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A4 1940s Rokicki

Page history last edited by Teja Karra 10 years, 5 months ago

Sahil Bhatia, Alex Ismail, Kiratdeep Kahlon, Saratteja Karra, and Vishwas Tiwari


  present the:



MYP Unit Question: How did culture, events and leadership shape and reflect post-WWII America?


The 1940s




Introductory Video- Starring Teja Karra

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Business & the Economy




     The 1940s decade was, economically, very crucial. It showed a country getting back on its feet after 10 years of depression. The 40s initially were marked to be as disconsolate and hopeless as the 1930s. The New Deal and WPA had strengthened the economy, but rebudgeting of the government's resources had caused a relapse. Things were looking quite bleak. However, the nation's economy received a break in the Pearl Harbor attack. This attack gave the isolationists enough indisputable proof that the United States would be involved in and affected by the war. Thus, the United States entered into World War II. Big business was back in business, so to speak. Companies started building factories to make tanks, artillery, and fighter planes, all needed to fuel the war machine. While it may sound distasteful, war profiteering was now rejuvenating a depressed economy.

     Government involvement in business had also increased dramatically because of the Great Depression. By this point, it was no longer sufficient to watch from the sidelines as companies worked: this philosophy had failed thoroughly; the government now had to determine the usefulness and efficiency of every job, as evidenced in the following primary source document:


The purpose of the new job classification plan is to remove those manifest inequities from the present haphazard wage structure. This is to be done by careful definition of individual jobs and a studied evaluation of wage rates for these jobs. The first step in the job evaluation plan was to decide upon a list of characteristics common to all jobs and a method of measuring the degree of value of each of these characteristics for each job. The chosen job characteristics are skill, mentality, responsibility for material and equipment, mental application, physical application, job conditions and unavoidable hazards. To give a true measure of the value of the work done by a competent workman on each of the classified jobs, each job is evaluated by carefully estimating the degree of each of these characteristics required to do the work of that job in a satisfactory way. When these evaluations have been completed for all the jobs or groups of jobs, they indicate the appropriate relationship between wage rates that should be paid for the several jobs, on the basis of skill, intelligence, responsibility, application, job conditions and hazards. The plan as a whole is an equitable application, within the industry's internal wage structure, of the sound principle of equal pay for equal work (American Decades Primary Sources 70).


     The document originated as a proposed plan to increase involvement in the business sector. Its purpose was to avoid the unaccountability that helped lead to the Great Depression. The document made sure to emphasize that the job classification plan was meant to classify jobs, and not the worker : "it is evaluating the JOB and not the MAN who performs it. Hence, only the wage rates for the JOB are frozen, and not the earning power of the MAN (American Decades Primary Sources 70)." This indicates two key points. The first is that this is a bureaucratic loophole that allows the government to hire and fire employees because it is not possible to take into account "skill, intelligence, and responsibility" without questioning the capabilities of the current worker. This interference in economic affairs clearly demonstrates the power of the Democrats at that time, as the Republican standard is to leave the economy alone. The second that this quote indicates is that it stresses the word MAN in the sentence, not the EMPLOYEE. This completely disregards the contributions women made to the war effort in World War II and makes it quite clear that the women's rights movement had not quite had an impact. 

     New changes  in government had also contributed to the benefit of the economy. Men from big business volunteering to public service were now known  as dollar-a-year men. They were paid one dollar a year by the United States government, but still received salary from their corporate ventures. The dollar-a-year men were invaluable because of their hands-on expertise in the American Economy. This represented a calm in the battle between government and big business. However, there were some very adverse effects of this cooperation: since big business was now supplying the government, they were now virtually immune from government regulation. The government couldn't afford to put off large companies for fear of losing their supplies. Therefore, big business could gouge prices and be as inefficient as they wanted as long as they kept making weapons and transportation. In addition, war justified the deficits used to pay for such economic prosperity.

     Such war production not only increased spending but provided jobs to the American public. This was a needed industry which could not possibly be allowed to go under: it offered job security to both skilled and unskilled workers displaced by the Depression. The new jobs greatly increased American consumerism during the decade.






