Boom To Bust A visual representation on how tragedy affects the human experience. By Rachel Weintraub.

Boom to Bust

The 1920s was the high life for many Americans, with new appliances, great success, and endless prosperity with little government interference from the government. The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Americans hard in many aspects of life which had before been easy, including economy, home life, leisure time, and role of government. The drastic differences and similarities between the decades proves how tragedy affects the human experience.


The economy of the 1920s was great, with high minimum wages, affordable luxury items, and high employment rates. People were in the mentality of consumerism, which fueled industrial growth. Also, people bought a lot of stock on credit or margin, and were very happy with this. This all changed on October 29, 1929, when the stock market crashed. People lost their money, many people were in debt, and families became unemployed. Unemployment numbers quickly rose. Americans were then unable to buy the still cheap consumer goods, and factories were shut down.

The Roller-coaster of Unemployment

In the 1920s, many people were employed. However, as the decade went on, many people lost their jobs and could no longer afford to buy products from companies. These companies had to lay off workers, which caused an endless cycle until the government began interfering.

Give the Companies Some Credit

Companies such as car companies ran ads in the 1920s to convince the middle-class to buy a car, on credit. This is depicted.

Daylight Turned Dark

Shown above is one of the many dust storms which occurred during the Dust Bowls of the 1930s. This negatively impacted farmers, forcing them to loose their crops. Many saw this as a sign to move to California.

There was low demand for crops, and the Dust Bowl completely killed the agricultural economy.

Trying to Find Home

Many families, including the one filled with women like the one shown above, would roam to attempt to find a place to live while their finances were down.

Farmers were struggling through the 1920s and 1930s. Many farms were lost to foreclosure and crop prices were low.

Sweetness Shuts Its Doors

Depicted above is a chocolate factory, but it is one of many that had to shut it’s doors during the Great Depression. This caused many people to be out of work.

Industrialists and business owners also suffered. The demand for products from the 1920s was over, and the standard of their living was low. Through both decades, the rich stayed rich, and they became philanthropic to help the people.

Picketing For Positions

Many people were out of work because of the Great Depression, and looked to the not very involved Herbert Hoover for answers.

Hoover didn’t provide any assistance to the economy, so private charities and philanthropists had to add to the failing industries.

A Breath Of Fresh Air

When Roosevelt became president, he took immediate action to better the economy. This is a real headline from The Seattle Star.

Roosevelt tried to help businesses by putting in regulations and employing many different types of people to boost the economy, as well as putting money back in, and stopping crop production, all of this through the New Deal. This improved the economy, but the real fix was World War II, because the need for goods and crops overseas brought more jobs and less surpluses.

Home Life

The 1920’s was a great time for city people. It was a time of riches, easy goods, growing electricity, opportunity, and modernism. The Great Depression brought changes for home life. The standard of living for the working class dropped. Many people rode the rails, or sneaked onto trains, to try and find work. Work camps provided this for teens riding the rails, as well as many farmers and able bodied men. Children were becoming malnourished, as opposed to the fine life of the 20s. Legal divorce rates remained the same, but abandonment went up.

Many people lived in these nice houses during the 1920s.

Hoovervilles for the Homeless

People resorted to living in Hoovervilles, or Shantytowns, and they were makeshift towns for the poor.

Read The Signs For Suffrage

Women were now able to work and vote, this was a poster encouraging women to hold onto and fully use their rights.

In both the 1920s and 30s, women had lots of rights granted to them. This was a main positive of the twenties for women.

Many Struggle From Circumstance

People became poor, and women had to take care of their children throughout all of the tough times that they were facing. She took care of her children, and spent whatever she could on them.

Women had to raise their families, and women’s rights stayed the same between the 1920s and 30s. Her role in the average family changed from worker to housewife.

Raising Families In Overcrowded Homes

Many women were now forced to raise the children, and not work as much as they’d like. Plus, for minorities, housing was overcramped. Both of these are shown in this photo.

African American’s home lives were also impacted. Even though in both decades they had a great migration, their conditions were worse because they moved to overcrowded neighborhoods. Many lost their jobs, but both decades brought high racial tensions and respect for black culture.

Moving For Money

Many families, including farm families, migrated to attempt to find better lives and espcape their bad conditions.

Rural life remained poor, and many farmers were poor, and they were burning crops and migrating to attempt to find better lives and opportunity, especially those caught by the dust bowl.

