The period from 1890 to 1920 was considered the “Golden Age” for Fort Dodge and Webster County. The city experienced amazing growth. It was during this period that the economic and social foundation of the city was built which impacted the future of Fort Dodge for the next several decades. Fort Dodge’s growth even continued through World War I, but the period of big growth began to slow down by 1920. Fort Dodge’s population in 1920 was 19,350. A decade later, the population had grown close to 22,000.
When the First World War ended in 1918. Fort Dodgers cheered home the soldiers who had fought in Europe to defeat Germany. Most people hoped that there would be a time with few problems, but that did not happen. The war brought changes that negatively impacted agriculture after the fighting had ended. A three decade period of sustained economic growth in agriculture ended and the farm crisis of 1920 began. During the war farmers had worked hard to produce more corn and livestock to feed the American soldiers our European allies. When the war ended, farms in Europe began to produce food again and the need for American food declined significantly. Soon there was more corn, cattle, and hogs than people wanted to buy. The prices for farm products fell and farm income dropped dramatically. Many farmers had borrowed money from banks to buy new tractors and farm equipment. Some had bought more land. When prices fell, many farmers could not repay their loans to the banks. Without those repayments, the banks could not continue. In the early 1920s many banks in small Iowa towns had to close. People who had savings accounts in those banks lost the money they had invested.
Ironically, economic prosperity in the cities continued in the 1920s which sustained the growth of the middle class. , the Iowa farming community soon saw wartime farm subsidies eliminated. Beginning in 1920, many farmers had difficulty making the payment for debts they had incurred during the war. The 1920s were a time of hardship for Iowa's farm families and for many families, these hardships carried over into the 1930s.
Fort Dodge Economy
Due to the farm crisis In the 1920’s, the Iowa and Fort Dodge economy was a “mixed bag.” While the farmers and their families were really struggling to survive, business and industry in Fort Dodge was holding its own. In the 1920s, the cities were much better off than the rural farming areas. Reduced opportunities on the farm led many to look for a better life in the towns and cities of Iowa including Fort Dodge. Many of the younger farmers moved to the city to work in the burgeoning factories. The more lucrative prospects of the city were also luring the best of the younger generations away, as those with the drive and ambition to succeed were taking their talents into urban professions. In Fort Dodge, mining and factories were holding their own, despite an agricultural recession. In the 1920’s, local retail and service businesses continued to experience sustained growth. Locally, the 1920s was a period of relative prosperity but also one of slow growth ending with the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The growing sector of the population that lived and worked in Fort Dodge became involved in businesses in town, arranged their finances through local banks, enjoyed entertainment locally, and were eager to see physical improvements come to the city and their homes.
Many people remember the 1920s as a time of great change. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929, and this economic growth swept many Americans into an affluent but unfamiliar “consumer society.” Many middle-class Americans saw rising earnings which generated more disposable income for the purchase of consumer goods such as ready-to-wear clothes, furniture and home appliances like electric refrigerators. In particular, they bought radios. The first commercial radio station in the U.S., Pittsburgh’s KDKA, hit the airwaves in 1920; three years later there were more than 500 stations in the nation. By the end of the 1920s, there were radios in more than 12 million homes. During this period, newspapers expanded exponentially and with the growth of radio stations, the means for wide-spread advertising for all kinds of consumer products flourished.
The 1920s was also an age of dramatic social and political change. For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. Cultural change was transforming communities. Women got the right to vote and enjoyed more freedom socially and politically. Jazz music became popular. Entertainment venues began to flourish. The rapidly growing automobile industry led by Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company produced new and better models every year to supply the insatiable public demand. Increased wages and lower cost vehicles, made possible through mass production, meant that cars became increasingly affordable. In 1905, there were 1,000 automobiles in Iowa. By 1920, this number had increased to over 150,000 automobiles which equated to one vehicle for every 3.5 people in Iowa. Automobiles gave everyone more mobility and opportunities to travel and go where and when they wanted. The popular streetcar service in Fort Dodge was discontinued in 1926 due to the growth of the automobile.
In the 1920’s many Fort Dodgers became enthralled with air flight and in 1932, Ray Eno purchased 200 acres of land on the south side of the 5th Avenue South in east Fort Dodge (across from East Lawn Cemetery) and built two large hangers. This new airport served Fort Dodge for 24 years until the new regional airport north of Fort Dodge was opened.
