My most updated material for this World War Two module is on the following page of our wiki:

My Website Spotlight blog posts that pertain to this module

Civilian Conservation Corps (American Experience)

Riding the Rails (American Experience)

Seabiscuit (American Experience)

Surviving the Dust Bowl (American Experience)

Route 66

America in the 1930s

Farming in the 1930s

Websites which provide an overview of this module:

America in the 1930s (UVA). This is terrific.

1. Timeline—by year. Check out how incredible this is!!

2. Depression Slang
Deal particularly with these two parts:
a. Click on "Shoot Some Soda Jerk Slang" and work through that section.
b. Click on "Don't Be Dead Between the Ears, Check Out Some Jivin' Slang" and work through that section.

History Now The Great Depression (entire issue)

1930s today: interview with Jonathan Alter


1. Presidents.

All three were Republicans: Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.

President Warren G. Harding obituary (New York Times)

President Calvin Coolidge obituary (New York Times)

Calvin Coolidge Passes - 1933 | Today in History | 5 Jan

Finding Dulcinea: On This Day: President Coolidge Delivers First Presidential Address Broadcast on Radio

Alfred Smith obituary (New York Times)

President Herbert Hoover obituary (New York Times)

Herbert Hoover
Miller Center (University of Virginia)
My Website Spotlight blog post

All three were pro–business ("The business of America is business").

2. Supreme Court.

Protected business and private property as it had in the Gilded Age.
Sheltered business from government regulation
Hindered organized labor from striking.

3. Congress. Responsive to corporate lobbying.

4. Welfare capitalism.

Corporations countered the appeal of unions by offering pensions, profit–sharing, picnics, and company-sponsored sports teams.

5. Consumerism

[We will see a replay of this consumerism when we look later at the 1950s.]

Consumer society.

Number of consumers increased by advertising (increased sophistication plus increased expenditures), credit, and higher wages

6. Automobile

Ford Model T

a. The car altered American life as much as the railroad had 75 years earlier.
b. Car registrations went from 8 to 23 million in the 1920s.
c. Car prices more affordable: mass production and competition
d. Automobile industry fostered growth of other industries

  • Items to make cars: steel, glass, rubber, textiles.
  • Roads: "good roads" movement.
  • Motels and diners
  • Oil drilling
  • Gas stations


Black Tuesday, Stock Market Crash Ushers in Great Depression (On This Day, Finding Dulcinea)

Photo Gallery

Crash of 1929 (American Experience)
My Website Spotlight blog post

Crash of 1929

The Crash of 1929 & The Great Depression (PBS) 1of6

(A) Business context

1. Increasing flow of consumer goods: autos, radios, and household appliances

2. Installment credit increased sales

3. Optimism in the air
Unlimited prosperity would never end
"Blue skies keep smiling on me"

Irving Kaufman - Blue Skies (1927)

4. But the consumer–goods revolution contained seeds of its own collapse.

  • Factories produced more than country could consume.
  • Workers had insufficient purchasing power.
  • Farmers were particularly suffering.

5. Mild recession in 1927

  • Business should have heeded warning
  • Should have raised wages
  • Should have lowered prices.
  • Government should have tightened installment buying.

(B) Investment issues

1. Stocks could be bought on margin:

$100 down could buy stock worth $1,000.

2. Stocks rose more on speculation than on underlying company value.

3. Corporations focused on profits, dividends, and expansion

4. Not enough money went to the workers—who were also consumers.

5. Stock market crash in October 1929 burst the bubble.

29 October 1929 Stock Prices Collapse (New York Times)

(C) After the Stock Market crash

1. Beginning of the depression.

2. Between 1929 and 1932, industrial production declined by almost 45%
Decline of production led to plant closings and unemployment.

3. Unemployment rose quickly:

  • 1930—5 million (15% unemployment)
  • 1931—9 million (25%)
  • 1932—12 million (40%)

4. Bank failures rose steadily.

5. Protectionism

Smoot–Hawley tariff raised U.S. import duties to an all–time high.

Protectionism: The Battle of Smoot-Hawley (Economist)

Ben Stein's take on Smoot-Hawley (New York Times)

Difficult for other countries to sell their products in U.S.
Difficult for them to earn dollars to buy American products.
Other countries raised their tariffs in retaliation.

6. Depression became world–wide.

Impact of the depression

Depression dominated American life for 10 years (1929–1939).
People postponed marriage; married couples postponed having children.
Malnutrition and deteriorating diets made people susceptible to disease.
Out–of–work fathers felt ashamed of their diminished roles.

