Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

By John R. Wunder; Frances W. Kaye et al. | Go to book overview

THE FARM HOLIDAY MOVEMENT
IN NEBRASKA

John L. Shover

In the late summer of 1932 while a defeated Bonus Army retreated from the nation's capital and a depression-plagued administration contended for its political existence, a rebellious spirit stirred in the Missouri Valley of Nebraska and Iowa. To the old rhetoric of Populism was added a militant direct action reminiscent of long-dead Daniel Shays. Farmers threw picket lines across highways to blockade markets or forcibly intervened to prevent foreclosure of farm mortgages. With corn marketing at ten cents a bushel and hogs at three dollars a hundred-weight, their purchasing power barely a third that of 1914, the farmers demanded a price equal to “cost of production plus a reasonable profit.” They endeavored to halt all foreclosure sales at a time when fifty-seven percent of Nebraska farms were mortgaged, and the number of foreclosures and bankruptcies per one thousand farms was rising from twenty-two in 1931 to fifty-eight in 1933. 1

The Farm Holiday movement was a grassroots uprising in a time of frustration and rapid social change. The price and mortgage emergency underscored the fact that the midwestern farmer was losing his traditional independence and was ensnared in economic forces he could not control. As such accepted values of free enterprise economics as a just reward for labor and the automatic working of a benevolent economic system were shattered by desperate depression conditions, some few farmers momentarily embraced extremist remedies, but the rank and file of participants in the Farm Holiday were concerned only with immediate goals such as raising prices in thirty days or stopping a forced sale today. The Farmers' Holiday was a spontaneous movement lacking effective organized leadership. Once the crop

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