Entertainment during the Great Depression  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

During the 1930s America was facing its longest deepest economic downturn, the Great Depression. Spending money on entertainment was out of the question for most people. The US government, in its effort to put the nation back to work, included artists and entertainers in its assistance programs. The entertainers, in turn, provided cheap or free amusements for people which allowed them to forget about their troubles for a while.



Americans enjoyed a variety of music genres in the 1930s. Big band music and jazz were increasingly popular. Duke Ellington and his big band played several types of music, from blues to gospel to jazz and more. One of his most successful songs was titled, “It don’t mean a thing.” From the decade of the 1920s, music continued to enjoy wild popularity as a form of entertainment. In the 1930s, it was important that it cost little or nothing, and that it diverted people's attention from their troubles.


Many films still highly recognized today were created during the 1930s. During that period , [Walt Disney]], the pioneer animator, produced films Americans flocked to see. One of his most well-known animations was the tale of "The Three Little Pigs," originally produced in 1933. Another of his films during that time period was, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Disney’s films provided entertainment for all ages and became a part of American culture. Half a century later, his productions are still famous and frequently viewed by children and adults.

Comedies were popular films in the 1930s. A good laugh eased the mind and brought joy in a time of adversity. Films that showed how America was fighting against the Great Depression became popular as well. Towards the late 1930s, movies from other countries began to play in American theaters.


Listening to the radio became a source of nearly free entertainment for millions of Americans. The radio stations had a little bit of everything for all ages, old and young. One of the most common radio shows for young children was “Little Orphan Annie.” The show is about an adventurous young girl who had an equally adventurous dog named Sandy. Together, Annie and Sandy would try to solve mysteries. The show was so loved by children that they soon began to purchase small items of merchandise such as pins of Annie.” Adults listened to newscasts, radio theater, the Grand Ole Opry, soap operas, and sermons as well.


The economic conditions of 1930s America called for imaginative and inexpensive forms of entertainment. The government supported ways for America to be entertained. The efforts to keep the country from dwelling on the depression were admirable and at least partially successful.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Entertainment during the Great Depression" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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