Photo Of The Day: Brooklyn Man ‘Stalked By Stork, I Want Work,’ 1937

Times haven’t changed but so much between 1937 and 2012. Some 75 years ago, the U.S. was enduring a marked recession that lasted 13 months and catapulted unemployment from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938. Thankfully, in 2012, the national unemployment rate isn’t quite as dire—but it remains stagnant for a fifth dismal year. On Friday June 15, the Labor Department reported that unemployment in May 2012 rose to 8.2% from 8.1% in April, the first increase in a year. In New York City, the May rate upticked from 9.5% to 9.7%.

That makes this vintage photograph from April 1937 all the more relevant. The 28-year-old unemployed Brooklyn resident is showing great ambition wearing a sandwich sign around his neck, proclaiming he’s “Stalked by Stork.” That, of course, means a baby is on the way. He’s looking for work in advertising, sales promotion, contract publicity and the like.

After digging down deep into the Internet, I found “A Woman’s New York” column written by Alice Hughes on April 13, 1937. She reports:

New York’s sidewalks are filled with ladies and gentlemen carrying signs. They may advertise a cheap beauty parlor or they may announce that the bearer, an American citizen, spent 10 months in a German prison and is very mad about it. But I met my favorite the other day. A young man was wearing a ‘sandwich’ which read, in part, ‘Stalked by Stork. I want work now!’ The gallant young man carried his sign and (walked) out of my life, but I certainly hope he got a job, don’t you? That ‘Stalked By Stork’ is a punch line if ever there was one.’

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  • Joanne Dillon

    The unemployment rates quoted for today reflect only those currently collecting unemployment, not those who can no longer collect but are still unemployed. Sadly, with downsizings occurring at almost all financial services companies — one of NYC’s major industries, that 9.7% figure is most likely much higher.

  • mark

    @Joanne Dillon Actually that is not how unemployment is calculated. As far as i know the figure is determined by a phone survey and has nothing to do with collecting benefits.

    I think you were trying to say the figure does not include people who are unemployed but have given up looking for a job.

  • Neil

    More than you will probably have time to read, unless, um, you’re unemployed:

  • Jon

    Hey Chuck, sorry to be picky but 2012 minus 1937 equals 75 years. Sorry I’ll be sixty five tomorrow born in 1947

  • Livingston

    Personally, I think today’s numbers are closer to the 1937/38 numbers. I know a lot of people who are not being “counted” (myself included, although luckily I just landed a new consulting gig). And of course, there is a lot of under-employment, which severely affects the tax coffers. Overall, a lousy economic time which will have repercussions for many yearts to come, psychologically as well as financially..

    That being said, I enjoy the photo and the “pluckiness” of the subject. I hope it had a happy ending.

  • She’s Crafty

    The sign is beautifully lettered. Maybe he got work as a graphic artist. Wouldn’t it be great if he turned up and identified himself? Almost as fun as this:

  • David on Middagh

    She’s Crafty, I think he’d be 103 years old. Anything’s possible, of course. Maybe he has descendants who recognize the photo?