Monday, August 10

No Promises in the Wind + the Great Depression

After World War I, America's economy strengthened into a time of prosperity...the Roaring Twenties.  However, this triumph was short lived, as Black Tuesday - October 29, 1929 - set off a chain of events that plunged the America into one of it's deepest moments of darkness...the Great Depression.

"Once I built a railroad, I made it run,

I made it race against time. 

Once I built a railroad, now it's done.

Brother, can you spare a dime?"

~Harburg & Gorney

We kick off each quarter of the school year with a novel other school work, just a novel study completed together by the entire family.  We read it aloud and then go through the activities, venturing down rabbit trails.....

What caused the Great Depression?
Generally, the stock market crash of 1929, on a day known as Black Tuesday, is blamed for the start of the Great Depression.  However, there were many pieces that led up to this infamous date, and stock market didn't actually hit rock bottom until nearly three years later in 1932.  Other contributors included a weak banking system, low farm prices, industrial overproduction, and shrinking international trade (as a result of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff).  

In the eighteen months prior to the stock market crash, many people were buying 'on spec,' meaning that they didn't have the money to pay for their purchases...they were putting a percentage down and gambling that they'd earn the rest.  Many of these were middle class Americans, who had already over-extended their finances buying all of the latest and greatest innovations of the 1920's (automobile, washing machine, etc).  The companies selling these new items had also reached a 'bubble point,' the maximum point of production and sales, which led to a corporate slow down and lay-offs.

What were the effects?
  • Millions of people lost their jobs.  In 1930, there were 4.3 million unemployed; by 1933, that number was almost 13 million.  The unemployment rate was at 25 percent!  The lucky ones who managed to keep their jobs took a substantial pay cut.
  • More than a third of the banks failed (this was before the FDIC), and many families lost their life savings.  Long lines of desperate people stood outside of banks trying to get their money before it was all gone.  Once the bank closed, their money was lost.
  • The Dust Bowl - a series of dry weather conditions and dust storms made worse by over-farming - also hit the south and midwest during this time.  It was an unfortunate circumstance that worsened the already-bad depression.  We will study this further in our 'Out of the Dust' novel study.
  • People stood in long lines trying to get bread, soup, or even a day's job.  Many families lost their homes and belongings when they were repossessed by the banks.  Shantytowns, known as Hoovervilles, sprang up alongside railroad tracks, and hobos road the rails trying to find something better.
  • Many once-wealthy citizens chose to take their own lives after losing all of their riches and fortune.
  • The Great Depression was felt around the world, and even helped to fuel Hitler's rise to power in Germany, ultimately leading to World War 2.  

How did the American leaders respond?
President Hoover often takes the blame for the Great Depression, as it happened on his watch.  However, his predecessors (Coolidge and Harding) carry some of the responsibility, as well as Congressional members of the era.  These are the people that passed economic bills and helped to fuel the changes in financial spending for our nation.  

It is Hoover, however, whose name still bears the weight of this dark time.  His minimalist approach to government did little to help cushion the fall for Americans.  He believed that direct relief to individuals (eg, welfare) would weaken character, lead to shoddy work ethic, and develop a dependency upon government handouts.  When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in 1932, he developed an alphabet soup of government programs, many of which still exist today, to provide economic relief to the American people.

Our spine novel for this unit is No Promises in the Wind

Access the complete unit in the American History Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes sixteen unit studies covering American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the Revolutionary War to Vietnam.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
  • Some units also have cooking projects.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product sample:  Paper Son & Angel Island Immigration  & Within These Lines & Japanese Internment

  • Casualties of War & Vietnam War
  • No Promises in the Wind & the Great Depression
  • Out of the Dust & the Dust Bowl
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham & Civil Rights
  • Dusty Sourdough & Alaska
  • The King of Mulberry Street & Ellis Island Immigration
  • Paper Son & Angel Island Immigration
  • The Red Menace & McCarthyism
  • Johnny Tremain & Faces of the American Revolution
  • Sounder & Sharecropping
  • World War II Code Talkers
  • Flashback Four: Hamilton-Burr Duel
  • Within These Lines & Japanese Internment Camps
  • Flashback Four: Titanic Mission
  • Flashback Four: Lincoln Project
  • The Diviners / The Great Gatsby & Roaring Twenties

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