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The characters of Warner Brothers’ cartoon Anamaniacs once sang a song listing the presidents. In the song they sing “and then in 1929 the market crashes and we find, it’s Herbert Hoover’s big debut. He gets the blame and loses too!”

A lot of people made fun of President Hoover because of the poor job he did in his four years as president. We often think of him as the president who saw the market crash, and the next president, Franklin Roosevelt, as the one who brought us out of the Great Depression. This idea is probably too simple. We can take a closer look at what happened and decide for yourself if this is right or not.

Didn’t Hoover care about what was happening? Should the country have kept him as president for another four years? Or was the country right to choose Franklin Roosevelt to be the next president?

What do you think?


Most American’s daily life changed in many ways when the market crashed. There was a run on the banks, where people took their money out of the bank and put it somewhere in their house where they thought it would be safe. Some people even sold their money for gold and sent their gold out of the country. A number of banks had to close. Other banks tried to make people pay back the money the bank had loaned them, when the people had very little money. Pay for people who had a job was cut back by as much as a dollar a day. People who picked cotton were paid only twenty cents for every one hundred pounds of cotton picked, meaning that those who could pick the most cotton might earn only sixty cents for a fourteen-hour day of work. Governments didn’t have much money either. Less people earned money and paid taxes, so elected officials had to make hard choices about how to spend less money, and they laid off teachers and policemen.

The new hardships that people had were not always easy to notice right away. Many communities felt the changes but could not necessarily look out their windows and see anything different. Men who lost their jobs did not stand on the street begging. They might be found keeping warm by a trashcan bonfire or picking through garbage in the morning, but usually people did not see them. As time went on, the results of the crash became more clear. Those living in cities got used to seeing long lines of men who didn’t have jobs waiting to get a free meal. Companies fired workers and demolished the houses they let their workers live in, so that they would not have to pay taxes on the houses. Normal life in America changed.


The Great Depression changed family life also. Less people got married, and not as many babies were born in the 1930s. Children, women, people who were not white, and working class people suffered the most. Parents often sent their children out to ask for free food at restaurants and grocery stores so that they would not have to be seen asking for food. Many children dropped out of school. Not many went to college. Some schools and colleges ran out of money and had to close. Being a child was not like it was in the 1920’s when people had a lot of money.

People got used to growing more food in their gardens. They did not throw away much food. They did not buy as much at stores. Most of the time they made their own clothes. They had to find new ways to save money, like taking old shoes and putting cardboard in them when the bottom of the shoe wore out. As many as 200,000 children lived alone with no family or home. But people always heard about other families who suffered more than they did, including those with no houses who had to live outside.

The lives of women also changed. Some married women and mothers had to go to work to have enough money for their family. Many men did not like this. They thought that men should get the jobs first. Some men tried to keep companies from giving women jobs. More schools than before refused to let married women be teachers. Twenty-six states passed laws that said that married women could not be hired. But more women still got jobs, as many as thirteen million during the Great Depression. Only ten million had jobs outside of the home in the 1920’s. Some women found jobs that men did not want to do. They worked as telephone operators, social workers, and secretaries. Some worked as maids and cleaned houses for people who still had a lot of money.


From the turn of the century through much of World War I, farmers in the Great Plains made a lot of money due to very good weather, high prices for the food they grew, and government programs that encouraged people to buy a lot of land.

As the US government bought all the extra food that the farmers grew to feed the men fighting in World War I, farmers and ranchers did things that were not very smart, including taking money from banks. They promised to give their farm to the bank if they could not pay the money back. They did the same thing for the food that they would grow in the future so that they would have more money to buy more land. But after World War I, the price of food fell quickly, especially during the recession of 1921. To pay back all of the money they took from the banks, farmers tried to grow more food by having bigger farms. They turned native grassland into farmland to grow more and more wheat. They didn’t care what this would do to the dirt. Still the money that people would pay for the food they grew was less and less. Finally, in 1929 the price of wheat dropped from two dollars to forty cents a bushel.

While factory workers lost their jobs and the money they had saved during the crash, many farmers also lost their homes, because the banks tried to make the farmers pay back the money they had borrowed. Between 1930 and 1935, almost 750,000 farmers lost their farms because of this. Those who were still able to keep their farms had a very hard time selling the food they grew because workers who lost their jobs did not have much money to buy food. When they could, the price of food was so low that farmers almost did not have enough money to live on. They sometimes had to burn their corn to stay warm in the winter.


