In the 1930s the world was in the grips of the Great Depression and many people were desperate to do anything to win a prize. It was during this time that dance contests and pole witting competitions started gaining media attention. Promoters and venue owners jumped at the chance to charge an entrance fee or sell more concessions. Folks, it seemed, would go to great lengths in order to earn some extra money. But it wasn’t just the thrill of winning a prize, corporations were looking for events to sponsor so that they could sell more and everyone was looking for inexpensive entertainment.
And this is where the first All-American Soap Box Derby came in. Began in 1933 and sponsored by Chevrolet, the Dayton race called on boys to build and race their own derby cars. Some were elaborate and slick carts, while others had a decidedly more “homegrown” feel to them. Within just a few years, the race was already a national pastime with huge press coverage and even more sophisticated derby cars. Have a look at newsreel footage from 1936 which shows the boys hard at work and the winners for that year.