The 1920’s brought a rapidly changing economy and culture in the Midwest including Iowa, but not everyone was happy about these changes. Farm families were experiencing a devastating financial crisis and immigrants, unable to speak English, continued to flood to Iowa communities. All of this created anxiety and resentment by some that led to the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan gained strength after the First World War, drawing from white Protestants in small towns and cities. The Klan appealed to people who believed their beliefs were superior to the beliefs of immigrants, Catholics, Jews or “colored people.” The Klan supported what they called “clean living” and attacked “dope, bootlegging, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex, marital 'goings-on,' and scandalous behavior. One of the KKK movements was called the Invisible Empire and members called themselves the "Defenders of Americanism," and denounced Catholics, Jews, blacks, and fought against immigration and integration of other nationalities into Iowa. As a group that was supposedly defending all things American, they were against anything or anyone they could label “un-American.” Fortunately, newspapers in Fort Dodge and Webster County recorded very little KKK activity in Fort Dodge and Webster County, even though there was significant KKK activity and disruption in northwest Iowa counties and other cities and counties in Iowa.
The “Mineral City” of Fort Dodge that was flourishing for thirty years since 1890 and continued to remain strong during the 1920’s. Coal was an import resource as it fueled the railroads, heated businesses and homes and powered steam engines. The Fort Dodge-Webster County area was plush with coal reserves, had numerous coal mines and employed many miners. The second largest industry in Fort Dodge in the 1920’s was the clay products industry. At one time, five plants produced brick, sewer pipe and drainage tile. Clay products from Fort Dodge were used to build many of the towns in Iowa, as well as Minnesota and the Dakotas. Locally produced drainage tile helped drain the extensive wetlands of north central Iowa making available the world’s best soil for agriculture. One of the largest plants was the Vincent Clay Products plant south of Fort Dodge. Other significant plants in Fort Dodge were located in southeast and west sides of Fort Dodge.
The gypsum industry was also a huge part of the Fort Dodge/Webster County economy. Over the years, there were 29 different gypsum companies around Fort Dodge. The gypsum mills began operating in the early 1900’s. By then most of the gypsum production was going into plaster for walls, something that was invented in Fort Dodge by George Ringland. In the 1920s, five mills were producing over one half million tons of plaster products annually.
An often overlooked resource of the area was limestone. It was used infrequently in early years, except as building foundations, and it was not until the 1920s, when Iowa began paving its roads, that limestone mining became a strong, viable business.
By far the most important of the Fort Dodge mills was the Heath Mill, located at the west end of Central Avenue. The mill opened around 1892, and by the 1920’s, it was producing 4,000 barrels of flour or oatmeal a week and having world markets. It was the largest oatmeal mill in the world. It was later purchased by Quaker Oats.
The west end of Central Avenue, along the Des Moines River was the primary industrial area for Fort Dodge. The area was the home of the Tobin Packing Company plant, the city water plant, Standard Oil Company, Quaker Oats Mill, and Loomis Produce. The Tobin Packing Company was a major Fort Dodge employer, especially during the 1930’s and the Depression. In the 1954, the plant was acquired by George A. Hormel and Company, which continued to operate the plant until the mid-1980s. It was the city’s largest and highest-paying employer.
The Fort Dodge Serum Company was organized in the early part of the century to develop and produce a serum to prevent hog cholera. During the 1920’s and beyond, it continued to grow and became one of the mainstays of the Fort Dodge economy and one of the world’s largest producers of animal pharmaceuticals. It later became known as Fort Dodge Laboratories and then Fort Dodge Animal Health.
Since the beginning of the Fort Dodge community when William Williams opened a sutler store affiliated with the Fort, retail stores were a key part of the growing Fort Dodge economy. In the two decades from 1920 to 1940, most of the retail stores were locally owned. From little ma and pa grocery stores, to shoe stores, clothing stores and beyond, retail stores were the lifeblood of the growing Fort Dodge community. Most of these store were located in downtown Fort Dodge. By 1930, there were 80 grocery stores spread throughout the neighborhoods in Fort Dodge.
At the end of World War I, larger stores and even department stores began making their appearance in Fort Dodge. One of the longtime anchors of downtown was Gates Dry Goods. The company began operations in Fort Dodge in 1882 and acquired the Berryhill Building in 1929. It soon expanded to take over the adjacent properties at 714-720 Central Avenue. The Boston Store was another department store that anchored downtown Fort Dodge for decades.
