John Steinbeck and 1930's America

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John Steinbeck

  • He was born in Salinas, California in 1902
  • Even though his family were wealthy, he was interested in the lives of farm workers and spent lots of time with them
  • He used the experiences as material for his writing
  • He wrote a number of novels about poor people who worked on the land and dreamed of a better life

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The Depression

  • On October 29th 1929, millions of dollars were wiped out in an event that became known as the Wall Street Crash
  • This lead to The Depression in America that lasted from 1930-1936
  • People lost their life savings when firms and banks went bust
  • 12-15 million men and women (a third of America's population) were unemployed
  • There was no dole to fall back on, so food was short and the unemployed couldn't pay rent
  • Some ended up in settlements made from old packing cases and corrugated iron

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Migrant Farmers

  • Added to the man-made financial problems were natural ones
  • There was a series of droughts in states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas
  • This led to failed harvest and dried up land
  • Farmers were forced to move off the land as they couldn't repay the bank loans that had helped to buy the farms
  • They had to sell what they owned to pay their debts
  • Many economic migrants headed west to 'Golden' California, thinking that there would be land going spare
  • However, the Californians turned many away, fearing that they would be overrun
  • The refugees had nowhere to go back, so they set up home in huge camps in the California valleys

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