Great Depression in Minnesota and Bemidji

Great Depression in
Minnesota and
Nick Emanuel, Colin Shinabargar,
Zane Den Ouden, Adam
Pete Phillips & Evan Haglund
National Causes
Overproduction and Under-consumption
Dust Bowl
Mishandling of money by banks
Large gap between classes
• The Works Progress
Administration was a
program of the new deal.
• It employed unemployed
people on public work
• At its peak, it employed
around three million men
• Area of interest for WPA
improvement were:
Schools, Parks, and
• In 1940, a new high
school auditorium was
• In 1940, a new
gymnasium was built
for Bemidji State
• Highways of main
concern were school
bus routes.
• In April of 1935, there were 60 men employed at
Diamond Point Park.
• Hospital Park (George T. Baker Park) had dramatic
improvement as a result of the WPA
• One of the earliest
projects found,
1934, employed
44 men, and redid
a highway near
In 1935, 200 men were employed
throughout the county on road
improvement projects.
Minnesota in the Depression
• The local economy took a hit just
as the rest of the nation in the
• U.S. unemployment rose to 10.5
million in 1931.
• 10,000 families in Minneapolis area
were on government Poor Relief
• MN businesses, like national
businesses, overproduced in the
1920’s which affected the economy
in the 1930’s.
Working Through the
• By 1932 up to 70% of the state’s
Iron-Range workers were
• The production outputs of all goods
dropped to 63% of that in 1929.
• 5-10% of the population in
Beltrami, Cass, Hennepin, and
Hubbard counties were on some
form of state or national relief
funding. (Less than 2.5% in most
other counties.)
Live in Beltrami
• By 1932, average farm income fell to $304 per year. Less
than 1/3 than that of 1929.
• The farming industry in Minnesota was depleted all
through the 20’s, took a great hit with droughts of Great
Plains in the 30’s.
• Shipping agriculture and livestock became too expensive
to be productive
for local farmers.
farmers faced
foreclosure, but the
Farmers’ Holiday
Association marched on
the capitol to stop
foreclosure and
sale/auction of equipment
Poor Relief Funds
• State Employment Relief Agency estimated 200,000 MN
families needed relief.
• In 14 months, $22.9 million was earned by unemployed on
51.3 million hours of work provided by SERA.
• Relief fund distribution methods were inefficient in rural areas.
Local voters were asked to weigh in on proposal to change
from 5 county commissioners/distributors to a system of nearly
200 employees.
• Locals were scared that change would be worse, and
eventually take much needed money out of their pockets.
Different New Deal programs
Civilian Conservation Corps
Civil Works Administration
Farm Security Administration
Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Federal Housing Administration
Federal Security Agency
Home Owner’s Loan Corporation
Public Works Administration
Social Security Act
Works Progress Administration
Civil Works Administration 1933 1934
• A short term agency established by the Federal
Emergency Relief Administration.
• The idea was that providing jobs rather than cash
payments would create more self esteem for the workers.
• Provided temporary jobs directly to unemployed workers.
• Focused on local based projects.
• Replaced with the WPA.
Public Works Administration
• 1933 - 1943
• Focused on large scale projects rather than smaller
community projects.
• The PWA would hire out project contracts to private firms
who hired their own workers to fill positions and thus did
not hire unemployed workers directly like the WPA.
Public Works Administration
Minneapolis Armory
Dam Winona
Pine City Hall
Upper Mississippi River
Works Progress Administration 1935
• Replacement to the CWA
• Became one of the largest new deal program
• Focused on smaller community projects though
large projects were also accomplished.
• Projects included building roads, bridges,
Schools, and even in producing artwork and
Other forms of media.
• Almost every community in Minnesota was
impacted by a project from the WPA.
Lac qui Parle Dam Watson MN
Minnesota Machinery
WPA Projects in Bemidji
• Viaduct on Irvine Avenue (pictured right)
• Minnesota forestry Department buildings
• Park improvement
• Erosion control of lakeshore
• Improvements at Diamond Point park
• County highway Garage (pictured right)
Civilian Conservation Corps 1933
• Designed for young unmarried, unemployed men
• Goal was to provide relief to the family's of these men
who had trouble finding work themselves.
• Focused on outdoor, natural projects
• Members would live at camps made around the areas
they were working at.
• They were paid $30 a month of which $25 went to their
Camp Rabideau
• Located in the
Chippewa National
Forest in northern
• Projects included road
construction, erosion
control, wildlife
protection, park
maintenance and
planting trees to name
a few.
