Play Government Reform Programs

By 1937, the Dust Bowl farmers are asking for government help in regulating the land by forcing other farmers to take better care of their soil. They even consider declaring martial law. For many farmers who had previously demonstrated independence and suspicion of government, this is a substantial ideological turnaround.

Play Reform

In the summer of 1936, Roosevelt takes a whistle-stop tour across the Midwest and Northern Plains to see the crisis himself. He inspires enthusiastic, but weary, audiences. At the same time, Hugh Bennett, head of the Soil Conservation Service, begins instituting his program of agricultural reform and offering incentives to those farmers who will adopt the new farming methods.

Play Recovery

In 1935, 850 million acres of topsoil are swept off the Great Plains, with more dust storms to come. President Franklin Roosevelt’s inner circle does not want the area to turn into an “Arabian Desert.”

Play Relief

Social worker Dorothy Williamson describes her experiences talking with victims of the Dust Bowl. What help there was came from Washington, D.C., with programs such as the CCC, NYA, or WPA.

Play Environmental Catastrophe

As the Great Depression sets in, farmers on the Great Plains begin to feel its effects. A combination of natural and made-made factors begins to turn the profitable farming land into a vast wasteland. The effect of these factors on individuals and families is documented.

Play Modern Machinery

Modern machinery made farming more profitable and changed the structure of the land for growing wheat. The result was more land speculation, more acreage turned over to wheat farming, and a blind faith that the good times wouldn’t end, but warning signs were evident.

Play The Dust Bowl Intro

The Dust Bowl was a decade-long natural catastrophe of biblical proportions and the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. It is the classic tale of humans pushing too hard on nature and nature pushing back during a period of economic boom and bust in the 1920s and 1930s.

Play Recollection

Meet some of the people who lived in the Great Plains and learn a little about the area. The Dust Bowl airs on PBS Nov 18 & 19, 2012.

Play Extended Look

The Dust Bowl chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the Great Plow-Up, followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation..

Play Fresh Start

Some of the people who went to CA got jobs giving them a fresh start.

Play Snowstorm

More hope came to the dust bowl after a snowstorm hit the Great Plains.

Play Photographers of the Dust Bowl

During the Great Depression FDR's administration sought to document the economic crisis. Roosevelt's Farm Security Administration (FSA) was put in charge of the effort, which employed some of the country's most talented photographers.

Play Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie moves to Los Angeles in the second half of the 1930s and supports himself with odd jobs. He finally gets a radio show of his own and a newspaper column called “Woody Sez” and gains a reputation as a radical for sympathizing with the migrants.

Play Hugh Bennett

Hugh Bennett went on a fact finding trip through the Great Plains in search of a solution.

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