Major Cultural Events 1930-38

The Great Depression

The Great Depression, an economic disaster that affected not only the United States, but spread throughout the world, began in October 1929 with the collapse of the Stock Market. People panicked, what was once the American Dream had become a nightmare. The people of America “were questioning all the maxims on which they had based their lives – democracy, capitalism, individualism. The best hope for a better life was California. Many Dust Bowl farmers packed their families into cars, tied their few possessions on the back, and sought work in the agricultural fields or cities of the West – their role as independent land owners gone forever. Between 1929 and 1932 the income of the average American family was reduced by 40%, from $2,300 [$30,702.46 now] to $1,500 [$20,023.34 now]. Instead of advancement, survival became the keyword. Institutions, attitudes, lifestyles changed in this decade but democracy prevailed. Democracies such as Germany and Italy fell to dictatorships, but the United States and its constitution survived.”(Sutton). Because the United States pulled out of international trade, other countries suffered from the lack of economic stimulation that the United States provided.

When the Great Depression began Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) was the president. Within months of his becoming president the stock market crashed, and thus began his many plans to try and improve the economy. However shanty towns called Hoovervilles began popping up all around America, named after the president as they felt that the governments money were going to the more well-off of the time. Hoover quickly became the scapegoat for the Depression and when elections came around, he was severely beaten by his opponent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who began the recovery process from the Great Depression.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president, over 13,000,000 were unemployed and almost every bank was closed. He had his work cut out for him. Roosevelt enacted the New Deal, which were many different economic programs aimed at improving the Great Depression’s disastrous effects that lasted from 1933-1936. The New Deal was focused on three things: Relief, Recovery, and Reform. Roosevelt managed to begin smoothing out most of the effects from the Great Depression around 1935 and yet there was still much to be done. He continued to create more reforms in the economy with “Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed.” (Beschloss, Sidey). By 1936 the economic indicators showed they were similar to that of the late 1920’s when the economy was booming. However unemployment was still at a high of 11%, even though that was extremely better than in 1933 when the unemployment rate was 25%. Come June 1937 however, and the American economy took a sharp downfall when the Roosevelt administration tried to increase taxation as a means of balancing the federal budget. This downturn lasted till 1938, where the unemployment rate jumped up to 19%,  which is about 12 million unemployed in early 1938. The good news is the downturn ended and by the middle of 1938, sales began to increase, employment began to increase as well, and industrial production numbers were boosted as well.

Germany during the 1930’s

Germany, as well as many countries at this time, were receiving quite a bit of economic backlash from the Great Depression as well. At the time the Depression began, Germany was receiving funds from the United States to help

Hitler, Germany's new Chancellor, in March 1933

Hitler, Germany’s new Chancellor, in March 1933

rebuild their economy after World War I. But once the Depression hit, the funds stopped coming, and the unemployment rate sky rocketed to nearly 30%. This economic struggle of the people, caused them to look down at their current government, and only encouraged the Nazi party  to flourish. In return it multiplied its followers. With Hitler being elected as the new Chancellor in 1933, the Nazi party very quickly rose to power. If the Great Depression had not hit, perhaps the Holocaust, one of the greatest tragedies in history would have ceased to exist entirely, and millions of lives would have been spared.

Frank and Maddy, the house help, are both from Germany in this performance of Stage Door. They have come to America in search of work, and perhaps the reason for this is that they were not happy with the rise of the Nazi Party, and the affect it had on their homeland. This is something to consider when you think of what these two character’s past lives could have possibly included.

A few facts about the 1930s:

“Population: 123,188,000 in 48 states

Life Expectancy: Male, 58.1; Female, 61.6

Average salary: $1,368

Unemployment rises to 25%

Huey Long propses a guaranteed annual income of $2,500

Car Sales: 2,787,400

Food Prices: Milk, 14 cents a qt.; Bread, 9 cents a loaf; Round Steak, 42 cents a pound”



If you are curious about comparing the price of food, salary, rent, etc. of the 1930s to today’s monetary value feel free to click the link below which will take you to a site that will calculate and convert money prices to the time period of  your desire!

Dollar Times


  1. Sutton, Bettye. “1930-1939.” American Cultural History. Lone Star College- Kingwood Library, 1999. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.
  2. Beschloss, Michael, and Hugh Sidey. “Franklin D. Roosevelt.” The White House. White House Historical Association, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.
  3. Reed, Lawrence W. “Germany and the Great Depression.” Mackinac Center.  Mackinac Center for Public Policy, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.
  4. “Inflation Calculator.” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.
  5. The WPA Guide to New York City: The Federal Writers’ Project Guide to 1930s New York. New York: Pantheon, 1982. Print.