The years between 1930 and 1945 were among the most extraordinary in American history. From the depths of the Great Depression to the exhilaration of victory in World War Two, the American experience was marked by extremes of discontent, deprivation, dislocation and, finally, the feeling of undiluted triumph.
No other event in the twentieth century had a greater impact on American life than the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The slump in the economy, the countless numbers of unemployment, and the swelling relief rolls were only half of the trouble. The other half, some may say greater half, was the emotional and psychological hardships that many Americans had to experience. These five factors are all brought into play when trying to understand the “worst economic crisis in American history.”
“Stock trading in the late 1920’s captured the imagination of the broad American public.” (Faragher 735) The stock market became very popular, it was treated like a sporting event. Americans were following the prices the way they would follow great athletes. Americans were basically told that it was their duty to buy stocks. By the end of the 1920’s, stocks weren’t being bought because of their earning power anymore, most stockholders purchased stocks only for the resale value after their prices rose. Americans were amazed at the upward climb of the stocks. “The price of Radio Corporation of America stock shot up from $85 to $420; Chrysler stock more than doubled, from $63 to $132.” (Faragher page 735) Only about 30% of Americans owned any stocks at all. Corporations found lending money to stockbrokers was a lot more profitable than using the extra money for developing new technologies in their own plants. Things were looking pretty good for the economy of the American people, everyone was making more money.
The Crash of 1929 was a steep downward slide. The market peaked in early September, and prices...