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Mining the Motherlode
Wells & the Depression

Wells thrived while the rest of the world was hit hard by the Depression.

Wells resident during the Depression, lh2
Wells Resident's during the depression, lh2

The aftermath of the First World War caused tremendous inflation until it lifted in 1923. But while the mid 1920's was prosperous, it only lasted until the stock market crash of October 1929, which brought the beginnings of an economic downswing and financial disaster hit the world hard. "The value of exports from Canada went from a high of $1.3 billion in 1928 to a low of $0.5 billion in 1932".

By 1931, unemployment reached 28 percent in British Columbia, the highest in Canada. By early 1932, 1 in 4 employed Canadians became unemployed and by the next spring, one and a half million men and women were out of work. Humiliated and degraded, 1 in 5 Canadians became dependent upon government relief to survive.

Wells resident during the Depression, lh14
Wells Resident's during the depression, lh14

The Depression affected everyone, some more painfully than others. Unemployed Chinese were expected to survive on one-third of the assistance that was provided to unemployed white males of mining communities. From 1929 to 1933, Gross National Expenditure is estimated to have declined by 42 percent. Total government debt increased by a whopping 27 percent from 1930 to 1937. Since both prices and wages declined; the standard of living increased for those with property or jobs - as was the case for employed people in Wells.

Thereafter occurred a severe recession from 1937 until 1938. Credit became over-extended and too much production continued while demand decreased. The countries of the world limited imports and since exports were decreasing from everyone, no one benefited. Demand for Canadian products dropped dramatically, except the demand for gold.

A variety of phrases were used by Canadian authors to describe this era; "ten lost years, the dirty thirties, the bitter thirties, and the winter years". Forestry, construction, and transportation all suffered in British Columbia as demand decreased and businesses could not afford new developments. In contrast, gold mining was providing hope and salvation; money is always in demand.

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Last updated: September 8, 2000