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12 Million for State Projects


In 1929, America’s economy was devastated. The Great Depression had begun, and would continue for the next decade. Manufacturing companies cut production by 50 percent. Stock values plummeted. Sears stock dropped for $181 to $10. By 1932, 12 million people had lost their jobs -- one quarter of the country’s workforce.

While the entire country suffered, a drought made the Depression even worse on the Great Plains. Farmer LeRoy Hankel remembered, “We was praying for rain.” But it just didn’t come.

People migrated out of North Dakota as conditions deteriorated. The combination of high farm debt and low commodity prices resulted in a staggering number of foreclosures and bank failures. During the 1930s, North Dakota suffered from dust storms, crop failures, plagues of grasshoppers, drought, economic problems, and a decreasing population.

The Federal government created programs to address the country’s economic problems, and state governments followed suit. On this date in 1938, it was announced that 12 million dollars would be allotted for public works projects in the state -- a combination of state and Federal funds. Communities had to make requests by January 1st, and agree to furnish a portion of the funding from their own budgets. The state would give the highest priority to projects related to education, but the state also considered requests for penal facilities, charitable institutions, and irrigation and pumping projects.

The problems of the Depression were formidable, and many North Dakotans gave up. The population began to drop after peaking in 1930. Nonetheless, the Depression was a period of surprising advances in technology. North Dakota modernized in a variety of ways. Farmers experimented with new methods of irrigation and soil conservation. The new State Capitol was completed in 1935, and the State Highway Patrol was formed the same year. Rural schools began to consolidate. Public utilities began to reach the countryside. New departments were created to address public health and safety.

Although the state was devastated by the Great Depression, determined North Dakotans stuck it out and put the state on the road to recovery.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


State Historical Society of North Dakota. "http://history.nd.gov/ndhistory/depression.html" http://history.nd.gov/ndhistory/depression.html

North Dakota Studies. "http://www.ndstudies.org/articles/1930s_north_dakotas_economic_and_political_climate_overview" http://www.ndstudies.org/articles/1930s_north_dakotas_economic_and_political_climate_overview

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “12 Million in Building for State is Outlined.” 21 October, 1938.