Civilization Besieged
The 1930s


USA-Flag.pngNew-York-Stock-Exchange-logo.pngDow-Jones-logo.pngGOP Elephant Symbol.jpg
The Dow at the Dawn of the Thirties

January 2, 1930:

Dow Jones History

The U.S. Census of 1930

April 1, 1930: The U.S. Census Bureau conducted the 1930 Census. Per the Census, the population of the United States of America was 123,202,624 in 1930, a population increase of 16.2% since 1920.

Leavins-U.S. Population Growth, 1900-2010.jpg

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 and the Great Depression

June 17, 1930: Republican President Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff (a protective tariff) into law.

Above: Republican Congressman W.C. Hawley and Republican Senator Reed Smoot, the architects of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

A tariff is a sales tax placed on an imported good. A protective tariff, in particular, is a high tariff designed to raise an imported good's price to such a level that a consumer will opt to purchase a domestically-produced good instead. To put it another way, an American protective tariff would be designed to raise the price of imported goods so that American consumers would purchase American goods instead.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was a protective tariff, and the rationale behind it was to give a boost to American industry and agriculture.


U.S. Trade Policy, 1921-1936

The Anglican Church Grants Approval of Birth Control Under Limited Circumstances

August 15, 1930:

Above: Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Gordon Lang

1930 Midterm Elections:

November 1930:

Papal Insignia.pngVatican-City-Coat-of-Arms.png
Pope Pius XI Issues Casti Connubii, a Treatise Regarding Marriage, Birth Control, and Abortion

December 31, 1930:

Above: Pope Pius XI, Reigned 1922-1939; Coat of Arms of Pope Pius XI Casti Connubii, December 31, 1930

"But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, 'Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.'

Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."

---Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii, December 31, 1930


USA-Flag.pngUnited-States-Presidential-Seal.pngGOP Elephant Symbol.jpg
President Herbert Hoover Signs Bill into Law Making the Star Spangled Banner the National Anthem

March 3, 1931:

Above: President Herbert Hoover

The Daily Beast: History of the Star Spangled Banner

The Rise of the Second Republic of Spain: King Alfonso XIII Fled into Exile

April 14, 1931:

Above: King Alfonso XIII of Spain


The Opening of the Empire State Building

May 1, 1931: The Empire State Building in New York City opened.

At the time, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. In the early 1970s, the World Trade Center Towers in New York City would surpass the Empire State Building in height.

The photo above left shows the Empire State Building in its early years. The photo at right shows the New York City landmark in more recent years.

Japanese Expansionism

September 1931: Japan invaded Manchuria (Northeast China)
Japanese troops enter Mukden
Above: Japanese troops enter Mukden


President Hoover Evicts the Bonus Army

July 28, 1932: President Herbert Hoover ordered the eviction of thousands of U.S. military veterans who had camped out in the Washington, D.C. area in the hopes of persuading the federal government to pay a service bonus early. Many of these veterans were unemployed and suffering from the economic deprivation of the Great Depression. President Hoover's order was carried out by Douglas McArthur, an army officer who would go on to great fame (and infamy) during the Second World War and the Korean War.

Above: Bonus Army members camping out on the Capitol Lawn; Police clashing with members of the Bonus Army; Shacks (built by the Bonus Army) that were burned during the eviction

The Birth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

September 23, 1932:

The Kingdom of Iraq Became an Independent Nation

October 3, 1932: Iraq Becomes an Independent Nation

1932 Presidential Election: FDR Defeats Hoover in a Landslide

November 8, 1932: Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) won a landslide victory in the Presidential Election of 1932. The 1932 Elections had ramifications beyond the presidency. It was an election in which the Democratic Party won majorities in both chambers (House and Senate) in the U.S. Congress. At the State and local levels, the Democrats enjoyed widespread victory. It was the biggest party realignment since the 1860 elections. In short, with the 1932 elections, theDemocratic Party became the new majority party in the United States.

Above: Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt (at left) and Herbert Hoover (at right), the major 1932 presidential candidates

Above: FDR on the cover of Time in February 1932; The 1932 Presidential Electoral Map


The Birth of Nazi Germany

January 30, 1933: Adolf Hitler, an Austrian-born WWI veteran of the German Army was named Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg.


