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Hoovervilles were shacktowns spread throughout America which testified to the housing crisis that accompanied the employment crisis during the Great Depression. They were named after President Herbert Hoover who was held responsible for the economic crisis in the 1930s.
See the fact file below for more information on the Hoovervilles or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Hoovervilles worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- During the Great Depression in 1929, shanty towns emerged across the United States as unemployed citizens were forced out of their homes. As the Depression worsened in the 1930s, adding severe struggles for millions of Americans, these areas grew.
- But, when the government failed to provide a solution or relief, the people criticized President Herbert Hoover for the country’s agonizing economic and social conditions, and named the slums that sprung up on the outskirts of major cities “Hoovervilles”.
The Great Depression
- The Great Depression was the most drastic and most enduring economic breakdown of the 20th century, which included a sudden decline in the supply and demand of goods and services, and a brief upsurge in unemployment.
- There were a number of factors considered to have caused the Great Depression, including the U.S. stock market downturn in October 1929 and the collapse of the American banking system, both of which helped damage society’s trust in the nation’s economy.
- Although the economy had been prosperous in the 1920s, also known as the Roaring Twenties, income levels varied extensively and many Americans lived beyond their means. Credit was granted to citizens so that they could enjoy the new inventions at the time, such as laundry machines, refrigerators, and automobiles.
- Americans depended on the government, as the optimism of the Roaring Twenties was starting to be replaced by fear and desperation. However, President Herbert Hoover, who took office in March 1929, believed that self-reliance and self-help, not government intervention, were the best strategies to help the citizens.
- Many Americans in need believed the resolution to their struggles lay in government aid, but Hoover resisted such a response throughout his leadership. According to him, prosperity would be achieved if people would simply help one another. And, although there was a growth in private philanthropy during the early 1930s, the subsidies granted were not enough to make a significant impact in the lives of many Americans.
The Rise of Hoovervilles
- Millions of American families lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes as the Depression continued to worsen. Desperate for shelter, displaced citizens built shanty towns in and around cities across America, which was later dubbed as Hoovervilles by Democratic National Committee publicity director Charles Michelson in 1930.
- Houses in the Hoovervilles were made out of cardboard, tar paper, glass, lumber, tin, and whatever other materials people could retrieve. Some jobless masons used cast-off stone and bricks, and built 20-foot high structures.
- Most shanties were distinctly less classy: cardboard box homes did not last long, and most houses were in a constant state of being rebuilt. Some were not buildings at all, but deep holes dug in the ground with makeshift roofs laid over them to keep out inclement weather, while some found shelter inside empty conduits and water mains.
Life in the Hoovervilles
- Each Hooverville was different from others, varying in population and size. Some were as small as a few hundred people, while others had thousands of inhabitants, such as those in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
- St. Louis, Missouri was home to one of the largest and longest-standing Hoovervilles.
- Ideally, Hoovervilles should be established near rivers for the convenience of a water source, like the encampments that emerged along the Hudson and East rivers in New York City. Some were dotted with vegetable gardens, and some contained furniture salvaged upon eviction from a former home.
- However, Hoovervilles were generally grim and unsanitary; they posed health risks to their residents, as well as to those living around it, but local governments and health agencies could not do anything about it.
- Most Hoovervilles were informal and disorganized, but bigger resettlements had officials and sometimes had spokespersons that served as a liaison between the Hooverville and the larger community. The St. Louis Hooverville, built in 1930, had its own unofficial mayor, churches, and social institutions. It thrived because it was run by private donations, and it maintained itself as a self-reliant community until 1936, when it was demolished.
- In terms of employment, the majority of Hooverville residents were jobless, but some took any work that became available, often working at backbreaking, sporadic jobs such as fruit picking or packing.
Hoover Out, Roosevelt In
- Tensions between impoverished Americans and the Hoover government reached its peak in 1932, when thousands of World War I veteran families, called Bonus Army, built a Hooverville near the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. to request from the Capitol early payment of their government stipends that would have helped alleviate their financial issues. But the government refused to pay because of budgetary restrictions caused by the Depression.
- President Hoover continued to be bashed by criticism, as he signed the controversial Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act in June 1930, which imposed a high tariff on foreign goods in an effort to prevent them from competing with U.S.-made products on the domestic market.
- By 1932, Hoover’s popularity declined so much that he had no realistic hope of being re-elected, and New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt won that year’s presidential election by a landslide.
- President Roosevelt introduced a recovery program known as the New Deal which eventually decreased the number of unemployed people, regulated banking, and helped turn the ailing economy around with public works projects and other economic programs, which led to the tear down of many Hoovervilles in the 1940s.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Hoovervilles across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Hoovervilles worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Hoovervilles which were shacktowns spread throughout America which testified to the housing crisis that accompanied the employment crisis during the Great Depression. They were named after President Herbert Hoover who was held responsible for the economic crisis in the 1930s.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Fast Facts
- Life in the Hoovervilles
- A Lack of Color
- DIY Hooverville
- Dear Mr. President
- Letter to the Children of Hoovervilles
- A Day in the Life
- Hooverville Immersion
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Link will appear as Hoovervilles Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 18, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.