The 1930s: The Not-So-Great Depression


The Great Depression, FDR, the rise of Hitler and jazz. Also, my grandma was born in the thirties and she was pretty much the most awesome person ever, so there’s that.


The failed experiment that was Prohibition finally ended in 1933 and people could sell beer and liquor without fear.

Often times during periods of sadness great music is made and that certainly was no exception in the 1930s. What I wouldn’t give to sit down and listen to Robert Johnson play all day long on a hot summer day.

Fashion was still pretty conservative, with men typically wearing suits and ties and women wearing dresses. Most people wore hats. Outside of the darkest clubs, most people wore relatively similar clothing.

Cars in the 1930s were improved drastically from the vehicles of the Roaring Twenties. New types of engines were invented and tires were greatly improved as well. Car manufacturers focused a great deal of attention on new safety improvements.

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Toys would be considered quite basic by today’s standards because, for the most part, toys in the 1930s did not utilize electricity. There were some electric train sets, but most kids had stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls, or — if they were really lucky — a Buck Rogers ray gun!


1930s News Headlines

  • King Kullen, the first supermarket in the United States, opens on August 4, 1930.
  • Bette Davis won an Academy Award in 1934 for her portayal of Joyce Heath in the movie Dangerous.
  • Campbell’s Soup starts using the phrase “Mmm mm good” to describe its products.
  • In 1935, The Delaware company uses a thermal interrupter to invent turn signals for cars.
  • On March 1, 1936, the Hoover Dam architectural landmark was completed.
  • In 1936, Jesse Owens angered Adolf Hitler at the German-hosted Olympics by winning an unprecedented 4 gold medals.
  • In 1936, Joe Louis pounded the big German, Max Schmeling, to retain the heavyweight boxing title.
  • Wheaties was declared “The Breakfast of Champions” in the 1930s.
  • Volkswagen starts producing the Beetle in Germany in 1938.
  • Lou Gehrig gave an impassioned speech to over 62,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, saying: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
  • Future utopia novel Brave New World was written by Aldous Huxley.
  • Kristallnacht: The name of Hitler’s order to Nazis to commit acts of violence against German Jews.
  • James Cagney stars as Rocky Sullivan in the classic 1938 film, Angels With Dirty Faces.
  • On April 20, 1939, Commercial TV made its debut.
  • Judy Garland made history singing about a rainbow on a farm in Kansas.
  • World War II begins in Europe in 1939 when Germany invades Poland.

1930s Quick Facts

1930s Collage by Paul Phipps
1930: Hostess Twinkies, Snickers and Wonder sliced bread introduced.

1931: The British free Gandhi and agree to discuss his demands.

1932: In response to the depression, Hoover reduces his salary by 20% and asks the Vice President and cabinet to the same.

1933: Jack Benny becomes a radio sensation as a perpetual 39-year-old miser who owns an old Maxwell and keeps his money in a basement vault.

1934: John Dillinger is killed by federal agents after seeing Manhattan Melody at the Biograph Theatre in Chicago.

1935: The rhumba becomes the latest dance craze.

1936: A Fortune poll indicates that 2 out of every 3 women use some form of birth control.

1937: John D. Rockefeller dies at age 98, leaving an estate worth nearly $1 billion.

1938: The Jefferson nickel goes into circulation.

1939: College fads include knock-knock jokes, roller skating and Chinese Checkers.

In-Depth 1930s Profiles

Duke Ellington

1930s Music: What Songs Were Most Popular? »

1930s music was based around the live performance. Classical, big band and jazz all enjoyed airplay. Every house had a radio and music was king.

1930s Movies: What Did People Watch? »

The 1930s saw the release of two of the most important and amazing films of all-time: The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind.
Joe Louis 1930s

1930s Sports: History, Facts, MVPs & Champions »

Sports in the 1930s was still as exciting as ever, with many records getting smashed. We also saw two extremely talented Joes: Joe Louis and Joe DiMaggio.
1930s Fashion

1930s Fashion: What Did People Wear? »

1930s fashion ranged from homemade to pure glamour. Research 1930s clothing styles, trends & history with our year-by-year timeline & 50+ pictures.
1930s Cars

1930s Cars: What Did People Drive? »

In the 1930s, cars became more powerful and luxurious than ever before. Learn more about the history of 1930s cars & browse over 150 pictures.
Marx G-Man Tommy Gun

1930s Toys: What Did Kids Play With? »

In the 1930s, toys like dolls and die cast cars were very popular. Boys were bought toy guns. Girls were given dollhouses. Board games were booming.

Unique 1930s Pictures


1930s Statistics


U.S. Population: 123,188,000
– Urban/rural: 69/54
– Farm: 24.9%
Life Expectancy: Male (58.1), Female (61.6)
Births per 1,000: 21.3
Marriages per 1,000: 9.2
Divorces per 1,000: 1.6
Deaths per 1,000: 11.3
Deaths per 100,000:
– Heart: 414
– Cancer: 97
– Tuberculosis: 71
– Car accidents: 26.7


Unemployed: 4,340,000
GNP: $90.4 billion
Federal budget: $5.46 billion
National debt: $16.9 billion
Union membership: 3.6 million
Strikes: 637
Prime rate: 3.6%
Car sales: 2,787,400
Average salary: $1,368


Homicides per 100,000: 8.8
Suicides per 100,000: 15.6
Labor force male/female ratio: 3.7/1
Social welfare: $4.09 billion
Public education: $2.32 billion
College Degrees
– Bachelors: Male (73,600), Female (48,800)
– Doctorates: Male (1,946), Female (353)
– Movies (weekly): 90 million
– Baseball (annually): 10.2 million


Consumer Price Index (if 1967 = 100): 50
Eggs: 44 cents per dozen
Milk: 14 cents per quart
Bread: 9 cents per loaf
Butter: 46 cents per pound
Bacon: 42 cents per pound
Round steak: 42 cents per pound
Oranges: 57 cents per dozen
Coffee: 39 cents per pound

Play the 1930s Trivia Game

Play the 1930s Trivia Game


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