The Great Depression was a period marked by economic turmoil and the struggle to find ways to thrive in a society that was quickly deteriorating. The Great Depression created constant hardship and tension that only continued to escalate as the years passed such as poverty, homelessness, and strained family units. This turmoil created by the Great Depression began after the stock market crashed in 1929 and there was no end to the overwhelming event until 1939. The buildup to the stock market crashing was a like a snowball rolling out of control and many people did not heed the warning. The stock market was constantly rising or dipping low, depending on the days which caused many investors to get nervous and start pulling their money out. Many societies during the Great Depression were left struggling as they tried to overcome this economic catastrophe. This event brought about a great change in many ways both economically and socially. America 1933 by Michael Golay provides an inside look through the eyes of Lorena Hickock who set out to detail the devastation of the Great Depression and its effects. The Great Depression and The New Deal by Kevin Hillstrom explains the background about the stock market crash as well as the impact the New Deal had on the Great Depression. This text analyzes the impact this event had on the economy as well as the impact on American families. The effects of the Great Depression altered people’s belief in the economy and dramatically changed how people lived. The Great Depression caused businesses and farms to struggle economically as they struggled with debt and foreclosures as well as hurt society psychologically through the impact of the nation’s mental health and family life. When it comes to our history today, when the economy struggles or there are hints that something could happen it brings back the fear of the Great Depression and the possibility that something so drastic and ruinous could happen again.
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The Great Depression was a monumental event that took place and impacted how people lived their lives, and it changed their views on possessions and worth. It was a defining moment in the lives of many Americans whose lives were greatly impacted by this event. The Great Depression gradually began after the stock market crash in 1929. According to “Great Depression History” by History.com, the Great Depression reached a low point when there were 15 million Americans who were unemployed, and many of the banks had crashed (Great Depression 1). The Great Depression occurred as a buildup of many situations that are to come ahead once the stock market crashed. There has been a lot of controversy and theories about what caused the Great Depression to occur. According to John Green, the Great Depression occurred because of a weak banking system. “While depositors worked on moving their money out before the banks went under, banks called in loans and sold assets which meant credit froze up which destroyed the economy. A frozen credit system meant less money in circulation which led to deflation. Banks weren’t lending money so employers couldn’t borrow it to make payroll to pay workers. More banks were going bankrupt as more workers were unable to purchase the goods & services that would keep businesses open” (Green 1). This meant that banks had to rely on their own resources and massive unemployment became evident soon after as well as the hardship that followed in trying to recover. By the time the 1920s came around, many Americans were buying with credit and putting their money into stocks in the market. In doing so, this plunged many American families into debt they could not get out of because they were unable to pay back the money they had bought with credit. Those who were farmers dealt with prices dropping which influenced them to mechanize their farms, which in turn caused many farms to expand causing them more debt. Farms were often foreclosed upon because of overproduction and low prices (Green 1). The Great Depression was evident throughout history business collapse and increase in taxes that was felt and made an impact in the lives of many. People were struggling to recover after it ended from unemployment or debt and their faith and trust in the economy was destroyed after the crash. The Great Depression caused a lot of havoc and chaos that was hard to understand, and many Americans struggled with how to fix the problem.
The Great Depression caused a lot of economic turmoil that was felt throughout the country as well as different states in the United States. The impact of the Great Depression on history was major as it led to a deep fear of the stock market as well as how the economy and jobs would hold up after this monumental event ended. People were fearful to invest in stocks after all their work went up in smoke when the stock market crashed. In doing so, the economy put millions of people’s lives in jeopardy as well as leaving many without jobs, or a way to thrive in a failing society. Before the Great Depression, millions of Americans were hopeful about life and everyone was enjoying the freedom. Before the stock market crashed, the energy was positive, and people were hopeful and optimistic for the future. New developments were being made such as the telephone and automobiles as well as having well-paying jobs and living a comfortable lifestyle (Hillstrom 7). With this, we see how people were enjoying life without any worries. They were caught up in the new developments that were occurring, but little did they know how drastically their life was going to change when the Great Depression began. Once the Great Depression hit, unemployment skyrocketed, and businesses soon started going under because they had to lay workers off to try to offset what they lost. “tens of thousands of businesses collapsed. Wages in manufacturing industries plunged from $16 billion in 1929 to less than $7.7 billion in 1932. The U.S. Gross National Product, the total dollar value of all goods and services produced for consumption during a given period of time, slumped from $104 billion in 1929 to $41 billion in 1933” (Hillstrom 29). These numbers show just how much the economy took a hit during this time and why so many people were struggling to support their families and keep food on the table. The Great Depression impacted class levels and societies and left a lasting impression on every aspect of society and humanity. It left behind a path of destruction in its wake in the form of economic hardships, and a society that struggled to rebuild itself after the impact. People were fearful of what their lives would entail, and they wanted answers. There was frustration among the American people because they were struggling to understand why this was happening when they started enjoying life and the new developments.