Making the problem worse was the loss of rain that began in 1931 and lasted for eight terrible years. Huge clouds of dust rolled along the ground through the Great Plains. The dust made it hard to breathe, and it filled up in doorways and came into homes through closed windows. Even more quickly than it had grown, the money made from farming was lost, because farmers grew too much food and used too much land. All of this created the Dust Bowl.

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A great dust cloud rolls toward a farm. Storms of dust covered crops, equipment, animals, and even buildings. They drove thousands of farmers out of Oklahoma and the states around it.

Farm animals died, or had to be sold, as there was no money to buy food to feed them. Food grown to feed the family dried up because there was very little rain. Terrible dust storms happened more often. The dust created a new disease known as dust pneumonia. In 1935 alone, over 850 million tons of dirt was blown away. Scientists said that it would take 500 years for the earth to grow back one inch of dirt that one big dust storm could blow away. Trying so hard to get more land to grow more food, farmers had destroyed what keeps the ground healthy. They did not know that they should use crop rotation, which is to grow different food on different pieces of land each year. They also did not let some fields lie fallow, or be left unused in some years so the soil could recover. They worked the land to death.

For farmers, the results were terrible. Unlike most factory workers in the cities, usually farmers lost their homes when no one would buy the food they grew. Most farmers and ranchers borrowed money from small country banks that knew how the business of farming worked. As these banks failed, they often sold what they had to large banks in the cities that did not care much about farm life. This included the promise that the farmers had made to pay back the money they had borrowed. The farmers now had to pay the money they had borrowed from the small banks to the large banks. Since farmers did not have the money to pay back what they had borrowed, the large banks took their farms. They also bought the small country banks. Five thousand banks closed between 1930 and 1932. More than 75% of them were country banks in areas where less than 2,500 people lived. So, it is easy to see why farmers in the Great Plains still do not like to use big city banks.

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The great photographer Dorothea Lange took this picture of a mother and her children living in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. It has become one of the pictures that people still remember of what it was like at that time.

Even for farmers who got through the beginning of the crash and were not hurt too much by the dust storms, the situation still got worse. The amount people could pay for their food was less and less. So, farmers grew more food to try and make more money. But this made the problem worse. More food to buy made the cost go down even more. More and more farms failed, and farmers had to sell their farms at rock-bottom prices. One farmer in Shelby, Nebraska had borrowed $4,100 to run his farm and had to sell it for only $49.50. One-fourth of the farmland in the entire state of Mississippi was auctioned off in a single day in April 1932.

Not all farmers tried to keep their land, especially those who had arrived only recently. Some just left their farm to the bank and did not pay back anything. In hard-hit Oklahoma, thousands of farmers did this. They took what they could and walked or drove away from the land that they thought would be their future. They became known as Okies. Okies were evidence of the failure of America’s Great Plains to grow most of America’s food, and their story was made famous in John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath.

Many of the Okies drove to California along the famous Route 66. Once there, they worked on large farms for very little money and lived just outside the farms in shacks or in camps without running water or toilets. Because of this many people became sick.


Most African Americans did not buy a lot of land or put their money in the stock market like a lot of people did before the crash. Still, even though they usually did not do this, the Great Depression hit them very hard. Discrimination made it worse for African Americans. Farmers in the South who grew cotton had the same problem as farmers in other parts of the country. They had to pay their workers less or take away their jobs. Farmers would not let them live on their land. Like other Americans, many African Americans lost their homes and jobs and a way to make money.

In cities, African Americans did no better. There were very few jobs, and many white Americans felt that any available jobs should go to Whites first. In some Northern cities, Whites would try to have African American workers fired to allow White workers to get their jobs. Jobs that were usually done by African Americans, such as cleaning the homes of rich people, were given to Whites. By 1932, about one-half of all African Americans had no jobs.

Attacks on African Americans happened more often. In the South, killing became more common, with 28 recorded hangings in 1933, compared to eight in 1932. Since towns and cities had enough problems of their own, and since it was difficult and took a long time to make sure that African Americans were treated the same as Whites, many people decided that there was nothing they could do about this problem. They acted as though these problems were not real. But sometimes something like a hanging was so terrible that the whole country heard about it.

One such case was the Scottsboro Boys. In 1931 nine Black boys were put in jail for being homeless, breaking the law, and arguing with some White people on a train. Two young White women, who had been dressed as boys and traveling with a group of White boys, said that the Black boys had forced them to have sex with them against their wishes. The trial was in Scottsboro, Alabama. It really showed how much Whites hated African Americans and how Black people had not been treated fairly in America for many, many years. Even though they had not had sex with the women, and even though one of the women later said that this did not happen, the all-White jury decided that the boys had really done these things and that all but one of them would be put to death.

