an old enemy struggle may feed the appetite for revenge but it is bad politics. For there are always people who are NOT seeking a solution. If the “Young Plan” was good for Germany, it was bad for Adolf Hitler, who wanted things to get worse. Enough worse that the government would fail. So, in the months ahead, even as allied troops were preparing to withdraw from occupied zones in the Rhineland, Hitler and his gang were staging demonstrations damning the “Young Plan.”

The economic chaos of the next few years would bring pain to millions and opportunity to Adolf Hitler–the opportunity of chaos and despair.

About this same time (1929) George Clemenceau, nicknamed “The Tiger,” died at 88. He was the premier of France during WW I and chief negotiator of the very harsh Versailles Treaty. He was a vindictive man. Like many wartime leaders, he lost the post-war election in 1920. Same thing happened to Churchill after WW II. Churchill, however, was too wise to be vindicative. But I think he was mighty surprised to be beaten by Clement Atlee, a man he once described as a “sheep in sheep’s clothing.”

That China-Soviet border business I’ve mentioned before never quite made it into a major, drawn-out, full scale war, but kept simmering with local clashes. It was allowed to peter out with a truce in December and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Manchuria.

As the 1920s drew to a close there were far more problems than solutions...especially quick and easy ones. The future was filled with booby traps. So much for the headline makers. It is time to move on to the Breeder’s Gazettes of the last quarter of the last year of the decade.

It scarcely needs to be pointed out that this is not a hog magazine, but the October 1929 Gazette starts out with such a glowing report of the National Swine Show held on the Indiana State Fairgrounds that I simply have to pass their introductory few paragraphs describing same to you. The publicity stunt described was staged by old, serious, important males. Can’t you just imagine the Governor of Indiana and these two “big shots,” one from the Duroc camp and the other from the Berkshire nation, going up and down the aisles in that new hog barn in Indianapolis and finding over a hundred newborn little pigs in the pens--WHO HAD NOT PAID THEIR THREE BUCKS TO BE THERE!

Showing livestock, any species, has been a lot of fun for a long time for all but the terminally serious. I think that is now in some jeopardy due to the accelerated pace of moving in and out at such a pace. At most of the state fairs there is no time for much socializing or tomfoolery. This business of moving in on Monday, showing on Tuesday, and “get out of the way” on Wednesday seriously cuts into “play time.” Children of all ages need some play time.

The second article that took my fancy was a report from Jap Walker, a Merino sheep breeder from Ohio and secretary of the Ohio Wool Growers Co-op. He had been designated as a special representative of the USDA which was studying sheep husbandry around the world–in this case, Australia. Since this is also NOT a sheep magazine, I’ll do the same as I did with the hogs–just give you a few paragraphs in the form of a sidebar.


The Gazette tried to cheer up their constituency of farmers with this cartoon borrowed from the New York newspapers in their November 1929 issue.
With winter’s snow and ice coming on this was a timely ad from the GIANT GRIP Mfg. Co.

Now that’s a fair enough sample to show you what good livestock journalism was producing in October of 1929. Two great stories, one about the Three Little Pigs and the other about Mary’s Little Lamb.

For the balance of this column I’ll just pick up a few horse items as reported in those three issues and a few photos from the 1929 International Album.

The series of great sires that the Gazette had been doing for months found the Belgian stallion, Rubis 8004, on the November 1929 cover. He was imported as a 2-year-old in 1913, by Jacob De Geus, manager of the 10,000 acres owned and farmed by the Owosso Sugar Company at Alicia, Michigan. Rubis was a spry old 18-year-old at the time. And he wasn’t through, he lived well into the 1930s and was a great sire. For more on Rubis and his remarkable record at stud I refer you to A Century of Belgian Horses in America, pages 110 through 122.

Co-op Colt Clubs were relatively new and the Gazette was pushing them. A Frank Miencke from Wisconsin was less than thrilled by them. He wrote the following to the Gazette, which they published: “I wish you’d come out here and see our $1,000 co-op stallion that we paid $2,700 for.”

The Gazette didn’t (couldn’t, with all species) even attempt to cover all the shows so they just did a few of the real big ones in depth. Their November ‘29 issue carried a full report of the National Belgian Show at Waterloo. In addition to the great show, a real live prince and his wife from Belgium were on hand and Earle Brown from St. Paul, Minnesota, staged a sale of 25 horses on the last day that averaged $600–the highest average in years. With Rubis on the cover, the Belgians were feeling good about themselves.

There were about a half dozen pages carrying draft horse news and ads in that November issue. Black Thursday or not, the Gazette was feeling expansive and even reached out to bring back on board a man named Walter Miller. Miller had worked for the old Gazette from 1917 to 1923.

He was put in charge of the Gazette’s Livestock Service division–i.e., shows and sales. Born and raised in the purebred livestock tradition, he was an excellent writer. So, just as the economy went plumb to hell, the Gazette expanded, with acquisitions of other livestock publications and the added staff. Timing is important–so is dumb luck, good and bad.

In the November issue, the Percheron Association was boasting of substantial increases in their business over the fall of 1928. The following month, the Percheron pages carried a report that Gilbert Arnold of Quebec had sold $126,000 worth of Percherons since January 1, 1929. That included one stallion at $5,000 and two at $3,500 apiece. His highest priced mare brought $750 with big first class geldings bringing upwards of $300 per head. Western Canada also reported a flourishing trade. Carl Roberts of Manitoba stated that he had sold $13,500 worth of Percherons since January 1, including a $2,200 stallion and a $675 mare.

But Carl’s personal favorite horse of all was Monarch. He had been leased by the Carman Manitoba Percheron Club for the last three seasons under the federal aid scheme. He had just finished his 7th season in such a club. During those last three years (‘27-‘28-’29) with the Carman Club he had earned a total of $6,060 in service fees.

I think that is about enough from 1929. The real damage of the stock market bust had not impacted the old paper yet. It would! So we will close out on 1929 with a few photos of draft horse winners at the 1929 International Livestock Show.

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