Boom to Bust. Life in the 1920s and 1930s

Economy of the Era

People rushed to buy stocks in the 1920s because the stock market seemed unstoppable. The manufacturing industry was booming due to consumerism, while the farming industry struggled. Investors got nervous because stock prices surpassed the actual worth of the companies they represented, and they began selling their stocks. As this trend continued, stock prices began to drop and hit a drastic low on October 29, also referred to as ‘Black Tuesday,’ rendering stocks almost worthless. Many people were financially devastated.

Stock Market Crash

A newspaper reports on the devastating Stock Market Crash of the 1930s.

Following the stock market crash came the Depression. This came to mark the end of the ‘Roaring Twenties’, and what began was a period of fear and desperation. This caused a loss of jobs, lowered demand for manufactured goods, businesses shut down, and unemployment rose to 25%.

Severe Drought Hits the Great Plains in the 1930s

A dust storm proceeds to engulf rural homes and farmland.

Also affected by the depression was the farming industry. As demand for farm products declined, the severe drought in the Great Plains caused dust storms which further hurt farmers and the farming industry.

A family outside during a dust storm

A Loss of Support For Woman's Rights Was Experienced During the Great Depression

The 19th Amendment

A mob of women advocate for the right to vote.
Suffragette's advocate for the women's right to vote.
The 19th Amendment.
In 1920 the 19th Amendment is passed due to the suffragette's who fought for the women's right to vote.

The progress for women suffrage in the 1920s was abruptly stopped due to the beginning of the Great Depression, thus revived the belief that “Women belong in the household.” When World War II arrived, it shifted the manufacturing industry back into gear, mass producing all sorts of things for the war. This marked the end of “The Great Depression.”

Home Life

Bread Line During the Depression of the 1930s

Numbers of unemployed men stand in line waiting to get free bread.

Home life during this era was anything but pleasant and luxurious. The unemployment rate soared causing poverty across the nation. Countless numbers of people were left with one course of action, sell their homes, cars, and belongings just to have some money. Soup kitchens provided Americans with free meals. City dwellers were frequently spotted selling pencils and/or apples on street corners to get by.

1930s Stock Market Crash Effect On Housing

In result to the stock market crash, many people lost their homes and were confined to living in shacks bunched together called Hoovervilles.

Due to many families selling their homes, make-shift homes in “Shantytowns” nicknamed Hoovervilles were established on the outskirts of cities. These Hoovervilles were constructed by using cardboard, scrap wood and metal, newspapers, glass and any materials people could come by. Hoovervilles were not all the same size. The number of people living in the shacks and the size of the Hoovervilles were based on which city they bordered. These towns were not kept tidy.

Cutting Corners To Save Money

A woman sews clothes at home.

The Great Depression had a major impact on American families. The rate of divorce remained mostly constant in the 1930s but, the rates of abandonment rose as many husbands went with the “poor man’s divorce” alternative. This alternative meant they abandoned their marriages and homes. Birth rates in this era fell drastically. Children were plagued with countless health issues due to malnutrition and unsterilized living conditions. The damaged economy affected everyone’s lifestyle except the very wealthy. Working class, middle class, and upper middle class families who still retained an income attempted to keep life as ordinary as could be. These types of families would manifest ways to take on a lower standard of living. These families would cut corners by sewing clothing articles at home and made-do by stretching a pot roast to last in a number of intriguing meals. Painting the exterior of a house would help “keep up appearances.”

A migrant mother and her children huddle together.

Leisure Time

During the 1930s Great Depression, people could not afford entertainment and therefore countless families listened to the radio.

Following the end of World War II, making the most of their lives and enjoying themselves became more appealing to Americans. The arrival of “convenience items” such as the washing machine made Americans feel more flexible to participate in entertainment events. Listening to Jazz, dancing at clubs and speakeasies was quite prestigious. Along with those activities, sporting events, going to the movies, and going for a nice Sunday drive were also rather likeable. All of this came to a halt following the stock market crash in 1929, because Americans lost everything they had. Even though the price of an evening out repelled people, they still felt the urge to use cinema and art as a method of retreat from the horrible reality of their daily mishaps. Statistics show that two out of every five Americans saw at least a single movie per week. Certain films such as “Frankenstein” and “King Kong” were crafted to allow Americans to get away from their worries.

Entertainment Offered Temporary Relief

Cinema and art were used as a method of retreat during the Great Depression.

Characters like Mickey Mouse and Actors like Shirley Temple offered temporary comical relief. Some films acknowledged the recurring social problems in the nation.

Characters like Mickey Mouse were a favorite among families looking to forget their woes for a while.

Role of Government

Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933.

Hoover Barricaded Himself Inside the White House While the "Bonus Army" Marched Outside

Herbert Hoover sits at his desk.

In the 1930s, the role of government changed greatly. The optimism of the 1920s would soon be replaced by fear and desperation. At the time of the crash, President Herbert Hoover was in office for just seven months and the country was falling into an economic disaster that he could not figure out. Hoover left the people to help themselves. He did not believe in government assistance, instead he supported private relief efforts which did not provide enough support to do much good. A number of Americans in need believed the cure to their hardships rested in government aid. Hoover was considered a failure by the people.

Bonus Army Protest

The Bonus Army protests outside the White House for their early payments of $1000.

Hoover Sent Troops to Put Down the Bonus Army Protest

Herbert Hoover sends soldiers armed with machine guns and tanks to the White House to deal with the Bonus Army protesters.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Takes Office in 1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt's (FDR's) Campaign for President Button

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan was to assume responsibility for the preservation of the American Economy and its people. His proposal of the ‘‘New Deal’’ programs (3Rs: relief, recovery, reform) were overall successful. It gave people hope and restored their faith in government, which was evident when banks were reopened and deposits began to exceed withdrawals. In the long run, the “New Deal” reforms forever impacted the American public’s expectation of their presidents and their government. Also affected was the farming industry. As demand for farm products declined, the severe drought in the Great Plains caused dust storms which further hurt farmers and the farming industry. The progress for women suffrage in the 1920s was abruptly stopped due to the beginning of the Great Depression, thus revived the belief that “Women belong in the household.” When World War II arrived, it shifted the manufacturing industry back into gear, mass producing all sorts of things for the war. This marked the end of “The Great Depression.”

Some of President Roosevelt's New Deal Programs

Social Security Act

The First Social Security Board in 1935.

Civilian Conservation Corps

Men and boys putting up a sign for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

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