Culture and Society: Interactions


1930 - 1945

The depression left money scarce in the 1930s.This forced people to do what they could to enjoy their lives. This included movies, parlor games, and board games. Listening to Yankees games on the radio was also big. Big bands were a hit, and many people spent time enjoying mystery novels from writers like Agatha Christie and Dashielle Hammett.

The 1940s was impacted by WWII. Artists from Europe brought along new ideas and thoughts. The Great depression was fading out and replaced by war time production. Women soon replaced men in the working world. Rationing of many everyday items had become common.

The following information will provide a mode in depth view of several topics pertaining to the time period of 1930-1945.


Historical Events from 1930 - 1945


World War 2 started in 1939 and ended September 2, 1945. This was the single largest war in the history of the world and cost more money than any other war. The United States suffered the loss of more people than any other country involved. There hasn’t been a war of this level since.

The Depression

The Great Depression began when the stock market crashed in 1929. Complete relief didn’t come until World War 2 began when the Government required supplies to fight the war. With the large need for war supplies, the economy bounced back and was better than ever after the war was over. The economy wasn’t the only cause of the depression; other factors like the 1930 drought were factors as well.


Prohibition started in 1920 and ended in 1933 for the United States. It prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages and spurred illegal activity by organized crime organizations. Many other countries adopted prohibition and years later found themselves repealing the law.

Empire State Building

The construction of the Empire State building was completed in 1931. It is considered the Worlds second tallest building. It was the tallest building from 1931 until 1972 when the World Trade Center was built. After 9-11-2001 it was the tallest building in New York City but not in the world. Since the World Trade centers had been built, other buildings had been built to beat the world record.

By: Adam Dagley

Science from 1930 - 1945

1930-Chocolate Chip Cookie Invented

Ruth Wakefield accidentally invented the chocolate chip cookie know as the “Toll House Crunch Cookies”. Wakefield was baking chocolate cookies one day only to realize that she was out of baker’s chocolate. Instead she through in chunks of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate thinking it would melt into the batter to create chocolate cookies. Instead she had invented chocolate chip cookies. The chocolate chip cookie has become the most popular cookie in America.

 1943-Slinky Invented


The Slinky was invented by a naval engineer named Richard James. James was trying to develop a meter designed to monitor horsepower on naval battleships. While working with tension springs to use on the meter one fell to the ground and continued to move. This gave him the idea for the slinky.

Slinky made its début at Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the 1945 Christmas season and then at the 1946 American Toy Fair.

Today, all Slinky’s are made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania using the original equipment designed and engineered by Richard James. Each one is made from 80 feet of wire and over a quarter billion Slinky’s have been sold worldwide.

1943-Aqualung Invented

Jacques Cousteau (commander in the French navy) and Emile Gagnan (control valve engineer) invented the Aqualung in 1943. The Aqualung is a device that supplies air to under water divers. It supplies air automatically to the lungs from an oxygen cylinder on the divers back.

 The Aqualung has been modified since 1943, but is basically operated the same today. These are what the divers now use today.

 1945- First Atomic Bomb Blast

Before the beginning of WWII Albert Einstein Wrote to the US president Roosevelt and told him of of efforts in Nazi Germany to purify uranium-235, which could be used to build an atomic bomb. This caused the US government to start the Manhattan Project. From 1939 to 1945, more than $2 billion was spent during the history of the Manhattan Project. After 3 years of planning, in a remote area of New Mexico the first Atom Bomb was tested. Even before the bomb was tested, a second bomb was secretly dispatched to the Pacific for an attack on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Scientists Who Invented the Atomic Bomb under the Manhattan Project: Robert Oppenheimer, David Bohm, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, Otto Frisch, Rudolf Peierls, Felix Bloch, Niels Bohr, Emilio Segre, James Franck, Enrico Fermi, Klaus Fuchs and Edward Teller.


Ballpoint Pen - 1938 Hungary by Laszlo Biró - also called a biro (UK) 

Television - 1932 England first regular TV broadcasts (London) 

Catseyes1934 England by Percy Shaw - for lighting roads 

Electric Razor1931 USA by Jacob Schick 

Electron Microscope1933 Germany by Ernst Ruska 

Frequency Modulation FM1939 USA by Edwin H Armstrong - sound by radio waves

Helicopter1936 Germany by Heinrich Focke 

Jet Engine1930 England by Frank

Nylon1931 USA by Wallace Corothers - artificial silk 

Magnetic Recording1936 USA audio tapes 

Photocopier 1938 USA by Chester Carlston 

Polaroid1932 USA by Edwin Herbert

Radar (for Aircraft) - 1935 Scotland by Robert Watson-Watt 

Radio Telescope - 1932 USA by Karl Jansky 

Sticky Tape 1930 USA

Atomic Power1942 USA by Enrico Fermi's team creating first self-sustaining chain reaction

Guided Missile1942 Germany by Werner von Braun

Kidney Dialysis1944 Netherlands by Willem Kolff

Napalm1942 USA from Harvard University

By: Miranda Hampton

US literature from 1930 - 1940

  • The literature of United States was call the Wasteland of Depression Era
  • Better known as the New Deal Era.
  • The United States was merging into an economy of prosperity of the World War II years with hardly a change.
  • Social change during the period went to liberalism or radical socialism.