     At first before the      1940s, America’s      education      system was      not as standardized      throughout the      country, throughout the nineteen forties, it not only      became more standardized, but also better funded and      more organized. Subjects such as Literature, History,      and the Arts were made more professional in the college      curriculum and also became more carefully thought out.      The sciences also improved, as they took a higher profile      than before. These changes that were made at the      college level soon filtered down to the public school      level, and they too were eventually improved. During the      first half of the nineteen forties, the United States was      occupied with fighting the Central Powers in World War      Two, which became the main reason for the      advancement of education in the United States. In total,      the U.S. army rejected at least five million people,      although a few because of health issues, most because      they could not read or write. Educators found that a      citizen’s ability to read, write, and do math depended      greatly on where in the United States they grew up, and      inconsistencies and shortages were noted in college      graduates throughout the United States. The realization soon came that something had to be done about education. Although it was because of the war that the realization of the education shortage was made, it was also the war which caused education to go into a full scale crisis.


Our room is arranged so that there are four rows of movable desks placed close together, leaving space for a circle of chairs, in which groups can come together for planning, discussion, or reading without disturbing people who are working at their seats. We also have three small tables which we use for display of work or other needs. In one corner we have a supply cupboard. There are also three bookcases in the room, one reserved for reference materials—encyclopedias and dictionaries; the other two for readers, arithmetics, library books, and social science materials. We have three large outline maps made by the children: one of New Mexico, another of the United States, and another of Europe. The boys and girls had felt the lack of a map on which to show the German conquests in Europe and mark the changes taking place, so they made the outline map of Europe, and when it proved a success, the other two were suggested. Many of the geographical concepts and historical movements have been traced on these maps; and as these maps are washable, it is easy to keep them clean. In addition we had a set of commercial maps (American Decades Primary Sources 150).


     This primary source is an account from a teacher in a small Spanish-speaking village. The school was sponsored by Loyd S. Tireman (Loyd, not Lloyd), who pioneered bilingual education which proved to teach students better. This document is important because it discusses the re-dedication of the nation to education; the school has quality supplies and is truly focused on teaching the students properly. The curriculum was well maintained with a mind towards current events, as shown by "the German conquests in Europe and marking the changes taking place." Since this was a bilingual school, it was highly focused on making sure that the students understood concepts properly. These developments represent the revolution going on in education at the time and the need to ensure that students were properly instructed.

     Soldiers that were going off to war left a shortage of skilled workers, which triggered a huge demand for training, and on top of this more strain was put on the education industry because teachers began leaving for better paying positions; an estimated one hundred thousand teachers took up jobs in the defense industry or in the military from the years 1939 to 1944. This lack of teachers in 1946 caused about seventy five thousand American children to go without schooling. Although public schools did gain from the effects of the war, universities gained even more; the government funded specialized war related research which greatly boosted university revenues. Through the GI Bill, thousands of soldiers reentering civilian life were able to get their fees paid, allowing them to sometimes be the first in their families to graduate from college. After the war, two main groups of educators were left; the aConservatives, who supported religious education in schools with segregation and Progressives, who argued for a national standardized school system. A Supreme Court Decision - McCollumv.Board of Education- ruled that religious education in public schools was unconstitutional, and slowly conservative educators lost support. In addition to the reconstruction of education in the United States, American educators were also working abroad. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) was formed to build understanding between different nations, to build libraries and museums, and to encourage research. American colleges were opened throughout the world and the United States also helped to rebuild the German and Japanese education systems, soon American educators had not only improved education throughout the United States but had also gained influence in cultural affairs throughout the world. 





Fashion was altered in the 1940’s after strict regulations were made for minimal usage of cloth. The reason for the rationing of clothing was because of WWII. The American army needed enough materials to produce clothing and that was only possible by rationing the amount of cloth used for U.S citizens and using that to make war clothes. Fashion designers rushed to make clothes that were appealing and within the ration limits. This led women to wear short skirts. Fashionable items for women at the time were turbans, military style suits, and wedge shoes. The reason for this is because women had to work in factories and they needed to wear comfortable clothes that allowed them to work easily. Turbans became fashionable as they were being worn for safety in factories by making sure that hair does not get stuck or entangle in factory machines. Men tended to wear v-neck sleeveless coats if they needed to buy new suits. There wasn’t much new clothing developed for men since they continued wearing their old suits. One style of clothing that was famous for both men and women was the siren suit. The siren suit is basically a jumpsuit Men, women, and children were able to wear it like pajamas since they were comfortable and easy to wear. 





