The Great Depression Sources Coursework 1. Source A clearly gives us evidence about the depression, which make it useful. It is an election poster, meaning that it would give the view of the democrats. The actual content is a made up advert for a smilette. The idea of this was to show the Laissez faire attitude of the government. They are saying that if you wear this smilette, and look happy, everything is fine. This is the attitude that the Democrats have towards the government. This makes it useful in that respect. From my own knowledge, I know that this poster also portrays the view of the public. People would refer to poor towns as ‘Hoovervilles’ and poor cars as ‘Hoovercars.’ This gives a similar impression as to what is portrayed about the government in the poster. However, this is only one point of view and it is obviously a very biased one as it is an election poster. It is trying to make the people turn against the republicans and is only from 1 point of view. Therefore I do not agree with the statement as I feel the poster is of use to give the point of view of the Democrats, and the people. 2. Sources B and C both say the same thing, but I feel that source C is more reliable. Both the sources have strengths and weaknesses. Source B was written by an American actor at the time of the event. What has been written fits in with my own knowledge about the rich people not sharing their wealth. This makes the source reliable. However, there were also points about this source that make it unreliable. The source is written in a very emotive way. This means that the emotions of the writer were brought out, and seeing as he was very angry at that time, he would exaggerate the facts. He was trying to point the finger at anybody again meaning that his tone would be aggressive. Source C says the same thing as B but has been written after the event. In this case that is a good thing. The historian has had time to review and research the event. This is shown in the quote ‘Economic Experts have said…’ The tone that it has been written in is much more of an informative one and the view he has is unbiased. He is not trying to blame anybody for this. However, the historian was not actually there himself and little is known about him. Overall I think that source C is more reliable when looking at the impact of the depression. Source B showed more the view of people at the time and cannot be relied upon, as it is too emotive. 3. Sources A, B and C give a good and clear idea of why the depression happened. The poor distribution of income is shown in sources B and C. This meant that the rich were getting a very high percentage of the national wealth and the lower classes were left with nothing much. Will Rogers describes the upper class as being “Drunk on money.” The historian O’Callaghan also shows this idea “too small a share of the increased national wealth of the 1920’s had been finding it’s way into the hands of workers as wages.” These sources also show how not enough people were buying products. Only the rich, a small percentage of the population, could afford to buy new products and so the supply was large but there was not enough demand. Source A shows how the government at the time was very relaxed about the situation. This is shown in the source by the idea of the smilette taking away all of the problems. Even though this is made up and biased source, the view of the people at the time is projected. It shows how they were very unhappy.
Source B also shows the view of the working class. The views and opinions of the actor are brought out and the anger shown shows us how the depression affected people very badly. The ideas put up in this source show how there was a divide between the two classes during the depression.
Sources A, B, and C say that the economic depression happened due to the upper class citizens not sharing the wealth, meaning that there was overproduction. The depression also happened due to the laissez faire attitude of the government. 4. Both sources D and E are useful to a historian in different ways. Source D is an artist’s impression and shows the feelings of the people at the time. Source E is a set of statistical data and shows the actual affects of the Wall Street crash on a selection of businesses.
