The Great Depression and Dust Bowl

Kamryn Hoy, Faith Reising, Emily Seever, and Emma Kern

Photo Essay

"In the Pennsylvania coal fields, three or four families crowded together in one-room shacks and lived on wild weeds. In Arkansas, families were found inhabiting caves. In Oakland, California, whole families lived in sewer pipes."

Many Families were evicted from their homes because they could not pay their rent

"Conflicts arose as married women and single women competed for the scarce jobs that were available. The women in this picket line hold signs that read: "Public Works Jobs for Unemployed Single Women"; "We DemandJobs"; "Association of Unemployed Single Women."'

Dust storm in Rolla, Kansas 1935,%20Kansas%201935

"April 14, 1935, dawned clear across the plains. After weeks of dust storms, one near the end of March destroying five million acres of wheat, people grateful to see the sun went outside to do chores, go to church, or to picnic and sun themselves under the blue skies. In mid-afternoon, the temperature dropped and birds began chattering nervously. Suddenly, a huge black cloud appeared on the horizon, approaching fast."

“The impact is like a shovelful of fine sand flung against the face,” Avis D. Carlson wrote in a New Republic article. “People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk…. The nightmare is deepest during the storms. But on the occasional bright day and the usual gray day we cannot shake from it. We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions. It is becoming Real. The poetic uplift of spring fades into a phantom of the storied past. The nightmare is becoming life.”

"Some people established shanty towns, makeshift living arrangements often next to river or streams. These communities were also know as squatter camps, Hobo Jungles, or Hoovervilles and most did not have electricity or sanitation."
Year: 1936 -

"Two-fifths of all farmers worked on land that they did not own. Often, these sharecroppers owed more than they made, and they slipped deeper and deeper into debt. As a result, many found themselves evicted from their land. By 1939, a million Dust Bowl refugees and other tenant farmers left the Plains."

One of the many "Hoovervilles"

Although there were many problems during the hard times of the depression it brought many families closer one quote from then says, "Many a family has lost its automobile and found its soul."

Charts and graphs

Oral histories

People who lived through the Great Depression in Pennsylvania share their struggles to survive during those difficult years. The first is a man named Hugh Manchester. He shares about the banks not failing and not even being able to pay their own bills. He says that people were having target practice because they believed that people would start raging and causing mass destruction. The second is a man who explains what is was like living in his father's grocery store. He says that people would bring in slips allowing them to purchase a certain amount of a product, then the head of the operation would pay real money for the products. The third is a woman who lost her childhood savings when the banks failed. The fourth interview was with 2 men named Glenn Probst, and Harry Walsh, and a woman named gloria ann myers and their memories of the work. They claim that the hours were cut drastically, and people couldn’t get jobs anywhere. The video then goes on and has many people talk about them trying to find food, them going without, and mostly the older siblings sacrificing for their younger brothers and sisters. The video is concluded with the interviewers asking about roosevelt. The interviewees had high hopes for FDR and continue to praise and thank him.

“Fred Bell was born in 1927 in Atlanta, georgia. In this interview he talks about his experiences growing up in the South during the Great Depression. He recalls the men standing on street corners in their old military uniforms, selling apples, poppies, and pencils. Though many around him were poverty stricken, Dr. Bell’s family did fairly well at the time; they even had enough money to employ a full time maid and a part time gardener. He tells of how some of the children were from well-off families living in the Druid Hills section of Atlanta, but others came from the orphanage, and others came from houses made of cardboard boxes. Dr. Bell’s father worked for a company based in New York that made it through the rough economy. His uncle, however, worked for Tennessee Iron & Coal, which closed its mill at the time, leaving all of their employees jobless. Dr. Bell also tells stories of Atlantans helping others during this rough period. He recalls that the owners of Crawford-Long Hospital, Drs. Davis and Fisher, did much to help the Atlanta community. Dr. Fisher brought vegetables from his own garden to provide food for the hospital and Dr. Davis opened a wing of the hospital so that out-of-work nurses would have a place to live for free. Dr. Bell’s interview gives the listener a good idea of how hard life was during the 1930s. He credits Franklin Roosevelt and World War II with pulling the country out of those hard times.”


Primary sources



Hoover summary

When the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover had just taken office. The country was just beginning a national crisis unlike anything it had dealt with before. Although the Great Depression had been caused by the piling up of events over the decade of the twenties, Hoover was blamed for causing the Depression.

When the stock market crashed, Hoover’s presidency had only just started. Once the economy had started its downward spiral, the nation blamed Hoover for causing the hardships that they now faced. Throughout Hoover’s presidency, terms such as “Hooverisms” were used to continue pushing blame to the President. Hoovervilles were towns that had been destroyed by the Depression, and the people that lived there were extremely poor and in debt. Hoover blankets were newspapers used as blankets by people that had to sleep and live outside.

Hoover did not believe in expanding the federal government. He believed that the government should promote individual freedoms. However, by the time that the next Presidential election came again, Hoover was not reelected. Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the election by a landslide. Because people thought that Hoover had caused the Depression they wanted a new President in office because they believed that his policies would not help the United States recover.

In the beginning of his Presidency, Hoover announced that he would keep the Federal budget balanced and would cut taxes and public works spending. These were some of the more immediate things that Hoover did to try and stop the Depression from affecting the nation any farther.

Because people had no one to blame for the Great Depression once it had started, President Hoover took all the blame from the people even though he had little to do with the economic crash. His policies had changed over the four years of his presidency, but they were not enough to make too big of an effect on the economy. Herbert Hoover was considered a failed President at the time, but his actions during the time helped the Depression from lingering longer.


Due to the excessive amount of plowing and dry conditions on the plains, plants were extremely difficult to grow. Many farmers invested in new pieces of technology in order to plow the plains and gain money more efficiently. When a lot of farmers did this at once, the plains grew more and more susceptible to dust storms and erosion. The dust storms became progressively more violent as the drought went on. Soon the storms became so terrible, that people were forced to evacuate their homes, or face the horrifying conditions that the dust storms produced. In the year of 1935, 850 million tons of topsoil was removed from the earth.

America was thriving with all of the new ideas that had been put into place, but soon that came to an end when the depression started. Living conditions became extremely poor, and many farmers had to leave their homes. The unemployment rate skyrocketed and FDR gave people some peace of mind with new acts that he put into place.

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