Mistakes that Changed the Course of History
Mistake. Mishap. Misfortune. These three words sum up the majority of the 1920’s and 1930’s culture.
This was a time of trial and error and a learning period for the United States. Many mistakes were made on important decisions that would eventually alter the shape of American history. Prohibiting the transportation, production, and sale of alcohol; bad farming practices that led to the Dust Bowl; and the investment choices that ultimately led to the Stock Market crash of 1929 are just some of the few, key mistakes made in the 1920’s and 1930’s that ended up leading to the Great Depression. First, the Prohibition was one of the greatest mistakes that this country has ever made. On January 16th, 1920, the 18th Amendment was ratified to the Constitution. This amendment made the sale, transportation, and production of alcohol illegal in the United States.
There was heavy support for the Prohibition in the rural South and West, but in the urban cities of the North, people basically ignored the law. Heavy support also came from women’s groups and the Klu Klux Klan. The Klu Klux Klan was in such support that they shot at and whipped anyone who they found was in possession of alcohol. A fact that most people don’t know is that the United States government actually poisoned alcohol during the Prohibition in hopes of scaring people away from drinking. Some of the chemicals used were very lethal and killed at least 10,000 people during the 13 years the Prohibition lasted. Prohibition also increased the amount of gang violence in the United States.
Al Capone controlled the liquor transport from Canada to Florida, and his men ran over 10,000 speakeasies in the United States. At its peak, his empire was worth around $1.3 billion. The 18th Amendment was eventually repealed in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. Alcohol being legal once again, brought back strength to the Stock Market and took power away from the Black Market. More jobs were created in alcohol sales and production.
The government could also charge a tax on the sale of alcohol to create more revenue in a time when there wasn’t enough. With all of these contributing factors, people now recognize that Prohibition was a vital mistake and influenced the Great Depression and American history as a whole. In like manner, bad farming practices in the 1930’s pushed the United States into an era prolonged with dust and depression. Wheat and corn had been in high demand during World War I; used to feed the citizens in the homeland and the soldiers overseas. Farmers were used to plowing and planting on every inch of their land for profit. A drought began in the early 1930’s; that combined with the land being overworked caused the soil to to dry out and turn into dust.
This dust was simply blown away by the winds. The dust blew together to create what were known as “Black Blizzards. On April 14th, 1935, also known as Black Sunday, there was dust blown from the middle of the United States all the way to Washington D.C. In total, 12 inches of 100 million acres of soil was blown away. A third of the farmers moved to California in search of better jobs after they couldn’t pay back their loans.
The middle of the United States had been turned into a desert with the bad timing of a drought and poor farming practices that were a contributing factor of the Great Depression. Lastly, the Stock Market crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression, and it showed people how unstable and risky investing in the Stock Market could actually be. On October 29th, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday,the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 38.33 points, or 13%. Over 16 million shares were traded, and $30 billion were lost in just two days. One of the leading factors which caused the crash was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.
This act was put into place to try and keep foreign goods out of the United States, so consumers would have to buy products that were made in America. However, this actually made other countries upset, and they took it as a sign of economic warfare. As a result, the countries refrained from buying American-made products. Another one of the factors that led to the crash was people investing all their money into the Stock Market. People thought that the Stock Market could just keep rising forever, so they took out loans from private banks.
When the market crashed, the people lost all of their money and couldn’t pay back their loans. The people who kept their money in the bank rushed to withdraw it, but the banks didn’t have enough money to give everyone. In the meantime, banks were calling in loans from other banks to reimburse their customers; this created a chain reaction of bank closures. These two mistakes taught the American people and government to be more careful with investments and taxation, when they led to the 10 year long Great Depression, beginning in 1930. Given these points, mistake and human error plagued the 1920’s, 1930’s, and decades to come.
Because of Prohibition, bad farming practices, and poor investment choices the 1920’s and 1930’s became a learning period for not only the United States but the entire world. All in all, people and their governments learned from their mistakes and that’s what matters. American life would not be the way it is today if these few, important mistakes did not occur as they d