Source: Anonymous. "I'd Rather Not Be on Relief." As performed by Lester Hunter. Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection. American Memory digital primary source collection, Library of Congress. Available online at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/todd:@field(DOCID+st045); website home page: http://memory.loc.gov (accessed April 20, 2003).
Songs such as "I'd Rather Not Be on Relief" evolved as a means of self-expression in communities of people who all faced the same economic obstacles. This song emerged from the Shafter Farm Security Organization migrant labor camp, but it was typical of songs that were sung across the nation by migrant workers and others who found themselves hurt by the Great Depression. The themes of such songs were clear: the workers did not want charity. They wanted to work. They believed that stopgap governmental measures were short-term solutions to long-term problems. Many such songs appealed to other institutions such as churches, families, and labor unions to provide hope in what seemed an almost hopeless situation.
Although the 1940s are remembered...
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Letter to Jesse O. Thomas
By: Snow F. Grigsby
Date: January 23, 1940
Source: Grigsby, Snow F. Letter to Jesse O. Thomas, January 23, 1940. Reproduced in "Cavalcade of the American Negro" in the Library of Congress exhibit African-American Mosaic. Available online at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/images/nulbooth.jpg; website home page: http://www.loc.gov (accessed April 20, 2003).
About the Author: Snow F. Grigsby was extensively involved in civil rights activism in Detroit, Michigan. His primary concern was achieving equality in employment and housing. In 1933, he established the Detroit Civic Rights Committee to complement the activities of the Detroit office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In 1940, Americans observed the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Civil War (1861–1865). African Americans, in particular, felt they had much to celebrate: since the Civil War and the abolition of slavery African American culture had thrived. The art and literature of the Harlem Renaissance had spawned a new era of artistic recognition, and both jazz and blues music were enjoying mainstream...
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"Yellow Men of Mars"
By: J. Allen St. John
Date: August 1941
Source: St. John, J. Allen. "Yellow Men of Mars" illustrations. In Amazing Stories 15, no. 8, August 1941, front cover and page 6. Reproduced in "Life on Mars." Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Technological University. Available online at http://spec.lib.vt.edu/lifemars/lmarsdir1.htm; website home page: http://spec.lib.vt.edu (accessed April 20, 2003).
About the Artist: James Allen St. John (1872–1957) developed his artistic talents under the influence of his mother, Susan Hely St. John. He provided drawings for books, including The Works of Mark Twain (1899), but it was St. John's artwork for the adventure stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs that gained him the most attention. Over two decades, St. John provided cover and interior art for thirty of the author's novels. After 1940, St. John mainly drew for pulp magazines devoted to science fiction, inlcuding Weird Tales, AMZ, Fantastic Adventures, Amazing Stories, and Other Worlds.
As the United States moved from the Great Depression to World War II (1939–1945), society...
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"Jenny on the Job—Steps ahead with Low Heels"
By: U.S. Public Health Service
Date: c. 1941–1945
Source: Office for Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Domestic Operations Branch, Bureau of Special Services. "Jenny on the Job—Steps ahead with Low Heels." c. 1941–1945. National Archives, College Park, Md. Records of the Office of Government Reports. Record Group 44. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.archives.gov (accessed April 18, 2003).
About the Organization: The U.S. government actively encouraged the entry of women into the workforce during World War II. A series of posters published by the Federal Security Agency and U.S. Public Health Service, among other agencies, gave women hints about how to make the transition to the workplace. "Jenny on the Job," like her counterpart "Rose the Riveter," became a national symbol of working women in the 1940s.
Women had appeared in the U.S. workforce before the 1940s, but most left employment to become homemakers when they married or gave birth to their first child. Moreover, they held positions in customarily female professions such as teaching, nursing, and secretarial work. During World War II (1939–1945), married women, even mothers, took part-...
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"Lead Kindly Light"
Date: c. 1941
Source: Ray-O-Vac. "Lead Kindly Light." Ray-O-Vac batteries advertisement, c. 1941. Reproduced in Cayton, Andrew, Elizabeth Israels Perry, and Allan M. Winkler. America: Pathways to the Present. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1995, 699.
About the Organization: The Ray-O-Vac company manufactured a major brand of batteries during and after the 1940s. The company, like many others, understood the demand of a growing consumer culture and created advertisements to increase sales.
