Marriage in Hard Times

“The year 1932, now fast drawing to its close, may have seen a lot of big events go down in the history of the world,” said the Kearney Daily Hub on December 31, 1932. “But it certainly did not add any record number of ‘big events’ in the lives of private individuals.” The paper noted that despite the fact that 1932 was a leap year, once supposed to increase the number of marriages, the number of marriage licenses issued in Buffalo County showed a sizeable decrease.

“Even June,” said the Hub,”the big month of matrimonial ventures, recorded only twenty-four licenses issued this summer. Last June thirty-three had been obtained. The total for the year 1931 had reached only 211-in itself a decrease over the previous figures-but for 1932, only 172 had been issued by closing hours yesterday. . . . February, the true ‘leap year’ month, did exceed by a round half-dozen the marriage records for the same month in 1931. But the year as a whole failed to sustain whatever reputation leap year is supposed to have. From April until the present month in this year, the number of licenses issued for each thirty-day period failed to surpass the somewhat low totals for 1931.”

“–It must be the depression,’ said the county court clerk. “The marriage business fell off quite a bit in ’31-and quite a bit more in ’32. And I can’t think of any other reason, except lack of money.”

This state of affairs changed with the brightening economic picture, as the Hub noted on January 17, 1934. It said: “Dan Cupid, a gentleman who saw his affairs take the toboggan during the years of ‘depression’ has felt the effects of improvement, according to a survey of reports of issuance of marriage licensing in representative [Nebraska] counties. A majority of the counties filing early reports have disclosed a marked increase in the number of marriage licenses issued during 1933, as compared to 1932 and 1931. Several others showed an increase for the last quarter of the year if not for the year as a whole.”

Buffalo County officials, in commenting on the increased activity in the license bureau, agreed that the cause was “economic improvement and increased optimism which gave courage to those who would test the age-old theory that two can live as cheaply as one.”

Depressed economic conditions in 1931 and 1932 discouraged marriage. The above photo depicts a FERA nurse visiting a farm family during the Depression. NSHS RG4290.PH0-1142

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