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US History: The Great Depression

Updated on July 3, 2014

The WPA Mural

See "Depression Era Links" below.
See "Depression Era Links" below.

US Presidents 1921 - 1935


Warren G. Harding, 1921

Calvin Coolidge, 1923

  • The Teapot Dome Scandal, 1923
  • Scopes Money Trial, 1925 For a film consideration of this trial, see INHERIT THE WIND.
  • Charles Lindbergh flies solo across the Atlantic Ocean, 1927

Herbert Hoover, 1929

"A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."

  • Stock Market Crash of 1929

  • 1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway, US Senator from Arkansas, is the first woman elected to the Senate, being reelected in 1932 and 1938.
  • Amelia Earhart flies solo across the Atlantic Ocean, 1932

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933

20th Amendment, 1933. This is known as the LAME DUCK Amendment, which moved the date of the presidential inauguration from March 4 to January 20, because the six weeks in between these two dats were a delay that was considered a waste of time in which the old president could not act in any productive manner. The outgoing president was considered the "lame duck," unable to fly.

This US President (POTUS) also provided Americans with three important progams and agencies during his first term. In 1935, all of the following entitites came into being:

  • WPA, The Works Progess Administration. 1935. $4,880,000,000 offered jobs to the unemployed in public works such as bridge building.
  • Social Security Act, 1935
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation opened, 1935

Missing Flyer of the 1930s

Photos courtesy UIUC Depression Project

Fighting for work at the job bureau.
Fighting for work at the job bureau.

The Stock Market Crash of 1929

The Great Depression did not occur overnight, but was the climax of worldwide conditions that included North America, Europe, and other industrialized global regions. The American economy was depressed a full six months before the Ocober, 1929 crash leading to the Great Depression. Its advent was 1929, when the American stock market crashed and it lasted 10 years lasted until 1939. Some people wandered back and forth across the United States, living in tent camps and accepting any work they could find. 45% of US banks failed and other banks disallowed customers to withdraw funds because of the withdrawal stampede known as the "the run on the banks." This recurred on a smaller scale in the 1980s when savings and loans began freezing customer accounts in order to remain solvent under the Reagan Administration.

Other workers were more fortunate, because they worked for grocery chains such as Kroger and they were able to keep their jobs. One gentleman I knew worked in the very first Kroger store in Columbus Ohio and he said the depression of 1929-39 never hurt him. He said he was a hard worker, reduced waste and costs, and people had to eat, so he was safe. By the end of 1939, there were still at lesat 4,000,000 people wandering the country, attempting to survive.

During the 10 years of the depression, those workers that held their jobs were aksed to work harder. Companies sought to gaim as much productivity for as small a wage possible. Sometimes people died on the job. Labor Unions were formed, but as some workers went on strike, especially miners, government troops intervened and some strikers were killed.

There is a 30-minute "film short" form this era that is a precursor to music videos. It's title in "Men of Steel" and it portrays hardworking steel workers that practice an operetta about the company after work. Management seeks to stop them for singing, but when they learn that the operetta is in support of the steel company, it is allowed to be produced and the workers are rewarded.

A foreshadowing of support for labor unions is presented in the science fiction classic and cult film, Metropolis, in which workers fear replacement by robots and organize to hold their positions.

Transient camp, 1935.
Transient camp, 1935.

Farmer and Family, Oklahoma Dust Bowl, 1936

Dust Bowl Footage

WPA Programs

The YouTube video below is actual footage about the different projects developed by the WPA, or Works Progress Administration, in the State Ohio. The footage explains how the WPA programs enabled the state to recover after the Great Depression form 1929 - 1939. The video also includes footage of the horrid floods of 1936 in Ohio, the Toledo Naval Armory, Fort Recovery, and the Toledo Zoo.

Dust Bowl States

Erosion, dust storms, and failed crops.
Erosion, dust storms, and failed crops.

Creationism vs. Evolution in Schools

This case was dismissed in the 1920s and the nation as a whole is still discussing the foundations of it, along with signs of intelligent life off planet in the Universe.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That's wonderful, William! It was reallly stunning to have someone stand up for you and have the milk replaced, because you probably couln't get anymore. So the WPA created real jobs for good people that in turn helped others. That's the way things should work - without the rationing, though.

      I know milk and other supplies were rationed and in short supply, but most vividly from a mystery anthology of stories set along Route 66 during WWII and the 50s. One woman running a restaurant used home-produced honey instead of sugar in pies and the sherriff threated to arrest her for black market ration coupon dealings. Turns out he was stealing gasoline from the military base nearby.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      A really fine history of the Great Depression, Patty. I enjoyed this very much. I had a personal experience in 1940 when a WPA worker saved my bacon when I dropped a bottle of milk coming out of a store and he demanded that the store owner replace the broken bottle. He was sweeping the sidewalk outside the store at the time. I also got to see President Roosevelt in a motorcade in Yonkers, N.Y., in the '40s. Despite the Depression, and WW II, it was a great time to be alive. Thanks for the memories.