The 1930s are best known as the Depression era in American history. Families struggling financially turned to inexpensive forms of entertainment, such as playing games at home with family and friends. This led to the rising popularity of a great variety of creative parlor games and activities that can still be used today to entertain your guests at an old-fashioned 1930s birthday party.
Board games were popular during the 1930s and some of today's most popular board games were first released during that decade. Parker Brothers sold 20,000 copies of its Monopoly game in a week in 1935, appealing to the Depression-era culture with its robber-baron imagery. Sorry and Scrabble also got their start in the 1930s, in addition to many lesser-known party games, such as The Jury Box, some of which can be purchased as reproductions. For a younger audience, Chinese checkers, Dominos and Tiddly Winks were around at the time.
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Parlor games were another popular form of inexpensive entertainment. Charades is a classic party game that needs no special equipment. Word puzzles and brain teasers were also trendy at the time. Reproductions of some of these parlor games can be purchased today. Many card games of the 1930s and earlier are still familiar, such as rummy, go fish, pinochle and bridge. The popularity of gambling also increased in the '30s due to the Depression-- so a poker party would also be appropriate.
Baseball began to enjoy more cultural prevalence in the 1930s thanks to its stars of the time like Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. Many people listened to games on the radio but you can enjoy playing a backyard game of baseball outside with your guests -- just make sure everyone dresses for it -- or try the more pocketbook-friendly Depression version, stickball, with a broom handle and any rubber ball. For kids, tug-of-war, red rover, hide-and-seek, duck-duck-goose and hopscotch were also played during that time.
Many kids didn't have access to expensive toys, but small trinkets like spinning tops and yo-yos were common. They can also double as party favors to take home at the end of the party. Jacks, marbles and jigsaw puzzles also fit an old-fashioned party theme.