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HSTA 255 Notes 4-6 November

by: Rachel Notetaker

HSTA 255 Notes 4-6 November HSTA 255 - 01

Marketplace > University of Montana > History > HSTA 255 - 01 > HSTA 255 Notes 4 6 November
Rachel Notetaker
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About this Document

There are no Monday notes as we had an exam that day, but Wednesday and Friday notes are attached, covering the Agricultural Depression in Montana and the National Great Depression
Montana History
Jeffrey M. Wiltse (P)
Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Rachel Notetaker on Friday November 6, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to HSTA 255 - 01 at University of Montana taught by Jeffrey M. Wiltse (P) in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 20 views. For similar materials see Montana History in History at University of Montana.


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Date Created: 11/06/15
1920s Agricultural Depression 4 November 2015 I. Agricultural Depression i. 1909-1918, Homestead Booms and tens of thousands of people enter the state ii. Depression hits some areas of MT in 1919, spreads generally throughout the state in 1920 iii. Depression in the agricultural economy lasted until 1926 A. Economic indicators of depression a. 50% of farms in MT affected i. 11,000 farms abandoned (people just picked up and left ii. 20,000 farm foreclosures (from unpaid bank loans) b. 2 million acres taken out of production, farmers who stayed bought up the rest of the land abandoned i. Value of farmland in Eastern Montana dropped 50%, farms grew rapidly in size by buying foreclosed land ii. Larger farms made land more viable for profit 1. Half of land used for ranching 2. Half of land rotated every 4 years for farming c. Over 50% banks in Montana (214 in total) failed i. Thousands of Montanans lost their life’s savings B. The economic conditions within Montana contrasted with the economic conditions in much of the rest of the nation a. MT was the only state to lose money/people during this time II. Causes of the Depression A. Increased indebtedness a. During war years (1917-1918) farmers mortgaged their farms b. Farms collateral for bank loans to get more acreage, thus more farmland i. Led to loans to buy machinery to uphold more farmland (plows, tractors, etc.) c. Due to wartime propaganda, as well as self-interest i. $2.40/bushel of wheat, farmers wanted more farmland to grow more and get more money B. Drought a. By 1919, entire state was experiencing less than average annual rainfall i. East and Northern Montana averaging 6-7 inches per year in early 1920s b. Amount of crop grown (yield) dropped ten-fold i. 1915, 25 bushels of wheat per acre ii. 1920s, 2.5 bushels of wheat per acre c. “Damn Grasshoppers” lose their natural food source, eat crops to survive C. Decline in crop prices a. Fall of 1920, price dropped from $2.40 to $1.25 per bushel of wheat b. European farms previously shut down during WWI were now back in production, crops not as much in demand and supply was huge c. Farm income during war was $50 per acre of wheat i. During depression, dropped to $3.12 per acre III. Consequences of Agricultural Depression A. End to Homestead Boom a. Very few new homestead claims being made B. Outmigration a. 60,000 people left the state during agricultural depression i. Homesteaders or people who lived in homestead communities ii. Most in their primes (20-30), ambitious, moved to WA, OR, CA iii. Skews population, mostly in rural places, to be mostly th elderly (today, MT has 5 highest percentage of people over 65) b. 1920 (549,000 people) to 1930 (538,000) i. Only state to lose people in 1920s ii. Gross loss of 60,000, net loss of 11,000 C. Visual signs of economic distress a. Boarded banks and grocery stores b. Abandoned homesteads, still there today D. Cynicism and bitterness- psychological consequence a. Left rural Montanans without their optimism at the beginning of the homestead years b. “Victims mentality” blaming other things for their troubles i. Federal government, railroads, banks, etc. ii. Jim Hill, president of Great Northern Railroad 1. “Were Hill in Hell we’d feel much better” iii. Historically victimized by outside interests 1. Montana had “little to do with how it developed and what it became” –K Ross Toole IV. Conclusionturning point in Montana history i. Compared to industrialization of mining 1. Dynamic economic development, industrialization, population growth ii. Billings and energy industry kept MT population stagnant at this time Great Depression in Montana 6 November 2015 I. Introduction A. Depression Era in Montana history 1. 1919-1926 was Montana’s severe agricultural depression 2. 1927-1929: economy good in Montana 1. Ample rainfall led to reasonable crop yields 2. Construction boom meant timber and copper industries prospered 3. In a 23 year span, only three years were economically good 3. 1929: stock market crashes 4. 1932: Apparent that the US is in an elongated economic crisis B. Great Depression nationally 1. At its nadir in 1933, unemployment hit 25%, another 25% was underemployed (not employed full time) and were not able to provide for themselves 2. No unemployment insurance, had to rely on private charities like the Red Cross II. Great Depression in Montana 1. Agricultural Montanans return to hard times, but this time cities and industrial areas follow B. Agricultural Depression 1. Falling crop prices 1. Wheat a. WWI- $2.40/bushel b. 1920- $1.25/bushel c. 1932- $0.15-$0.32/bushel 2. Beef: hundred weight of cattle dropped 63% a. 1929: $9.10 b. 1934: $3.34 2. Drought 1. 1931: Eastern Montana received 5-5.5 inches of rain 2. Low crop yields, plagues of grasshoppers and crickets a. Crickets: people dug trenches and trapped them, then set them on fire, still didn’t get rid of them 3. Soil erosion, largely caused by wind a. Top soil dried out, wind carried it away (dust storms) b. Great Black Blizzard, 9 May 1934 i. 350 tons of top soil ii. Carried thousands of miles (NY, DC) 3. Effects 1. Daniels County (Northeast Montana) in 1933 a. 5,000 in population, 3,500 (70%) couldn’t provide for themselves 2. Montana as a whole: 7,000 farms abandoned/foreclosed from 1929-1934 C. Industrial Depression 1. In 1937 national unemployment was 15%, 22% in MT 2. Timber 1. Drastic slowdown in construction, over half the companies shut down 2. Of the four that stayed open in Missoula, over half of workforce laid off a. One company laid off 90% 3. Unemployed loggers would set forest fires so they would get paid to put them out 3. Mining 1. Copper plummeted from $0.18/lb in 1929 to $0.05/lb in 1932 2. Anaconda production dropped by 90%, thousands of workers laid off a. In 1929, one share stock was $175, in 1932 it was $3 per share 4. Cities 1. Butte, early 1930s 85% of children were malnourished 2. Men could be seen on street corners because they got antsy sitting at home a. Some rode railways all day so as not to go home III. Social effects of the Great Depression A. Focus on material survival 1. People spent all day waiting in bread/soup lines, relief offices 2. Charles Vindex (Farmer in Plenty Wood) spent winters harvesting ice to earn money for his family 1. Earned $1.25/day one year, then $0.75 the next B. Dependence on neighbors and community 1. Relying just on nuclear families was not enough 2. Individualism had eroded, one could not possibly provide for oneself without help 3. Families moved in together 4. The neighborhood all shared one gun for hunting C. More work for women 1. Women/children more likely to get jobs because they were paid less 2. Often primary breadwinners while the husband didn’t have a job 3. Would be gender role reversal, but the man did not take up home-making duties (psychologically difficult) IV. Conclusion: Great Depression best understood in human terms A. Cannot be seen as just an economic inconvenience B. Invisible scars- lasting effects 1. Hoarding 2. Don’t waste food 3. No more investing in stocks


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