There were several blacksmith shops downtown. Blacksmiths worked on a wide-range of farm tools and other devises. A blacksmith was often a jack-of-all-trades, frequently working on anything mechanical. In the 1920’s with the growth of the automobile, many of the blacksmiths became mechanical and would repair cars and trucks in Fort Dodge.
With a growing population and economy and the use of automobiles in Fort Dodge, the need for paved roads and for electrical utilities and infrastructure for lighting and heat grew exponentially. The demand for paved roads spurred the limestone industry in Fort Dodge. Limestone was a popular mineral used in paving roads across Iowa and the Midwest. It was in 1924 that the Fort Dodge Gas and Electric Company completed a new large, modern building along the Des Moines River using water to run the steam turbines. The energy produced was used to power the growing manufacturing companies and large retail buildings in Fort Dodge.
With a very large population of miners, Fort Dodge developed a reputation of being a “rough and tumble,” wide-open town when it came to vices. Saloons were a common part of local life. In 1908, the town sported 15 taverns. During the Prohibition era (1920–1933), the sale, manufacture, and transportation (bootlegging) of alcoholic beverages was illegal throughout the United States. Crime and violence increased during the 1920s. In Iowa, bootleggers (people who illegally made and sold alcohol) created profitable businesses. They had easy access to a key ingredient for the manufacture of alcohol—corn. And many Iowa bootleggers set up their businesses in rural areas, away from law officials. Illegal whiskey was made on farms in northwest Iowa near the small town of Templeton. The reddish colored "Templeton rye" was popular in speakeasies across the country from Chicago to Kansas City to New York City.
Some law officials worried that Des Moines and other Iowa cities might turn into "little Chicago’s." At the time, Al Capone, the notorious gangster from Chicago, controlled most alcohol distribution in the Midwestern states as well as gambling and prostitution operations. Capone’s network of liquor, gambling and prostitution was operating in Des Moines from 1928 through 1936 and many feared that it would spread throughout the state.
During this time, many Fort Dodge saloons were forced to close with alcohol being sold by bootleggers through an “underground” market. Some of them became speakeasies (illicit establishments that illegally sold alcoholic beverages). In Iowa, country bootleggers made liquor in caves, basements, wood lots, hog houses and barns. Stories of both gangsters and bootleggers often made the headlines in numerous Iowa newspapers. During the early Prohibition era, all of Iowa, including Fort Dodge, experienced significant increases in crime. Between 1920 and 1925 the state’s total rate of convictions almost doubled. Prohibition was once a very supportive law in Iowa, but by 1933, even the “Bible Belt” of Iowa had remarkably voted to repeal Prohibition. After Prohibition had ended, the speakeasies and bootlegging activities largely disappeared.
During the period of time, Fort Dodge was also known for its restaurants. By 1930, the city directory listed 39 restaurants offering a wide variety of food that often reflected Fort Dodge’s ethnic diversity. All of the restaurants started small and were family owned. By offering good food and service, many grew significantly and even became destination restaurants for people as far as sixty miles away. The most legendary of all the Fort Dodge restaurants was Treloar’s. L. D. Treloar, who first came to Fort Dodge around 1920, ran a small hamburger place on Central Avenue and a sandwich wagon that traveled to county fairs. By 1932, L. D. Treloar opened a much larger restaurant at the north edge of town on Fifteenth Street and established a regional reputation for chicken and ribs.
The need for expanding healthcare services continued to grow with the growing Fort Dodge population. Immediately after World War I, the Lutheran denomination proposed the construction of a second hospital to be located on the west side of the river. Construction began in 1924, but financing failed and work ceased. It was not until 1930, assisted by a gift from O. M. Oleson, that construction resumed, and the building was dedicated in 1932. Even with the opening of Lutheran Hospital, Mercy Hospital was often short of clinical space as the services of the hospital became better known and understood. Each hospital dealt with issues of limited space for patient care.
The growth of Fort Dodge made the community an attractive place for physicians to establish successful medical practices. In March of 1916, it was announced that Dr. W. F. Carver would be constructing a two story building for office and store rooms on corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street. Jensen Construction Company was given the contract to build the two story building. The foundation was constructed to support seven stories, as Carver had the intention to add five more stories as soon as he saw a sufficient demand for more office rooms. The second floor of the building had 25 office rooms, five of which were used by Dr. Carver for his medical practice.