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The Scottsboro Boys meet with one of their lawyers while in prison.

The jury’s decision forced Americans to look at how White people treated African Americans. Newspaper writers, college teachers, and those who fought for all people to be treated the same, especially in the northern states, all said that Black people were not being treated the same as White people. The trial was held over again three times. Many courts, including the US Supreme Court made decisions on the case, sometimes changing what other courts had decided. Two important cases resulted from the Scottsboro Boys trials. Powel v. Alabama and Patterson v. Alabama found that people accused of crimes must have a chance to have a good lawyer and that lawyers can not remove people from a jury just because of their race. In the end, the Scottsboro Boys were sent to prison for many years instead of being put to death. Finally, they were released. In 2013, after they had died, they were pardoned by the state of Alabama for what people thought they had done.


In 1932, a major strike at the Ford Motor Company factory near Detroit led to sixty people being hurt and four people losing their lives. Often called the Ford Hunger March, the event started as a planned demonstration by Ford workers who stopped working to let people know how desperate they were. They walked nine miles from Detroit to Ford’s River Rouge plant in the town of Dearborn. When they got there Dearborn police shot tear gas at them, about 3,000 in all. They fought back by throwing stones and balls of dirt at the police. When they finally got to the Ford factory, police there started shooting them and firemen shot water at them. Beside those killed and injured, police put another fifty people in jail. Many people said that this was police brutality. A week later 60,000 people attended the public funerals of the four people who died. The event set the mood for worse relations between workers and companies in the nation.


Demonstrations grew in Washington D.C. also, as many Americans thought that President Hoover was not doing anything about the Depression. The demonstration that drew the most notice was the Bonus Army March of 1932.

In 1924, Congress gave those who fought in World War I a piece of paper that they could use in 1945 to buy $1,000 worth of something. By 1932, many of these World War I soldiers had lost their jobs and the money they had saved. They asked Congress to let them spend this money before 1945.

As members of Congress talked about what to do, the Bonus Army built a town of shacks across the Potomac River in Anacostia Flats. When the Senate did not agree to let them spend their $1000 before 1945, most of the unhappy Bonus Army people returned home. But several thousand stayed there with their families. Many of them had nowhere else to go. The Bonus Army people were calm and friendly and did not have guns or other weapons. However, many people thought that the country might not be safe with them there. On July 28, police began to drive them out. Two men were killed as tear gas and spears were used to make them leave. Afraid of more fighting, Hoover brought a large number of Army soldiers into the city, with soldiers on the ground, on horses, and in tanks. General Douglas McArthur was in charge. The people in the Bonus Army in Anacostia Flats had to run for their lives. Their shacks were then burned down by the Army.

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Part of the camp built by the Bonus Army in Washington, D.C. The camp was later destroyed and burned down. Many people thought that President Hoover was too rough in bringing in the Army. This hurt his chance that people would vote for him to be President again.

Many Americans were very angry. How could the Army act this way? Ninety percent of the Bonus Army men had been soldiers in the Great War. This showed no respect for Americans who had been in the Army. Hoover said that the Bonus Army wanted to tear down the government, and that most of them were Communists. This was not true! Nine out of ten Bonus Marchers had been soldiers, and 20% were disabled from the war. The Bonus Army was the largest march on Washington up to that time. But Hoover and MacArthur thought that the Bonus Army people were much more dangerous than they really were. That summer when Hoover tried to get people to vote for him again, they remembered that he sent in the Army against those who had fought for the US in World War I. Hoover could not get them to forget this.


Millions of Americans were without homes because of the Great Depression. Of these, many went all over the country looking for work, often getting from one place to another by jumping onto trains. These travelers were known as hobos. We do not know exactly when hobos began using American trains to get around. At the end of the American Civil War in the 1860s, many soldiers returned home by riding on freight trains. Others looking for work on the American frontier rode freight trains going west in the late 1800s. In any case, riding the rails, as it was called, was very common by the time the Great Depression started. What was scary was that 250,000 of the hobos during the Depression were teenagers.

Life as a hobo was dangerous. Hobos had no homes and were far away from people who cared about them. Those who worked on the trains did not like them and were mean to them. The train companies had their own police, known as bulls. Bulls were known for hurting and killing people. Also, just riding on the train was dangerous. It was easy to get stuck between train cars and fall off. The smoke made it hard to breathe. Hobos on trains got too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. At least 6,500 hobos died each year, either from bulls or from accidents.

