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March 5, 1933

President Declares National Bank Holiday

News Stories Editorials Advertising Charlottesville: A Safe Haven

On the day following FDR's decision to close banks across the country, The Daily Progress showed, for the first time in The Depression, that the bank closings were something relevant to actually write their own story on it, as opposed to simply using an Associated Press story. In addition to 3 Associated Press stories out of both New York and Washington -- stories which correspond to those in The New York Times on this day -- the Charlottesville paper began to acknowledge that it must, in some way, relate the crisis to the local community. It connected the crisis to Charlottesville in a small story with the headline, "Crisis Met Here With Calm Front: No Unrest Seen." The Associated Press stories dealt directly with the way Roosevelt was exercising his powers in a seemingly unprecedented manner, the potential plans of the Treasury to re-open banks soon and another story dealing with the plans of further congressional action.

The Associated Press stories told the tale of a nation facing a dangerous financial crisis, where the financial state of the country might be in jeopardy and in need of strong congressional and further presidential actions.

But the greatest message was in the newspaper's local story, aimed at reassuring the public of the economic financial stability in Charlottesville. The story captured the manner with which Charlottesville met the bank closings with the following lead: "Charlottesville today literally met with a grin the news of President Roosevelt's four-day banking holiday." The writer described the scene in Charlottesville -- through his eyes -- as a simple "matter of inconvenience only." The essence of this feeling was captured in the story's tale of bank employees joyously taping the "closed" notes to the bank door and then going outside on their lawns and enjoying a "beautiful sunny day." The simple story stated only that the effects of the banking holiday would be temporary and that business would return to normal after this inconvenience. The news stories reassured the public that nothing would go seriously awry in that time.

Backing up the tone of their news stories on this historic day in history, The Daily Progress editorial staff encouraged the people that they were in for a minor convenience only and not a financial catastrophe in the days following the bank closings. On the editorial pages the editors encouraged a tone of strong reassurance to prevent any member of the Charlottesville community from thinking there might be a potential disaster in store for the community.

A March 6 editorial entitled "Converting Retreat Into Advance" suggested that the people of Charlottesville could actually benefit from the bank closings even though people in other geographic areas might suffer. It further argued that this was not Charlottesville's problem, that it was the problem of other states. A section read, "The simple fact is that this state is suspending banking operations because many others were forced to do so. Obviously, Virginia cannot continue her normal business course when others outside her boundaries are unable to reciprocate. It should be a source of pride that the Commonwealth is the last to take this action, not because her own fiscal condition demanded it, but solely in response to the necessities of other sections."

Furthermore, the editors emphasized the fact that in Charlottesville specifically there was neither financial panic, nor any type of financial activity which may have helped to cause the bank closings. The editors argued that Charlottesville was both free from guilt and free from worry. A different part of the editorial read, "Depositors money is as safe as it ever was...Those who concluded that the holiday was inevitable [in other parts of the country] and withdrew their funds early are giving themselves self-congratulations for their foresight. To the contrary, they should be ashamed of their cowardice. Here in Charlottesville there have been few such cowardly withdrawals." In these eyes, the people of Charlottesville were brave survivors.

In the immediate wake of the bank holiday, the local advertisers in The Daily Progress did not appear to react whatsoever to the national crisis. There was neither positive reinforcement on the day after the bank closing, nor any change in the advertising of banks, clothing stores, automobiles and food items. This remained at the status quo from before the national bank crisis and there was no overt mention of Roosevelt's action.

Roosevelt's declaration of the bank holiday on March 5, was the first noted event of The Depression which The Daily Progress appeared to give serious credence; by devoting a number of editorials and several news stories, including a local one, to the downplay of the crisis, the newspaper definitely acknowledged this part of a national crisis. But it effectively belittled the impact that it would have on the Charlottesville economic situation. Quite blatantly, it asserted a sense of Southern pride in the editorials, claiming that the proud Commonwealth of Virginia and the fine city of Charlottesville would ride out the crisis like a sunny day in the park, while other states in the nation were at fault and suffering. The editorials and even the news stories appeared to find joy in this holiday, like kids celebrating a snow-day off from school. In de-emphasizing this event, the newspaper effectively made it appear as a national crisis which was a minor inconvenience in Charlottesville. Also, the fact that advertisers did not immediately pick up on the crisis and the ads did not change whatsoever from their aims at the relatively wealthy, demonstrated that in many ways Charlottesville felt no impact from this bank holiday.

Inside This Edition: Reporting on Key Dates in the Depression

October 29, 1929: Stock Market Crash March 4, 1933: FDR Innaugurated March 5, 1933: FDR declares 'bank holiday' March 9, 1933: Emergency Banking Bill passed May 12, 1933: Federal Emergency Relief Act passed December 5, 1933: Repeal of Prohibition
May 6, 1935: WPA established August 14, 1935 Social Security Act passed November 3, 1936: FDR re-elected February 3, 1937: National Guard prepared to strike workers in Flint, Michigan September 16, 1940: Selective Service Act passed December 7, 1941: Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor


Works Cited