America's "Great Depression" began with the dramatic crash of the stock market on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929. The depression had devastating effects on the country. The stock market was in shambles, many banks couldn't continue to operate and farmers fell into bankruptcy. A quarter of the working force, or 13 million people, were unemployed in 1932. The Great Depression lasted over a decade, with hundreds of thousands of Americans losing their jobs, businesses failing, and financial institutions collapsing.

Speculation in the 1920s caused many people to buy stocks with loaned money and they used these stocks as collateral for buying more stocks. Broker's loans went from under $5 million in mid 1928 to $850 million in September of 1929. The stock market boom was very unsteady, because it was based on borrowed money and false optimism. When investors lost confidence, the stock market collapsed, taking them along with it.

Short sighted government economic policies were one of the factors that led to the Great Depression. Politicians believed that business was the key industry of America. As a result, the government took no action against reckless investing. Congress passed high tariffs that protected American industries but hurt farmers and international trade.

The economy became unstable because the National wealth was not spread evenly. Instead, most money was in the hands of a few families who saved or invested rather than spend their money on American goods. As a consequence, supply was greater than demand. Some people profited, but others did not. Prices went up and Americans could not afford anything. Farmers and workers couldn’t profit and the disproportion of prosperity made recovery difficult.

The U.S. stock market boomed in the 1920s. Prices reached levels, measured as a multiple of corporate dividends or corporate earnings that didn’t make sense in terms of established patterns and rules of thumb for assessments. An array of indicators suggests that at the market peak in September 1929 something like forty percent of stock market values were pure air: prices above fundamental values for no reason other than that a large cross-section of investors had the notion that the stock market would go up simply because it had gone up. The U.S. financial system was already past the peak of the business cycle when the stock market crashed in October of 1929. As a result of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too such a high level it brought on the recession that they had hoped to steer clear of.

When the stock market crashed in 1929 there was an over production of goods at the same time, as well as, a surplus of banks and flooding the economy with a surplus of loans. Added to the mid was a tariff and war-debt policy that curtailed foreign markets for American goods. Finally, coverage of factors affecting the economy then was not as detailed as it is today.

The Great Depression severely hurt the economy . People who had money in the banks lost every penny and because the federal government did not insure loans like the FDIC does today, everyone lost their savings. The Depression was unrelenting in the United States and soon people where living in villages made out of shacks. They were coined Hoovervilles because many believed President Hoover was to blame for their predicament.


The end of World War 1 - Treaty of Versailles.
The treaty demands payments and reparations of war debts from the defeated countries.

Some U.S. Banks fail because of bad investments and low prices for agricultural products.

Herbert Hoover is elected president.

The stock market fails in October, which sends millions of investors into bankruptcy.

Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act raises the import duties on a wide variety of raw materials and industrial products.

Hostilities between China and Japan begin resulting in increased defense spending, and preparations for war to efficiently insulate Japan from an economic depression. Hoover creates the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend money to businesses to help prevent failing.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president.

Adolph Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany and he puts into effect his four year plan of economic recovery.
FDR declares a federal bank holiday, to determine which banks are solvent enough to re-open. FDR broadcasts the first Fireside Chats with America. The 100 days congressional session approves 15 major acts, this initiates the New Deal.
The World Economic Conference is held in London. They fail to agree on international policies to cooperate to combat in the worldwide depression.

Wall Street trading is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Act. The New Deal policies are mandated by the democratic majorities in Congress.

Through the National Labor Relations Act workers get the right to organize and the Social Security Act provides for old-age pensions and unemployment insurances.

Germany's second four year plan focuses on defense and the build up of arms.

FDR begins his second term. The Recession begins. 1937-1938 unemployment raises to 20%. Congress defeats Supreme Court Reform Bill- emphasizing that the Constitution must stay the principle of government.

Germany invades Czechoslovakia, resulting in a defense spending buildup in Great Britain, France and the United States.
This ends the Great Depression of the 1930's.

End notes:Two banks sit kitty-corner from each other in downtown Tucson, AZ on Broadway and Congress. An acquaintance of mine worked there in the '70's as a teller. She tells me that there is a tunnel running underground, beneath the street, between the two banks. After the wild runs on the banks in the during the Great Depression and being short of currencies, the tunnel was used to shuttle monies back and forth between the two banks in an effort to keep people from further runs. They had a small oven in which they kept money warm to prove to worried customers that the money was hot off the press.


Causes of the Great Depression:

Great Depression Time line:

Webquest:The Great Depression