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A young boy runs to jump on a train as it starts to leave the train yard.


Breaking the law happened much more often during the Great Depression. Many people who had no jobs started stealing food. More people were sick from not having enough to eat. More people killed themselves, and more women had sex with someone to earn money. More people drank too much alcohol and couldn’t stop. Smoking cigars became too expensive, so many Americans switched to cheaper cigarettes. Being healthy was not the first thing people worried about, and they went to the doctor only for very serious problems.


Right after Black Tuesday, Hoover tried to make Americans feel better, saying that all was well. Reading his words now, it is easy to laugh at how wrong he was. In 1929 he said that it was silly not to believe in the strength of American businesses. In 1930 he said, “The worst is behind us,” and in 1931 he promised that the US would help out if he ever saw people sick or dying because of not enough food in the country.

Hoover did not mean to be blind or not care. He just had strong ideas about how the government should be involved in the economy, and his ideas did not change as the problems of the Great Depression got worse.

Hoover really thought that if American people took care of themselves, then their hard work would bring its own success. His own life had told him that this was true. His family was poor when he was born. But he found a way to go to college at Stanford University, and finally made a lot of money as an engineer. This experience, plus his travels in China and throughout Europe, made him strongly believe that Americans could solve their problems by themselves if they just tried hard enough. He hated the idea of government helping individual Americans. Although people in Europe might need help, like getting enough food to eat during and after World War I, Hoover thought that the American people were stronger than that. In 1931, he said on the radio that more government help took away the need for people to work for themselves and destroyed the way of thinking that made America great.

Hoover also thought that it might hurt the economy if people put too much money in the stock market. When he was Secretary of Commerce, Hoover often told this to President Coolidge. In the weeks before he became President, he talked to newspapers and magazines, telling Americans that it would be a good idea if they cut back on all of the money that they were putting into the stock market. He wanted the government to make it harder for banks to borrow money to loan to people so that it would be harder for them to buy more stocks. But he did not want to cause a panic either, so he never clearly warned people to stop buying so much stock. He did not want the government to control the stock market either. His thoughts about this ran throughout the whole US government while he was president.

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Hungry men line up for free food. President Hoover wanted other groups, rather than the government, to fix the problems of the Great Depression.

So, Hoover tried to deal with the crash in two very common American ways. First, he asked people to spend less money and work harder, and second, he asked business leaders to keep workers on their jobs. He told business leaders that the crash was not part of a bigger problem and that they had nothing to worry about. He also got owners of railroad companies and utility companies to promise to spend billions of dollars on new construction projects. In return, workers in labor unions agreed not to demand higher pay. He got Congress to pass a law cutting taxes by $160 million, so that workers could keep more of the money they earned. Overall, Hoover’s ideas were called volunteerism, because he wanted people and business owners to volunteer to do what was best to help the country. But this was not enough.

By the end of 1931 Hoover knew that the economy would not get better without more help from the government. He created the President’s Organization of Unemployment Relief (POUR). But POUR did not give money to the people in need. Instead, it gave money to groups like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the Community Chest (or United Way) so that they could help the people. He also asked people with lots of money to give some of their money to help the poor. He gave a lot of his own money and even raised money to help the poor.

Congress wanted to give more government money to help, but Hoover refused. He did care about the problems of the poor, but he really thought that it was important that people should take care of themselves. He said that people helping themselves was way more important than the government doing it for them.

Not able to get help from the US government, Americans turned to groups like the Red Cross, churches and synagogues, and the states for help. But these groups were not able to deal with such a huge problem. Like everyone else, they did not have much money. Cities could not help much either. In 1932 New York City was only able to give a family $2.39 a week, and only one-half of the families even got that. Detroit only had enough money to give each person fifteen cents a day, and then they ran out of money too. The most that could be done was to give people food, and coal or gas to keep warm and run their cars, but there was no help for rent, clothes, medical care, or other things that people needed. Old people who no longer were working had to have their adult children take care of them.

Local groups, such as the police and teachers, tried to help those who needed the most help. They gave some of their own pay to help feed hungry people. In 1931 Chicago teachers used their own money to give food to 11,000 students, even though many of them had not been paid for their work in months. In 1932 New York City teachers did the same thing. They gave as much as $250,000 a month from their own pay to help children in need. But this help was scattered around the country and could not help many Americans who had no hope.

