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Representative Wright Patman (TX) and John Rankin (MS) receiving petitions from World War I veterans on January 21, 1931.

Representative Wright Patman (TX) and John Rankin (MS) receiving petitions from World War I veterans on January 21, 1931.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Representative Wright Patman (TX) and John Rankin (MS) receiving petitions from World War I veterans on January 21, 1931.

Responding to the Great Depression, 1932

The Great Depression devastated families and shattered lives. By 1933, one in four American workers was unemployed. People were desperate. Representative Wright Patman of Texas, a World War I veteran, introduced a bill for early payment of a $1,000 veterans’ bonus, originally scheduled to be awarded in 1945.

Veterans rallied behind the idea. More than 20,000 of them marched on Washington to show their support. The House passed Patman’s bill. The Senate did not. Standing on the Capitol plaza, Patman personally announced the results to the veterans. Most left Washington—but not all. A few weeks later, the U.S. Army forcibly removed the remaining “Bonus Marchers.” Press photos and news-reels of their eviction turned many against the Hoover administration, which had ordered the action.

"He had just as well try to sweep back the waves of the ocean with a broom."
—Representative Wright Patman of Texas on President Hoover's dilemma with the Bonus Marchers, 1932