Wednesday 29 August 2012

Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Great Depression

During the Great Depression, unemployment in the United States hit 25% and in some cities it was as high as 50% (Cleveland, Ohio) and 80% (Toledo, Ohio).  Between the years 1930 and 1935, 750,000 farms were lost to bankruptcy.  Here are ten facts about the Dirty Thirties.

Photo of Hooverville in Washington D.C. courtesy

1.  A new vocabulary emerged during the Great Depression named after President Herbert Hoover:

-Hoovervilles were shantytowns where destitute families lived
-Hoover Stew was soup served as soup kitchens
-Hoover Blankets were newspapers used to keep homeless people warm
-Hooever Hogs were jackrabbits that people killed to eat
-Hoover Wagons were broken down cars towed by mules

2.  Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, was the day the Stock Market crashed.  A loss of $14 billion was reported for the day; a loss of $30 billion for the week was reported.  The latter figure was ten times the amount of the annual federal budget.

3.  A rash of suicides took place after the Stock Market crash in New York City's financial district.  The proprietor of one hotel started asking guests if they wanted a room for sleeping or for jumping.

4.  Dorothea Lange's (1895-1965) famous photographs of migrant workers in California became a pictorial record of the Great Depression.

5.  In order to prevent the starvation of his flock of 3000 sheep, an American farmer slit their throats and threw them in a canyon.

6.  Monopoly became popular when it first appeared in 1935; it was the only means of getting rich for most Americans.

7.  Homeless men took to riding the rails, including some who would later become famous:

-William O. Douglas (1898-1980) a Supreme Court judge
-Louis L'Amour, a novelist (1908-1988)
-Woodie Guthrie, a singer (1912-1967)

8.  The chain letter first appeared in 1935, likely a get rich quick scheme.  The post office had to hire more workers to handle the volume of letters.

9.  Between 1939 and 1935, a record 70 to 80 million moviegoers went to the theatre.  Movies appearing in the 1930's included King Kong, Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.

10.  The mountain communities of Appalachia were particularly hard hit:  many survived on dandelions and blackberries.  Some children were so hungry they started to chew on their own hands.


Dorothea Lange's photograph of migrant children courtesy

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