The Great Depression beset America from 1929 to 1939 and is remembered as the greatest economic downturn the country has ever seen. By 1933 approximately 25% of the entire population was unemployed. Men often deserted their families simply because they couldn’t take care of them. Mothers often moved in with other family to save money.
That said, it was also a time of a great ingenuity, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of boredom, and sometimes out of the great human spirit of survival. In fact, the time period was so rich for inventions, we have The Great Depression to thank for some very handy items we still use today.
1. The Electric Razor (1910)
Colonel Jacob Schick dreamed up the electric razor after spending time in Alaska, where he got sick and tired of lathering up with freezing cold water before he had to shave. He also thought up the idea while recuperating from injury. He thought it so ingenious he sent out plans to manufacturers who immediately rejected the idea, thinking the invention was too bulky. All plans for the razor were put on hold when Schick had to return to active duty during World War I.
After he put his invention on hold and went back to war, he got inspired by weaponry and used the design of repeating firearms in razors with replaceable blades. This style of razor took off (in fact you’re still buying Schick razors in the drug store today). But Jacob Schick couldn’t get the idea of the electric razor out of his head, so he sold assets in his successful razor company and went back to working on the original electric razor idea.
Schick then started his own electric razor factory and churned out various models. He filed his original patent in 1930. It took a while for the idea to catch on, but as more razors were introduced, the electric model became more and more popular. Schick eventually sold to Norelco in the 1980s.
If Schick had not been called back to military service, would he have had his idea for his original injection cartridge blade razor? Maybe not. But thanks to Schick, shaving with a wet face or a dry face with ease and convenience are both options for men the world over.
2. The Car Radio (1930)
Paul and Joseph Galvin are responsible for the invention of the car radio, which has allowed us to listen to music in our cars for over 80 years. Legend has it that the young brothers were on a double date, and that one of their dates wished to be able to listen to music while in their car up on a lookout.
The brothers also wanted a catchy name for their invention. They were inspired by the victrola (the record player) and they went to market with their new invention as the Motorola. As you can guess, the name stuck and is still a name brand for car radios today.
Three years after they launched their invention the Galvin brothers cut a deal with Ford. Soon Ford was putting the device in all their cars. Next came deals with police and fire departments. The Motorola was quickly making the Galvin brothers rich and famous.
The Galvin’s Motorola radio didn’t even evolve again until the 1960s when drivers could actually gain control of what they listened to. Either way, if legend serves correctly, it’s a good thing the brothers went on that double date.