Surviving the Dirty Thirties
Recipe for Hard Times
Combine major drought, high summer temperatures, too much land under cultivation, and strong prairie winds. Throw in rock-bottom wheat prices and the Great Depression, and you have the recipe for the Dirty Thirties.
In the 1930s, winds whipped Kansas topsoil into sun-darkening clouds. Wheat crops withered. Not everyone suffered equally—many farms pulled in marginal harvests and stayed afloat—but times were lean all around.
President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs helped local communities weather these hard times. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Work Projects [sic - Works Progress] Administration (WPA) hired local men for a range of construction projects, including many bridges in Barton County (seven of them crafted from native limestone) and a number of municipal buildings, like the auditorium in Great Bend and the high school in St. John. The WPA funded regional artists as well—a legacy that endures in the 1938 "Wheat Center" mural in the Hoisington post office.
During the 1930s, farmers received federal funds to plant and maintain shelterbelts to reduce soil erosion. However, planting trees was nothing new to Kansas farmers. In 1865, Kansas became the first state to create a tree bounty, offering 50 cents an acre for every five acres of trees
Motion and Change
Though local limestone had largely fallen out of construction use by the 1920s as easier-to-use materials became available, the Great Depression sparked a resurgence. Local WPA bridge projects combined native limestone with meticulous workmanship, marrying function and enduring beauty.
Erected by Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway, Kansas Dept of Transportation, and Federal Highway Administration.
Location. 38° 0.064′ N, 98° 45.611′ W. Marker is in Saint John, Kansas, in Stafford County. Marker is on Broadway north of 2nd Avenue, on the right when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is on the Stafford County Courthouse grounds. Marker is at or near this postal address: 209 North Broadway, Saint John KS 67576, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway (here, next to this marker); Replica of the Statue of Liberty (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Cultivating America’s Bread Basket (approx. 9 miles away); Home on the Range (approx. 9.1 miles away); Farmers National Bank (approx. 9.1 miles away).
Also see . . .
1. Works Progress Administration at Kansapedia. (Submitted on July 14, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. The Living New Deal: Kansas. (Submitted on July 14, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
3. Kansas New Deal Art. (Submitted on July 14, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
4. "New Deal" Projects Still Thrive in Kansas. (Submitted on July 14, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
5. "Shelterbelts," in Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. (Submitted on July 14, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. • Agriculture • Disasters • Environment • Politics •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 76 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on July 14, 2016.