Breadlines in the 1930s

Historical content: 
The New Deal and World War II
Historical skills: 
Background knowledge, Contextualization, Corroboration
Common Core: 
#1 (Gr. 6-12)



Use the background information, your knowledge of history, and the photograph to answer the questions that follow.

Background Information: During the Great Depression, many Americans found themselves unemployed and impoverished. Some private organizations began to offer free bread, resulting in long breadlines like the one pictured here.


Title: "Breadline at McCauley Water Street Mission under Brooklyn Bridge, New York."
Photographer: Unknown
Date: c. 1930-1934

Question 1: How is the establishment of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) connected to the social conditions depicted in the photograph?

Question 2: How is the Wall Street Crash of 1929 connected to the social conditions depicted in the photograph?

About the Assessment

Like Connections to the Philippine-American War, this assessment gauges students' knowledge of the past.  Rather than measure whether students can simply recall decontextualized facts, this assessment requires students to make connections across time and construct an argument about how events are connected. Students with a strong sense of the past will be able to explain that the WPA was established as a federal response to unemployed Americans like those in the photograph.  Strong students will also explain that the Wall Street Crash of 1929 precipitated the high unemployment rates in the '30s, increasing the number of patrons at breadlines and soup kitchens.