Wandering Man, Part 2

Frank McCune allegedly returned home to America in 1919 after serving overseas as a World War I soldier. I haven’t found him in the 1920 U.S. census databases on Ancestry or Family Search. There are a lot of Frank McCunes, but not one who seems to be ours. He’s also not listed in the Columbus City Directories for 1921, 1923, 1925, 1927, and 1931. I’m assuming he was mostly on the road during the 1920s.

He does show up in the 1928 Columbus City Directory renting a home on 14th St. and is employed as a ‘hill hd[1].’ I don’t know what that job was unless it was a mill position. This was right before the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression. Economic conditions were already bad in Georgia because the boll weevil had wiped out the cotton crop, but now things became really bad.

According to the website United States History, unemployment rose from 1.5 million in 1929 to almost 13 million in 1933 across our country.  A quarter of the labor force was unemployed[2]. An article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia online states that the textile and iron foundries in Columbus contributed to the state’s position as an industrial leader, but manufacturers still had to lay off workers and decrease hours and wages. A 1938 federal report on economic conditions in the South stated that of the employed workers in the South more than half could not afford an adequate diet and that among white non-relief families with incomes less than $500, one-third did not have indoor running water and none had gas or electricity for indoor cooking[3].  Thousands and thousands of men and women, even teenagers and girls and women disguised as males, hopped on trains for free rides in search of employment.

Hoboes, Chicago, 1929
Hoboes, Chicago, 1929 (Three Hoboes, Chicago, 1929, public domain, Wikimedia Commons, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/ThreeHobosChicago1929.jpg: accessed 30 Mar 2016).

The New Deal introduced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 boosted the American economy by providing help with basic necessities, like food and shelter, and increasing jobs and construction building, but the depression didn’t fully end until the country entered WWII in 1941. All American families were impacted by the Great Depression and the poorer Southern states fared worse. Frank McCune was just one of many, many roaming men during the Depression era of the 1930s and 1940s.

I haven’t found Frank in the 1930 U.S. census anywhere. But if you don’t have an address to call home and live in rail cars and hobo jungles, that wouldn’t be unusual. The census takers didn’t find him which makes it even harder for us to find him now. What happened to Frank?


Next – Going full circle

I welcome your comments!

[1] Polk, R. L. Compiler, Columbus, Georgia, City Directory, 1928, 374, database image, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 10 Oct 2015).

[2] “Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression,” United States HIstory, (http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1528.html: accessed 10 March 2016)

[3] Zainaldin, Jamil S, “Great Depression,” New Georgia Encyclopedia (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/great-depression :accessed 29 March 2016).

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