An unemployed auto worker in Detroit, Michigan, described the situation this way:
"Before daylight, we were on the way to the Chevrolet factory to look for work. The police were already there, waving us away from the office. They were saying, 'Nothing doing! No jobs! No jobs!' So now we were walking slowly through the falling snow to the employment office for the Dodge auto company. A big, well-fed man in a heavy overcoat stood at the door. 'No! No!' he said. There was no work."
One Texas farmer lost his farm and moved his family to California to look for work. "We can't send the children to school," he said, "because they have no clothes."
The economic crisis began with the stock market crash in October nineteen twenty-nine. For the first year, the economy fell very slowly. But it dropped sharply in nineteen thirty-one and nineteen thirty-two. And by the end of nineteen thirty-two, the economy collapsed almost completely.
During the three years following the stock market crash, the value of goods and services produced in America fell by almost half. The wealth of the average American dropped to a level lower than it had been twenty-five years earlier.
All the gains of the nineteen twenties were washed away.
Unemployment rose sharply. The number of workers looking for a job jumped from three percent to more than twenty-five percent in just four years. One of every three or four workers was looking for a job in nineteen thirty-two.
Those employment numbers did not include farmers. The men and women who grew the nation's food suffered terribly during the Great Depression.
This was especially true in two states, Oklahoma and Texas. Farmers there were losing money because of falling prices for their crops. Then natural disaster struck. Year after year, little or no rain fell. The ground dried up. And then the wind blew away the earth in huge clouds of dust.