The Scale of the Great
• The Depression was
signified by a massive
decline in United
States economic
• Worse still
International Trade
Evaporated as Well.
The Scale of the Great Depression
• This led to massive
unemployment at the
national level.
• It should be noted that
unemployment was
comparable, at least
in 1932.
A Human Face on the Depression
• M.A. Rognlien, of Wilton, Minnesota, was the owner of the
Wilton Lumber Company and also owned a General
Merchandise store.
• In 1927 his net worth was $136,420.35 or in 2013 money
• All totaled his, ‘liquid’ assets were $75,276.86 or over 51% of
his wealth.
• In the same year, his business was running a net profit (profit
minus expenses) of $6,801.12 or $91,393.61 in 2013 dollars.
• What’s more, his 1924 labor costs were $15,195.93 or
$207,880.33 2013 dollars.
• In short, Rognlien was a highly profitable Northern Minnesota
A Human Face on the Depression
• In 1944, M.A. Rognlien’s net worth was $99,235.42 or the
equivalent of $1,319,831.09 in 2013. This marks a
decline of about 28% from pre-Depression wealth.
Remember this number even comes during the heart of
the WWII economic boom.
• 1931, was a particularly hard year. He lost about
$16,098.88 ($247,761.76 in 2013) or 13% of his wealth,
including $3,346.41($51,499.71 in 2013) in a run on the
bank in Trail, Minnesota.
• His ‘liquid’ assets had decreased to about 10% of his
• His business endeavors had all failed. Still, he seems to
have survived the Depression wealthy, but what about
Runs on the Bank
were all too common during
the Depression. On March 5,
1933 President Roosevelt
even ordered the closure of
every bank in America to
prevent more banks from
This is an example of an
advertisement designed
is the account statement,
proclaiming its financial
health, of the bank
printed in the Bemidji
Pioneer early July, 1934.
Relief for Farmers
• During World War I, US agriculture expanded rapidly to fit
the demands of the army and the allies. This led to
massive overproduction in the post war period, especially
with the recovery of Europe. The Great Depression
started very early for farmers.
• Still, in 1929 the price of a bushel of wheat was $1.09, in
1930 it fell to $0.71 per bushel. A decline of some 35%.
• Worse the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 (increasing the
duties on imports from 19.86% to 33.62%) caused
reciprocal tariffs that eliminated the foreign market for US
agricultural products.
• As shown earlier, the purchasing power of farmers had
declined by half since the middle 1920s.
Northern Minnesota
• The price of agricultural products in Bemidji, Minnesota,
like national agricultural prices, declined sharply from
1929 to 1933.
• In 1929 a dozen eggs were sold for $0.50 or $0.40,
depending on size. By 1931 the same dozen eggs would
cost $0.10 or $0.08. Even in 1938 the prices hadn’t
returned to pre-Depression levels, $0.15 or $0.11 a
• The fall off was less dramatic in the price of ‘heavy’ hens
from $0.19 in 1929, $0.10 in 1931, and $0.16 in 1938.
• Cattle fell from $9.00 in 1929 to $5.75 in 1931, and $7.25
in 1938.
• The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was a new deal program
designed to address the situation of US farmers.
• It’s approach to the problem was two-fold: 1st Raise the price on
agricultural goods by reducing supply. 2nd A resettlement program
to improve the lot of farmers on marginal land and to decrease the
tax burden from isolated farmers.
• To reduce the supply of agricultural produce, the AAA paid farmers
not to plant crops. 10,400,000 acres were removed from cotton
production and 7,595,000 acres were removed from wheat
• Importantly for Northern Minnesota, since it accounted for 43% of all farming
income in the region, dairy farming was not initially included in this program.
• However, the program was only modestly successful at first: the
price of a bushel of wheat was increased only to $0.74 a bushel in
1934. The total purchasing power of farmers only increased to
59% in 1934, compared with 53% in 1933.
The AAA continued
• Northern Minnesota was especially impacted by the Resettlement
• Central to this was the Beltrami Island Project, some 400,000 acres
in Lake of the Woods, Roseau, and northern Beltrami counties.
• Part of the reason that this area was chosen was because of the
marginal farm land it contained, but also because it was drain of
the state of about $25,000 per year. More benefits than taxes to
pay for them.
• The Grubstake plan, would have the state buy land from the
families at market rate and then offer the farmers loans to buy
better lands.
• This was not a give away, it often entailed the farmers take on debt to
improved their future prospects. In fact the average price paid to farmers on
marginal land was between $1.25 to $3.00 per acre. While the cost of the
more productive land was usually priced between $5 and $10 per acre.
