Date of Award

Spring 1975

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

William Lang

Second Advisor

Fr. William Greytak

Abstract

The Great Depression is an exceptionally special era which has captured both the mind and heart of America. More than fifty years later it continues to fascinate just about everyone. In part it is because there are large numbers of those who still remember. Then there are those who try to imagine as best they can the gloomy but mysterious days in their minds long since past. A tremendous amount of work has been done by John Kenneth Galbraith and others to ascertain what this era truly was. A certain amount of interest has been stimulated by the comparison of that time with the present day flagging of the national economy.

Whatever the exact nature of stimulus, any number of people harken back to October of 1929 when the Crash of the stock market heralded the years which have left a nearly indelible mark on millions of people. All are in search of the true significance of that event. Any undertaking aimed at an understanding of the Depression era uncovers an unlikely array of reactions. Pear, or its symptom - panic, is prevalent. The Depression threatened everything that was familiar and reliable: employment, a home, the ability to acquire possessions. Others, due to their own outlook and experience, are even capable of an almost rosy regard for the thirties. They are satisfied with having survived or perhaps they are nostalgic for a less complicated existence. Often as not, the distress and unpleasantness has dimmed over the expanse of time. The intellectually curious wrestle with the advisability and consequences of precendent-setting government intervention, the possible recurrence of the Depression and the chances of survival. They are intent upon delineating what it was that has left such a vivid memory and so prodded imaginations. Determined, they attempt to penetrate the confusion and half-mythical conceptions of FDR, the stock market, and the man in the breadline which obscure the true p nature of the Depression.

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