1939 Video Segment

An introduction to the 1930s

The 1930s was a truly historical decade for not just our company and Arizona … but for our nation and the world. Throughout the 1930s, Europe saw the rapid rise of Adolf Hitler, a power that—combined with Japan—would eventually pull the U.S. into World War II. Our country was struggling through the wrath of the Great Depression and the infamous Dust Bowl.

But even through these hardships, the American Spirit lived on, especially in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games when track star Jesse Owens captured the hearts and minds of the world by winning four Olympic gold medals. Hollywood exploded with movie stars like Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and John Wayne. And of course, BCBSAZ opened its doors in 1939. Skim the sections below to read some fun facts on Arizona, BCBSAZ, pop culture and the cost of living in the 1930s!

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Arizona fun facts and national milestones

From the Great Depression and the end of Prohibition, to the invention of air conditioning and the victory of Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics, the 1930s were a busy decade for our state and our nation. Here are some of the most historical milestones from those years:

  • 1930: the total Arizona population is 435,573.
  • Hoover Dam is built.
  • Phoenix develops Sky Harbor International Airport.
  • Astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh discovers Pluto on Feb. 18, 1930 from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.
  • Air conditioning is invented in Phoenix, AZ (1932).
  • Prohibition ends (1933).
  • Jesse Owens wins a gold medal in the 100 and 200 meter sprints, the long jump and the 4x100 meter relay in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
  • 1939: Bob Goldwater’s tournament, The Phoenix Open, is reborn.
  • The Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources is established in 1939.
  • The Tuzigoot Ruins, now known as Tuzigoot National Monument just outside of Clarkdale, AZ, is designated a National Monument by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 25, 1939.
  • 1939: The Gila River Indian Community is formally established by Congress.
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BCBSAZ fun facts

We opened our doors on Feb. 8, 1939! That's right, BCBSAZ was born right here in Arizona during the late 1930s. Stay tuned, as we'll have more BCBSAZ fun facts in the coming months that span the several decades that followed our official founding.

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Pop culture fun facts

Do you know which famous "Rat Pack" singer made his recording debut this decade? Or which famous movie star couple got married in Kingman, AZ? Read below to find out some fun pop culture trivia from the 1930s!

  • John Steinbeck publishes his famous novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” on April 14, 1939.
  • 1939: Frank Sinatra makes his recording debut.
  • Batman makes his first appearance in a comic book on May 1, 1939.
  • Gone with the Wind premiers Dec. 15, 1939.
  • The Wizard of Oz premiers on Aug. 15, 1939.
  • On Oct. 22, 1939, the first NFL game is televised on NBC, featuring the Philadelphia Eagles versus the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • 1939: the song, Beer Barrel Polka, hits number one on the pop singles list.
  • Clark Gable and Carole Lombard get married in Kingman, AZ on March 18, 1939.
  • Irving Berlin writes the song, “White Christmas,” while staying at the Biltmore in Phoenix, AZ on Dec. 25, 1939.
  • 1939: John Wayne films the movie, Stagecoach, in Arizona.
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1930s: what did it cost?

Ever wonder how much an average family made for the year in the 1930s? Or maybe what someone paid for a gallon of milk at the grocery store (if the milkman wasn’t delivering it)? Keep reading to find out:

  • The average salary is $1,368 per year
  • Milk costs 14 cents
  • Bread costs 9 cents
  • A round of steak costs 42 cents
  • A stamp cost 3 cents in 1939.
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Desert Botanical Garden 1930s

SPECIAL FEATURE: Desert Botanical Garden is born!

The year 1939 was not just special to BCBSAZ. Our state’s beloved Desert Botanical Garden also came to be in February 1939, just like us. Please join us in wishing this Arizona gem a very warm Happy 75th Birthday!  Read below to learn a little about their story:

The Desert Botanical Garden was founded in 1939 by a group of Phoenix citizens. They were led by Gustaf Stark and Gertrude Divine Webster, both of whom were concerned with the rapid development of the desert. At that time, desert lands were being used for growing citrus, cotton and for mining copper. Stark and Webster therefore asked the state to set aside a piece of land that could be used to preserve the desert for future generations.

The Garden grew slowly during its formative years as the nation and state weathered the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II. Arizona boomed as veterans settled in our state and more desert land was converted to homes and businesses. But the vision of Stark and Webster prevailed. Over the years, surely and steadily, the Desert Botanical Garden became nationally recognized as a champion of plant conservation, a pioneer in the care and display of desert plants, an innovator in life-long education and a respected leader in Sonoran Desert research.

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