Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 14, 1931


The American farmer enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity over the years 1914-1919. The World War had resulted in high demand for a variety of farm products. But from the summer of 1920 through the end of 1921 prices plummeted. And although conditions improved over 1921-1929, with the exceptions of 1925 and 1926, most farmers had operated at net capital losses. Rural lending institutions suffered from the same malaise with many country banks failing over these years. In response to the farmer's plight federal legislation was passed to place safeguards on the practices of middlemen at grain exchanges, stockyards, and packing houses and to support agricultural cooperatives and other farm credit institutions.

In reply to this letter Stuart E. Pierson, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, stated that for the past four years unfavorable weather conditions had produced poor crops in Illinois and that one good year could make all the difference in "relieving the depressed agricultural situation." He also regretted that there was feeling in Washington "that the period of depression will be rather prolonged."

Early in 1931 the U.S. Congress appropriated $45,000,000 for feed, seed, and fertilizer loans to individual farmers. Allotments averaged $150 to meet farmers' immediate needs. Additionally $10,000,000 was set aside to bolster agricultural credit institutions.

Points to Consider

Why was Congressman Henry T. Rainey writing S. E. Pierson?

Who might the Hon. S. E. Pierson have been?

What is a chattel mortgage and what mentality would have required one in exchange for food?

What danger did the collapse of major New York banks pose?

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