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Photographic Gateways to History

America in the 1930s
Introduction | The Great Depression | The Dust Bowl | Public Enemy #1 | The Bonus Army

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The Great DepressionThe Dust BowlPublic Enemy #1The Bonus Army

Farmers receive their benefit checks
Kaufman County, Texas, 1934

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 dramatically closed the curtain on the prosperity of the twenties and precipitated the greatest economic decline in US history. In 1929 only 3% of Americans were without a job, by 1933, the unemployment rate had risen to 25%.

Natural calamities added to the nation's miseries. Drought in America's heartland turned the once rich soil to dust. Winds whipped the loose soil into gigantic dust storms that ravaged the country from South Dakota to Texas. Thousands were forced to abandon their farms, clogging the highways as they headed West in the hopes of finding a better life.

The economic hardships spawned a wave of lawlessness in which desperadoes such as Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly and John Dillinger became folk heroes.

It was not until 1940 with the outbreak of war in Europe and the simultaneous military buildup in America that the nation's economic fortunes improved and the Great Depression slid into history.

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The Bonus Army The Great Depression