Town of Historic Granville, Tennessee
931.653.4151

Town of
Historic Granville, Tennessee

931.653.4151
Granville Museum
169 Clover Street • Granville, TN 38564

Museum History - "The 1930's: A Time of Bravery and Endurance"



The Great Depression (1929-39) was truely "A Time of Bravery and Endurance". It was the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world. In the United States, the Great Depression began soon after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. Over the next several years, consumer spending and investment dropped, causing steep declines in industrial output and rising levels of unemployment as failing companies laid off workers.
                                                         
By 1933, some 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed. Though the relief and reform measures put into place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal which aided in recovery from the Great Depression were the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which built dams and hydroelectric projects to control flooding and provide electric power to the impoverished Tennessee Valley region of the South. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men 17-28. His administration also put in place the Works Project Administration (WPA), a permanent jobs program that employed 8.5 million people from 1935 to 1943.

After showing early signs of recovery beginning in the spring of 1933, the economy continued to improve throughout the next three years, the economy would not fully turn around until after 1939, when World War II kicked American industry into high gear.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION: ENTERTAINMENT

Music and Dancing: Among the many forms of entertainment that Americans engaged in during the 1930s, there is probably none more easily identifiable than the jazz, swing, and big band music that was wildly popular throughout the decade. Although there was still a prohibition on the manufacture and sale of alcohol until 1933, Americans continued to patronize nightclubs and music halls regularly, often drinking non-alcoholic drinks or bootlegged liquor, just happy to listen to band leaders like Benny Goodman and singers like Ella Fitzgerald. The upbeat and rhythmic music lent itself perfectly to dancing, which was another popular form of entertainment during the era.



Dance marathons offered entertainment and the opportunity to win a cash prize. In addition to school and town hall dances, dance marathons had grown increasingly popular throughout the 1920s and 30s. In a dance marathon, couples would sign up to participate and whichever couple was able to dance the longest without stopping would win what was usually a cash prize. Because people were often desperate for money, dance marathons drew hundreds of participants hoping to win the prize, and countless others looking for an evening of free entertainment. For a good example of the dance marathon craze, see Horace McCoy's 1935 novel, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, which is an accurate, albeit terribly sad depiction.

Movies: While music and dancing were good ways to distract depression-era Americans for an evening, movies were equally popular, if not more so. With an average ticket price of $0.27 per person, movie theaters offered people the chance to escape from their lives for a few hours and to get lost in a wide variety of comedies, dramas, musicals, and action films. Not only was going to the movie theater a cheap form of entertainment, but many theaters were often heated or air-conditioned, which was a luxury that many Americans could not afford during the depression.

Now considered by many to be the Golden Age of Hollywood, throughout the 1930s, the film industry released some of the most iconic films of all time. In the earlier part of the decade, horror stories like Dracula or Frankenstein terrified audiences, while latter years saw the release of epic romances like 1939's Gone with the Wind and one of the most beloved films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. Unlike nightclubs or dance marathons, movies were one of the most effective forms of escapism because they required very little active participation, and audiences could mentally check out in the dark, cool environment of the theater.

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