11. Hoover gradually realized the downturn was not a mild recession
Between 1929 and the election year of 1932 housing starts in the United States dropped 80%. The lack of building forced the majority of workers in the construction industry to look for other forms of work. Most found no success. By 1932, arguably the worst year of the depression, 34 million Americans lived under a roof with no full-time wage earner. If they had a roof at all, many were forced into temporary housing and shantytowns, erected on public lands with tents, lean-tos, and other crude shelters. While the President struggled to find solutions to the crisis, the public and press took to calling the camps sheltering the homeless “Hoovervilles”.
By the end of 1932, 11,000 banks in the United States had failed, out of the 25,000 which existed in 1929. About one million farms no longer existed as working producers of agricultural goods. Homeless families and individuals estimated to number as many as two million people wandered the nation, seeking work, food, and shelter. Hoover’s efforts to stimulate the economy failed spectacularly, in no small part because of the lack of regulations and safeguards later established. Still, Hoover continued to pursue solutions to the financial disaster, promoting his efforts while campaigning for re-election before an increasingly derisive electorate.