The Great Depression was a pretty rough time for people across the country, including here in Arizona. While we didn’t experience rampant homelessness and poverty to the degree as more populated states, Arizonans still had to make the best of a poor economy and a changing way of life. Here are 25 photos that give a glimpse into Arizona life during that time period.
1. Here's an image of a few police officers in the 1930s. They sure dressed differently!
2. This placer miner sits near Lee's Ferry along the Colorado River in 1930.
3. Here is President Roosevelt chilling with some other politicians at a Williams ranch shortly before the 1932 election.
4. This shows President Hoover and his crew completing an inspection of Hoover Dam (then known as Boulder Dam) in November 1932.
5. This girl is enjoying a ride on a donkey in Globe in 1933.
6. This photo shows a sale of some sheep in 1933 for relief efforts.
Based on the clothing, familiar corral structure, and the simple fact they are working with a sheep, I'm going to guess these folks are probably Navajo, which makes the timing of this photo a bit sad for what's to come.
In the 1930s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that the Navajo owned too many livestock herds and were going to overgraze the land. This prompted the commissioner, John Collier, to launch the Navajo Livestock Reduction program in 1933 and led to the seizure and extermination of over 80% of the animals over the next few years without consent from the people. This devastated the Navajo in multiple ways; sheep not played an economic role but were also culturally seen as part of the family.
7. These men apparently had jobs doing rodent control somewhere in northern Arizona. This photo shows a summer day's work in 1934.
8. These girls, with the help of a Federal Art Project employee, are producing a radio show on KTAR in 1935.
Part of the New Deal, the Federal Art Project helped provide work to artists of all trades and this shows one of those results.
9. Two babies near Window Rock: a little lamb and a Navajo baby swaddled in a cradleboard in 1936.
10. Here is an unnamed sheriff in Duncan in 1936.
11. Here are some folks from Tennessee seeking work as cotton workers in 1936 in Phoenix.
12. This photo shows some migrant Yuma cotton pickers boiling their cotton sacks before being allowed into California in 1937.
California was serious about avoiding agricultural pests.
13. A couple of farmworkers' children mingle outside housing in 1937 near Chandler.
14. A couple of boys ride their donkey outside of Tombstone in 1937.
15. Dust Bowl refugees wait at an agricultural inspection station along the Arizona-California border in 1937.
16. These children were part of a migrant cotton laborer family from Mexico sitting outside their home in Casa Grande (1937).
17. Sitting outside their Casa Grande home, these children were part of a family of eight from Oklahoma that found work in Arizona cotton fields (1937).
18. Here are a few men chatting away in a Tombstone saloon in 1938.
19. Here is a farming family enjoying a Sunday morning in June 1938 in Gila County.
20. These men are working in a Chandler sugar beet field in 1938.
The photographer noted that prior to this, sugar beet was imported from other countries.
21. Here is a Phoenix car dealership in 1939, at the tailend of the Great Depression.
22. A row of cars parked near a church in Tucson in 1939. Does anyone recognize the church?
23. This guy had a traveling locksmith and mower sharpener business in Saint Johns in 1939.
24. While the Depression ended in 1939, some people were still feeling the effects of the Depression into the new decade. This included migrant families displaced due to the Dust Bowl who were still on the lookout for work. For example, these folks from Arkansas arrived in Eloy to work as cotton pickers in 1940.
25. Here's a migrant mother enjoying a quiet moment with her baby in Buckeye in 1940.
Do you have any memories or family stories of the Great Depression from your family? Feel free to share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.