We’re starting at the beginning, year by year: events, oddities, births, deaths.
The first (American) Baby Boomer is born: Kathleen Casey-Kirschling (Click to read her story).
Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow! becomes a smash hit. It was written in Hollywood, California, on one of the hottest days ever recorded in Los Angeles.
Winston Churchill states that an “iron curtain” was falling over Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe
The Nuremburg war crimes trial returns death sentences for 12 high-ranking Nazis, including von Ribbentrop and Goering. Goering commits suicide before his scheduled execution.
The U.S. Federal Government seizes control of railroads due to strikes and work slowdowns.
Xerography is perfected – the word Xerox would become synonymous with photocopying.
It was a banner year for movies: It’s A Wonderful Life; The Big Sleep; The Best Years of Our Lives; Notorious: Great Expectations; The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Gilda are among the notables.
Hiroshima by John Hersey and All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren were published, as was Albert Camus’ The Stranger, not well-received when it came out.
Tide, the first detergent designed for automatic clothes washing machines, is introduced.
The first electric clothes dryers appear on the market.
Suntan lotions, developed for troops serving in climates with blistering sun during World War II, are marketed to consumers for the first time.
Americans eat a record 714 million gallons of ice cream
100 Years Earlier – 1846
The Mexican-American War begins. California is annexed. The saxophone is patented. Oregon Spectator is the first newspaper published on the West Coast. First steamship arrives in Hawaii. Mormons begin their migration to Utah. The first recorded baseball game is played in New York City. Thoreau (at left) jailed for tax resistance. The rickshaw is invented in Japan. Elias Howe patents the sewing machine. The winter of the Donner Party. The Smithsonian Institute is chartered by U.S. Congress.
50 Years Earlier – 1896
The discovery of X-rays is announced. Utah becomes the 45th state. Puccini’s La boheme premieres. The U.S. Supreme Court introduces the doctrine of “separate but equal,” formulated in Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling. First issuing of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Henry Ford builds his first car, the Quadricycle. William Jennings Bryant delivers his Cross of Gold speech. Gold discovered in the Klondike. The world sees its first motorcar fatality. Queen Victoria becomes longest-reigning British monarch. John Philip Sousa composes Stars and Stripes Forever.
25 Years Earlier – 1921
The Kid with Charlie Chaplain is released. The Little Review publishes James Joyce’s Ulysses and faces obscenity charges. First transcontinental air mail flight reaches new York from San Francisco. Einstein’s lectures on relativity in New York. Insulin hormone is discovered. KDKA, Pittsburgh, broadcast 1st radio sporting event, a boxing match. U.S. Congress imposes immigration quotas aimed at east Asia and southern and eastern Europe. Tulsa, OK, race riots, hundreds of “Negroes” killed by police and mobs. Sacco and Vanzetti convicted. J. Edgar Hoover becomes director of forerunner of the F.B.I. First Miss America crowned in Atlantic City. First World Series radio broadcast. Rudolph Valentino’s The Sheik is released. Warren G. Harding is President.
5 Years Earlier – 1941
Franklin Roosevelt is sworn in for a third term, breaking precedent. Charles Lindbergh recommends the signing of neutrality pact with Nazi Germany. Plutonium is isolated. The first FM station goes on the air in Nashville, TN. The Grand Coulee Dam produces electricity for the first time. Cheerios are introduced. Citizen Kane premieres. DiMaggio hits in 56 straight games; Ted Williams becomes last player to hit above .400, achieving the mark in the last game of the season. Germany invades The Soviet Union. The Holocaust begins. The first Jeep is produced. The State of Vermont declares war on Germany. Walt Disney Studios releases Dumbo. Carving of Mount Rushmore completed. Pearl Harbor is attacked, “Day of Infamy speech” delivered by FDR in joint session of Congress. WWII begins for the United States. Baby Boom is 5 years in the future.