During the summer of 1921, work began on adding six additional stories onto the Carver Building. The project was completed with a formal announcement and opening in August of 1922. The new addition housed over 150 first-class and highly modernized office rooms and suites. The seven-story building became another Fort Dodge “skyscraper” structure that has been an iconic building on Central Avenue in downtown Fort Dodge for decades. The expanded building offered attractive space for the growing Fort Dodge Clinic which had seven physicians, a lab technician and a dentist. The Carver Building also officed ten other physicians and seven dentists.
Fort Dodge was originally settled by people who moved in from the northeastern part of the United States, generally several generations removed from Europe. After the Civil War, immigrants from Europe began arriving to the area. By the start of the 20th century, Fort Dodge was benefitting from the influx of immigrants to work in the coal and gypsum mines. By 1920, 30 percent of the local population was of foreign birth. Identifiable ethnic groups included Germans, Swedes, the Irish, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Mexicans, Greeks, Syrians and Jews.
Fort Dodge, historically, has been divided into neighborhoods with interesting names such as Bob Town, the Flats, Pleasant Valley, Round Prairie, and Swede Town. Some neighborhoods were identified with specific ethnic groups: Swedes in West Fort Dodge, Italians in East Fort Dodge, and Irish in the area around Corpus Christi Church. Other ethnic groups that lacked large numbers were less inclined to live in identifiable areas but still maintained close-knit social communities.
Swede Town, or west Fort Dodge, which was physically separated from the rest of Fort Dodge by the Des Moines River. It captured the small-town flavor of neighborhood. Swede Town maintained its ethnic identity until after World War II. About 90 percent of its population was Swedish, and the language was commonly used for three decades.
The Italians, of which many immigrated to Fort Dodge to work in the coal and gypsum mines and the brick and tile plants that were located in the south and east part of the town. The Italians settled in the southeast side of Fort Dodge. The Italian language was spoken in the Italian neighborhoods for decades and they continued to celebrate their Italian traditions in East Fort Dodge through the 1950’s. Once settled, many Italian families opened ups neighborhood grocery stores. Some of the familiar Italian grocers were Camamo, Segreto, Lorenzo, Mortillaro, Amato, Amanzio and Castagnoli.
Most of the local Jewish people arrived in Fort Dodge between 1905 and 1920. In 1920, the Jewish population exceeded 200. Over the years, over 600 different individuals have, at one time or another, identified with the Jewish community. Many were merchants and at one time, seven of the fifteen local clothing stores were Jewish owned. One of the most well know Jewish owned clothing stores was Diamonds located on the west end of Central Avenue.
With the population of Fort Dodge growing in the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was an influx of children of immigrants and children from the farms coming to Fort Dodge to attend school. During these two decades, Fort Dodge responded with additions to elementary buildings and building a new high school that opened in 1922. In 1931, a new junior high building was built on 5th Avenue South to meet the growing educational needs. In addition, Fort Dodge Junior College was started and began providing post-secondary education classes in 1921.
The era of the 1920’s and 1930’s saw a major increase in a wide range of entertainment for the people of Fort Dodge and Webster County. In the 1920s, Fort Dodge Exposition Park was the home of the Hawkeye Exposition, a large regional fair with livestock exhibits, agricultural shows, and promotion of farm products. The park and fair lasted only through the 1920s, closing with the economic downturn of the 1930s. The size of the park was enormous. The large Grandstand hosted events including air shows and horse and automobile racing featuring some of the nation’s best including the most recognizable race car driver, Eddie Rickenbacker, the famous World War I flying ace. The grandstand field also served as the first public golf course in the city.
In 1925, a Bintz above ground swimming pool was built on the Exposition Park grounds. A highly innovated design, the pool was only one of about a dozen nationwide. The owners made the pool segregated so only white children were allowed. In 1936, when the Exposition Park Company went bankrupt, the City acquired the pool and under the leadership of Ed Breen, the order was issued that discrimination would no longer be practiced. The pool was replaced with a new underground pool in the 1970s.
The first golf course in Fort Dodge was laid out in 1899, just northwest of town. It had 81 members. It later failed, but over the years, other courses were established around town: private courses south of Swede town, in southeast Fort Dodge near Oleson Park, a public course in Exposition Park in 1924, and today’s Fort Dodge Country Club. By 1930, there were four golf courses in the community.
