The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s

By Gary Dean Best | Go to book overview

Introduction

The picture of the depression years that most of us have is one of unremitting bleakness: of street-corner apple sellers, soup lines, foreclosures, closed factories, armies of unemployed, hunger if not starvation, and labor violence. The contrasts drawn with the decade of the 1920s that preceded it have been stark: a decade of "Fords, Flappers and Fanatics," as George Mowry described it, followed by a decade of "Hard Times," to use the title of Studs Terkel's oral history. The frivolity, fads, and mad speculation of the 1920s came crashing down with the stock market as the decade ended, to be replaced by a decade of down- at-the-heels, worn-at-the-elbow, emphasis on survival--or at least so we assume. Thus, the popular culture of the 1930s has attracted little of the attention directed by historians toward the "roaring twenties."

The 1930s was a decade that defies such easy labeling as has been applied to the 1920s. That decade, we are told, was the "roaring twenties," or the "jazz age," or the "flapper era," or a dozen other easy characterizations. The 1920s unfolds between 1920 and the stock market crash of 1929 without any major demarcations or turning points. The 1930s was not so simple. The depression had scarcely begun when the 1920s ended, but it was a fact of life from the beginning of the 1930s to the end of the decade. That alone meant that much about the 1930s would be dramatically different from the previous decade, and not only in an economic sense. The defeat of Hoover in November 1932 and the inauguration of Roosevelt in March 1933 brought alterations in American life far greater than most people expected from a change of leadership and party in the White House. The inauguration of almost any other leading Democrat as president on that day in March would have brought

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The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter One - The Setting 1
  • Chapter Two - Fads and Crazes 19
  • Chapter Three - Comics and Popular Literature 39
  • Chapter Four - Newspapers and Radio 55
  • Chapter Five - Music, Movies, and the Arts 73
  • Chapter Six - Sports 91
  • Chapter Seven - Style and Life 107
  • Chapter Eight- Coping 123
  • Conclusion 139
  • Notes 143
  • Bibliography 157
  • Index 163
  • About the Author 169
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