Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Hooverville

Hooverville

Overview

A 'Hooverville' was the popular name for shanty town
Shanty town
A shanty town is a slum settlement of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings made from scrap materials: often plywood, corrugated metal and sheets of plastic...

s built by homeless people during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. They were named after the President of the United States at the time, Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

, because he allegedly let the nation slide into depression. The term was coined by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee
The Democratic National Committee is the principal organization governing the United States Democratic Party on a day to day basis. While it is responsible for overseeing the process of writing a platform every four years, the DNC's central focus is on campaign and political activity in support...

.

Homelessness was present before the Great Depression, and hobo
Hobo
A hobo is a term which is often applied to a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the Western—probably Northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike 'tramps', who work only when they are forced to, and 'bums', who do not...

s and tramp
Tramp
A tramp is a long term homeless person who travels from place to place as a vagrant, traditionally walking or hiking all year round. In British English meanwhile a tramp simply refers to a homeless person, usually not a travelling one....

s were common sights in the 1920s, but the economic downturn increased their numbers and concentrated them in urban settlements close to soup kitchen
Soup kitchen
A soup kitchen, a bread line, or a meal center is a place where food is offered to the hungry for free or at a reasonably low price. Frequently located in lower-income neighborhoods, they are often staffed by volunteer organizations, such as church groups or community groups...

s run by charities.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Hooverville'
Start a new discussion about 'Hooverville'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia

A 'Hooverville' was the popular name for shanty town
Shanty town
A shanty town is a slum settlement of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings made from scrap materials: often plywood, corrugated metal and sheets of plastic...

s built by homeless people during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. They were named after the President of the United States at the time, Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

, because he allegedly let the nation slide into depression. The term was coined by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee
The Democratic National Committee is the principal organization governing the United States Democratic Party on a day to day basis. While it is responsible for overseeing the process of writing a platform every four years, the DNC's central focus is on campaign and political activity in support...

.

Background


Homelessness was present before the Great Depression, and hobo
Hobo
A hobo is a term which is often applied to a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the Western—probably Northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike 'tramps', who work only when they are forced to, and 'bums', who do not...

s and tramp
Tramp
A tramp is a long term homeless person who travels from place to place as a vagrant, traditionally walking or hiking all year round. In British English meanwhile a tramp simply refers to a homeless person, usually not a travelling one....

s were common sights in the 1920s, but the economic downturn increased their numbers and concentrated them in urban settlements close to soup kitchen
Soup kitchen
A soup kitchen, a bread line, or a meal center is a place where food is offered to the hungry for free or at a reasonably low price. Frequently located in lower-income neighborhoods, they are often staffed by volunteer organizations, such as church groups or community groups...

s run by charities. These settlements were often formed on empty land and generally consisted of tents and small shack
Shack
A shack is a type of small house, usually in a state of disrepair. The word may derive from the Nahuatl word xacalli or "adobe house" by way of Mexican Spanish xacal/jacal, which has the same meaning as "shack". It was a common usage among people of Mexican ancestry throughout the U.S...

s. Authorities did not officially recognize these Hoovervilles and occasionally removed the occupants for trespass
Trespass
Trespass is an area of tort law broadly divided into three groups: trespass to the person, trespass to chattels and trespass to land.Trespass to the person, historically involved six separate trespasses: threats, assault, battery, wounding, mayhem, and maiming...

ing on private lands, but they were frequently tolerated or ignored out of necessity. The New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 enacted special relief programs aimed at the homeless under the Federal Transient Service (FTS), which operated from 1933-35.

Some of the men who were forced to live in these conditions possessed construction skills and were able to build their houses out of stone. Most people, however, resorted to building their residences out of wood from crates, cardboard, scraps of metal, or whatever materials were available to them. They usually had a small stove, bedding and a couple of simple cooking implements.

Most of these unemployed residents of the Hoovervilles used public charities
Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

 or begged
Begging
Begging is to entreat earnestly, implore, or supplicate. It often occurs for the purpose of securing a material benefit, generally for a gift, donation or charitable donation...

 for food from those who had housing during this era. Democrats coined other terms, such as "Hoover blanket" (old newspaper used as blanketing) and "Hoover flag" (an empty pocket turned inside out). "Hoover leather" was cardboard used to line a shoe with the sole worn through. A "Hoover wagon" was an automobile with horses hitched to it because the owner could not afford fuel; in Canada, these were known as Bennett buggies
Bennett buggy
A Bennett buggy was a term used in Canada during the Great Depression to describe a car which had its engine and windows taken out and was pulled by a horse...

, after the Prime Minister at the time.

After 1940 the economy recovered, unemployment fell, and shanty eradication programs destroyed all the Hoovervilles.