Wrestling and boxing enjoyed great popularity in the first decade of the 20th century largely because of Frank Gotch, a world champion from Humboldt. In 1935, a ring located on the south side of the square, featured both professional and semiprofessional boxing and wrestling which provided a lot of community entertainment.
Between 1870 and the 1920s, many theaters served Fort Dodge and had been visited by hundreds of theatrical companies and entertainers who traveled the country. In many cases, the nation’s best, traveling by rail, found Fort Dodge a convenient stop between major theatrical venues. During this time, it was not unusual for three theaters to feature live entertainment on the same night. In 1910, the Princess Theatre, seating 900, was built as a vaudeville house. Later, it also featured motion pictures. It had its own house orchestra, and it attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment. Unfortunately, the Depression and the popularity of motion pictures killed many of the traveling shows, and the Princess Theatre closed in 1934.
Films really blossomed in the 1920s, and movies became big business. In the 1920’s, people loved going to the movies: Historians estimate that, by the end of the decade, three-quarters of the American population visited a movie theater every week. Movie theaters first appeared in Fort Dodge around 1905 and quickly achieved great popularity. The Magic Theater in 1908 reported offering three showings on a Saturday night with a total attendance of 1,000 and turning 200 away. Fort Dodgers, like the rest of the country, really enjoyed the silver screen. In 1924, total seating capacity for the four movie theaters exceeded 2,100. One of the most popular was the Rialto, 604 Central Ave, which opened around 1920 and closed in 1973.
The end of World War I marked an upswing across the country in ballrooms where people would gather to dance to the new music of the times. The Jazz Era was where they got their start and the 1930s and 40s were the highpoint of the ballroom era. Ballrooms, some elegant and some plain, could be found in the biggest cities or smallest rural areas. All shared a common denominator of music and dancing. The Fort Dodge Armory (later to become the Laramar) gradually became an entertainment center. As a dance hall, its fame was legendary in Iowa. The first dance was held in 1925. When the ‘Big Bands’ and singers were touring the country, as well as the territorial bands and other musical performers, one could find the best of them at the Armory or later at the Laramar. Such names as Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Glen Miller Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Skippy Anderson, Guy Deleo, Leo Piper, Benny Goodman, Kay Kaiser, The Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, Al Minke, Jan Gaber, Johnny Cash and others all performed at the Armory or the Laramar in Fort Dodge.
The first located radio station, KFJY, began broadcasting in the early 1920s in Fort Dodge, but the lack of many receivers made the venture unprofitable. It was not until Ed Breen’s KVFD began broadcasting on Christmas Eve 1939 that the area had a successful station. With a strong emphasis on live broadcasting, including musical performances at the station, it was immediately successful. One of the most popular of the local programs featured Mary Varguson, on the piano. Mary played at many local clubs and restaurants.
In 1920, the legendary Karl King came to Fort Dodge and became director of the Fort Dodge Municipal Band, a position he held for the next fifty years. He went on to become one of the nation’s leading composers of band music, best known for his “Barnum and Bailey’s Finest” march. King established the reputation of the Karl King Municipal Band as one of the nation’s finest. Not only did it play local concerts, but it also became the official band for the Iowa State Fair and frequently traveled around the United States.
The Depression and Its Impact
On October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday hit Wall Street as investors traded some 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. Billions of dollars were lost, wiping out thousands of investors. In the aftermath of Black Tuesday, America and the rest of the industrialized world spiraled downward into the Great Depression (1929-39), the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world up to that time.
In the 1920s, nearly half of all Americans lived on farms or in small towns. When agriculture suffered, rural Americans could no longer buy the products produced in urban factories, and factories began to close, further cutting down on Americans’ purchasing power. The stock market, which had seen record gains throughout the 1920s, took a sudden downturn in the fall of 1929, and a rapid downward economic slide created a dangerous situation. Herbert Hoover (from West Branch, Iowa) was president, and many people blamed him for not doing more to bolster the economy.
There was a near-desperate situation in rural Iowa. Record numbers of farms were sold on auction to pay taxes or debts, and farm families were losing their homes. Some radical groups of farmers threatened violence to those responsible for enforcing the laws.
