Times Were Tough During the 1930's Great Depression

Updated on Mar 05, 2021. Originally added on Jul 18, 2016 by Kathy Pinna

Looking back at these photos of the 1930s Depression era, life seemed so hard.

Around 15 million in the U.S. alone were unemployed, and half of the banks had failed. Life was especially hard for those who were older and who lived in rural America where the Depression and the Dust Bowl dealt a double whammy.

See what life was like for the common man and woman during the 1930's Great Depression.

Continue Reading Below
Share and discover the people and places from your past

Photos of the 1930's Great Depression moment please

Oklahoma "ghost town"

Between both the Depression and the Dust Bowl, many small towns were decimated.

1937 Mississippi

Sharecroppers had to become cotton workers.

1935 Arkansas

No longer sharecroppers, they had to become day workers - cotton pickers on a plantation. This photo was taken at 6:30 in the morning.


1938 chart of lost jobs

In non-agricultural occupations, from 1929 - 1938. Millions of jobs were lost. The total US population at the time was around 129 million.

WPA Administrator, 1938

Testifying about the millions of people who need help. Doesn't he look distressed? It must have been a very difficult job with so many out of work.

California, 1937

The caption says that Mexicans used to do this work but during the Depression, the jobs went to "white workers".

Working in the pea fields, 1937

This woman wasn't young and it was hard work! Or maybe the work made her look older?


1939 "roadside camp"

Tending the fire and putting lard in a frying pan. Life of many people who lived on the road or in migrant camps during the Depression.

1938 miner's shacks

Coal mine workers' homes during the Depression.

1940 trailer

No running water so they got running water for their trailer from a nearby house.

1937: Kentucky coal miners

Workers were protesting and being shot by Harland County deputy sheriffs. This is the bloody shirt of one of the miners who was shot.

Congress cutting WPA funds

1939 SF - workers at a protest to the cutting of WPA funds. The WPA had been established by the Federal government to provide jobs.

Howard St, San Francisco, 1937

This was "Skid Row."


3 rooms, $15

1938 San Francisco - it would probably be $3500 today! (Mission District)

Weslaco, Texas 1939

Home of a day laborer during the Depression in Texas

Background: In 1928, President Herbert Hoover's campaign slogan was "A Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage." Unemployment was 3.2% and only 51.9% of eligible voters voted. The Great Depression began with the October 1929 stock market crash in the United States and soon spread worldwide. In 1932, FDR's campaign slogan was "Happy Days Are Here Again." By the time Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, unemployment was 24.9% and the stock market had lost 90% of its value. The American people had a hard time ahead - these pictures show some of their stories. (You can click on any photo to read more details about the photo.)

Have photos that you'd like to see included? Share your photos or click "next page" below to see more photos from the Dust Bowl.

Moments in Time

Back to Top