United States and American History: 1939

About the history of the United States in 1939, FDR is first president on television, Grapes of Wrath is published, the Nazis give medals to Henry Ford and Charles Lindburgh, Germany invades Poland, World War II begins.


--FDR became the 1st President to appear on television, as he opened the World's Fair in New York. However, only NBC's experimental channel carried the telecast.

--John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was published.

--Ten million people were unemployed despite all of the efforts of the New Deal.

--The LaFollette Civil Liberties Committe of the U.S. Senate issued its report, after 4 years of investigation, on corporate interference with the rights of labor. The committee revealed that in 1936 alone, American corporations spent at least $80 million on labor spies, anti-union agents, and provocateurs. Millions more were spent to outfit armed private police forces. The committee concluded: "The subjugation on one group of citizens to the economic interest of another by the use of armed forces saps the very foundation of democracy."

--The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Ernest O. Lawrence for the discovery and development of the cyclotron. Lawrence's invention enabled scientists to split the atom, a crucial step in the production of a nuclear reaction.

Jan. 7 Tom Mooney, a labor leader serving time for a crime he claimed he did not commit, was pardoned by the governor of California after 23 years of imprisonment.

Feb. 27 The sit-down strike was declared to be illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Apr. 9 Marian Anderson, the black contralto, was denied use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt greeted her instead at the Lincoln Memorial, where 75,000 people had assembled to hear her sing.

Aug. Henry Ford was decorated with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle by the Nazi regime.

Sept. The American Psychological Association, meeting in convention, put the question of Hitler's sanity on the agenda.

Sept. 1 German armies invaded Poland. Two days later Great Britain and France declared war.

Oct. Charles E. Lindbergh received a medal from Hitler. At the time, Lindbergh blamed the potential war with the U.S. on "the British, the Jews, and the Roosevelt Administration."

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