Florida Memory will be down for scheduled maintenance today, October 31st, from 5 pm until 7 pm. We apologize for any inconvenience.


The Long Depression

The Great Depression in the United States officially began in 1929 with the Stock Market Crash. However, throughout much of the United States economic hardship had preceded the financial downturn that would engulf the entire country.

Florida's economic bubble had burst in 1926 when once readily available money and credit ran out and the Florida Land Boom came to an end.

In addition to banks no longer trusting the "paper millionaire," Florida was hit by two major hurricanes, one in 1926 and another in 1928, which dealt a severe blow to Florida's already fragile economy.

Family of migrant fruit pickers from Tennessee: Winter Haven, Florida (1937)

Family of migrant fruit pickers from Tennessee: Winter Haven, Florida (1937)

Image Number: RC02706

Field workers traveling with baby and possessions (between 1937 and 1939)

Field workers traveling with baby and possessions (between 1937 and 1939)

Image Number: RC02789

Florida's Fate

Exacerbating the state's mounting economic problems, Florida's citrus industry was devastated with the invasion of the Mediterranean fruit fly in 1929, reducing citrus production in the state by sixty percent.

At the beginning of the 1930s, twenty-six percent of Florida's population was dependent on some form of public relief.

The Great Depression brought with it skyrocketing unemployment and the dislocation of millions of workers from all walks of life. Migrant workers—often entire families—went in search of jobs wherever they could be found, adding their numbers to the thousands of seasonal workers recruited by large agricultural companies in South Florida each year during harvest time.

Dwelling for migrant workers: Belle Glade, Florida (1939)

Dwelling for migrant workers: Belle Glade, Florida (1939)

Image Number: RC09004

Migrant packinghouse worker shack made of old tin and burlap, open at front. By canal near Belle Glade, Florida.

Migrant family from Tennessee: Winter Haven, Florida (1937)

Migrant family from Tennessee: Winter Haven, Florida (1937)

Image Number: RC04899

A family of eight from Tennessee camped near citrus packing plant at Winter Haven, Florida.

Families on the Move

Most of the diverse people who comprised the influx of workers into Florida in the later years of the Great Depression came from other southern states.

These migrant laborers made their way south from Georgia and from throughout the Upper and Mid South (from Eastern North Carolina and Kentucky to Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma) after the loss of tenant positions on leased farm land, foreclosure, falling farm yields, or the closure of textile factories and other industries forced them away from their homes.

Migrant family at their shelter: Winter Haven, Florida (1937)

Migrant family at their shelter: Winter Haven, Florida (1937)

Image Number: RC05264

The temporary home of a migrant citrus worker and his family. Now camped near the packing plant of Winter Haven, Florida. The family is originally from Tennessee.

Some Sense of Security

Migrants took whatever little possessions they could carry and traveled, often with their entire families, to the warmth and agricultural abundance of Florida in search of sustenance, shelter, and some measure of economic security.

Migrant workers returning home: Lake Harbor, Florida (1939)

Migrant workers returning home: Lake Harbor, Florida (1939)

Image Number: RC02704