3 Replies Latest reply on Feb 18, 2021 12:30 PM by Thomas Haddock

    Seeking Stories about Children during Depression


      I am collecting stories written about the Depression experiences of children--written by children during the Depression. I am less interested in stories for children about the Depression or stories written by adults, reflecting on their Depression experiences. In other words actual experiences of children during the Depression. All leads kindly welcomed. Thank you in advance

        • Re: Seeking Stories about Children during Depression
          Jason Atkinson Ranger

          Dear Mr. Medrich,

          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

          The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum has in their custody a number of letters written by children to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt by children. Some of these letters are from poor children who were describing their impoverished circumstances and requesting assistance.  Many of these have already been used by scholars, such as Robert Cohen’s book Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters from Children of the Great Depression and this website on Children and the Great Depression. To access these records contact the Library via email at Archives.FDR@nara.gov or via their Ask the Archivists contact form.

          The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum may also have similar letters.  See here for their contact information.

          The Records of the Children’s Bureau (Record Group 102) has extensive records about children during the Great Depression, and may contain some correspondence or other narratives from children. To access these records contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov.

          We spoke to the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center and they indicated that Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940 to 1941 might have oral histories and other material from children. They also stated that if you contact them directly they will assist you to try to locate additional collections in their possession that are relevant to your research.

          Quite a few state and local government agencies took an interest in the welfare of children, and some may have preserved interviews of children, letters written by children, or similar material. See here for a list of state archives. Counties and municipalities will typically have their own archives as well. You can also contact courts to request access to court records from this time period, as family and juvenile court records may include testimony, affidavits, and similar material from children. However, depending on state laws, some of this material may still be sealed.

          A wide variety of charitable institutions took an interest in children and may have created and preserved relevant records.  For charities that are still around, you can contact them to find out what records they have from the Great Depression time period. Records of defunct charities might be in the custody of historical societies, state libraries, university libraries, or similar repositories.

          Another option is to search repositories for the papers of individuals who were children during the Great Depression which include materials from their childhood, especially diaries and letters. For example, William & Mary Libraries has in the possession quite a few diaries and journals, some of which were written by children during the time period you are researching.

          Additional leads can be found by searching the bibliographies of books about your research topic, such as Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman.


          We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

          1 person found this helpful
          • Re: Seeking Stories about Children during Depression
            Amanda Timby Newbie

            I'm not sure if you are still looking or if these would be anything you might be interested in but I have a few told from close relatives who lived in the Southern US, in particular rural Tennessee.  I believe I have photos of them as children during the Great Depression, which was a rare event especially in rural communities as I'm sure you know.  My grandmother writes about her and her siblings' Christmases, their rural small family house, her dad and oldest sister going to work for WPA, and their eventual move to a bigger town for work. My grandfather's stories are about their family leaving rural Mississippi for work in Tennessee, their daily lives, and the sacrifices made while his mother was a single mom raising 5 children during the depression. I'd be glad to share you are interested.