United States and American History: 1934

About the history of the United States in 1934, Townsend Clubs lead to Social Security, the Battle of Toledo over labor disputes, John Dillinger killed.


--The Catholic League of Decency was founded to proscribe movies that would be offensive to Catholic audiences.

--Nevada, Utah, and California were shaken by earthquakes. The only fatality was a woman who died of fright.

Jan. 1 Dr. Edward Townsend, a 66-year-old Long Beach, Calif., physician, announced his Old Age Revolving Pensions Plan, which would establish a decent pension for retired citizens. He proposed his scheme after he found 3 elderly women rummaging through the garbage in his alley. Thousands of old folks joined Townsend Clubs and the Townsend National Weekly had a circulation of 200,000. This movement spurred the enactment of Social Security by Congress the following year. Interviewed many years later, Townsend stated:

I suppose I have always been more or less socialistically inclined. I believe we ought to plan as a nation for all the things we need. I suppose that taking care of people runs against the American grain--against the feeling that everyone ought to hustle for himself. But there comes a time when people can't hustle any more. I believe that we owe a decent living to the older people. After all, they built our country and made it what it is.

May 23-24 The Battle of Toledo occurred. Thousands of workers trying to prevent scabs from breaking their strike against the Electric Auto-Lite Company in Toledo, O., were assaulted by police and the National Guard. Two workers were killed but the strike won basic collective-bargaining rights for the strikers.

July 16 A general strike took place in San Francisco after police attempted to suppress a longshoremen's strike. The week before the general strike, 2 workers were shot dead in the street by police.

July 20 A city-wide teamsters' strike in Minneapolis reached a head as police attacked a group of strikers, killing 2. Eric Sevareid, who left school to cover the strike for the Minneapolis Star, described the incident bluntly: "They had been shot while trying to run out of the ambush."

July 22 John Dillinger, termed "Public Enemy Number One" for robbing banks, was shot and killed by Melvin Purvis of the FBI, while he was leaving a movie theater in Chicago.

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