1939 Fun Facts, Trivia and History
Quick Facts from 1939:
- A World Changing Event: General Motors introduced the Hydra-Matic drive, the first mass-produced, fully automatic transmission, as an option in 1940 model year Oldsmobile automobiles.
- Another World Changing Event: Batman, created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger, made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (May cover date)
- Influential Songs include: Over The Rainbow by Judy Garland and God Bless America by Kate Smith
- The Movies to Watch include The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Son of Frankenstein, Gunga Din, Mister Smith Goes to Washington, Destry Rides Again and Stagecoach
- The Most Famous Person in America was probably Lou Gehrig
- Notable books include: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Minimum Wage in 1939: 30 cents/hour
- Amelia Earhart was officially declared dead after her 1937 disappearance.
- Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood debuted on radio with gossip columnist Hedda Hopper as host.
- The 1939 New York World’s Fair opened on April 30th.
- The Conversion: In 1939 Thanksgiving was moved to give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas in order to increase profits and spending during this period.
Top Ten Baby Names of 1939: Mary, Barbara, Patricia, Betty, Shirley, Robert, James, John, William, Richard
US Life Expectancy: (1939) Males: 62.1 years, Females: 65.4 years
The Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert, Olivia de Havilland, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Myrna Loy, Brenda Marshall, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner
Miss America: Patricia Donnelly (Detroit Michigan)
Time Magazine’s Man of the Year: Joseph Stalin
Firsts, Inventions and Wonders:
The first Thin Mint cookies were baked by the Girl Scouts in 1939.
Founded by Carl Stotz, the first Little League Baseball game was played in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
In the 1939 film The Women, no men or even male animals or portraits appear on-screen. The only visibly male creatures are a drawing of a bull and an advertisement.
The Westinghouse Time Capsules are two time capsules prepared by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company: “Time Capsule I” was created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and “Time Capsule II” was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Both are buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, the site of both world’s fairs; the 1965 capsule was placed ten feet north of the 1939 capsule. The capsules are to be opened at the same time in the year 6939, five thousand years after the first capsule was sealed.
Winston Churchill coined the term “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” during his The Russian Enigma broadcast.
The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s novel, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. In the original story, Dorothy wore silver slippers to protect her from the Wicked Witch of the West, but this was changed to Ruby Slippers in the film to take advantage of the new Technicolor process.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was officially dedicated in Cooperstown, New York.
Ernest Vincent wrote the book Gadsby, which has over 50,000 words in it without containing the letter ‘e’.
David Sarnoff, the president of RCA, declared television would allow “Americans (to) attain the highest general cultural level of any people in the history of the world.”
Pop Culture News:
Playing Card Game Canasta was created by Segundo Santos and Alberto Serrato in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1939. It spread to the US by the late 1940s.
In 1939 the New York Times predicted that the television would fail because the average American family would not have enough time to sit around watching it.
The Magna Carta was on display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, but WWII had broken out and the Magna Carta was moved to Fort Knox for safekeeping until the end of the war
The Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz was made from the skin and fur of a real lion.
Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the last week in November to the 4th week in November in an effort to boost retail sales during the Great Depression.
Penicillin, discovered in 1925, was tested on human beings, curing many diseases including tuberculosis and gonorrhea. It was the first true anibiotic.
The First World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) was held in the Caravan Hall in New York from July 2 to July 4, 1939.
The American Humane Association is charge of putting “no animals were harmed during the making of this film.” They became involved in films because of the 1939’s Jesse James which included a blind-folded horse forced to jump off a 70 foot cliff.
NBC broadcast its first black-and-white television images. Only approximately 1,000 homes had television sets in the New York area at this time.
The current world record holder for world’s oldest dog was Bluey, who lived from 1910 to 1939 and died at the age of 29 years and 5 months.
Bob Feller pitched a game against the White Sox on Mother’s Day 1939 with his family in attendance. One of his pitches was fouled off into the seats, into the face of his own mother right above the right eye, resulting in her needing seven stitches. Feller went on to win the game.
Futurama is named after an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair that showed what they thought the world would be like in 1959.
The Los Angeles Times got the Oscar winner’s names before the official presentations. THAT’s why Price Waterhouse gained control of holding the winner’s names, although they had been tabulating the votes since 1935.
On March 3, 1939, Harvard freshman Lothrop Withington, Jr, became the first goldfish swallower, winning a $10.00 bet. Other, less adventurous people, were reading John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath or watching Gone With The Wind in movie theaters.
The release of Gone With the Wind on December 15th was so big that the mayor of Atlanta declared a 3-day festival that concluded with a state holiday on the day of release.
AT&T made a working answering machine in 1939 but suppressed it, thinking public fear of being recorded would lead to widespread abandonment of the telephone.
Lina Medina, a 5-year-old Peruvian girl, gave birth to a baby boy, becoming the youngest confirmed mother in medical history.
In 1939, 20,000 people (Americans) attended a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden.
Nobel Prize Winners:
Physics – Ernest Lawrence
Chemistry – Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt, Leopold Ružicka
Physiology or Medicine – Gerhard Domagk
Literature – Frans Eemil Sillanpää
Peace – not awarded
Broadway Show – Life With Father (Play) Opened on November 8, 1939 and Closed: July 12, 1947
Popular and Notable Books From 1939:
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
All This, and Heaven Too by Rachel Field
Disputed Passage by Lloyd C. Douglas
Escape by Ethel Vance
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
Kitty Foyle by Christopher Morley
The Nazarene by Sholem Asch
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Tree of Liberty by Elizabeth Page
Wickford Point by John P. Marquand
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
World Series Champions: New York Yankees
NFL Champs: Green Bay Packers
Stanley Cup Champs: Boston Bruins
U.S. Open Golf: Byron Nelson
U.S. Tennis (Men/Ladies): Bobby Riggs/Alice Marble
Wimbledon (Men/Women): Bobby Riggs
NCAA Football Champions: Texas A&M
NCAA Basketball Champions: Oregon
Kentucky Derby Winner: Johnstown
Boston Marathon Winner: Ellison Brown Time: 2:28:51