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June 4, 2020

Vintage Photographs of New Yorkers Selling Apples During the Great Depression

“I know that people don’t really consider farming to be the most ‘respectable’ of professions, but when I found out today that Papa had tried to sell apples on the corner for 5 cents each, I felt really ashamed. We used to be fairly respectable corn farmers, and now we were practically begging for money. I didn’t say any of that, of course, I know it would make everything worse. Papa said that there were hundreds of other men that he saw selling apples too. I guess everyone is just struggling to survive in these horrible times.”

Back in the 1930s, for many people, the humble apple saved their lives in more ways than that. Thanks to the Great Depression, unemployment was at an all time high. Not only did this affect household incomes — it also spiked a rise in shame and self-loathing felt by men no longer able to be the breadwinners of the family.

The solution to that? The apple industry. With a surplus of apples available, the Apple Shippers’ Association decided to pitch in and help unemployed by selling crates of apples to them at low prices. These new apple vendors would then take to the streets and hawk their fruit at a marginal profit. That image eventually became an iconic portrait of the Depression, displaying the unexpectedly creative ways in which they countered it. Hurstville, being set during that same era, invites you to come find your version of that. It may not come in the form of an apple, but look hard enough or seek help from the right people, and the answer will come to you.


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