Interesting information..... in case someone ever asks you.. :) Jeannie
I have been asked so many times about Social Security records and what
pensions were available before the establishment of the Social Security
Administration. I am showing scattered information below, with my source as
the Social Security Administration itself as well as my own information.
Before Social Security in America. Was help available? Yes -
1. Family. If the family had the means to help, this was normally the first
2. Guilds. These dated back to the Middle Ages. Merchants of the same goods
banded together and provided a "benefit package" for its employees in times
of illness or monetary need; even helping pay funeral expenses.
3. Friendly Societies. These are now called fraternal organizations and the
beginning of trade unions. Eventually they began offering life insurance
policies to their members. The main organizations were the Odd Fellows,
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Loyal Order of Moose and Fraternal
Order of Eagles.
4. Poor Laws. This tradition began back in 1601 - differentiating between
the deserving and undeserving poor. The Puritans held to this law when they
arrived on the American shores.
5. Almshouses and poorhouses. These were unpleasant as a general rule, some
residents were required to wear a large "P" to let everyone know they were
poor! It was noted that by 1915, about 25% of the government monies
supported outdoor relief.
6. Agrarian Justice. Conceived by Thomas Paine in 1795. It called for the
creation of a system whereby those inheriting property would pay 10%
inheritance tax to create a special fund. Out of this fund, a onetime
stipend of 15 pounds sterling would be paid to each citizen beginning at age
21 to give them a start in life as well as an annual payment of 10 pounds a
year for those 50 years and older. Remember, people didn't live as long
7. After the Civil War: There were thousands of widows and orphans left by
the way, as well as disabled soldiers, both north and south. A pension
program was created. Known as the Civil War Program, legislation was passed
in 1862 for benefits to be paid "incurred as a direct consequence of ...
military duty." Widows and orphans could receive pension equal in amount to
that which would have been payable to their deceased soldier if he had been
disabled and not died. In 1890,any disabled Civil War veteran qualified for
benefits. In 1906, even old age qualified one for benefits. By 1910,
veterans and their survivors could participate in a program which resembled
much the later-to-come Social Security program with over 90% of the still
living veterans receiving benefits. The Social Security noted that there
were widows still receiving benefits as late as 1999! (young soldier with a
very young wife?)
8. Military Pensions. In 1893, $165 millions dollars were spent on military
pensions. But, in earlier days, very few received benefits. Confederate
soldiers and their families were barred from receiving any benefits!
9. Employer based pension plans. These predated Social Security, but was
only provided by less than 2% of the American population. Some larger
companies might offer a graduated older worker program, but most were just
given a farewell party and the traditional gold watch! The first pension
plan for "blue collar" worker was not introduced until 1882 by the Alfred
Dodge Piano and Organ Company.
10. Help during the Depression times. As noted, when one thinks of the Great
Depression, one thinks of the horrific depression of 1930's. But, there
were other depressions before that, just as devastating to the people in
America. They were in the 1840's and 1890's. Protests sprang up all over the
county Following the outbreak of the Great Depression, poverty among the
elderly grew dramatically. "The best estimates are that in 1934 over half of
the elderly in America lacked sufficient income to be self-supporting.
Despite this, state welfare pensions for the elderly were practically
non-existent before 1930. A spurt of pension legislation was passed in the
years immediately prior to passage of the Social Security Act, so that 30
states had some form of old-age pension program by 1935. However, these
programs were generally inadequate and ineffective. Only about 3% of the
elderly were actually receiving benefits under these states plans, and the
average benefit amount was about 65 cents a day. There were many reasons for
the low participation in state-run pension systems. Many elderly were
reluctant to "go on welfare." Restrictive eligibility criteria kept many
poor seniors from qualifying. Some jurisdictions, while having state
programs on the books, failed to actually implement them. Many of the
state-passed pension laws provided for counties within the state to opt to
participate in the pension program. As a result, in 1929 of the six states
with operating pension laws on the books only 53 of the 264 counties
eligible to adopt a pension plan actually did so. After 1929, the States
began enacting laws without county options. By 1932 seventeen states had old
age pension laws, although none were in the south, and 87% of the money
available under these laws were expended in only three states (California,
Massachusetts and New York). State old-age pensions were also subject to the
vagaries of state politics. In Louisiana in 1937, for example, the Governor
issued an executive order cutting the old-age pensions of black citizens in
half during the months of June and July as an inducement for elderly black
pensioners to return to the cotton fields to help with the harvest. In many
places throughout the cotton-belt local officials simply closed the relief
offices during the harvest season."