Bread Lines Keep Growing

Shown in this photo is a bread line that thousands of people waited on and relied on to get food for their families. These were charitable individuals or organizations, but many turned African Americans away.

Many people lived in poor conditions. People who lived in or near big cities, sometimes in Hoovervilles, now had to rely on soup kitchens and charity, which the still wealthy provided.

Leisure Time

Many people had modern appliances, which made it easier to have free time available instead of doing chores or work. What people did in their free time didn’t change alot between the 1920s and 1930s. One thing that differed in the 20’s was that Prohibition meant that many people had to sneak away in to speakeasies to drink bootlegged liquor. The motivation for doing activities were different between decades. The twenties were optomistic, and people did things just for fun. During the Great Depression, however, people did activities to escape their own lives.

Bustling Beauty

Shown in this photo is the heart of New York City during the Roaring Twenties, before factories started shutting down. People went out on the town, and used luxuray items.

Movie Theatres Boom

During their leisure time in the Great Depression, many people went to the movies to escape the world they were living in. The average American went to the movies once a week.

People went to the movies often, even during the Depression. People followed trends and listened to music. Radio was also popular, as it was free and easy entertainment.

Radio Reignites People’s Flames

During the Great Depression, if there was one thing that all races had in common, it was that they listened to the radio. Pictured is a group of African American men enjoying a radio program.

African Americans did all of the things said above during the 30s, but they also had to look for work. They were seen as a disposable work force, and spent less time creating art like they did in the 20s.

Racism in the U.S.A.

Racism and segregation still existed, especially in the South. Depicted above is a colored only theatre.

All That Brass

Jazz was a highly controversial yet loved form of music that came about because of African Americans. Pictured above is Louis Armstrong, famous jazz musician in the 1920s and 1930s.

Stocks Boom

Many people, in the 1920s, thought that the stock market would just keep on escalating. They ran out to buy stock at a brokeradge office, like the one shown.

Everything Must Go

After the Great Depression, many people had to sell everything that they owned, including luxuray items like the car that this man is selling at a price that is much less than the car’s value.

Stockbrokers were hard working, but when their economic status dropped, they had to sell everything away in their free time to stop from drowning in debt.

Role Of Government

The role of government changed from Laissez-Faire of the twenties, to highly involved in the thirties. Herbert Hoover was the third and final republican president of the twenties. He was highly uninvolved, and believed that leaving buisness alone would improve the economy. He believed in a limited role of government and individualism. President Roosevelt focused on a “New Deal” which provided relief, recovery, and long term reform for salvaging Americans, buisness, and the economy.

Walking Progress Through the Door

Shown is a political cartoon based on Herbert Hoover leaving office, and all of the splendid promises FDR promised the people during his campaign. This was to show that government would now have huge involvement.

Veterans Occupy Washington

Veterans paraded in Washington to earn their money from the first world war.

During Hoover's time as president, the Bonus Army formed, which was made up of veterans looking to get the pay that the government denied them. When the government didn’t pay them, this played a major role in their home and social lives.

Fireside Chats with Teddy

President Roosevelt held fireside chats over the radio with the people to tell them what was going on, tell them the he was with them, and give them a call to action. This made it apparent that the government was becoming more key in citizen’s lives.

FDR was active, including his fireside chats, and changed people’s lives. People began to put trust in the economy, and the government.

Black Brain Trust

Depicted above is Roosevelt’s black cabinet. This was a large social advance for African Americans, and allowed them to earn respect.

African Americans didn’t recieve much government help in the early 1900s. They were discriminated against and victims of racism. Even though they didn’t get equal treatment, FDR created a black brain trust, which gave them a say and respect.

Looking for Liberty

In the 1920s, the women’s suffrage movement was really picking up, and became a prominent social issue. However, come the 1930s, it wasn't seen as a main focus.

In the 1920s, laws were passed to give women rights, but the 1930s didn’t focus that. However, women weren’t being shunned by the government when they performed different roles in society.

Making A Big Difference, Mrs. Roosevelt

Mrs. Roosevelt was a first lady that tried to offer the women in the country hope and optomism for a better time, and urged the woman’s movement forward.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was an encouraging figure for women, and she called for the advancement and respect of women’s rights. She even called for women to play important roles in society.


The Great Depression of the 1930s, hit Americans hard in many aspects of life, including economy, home life, leisure time, and role of government. This came just after the high life of the Roaring Twenties, and the drastic differences and similarities between the decades proves how tragedy affects the human experience.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.