Nazi Germany

February 27, 1933: The German Reichstag Building (Parliament building) burns as a result of arson.

While it remains unclear as to who set fire to this important German governmental building, Hitler's Nazi Party was quick to blame the fire on Communist subversion. The Burning of the Reichstag was of great political benefit to Hitler and the Nazis. In the wake of the fire, Hitler called for President Paul von Hindenburg (a former WWI German army general) to grant him emergency powers to rule Germany, ostensibly to prevent a Communist takeover.

FDR and the New Deal

March 4, 1933: Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat), 32nd American President.
Years in Office: March 4,1933 to April 12,1945
Above: President Franklin D. Roosevelt

From March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945, FDR served as the American president through much of the Great Depression, and much of WWII. Upon taking power in March 1933, FDR launched the New Deal, a series of federal laws and programs designed to provide Relief, Recovery, and Reform for the American economy.

Programs such as Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal minimum wage, and government insurance for bank deposits all stem from FDR's New Deal. Nearly 70 years after his death, he still remains a powerful presence in the American economy.

March 4, 1933 was the last time that a presidential term ended and began on that date. To shorten the interregnum between the election and the beginning of a presidential term, the 20th Amendment changed the beginning/end of a presidential term to January 20th. The presidential term remained a four year term. Hence, FDR's first term lasted from March 4, 1933 to January 20, 1937, a constitutional quirk in which his first term was less than four years.

Above: Three 1933 covers of Time featuring members of the Roosevelt family: FDR (left); Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady (center); Sara Delano Roosevelt, the President's mother (right)

The New Deal: The First 100 Days

March 4, 1933 to June 16, 1933: FDR and the New Deal, the First 100 Days

Above: Cartoon illustrating the outburst of legislation early in FDR's presidency; Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins on the cover of Time in 1933; Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes on the cover of Time in 1933

Timeline of the First 100 Days of FDR's Presidency

Nazi Germany

March 23-24, 1933: The Enabling Act of 1933, a law passed by Germany's Parliament and signed by President Paul von Hindenburg, grants ruling dictatorial power to Chancellor Adolf Hitler.


1933-1939: Hitler consolidated his power, and transformed the German Reich into Nazi Germany.

Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945. Hitler ruled Germany from 1933 to his death on April 30, 1945.

Above: Adolf Hitler, Nazi dictator of Germany came to power in 1933. Hitler was determined to expand Germany's power in Europe. Hitler also possessed a violent hatred of Jews.Hitler's Fascist Italian ally, Benito Mussolini, sits at his right in the above photograph.

The Creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps

March 31 and April 5, 1933: Pursuant to legislation passed on the 31st of March, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6101, thus creating the Civilian Conservation Corps.

March 31, 1933: An Act for the Relief of Unemployment

Executive Order 6101 and the Creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps

FDR and the Gold Standard

April 5, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 forbidding the hoarding of gold, and much of the continuing possession of monetary gold. In essence, FDR's executive order required American citizens to sell (exchange) their gold coin, gold bullion, and/or gold certificates to the federal government at a price of around $20 per ounce.

In essence, the Roosevelt Administration wished to have more money circulating in the American and world economy. Gold and Gold-backed money, reliable storers of wealth, undermined the federal government's desire to see an increase in the circulation of money. Divorcing the U.S. dollar from the gold standard was an attempt to stimulate more buying and selling.

Above: An announcement pertaining to the terms of Executive Order 6102.

FDR's Executive Order 6102

First 100 Days: The Tennessee Valley Authority Act

May 18, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation into law creating the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Above: FDR signs the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) into law

The New Deal: Banking Act of 1933

June 16, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Banking Act of 1933, a law that, among other things, created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (The FDIC). The FDIC insured the banking accounts of individual depositors up to a certain amount. The FDIC was designed to calm the fears of depositors that his/her bank would fail. In short, the FDIC sought to prevent runs on banks and increase public confidence in the private banking system.