11. State Old Age Pensions. According to the Social Security
Administration, 4 changes came to America at this time that deeply affected
a. The Industrial Revolution
b. The urbanization of America
c. The disappearance of the "extended" family
d. A marked increase in life expectancy
12. The Stock Market . Many people were lured into the stock market and then
came the crash. Investors were enticed with the promise of fast overnight
wealth but many did not have the finances to invest. The rich excelled; the
poor stayed poor. There were a lot of paper millionaires. When the market
crashed, we all have read or been told by our family the results. Millions
of people were unemployed, "hobos" wandered the countryside; elderly lived
in total dependence. Something had to change.
CHANGES IN THE AIR. PROPOSALS...
1. Share our Wealth: Enter Huey Long, Governor of Louisiana 1928-1932; U S
Senate 1930. He was called a "radical populist." "He wanted the government
to confiscate the wealth of the nation's rich and privileged. He called his
program Share Our Wealth. It called upon the federal government to guarantee
every family in the nation an annual income of $5,000, so they could have
the necessities of life, including a home, a job, a radio and an automobile.
He also proposed limiting private fortunes to $50 million, legacies to $5
million, and annual incomes to $1 million. Everyone over age 60 would
receive an old-age pension. His slogan was "Every Man A King." The Share Our
Wealth program immediately became a movement. Clubs were formed in every
state in the nation. By 1935 the movement claimed 27,000 local clubs with
7.7 million members.
2. The Townsend Old Age Revolving Plan. Named for Francis E. Townsend, a
doctor from Long Beach, California. In his plan, the government would
provide a pension of $200 per month to every citizen age 60 and older. The
pensions would be funded by a 2% national sales tax. Everyone could qualify
if the person was retired; they were not criminals and, the money had to
be spent within the U.S. by the pensioner within 30 days of receipt.
3. Fire & Brimstone - The Union for Social Justice. A radio minister named
Father Charles E. Coughlin was the originator of this plan. He mixed his
preaching with politics. He offended many people, including Roosevelt,
international bankers, communists, and labor unions and he preached against
all. He came up with a plan that included, among other things, a deliberate
inflation of the currency and the nationalization of all banks. He spoke so
strongly against these people and groups named above plus the Jewish
population and others, that the Catholic Church censured him.
4. End Poverty in California. Upton Sinclair was a famous novelist and
social crusader from California , He was also an avowed Socialist. The
Democratic party convinced him to run for governor in 1934 based on his
12-point plan to end poverty in California." He wanted the issuance of scrip
currency, the creation of large state-run bartering enterprises, a tax on
idle land and floating a large state bond for $300 million. Point 10 of the
plan was a proposal to give pensions of $50 a month to all needy persons
over 60 who had lived in California for at least three years. There was a
state pension plan in operation in California at the time, but its benefits
were very low, and the eligibility requirements were so severe that most
elderly Californians could not qualify. (This was true of many of the state
pension programs around the country.) Sinclair's pension proposal was very
popular because in one fell swoop it reduced the minimum age for pensions by
10 years, almost doubled their value, and eliminated restrictive eligibility
5. Ham and Eggs. Ham & Eggs was the idea of a "huckster" named Robert
It called for the state government (California) to issue special currency
called "scrip" that would be paid each week to every unemployed Californian
age 50 and older.
Enter stage left, a new president, a new policy called Social Security.
(c) Copyright 7 February 2001, Sandra K. Gorin, All Rights Reserved.
Col. Sandi Gorin, 205 Clements, Glasgow, KY 42141 (270) 651-9114
Member: Glasgow-Barren Co Chamber of Commerce
Merged Surname Registry
all counties in South Central KY:
==== KYRESEARCH Mailing List ====