Hoovervilles

 

The Great Depression was a terrible time; unemployment rates rose drastically, and people throughout the nation struggled economically. The rates of unemployment became so high that “by 1932, three years after the initial crash, near thirty million Americans had lost their source of income” (Gregory). How did people live without jobs and homes during this difficult time? Some of the unemployed lived on the streets or with other family members; however, others resided in Hoovervilles, shantytowns named in resentment after the former president, Herbert Hoover (“Hoovervilles Across”). Throughout the Great Depression, these towns appeared across the nation; they were inhabited by the unemployed and the evicted, and the conditions were rather terrible.

To begin, Hoovervilles were a nationwide occurrence. The Great Depression impacted every area of the United States of America; therefore, there were multitudes of evicted people in every state. Without any place of residence, they began building shacks in urban areas: “As the Depression worsened and millions of urban and rural families lost their jobs and depleted their savings, they also lost their homes. Desperate for shelter, homeless citizens built shantytowns in and around cities across the nation” (“Hoovervilles”). These shacks usually interfered with the residences around them; therefore, many cities destroyed the shantytowns. In the case of the Seattle Hooverville, the city tried to destroy the Hooverville two times before the police allowed the Hooverville to exist in the city: “Seattle police twice burned the early Hooverville, but each time residents rebuilt” (Gregory). Evident is the determination of the people; despite the disapproval of the city governments, they rebuilt.

In addition, the conditions of the Hoovervilles varied from city to city. Most of the Hoovervilles were small towns; however, there were many large Hoovervilles, like the St. Louis Hooverville, which lasted until 1936: “No two Hoovervilles were quite alike, and the camps varied in population and size. Some were as small as a few hundred people while others, in bigger metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., and New York City, boasted thousands of inhabitants” (“Hoovervilles”). Also, the Hoovervilles were usually extremely dirty and unsanitary places. Most of the shacks were crudely built, and some people lived in cardboard houses or holes in the ground: “Hooverville shanties were constructed of cardboard, tar paper, glass, lumber, tin and whatever other materials people could salvage…Some homes were not buildings at all, but deep holes dug in the ground with makeshift roofs laid over them to keep out inclement weather” (“Hoovervilles and Homelessness”). Hoovervilles were not ideal places; most were unorganized areas of shacks made with crude materials, no different from living on the streets. However, they did provide a community where people could support each other through this difficult time.

In conclusion, Hoovervilles were shantytowns from the Great Depression that provided a community for the evicted. Although the conditions were usually terrible, they contained people with the same predicament a place to live. Looking at these Hoovervilles, modern-day society can learn about how people come together during difficult times in order to survive.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Gregory, James. “Everyday Life during the Depression.” Everyday Life. University of Washington. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

“Hoovervilles Across the United States During the Depression.” Hoovervilles Across the United States During the Depression. Legends of America. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

“Hoovervilles and Homelessness.” Hoovervilles. University of Washington, 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

“Hoovervilles.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

 

Advertisements

Did President Herbert Hoover contribute to the Great Depression?

 

William James, a philosopher and a psychologist, once said, “When you have a choice to make, and you don’t make it, that in itself is a choice” (James). Herbert Hoover was the president of the United States of America during the beginning of the Great Depression; his inaction during the economic crisis delayed recovery. He believed that the federal government should not interfere with the economy, as it could lead to more problems. Because of his individualistic ideals, America’s economy did not improve during Hoover’s term. Hoover indirectly contributed to the Great Depression by his nonintervention of the economy and his optimistic attitude; by ignoring the crisis, he lengthened the Depression.

First of all, President Hoover believed that it was not the job of the federal government to interfere with the economy of the United States, which was the cause of his inaction. As a Republican, Hoover was “an opponent of any government coercion of any kind”, and believed that intervention from the federal government would “destroy American individuality and self-reliance” (Ladenburg). He wished for the federal government to play a smaller role in the economy; as a result, Hoover did not successfully intervene with the Great Depression. Unfortunately, his beliefs left the citizens of America to deal with the economic crisis by themselves. With no aid from the government, the citizens struggled. In addition, Hoover had an extremely optimistic view on the Great Depression; he believed nothing was wrong with the economy. He thought that “once Americans regained their confidence…stock prices would rise, factories would open, and people would go back to work” (Herbert Hoover on). With his optimistic beliefs, he refused to act on the collapse of the economy. He was extremely hopeful for America’s future, which caused him to do nothing as America collapsed economically.

