top of page



The term refers to the period roughly from 1929- 1939.


On Black Tuesday, 1929, the Dow Jones plummeted and within three years dropped from a high of 381 to 41.


Between 1930-33, more than 9,000 banks failed. Since no deposit insurance existed, bank failure led to the complete loss of customer savings. $140 billion dollars of deposits disappeared during this period.


Unemployment reached 25% of the workforce. With no federal welfare programs, assistance to the unemployed came from churches, non-profit agencies and local governments, each of which was suffering serious cash flow problems.


The drought of 1931 created the Dust Bowl from Nebraska to Texas, destroying the agricultural economy and causing thousands of farms to go under the auction gavel. Farms were sold for pennies on the dollar.


The term 'Oakie' was first used by a California newspaper editor to describe the farmers who migrated from the Midwest, looking for work. The term is generally thought to refer to residents of Oklahoma, but actually referred to anyone who migrated to the California during the Depression.


In 1919, the 18th Amendment, followed by the passage of the Volstead Act, began the Prohibition era and led to an underground economy controlled by gangsters such as Al Capone. The 21st Amendment, passed in 1933, repealed the 18th amendment, and allowed the sale and consumption of liquor again.


Both the Nazi and Communist parties were active during this period and held rallies in Madison Square Garden.


In August 1932, the Bonus Army, consisting of veterans angry over the unpaid bonus promised for fighting in World War I, marched on Washington D.C. and set up a shanty town known as 'Hooverville.'  The Bonus Army was eventually dispersed under the direction of Douglas McArthur. The sight of the current army using tear gas and sabers on veterans became a major issue in the 1932 Presidential election.

The election of  FDR  brought about enormous changes in the government's role with the creation of Social Security, federal bank deposit insurance, the Civilian Conservation Corp, Public Works Administration and a host of programs designed to pull the country out of the Depression.

Segregation in the south remained a fact of life.


Destruction of Hooverville by US Army


Oakies heading west to California

Depositors trying the withdraw money


Life in the Deep South.

bottom of page