1931 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

1931 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

Quick Facts from 1931

  • Amazing Event: It took only 13 months to complete the Empire State Building, the tallest structure in the world for most of the 20th century.
  • Influential Songs include Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway and Pop Standards As Time Goes By and Dancing in the Dark.
  • The Movies to Watch include I’m No Angel, M, City Lights, Frankenstein, The Public Enemy, Monkey Business, Little Caesar, Night Nurse, and The 3 Penny Opera.
  • The Most Famous Person in America was probably Nikola Tesla.
  • Notable books include The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum.
  • Warner Brothers released the first Merrie Melodies cartoon, Lady, Play Your Mandolin.
  • Price of a man’s tuxedo in 1931: $25.00
  • The Funny Observational Humorist was Will Rogers
  • The hottest new movie star was: Jean Harlow
  • A 17-year-old female baseball pitcher, Jackie Mitchell, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the same exhibition game.
  • The Conversation: The Star-Spangled Banner officially became the US national anthem. Many thought (and still think) it should be America the Beautiful or God Bless America.

Top Ten Baby Names of 1931

Mary, Betty, Dorothy, Barbara, Joan, Robert, James, John, William, Richard

US Life Expectancy

(1931) Males: 59.4 years, Females: 63.1 years

The Stars

Josephine Baker, Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Louise Brooks, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Dolores Del Rio, Marlene Dietrich, Kay Francis, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Thelma Todd

Entertainment History: The Oscars

The 4th Academy Awards were held on November 10, 1931, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Conrad Nagel returned as host for the ceremony. This time, the film eligibility period was August 1, 1930, to July 31, 1931. Cimarron won the Best Picture award, becoming the first Western to win. This year was also significant for Marie Dressler, who won Best Actress for her role in Min and Bill, becoming the oldest woman to win the award—a record that stood for decades. The ceremony was also noted for the absence of a Best Director nomination for Cimarron, even though the film won Best Picture. A small piece of trivia: this was the first time the awards were broadcast on the radio, allowing fans to participate in the event from their homes.

Miss America


Time Magazine’s Man of the Year

Pierre Laval

Firsts, Inventions, and Wonders

1931’s Golden Bat, created in Japan, is considered by many to be the world’s first true comic superhero. Golden Bat predates Superman (debut 1938) and Batman (debut 1939).

The Joy of Cooking was self-published in 1931, by Irma Rombauer.

The first time term, American Dream, was coined in James Truslow Adams’ Epic of America: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. … It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, … regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

Alka Seltzer was introduced.

The Empire State Building was completed. It was nicknamed the “Empty State Building” by New Yorkers and didn’t become profitable until 1950.

The first Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center was erected by construction workers in 1931 during the Depression. Workers pooled their money to buy the tree and decorated it with tin cans and garlands made by their families.

Dick Tracy, the comic strip detective character, by cartoonist Chester Gould, debuted in the Detroit Mirror newspaper.

The “never date anyone under half your age plus seven” rule of thumb appeared in 1931, said Maurice Chevalier, a French actor, singer, and entertainer.

Times New Roman typeface was commissioned by The Times of London in 1931.

Nevada legalized gambling on March 19, 1931.

Coaxial Cable (#1,835,031) was patented, basically running a wire wrapped around another wire.

DeVry University was established in 1931, by Herman A. DeVry.

The iconic film images of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, and Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff) were released within just months of each other in 1931, both by Universal Pictures.

Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory was displayed in Paris at the Galerie Pierre Colle for the first time.

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1931 include

Gus Arnheim & His Orchestra, Ben Bernie & His Orchestra, The Boswell Sisters, Cab Calloway, Russ Columbo, Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Ruth Etting, Libby Holman, Hal Kemp, and His Orchestra, Wayne King and His Orchestra, Ted Lewis and His Band, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Bert Lown & His Orchestra, Clyde McCoy & His Orchestra, The Mills Brothers, Ray Noble, and His Orchestra, Kate Smith, Rudy Vallée & His Connecticut Yankees, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians

Pop Culture Facts & History

Considered his finest film by many, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights was released. Charlie believed that ‘talking’ was a lesser form of performing in movies, so he didn’t talk, but he did include a soundtrack and sound effects.

