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“The Dirty 30’s”
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in US history. It began in 1929 and did not fade until the end of the 1930s.
The stock market crash of October 1929 or “Black Tuesday” signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. During this time many people were out of work, hungry, and homeless.
By 1930 there were 4.3 million unemployed, 8 million by 1931, 12 million by 1932, and by 1933 more than 13 million people were unemployed and more than 5000 banks had gone out of business
In the cities, out of work Americans filled long breadlines or soup kitchens, begged for food, or sold apples or eggs on street corners. Families were often separated while one or both parents traveled to find work
Long lines of desperate people outside banks hoping to retrieve their savings were common. Many ordinary citizens lost their life savings when banks failed.
1) The movie and book Kit Kittredge: American Girl is a great example of how Depression Era families lived. Together with your group watch the movie or read the book. Discuss your thoughts
For older, more mature audiences, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men are good examples of depression era life.
THE DUST BOWL
In the Midwest a major drought that came to be known as “The Dust Bowl” caused great hardships for farmers and their families.
As high winds and choking dust referred to as “black blizzards” swept the region from Texas to Nebraska, people and livestock were killed and crops failed across the entire region and drove many farming families on a desperate migration in search of work and better living conditions.
By 1934, 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land had been deemed useless for farming.
125 million acres was rapidly losing its topsoil.
High winds and dust were only partly responsible for creating the Dust Bowl. There were also several economic factors.
The Homestead Act of 1862, which provided settlers with 160 acres of public land, was followed by the Kinkaid Act of 1904 and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. These acts led to a flood of new and inexperienced farmers across the Great Plains.
2) What does the phrase “rain follows the plow” mean? Did the phrase hold true for the new farmers?
3) With your group find a few pictures of the “Black Blizzards” and the migrant farmer families.
*Dorothea Lange was an incredible depression era photographer*
RIDING THE RAILS
The millions of migrants became known as “hobos”
To move from place to place, many hobos jumped into the box cars of moving trains, a practice that often led to death or the loss of limbs. The railways often hired guards they called “bulls.” Bulls were in charge of beating or arresting hobos who boarded the trains without a ticket.
To support the family and decrease the financial burden, many teenagers left their homes and hopped onto freight trains. It is reported that of the 4 million hobos traveling the country, 250,000 of those were teenagers.
The website http://erroluys.com/greatdepressionarchive10.html offers amazing first had accounts of teenage hobos who” rode the rails.”
Finding food was a constant problem, and hobos often begged at farmhouses. If the farmer was generous, the hobo would mark the lane so other hobos would know it was a good place to beg.
Markings would be made on fences, buildings, trees, pavements. Anywhere a message could signal help or trouble.
A cross = food served to hobos after church.
A horizontal zigzag = a barking dog.
A square missing its top line = safe to camp in that spot.
A top hat and a triangle = wealth.
A spearhead = a warning to defend yourself.
A circle with two parallel arrows = get out fast, hobos aren’t welcome.
Two interlocked circles = handcuffs
A cross with a smiley faces in one of the corners = the doctor will treat hobos free of charge.
A cat = a kind lady lives here.
A wavy line above an X = fresh water and a campsite.
Three diagonal lines = not a safe place.
A square with a slanted roof with an X through it=the house has already been “burned” or “tricked” by another hobo.
Two shovels = work available
The website https://www.logodesignlove.com/hobo-signs-and-symbols has a good picture of the actual symbols
4) We still use symbols similar to these today. Can you name 5 symbols that you see every day that are universally recognized? (example: a circle with curved lines around it means Wi-Fi is available at this location)
5) Think of a few new symbols you could create to give others help or warnings.
While some families were able to grow their own livestock, fruits, and veggies during the depression others had find creative was to make every penny stretch. The result was some pretty creative ways to use inexpensive ingredients.
A few common dishes included:
Poor man’s meal-peeled, fried potatoes with slices of hotdog
Creamed chipped beef-dried canned beef mixed with a type of white gravy served over toast.
Hoover stew- macaroni or spaghetti noodles, sliced hot dogs, two cans of stewed tomatoes and one can of corn or peas
Egg drop soup- Peel and dice a potato and an onion. Slowly brown them in a pot with oil until soft, then add bay leaves and salt and pepper. Once browned, add half a pot of water to the mix to make broth. Simmer on the stove and add more salt and pepper to taste until the potatoes are cooked. While boiling, crack two eggs into the pot and stir until scrambled. Add two more eggs into the soup, so the yolk hardens. Add cheese to finish it off. Once completed, serve the Egg Drop Soup over toast.
Corned beef luncheon salad- canned corned beef, plain gelatin, canned peas, vinegar, lemon juice, and occasionally cabbage
Frozen Fruit salad-canned fruit cocktail (or your favorite canned fruit), egg yolks, honey, and whipping cream.
Spaghetti with carrots and white sauce-spaghetti cooked until mushy and mixed with boiled carrots. The white sauce was made from milk, flour, salt, butter or margarine, and a little bit of pepper. After mixing, pour into a tray and bake to make a casserole.
6) Together with your group, host a depression era potluck. Research and cook a few common depression era foods to share. Which of the dishes did you like and which did you dislike? Would you make any of the foods for your family?
1933 Unemployment levels peak before beginning to gradually fall.
The United States is generally thought to have fully recovered from the Great Depression by about 1939.
December 1941: US entered WWII, and the subsequent mobilization enables the American economy to escape the Great Depression for good.
Interesting facts about the 1930’s
February 18, 1930 Arizona scientists reveal their newest discovery -- a ninth planet they name Pluto, after the Greek God of the underworld. The discovery sparks public interest in space and inspires Walt Disney to introduce a new animated character, Pluto -- Mickey Mouse's canine companion.
September 17, 1930 Ray Lyman Wilbur, Secretary of the Interior under President Hoover, drives a silver railroad spike to mark the official start of the construction of the Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam was part of a larger public works relief program to create jobs for those struggling during the first years of the Great Depression.
March 3, 1931 Congress and President Hoover approve The Star Spangled Banner, by Francis Scott Key, as the U.S. national anthem.
May 21, 1932 Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic.
January 30, 1933 Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
May 27, 1933 The World’s Fair opens in Chicago.
May 11-13, 1934 A dust storm ravages several Midwestern and Western states including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado, forcing hundreds of families to leave their farms. These storms will plague the nation for the next nine years, causing devastating agricultural damage to America's prairie lands and leaving thousands homeless.
August 16, 1934 The first prisoners are delivered to Alcatraz Prison
May 1937 Another dust storm hits the West and Midwest. Economic recovery comes to a halt, sending the economy of the region into a second depression
October 30, 1938 Orson Welles airs his famous War of the Worlds broadcast
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