Great Depression

Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother shows poor children in California with their 32-year-old mother, Florence Owens Thompson. She said "that they had been living on frozen vegetables from ... fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that ... tent with her children ... around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me.

The Great Depression was the great economic crisis that started after the U.S. stock market crash in 1929. The prices on the Wall Street stock market fell a lot from October 24 to October 29, 1929. Many people lost their jobs. By 1932, 25–30% of people lost their jobs. They became homeless and poor. This ended the wealth of the Roaring Twenties. Many people think that the Great Depression started on Tuesday, October 29, but economists think Black Tuesday was just one of the causes.

From 1929-1932, the depression worsened. Many suspect that increased taxes on American citizens and the increased tariffs (taxes on countries which trade with the United States) worsened it. Economist Milton Friedman said that the Great Depression was worsened because the Federal Reserve printed out less money than usual.

When the Great Depression started, Herbert Hoover was the president of the United States, and as a result, he was blamed for it. People voted for a new president in 1932. His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt got the government to pass many new laws and programs to help people who were hurt by the Great Depression. These programs were called the New Deal.

One of these programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC. The CCC put many young men to work in the outdoors. The men were paid thirty dollars a month, of which twenty five dollars was sent home to support their families, to work, and they got free food and shelter. Another program was called Social Security. Social Security gave old people a small income so they had money for things they needed. The Great Depression was really bad, but with everyone's help, it would get better. Between 1939 and 1944, more people had jobs again because of World War II, and the Great Depression came to an end.


An important reason for the Great Depression was the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles made the United States very rich. Britain and France both gave large amounts of money to the U.S., and Germany had to pay a great amount of money for the damage they had done in World War I. However, it was this wealth that began the stock market crash.

Even after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, people still had hope. John D. Rockefeller said that "These are days when many are discouraged. In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come and gone. Prosperity (wealth) has always returned (come back) and will again." But soon the bad effects of the depression grew worse and worse. People lost jobs, money, and homes. There were reports that in Germany and the United States, there was great hunger, disease, and even starvation. Nations used protectionism more than in recent decades. This diminished international trade.

The Dust Bowl

Farmers were usually safe from the severe effects of previous depressions because they could at least feed themselves. During the Great Depression, the Great Plains were also hit hard with a drought and dust storms, this was called the Dust Bowl.

Years of overgrazing combined with drought caused the grass to disappear. With topsoil exposed, high winds picked up the loose dirt and carried it over long distances. The dust storms destroyed crops, leaving farmers without food or something to sell.

Small farmers were hit especially hard. Even before the dust storms hit, the invention of the tractor drastically cut the need for manpower on farms. These small farmers were usually already in debt, borrowing money for seed and paying it back when their crops came in. When the dust storms damaged the crops, not only could the small farmer not feed himself and his family, he could not pay back his debt. Banks would then foreclose on the mortgage and the farmer's family would be homeless, unemployed and poor.

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