FDR’s Alphabet Soup: Records from the Great Depression


(National Recovery Administration/ National Industrial Recovery Act) 1933- 1936            (declared unconstitutional 1935).

The mission of the NRA was to draw up trade codes of fair competition, to set up a managed economy by relieving business of antitrust laws to eliminate “wasteful competition.”  It was thought that creating an  artificial  scarcity of commodities would cause higher prices, yield  higher profits and support higher wages.  Each industry was tasked with  creating their own code setting up quotas, limiting hours and restricting construction of new factories.   Firms that participated displayed blue eagles to inform consumers of their patriotism. There were over 2 million participants.

One sample of a code is that for  ICE HOUSES.  Employees could work 48 hours a week averaged over 3 months with a maximum of 54 hours in a week.  For this they were to be paid 25-30 cents and hour. Office workers were limited to 44 hours per week  and no more than 8 hours in a day for which they should earn at least $14 a week with overtime paid at time 1 1/3%.

Not everything was based on employment.  Industries set standards for prices, hours that a business could be open and more.

Enforcement efforts were often due to complaints from competitors or employees.

In Oakland, Monet Chevrolet was cited for giving more than allowed for used car allowances. In Oregon Fred Meyer was cited for using loss leaders.  In San Francisco the Smith Lumber Company was  criminally charged for pricing their supplies below “modal pricing.”  Their lost eagle was reinstated when pricing was removed from issues covered in NRA codes.

Read more about the NRA and where you can find the records in the current issue  of the CSGA newsletter….and I leave you with a little bit of fun.

 NRA Promo

About Catht

Cath Madden Trindle
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