The FDIC exists to this present day, and still insures the bank accounts of common people.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt Grants U.S. Recognition of the Soviet Union

November 16, 1933:

U.S. State Department: U.S. Recognition of the Soviet Union New York Times: U.S. Recognizes the USSR, November 16, 1933


U.S. Navy Flight from San Francisco to Hawaii

January 10-11, 1934: In a significant demonstration of the range of military aircraft, the U.S. Navy flew 6 Consolidated P2Y-1 Flying Boats from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii (the Island of Oahu). The flight covered nearly 2400 miles and took 24 hours and 56 minutes to complete.

Everett Leavins Collection, Auburn University

Above: U.S. Navy Consolidated P2Y-1s arrive in Hawaii

The January 1934 Consolidated P2Y-1 Flight

The Gold Reserve Act of 1934

January 30, 1934: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 into law. In essence the Gold Reserve Act transferred the transferred the title (ownership) of gold and gold certificates from the Federal Reserve System to the United States Treasury. The Federal Reserve System, in turn, was no longer tied to gold.

The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 also set the price of gold at $35 an ounce

Bonnie and Clyde Killed in Police Ambush in Louisiana

May 23, 1934:

Above: Bonnie and Clyde in 1933

New York Times: Bonnie and Clyde Gunned Down in Police Ambush in Louisiana, May 23, 1934

The New Deal, the Regulation of Wall Street, and the Rise of Joseph P. Kennedy

June 6, 1934: President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Securities and Exchange Act into law. The law was designed to regulate the buying and selling of securities (e.g. stocks, bonds ) in a manner more strict than had prevailed in the late 1920s when the Stock Market crashed.

The Securities and Exchange Act also established the Securities and Exchange Commission (The SEC), a regulatory body with the job of governing Wall Street (a New York City district in Lower Manhattan where the New York Stock Exchange was located).

The first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission was Joseph P. Kennedy, an Irish-Catholic businessman from Massachusetts. Joe and Rose Kennedy were the parents of nine children, and in time, The Kennedys became one of America's most prominent political families.

Above: Joseph P. Kennedy (Left) and the seal (right) of the Securities and Exchange Commission;The Kennedy Family in the 1930s. John F. Kennedy, a future U.S. President stands in the center directly behind his father. Robert F. Kennedy, a future U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator from New York stands behind his father's right shoulder. Edward M. Kennedy, a future U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, sits on his father's lap.

Above: Joseph P. Kennedy on the cover of Time in 1935

1935 Time profile on Joe Kennedy

The Move to Free Trade: President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA) into Law

June 12, 1934

 80th Anniversary of the Enactment of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA), 1934-2014

Fugitive John Dillinger Shot Dead by FBI Agents

July 22, 1934:

John-Dillinger-Wanted-Poster.jpgJohn-Dillinger-1903-1934.jpg John DIllinger

"During the 1930s Depression, many Americans, nearly helpless against forces they didn’t understand, made heroes of outlaws who took what they wanted at gunpoint. Of all the lurid desperadoes, one man, John Herbert Dillinger, came to evoke this Gangster Era and stirred mass emotion to a degree rarely seen in this country.

Dillinger, whose name once dominated the headlines, was a notorious and vicious thief. From September 1933 until July 1934, he and his violent gang terrorized the Midwest, killing 10 men, wounding 7 others, robbing banks and police arsenals, and staging 3 jail breaks—killing a sheriff during one and wounding 2 guards in another."

FDR Visits the Hawaii Territory

July 25 to July 28, 1934: Traveling on the U.S. Navy cruiser U.S.S Houston, President Franklin Roosevelt became the first incumbent American president to visit the Hawaii Islands, then a territory of the United States.

Everett Leavins Collection, Auburn University

Everett Leavins Collection, Auburn University

Above: The U.S.S. Houston in port; The U.S.S. Houston at dockside in Hawaii

Everett Leavins Collection, Auburn University

Above: President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Territory of Hawaii, July 1934

FDR Trip to Hawaii Territory, July 25-28, 1934 Everett Leavins Collection, Auburn University

The Rise of Mao Zedong

October 1934 to 1936: Mao Zedong and The Long March

Above: Mao Zedong in 1935; Highly idealized painting of Mao leading the Long March

1934 Midterm Elections:

November 1934

The Assassination of Sergei Kirov

December 1, 1934:

Above: Sergei Kirov


The Birth of Elvis Presley

January 8, 1935:

Premiere of the Nazi Propaganda Film, Triumph of the Will

March 28, 1935

Above: Triumph of the Will movie poster; Leni Riefenstahl, director of Triumph of the Will

Above: Leni Reifenstahl, 1902-2003

The New Deal: Worker Rights

July 5, 1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act into law. Under this legislation, workers had enjoyed greater protections in terms of joining labor unions.

