Main Street in Crisis: The Great Depression and the Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains

By Catherine McNicol Stock | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

The summer of 1938 brought the first substantial rains to the northern plains in nearly a decade. Though prices were still low, men and women harvested their crops and prayed that this was the "next year" they had been waiting for so long. Then, with the increased demand for foodstuff occasioned by the onset of World War II, prosperity returned at last. In North Dakota, total personal income rose an average of 145 percent between 1940 and 1945, compared with a 109 percent increase in the nation at large.1 With cash in their pockets, Dakotans began to buy land again. Tenancy declined steeply, until by 1954 it neared an all-time low in South Dakota. Further, in the years after World War II, there were no more than eighteen farm foreclosures per year in that state.2 And all the while the rain fell -- not as hail, not too soon or too late, but as gentle spring showers and passing summer storms that promised a healing time.

The fall of 1938 marked a change on the political front as well. Dakota voters returned to the Republicanism they had practiced so religiously before 1932. In 1938, for example, a coalition of conservative Republicans, Democrats, and Nonpartisan Leaguers denied "Wild Bill" Langer a trip to the Senate.3 Meanwhile, in South Dakota, Republicans ousted New Deal governor Tom Berry in 1936, even though they still preferred Franklin Roosevelt to Alf Landon by more than 30,000 votes. The "conservative resurgence" was completed in 1938 by the election to Congress of two conservative Republican senators over progressive farm Democrats.4 In 1940 Wendell Willkie defeated Franklin Roosevelt in both states, beginning a return to Repub-

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