I think firearm usage for such type of intimidation is in inevitable, at least in the US if not elsewhere. I just wanted to know if there are any historical accounts of their usage. (By usage, I don't mean if someone fired a shot but if the farmers were just carrying it for intimidation/a show of strength)

I've done a search for "penny auction", "great depression", "firearm", "gun" on my university library, Google Scholar and general Google search. From a brief look at some of the results, I couldn't find any such instance. Although some instances of such penny auctions, for example page 92 makes it hard for me to believe that the farmers weren't carrying firearms.

penny auctions of the Great Depression


1 Answer 1


When farms were foreclosed in those days, they were foreclosed by the bank, and the bank immediately established some kind of auction to sell off the assets. And the Farm Holiday Association organized farmers to come en masse to these auctions and to bid one cent, two cents, three cents, three bids as a legal auction. They took with them various weapons of persuasion - pitchforks, hunting rifles, knives - and were able to compel the success of the penny auction so much so that auctions were often stopped in mid-stream before they could go any further. NPR.org (emphasis added)

"weapons of persuasion" might be the most useless term I've heard today.

Later, when the bankers would try to sell off the farms at public auctions, the previous owner and the rest of the community would show up... with guns. funny.co (the image doesn't show guns, but the text asserts that guns were present.)

Google image search might be helpful. I would be a lot more confident of the answer if I could find an image.

OP asks for a primary source - I think that is unlikely; intimidation of that magnitude is probably illegal, and I think it is very unlikely that anyone would have been charged for an action that the community so strongly supported.

  • I read the NPR transcript but I asked this question in search of a primary source to back that claim. Also, the latter is just a picture circulating on the internet. Dec 7, 2021 at 15:33
  • I agree that a primary source would be unlikely. I just asked because a historian was saying that on NPR, I thought it might have been covered in some newspapers etc. Dec 7, 2021 at 15:50
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    Seems like there ought to be some first-hand accounts available. It was less than 100 years ago, so there may even be a witness or two still alive.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 7, 2021 at 16:07
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    "Just a picture on the internet" is discussed in the Book Nebraska: An Illustrated History The caption mentions a folder at the Nebraska State Historical Society. You can find the photo in the online archives here. The interface allows a good deal of zoom-I see no weapons.
    – justCal
    Dec 9, 2021 at 17:29

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