Oh Penny where have you been?

Posted: May 27, 2012 in art, In Remembrance, we dig it., Yum Yum

Oh Penny where have you been? An appropriation collage for your viewing pleasure.

Today when I was sorting my coins from my change purse I came upon a 1935 penny. Oh penny, penny where have you been in all these years of circulating around this country? Where have you been you little dirty old thing. 77 this year and now your stopped in the name of art. Our first picture in this essay is a shiny new penny from 1935.

1935 Wheat Penny

The 1935 Wheat Penny was minted in 1935 at the Philadelphia Pennsylvania mint. In 1935 there were 245,388,000 1935 pennies minted in all. Of course this figure doesn’t reflect the mint proofs that could have been minted that year at the Philadelphia mint and only includes the amount of 1935 Wheat Pennies that were poured into circulation.

Our dear little penny that we hold in our hand could have been anywhere, and nowhere we write about. Where it went out from the mint and into the bank and out into the street is any person’s guess.

Our penny

Now what could a penny buy in 1935.

A pack of cigarettes was tough to scrape up especially just before payday. For those who couldn’t afford to buy a full pack, retailers began to offer individual cigarettes at a penny apiece. In the trade these loose cigarettes, which often were sold out of wooden boxes on the retailers’ counters, quickly became known as “loosies”.

From Mrs. Henry Watson Remembers: There was a shop selling newspapers, tobacco and sweets. We use to buy Santa Pops, Palm Toffee, Marzipan teacakes, Gob Stoppers, Tootsie Rolls and mints to name just a few. In this shop on our way to school we would ponder for ages wondering which would be the best buy for a penny. My friends and I would buy a penny clay pipe and with a jar of soapy water we would blow bubbles for hours. We never tired of bubble blowing.”

The Blake brothers opened Friendly Ice Cream in Springfield in 1935, in the depths of the Great Depression. The name -- changed to Friendly’s in 1989 -- was picked to suggest warm, neighborly service.

Let’s say you had one penny and you got a hold of 4 more and lived in Springfield Mass. You could go and visit Friendly Ice Cream shop that had just opened and buy a double dip ice cream cone for 5 cents.

Product Details Penny who has been out and about for awhile. But not as dirty as ours.

In 1935-1936 the median family income was $1,160. An income of $2,000 per year guaranteed a comfortable life-style and put a household at the top 10 percent of incomes. On an average annual income of roughly $1,000, most families had between $20 and $25 per week for food, clothing, and shelter. Expenses were curtailed by using family labor to produce goods that used to be store bought, such as food, clothing, and home repairs. This responsibility typically fell on women, who did most of the household spending.

Fashion Now for whom are these fashions made? Cheap by today but back then wowie for the working class or the unemployed. Sort of fancy to be scrubbing floors in, sort of fancy to be a hard worker wearing. Sort of fancy for an unemployed woman to be prancing around in.

Sears Catalogue  1935

Alabama Family, Walker Evans, 1935.

“In order to run a budget, you have to have money … I don’t feel that I can afford one right now—there are so many other things I need worse.”

1935 The years of depression continued in 1935 with unemployment still running at 20.1%. Following the huge unemployment and suffering during the Depression President Roosevelt signed the social security bill providing unemployment compensation and pensions for the elderly. As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” For getting America out of The great depression of the 30’s , The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act creates The WPA or Works Progress Administration for creating government jobs working on major infrastructure projects for some of the nation’s many unemployed. The WPA employed more than 8.5 million persons on 1.4 million public projects before it was disbanded in 1943.

Many took to the streets!

1,200,000 Face Starvation in Illinois
Over 1,200,000 people face starvation in Illinois if the US Federal Government stops providing new deal funding, the reason is that the state must provide $3,000,000 of the $12,000,000 required each month to feed and house the unemployed indigents or the federal government withdraws it’s funding and the state does not have the money and is not providing that funding.

some lived here: Encampment of the unemployed 1935 NYC.

Dear Government Official, 1935
Life here is small, crowded, and poor. I don’t like it here, but what am I suppose to do. My dad is in a Hooverville because he could not take the stress. Mom is even sadder since father left. I used to look up to my dad but I guess not anymore. I don’t like to see my mom sad its depressing. Hoover is still president, also he does nothing to help overproduction, installment buying, bank failure, and the stock market crash.
Emily M.
This is the kitchen of the Baldizzi home, 97 Orchard Street, Lower East Side NY, 1935.

