29 October

Stock Market Crash Rocks the World

October 29, 1929, was one of the most depressing days in Canadian history. Prices suddenly crashed on the world's stock markets, and Canada was plunged into ten years of poverty. One year after the crash there were 400,000 unemployed in Canada, and many people who had jobs were earning less than subsistence pay. Thousands of men looking for work traveled through the country by hiding in freight cars, or even "riding the rods" under them! Countless families, forced to live almost at starvation level for several years, were held together only by the courage, character, and self-sacrifice of parents and children. 

People who could not find work went "on relief." Payments varied from place to place. A family of seven in Toronto received food vouchers worth $7 a week; in Saskatchewan a family of five was given $10 a month and a 98 pound pack of flour. Money was not to be spent on fruit, or any vegetables except potatoes and dried beans. Children often went to school without shoes or proper clothing.

The stock market craze in the years before the crash was worse than it is now. Brokers' offices were popular meeting places in town. Even little old ladies sat there and watched the magic figures on the boards, buying and selling with everyone from leading executives to office boys. They bought shares "on margin" paying perhaps 10 per cent of their value and owing the rest. When market prices suddenly collapsed the broker called on them to pay what was owing, and they did not have enough money. The brokers could not collect the money to them by their customers, and they could not pay money they owed to banks and other lenders. People who, on the morning of October 29, were rich in terms of stocks and shares, found that these were worthless by evening. Conditions became so bad that hotel clerks would jokingly ask a man registering for a room, "Sleeping or jumping, sir?" 

It was not until 1937 that economic conditions began to improve to any extent, and it was only the outbreak of war in 1939 that got factories and farms into full production, and provided employment at better wages.


29 October

-1653    Radisson escaped from the Iroquois and went to Europe.

-1899    The first Canadian contingent for the South African war sailed from Quebec. 1923 Bluenose defeated Columbia by one minute in an international challenge race (see March 26).

-1925    General election: Conservatives took 116 seats, Liberals 101, Progressives and Independents 28, Labour 2. Nevertheless, Liberal Leader Mackenzie King formed a government by obtaining the support of the Progressives.

-1959    An international joint commission approved the joint Canada-United States application for permission to develop the St. Lawrence River power.

-1955    The latest type destroyer H.M.C.S. St. Laurent was commissioned at Montreal.

-1964    The final report of the Special Committee on the Canadian Flag was presented to the House of Commons.

              Henry Asbjorn Larsen, the noted Arctic explorer and RCMP superintendent, who captained the St. Roch, died.