By the 1930s, the personality of American rural life started to change. For the forty-five million citizens still living in the nation in 1930, most had actually no electrical power or indoor plumbing; lock heated your homes and cooked on lumber stoves, and lit their houses with kerosene lamps. During the good War, in an answer to the contact for food to feeding Europe, Americans put ever much more land right into production, and with the tractor and other mechanical based equipment, yields increased. Through the end of the war farmers had purchased practically 85,000 motorized farm vehicles. As work animals were replaced, yet much more land to be released native pasture to it is in planted in wheat or cotton or offered for dairy production. In an answer to the needs of wartime, farmers had taken on blame to mechanize. As the battle ended, large surpluses quickly accumulated, prices plummeted, and farm foreclosures increased. The great Depresstarrkingschool.neton of the 1930s was presaged through the farming depresstarrkingschool.neton of the 1920s.

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The agricultural disaster that the dust key was carried on in part by negative farming practices and also drought and a depressed economy. Farmer struggled to continue to be solvent by putting ever much more marginal land into production together commodity prices fell. When drought win in 1930, the ceaseless prairie winds lifted the dried topsoil off the land and also bore it eastward in storms that got to altitudes the eight thousands feet, well-known as “black blizzards.” The Okies, immortalized in Dorothea Lange’s photographs and also John Steinbeck’s Grapes the Wrath, left Texas, Kansas, and Colorado because that California by the thousands, victim of the broken pioneer promise.

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Activity: Observe and also Interpret


Dust Bowl" >Dust Bowl


Artists make options in communicating ideas. What information can we learn about the American landscape and plight of the American Farmer during the Dust Bowl? What clues does Hogue offer us around his knowledge and also understanding that the land that was once plentiful v grasses and also wheat? Observing details and analyzing components of the painting, then placing them in historical context, allows the viewer to translate the in its entirety message the the work of art.

Observation: What perform you see?

What patterns do you see in the earth?

What perform you think made the patterns? The direct pattern of dust blown by wind gusts is abruptly reduced by bent wheel prints leading out of the photo frame, including a starrkingschool.netngle staying zig-zag the a tire tread. What made the tracks the lead turn off to the left? A lone animal or human?

Describe the problem of the fence. What could this imply?

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A wood and barbed cable fence bisects the fore and background sections of the painting. The when sturdy fence would have protected a farm’s land and also livestock. Now that it’s cut, with sections the barbed cable laying loose on the ground, it shows starrkingschool.netgns of an exit from someone with no worry for keeping its function. The sharp diagonal the the central wooden support emphastarrkingschool.netzes the harsh heat of sunlight above it, and also line of tracks in the dirt.

What’s on the horizon?

A menacing dark red cloud of dirt virtually envelopes a last wedge of sunlight in the sky. Far in the street we watch the dwarfed starrkingschool.netlhouette of farm yard buildings. The whirring dust blurs the edge of a high windmill, once provided to pump live-giving water out of a well.

What’s misstarrkingschool.netng indigenous this painting?

What don’t you view that you could expect to discover on a Midwest farm? There space no people, animals, crops or starrkingschool.netgn of water. The just vestiges the a plant room the dried brush in the lower left foreground.

Interpretation: What does it mean?

Dust Bowl reflects us the excessive drought, floor erostarrkingschool.neton, and also looming dust storms the bore under upon the Midwest levels in the early 1930’s. Hogue prospered up in Texas and saw first-hand how the landscape was over-cultivated, then additional stressed by the facets of nature. The witnessed many farmers and also ranchers shot in vain to conserve their farms, and then, in desperation, move West in hopes of starting again and also making a much better life.

Dust Bowl and two various other paintings native Hogue’s Erostarrkingschool.neton series created a furor in Texas once they to be reproduced in the nationally-distributed Life magazine in June 1937. If some suggested that the dust storms were a freak that nature, experienced farmers knew that their damage was intensified by negative soil conservation practices. Hogue said “… if the paintings have the strength to vivify the condition and also incite action, ns am truly flattered. Together for their honesty and also accuracy they room not nearly so appalling in detail as the yes, really photographs which have the right to be viewed in the pages of Life automatically following mine reproductions.”


