671 South Oakglen Avenue, Nipomo, CA 93444 dana@danaadobe.org 805.929.5679

The Great Depression

“Migrant Mother,” 1936 (Dorothea Lange, photographer). Library of Congress FSA/OWI Collection.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of the region’s history is that which was created by the photographer Dorothea Lange. The economic hardship of the Great Depression and the environmental catastrophe of the Dustbowl, caused by improper farming, affected coastal California unlike any other region. Thousands of immigrants made their way to the state looking for work in the fields. They followed the crops north and south as they were ready for harvest at different times in the various geographic regions. Many found themselves in Nipomo and Los Berros hoping to find work in the region’s pea fields. Unfortunately, weather was not on the side of the migrants when frost killed the pea crop each year throughout the 1930s. Without an income, many of these immigrants were left stranded, some of which reportedly rented rooms within the Dana Adobe. Dorothea Lange captured these migrants on film and brought attention to the need for government intervention to help them. She unintentionally gave a face to an entire generation of people. Today, Lange’s “Migrant Mother” appears in most United States History textbooks as an example of the struggles society faced during the Depression. It is a photograph that captured a moment when collective action from citizens around the nation helped a group of 2,000 destitute migrant farm workers, and when government began to play a larger role in the lives of the everyday American.

Working through the hardships of the Great Depression, the Post-War era saw a period of normalcy for the Nipomo area. The nation’s economy gradually improved and this allowed an influx of new residents to the area. More houses were built for the new residents, and local organizations and businesses were formed. At first glance, it appears that the post-war era saw population booms and enormous change. However, regardless of the level of advancement the local population always maintains ties with its rancho style past that began with the Dana Family.

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