Dick Wolf (producer, Law & Order)
Burt Ward (Robin, the Boy Wonder)
Tommy Lee Jones
Sue Lyon (Lolita)
Peggy Lipton (Mod Squad)
Jane Asher (actress, early girlfriend of Paul McCartney)
Demond Wilson (Sanford and Son)
Carl Wilson (Beach Boy)
Jose Carreras (one of the 3 tenors)
Arthur Conley (Sweet Soul Music)
Aynsley Dunbar (drummer)
Robert Jarvik (inventor of artificial heart)
Joe Klein (Primary Colors)
Doug Kenney (founder, National Lampoon)
George W. Bush
Carl XVI Gustaf (King of Sweden)
Christine Todd Whitman
Brian Cox (the model for Hannibal Lecter)
Mean Joe Green
Jo Jo White
H.G. Wells, dies; seen here, far left, on the set of Things To Come
Countee Cullen, one of the premier African-American poets of his generation
Arthur Chevrolet, car designer – yes that Chevrolet
Booth Tarkington, American novelist
Harlan Fiske Stone, Chief Justice Supreme Court
John Maynard Keynes
left: Patty Smith Hill, songwriter (Happy Birthday To You)
Alfred Stieglitz, U.S. photographer
W. C. Fields at left, NOT Gertrude Stein
“Gentleman” Jimmy Walker, 1920s New York City mayor
Jack Johnson, first African American heavyweight champ
Annual births in the U.S. leaped by 500,000 to 3.9 million.
What did things cost in 1947? Funny you should ask.
Average cost of new house $6,600.00
Average wages per year $2,850.00
Cost of a gallon of gas 15 cents
Loaf of bread 13 cents
Average cost of a new car $1,300.00
First class stamp 3 cents
Men’s sweater $8.50
Mid-range men’s watch $52.50
Thor Heyerdahl sails his handmade sea craft, Kon-Tiki, 4,300 miles from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands in the South Pacific to prove ancient peoples could cover immense distances in relatively primitive boats.
Test pilot Chuck Yeager flies the Bell X-1 jet faster than the speed of sound, a first.
President Truman formulates the Truman Doctrine, which provides aid to countries whose governments are threatened with communist overthrow.
U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall calls for a European recovery effort, popularly called the Marshall Plan.
India and Pakistan, end British colonial rule on the Asian subcontinent, becoming independent nations.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered.
First new cars manufactured since the start of World War II go on sale.
Coincidentally, Henry Ford and Will Durant (founder of General Motors) both die in 1947.
The first Volkswagon Beetle is imported privately to the United States.
The first official meeting of the Los Angeles Friars Club was held at the Savoy Hotel in Beverly Hills. Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, George Burns, George Raft, George Jessel, Jonie Taps, Harry Cohn, and Abbot and Costello.
A chemical mixing error causes an explosion that destroys 42 blocks in L.A.
The transistor is invented.
Edward Land invents the instant camera.
Earl Tupper not only invents his Tupperware but the unique way of marketing it through “parties.”
The first food processors are introduced, as are the first microwave ovens.
In an unrelated development, the Kalashnikov AK-47 is first issued to the Soviet Red Army.
Vitamin A is artificially synthesized.
The discovery of promethium closes the last gap in the Periodic Table.
Speaking on the worldwide food shortage, Harry Truman delivers first presidential television address.
Proceedings of the U.S. Congress are televised for the first time.
Meet The Press debuts.
The first Cannes Film Festival is held.
The Actors Studio is founded in New York.
Country singer Ernest Tubbs led the first country music concert at Carnegie Hall. He convinced Billboard Magazine to drop the term “hillbilly.” The new musical designation “Country and Western” was introduced.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is published
The board game Clue hits the market.
Benchmark Boomer TV show, Howdy Doody, premieres.
Roy Rogers, cowboy singing star, marries Dale Evans, cowgirl singing star.
The World Series is first televised.
The Hollywood blacklisting of writers, actors, and producers suspected of being communists is instituted.
An aspiring actress, Elizabeth Short, is murdered in Hollywood in what would come to be known as the Black Dahlia case, unsolved to this day.
Popular films of the year include: The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, The Bishop’s Wife, Body And Soul (left, with John Garfield) Gentleman’s Agreement, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Hucksters, The Lady From Shanghai, Life With Father, and Out of the Past.
Big song hits of the year were Sammy Kaye’s Old Lamplighter and Jo Stafford’s Almost Like Being in Love. Sinatra has a huge hit with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Big books of the year: James Michner’s Tales of the South Pacific; The Diary of Anne Frank; Mickey Spillane’s I, the Jury.