The unemployed line up, 1935 for a coffee and doughnut.

Brave women strikers of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in 1935.

A greater power to labor unions came on July 5,1935, with the signing into law of the Wagner-Connery Act. It established a federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which had the power to investigate and decide unfair labor practice issues and to conduct elections in which workers could decide whether they wanted union representation. It would be the view of liberal economists that workers would benefit not only from better working conditions but that higher wages would improve the economy by creating greater purchasing power.

Roosevelt tried to maintain good relations with big business, but his administration managed to increase taxes for the wealthiest people to seventy-five percent of their income. In July came the National Labor Relations Act, designed to free interstate commerce from the effects of strikes. This act displeased some business leaders, as it gave workers the right to organize without interference from employers, compelling employers to bargain in good faith with unions. And the act included a National Labor Relations Board to hear complaints. Some supporting the bill saw strong labor unions as protection against fascism and communism and a way of increasing purchasing power, while opponents of the act complained that it gave too much power to labor, denied individual rights sacred to the American way of life, and was unconstitutional.

The Dust Bowl

Dust Storm approaching Stratford Texas, 1935.

Sunday, April 14, 1935 was the worst dust storm, being called Black Sunday. The day after this storm, an AP reporter used the term “Dust Bowl” for the first time.

April 19, 1935 in Washington D. C., a group of senators were in a meeting about the situation in the Plains states. Bored and not paying attention, one of them looked outside and said that it is getting dark outside as the sun disappeared behind the cloud of dust that started 2,000 miles to the west five days earlier on Black Sunday.

The Soil Conservation Act of 1935 was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 27, 1935. This law gave farmers money to plant native grasses, trees and certain vegetables to protect the soil from soil erosion and keep it from blowing away.

By the spring of 1935, people began to do die of what was called dust pneumonia and in 1938 Woody Guthrie wrote a song called “Dust Pneumonia Blues”.

For those who could go to the store here are a few things that you could buy if you had more than one penny.

Berg and Sons Food Store 1935

Food & beverages


  • Beef, prime rib roast, .27/lb
  • Beef, chuck roast, .5/lb
  • Minced Veal, .6/lb
  • Ground Beef, medium, .4/lb
  • Chicken,whole frozen .19/lb
  • Duck, whole frozen .22/lb
  • Lamb chops, .21/lb
  • Side bacon, .21/lb

Advertisement 1935


  • Atlantic sole, .9/lb
  • Salmon steak, .25/lb


  • Bread, white, .06/20 oz loaf
  • Cereal, Corn Flakes, .07/pkg
  • Eggs .14/dozen
  • Sugar, granulated, .24/5 lbs
  • Flour, 1.03/50 lb bag
  • Coffee,.23/lb
  • Doughnuts, jelly, .17/dozen


  • Milk,.16/quart
  • Milk,evaporated, .17/3 tall cans
  • Sour cream .6/pint
  • Cheese, Cheddar, .23/lb
  • Ice cream, .39/quart

In 1935 Krueger’s Cream Ale and Krueger’s Finest Beer were the first beers sold to the public in cans. Canned beer was an immediate success. The public loved it, giving it a 91 percent approval rating.

Fruit & Veggies

  • Oranges, California, .21/dozen
  • Lemons, Sunkist, .19/12
  • Lettuce, iceberg, .10/head
  • Cucumbers, .10/3


Can & Jar Goods

  • Mushrooms,sliced, .15/4 oz can
  • Olives, stuffed, .25/11 oz bottle
  • Kraft, Miracle Whip, .10/half pint
  • Peanutbutter, .25/2 lbs jar
  • Tomato soup, .7/12oz can

Furbird just brought up that when we were growing up in the 1950ties this gum was the same price as in 1935.

Now a lot of us like a man in his underwear, something to take off when we get down to business.  We love the fact that one can look good, feel good and be twice the man in Y front underwear.Here is a fact from 1935:

On January 19, 1935, during a blizzard, Coopers Inc. sold the world’s first briefs at the Marshall Field’s State Street store in downtown Chicago. . Designed by an apparel engineer named Arthur Kneibler, briefs dispensed with leg sections and had a Y-shaped overlapping fly. The company dubbed the design the Jockey, since it offered a degree of support that had previously only been available from the jockstrap. Jockey briefs proved so popular that over 30,000 pairs were sold within three months of their introduction. Coopers, having renamed the company Jockey, sent its Mascul-liner plane to make special deliveries of masculine support briefs to retailers across the US. In 1938, when Jockeys were introduced in the UK, they sold at the rate of 3,000 a week.  Later they were to acquire the Formfit-Rogers underwear line of Chicago.