President Herbert Hoover

Google Images: Herbert Hoover

Google Images: Herbert Hoover political cartoons

Time Capsule
6 February 1929

1928 Presidential Election

Hoover won the 1928 election against Al Smith

Dirty Campaigning in the Roaring Twenties: Herbert Hoover vs. Al Smith - Mental Floss

Should a Catholic Be President?: A Contemporary View of the 1928 Election

Al Smith’s Address of Acceptance of the Democratic Presidential Nomination (1928)

Hoover's administration
Not too successful.
Remedies relied upon self–help, not government assistance.
Traditional: tried to balance the budget
Vetoed several relief measures.

Hooverville (Wikipedia)

See also:

The Ordeal of Herbert Hoover (2 part series)

Bonus Army March (1932)

Google Image Search

Bonus Army (Wikipedia)

Bonus Expeditionary Force

World War I veterans (15,000) camped in Washington

Demanded payment immediately of promised (1945) cash bonuses

President Hoover ordered the army to evict the veterans

Army, commanded by Douglas MacArthur, operated harshly

"Cheered in 1917, Jeered in 1932"

Bonus Army march

Bonus Army (Library of Congress)
Scroll down 2/3 of the way

1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles
(Today in History, Library of Congress)

The Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR)

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Wikipedia)

Google Images: Franklin Roosevelt

Election of 1932. FDR won easily over Hoover.,_1932

Paralyzed nation strengthened by physically–handicapped President
Google Images: Franklin Roosevelt and polio

Eleanor Roosevelt. Details on her life.

Google Images: Eleanor Roosevelt

Great advocate of social justice; admired by blacks.

Marching on Washington: Marion Anderson

Eleanor Roosevelt letter resigning from the Daughters of the American Revolution

Four–month transition a problem.
Partially solved by 20th Amendment (1933)

New Deal

The Great Depression (Today in History, Library of Congress)

The First 100 Days of the New Deal
(Today in History, Library of Congress)

First 100 Days

Congress was in session for one hundred days before it adjourned.
During this period, FDR went fifteen for fifteen in major legislation.
Subsequent presidents are measured by this impossible standard.

Saving the Banks
Context: prior bank failures
FDR issued a decree closing all banks in America.
This approach called a "banking holiday"

Emergency Banking Relief Act.
Provided for government supervision and assistance to banks
Strong ones would be reopened with federal support.
Weak ones would be closed
Deposit insurance ($5,000) would be available

Fireside chats
FDR made great use of radio to reach public.

Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA)

Farming in the 1930s
Click through each of the seven modules

Three million people left farms in the 1930s.

Agricultural Adjustment Act was designed to help farm problems:

Low prices paid for crops
Low income of farmers
Difficulty of paying mortgages
Rise in farm foreclosures

The act provided for the following:

Government paid subsidies to farmers who

a) Restricted crop acreage: wheat, cotton, corn, rice, or tobacco

b)Reduced number of livestock, particularly pigs.

Great Depression: How Young Americans Survived the Hard Times

Dust Bowl

Dust Bowl (Finding Dulcinea)

Drought and poor farming techniques led to dust storms.
Many from Oklahoma (Okies) and Arkansas (Arkies) fled to California.

Surviving The Dust Bowl - YouTube

Use "Dust Bowl 1930" as search term in Google Images.

Digression: Iran hostage rescue force ran into a vast dust cloud:

American Experience: Dust Bowl
Surviving the Dust Bowl
Then go to Photo Gallery.

See also:

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s

Surviving the Dust Bowl

Dust Bowl Legacy

Interactive Dust Bowl

Dust Bowl Biographies

Dust Bowl Photo Gallery

Dust Bowl: Woodie Guthrie film clip

Black Sunday dust storm

Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl ballads

Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Wrath
Plot summary
Clip about the movie

Grapes of Wrath "Two for a Penny" Movie Clip

Discussing 'The Grapes of Wrath' - CornellCast

The Grapes of Wrath - Setting | Steinbeck in the Schools | San Jose State University

Grapes of Wrath

U.S. Route 66

America on the Move | The People's Highway: Route 66

Photos: The 85th Anniversary of U.S. Route 66

First drive-in movie theater opens — This Day in History — 6/6/1933

A postman wrote a Route 66 travel guide for black people (Green Book)

8 Things You May Not Know About Route 66


Google Images

Seabiscuit (American Experience)



Seabiscuit part 1

Riding the Rails

Google Images

Riding the Rails (American Experience)

Great Depression -- Letters from Boxcar Boys and Girls of the 1930s

Teaching about the Great Depression

Riding the Rails during the Great Depression

Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails: Hobo Kids during Great Depression 1/5

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

Job corps for white men, aged 18–25.
Supervised by U.S. army.
Workers paid $30 per month, of which $25 had to be sent to family.
Pumped $2 billion into economy (equivalent to $200 billion today).
Work planned by National Park Service:
Tree planting (North Dakota to Texas), flood control, road construction.

American Experience: Civilian Conservation Corps
Go to Photo Gallery. Click through the photos there.

