The Great Depression (1929-1939) was America’s worst economic downturn. It is “known” to have started with the stock market crash and ensuing panic. But in reality it was caused by extreme rapid expansion of the U.S. Economy in the “Roaring Twenties.” There are tons of internet sites and good books about the Great Depression including history.com. Here are bits and pieces of history that you may not know about the Great Depression.
The Real Economy
- Up to 40% of the country never faced real hardship during the Great Depression.
- Every major country, including the United States, abandoned the gold standard during the Great Depression.
- Average family income fell from $2,300 to $1,500 per year.
- In 1932 and ’33, money circulation was so slow that the U.S. didn’t mint nickels.
- Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK’s father) amassed an enormous amount of wealth during the Great Depression.
- Discrimination during the Great Depression against women was common, both officially and unofficially, because they were seen as taking away jobs from men.
- Californians tried to stop migrants from moving into their state by creating checkpoints on main highways called “bum blockades.”
- When the Depression struck, Mexican-Americans were accused of taking jobs away from “real” Americans and of unfairly burdening local relief efforts. Some were “encouraged” to return to Mexico.
- African-Americans were the hardest hit during the Great Depression, and they were often the first to get laid off.
- Corn was marketed as a food to eat every day during the
- Many children drank substitute “milk” made from flour and water.
- Rocky Road ice cream was “invented” in during the Great Depression.
- In the mountain communities of Appalachia, families ate dandelions and blackberries as their primary diet.
- Many people sold apples to avoid the shame of panhandling. In New York City alone, there were as many as 6,000 apple sellers.
- Depression soup was 1/3 cup ketchup and 2/3 cup of boiling water.
- Chicago gangster Al Capone (1899-1947) opened a soup kitchen during the Great Depression.
- Released May 27, 1933, the “Three Little Pigs” produced by Walt Disney—was seen as symbolic. The wolf represented the Depression and the three little pigs represented average citizens who eventually succeeded by working together.
- The hit song of 1932 was Bing Crosby’s “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
Bits & Pieces of History
- Chain letters seemed to have first begun in 1935 as a get-rich-quick scheme.
- Accessories became more important as they created the impression of a “new” look without having to buy a new dress.
- “Hooverville” was the name dubbed to shantytowns that were made of cardboard boxes. This was due to President Hoover’s association with the hardships that had fallen on so many people.
- The word “skid row” became a commonly used term during the depression years. Skid Row refers to run-down part of a town frequented by vagrants, alcoholics, and drug addicts.
As a writer I collect these bits and pieces of history for inspiration. As a person this type of information fascinates me. I hope you’ve found it interesting. Did you know these bits and pieces of history? Do you know an odd piece of information I didn’t include here?