The usa 1919-41 Key Topic 1: The us economy, 1919-29 Causes and consequences of the economic boom

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The USA 1919-41
Key Topic 1: The US Economy, 1919-29
Causes and consequences of the economic boom

  • During the First World War US industry had supplied Britain and France with materials for the First World War. US farmers increased exports of food to Europe 300%.

  • US banks had lent large sums to Britain and Italy. US investors did well from the interest on loans to Europe. After the war they had money to invest in the USA.

  • US investors did well from the interest on loans to Europe of $10,300,000,000. After the war they had money to invest in the USA.

  • The USA had hardly been affected by the devastation of the war and US industry had been able to take over export markets from Britain.

  • While Germany had been involved in the war, US firms had taken over leadership in the chemical industry.

Why was there an economic boom in the 1920s?

  • The USA had vast supplies of raw materials that had hardly been touched

  • Many Americans were immigrants who had come to the USA looking for a land of opportunity. They were prepared to work hard and take chances.

  • New industries developed, especially producing electrical goods and man-made fibres. These all benefited from the introduction of the production line.

  • The German chemical industry was held back by the war; the US took the lead, making dyes, fertilisers, plastics.

  • It was a second industrial revolution, in consumer goods, like radios, cars, fridges, telephones, vacuums cleaners.

  • These goods were not new: they had previously been available only to the rich. Now they were sold, in millions, to a mass market.

  • The film industry boomed. By 1930, 95 million cinema tickets a week were being sold.

  • Wages rose and prices remained the same or even fell. The price of a motor car fell by 60% after the introduction of the assembly line.

Federal policies

  • The Republican governments were prepared to give business its head. As Calvin Coolidge said: 'the business of America is business'.

  • There were few attempts to regulate business. Taxes were cut, which encouraged people to spend more.

  • In 1922 the government imposed the Fordney-McCumber Tariffs on imports. These made foreign good very expensive, so people bought American.


  • The tariffs were part of the return to ‘isolationism’ after the end of the war.

  • Throughout the nineteenth century, the USA had had little to do with Europe. Many Americans had opposed entry into the First World War.

  • In 1920, Congress refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and the USA did not join the League of Nations.

  • Warren Harding (Republican president 1921-23) adopted the slogan ‘America First’.

  • Immigrants had come to the USA to escape the Old World; they did not want to be involved in the affairs of Europe.

  • Isolation helped the US economy in the short term by protecting it from foreign competition.

  • In the long term it harmed the economy; US industries were unable to sell abroad because other countries imposed tariffs against American goods.

Why was the car industry important to the boom of the 1920s?

  • The motor car came to represent the American dream, by offering independence and adventure.

  • Cars fell in price dramatically, so that many American could afford them. They could be sold to a mass market because they could be made more cheaply, using assembly line methods.

  • Henry Ford’s assembly line brought the average price of a car down from $850 in 1908 to $250 in 1925.

  • Car factories paid high wages, jobs were sought after.

  • Henry Ford's ideas, based on 'Taylorism', the time and motion studies of Frederick Taylor, revolutionised America industry.

  • The car industry led to the creation of many jobs in factories supplying parts. For every worker in a car factory, there were ten more making components.

  • New methods of buying and selling and advertising were developed. Chain stores, hire purchase, mail order, travelling salesmen, the radio and the cinema were all exploited.

The New Industries

  • These were industries that could use electricity and often produced the new consumer goods, such as radios, cookers etc.

  • The assembly line was adapted for use in all of the new industries and reduced costs.

  • Most products were labour-saving devices which made life easier. They sold very well.

Declining Industries

  • New industries boomed, but the old industries, such as coal, textiles, shipbuilding and iron and steel declined.

Why did the old industries decline?

  • The old industries were not able to make use of Henry Ford's new methods. They either produced raw materials or very heavy goods like ships.

  • They also relied on government contracts and orders from big business. The new industries were mainly producing consumer goods. As wages rose, they could sell more.

  • Fewer ships were needed after the First World War. The USA imported and exported less than during the war.

  • Coal became less important as electricity and oil replaced steam power.

  • Cotton and wool were replaced by man-made fibres.

  • It was a city-based boom. Cities got bigger, as suburbs developed, higher skyscrapers were built. In the rural areas, or the areas of the old industries, there was very little change.