• By 1938 over 100,000 acres of land had been purchased and some
200 families had been relocated.
Reflections of Life In
Using the Local Resources
Reflections of Life in Bemidji
Tell it like it was
Works Cited
“Many new miles of highway will be added” The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. Friday, June 16th 1933. Pg. 9 BSU
Library Database
“Work projects improvements here reviewed” The Bemidji Sentinel, December 31st, 1937 BSU Library
“WPA Workers petition for change” Northland Times, May 12th, 1939. Cover Highway project will start
Monday employing 44 men” The Bemidji daily pioneer. April 1934 BSU Microfilm
Amadeo, Kimberly. "The Great Depression of 1929.", 17 Dec. 2010. Web. 22 Oct.
2013. <>.
"The Depression." Minneapolis Tribune [Minneapolis] 21 Oct. 1979: 4. Print. Beltrami County Archives
Wilson, A. D. (November, 1938, Vol. 14, No. 4 ). Settler Relocation: A Description of the Minnesota Plan.
The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics, 402-416. Primary source from JSTOR library
(1979, October 21). Minneapolis Tribune, pp. 4-6. Primary source from the Historical Society.
A Minnesota Depression Scrapbook. (n.d.). Primary source from the Historical Society. Author and
publishing date was unknown for this pamphlet.
(1932, November 3). Bemidji Pioneer, Relief Vote, pp. 6. Primary source from Microfilm room.
Lord, Lewis. "A Winter That `Chilled like the World's End.'" U.S. News & World Report 20 Jan. 2003: 12.
Print. BSU Library Database
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Great Depression.", 17 Dec. 2010. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.
<> BSU Library Database
"Social and Cultural Effects of the Depression." U.S. History. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.
<>. BSU Library Database
HAROLD L ICKES, Public Works Administrator and Secretary of, the Interior. "THE PUBLIC WORKS
DRIVE: A SURVEY BY ICKES." New York Times (1923-Current file) Sep 24 1933: 1. ProQuest. 20 Nov.
2013 ProQuest
Hoyum, Wanda. "Camp Rabideau - Civilian Conservation Corps." (1996) Print. Beltrami County
Works Cited
Hacker, Louis M. A Short History of the New Deal. New York, F.S. Crofts & Co., 1934. BSU Library
Record, Norman K. A Popular History of Minnesota. Saint Paul, MN, Minnesota Historical Society: 2005.
BSU Library Database
Wilson, A. (1938). Settler Relocation: A Description of the Minnesota Plan. The Journal of Land & Public
Utility Economics Vol.14, 402-416. BSU Library Database
My Minnesota. (2008, Spring). Minnesota History, 60(1), 4-11. doi:10.2307/20188648 BSU Library
487-08, S-1289, Tax Returns & Statements, 1930s-1952, Wilton Lumber Company, Beltrami County
Historical Society. Bemidji, Minnesota accessed October 24th. Beltrami County Historical Society
Bemidji Daily Pioneer: Multiple dates. BSU Microfilm
Bogue, Donald J., and Beale, Calvin L. Economic Areas of the United States. New York. BSU
Free Press of Glencoe, Inc. 1961. BSU Microfilm Room
Mitchell, Broadus. Depression Decade: From New Era Through New Deal 1929-1941. New York,
Rinehart & Company, Inc. 1947. BSU Database
Dearing, Charles L., Homan, Paul T., Lorwin, Lewis L., and Lyon, Leverett S. The ABC of the NRA.
Washington D.C., The Brookings Institution, 1934 JESTOR
Ellis, N. (2008, November 27). Survivor Stories of the Great Depression. Retrieved from National Public BSU Database
Berger, G. (Producer), & Berger, G. (Director). (2009). Bemidji: Between the Wars, 1918-1941 [Motion
Picture]. Bemidji State University Library. doi:F 614.B4.B465 2009 Source from BSU library
Tax Returns and Statements. (1930s-1952). Wilton Lumber Company. Id# 487-08, Series # S-1289.
Bemidji, MN: Beltrami County Historical Society. Retrieved October 29, 2013 Primary Source from
Beltrami County Historical Society
McKeig, Cecelia Wattles. Bemidji. Charleston: Arcadia, 2013. Print. BSU circulation
"States and Cities: Minnesota." Living New Deal. Living New Deal, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. BSU
By, a. W. W. "I AM ON THE WPA"." New York Times (1923-Current file): 142. Nov 27 1938. ProQuest.
Web. 30 Oct. 2013. BSU Database
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