Analysis of The Dust Bowl and Its Effects of the Ongoing Economic Depression

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The end of World War 1 brought the United States a time of much political, economic, social changes, and had the U.S. emerge from the war as a powerful military leader. Factories and industries throughout the country had become significantly more efficient with the rise of Ford's assembly line and allowed for regular citizens to gain access to items much cheaper. Along with this economic prosperity, women gained the ability to vote in 1919, changing the look of women from frail, helpless civilians to powerful, independent citizens. However this period of time lasted very briefly, as an unprecedented economic depression loomed over the horizon.

Black Tuesday, the worst day in Wall Street’s history, was the major event to truly kick off the American Great Depression. Black Tuesday was the day that the New York Stock Exchange went to hell due to thousands of stock being traded immensely dropping dropping in price rapidly. A reason that the crash happened was due to the stock market reaching its peak and slowly declining, but on October 29, 1929 mass panic broke out. Over 16 million shares we traded in one day, with billions of dollars lost and thousands of investors were left penniless. This event alone was enough to bring the entire economy to its knees, making the American people who believed that the stock market was the economy, no longer confident in its own countries economy. Consequently, the American people began rushing to banks to withdraw as much money as possible, leading to banks running out of money extremely quickly. To compensate for this they began giving out gold in place of money as the United States was using the gold standard, honoring each dollar with its value in gold. However soon after the banks also ran out of gold, but the Federal Reserve attempted to expel the fire by amping up the value of the American Dollar. But this also lead to increased interest rates and led to businesses having less money to give to their employees, forcing them to lay off many workers to stay afloat. This spiral of unemployment and rise of value of the dollar caused hundreds of bankruptcies, tariffs at the time did nothing to help the American peoples time of crisis.

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American tariff policies that overall hurt the economy first began with the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, passed on August 19, 1922. The rising prices caused by the tariffs led to European countries unwilling to trade with the United States and consequently, impeded their ability to pay off any war debts owed to the U.S. While this event started years before the Great Depression itself began, it would directly affect it in a future tariff. President Hoover passed the Smoot-Harley Tariff Act on June 17, 1930, which had the intentions of protecting American businesses and farmers but damaged the already weakened economy more. Just as the Fordney-McCumber Tariff before it, this bill also sought to raise the tariffs on goods to a similar degree. However it initially was received poorly until the stock market crash, soon after it was passed by a very slim degree in the Senate, but was loved in the House of Representatives. The reaction the raised tariffs was not received lightly, many foreign governments was angered by the increased prices and began a trade war with the U.S. Sadly this trade war brought nothing but despair, as many banks from those nations began failing alongside American ones. In the short time span between 1929 and 1932, imports from the U.S. and exports to European Nations fell by nearly 66%. However this did not just only affect American and European governments, but rather global trade as a whole was damaged as a result of these poorly thought of tariffs. While the tariffs hurt American farmers it was not the only event to hurt American agricultural economy.

A series of severe droughts to hit the midwest during the 1930’s became a time known as the American Dust Bowl, lasting from 1931 to 1939. Killing thousands of crops during its time. During the start of the droughts in 1931 they prevented many plants from growing as no rain came to water them, but the name Dust Bowl came from the product of this drought. Massive dust storms began creeping across the Midwest beginning in 1931, gaining the name of “black blizzard”. By May of 1934 it quickly became the worst drought ever recorded in U.S. history, drastically affecting 27 states. Economically, the Dust Bowl was even worse. Many farmers were forced to stop farming and move out of the affected states. Crop prices inflated heavily and even the price of pork shot up due to farmers offing their fauna to artificially reduce supply and force prices to boom. By 1937 the amount of money spent by the government to assist farmers and citizens living in the areas affected was estimated to be around 1 billion dollars, with over 60% being farmers alone. During the time of the Dust Bowl it only worsened the effects of the ongoing economic depression.

The 1930’s was a time of sorrow, hunger, and depression. Unemployment rates were at an all-time high and many people lived on the streets as hobos. The stock market crash led to the people's disappointment in the American economy and caused hundreds of banks across the nation to shut down or run out of money. Tariffs at the time only worsened the effects of the crash, leading to even global trading to be hurt. Crops and livestock prices skyrocketed with the Dust Bowl in the Midwest. All of these factors combined to form the lowest point in American economic history, the Great Depression.

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Analysis of The Dust Bowl and Its Effects of the Ongoing Economic Depression. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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