Farmers struggled with low prices all through the 1920s, but after 1929 things began to be hard for city workers as well. After the stock market crash, many businesses started to close or to lay off workers. Many families did not have money to buy things, and consumer demand for manufactured goods fell off. Fewer families were buying new cars or household appliances. People learned to do without new clothing. Many families could not pay their rent. Some young men left home by jumping on railroad cars in search of any job they could find. Some wondered if the United States was heading for a revolution.
In 1932, Iowans broke with their Republican tradition and voted for Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt for President. Roosevelt appointed Iowan Henry A. Wallace to be Secretary of Agriculture. Wallace drafted a bill that promised farmers a guaranteed price for their crops and livestock if they would limit their production. It was the Agriculture Adjustment Act. Since surpluses were depressing prices, the bill’s goal was to reduce the surplus and let the market restore higher prices. While its impact on prices is under debate, the bill did pump much needed cash into rural economies and provided enough support to help farmers weather those very tough years. The weather also contributed its own help in reducing crops. Severe droughts with record heat severely cut Midwestern yields in the summers of 1934 and 1936. While their incomes were low, farm families could still produce much of their own food in home gardens, livestock, and flocks of chickens.
Families in Iowa cities like Fort Dodge also suffered and usually lacked the food sources of the farm. Iowa factories in manufacturing towns like Fort Dodge laid off workers and many shut down completely, throwing employees out of work. The unemployment rate had increased to an alarming 24.3 percent. At the time, going on welfare was seen as a disgrace, even when one had no responsibility for the loss of work. It took a psychological blow on self-esteem when a worker had to apply for government assistance and many resisted as long as they could.
The Depression had a lasting impact on those who lived through it. Jobs were hard to find. The government offered several work programs. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) hired men (and some women) to do public service jobs. The 1930s saw hard times for many American families. When WWII began, suddenly there was a demand for guns, tanks, uniforms, and everything else necessary to fight a war, the men and women to staff the army, and the food to feed them. Young men who couldn’t find work were drafted into military service and women picked up jobs on the home front with active encouragement by the Federal government.
During the decade of 1930, the Depression had the same effects on Fort Dodge and rural Webster County that it had on all communities across the nation, nevertheless, there were significant positive things that came out of the hard times. In 1931, a new Junior High Building was opened. In 1932, Lutheran Hospital was completed as was the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. In 1934, the Tobin Packing Company was establish in Fort Dodge giving much welcomed employment relief. In 1938, the Oleson Park Bandshell was dedicated, and in 1939, radio station KVFD went on the air. In 1940, the iconic Dodger Stadium was completed.
During the era from 1920 to 1940, many Fort Dodgers achieved lasting fame and made major contributions to local, state, and national life. These people include William S. Kenyon, U.S. Senator and Circuit Court of Appeals Justice, Karl King, noted composer of marches and band director, James F. Barton, adjutant general of the American Legion, Walter Howey, noted editor for the Hearst newspapers, Libbie Hyman, noted zoologist and winner of the prestigious Linneaus Gold Medal for contributions to life sciences, Adelaine Swain, women’s rights proponent, first woman to run for a state wide office in Iowa, Frank Russell, arctic explorer, Thomas Heggen, author of “Mister Roberts” which was made into a prize winning play and Lorenzo Coffin, philanthropist and humanitarian, noted for his work on railroad safety, prison reform, and agricultural issues.
From 1920 to 1940, the despite the Farm Crisis of 1920 and the Depression in 1930, the population of Fort Dodge continued to grow from 19,350 people in 1920 to 22,900 in 1940. This demonstrates the strength of the community and the resilience of the citizens of Fort Dodge.
Many believe that World War II was the event that ended the Great Depression. Millions of men joined the armed forces to serve in the military. Many women left their homes and went to work to fill the jobs left by their husbands who went to war. American industries converted their production capabilities to produce the necessary armaments and goods to support the war effort. This helped lower unemployment from 24 percent to ten percent. In addition, the farm economy rebounded dramatically because of the need to feed American soldiers and also the European population.
The decade following World War II is fondly remembered as a period of economic growth and cultural stability. America had won the war and defeated the forces of evil in the world. The hardships of the previous fifteen years of war and Depression were replaced by rising living standards, increased economic opportunity, and a newly emerging American culture confident of its future and place in the world. Low inflation and privatization led to a resurgence of large manufacturing corporations. By 1948, the unemployment rate was 4.0% and remained stable. The “Greatest Generation” came back from the war and started rebuilding America and the economy boomed.