The New York Times rather casually and without fanfare has confirmed a significant event in alligator-in-the-sewers history. The actual teenager who had the confrontation with the over seven-foot-long sewer alligator in 1935 was tracked down, interviewed last week, and verifies it wasn’t just an elaborate newspaper tale.

As you will recall…noted in A. G. Sulzberger’s breaking New York Times article…in an era when several news items told of out-of-place gators being found…

The most widely cited of these was an article in The Times on Feb. 10, 1935, headlined “Alligator Found in Uptown Sewer.”

That article described several people — led by a teenager named Salvatore Condoluci — who had caught and ultimately killed a seven- to eight-foot-long alligator they discovered beneath an open manhole on 123rd Street near the Harlem River.

For more info: 1935 Sewer Gator Story Confirmed.

WPA did it keep the people from revolution?

In May 1935, Congress created the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It was the largest New Deal agency, designed to employ millions on useful projects, including the construction of public buildings, bridges, and roads. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western populations. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing and housing. Over a period of 8 years, some 9 million Americans were employed in tasks ranging from controlling crickets in Wyoming, to building a monkey cage in Oklahoma City. The WPA engaged the unemployed in professional-specific jobs, including arts, drama, media and literacy projects. Artists hired musicians to form orchestras, which produced recordings for the radio. Some 6,000 were employed by the Federal Writers’ Project, which went into the South and conducted interviews with the nation’s aging population of former slaves. The 2,300 first-person slave narratives they collected are perhaps the most important primary source on American slavery. They are housed at the Library of Congress and are available online.

See: FDR’s New Deal and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Help Define Modern Art in America, by Richard Friswell.

Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost 8 million jobs, at a cost of over $14 billion. Full employment was never its intended goal. Rather, It tried to provide one paid job for all families where the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment. Conservative objections to WPA projects focused on wastefulness and inefficiency. Although these critics claimed that WPA stood for “We Provide Alms,” the results of the agency, both in the value of many of its projects, and in its effects on the economic status and self-worth of millions of Americans, is hard to deny.
President Roosevelt fireside chat on the Works Relief Program (the WPA), 4/28/35

Augusta Savage (1892 — 1962)

(b. Green Cove Springs, FL, February 29, 1892; d. New York, NY, March, 26 1962)Augusta Savage was one of the most influential artists and educators of the Harlem Renaissance. Born Augusta Christine Fells in Green Cove Springs, Florida, she moved to New York and trained at the Cooper Union School of Art (1921-1924). In 1929, a sculpture of her nephew, Gamin won her a Julius Rosenwald Grant, and in 1931, Savage received another Rosenwald Grant. She traveled to France with the funds, studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. When she returned to New York in 1932, she opened the Savage School of Arts and Crafts in Harlem, where her students included William Artis, Jacob Lawrence, and Norman Lewis. Working in plaster, which was then painted to resemble bronze, Savage is best known for her sensitive and skillful modeling of the human figure. The majority of her sculptures are small-scale portraits of family and friends and portrait busts of African American leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. In 1934, she co-founded the Harlem Arts Workshop; in 1935, she became a founding member of the Harlem Artists Guild; and from 1936-1937, she worked for the WPA Federal Arts Project as the Director of the Harlem Community Art Center. Commissioned to do a sculpture for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Savage left the WPA in 1937 to complete what would become her most famous work, Lift Every Voice and Sing (also know as The Harp). After the fair, the sculpture was destroyed, and unemployed, Savage was virtually forced to give up her career as an artist due to lack of funds. In the mid 1940s, Savage began living a reclusive life in Saugerties, New York, where she explored her interest in writing. In 1962, Savage returned to New York City and died of cancer later that year.
For more info on the Federal Art Project.
Penny penny who got the penny.
A Penny for your thoughts.
Penny wise pound foolish. He who has a penny in his pocket is worth a penny.* A penny saved is a penny earned. *A penny is a lot of money if you haven’t got a penny. *I felt like a penny waiting for change. *A penny saved is a penny earned. *See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.  *Pennies don’t fall from heaven, they have to be earned on earth. *Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.* He’s like a penny, two face and worthless. *When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.” “A bad penny always returns.”
So now what will we do with our penny. Maybe wait until we are invited to show an art work and send in our penny along with this story.

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