Times Were Tough During The Great Depression Of The 1930's

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

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.)

Times Were Tough During The Great Depression Of The 1930's

Helping Americans forget their troubles

Shirley Temple | White House

Roosevelt considered Shirley Temple one of the weapons in fighting the Depression.

Depression refugees from Iowa, 1936

Depression refugees from Iowa

Nine children, father ill, no work - selling their possessions for money to buy food.

Skid row, San Francisco

Men Sleeping on Howard St San Francisco

Winter, 1937 - men literally sleeping on the street - in suits.


1939 Illinois shanty

Illinois Shanty, 1939

This home was built from refuse.

Food line, 1935

Food Line in the Depression

Men in the front of the sign could get a 5 cent meal - the rest would have to beg on the street.

1933, FDR's inauguration

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Inauguration

FDR with outgoing President Hoover - the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression were during Hoover's term. He was therefore a one term President.

1901 political cartoon about a balanced economy

The best balance for Uncle Sam / Keppler.

Eternal truth? When government balances the needs of workers and the captains of industry, there is prosperity.


1936 Iowa

Glen Cook Family 1936

Is that a washing machine??

1938 CA unemployment line

Unemployment Benefits Line 1938

On one of the first days to sign up for unemployment, the lines were long. Only 22 states offered unemployment insurance. It was a new concept.

1936 "Street Meeting" in San Francisco

Policeman Rules the Street San Francisco 1936

During the Great Depression, they were protesting in suits and hats.

1930's Iowa

Nina Belle (Swift) & Harriet Harrison, IA

Not many more possessions than a great smile!

New Orleans, 1939

New Orleans, LA

"I am taking the photogka [sic] of depression anp [sic] starvation at once".

1939 - the rest of his story

Emile Riche, a farmer

This man was still trying to get compensation from his local government for damage to his farm by a broken levee 12 years later! :(


Congress & White House

FDR Relief Program - New Deal

Coming together to help the people. They were trying to create The New Deal to help the American people in very tough times.

1938, Indiana

Vincennes, Indiana

This (projected) hotel had been sitting unfinished since 1929 - 9 years before!

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