At a time when Americans could afford neither cars nor gas, they used horse-drawn wagons even in New York City. This image depicts a photo by Walker Evans taken during the summer of 1938. Public-domain image online via the Library of Congress.


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 (the link is a picture of the stock exchange floor just after the crash), and personal tragedies.

People were uprooted when out-of-work families packed up everything they owned and moved to California, Texas and other states. 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.

Without means of transportation, people had to walk miles just to see their families. Living in "miserable poverty," in squatter's camps (called "Hoovervilles"), or tents in "migrant labor camps," dislocated families tried to stay together.

Sometimes people created bathrooms (called a "privy") which was nothing more than a shack floating on a river. These floating privies had no systems to process human waste. 

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.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jan 06, 2016

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"THE GREAT DEPRESSION" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2004. Jan 20, 2020.
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