Airstream trailers were introduced to the public, invented by Wally Meryle Byam. They say that 2/3 of every one of these vehicles ever produced is still in use.

Hail Columbia was considered (among other songs) as the unofficial national anthem of the United States until 1931, when The Star-Spangled Banner was officially designated.

17-year-old female baseball pitcher Jackie Mitchell struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the same exhibition game.

Betty Robinson, an Olympic runner, was involved in a plane crash in 1931 and was wrongly pronounced dead upon first being discovered. She spent seven months in a coma and it took her two years to learn to walk normally again. In 1936, she returned to the US Olympic team and won gold in the relay.

Alka-Seltzer was made available in 1931. The original ingredients included 325 milligrams of aspirin, 1,000 milligrams of citric acid, and 1,916 milligrams of sodium bicarbonate.

CBS went on the air.

Alice in Wonderland was banned in the Hunan province of China, because the Governor, Ho Chien, felt that: “animals should not use human language”, and that it was “disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”

Karl Freund, cinematographer on Metropolis (1927), and Dracula (1931), also shot most of the I Love Lucy episodes.

In Frankenstein, the line “Now I know what it feels like to be God!” following “It’s alive! It’s alive!” was censored by audio of a clap of thunder because it was considered blasphemous and was restored decades later. Most props used in Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein were from the original 1931 Frankenstein film. The “bolts” in the Monster’s neck in Frankenstein, are electrodes. One is positive and the other, negative.


New Zealand’s Mount Victoria Tunnel is also known as “The tooting tunnel,” and when you start tooting in there, people start tooting with you. Tooting in there is a way to pay tribute to pregnant murdered teenager Phillis Symons in 1931.

Ninety-six workers died while constructing the Hoover Dam from 1931-1935.

An 11-year-old boy, Wilbur Brink, was killed during the 1931 Indy 500 race when a tire from a race wreck flew out of the Speedway, across the street, and over his house, landing on his head as he played in his backyard.

When Thomas Edison died in 1931, Nikola Tesla was the only one to submit an unfavorable opinion of him to the NY Times:
“He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind, and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene … His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90 percent of the labor. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct and practical American sense.”

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep

Mary Elizabeth Frye was an American housewife and florist who scribbled a poem (‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’) on a paper bag. She circulated the poem privately, but never published or copyrighted it.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Nobel Prize Winners

Physics – not awarded
Chemistry – Carl Bosch, Friedrich Bergius
Physiology or Medicine – Otto Heinrich Warburg
Literature – Erik Axel Karlfeldt
Peace – Jane Addams, Nicholas Murray Butler

Jane Addams was nominated 91 times for the Nobel Peace Prize before becoming the first American woman to receive the award in 1931. She was the first American Woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Popular and Best-selling Books From 1931

A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich
Back Street by Fannie Hurst
The Bridge of Desire by Warwick Deeping
Finch’s Fortune by Mazo de la Roche
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy
The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque
Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes


World Series Champions: St. Louis Cardinals
Stanley Cup Champs: Montreal Canadiens
U.S. Open Golf: Billy Burke
U.S. Tennis (Men/Ladies): H. Ellsworth Vines/Helen Wills Moody
Wimbledon (Men/Women): Sidney Wood/Cilly Aussem
NCAA Football Champions: USC
Kentucky Derby Winner: Twenty Grand
Boston Marathon Winner: James Henigan Time: 2:46:45

More 1931 Facts & History Resources:

Most Popular Baby Names (BabyCenter.com)
Popular and Notable Books (popculture.us)
Broadway Shows that Opened in 1931
1931 Calendar, courtesy of Time and Date.com
Fact Monster
The Great Depression Hoover Library
1930s, Infoplease.com World History
1931 in Movies (according to IMDB)
Retrowaste Vintage Culture
1930s Slang
Wikipedia 1931
WW II Timeline