Friday, January 20, 2012

Book describes horror of Dust Bowl and Hoover's unwitting role

    In my recent post on Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover's
Secret History of the Second World War
and Its Aftermath
I mentioned that Hoover had a role in causing the Great Depression by advocating a $1 per bushel guarantee on the price of wheat in 1917 when he was head of the U.S. Food Administration.
    Woodrow Wilson had appointed Hoover to that position as the United States was entering World War I. Hoover was known at that time as one of the world's leading humanitarians. Hoover's proposal did exactly what it was designed to do in 1917 and the years afterwards: It dramatically increased crop production so that for the next several years the United States was able to feed both itself and Europe. Mass starvation was averted.
    In 1917 America was still an agricultural nation, and these high prices set in place one of the greatest financial booms of all times. The "roar" in the Roaring 20s came from the unprecedented farm profits shouting their way through America's economy.
    Prices stayed high for several years, but eventually the bottom fell out. The problems with American banks that surfaced in the 1930s had their beginnings in the farm crash of the mid-1920s. As farm prices fell farmers tried to raise more and more, making both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s much worse.
    My source for this information, and much more, was The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan.
     I read this almost five years ago, and it is one of the better books I've read. It describes the economic and ecological disaster that was the Dust Bowl. I've always heard of the Dust Bowl, but this book explains what it was really like and to some extent why it happened.
    I had never heard of "dust pneumonia," for example, but it was apparently not uncommon at the time for a child to be sitting a classroom one day where he would cough up some blood. A few days later he would be dead.
    If this book made enough of an impression on me that I'm still thinking about it almost five years later, obviously it is a good book. If you love learning about our nation's history, or just love a great story, this book is for you.
    I'm not sure I want to share all of this information with my Dad. He grew up blaming Herbert Hoover for all of the nation's ills. If he could lay credit or partial credit for the Dust Bowl on Hoover I don't think I could ever get him to "zip it," as Mort Downey used to say.
    On a self-serving note, if you should buy the book by using my link, I think I will earn a small commission. It won't cost you any more. So help the Colonel!

No comments: