Saturday, December 17, 2022

Review of "Unknown Iowa: Farm Security Photos 1936-1941, A Classic Portrait of Iowa and Its People," John M. Zielinski

 Review of

Unknown Iowa: Farm Security Photos 1936-1941, A Classic Portrait of Iowa and Its People, John M. Zielinski, ISBN 0931014018

Five out of five stars

The faces and context of despair

 Those who understand history know that the Great Depression did not begin with a crash of the American Stock Market in 1929. It was an economic collapse that was over ten years in the making in the rural farming areas. Prices for farm produce rose dramatically during and immediately after World War I. Land prices also went up, leading to ease of credit for production.

In the years from 1920 to 1929, the prices for farm produce dropped dramatically. In the years from 1909-1914, the average prices received for corn and a hog from the feedlot were 83.6 cents a bushel and $7.24 per hog. By 1933, the prices had declined to 19.4 cents a bushel and $2.94 a hog respectively. Some farmers that sent livestock to a distant market ended up getting a bill, for the cost of the freight exceeded the value received for the livestock.

 This situation bankrupted nearly all small farmers in Iowa, and when they had no spending money and could not pay back their bank loans, local businesses also failed. This book is a collection of photos and captions that show the faces of the people that are broke with no hope of earning a living for themselves, much less their children. It was a time of struggle, where only government programs could offer any hope of putting food in front of people suffering from malnutrition and even outright starvation.

 The facts of the low farm prices are explained in the captions associated with the photos of the people. This is an excellent record of how so many people struggled during the Depression and why they ended up destitute.

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