Wednesday, March 01, 2006

1930s Montana - Economic Condition in Agriculture

Drought, dust, hail, and grasshoppers beset the eastern plains of Montana in the late 1910S and early 1920S. Few communities had the resources to weather these plagues as Dagmar did.

Between 1919 and 1925 almost half of Montana farmers lost ownership of their land and many left the state. For those who remained, there were occasional good years in the late 1920S, but in general the Great Depression simply intensified conditions of the late 19105 and early 1920S. Sheridan County was especially hard hit by “recurring droughts, grasshopper infestations, and [wheat] rust,” which resulted in near total crop failure for several years. The county extension agent reported in 1934 that farmers replanted “blown out crops two or more times only to see grain wither away during the latter part of June.” The farm tenancy rate in Sheridan County climbed from 11.2 percent in 1920 to 31.4 percent in 1935, while that for the state was 27.7 percent. In 1938 county officials estimated that the taxes on 85 to 90 percent of all farm real estate were delinquent; only contiguous Daniels County had a higher rate. For many who stayed, economic security was tenuous, although some met the crisis with creativity. As in other parts of the droughtriven West, an overabundance of jackrabbits cursed the county and residents engaged in rabbit drives to round up and kill them. Some young men in Plentywood launched the Midwest Hide and Fur Company, headquartered in an old laundry, and proceeded to market the rabbit skins.

excerpted from “Representing Gender in Montana Farm Security Administration Photographs” by Mary Murphy. Frontiers - A Journal of Women’s Studies. Volume: 22. Issue: 3. Publication Year: 2001.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 03/01 at 04:12 PM
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