The period between the stock-market crash of October 1929 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was dominated by one of the worst economic crises in American history. One observer called the 1930s "years of standstill," when "everybody and everything marked time." The confidence of Americans in progress and prosperity, so marked during the 1920s, suddenly vanished. But hard times were not new, and many Americans had suffered even during the prosperous 1920s, especially workers in textile and mining industries. Unemployment had risen from 1.5 million in 1926 to nearly 2.7 million in 1929. During the 1920s millions of Americans were forced off farms by deflated crop prices, soil depletion, and farm mechanization. Yet the Great Depression of the 1930s hit with unprecedented force.
Although the 1930s saw considerable growth and maturation in science and technology, the outlook they inspired owed much to the legacy of dozens of technological utopians who, from the late nineteenth century until the mid 1930s, published accounts of how technology would help achieve the perfect society, Industrialization and its negative aspects, ranging from smokestacks to cramped living quarters and long workdays, was considered only a stage that would give way to a clean, harmonious world. Whereas religion, ideologies, and revolution always seemed to provide but a part of the answer to life's challenges, technology might be the tool that truly fixed all troubles. Although such an ideal never materialized, the 1930s became the proving ground for many utopian technological predictions, from skyscrapers to airships.
Despite the Depression the 1930s were a rich and vibrant decade for the arts. They were certainly a golden age for American letters, as writers produced works that have since been acknowledged as classics: William Faulkner's Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936), Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy (1938), James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy (1932-1935), F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night (1934), and Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra (1931). It was a revolutionary decade in American dance, as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey choreographed their first fusions of ballet, expressionism, and jazz -a synthesis that defined the term modern dance.
Forbes Magazine named the 3-D view master as the biggest toy of the decade, showing once again how technology was so influential in wowing children in any decade to a new toy. Likewise, pop culture tie-ins finally found the grip they needed to boast new ideas and mass marketed options. The Golden Age of Comic Books exploded in 1938 with the introduction of Action Comics and Superman and tie-ins were soon to follow, along with the bucket loads of x-ray glasses, and hand held radios sold on the back pages of early comic books. Some might say the 1930s were the beginning of cheap, easily broken toys for that very reason (and for their inexpensive price point). The first movie character ever made into a doll was Scarlett O'Hara in 1939, by Madame Alexander.
One of century's best selling and most lasting legacies though started in the 1930s though with board games. Monopoly, Sorry!, and Scrabble were all invented in the 1930s. While Scrabble took a few decades to get an audience, Monopoly was an immediate success and has been one of the best selling board games in America ever since.
What's your 1930 worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items.
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