One of the basic principles of advertising is that the seller must show the consumer why he or she needs a given product. Telling consumers that an item is necessary for some unusual event or practice does not inspire demand; however, showing them that an item is necessary for some everyday, commonplace event or practice is good advertising. In its advertisements, Ray-O-Vac sought to prove that its batteries met the daily needs of consumers and could be not only useful but even invaluable. It is telling, then, that between 1941 and 1945 Ray-O-Vac chose the image of a school bomb drill to sell its flashlight batteries. The advertisers assumed that schools, air raid shelters, and bomb drills were part...
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Betty Grable Bathing Suit Pinup
Date: c. 1942
Source: "Betty Grable Bathing Suit Pinup, ca. 1942." Corbis. Image no. BE001136. Available online at http://pro.corbis.com (accessed February 17, 2003).
Pinup pictures were a phenomenon of World War II (1939–1945). Meant to encourage and motivate U.S. troops, pinups of beautiful, often scantily clad women appeared in magazines and on posters, calendars, and postcards. Soon they became the mascots for servicemen. Actress and model Betty Grable was perhaps the most popular of the pinup girls.
Entertainers and musicians traveled to perform for U.S. troops stationed abroad during World War II, but few morale boosters were as successful as the pinup girl. An industry built up around producing images of women: some famous actresses and models, some unknown hopefuls, and even some fictional women. These pictures were intended to be "pinned up" wherever the troops were stationed and then taken down and carried to the next post. Soldiers adopted these images as mascots and decorated their surroundings, including the sides of aircraft, with portrayals of pinup girls. Betty Grable, for example, adorned the sides of a number of U.S. bomber planes.
The pinup walked a fine line between two...
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World War II Ration Stamp Books
World War II Ration Stamps, Book No. 2
By: U.S. Office of Price Administration
Date: c. 1942
Source: U.S. Office of Price Administration. World War II Ration Stamps, Book No. 2. c. 1942. Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540. Available online at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/pphome.html; website home page: http://lcweb2.loc.gov (accessed April 20, 2003).
"War Ration Book No. 3"
By: U.S. Office of Price Administration
Date: c. 1942
Source: "War Ration Book no. 3." Photograph. 1940–1946. Library of Congress. Call number LC-USE6–D-010120. Available online at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/fsaquery.html#Number; website home page: http://lcweb2.loc.gov (accessed April 29, 2003).
With the entry of the United States into World War II (1939–1945), the domestic economy was...
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Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year
By: MGM Studios
Source: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year. Movie still. 1942. The Kobal Collection/MGM/Clarence Sinclair Bull. Image number WOM003CD.
The film industry enjoyed great success in the 1940s as Americans looked to escape the memory of the Great Depression of the previous decade and the threat and later reality of World War II (1939–1945). Light fare such as comedies, musicals, and romances were particular favorites. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy rose to prominence as gifted actors and as a winning box-office
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A Guide for All-American Girls
By: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Source: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. A Guide for All-American Girls. 1943. National Baseball Hall of Fame Library. Reproduced online at http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/education/primary%5Fsourc... ; website home page: http://www.baseballhalloffame.org (accessed March 24, 2003).
About the Organization: In 1943, Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, founded the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL). Originally a softball league, the AAGBL evolved into the first women's professional baseball circuit. The league had franchises in fifteen cities, all in the Midwest. Two hundred sixty-one players from twenty-four states, Canada, and Cuba played in the AAGBL. The first several seasons were successful, but eventually poor management, financial troubles, aging players, and a decline in fan interest led the AAGBL to fold after twelve years of existence.
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The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde
By: Erle Stanley Gardner
Source: Gardner, Erle Stanley. The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde. New York: William Morrow, 1944. Reprint, New York: Pocket Books, 1968, 227–228, 230–231.
About the Author: Erle Stanley Gardner (1889–1970) was a lawyer, but as an author he wrote almost one hundred mystery and detective novels that sold more than a million copies each, making him the best-selling American author of his era. Under the pen name A.A. Fair, he wrote a series based on the adventures of detective Bertha Cool and legalist Donald Lam. He is best known for his character Perry Mason. Gardner adapted his Mason stories for radio programs, television shows, and motion pictures beginning in the 1930s.
