The impact of the Depression was felt across the whole of rural America. In 1929 only 1.5 million people in the United States were unemployed. by 1933 this number had risen to more than 12 million - over 20 percent of the work force. In some industrial cities the situation was much worse - 40 percent of those wanting work in the city of Chicago could not find any.
At this time the United States had no system of unemployment benefit. Those without work therefore faced great hardship. Due to their lack of money to buy goods, they could not help the economy to revive.
The Depression forced many Americans to use desperate methods to survive. Groups of unemployed men often prevented poor families who could not afford their rent from being evicted. They proved resourceful in providing help for themselves when the authorities did not. In the city of Seattle, the Unemployed Citizens’ League organised self-help on a large scale. The unemployed were allowed to pick unmarketable fruit and vegetables by nearby farmers, and to cut wood on scrub timberland. Food and firewood obtained in this way were exchanged with barbers who cut hair, seamstresses who mended clothes, carpenters who repaired houses and doctors who treated the sick.
Many families had to sell their homes in order to raise money to buy food and other essentials. Others had to leave rented accommodation because they could no longer afford it. They moved into makeshift shelters constructed from packing cases and corrugated iron on the outskirts of cities. The shanty towns which resulted were nicknamed ‘Hoovervilles’ because many people blamed their homelessness on President Hoover.
During the Depression car production was cut by 80 percent. Road and building construction fell by 92 percent. Average hourly wages in manufacturing industry fell from 59 cents in 1926 to 44 cents in 1933. The total income of American farmers dropped from $12 billion to $5 billion per year. In 1932 farmers in the state of...
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