The Great Depression, World War II, and the 1930s

A timeline of events from the 1930s

The 1930s were dominated by the Great Depression in the United States and the rise of Nazi Germany in Europe. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover went after gangsters, and Franklin D. Roosevelt became synonymous with the decade with his New Deal and "fireside chats." This momentous decade ended with the beginning of World War II in Europe with Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Events of 1930

Mahatma Gandhi
Central Press / Getty Images
  • Pluto was discovered as the solar system's ninth planet. (It has since been demoted to a dwarf planet.)
  • Josef Stalin began collectivizing agriculture in the Soviet Union, by erasing borders between farms and attempting state-run massive farm operations. The plan proved to be a failure.
  • Mahatma Gandhi's Salt March, an act of civil disobedience, took place.
  • President Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff bill, raising tariffs on imports. (They were lowered four years later under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.)
  • The popular cartoon character Betty Boop made her debut.

Events of 1931

Christ the Redeemer
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images
  • Gangster Al Capone was imprisoned for income tax evasion.
  • The Empire State Building was completed.
  • Nine Black teens and young men known as the Scottsboro Boys were falsely accused of raping two white women in a landmark civil rights and fair trial case.
  • The Christ the Redeemer monument was built in Rio de Janeiro.
  • The National Anthem of the United States became official.

Events of 1932

Amelia Earhart
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • Charles Lindbergh's baby was kidnapped in the story riveted the United States.
  • Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
  • Air conditioning was invented.
  • Scientists split the atom.
  • Zippo cigarette lighters hit the market.

Events of 1933

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Events of 1934

Mao Zedong
De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images
  • The Great Terror of political repression began in the Soviet Union.
  • Mao Tse-tung began the Long March retreat in China​.
  • The Dust Bowl in the Great Plains made the Great Depression worse as families lost their livelihoods.
  • Alcatraz became a federal prison.
  • Notorious bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were gunned down by police.
  • The cheeseburger was invented.

Events of 1935

Monopoly board game
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images
  • John Maynard Keynes suggested a new economic theory, which would have a significant impact on economic thought for generations.
  • Social Security was enacted in the United States.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous was founded.
  • Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed his masterpiece, Fallingwater.
  • The gangster known as Ma Barker and a son were killed in a shootout with police, and Sen. Huey Long was shot in the Louisiana Capitol Building.
  • Parker Brothers introduced the iconic board game Monopoly, and Penguin brought out the first paperback books.
  • Wiley Post and Will Rogers died in a plane crash.
  • In a harbinger of the horror to come, Germany issued the Anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws.

Events of 1936

Nazi Olympics
Hulton-Deutsch Collection / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images
  • All German boys were required to join Hitler Youth and the formation of the Rome-Berlin axis.
  • The Spanish Civil War began.
  • The so-called Nazi Olympics took place in Berlin.
  • Britain's King Edward VIII abdicated the throne.
  • The Hoover Dam was completed.
  • The RMS Queen Mary made her maiden voyage.
  • The prototypical superhero Phantom makes his first appearance.
  • The Civil War novel "Gone With the Wind" was published.

Events of 1937

Hindenberg explosion
Sam Shere / Getty Images
  • Amelia Earhart vanished along with her co-pilot over the Pacific Ocean.
  • Japan invaded China.
  • The Hindenberg burst into flames as it neared landing in New Jersey and killed 36 of the 97 people onboard.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.
  • "The Hobbit" was published in Great Britain.
  • The first blood bank opened in Chicago.

Events of 1938

Hulton Archive / Getty Images
  • The radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" caused widespread panic in the U.S. when the story of alien invasion was believed to be true.
  • Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced "Peace for Our Time" in a speech after he signed a pact with Hitler's Germany. (Almost exactly a year later, Britain was at war with Germany.)
  • Hitler annexed Austria, and The Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) rained horror down on German Jews.
  • The House Un-American Activities Committee (a.k.a. the Dies Committee) was established.
  • The March of Dimes was founded.
  • The first Volkswagen Beetle came off the production line.
  • Superman burst onto the comic book scene.
  • "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" made its debut as the first full-length animated feature.

Events of 1939

Albert Einstein
MPI / Getty Images
  • World War II began when Hitler's Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, and Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later.
  • Albert Einstein wrote a letter to FDR about building an atomic bomb.
  • The first commercial flight over the Atlantic took place.
  • The helicopter was invented.
  • A major earthquake in Chile killed 30,000.
  • The Nazis began its euthanasia program (Aktion T-4), and German Jewish refugees on the ship St. Louis were refused entry into the U.S., Canada, and Cuba. They ultimately returned to Europe.
  • As an antidote to the war news, the classic movies "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind" premiered in 1939.
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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Great Depression, World War II, and the 1930s." ThoughtCo, Sep. 9, 2021, Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2021, September 9). The Great Depression, World War II, and the 1930s. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Great Depression, World War II, and the 1930s." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).