Seventy-six years ago this month, the country was at the low point of the Great Depression. In Ann Arbor, American Broach, King-Seeley, and Hoover Ball and Bearing all had cut production and laid off workers. Local retail sales were half their precrash levels, and home building permits were down 80 percent. Henry Ford blamed the crisis on the bankers. According to the Ann Arbor News, he said they had “brought on the depression by taking everyone’s money and putting it in one place where people can’t get at it.”

Yet life continued. An ad for Kline’s department store announced, “We’re fighting the recession, with deep price cuts!” Wahr’s Bookstores urged residents to “forget your troubles with a jig-saw puzzle.” And ads for the movie Hot Pepper at the Michigan Theater promised, “You’ll forget every worry—and laugh like you haven’t laughed in months . . . the belly-laugh this cock-eyed world needs most.”

Then as now, there were high hopes for a new president. “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper,” Franklin Roosevelt declared at his inauguration on March 4. “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Two weeks later the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 15 percent, the largest one-day gain in its history.