See also:

Civilian Conservation Corps (National Archives, Prologue magazine)

Civilian Conservation Corps

Civilian Conservation Corps

National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA)

Industrial cornerstone for New Deal.
Corporations were to hold down prices.
Labor was to accept wages offered.
Shows faith in planning.
Section 7 (a) of the NIRA encouraged labor unionizing.

Google Image Search under NRA Blue Eagle

See also:

National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)

Our Documents - National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)

Blue Eagle

Opposition to the New Deal

a) Conservative critics. Republicans did not like government control of the economy.

b) Liberal critics:

1) Father Charles Coughlin.

Catholic priest from Detroit
Weekly radio sermons (30 million audience)
Criticized the New Deal
Proposed a National Union for Social Justice to counter the New Deal.
Anti-Semite: depression caused by international Jewish bankers.
Expressed support for Hitler's approach to running Germany.

Charles E. Coughlin (Holocaust Museum bio)
Reverend Charles E. Coughlin

American Rhetoric Speech Bank: Roosevelt or Ruin

Charles Coughlin the radio priest

2) Dr. Francis E. Townsend

Proposed an Old Age Revolving Pensions plan
Every person over age 60 would get a $200 per month pension.
His plan would cost 50% of national income to help 7% of population.

3) Huey Long.

Former Governor of and Democratic Senator from Louisiana.
Proposed a Share Our Wealth Society
Tax rich people heavily
Furnish each family an annual income of $2,500
Assassinated in 1935

Huey Long

Huey Long: "Every Man a King" Address (1934)

Every Man a King
American Rhetoric Speech Bank

Huey Long: “Share Our Wealth” Address (1935)

Share Our Wealth
American Rhetoric Speech Bank

FDR and the Kingfish

Social Security Act

FICA deduction today.
Designed to prevent more radical alternatives (Townsend and Long)
Workers required to pay into it
Answer to critics of "relief"
Worker's payment matched by employer

See also:

Congress and the New Deal: Social Security

Social Security (Stanford History Education Group)

Social Security Act (1935)

Social Security Act (Finding Dulcinea)

Frances Perkins

Second phase of New Deal:

Emphasized underconsumption.
Massive public works programs for the jobless
Home relief (the dole) versus work relief.

Works Progress Administration (WPA)

WPA (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Webquest: Posters from the WPA
Employed 3 million men as manual laborers: roads, hospitals, bridges.

Employed educated persons: Federal Art, Writers', Theater Projects
Federal Music Project (Wikipedia)
Federal Theatre Project (Wikipedia)
Federal Writers' Project (Wikipedia)

Criticized by conservatives as make-work

Library of Congress: American Memory Timeline
Section entitled "Great Depression and World War Two
Go to the following section: "Americans React to the Great Depression"
Go to article entitled "WPA Road"

Presidential Election of 1936
FDR won a second term easily

Results in U.S. House of Representatives,_1936
Results in U.S. Senate,_1936

Supreme Court: FDR attempt at "Court Packing"

Court Packing Bill (Wikipedia)
Court Packing (Finding Dulcinea)

Court declared AAA and NIRA unconstitutional on 5-4 votes.
FDR wanted to appoint pro–New Deal justices
Proposed six new ones (one for every member over age 70).
Congress (both parties) opposed the plan
Felt he was overreaching and looking like a dictator.

Issue became moot: a swing justice changed his voting pattern.
The so-called "switch in time that saved nine"
Owen Roberts (Wikipedia)

Soon thereafter, several older justices retired.

FDR and the Supreme Court special exhibit

History Now FDR's Court-Packing Plan

Recession of 1937–1939

Seeing a temporary economic improvement, FDR stopped deficit spending; the economy took a dive.
Shows FDR conservatism.

People talk today about the need for more stimulus and the merits/demerits of cost cutting.

Presidential Election of 1940,_1940

War had started in Europe on 1 September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland.
FDR won historic third term.

New Deal coalition

Democratic Party consisted of the following:

Urban immigrants
Organized labor

White southerners

Northern blacks
Ever since the Civil War, blacks had usually voted Republican.
Big shift occurred during the New Deal: blacks began voting for Democrats

This New Deal coalition held together until the 1960s, when the civil rights movement created internal tension in the Democratic Party.

New Deal assessed

Liberal, evolutionary reform program
New Deal was not a revolutionary break with the past.
New Deal ideas (TVA & Social Security) had been around for decades.
New Dealers had been active in reform movements since Progressive era.

New Deal failed in its fundamental purpose: to put people back to work and end the depression.
Depression only ended due to World War II.

But New Deal gave Americans back their psychological will to overcome.

In the past, federal government had served as an economic regulator.
During New Deal, it became an economic guarantor and stimulator as well.

Congressional Republicans are currently trying to limit the size of government, much of which began with the New Deal.