Finally in 1932 Hoover created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). It gave $2 billion to help banks. He wanted people to trust in the banks again. But most of the money went to large banks and not to small banks in the small towns where many people lived. It did not help much, because people needed money to live on, and they did not have much of their money in banks anyway.


In the 1920s Americans thought that it was important for people to be able to do things for themselves and get rich through competing with others. Books helped to tell this story, like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. This idea was also seen in silent movies like Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush.” During the Depression when people had so little money, you would think that people would not spend their money going to movies. But this was not true. Movies offered a way for Americans to think of better times, and people were willing to pay twenty-five cents for a chance to escape to a movie, at least for a few hours. Even the songs in movies made people think of happier days. Two songs that were very popular were, “We’re in the Money” and “Happy Days are Here Again.” Franklin Roosevelt used that one when he was running for president in 1932. People wanted to forget their worries and enjoy the silly action of the Marx Brothers, the lively charm of Shirley Temple, and the wonderful dancing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The nine Hardy Boys films, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, showed that no matter what the challenge was, it could be solved by kids doing a musical play, bringing together family and friends in a warm display of community values.

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Judy Garland stared as Dorothy in the 1939 movie “Wizard of Oz.” The end of the movie made some people think that things would be alright when the Depression was over.


Without a doubt, Hoover was not at fault for the Great Depression. But while he was president, and the country slipped more and more into its problem for which there seemed to be no way out, he would receive great blame. People called the shantytowns Hoovervilles. People who had nothing to use to keep warm used newspapers to wrap up in. These became known as “Hoover blankets.” People needed to blame somebody, and many Americans said that Hoover was at fault. Running for President under the slogan “Rugged Individualism” made it difficult for Hoover to push for the government to get involved in a big way to help the economy return to normal.

In 1930, people who ran large American businesses, talked Hoover into signing a new law called the Hawley-Smoot Tariff. This law was supposed to protect American industry from competition from other countries by adding an extra charge to goods brought into the US. The idea was that the extra charge would make foreign-made products more expensive, and people would then buy things made in America. It was passed against the advice of nearly every person who studied economics at that time. It was the largest extra charge (tariff) on foreign-made products in American history. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff was a huge mistake. Instead of helping American manufacturers, it hurt them when other nations responded with tariffs of their own. As people around the world stopped buying American-made goods, the entire world went into a depression.

Nearly anyone could have beaten Hoover in the vote for president in 1932. New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the Democratic Party’s choice to be president. He promised “A New Deal for the American People.” The Republican Party chose Hoover again to be the president, perhaps because there were so few people in the Republican Party who wanted to be president.

Roosevelt was born in 1882, the son of a rich New York factory owner. Roosevelt was a fifth cousin of the famous president, Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt (FDR as he was called) became involved in politics at a young age. A strong backer of former president Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations, Roosevelt ran for Vice-President in 1920, but lost. The following year he got polio, and even though it did not kill him, like it did many other Americans who had the terrible disease, he could never walk again without crutches to hold himself up.

The election was a huge win for the Democratic Party. 58% of the people voted for Roosevelt. He also won 89% of the electoral vote. This was the second-worst loss for the Republican Party in their history. Bands across America started playing Roosevelt’s theme song, “Happy Days Are Here Again.” America’s new president gave new hope to Americans all across the country.


The Great Depression was certainly terrible, but it was also not the fault of any one person, so it is not fair to blame President Hoover for starting the Depression.

However, it is certainly okay to consider his performance as president and how he tried to take care of the problem. Every president faces problems that he did not see coming, and even though Hoover had one of the worst problems that any president could have had, it was still up to him to help guide the nation back to health. Did he do this? Was the way that he tried to do it correct? Did it work? Did he not care, or not care enough?

In a big, big way Americans who voted in 1932 said NO to Hoover and the way he was leading the country. They hoped that Roosevelt would give them something new and different. Now, almost 100 years later, do you think that it was fair that Hoover should have lost by so many votes?

Did he really deserve to lose?



BIG IDEA: The Great Depression was the worst economic disaster in the nation’s history and life was hard for all Americans, especially minorities. In the end, people turned to Franklin Roosevelt who promised new ideas.

The Great Depression affected everyone. Even people who did not lose their jobs usually had their pay lowered. Hungry, jobless, homeless people became a common sight on the streets of American cities. Even government struggled. With fewer people working, fewer people were paying taxes, and politicians struggled with hard decisions about how to solve the crisis.

