THE GREAT DEPRESSION
AND NEW DEAL
In the popular imagination, the 1920s is regarded as a decade of plenty: during the decade, Americans manufactured and purchased automobiles, radios, and scores of new consumer products at a pace never before seen. The American economy was strong, and its strength seemed inexhaustible. Yet, late in the 1920s, growth of the consumer economy began to slow. By 1929, the economy had retracted: factories closed and countless Americans stood in breadlines to receive their meals. For those who doubted that the economy had collapsed, the October 1929 crash of the stock market served as a clear sign that the nation languished in the doldrums of a severe economic depression. The Great Depression was so severe that by 1933, it is estimated that onethird of the population was out of work, and entire sectors of the economy, for example, the New England textile industry, shut. Although Mississippians were aware of the nationwide 1920s boom and some benefitted from it, the vast majority of Mississippians, particularly farmers, never fully tasted the economic bonanza of the decade. By the early 1930s, however, the depression had become so deep that even the agricultural economy of Mississippi keenly felt the strain. Finished products were in short supply, and the price paid for Mississippi's chief product—cotton—hovered at the 5 cent level, down by more than 50 percent from its previous peak in the twentieth century.