Industrial workers

  • Although profits rose by 80%, wages rose by only 8%. Recent immigrants got the worst jobs: casual work, on low pay.

  • Wages were low in old industries facing world competition, like coal and textiles. Mechanisation often replaced workers, especially skilled workers. There were always 2,000,000 unemployed throughout the 1920s.

  • Trade Unions were able to make little impact. Henry Ford would not allow unions in his car factories. This meant that workers could do little to improve their conditions.

Black Americans

  • Three-quarters of US black population lived in the South, where they suffered from racism in all its forms.

  • Although they had been freed from slavery, they were still desperately poor, especially the share-croppers, who were exploited by white landowners.

  • During the First World War, many black Americans had moved to the industrial cities of the north to find work, but when the war ended, they faced hostility and even race riots.

Problems in agriculture

  • Farming did not do well in the 1920s. US agriculture had expanded during the First World War to sell food to Europe, but afterwards countries returned to growing their own again.

  • Foreigners could not buy US food because the high tariffs meant that they did not have dollars to spend. There was also competition from Canada. Prohibition hit the production of barley.

  • US farmers were over-producing food, and prices they got were very low. European countries would not from the USA, because the USA was not buying from Europe.

The South

  • The worst conditions for all, black Americans, white farm labourers, were in the South, where the main industry was farming. Few farms had electricity or running water and wages were very low.

  • Most farms in the south were dependent upon one crop, such as cotton. In the 1920s the price of cotton crashed, as man-made fibres became available.

  • The South was also suffering more and more from dust storms, which blow away the topsoil and destroyed agricultural land.

  • In parts of the South, farm labourers were only earning one third of the wage of industrial workers.

Key Topic 2: US Society, 1919-29
The 'Roaring Twenties'

  • The years of war led to a reaction in the 1920s, when many people were determined to have fun. As prices fell, people had more money to spend on enjoying themselves.

  • For many, the 'Roaring Twenties' were a time of fun, parties, prosperity, jazz music and frantic dancing. It was also called 'The Jazz Age'.

  • During the war, women took jobs previously closed to them. In 1920 all women got the vote. Although they lost most of these jobs when the soldiers returned, they did not surrender their freedom.

  • 'Flappers' was the name given to young, liberated women of the 1920s, who smoked in public, wore short dresses and drove their own cars.

  • New dances and music were all the rage, the 'Charleston', the 'Black Bottom' and jazz. Jazz evolved from black music and became almost the only way that black Americans could be successful in America.

  • Jazz clubs were especially popular during Prohibition. But the biggest craze of all was the cinema.

The Movies

  • The 1920s, and to a lesser extent the 1930s, was the 'Golden Age of Hollywood'. Movie companies were founded and the first real film-stars emerged.

  • Nearly 100,000,000 people went to see a movie each week. This was a real sign of prosperity.

  • The main reason for the success of the cinema was escapism. It could open up whole new worlds for just a few cents. In 1927 the first talkie was produced, 'The Jazz Singer'

  • There were concerns that the cinema might lead to immorality, and in love scenes in a bedroom, actors always had to keep one foot on the floor. Rules were brought in to cover what could and could not be shown on the screen.


  • Baseball, boxing and golf all became very popular and the first great sporting heroes emerged.

  • This was yet another sign of the new prosperity that many Americans were enjoying; they could afford to attend sporting events regularly.


  • During the 1920s, sales of radios rose rapidly. At the same time sales of gramophone records fell as new radio stations opened almost every week, many of them playing music almost non-stop.

  • Radio was widely used for advertising and helped to fuel the economic boom of the 1920s. The US government made no attempt to regulate radio advertising.

Prohibition and Gangsters

  • Prohibition was introduced by the Volstead Act, which became the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

  • This banned the production, transporting and sale of alcoholic liquor. It did not, however, ban its consumption, as this would have infringed the Constitution.

  • The campaign against alcohol began before the First World War.

  • The Saloon was described as the Poor Man's Club.

  • Many small towns and women's organisations campaigned against alcohol. Politicians agreed with them to get their votes.

  • They blamed alcohol for breaking up families, causing unemployment, ill health and suffering for women and children. The Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union supported Prohibition.

  • During the First World War, prohibition received increased support because it was believed that it would aid the war effort.