Film and Theater



Hollywood movies were not successful in the beginning of the 1940s. The reason was because of the Japanese bombing on Pearl Harbor. It created a loss of interest in theater within America. Between 1943 and 1946, Hollywood greatly improved in modernizing its films. The technological aspects of the films were improved such as the lighting, sound recording, and special effects. These improvements made the films more entertaining and attracted more audience. War films were very popular at the time. Examples are G.I. Joe and Winged Victory. G.I. Joe is about a war correspondent that fights across North Africa in WWII. Winged Victory is another similar war story. In order to make these movies successful, they made sure the ending was happy so that it gave hope to Americans back home.


   Musicals were also famous during the 1940s. Just like films, most of the musicals were war stories.  “Nearly eleven million people attended Broadway extravaganzas in 1943. Most of the shows had upbeat, patriotic themes with casts of singing soldiers or high-kicking women.” (Pendergast 529) The musicals tried to make times more optimistic during war. The upbeat, patriotic themes would bring hope to the families by remembering how proud they are of America. Although, musicals were successful, dramatic theater was not doing very well.


     Dramatic theater was not doing so well since audiences would just show up without paying. The Federal Theater Project was originally a New Deal project created so more jobs could be created in the film and theater industry. Unfortunately it was not a success so the government funding to the FTP ended in 1939. During the 1940s there were a few successful plays such as Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie.

     This image shows a scene from what an ideal film would be like in the 1940s. The man on the left is Spencer Tracy and the woman on the right is Katherine Hepburn. They are starring in a romantic comedy called Woman of the Year. The setting of this scene tells me a lot about their sets. Most of the romantic comedies were set in homes Men would mostly wear a suit and the women would wear whatever was in fashion at the time. The couple was acting out what every couple in the 1940s would act like. The man is working while the woman is there for him for moral support. 



Food &  Drink



During the 1940s there was an economic boom. This allowed Americans to be able to spend money freely. One of the things they spent money on was food. People bought more processed foods and ate out more often. Unfortunately there was rationing on food. Ration cards were issued by the government limiting the amount of certain foods Americans could eat. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats were limited since they were needed for men fighting in the war. Using the ration cards, people were able to buy food. When they finished, some people would buy them in black but when the government found out about that, new rules were made to not allow detaching the coupon from the booklet.

Fast food restaurants and other places to eat out were becoming abundant. For breakfast, people would go out to Dunkin’ Donuts. For lunch, people would go to McDonalds. Pizza was popular for both lunch and dinner. It became one of the most popular dishes making pizzerias a favorable place to eat. Snacking was everyone’s favorite pass time. When someone is at break they would open up a bag of m&m’s and start munching on them. This fast food and unhealthy snacking habits all started in the 1940s.

 Famous drinks in the 1940s were cocktails and all the other drinks we have today. They had coke, pepsi, coffee, beer, and milk. There were many different types of cocktails in the 1940s. If you don’t know, a cocktail is a mixed drink that usually contains alcohol in it. Examples of cocktails in the 1940s are tequila and the jack rose cocktail.



Print Culture


     Print culture throughout the first half of the 1940s was dominated mainly by World War Two; American magazines and newspapers focused intently on bringing what was happening at the front to the doorsteps of Americans everywhere. Usually, the pages of the magazines and newspapers were filled with pictures and stories of soldiers in battle. Although the war mostly took up most of the print media throughout the nineteen forties, comic books also began to rise as a source of entertainment.