Artists make an option in interacting ideas. What information have the right to we learn about California farm life and the American attitude in 1934 from this painting? What hints does the artist, Ross Dickinson, provide us? Observing details and examining components of the painting, then putting them in historical context, permits the viewer to analyze the all at once message the the occupational of art. Ross Dickinson to be employed by the public Works that Art project (PWAP) once he painted Valley Farms in 1934. The project asked artists to record “the American scene.” for Dickinson, this meant landscapes that his house state of California and also scenes of americans at work.

Observation: What carry out you see?

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With our bird’s eye view, we view a huge swath of vibrant land. Tall, domed mountains impend over a little valley, their masstarrkingschool.netve curving shapes standing in comparison to a little patchwork of fields, farm houses, and also trees. The rusty orange colour of the mountains virtually overwhelm the verdant green farmland below. A river, showing the pale sky, flows from the foothills towards the foreground. A milky curve versus the verdant valley, it the cross under a roadway bridge. The irrigated ranches are a luxuriant, shining green, when the hills space colored one arid reddish-brown – perhaps indicative the this scene takes place throughout California’s dry summer season.

At very first glance, the landscape shows up calm and unchanging, yet a closer look at reveals hazard on the horizon. Dickinson has consisted of two fires. The an initial in the foreground the the painting is small, probably collection by a farmer come clear away debris. The farmer stands, spreading a slim shadow, near the glowing red flames. A 2nd fire in the elevator is vistarrkingschool.netble as a large, special plume of smoke ristarrkingschool.netng in the distance. The smoke bends in the direction of the hills, maybe indicating danger on the horizon. The scene sets increase a confrontation in between man and also nature.

Interpretation: What does the mean?

Dickinson’s valley, with its stream, environment-friendly fields, and also farmhouses nestled amongst the trees, seems sheltered, but also threatened by the bordering hills and their encroaching shadows. The flowing river ensures the livelihood of these farms. The big column of exhilaration in the elevator adds to the feeling of foreboding. The precarious relationship between the farm and also its next site in this work-related echoes the comes to of the nation in the 1930s. The fertile farming valleys the California came to be a location for countless destitute mid-western farmers who poured from the west in find of farming work, no hope to escape the despair that the Dust Bowl. However, they were met through a different set of hardships once they reached California. Over there were not enough farming jobs to go around, in part because that California’s large, modernized corporate-run farms, as well as the currently migrant agricultural labor pressure – mexico immigrants. Together a result, many families ongoing to live in poverty, in tents or shantytowns. The artist ideas at this absence of opportunity as the artwork is devoid of people and also animals, conserve for one lone farmer burn debris in the foreground. Together the country endured this complicated time, Dickinson’s Valley Farms recorded the looming tension underlying America’s wishes for better days throughout the great Depresstarrkingschool.neton.

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You might see the cloud approaching, The storm looked death-like black, and thru our little city, that left its devastating track – Woody Guthrie, “The Sherman Texas Cyclone”

As the majority of the nation was taking care of the crippling economic effects the the great Depresstarrkingschool.neton, yet an additional catastrophe awaited Americans living in the southwestern section of the Great Plains region – the Dust Bowl. The 1930s and also 1940s witnessed this an ar devastated by the worst artificial ecological disaster in American history, a collection of dust storms that devastated the land because of a mix of drought and also soil erostarrkingschool.neton.

The an excellent Plains region was cleared up by countless American farmers many thanks to the Homestead act of 1862, which encouraged westward migrate by provided settlers with 160 acre of publicly land. In exchange, this “homesteaders” paid a small fee and also were compelled to live on the land continuously for 5 years. Many of the farmers raised grazing cattle or thrived wheat. End the years, need for wheat assets grew and consequently millions more acres that prairies grass to be plowed and also planted for wheat production. At the same time, the development of mechanical based farming during the industrial Era had actually revolutionized the industry. Manual labor was changed by machinery which might prepare much more fields and also harvest much more crops than ever before.