  • Brewing in the USA was traditionally run by German immigrants. Campaigners claimed that it would be patriotic to close down their industry.

  • By 1919, thirteen states had already banned alcohol.

What effects did Prohibition have?

  • People soon found ways of getting round the law:

  • Speakeasies: illegal bars, which sold alcohol behind closed doors.

  • Moonshine or hooch: illegally made alcohol, which could be lethal.

  • Bootlegging: smuggling alcohol into the USA from Canada or the West Indies. An enormous amount of alcohol was smuggled into the USA from Canada. Some of it by people who simply rowed across to fetch it.

  • Prohibition made ordinary people into criminals. Police were reluctant to enforce the law, and were open to bribes. In Chicago the mayor was known to be an associate of the gangsters.

  • The gangsters stepped in to supply the demand. They made a fortune – Al Capone is supposed to have made $100,000 a year.

  • Gangsters fought to control the business and it encouraged an atmosphere of lawlessness and disrespect for the law. There were 200 gang murders in Chicago between 1927 and 1931.

  • Prohibition led to a big increase in organised crime, just at the time when many Italian immigrants were arriving, having been driven out of Sicily by Mussolini.

  • It led to a huge growth in prostitution, drugs, protection rackets and gambling.

Why was Prohibition repealed in 1933?

  • It was clearly not working. Some states repealed their own legislation, which meant that the local police would take no action.

  • The Depression meant that there was less money to spare to catch smugglers, and other more important priorities.

  • Roosevelt, who became president in 1933, personally disapproved of prohibition.

Racism and intolerance
How were black Americans discriminated against?

  • 'Jim Crow' Laws existed in many southern states. These prevented Blacks from exercising their legal rights.

  • Literacy tests before somebody could vote made it very difficult for blacks to live in 'white' areas.

  • Black Americans were forced to attend separate and often much poorer schools. Public buildings, transport, restaurants and many other places were segregated.

  • Black Americans had to use separate park benches, water fountains and counters in shops.

  • Worst of all, Blacks could by 'lynched' and very often nothing was done about it. Lynchings averaged more than fifty a year in the 1920s.

The Ku Klux Klan

  • The Ku Klux Klan was a secret organisation set up in the South of the USA in the 1860s. The name came from the Greek word Kuklos, which means circle.

  • In 1915 the KKK was reformed by William Simmons a clergyman. By the 1920s there were 5,000,000 members of the KKK.

  • The KKK worked on the fears of some Americans at the increase of immigration to the USA in the years after the First World War.

  • The KKK used violent methods of dealing with its opponents. Thousands of blacks were whipped, branded or hanged without trial. This was known as lynching.

  • Often these activities were ignored by the police and the sign of the KKK, a flaming cross, could be seen in many places throughout the south of the USA.

What happened to the KKK?

  • For a while the KKK was very powerful. It attacked Blacks, Jews, Catholics and anybody else who was not a true American. True Americans were WASPS, White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants.

  • Then in 1925 a leading member of the KKK David Stephenson was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a young woman. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in prison 31 years later.

  • Within a year KKK membership had fallen from 5,000,000 to 300,000.

How did policy on immigration change in the 1920s?

  • The USA had traditionally welcomed immigrants, but after the First World War attitudes began to change.

  • Restrictions on immigration. The USA had always had an 'open door' policy towards immigrants. Now restrictions were put on the numbers being allowed in.

  • A literacy test was imposed in 1917.

  • The total number was restricted from 1921. In 1924 it was set at 150,000 a year and immigration from Asia was banned altogether.

  • A quota system let in numbers of people according to their presence in the US Population. This favoured WASP immigrants and worked against 'new' immigrants from Italy, Spain, Poland and Russia.

Why did the US government change its policy?

  • During the 1920s, the population of the USA grew from 106,000,000 in 1920, to 123,000,000 in 1929. The main reason was immigration.

Numbers of immigrants to the USA

1919 140,000 1925 310,000

1920 400,000 1926 320,000

1921 802,000 1927 340,000

1922 370,000 1928 350,000

1923 520,000 1929 280,000

1924 690,000

  • The Russian Revolution in 1917 led to a 'Red Scare' and many socialists were arrested.

