1941 Pop Culture History, Fun Facts and Trivia

1941 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

Quick Facts from 1941

  • World Changing Event: December 7, 1941 – Imperial Japanese fighter planes attacked the Pearl Harbor naval base, bringing the United States into WWII. On December 8, 1941, over 81% of American households tuned in to FDR’s “a date which will live in infamy” speech.
  • Influential Songs include God Bless The Child by Billie Holiday.
  • The Movies to Watch include The Maltese Falcon, Dumbo, Suspicion, Citizen Kane, Road to Zanzibar, The Wolf Man, Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Buck Privates.
  • The Most Famous Person in America was probably Mickey Rooney
  • Notable book: Curious George by H.A. and Margret Ray
  • Price of six 12 oz Pepsi cans in 1941: 23 cents
    Price of a movie ticket: 25 cents
  • The Funny Duo was: Abbott and Costello
  • The Funny Trio was Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour
  • The Escapes: Maps and other escape aids were smuggled to Allied POWs in Monopoly sets during World War II. Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWs who successfully escaped, one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets.

Top Ten Baby Names of 1941

Mary, Barbara, Patricia, Carol, Linda, James, Robert, John, William, Richard

US Life Expectancy

1941 Males: 63.1 years, Females: 66.8 years

The Stars

Ingrid Bergman, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Lena Horne, Veronica Lake, Hedy Lamarr, Carole Landis, Vivien Leigh, Brenda Marshall, Alexis Smith, Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Tierney, Lana Turner

 Entertainment History: The Oscars

The 13th Academy Awards unfolded on February 27, 1941, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Bob Hope reprised his role as host. Rebecca snagged Best Picture, but it was a rarity because it was the only film to win It without receiving the Best Director Award; Alfred Hitchcock didn’t win. The Grapes of Wrath fetched both Best Director for John Ford and Best Actor for Henry Fonda. Ginger Rogers won the Best Actress trophy for her role in Kitty Foyle. A monumental moment came when Walt Disney received a special Oscar for creating Fantasia, a significant accomplishment in sound design. The eligibility year for the awards was the calendar year of 1940. One piece of trivia: This was the last year the Best Picture winner was not also nominated for Best Director.

Miss America

Rosemary LaPlanche (Los Angeles, CA)

Time Magazine’s Man of the Year:

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Firsts, Inventions, and Wonders

M&Ms were invented in 1941 to allow soldiers to enjoy chocolate without it melting. During the war, the candy was sold exclusively to the military.

Captain America Comics #1, the first appearance of Captain America and Bucky. (cover-dated March 1941)

Aquaman and Green Arrow debuted in More Fun Comics, issue number 73. (cover date November)

The first superhero comic book movie was Adventures of Captain Marvel.

Classic Comics series launched in the United States with illustrated versions of The Three Musketeers, followed by Ivanhoe and The Count of Monte Cristo.

The breakfast cereal Cheerios was introduced as CheeriOats by General Mills.

Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr invented the basis for modern WiFi and Bluetooth in 1941.

All persons born in Puerto Rico as of January 13, 1941, were declared US citizens by birth, through federal law.

The Quote

If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way, let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.” – Harry S Truman

US Politics:
January 20, 1941 (Monday): Third inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Hero

During WWII, Chiune Sugihara served as a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania. He and his wife worked 18-hour days to handwrite unlawful travel visas, which allowed an estimated 4,500-6,000 Jews to escape the Holocaust. On the day the consulate was forcibly closed, and he and his wife had to evacuate, they were still handwriting travel visas and throwing them from the train. When asked why he did it, he said: “I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place.”

Pop Culture History

Fantasia and Citizen Kane both bombed at the box office. Disney’s Dumbo, released on October 23, was a hit.

The phrase “You can run but can’t hide” dates back to a taunt by boxer Joe Louis during his fight against Billy Conn in 1941.

Coach bags, introduced in 1941, were based on a baseball glove’s design and surface wear.

Time Magazine’s Person (Mammal) of the Year for 1941 was to be Dumbo the Elephant, but when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred, they changed their minds and gave it to Franklin Roosevelt.

The term ‘Genocide’ was coined by Polish writer and attorney, Raphael Lemkin, in 1941 by combining the Greek word ‘genos’ (race) with the Latin word ‘cide’ (killing).

Science fiction author Isaac Asimov coined the term “robotics” in 1941.

December 7th was ‘a date which will live in infamy.’ Today, many Americans believe President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew about the Japanese “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor. They say he let it happen because it was the only way he could get Americans involved in the war.

Regis Toomey and Jane Wyman held the longest screen kiss at 3 minutes and 5 seconds in You’re In The Army Now.

1941, more than three million cars were manufactured in the United States. Only 139 more were made for the duration of the war. Ford turned out one B-24 bomber every 63 minutes for 24 hours daily.

Mrs. Japp’s Potato Chips (1927 to 2007, Chicago) changed their name to Jays Potato Chips, due to the negative connotation associated with the word ‘Jap’

Using Dr. Charles Drew’s idea, the American Red Cross set up blood donor stations to collect plasma for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Glenn Miller’s Chattanooga Choo-Choo was awarded the first Gold record.

Plutonium was officially chemically identified on February 23rd by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg’s team.

NBC aired a ten-second ad for Bulova watches. This was the first television commercial and cost $7.

According to the Guinness World Records, Elaine Esposito holds the record for the most extended coma, losing consciousness in 1941 and eventually dying in that condition in 1978.

John Huston made his directorial debut in the gritty detective movie The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart. Many historians consider this film to be the first example of film noir.

Broadway Shows

Arsenic and Old Lace (Play) Opened on January 10, 1941, and closed on June 17, 1944
 Angel Street (Play) Opened on December 5, 1941, and closed on December 30, 1944

Nobel Prizes

Physics – not awarded
Chemistry – not awarded
Medicine – not awarded
Literature – not awarded
Peace – not awarded

Popular and Best-selling Books From 1941

Curious George by H.A. and Margret Ray
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
H. M. Pulham, Esquire by John P. Marquand
The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Mr. and Mrs. Cugat by Isabel Scott Rorick
Random Harvest by James Hilton
Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber
The Sun Is My Undoing by Marguerite Steen
This Above All by Eric Knight
Windswept by Mary Ellen Chase


World Series Champions: New York Yankees
NFL Champs: Chicago Bears
Stanley Cup Champs: Boston Bruins
U.S. Open Golf: Craig Wood
U.S. Tennis (Men/Ladies): Robert Riggs/Sarah Palfrey Cooke
Wimbledon (Men/Women): not held
NCAA Football Champions: Minnesota
NCAA Basketball Champions: Wisconsin
Kentucky Derby Winner: Whirlaway
Boston Marathon Winner: Leslie S. Pawson Time: 2:30:38

More 1941 Facts & History Resources:

Most Popular Baby Names (BabyCenter.com)
Popular and Notable Books (popculture.us)
Broadway Shows that Opened in 1941
1941 Calendar, courtesy of Time and Date.com
Fact Monster
Forties Nostalgia
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The 1940s, Infoplease.com World History
1941 in Movies (according to IMDB)
Retrowaste Vintage Culture
1940s Slang
1940 US Census Fast Facts
Wikipedia 1941
WW II: The Path To Pearl Harbor