The Great Depression was a time of struggle, homelessness and famine that touched everyone living in America, and subsequently the world, from 1920 until 1940. But, much of our commonly known information are urban legends or falsities.
Most think of the ’30’s with Black Thursday, when a massive amount of shares were sold and five days later when investors discovered they had lost everything; Black Tuesday aka Suicide Tuesday. In school we were taught suicide rates increased as men jumped from high windows but the first suicide to occur after the crash was seen by Winston Churchill and had nothing to do with the stock market. It seems the famous horse riding cowboy, Will Rogers started the “lie” as he meant it to be funny for his newspaper column.
“When Wall Street took that tail spin, you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of, and speculators were selling space for bodies in the East River… You know there is nothing that hollers as quick and as loud as a gambler.” Oct 29,1929
In fact the first suicide because of the crash occurred a week later, by a bank teller who shot himself.
Others often believe that starvation was due to the Great Dust Bowl where all the tilling of farming soil created deadpan and allowed the topsoil to blow and create dust storms across the country. That is true but what many fail to realize is farmers were often too broke to harvest crops from their fields and so crops were left to rot. The same thing happened with dairy farmers. Milk was dumped into ditches and roads since they weren’t able to sell the milk for enough to feed their cows.
Even today we hear about investors & bankers that suffered the most. But, African Americans, Hispanics, women, and Jews were hit the hardest. Women often held jobs as hired help in affluent homes but the first people to loose their jobs when times were hard was to let the hired help go. Nearly all women except those in secretary jobs were let go due to the belief that a man needed that job to feed his family. African American men who previously performed jobs (janitors, street sweepers, etc) considered ‘below’ a white man and were eventually replaced by white men. The Hispanic community suffered especially due to the anti-immigration backlash as race & class was eroded as the need to feed one’s family created humility. As Caucasian families replaced African American families those families replaced Hispanic families, were then often deported without pay.
History is often one sided and often the side that has the money to write the history is the one seen and published. So, I encourage you to look beyond what you know and learn about those outside your race or family history. I adore history and find it fascinating. Below you’ll find a list to some of the books and movies we have read and seen through the years. You may find it odd that entertainment was so popular but Ford encouraged folks to dance to forget their troubles! Distraction was also popular so radio shows, theatre and clubs were easy ways to forget for a few hours you were starving.
And, one of my favorite videos is Clara, an older lady who cooks Depression Era recipes. Many of the recipes she makes are ones I grew up on and still make for my own kiddos! This link will take you over to Amazon where I’ve a list of books over the Great Depression for kids, teens and adults. And, remember, to double check your shipping address! For Christmas I mailed gifts to extended family and left the address only to receive a phone call asking what I was saying by sending an anti-aging skin care line. Oops! 😉
This was our 6th installment of the ABC’s of American History series. Please join us next week for H is for Henry Ford!