     Comic books were made for usually young readers and were about superheroes such as the green lantern or just funny characters in general, such as the Archie comics. What was special about the nineteen forties and its print media was that readers of varying age groups could find things that were written specifically for them. For example, Golden Books offered young readers colorful picture books, Highlights magazine presented educational reading entertainment, and Seventeen gave young women advice about teenage life. The rise of the comic books however also caused the downfall of other reading materials such as pulp magazines started losing their appeal.  By the end of the forties, pulps had virtually disappeared; however this did not include a small amount of detective, science fiction, and fantasy magazines. 


Sports &  Games


     The 1940’s was the decade for a big change in the sports world as a result of the war.  The first thing would be that women finally found a place among athletes.  As more professional athletes were being drafted into the army, some sports started to decline.  That’s why the All American Girls Baseball League, created by the Cubs and the Dodgers.  There were also famous names that emerged from golf, such as Mildred Didrikson Zaharias.


     The sports world found themselves a much larger fan base and a lot more publicity after the war.  As all of the men came back from the war, there was in general more income for families, and then the men that usually attended sports events were back.  There were many more people that went to go watch games, and it increased the revenue that these teams made.  On top of that, radios where in mass production becoming a household item; it made people much more in tune to the sports world, and it brought in many more fans and made sports a much bigger thing.  Sports started to become entertainment for the United States, much like it is today.


     Another important thing that happened during this time is that the racial barrier was knocked down a bit.  The black baseball player Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947.  He was faced with complete hate, as everyone from his teammates, umpires, and fans were racist towards him, trying to aggravate him to do something stupid.  In the end Robinson prevailed, and a few years later, it opened the opportunity to have many other blacks come into sports.    




During this time period music like jazz and big band were very popular. Also because the era is during World War II the musical acts reflected pain that the country felt while it was still very upbeat and positive. Another thing that was very important to this era was the radio which was like the life line of Americans in the 1940s providing news, music and entertainment like TV today.  The radio also was a major tool for the government for propaganda.


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"The Way We Lived"


     Life in the 1940s was good for many Americans. During the depression FDR’s New Deal creating a sense of economic optimism. Though in 1941 40 % of Americans were below the poverty line and the median income was around $2,000 per year. However during the war there was a huge change when the armed forced need men to fight. Also the need for more military equipment went up therefore there was more production. The nations GDP and manufacturing output doubled in the war. Although there was lots of government restriction during the war many Americans were fine with them and worked in the labor force. Like I said before the war about half of all Americans lived under the poverty line. However by the end of the war only one third of all Americans were under the poverty level. Also during this time women were not considered people who should work out of the house but during World War II when most of the men were out at war. The women were the one responsible for working in the factories and doing the jobs that men usually do. However this also changed when the war ended and the men came back. This idea of the old time when women would only work in the house came back. After the war there was a rise in the birthrate which is known as the Baby Boom. Also many Americans that saved their money during the war spent it on new houses in the suburbs and other things like cars and new appliances in the kitchen. 




Government & Politics

     Things were increasingly political during the war years. Franklin Roosevelt had to falsely promise during his 1940s election that American sons would not go to war during World War II, even though "he knew that American support for Britain, France, and China would almost certainly require direct military intervention by the United States (American Decades)."This was a very smart move politically by Roosevelt, because he would get the needed votes, but when complaints came when America went to war, it would be unpatriotic to criticize a wartime president, and he would simply get away with saying he did what had to be done. He also knew the potential cost of this war, but didn't truly reveal it; instead, he focused the public on war production and defense. He also took a very risky political move by assuming so many special emergency powers during the war in a time of dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini. Republicans gained momentum and support after the World War by permeating a fear of the threat of Communism and the danger that democracy was in. Using this power, they managed to gain the majority of Congress in the 1946 elections.This enabled Senator Joseph McCarthy and Congressman Richard Nixon to blame the newly elected Truman for not doing enough to prevent its spread. This helped to initiate one of the largest Communist witch-hunts ever: the Red Scare of the 20th century.





       The two main leadership roles that were the United States in the 1940’s were Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.  FDR was in lead the first five years, and in this time he had to deal with the end of World War Two.  He was a very strong advocate of good foreign relations for the United States, and this came into effect in the 1940’s.  He wanted to assure Americans that the war would not have a huge effect on the American soil so far away from Europe, so he was constantly sending aid to Britain.  Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he made sure to keep America patriotism high by deciding to declare war.  As a leader, he was liked by most Americans as a good leader, and was mourned with his death in 1945.


