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1940 History, Trivia and Fun Facts

<< - 1939

1940 80 Years Ago | History Snapshot

  • The Comics: Superman bad guy Lex Luthor was originally drawn with a full head of red hair, in Action Comics #23, but an artist's mistake made the iconic villain bald.
  • Influential Songs include: Frenesi by Artie Shaw, The Breeze and I by Jimmy Dorsey and We Three (My Echo My Shadow and Me) by The Ink Spots
  • The Big Movies included Gone with the Wind, Fantasia, The Philadelphia Story and Pinocchio
  • Price of 12 oz. of Hormel SPAM in 1940: 25 cents
  • The World Population was ~ 2,350,000,000
  • US Life Expectancy: Males: 60.8 years, Females: 65.2 years
  • The Conversation: "Cheese!" People started saying cheese when smiling for the camera. In the earliest days of photography, photos took a minute or more, and the habit of keeping a straight face started to disappear with the rise of motion pictures in the late 1920s.
  • And... For his role in The Philadelphia Story (1940), Cary Grant demanded top billing and (a very high) $137,000 salary. He then donated the entire amount to the British War Relief Society.

World Series Champions

Cincinatti Reds

NFL Champions

Chicago Bears

Stanley Cup Champions

New York Rangers

US Open Golf

Lawson Little

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Donald McNeill/Alice Marble

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

not held

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 1, 1940 - Georgia Tech over Missouri
Rose Bowl: January 1, 1940 - USC over Tennessee
Sugar Bowl : January 1, 1940 - Texas A&M over Tulane

Kentucky Derby


Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

My Own Brucie

Time Magazine's Man of the Year

Winston Churchill

Miss America

Frances Burke (Philadelphia, PA)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Ingrid Bergman, Lilian Bond, Claudette Colbert, Joan Fontaine, Betty Grable, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Myrna Loy, Brenda Marshall, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Tierney, Lana Turner, Mae West

"The Quotes"

"Now I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. He was long before your time, but you all know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me, 'Rock,'he said, 'sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock,'he said, 'but I'll know about it and I'll be happy' "
- Pat O'Brien in Knute Rocke All American

"I'll be all around in the dark, I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be there in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be there in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they built - I'll be there, too"
- Henry Fonda, in The Grapes of Wrath

During the thunderous applause following his famous 'We shall fight on the beaches' speech to the to the House of Commons in 1940, Winston Churchill whispered to a colleague, "And we'll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that's bloody well all we've got!".

1940 Pop Culture History

Hans and Margret Rey, both Jewish, fled Paris in 1940 on bicycles Hans had built. They escaped just hours before the Nazis seized Paris. Among the few possessions they carried was the illustrated manuscript of the first Curious George book, which they would later get published in New York.

Bugs Bunny was born in in Brooklyn, New York, although a similar, unnamed rabbit was in several Warner Brothers cartoons in 1938 and 1939, his first actual appearnce is considered 'A Wild Hare' with long-time frienemy Elmer Fudd.

The term "hipster" originated in the 1940s, and was used to describe jazz aficionados, characterized by their "dress, slang, use of cannabis and other drugs, relaxed attitude, sarcastic humor, self-imposed poverty and relaxed sexual codes."

There is an airtight room in a University in Georgia (US), sealed in 1940, to be opened in the year 8113. The "Crypt of Civilization" contains a wealth of artifacts from literary works to everyday items.

Since 1940, 85% of those who have attempted to break the water speed record have died in the attempt.

The 1940 Winter Olympics were supposed to be held in Sapporo, Japan, but it was decided to move them following the Japanese invasion of China. The new location? Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, but the German invasion of Poland in 1939 forced the complete cancellation of the 1940 Games.

Actress Carole Lombard, who died in a plane crash in 1942, had agreed to fake her death in a plane crash, back in 1940, for publicity.

Irish Coffee was invented in the 1940s at Shannon Airport. On a rainy winter night, a local chef served the whiskey-spiked drink "to warm" up a group of Americans on a layover on a Pan Am transatlantic flight. Asked if the coffee was Brazilian, the chef told them the drink was "Irish Coffee."

Pachelbel's Canon was written in the 1690s but soon forgotten about. It survived in only two manuscripts, was first published in 1919, and first recorded in 1940.

The Nutcracker was relatively obscure outside of Russia until 1940 and it's inclusion in Disney's Fantasia.

The 'America First Committee' was founded, and had nearly 1,000,000 members. The peace organization was designed to keep the US out of World War II. They disbanded on December 11, 1941.

Jack Norworth first witnessed a Major League Baseball game in 1940. This was 32 years -after- he wrote the lyrics to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

People yell 'Geronimo!' when jumping from things due to an army private who, when testing parachutes in 1940, claimed he wasn't scared. He yelled the name when he jumped to prove this. The rest of the platoon did not want to be shown up so they yelled it as well and it quickly caught on.

The Grapes of Wrath was banned in the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin in 1940 because of its showing that even the poorest Americans could afford a car.

Charlie Chaplain wrote, produced, directed, starred in and composed the music for the film The Great Dictator.

The first use of a proper Green Screen effect was in 1940 movie The Thief of Bagdad and its inventor, Larry Butler won an Oscar for it.

In 1940, scientists concluded that consumption of ice cream was the leading cause of the polio epidemic, solely based on the stats that there were more cases of polio in the summer, which was also when children ate the most ice cream.

Frank Mars and Bruce Murrie manufactured a candy-coated chocolate in six different colors - red, green, yellow, brown and violet. In 1949 violet was replaced by tan. M&Ms survived the red dye scare of 1976, and the rumored amourosity of the green ones.

