30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression

Trista - December 22, 2018

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Herbert Hoover in the Oval Office with Ted Joslin in 1932. Government Archive/Wikimedia Commons.

29. You Probably Loathed Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover was the president when the stock market crashed in 1929. In March 1930, he declared that the worst of the depression had passed. In his honor, people who had lost their homes and had to live in shanty towns called their dilapidated dwellings “Hoovervilles.”

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Men eating bread and soup in a breadline. Bettmann/CORBIS/History.

28. You Ate Hoover Stew

In addition to living in a Hooverville, you might have eaten Hoover stew, a name given to the soup that was distributed at the food kitchens that popped up across the country. Besides eating Hoover stew or a Hoover hog, a jack rabbit might have been a tasty meal. Nevertheless, you probably used a Hoover blanket, a newspaper that would not keep you warm.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Crowd gathering at the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street after the 1929 crash. US Government/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

27. Your Family Lost All the Savings

When Wall Street crashed on October 29, 1929, the stock market lost $14 billion in just one day. Over that week, it lost a total of $30 billion. Millions of people lost all of their life savings and literally overnight went from wealth and prosperity to abject poverty. The Great Depression affected everyone; that is, rich people became poor, and those not-so-wealthy equally lost what little they did have left.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers in California, centering on Florence Owens Thompson, age 32, a mother of seven children, in Nipomo, California, March 1936. Dorothea Lange/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

26. Someone You Knew Committed Suicide

Immediately following the stock market crash, there were so many suicides in New York’s financial district that reportedly, one hotel clerk would ask patrons if they needed a room for sleeping or jumping. All across the country, suicide rates skyrocketed as people lost their homes, farms, jobs, savings, everything.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Living conditions for migrant potato pickers. Tulelake, Siskiyou County, California, 1939. Dorothea Lange/History In Photos.

25. You May Have Destroyed All Assets to Prevent Future Loss

One sheep farmer reportedly had 3,000 sheep that he realized he would not make any profit off of at market. With no money to procure food for them, he decided that instead of watching them starve, he would kill them. He slit the throats of all 3,000 of his sheep and threw their carcasses into a canyon.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Men wearing signs asking for jobs during the Great Depression. Social Studies Literacy Technology.

24. You Lost Your Job

At the height of the Great Depression, from 1933-34, the unemployment rate soared above 25%. An additional 25% of those who were lucky enough to retain their jobs were only able to work part-time hours. With no money in circulation, farmers were no longer able to sell their goods.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
An impoverished American family living in a shanty in Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, in 1936. Dorothea Lange/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

23. Your Kids Had Rickets

As many as 50% of children who grew up during the Great Depression did not have enough food to eat, healthcare, or basic shelter. Many of them developed rickets, a preventable disease caused by malnutrition; today, rickets is rarely seen outside of the world’s poorest countries.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Crowd at New York’s American Union Bank during a bank run early in the Great Depression. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

22. You Learned to Cooperate With Others

When Walt Disney produced “The Three Little Pigs” in 1933, when the Depression was at its worst, people saw it as symbolic of the fact that they had to learn to work together in order to survive. The Big Bad Wolf symbolized the Depression.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
The opening night of the film Gone With the Wind. Pinterest.

21. You Probably Went to the Movies

During the Roaring Twenties, society’s affluent partied as if they had an unlimited supply of money (just think of scenes from The Great Gatsby). During the Great Depression, though, people began going to the movies as a source of cheap entertainment. The film The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind became huge hits during the Great Depression.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Family who traveled by freight train. Washington, Toppenish, Yakima Valley, 1939. Dorothea Lange/History In Photos.

