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The crash of the New York Stock Exchange on October 29, 1929,
known as Black Tuesday, was the primary event that ushered in the
longest and most severe economic recession experienced by the
Western world-the Great Depression. The first BOR minutes
subsequent to Black Tuesday were from the Annual Meeting in
Minneapolis, February 10, 1930. Ironically the Regents were
discussing the financial improvement that the College had made in
1929. By the next BOR meeting, May 4, 1930, Executive Secretary
Edward R. Loveland mentioned that the nationwide depression was
greatly affecting the income of College Fellows, and suggested that
a "lenient attitude" towards dues remittance should be ascribed to
for legitimate cases of financial difficulty.
The BOR minutes from December 31, 1931 discuss the first serious
financial emergency that the College had sustained. The Bank of
Pittsburgh National Association, which was given "custodianship" of
all College securities and savings accounts, had gone bankrupt. The
College was able to transfer its securities holdings (all in bonds)
totaling $60,500 ($851,000 in 2009 dollars) to a healthier
institution, the Colonial Trust Company of Pittsburgh.
The situation was not as smooth for the College's $37,000
(approximately $523,000 in 2009 dollars) in savings accounts which
were tied up in the Bank of Pittsburgh's collapse. Although $25,000
was paid back within two years, the College was not fully
reimbursed until 1940. While this event did not financially
hamstring the functioning of the College, it did serve as a lesson
for adopting a more conservative approach to both expenditures and
investments. Following the recommendations of Treasurer, Dr.
William D. Stroud, the BOR decided to centralize all financial
resources in Philadelphia institutions and selected the Girard
Trust Company of Philadelphia as an investment counselor for
College securities. By late 1932 stock values had dropped to about
20% of their previous value, and by 1933, 11,000 of the U.S.'s
25,000 banks had failed. These and other events resulted in a high
unemployment rate of nearly 30% by 1932. Despite this economic
climate, 1931 was a "financially sound year" for the College. ACP's
total assets were $109,000 (1.5 million in 2009 dollars) split
almost evenly between the Endowment Fund and the General Fund.
On April 4, 1932 the Executive Secretary reported that he had
distributed a letter to members suggesting if any "found it
impossible to pay his dues to promptly arrange through the
Executive Offices for temporary deferment, or payment in monthly
installments". By the November 13, 1932 BOR meeting, all membership
fees were reduced for Fellows and Associates. It was also stated
that greater "budget control" should be implemented, and that no
excess expenses should be approved. At Edward Loveland's request,
the BOR approved a temporary reduction in his salary and the award
amount for the John Phillips Memorial Prize.
Notwithstanding the dues reduction, the number of Fellows
delinquent in paying their dues increased dramatically throughout
1933-which resulted in a further dues reduction of 25% for the 1934
financial year. Although the College would finish the financial
year with a surplus, it was still defaulting on some of its
investment interest payments. As a result the Finance Committee
adopted a measure to invest the College's funds primarily in U.S.
Treasury Bonds until the economy recovered. The College's financial
situation improved at a pace seemingly ahead of the nation in
general. By 1936 the College's finances enabled the purchase of
Eisenlohr Mansion at 4200 Pine Street, Philadelphia. The Mansion,
along with repairs, construction and furnishings cost ACP $64,000
(approximately $985,000.000 in 2009 dollars). Despite financial
hurdles for members and difficulties with investments, the American
College of Physicians weathered the Great Depression; grew its
membership from 1,812 (in 1929) to 4,432 (in 1940); and increased
its total assets from $73,000 in 1928 to $246,000 by 1940.
-Prepared July 2009 by Eric Greenberg, based on materials
from the Archives of the American College of Physicians. CPI
Inflation Calculator can be found at http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl.