Breaking News of the 1930s
By the 1930s the radio was becoming a staple in many American homes. For the first time, citizens did not have to wait until the evening paper to get the latest news -- radios brought breaking news right into people's living rooms. The airwaves carried talk about jobs and the economy during the Great Depression, but Americans also heard news about incredible advances in science and technology, celebrities of aviation exploration, and political changes afoot in Europe. Read more about some of the breaking news events of the 1930s.
More than four million people are unemployed as a result of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
February 18, 1930
Arizona scientists reveal their newest discovery -- a ninth planet they name Pluto, after the Greek God of the underworld. The discovery sparks public interest in space and inspires Walt Disney to introduce a new animated character, Pluto -- Mickey Mouse's canine companion.
April 1, 1930
For the first time, the 30th U.S. Census asks whether the respondents owned a radio, reflecting an increased interest in communication technology and consumer goods.
September 14, 1930
The Nazi party becomes the second largest political party in Germany, overtaking the Communists.
September 17, 1930
Ray Lyman Wilbur, Secretary of the Interior under President Hoover, drives a silver railroad spike to mark the official start of the construction of the Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam was part of a larger public works relief program to create jobs for those struggling during the first years of the Great Depression.
October 5, 1930
CBS broadcasts the New York Philharmonic live over the radio for the first time. Since the historic broadcast, the Philharmonic has continued to be a consistent presence on national radio.
The President's Emergency Committee for Unemployment Relief reports that 5 million Americans are unemployed. Hoover's promise that the Depression would end quickly begins to seem hollow to the many Americans struggling to support their families.
March 3, 1931
Congress and President Hoover approve The Star Spangled Banner, by Francis Scott Key, as the U.S. national anthem.
May 7, 1931
Ernest Goodpasture helps advance scientific understandings of infectious disease when he publishes “The Susceptibility of the Chorio-Allantoic Membrane of Chick Embryos to Infection with Fowl-Pox Virus.” By growing viruses in chicken eggs, he facilitates the production of crucial vaccines. Goodpasture's findings would earn him public praise and awards from the professional scientific community.
September 19, 1931
Britain leaves the gold standard, leading many in the U.S. to believe another stock market disaster is imminent. Over the next two months, hundreds of banks will close as Americans hastily close out their accounts.
March 1, 1932
Sometime between eight and 10pm Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., infant son of famous aviato Charles Lindbergh, is kidnapped from him home. By 10:30, radio broadcasts are announcing the story to the nation.
May 21, 1932
Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic. News of her landing in Ireland brings Earhart instant international fame. She will later receive awards from the U.S. Congress, the French Government and from President Hoover.
July 7, 1932
Franklin Roosevelt accepts the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, he states: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people." His "new deal" would become the name of his strategy to bring America out of the Great Depression.
January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. Hitler's rise to power is a critical turning point for Germany and for the world. He proposes eliminating traditional party politics, creating a unified one-party state and eradicating all opposition to the Nazi party. News of the power shift worries American leadership and political pundits, who believe Hitler's extremism could lead to a dark future.
March 3, 1933
New U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives his first radio "fireside chat," directly connecting to the American public. Radio allows Roosevelt to calmly and collectively explain his methods for social change, and gives a boost to his public standing. The radio also allows him to reach the American people while concealing his polio symptoms.
April 7, 1933
Beer containing up to 3.2 percent alcohol becomes legal after over 15 years of Prohibition. With news of the legalization, Anheuser-Busch sends their iconic Clydesdale horses to the White House to deliver a case of Budweiser, a media stunt that gets the public laughing. Most Americans enthusiastically greet the news of the repeal.
May 27, 1933
The World’s Fair opens in Chicago. Commemorating an era of technological advancement, it celebrates "A Century of Progress," and includes items such as the German airship Graf Zeppelin, Cadillac's newest limousine, and futuristic model homes.
Oklahoma engineer Karl Jansky publishes Electrical Disturbances Apparently of Extraterrestrial Origins after discovering radio waves emanating from the Milky Way that are causing mysterious radio interference and static. The article is highly publicized. Jansky would eventually be known as the "Father of Radio Astronomy."
February 16, 1934
In New York City's Madison Square Garden, thousands of Communists and Socialists battle in a violent rally. The incident generates news stories that feed into many people's growing uneasiness of Socialism and Communism.
May 11-13, 1934
A dust storm ravages several Midwestern and Western states including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado, forcing hundreds of families to leave their farms. These storms will plague the nation for the next nine years, causing devastating agricultural damage to America's prairie lands and leaving thousands homeless.
August 16, 1934
The first prisoners are delivered to Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay, which houses mostly notorious bank robbers and murderers. The prison will become an iconic symbol of mystery, thrilling Americans with its stories of ghosts, murders and escapes.
April 25, 1935
The first around-the-world telephone conversation spans from New York to San Francisco, Indonesia, Holland, England and back to New York. The call marks a new era in technological advancement.
April 27, 1935
Flash Gordon, the popular science fiction radio show debuts, starring the fictional character Gale Gordon. The American public is immediately enthralled with the exciting story of the hero's adventures on the planet "Mongo." Similar adventure shows attract families to gather around the radio each night.
November 15, 1935
The Nazis revoke German citizenship for all Jews. With the 1936 Olympic games scheduled in Berlin, the German government tones down public anti-Jewish rhetoric over worries that international criticism of Hitler's government could lead organizers to transfer the games to another country.
April 16, 1936
As part of the job stimulus program of the Works Project Administration, Orson Welles directs an all-black cast of Macbeth for the Negro People's Theatre. Both the New York Times and the New York Daily News praise the production.
August 3-9, 1936
African American athlete Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in front of Adolf Hitler, who has recently begun his campaign for the "dominance" of the Aryan race. News of Owens' accomplishment sparks public interest, however, Owens continues to face racial inequality at home.
January 18, 1937
Record rainfall overflows the banks of the Ohio River, leaving 1 million Americans homeless, and $250 million in property damage. Radio stations around the nation broadcast news about the flood for weeks without commercial breaks. Most broadcasts are filled with messages for rescue crews, as many government agencies have no other means of communication.
January 20, 1937
Roosevelt is inaugurated for the second time as a result of one of the greatest landslide victories in American history. As Americans tune in to their radios from all over the country, FDR focuses his inaugural address on the poor "forgotten" American.
Another dust storm hits the West and Midwest. Economic recovery comes to a halt, sending the economy of the region into a second depression and local morale to a new low.
May 6, 1937
The Hindenburg, a German airship carrying passengers planning to attend the coronation festivities of Queen Elizabeth in London, explodes in Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 people. The media there to cover the flight ends up recording the disaster live with newsreel, radio coverage, and photographs. CBS reporter Herbert Morrison's eyewitness "live" radio report is broadcast the next day. Orson Welles replayed the report for his cast as an example of the tone he wanted for War of the Worlds.
July 2, 1937
Amelia Earhart crashes off the coast of Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean in her attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. The news media round-the-clock coverage of the event fascinates the American public and helps generate conspiracy theories about the cause of the mysterious crash.
September 26, 1937
Orson Welles voices protagonist Lamont Cranston on the radio show, The Shadow. Fans adore the show and identify Welles' voice with the wealthy, young crime fighter who has psychic powers.
By 1938, nearly 80% of American households own a radio.
October 30, 1938
Orson Welles airs his famous War of the Worlds broadcast on CBS radio, shocking the nation with his realistic sounding broadcast of a fictional alien invasion in Grovers Mill, New Jersey.
April 20, 1939
New York City holds the World’s Fair, drawing on the theme "The World of Tomorrow." The fair includes the first exhibition of television, ushering in a new era of media and entertainment. Americans visiting the exhibit are also awed by the General Motors Pavilion, a large glass exhibit and ride that serves as a model of the world in 20 years. Automated highways, suburbs, farms of artificially produced crops, and rooftop platforms for flying machines are included in this Utopic World. The theme is meant to provide an escape from the realities of the Great Depression and looming World War.