The Great Depression of the 1930s affected virtually every New Yorker. Middle-class families were forced to live paycheck to paycheck, heads of working-class families struggled to find work and pay the bills, and the already poor often fell into destitution and homelessness. Widespread suffering during the Depression, however, led to local and national reforms that created a welfare state, providing a safety net for future generations of Americans.
In 1938—in the midst of the Great Depression—Mary Bergstrom made a difficult decision. She would have to give up her nine-month-old child so that others could care for him. Earlier that year, Mary had married Carl Bergstrom, the boy’s father. With unemployment increasing once again, neither Carl nor Mary could find full-time work.
This map shows the public housing and urban renewal projects developed by the city from the 1930s through the 1960s. These projects transformed the landscape of New York City and contributed to a movement of poor families within the city. Map courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection.Explore the Map