Seventy-seven years ago this month, in April 1939, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was first published. The novel tells the story of the Joads, a struggling family that makes their way to California after being forced to leave their Oklahoma farm by financial hardship and the Dust Bowl. The Joads were representative of hundreds of thousands of Great Plains residents during the 1930s who struggled to make a living during the Dust Bowl, when massive dust storms caused by drought and poor farming techniques swept across the American and Canadian prairies, destroying crops and livestock and thus the livelihoods of many.
If you’re interested in learning what life was like during the “Dirty Thirties”—perhaps to get a better understanding of what your own Midwestern family members lived through—Newspapers.com has a wealth of articles written by the people who experienced it firsthand. Below are some examples of clippings of articles from the Dust Bowl:
- “Great Dust Cloud Drifts from Western States to East,” May 1934
- Map showing extent of May 1934 dust storm
- Photo: “Dust Storm Obscures Chicago Skyscrapers,” May 1934
- “Boy, 7, Found Suffocated in Kansas Dust Storm,” March 1935
- “Denton in Grip of Worst Dust Storm Ever Seen Here,” April 1935
- “Farmers Fear Judgment Day in Dust Storm,” April 1935
- “Flying Dust Dries Up Hope for Southwest’s Salvation,” April 1935
- “Estimate Crop Damages in Dust Storm Area $30,000,000; Farmers Hope for Rain,” April 1935
- “Oklahoma Families Flee Dust,” April 1935
- Dry-Land Farmers Living in Dust Storm Areas Are Hard Folk to Discourage,” April 1935
- “United Press Writer Tells a Vivid Story of Dust Storm Area,” April 1935
- “New Dust Storm Plagues Kansas as Farmers Give Up All Hope of Wheat Crop,” April 1935
- “Dust Storm Victims Fan Spark of Hope; Farmers Pray for ‘Just One Good Crop,'” March 1936
- Photo: Dust storm in Colorado from the air, July 1936
- “Dust Turns Day into Night, Closes Schools, Blocks Roads,” February 1937
- Photo: “Dust Storms Hit Western States,” February 1937
- “40,000 Farm Hands Aided: Workers from Dust Bowl Provide Problem in Relief in California,” April 1938
- “Fugitives from Dust Bowls Find Meager Living on Coast,” June 1938
Do you have family stories from the Dust Bowl? Share them with us! Or get started searching Newspapers.com for articles related to the Dust Bowl.
14 thoughts on “Find: Clippings from the Dust Bowl”
Those were remarkable to read, thanks for collecting them.
Being almost 85 I can remember those dust storms. Also the grasshoppers destroying crops but in 1936 my father got a good wheat crop and he bought a brand new 1936 plymouth car and for a family of seven now we culd all go to town together.
I am 83 years old. We lived 50 miles west of St. Louis. I remember the “bums” who came to our house for breakfast. Mom thought our house was “marked” because our home was the only one visited on the block. We lived about six blocks away from the train station. I am sure that our address was written down somewhere near the train station. Mom never felt threatened by the “bums” but made sure she had ham and eggs and corn bread for a substantial breakfast. She would tell them to eat on the front porch where the East Sun was giving warmth.
We did get dust storms from the West. Rags were placed between the window sills to capture the dust that would still blow in through the windows.
The “bums” knew your home was a nice place to visit because a tree in your yard was marked. My own mother told me this.
She was born in Clinton, Iowa, in 1926.
Her father owned a large hog farm. He traded corn to hedge his hogs with corn commodities. My mom’s family got through the depression and the dust bowl just fine. I do not think it affected Clinton, Iowa, very much, but I could be wrong.
My ancestors lived in the northeast as far as I am aware this horrible problem never impaired their lives directly. But, indirectly was there a problem with lack of food for the nation? Wheat, flour, beans, peas? These news articles show how amazing these people were who lived through terrible climatic devastation over a 8 yrs or more…. so sad.
As someone who has studied weather and climate, the heat of the 1930’s, especially 1936 was far more widespread, long lasting and intense than any heat wave in recent memory.
For example in July 1936, it reached 121 at one station in North Dakota. To show it was not a result of a defective thermometer, a second station was 120 and a third one was 119. Several other central states reached 120 as well.
Chicago Midway Airport had 9 straight days over 100, with a highest reading of 109. At Saginaw in northern lower Michigan, where a 95 degree day is rare, the average high temperature for an entire week was 106, with one day topping out at 111.