Above: FDR signing the Wagner Act into law. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the nation's first female Cabinet Secretary, stands behind the President.

The Lynching of Rubin Stacy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

July 19, 1935:

The New Deal: The Social Security System

August 14, 1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation creating the Social Security System. The Social Security Act is easily one of the most important legislative acts in American history, particularly in terms of domestic policy.

In particular, the Social Security System provided old age (65 years and up) pensions for retired workers, widow and orphan benefits, and benefits for disabled workers.

Since the Social Security System began paying out benefits, millions of American retirees have drawn monthly pension checks, and millions rely on these benefits to sustain themselves during their retirement years.

On August 14, 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, an unprecedented American economic program providing old age pensions for retired American workers. The Social Security program still is in effect to this day.

The Nuremberg Laws

September 15, 1935: The Nazi-controlled German Reichstag passed measures that came to be known as the Nuremberg Laws. The Nuremberg Laws were essentially extreme racist laws designed to designate so-called Aryans (those considered to be "Pure Germans" as superior to "Non-Germans," particularly Jews.

The first Nuremberg Law was named The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor.

The second Nuremberg Law was named The Reich Citizenship Law.

Above: A Nazi Newspaper announcing, on September 16, 1935, the Nuremberg Laws

The 1935 World Series: The Detroit Tigers Defeated the Chicago Cubs in Game 6 to Claim the Series Championship

October 7, 1935:

Above: 1935 World Series Program for the Detroit Tigers (left) and the Chicago Cubs (right)

Baseball Almanac: The 1935 World Series


Edward VIII Became the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain

January 20, 1936:

Edward VIII, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, January 20, 1936 - December 11, 1936

January 20, 1936: Edward VIII Became King

"On January 20, 1936, Edward VIII became king of the United Kingdom. He ascended the throne following the death of his father, George V. Edward’s reign lasted for less than a year, making it one of the shortest in the history of British monarchs. Edward’s scant regard for established traditions, royal codes, and protocol made him unpopular with the Church, the ministers, and member of royalty in the United Kingdom. He abdicated the throne by end-1936 in order to marry the American socialite, Wallis Simpson. Thereafter, he spent most of his life in France as the Duke of Windsor."

The Spanish Civil War

July 1936 to April 1939: The Spanish Civil War


Nazi Germany and the Olympics

August 1936: Summer Olympics, Berlin, Germany: Alabama native, Jesse Owens, won four gold medals.

Above: Jesse Owens, Alabama native

125px-Flag_of_the_United_States_(Pantone).svg.pngUnited-States-Presidential-Seal.png0512-0712-2813-3735.jpgGOP Elephant Symbol.jpg
1936 Presidential Election: FDR Re-Elected in a Landslide

November 3, 1936: Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) overwhelmingly re-elected as President of the United States.

In FDR's 1936 re-election triumph, the President won 46 states, with Republican candidate Alf Landon carrying only Vermont and Maine.

King Edward VIII Abdicated the Throne of Great Britain; He Reigned Less than One Year

December 11, 1936

Above: The future King Edward VIII

The Abdication of Great Britain's King Edward VIII

"After ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. On the evening of December 11, he gave a radio address in which he explained, 'I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.' On December 12, his younger brother, the duke of York, was proclaimed King George VI."

The Abdication of King Edward VIII

George VI Became the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain

December 11, 1936:

King George VI of Great Britain who reigned from December 11, 1936 to February 6, 1952


Amelia Earhart's First Attempt to Fly Around the World

March 17-20, 1937: Amelia Earhart made an abortive attempt to fly around the world. She left the mainland of the United States and landed in Hawaii. She attempted to fly from Pearl Harbor, but experienced something of a runway crash at Luke Field, an airfield on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

Everett Leavins Photographs Collection, Auburn University

Above: Amelia Earhart and Paul Mantz (Earhart's technical adviser) in Hawaii in March 1937.

