Doing the Best They Could: National and Local Voices from the 30s

Each April, the Springfield-Greene County Library District hosts a family book discussion called the “Big Read”. In 2010, the theme was 1930s and the Great Depression. To support the reading material, they put together a Chautauqua event. The tradition of a Chautauqua dates back to the late 19th century. It is an educational event of lectures, concerts, or performances performed under a giant tent for the general public.

The goal of this Chautauqua was to explore the history, music, politics, religion, industry, and culture of the Depression era and compare it to the economic recession of 2008. The Chautauqua featured four local scholars who each portrayed a different figure from the Depression era. The characters included were Will Rogers, Henry Ford, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their performances shed light on the circumstances that led to the Great Depression and how Americans recovered from the worst economy in our nation’s history. Thanks to support from the Missouri Humanities Council, the Springfield-Greene County Library District created an event space for citizens to understand the Depression Era. Hopefully, by learning how our ancestors survived financial crisis, people had a better sense of how they too could overcome economic strife.