The Great Depression brought hard times on Colorado until the wartime of World War II began. Because Colorado was already in financial difficulties before the Depression, the state struggled especially hard after the Depression hit. The state government reacted with strong sentiments against the “New Deal” programs and forced people to keep a self-help attitude. Strangely, the “New Deal” was what kept Colorado afloat during and following the Great Depression. The Great Depression and New Deal programs affected all aspects of life in Colorado, including the social life, economic policy, and political strategy.
In 1931, farm commodity prices fell and trade slowed down. In 1932, bank clearings were less than half what they were in 1920. These trades had been depressed since World War I; therefore, the Great Depression hit these industries very hard. From 1920 to 1940, household income was vastly reduced and very little opportunity existed for upward mobility in employment and living situations.
The government took very little responsibility for the welfare of Colorado citizens. The philosophy was one of self-help in which the government tried to find a balanced budget without issuing a state sales tax or income tax. Though politicians put little stock in the “New Deal” initiated by the Federal government, the “New Deal” established many jobs for the record number of unemployed people. Groups such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Recovery Administration, the Public Works Administration, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, and the Works Progress Administration created jobs developing public amenities for recreation and other uses. They also worked to develop policies and programs to assist those affected the most by the Depression and its effects. Additionally, the “New Deal” provided funds to the Colorado government that enabled it to avoid major fiscal deficits.
Because Colorado’s organized labor was very weak, the “New Deal” received less support than it could have. The programs needed the support from industrial states in order to succeed. In the late 1930’s, voters followed politicians in rejecting the “New Deal” programs. Businesses opposed taxes and federal economic intervention. The “New Deal” agencies received little welcome from anyone in Colorado.
Many societal customs changed as a result of the financial difficulties brought on by the Great Depression. People started staying home to listen to the radio and play monopoly. Movie theatres became popular while attendance at baseball games decreased. Major baseball teams folded, but amateur basketball flourished. Better railroad serviced caused a boom in the mountain ski towns.
Although Colorado struggled through the 1930’s and 1940’s, the “New Deal” programs had a good overall effect on the state and enabled it to pull through the Depression. Many jobs were created to deal with the unemployment issues and many public facilities were created as a result. The entertainment industry experienced drastic changes from what is was before. While the Great Depression was not the brightest point in Colorado history, the state pulled through strong.
1) Camp Hale, near Grand Junction, became a prisoner of war camp in which many POW’s from Germany and Italy were sent. In 1944, many German POW’s were released by a pro-German US Soldier but they were caught again in Mexico and sent to another camp.
2) The Moffat Tunnel was intended to be a tunnel under James Peak as part of a railroad system in northwestern Colorado to Salt Lake. Banker David Moffat went broke trying to build the tunnel, and the tunnel was eventually backed by Pueblo voters.
3) The Remington Arms Plant completed 265 buildings, which produced 14 million rounds of small-arms ammunition.
4) John Galen Locke tried to push the Ku Klux Klan into politics by supporting particular candidates. His good reputation was tarnished when he threatened an unwed father-to-be with castration.
5) Josephine Roche ran to oppose Edwin Johnson in the Democratic primary. She was a social reformer and “champion of the downtrodden,” and she eventually became a high-ranking woman as the assistant secretary of the Treasury.