In addition, Hoover passed some bills during the Great Depression that were meant to help stimulate the economy; however, many of these bills had no effect or were detrimental to the United States of America. For example, he passed the Hoover Moratorium, which caused a “one-year halt in both reparation payments by Germany to France and the repayment of Allied War debts to the United States” (“Hoover’s”). This was met with opposition, especially from France and Britain, and did nothing to solve the economy’s problems (“Hoover’s”). Hoover was too concerned with interfering with the economy that he passed bills that did little to nothing to solve the crisis. Some bills, like the Hoover Moratorium, caused more problems than the bill actually solved; for example, the Moratorium enraged Britain and other countries. Also, President Hoover did not help the struggling American public with the unemployment; he thought that using welfare programs would make the American public stop working: “Despite calls for greater government assistance, Hoover refused to fund welfare programs, as he believed that such assistance projects would reduce the incentive to work (“Herbert”). However, a welfare program was what America truly needed during the Great Depression; unemployment rates were growing, and many people were extremely short on money. After Hoover’s term, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Social Security system, which helped the lower class of America survive during the Great Depression (Ladenburg). If Hoover established a welfare program, perhaps he could have led the road to recovery.

Opponents may state that Hoover did indeed try to help America recover from the Great Depression. He “undertook various measures designed to stimulate the economy, and a few of the programs he introduced became key components of later relief efforts” (“Hoover’s”). Some examples of these measures included the Hoover Moratorium, which gave America a halt in war payments. However, this is not true; Hoover did not want to interfere with the economy, so he signed a minimal amount of bills. In addition, his bills were extremely unsuccessful, partly because of his beliefs; in fact, most of his bills did not contribute to the recovery from the Great Depression. For example, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act raised taxes on all imports in order to increase the amounts of American goods purchased; however, this stopped trade with other countries: “The intent of the [Smoot-Hawley] Act was to encourage the purchase of American-made products by increasing the cost of imported goods, all while raising revenue for the federal government and protecting farmers. By that time, however, economic depression had spread throughout much of the world, spurring other nations to retaliate by increasing tariffs on American-made goods. This reduced international trade, and in turn, worsened the Depression” (“Hoover’s). The tariff, although the intent was to solve the Depression, actually made the economy worse. Clearly, although Hoover did pass bills in order to stimulate the economy, these bills were few in number and had little to no effect on the Great Depression, partly because of his beliefs.

To conclude, President Hoover, because of his beliefs, refused to act during the Great Depression, which lengthened the economic crisis and delayed recovery. His beliefs and the bills that he signed all contributed to the hard times. Unfortunately, America was devastated by his inaction and his refusal to interfere with the economy. If he had changed his beliefs, perhaps he could have improved the state of the economy during the Great Depression.

 

 Works Cited

James, William. “Holocaust Quotes.” Ed. Nicole Lucidi. Oak Ridge High School, El Dorado Hills. 26 Feb. 2015. Handout.

“Herbert Hoover.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/herbert-hoover.

Ladenburg, Thomas. “Chapter 7: Herbert Hoover and the Depression.” Digital History. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/teachers/lesson_plans/pdfs/unit9_7.pdf.

“Herbert Hoover on the Great Depression and New Deal, 1931–1933.” Herbert Hoover on the Great Depression and New Deal. The Gilder Institute of American History. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/new-deal/resources/herbert-hoover-great-depression-and-new-deal-1931%E2%80%931933&gt;.

“Hoover’s Efforts at Recovery.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 25 January 2015. 23 March 2015. <https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/from-the-new-era-to-the-great-depression-1920-1933-24/the-great-depression-190/hoover-s-efforts-at-recovery-1052-3243/&gt;

 

 

Did the New Deal help the Great Depression?

A pin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1932.

