Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 020/Allan F. Leigh

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Allan F. Leigh
Born190?
Hull, England
Died?
ResidenceMiami, Florida
NationalityEnglish
Occupationmaster of fishing vessel, fisherman, assistant ship's cook, carpenter's helper
Fisherman's boats, Key West


Overview[edit]

Allan F. Leigh was a British fishing fleet captain who immigrated to the United States and worked in Miami, Florida during the 1930s. All that is known of Leigh comes from his interview with the Federal Writers' Project on January 17, 1939 in Miami.[1]

Early Life[edit]

Leigh was born in Hull, England in the early 20th century to a fisherman and his wife. Leigh's exact date of birth is unknown. Leigh had seven younger siblings. The Leigh family, like many other working families at the time, struggled to support their children. When he was in 6th grade, Leigh’s father died when his ship sank. Leigh always wanted to be a ship's captain, so after his father's death, Leigh dropped out of school and began his career as an assistant cook on a fishing boat. Leigh's mother's death followed his father's death two years later, leaving Leigh's siblings orphaned.[2]

Adult Life[edit]

After three years as assistant cook, Leigh moved to London, where he was hired as cook on a ship bound for New York City. Shortly after arriving, Leigh met his future wife, Dora, the daughter of his landlady. Following a summer of fishing off Newfoundland, Leigh became a carpenter’s helper at a shipyard in New Jersey, where he would work for five years. The next summer, Leigh married Dora. In the summer of 1929, Leigh was granted U.S. citizenship and began employment as fleet captain with a Florida fleet. Leigh and Dora relocated to Miami, where they would have 3 children over the next four years. The Leigh family survived the downturn of the fishing industry in the early 1930s and bought their own home despite the recession. Leigh identified strongly as a Democrat, but claimed to have never accepted financial aid from the government.[3]

Social Issues[edit]

Economic Hardship in Working Class Miami[edit]

When Leigh moved to Florida in 1929, the Great Depression was just beginning. Florida saw a significant decrease in employment and income in the period from 1929 to 1932. By 1932, national per capita income had fallen to 70% of its 1929 level and Florida per capita income had dropped to 73% of the 1929 national level.[4] Low-skill occupations were affected by the depression more than most industries. The forestry, fishing, and agriculture sectors saw a reduction from representing 52% of Florida's labor force in 1900 to 25% in 1930.[5] Even before the Great Depression, Florida's economy was hit by a period of decreased tourism, which escalated in 1931 when the Florida East Coast and Seaboard Air Line Railroads declared bankruptcy.[6] In 1928, the Okeechobee hurricane struck Florida, killing over 2500 people according to the Red Cross. With the Okeechobee hurricane and decreased tourism, Miami suffered a $70,000,000 drop in total property value between 1926 and 1928.[7]

Democratic Party in 1930s Florida[edit]

Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933, after running on a platform of "Relief, Recovery, and Reform," in the 1932 election. Roosevelt sought to relieve current the financial distress of the American people, begin the economy's process of recovery from the depression, and reform economic and monetary policy to ensure future stability. Coined the New Deal, Roosevelt's domestic policy yielded an unprecedented expansion in the size of government social programs between 1933 and 1938.[8]

The Democratic Party received majority support in the Southern states with the rise of social welfare programs. Southerners were hit particularly hard by the Great Depression, so relief and recovery programs were generally favored in the region. Among the aid programs that assisted Floridians were the Federal Emergency Relief Administration which gave $500 million directly to relief across the country [9] and the Resettlement Administration which focused on relocating rural families that suffered during the depression. [10] The schism within the Democratic Party that saw many Southern Democrats leave the party did not begin until the 1948 election, when segregation in the South was seen as threatened by the party's politics.[11]

References[edit]

  1. Leigh, Allan F. Federal Writers' Project Papers, 1936-1940. #03709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 24 Sep. 2015.
  2. Leigh, Allan F. Federal Writers' Project Papers, 1936-1940. #03709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 24 Sep. 2015.
  3. Leigh, Allan F. Federal Writers' Project Papers, 1936-1940. #03709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 24 Sep. 2015.
  4. Stronge, William B. The Sunshine Economy: An Economic History of Florida since the Civil War. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida 2008.
  5. Wynne, Nick., and Joe Knetsch. Florida in the Great Depression: Desperation and Defiance. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012.
  6. Stuart, John A., and John F. Stack Jr. The New Deal in South Florida: Design, Policy, and Community Building, 1933-1940. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2008.
  7. Stuart, John A., and John F. Stack Jr. The New Deal in South Florida: Design, Policy, and Community Building, 1933-1940. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2008.
  8. Carol Berkin; et al. (2011). Making America, Volume 2: A History of the United States: Since 1865. Cengage Learning. pp. 629–32.
  9. David Edwin "Eddie" Harrell; et al. (2005). Unto A Good Land: A History Of The American People. Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 902–.
  10. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe, second edition, P.116-19
  11. Kari Frederickson, The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968 (2001) p. 238.