Culture of the 1930s

 
migrant mother.jpg

Ascent: 1930

Decline: 1939

Cultural Hallmarks: Long-playing phonograph record, bass guitar, Art Deco, Social Realism, Socialist Realism, Mexican Muralism, jazz, Gypsy Jazz, swing music, country music, folk music, influence of the Great Depression, crime fiction, fantasy fiction, pulp fiction, Golden Age of Comic Books, Golden Age of Hollywood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Wall Street crashed and the world spent most of the 1930s consumed by the Great Depression, an economic downfall felt around the world causing widespread unemployment and poverty. Those with money found their wealth increasing in value as prices dropped and those without did whatever they could to survive. Some, like John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, turned to crime. Others found themselves as creators, particularly Woody Guthrie, who gave people hope as a folk singer, and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who took their idea of a strong hero clad in blue tights and a red cape and sold it to Detective Comics, Inc. At the same time, the United States Government worked to find ways to improve the situation.

In Europe, authoritarian governments emerged, especially in Germany. As Fuhrer of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler discriminated against the Jewish people and other minorities. Italy invaded Ethiopia, the Spanish fought themselves in a Civil War and Germany invaded Poland. The final invasion, occuring on Sept. 1, 1939, sparked World War II which lasted into the 1940s.

Meanwhile in Asia, the Chinese Civil War continued and Japan invaded in 1937 and the Second Sino-Japanese War began and eventually merged with World War II. At the same time, Mohandas Gandhi gained media attention for his peaceful resistance against British colonial rule in India.

Technologically, the decade began with the advancement of frozen foods. Radar was invented, RCA Victor introduced a long-playing phonograph record, and Paul Tutmarc created the bass guitar. Scientists would close out the 1930s with the discovery of nuclear fission.

American Gothic  by Grant Wood

American Gothic by Grant Wood

While Art Deco reached its height in the 1930s, Social Realism took root as an art movement during the Great Depression. Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Grant Wood, Margaret Bourke-White, and Gordon Park and others created works meant to bring attention to the conditions of working class people. Additionally, they used their work as a criticism of the social structures they saw behind those conditions.

Socialist Realism was an art form developed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s that became its official style from 1932 until the late 1980s. Its artists created works glorifying communist values and functioned as a showcase of the ideal Soviet society.

Another art movement from the 1930s was Mexican muralism where artists in post-revolutionary Mexico painted murals with nationalistic, social and political messages.

Jazz was still popular in the first half of the 1930s and new derivatives were always being formed. In Paris, Jean Reinhardt began a movement known as Gypsy Jazz where the the drums were replaced by the percussive rhythmic guitar.

Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway

Still, jazz would in turn be replaced in popularity by swing music. Emphasizing the off-beat, swing bands would often feature soloists improvising on the melody over the arrangement. People began to dance to what the big bands and bandleaders were playing and the swing era was born. Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Count Basie among others would dominate the swing landscape.

The Great Depression was an influence on writers, one of whom was John Steinbeck who wrote The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Both stories detailed people leaving their homes to find work in an impoverished landscape. Yet, this decade also saw the origins of a popular fantasy world with J. R. R. Tolkien publishing The Hobbit.

Cover of  Action Comics  #1, first appearance of Superman

Cover of Action Comics #1, first appearance of Superman

Others found their escapism in hardboiled crime fiction and pulp magazines combining the detective stories with the adventures of gritty heroes. Prominent pulp characters were Doc Savage and The Shadow who were inspirations for Superman and Batman, introduced in 1937 and 1939 respectively. These two characters would be key characters the Golden Age of Comic Books and continue to entertain in stories to this day.

Clark Gable in  Gone with the Wind

Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

The popularity of talkies and full-color films ushered in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Many films in this era became classics, notably Victor Fleming’s 1939 films The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Further, Universal Pictures would produce a number of films in the Universal Monsters series, featuring classic characters including Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, King Kong, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Mummy. The talents of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr. were highlighted in these films.

Moreover, Walt Disney was not content to just make cartoon shorts. In 1937, Walt Disney Productions produced Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as the first full-length animated feature film. Directed by David Hand, it was a success and became another brick in Disney’s inevitable empire.

