Hooverville in The Great Depression – Annotated Bibliography

The Great Depression represents one of the harshest economic periods ever experienced in modern history. Apart from the fall in stock experienced during this time, a host of other little-known social problems also arose. This paper focuses on homelessness, and accompanying shantytowns typically referred to as “Hooverville”.

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            I chose this topic since the social issues associated with the Great Depression remain at the fringes of academia, though equally devastating. My research into this topic was an eye-opener for it allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon as experienced during that particular time in history. The following is an annotated bibliography with a brief review of the material explored and different author’s perspective on the Hooverville phenomenon.

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Freedman, R. (2005). Children of the Great Depression. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Russell Freedman is a world-renowned author known for delving into topics least explored by his academic contemporaries. He prides himself in exploring additional angles in historic events that have had a great impact on Western Civilization. Freedman has been recognized internationally for his academic works; a recipient of both the Orbis Pictus and Sibert Medal.

In this book, Freedman explores the ravages of the Great Depression by specifically focusing on homelessness and its effects on children.  He attributes the development of Hooverville shanty settlements to social changes experienced during this period which momentously affected middle-class urban youth and the then generation of boxcar kids. The memoirs, diaries and letters explore homelessness through the eyes of Depression-era children whose parents had to grapple with the vicissitudes of life during this tumultuous period.

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Fremon, D. K. (2014). The Great Depression in United States History. Enslow Publishers.

David Fremon is one of the most prolific writers in North America. He has written numerous books and regularly pens newspaper articles for leading publications. Fremon particularly focuses on past injustices and endeavors to breathe new life into past historic events to a younger emerging audience.

In this particular book, Fremon explores the abrupt end of the Roaring Twenties and the onset of the Great Depression. Although expected to last for a few months, the stock market crash soon proved hard to surmount, with a myriad of negative effects on hard-working individuals. Fremon describes Hoovervilles as a direct product of the joblessness that began on “Black Tuesday” rendering most individuals unable to revert to their erstwhile lifestyles.

Goff, L. (2016). Shantytown, USA. Harvard University Press.

Lisa Goff is a leading educationalist who currently serves as a senior faculty member at the University of Virginia. She is an all-rounded scholar whose works have specifically focused on American Studies and events that shaped American society. Goff also partners with national publications to equip the public with crucial knowledge regarding historic events.

Goff investigates the “shantytown” phenomenon in the United States as crucial point in Western Civilization where slums now emerged as a defining hallmark of developing nations. Though Hooverville was a common aspect of the American urban landscape, it is largely forgotten as a product of the Great Depression. Goff regards these shantytowns as one of the earliest examples of self-reliance by victims of the recession.

Gravelle, R. (2015). Hooverville and the Unemployed: Seattle During the Great Depression.

Randal Gravelle is a respected faculty member of Western Washington University and best known his contribution to American History. He has lectured at the institution for the past 20 years and is now widely regarded as an authority in events surrounding the Great Depressions. Gravel’s special interest in history has allowed him to deconstruct historic events with great precision while providing an in-depth evaluation of its implications.

In this book, Gravelle delves into the development of Hooverville, the construction of shacks and how squatters managed to survive during this dark moment in history. His text is based on the accounts of homeless individuals living in Seattle while still struggling to make ends meet. Gravelle also addresses the individual efforts of affected by this crisis, in addition to the pitfalls and achievements of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Hoover, H. (2015). The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Great Depression, 1929-1941. Ravenio Books.

President Herbert Hoover was a central figure during the Great Depression. As the chief executive during this financial recession, he presided over a period of economic uncertainty that affected nearly every household in the United States. Hoover is also blamed for the outbreak of homelessness during this period by mandating the eviction of all unemployed persons.

            President Hoover’s memoir also dedicates a chapter the development of Hoovervilles in the United States for which he is blamed. Hoover is adamant that shantytowns were bound to develop given the circumstances at the time since it was a cataclysmic period in the history of Western Civilization. He specifically identifies the loss of gainful employment and depleted savings as the main reasons why Hoovervilles developed in nearly all major cities in the United States.

McElvaine, R. S. (2009). Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the Forgotten Man. University of North Carolina Press.

Robert McElvaine is a respected intellectual well-versed in contemporary history. He currently serves as a Professor of Arts and History at the prestigious Elizabeth Chisholm University where he has been for the past decade. As a history aficionado, McElvaine strives to harness the discipline and to probe crucial subjects that are least explored.

McElvaine’s account of the Great Depression focuses on the forgotten individuals who grappled with various forms of hardships experienced during the time. He investigates the stories of men, women and children who lived through the Great Depression and particularly those who made shanty towns their abode. McElvaine underscores the daily anguish of individuals residing in Hoovervilles through a collection of close to 15,000 letters expressing the thoughts and emotions of affected parties.

Rauchway, E. (2008). The Great Depression and New Deal: A Very Short Introduction. OUP USA.

Eric Rauchway is currently regarded as the most respected historical pundits in the United States. He currently serves as a professor of American history at the University of California where he strives to impart fundamental historical knowledge.  Rauchway is an expert on the political, social and economic aspects of American history which also makes him a specialist on the Great Depression.

Rauchway’s short introduction also highlights Hoovervilles as a defining feature of the Great Depression. He, therefore, strives to provide a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding this reality in Western Civilization and efforts that soon followed to contain its permeation. Rauchway offers a concise and informed account, with a special focus on the New Deal as an antidote for the ravages of the Great Depression.

Roth, B. (2009). The Great Depression: A Diary. Public Affairs.

Benjamin Roth was a budding lawyer during the Great Depression. As a result of the difficult times experienced during this period, Roth resorted to moving west and set-up shop in Youngstown, Ohio which was a burgeoning Midwestern industrial town. It was here that he had a front-row experience of the actual extent of the Great Depression on American families and the nation’s social fabric.

Roth expertly applies his skills as an educated professional to pen his impressions of the Great Depression in his diary. He investigates its effects on the American economy and its relationship to other facets of life. Roth’s accounts were recorded as they unfolded around him, where he makes particular mention of the development of shantytowns in Youngstown and the deplorable living conditions

Steinbeck, J. (2008). The Grapes of Wrath.

John Steinbeck was a talented American author and a recipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was popular for crafting realistic literary masterpieces using his keen and astute social perception. His non-fiction books, such as The Grapes of Wrath (1939), are littered with succinct descriptions of historical events such as the Great Depression.

In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck addresses the social impact of the Great Depression by portraying the grim reality of the conditions in squatter camps around major Hoovervilles. He paints an elaborate picture of destitute families living in squalid conditions around California and the Bay area. Steinbeck sheds more light on the plight of non-European migrant workers who had moved to this area who had no other option than to build Hoovervilles as the only practical form of accommodation.

Temin, P. (2010).The Great Recession and the Great Depression. https://doi.org/10.3386/w15645

Peter Temin is an esteemed author known for his multi-disciplinary approach to major issues that have impacted Western Civilization. He is an economist who particularly dabbles in the area of economic history and trends that have emerged over the past century. Temin currently serves in a tenured position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a Gray Professor Emeritus of Economics.

Temin’s paper explores the recession experienced in recent history and compares it to the Great Depression. According to the author, it portends a dark future which is particularly reminiscent of the stock market crash of 1929 and the development of Hoovervilles in Anacostia, Central Park, Riverside Park, Seattle and St. Louis. Temin seeks to draw the reader to these parallels in an attempt to prevent history from repeating itself.

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