20. You Rode on Railway Cars

Hobos were migrant workers who frequently did not have the money or means to find transportation from one place to the next. As such, they often jumped cars on the railroad. Tens of thousands of people were injured or killed in accidents related to jumping cars.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Power farming displaces tenants from the land in the western dry cotton area. Childress County, Texas, 1938. Dorothea Lange/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

19. Your Farm Might Have Been Sold at a Penny Auction

When a farmer was in distress, neighbors often stepped in by auctioning the farm off at a meager rate, usually buying it themselves for a penny or just a few cents. That way, the farmer could quickly obtain the farm back. At least, that was the plan.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
A grandmother from Oklahoma whom worked in the California pea fields, 1939. Dorothea Lange/History In Photos.

18. Maybe You Received a Chain Letter

Chain letters first began during the Great Depression among people who were hoping to get rich quickly; the schemes were what we would today call a pyramid scheme. You can probably thank your grandparents for the annoying spam mail that you get today that promises the same thing.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Bonnie and Clyde in March 1933 in a photo found by police at an abandoned hideout.
Photo by one of the Barrow gang. US Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

17. Perhaps You Tried to Crime

The big gangs that had dominated cities during the Roaring Twenties had no trouble recruiting new people who were disaffected by the woes of the Great Depression. Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Ma Barker and her Boys all turned to crime during this period. They were often seen as Robin Hood-type figures.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Roosevelt Signs The Social Security Act: President Roosevelt signs Social Security Act, at approximately 3:30 pm EST on 14 August 1935. Standing with Roosevelt are Rep. Robert Doughton (D-NC); unknown person in shadow; Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY); Rep. John Dingell (D-MI); Rep. Joshua Twing Brooks (D-PA); the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins; Sen. Pat Harrison (D-MS); and Rep. David Lewis (D-MD). Social Security Online/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

16. You Probably Voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR ran against the despised Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election, promising a “New Deal” for the American people. He won by a landslide, and his New Deal programs helped bring the country out of the Depression by providing jobs, incentives, and other government programs.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Notorious gangster Al Capone attempts to help unemployed men with his soup kitchen “Big Al’s Kitchen for the Needy.” The kitchen provides three meals a day consisting of soup with meat, bread, coffee, and doughnuts, feeding about 3,500 people daily at a cost of $300 per day. November 16, 1930, Chicago, Illinois. Bettmann/CORBIS/The Sleuth Journal.

15. You Might Have Gotten a Government Job

As part of the New Deal, people who had reached a certain age could claim social security benefits so that they could retire and a younger person take their jobs. New government jobs involved things like building roads and helping to develop the country’s infrastructure.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Civilian Conservation Corps workers constructing road in 1933. Over 3 million unemployed young men were taken out of the cities and placed into over 2,600 work camps managed by the CCC.
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

14. Alternatively, You May Have Moved to Alaska

Many, many families lost their farms during the Great Depression. Recognizing the importance of agriculture and seeing how much fertile land was available in the territory of Alaska, part of FDR’s New Deal allowed hundreds of families to relocate to Alaska, where they could begin new farms.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
A young boy holding a sign during the Great Depression. Thing Link.

13. Your Kids Probably Didn’t Go To School

Millions of children had to leave school during the 1930s, either because the schools themselves closed or because their families needed them to earn an income. Thousands of schools began operating with reduced hours. As many as 200,000 children were jumping railroad cars.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
A family in Arkansas during the Great Depression in 1935. The Great Depression Photos.

12. Maybe You Sold Apples

Instead of begging, which was seen as shameful and degrading, many people in urban areas resorted to selling apples on the street corners to try to earn a few pennies each day. In New York City alone, there were as many as 6,000 apple sellers.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
A family walking down the street during the Great Depression. Depressing Blog.

