I hope it’s okay if I kind of piggyback on my MPSIMS thread about the Great Depression.
When I was in the eighth grade, my history text had a section on the 1920s and the rise of the stock market. It was a time of great prosperity, except, the book said offhandedly, for farmers in the Pacific Northwest. That’s right, I thought. In Emily’s Runaway Imagination, the one of Beverly Cleary’s books that drew heavily on her childhood in BFE Oregon in the '20s, it was Hard Times[sup]TM[/sup]. But the textbook didn’t say why it was hard times; it just said the fact of it. And to this day, I’ve rarely heard another mention of this, and never an explanation.
So what was the reason? Drought? Overfarming the land? Farmers getting screwed by the banks? One person I asked said the lumber industry was hit hard when more buildings started being made with brick and stone. But that’s lumber, and the textbook specifically said farmers. So does anyone know?
The early 1920s were also very bad for coal mining, so Appalachia was in dire straits. There was a big boom in coal demand for WW I warships and factories, so after the war there was a tremendous amount of overcapacity. It was the worst possible time to attempt unionization but they did anyway and the attempt not only failed, it was put down violently.
To toadspittle’s quote, this was an era when transportation was slow and expensive, and the Northwest was a long way from anywhere. (Remember, Portland is almost twice as far from San Francisco as LA is.)
With industry so concentrated east of the Mississippi, and producing and shipping such huge volumes of stuff, it had always made more sense to ship cross-country than to do any manufacturing in the west.
This changed only during WW2, when aircraft and ships began to be built in serious numbers on the west coast. It changed again when interstate highways became a reality. But by and large, the Northwest was always dependent on its own natural resources and the demand for them.
On a wider scale, there was a recession that affected U.S. mining and coinage in about 1922, and several European coutnries were impacted by a post-war recession at bout the same time. (I don’t have a quick cite for either of these – I remember reading about the mining/coinage thing when involved in coin collecting 40 years back, and couldn’t find a quick economic history online to support memories of Modern European History – maybe someone with better references can document and/or correct them.)