Dust Bowl

Dust Bowl, the name given to areas of the U.S. prairie states that suffered ecological devastation in the 1930s and then to a lesser extent in the mid-1950s. The problem began during World War I, when the high price of wheat and the needs of Allied troops encouraged farmers to grow more wheat by plowing and seeding areas in prairie states, such as Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, which were formerly used only for grazing. After years of adequate yields, livestock were returned to graze the areas, and their hooves pulverized the unprotected soil. In 1934 strong winds blew the soil into huge clouds called "dusters" or "black blizzards," and in the succeeding years, from December to May, the dust storms recurred. Crops and pasture lands were ruined by the harsh storms, which also proved a severe health hazard. The uprooting, poverty, and human suffering caused during this period is notably portrayed in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Through later governmental intervention and methods of erosion-prevention farming, the Dust Bowl phenomenon has been virtually eliminated, thus left a historic reference.

See D. Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1979); T. Egan, The Worst Hard Time (2005); K. Burns, dir., The Dust Bowl (documentary, 2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Dust Bowl: Selected full-text books and articles

Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience By John R. Wunder; Frances W. Kaye; Vernon Carstensen University Press of Colorado, 1999
California and the Dust Bowl Migration By Walter J. Stein Greenwood Press, 1974
On the Dirty Plate Trail: Remembering the Dust Bowl Refugee Camps By Sanora Babb; Douglas Wixson University of Texas Press, 2007
The Dust Bowl Myth By Shindo, Charles J The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 4, Autumn 2000
From Depression to War: American Society in Transition--1939 By August C. Bolino Praeger Publishers, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Dust Bowl Refugees" begins on p. 50
Steinbeck's Myth of the Okies By Windschuttle, Keith New Criterion, Vol. 20, No. 10, June 2002
America's Own Refugees: Our 4,000,000 Homeless Migrants By Henry Hill Collins Princeton University Press, 1941
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Dragon Teeth and Dragon Breath"
Understanding The Grapes of Wrath: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents By Claudia Durst Johnson Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of the Dust Bowl in multiple chapters
Rich Land, Poor Land: A Study of Waste in the Natural Resources of America By Stuart Chase Whittlesey House, 1936
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Grass Lands and the Dust Bowl"
Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land By John Opie University of Nebraska Press, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "From Dryland to Dust Bowl: Not a Good Place to Farm"
The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History By Carolyn Merchant Columbia University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "The Dust Bowl of the 1930s" begins on p. 96
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