Soup line for the unemployed, Chicago
Social Security was one of several programs created in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to stimulate recovery during the Great Depression. Social Security provided retirement, unemployment, and death benefits, although various exclusions exempted nearly half the working population.
Sales of business machines faltered during the Depression. But IBM’s Tom Watson continued production nonetheless, confident of recovery. When the Social Security Act fueled demand for accounting machines, IBM was ready.
Watson’s optimistic policy let IBM weather the Depression better than nearly any other American firm, ready to expand when the economy revived.
Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act
Social Security was created to benefit the general population. It also turned out to be a boon to the emerging data processing industry. Many of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs were overturned by the courts, but Social Security—and its need for computers—has endured.View Artifact Detail
100% Club members celebrating
Club membership for meeting annual sales quota was not just a symbolic honor. Even during the Depression, inductees were treated to dinners and entertainment at the annual convention, and had access to swimming pools, golf, and social events at the IBM Country Club.View Artifact Detail