While most of the country struggled during the Great Depression, Tom Rowland said Winnebago County experienced some unique economic twists during the period.
Rowland, a history lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and history professor emeritus Werner Braatz recently published a snapshot of what Winnebago County looked like during the Depression years — a relevant topic considering the economic trouble the country faces today.
“The book looks at the full range of the economic experience, including the closing of industries, unemployment and how each jurisdiction dealt with debt relief,” Rowland said of “Decade of Despair: Winnebago County During the Great Depression, 1929-1939.”
Many counties were dealing with debt; however, others were almost immune to the Depression.
“Neenah and Menasha fared pretty well in comparison to the rest of Winnebago County because of the paper industry,” Rowland said. “Oshkosh suffered because the woodworking and homebuilding industry was shrinking.”
While the book contains startling statistics about the Depression struggles, Braatz and Rowland also interjected personal narratives and human interest stories into the book to expose a more personal side of the times.
And although the economy is struggling today, it is no comparison to the 1930s.
“The extent of unemployment then is just a giant step from what we are experiencing at the present time,” Rowland said.
Winnebago County slowly recovered from the depression and even managed to change for the better.
“In 1939, some of the more mechanical industries began to get contracts for World War II materials, such as Oshkosh Corporation and AxleTech,” Rowland said. “Because of these contracts Oshkosh became increasingly diversified in the wake of the Depression.”
“Decade of Despair” is available at Apple Blossom Books, 513 N. Main St., or at University Books & More in Reeve Memorial Union, 748 Algoma Blvd.