100 Years Earlier – 1847
The first Colt revolver pistol is sold. Yerba Buena, California, changes its name to San Francisco. A rescue effort is raised to relieve the Donner Party. Michigan becomes the first state to abolish the death penalty. The AMA is founded in Philadelphia. American troops take Veracruz during the Mexican-American War. Later in the year Americans would seize Mexico City (the halls of Montezuma at left) and essentially end the short mismatch. Brigham Young reaches the Salt Lake Valley. The three Bronte sisters publish – Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Gray. Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Pulitzer, Jesse James and Bram Stoker are born. The Great Famine continues in Ireland, driving many Irish to America, Canada, and Australia. The first U.S. postage stamps are issued. Money is first minted in Hawaii. The Chicago Tribune is first published. Die Fledermaus is first performed. Robert Bunsen invents – what else? – the Bunsen Burner. New York and Boston are linked by telegraph. The first public singing of O, Susanna!
50 Years Earlier – 1897
Dracula is published. Mark twain denies rumors of his death. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The Oldsmobile company is founded. The first subway in North America is opened in Boston. Bayer makes aspirin. The word “computer” is first used. Frank Capra, Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Rodgers, William Faulkner, Elijah Muhammed, Joespeh Goebbels, Lucky Luciano, Moe Howard and Thornton Wilder are born.
25 Years Earlier – 1922
Insulin is first used successfully. Ulysses by James Joyce is published. The first issue of Reader’s Digest hots the stands. Construction on the first Yankee Stadium begins, the “House That Ruth Built.” The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated. Warren G. Harding makes first presidential speech on the radio. The Irish Civil War begins. Mussolini becomes premier of Italy. Rbecca Felton becomes first woman elected to the United States Senate. The tomb of King Tut is entered for the first time since its completion. Betty White, Renata Tebaldi, Helen Gurley Brown, Cyd Charissse, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jack Kerouac, Jack Klugman, Jusy Garland, Howard Zinn, Charles m. Schulz, Ava gardner, Sid Caesar, Dorothy Dandridge, Kurt Vonnegut and Stan Lee are born. Undercover journalist Nellie Bly dies, as do Lillian Russell, Alexander Graham Bell and Marcel Proust.
5 Years Earlier – 1942
World War II is in full swing. The U.S. attacks Tokyo in the famous Doolittle Raid. The “final solution” is finalized and The Holocaust enters its most inhumane and virulent stages. Japanese-American citizens were “re-located.” Carol Lombard, mega-star and comedic actor for the ages, dies in a plane crash after raising $2 million in war bond campaigning. Her husband, Clark Gable, is devastated. Daylight Savings Time is instituted. White Christmas becomes a monster hit. The Voice of America begins broadcasting. How Green Was My Valley wins the Academy Award for best picture. The Alaska Highway is completed. The Germans lose disastrously at the Battle of Stalingrad. The war’s tide in Europe begins to turn. Casablanca premieres. The Coconut Grove fire in Boston kills 491 people. Gasoline rationing begins in the U.S. The Grand Coulee Dam is finished. DDT is first used as a pesticide. Charlie Rose, Stephen Hawking, Muhammad Ali, Clarence Clemons, Carol King, Phil Esposito, Lou Reed, Tammy Faye Baker, Michael Eisner, Aretha Franklin, Wayne Newton, Barbara Streisand, Albert Hammond, Muammar Gaddafi, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Harrison Ford, Jerry Garcia, Isabel Allende, Garrison Keillor, Penny Marshall, Annette Funicello, Michael Crichton, Larry Flynt, Martin Scorsese, Joe Biden and Jimi Hendrix are all born. Dying were John Barrymore, George M. Cohan,
Hillary Rodham Clinton
P. J. O’Rourke
Camilla Parker Bowles
Carol Mosley Braun
Judge Joe Brown
Jimmy (Dy-No-Mite) Walker
Fiorello La Guardia
Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan)
Man O’ War
Homer Lusk Collyer
Annual births in the U.S. slip a bit to 3.65 million, still 1 million more than prewar rates
Inflation rate soars to 7.78%
Average cost of new house $7,700.00 (UP $1,100)
Average wages per year $2,950.00
Cost of a gallon of gas 16 cents (UP 10%)
Cost of a NYC subway ride 10 cents
A one-way train trip, New York to California cities $75
New car $1,250.00
Bread 14 cents
Milk 66 cents per gallon
1 pound hamburger meat 50 cents
Magazines run about 20 cents
Movie ticket 60 Cents
8 ounces of Coca-Cola 10 cents
Candy bars were a nickel
The stock market stood at 177
Israel declares itself an independent state after the partition of Palestine. Violence almost immediately flares.
