The 1930s is most famous for the Great Depression which was triggered by the Wall Street crash in late 1929. It was the longest and most severe economic downturn in modern history and marked a steep decline in industrial production, mass unemployment, a banking crisis, and sharp increases in rates of poverty and homelessness.
The 1930’s also provided a strange phenomenon where bank robbers and murderers were thought of as celebrities. Were depression and crime the only symbols of the 1930s? Let’s go through these 56 fun facts about the 1930s and find out…
1. Taxation took an upturn.
In the USA, The Smoot-Hawley Tariff bill was passed, raising duties on imports.
2. Soccer went international.
3. Gandhi took to the landscape.
Mahatma Gandhi and his followers marched 200 miles to the salt beds of Jalalpur.
4. An animated icon debuted.
The popular cartoon character “Betty Boop” made her debut in “Dizzy Dishes.”
5. Radio was huge.
For entertainment, children and families often listened to the radio during the Great Depression. Nearly 40% of families owned a radio.
6. Finance took a fall.
Banking panics in the early 1930s caused many banks to fail, decreasing the pool of money available for loans.
After the initial crash, there was a wave of suicides in New York’s financial district.
7. Things dried up.
The US suffered the worst ever drought in its history, leading to the Dust Bowl years.
8. The US found its national anthem.
Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” was officially named the United States’ national anthem.
9. The skyscraper to end them all?
In 1931 the Empire State Building was completed.
10. Big changes in Europe.
The Second Spanish Republic was created.
11. Employment took a dive.
The Great Depression influenced economies worldwide. More than 24.5% of the population were unemployed in the United States. Over 20% of the workforce were unemployed in the United Kingdom. Canadian unemployment reached 27%. The German unemployment rate reached nearly 30%.
12. Female flight changed forever.
Amelia Earhart became the first female aviator to successfully fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
13. Capone got caught.
Notorious gangster Al Capone was convicted of Income Tax Evasion.
14. However, he did attempt to give back… occasionally.
Al Capone in one of his sporadic attempts at public relations opened a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. For millions, soup kitchens provided the only food they would see all day.
15. FDR took the helm.
On March 4th 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States.
16. More flying firsts!
The first successful solo around-the-world flight was completed by Wiley Post.
17. We first found Nessie!
18. VW’s infamous origins…
Adolf Hitler announced the state-sponsored “People’s Car” – “Volkswagen”.
19. Prohibition finally ended in the US.
The 21st Amendment was passed repealing the 18th Amendment ending the prohibition of alcohol.
20. Warfare changed for good.
The machine gun was demonstrated by a Japanese scientist.
21. Who’s got the sweetest disposition? One guess, guess who…
Disney introduced the character of “Donald Duck” in the animated short “The Little Wise Hen.”
22. Extremism reigned.
Due to poverty around the world, political extremism including Fascism, Nazism, and extreme Communism gained followers.
23. Dillinger fell foul of the law.
John Herbert Dillinger (Public Enemy Number 1) bank robber died after a shoot-out with the FBI.
24. This infamous duo, likewise.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow died after a shoot-out with the FBI.
25. Alcatraz opened – and closed – its cell doors.
The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, also known as “The Rock”, opened near San Francisco and was used to hold some of the more dangerous and well-known US criminals.
26. A legendary publisher debuted.
in 1935, Penguin produced their first paperback books, bringing affordable modern literature to the masses.
27. Big movements in the water!
The Boulder (Hoover) Dam was completed.
28. FDR’s employment movement took flight.
Emergency Relief Appropriation Act created the WPA or Works Progress Administration to provide millions of jobs.
29. Further big changes swept into the US.
The United States Social Security Act was signed into law.
30. TV started emerging.
The first public television broadcasts began in London.
31. Babe took a bow.
Legendary player Babe Ruth retired from the sport of baseball after hitting his 714th home-run.
32. FDR continued with tax changes.
President Roosevelt’s Revenue Act (Wealth Tax Act) began.
33. There’s no place like home…
The beloved film starring Judy Garland “The Wizard of Oz” premiered.
34. A royal shock!
In December 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
35. Frankly, my dear…
Margaret Mitchell’s epic Civil War novel “Gone With the Wind” was published.
36. An iconic haul.
Jesse Owens won 4 Gold medals at the Berlin Olympics.
37. Spain was under threat.
The Spanish Civil War began during July 1936 and did not end until 1939.
37. A new king!
Prince Albert, the Duke of York, became King George VI of England in 1936..
38. The Hindenburg disaster made big news.
The German airship Hindenburg burst into flames while attempting to moor at Lakehurst, New Jersey.
39. A tragic disappearance.
Amelia Mary Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during a circumnavigation flight attempt.
40. What’s your emergency?
The United Kingdom’s “999” Emergency Telephone Service began operations.
41. Big movements out east.
Japan invaded China and seized Peking, Tientsin, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Hangchow.
42. Devastation continued.
The Memorial Day Massacre took place in Chicago.
43. An iconic horse race took place this decade.
Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in the “Race of the Century.”
44. How many were fooled?
Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds was broadcast.
45. One of the most famous records of all time.
Aviator Howard Hughes flew around the world in 3 days and 19 hours, setting a new record.
46. FDR continued to make things fair.
The Fair Labor Standards Act ( Wages and Hours Bill ) passed.
47. However, Hitler took a firm grip of Germany.
Germany began its persecution of Jews.
48. War broke out at the decade’s end.
On September 1st 1939, Germany attacked Poland starting World War II.
49. We said goodbye to another baseball great.
Lou Gehrig retired from Major League Baseball after being diagnosed with ALS.
50. The Man of Steel first appeared.
The very first “Superman” comic was issued by Action Comics.
51. Nuke planning was starting to emerge.
Physicists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard sent a letter to President Roosevelt urging the United States to invest time and money into the secret development of nuclear weapons before Germany developed the technology first.
52. Spanish conflicts finally ended – albeit with Franco in charge.
Dictator Francisco Franco conquered Madrid ending the Spanish Civil War.
53. And that wasn’t the end of invasions on the continent.
Russia invaded Finland.
54. An NY staple!
The World’s Fair opened in New York.
56. Economies were on the mend.
The Great Depression was technically over by 1933, meaning that economies had started to recover, however most did not experience full recovery until the late 1930s or early 1940s.
FAQs about The 1930s
What were the 1930s famous for?
Among other things, the 1930s were famous for ushering in Hollywood’s Golden Age - and TV broadcasts started emerging, too!
What types of music were popular in the 1930s?
Music popular in the 1930s included swing and big band - a bit different from modern tastes!
What caused the Great Depression of the 1930s?
It’s thought that the Great Depression of the 30s was largely caused by reparations and financial repair after World War I brought about the Great Depression.
Do you know any fun facts about the 1930s? Share them in the comments below!