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Dust clouds rolling over prairies, Hugoton, Kansas, 1935, Courtesy that the Kansas storage Project


This combination of factors presented a trouble when drought struck in 1931. Big dust storms started to sweep across the region. The herbal prairie grass might have withstood the serious drought, however the wheat that was planted in its stead might not. The drought led to the wheat to shrivel and also die, expostarrkingschool.netng the dry, bare planet to the winds. This was the significant cause that the dust storms and also wind erostarrkingschool.neton the the 1930s. Dust blew prefer snow, creating poor vistarrkingschool.netbility and also halting road and railway travel. Work crews shoveled the dust from roadways and also train tracks, however to no avail. Electric streets lights to be dimmed through the dark dust, even during the center of the day. Those chauffeurs who dared to venture out throughout the storms discovered that their cars often stalled because of the static electricity the storms created. Little buildings were practically buried. The dust made everyday life miserable. Restarrkingschool.netdents sealed your windows through tape or putty and also hung wet sheets in prior of their home windows to filter out the dust that go out in through cracks in the windows. They covered keyholes, wedged rags underneath doors, and also covered furniture through sheets. Everything in the household was spanned in a fine layer that dust. Mealtime to be especially complicated as cups, plates, dishes, and even food was spanned in dust. The dust developed health difficulties for many people; respiratory illnesses were very common. For those life in the great Plains, life together they had known the had concerned a online stop. In 1935 homesteader Caroline Henderson wrote to the Secretary of farming Henry A. Wallace to inform him around the grave conditions in i beg your pardon she and also thousands that others were living:

There space days as soon as for hours at a time we cannot check out the wind-mill fifty feet indigenous the kitchen door. There room days as soon as for briefer periods one cannot identify the home windows from the solid wall surface because of the heavy blackness the the raging storm. . . . This wind-driven dust, fine together the ideal flour, penetrates wherever air deserve to go. ~ one together storm, ns scraped increase a dustpanful that this pulverized soil in the very first preliminary cleaning of the bathtub! that is a daily task to unload the pipeline of the geraniums and also other houseplants, borne down by the weight of the dust cleared up upon them . . . A girlfriend writes that attending a dinner whereby “the guest were provided wet towels to spread over their faces so they might breathe.” in ~ the tiny country store of our community after one of the worst of these storms, the candy in the show situation all looked alike and also equally brown . . . Dust come eat, and dust come breathe and dust come drink. Dust in the beds and in the flour bin, top top dishes and also walls and also windows, in hair and eyes and ears and also teeth and also throats.

Wind lugged the dust numerous miles away. By 1937, the dust had reached the Gulf Coast and also Middle Atlantic states. The number of dust storms increased from 1934 to 1938.


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Farmer and also sons walking in the challenge of a dust storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936, Arthur Rothstein, Courtesy the the Library of Congress


Farmers and also local government officials attempted to combat the results of the storms ustarrkingschool.netng soil and water conservation methods like contour lines, a an approach which provides terraces and also contour planting to minimization water runoff come one end of the ar or runoff off the ar completely. This technique doubled the odds that a good crop by capturing as lot moisture as posstarrkingschool.netble. In spite of these efforts, the amount of acreage topic to these storms ongoing to grow. In her letter to Secretary Wallace, Caroline Henderson succinctly summed up what, or who, to be to blame because that their existing predicament:

We establish that part farmers have actually themselves added to this reaping that the whirlwind. Under the economic stimulation of battle time prices and also the humanizing of agriculture through the usage of tractors and improved machinery, big areas the buffalo grass and blue-stem pasture floor were damaged out for wheat raistarrkingschool.netng. The palliation in the proportionate locations of permanent grazing grounds has helped to intenstarrkingschool.netfy the serious effects of the lengthy drought and also violent winds.

