The Dust Bowl (1931-1939)dust.jpg dust_bowl.jpg

The Dust Bowl is described by many as one of the most physical and environmental disaster during the early to late 1930's. These dust storms known as "dusters", and "black blizzards affected the area of the Plain states, as well as states hundreds of miles away. This catastrophe was caused due to the ignorance of farmers who over-plowed and over-grazed lands which in turn caused winds to remove the top soil from farmlands. The mixture of over used land and drought would cause even a slight wind to create such storms. This blown soil and sediment would then gather and produce dust storms. These storms would ravage many states across the United States from 1931 to 1939. The elements of the Dust Bowl are described significantly by John Steinbeck throughout his 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath. "When the night came again it was black night, for the stars could not pierce the dust to get down, and the window lights could not ever spread beyond their own yards. Now the dust was evenly mixed with the air, an emulsion of dust and air. Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes. The people brushed it from their shoulders. Little lines of dust lay at the door sills."


This catastrophe first begins in 1931 when a major drought strikes the Midwestern and southern plains. This drought killed crops and sparked the start of the black blizzards. In 1932, the storms begin to increase in size and number as fourteen are reported throughout the year. The storms and droughts begin to take a toll on farmers and many are faced with foreclosure of their homes due to inability to establish an income. These problems are somewhat solved in 1933 with the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act which gave 200 million dollars for refinancing mortgages for farmers facing foreclosure. The country ends the next year, 1933, with the number of dust storms increasing to 38. The worst drought in the history of the United States strikes the country in 1934. This drought covers 75% of the U.S. and severely affects 27 states. In December of 1934, the "Yearbook of Agriculture" announces, "Approximately 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land have essential been destroyed for crop production and 100 million acres in crops have now lost all or most of the topsoil.

Drought Chart of 1934


In 1935 relief efforts began to come about as Franklin Delanor Roosevelt approves the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act which provides $525 million for drought relief. President Roosevelt also helps create the Works Progess Administration which will eventually employ 8.5 million people. Hopes of relief would quickly be dashed as only six days after the emergency relief appropriation act is put into affect, the worst black blizzard of the Dust Bowl occurs which would later be referred to as "Black Sunday." 1936 carries on with the same events occuring as the past six years, no relief is in site. President Roosevelt sparks hope in the American People during his second inagural address in 1937 when he creates the Shelterbelt Project. This project calls for a large-scale planting of trees across the Great Plains, stretching in a 100 mile zone from Canada to Texas. The top soil catastrophe is finally solved in 1938 as the extensive tree planting and other conservation methods result in a 65 percent reduction in the amount of soil blowing. Nonetheless, the drought continues across the country. The year 1939 finally brings an end to the drought as it begans to rain in the fall. Within the next few years, the country is pulled out of the Great Depression by joining World War II and the Great Plains become rich with wheat once again.

Works Cited
Bonnifield, Paul. "The Dust Bowl, Men, Dirt and Depression." 1930s Dust Bowl. 5 Oct. 2007. 11 Mar. 2009. <Http://>.
Malin, James. "Dust Storms Part One." Kansas Historical Quarterlies. May 1946. Lhn. 11 Mar. 2009.
Nelson, Cary. "The Great Depression." Modern Amer. Poetry. 11 Mar. 2009.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Group. 1976.
Worster, Donald. "Dust Bowl." The Southern Plains in the 1930s. 12 Mar.2009