The Great Depression was an extremely difficult period of time for the United States economically. During the Depression, there were two presidents who tried to bring the United States back to its former glory: Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These presidents had extremely different ideas of ending the recession.Herbert Hoover believed that the Great Depression was not the job of the federal government to try and resolve (“New Deal”). He believed that the Depression was just a “passing incident in [America’s] national lives” (“New Deal”). On the contrary, Roosevelt actively tried to help the struggling American citizens throughout his presidency. He established the New Deal, which was a series of programs “in response to the calamity of the Great Depression” (“What?”). Some people believed that Roosevelt’s New Deal was unsuccessful; however, many others supported Roosevelt’s programs. Roosevelt’s actions and his New Deal provided prosperity to those who were struggling during the Great Depression, since the programs created jobs, provided other assistance for the unemployed, and led to economic recovery.

First of all, the New Deal helped the residents of the United States who lost their jobs as a result of the Depression by creating jobs for many careers and improving public goods. In 1935, Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which created jobs for the unemployed: “Roosevelt’s vision of a work-relief program employed more than 8.5 million people” (“The Works”). In addition to creating jobs for the jobless, the Works Progress Administration improved the United States in terms of transportation and other areas (“The Works”). The WPA was not allowed to compete with private industries, so “they focused on building things like post offices, bridges, schools, highways, and parks” (“New Deal”). The building of these public goods helped America as a country while offering work to the unemployed. Also, the WPA provided support to tens of thousands of artists by funding creation of 2,566 murals and 17,744 sculptures nationwide (“The Works”). The government supported the arts and created jobs for artists of any kind, which encouraged growth in music, art, theater, and writing programs. Clearly, the New Deal was successful in improving unemployment rates in America, while still encouraging the arts and building public goods.

In addition, Roosevelt’s programs led to economic recovery in the United States of America. For the first time in peacetime history, the federal government took control over and managed the economy (“An Evaluation”). On March 9th of the year 1933, Congress decided to pass the “Roosevelt’s Emergency Banking Act, which reorganized the banks and closed the ones that were insolvent” (“New Deal”). The act stopped the residents of the United States from withdrawing money from over leveraged banks, which stabilized banks and led the way to recovery. In addition, Roosevelt passed other bills, such as the Glass-Steagall Banking Bill and the Home Owners’ Loan Act. These bills were aimed to improve the stability of the banks and create progress in the economy (“New Deal”). The most famous of these bills was the Social Security Act, which “led to the establishment of the Social Security Administration and the creation of a national system of old-age pensions and unemployment compensation” (“The New Deal”). The Social Security Act helped numerous people throughout the country with their economic problems through pensions. Evidently, Roosevelt’s bills created economic progress throughout the country.

Opponents of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal argue that the New Deal did not actually end the Great Depression. The New Deal failed in ending the Depression, and unemployment rates were still extremely high until the start of World War II: “However comprehensive the New Deal seemed, it failed to achieve its main goal: ending the Depression. In 1939, the unemployment rate was still 19 percent, and not until 1943 did it reach its pre-Depression levels” (“An Evaluation”). However, the New Deal still improved unemployment rates, created public utilities, and established Social Security. Roosevelt’s programs improved the United States in many ways and started the path to recovery from the Depression, which would officially end at the start of World War I (“What?”). His ideas were undoubtedly better than Hoover’s mindset, and Roosevelt actually worked to solve the economic problems: “In less than a decade, the New Deal changed the face of America and laid the foundation for success in World War II and the prosperity of the postwar era – the greatest and fairest epoch in American history” (“What?”). Clearly, although the New Deal did not completely end the Depression, it was an effective program that improved the lives of the people struggling during the hard times and led to the end of the recession.

In conclusion, although the New Deal did not completely end the Great Depression, the program was still an effective way to improve the economy during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s decisions caused progress in the United States, and through the Works Progress Administration, created vast improvement in public goods while creating jobs for the American people. Remember the New Deal as a successful program and bring light to Roosevelt’s legacy; without Roosevelt’s tireless work in ending the Depression, the Great Depression may have lasted for decades longer.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

An Evaluation of the New Deal.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://www.ushistory.org/us/49g.asp

New Deal.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/new-deal

The New Deal.” The New Deal. Roosevelt Institute. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://rooseveltinstitute.org/policy-and-ideasroosevelt-historyfdr/new-deal

The Works Progress Administration.” PBS. PBS. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/dustbowl-wpa/

What Was The New Deal? | Living New Deal.” Living New Deal. Living New Deal. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://livingnewdeal.org/resources/what-was-the-new-deal/

What was the Dust Bowl?

