1930s: Print Culture
1930s: Print Culture
Reading remained an important source of news and entertainment in America during the 1930s. Throughout the decade, more than thirty-nine million people read daily newspapers, even though radio had caused the number of different newspapers to decline. By comparison, there were twenty-nine million radios in American homes at the beginning of the decade and thirty-five million by the end of the decade. For the majority of Americans, reading was the most important source of information and entertainment that they had.
Comic strips and comic books were among the most popular forms of entertainment during the decade. Blondie, a comic strip that started in 1930 as a playful story about young people in the Jazz Age, turned into a funny strip about work and family life in America. Dick Tracy offered readers an opportunity to plunge into the life of a detective battling vicious gangsters, the criminals that most fascinated people during the decade. Superheroes, including Batman, Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, and Superman, thrilled readers with incredible adventures, secret identities, and unbelievable physical abilities.
While many improbable and fantastic stories were sold in book form, some serious fiction was sold as well. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck (1902–1968), for example, painted a picture of the worst circumstances of American suffering during the Great Depression (1929–41). Nevertheless, the most popular kind of book was detective fiction. At a time when every penny counted, cheaper paperback books began to be offered to increase all kinds of book sales.
Magazines such as Life and Family Circle offered news and stories for the family. Esquire courted a male readership and soon became successful featuring some of the best short-story writers of the time, including Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), and Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951). Esquire also profited by gearing articles exclusively to male tastes and interests. Woman's Day started as a magazine specifically for women. Pulp magazines continued to pump out fantastic stories for the light entertainment of readers throughout the country. In short, American readers had varying tastes, and there was generally something for everybody.