Boom To Bust a visual essay project by alex debrosky

The Economy
Stockbrokers in the 1920s
People rushing to collect their money from banks.

During the 1920s, most stockbrokers and bankers were very wealthy. Since a popular idea in the 1920s was that your happiness depending on the physical objects you bought, many people spent money carelessly and invested in the stock market without thinking of the consequences. After the stock market crash, many people rushed to the banks to retrieve the money that they needed to pay off their debt. Unfortunately, most banks didnt have enough money there to give to the desperate people. This is because banks gave loans to other people, and not every single dollar they put into the bank stayed there in a big vault. With everyone taking out most of their money within such a short span of time, there wasn't much to give them. For this reason it caused over 5,500 banks to close. After the stock market crash, Stockbrokers and Bankers alike were left with little to no money left in savings.

The Government
Wealthy business owners in the 1920s.
Jobless Men in the 1930s.

For a long time, the Laissez Faire policy that separated the government from getting involved with businesses is what caused so many small businesses to go bankrupt and for huge monopolies to form. For this reason, many big businesses used this advantage to raise prices and do whatever they wanted within their company. Many companies and robber barons got away with doing horrible things like bribery and blackmail whilst they made fortunes. After the stock market crash, many big businesses who had lied about how much stock they were worth lost most of their many. This was also the case for industrialists.

Leisure Time
Flappers walking the streets of New York in the 1920s.
Women on a march for Women's Suffrage in the 1920s.
A woman working at home and supporting her children in the 1930s.

Women during the 1920s could be described as carefree, determined, and powerful. Many younger women defied society's expectations for ladies and became flappers. Flappers were young women who smoke, drank, went to clubs, dated freely, and usually wore dresses that reached just below the knees. Women were also ecstatic about the establishment of the 19th amendment that granted them the right to vote. This amendment gave women a boost of confidence when entering the 1920s, and they now felt as if they could accomplish almost anything they put their mind to. Unfortunately, after the stock market crash, many people were laid off their jobs. Women were known as 'job stealers' whole stole the jobs from men during the Civil War. They were also denied the equality that they had fought for so many years. When women were fired from their jobs, most of their duties now resided at home. Housework increased as the money their husbands brought home decreased. They began to make use of what they found inside the house rather than spending money, like baking their own bread from scratch or sewing their on clothes from old fabrics.

Home Life
Farmers tending to their fields in the Great plains.
A farmer's house being taken over by a Dust Storm in the Great Plains.

In the 1920's, Farmers moved to the Great Plains with the promise of free land and good farming soil. Although the farmers were hesitant, most were in desperate need of a new life where they could make more money. After World War 1, farmers had a surplus of supplies and machines. The need for crops dropped drastically and many farmers were now in debt. Throughout the 1920's everything seemed perfectly fine, crops grew well and there was a decent amount of rain than usual in the Great Plains. Unfortunately, with the 1930's came a huge drought that swept over the plains. Farmers, not knowing what affect it had, tossed up the grasses rooted to the ground that helped the soil keep its moisture. Now when huge gusts of wind came, the wind dragged the loads of dry sand with it for miles and miles. They choked plants, animals, and humans, and also made day appear like night. These gusts were called Dust Storms. When these dust storms occurred, many farmers unintentionally dug themselves deeper into debt. Taking their chances with a new life, 1/4 of farmers moved to California.

An African American Jazz player performing in Harlem.
A jobless African American woman at home with her kids.

In the 1920's, many African Americans were still subject to racism. In order to escape this, many moved to Harlem, a northern part of New York. There African Americans created there own kind of music called Jazz that involved the use of woodwind and brass instruments. Unfortunately, when the 1930's rolled around and the stockbroker crashed, African Americans were one of the first to be fired and the last to be hired. In fact, 6/10 African Americans lost their jobs after the crash. Even in the 1930's, racism hung over African Americans like a storm cloud. President Roosevelt didn't do much to help African Americans in the long run, and he even denied an anti-lynching bill that would stop the hanging of African Americans.

Mexican Americans tending to the fields in California after being hired.
Hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans being deported back to Mexico.

In the 1920's and even years before that, Mexican Americans usually near California and the surrounding states were hired for farming reasons after the loss of many men after they went off to war. The pay may not have been the highest amount, but it was still something. In the 1930's after the stock market crash, many people were laid off their jobs because very little product needed to be made. These large groups of mostly white men swarmed California and the surrounding states, looking for jobs there. These people wanted the government to deport these Mexican Americans, regardless if they were U.S citizens or not. And so that is exactly what the government did, deporting over a hundred thousand Mexican Americans out of the U.S.

Created By
Alexandria Debrosky

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