The first successful blockbuster made independently was produced in the 1930s too. After taking four years to make, Howard Hughes’ 1930 film Hell’s Angels was one of the highest grossing sound films of the era.

Sociological Timeline

  • 1930 - Ruth Wakefield of Toll House Inn invents the chocolate chip cookie
  • Jan. 6, 1930 - First diesel engine automobile trip completed
  • Jan. 13, 1930 - Mickey Mouse comic strip makes first appearance
  • Jan. 31, 1930 - 3M markets Scotch Tape
  • Feb. 18, 1930 - Clyde Tombaugh confirms the existence of Pluto
  • March 6, 1930 - First frozen foods go on sale
  • March 31, 1930 - Hays Code instituted in the United States
  • April 6, 1930 - Twinkies invented
  • April 19, 1930 - Warner Bros release the first Looney Tunes cartoon
  • April 28, 1930 - First night game in organized baseball history
  • July 4, 1930 - Dedication of George Washington’s sculpted head at Mount Rushmore
  • July 13, 1930 - First FIFA World Cup
  • July 31, 1930 - Radio drama The Shadow airs for the first time
  • Aug. 9, 1930 - Betty Boop premieres
  • Oct. 8, 1930 - Philadelphia Athletics defeat St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 in 1930 World Series
  • December 1930 - Turkish women given the right to vote
  • March 3, 1931 - The Star-Spangled Banner adopted as the United States’ National anthem
  • March 17, 1931 - Nevada legalizes gambling
  • April 25, 1931 - Ferdinand Porsche founds Porsche
  • May 1, 1931 - Empire State Building completed
  • August, 1931 - Warner Brothers release first Merrie Melodies cartoon
  • Oct. 4, 1931 - Dick Tracy debuts
  • Oct. 10, 1931 - St. Louis Cardinals defeat Philadelphia Athletics 4-2 in 1931 World Series
  • Oct. 17, 1931 - Al Capone sentence to 11 years in prison for tax evasion
  • Dec. 10, 1931 - Jane Addams the first American woman to be awarded Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1932 - Dust Bowl begins; Zippo lighters developed; James Chadwick discovers the neutron; heath hen becomes extinct;
  • Jan. 12, 1932 - Hattie W. Caraway becomes first woman elected to United States Senate
  • Feb. 1, 1932 - Aldous Huxley publishes Brave New World
  • Feb. 4, 1932 - 1932 Winter Olympics opens in Lake Placid, New York
  • Feb. 22, 1932 - First Purple Heart awarded
  • Feb. 24, 1932 - Women’s suffrage granted in Brazil
  • Feb. 25, 1932 - Adolf Hitler obtains German citizenship by naturalization
  • May 2, 1932 - Jack Benny’s radio show airs for the first time
  • June 6, 1932 - Revenue Act of 1932 enacted, creates first gas tax in the United States
  • July 30, 1932 - 1932 Summer Olympics opens in Los Angeles
  • Aug. 1, 1932 - Forrest Mars produces the first Mars bar
  • Aug. 2, 1932 - Carl D. Anderson discovers the positron
  • Aug. 6, 1932 - First Venice Film Festival; Germany opens first worldwide Autobahn
  • Sept. 20, 1932 - Mohandas Gandhi begins a hunger strike in prison
  • Oct. 2, 1932 - New York Yankees defeat Chicago Cubs 13-6 in 1932 World Series
  • Nov. 7, 1932 - Buck Rogers in the 25th Century debuts as the first science fiction radio program
  • Nov. 8, 1932 - Franklin D. Roosevelt elected President
  • Dec. 27, 1932 - Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City
  • 1933 - United States outlaws cannabis; Holodomor genocide takes place in Ukraine; Krispy Kreme opens first doughnut store; Mexican Indian Wars end after 414 years
  • Jan. 5, 1933 - Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begins
  • Jan. 23, 1933 - 20th Amendment ratified, changes Inauguration Day to January 20
  • Jan. 30, 1933 - Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany; The Lone Ranger debuts on American radio
  • Feb. 27, 1933 - Reichstag Fire
  • Feb. 28, 1933 - Reichstag Fire decree passed, nullifies many German civil liberties
  • March 3, 1933 - Mount Rushmore National Memorial dedicated
  • March 7, 1933 - Monopoly invented
  • March 13, 1933 - President Roosevelt holds first Fireside Chat
