AR Between the Wars Infographic

By Jace Palmer

Post War AR

Once World War 1 was concluded Americans began to establish hope in themselves and their country. Many economic improvements such as new advances in technology such as electricity, the telephone, the automobile, and other time-saving inventions had been accepted into many Arkansans lives.


People living in the 1920's nicknamed this time the Roaring Twenties because the economy seemed to be booming. Many people in the Roaring Twenties also began to become more and more bored with their everyday lives so they began to strive for something entertaining to them. Many Arkansans found their entertainment by listening to nightly radio programs such as the popular comedy show called "Lum and Abner" while others found their entertainment through sports such as baseball. The Little Rock Travelers were Arkansas only MLB team that they have ever had.

The Little Rock Travelers

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Oil and Boom Towns

  • The booming economy of the Roaring Twenties encouraged a group of people called "wildcatters" to launch a search throughout the United States for large underground oil reserves. The first big oil discovery in AR was near El Dorado in the Union County by the oil speculator Samuel T. Busey.
  • Once word got out about the oil discovery in El Dorado many people rushed to the town hoping to strike it rich drilling the "black gold" known as oil. A few miles from El Dorado oil was discovered again under a small town called Smackover, in less than a year the town from 131 residents to a lively 25,000.

Tenants, Sharecropping, and Growing Violence

  • Tenant Farmers were poor white people who paid landowners a share of their crop as rent for a piece of land and tenant farmers were different from sharecroppers due to tenant farmers had their own animals and owned their own supplies.
  • Sharecroppers on the other hand were more often poor blacks who did the same amount of work as tenants but did not earn the same amount as tenants due to their skin color.
  • Violence began to grow in Arkansas tremendously due to the Ku Klux Klan "KKK" and many white protesters who believed that blacks and people of other races and religions should be hurt or sometimes even killed.

The Flood of 1927

Despite promises that new levees would be built along the Missouri River to prevent flooding the area soon experienced one of the worst floods in our nations history. The flood broke levees and devastated people's lives, animals, and property in the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Of all the states hit by the flood, Arkansas was the state who received the most impact. The flood was so bad that many counties in Arkansas were covered in over 30 feet of water.

Growing Education and Roads

As the 1920's came to a close, Arkansans had many needs but few financial resources available. The state's education system also struggled to improve without much financial help and rural schools were the further trouble and some of the teachers weren't even high school graduates! Besides school Arkansas also faced problems building modern roads due to none of the government readers having a very good plan for building the road systems. Instead, counties had their own road improvement districts responsible for funding and constructing modern roads within their boundaries. Years later, Governor John E. Martineau assumed the county road building debts and got approval to create a road-building plan for the state. After this Arkansas's debt totaled more than $100 million.

The Great Depression

Scholars today still disagree with what led the United States into a huge economic crisis such as The Great Depression that was brung upon by the stock market crash that happened in 1929. Frightened people tried to withdraw their life savings from banks. Companies closed because they couldn't pay their workers. Thousands of people without jobs had no money to buy food or pay rent and people's lives began to grow more and more difficult. Just when no one thought the times could get any worse a huge drought hit Arkansas and dried up all of the crops and farms that were left.

The New Deal

Before Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president he promised the nation that he would help everyone in need. Once he was elected him, Roosevelt introduced a plan called the "New Deal". The goal of the plan was to create specific agencies and government programs to help feed those without food, provide work for the jobless, and build a healthy economy. Many of these programs brought hope, jobs, and relief to people in Arkansas and across the nation. One of these "agencies" was known as The Federal Emergency Relief Administration which was created to help provide food and shelter for the neediest people.


Bonnie and Clyde were raised by poor families Texas and by the time they met in their early 20's Clyde was already wanted by the law for robbing stores and banks. The Barker-Karpis Gang was another violent group causing problems in Arkansas were known for committing brutal crimes such as murder and kidnapping and were later either gunned down or captured by the law. Organized crime also found a haven in Hot Springs during the depression era. Gangsters like Al Capone stayed at the Arlington Hotel and gambled throughout the city and for more than 20 years, gangs and members of crime families felt welcome in Hot Springs.