Dakota Datebook: The Great Depression

Dakota Datebook: The Great Depression
December 15th, 2008


In 1936, in the midst of the “dirty thirties,” August was just one in a long line of drought-stricken months. By the beginning of the month, 236 emergency grant applications had been made to the Federal Resettlement Administration from Stark County alone. The whole state was suffering from the drought, though; it was reported in Washington, D.C., that North and South Dakota were the only two states which had had designated all of their counties as emergency drought areas. Also, Aubrey Williams, deputy works administrator, said he thought 75 percent of both North and South Dakota would need some form of help by the fall—or, about 60,000 families in each state.

Certificates enabling reduced freight rates on hay and forage were handed out to aid farmers who were troubled by the drought, so that they could get feed for their livestock.

Crops were doing so poorly that the North Dakota state corn show was cancelled, due to the fact that there were no worthwhile corn crops in the state, according to George Will, president of the corn show board. This was the first year since the beginning of the show that it had been canceled.

To make matters worse, grasshoppers were hopping all around the state. The “much-feared” Mormon cricket was sighted in Stark County. The insect looks like a grasshopper, but it is shorter and has a curved back; the same insect demolished “every speck of vegetation” in southern Montana that same year.

On this day, it was reported that Ed Brown, formerly of North Dakota, had sent a sample of one bug to the Montana-Dakota Utilities Company from Wyoming, where he was managing the company offices at Sheridan, Wyoming. The bug had a four-inch body and a wingspread of seven inches, and four variously-colored wings. The creature was, he said, one of a swarm that had been devouring their pipes in areas of drought.

Even when it rained, there was trouble, though the rain was appreciated. However, it came late and even in the accumulation of several days, it was still only less than an inch. And twice, the “freakish lightning” of different storms on different days struck a transformer near the farm of one man, Ray Schnell, and then traveled to his property, unpleasantly shocking both a cow and the hired help.

Listen tomorrow to hear more about life during the 1930s.

By Sarah Walker
The Killdeer Herald, Thursday, August 27, 1936, p.1
The Dickinson Press, Thursday, August 13, 1936, p.1
The Dickinson Press, Thursday, August 20, 1936, p.1
The Dickinson Press, Thursday, August 6, 1936, p.1


Dakota Datebook, Prairie Public. (2008) http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/

Grade Level


Subject Matter

Social Studies, Science

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    Audio: Part two of Dakota Datebooks story on the impact of the great depression on North Dakota.