  • March 20, 1933 - Dachau opens as the first Nazi concentration camp
  • March 23, 1933 - Enabling Act passed, Adolf Hitler made dictator of Germany
  • April 3, 1933 - First flight over Mount Everest
  • April 19, 1933 - United States goes off the gold standard
  • April 26, 1933 - Gestapo secret police established in Nazi Germany
  • May 2, 1933 - First alleged modern sighting of the Loch Ness Monster
  • May 8, 1933 - Mohandas Gandhi begins three-week hunger strike because of mistreatment of lower castes
  • May 26, 1933 - Nazi Party introduces law legalizing eugenic sterilization
  • June 6, 1933 - First drive-in movie theater opens near Camden, New Jersey
  • June 21, 1933 - Nazi Germany forbids all non-Nazi parties
  • July 6, 1933 - First Major League Baseball All-Star Game
  • July 14, 1933 - Nazi Germany forbids formation of new political parties, enacts law allowing for compulsory sterilization of citizens suffering from a list of genetic disorders
  • July 22, 1933 - Wiley Post becomes the first person to fly solo around the world
  • Oct. 7, 1933 - New York Giants defeat Washington Senators 4-3 in 1933 World Series
  • Oct. 12, 1933 - United States Department of Justice acquires United States Army Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz
  • Dec. 5, 1933 - 21st Amendment, prohibition repealed
  • Dec. 26, 1933 - Nissan Motor Company organized in Tokyo; FM radio patented
  • 1934 - Australian Frontier Wars end after 146 years
  • Jan. 7, 1934 - Flash Gordon comic strip first published
  • Jan. 20, 1934 - Fuji Photo Film established
  • May 5, 1934 -  First Three Stooges short released
  • May 23, 1934 - Bonnie and Clyde killed
  • June 14, 1934 - Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet for the first time
  • Aug. 2, 1934 - Adolf Hitler becomes Fuhrer of Germany
  • Oct. 9, 1934 - St. Louis Cardinals defeat Detroit Tigers 11-0 in 1934 World Series
  • Dec. 27, 1934 - Persia becomes Iran
  • Jan 11, 1935 - Amelia Earhart becomes first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California
  • Jan. 24, 1935 - First canned beer sold in Richmond, Virginia
  • Feb. 22, 1935 - Airplanes banned from flying over the White House
  • Feb. 26, 1935 - Adolf Hitler orders reinstatement of the Luftwaffe; First use of radar to detect aircraft demonstrated in England
  • March 9, 1935 - Porky Pig debuts
  • March 16, 1935 - Adolf Hitler announces German rearmament
  • March 22, 1935 - World's first television program transmitted in Berlin
  • May 21, 1935 - Adolf Hitler announces reintroduction of conscription to the Wehrmacht
  • May 24, 1935 - First Major League Baseball game at night
  • May 30, 1935 - Babe Ruth plays last career game
  • July 16, 1935 - World’s first parking meters installed in Oklahoma City
  • Aug. 14, 1935 - President Roosevelt signs Social Security Act into law
  • Sept. 30, 1935 - President Roosevelt dedicates Hoover Dam
  • Oct. 7, 1935 - Detroit Tigers defeat Chicago Cubs 4-3 in 1935 World Series
  • 1936 - YMCA Youth and Government program founded; stress first recognized as a mental condition
  • Jan. 13, 1936 - The Green Hornet radio show debuts
  • Jan. 20, 1936 - King George VI dies, Edward VII becomes king
  • Feb. 6, 1936 - IV Olympic Winter Games opens in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • Feb. 17, 1936 - The Phantom, the first superhero to wear a skin-tight costume and mask, debuts in newspapers
  • March 1, 1936 - Hoover Dam completed
  • March 26, 1936 - Longest game in National Hockey League history between Montreal Maroons and Detroit Red Wings, scoreless until 16 and a half minutes into sixth overtime
  • May 2, 1936 - Sergei Prokofiev debuts Peter and the Wolf
  • May 28, 1936 - Alan Turing introduces concept of the “Turing Machine”
  • July 17, 1936 - Spanish Civil War begins
  • Aug. 1, 1936 - 1936 Summer Olympics open in Berlin, world’s first live television coverage of a sports event
