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1939 History, Trivia and Fun Facts

<< - 1938

1939 History Snapshot

  • Human Rights: The UK loaned the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta to the US during World War 2 for safekeeping.
  • Influential Songs include: Moonlight Serenade and In The Mood by Glenn Miller, also Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday and God Bless America by Kate Smith
  • The Big Movies included Gone with the Wind, Mister Smith Goes to Washington and Stagecoach
  • Price of Kleenex tissues in 1939: 55 cents for 2 500 count boxes
  • The World Population was ~ 2,312,000,000
  • The odd fad: Goldfish Swallowing
  • US Life Expectancy: Males: 62.1 years, Females: 65.4 years
  • And... Keep Calm and Carry On is a phrase that was originally a motivational poster produced by the UK government in 1939 intended to raise public morale.

World Series Champions

New York Yankees

NFL Champions

Green Bay Packers

Stanley Cup Champions

Boston Bruins

US Open Golf

Byron Nelson

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Robert Riggs/Alice Marble

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Bobby Riggs/Alice Marble

NCAA Football Champions

Texas A&M

NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 2, 1939 - Tennessee over Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: January 2, 1939 - USC over Duke
Sugar Bowl : January 2, 1939 - TCU over Carnegie Tech

Kentucky Derby


Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Ferry v Rauhfelson of Giralda

Time Magazine's Man of the Year

Joseph Stalin

Miss America

Patricia Donnelly (Detroit Michigan)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Betty Grable, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Myrna Loy, Brenda Marshall, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner, Mae West

"The Quotes"

"Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
- Lou Gehrig, July 4, 1939, to the 62,000 who attended Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, at Yankee Stadium.

"There's no place like home"
"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
- Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz

"Better living through chemistry"

"Elementary, my dear Watson*"
- Basil Rathbone, in Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
* never actually said in the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories about Mr. Holmes!

"I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!"
- Margaret Hamilton, as the Wicked Witch of the West, in The Wizard of Oz

"Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy! "
-James Stewart, as Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"
- Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind

"After all, tomorrow is another day!"
"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
- Vivien Leigh, in Gone with the Wind

Gary Cooper was offered a part on the movie Gone with the Wind but rejected it saying, "Gone With the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I'm glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling flat on his nose, not me".

1939 Pop Culture History

The 1939/1940 New York World's Fair opened - 'The World of Tomorrow'

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.

Futurama is named after an exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair that showed what they thought the world would be like in 1959.

In the 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.

There is no accurate record of what Lou Gehrig's actually said in his famous "Luckiest Man" retirement speech.

The note A=440Hz definition was not set until 1939. Mozart, Beethoven and Bach's "A" pitch varied.

Berkely student George Dantzig found the solution to two unsolved math problems (actually unproved statistical theorems for which he worked out proofs) that he mistook for homework in 1939.

Asbestos was used as fake snow in early Hollywood in films such as, "The Wizard of Oz"

1939 is considered to be the greatest year in the history of Hollywood with such classics as Gone with the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz (not considered a hit until later) and Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

Gone with the Wind sold an estimated 200 million tickets domestically. The US Population in 1939 was only 131 Million. Adjusted for inflation Gone with the Wind (1939) is the highest-grossing movie of all time, at about $3.5 billion.

The Cowardly Lion costume from the 1939 Wizard of Oz was made from real lion pelts.

The popular dance craze in America, The Jitterbug, was a slang term (i.e. "the jitters") used to describe someone so under the influence, they'd shake or jitter.

War of the Worlds Broadcast

In 1939, Ethel Waters became the first black person seen on television, on NBC's The Ethel Waters Show.

The population of London in 2015 exceeded its 1939 population by only one person.

The first time a reigning British monarch set foot in America was in June of 1939. FDR welcomed King George VI by serving hot dogs. It was dubbed the "Hot Dog Summit."

Winston Churchill coined the term "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" in 1939 during a BBC broadcast.

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.

In 2014, Betty White was awarded the Guiness World Record for "Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female)", with a 1939 debut.

In September 1939 the last thing BBC television aired before going off the air was a Mickey Mouse cartoon. When broadcasts resumed in 1946, the same cartoon was replayed.

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.

Penicillin, discovered in 1925, was tested on human beings, curing many diseases including tuberculosis and gonorrhea. It was the first true anibiotic.

World War II News and Information

WW2 started on September 3rd, 1939, but the British did not suffer their first service fatality in France until 3 months later, on December 9th (Corporal Thomas W. Priday was killed leading a patrol). This period of relative calm is commonly referred to as the Phony War, or Sitzkrieg.

