During the depression of the 1930’s, millions of Americans were unemployed, and there were numerous calls for welfare reforms. One of the most creative became known as the “Ham & Eggs” scheme. According to this plan, each week the California state government would issue special currency called “scrip” to every unemployed Californian age 50 and older. As expressed in the organization’s newsletter, “The National Ham and Eggs”:
Let’s stay away from politics
Regardless of who hollers
Let’s not be fooled by childish tricks
LET’S GET OUR THIRTY DOLLARS”
The Ham & Eggs movement had more than 300,000 members–and many more supporters. In 1938 the successful Democratic candidate for governor, Culbert Olsen, openly supported the plan and a proposition was placed on the ballot to adopt the Ham & Eggs plan as California state policy. The proposition was only narrowly defeated.
In the meantime, relief was at hand. The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. (The full text of the 1935 Act is here.) In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. You can read President Roosevelt’s statement at the bill signing ceremony here.