Times & Places

20th-Century Design: The 1930s

The 1930s were dominated by the economic chaos of the Great Depression and political events leading up to World War II. Before the world was engulfed in war, however, this decade was a time of great innovation and apparent progress despite its economic problems. World trade fairs, such as those held in the United States in 1933 (Chicago), 1936 (Dallas), and 1939 (New York), showcased numerous new inventions and redesigned products. Countless consumer products were redesigned to reflect Western culture's fascination with speed and modernism during the 1930s. Everything from steam irons to vacuum cleaners was transformed to resemble high-speed airplanes and locomotives. Often featuring new materials like plastic, chrome, and aluminum, streamlined products were domestic beacons for a shining future. Tragically, the start of World War II curtailed this progressive vision as industry turned to armaments production and consumers began to live with scarcity on the home front.

Excerpt from

Dallas Museum of Art, Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the 20th Century (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1996).