World War II's first victim was a Polish farmer, Franz Honiok, who was abducted and used by the SS to stage a 'Polish' attack on a German radio station, so as to fabricate justification for Hitler to invade.

There were more than 4000 animals from almost 1400 different species in the Berlin zoo in 1939, but after the WWII only 91 animals were reported to have survived.

British reporter Clare Hollingworth broke the news of Hitler invading Poland. British embassy didn't believe her until she held a telephone out of the window of her room to capture the ongoing sounds of war. Hers was the 1st report the British Foreign Office received about the invasion of Poland

At age 16, Queen Anne of Romania fled from the Nazi Germans in 1939 and eventually escaped to the US. She attended college in NY and worked as a sales assistant at Macy's department store. In 1943, she volunteered for military service in the French Army, where she received the Cross of war.

In 1932 Oskar Speck was an unemployed contractor in Germany who left via kayak to seek work, but en route changed his plan & decided to see the world. By 1939 he kayaked all the way to Australia. Unbeknown to him, WW2 started & upon arrival, he was detained as an enemy foreigner until WW2 ended.

During 1939-1940, a Chinese diplomat in Vienna named Ho Feng Shan risked his life and career and acting against the orders of his superior, issued visas to any Jews that requested one. Because of his action, thousands of Jews were able to escape out of Austria during WWII.

The famous 'Keep Calm and Carry On' slogan was a propaganda poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War.

The last Nuremberg rally was planned for 1939 under the title 'Rally of Peace', but was cancelled on short notice when Hitler started the Second World War by invading Poland. It took about 40 years for Poland's population to return to its 1939 level.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

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.

Lina Medina, the world's youngest mother who gave birth at the age of five in 1939 had started menstruating at three, developed breasts at four and broader hips by five. The biological father was never found and she is still alive today.

Between 73% and 100% of all individuals with schizophrenia living in Germany between 1939 and 1945 were sterilized or killed. Today Germany does not show deviation from first world levels of schizophrenia.

Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939.

20,000 people attended a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden.

The film Jesse James became the focus of public outrage when a horse died during a dangerous stunt. That resulted in the American Humane Association officially monitoring the treatment of animals on film.

On Nov. 28, 1939, which became known as Black Tuesday, the smog was so thick in St. Louis that streetlights stayed on during the day and drivers had to use their headlights to get around.

The word "Dord" was a ghost word for five years. It was printed in the "Webster's New International Dictionary" in 1934 and supposed to read "D or d" for density. It wasn't until 1939 that the mistake was discovered. #dord

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

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.

Batman Comics


The first Thin Mint cookies were baked by the Girl Scouts in 1939.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries Magazine (1939-1953)

Planet Stories Magazine (1939-1955)

Startling Stories Magazine (1939-1955)

Glamour began publication

The Habits

On March 3, 1939, Harvard freshman Lothrop Withington, Jr, became the first goldfish swallower, winning a $10.00 bet.
Watching Gone With The Wind in movie theaters.
Reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Reading The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Reading Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1939 include:
The Andrews Sisters, Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra, Connee Boswell, Cab Calloway, Larry Clinton and His Orchestra, Bing Crosby, Bob Crosby and His Orchestra, Al Donahue and His Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra, Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm, Will Glahé , Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, Horace Heidt and His Orchestra, The Ink Spots, Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra, Sammy Kaye, Hal Kemp and His Orchestra, Kay Kyser and His Orchestra, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Johnny Messner & His Orchestra, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra, Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Orrin Tucker and His Orchestra, Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra

Charts based on Billboard music charts.

Popular Movies

Another Thin Man, Babes in Arms, Beau Geste, Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, Dark Victory, Daybreak, Destry Rides Again, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Four Feathers, Gone With The Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gunga Din, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The LIttle Princess, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Only Angels Have Wings, The Roaring Twenties, The Rules of the Game, Stagecoach, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, The Wizard of Oz, The Women, Wuthering Heights, Young Mr. Lincoln

More Pop Culture History Resources

Popular Music in 1939
# 1 Hits of 1939
Pop Culture News

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pop, as in 'popular' :(adjective) Pertaining to the common people, or the people as a whole as distinguished from any particular class.
Having characteristics attributed to the common people and intended for or suited to ordinary people.

culture:(noun) That which is excellent in the arts.
A particular stage of civilization. The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

madness: (noun) The state of being mad. insanity, senseless folly, intense excitement or enthusiasm.
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