During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, St. Louis’ population grew steadily. By the 1930s the population of the city was around 821,960, and the Great Depression had stopped economic growth. The manufacturing output fell by 57 percent between 1929 and 1933, slightly more than the national average of 55 percent. As of 1939, St. Louis’ industrial production was only 70 percent of what it was in 1929, while national industrial production was 84 percent in 1929.
The brewing industry recovered after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but this still wasn’t enough to compensate for the losses in industrial production in St. Louis. In the 1930s, mandatory minimum wage laws made it illegal for black workers to be appointed to the same jobs as white workers, and many black workers were fired and replaced by white workers. Many Black workers were only paid room and board in the domestic service industry, and skilled Black craftsmen were usually excluded from joining local unions and finding work as construction workers.
A total of $ 1.5 million of the city’s funds were allocated for relief operations during the early years of the Depression, while $300,000 was given to the Salvation Army and another $1 million to the St Vincent de Paul Society. The city voted in late 1932 to issue a $4.6 million bond issue so that additional relief funds could be provided, and the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Dickmann balanced the budget in 1933 by cutting expenditures by 11 percent. Thousands of St. Louisans were employed by New Deal programs such as the Public Works Administration, which provided food and shelter.
African Americans created a growing share of the newcomers during that period. Over the following decades, the population of St. Louis declined rapidly. Most of those leaving the city were of European ancestry who fled to the suburbs; these communities quickly grew.
Below are some fascinating historical photos that will take you back to 1930s St. Louis.
Cruising up and down side streets in the eternal quest for parking space is no longer a tribulation of patrons of this modern banking institution, in Grand National Bank. Depositors are shown driving up to the special windows which now provide curb service along a private drive.