     Then Truman took over after his death.  He ended up seeing out the bombing of Japan, and later was present at the signing the charter of the United Nations.  As a leader he was out to try and embellish more of an economical aid system, and tried to help the slums and the poor.  Another thing he flourished in was his foreign policies.  He was a strong advocate allow the Soviet Union to take an upper hand in the cold war, and as a result he would always help the countries that were threatened by them, like Greece and Turkey.  They helped in Berlin when they need it, and he played a role in the Korean War, staying out of it so that it didn’t become a major burden for the United States.   


Law &  Justice


     The 1940s were a very fuzzy time, legally, for the United States. During the World War in the early 1940s, over 100,00 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were shipped off to internment camps. Although some believed this was the right thing to do, others such as Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson who thought that this was "legalized racism." This demonstrated that the country displayed extreme focus on the World War, and the need for soldiers was so consuming that even Japanese Americans were allowed to fight.

     However, this focus deflected attention from domestic crime. Las Vegas rose to become the center of gambling and associated illegalities, such as loansharking and prostitution. The advent of television enabled news of large-scale crime to be broadcast, such as the Battle of Alcatraz prison riot and the serial killer Howard Unruh.


     Constitutional law had undergone a change with the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. He appointed eight Supreme Court Justices during his term, which allowed him much control of the judiciary branch of the government. This ensured that laws were enforced according to liberal and Democratic ideals during much of the `40s. Since justices are appointed for life, it left his Democratic legacy long after he was gone.




     Before the nineteen forties, participation in churches had declined, especially throughout the years of the great depression. However, once World War two was over, the churches experienced a revival in church attendance. Before the war, only about forty three percent of the United States’ population attended a church while by the end of the forties, over fifty three percent were part of a religious group. In 1947, polls revealed that the general public held religious leaders in greater esteem than even political figures and businessmen. Not only this but by 1950, over four hundred nine million dollars were used to fund church construction. This enormous return to churches by the American people was due mostly to the experiences of war, but was also because of the social pressures present in the age of affluence that came from the war.


The biblical answer to the problem of evil in human history is a radical answer, precisely because human evil is recognized as a much more stubborn fact than is realized in some modern versions of the Christian faith. These versions do not take the problem of justice in history seriously, because they have obscured what the Bible has to say about the relation of justice to mercy in the very heart of God. Every sensitive Christian must feel a sense of unworthiness when he is compelled by historic destiny to act as an instrument of God's justice. Recognition of the common guilt that makes him and his enemy kin must persuade him to imitate the mercy of God, even while he seeks to fulfill the demands of justice. But he will seek to elude such responsibilities only if he believes, as many modern Christians do, that he might, if he tried a little harder, achieve an individual or collective vantage point of guiltlessness from which to proceed against evil doers. There is no such vantage point.…


     The preceding primary source documents helps to illustrate the attitude of some Christians during the War. It is an excerpt from a journal/article by Reinhold Niebuhr,  a professor of Christian ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City from 1928 to 1960. He expresses his belief that the Christians of today are less involved in improving the world through Christianity and demonstrates a contempt for their mediocrity in what they do. He also believes it is up to the Christians of the world to embrace their Biblical beliefs to find a solution to the problems during the war. This document is clearly an attempt to bring Christians back to what Niebuhr considers true Christianity, the application of God's principles to solve modern problems. It is evangelical in its tone which implies that he is trying to help increase the activity of Christians in the time period. 

     The two main religions that dominated the urban areas of the United States were Catholicism and Judaism, while rural areas were predominately Protestant. Before the war, these boundaries were clear and there was a lot of interfaith animosity; however the character of the cities changed throughout the war. Rural Protestants began migrating to urban centers to work in defense industries while Catholic and Jewish troops taking their training into rural America. Cities also changed after the war, as black Protestants started moving into cities. Soon established patterns of religious practices were being disrupted, and distinctions between location and religion became blurred. 






