“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” –Harry S. Truman
Unemployment-- Fueled by a drop in unfulfilled orders for durable goods and a declining demand for commodities and other raw materials, the recession of 1958 forced over five million people — nearly 7% of the labor force — out of work. In the photo above, Illinois residents line up at an unemployment office in Chicago.
Voter's Fears-- As the nation grew anxious, Congressmen used a recess to return to their districts to sound out their constituents on their concerns. Life photographer Walter Sanders traveled with Representative Edwin H. May, Jr. as he met with farmers in Connecticut.
Seed Money-- The Life team found that many merchants tried to take matters into their own hands. A Hampton, Iowa banker named Dana Bramwell distributed $1,100 in bonuses (represented by the clutch of $1 bills he holds in this photo) to his employees, with the stipulation that they spend it on nonessential items.
Spring Promotion-- A Maytag dealer, in Fort Wayne, Illinois, tempted customers with gifts and a band in an effort to overcome their fears about buying a new appliance.
Hard Times-- The downturn spread beyond US borders to Europe and Canada, where many businesses, including the mining operation, above, were forced to shut down.
Town Hall-- Congressman Wilbur D. Mills meets with voters in Heber Springs, Arkansas, to discuss the recession. Life reported that he was forced to endure a long grilling, as the two primary engines of the local economy, oil production and agriculture, were particularly hard hit by the downturn.
Presentation-- In the district of Congressman William H. Avery, of Kansas, Life found that the conversation centered more on a proposal to erect a new post office than on the economic slump. In the photo above, Avery discusses construction plans with members of a Federal Building Committee.
Banishing Bad Thoughts-- In Kankakee, Illinois, members of the Chamber of Commerce staged a mock execution of "Old Man Gloom", as part of an effort to rally local spirits.
All Night Sale-- In an effort to overcome declining auto sales, one of the hardest hit sectors of the slump, the Beyer DeSoto dealership of St. Louis put its salesmen on duty for 64 hours straight, as part of a sell-a-thon that raised sales 73%.