A tailing tale of the 20’s and working at the White House

From Life in the Early Days By James K. Ramstetter (1910-1996). Permission of use granted by Mary Ramstetter

The Prosperous Twenties

  The total student population of the Golden High School was present in the school auditorium on March 4, 1929 to listen to the inaugural address of the new President of the United States. I well remember his opening statement, “I proclaim this nation to be the most prosperous on earth.” This statement of the President pretty well portrayed the living conditions in America at the time.

Economic conditions were good, and had been the same during the Coolidge administration. There was always something to do. You could start up a new business and have it paid for in about two years’ time. Farming was profitable, even for the young people who worked spare time in the summer just helping with the harvest. If you were in the farming and ranching business, your chief wish was to get bigger.

In the fall of 1928, I went with my father to the bank to see about getting a loan to enlarge our herd of cattle as we had a surplus of grazing ground. The banker thought it was the sound thing to do and made the necessary financial arrangements so my father could buy more cattle. We got the cattle and held them for a full year.

We went in to see the banker during October 1929. My father told the banker we were going to move the herd to the stockyards the following week and pay the notes off at the bank. The banker said that he thought we should keep the herd over another year and that he would make up a set of new notes covering the interest due and renewal of the principal of the original notes.

My father was somewhat worried. The week before, the stock market had crashed. He asked the banker about that. The banker replied that was a matter that was bothering only the people in the New York City area. The local cattle market was holding up well, so my father agreed to the deal and we kept the cattle another year.

Then, the next January, my father got a letter from the bank, stating that even though the notes were not due, the bank would appreciate some kind of a payment on the notes. The effects of the stock market crash had now extended to business affairs in the western part of the county. My father did not have any spare cash, so he could not in any way accommodate the bank. In fact, our cash income was starting to dwindle, with three of the family attending high school. The bank went broke and the bank conservator was still trying to collect the bank notes that my father owed on five years later.

The times were confusing. For many months, the famous economist, Roger Babson, had been predicting a disaster in the New York Stock Exchange. Then a day or two after the stock market crash, it was mentioned that a broker named Joseph P. Kennedy had made seventeen million dollars the day the stock market crashed. (Unknown to me at the time, I would be working for Joseph P. Kennedy on July 1, 1934.)

The White House, March 13, 1933

  It was early in the afternoon that I hurried to the White House with a letter addressed to the Honorable President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. I had worked up to being a top office boy for the Chief Council in charge of investigating the stock market crash of 1929. There was a letter to the President nearly every day since he was inaugurated on March 4, 1933.

The letters were very important as they were about the establishment of a new government body to control the stock market.

When I arrived at the White House, I met up with the person who handled the incoming mail. We were casually acquainted, and I always inquired about how the President was doing. There seemed to be an air of excitement that had not existed on my previous visits. The person receiving the mail exclaimed, “The President is all excited today and right now he is having a meeting with the Senate Banking Committee.”

Following is what was really happening:

Franklin D. Roosevelt was examining the new banking report covering about one-third of the banks that were open on March 13, 1933. He was startled suddenly when he saw the cash on hand figure – thirty-eight plus billion dollars on hand. This was the rabbit he was looking for. To this date, no one in the country had any idea about how much cash was laying around the country. In spite of the depression, half of the banks in the country were being operated in a very conservative manner, tightly guarding their cash on hand.

The President immediately sent a message out that he wanted a meeting with the Senate Banking Committee that afternoon—he was not worried about the House Finance Committee as it would do whatever he asked it to do. The Senate Banking Committee had Republican Senator Borah as a member.

The Committee met at the White House that afternoon—Roosevelt showed them the figures about the amount of cash on hand and exclaimed, “Let’s spend some of it right now!” The President wanted Congress to immediately appropriate 20 billion dollars to fight the depression. The members of the Senate Banking Committee were flabbergasted. There was no way they were going to give the President that much money.

After bickering back and forth, they finally agreed to let him have six billion dollars. Franklin D. Roosevelt got what he needed—and launched the largest public expenditure program this nation had ever known—the CCC, WPA, PWA, and the NRA.

Yes, he found the rabbit.

From Maggie: If you have any interesting stories about family or acquaintances who have lived or still live in Gilpin County or the surrounding areas, please contact me. You can reach me at 303-881-3321. Email me at, or mail me at P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80006-6495.

Be sure to check out my website for past columns at

The first two books in my Misadventures of the Cholua Brother’s Series are available on my website, on, and for $12.99 ea. + shipping. They can also be bought through the Gilpin Historical Museum and Mountain Menagerie in Central City. Watch for the release of the third and final book in the series Bonanza Beans available in spring 2016.

Cholua Brothers Mining Company specialty coffees can also be purchased at Mountain Menagerie in Central City or from their website at

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