Dust Bowl Migration

In the early 1930s, because of severe drought, poor farming practices, and prolonged wind storms, much of the heart of America became a giant Dust Bowl.

The term “Dust Bowl” was coined in 1935, but drought across Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas began much earlier, in 1931.

When the topsoil from once-fertile farms literally blew away and crops died, hundreds of thousands of farmers found themselves with no way to make a living.

This, combined with the Great Depression that the country, as a whole, was facing, led to dire economic circumstances and mass migration.

Because many farmers had no money to buy bus or train tickets, they resorted to hopping the rails (illegally hopping on trains when they slowed down) and became known as hobos. They were in search of work, wherever they could find it, but with unemployment during the Great Depression as high as 25% at some points, chances were bleak.

In some instances, entire families (three and four generations) migrated together, in search of food, shelter, and work.

Approximately 200,000 migrants moved to California during the Great Depression, most arriving destitute.