Farmers who had bad loans from the 1920s lost their farms as banks foreclosed. In the middle of the country, a drought and poor farming techniques combined to form the Dust Bowl. People whose farms had been ruined by the dust fled to California and elsewhere looking for a chance to start over.

The Depression was especially hard for African Americans. The few jobs that were available were given to Whites first. In some places, anger and frustration boiled over and African Americans were targeted. Lynching increased. In one famous case, the Scottsboro Boys were tried for a crime that never happened. The experience of surviving the Great Depression inspired African Americans to begin the community organizing necessary for the later Civil Rights Movement.

Organized labor suffered during the Depression. In Detroit, hungry workers marched to a Ford factory and clashed violently with police.

Millions of Americans were left homeless. Many rode the rails looking for work. Among these, tens of thousands were teenagers. It was a dangerous life.

Families were hit especially hard. Divorce and separation increased. Birth rates fell. More women began looking for work in order to support their families. Many children dropped out of school.

During the Depression, Americans loved going to the movies. It was a chance to escape the hardships of daily life.

President Hoover tried to address the crisis by encouraging businesses not to raise prices or lower wages. In order to help the millions who were suffering, he encouraged churches and other civil groups to operate shelters and soup kitchens. This failed to solve the problem, simply because the problem was so large.

In Washington, DC, an army of World War I veterans gathered to demand early payment of a bonus. President Hoover ordered their camp cleared. It was a decision that cemented his unpopularity.

In 1932, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidential election. He promised voters a new deal.



Okies: Families of farmers who fled the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Many went to California.

John Steinbeck: Author of The Grapes of Wrath which chronicled the plight of Okies during the Great Depression.

Scottsboro Boys: Group of nine African Americans who were accused of rape during the Great Depression. They were convicted but a series of appeals brought attention to injustices in the southern court system.

Bonus Army: Group of World War I veterans who travelled to Washington, DC during the Great Depression where the set up a temporary camp. They were demanding early payment of a bonus promised to them by congress, but were eventually evicted forcibly by the army.

Douglas MacArthur: American general who led the clearing of the Bonus Army camp during the Great Depression and went on to be a celebrated commander in the Pacific Theater during World War Two.

Hobos: Homeless people who rode freight trains during the Great Depression.

Marx Brothers: Comedians during the Great Depression.

Shirley Temple: Child movie star during the Great Depression. Her curly hair and cheery demeanor made her popular with people looking for an escape from their troubles.

Fred Astaire: Movie star and dancer during the Great Depression. He is famous for his routines with Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers: Movie star and dancer during the Great Depression. She is famous for her routines with Fred Astaire.

Judy Garland: Movie star during the Great Depression. She is famous for playing Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Mickey Rooney: Movie star during the Great Depression. His career stretched over many decades beginning in the silent film era.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: American president first elected during the Great Depression. He promised a New Deal and went on to be elected a total of four times. He led the nation through most of World War II.


Crop Rotation: A farming practice in which fields are planted with different plants each season in order to prevent total loss of needed nutrients.

Lie Fallow: A farming practice in which a field is allowed to go unused during a season in order for nutrients to be replenished.

Riding the Rails: Illegally hitching a ride of a freight train. This common practice during the Great Depression.


Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC): Government agency set up under the Hoover Administration that provided funding to support troubled banks in an effort to prevent bank failures.


Powell v. Alabama: A Supreme Court case in which the Scottsboro Boys argued that they had received inadequate legal representation in their trial.

Patterson v. Alabama: A Supreme Court case in which the Scottsboro Boys argued that their trial was unjust because all African American jurors had been excluded.


The Grapes of Wrath: Book by John Steinbeck which chronicled the plight of Okies during the Great Depression.


Dust Bowl: Area around Oklahoma in the early-1930s that suffered a devastating drought. The effects were exacerbated by poor farming practices that resulted in a catastrophic loss of topsoil and the exodus of many farm families.

Hooverville: Nickname for the homeless camps that developed in many large cities during the Great Depression.


Ford Hunger March: 1932 strike and march in Detroit by Ford workers that resulted in a confrontation with police and the deaths of four marchers.


Volunteerism: President Hoover’s plan to deal with the Great Depression. He wanted private companies and organizations to provide help to the needy and continue to employ workers on their own.

Hawley-Smoot Tariff: Tariff law passed during the Hoover Administration during the Great Depression. It raised taxes on imports in an effort to help American manufactures. In retaliation, other nations also raised tariffs and American exporters suffered leading to a worsening of the Depression.

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