The great depression was one of the darkest times in US history in the last century. The country was struck with famine, disease, record unemployment rates, and the highest homeless rate in US history. But despite being one of the gloomiest periods of recent history, the people of the US thrived, and occasionally some ingenious ways. You think your life is hard? Well take a look at these photos taken during the great depression and then ask yourself that same question. We guarantee your life isn’t so bad.
Dust Bowl Masks
One of the main factors that caused the Great Depression were the poor farming conditions and drought that caused the huge dust storms that we now call the Dust Bowl. Many Americans that lived in agricultural areas were forced to wear filter masks because of the poor air quality.
Empire State of Mind
Many would take any job that they could find, and with OSHA not a thing yet, some of the jobs were EXTREMELY dangerous. Some statisticians have found that the number of workplace injuries TRIPLED during the great depression. Pictured here is a steelwork taking a break on the 86th floor of the partially constructed Empire State Building on September 24, 1930.
Teaching the Future
And you thought the education system was bad now, just look at this classroom in 1935 Alabama. Pictured here is a small classroom in a one-room schoolhouse, with an oil drum in the middle, apparently being used as a heater.
Hoovevilles, a period-specific name for a shantytown, starting popping up everywhere during the great depression. With the majority of the population homeless, this was the only logical path for some families. At that point, anywhere and everywhere was a home, so people would make their living quarters out of anything.
Due to the harsh conditions that Americans were forced to face every day, most were desensitized to a lot of their fears. Here you can see a group of women enjoying an “exotic” lunch at an alligator farm in Los Angeles, of all places.
Even though times were tough, beauty transcends time. This particular woman, who was a “risque” model for the time, can be seen showing her thighs in public. Good Golly!
With so many layoffs happening, the displacement of workers resulting in many families either traveling far and wide to find a new home or making homes wherever the stopped traveling. Seeing that many blamed Herbert Hoover for their troubles, many of these shantytowns were aptly named “Hoovervilles”. This image shows a disturbing contrast between the bustling city in the background with the Hooverville in the foreground.
Easily the most important photographer of the era, Dorothea Lange captured some of the most iconic photos of the great depression. Her work has stood the test of time, not only for the unusually high quality photos for the period, but for the the vivid capture of the times grittiness.