Throughout world history societies have been brought to their knees by a faltering economy. This was almost the case for the United States in the 1930s. The combination of a stock market crash and a dust bowl, literally almost destroyed America. But something different happened here in America. The economy was saved and with it, our great nation. But was it the policies of the current president that saved us or was it our entrance into World War 2?
After nearly a decade of optimism and prosperity, the United States was thrown into despair on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed and the official beginning of the Great Depression. As stock prices plummeted with no hope of recovery, panic struck. Masses and masses of people tried to sell their stock, but no one was buying. The stock market, which had appeared to be the surest way to become rich, quickly became the path to bankruptcy. And yet, the Stock Market Crash was just the beginning. Since many banks had also invested large portions of their clients' savings in the stock market, these banks were forced to close when the stock market crashed. Seeing a few banks close caused another panic
across the country. Afraid they would lose their own savings, people rushed to banks that were still open to withdraw their money. This massive withdrawal of cash caused additional banks to close. Since there was no way for a bank's clients to recover any of their savings once the bank had closed, those who didn't reach the bank in time also became bankrupt. Businesses and industry were also affected. Having lost much of their own capital in either the Stock Market Crash or the bank closures, many businesses started cutting back their workers' hours or wages. In turn, consumers began to curb their spending, refraining from purchasing such things as luxury goods. This lack of consumer spending caused additional businesses to cut back wages or, more drastically, to lay off some of their workers. Some businesses couldn't stay open even with these cuts and soon closed their doors, leaving all their workers unemployed.
In previous depressions, farmers were usually safe from the severe effects of a depression because they could at least feed themselves. Unfortunately, during the Great Depression, the Great Plains was hit hard with both a drought and horrendous dust storms, creating what became known as the Dust Bowl. Years and years of overgrazing combined with the effects of a drought caused the grass to disappear. With just topsoil exposed, high winds picked up the loose dirt and whirled it for miles. The dust storms destroyed everything in their paths, leaving farmers without their crops. Small farmers were hit especially hard. Even before the dust storms hit, the invention of the tractor drastically cut the need for manpower on farms. These small farmers were usually already in debt, borrowing money for seed and paying
it back when their crops came in. When the dust storms damaged the crops, not only could the small farmer not feed himself and his family, he could not pay back his debt. Banks would then foreclose on the small farms and the farmer's family would be both homeless and unemployed. This caused a mass exodus of people from parts of the country such as Oklahoma and Kansas to head north and east seeking a better life and gainful employment.
During the Great Depression, millions of people were out of work across the United States. Unable to find another job locally, many unemployed people hit the road, traveling from place to place, hoping to find some work. A few of these people had cars, but most hitchhiked or "rode the rails." A large portion of the people who rode the rails was teenagers, but there were also older men, women, and entire families who traveled in this manner. They would board freight trains and crisscross the country, hoping to find a job in one of the towns along the way. When