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50 Interesting Facts About . . .
The Great Depression
1. Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), a Republican, was president when the Great Depression began. He infamously declared in March 1930 that theU.S. had “passed the worst” and argued that the economy would sort itself out. The worst, however, had just begun and would last until the outbreak of WWII (1939).f 2. People who lost their homes often lived in what were called “Hoovervilles,” or shanty towns, that were named after President Herbert Hoover. There was also “Hoover Stew” (food dished out in soup kitchens), “Hoover Blankets”(newspapers that served as blankets), “Hoover Hogs” (jack rabbits used as food), and “Hoover Wagons” (broken cars that were pulled by mules).c 3. Chicago gangster Al Capone (1899-1947), in one of his sporadic attempts at public relations, opened a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. For millions, soup kitchens provided the only food they would see all day.c 4. The Wall Street Crash of 1929was one of the main causes of the Great Depression. “Black Thursday,” “Black Monday,” and “Black Tuesday” are all correct terms to describe the Crash because the initial crash occurred over several days, with Tuesday being the most devastating.k | |
The stock market crash of 1929 was the most devastating crash in the history of the United States |
5. On “Black Tuesday,”October 29, 1929, the market lost $14 billion, making the loss for that week an astounding $30 billion. This was ten times more than the annual federal budget and far more than the U.S. had spent in WWI.e Thirty billion dollars would be equivalent to $377,587,032,770.41 today.i 6. After the initial crash, there was a wave of suicides in the New York’s financial district. It is said that the clerks ofone hotel even started asking new guests if they needed a room for sleeping or jumping.f 7. The Dow Jones market peaked at 381 on September 3, 1929, and bottomed out at 42 in 1932, which is an amazing 89% decline. It did not reach 381 again until 23 years later in 1955 (that doesn’t include inflation losses).e 8. Causes of the Great Depression are widely debated but typically include a weakbanking system, overproduction, bursting credit bubble, the fact that farmers and industrial workers had not shared in the prosperity of the 1920s, and a government-held laissez faire policy.k 9. One American sheep farmer found that he would not make money off of his sheep during the depression. Rather than watch his 3,000 sheep starve to death, he cut their throats and threw them in a canyon.d10. Dorothea Lange’s (1895-1965) famous photographs of migrant workers in California during the 1930s remain a moving pictorial record of the Great Depression.c 11. A new look in women’s fashion emerged in the 1930s. In response to the economic crisis, designers created more affordable fashions with longer hemlines, slim waistlines, lower heels, and less makeup. Accessories became more importantas they created the impression of a “new” look without having to buy a new dress.f 12. During the worst years of the Depression (1933-1934) the overall jobless rate was 25% (1 out of 4 people) with another 25% taking wage cuts or working part time. The gross national product fell by almost 50%. It was not until 1941, when WWII was underway, that unemployment officially fell back below 10%.f13. Today the typical household has two wage earners, so even a 25% unemployment rate such as occurred during the Great Depression may not mean the same thing as it did in the 1930s.e 14. Scholars estimate that nearly 50% of children during the Great Depression did not have adequate food, shelter, or medical care. Many suffered rickets.g 15. Some people who became homeless would ride on...