The Impact of the Great Depression
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The Great Depression had an enormous impact on the nation.
Here are four key facts to remember:

1.  Many banks
and businesses failed

   The photo below shows a crowd outside a large bank in New York City that closed in 1930.  The people were demanding the money they had deposited in their savings and checking accounts.  The bank did not have enough to pay them all at once.

  Banks loan out most of the money they take in as deposits.  If too many people come at the same time to get their money out, the banks can run out of cash. 

   Many other banks around the country were also failing as worried customers rushed in and tried to get back their money.

2.  Many people lost their jobs

    As banks and businesses began failing, workers lost their jobs and their income.  The owners of bankrupt banks and businesses also lost the income they had been making from those companies as owners. 

   In 1933, the unemployment rate hit 25 percent.  That means one out of every four workers in the country could not find a job.  It was a truly desperate situation.

   The photo below from 1933 shows a group of unemployed women.  They wanted the government to do more to help people without jobs.

3.  Many people became
homeless and hungry

    As people lost jobs, many of them could no longer pay rent or make payments on home loans.  A large number of unemployed people became homeless and often went hungry. 

   Some ended up living with other out-of-work families in areas called shanty towns.  (A shanty is a poor, roughly built house.) 

   The shanty town in the photos below was just outside Circleville, Ohio.  They could be found outside many other cities as well.

4.  Farmers' incomes fell to low levels

    Tractors and other machinery helped farmers plant larger areas of land and produce much bigger crops.  That overproduction, however, tended to reduce the price farmers could get for their crops. 

   The low prices farmers got for their crops made it hard for many farmers to pay back loans for farm equipment and to buy supplies.  Thousands of farms actually went bankrupt.

   The photo below shows men using a tractor to plow an enormous field on a farm in New Mexico.  

"Sharecroppers" like the farm family below, who rented land by paying part of each harvest
to the landowner, were also hurt by low prices for farm crops.  This family in Missouri
was evicted (told to leave) in 1939 from the land they had been farming.

The photos are from the Library of Congress.
Clip art images are from sources including
Nova Development Corp. and its licensors, Dover Publications,
the Library of Congress, and other collections in the
public domain or used by permission.
Some images have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2014 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.