The high life of the Roaring Twenties came to a juddering halt on Black Tuesday October 29 1929 with the Wall Street Crash. Politicians who had welcomed in the ‘New Era’ of a continually rising stock market in an ever-expanding economy were shown up for the frauds they were. The New Era turned out to have been a con trick – a bubble fuelled by speculators and easy credit – and the boom years of the 1920s had enriched only a privileged few on the backs of the many. Banks had over extended themselves, lending funds that they didn’t have, and panic-stricken depositors caused a bank run that resulted in more than 1,500 finance companies going to the wall.
Whether the Wall Street Crash was merely a symptom or the main cause of the Great Depression, it was certainly the single largest factor in triggering it. The catastrophic effects of the crash rippled across America: thousands of small-time investors suddenly found themselves bankrupt, more than 100,000 businesses collapsed, and unemployment soared to more than 12 million.
By the winter of 1932, America was in the ferocious grip of the worst depression in its history. Poverty became the norm and thousands of people were forced to take to the road in search of work. Industrial output and international trade dropped by half and a deflationary cycle set in for the rest of the decade, spreading from America across the globe. The US economy didn’t fully recover until America entered World War II in 1941.
The suffering of the Great Depression years is deeply etched into the American consciousness and has found lasting romantic expression through the arts: John Steinbeck’s prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, the hobo folk songs of Woody Guthrie, and Dorothea Lange’s iconic documentary photographs of the dispossessed.
When was the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression: 1929-1939
Where was the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression: USA
What was the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression death toll: At least 110 people died directly of starvation and countless more died from secondary illnesses caused by malnutrition. The suicide rate rose by more than 20 per cent.
You should know: The Great Depression was exacerbated by severe drought and dust storms in the Mid West, which forced thousands of rural families to abandon their land and travel westwards in search of food and work.