Chapter 13: The Great Depression
Chapter 13 examines some
of the causes of the Great Depression and looks at the ways
in which families and communities coped with its hardships.
Section 1 describes how
the 1920s' economic euphoria turned into the 1930s' Great
Depression. On October 24,1929, amid unmet margin calls and
widespread panic, the stock market crashed. Banks that had
loaned to stockbrokers lost their cash reserves and, in turn,
ordinary citizens lost their bank savings. Several factors
added to the nation's economic troubles. Industry was overproducing,
and Americans were unable to consume swelling inventories.
Lower farm prices created economic hardships for farmers,
and foreign exports had dwindled. President Hoover's plan
to provide relief through voluntary actions and local programs
was optimistic but proved inadequate against deepening economic
Section 2 explains how the
Great Depression affected individuals, families, and communities.
In rural areas, foreclosures and dust storms forced thousands
of farmers out of work, while in the city factory layoffs
sent national unemployment to 25 percent. People wandered
about the country looking for work. On the fringes of cities,
the unemployed constructed makeshift communities, called "Hoovervilles,"
out of boxes and other refuse. These shacks helped to shelter
some of the nearly 2 million homeless Americans. Many Depression-era
families were deeply affected by the poverty that filled their
lives with hopelessness.
Section 3 looks at some
of the innovations and diversions that helped people cope
in the 1930s. To escape the despair of the Depression, people
embraced books, movies, radios, and cars. The automobile's
popularity grew throughout the 1930s as Americans escaped
the Depression by hopping in their cars for drives or vacations.
At home, electricity and modern appliances freed people from
the everyday drudgery of household chores. Color and sound
made their favorite escape, movies, even more enjoyable. While
many Americans sought respites from economic troubles, others
chose to examine the problems and explore solutions. Writers,
painters, playwrights and photographers used their media to
reveal the country's suffering.