Hard Times: An Illustrated Oral History of the Great Depression


First published in 1970, Studs Terkel’s bestselling Hard Times has been called “a huge anthem in praise of the American spirit” (Saturday Review) and “an invaluable record” (The New York Times). With his trademark grace and compassion, Terkel evokes a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were destitute: politicians, businessmen, artists and writers, racketeers, speakeasy operators, strikers, impoverished farmers, people who were just kids, and those who ...

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Hard Times: An Illustrated Oral History of the Great Depression

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First published in 1970, Studs Terkel’s bestselling Hard Times has been called “a huge anthem in praise of the American spirit” (Saturday Review) and “an invaluable record” (The New York Times). With his trademark grace and compassion, Terkel evokes a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were destitute: politicians, businessmen, artists and writers, racketeers, speakeasy operators, strikers, impoverished farmers, people who were just kids, and those who remember losing a fortune.

Now, in a handsome new illustrated edition, a selection of Studs’s unforgettable interviews are complemented by images from another rich documentary trove of the Depression experience: Farm Security Administration photographs from the Library of Congress. Interspersed throughout the text of Hard Times, these breathtaking photographs by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Jack Delano, and others expand the human scope of the voices captured in the book, adding a new dimension to Terkel’s incomparable volume. Hard Times is the perfect introduction to Terkel’s work for new readers, as well as a beautiful new addition to any Terkel library.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595587039
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/9/2012
  • Edition description: Illustrate
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 379,476
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Studs Terkel (1912–2008) was the bestselling author of twelve books of oral history, including Hope Dies Last, Working, Race, and the Pulitzer Prize–winning “The Good War” (all available from The New Press). He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a Presidential National Humanities Medal and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.


As a young boy in the early 1920s, Louis "Studs" Terkel moved with his family from New York to Chicago, the sprawling, high-energy city he would call home for the rest of his life. His parents managed hotels catering to a varied and colorful clientele. Listening to the conversations of the tenants, young Terkel developed an early interest in people and their stories and a wide-ranging intellectual curiosity that would lead him in many directions.

He received his law degree from the University of Chicago, but never became a practicing attorney, Instead, he worked briefly in Washington, D.C., then returned to Chicago to take a job in FDR's Works Progress Administration acting and writing plays. In 1939, he married Ida Goldberg. The marriage endured for 60 years, until Ida's death in 1999. He joined the Army during WWII but was discharged because of perforated eardrums. Around this time, he embarked on a long, varied broadcasting career as a sportscaster, news commentator, and disc jockey. He ventured into TV in the 1950s with a relaxed, breezy variety show that helped define the Chicago School of Television, but returned to radio in 1952 with the a daily program of music and interviews that continued for the next 45 years. Among a constellation of memorable guests were Buster Keaton, Billie Holiday, James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, Gloria Steinem, and Bob Dylan.

Although his first book Giants of Jazz was published in 1957, Terkel's writing career began in earnest a decade later with Division Street, a book of transcribed interviews with Chicagoans from every walk of life. Hailed by The New Yorker as "totally absorbing," this groundbreaking study paved the way for bestselling oral histories of the Great Depression (Hard Times), the working class (Working), WWII (the Pulitzer Prize winner The Good War), and growing old in America (Coming of Age). He also penned several memoirs, including Talking to Myself (1977), My American Century (1997), and Touch and Go (2007).

Active and engaged to the end, Terkel died in October of 2008 at the age of 96. In its obituary, the Chicago Tribune reprinted this epigrammatic quote from the iconic writer: "My epitaph? My epitaph will be, 'Curiosity did not kill this cat."

Good To Know

Terkel's famous nickname derives from the fictional character Studs Lonigan from James T. Farrell's 1930s coming-of-age trilogy.

Famously outspoken, Terkel was blacklisted from television during the McCarthy era for his "incendiary" political views. Fortunately, he found a wider audience when he was hired by Chicago's fine arts radio station WFMT, where his program was a daily staple for 45 years.