Sites

  • Central Park, New York City: Scores of homeless families camped out at the Great Lawn at Central Park, then an empty reservoir.
  • Riverside Park, New York City: A shantytown occupied Riverside Park at 72nd Street during the depression.

In popular culture


Hoovervilles have often features in the popular culture, and still appear in editorial cartoons. Movies like My Man Godfrey (1936) and Sullivan's Travels (1941) sometimes sentimentalized Hooverville life.
  • In Sullivan's Travels
    Sullivan's Travels
    Sullivan's Travels is a 1941 American comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges. It is a satire about a movie director, played by Joel McCrea, who longs to make a socially relevant drama, but eventually learns that comedies are his more valuable contribution to society. The film features...

    , a 1941 comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges
    Preston Sturges , originally Edmund Preston Biden, was a celebrated playwright, screenwriter and film director born in Chicago, Illinois...

    , John L. Sullivan, a wanderlust movie director, played by Joel McCrea, visits a Hooverville and accidentally becomes a genuine tramp.
  • The musical Annie
    Annie (musical)
    Annie is a Broadway musical based upon the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan. The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years with a blonde Annie as the poster...

    , has a song called "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover," which takes place in a Hooverville beneath the 59th Street Bridge. In the song, the chorus sings of the hardships they now suffer because of the Great Depression and their contempt for the former president.
  • In 1987, the Liverpool group The Christians had a British hit with the song "Hooverville (And They Promised Us The World)".
  • In 2005, Season 3 of Dr. Who, episode 4 (Daleks in Manhattan) The Doctor and Martha visit a Hooverville while the Empire State Building was still in progress
  • During a temporary housing crisis, the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper
    Piled Higher and Deeper
    Piled Higher and Deeper - Life in Academia , is a newspaper and web comic strip written and drawn by Jorge Cham that follows the lives of several grad students...

     referred to a fictional solution to the resulting housing crisis at Stanford University
    Stanford University
    The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

     as "Hooverville" due to its proximity to Stanford's Hoover Tower
    Hoover Tower
    Hoover Tower is a structure on the campus of Stanford University in Stanford, California. The tower is part of the Hoover Institution, a research center founded by then-future U.S. president Herbert Hoover. Hoover Tower, inspired by the cathedral tower at Salamanca, was finished in 1941, the year...

    .
  • The 2005 version of King Kong
    King Kong (2005 film)
    King Kong is a 2005 fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson. It is a remake of the 1933 film of the same name and stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. Andy Serkis, through performance capture, portrays Kong....

    , directed by Peter Jackson, depicts the Hooverville in New York's Central Park
    Central Park
    Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City, United States. The park initially opened in 1857, on of city-owned land. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they entitled the Greensward Plan...

     at the beginning of the film.
  • The 2005 movie Cinderella Man
    Cinderella Man
    Cinderella Man is a 2005 American drama film by Ron Howard, titled after the nickname of heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock and inspired by his life story. The film was produced by Howard, Penny Marshall, and Brian Grazer.-Plot:James J...

    also referenced the Central Park encampment.
  • Two episodes ("Daleks in Manhattan
    Daleks in Manhattan
    "Daleks in Manhattan" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 21 April 2007, and is the fourth episode of Series 3 of the revived Doctor Who series. It is part one of a two-part story, concluded in "Evolution of the Daleks"...

    " and "Evolution of the Daleks
    Evolution of the Daleks
    "Evolution of the Daleks" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 28 April 2007, and is the fifth episode of Series 3 of the revived Doctor Who series. It is the conclusion of the two-part story begun in "Daleks in...

    ") of the 2007 British science fiction television series Doctor Who
    Doctor Who
    Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

    depicted the Central Park
    Central Park
    Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City, United States. The park initially opened in 1857, on of city-owned land. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they entitled the Greensward Plan...

     Hooverville.
  • In the novel Bud, Not Buddy
    Bud, Not Buddy
    Bud, Not Buddy is a 1999 children's novel by Christopher Paul Curtis. The book is the winner of the 2000 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award that is given in recognition of outstanding African-American authors.-Plot summary:Bud,...

    , set during the Great Depression, an early scene involves the police dismantling a Hooverville. Bud calls it "Hooperville".
  • In John Steinbeck's famous novel The Grapes of Wrath
    The Grapes of Wrath
    The Grapes of Wrath is a novel published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962....

    , the Joad family briefly settles into a Hooverville in California.
  • In Harry Turtledove
    Harry Turtledove
    Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.- Life :...

    's "Timeline-191" series of books, the equivalent of Hoovervilles in the United States and Confederate States are called Blackfordburghs and Mitcheltowns, respectively, after fictional Presidents Hosea Blackford of the US and Burton Mitchel of the CS.

External links