Hymns of the 1930s

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the largest stock market crash in American history, most of the decade was consumed by an economic downfall called the Great Depression.  It had a traumatic effect worldwide, leading to widespread unemployment and poverty. In response, authoritarian regimes emerged in several countries in Europe and South America, in particular the Third Reich in Germany. Weaker nations – such as EthiopiaChina, and Poland – were invaded by expansionist world powers, the last of these attacks leading to the outbreak of the Second World War a few months before the end of the decade.  The 1930s also saw a proliferation of new technologies, especially in the fields of intercontinental aviationradio, and film; radio became the dominant source of entertainment for the majority of Americans.


–   A period of severe dust storms caused major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940); it became known as the Dust Bowl.

–  In March, the first frozen foods of Clarence Birdseye were sold.

–  The first Color Sound Cartoon was made, a Flip the Frog cartoon entitled: “Fiddlesticks“;

–  Warner Brothers released the first All-Talking All-Color wide-screen movie, “Song of the Flame”.  In 1930 alone, Warner Brothers released ten All-Color All-Talking feature movies in Technicolor and scores of shorts and features with color sequences.

–  Air mail service across the Atlantic Ocean began.

–  The FIFA World Cup was the first world cup to be held.  It was won by host Uruguay.


–  RCA Victor introduced the first long-playing phonograph record.

–  The Empire State Building became the world’s tallest building when completed.


–  Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in November. Roosevelt initiated a widespread social welfare strategy called the “New Deal” to combat the economic and social devastation of the Great Depression.  The economic agenda of the “New Deal” was a radical departure from previous laissez-faire economics.

–  The Summer Olympics was hosted by Los Angeles, CA.

–  The Winter Olympics was hosted by the village of Lake Placid, NY.


–  Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany, forming a fascist regime committed to repudiating the Treaty of Versailles, persecuting and removing Jews and other minorities from German society, expanding Germany’s territory, and opposing the spread of communism.

–  Prohibition in the United States ended in December with the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution.

–  The 3M company marketed Scotch Tape.


–  The pulp fiction magazines began to feature distinctive, gritty adventure heroes that combined elements of hard-boiled detective fiction and the fantastic adventures of the earlier pulp novels.  Two noteworthy characters introduced were Doc Savage and The Shadow, who would later influence the creation of characters such as Superman and Batman.


–  U.S. presidential candidate Huey Long was assassinated.

–  “Swing” music became popular.  It gradually replaced the sweet form of Jazz that had been popular for the first half of the decade.


–  Hitler pulled Germany out of the League of Nations, but hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics to show his new reich to the world, as well as the supposed superior athleticism of his Aryan troops/athletes.

–  Kodachrome was invented, being the first color film made by Eastman Kodak.

–  The Bass guitar was invented by Paul Tutmarc of Seattle, WA.


–  The German dirigible airship Hindenburg exploded in the sky above Lakehurst, New Jersey, in May 6.  36 people were killed.

–  Amelia Earhart received major attention in the 1930s as the first woman pilot to conduct major air flights.  Her disappearance for unknown reasons in 1937 while on flight prompted search efforts which failed.

–  The Golden Gate Bridge was constructed in San Francisco, CA.

–  Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released.

–  J.R.R. Tolkien published “The Hobbit”.

–  John Steinbeck wrote “Of Mice and Men”.


–  The New England Hurricane became a Category 5 hurricane before making landfall as a Category 3.  The hurricane was estimated to have caused property losses estimated at $306 million (almost $5 billion in today’s dollars), killed between 682 and 800 people, and damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes.

–  Radar was invented, known as RDF (Radio Direction Finding), by Robert Watson-Watt.

–  The Volkswagen Beetle, one of the best-selling automobiles ever produced, had its roots in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.

–  The chocolate chip cookie was developed by Ruth Graves Wakefield.

–  Thornton Wilder‘s play, “Our Town” was first performed.

–  Superman first appeared in comic books.


–  World War 2 broke out on September 1.

–  Nuclear fission was discovered by Otto HahnLise Meitner and Fritz Strassman.

–  The Golden Age of Hollywood entered a whole decade, after the advent of talking pictures (“talkies“) in 1927 and full-color films in 1930: more than 50 classic films were made in the 1930s: most notable were Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz in 1939.

–  Universal Pictures began producing its distinctive series of horror films, which came to be known as the Universal Monsters, featuring what would become iconic representations of literary and mythological monsters.  These monster movies included many cult classics, such as DraculaFrankensteinThe MummyDr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeKing KongThe Hunchback of Notre Dame, and others. These films led to the stardom of stars such as Bela LugosiLon Chaney Jr, and Boris Karloff.

–  Recurring series and serials included: Laurel and Hardy, the Marx BrothersTarzan,  Charlie Chan and Our Gang.

–  John Steinbeck wrote “Grapes of Wrath”.

–  Batman first appeared in 1939.


Some of the best musicians ever born had their heyday in the 1930s.  No one will ever forget the sweet sounds of Louie Armstrong, or the beautiful voice of Billie Holiday.

Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Judy Garland were all at the top of their game and the charts.  Fred Astaire had a nice run in the 1930s and Count Basie established his dominance.

Most people did not have televisions, so the radio was the primary source of entertainment throughout the decade.  And radio wasn’t like it is now, where DJs play song after song after song.  Radio was filled with entertainment of all sorts: stories, poetry, news, live music, variety shows and more.

Though the 1930s were among the more tumultuous times in America’s history, that decade also introduced some of the hymns we still sing today.  It’s possible your favorite is one of them; 2 of my favorites come from the 1930s.

1930…           Won’t It Be Wonderful There?; God of Grace and God of Glory

1931…           Morning Has Broken

1932…           Just a Little Talk with Jesus; No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus;

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

1936…           Wherever He Leads I’ll Go; Search Me, O God

1937…           Peace in the Valley; When All of God’s Singers get Home;

Holy Spirit, Breathe on Me; When The Saints Go Marching In

1939…           Victory in Jesus; He Set Me Free


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