Literary Events from 1930 - 1945

(1929) - Look Homeward Angel by: Thomas Wolfe

(1929) - The Sound and the Fury by: William Faulkner

(1931) - The Good Earth by: Pearl S. Buck

(1933) - Autobiograpy of Alice B Toklas by: Gertrude Stein

(1935) - Tortilla Flat by: John Steinbeck

(1937) - The Age of Innocence by: Edith Wharton's

(1938) - Our Town by: Thornton Wilder

(1939) - The Grapes of Wrath by: John Steinbeck

(1939) - The Little Foxes by: Lillian Hellman

(1940) - For Whom the Bell Tolls by: Ernest Hemingway

(1940) - Native Son by: Richard Wright

(1943) - Four Quartets by: Burnt Norton

(1945) - The Glass Menagerie by: Tennessee Williams

By: Vickie Davis


Big Band

Big Band was very popular in the 1930’s and 40’s.  It was before the wildness of Rock and Roll exploded.  There were entire clubs created just for dancing to the music.  The groups like Glen Miller consisted of about 10 to 30 musicians and included many different instruments. 

Country Music

Country Music actually started before the 1940’s but was not called country.  It was originally called hillbilly music.  Pictured above is the Grand Ole Opry House that sits in Nashville Tennessee.  It is referred to as the Mother Church of Country Music.  Today there are still a few artists that stick to the traditional country music sound but most have changed to a more Contemporary Country.  The new Contemporary Country Music has some Rock and Roll mixed in.


While it may have existed before the 1940’s, Bluegrass music was named in the mid 1940’s.  It is music that is played completely with acoustic instruments.  Bluegrass music also relies heavily on vocals. Singing normally with a gourp of others.  Pictured above is Bill Monroe he was considered the father of bluegrass.

The Swing Culture

Swing Music is similar to Big Band Music, but is more up-beat and is meant for a more involved kind of dancing.  The dancing is much more fast paced and includes, jumping, swinging, and flipping.  It took a lot of skill to be good at dancing to this music.  Even today some still swing dance.  

By: Adam Dagley


The 1930’s art was looked at as essentially a bridge between two more interesting and vital eras.  For emerging artists, especially those seeking liberation from academic stylistic and thematic strictures, the decade offered exciting, though unsettling, possibilities.  The American Abstract Artists was born in this turbulent time.


Grant Wood 

1930 American Gothic

An American scene printer responsible for creating that Regionalists are best remembered today

Jackson Pollack

1943 Moby Dick

Considered the leading member of the group of painters who worked in the abstract expressionists style.

Studied in New York at the Art Students League. 

Early work was a combination of the regionalist style and the style of the Mexican Muralists.

Stuart Davis

1938 Swing Landscape

Great mural of 1938 that represents the waterfront of Gloucester, Massachusetts

By: Paula Lambert

Magazines from 1930 - 1945

Magazine covers in the 1930s exhibited the beauty of the era. Hats were glorious, as was the hair they were covering. The model gracing the cover always had the most beautiful, plump lips – nothing like the over-collagenated lips you see today. Shown is a cover from Marie Claire, circa 1937, the first female fashion magazine (Thomas, 2005).

Time Magazine was first published in 1923 as a summary for “busy men” to stay current (History of TIME, 2008). Elizabeth Helm graces the cover of Time magazine in the August 21, 1939 edition. Eleanor was on Olympic champion, who was in her home state of New York to perform in the New York World’s Fair.

From the founders of Time, Life was born. Life magazine was first published in 1937. The photos were astounding as were the articles. For several decades, Life was published weekly. It was later published semiannually, and now is published monthly (History of Life, 2005).

The foregoing are just a few examples of the iconic culture imparted by way of the magazine. Each has evolved to keep up with the changing times, yet stayed true to the philosophies that made it so popular.

By: Paula Lambert


For a long time radio was the only form of broadcast that American's had.  News shows, radio shows, music, comedy and sports were among the many topics that radio stations covered.  In the late 1930's over 44 million radio's were in use all over the country.  It wasn't until the late 1920's that American's began to grasp the idea's behind the invention of the television.

During the 1930's television was in a major state of development.  During the late 1920's television signals were just beginning to travel through phone lines, and the world's very first television broadcasts were taking place.

By 1930 American companies such as RCA (now NBC) and ABC (formerly The Blue Network) were transferring their focus from radio to television.  

It wasn't until 1939 at the world's fair (where RCA broadcasted the first televised presidential speech) that television receivers were introduced commercially to the US.  At this time most of these receivers needed to be coupled with radio to receive sound.  In late 1939, regular broadcasts were being scheduled in New York and Los Angeles.

Although commercial television sets had been in production since the late 1920's, they were what we would now consider a radio with a small viewing tube.

Cheaper pre-war American television sets (sold around 1939) had a 3-inch screen and were priced around $125 (equivalent to $1,863 in 07').