Yikes! In those days the “heat index” wasn’t measured either. Please correct me if I àm wrong on that point.
Where I now live in Chandler, AZ, we have temperature readings in August that fall into the 115°F to 117° F category. It is hot! We say we are used to it, but when August comes, no one really is used to it.
I don’t think in 1935 a whole lot of folks had air conditioning either. How did they do it? It amazes me to this day how anything could survive that heat and wind.
Those are actual temperatures. The heat index (which takes humidity into account) did not exist back then.
The only places that were air conditioned where people could go were the movie theaters.
It also got extremely hot well into Canada. Winnipeg got to 108 and Toronto has 3 straight days of 105 or 106.
We had a fan and wet towels .
any Canadian stories to tell about life on the prairies during the 30s?
Reading this was like going back in time. I cannot fathom how people made it through this difficult and trying time. Whenever I feel tempted to complain about some aspect of life today, I stop myself and try to picture living just for a few minutes in their situation.
The other thing I really like about your article is that it takes the reader beyond the name, date, and place, which is something we try to do with all our research as it becomes much more meaningful when you do.
Thank you again for this posting.
Does anyone know about Minnesota and the Dust Bowl? I have a Time Life book on the 30s. It has a newspaper photo of two teen sisters (filthy overalls) who were raised by their farmer dad. The dad was a moonshiner who got busted. The newspsper man asked the officer to unload his rifles to let the girls pose. Whether or not you believed in the Volstead Act, the whole experience was an exercise in futility. There were not enough law men and half of them were on the take. The dad was arrested but immediately released. Hence the girls smiled broadly in the pic. I would love to write a screen play. I am intrigued by a father raising daughters in such a trying time. Triciafirstname.lastname@example.org
I was born October 1924 and remember the day the banks closed and how many men who were in the financial world
killed themselves. I did not go to first grade, for the teacher told me I was too young (by about 3 weeks) and I told the teacher” if she didn’t want to teach me,my mother would for she used to teach here.” I entered the second grade for1931-32 school year and people in Virginia were hungry. I lived on a small farm of 43+ Acres and my father had a good many acres planted
in a garden and relatives from all over the area would come to visit my grandmother whose family my father reared after his own father had died of typhoid in 1908.
My father never sold anything and in 1930 I can remember very well the man who brought the contract to buy the 43 Acres and wondering where we would be living. I have that contract and I asked an aunt many years later what happened and she said the man could find no one to lend him the money. At that time many people were leaving Virginia and going to the Middle West and this is the time many of the orphans on the East Coast were shipped out to those states. In 1933 my Mother was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be Postmaster in our little rural area in Virginia . My father had purchased the property in 1918 from “owner” who died in 1919 and his three daughters took him to court in 1923and my father had the little piece of paper signed by the Commonwealth attorney recording payments and their lawyer who received the money had gambled it on horses. There also was a lien against the property when my father bought it which the owner did not tell my father
and he won in court and borrowed the money from the Federal Land Bank of Baltimore which sold the mortgage to Wachovia which was paid off in 1946. My father had updated his mother;s home & reared her children after his father died and that is where he brought my mother after marriage. Just before I was born my mother moved to my father’s property across the creek and adjoining my grandmother’s property to the old house by the Roseland mill (built 1747 by the Rose family) as my grandmother’s mother had done in the 1860’s “while her husband was away”. I asked my mother when I was very small why she moved to this old house, and she said “when you grow up you will understand”, I like your grandmother and aunts but a house is only large enough for one woman. In March 1938 we moved into a new Post Office building on my mother’s land deeded to her after 1930 and beside the
Post Office my father started the home he had done the foundation in 1928 before the banks failed, and began
building the day Hitler went into Poland and we moved into in December 1940 a year before Pearl Harbor, and almost 29 years later which turned over ,the night Hurricane Camille visited that section of Virginia . I was there in my “little cottage” as a woman across the river called it. Looking back on both disasters, I think the high water which drowned 140 people and took many homes was much worse than the terrible Dust Bowl in the Middle Western states Mary-Elizabeth DeMallie
I was born in 1931 in Toronto , Canada . I remember that all our neighbours and ourselves took their mattresses out on the porch at night – no porch? you put your mattress on the street . Those must have been the nights of 1936 because I was still very little at the time .
Comments are closed.