Positive Political Cartoon



This political cartoon was published in January 26, 1949 and show the Marshall plan which allowed the US to pour money into rebuilding Western Europe after the war. 



Negative Political Cartoon


This cartoon was published in the Washington Post in October of 1947. This was the time period where McCarthyism was at its height. The HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities) committee focused on searching out and punishing “communists” but many of the names on their lists were innocent people. And as you can see in the picture the two men in the car are running innocent people over. 



MYP Unit Question: How did culture, events and leadership shape and reflect post-WWII America?


The Great Depression took a hold of America during the late 1920s, specifically 1929, and for approximately ten long years a large portion of the American population struggled against an increase in poverty, increasing unemployment, and the decreasing value of virtually everything. America was finally pulled out of the Great Depression in 1939 when the Second World War began. During the first half of the 1940s, the United States remained engaged in the world war, which affected all parts of American life in some way or another at that time; education, fashion, business, and even the film industry were changed by the effects of the war. The latter half of the 1940s developed uniquely; although the full effect of the war was not present, the aftereffects of the war were still being felt by Americans. The culture, economics, and politics throughout the 1940s were all important factors in determining how post – World War Two would turn out.

One of the prime factors that helped carve out the United States was the culture of the nation. American culture was determined, for the first part of the 1940s, for the most part by World War Two. One aspect of culture that was forever altered by the effects of World War Two was the fashion of the United States during and even after the war. As manufactures began using up cloth for the soldiers who were going to war, cloth was rationed to manufactures, who then rushed to create something fashionable yet within their limit. This led to the creation of shorter skirts and clothing with shorter sleeves, but other fashions for women also included turbans, military style suits, and wedge shoes. Much of the fashion trends at this point were also due to women starting to work; more comfortable clothing was required to accomplish the tasks in factories easily. Also during the World War Two era, the food that United States denizens consumed changed due to the needs of the war. More processed foods were consumed, and people were issued ration cards limiting the amount of food a person could buy, usually this included fruits, vegetables, and meats. The war dominated for the first half this era almost everything in the media; magazines, newspapers, and even films. Writers began filling up the pages of magazines and newspapers with stories and pictures of soldiers fighting the war, and war films became extremely popular.

The economy of the 1940s was dramatically affected by the United States participation in the Second World War.  The great depression had brought the quality of life for most families down, many to poverty, and the only thing that finally ended this economic crisis was World War Two.  Businesses had nothing to do before the war; however once it started they were able to construct tanks, artillery, and fighter planes; which would all be used for the war. Government involvement had increased throughout the Great Depression and was continued throughout the 1940s, as it was clear that government involvement in business and economics had not been enough before the great depression. Although the War alone brought benefits to the economy, changes in government added an increasing number of benefits to eh economy. During this time, men from big business that began “volunteering” for public service received a dollar a year by the government and were known as dollar - a - year men.  However, there were very adverse effects of this cooperation; big businesses were virtually immune to government regulation, as they were its suppliers. All this production caused by the war soon led to increased spending in the American public, and as a result American consumerism greatly increased during this decade.

Politically speaking, the two largest leadership roles during the 1940s were filled by the two presidents; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. President Roosevelt took office before the start of World War Two but was killed while he was president by the end of the war. When the war started, he wanted to assure the American people that it would have a significant effect on American soil when it was so far away in Europe, however the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred and he kept American patriotism high by deciding to declare war. After the death of FDR, vice president Harry Truman took office. During the war years, things in the United States became increasingly political; although FDR knew that American support in the Second World War would require direct military intervention, he told the American public otherwise. Roosevelt also knew the cost of the war, however he did not reveal this and instead allowed companies to focus war production and defense. Also throughout this time Republicans gained enormous support throughout the United States by permeating a fear of communism. This large amount of support enabled McCarthy to put all the blame on Truman when he took office. In turn, this caused on the largest Communist witch hunts in the history of the United States.

Through careful examination of the history of the 1940s, one can determine the shape which America took after the war. The culture, economics, and politics of this time influenced the way in which post world war America turned out. Trends were set, and many things such as fashion were altered forever.



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