Rich people during the 1930s

This article will discuss the life of rich people during the 1930s, what were their habits, how they entertained themselves, and how they handled adversities brought on by The Great Depression.

Rich people during the 1930s 

The beginning of this decade had people living through The Great Depression, and by the end of it, people were starting to see a war started, which later turned into World War II. Even though all that, it seemed that for the rich people in the 1930s life continued as it has always been, and as it will always be.

Of course, some of them got greatly affected by the market crash, but most of them still kept the same lifestyle they had always had. The glamorous places in New York City, such as El Morocco and The Stork Club kept full, and it was the place to see and be seen. 

Full of celebrities, those places host huge parties when the rest of America is facing starvation. And as market shelves were empty, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel opened its doors in 1931. The construction of the hotel alone was around 42 million dollars. 

To make its parties even more exciting, the hotel had its host, Elsa Maxwell, that created many activities to make the guests have a lot more fun during the parties.

She invented the scavenger hunt, as a way to keep them entertained. Not only that, there were costume parties, painting parties, cooking soirees, and parlor games. And not only the Waldorf-Astoria was serving entertainment back then, but The Ritz also had many celebrations as well. 

The hotel hosted many coming out to society parties, especially one for Barbara Hutton, the granddaughter of the millionaire Frank W. Woolworth. For this event, in 1933, eucalyptus and silver birch trees were brought from California. Four orchestras accompanied the singer Rudy Vallee. 

The party cost more than 60 thousand dollars, and anyone who was someone was there even the Rockefellers and the Astors. So many other rich people made sure the extravagant life went on, not only in New York City but on the west coast as well. There was the newspaper owner Willian Randolph Hearst. 

Even though he was losing the advertisement money, he kept living the lavish lifestyle to the point he built new rooms in his house to accommodate the guests he brought for his parties.

He made the most extravagant parties, with many movie stars, and in the New Year’s of 1932, he made a costume party where people should go dressed as children. It was much talked about after a journalist said that the exciting thing about this party was that the clothes were inexpensive.

All of this while some people had nowhere to sleep or nothing to eat, sounded incredibly offensive. Something that impacted all the partying going on in the 1930s was the abolishment of alcohol prohibition in 1933. 

This happened as a way for the government to be able to tax alcoholic drinks, but it had an impact on the events as well.

All those glamorous events were a way that the upper class could feel like a superhero like The Great Depression wouldn’t catch up to them. They even went to other countries to spend their money. The Agua Caliente Hotel and Casino, which was located in Tijuana, Mexico, was a place people would go to see. 

Rita Hayworth was a celebrity that got her start in the hotel, which was closed when the Mexican president made gambling illegal. Another way they spent their money was in jewelry, especially since they started to use Hollywood stars to advertise diamonds. 

This era is what created the tradition of giving a diamond as an engagement ring. But some of them showed a charitable side during the crises. Marion Daves, who had an affair with Hearst, not only hosted wild parties, but she also created a children’s hospital and was constantly giving money away to charity.

But overall, in the 1930s rich people had a pretty comfortable life, and not only were there the ones that were already rich during this period. It was also a period when others became rich. An example of that is the Hollywood star Mae West. 

Before The Great Depression, she was a burlesque dancer and wrote some Broadway plays. But her life was completely changed by the need for entertainment The Great Depression brought. Now, people needed a cheaper way of having fun, and movie theaters were the way to go.

In 1933 she got hired by a studio that was close to bankruptcy, Paramount studios, to make two movies: She Done Him Wrong and an adaptation of the play she had written for Broadway Diamond Lil. And with the release of the movies, she became a movie star, at age 39. 

Not only that, she turned into one of the highest-paid entertainers in Hollywood and was the highest-paid woman in the United States. Along with all of this, the release of both movies by Paramount took the studio out of bankruptcy.

