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September 16, 1940


Selective Service Act May Affect Local Boys

News Stories Editorials Advertising Charlottesville: A Safe Haven

The editors at The Daily Progress took definite note that rising European conflicts were about to really hit home hard on September 16, 1940 when FDR signed the Selective Service Act, enacting the first peace-time draft. The headline, accompanied by a large picture of the signing of the draft read, "FDR Today Signs First Peace-Time Conscription Bill: Draft Proclamation is Also Anticipated" sat atop a large Associated Press story which explained the fact that American boys were about to be drafted from all over America. The editors of the newspaper realized that this bill would affect men over 18 everywhere in the United States, including Charlottesville. For this reason, the bill was emphasized in the same was that it was in major newspapers across America on this day when war truly hit home for many American cities.

While the editorialists at The Daily Progress gave general support towards eventual American intervention in the rising conflict in Europe, which had been recently increased by Germany's invasion of Poland, they were becoming somewhat suspicious of FDR's policies once he ordered the draft. In a September 16, 1940 editorial, ironically labeled "Timely Pledges," they noted the pledge that FDR had given during his campaign that he would do all in his power "to keep war away from these shores for all time." These editorialists at the newspaper partly sensed that this war was inevitable, but they also questioned whether it was absolutely necessary at this point to be calling American men not already in the military, to prepare for action. For this reason they were skeptical of disrupting the lifestyle of Americans not devoted to military duty, before it was absolutely necessary. War was going to come to the shores of America by taking its men and boys, but the editors at The Daily Progress were not certain that it needed to come to this point yet.

While the advertising at this point in The Daily Progress had not yet reached the war enthusiasm that it eventually would after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the coming war and the going signs of Depression became observable in certain ostensible details. Two days after the Selective Service Act was signed, the editors at the newspaper decided to place a copy of the draft questionnaire in the newspaper as a public service to educate young men about how the process would work. The appearance of this draft notice was accompanied by extensive explanations about how one would go about filling it out correctly. In other advertising, it simply went on as normal at this point and did not reach a war fever pitch until the weeks after Pearl Harbor. But the appearance of the draft notice showed that the war was something on the minds of the editors and the readers at this time.

The institution of the Selective Service Act on September 16, 1940 began the process where Charlottesville could no longer hide from the dangers that the nation was facing. The rest of the country was beginning to wake up from its Depression, but now the entire country - without any emphasis on geographic location or economic status - was going to have to face a war. American boys were going to be taken from every part of the country, not just those that suffered during the Depression. The era of Charlottesville as a safe haven was no longer in existence. A more democratic danger was sweeping over the nation and it would have its effects in a much more equal way across the country. The Daily Progress took note of this and caused a certain degree of alarm in its pages that it had not done during the Depression: a draft notice splashed across the pages, an editorial admitting the direct effects of the act on local people and a major pictorial emphasis of the historic event. This was the signal that Charlottesville was entering into a new era - one of war. It was moving out of the world where it remained safe during an economic crisis and moving into a realm where it faced the danger of war just as equally as any other part of the nation. It was now vulnerable again.

Inside This Edition: Reporting on Key Dates in the Depression

October 29, 1929: Stock Market Crash March 4, 1933: FDR Innaugurated March 5, 1933: FDR declares 'bank holiday' March 9, 1933: Emergency Banking Bill passed May 12, 1933: Federal Emergency Relief Act passed December 5, 1933: Repeal of Prohibition
May 6, 1935: WPA established August 14, 1935 Social Security Act passed November 3, 1936: FDR re-elected February 3, 1937: National Guard prepared to strike workers in Flint, Michigan September 16, 1940: Selective Service Act passed December 7, 1941: Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor


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