The "Great Depression" was a time of unprecedented despair. After the 1929 stock market crash, America (and many other countries) endured long, trying years of economic downturn, lost fortunes, and personal tragedies.
People were uprooted when out-of-work families packed up everything they owned and moved to California. By 1932, the worst year of the depression (follow the link to see the dramatic downturn in U.S. rates of production), nearly 25% of the American work force was unemployed.
In other parts of the country, men left their families “at home” while they went to the industrial north to find work. Their “bachelor cabins” were nothing more than shanty towns. But there was also “No Work” for people in the north. The bustling docks of New York City were quiet.
Before the days of the FDR along the East River, and the Westside Parkway along the Hudson, an artist (like Russian emigre Raphael Soyer) could walk to the water’s edge where he drew images of human hopelessness.
Employment agencies in New York City were inundated with applications from well-dressed, out-of-work people. The “land of plenty” had become the land of hard times.