Source D takes the literal meaning of the phrase ‘Wall Street crash’ and the artist depicts the views of the people by showing the buildings crashing to the floor. This picture captures the sense of desperation that the people had at the time. The people on the floor are running scared from the crashing buildings. This shows how they were feeling panic and anxiety. This fits in with my own knowledge of how the people felt at the time. This would be useful in these ways, but in some ways it would not be useful. It is only an artist interpretation and gives an exaggerated view of what actually happened. This means that it cannot interpreted as an actual event but only as how the artist was feeling. Source E is much clearer than source D and actually gives figures to prove the affects of the depression. Fitting in with my own knowledge, it shows how company share prices dropped dramatically during this period. Seeing as all of the examples in the source show a vast decrease in share prices, it would appear that the depression had a huge affect on al companies. However, this source may not be useful as it only shows a small selection of companies that could have been specially chosen out. It also shows only 2 different dates, the share prices may have recovered after this time or been different in between. The source is only a set of figures and does not show the feelings that anybody was feeling at the time. For these reasons I think that both of the sources are useful in different ways. If the feelings of the people at the time were required, source D would be more useful. However, if more statistical information were needed, source E would be more useful. 5. I think that source F does give an accurate interpretation of peoples attitudes towards the great depression in the USA. The source is a song that appears to be written at the time by a working class citizen. It seems that he shares the same views as other working class people of the time. In the sing he says, “they used to tell me I was building a dream.” This refers to the American dream that the working class people in America had. The fact the he says ‘used to tell me’ shows that he no longer follows that idea. The song also refers to the way that the people queued up for bread and this fits in with my own knowledge. “Why should I be standing in a line just waiting for bread?” The source also suggests that the person once built a railway but now that has finished, he has no more money.
The song does give an accurate interpretation but the song may have been exaggerated to give it more feeling. 6. Source G was a film about the life of family during the great depression. There are a number of questions that need to be asked about it before it can be valued as a good interpretation of the affects of the depression. The first question would be ‘is the source reliable?’ The answer to this comes from another string of questions about when the film was made and for what reason. The time the film was made could be important as emotions at the time were high and it would be likely to be exaggerated. Also it is important to look at whom it was written for. In this case it was a film and would mean it was written for the public and would be trying to get a good reaction from them. This may also make it exaggerated.
The working people in the film seemed unnatural, I would need to ask the question ‘were the workers really like this?’ An example of when the workers seemed unnatural was when the farther of the family when into the sandwich bar. I feel as though his kindness was an exaggeration. Other questions are about the government and the employers. The government was portrayed as being very kind to the workers and the employers very harsh. I would need to ask if this was what they were really like.
Seeing as it was a film, I need to ask if it had been over dramatized. Examples where this might have been the case are when the tractor ran down the house. This appears to be exaggerated for the film. The overall question that is required is ‘Is this an accurate interpretation of what the depression and the problems it caused really like?’ The answer to this comes from answering all of the previous questions about the source. 7. The sources show how both the rich and the poor suffered from the affects of the depression. Some show how the rich suffered and some show the poor suffering. It is difficult from these to show who suffered the most from the depression. The same is true for my own knowledge. There are examples of the rich loosing their money and becoming poor, and the poor becoming even poorer and eventually dying.
Source B shows how the poor working class suffered as an affect of the actions of the rich. The writer shows how they are starving, even though they have food. He puts this as going to the poorhouse in a car. This shows how the poor, who already had little food were now getting even less. Source C shows a similar idea, but is not as exaggerated and does not point the finger. It shows how the wealth of the country did not reach the poor in the form of wages. Source F, the popular song, describes the hardships that the poor people had to put up with during this time. Another source showing this is source G. This has similar ideas of how the poor were treated badly compared to the rich. From my own knowledge I know that the poor did have a very bad time during the depression. I also know that the poor were helped more during this time than the rich were. This is shown in source G, when the government set up camps for the poor to live.
The rich did not receive any help during this time. Source D shown the Wall Street crash shows how people reacted to this event. These people would have been the rich people who would have been greatly affected by this. The crash itself would not have had much affect on the poor who were poor to start with. The true affects of the crash are shown in source E. This shows a dramatic decrease in the share prices. This would have had a huge affect on the rich and very little the poor. The company owners and shareholders would have been most affected by this.
In conclusion, I think that the statement is incorrect. It is difficult to tell who suffered the most but both the rich and the poor suffered in some way. In some respects, it could be said that the rich in fact suffered more. The poor had been poor from the start, and although times had gotten worse, they knew what it felt like. The rich however had always been rich, and when they were all of a sudden made poor, they did not know how to cope. I would say that it would be fairer to say that many people suffered in different ways.