Instantly recognizable by his attire, Terkel always wore a red-checked shirt, grey trousers, and a blue blazer.

He appeared in Eight Men Out, John Sayles's 1988 film about the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Louis "Studs" Terkel
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 16, 1912
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      October 31, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Chicago, IL

Table of Contents

Foreword, January-February 1986 xiii

A Personal Memoir (and parenthetical comment) 3

Book One

The March

Jim Sheridan 15

A. Everette McIntyre 20

Edward C. Schalk 21

The Song

E. Y. (Yip) Harburg 22

Hard Travelin'

Ed Paulsen 26

Pauline Kael 33

Frank Czerwonka 34

Kitty McCulloch 38

Dawn, Kitty's Daughter 39

Louis Banks 40

Peggy Terry and Her Mother, Mary Owsley 43

Kilo Konagamitsu 51

Cesar Chavez 53

Blackie Gold 57

The Big Money

William Benton 61

Arthur A. Robertson 67

Sidney J. Weinberg 73

John Hersch 75

Dr. David J. Rossman 79

God Bless' the Child

Daisy Singer 83

Robin Langston 84

Dynamite Garland 89

Slim Collier 93

Phyllis Lorimer 98

Bonnie Laboring Boy

Larry Van Dusen 102

Jose Yglesias 107

Hank Oettinger 111

E. D. Nixon 115

Gordon Baxter 121

Three Strikes

Bob Stinson The Sit-down 127

Mike Widman The Battle of Detroit, A Preface 133

Dr. Lewis Andreas Memorial Day, 1937 139

Book Two

High Life

Sally Rand 149

Tony Soma 156

Alec Wilder 160

Doc Graham 162

Sixteen Ton

Buddy Blankenship 173

Mary Owsley 177

Aaron Barkhan 179

The Farmer is the Man

Harry Terrell 185

Oscar Heline 190

Emil Loriks 196

Ruth Loriks, His Wife 200

Clyde T. Ellis 202

Editor and Publisher

Fred Sweet 206

W. D. (Don) Maxwell 209

Carey McWilliams 211

Book Three

Concerning the New Deal

Gardiner C. Means 219

Raymond Moley 222

C. B. (Beanie) Baldwin 228

James A. Farley 239

Burton K. Wheeler 243

David Kennedy 246

John Beecher 251

An Unreconstructed Populist

Congressman C. Wright Patman 259


Colonel Hamilton Fish 266

Scarlet Banners and Novenas

William L. Patterson 274

Max Schachtman 279

Dorothy Day 284

Fred Thompson 292

Saul Alinsky 296

The Doctor, Huey and Mr. Smith

George Murray 301

Senator Russell Long 303

Evelyn Finn 307

Gerald L. K. Smith 308

The Gentleman from Kansas

Alf M. Landon 319

Book Four

Merely Passing Through

Edward Burgess 329

Billy Green 330

Scoop Lankford 331

A Cable

Myrna Loy 334

Book Five

The Final and Liverly Arts

Hiram (Chub) Sherman 339

Neil Schaffner 346

Paul Draper 350

Knud Andersen 351

Little Brother Montgomery and Red Saunders 352

Jack Kirkland 355

Public Servant-The City

Elizabeth Wood 358

Mick Shufro 362

Elsa Ponselle 364

Sergeant Vincent Murray 367

Earl B. Dickerson 370

Evictions, Arrests and Other Running Sores

Mrs. Willye Jeffries 373

Harry Hartman 379

Max R. Naiman 385

Honor and Humiliation

Eileen Barth 390

Ward James 392

Howard Worthington 396

Horace Cayton 398

W. L. Gleason 403

Strive and Succeed

Harry Norgard 405

General Robert E. Wood 408

A. A. Fraser 411

Tom Sutton 413

Emma Tiller 416

W. Clement Stone 420

Ray Wax 425


Reed 432

The Raft

Virginia Durr 435

A Touch of Rue

Photo Credits 438

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