Thinking about the Great Depression usually summons bleak images of breadlines and a mournful refrain of “Brother, can you spare a dime?” But not in Miami Beach, where the party was just getting started. Much of the city’s current identity—from its architecturally striking Art Deco hotels to its role as a getaway for the vacationing wealthy—has its roots in the seemingly dour 1930s. How to explain this odd dichotomy? “As with everything, Miami Beach is not really America,” says Nicolae Harsanyi, associate librarian at The Wolfsonian-Florida International University.
Harsanyi points to the 2008 Great Recession as an example—the rest of the country may have been plunged into doom and gloom, but South Beach’s VIP rooms hardly emptied out. “There were still rich people who had money, and they spent it when they came down here,” he explains. Likewise, the Wall Street crash of 1929 still left a number of wealthy survivors. Moreover, “By the late 1930s, the Depression wasn’t so harsh anymore. Even upper-middle-class people could board a train and come down for some fun time in Miami Beach.”
Below is a small collection of 14 color vintage photographs shows Miami Beach's daily life in the 1930s.
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