  • There was an increasing number of immigrants from Italy, often connected with the Mafia, as the Italian dictator cracked down, often very violently, on crime.

What effects did the changing policies have?
Anyone with left wing ideas became suspect. Trade unions were harassed; membership fell in the 1920s. Henry Ford refused to allow his employees to join a trade union.

  • Socialists were harassed. Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian Anarchists, were accused of robbery and murder in 1920.

  • Their trial was a farce because the judge was obviously biased. The case dragged on for seven years before the two were executed in 1927, even though somebody else actually confessed to the murders.

  • They were scapegoats for the fear and hatred felt by many Americans.

The 'Monkey Trial'

  • In some states it was illegal to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution. This led to the 'Monkey Trial' in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925.

  • A schoolteacher was prosecuted for teaching evolution in a biology lesson, which was illegal in Tennessee.

  • The case became famous all over the world and although the teacher was found guilty, he was only given a £100 dollar fine.

  • The decision was overturned on appeal by the Tennessee Supreme Court the following year.

Key Topic 3: The USA in Depression, 1929-33

Causes and consequences of the Wall Street Crash

  • The Wall Street Crash was a sudden dramatic fall in the value of shares on Wall Street, the US stock market, on 24 October 1929. It led to the Great Depression.

Causes of the Wall Street Crash

  • The boom of the 1920s was based on selling more and more goods. But by 1929, US industry was running out of customers.

  • Americans could not go on spending forever; there is a limit to how many fridges, etc. you need.

  • US industry could not sell abroad because other countries had put up tariffs in retaliation to the USA.

  • By 1929, there was a growing surplus of manufactured goods and large numbers of car workers were unemployed.

Speculation in shares

  • As US industry boomed, so did company shares on the stock market. Prices of shares went up, year after year. This was based on confidence that the boom would last.

  • Speculators bought shares, hoping to make easy money. Some people borrowed money to buy shares; others bought ‘on the margin’ that is, only paying 10% of their value, hoping to make enough money to pay the full price later.

  • There were almost no controls on the buying and selling of shares or on the setting up of companies.

  • Some companies did not actually manufacture anything, just bought and sold shares. While there was confidence, the boom would last.

  • In fact some companies did not exist at all. They used their name to attract investors and simply took their money. A number of bogus aeroplane companies were set up.

Federal policies

  • The government of Presidents Harding and Coolidge made no effort to intervene or to regulate the buying and selling of shares.

  • Coolidge resisted all attempts to interfere in the economy. He vetoed (blocked) two Bills which would have offered help to farmers who were struggling.


  • Americans came to believe that prosperity could go on forever. They had ‘won the war’, sorted out Europe and completed a new industrial revolution.

  • Many politicians believed that the stock market boom would last forever and that poverty would just disappear.

  • No one had ever experienced anything like this before. It was not realised that a boom based on credit could only last for a limited number of years.


  • The boom of the 1920s was based on credit. The public was pressured by advertising to buy more and more and to use hire purchase to pay for it.

  • New models of cars were brought out every year and pressure was put on people through advertising to change every twelve months.

  • Henry Ford used a slogan 'Every American home should have one' to try to persuade people to buy his cars. He then changed it to 'Every American home should have two'.

  • It was a sign of desperation. People could not go on buying forever and eventually debts have to be repaid.

The Crash

  • In 1929 some shrewd investors realised that the over-production crisis was nearing and sold their shares. Confidence dipped and no one would buy shares, in October this led to the crash.

  • On Black Thursday, 24th October 1929, selling began in earnest. But this was not taken seriously, because some shares actually rose in value and the banks decided that nothing needed to be done and even began to buy shares.

  • Over the weekend the situation appeared to improve, but a further big collapse took place on Tuesday 29th and this time there was no mistake. Share prices continued to fall until 1932 and lost 80% of their value.

The impact of the Crash upon the economy

  • Easily the most important effect of the Crash was the collapse of 5,000 banks in the next few years.

  • This not only wiped out the savings of millions of Americans, but it also destroyed thousands of companies that could no finance their debts.

  • With banking in ruins, borrowing became impossible, so new companies could be started. Sales of manufactured goods fell by 80% and with no new investment and falling demand, workers were laid off. Unemployment reached 14 million by 1933.

