A rough Guide to the 30's
The Dirty 30’s, a Decade of Contradictions
As before this is not a historical guide to the 30’s, its a guide to what if different from today, and also what has changed since the 20’s.
We’re in The Money
The biggest defining event of the 30’s was the Great Depression. The Great Depression started out as the bursting of the stock market bubble, that had been building up during the 20’s, towards the end of 1929. The stock market decline continued into the 30’s and triggered a banking collapse in Austria, which quickly spread to Germany, which had been saddled with massive war debts after the Great War. The banking crisis quickly spread across Europe. Back in the US, numerous farm foreclosures and bank failures continued to savage the US economy. On both sides of the Atlantic the crisis was damaging to both domestic and international politics. During the 20’s, and into the 30’s, all countries used the gold standard, therefore each currency’s value was linked to the value of gold, so it acted very much like a currency union, stopping countries from printing money and inflating away debt. In 1931 Britain left the gold standard and devalued its currency, Germany and Japan soon followed suit. By devaluing their currency’s, they reduced the size of their debts by beggaring their neighbours in a race to the bottom. In this case most debts were owned by America, so the US responded by raising trade tariffs on all imported goods, causing other countries to respond in kind. All it did was make the depression worse, and sour international relationships.
The Dirty 30’s
In the 30’s, as well as an economic crisis, America was suffering and environmental crisis. A combination of severe drought and poor farming techniques has created massive dust storms sweeping across the Great Plains of America. The dust storms were stripping away fertile topsoil and leaving behind barren land. Many farmers were simply walking into the banks and handing the keys to their farms back, in effect walking away from the dead land. The Dust Bowl, as it became known, caused a feedback loop with the crisis of the Depression. As banks in the plains were unable to lend to farmers, to buy fertilizer or build better irrigation, this caused them to default on their loans and hand back the keys, therefore forcing banks under. This caused banks to call in their loans, forcing other farmers to close their farms. Many foreclosed farmers simply packed the family car and drove away, trying to find a new life. It was the largest migration in American history, with many migrants ending up living in shanty towns (nicknamed Hooverviles) on the edges of large cities, some even existed inside cities. In New York City a “Hoovervile” sprang up in Central Park.
One of the biggest differences between the 20’s and 30’s was the introduction of long distance Air Travel by Plane. So called “flying boats” crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific allowing a passenger to depart from Southampton and arrive in New York 2 days later. During the 30’s The Azores and Bermuda were important stopping points for the new transatlantic flights. As the planes could only travel by day and could not fly nonstop, they flew from the UK, landed in the Azores, then from the Azores to Bermuda, or Newfoundland, and then on to New York.
Trains and ships remain unchanged, although the newer passenger ships are less opulent than their earlier counterparts as the rich are now switching to air travel.
The car was going though a revolution, rickety “kidney kickers” were being replaced by newer sleeker cars with a much smoother ride. Cars got faster too, with the number of paved roads increasing inexorably as freight, carried by trucks, was increasing rapidly.
Radio was in its golden age, regular programming and slick production were common place. With radio plays, soap operas, comedy, news and current affairs, along side music. The programming schedule for the radio stations looked similar to today’s TV schedules, family shows were on during prime time, news bulletins on the hour, etc.
Cinema was going through a revolution as the “Talkie” is in, some believe that it is a fad, others believe it is the future. If the box office grosses of Jolson are to believed “Talkies” have taken off. The rise of “Talkies” is ending the careers of some Hollywood stars,as they don’t have the right voice, whilst others like Charlie Chaplin and Mae West have survived the transition. At that time films were still in black and white, but Kodak and other film labs were searching for a way to bring the cost, and quality, of colour film making to a usable level.
Television is being experimented with but was a toy for the rich and most people don’t think it would ever catch on due to the price of a set.
Music was changing too. Popular music was going through a new revolution, 20’s style jazz has started to give way to big band swing example here. Also the way of consuming music has changed. During the 20’s most people consumed music by either listening to live performances in dance halls, at concerts or clubs, or even on street corners. Alternatively they would buy sheet music and play the music at home, usually on the piano. Now, as well as live music, prerecorded music had become a common way of consuming music. Mostly this is via the radio, but as the cost of the gramophone has dropped, they were more available to the middle classes, and have become commonplace, although the depression has slowed the advance of the its adoption. Up until the 1930’s there was a media format war raging, on the gramophone, between phonograph disks and phonograph cylinders. Disk recordings won and by the 1930’s the most common type was the the 78 rpm disk recording. One of the most popular gramophones makers of this period was the British Company “His Masters Voice”, and in this time period most gramophones were still hand wound.
Whilst the telegram was still used by the common man, the telephone was spreading to the middle classes, and transatlantic phone calls had become possible, if somewhat expensive. However the operator was still the method of making a call and automated exchanges were still a pipe dream.
Womens fasions began to change in the 30’s again, slowly the loose fitting short skirts of the flapper began to fall out of fasion. Hemlines lowered in an attempt to recover some of the morality lost in the 20’s, womens clothing gained waistlines again as figure hugging and enhancing clothes began to emerge. Out whent the flapper style of hiding curves, and the hour glass figure returned. During the decade womens hair length slowly increased as the 20’s bob cut fell out of fasion and wavewd hair came in.
The suit is still the staple atire of any mans wardrobe, but amongsth the younger men the requirement to wear a waist coat at all times is gone, and the London Drape Cut double brested suit is in. Currently the Fedora is the hat of choice with the Homburg comming a close second, where it is more popular with older men. Full beards are something for the older generations, where as clean shaven or a simple mustache is common amongst younger men.
A Note About Hats on Men.
You wear one, no I dont care how much of an individual you are you wear one. A man without a hat outside is not fully dressed, and is likely to be asked by the police where he is going in such a hurry, as only a man in a rush would have left his hat behind. Where as for women hats are an optional accessory.
Science and Technology
This field was still mostly experimental and the electromechanical computers of the 1920’s were still the cutting edge. It will take a pressing need for computing power, to move this field forwards faster than its current glacial pace.
By the end of 1928 it looked like the holy grail of medicine had been found, with Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. The possibility of treating bacterial infections now looked possible, although no anti-bacterial pharmaceuticals are yet available, trials are underway. Although many other advances have been made, this eclipses them all.
The 20’s rise in theoretical partial physics has started to give way to practical experiments into particle physics. Nuclear physics was a growing field that had the possibility of creating limitless cheap clean power.
With the discovery of Pluto, the solar system now had 9 planets. Pluto was the first planet to be discovered by an American observatory. As well as looking at the stars, the new field of rocket propulsion, already demonstrated as a possible successor to the propeller, is being looked at as a possible way of over coming the velocities required to escape Earth’s gravity. Many people are looking to build on Robert Godadrds work, and see if a man made vehicle can leave earth.
Although lacking any finds that would catch the public imagination like that of Carters find of Tutankhamen, the field has continued to grow, and digs were going on in most regions of the world. Some were looking into the still controversial subject of mans early ancestors.
Science has started to make and impact on the day to day lives of people. It is in this decade that frozen meals first appear, making a house wife’s life easier. New synthetic materials like synthetic rubber, plastics and fiberglass have allowed new developments in existing areas, like flight and consumer goods.