The weather today outside matches the weather that farmers in Wood County endured when they traveled to Wally Kramp’s farm on February 26, 1933. There some 700-800 farmers stood out in the cold and staged a “penny auction” to save Kramp from foreclosure for an $800 loan he could not repay. They bid pennies on each item, then returned everything to Kramp on a 99-year lease. They also passed the hat, and even the auctioneers toss in their take from the sale. Kramp, who had experienced the severe drop in agricultural prices all American farmers experienced in the 1920s and 1930s, had also been hospitalized with appendicitis.
The penny auction was a form of protest theater advocated by the Farm Holiday Movement in the dark days before Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed the presidency. Penny auctions proved effective in Northwest Ohio. Several loan companies issued moratoriums on loans, and Governor George White called for a statewide policy. I’m still working on this chapter, so stay tuned for more!
For an image of the penny auction at Wallace Kramp’s farm, check out the terrific digital archive, Ohio Memory, here.