Another drawback from this event that affected both history and the economy was that federal income taxes were increased. The taxes were increased to help balance the federal budget which was struggling at the time because of the economy. “the president convinced Congress to pass a massive increase in taxes so that the federal budget could be balanced. The United States thus imposed major new tax increases at a time when huge numbers of Americans were desperately searching for enough money to keep their homes and feed their families” (Hillstrom 37). Instead of using the government to help many American families out of their suffering, President Hoover didn’t want to have to shoulder the weight of the relief effort to help those who had fallen victim to the Great Depression. “The Revenue Act of 1932 doubled normal federal income tax rates for individuals. It also imposed a host of new taxes on the sale of all sorts of goods that were a part of everyday life, from gasoline, tires, and toiletries to electricity and telephone service” (Hillstrom 37). Families from across the United States felt the effects of the Great Depression as they struggled with understanding why this was happening. They were frustrated because they were trying to survive a harsh environment that was relentless is causing havoc and devastation. Adding increased taxes on families who were already struggling left them feeling undervalued and wondering how they would make it through this desolation that was slowly consuming lives. It was turning both the economy and family lives upside down as farmers struggled with foreclosures, businesses were struggling to find ways to repay their debt, and families were struggling to find ways to keep their homes and keep their families together during this hard time. Farmers largely felt the impact of the economy as they struggled with prices and foreclosures. “the dairy region’s dairymen were operating at a loss, forced to accept less than the cost of production from the distributors, using up their savings, falling deeper into debt, and facing the loss of their farms” (Golay 101). Farmers were forced to take in less than what they could sell their products for because many businesses couldn’t afford the prices which hurt farming lifestyles and how they lived.
The Great Depression took a psychological toll on history through replacing a positive outlook on life to the reality becoming a place of chaos and confusion. There was a feeling of invincibility and power, but the effects of the Great Depression greatly hurt the nation’s outlook. The economy was breaking down and it was starting to take its toll on their mental health. Families were struggling to stay together as both the women and children had to start taking on jobs to keep the families together because the men were now unable to be the sole providers for their family. In turn, this impacted the men as many were unable to come to terms with this new reality. “In many cases, men arrived at work to find the doors locked, with little or no explanation. Some families were able to make ends meet by having the wife and children work, a situation that could be humiliating for the husband and father” (Psychological Impact 1). With this, we are able to understand the impact the Great Depression had on families and how they struggled to maintain some semblance of normalcy. As families struggled to cope with this new reality, the Great Depression was causing many people to question themselves as they blamed themselves for this event. The effects of the Depression grew as more and more people waited for something to happen to improve their outlook. Many felt responsible for the difficulties they faced because they felt they were to blame for the economic failure that was occurring. When it comes to our history today, when the economy struggles or there are hints that something could happen it brings back the fear of the Great Depression and the possibility that something so drastic and ruinous could happen again.
The Great Depression was a monumental event that left its mark on the United States and left its mark on history and the United States itself, significantly. This event shows how hard it is for families and society itself to get back on its feet after everything is stripped away from them. It is hard to fathom how such a ruinous event can occur all because people did not listen to warnings about the stock market; thus, causing it to crash which ensued panic and left a major blow in how the economy and American families functioned. History has always been something that has intrigued me because it is interesting to see how much different events can make an impact and how it affects different people. These small factors such as inflation and the stock market crashed was all a big catalyst in causing the Great Depression to occur which influenced how our history was shaped and how we remember the Great Depression today and its effects. We can see the impact on society and how it influenced history following the crash. We are also able to understand how this monumental event impacted lives economically and socially. The effects of the Great Depression were felt throughout and the detriment it caused was severe. As a historical event, the Great Depression left a better understanding in history of the economy and how to better prepare ourselves if something drastic like this were to happen again. As we know, this event impacted lives all over the United States from the wealthiest people to the farmers in rural areas. It left a lasting impact on the economy as well as families during this time which took several years to recover from and it is something that is still felt today.
- Golay, Michael. “Strandees.” America 1933, Simon & Schuster, 2013, p. 101.
- “Great Depression History.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009,
- Green, John. “The Great Depression: Crash Course US History #33.” YouTube, YouTube, 10
- Oct. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCQfMWAikyU.
- Hillstrom, Kevin. “The Hoover Years.” The Great Depression And The New Deal, Peter E.
- Ruffner, 2009, pp. 7, 29, 37.
“Psychological Impact of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia.com, The Columbia
- Encyclopedia, 6th Ed, 27 Nov. 2018, www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and- maps/psychological-impact-great-depression.
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