Presentation on theme: " The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms which were caused by major ecological and agricultural damage to American."— Presentation transcript:
The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms which were caused by major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands in the 1930s (primarily 1934-1936). A. The Dust Bowl
Farmer and sons in Cimarron County
“And then the dispossessed were drawn west – from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand.
They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless – restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do – to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut – anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.” -John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
B. A Land of Promises?
When settlers were migrating across the country, they were in search of good farmland. They saw the vast expanse of the prairie of the Midwest as ideal. The grass that covered the plains stood feet tall and stretched from Canada to south Texas.
Homesteaders flocked to the grasslands and were certain that this was the place to settle down. This push by homesteaders caused the Native Americans in Indian Territory to lose more and more of their land. Homesteaders cleared this land to grow wheat and cut down trees to build houses, barns, and outbuildings.
What they did not realize was that the grass and trees on the plains essentially nourished and held the soil in place. When they were gone, the moisture that would have gone to the roots ran off into creeks, streams, and rivers. This basically carried the land with it. Their mistake set the scene for the Dust Bowl. Mistake...
In 1930, no one thought there was a better place for the farmer than the Southern Plains. Men and women had turned the untamed prairie into one of the most prosperous regions in the whole country. While other parts of the country struggled with the onset of the Great Depression, farmers in wheat country were reaping a record-breaking crop.
With the onset of WWI, the demand for wheat was almost unbelievable. Farmers were earning record breaking prices – farmers turned every possible inch into wheat. During WWI, millions upon millions of bushels of wheat and corn fed American as well as others overseas.
Farming practices = a toll on the land. The grasslands had been deeply plowed and planted; during the years with adequate rainfall, the land produced an abundance of crops. However, when a drought started and persisted, farmers continued to plow and plant.
In 1930, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle were known as the most prosperous regions in the nation. For plains farmers, the decade opened with prosperity and growth; however, the summer of 1931 would begin a very difficult period that would last eight years.
What was the problem? The rain simply stopped.
C. From Cause to Effect
It had taken a thousand years for the topsoil on the Southern Plains to build up; however, it took minutes for it to be swept away. Lakes levels dropped by 5 feet or more and wind picked up dry soil that had nothing to hold onto.
Great black clouds of dust blotted out the sun. In some places, the dust drifted like sun, darkening the sky for days. These storms engulfed entire towns.
One hundred million acres of the Southern Plains were turning into a wasteland of the Dust Bowl – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico In 1932, 14 dust storms were reported; in 1933, 38 were reported.
Dust soo thick – people scooped up buckets full while cleaning house, exterior doors were blocked, people had to climb out windows and shovel the dust away Changes? Farmers kept trying to plow. In the Spring of 1934, a massive drought affected more than 75% of the country. The Dust Bowl was a result of the worst drought in US History.
Many people were starving! Those who could survived on cornbread, beans, and milk. Many packed up their belongings, piled them into cars and moved westward. They fled from the dust and desert of the Midwest for Washington, Oregon, and California. As a result of the largest migration in American history (over 2 million people), they were willing to work for any wage at all.
These families were not well received. There were already too many people for jobs and many were out of work. Many California farms were corporate owned, making these farms larger and more modern than the farms they were used to. Families lived in tar- paper shacks with no floor or plumbing
By 1934, cattle feed was seriously depleted; that fall, the government began buying and destroying thousands of starving livestock. Although gut wrenching, the cattle slaughter helped many farmers avoid bankruptcy
New Deals - The government began to offer relief to farmers through the New Deal. President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed it was the government’s duty to help the American people get through the bad times like the Dust Bowl. E. Efforts to Conserve
During the first three months, a steady stream of recovery bills were passed to relieve poverty, reduce unemployment, and speed the economic recovery. While it would not fully end the Depression, it helped the American people immeasurably by taking care of their basic needs and giving them the dignity of work and hope.
The Father of Soil Conservation, Hugh Hammond Bennett, had been leading a campaign to reform farming practices well before Roosevelt became president. In April 1935, Bennett was on his way to testify before a Congressional committee about his campaign when he learned about a dust storm blowing into the capital. As the dust settled and blotted out the sun, Bennett said, “This, gentlemen, is what I have been talking about.”
Soil Conservation Act of 1935. The Roosevelt administration put their weight behind improving farming techniques to prevent another Dust Bowl. The Civilian Conservation Corps was ordered to plant a huge belt of 200+ million trees from Canada to Texas to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil in place. The administration also began an education campaign to educate farmers on soil conservation and anti-erosion techniques.
In the fall of 1939, the skies opened! With the return of the rain, dry fields soon yielded another crop. The Dust Bowl was, at last, over. F. Relief