  • Aug. 30, 1936 - Thomas Jefferson’s head dedicated at Mount Rushmore
  • Sept. 7, 1936 - Last known Tasmanian tiger dies in Tasmania
  • October, 1936 - Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge begins
  • Oct. 6, 1936 - New York Yankees defeat New York Giants 13-5 in 1936 World Series
  • Oct. 25, 1936 - Rome-Berlin Axis formed
  • Nov. 2, 1936 - BBC launches world’s first regular high-definition television service
  • Nov. 23, 1936 - First cover date for Life magazine
  • Dec. 1, 1936 - Adolf Hitler mandates German boys 10-18 join Hitler Youth program
  • Dec. 11, 1936 - King Edward VIII abdicates, “George VI becomes king
  • Jan. 11, 1937 - First issue of Look magazine
  • Feb. 6, 1937 - John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men published
  • Feb. 16, 1937 - Nylon patented
  • March 1937 - First issue of Detective Comics
  • March 26, 1937 - William H. Hastie becomes first African American appointed to federal judgeship in the United States
  • April 17, 1937 - Daffy Duck debuts
  • May 27, 1937 - Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic
  • May 28, 1937 - Golden Gate Bridge opens to vehicle traffic
  • June 1937 - Picasso completes Guernica
  • June 3, 1937 - Wallis Simpson marries Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor
  • July 2, 1937 - Amelia Earhart disappears; First guard takes his place at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C.
  • July 5, 1937 - Spam introduced
  • July 9, 1937 - 1937 Fox vault fire, silent film archives of Fox Film Corporation destroyed
  • Sept. 17, 1937 - Abraham Lincoln’s head dedicated at Mount Rushmore
  • Sept. 28, 1937 - Last Bali tiger dies
  • Oct. 10, 1937 - New York Yankees defeat New York Giants 4-2 in 1937 World Series
  • Dec. 21, 1937 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premieres as first feature-length animated film
  • 1938 - Adolf Hitler becomes Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year”
  • Jan. 16, 1938 - Benny Goodman and his orchestra become first jazz musicians to headline Carnegie Hall
  • Jan. 28, 1938 - First ski tow in America begins operation in Vermont
  • March 1938 - Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia
  • March 12, 1938 - Germany annexes Austria
  • April 18, 1938 - First appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1
  • Sept. 29, 1938 - Munich Agreement: German, Italian, British and French leaders agree to German demands regarding annexation of Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia
  • Sept. 30, 1938 - Neville Chamberlain declares “Peace for our time”
  • Oct. 1, 1938 - Germany invades Sudetenland
  • Oct. 3, 1938 - Production of the Jefferson nickel begins
  • Oct. 9, 1938 - New York Yankees defeat Chicago Cubs 8-3 in 1938 World Series
  • Oct. 18, 1938 - German government expels 12,000 Polish Jews living in Germany
  • Oct. 24, 1938 - Minimum Wage established in United States
  • Nov. 9, 1938 - Kristallnacht
  • Nov. 16, 1938 - LSD first synthesized
  • March 3, 1939 - Mohandas Gandhi begins fasting to protest British rule in India
  • April 1, 1939 - Spanish Civil War ends
  • April 14, 1939 - John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath published
  • May 1, 1939 - Batman makes first appearance in Detective Comics #27
  • June 6, 1939 - First Little League Baseball game
  • June 17, 1939 - Last public guillotining in France
  • June 24, 1939 - Siam changes name to Thailand
  • July 2, 1939 - Theodore Roosevelt’s head dedicated at Mount Rushmore
  • July 6, 1939 - Last remaining Jewish enterprises closed in Germany
  • Aug. 26, 1939 - First televised Major League Baseball game
  • Sept. 1, 1939 - Germany invades Poland, World War II begins
  • Sept. 5, 1939 - United States declares neutrality in WWII
  • Oct. 8, 1939 - New York Yankees defeat Cincinnati Reds 7-4 in 1939 World Series
  • Oct. 22, 1939 - First televised Major League Football game
  • Dec. 2, 1939 - LaGuardia Airport opens in New York City