Minnesota During the Great Depression

Personal Accounts

Girl with doll in crib, nursery school at Nett LakeMany personal papers, letters, and oral histories in the Minnesota Historical Society collections describe life during the Great Depression. Collections with such mentions include: 

Carl Warmington Papers, 1924-1992
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid

I Remember the Great Depression: Been There, Did That, by Eugene Williams
MNHS call number: S417 .W64 A3 2010

Growing Up Blue Collar in St. Paul, by Robert J. Wilkins
MNHS call number: F605.1 .W5396 A3 2010

Little by Little, or, How I Won the War: A Memoir of Minneapolis During the Great Depression, by Curt Johnson
MNHS call number: PS3560 .O3743 Z47 2004

The Spring of My Life: A Memoir Growing Up in a Small Town in Central Minnesota During The Great Depression Years 1923-1941, by B.J. Rolfzen
MNHS call number: F605.1.R75 A3 2004

Depression Days in the Thirties, by Carl Warmington
MNHS call number: F613.M3 W37 1985

Crossing the Bridge: Growing up Norwegian-American in Depression & War, 1925-1946, by Earl A. Reitan
MNHS call number: E184 .S22 R25 1999

Michael T. Sanchelli Reminiscences, 1991-1993
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Oral History Interviews of the Minnesota Artist Projects Through the Depression Years
This project includes fifteen interviews from 1970s and 1980s of Minnesota artists active during the Great Depression as well as one local historian. Topics discussed generally revolve around federally funded art projects, the artistic community in Minnesota, art education, and economic influences on art during the 1930s with a focus on experiences in Minnesota.
MNHS call number: Transcripts and Digital Audio

Minnesota's Greatest Generation Oral History Project
Interviews chronicling the lives of Minnesota men and women through the World War II years. May interviewees speak to their experiences in the Great Depression. 

Work Relief Programs

Minnesota Executive Council, WPA and Relief Project Files, [193-]-[195-]
Files on a variety of work relief, disaster relief, and conservation projects financed by the Executive Council, many with Works Progress Administration funds.
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid

Works Progress Administration Collection
The Works Progress Administration papers collection includes information related to the history of Minnesota collected and prepared under the auspices of the Federal Writers' Project, administrative files, and a photo and negative collection containing numerous views of WPA projects around the state of Minnesota.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Papers 
Large collection of local Minnesota CCC periodicals, organized by individual camp. For more information on the papers included in each camp's collection, consult The Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Newspapers: A Guide, located in the Hubbs microfilm room at: Z6951 .C465 1991. 
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Microfiche 1078, Microfilm 2015).

Minnesota Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, Corporate records, undated and 1935-1936
Records of the Minnesota Rural Rehabilitation Corporation which was organized to provide funds to farmers during the 1930s depression. This collection includes the certificate of incorporation (February 20, 1935), bylaws (undated), a list of names of the board of directors and officers (undated), and meeting minutes (July 20, 1935-July 23, 1936). The minutes are detailed, containing information on routine financial matters; discussion of various projects undertaken by the corporation; and relations with federal farm relief agencies
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P2507).

Politics & Labor

Records of Governors Floyd B. Olson, Hjalmar Petersen, and Elmer A. Benson, 1932-1938
General correspondence, subject matter files, state department files, federal department files, and organization files documenting the gubernatorial service of Olson (1931-1936), Petersen (1936-1937), and Benson (1937-1939). Many of these files discuss economic conditions and programs for Minnesotans. 
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid

Farmer-Labor Association of Minnesota Records, 1918-1948
Proceedings of conventions, minutes of meetings, speeches, and correspondence of this political association. There is information on patronage, tax reform, collective bargaining, strikes, the labor movement, political conventions and campaigns, and Minnesota political figures, including Victor E. Lawson, Ernest Lundeen, William Mahoney, Floyd B. Olson, and Harold Stassen.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P337)

Ray P. Chase Papers, 1897-1944
Correspondence, notes, reports, news releases, and other materials from the former state auditor, U.S. Congressman, and Republican political researcher. Includes materials related to accusations against the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party, as well as information on state and federal relief programs during the Great Depression.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P746)

Floyd B. Olson Papers, 1923-1974
Correspondence, speeches, campaign literature and other materials chiefly from 1930-1936, when Olson served as governor of Minnesota. Includes information on the Farmer-Laborer party, Citizens Alliance, agriculture, unions, and a controversy with Senator Anton J. Rockne regarding state relief for the unemployed. 
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library ("Olson, Floyd B.")

Elmer A. Benson Papers, 1931-1963, 1973-1978
Correspondence, clippings, speeches, and other materials relating to Benson's career as a Farmer-Labor Party leader, commissioner of banking, U.S. senator, and governor of Minnesota. Topics vary, but many materials reflect Benson's support of New Deal policies and illustrate factionalism in the Farmer-Laborer party during that time. 
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P400)

Truckers' Strike of 1934
Library research guide detailing MNHS materials related to the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike

Farmer-Labor Movement
Library research guide detailing MNHS materials related to the Farmer-Labor party.

Charles H. Janssen Papers, 1933-1960
Papers of a St. Paul grocery trade association leader and New Deal-era official. Includes business correspondence and other miscellaneous papers. There is information about food and grocery industry trade associations, the federal agencies of which Janssen was an official, the regulation of competition in the retail food and grocery trades (1934-1935), and food and grocery rationing (1943-1944). Information about the margarine industry focuses on the promotion of margarine, tax issues, legislation, and production (1941). Correspondents include grocery industry executives and officials of trade associations and federal agencies.
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid


Our sources related to Minnesota during the Great Depression are organized by topic and material type. Browse or select an area that interests you. For even more resources, be sure to search our library catalog.

Personal Accounts

Government Records & Work Relief Programs

Politics & Labor

Video Tutorial

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