The Great Depression Part 2 – The Road to Rock Bottom
The second episode of the PBS Great Depression series deals mainly with the near collapse of the farm economy, when farmers burned their crops because they couldn’t cover their costs by selling them. The depression in the farm economy had started in the mid-twenties, prior to the 1929 Wall Street crash. World War I created large demand for US agricultural exports. This led to a crisis of overproduction when the war ended.
With Hoover unwilling to provide government aid, the Red Cross took primary responsibility for providing food aid to starving families in Arkansas and other southern states.
This episode also explores the exploits of Pretty Boy Floyd, known as the Sage Brush Robin Hood, for sharing the proceeds of his bank robberies with families who couldn’t feed their children.
It finishes with the Bonus Army saga, in which 20,000 homeless World War I veterans and their families camped out in Washington DC to pressure Hoover and Congress to authorize early payment of the bonus they were promised in 1945. Under Hoover’s orders, Generals MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower led a military assault on the encampment. They burnt all the tents and shacks protestors were living in, injuring 55 veterans and killing a 12-week-old baby.