A farmer and his sons walking through a dust storm in Oklahoma, 1936, Photo: Arthur Rothstein.

The Dust Bowl was the name given to the U.S. states that suffered severe dust storms during the 1930s.  It occurred when “America was already suffering under the Great Depression”, which added to the economic failure that the United States was already facing (Trimarchi). The Dust Bowl consisted of the following states: ”Oklahoma (Cimarron, Texas, and Beaver counties), Texas panhandles, western Kansas, eastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico” (Wilhite).

The Causes of the Dust Bowl

To begin, the main factors that caused the Great Depression were the severe drought and the poor agricultural techniques that farmers in the Great Plains used during that time. During the 1930s, the most severe drought ever recorded in the Great Plains struck the prairie states. The drought halted the growth of the plants that would normally anchor the topsoil with their roots, allowing the soil to whirl into dust storms caused by the high winds which blew over the plains (Ganzel). In addition, poor agricultural techniques contributed to the ecological devastation that the Dust Bowl experienced. During World War 1, the demand for wheat increased; as a result, the farmers in the Great Plains started planting wheat on farmland formerly used for grazing animals. After World War 1, the demand for wheat decreased, thus causing the farmers to return the farmland into grazing areas (“The Dust Bowl”). Unfortunately, the wheat, which held the soil together with its roots, was removed and replaced by animals. The animals “pulverized the unprotected soil”, which caused the dirt to stop being firmly anchored to the ground (“The Dust Bowl”). As a result, the soil contributed to the dust storms as the high winds picked the loose soil off the ground and into the air. To summarize, the agricultural techniques in the Great Plains during the Great Depression and the drought all contributed to the ecological ruination that occurred in the Dust Bowl.

The Effects of the Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl caused the routine acts of life to be complicated and difficult: “The simplest acts of life — breathing, eating a meal, taking a walk — were no longer simple” (Nelson). Children had to wear dust masks to and from school in order to prevent dust from being breathed in, people hung wet sheets over their windows of their homes in order to stop the dust from coming in, and the plants that were not killed by the drought blew away by the high winds (Nelson). Agriculture was ruined, as the crops were blown away; as a result, farmers ventured to other states, such as California, to find work and farmland: “In all, one-quarter of the population left, packing everything they owned into their cars and trucks, and headed west toward California” (“Mass Exodus from the Plains”).

Dust storm approaching Spearman, Texas. April 14, 1935

The End of the Dust Bowl

In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Shelterbelt Project. This program called “for a large-scale planting of trees across the Great Plains, stretching in a 100-mile wide zone from Canada to northern Texas, to protect the land from erosion” (Nelson). The project was estimated to cost 75 million dollars; as a result, Roosevelt transferred the project to the Works Progress Administration (Nelson). In addition, the Soil Conservation Service created a program which encouraged farmers to practice conservation methods on their farms. These projects, along with others, were mostly successful; it resulted in a 65 percent decrease in soil erosion by 1938 (Nelson). During 1939, the drought ended and the country was pulled out of the Great Depression.

In conclusion, the Dust Bowl was the name given to the states that experienced severe dust storms during the 1930s. These dust storms were caused by the poor agricultural techniques of the farmers and the severe drought that destroyed the crops of the Great Plains. The Dust Bowl had many effects on agriculture, and it affected the people living near the dust storms tremendously.

Works Cited

Ganzel, Bill. “Drought in 1930s Agriculture.” Drought in 1930s Agriculture. Wessel’s Living History Farm, 2003. Web. 27 November2014.<http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/water_01.html >.

“Mass Exodus from the Plains.” PBS. PBS, Web. 28 November 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/dustbowl-mass-exodus-plains/ >.

Nelson, Cary. “About The Dust Bowl.” About The Dust Bowl. Web. 26 November 2014. <http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/depression/dustbowl.htm >.

“Dust Bowl.” EBSCOHost. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2014.

Trimarchi, Maria. “What Caused the Dust Bowl?” HowStuffWorks. Web. 26 November 2014. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/dust-bowl-cause.htm >.

Wilhite, Donald. “DUST BOWL.” DUST BOWL. Web. 28 November 2014.  <http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/D/DU011.html >.