World War II News and Information

UNSUNG HERO, Chiune Sugihara was the Japanese consul general in Lithuania. Against tradition, and specific orders, he gave thousands of visas to nearly anyone who asked for them, and many did ask, so they could escape from the Nazi regime. He was fired of course, and lost his entire career. Why? He later said "They were human beings, and they needed help. I'm glad I found the stregnth to give it to them."

The German army used a radar system called Wotan. The British scientist R.V. Jones figured out how the system worked by assuming that it used a single beam based on the fact that the Germanic god Wotan had only one eye.

When Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940, French soldiers cut the elevator cables to the Eiffel Tower. German soldiers had to climb the tower to hoist the swastika.

Eduard Bloch was the Jewish doctor of the Hitler family who treated Hitler's mother before her death in 1907. Hitler granted him his "everlasting gratitude" and called him "noble Jew". He was put under special protection by the Gestapo until he could move to America in 1940.

Portuguese consul Sousa Mendes issued 30,000 visas in Bordeaux over a few days. This heroic feat was characterized as "the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust."

Two RAAF training airplanes collided in mid-air, becoming locked together. As the aircraft were traveling in the same direction, they became a technical biplane and were landed safely by the pilot of the upper plane. There were no deaths.

After dividing Poland with Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin ordered the "liquidation" of the Polish officer corps in 1940, resulting in the mass execution of over 25,000 Poles in what came to be known as the Katyn Massacre.

During the outbreak of World War II, London Zoo killed all their venomous animals in case the zoo was bombed and the animals escaped.

In 1933 Author H.G. Wells Wrote a Sci-Fi Book in which he predicted a second World War would break out between Germany and Poland in January of 1940.

When the UK defeated Italy in North Africa in December 1940, the victory was so complete that the British announced that they had captured "five acres of officers and 200 acres of other ranks". It was the first great Allied victory on land against the Axis.

London's Richmond Golf Club didn't stop play when the Nazis were bombing them in 1940, they just adjusted their rules. "A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty one stroke."

11-year-old Audrey Hepburn studied ballet in occupied Holland. To aid the resistance, the students performed in secret while Nazi patrols roamed nearby. Applause was forbidden, and later Hepburn said, "The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance."

The term "First World War" was first used in September 1914, barely two months into the conflict and decades before WWII.

After being deposed by the Soviet Union in 1940, the President of Estonia was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Russia for "persistent claiming of being the President of Estonia".

All copies of a 1938 Japanese version of King Kong are believed to have been destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. The film was one of Japan's first giant monster movies, and featured special effects by the man who would go on to create the Godzilla costume 16 years later.

Nikola Tesla offered to build the American military a "teleforce" death ray that could "melt airplane motors 250 miles away". All he wanted was $2 million and three months of time.

Adrian Carton de Wiart served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War; was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes and escaped a prisoner-of-war camp. He wrote, "Frankly I had enjoyed the war."

Almost 80% of German casualties in World War II took place in Eastern Front.

During the Second World War, Pablo Picasso remained in Paris while the Germans occupied the city. During one search of his apartment, a German officer saw a photograph of the painting Guernica. "Did you do that?" the German asked Picasso. To which he replied "No, you did".

In September, 1940 the UK sent the US documents for improved radar, the jet engine, feasibility of an atomic bomb, rocket designs, plastic explosives & more; tech that would lead to victory, the nuclear age, jet age & said to be the "most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores"; in a single trunk.

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock

The Habits

Reading How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
Reading Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Reading Native Son by Richard Wright
Watching The Great Dictator, Fantasia, The Grapes of Wrath, Pinocchio, The Philadelphia Story and Rebecca in theaters

United States 1940 Census

Total US Population: 132,164,569
1. New York, New York - 7,457,995
2. Chicago, Illinois - 3,396,808
3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 1,931,334
4. Detroit, Michigan - 1,623,452
5. Los Angeles, California - 1,504,277
6. Cleveland, Ohio - 878,336
7. Baltimore, Maryland - 859,100
8. St. Louis, Missouri - 816,048
9. Boston, Massachusetts - 770,816
10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - 671,659

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1940 include:
The Andrews Sisters, Mitchell Ayres and His Fashions in Music, Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra, Connee Boswell, Will Bradley and His Orchestra, Bing Crosby, Bob Crosby and His Orchestra, Xavier Cugat and His Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra, Duke Ellingon, Will Glahé, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, The Ink Spots, Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra, Sammy Kaye, Gene Krupa and His Orchestra, Kay Kyser and His Orchestra, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Vaughn Monroe, Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Kate Smith, Dick Todd, Orrin Tucker and His Orchestra, Fats Waller

Charts based on Billboard music charts.

Popular Movies

Abe Lincoln in Illinois, All This and Heaven Too, The Bank Dick, Charlie Chan in Panama, Dance Girl Dance, Fantasia, Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, The Great McGinty, His Girl Friday, Kitty Foyle, Knute Rockne All American, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, The Mark of Zorro, The Mortal Storm, My Favorite Wife, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story, Pinocchio, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca, Sante Fe Trail, The Sea Hawk, The Shop Around the Corner, The Thief of Bagdad, Waterloo Bridge, The Westerner

More Pop Culture History Resources

Popular Music in 1940
# 1 Hits of 1940
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.
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madness: (noun) The state of being mad. insanity, senseless folly, intense excitement or enthusiasm.
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