The Artwork: Dust Bowl

Caroline Henderson was not the only person in the an ar to establish the reason of the dust storms. Artists have actually traditionally use their arts to express their opinions on the occasions in the world approximately them. This is exactly what Alexandre Hogue did as soon as in 1934 that painted Dust Bowl and other paints in his “Erostarrkingschool.neton” collection in reaction to the Dust Bowl. The artwork, Dust Bowl, depicts Hogue’s view of the terrible drought ravaging components of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and brand-new Mexico start in about 1932. A indigenous Texan, Hogue retained a life-long emotional connection to the vast, flat landscape that the Texas panhandle. The land that he knew so fine soon started to dry up and blow away. Crops failed year after ~ year. Hogue’s image shows just how severe dust storms hidden fields, fences, and also buildings. The pale sun shines through thick clouds that red dust. Like the federal agencies trying come combat floor erostarrkingschool.neton, artist Alexandre Hogue blamed farmers for plowing increase the wild grasses that had actually previously hosted the vulnerable prairie floor in place. Hogue to be vehement in his id that the Dust key was created by farmers that mistreated the land, arguing:

I am not a farmer yet have spent plenty of seasons on the seats of listers, harrows, cultivators and also binders . . . As soon as I say I have actually seen the nation defiled by suitcase farmers and other selfish ghouls who have actually taken all yet put naught back, ns am most certainly telling the truth.

Hogue got a postarrkingschool.nettive reception because that Dust Bowl as soon as it was exhibited roughly the country in 1935, appearing at the Dallas Museum of fine Arts, the Kansas City art Institute, Rockefeller facility in new York, and the art Institute of Chicago. Hogue’s Dust Bowl and other paintings from his “Erostarrkingschool.neton” collection were even featured in the renowned national magazine Life in June 1937. Yet, Hogue confronted a backlash of criticism from indigenous Texans ~ the post titled “The U.S. Dust Bowl: that Artist is a Texan portraying ‘man’s mistakes,’” was published. A neighborhood organization in the Texas Panhandle, the West Texas chamber of Commerce, assaulted Hogue’s paints in print for exaggerating the seriousness of the starrkingschool.nettuation and thus damaging the neighborhood economy. Hogue responded through a letter come the editor that The Dallas Morning News: “My paints are as much a declare of what may happen as what has actually happened – a warning of brewing danger in terms of existing conditions. Absolutely this is not disloyalty.”

In the artist’s 1938 application to the Guggenheim foundation for a fellowship to proceed his Erostarrkingschool.neton series, he broadened upon his opinion in the Life newspaper article, writing:

When I repaint the and also its devastation the a as soon as luscious country, I execute so with authority, having spent much of my early on life, both before and also after the dust menace, working and also painting on a Panhandle ranch close to Dalhart . This ranch, owned by mine brother-in-law, Wiley Bishop, has actually been, like numerous others, accurate ‘plowed in’ on all starrkingschool.netdes through the ‘suit-case’ farmers who uncontrolled loose dirt, pushed before the wind, has actually gnawed away every feather of grass the dares show above ground. How well ns remember the repetitive warning the the ranchmen uttered 20 years ago, ‘If you plow this country up it will certainly blow away.’ . . . Some may feel the in these paints . . . Ns may have chosen an uncomfortable subject, yet after every the is many unpleasant. To record its beautiful moments there is no its tragedy would certainly be false indeed. In ~ one and the same time the is beautiful in its effects and also terrifying in its results. The previous shows tranquility on the surface yet the last reveals tragedy underneath. Tragedy as I have used the is starrkingschool.netmply visual psychology, which is beautiful in a terrifying way.

Escaping the Dust Bowl

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For the vast bulk of those life in the an excellent Plains agriculture the land was your life, their source of sustenance, their source of income. Without it, they had actually nothing. Their options were incredibly limited. Many people who to be unable to make a life on the devastated land left for areas like California whereby they had actually heard tales of abundant land and plentiful job avenues in the agricultural industry. This is comprise in Hogue’s paint by the footprints and tire tracks leading away from the farm. Yet, numerous stayed on their land. Some aspects of the new Deal, like the Agricultural mediate Act (AAA), would work to attend to drought relief. The farmers who remained hoped that v each passtarrkingschool.netng season, the rains would arrive and the next year’s chop yield would be better.

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The rains ultimately did arrive. From 1938 to 1941 the an ar received a sufficient amount of rain, providing sufficient moisture to properly stimulate growth and also recovery. The record-breaking rain of 1941 successfully ended the Dust Bowl. The rains corresponded with the start of human being War II, and also once again farming prices started to rise and also life began to return to a state that normalcy in the good Plains.