Analysis of the Events of The Great Depression
“We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. The poorhouse is vanishing from among us.” (Herbert Hoover – 1928)
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $12
“The nation is marching along a permanently high plateau of prosperity.”
(Irving Fisher – October 24th, 1929)
Five days later, the bottom dropped out of the stock market, ushering in the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in America’s history.
The Great Depression. This was quite possibly the most economically devastating event in
American history. The people of the early century suffered massively during this disastrous time. “In 1932, a crowd of fifty men fought over a barrel of garbage outside the back door of a Chicago restaurant” (The Great Depression – Gale Group). The 1920s were a decade of prospers, and because everybody in the United States had become accustomed to living a healthy, as well as comfortable lifestyle, it made the sudden impact of the stock market crash so much more detrimental.
On that fateful day of October 29th, 1929, all of the nation’s progress, everything that had been accomplished throughout the past decade was plunged into an abyss of poverty. With the Dust Bowl coinciding, the Depression paved the way for many challenges that Americans would begin to face, such as starvation, poverty, unemployment, chronic illness, and death in large multiples.
During the nineteen-twenties, educational facilities boomed into play. Teachers’ salaries rose, and junior high schools were developed. Student attendance skyrocketed, and vocational education grew like garden alyssum. The reason it was called the “Booming ’20’s”, was because every aspect of the U.S. was growing, and at a rapid rate. This was quite possibly the most prosperous decade of the early century. And all of this was because of a great economic inclination. People began to charge everything that they bought on credit cards, and that was okay. This was a time of fun, life, and a carefree attitude. Everything was about buying and selling, drinking and dancing, and just trying to be happy. And President Coolidge was against the partying of this decade in every aspect.
He took office immediately after president Harding died a horrible death, but that’s another essay, for another time. New ways of paying were developed, such as layaway, and installment paying. People just began to dig themselves deeper and deeper into debt. Everybody borrowed from everybody so that they could get in on the newest way to make money: The Stock Market. The stock market was the fastest rising trend of the decade, and the value of stocks was climbing faster than the trend itself. There were many wives’ tales about lucky people who made millions by playing the stock market. But with this new trend taking charge, there was going to be a tremendous price to be paid.
On October 29th, 1929, things took a turn for the worst, and then some. In New York, New York, many Wall Street stockbrokers began to take their own lives, as they threw themselves off the top floors of their office buildings. The stock market crashed and took many American luxuries with it. By the 1920s, credit was being used as much as oxygen, and after a period of about eight years, it began to falter.
It was about this same period of time that fraud became one of America’s big issues. People were using false credit, checks when they had no money in the bank to cover it, and so on and so forth. Now, these two factors, along with lack of responsibility on the bank’s behalf, caused the dreaded day known as “Black Thursday”.
The reason it was called black Thursday was that it was this day in particular that caused the United States of America to go into some of its darkest years. Never before has there ever been any kind of event, (other than war, or a terrorist attack: 9-11), that impacted so many American lives on an emotional level, economical level, or political level. “These are days when many are discouraged. In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come and gone. Prosperity has always returned and will again.” (J.D. Rockefeller – www.us.history.com) But the stock market crash of Oct. of 1929 was not the only thing that went wrong during the course of the next ten years.
Sam Nichols, tenant farmer, Boone County, Arkansas, October 1935 $40,200,000,000. Farmers, perhaps the hardest hit economic group, saw their income decline from $11,900,000,000 to $5,300,000,000” (The Great Depression – Gale Group). It seemed as if things could not get any worse…and they didn’t, until the spring and summer of 1930. Most people see a great depression, as an era of economical imbalance, and it was, just not only on the level of losing money. There were many issues that contributed to the great depression (bad credit, fraud, lack of responsibility, etc.). But the other most crucial factor that caused it was…the Dust Bowl.
Most people look at the great depression and see the big stock market crash. In 1934 that the actual dust bowl began, but it began to develop in 1930. For farmers and croppers, this was a far worse situation, because, for them, their well being depended on their crops, and their crops depended on water and sun. If water and sun are used at an equal balance, then the crops that are being planted will grow into good, and healthy vegetables. But if you have too much of one, and not enough of another, (which was not enough water in the farmer’s cases), then your crops are going to fail, and eventually die, (which was again the case with the farmers).
In 1930, very little rain was coming down on the eastern part of the United States, and this tremendously affected over 17 million people. Over 3 million people were out of work by this time. For many people, their crops and farms were their only source of income, and without any kind of profit, they were left in the dust (no pun intended). However, the drought shifted from the eastern part of the United States to the Great Plains. Because of this sudden change of pace of the storm, the entire country was left in devastating ruins. In fact, the only two states that were not affected by the dust bowl (1934 – 1938) were Maine and Vermont. So the Dust Bowl contributed to the great depression just as much as the stock market crash.
“The physical structure of business was still intact, undamaged by war or natural disaster” (The Great Depression – Gale Group). But this was about to change. When the men of the household left to defend the country at a time of dire need, they left the women to fend for themselves, as well as their families. The women were forced to find work. At this time, women were not allowed to work, so it was really hard for women to support their families. They were sometimes forced to live off of war bonds (similar to food stamps today), just to get some food. Women began to charge merchandise on credit, and write checks, and soon, their credit, as well as their bank account ran out.
The war had a devastating effect on the status of well being upon Americans. Even those that were not involved in the war were forced to suffer the consequences of those that were fighting in it. Some women made bullets for a living. There was no money to buy clothing, so they resorted to sewing together rags so that they could have clothes to wear. They would sometimes work in button sewing factories. “Quilting was also a way of earning money to help a family get by financially. Both country and city dwellers did piecework for pay”,
The effects of the great depression were almost as great as the depression itself. Women had no money to support their families; people had no money to treat themselves at the hospital it the occasion ever called for it; crops in the east part of the United States, as well as the Great Plains, were not able to be grown, and therefore not able to be sold, which in turn left the people of this region without money, food, or decent land (the drought left the soil infertile) to try again later.
In fact, it wasn’t until much later that the farms began to produce crops again; crime was at its peak during this time, out of simple desperation, because back then there was not really a legal system; women began to make quilts, cook for the elderly, while men shined shoes, and did anything and everything they could do to make money; farmers began to feed their dogs pig fat because they had no other way to feed their pets.
It was also around this time that the mafia crime bosses began to take over the cities. They would loan money to people (and everybody would take it), and if they not paid back within a certain amount of time, then they would have what is called a loan shark either get their money or kill whoever borrowed it. Bugsy Seagal, the founder of the Sahara (a casino in Las Vegas), was one of those types of people. He borrowed a lot of money from gangsters so that he could start his casino, as a way to get richer. He later was killed, because he didn’t have the money to pay the loan shark back.
There were many factors that contributed to the great depression, but there were more effects that determined the outcome of the United States. Today, we look at the depression, as just a big mess. But, if it were not for the great depression, we would not have the privilege of living in this country. It is because of the men of the ’20s, ’30s, and 40’s that we have the comfort of living with all of the luxuries that we do today. The end of the great depression was the turning point of the century.
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