What caused the Great Depression?

stock market 3A newspaper describing the events of the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Digital image. The Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Bubble Bubble, 17 July 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thebubblebubble.com/1929-crash >

The Great Depression was one of the most severe financial crises the United States of America has ever endured. It was “the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world” (“The Great Depression”). Unemployment rates rose drastically and jobs were extremely scarce during this era. In addition, this economic crisis didn’t just affect the United States; this recession hit many countries worldwide. But how and why did this recession happen?

Most economists “do not completely agree with what caused it” (Smiley). However, there were extremely significant events that led up to the worldwide recession and America’s Great Depression. Such example of these events include the Stock Market Crash of 1929. In addition, disputes about the gold standard also contributed to the worldwide recession.

The Stock Market Crash of 1929 was one of the most notable events that led up to the Great Depression. During the 1920s, stock prices rose steeply. In October 1929, decreases in the stock prices worried the investors: “When a variety of minor events led to gradual price declines in October 1929, investors lost confidence and the stock market bubble burst” (Romer). On October 24, 1929, also known as “Black Thursday”, “investors [liquidated] their holdings, thus exacerbating the fall in prices” (Romer). The U.S. stock market prices declined 33 percent from September 1939 to November 1939 (Romer).

stock market 2Source: The Econ Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2014. <http://www.econreview.com/events/stocks1929b.htm >

The stock market crash caused consumer confidence in a future income to plummet. As a result, people stopped spending money on luxurious products; unfortunately, this caused the productivity in America to plummet: “Causes of the Great Depression included: insufficient purchasing power among the middle class and the working class to sustain high levels of production” (Mintz). Businesses began firing workers and lowering the wages of the existing workers because the demand for the products plummeted: “The downturn in spending and investment led factories and other businesses to slow down production and construction and begin firing their workers” (“The Great Depression).

Unfortunately, the Great Depression didn’t just affect the United States of America; the worldwide issue of the gold standard spread the recession to other countries. During World War I, many European countries diverged from the gold standard to print money in order to pay for the war. The inflation that followed encouraged these European countries to revert back to the gold standard: “The mischief began during the First World War, when the European nations went off the gold standard and resorted to massive inflation to pay for the war. Following the Armistice, European nations desired to return to gold-convertible currencies” (Skousen). This became a disaster, as the inflation caused banks to increase interest rates. As a result, the spending in these countries decreased, causing a recession in multiple countries around the world (Romer).

For example, Britain reverted to the gold standard after the war; however, the inflation caused the pound to be overvalued. As a result, the Central Bank of England increased interest rates in order to curb the inflation. Unfortunately, this decision “depressed British spending and led to high unemployment in Great Britain throughout the second half of the 1920s” (Romer).

In conclusion, there were many causes of the Great Depression. Although there may have been smaller factors, the stock market crash and the gold standard were arguably the most significant factors of the recession that hit both the United States and other countries around the world during the 1930s.

Works Cited

Mintz, S., and S. McNeil. “Overview of the Great Depression.” Digital History. N.p., 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/era.cfm?eraid=14&smtid=1 >

Romer, Christina D. The Great Depression. Chicago: World Book, 2011. 20 Dec. 2003. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://eml.berkeley.edu/~cromer/great_depression.pdf >

Skousen, Mark. “Did the Gold Standard Cause the Great Depression?” : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education. Foundations For Economic Education, 1 May 1995. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://fee.org/the_freeman/detail/did-the-gold-standard-cause-the-great-depression >

Smiley, Gene. “Great Depression.” : The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Library of Economics and Liberty, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/GreatDepression.html >

“The Great Depression.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/great-depression >

Introduction.

Welcome to “Living in a Hooverville”, a blog about the Great Depression. In this blog, I hope to cover relevant topics and questions about the Great Depression. I also want to analyze how the people of this time period lived and how they survived and adapted to the economic recession. Examples of questions I may cover include “How did Roosevelt try to fix the Great Depression?” and “How was life for the people who were hit by the Dust Bowl and/or the Great Depression?”.  I hope that the blog posts will be informative and will provide a new perspective into the lives of the people affected by the Great Depression.

The purpose of this blog is to inform readers about this era of U.S. history. Also, I wish to make readers interested about the Great Depression. It may seem like an uninteresting topic, but it is important to know in order to fully understand U.S. history and economics.

 

Thank you for reading.