The Great Depression

The works in the McKinley Courthouse New Deal Art Collection come from a period of 20th-century history called The Great Depression.

The Great Depression was a worldwide economic crisis that lasted more than 12 years, from 1929 to 1941. The beginning of the Great Depression in the United States is usually associated with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. The depression devastated economies around the globe, as international trade fell, workers became unemployed or at best saw their paychecks shrink, and crop prices sunk.

Shortly after President Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, drought and erosion combined to cause the Dust Bowl, shifting hundreds of thousands of displaced people off their farms in the Midwest, destroying businesses that depended on farmers, and plunging the United States into unprecedented unemployment with almost 3 million people out of work.

From his inauguration onward, Roosevelt argued a restructuring of the economy would be needed to prevent another or avoid prolonging the current depression.

Under Roosevelt's administration, New Deal programs sought to stimulate the economy by providing work and relief for the impoverished through increased government spending.

Roosevelt's New Deal planners also offered American artists jobs to "beautify" their communities.

Out-of-work artists in New Mexico picked up their brushes and chisels, and for about 10 years, from 1933 to 1943, signed onto federal programs—most notably the New Deal's Works Progress Administration Art Project--to create artwork for public buildings, allowing the artists to remain independent, support their families, and contribute work of long value to their New Mexico communities.