Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 33/365 Getting Through The First Great Depression

On this day of rollercoaster stock market rides and financial Twilight Zones, I thought we could look back at the Last Great Depression (my new name for it, since it appears we might be having a Great Depression Sequel).

This lovely house belonged to Nathaniel P. Angle, who was born here in Rocky Mount on September 10, 1861, during the first year of the Civil War. He was married in 1891, and died in 1936, having spent his whole life here in Franklin County.

Nathaniel Angle built an industrial empire and became Rocky Mount's most prominent businessman, almost all due to his work to bring the railroad to town in 1895, opening up markets for tobacco and furniture in then-faraway Lynchburg and Danville. By 1898, Rocky Mount had 600 inhabitants, 100 buildings on lots, two hotels, two factories, a machine shop and 14 stores. Two years later, in 1900, Nathaniel Angle dominated Rocky Mount's manufacturing and commercial economy by developing a variety of businesses, a trend that continued through World War I, and until his death in 1936.

During the Great Depression, Angle's business endeavors were able to keep most of Rocky Mount employed making fertilizer, sewing overalls, processing tobacco and building furniture. Angle approached President Roosevelt directly, and secured major benefits from the Progressive New Deal programs, including the Works Progress Administration and the construction of the Rocky Mount Post Office, as well as the Federal Emergency Administration with improvements to the water and sewer system, plus a research article conducted by the Federal Writer's Project.

Following his death, Nathaniel Angle's businesses continued to grow and profit long after World War II. Today, downtown Rocky Mount still has a business district that bears the Angle name.

I shop regularly at Angle Hardware, famous for having anything you need, and a lot you didn't know you need. It puts Lowes's to shame. This block of Angle buildings are actually circa 1951 - the original buildings that housed the overall factory were destroyed in a huge fire during the winter of 1950.

Nathaniel Angle died in 1936, leaving Rocky Mount much better than he found it, a concept that appears to escape most people these days, whether they be on Wall Street or Main Street, or walking the halls of Congress.


  1. Well you said a mouthful, didn't you? But, a very interesting, well thought out mouthful -- I commend you. Leaving the world a better place -- great concept, if only we all did, huh? I'm trying to remember all the things my mom and grandfather told me about surviving the last depression -- never thought I'd have to worry about that.

  2. Another great history lesson - thanks. And, I'm so proud of you for posting :)

  3. Another wonderful lesson history. And you are so right...more people today could learn from the lessons of our forefathers.