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Kansas in the 1930s

The 1930 census offers a snapshot of Kansas residents at a pivotal time in the state's history. The census contains information about individuals such as name, address, age, sex, race, marital status, age at first marriage, and relationship to the head of the family. In addition information such as the person's education, place of birth, place of parents' birth, employment or occupation, and whether the home was owned or rented was reported. Veterans and the war in which they served were also identified. The census even told who owned a radio.

John Brinkley's radio stationIn 1930 construction was just beginning on the Empire State Building in New York. America was entering the Golden Age of Radio and several Kansans had become well known across the nation. Newspaper editor William Allen White was called the "Sage of Emporia" for his editorials from the heartland. Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas was vice president, making him the first American Indian to serve in that office. In 1928 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. John R. "Doc" Brinkley was known as the "goat gland doctor", a broadcaster, and nearly won the gubernatorial election as a write-in candidate.

In 1930 there were more than 137 million individuals in the nation. Kansas had a population of 1,851,024 with 61 percent of them living on family farms and, for the most part, prospering. From 1929-1932 the income of the average American family dropped by 40 percent, from $2,300 to $1,500.  Because of its agricultural base, most Kansans were not greatly impacted by "Black Thursday," the day the stock market crashed October 24, 1929.

Dust cloud near Hugoton

Yet in 1930, Kansans stood at a crossroads. Their prosperity would soon end with the coming of the Dust Bowl. The long drought forced many Kansas families to pack their cars, tie their few possessions on their top, and seek work in the agricultural fields or cities of the West — forever giving up their role as independent landowners. By 1940, the population of Kansas had dropped by 80,000 persons and only 58 percent were in the farming business.

Entry: Kansas in the 1930s

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2009

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.