06 September 2011

1931 -- Setting the scene

Since we're exploring all these letters written in 1931, I thought I'd set the scene a little bit, with a little help from Wikipedia and What Happened in 1931.

We've come out the Roaring 20s, when women's clothing styles dramatically changed to be shorter and more revealing. Prohibition of alcohol in the United States is still in full effect, but has become unpopular. Chicago mobster Al Capone is convicted and sent to Alcatraz, and Nevada legalizes gambling.

We are between the two world wars, with the Nazi Party in Germany rising to power, but Adolph Hitler is not yet president.

1931 was near the start of the Great Depression, following the New York Stock Market crash of 1929.

Since Noel has just finished a trans-Pacific voyage, I found it interesting to note from the What Happened in 1931 website: "As the great depression spreads world wide thousands of British ships are rusting in harbors because there are no goods to export." 

The unemployment rate in the United States was 16.3 percent that year, reaching 8 million. This underscores all the quotes about the job market that George relays in this next letter, No. 8.

Average prices in the United States, according to the What Happened in 1931 website, were
  • Average wages per year -- $1,850
  • Average cost for house rent -- $18 per month
  • A loaf of bread -- 8 cents
  • A pound of hamburger meat -- 11 cents

In popular culture, the movies "Frankenstein", "Mati Hari", and "City Lights" were popular, as was the song "Just One More Chance" by Bing Crosby.

In New York City, construction of the Empire State Building is completed, and the George Washington Bridge opens.

In Australia, the prime minister was James Scullin; in the United Kingdom, the prime minister was Ramsay MacDonald; and in the United States, the president was Herbert Hoover. 

In Australia, women have had the right to vote since 1902. In the United States, since 1920.