Farm Security Administration: Christmas dinner in the home of Earl Pauley near Smithland, Iowa. (Circa 1935)
The Great Depression lasted over a decade, beginning with the stock market crash of 1929 and ending around 1941.
A quarter of the work force (about 13 million people) was unemployed in 1932, and that was only the beginning of the Depression.
Movies were $0.10 per person, but many were unable to afford this price.
Salaries often dropped below $10.00 per week.
There was a great disparity between familial income and the family’s needs and customary consumption level.
Some people were able to maintain financial status despite the loss of the breadwinner’s income because they had savings, loans, and new earnings by other family members.
Some families were affected less if they had not invested in the stock market or had jobs that were still necessary, making the risk of unemployment rare for them.
After the Great Depression, some people tried their best to pay back loans, but some were never able to do so.
Family was very important and family members were usually close knit and stuck together.
Farm Security Administration: Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. (Circa February 1936)
The Great Depression was the time when the old music met the new. The music of the GI Generation was still prevalent, but there were signs that new music was in the works. This new music would become the popular music of the Silent Generation.
The unification of the American society through music began during the Great Depression.
The government began the Federal Music Project, which supported the American musical arts such as classical and pop, Woodie Guthrie's folk songs, and Aaron Copland.
Blues used irony, imagery, and love themes. Some sounded similar to slave work songs. Bessie Smith was one of the greatest blues singers.
Jazz was the root of 20th century music. It originated out of 1900’s era New Orleans. Louis Armstrong was a famous performer. Duke Ellington came later and took jazz into the big band era.
Musicals and theater became infamous with the 1935 Gershwin-inspired folk opera, Porgy and Bess.
Big bands and swing music was not jazz, but used jazz in its formation. Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman were two famous performers, and Doris Day and Peggy Lee were major big band/swing singers of the time.
Some music became popular because it dealt with the impoverished nature of the times, such as the song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” People related to the song and saw it as a sign of the times.
The popular songs of the Great Depression were often characterized by a folk and roots mix with flashy brass.
The GI Generation had a squeaky clean image ("Good Kid" reputation), so the Silent Generation followed in rebellious pursuit.
While the GI Generation enjoyed large economic growth as they grew up and were hit harshly by the Great Depression, the Silent Generation grew up in economic dearth and came of age during the recovery period afterwards.
With the GI Generation setting up such a strong wholesome model for the Silent Generation to follow, the Silent Generation became very ambitious and felt a strong need for status, power, and achievement.