Amelia Earhart was an American pioneer female aviator. She disappeared in the South Pacific on July 2, 1937 while attempting an around the world flight. Her mysterious disappearance has never been solved. She is pictured above in March 1937 at Luke Field on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Earhart's March 1937 appearance in Hawaii was a part of her initial attempt to fly around the world, but a runway mishap at Luke Field caused a temporary cancellation. Earhart's fateful attempt to fly around the world began its first leg in Miami on June 1, 1937.

The Rise of Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas

April 10, 1937: Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) won a special election to the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress, representing the 10th Congressional District in Texas. Taking the oath of office on May 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C., LBJ remained in the House of Representatives until January 3, 1949. On that day, he became a U.S. Senator, representing his native State of Texas.

In addition to serving in both chambers of Congress, Johnson would also serve as Vice President of the United States (1961-1963), and on November 22, 1963, he became President of the United States, serving until January 20, 1969.

LBJ, 1937 U.S. House Campaign Poster.jpg
Above: Lyndon B. Johnson congressional campaign poster, 1937

FDR, LBJ, 12 May 1937.pngFDR and LBJ, Galveston, Texas, May 1937.jpg
Above: President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Representative Lyndon B. Johnson shake hands in Galveston, Texas on May 11, 1937. In the middle is Texas Governor James V. Allred; FDR and LBJ.

American Culture and Sports

June 1937: Alabama native and African-American boxer, Joe Louis, won the world heavyweight championship

Above: Joe Louis

Japanese Expansion into China

July 7, 1937:

In 1937, Imperial Japan invaded China. The Japanese invasion was brutal and partially successful. But Chinese nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek (pictured above-right) resisted Japan, as did Chinese communists under Mao Zedong. The Japanese invasion of China created tensions between the U.S. and Japan. In 1941, the U.S. placed an economic embargo on Japan. In turn, Japan began to plot attacks on U.S. military forces in the Pacific.

The U.S. Supreme Court

August 19, 1937: Alabamian Hugo Black became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Hugo Black also was a graduate of the University of Alabama Law School. Hugo Black served on the U.S. Supreme Court until 1971.

Above: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black of Alabama


Anschluss: Hitler's Annexation of Austria

March 12-15, 1938: After intimidating the Austrian head of state to step aside, the German army crossed into neighboring Austria and quickly took control. Hitler himself rode in with the German forces. Hitler (an Austrian) quickly annexed his homeland into the Third Reich.


Mexico as an economic power

March 18, 1938: Mexico nationalized its oil resources, an act of economic independence by a Latin American nation that had traditionally allowed foreign companies to exploit Mexican natural resources.

Mexico's President Lazaro Cardenas (pictured above) issued the order in March 1938, and in the following months, established a Mexican national oil company. Today that company is known as PEMEX.

The New Deal: Creation of the Minimum Wage

June 25, 1938: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law. The FLSA established a national minimum wage of 25 cents per hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act also established a ban on "oppressive" child labor, established a 44 hour work week, and enacted time-and-a-half pay for overtime.

Since the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the national minimum wage has been raised many times. Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour.

Above: Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. FDR's Secretary of Labor throughout his presidency, Frances Perkins oversaw the development of much of the labor-oriented legislation enacted during the New Deal. Perkins was the first woman to serve in a Cabinet-level position.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Munich Pact

September 30, 1938: In response to Hitler's demands to annex the Sudetenland (a Germanic area of Czechoslovakia), Great Britain and France agreed to appease Germany's demands. The actions of the British and French became known asAppeasement. The agreement became known as the Munich Pact. The agreement was dated September 29th, but was signed on September 30, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, claimed that war had been averted and that "peace in our time" had been achieved. Chamberlain, who was often seen carrying an umbrella, was ultimately disgraced when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. His umbrella, in turn, became a symbol of appeasement.

The agreement did not include Czechoslovakia's participation. Basically the Czechs were left on their own. If they chose to resist Hitler, they were all alone. They chose to give in, and Hitler annexed the Sudetenland. In 1939, Germany took over the rest of Czechoslovakia.


