Depression and Recovery
Near Economic Collapse
Admist the lavish celebration at the Harris Mansion, Champaign County and the nation as a whole was beginning to experience the worst of the stock market crash and the impending Great Depression. Overall, the economic depression was slower to impact the heartland than the financial centers of the east, but on January 18, 1932, things began to fall apart locally. On that day, the First National Bank failed to open their doors. In just 15 days, $1,000,000 was withdrawn and on Saturday, January 16th, $150,000 was withdrawn in one day. For the next week, fear gripped the county and the depression finally hit home in Champaign-Urbana. Economic fears slightly calmed for a while, but returned a year later as the county struggled with uncertainty and instability.
Not all hope was lost in Champaign-Urbana, however, as the town slowly began to regain economic stability and recovery. With the First National Bank in Champaign The Harris Bank teetering on collapse, Urbana Mayor Reginald Harmon was proactive and ordered all businesses in the City closed for one week to allow fears to subside. Within two days, more than 90 percent of the depositors in Urbana had signed a petition promising not to withdrawal their funds, and the city was able to end the five-day holiday early. The Urbana Plan was based on mutual faith, and it worked with great success.” Confidence was restored.
Ready for Roosevelt
Finally, on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt was sworn into the Presidency and 36 hours later declared a week-long national bank holiday to calm the growing fears that potential New York Bank failures that would ripple across the country. The City of Urbana was ready! They produced $12,500 in “Urbana Money” in order to keep business operational during the bank holiday. The plan worked and commerce continued successfully in the city.