Faced with this disaster, families split up or migrated from their homes in search
of work. "Hoovervilles" (named after President Hoover -- as an insult), shanty towns constructed of packing crates, abandoned
cars and other cast off scraps sprung up across the Nation. Gangs of youths, whose families could no longer support them,
rode the rails in box cars like so many hoboes, hoping to find a job. "Okies", victims of the drought and dust storms in the
Great Plains, left their farms and headed for California, the new land of "milk and honey" where they believed all one had
to do was reach out and pluck food from the trees. America's unemployed were on the move, but there was really nowhere to
go. Industry was badly shaken by the Depression. Factories closed; mills and mines were abandoned; fortunes were lost. American
business and labor were both in serious trouble.
Unable to help themselves the American public looked to the Federal Government. Dissatisfied
with President Herbert Hoover's economic programs, the people elected Franklin D. Roosevelt as their president in 1932. Roosevelt
was a bold experimenter and a man of action. Early on in his administration he assembled the best minds in the country to
advise him. This group of men were known as the "Brain Trust." Within one hundred days the President, his advisors and the
U.S. Congress passed into law a package of legislation designed to help lift the troubled Nation out of the Depression .
Roosevelt's program was called the "New Deal." The words "New Deal" signified a new
relationship between the American people and their government. This new relationship included the creation of several new
federal agencies, called "alphabet agencies" because of their use of acronyms. A few of the more significant of these New
Deal programs was the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) which gave jobs to unemployed youths and to improve the environment,
the WPA (Works Progress Administration) gave jobs to thousands of unemployed in everything from construction to the arts,
and the NRA (National Recovery Administration) drew up regulations and codes to help revitalize industry. Later on came the
creation of the Social Security System, unemployment insurance and more agencies and programs designed to help Americans during
times of economic hardship. Under President Roosevelt the federal government took on many new responsibilities for the welfare
of the people. The new relationship forged in the New Deal was one of closeness between the government and the people: a closeness
which had never existed to such a degree before.
Although Roosevelt and the New Deal were criticized by many both in and out of government,
and seriously challenged by the U.S. Supreme Court, they received the overwhelming support of the people. Franklin D. Roosevelt
was the only president in U.S. history to be elected for four terms of office.
Despite all the President's efforts and the courage of the American people, the Depression
hung on until 1941, when America's involvement in the Second World War resulted in the drafting of young men into military
service, and the creation of millions of jobs in defense and war industries.
The Great Depression tested the fabric of American life as it had been seldom tested
before or has since. It caused Americans to doubt their abilities and their values. It caused them to despair. But they weathered
the test, and as a Nation, emerged stronger than ever, and we are all better today for their strength and their courage.