USA-Flag.pngUnited-States-Congress-seal.pngHouse-of-Representatives-seal.pngUnited-States-Senate-Seal.pngDemocratic-Party-Symbol.jpgGOP Elephant Symbol.jpg
1938 Midterm Elections:

November 8, 1938:

Nazi Germany and the Persecution of Jews

November 9-10, 1938: Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass
The photo above-left shows an example of the type of damage from which the name Kristallnacht was derived. The photo in the center shows a damaged Jewish synagogue in Munich, Germany. The photo above-right shows formations of imprisoned Jews in Buchenwald Prison who were arrested as a result of Kristallnacht.


Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

April 17, 1939: William O. Douglas, an appointee of President Franklin Roosevelt, became an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. He served until 1975, thus becoming the longest serving Supreme Court justice in the high court's history.

Above: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

The Coming of the Atomic Bomb

August 2, 1939: The Einstein-Szilard Letter did much to make the development of an atomic bomb a practical reality. Alarmed by the potential of an atomic weapon in the hands of Nazi Germany, and being convinced that such a uranium-based weapon was possible, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard enlisted physicist Albert Einstein to send a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt informing him of the possibilities of uranium atomic weaponry.

When the contents of the letter became known to him, FDR promptly called for increased uranium research. In many respects, the Einstein-Szilard Letter of August 2, 1939 ultimately led to FDR's authorization of the Manhattan Project, the federal governments WWII initiative to create an atomic bomb. Most immediately, The Einstein-Szilard Letter led to the creation of the creation of the Advisory Committee on Uranium. In short, the American journey to create an atomic bomb had begun.

Above: Leo Szilard; Albert Einstein; President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Above: Physicist Albert Einstein on the cover of Time in 1938

The Soviet-German Non-Agression Pact

August 23, 1939: In a stunning agreement of convenience between Marxist and Anti-Marxist nations, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed (in Moscow) a non-aggression pact. The agreement was known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In the agreement, the Soviets and Nazis agreed not to fight one another. They each agreed that eastern Europe would have a German sphere of influence and a Soviet sphere of influence.

For many Marxists and other leftists outside of the Soviet Union, any sort of alliance with the anticommunist Nazis was seen as a betrayal of the international left.

The pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany lasted less than two years. On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. For the better part of 4 years (June 1941-May 1945), the Soviets and the Third Reich would wage war on each other with amazing savagery.

Above: Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov is shown at the table. Stalin (with the mustache) is back behind Molotov

Nazi Germany's Invasion of Poland and the Dawn of World War Two

September 1, 1939: Nazi Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II (1939-1945).


Using a Blitzkrieg (Lightning War) military strategy, the German Army and Luftwaffe (Air Force) conquered Poland in a matter of weeks. Per their non-aggression pact with Germany, the Soviet Union subsequently moved into eastern Poland.

Great Britain and France Declare War on Germany

September 3, 1939: In response to Hitler's invasion of Poland, Great Britain and France each declared war on Nazi Germany. With the entry of France and Great Britain, a general war in Europe had commenced, and a Second World War had begun.

1939 World Series: The New York Yankees Defeated the Cincinnati Reds in Game 4 to Win the Series

October 8, 1939:

Baseball Almanac: The 1939 World Series

Debut of Gone With the Wind, an iconic American film

December 15, 1939: In Atlanta, Georgia, the film Gone With the Wind debuted. The movie was based on the Margaret Mitchell novel of the same title.

The movie was instantly a landmark film, an epic depiction of the fall of Southern plantation life in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh starred in Gone With the Wind. Gable played Rhett Butler, an iconoclastic Southern aristocrat, whose life becomes intertwined with the fortunes of the O'Hara family near Atlanta, Georgia. Vivian Leigh plays Scarlett O'Hara, a spoiled and trite Southern belle who ultimately becomes a ruthless ruler and savior of her family's plantation. Much of the story deals with the volatile love-hate relationship between Scarlett and Rhett.

Gone With the Wind also explores the dynamics of Southern race relations in the mid and late 1800s. That being said, the movie also provides insights into American racial views in the mid-1900s.

Above: Movie poster for Gone With the Wind

Time's 1939 Man of the Year: Josef Stalin