Government reaction, 1929-32

  • Herbert Hoover was elected President just before the Wall Street Crash. He claimed that the boom would go on forever and that poverty would be removed. These words rebounded on him.

  • He believed that government should not interfere in business and that business would right itself sooner or later. He therefore did nothing at first.

  • He believed that cities, local authorities and business should help their own unemployed. It was not the government’s responsibility. He called this ‘voluntarism’.

  • For a time Hoover’s approach appeared to work. Many of the most important US corporations agreed to maintain levels of production, wages and employment.

  • Hoover also called on city and state governments to create public works projects.

  • In October 1930, he set up the Emergency Committee for Employment to bring together the work of voluntary agencies.

  • In 1931, he persuaded the nation’s largest bankers to set up the National Credit Corporation to lend money to smaller banks to make loans to businesses.

  • To try to increase spending, Hoover cut taxes. A family man with an income of $4,000 had his tax cut by two thirds.

  • A further boost to spending came from increases in the federal budget. In 1931, Hoover increased government spending to $2.2 billion.

  • In 1930, he passed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, which imposed even higher taxes on 20,000 imports.

  • Hoover believed that this would force Americans to buy American goods, but the plan back-fired. It simply made American exports even more difficult.

  • In 1931, he began to build the Colorado Dam. He also spent $4,000,000,000 to try to relieve poverty, but it was too late.

  • Not until 1932, did Hoover set up the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which could make grants and loans to state governments.

  • As a result, Hoover was deeply unpopular. In the 1932 presidential election, the Democrat candidate was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

  • He came from a rich family and had suffered from polio; as Governor of New York, he had tried to help those suffering in the Great Depression.

  • In the campaign he promised a ‘New Deal’ for the American people and was elected.

The Impact of the Depression on people’s lives

  • Many people were ruined. They had borrowed more than they could pay back. There were several suicides.

  • All over the USA, ordinary people who had been led to believe that the stockmarket was a 'sure thing' that could go on forever found that they had been led astray.

  • There was an enormous loss of confidence in the American way. If the stockmarket had collapsed, what could be next? No one spent money, so demand for goods fell. Industry declined.

  • In the USA there was no dole, no state welfare. People were in dire poverty. Queues at soup kitchens run by charities became a common sight.

  • 'Hoboes' travelled around looking for work, often riding illegally in railway freight cars.

  • Cars, furniture even homes were repossessed because people defaulted on the hire purchase or mortgage repayments.

  • Many people lost their homes. Shanty-towns began to appear on the outskirts of many American cities. They were nick-named Hoovervilles.

  • The appeared to be no way out of the misery and the government seemed not to care. When Hoover was interviewed by a magazine about the effects of the Depression, he commented: 'Nobody's actually starving'.

  • Soon people were commenting: 'In Hoover we trusted, now we are busted'.

The Bonus Marchers

  • In May 1932 20,000 ex-soldiers from the First World War went to Washington to ask for immediate payment of their 'bonus'.

  • This was a payment of $500 that had promised by an Act of 1924 and which was due in 1945.

  • The Bonus Marchers, as they became known, camped on the lawn outside the White House.

  • Hoover refused to meet them and in August ordered the US army to clear the Bonus marchers away.

  • The army sent in tanks, cavalry and infantry under the command of MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton.

Key Topic 4: Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-41
The nature of the New Deal

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in 1882 in New York State. He was a member of a rich and influential family. Roosevelt's cousin, Theodore, was president from 1901 to 1909.

  • Franklin Roosevelt attended a private school then Harvard University. He qualified as a lawyer and then went into politics as a Democrat.

  • During the First World War Franklin was a successful Assistant Secretary to the Navy, and the youngest ever.

  • In 1920 Roosevelt was chosen as the Democratic candidate for vice-president, with James Cox as the Democratic presidential candidate. Cox was heavily defeated by Warren Harding.

  • In 1921, Roosevelt caught polio and lost the use of his legs. He never walked again unaided. He spent four years recovering, using an iron ring set into the wall above his bed as a lever to strengthen his legs.

  • In 1928 Roosevelt returned to politics and was elected Governor of New York.

  • In many ways Roosevelt was an unlikely candidate for president in 1932, he was very rich, aristocratic and had little in common with the millions of unemployed and homeless, but he elected by a landslide.

