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And we move on to the 1930s, a decade of Depression, fascism, and a whole lot of upheaval throughout the world....

Since Yesterday, by Frederick Lewis Allen - a sequel to Only Yesterday about the upheavals of the 1930s. Not as good, but still useful.

American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work, by Nick Taylor - excellent history of the Works Progress Administration, the government program that put literally millions of Americans back to work doing everything from delivering library books to painting murals in public buildings. Essential for anyone interested in how the Federal Arts Project worked, or why Americans saw FDR as their savior during time of unbelievable want...and remember, according to Marvel canon Steve did work for the FAP for a couple of years late in the decade, so he could have done anything from work on murals to teach at the community art center up in Harlem.

Berlin Diary, by William L. Shirer - Shirer was a foreign correspondence in Berlin and Vienna during the Nazi rise to power, and he knew many of the senior Nazis personally. His loathing for Hitler and his buddies is obvious, but you can't find a better first-hand account of what it was like to see a country invaded by its own government.

Hitlerland, by Andrew Nagorski, and In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson - two books about the experience of Americans encountering the early Nazi party. Nagorski covers the two decades between the end of the Great War and American's final break with Germany in December 1941, while Larson concentrates on an American ambassador and his daughter in 1932 and 1933. The cluelessness of a lot of sharp people who should have known better is terrifying.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck - if there was one literary novel that Steve would have read during this time, it's Steinbeck's masterpiece about the Joads and their hopeless emigration to California. Searing look at the poverty of the Dust Bowl and the plight of the dispossessed.

Pulps - science fiction, horror, romance, confessions, mysteries, adventures, Westerns, what passed for smut, Doc Savage, whole magazines about zeppelins…you name it, there was a pulp magazine devoted to it. Mainly for working class audiences, but some titles were read by the educated public as well.

Music - more blues, more authentic jazz, folk music thanks to Alan Lomax and the WPA, and the brilliant work of George Gershwin and other composers who began building the store of popular song that became the Great American Songbook. Classical music meant Aaron Copland, Gershwin, Ferde Grofe, and a huge number of composers trained by Nadia Boulanger in Paris, as well as the NBC Symphony under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. Best of all, records actually could fit more than three minutes on a side!

Theater - Orson Welles got his start directing a revolutionary all-black Macbeth starring Paul Robeson. Add in Broadway, Hallie Flanagan's Federal Theater Project, socially conscious plays like Waiting for Lefty, and the legendary "perform from the audience" opening night of Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock, and it's doubtful that the New York theater scene was ever livelier or more controversial. One thing to keep in mind: the arts scene in general (theater, writing, music, fine arts) was permeated by radical/progressive/Communist/socialist thinking thanks to the rotten economy, the Third International, and the progressive ideals of New Dealers like Hallie Flanagan.

Art - social realism was the trend in America, but Picasso's masterpiece Guernica was a searing reminder of what was going on in Spain. Art Deco was triumphant in buildings like the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, and of course Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center. Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Bernice Abbott, and even Jackson Pollack were active, and the FAP was decorating hospitals, schools, and public buildings across the country. And of course Maxfield Parrish was still painting naked girls on rocks :)

Movies - not only did movies talk, they were increasingly in full color, and ranged from musicals to screwball comedies to melodramas to gangster flicks to science fiction. Possibly the greatest year in movie history was 1939, when America welcomed Gone With The Wind AND The Wizard of Oz AND StagecoachM AND a bleepload of other superb films. On a more ominous note, Leni Riefenstal's magnificent but horrifying Nazi propaganda films Triumph of the Will and Olympiad came out, and scared the pants off of anyone with a brain...and yes, they're both on Youtube.

Culture in general - labor unrest was endemic, including sit-down strikes and plenty of violence directed at both unions and management. The Lindbergh kidnapping was all over the news, especially after accused kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann was captured in the Bronx. Prohibition was repealed and decent alcohol was available again. The Olympics were held in Berlin, and American were delighted when Jesse Owens beat the supposedly superior Aryan athletes of Nazi Germany (even if Owens himself couldn't be served in far too many places in his native land). Monopoly appeared, Father Coughlin and Henry Ford preached anti-Semitism, and the World's Fair attracted visitors to Flushing Meadows. Disaffected veterans marched on Washington to demand their promised bonuses (and were dispersed at bayonet point by, I kid you not, Douglas MacArthur), while college wags formed a group called the Veterans of Future Wars to demand their bonuses now…and despite the isolationism of the early years of the decade, by the late 30s it was becoming increasingly clear that war was coming to Europe courtesy of Hitler, and America would be drawn in. Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and the Allies were spared a national leader who thought Hitler was just a swell guy who only wanted peace (yes, really).
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