Some of the most harrowing moments of the Great Depression came in the final weeks of President Herbert Hoover’s administration with the collapse of the nation’s banking system in February 1933. The imminent failure of two large banks in Michigan prompted that state’s governor to declare a “banking holiday” on February 14, setting off a panic that soon infected the entire nation. During the last two weeks of Hoover’s Presidency (Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office on March 4), more than $1.2 billion was taken out of the nation’s banks to be stored in mattresses, shoeboxes, and other hiding places believed to be more secure than the country’s financial institutions.

The fear and panic that gripped the nation reached all the way into the White House, where the President’s secretary, Theodore Joslin, admitted to the President that he had withdrawn money from a Washington, DC, bank that he feared was on the brink of failure; the President urged Joslin to re-deposit the money in another bank. Joslin’s diary entry recounts that conversation.