Beginning with his 1933 novels The Case of the Velvet Claws and The Case of the Sulky Girl, Erle Stanley Gardner had a hit with Perry Mason. Mason was an intelligent, courageous, determined attorney who accepted the tough murder cases, uncovered their hidden mysteries, and almost always pulled out astounding victories in court despite the odds. Perry Mason novels, like the later radio, television, and movie series, adhered to a certain formula. Clients most often sought out Mason because of...
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Wartime Conservation Posters
"Save Waste Fats for Explosives"; "When You Ride Alone You Ride with Hitler!"; "Waste Helps the Enemy"
By: Henry Koerner; Weimer Pursell; Vanderlaan
Date: c. 1943
Source: Koerner, Henry; Weimer Pursell; Vanderlaan. "Save Waste Fats for Explosives"; "When You Ride Alone You Ride with Hitler!"; "Waste Helps the Enemy." 1943. National Archives, College Park, Md. Still Picture Branch. Available online at http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/powers_of_persuasion/u... ; website home page: http://www.archives.gov (accessed March 8, 2003).
About the Artists: The artists who created these posters were commissioned by the U.S. government during World War II (1939–1945) to use their talents to motivate Americans to participate in the war effort. By putting these artists on the public payroll, the government allowed them to invest their energies in creating propaganda posters, which also enabled wide exposure of their work.
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By: Ayn Rand
Source: Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. Philadelphia: Blakiston, 1943, 694, 695, 736, 737, 743.
About the Author: Ayn Rand (1905–1982) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and emigrated to the United States after the Russian Revolution. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1931. Her first novel, We, The Living, was published in 1936. Her 1943 work, The Fountainhead, became her first best-seller. She followed this with a second literary hit, Atlas Shrugged, in 1957. She is best remembered for promoting her individualist philosophy of objectivism in her novels, nonfiction books, and journals.
The turn to communism by her native Russia influenced Ayn Rand deeply; all of her work, both fiction and nonfiction, was an indictment of any regime or system of thought that placed the individual's well-being beneath that of the group. Her books and articles expressed what she termed the philosophy of objectivism: 1) no person should live for another, 2) each person's highest moral end was his or her own happiness, and 3) any notion of "the group"
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Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944
By: U.S. Congress
Source: Serviceman's Readjustment Act. Public Law 346. 78th Congress, 2d sess., June 22, 1944. Reproduced in American Passages: A History of the United States. Available online at ; website home page: http://azimuth.harcourtcollege.com (accessed April 18, 2003).
After the end of World War II (1939–1945), the nation faced the challenge of demobilizing the military. The number of persons serving in the U.S. armed forces dropped dramatically in a relatively short period of time. The Army, for example, dropped to six hundred thousand individuals in 1947 from a wartime peak of eight million. National lawmakers recognized that they owed a debt of gratitude to the armed forces personnel returning from World War II; on a more pragmatic level, they also realized that the the nation faced an economic and political challenge in reabsorbing the GIs into society. To assist discharged veterans returning home to build a new life, the U.S. Congress with the support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944.
This legislation, also known as the GI Bill of Rights, or simply "GI Bill,"...
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"RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region"
By: Roswell Daily Record
Date: July 8, 1947
Source: "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region." Roswell Daily Record, July 8, 1947. Available
In 1947, the staff of the Roswell Daily Record found the eyes of the nation trained on their New Mexico town. After strange events took place on a ranch near Roswell, locals and government officials both suggested that a flying saucer had crashed there. Officials later denied this, but the idea had already caught the attention of the U.S. public and laid the foundation for a legend. Although unidentified flying objects (UFOs) had been reported before—including so-called foo fighters seen by pilots in World War II (1939–1945)—no single...
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Levittown, New York
By: William J. Levitt
Date: April 13, 1949; May 14, 1954
Source: Green, Arthur. "Levittown, New York Seen from Above." April 13, 1949. Corbis. Image no. U901794ACME; Bettmann/Corbis. "Houses In Levittown, Long Island." May 14, 1954. Corbis. Image no. BE041725. Available online at http://pro.corbis.com (accessed March 27, 2003).
About the Architect: William J. Levitt (1907–1994) attended New York University for three years before joining his father's construction company. He eventually came to manage the organization, finances, advertising, sales, and land transactions of the company. Levitt's first housing development was begun during the early years of the Great Depression. His initial attempts to enter the field of low-cost housing were unsuccessful, but by 1947 his first mass-produced
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