The Great Depression
Irving Fisher, an economist at Yale University in 1929, confidently
stated, “The nation is marching along a permanently high plateau of
prosperity.” Less than a week later, the bottom dropped out of the stock
market sending the American economy toward its worst downfall in
history. The Great Depression was not only responsible for a dramatic
change in the structure of American politics, but also for a change in
Americans’ expectations about government. The Depression affected all
Americans, rich or poor, and was responsible for ushering numerous
social problems into the lives of citizens.
Herbert Hoover was elected president in 1928. Prior to his election,
during his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination, he stated,
“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.” Many Americans shared Hoover’s optimism in the
beginning of 1929. On January 1, 1929, The New York Times printed an
editorial reading, “It has been twelve months of unprecedented
advance, of wonderful prosperity. If there is any way of judging the
future by the past, this new year will be one of felicitation and
Later that year, on Tuesday, October 29, the market crashed. This
day is known as “Black Tuesday” and is considered the single most
devastating financial day in the history of the New York Stock
Exchange (NYSE). Prices fell so far in the first few hours that day,
profits from the year before were completely wiped out. America spent
nearly thirty million dollars on WWI. A comparable amount was lost
from the American economy in the two weeks between October 29, and
November 13, 1929.
High school dropout rates soared to nearly three million following
The Crash. Unemployment and homelessness were widespread. Many
homeless across America built cardboard and tar-paper shacks, called
“Hoovervilles” in sarcastic reference to President Hoover. Organized
protests took place around the country. Farmers, in hopes of preventing
foreclosures, marched at local banks armed with guns and pitchforks.
Farmers were hit especially hard by the Depression. Many of them
could no longer make the payments on their land and machinery they
had placed themselves in debt to buy. As if that was not bad enough,
much of the Midwest and South was turned into a dust bowl when a
great drought took place in 1931-32.
As Americans searched for a way to escape, some industries...