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What Impact did the Great Depression have on the lives of American People?

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What Impact did the Great Depression have on the lives of American People? The Great Depression had a varied impact on the American people's lives, and I will explore these. It lasted throughout the 1930's. Between 1929 and 1932 5000 banks went bust, while the value of America's foreign trade dropped from $9 billion to $3 billion. By 1932 unemployment had risen to at least 12 million. The Great Depression took America at unawares. America's self-perpetuating image of prosperity and hedonism rose to unprecedented heights, but it is well known that the higher you climb, the harder you fall. The look of prosperity had hardly finished waxing in the boom of the 1920's, before it was ruthlessly cut short by an unprecedented eclipse. This did catch almost all off guard- those with investments in banks lost all, and those with nothing to invest lost their jobs. From 1928, to 1933, industrial production fell by forty per cent, while average salaries decreased by sixty per cent. This cut down in production led to workers being laid off, so these people bought less. By 1932 there were about 14 million unemployed, while 5000 banks had gone bust, and America was in the grip of the most serious economic depression the world had ever seen. Of the extremely few to come out unscathed from the depression were the large land owners- the extremely wealthy. This is for the simple fact that as businesses went bust and unemployment rose, as less money was spent and the cycle repeated itself, millions of dollars were lost in the form of share-value, and banks that supported these businesses crumbled under the pressure. ...read more.


People would flock round garbage dumps, immediately scavenging any scraps brought in by the daily garbage removers. They built shacks where they could find unoccupied land. These communities were symbols of the Depression and were known as Hoovervilles (after President Hoover). In many cases it was the lucky ones, which found Hoovervilles, others huddled together on doorways and in street corners, begging for money from the better off. Breadlines and soup kitchens came about, for the purpose of feeding the mass of unemployed. However, hours of waiting would usually produce a bowl of mush, often without milk or sugar, and a tin cup of coffee. Here, what Will Rogers, an American writer in 1931 captures the absurdity of the Depression, which everyone must have felt: There is not an unemployed man in this country that hasn't contributed to the wealth of every millionaire in America. The working classes didn't bring this [the Depression] on- it was the big boys...We've got more wheat, more corn, more food, more cotton, more money in the banks, more everything in the world that any nation that lived ever had, yet we are starving to death. We are the fires nation in the history of the world that has been going to the poor house in an automobile. By 1932 farm prices had fallen so low that the cost of transporting animals to market was higher than the price of the animals themselves. Overproduction had plummeted produce value previously, and the farmers by now definitely had drawn the short straw. ...read more.


Grown men worked for 5 cents an hour in sawmills, Negroes learned the cruel truth of the saying that they were, "the last to be hired and the first to be fired". An idea of the living conditions for the badly hit is "The cold was bitter in unheated tenements, in the flophouses smelling of sweat, in the parks, the empty freight cars, along the windy waterfronts. With no money left for rent, unemployed men and their families began to build shacks where they could find land that was not already occupied. " In 1930 the American Communist Party organised unemployment marches throughout the country. The biggest of these was held in Union Square in New York on March 6. As people began to leave at the end of the rally, some of the leaders called on the demonstrators to March to the city Hall. The police had forbidden this. On hearing the leaders call the police charged the demonstrators. Many people were injured. The elderly had nothing to live on during the Depression, since there was no pension scheme provided by the government. They were left to fend for themselves. Children were in the same boat - one in five children were malnourished in 1932 - many struggled to find food at all. So during the Great Depression in America, there was much unrest. Almost no one had it easy at anytime, while the worse affected were constantly faced with starvation. For all Americans it must have been a strange time. Since so much of the wealth surrounding the 1920's had been destroyed, it was a long, hard road back up the mountain of prosperity for everyone. ...read more.

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