Chapter 22: The Great Depression Begins, 1929–1932

Chapter 22: The Great Depression Begins, 1929–1932
This chapter examines the causes of the Great Depression and describes how families, businesses, and
government responded to the economic crisis.
Section 1 identifies the causes of the Great Depression. An aura of optimism surrounded the nation as President
Herbert Hoover took office in 1928. As industrial production flooded markets, stock prices reached new highs.
Many investors confidently purchased stocks on margin and engaged in speculative trading. Optimism
disappeared, however, when on October 21, 1929, sliding stock prices triggered a massive sell-off, and the stock
market crashed. Banks that had loaned to speculators and invested depositors' funds lost their cash reserves.
Bank failures caused Americans to not only lose their bank savings, but also their faith in the banking system.
Several factors added to the nation's economic troubles. An uneven distribution of income left most families with
little expendable income. When Americans cut back on spending, manufacturing slowed production, which in turn
led to lower wages and unemployment. As high tariffs restricted foreign demand for American goods and the Fed
tightened available credit, the economy spiraled downward.
Section 2 describes the hardships of the Great Depression. By 1933 more than 12 million workers were
unemployed—about one-fourth of the nation's workforce. Families often went hungry, and many lost their homes.
Some of the homeless constructed makeshift shacks in shantytowns called Hoovervilles, while others simply
wandered about the country, riding the rail lines. The economic troubles that farmers had experienced in the
1920s worsened with the drought of the 1930s. Drought transformed the unplanted fields of the Great Plains into
a vast "Dust Bowl." Many farmers who couldn't pay their mortgages lost their land. Some headed west looking for
migrant work in California, but their living conditions only seemed to worsen. While movies and radio programs
offered Americans a temporary escape from despair, Depression-era writers and artists focused on revealing
families' real suffering.
Section 3 discusses President Hoover's response to the Depression. In the months following the stock market
crash, President Hoover kept an optimistic outlook. He hoped that the voluntary actions of business leaders and
labor and government officials would provide relief, but his programs proved inadequate against deepening
economic troubles. Hoover was unwilling to use deficit spending to fund relief efforts, and he strongly opposed
federal participation in direct relief. However, the programs he created failed to impact the growing financial
crisis. In 1932, despite Hoover's protests, Congress provided federal funds for public works and loans to the
states for direct relief. By then it was too late to reverse the economy's accelerating collapse. Frustrated
Americans participated in hunger marches, while farmers destroyed crops in a desperate attempt to raise crop
prices. When World War I veterans asking for their bonus met with violence in Washington, Hoover's chances of
reelection looked slim.
Questions from the reading:
Section 1:
Explain what “buying stocks on the margin” means and “speculative buying?”
What happened to banks in 1929?
Where had depositors’ money gone in the bank runs / failures of 1929?
What happened to peoples’ trust in the banking system after 1929?
What happened to peoples’ income levels and levels of spending money after 1929?
What is a tariff? Why is a tariff hurtful to an economy in times of crisis?
Section 2:
By 1933, how many people were unemployed? What percentage of the American workforces was
out of work?
What is today’s national unemployment rate? How does that compare with the 1930s?
Describe what the “dust bowl” was?
Where did farmers go to look for work after the failures of the 1930s?
Section 3:
What did President Hoover try to rely on to help alleviate the economic situation of the 1930s?
What did President Hoover refuse to use as major source of help to alleviate the economic crisis?
World War I veterans demanded advance payment on their _______________.
How did President Hoover welcome the army veterans when they arrived in Washington D.C.?