Mahatma Gandhi assassinated in India
In order to cope with unprecedented inflation and postwar price-gouging, national controls go into effect, most notably rent control.
Boxer Joe Louis retires.
Velcro is invented.
Scrabble is introduced.
After the Soviet Union seals off West Berlin from the rest of Germany and from East Berlin, the Western Allies and other European nations begin The Berlin Airlift. At one point planes began dropping sweets to Berliners; they became known as the candy bombers. The lift ends in May, 1949, no longer necessary.
In a surprise victory, President Harry Truman defeats Thomas Dewey, governor of New York, winning a new term. The upset surprised everyone in the country.
A form of normalcy returned to the country. The fear of Communism was rampant, spies seemed to be everywhere, secret and well-publicized investigations cropped up regularly, and conformity became an insidious force. Even comic books as innocent as Archie were burned in public voodoo ceremonies, such as the one pictured here in Binghamton, New York.
Areas that served as escape valves were fashion, design and art. From left, matching plaid skirt and shoes, the grill of a 1948 Lincoln, and Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.
Perhaps serving to underline the country’s tensions at the time, many movies took a darker turn. Noir was mainstreamed, most notably in The Naked City, and even a film such as Treasure of The Sierra Madre was dark in intent, if not cinematography. The Red Shoes is also a very despair-filled fairytale. Laurence Olivier’s milquetoast Hamlet also has very well defined noirish overtone. Westerns also held their ground, ranging from John Ford’s Fort Apache to Howard Hawkes’ Red River, both starring John Wayne. 1948 was a benchmark year for movies – a huge list of impressive works can be established: The Big Clock, I Remember Mama, Johnny Belinda, Letter From An Unknown Woman, Unfaithfully Yours, Rope, Force of Evil, They Live By Night, Easter Parade, Key Largo, A Foreign Affair, and from Italy, Bicycle Thieves, the masterpiece of the year.
Television begins running headlong into the dominance it enjoyed for almost 60 years as “king of media.” WNDT (now WNET) TV channel 13 in New York-Newark, New York (PBS) begins broadcasting as do WCAU TV channel 10 in Philadelphia, WGN TV channel 9 in Chicago, and more than 35 other stations in major cities across the country. TV ownership soars to 3 million.
Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle premieres on NBC-TV. It would prove to be the most popular recurring program in television history.
Toast of the Town hosted by Ed Sullivan premieres on CBS-TV
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is performed in its entirety on NBC.
Hopalong Cassidy premieres on TV
Kukla, Fran, and Ollie debuts on NBC
First country music TV show, Midwestern Hayride, premieres on WLW Cin
Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour begins, DuMont (later NBC/ABC/CBS)
Allen Funt’s Candid Camera debuts
In literature, Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead appears, as does Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain; Cheaper By The Dozen; Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe; Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter; Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms; Waugh’s The Loved One; Pippi in the South Seas; Blueberries For Sal; Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust; Zen in the Art of Archery; City Boy by Herman Wouk; Salinger – A Perfect Day For Bananafish;
Racial segregation in the armed forces is ended by President Truman’s executive order 9981.
War crimes tribunal in Tokyo sentences 7 to death, including Hideki Tojo.
Hell’s Angels is founded.
The first monkey is launched into space. He is an American monkey.
In McCollum vs. Board of Education, Supreme Court rules religious instructions in public schools is unconstitutional.
The Marshall Plan to save western Europe and thwart Communism is launched.
California Supreme Court voids state statute banning interracial marriages
AA is founded
The FAX is first demonstrated
T. S. Eliot wins Nobel Prize for literature
The zoom lens is patented.
First Polaroid Camera is introduced
The Kinsey Report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, is released.
Citation wins racing’s Triple Crown.
Orville Wright dies
As fertile as the film industry was in 1948, the music world was as fallow.
I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clove, Dinah Shore’s Buttons and Bows and Kay Kyser’s Woody Woodpecker Song were among the “hits.” Country music produced a few gems, among them Jo Stafford’s Red River Valley and The Sons of the Pioneers’ Cool Water.
Oklahoma! closed but its raft of smash hits kept entertaining. And Kiss Me Kate coughed up a few minor tunes.