Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Letters to a President: How to Navigate the Growing Concerns of the Great Depression?
Josh Lefeber
US History
Time Frame:
2 class periods
Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:


  • Students will be tasked with analyzing correspondence to President Hoover during the Great Depression. Students will use the CLOSE reading strategy to analyze the articles provided below. As students read the primary sources, they need to recognize the problems facing America and determine if their is any evidence from the letters stating how people writing Hoover think he should address their needs. While reading, students will also take notes about each letter to share with the class through Google Docs. Once the students are finished, we will discuss the letters as a class and preview what Hoover might do to help fix the economy and help the American citizens. (This lesson will come directly after our focus on the stock market crashing and the reasons behind the crash.)




  • Students will be tasked with analyzing primary sources from the Great Depression in order to understand the pressure and weight President Hoover faced from outside the White House to fix the Great Depression. This activity allows the students to use primary source documents, while using the CLOSE reading strategy to interpret the pressures of the Presidency during the Great Depression on President Hoover.


District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


  • T1S4A - Using a United States’ historical lens, analyze the opportunity costs and benefits of economic decisions on society as a whole as well as on individuals post c. 1870.

  • T1S1A - Trace the significant events and developments of the Great Depression and WWII.

  • T4S4A - Apply the economic concepts of innovation, supply and demand, barriers to trade, labor, business cycle, credit, and wage gap to explain the causes of the Great Depression.

  • T4S1B - Evaluate the responses of American leaders to the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II.


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:


  • The American Vision (Textbook if needed for background information)


Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:



Full description of activity or assignment.


  • At the beginning of the lesson, we will hold a short discussion about the previous day’s material that covered the reasons why the stock market crashed.


  • Students will then be placed into pairs.


  • Students will then be introduced into to the five letters sent to President Hoover. The students will be informed to highlight and define any words they do not know, circle the important message from the letter, and paraphrase the letter to Hoover in a few sentences.


  • After students have utilized the CLOSE reading strategy on the letters, the class will hold a discussion over the letter. Students will need to highlight the issues facing America and what solutions the writers offer President Hoover.


  • After reading the letters, paraphrasing, and compiling the problems and solutions offers, students must create a set of solutions to help President Hoover remedy the Great Depression.


  • As a class, we will then compile a list of solutions to present to President Hoover based on the letters provided if we were his advisors from 1929-1932.


  • At the end of the lesson, students will hand in or “share” through Google Docs their paraphrased letters along with their solutions to President Hoover.


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:


Name/s:________________________________________ (25pts)


Letters to President Hoover (CLOSE Reading)


Rep. S.A. Kendall to President Hoover

         Problem: 0 1 2      /      Solution: 0 1 2

John Beemster to President Hoover

         Problem: 0 1 2      /      Solution: 0 1 2

Frederick Finkle to President Hoover

         Problem: 0 1 2      /      Solution: 0 1 2

Arthur Smith to President Hoover

         Problem: 0 1 2      /      Solution: 0 1 2

Senator Daniel Hastings to President Hoover

         Problem: 0 1 2      /      Solution: 0 1 2

Solutions offered to President Hoover

         Solutions:      0      1      2      3      4      5