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Key: Politics and Society, Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, World

Year in Review

Politics and Society

  • President Franklin Roosevelt asks Congress for $1,800,000,000 for defense.
  • US declines to renew its commercial treaty with Japan.
Ida May Fuller with First Social Security check First ever payment of Social Security made to Ida May Fuller, 31 January.
  • Air Defense Command is established to plan air defense of US against possible attack.
  • US Supreme Court declares antipicketing laws of Alabama and California unconstitutional on the grounds of First Amendment rights.
  • President Roosevelt asks Congress for $1,300,000,000 in supplemental funds for military and naval development.
  • US begins to supply Great Britain with surplus war material, including aircraft.
  • Passage of Pittman Resolution in Congress permits sale of US arms to countries in South Africa.
  • Congress raises the national debt ceiling to a record high of $49,000,000,000.
  • An amendment to Hatch Act (1939) limits presidential campaign spending to $3,000,000 with no individual contribtions more than $5,000.
  • Democratic National Chairman: Roosevelt to get 427 out of 531 electoral votes and to carry all but nine states.
  • Republican National Chairman: Wilkie to get 324 out of 531 electoral votes, including New York's.
  • Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee from 1932 to 1936 (who guessed the 1932, 1934, and 1936 elections accurately): Wilkie to get 353 electoral votes, a majority of "about 4,000,000" votes.
  • To strengthen US eastern coast, Roosevelt provides Britain with 50 overage destroyers in exchange for right to establish naval bases on seven British territories.
  • US warns Japan not to attack French Indochina
  • US enacts first peacetime draft. By October, more than 16,000,000 will have registered for possible military conscription.
Propaganda film by Republican party campaign on behalf of Wendell Wilkie for President (and in some circles, the favored candidate to win): The Truth About Taxes.
FDR at the Mic Roosevelt gives famous "Arsenal of Democracy" Fireside Chat. Full text and CBS radio broadcast.
Science and Technology
The 1939 RCA TRK-12 1940 starts off looking promising to the television industry. Certain factors would soon change this.
Roll-Oh film Can a robot do the chores?
Leave It to Roll-Oh
  • Harvard geologists report traces of man in North America 25,000 years ago.
  • First complete two-way radio AM police radio (Motorola brand) installed in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
  • FCC develops commercial television rules.
  • Igor Sikorsky demonstrates first direct-lift aircraft in US, the Vought-Sikorsky helicopter.
Tower of W3XE RCA and Philco televise the Republican National Convention from Philadelphia.
  • IBM reports a gross income of $45,000,000 and and 12,656 employees.
Peter Carl Goldmark with a color wheel. New York: Color television is demonstrated over the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) station.
  • Dr. Richard B. Goldschmidt, Professor of Zoology at the University of California, announces a new theory of evolution: organic changes occur by rapid "leaps" or mutations rather than by a gradual process, as Darwin had maintained.
  • Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the third-longest single-span bridge in the world, falls into Puget Sound, Washington only four months after its completion. Aerodynamic flaws are blamed for collapse during a 42mph windstorm.
  • While dedicating a $4,000,000 National Health Institute in Bethesda, MD, Roosevelt praises the family doctor: "Neither the American people nor their government intend to socialize medical practice."
M-O-U-S-E Walt Disney's ground-breaking animated film Fantasia fails with audiences and critics.
  • Curvlite, a synthetic glass of US manufacture that makes light turn corners, helps Londoners save lives during bombing campaigns. London surgeons now using Curvlite for operations during blackouts.
1940 January 1940 February 1940 March 1940 April 1940 May 1940 June 1940 July 1940 August 1940 September 1940 October 1940 November 1940 December 1940
Arts and Culture
Rebecca -- Display Poster Rebecca wins the 1940 Best Picture award at the February 1941 Academy Awards.
  • Pulitzer Prizes for Letters & Drama: NOVEL-- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Viking); BIOGRAPHY-- Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters, Vols. VII and VIII, by Ray Stannard Baker (Doubleday); HISTORY-- Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, by Carl Sandburg (Harcourt); POETRY-- Collected Poems, by Mark Van Doren (Holt); DRAMA-- The Time of Your Life, by William Saroyan
Best Selling Books in 1940 (a selection)
  • Kitty Foyle; C. Morley
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls; E. Hemingway
  • The Grapes of Wrath; J. Steinbeck
  • How to Read a Book; M. Adler
  • The Family; N. Fedorova
  • New England: Indian Summer; V. W. Brooks
  • An Amercian Negro exposition is held at Chicago to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • US Census of 1940 states US population as 131,669,275 (an increase of 8,894,229 over the 1930 census).
  • The 40-hour work week, a provision of the Wages and Hours Act (1938) goes into effect as scheduled.
Hit Songs of 1940
  • "There I Go," by Zaret/Weiser
  • "Practice Makes Perfect," by Ernest Gold
  • "The Woodpecker Song," by Adamson/di Lazzaro
  • "I'll Never Smile Again," by Ruth Lowe
  • "Trade Winds," by Friend/Tobias
  • "Sierra Sue," by Joseph Carey
  • Major General William N. Haskell forbids the showing of the motion picture Of Mice and Men, based on Steinbeck's book, in two Army posts theaters at Fort McClellan, Alabama, as inappropriate for Christmas Eve. Chaplains call the film morbid and degenerate.
  • Germans begin the construction of Auschwitz.
  • A puppet Chinese government headed by Wang Jingwei established at Nanjing with Japanese support.
  • Fighting Russia since November 1939, Finland surrenders to Russia.
  • Germany invades the Soviet Union without warning.
  • Italy and Albania join the Axis.
  • Italy declares war on France and Britain.
  • Britain announces a complete blockade of Italy.
  • Audio: France surrenders to Germany.
  • Romania and Hungary join the Axis.
  • Hitler states in his New Year's speech to his army: "The year 1941 will bring consummation of the greatest victory in our history."
  • Japan's Foreign Minister, Yosuke Matuoka, declares: "I fear the coming year will prove most tragic and unfortunate for all mankind..."
  • Nazi leader, Joseph Goebbels delivers New Year's tidings and a rundown of 1940 victories to the German people. Full text is available.