The Great Depression

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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    It Got Worse.

    "They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
    Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?"

    E.Y. Harburg"Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"

    The Great Depression / The Dirty Thirties: Home to dust bowl farmers, reedy-voiced folk singers and rail-riding hobos. Life pretty much sucks unless you're lucky enough to be a rich socialite, in which case you can expect to be involved in a wacky screwball comedy which may or may not involve either three short, bumbling men named Larry, Moe and Curly, or two fast-talkers named Groucho and Chico and their mute accomplice Harpo (as the Depression drove prices plummeting through the floor, people with money suddenly found their cash increasing in value). Or if you're female, you could ditch the dust bowl and head off to Hollywood to become an actress, wearing long, sexy gowns on première night, showing off some tanned skin.

    Otherwise, you would be scraping to survive, as Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. For some, it's a time to run wild to take what you want against the fatcats who exploited the people as one of the Public Enemies like John Dillinger or the bank robbing couple Bonnie and Clyde. Others found more constructive paths such as folk singer Woody Guthrie who rode the rails Bound For Glory singing as the voice of the underprivileged. And there were more than a few examples of Pennies From Heaven-style escapism as listeners didn't want to be reminded of the hard times they faced.

    Against this, President Herbert Hoover found himself completely over his head, refusing to accept reality of how bad the times were, while blindly mouthing absurd statements like "Prosperity is just around the corner." A "Hooverville" was a shantytown, a "Hoover wagon" (or "Bennett Buggy" in Canada) was a Model T Ford pulled by horses and a "Hoover flag" was a trouser pocket turned inside-out to indicate it was empty. Hoover was replaced by Franklin D. Roosevelt who did his best to pull America out of the economic ruin with his New Deal; he was elected to an unprecedented four terms as president before dying in office in April 1945.

    In addition, you could be a globe-hopping Adventurer Archaeologist in foreign parts having adventures with the natives while fighting the Nazis who are searching for any artifact that would give them the edge in a coming war.

    If you're in Europe, chances are you are living in the Nazi or fascist version of Ruritania, trying to forget your troubles in the Cabaret while the Black Shirt goons become more bolder and brutal outside as your country slides into a fascist hell. As for the rest of the world, the communists seem to be the greater threat, until Those Wacky Nazis start getting greedy enough to betray their true ambitions (and for those already under communism, like say, some parts of the USSR, well, they're about to learn the wonders of cannibalism, or worse, end up in The Gulag for thinking unhappy thoughts about Stalin). At that the Western powers slowly begin to realize that appeasing them is making them worse and they have to stand up to them.

    Period lasts from The Wall Street Crash of 1929 up until the beginning of World War Two. Note that in Real Life there were several sub-periods; the Hoover years, the New Deal years up to 1937, a second recession and a subsequent 1939-41 recovery that was just picking up steam when the war build-up started.

    It should also be noted that the mass suicides of financial professionals (jumping from office buildings or hanging) of 1929 are a long-standing Urban Legend—only about twenty people killed themselves immediately after the Crash and about one hundred in all. 23,000 people did kill themselves in the first year though.

    Also see: The Roaring Twenties, The Forties, The Fifties, The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, Turn of the Millennium, and The New Tens for more decade nostalgia.

    Popular tropes from this time period are:
    • Adventurer Archaeologist
    • Crapsack World: Pretty much mandatory if you're portraying the common peoples' life - it basically was.
    • Dieselpunk
    • The start of the golden ages of film, animation, and comics
    • Morally-Bankrupt Banker. Banks who'd lent money as "margin loans" to stock-market speculators were crushed under bad debt, leading to a few Bank Runs in which depositors attempted to withdraw their assets before they disappeared with the insolvent bank. Many depositors lost everything.
    • The Musical: Many of Hollywood's films tended to be musical and upbeat, because it wasn't called "The Great Depression" for nothing, people needed to be cheered up. Because of this, the motion picture industry was one of a small few disposal income industries that not only survived but thrived in the Great Depression.
    • Perpetual Poverty
    • Sexy Backless Outfit: The trend for women exposing their backs on bias-cut and halter-neck long gowns started during this decade.
    • Hobos
    • Vagabond Buddies
    • Zipperiffic: the decade made zippers more innovative in many things like bags and clothes.

    Works About and/or From The Great Depression:

    Works that are set in this time period include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Axis Powers Hetalia had a strip about the Great Depression, explaining it in a very simple way; America got sick and spread it to the other European countries. In the end, however, Russia was unaffected due to the fact that Russia was socialist, America, England, and France were helped out by their colonies, but Germany, Italy, and Japan, not having as much colonies, got the shorter end of the stick and suffered throughout.
      • In actual history, Germany probably would have still suffered, Depression or no Depression, because of the WWI reparations that the nation was being forced to pay.
    • Baccano!: At least, the anime and much of the light novels.

    Comic Books

    Fan Works



    Live-Action TV


    • The final episode of The Strangerhood indicates Tovar was taken from Wall Street just around this time. His Evil Twin, ignorant of the coming depression, ends up going back with plans to make millions on asbestos.


    • Cab Calloway. Professional music career started in 1930. First major hit in 1931.
    • Robert Johnson. All of his known recordings took place in 1936 and 1937.
    • Frank Sinatra. First commercial record in 1939.

    Newspaper Comics

    • Mickey Mouse Comic Universe. Most of these characters were introduced in the comic strip by Floyd Gottfredson.
      • Mickey Mouse. Adapted to the medium in January, 1930.
      • Minnie Mouse. Adapted to the medium in January, 1930.
      • Clarabelle Cow. Adapted to the medium in April, 1930.
      • Horace Horsecollar. Adapted to the medium in April, 1930.
      • Pete. Adapted to the medium in April, 1930.
      • Sylvester Shyster. First appeared in April, 1930.
      • Uncle Mortimer. First appeared in April, 1930.
      • Pluto the Pup. Adapted to the medium in July, 1931.
      • Captain Nathaniel Churchmouse. First appeared in May, 1932.
      • Mortimer ("Morty") and Ferdinand ("Ferdie") Fieldmouse. First appeared in September, 1932.
      • Professors Ecks, Doublex and Triplex. First appeared in November, 1932.
      • Goofy. Adapted to the medium in January, 1933.
      • Captain Doberman. First appeared in February, 1933.
      • Gloomy. First appeared in February, 1933.
      • Tanglefoot. First appeared in June, 1933.
      • Eli Squinch. First appeared in july, 1934.
      • Mortimer Mouse. First appeared in January, 1936.
      • Detective Casey. First appeared in July, 1938.
      • Chief O'Hara. First appeared in May, 1939.
      • The Phantom Blot. First appeared in May, 1939.
    • Li'l Abner. First appeared in August, 1934.
    • Disney Ducks Comic Universe. Most of these characters debuted in the comic strips written by Ted Osborne and drawn by Al Taliaferro.
      • Donald Duck. Adapted to the medium in September, 1934.
      • Huey, Dewey and Louie. First appeared in October, 1937. Adapted for Animation in April, 1938.
      • Bolivar. Adapted to the medium in March, 1938.
      • Gus Goose. First appeared in May, 1938. Adapted for Animation in May, 1939.
    • Little Lulu. First appeared in February, 1935.
    • The Phantom. First appeared in February, 1936.


    Video Games

    Western Animation

    Multiple Media

    Works made, but not set, during the thirties:


    As mentioned above, the film industry was one of the few to thrive during the Depression. Among the movies made (but not set) during The Thirties:


    Newspaper Comics


    Western Animation