History ETDs

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This Thesis analyzes the impact of the Nineteen Thirties on New Mexico's economy and society with particular emphasis on changes in politics and state government occasioned by the Great Depression and the New Deal. After a background of New Mexico from 1912 to 1930, the old style of politics is closely examined. Governor Richard Dillon's administration (1926-1930) is selected as characteristic of the pre-Depression brand of public service. Politics, the roles of Governor and Legislature, and five state bureaus are all described in detail. These areas are then traced through 1938 and the assertion is made that they experienced two responses to depression. The first was a period of confusion, panic, mounting dislocations, and government retrenchment, called the "Interim" and presided over by Governor Arthur Seligman (1931-1933). The second was, of course, the New Deal with its two distinct periods.

Conclusions about the New Deal's impact are various. Because of the toughness of New Mexico's society, which was characterized by ethnic struggles, substantial illiteracy, and agrarian poverty, social improvement was minimal. Likewise, the state's colonial economy was not as shattered as were some industrial states', but her economic dependence and exploitation remained unchanged. Few reforms took place which would either regulate private enterprise or increase wealth through economic diversification. The practice of politics, however, changed significantly as citizens demanded a larger, more effective government. The Barons of New Mexico, wealthy conservatives who had dominated public life since territorial days, gave way to "Big Government" men such as Clyde Tingley and Senator Bronson Cutting. This new breed used the public authority directly to aid large numbers of dispossessed citizens. Cutting in particular was radical in his attacks on monied interests and discrimi­nation against the state's chicanes. Through massive Federal grants, New Mexico's government organized countless welfare, public works, rehabilitation, and emergency projects which mobilized immediate support for the Democratic Party.

Although the New Deal did insure that New Mexico would never again be vulnerable to the same dislocations, it did little to anticipate new ones. Reforms on the state level were political and economic attempts for the public authority to overtake developments in technology and productivity in society.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Gerald David Nash

Second Committee Member

Richard Nathaniel Ellis

Third Committee Member

Ferenc Morton Szasz



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