When WWII began, the war production board stopped the manufacturing of commercial television sets, which wouldn't resume until 1945.  Below are some TV images from 1940.

By: Jaclyn Suarez


The 1930's gave birth to what is widely known as the "Golden Age" of film.  The Academy Award was named the “Oscar”, box office records were set, the Three Stooges were born, tri-color film was introduced, full feature animations were released, silent films were declared a thing of the past and some of the greatest films of all time were released.  

Even when the US entered WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR issued a statement saying, “The American motion picture is one of the most effective mediums in informing and entertaining our citizens. The motion picture must remain free in so far as national security will permit. I want no censorship of the motion picture.”

Shirley Temple

Gary Cooper

Clark Gable

Charlie Chaplin

Cary Grant

Elizabeth Taylor

Humphrey Bogart

Greta Garbo 

Katherine Hepburn 

For most Americans, with the Great Depression on their backs, escapism became extremely popular.  Theater thrived during this time period and film jumped to an all new height providing America with titles that would never fade away.  It is shocking that so many of these films became staples in our culture.

This group of films were regarded as the best of their time, and became a huge part of today’s film culture:

  • (1930) "All is Quiet on the Western Front"  - considered one of the greatest films based on World War I events 
  • (1931) “Little Caesar” - becoming a vanguard for a bloom of Gangster Films, soon to be followed by huge hits like "Public Enemy"
  • (1931) “City Lights”
  • (1932) "Scarface"
  • (1932) “Grand Hotel” - "The most important film since the arrival of talking pictures" –New York Times
  • (1933) “Duck Soup”
  • (1933) "The Count of Monte Cristo"
  • (1934) “It Happened One Night”
  • (1935) "The Thirty Nine Steps" - ranking Alfred Hitchcock as the leading British director of his generation
  • (1939) “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” - considered a cinema classic
  • (1939) "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
  • (1940) “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • (1944) “Double Indemnity”
  • (1940) “The Philadelphia Story”
  • (1939) “Stagecoach”
  • (1939) "Wuthering Heights"
  • (1936) “Modern Times”
  • (1938) “Bringing up Baby”
  • (1942) "Yankee Doodle Dandy"
  • Over 5 productions involving the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" during this 15 year period

In addition to these break-through films, this time period introduced a group of films that would stick to American pop culture for generations to come. Through characters, quotes, songs, figurines, posters, cartoons, halloween costumes and blatant re-makes these movies have influenced Pop Culture as we know it.

(1931) – “Dracula”  - Dracula, according to the IMDB, is referenced in over 650 films.  This novel turned film also sparked a huge vampire subculture in the 20th century, making the city of Translvania synonymous with vampires.  Dracula has also become one of the most popular Halloween costumes in history and has inspired cereal brands like Count Chocula.

(1931) –  “Frankenstein” - Also an extremely popular Halloween costume in America.  This character continues to be adapted in film, comics, books and music.

(1932) –  “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” - Inspired countless numbers of movies, musicals, television and stage performances.  The term "Jekyll and Hyde" has become an expression for people who are extremely erratic.  The Jekyll and Hyde Club is a themed restaurant in New York City.

(1932) – “Tarzan the Ape Man” - birthed Tarzan, the best known ape man in the world.  This film, throughout history, is followed by countless other films, comics, cartoons, and video games.

(1937) – “Snow White” - The first full feature animation film, Snow White and her seven Dwarfs are among the most popular characters in Disney history.  Inspiring all forms of art, this film gave meaning to the "poisonous apple", "the kiss", and the phrase "mirror mirror on the wall"

(1938) – “The Adventures of Robin Hood” - Robin Hood, who some claim was a real person, made history.  Songs, novels, music, games, films, and television have all been created in Robin Hood's honor and the nam

e itself references anyone who might take from the rich and give to the poor (ie - non-profit organizations).  This character made Nottingham famous.

(1939) – “The Wizard of Oz” – The first film released in color and one of the most beloved films of all time, The Wizard of Oz has become a cult classic for children

(1939) – “Gone with the Wind” - The most expensive film in American film history, Gone with the wind cost over 4 million to make. This release of this film followed the most intense publicity campaign ever mounted by Hollywood and set new record winning 8 Oscars in 1939. It has become one of the most popular films of all time, providing famous quote after famous quote.  "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"

(1940) – “Pinocchio” - An extremely famous disney character who's growing nose is widely recognized as the consequence or liars.

(1940) – “Fantasia” - This full feature animation made way for Mickey Mouse, probably the most famous character in American History.

(1941) – “Citizen Cane” - Was a box office flop.  William Hearst forbid any mention of the film in any one of his newspapers.  He considered the film to be defamatory, however the decades of people to follow would strongly disagree.  Citizen Cane is now regarded as one of, if not THE greatest film of all time.

(1943) – “Casablanca” - The characters, quotations, and music have become iconic, and Casablanca keeps growing in popularity as time passes. It is one of the highest ranked films of all time and has provided dozens of famous quotes.  Casablanca and Citizen Cane consistently tie for number one movie of all time.

By: Jaclyn Suarez



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