Era 8 Themes

ERA 8 HIGHLIGHTS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: the Great Depression, surviving, governmental responses, Civilian Conservation Corps, World War II, wartime production, immigration

The Great Depression and World War II once.-again demonstrate the necessity of understanding the greater context in order to understand local events. National events intruded on New Hampshire experience down to the personal level to an unprecedented degree. In New Hampshire, as elsewhere, rural populations had the option and habit of growing much of their own food while urban populations often did not. Circumstances challenged middle class family structures; looking for ways to help families survive, women took low paying jobs when men in the family had no work. Other families broke up and recombined as
members went to find work. Life became a mixture of unrest, conflict, and mutual help. Both national and state governments were occupied with finding ways to weather the crisis, and the population at large began to expect more from government; legislation brought expanded social welfare to New Hampshire. 

Governor John Winant shepherded New Hampshire through the beginning of the Great Depression, at first following the policies of President Hoover and then with policies and sentiments more akin to the New Deal. Elections in New Hampshire after that revealed mixed opinions when it came to federal aid to the state. One New Deal program that left a mark on the state was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the countryside, CCC camps brought in young urban men, and many stayed to marry girls they met who lived near the camps.

Mills in the state struggled and some died, unable to solve their supply and labor problems and compete in international markets. The demise of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1936 is an
example. The failure of the Amoskeag mills hurt Manchester and the state severely.  World War II brought New Hampshire and the United States out of the Depression; wartime production and military service provided jobs.  Men and women who had never been out of the state suddenly found themselves in uniform, encountering the world. New Hampshire workers moved to jobs in munitions plants, sometimes in other states. Workers were brought into Portsmouth by the thousands to build submarines at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  Three to four thousand women worked in the shipyard, an unprecedented number. Industries of all types contributed to the war effort. The need for uniforms, for example, gave knitting mills, textile mills, and shoe factories temporary new life.

World disorder and the need for workers changed the state's demographics. French-Canadians topped the list of foreign whites in the state with the next closest category being English-Canadians, but there was an increase of other European and non-European immigrants. The state's nonwhite population remained very small, still under 1000. 

Through it all, people found they had money to spend once again. The tide of consumer buying was held in check by wartime shortages, ready to expand into the consumer economy of the fifties and sixties once production changed from wartime to peace.

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