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

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December 13, 1937


Although an abundance of farm laborers existed after the onset of the Great Depression, the year 1937 experienced a shortage. Accordingly wages had increased. Industrial employment in cities generally was preferable to farm labor. Wages were better, hours were shorter, and work was less seasonable. Especially in the central and northern parts of the state farm equipment increasingly became relied upon for its labor saving qualities. Farm laborers frequently shared living arrangements with their employers and consequently their characters as well as their physical fitness were taken into consideration when hiring decisions were made.

Many farmers came to resent the Works Progress Administration. Work relief programs in cities and towns continued unabated while there was a real need for labor on farms during critical seasons (see document 41).

Points to Consider

Which year and which month of that year was the worst for a farm laborer in terms of wages for the period considered?

According to this report why was there an excess farm labor supply over 1930-1934?

Usually where would a hired farm laborer have lived?

Describe Illinois farm conditions in 1937.

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