Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2016/Spring/Section 023/Otis Griffin

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Otis Griffin
BornOtis Griffin
1880
Kinston, North Carolina
OccupationCabinet Maker

Overview[edit]

Otis Griffin was a cabinet maker in New Bern during The Great Depression. He was interviewed by James Beaman as a part of the Federal writers project.

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Otis Griffin was born in 1880 in the small town of Kinston in North Carolina. He had an older brother named Frank and younger sister named Alice. His father was a successful merchant, and his mother’s family owned a farm. They lived a wealthy lifestyle because of his fathers success. They lived in a big house which Griffin inherited and later rented out to a preacher.

Adult Life[edit]

He moved to New Bern when he was seventeen. There he lived with his Brother and worked at a grocery store for five years. During that time in 1898 or 99 (he didn’t quite remember) he was engaged to a girl but the she died. After that happened he didn’t care to get married anymore. [1] He of working there so he returned home. At home he worked with his father for two years. He then got tired of that as well and decided to go to the South. Griffin went down south but that was before the big real estate boom so he found nothing interesting and went back to Kinston. During this time a great evangelist was at his high peek and Otis heard him preach several times. Although he never joined the church, Otis was converted and at this point in his life he was considering joining the ministry himself. He later moved back to New Bern and opened a shop because there was a planning mill down the street at the time. This was convenient for him because there he could get his materials. He got use to New Bern and the people around him, so he decided to stay even after the mill was burned down. Although he never lost his business he says "business really went downhill to the point where some weeks I wouldn’t sell a single thing."[2] He believed that the only thing that would help his business was a good year of crops and tobacco and cotton bringing good prices. Hi didn't think a banker or politician could help his business in any way.

Social Issues[edit]

During this time a big issue was banking. Tobacco was also big before the great depression but during the time of the great depression, the tobacco farmers were not doing to well.

Tobacco[edit]

Tobacco was discovered in 1492 by Columbus although he was not the first to know about it. It was given to him by Native Americans.[3] Before the great depression, tobacco farmers were all doing well and tobacco was very well know. It was mainly used in cigarettes. Many people including athletes smoked cigarettes and chewed tobacco. Everything with tobacco seemed to be going well, until cancer started becoming a bigger issue. In 1929 there was the first formal evidence linking tobacco to lung cancer was found.[4] In 1930 cigar businesses start to fail because prices fall so low. In 1933 the legislation created the agricultural adjustment act, which helped save tobacco farmers from ruin and set price support. That how ever did not stop the tobacco industry. By 1939 statistics showed that over 50% of American males were smoking.[5]

Banking[edit]

“As consumers lost buying power industrial production fell, businesses failed, and more workers lost their jobs.” [6] Found within the failing businesses was now Griffins' business as well. This happened because “On October 24, 1929, the stock market bubble finally burst, as investors began dumping shares en masse.”[7] In the early 1930's banks began to fail rapidly because of the economic depression that was going on. The banks started to struggle with loaning out money.[8] The banks failing was a big part of the great depression. In a way it was fueling the situation the U.S. was in. This major economic issue caused his business to go downhill. The great depression was going on during this time and “Thousands of banks and businesses had failed.”[9]

References[edit]

  1. Interview of Otis Griffin by James S Beaman, May 17, 1939, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 1936-1940, SHC Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  2. Interview of Otis Griffin by James S Beaman, May 17, 1939, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 1936-1940, SHC Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  3. "Tobacco.org." No Title. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://archive.tobacco.org/History/Tobacco_History.html.
  4. "Tobacco.org." No Title. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://archive.tobacco.org/History/Tobacco_History.html.
  5. "Tobacco.org." No Title. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://archive.tobacco.org/History/Tobacco_History.html.
  6. Taylor, Nick. "The Great Depression." Great Depression (1930's) News. Accessed March 09, 2016. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/g/great_depression_1930s/index.html.
  7. "The Great Depression." History.com. Accessed March 09, 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/great-depression.
  8. "Bank Failures during the 1930s Great Depression." Bank Failures during the 1930s Great Depression. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/money_08.html.
  9. Taylor, Nick. "The Great Depression." Great Depression (1930's) News. Accessed March 09, 2016. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/g/great_depression_1930s/index.html.