Why was Roosevelt elected?

  • Herbert Hoover had become very unpopular; he had failed to tackle the effects of the Depression and had contrived to give the impression that he did not care about the plight of the unemployed and homeless. His treatment of the Bonus Marchers had simply been the last straw.

  • Roosevelt had shown that he had been able to tackle tragedy in his personal life. He had refused to give in to polio, when it would have been easy to settle for the life of an invalid.

  • As Governor of New York he had introduced a number of measures aimed at relieving the effects of the Depression.

  • But the most important factor in Roosevelt's favour was that he gave everybody the impression that he cared.

  • His powerful speeches at the Democratic Convention and during the campaign persuaded the voters that something would at last be done.

  • Roosevelt made few promises except to offer a 'New Deal for the American people' and to declare war on poverty; indeed he seems to have had few real plans until after his election.

  • Many of Roosevelt's policies were developed from November to February 1932 to 1933 with a small group of advisers, Harry Hopkins being the most important.

The Alphabet Agencies

  • Roosevelt became president in 1933; in the 'First 100 Days' many measures were passed.

  • The Emergency Banking Relief Act closed all banks for four days to quieten things down.

  • Government officials investigated them and they re-opened if they had enough funds to operate. Banks were banned from investing in the stock-market. This restored confidence in banks.

  • The CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, gave work to 2,000,000 young Americans (only 8,000 women) in the countryside, clearing forests, replanting trees, mending fences etc.

  • Young people worked for 6 months to get used to work. They were paid but had to send most of it home.

  • Although many young people took part, they often moved from one camp to another and rarely found permanent work.

  • The AAA, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, tried to help farmers. They were encouraged to switch to new crops and paid to stop overproducing others.

  • Farm incomes rose again. Farmers had to reduce the amount of land under the plough and kill animals.

  • This was widely criticised for wasting food at a time when millions were starving.

  • The TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority, built a whole series of dams to control the flood waters of the Tennessee River.

  • This meant that the land could be irrigated and farmed and it also provided electricity. Industry went there, which needed cheap electricity: aluminium smelting, paper-making. There were jobs in building the dams and in these industries.

  • A previously poor and backward area of the USA was revived. This was the most successful part of the New Deal.

  • The NRA, National Recovery Administration. This had two parts:

  1. The PWA, Public Works Administration, began major building schemes, which provided jobs.

  1. The Blue Eagle. These were a series of agreements between employers and workers setting decent wages and working conditions. Goods produced under these rules displayed a ‘Blue Eagle’ badge. This led to opposition to Roosevelt from business.

How did Roosevelt gain the confidence of the American people?

  • He gave 'Fireside Chats' to

  • explain in simple terms what he was trying to achieve.

  • He ordered that any letters sent to him must be answered and action must be taken.

  • He used films of himself at the White House and around the country to win support.

The Second New Deal

  • Wagner Act 1935 this gave all workers the right to join a trade union. It was passed because the Supreme Court had declared that part of the NRA was unconstitutional.

  • The Supreme Court also declared the AAA to be unconstitutional, so the Resettlement Administration was set up to help farmers.

  • Social Security Act, 1935 set up a basic system of welfare including old age pensions, unemployment and sick pay.

  • WPA, the Works Progress Administration, was the biggest of all the agencies.

  • It provided government money for many improvement schemes all over the USA: bridges, hospitals, schools, airports, parks. Even writers and artists were hired to write local guides and paint murals.

Roosevelt's second term

  • Roosevelt had originally planned to reduce government spending during his second term as president, but soon found that unemployment rose rapidly to 10,000,000.

  • Employers also did not like his interference in industrial relations and tried to break the growing power of unions.

  • The result was a wave of strikes in 1937 and 1938. Roosevelt increased spending again and unemployment fell once again.


  • Despite the Supreme Court's ruling against the AAA, farming began to recover in the mid-1930s. But one group of farmers saw no improvement.

  • In the states of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas the farmland was swept away by winds and the area became a dustbowl.

Black Americans

  • Roosevelt was constantly pressed by his wife Eleanor to do more for Blacks. He insisted that they should be allowed to go to CCC camps, but these camps were segregated.

  • Roosevelt was dependent upon southern democrats for votes and was unable to go any further.