And along with Mae West, some other rich people became even richer during The Great Depression. An example of that is Joseph Kennedy Sr. He had already made a lot of money in the 1920s in unregulated stock because he had inside trading. And he used the money he had made in this period to invest in the movie industry.

He bought a small studio that was close to failing, made it a lot more efficient, and sold it for a fortune. And before the crash of 1929, he sold all of his stock still at a good price because he believed they would go down at some point. 

Because of that, he made a lot of money, since people still weren’t panicking about the stock price and crash.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): How was the life of rich people during the 1930s? 

What were forms of entertainment during the 1930s? 

During the 1930s the sources of entertainment changed significantly. Although the rich and famous were still living their glamorous life, the other social classes dealt with entertainment differently. During that period, the movie theaters turned into a great source of fun.

Many Hollywood movies were released then, such as The Wizard of Oz, in 1939, and Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, in 1937. Movie theaters were quite cheap back then, so people could easily go. 

Along with that, many dancing marathons were going on. Many people would apply to this contest in which they would dance until they were exhausted. 

And although it may have been fun, back then people were also participating in them as a way to find shelter, and have some food. Along with that, during that period many of the Halloween traditions were created. Many haunted houses were made as a way to keep youth out of trouble.

Along with those, following the lifestyle of the rich and famous was also a source of entertainment. People would read newspapers and always wanted to know who was at the Cafe Society, a place where all celebrities used to go. 

Not only there, after the prohibition of alcohol was lifted, but people would also want to know who was in what party, and what nightclub.

What were the celebrities of the 1930s?

In the 1930s many celebrities marked their names in history. There was Carmen Miranda, who performed greatly during that time. And Greta Garbo was a tremendous actress. Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Fred Astaire, who was great actor and dancer.

Along with them, Paul Robeson became the first black actor to do a performance that topped the one of a white actor on The Emperor Jones, which was released in 1933. Spencer Tracy won the Oscar in 1937 for his role in Captains Courageous.

Those were some of the known names of cinema during the 1930s that one often still knows nowadays.

What were the famous writers of the 1930s? 

There were many famous writers during the 1930s that wrote many masterpieces. An example of that is Virginia Woolf, who wrote The Waves in 1931. Along with her, in 1930 Willian Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying.

Stella Gibbons wrote, in 1932, a funny book called Cold Comfort Farm. And in the same year, Aldous Huxley wrote the masterpiece Brave New World. In 1934 Agatha Cristie released the book that is still famous nowadays Murder on The Orient Express. The same year that George Orwell wrote Burmese Days.

Who got rich during the 1930s? 

During the 1930s, although the general population may have lost a lot, some people became richer and even reached stardom. An example of that is the actress Mae West. She started to star in movies when she was 39, in 1932. She made two movies for Paramount studios, which was about to go bankrupt at that time.

But because of their huge success, not only the studio profits, but she came to be one of the most well-paid entertainers and the better paid Hollywood actress. Along with her, another figure that invested in the movies became even richer during that period. 

Howard Hughes, was a millionaire since 18, due to his father’s heritage. Started to invest in movies, making some, like Hell’s Angels, which turned into hits.

Along with the investment in the movie industry, he put a lot of money into the aviation industry, which led him to increase his fortune, even more, making the Great Depression extremely profitable to him.

How did the other social classes live during the 1930s?

During that period, the social classes were divided between the low class, middle class, and upper class. The lower class, which was mostly made of African American workers, was the one that felt the Great Depression the worse. They lost their jobs right away, and many even lost their houses.

In this class, men, women, and children worked in anything they could find just to survive. They would offer their labor in farms, and get food from soup and bread lines, along with staying in the shelter when they found one. The middle class had to struggle with the money they lost.

Some of them lost everything, while the ones that still had some money had to manage it differently from how they did before the Great Depression.


This article discussed how rich people lived in the 1930s. It explained their interests, hobbies, and source of entertainment. Aside from that, the article explained how they dealt with The Great Depression.

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