By Jordan Lusink, Marketing Projects Manager
Annie takes place in 1933 in The Big Apple—New York City! While you might know a bit about New York already, here are a few other things to know about Annie’s world.
“Little Orphan Annie”
The musical Annie is based on a daily newspaper comic strip that premiered in 1924, itself based on an 1885 poem (“Little Orphan Annie”). “Little Orphan Annie” was one of the first adventure comic strips to focus on the stories of a young girl, chronicling the tales of Annie, her faithful dog Sandy, her benefactor Oliver Warbucks, and many other friends. This comic strip is also the origin of Annie’s classic red dress.
The Great Depression
When we meet Annie, the United States is squarely in the midst of the Great Depression. Beginning with a stock market crash that devastated financial systems in 1929 and continuing until the start of World War II in 1939, the United States and, in fact, the world, was in crisis: Soup kitchen lines were neverending; the number of homeless Americans was steadily rising; farmers couldn’t afford to harvest their crops; and unemployment, which averaged 25% nationally, reached 90% in some cities. Although the Depression didn’t technically end until 1939, things slowly began to get better in 1933, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected and enacted his New Deal.
President Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover, who had previously been the Commerce Secretary, was not even a year into his presidency in the fall of 1929 when the stock market crashed. Though he ran for reelection in 1932, it’s no surprise that the man many blamed for the Depression lost the election to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After his loss, he advocated against FDR’s New Deal policies.
One of the songs in this show takes place in a “Hooverville” and is a sarcastic thank you to President Hoover for their situation. Hoovervilles were shantytowns built by the homeless. Though many large cities had municipal housing for the homeless prior to it, during the Depression, there simply wasn’t enough room to keep up with the growing homeless population. Here in Seattle, we had eight Hoovervilles, the largest of which was on the tidal flats near the Port and survived until 1941.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (“FDR”)
You may recognize FDR as the president whom Annie goes to the White House to meet. FDR was from a wealthy and political family (President Theodore Roosevelt was his fifth cousin), so it seemed natural that he would get into politics. He was elected to the presidency a record four times! He served from 1933 (when he won the election in a landslide against Hoover) until his death in 1945. When Annie meets FDR, he is just finishing up his first year in office and is in the midst of implementing his New Deal. Fun fact: He is the reason why we have presidential term limits and why we consider the first 100 days of a presidency a benchmark. He coined the term in a radio address and worked to make his first 100 days the most significant.
The New Deal
Arguably the most formative initiative in the history of our country, FDR’s “New Deal” was a series of programs and projects that were implemented as a means of attempting to pull the US out of the Depression. Social Security, a precursor to FEMA, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the creation of the FDIC, passage of the Glass-Steagall Act, the SEC, the FCC—all of these were New Deal programs. In Washington State, for example, the WPA is responsible for building the Grand Coulee Dam; the reservoir behind it is known as Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake. The most popular New Deal program, and Roosevelt’s favorite, was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which hired 250,000 young men to work on local rural projects. Wouldn’t we all like to be “getting a New Deal for Christmas”?