  • Nevertheless, Blacks voted for him in large numbers at every election.

Opposition to the New Deal
Why had the Supreme Court overturned some of the New Deal Policies?

  • The Supreme Court has the power to decide if the president is acting constitutionally. If the nine justices decide that he is exceeding his powers, they can declare his actions unconstitutional. That means that he is acting illegally.

  • The Supreme Court had decided that the NRA exceeded the powers of the president and infringed the rights of the states.

  • In 1937, Roosevelt decided to prevent the Supreme Court from blocking his policies in the future, by increasing the number of justices from nine to fifteen. This would allow him to appoint six new justices, all of whom would be loyal to him.

  • This was a mistake. Even Roosevelt's supporters felt that it was going too far and the attempt failed. However, after 1936 the Supreme Court did not block any of the president's plans.

  • Republicans complained about deficit spending, saying the New Deal was spending money they did not have.

  • They said the New Deal was only dealing with unemployment by turning millions of people into government employees. Republicans also complained that the New Deal extended federal government power.

  • Big Business attacked Roosevelt because he was giving too much power to trade union. In 1937 and 1938 there was a wave of strikes.

  • The Left complained that he did not go far enough. The Wall Street Crash had shown that the system was rotten and the New Deal was just propping it up. Even big ideas, which the Left liked, such as the TVA, were not extended to other areas of the USA.

Father Charles Coughlin

  • Coughlin, the 'radio priest', was at first a supporter of the New deal, but then turned against it, claiming that it did not go far enough.

  • However, it soon became clear that Coughlin was really a Fascist, he described the New Deal as the 'Jew Deal', and he lost support.

Dr Francis Townsend

  • Townsend set up the Townsend Plan, which wanted to solve unemployment by forcing all people over the age of sixty to retire, in exchange for a pension of $200 a month.

Senator Huey 'Catfish' Long

  • Long was by far the most dangerous opponent that Roosevelt faced. He was elected Governor of Louisiana and set up the 'Share our wealth' movement.

  • This planned to take over the fortunes of the rich and use them to help the poor.

  • Long proposed to limit personal fortunes to $5 millions, annual income to $1million (or 300 times the income of the average family) and inheritances to $5 million.

  • The resulting funds would be used to guarantee every family a basic household grant of $5,000 and a minimum annual income of $2,000-3,000 (or one-third the average family income).

  • He also proposed free primary and college education, old-age pensions, veterans’ benefits, federal assistance to farmers, public works projects and limiting the working week to 30 hours.

  • Long planned to stand against Roosevelt in the 1936 election, but was shot and killed in September 1935.

What part did Roosevelt play in the recovery from the Depression?

  • He did not have a worked-out scheme. Some of his plans were inconsistent, e.g. putting up food prices to help farmers hit poor workers, for example. But he did bring energy, enthusiasm and a belief that things could be done.

  • His main idea was to use government money to set up recovery. Even if it was money the government did not have now, it would get it back when recovery took place. This is called Deficit funding.

  • The money was used to put people to work, in jobs, which were useful, rather than just giving them handouts.

  • This way the country would benefit, people would feel worthwhile again, and they would spend their wages, helping to get the economy moving again.

  • He was very popular. He could communicate with ordinary Americans through 'fireside chats' on the radio. He restored confidence.

  • He was re-elected President in 1936, 1940 and 1944; the only President to serve four terms.

The extent of recovery

  • By 1940, unemployment in America had fallen by about 40% since 1933.

  • Black Americans were given access to CCCs, although they had separate camps.

  • Roosevelt gave people hope and restored their confidence in the government and the financial system.

  • It was the Second World War, which really made the difference. When America joined the war in December 1941, unemployment fell to almost nothing.


  • Recovery was only partial. In 1937 industry was still only working at 75% of its 1929 level.

  • Many of the schemes that Roosevelt started only lasted for a few months. The CCC provided work for six to nine months only.

  • Some men went on a whole series of CCC camps, as they were called, and still could not find a job at the end.

  • Black Americans gained little improvement in their civil rights. FDR was dependent on the votes of Democrats from the South to get his laws through.

  • New Deal laws allowed black Americans to be paid less than whites. The AAA led to the eviction of poor black share-croppers.

  • Women made little progress towards equality. They were still paid less than men for the same work.

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