What was the dust bowl? How did it affect the lives of Americans in the 1930s?

1 Answer
Apr 5, 2018


The Dust Bowl refers to a series of droughts, 1934-40, that centered on the Oklahoma panhandle.


Many farms in the Great Plains were affected by the Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s. The counties of the Oklahoma Panhandle were the hardest hit, but the droughts affected farms in north Texas, Kansas, Colorado and the Oklahoma interior as well.

The droughts coincided with the Great Depression. Farmers who were leveraged to the banks in the 1920s were suddenly even less able to keep up with their mortgages. Foreclosures occurred at an unprecedented rate, causing a wave of farm families (collectively referred to as "Okies") to migrate to California. The foreclosing banks held title to now-worthless land, putting an additional strain on their investors and account holders. And California already had Depression-related problems of its own.

The effects of the drought were made even worse by generations of farming practices that stripped the land of its virgin topsoil. Three unrelated waves of ecological, agrarian and economic catastrophe converged on one vulnerable area--known in better times as "America's Breadbasket."