11. You Might Have Traveled Route 66

In John Steinbeck’s classic novel about life during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath, the family lost the farm and then headed to California, looking for work. The story was based on real-life Okies, migrants who had lost their farms – notably due to the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma and the economic pressures of the Depression – and traveled to California.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Buried machinery in barn lot in Dallas, South Dakota, United States during the Dust Bowl, an agricultural, ecological, and economic disaster in the Great Plains region of North America in 1936. United States Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

10. Some People Remained Dirt Poor

A special “Indian New Deal” was enacted to try to help Native Americans living on reservations, but for the most part, they remained desperately poor. One long-lasting benefit of the reforms, though, was that they were granted greater tribal autonomy through a reversal of the 1887 Dawes Severality Act.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
The Single Men’s Unemployed Association parading to Bathurst Street United Church. Toronto, Canada. Library and Archives of Canada/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

9. You Probably Blamed Your Problems on Others

Women who had entered the workforce faced discrimination, as they were often seen as taking jobs away from able-bodied men. Mexicans, who had long been working in the United States as farmers, were blamed for taking jobs away from Americans. Not much has changed.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
A female factory worker in 1942, Fort Worth, Texas. Women entered the workforce as men were drafted into the armed forces. Howard R. Hollem/US Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

8. You Most Likely Married Later

As a result of the Great Depression, many couples chose to marry later than their parents had because they could not support themselves. The birth rate also dropped, as families could no longer provide for their children. In the poorest parts of Appalachia, children were so hungry that they would chew on their hands.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
John D. Rockefeller and his son John Jr. in 1915. American Press Association/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

7. However, Perhaps You Were Not Affected

As much as 40% of the country was not affected by the Great Depression, and some businesses benefited. Oil tycoons in particular, such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, and their offspring were able to capitalize on the economic woes of others and thereby expand their businesses.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Stalled on the desert, facing a future in California. No money, ten children. From Chickasaw, Oklahoma, 1937. Dorothea Lange/History In Photos.

6. Your Hopes Were Most Likely Crushed in 1936

By 1936, the economic reforms implemented by FDR’s New Deal had turned the country around so much that the economic indicators, such as employment, were at the same level as they were before the Depression. He scaled back government spending, and the country fell back into decline.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Crowds outside the Bank of United States in New York after its failure in 1931. World Telegram staff photographer/Library of Congress/New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection/Wikimedia Commons.

5. Maybe You Went on Strike

There were challenges working people faced during the Great Depression, to say the least; those years were some of the essential reasons for the development of workers’ rights. Workers successfully managed to organize strikes and gain power through unions. Many laws were changed as Americans came to realize that workers were the strength of a democratic government.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Shacks on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C. put up by the Bonus Army (World War I veterans) burning after the battle with the 1,000 soldiers accompanied by tanks and machine guns, 1932. Signal Corps Photographer/National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

4. You Might Have Radicalized

Economic woes are one of the biggest reasons people turn to radical political ideologies. In 1929, Josef Stalin predicted that the communist party in the USA would lead a revolt to overturn the government. He was almost right – many people turned to communist ideology, thinking that it would reverse the Great Depression.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Image from the Great Depression. Jono Bellwood.

3. You Probably Pulled All Your Money Out of the Bank

In the weeks following the 1929 crash, people who were desperate to retain whatever money they had left withdrew all of their funds out of their banks. Economic analysts suggest that rather than the crash causing the depression, it was actually the runs on the banks that created it.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
Women dressed up during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Vintage Handbook.

2. You Probably Accessorized

During the Roaring Twenties, women frequently wore expensive, glitzy dresses that showed off their wealth. During the Depression, though, fashions changed to accommodate those who no longer had any money. Accessories became important in the fashion industry during this time because people could dress up otherwise plain clothes for less money.

30 Eye-Opening Facts About Average Life During The Great Depression
A photograph of country superstar Johnny Cash as a child. Country Music Video Directory.

1. Maybe You Picked Cotton Like Johnny Cash and Others

Johnny Cash grew up in Arkansas during the Great Depression and recalled picking cotton from the time he was only five years old. Music was his favorite escape from the hardships of life during the time; he and his siblings often sang while they were working out in the fields.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“The Great Depression in Washington State.” University of Washington.

“50 Interesting Depression Facts,” by Karin Lehnardt. Fact Retriever. December 19, 2016.

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