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B4 1940s Gallagher

Page history last edited by Mehul Gaur 10 years, 1 month ago


Jonathan Tan

Mehul Gaur

B Day | Block 4


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


Rejoice in all that is the 1940s:

(playable using Firefox)



business & economy

     The 1940’s reflected a huge change for the American economy and American businesses. After the Great Depression, the American economy was waiting for an opportunity to arise. WWII was that opportunity and the businesses pounced on it. One historian described this as the silver lining amongst the storm clouds of war. When the United States declared war the entire resources of the country became devoted to winning it. This not only helped the U.S. to come out of the depression, but also caused the economy to grow at an unbelievable pace. War-time production was constantly increasing, unemployment was low,  and wages were at record levels. Since many men were fighting in the war, many women gained work experience and some even received educations.

     This increased living conditions and advanced the United States as a whole. Also, during the Great Depression people were scared that the capitalist system was failing and were ready to take anything else. However, the economic growth due to the war, increased confidence in the capitalist system and the government.

     Not everything was good for the business. In postwar times, the businesses of America had to struggle to prevent areas around the world from being closed to American Trade. Also, the Soviet Union refused to help with rebuilding and in turn, became a country closed off to outside influence, including business. This took away a huge market for the businesses in America and changed many attitudes towards communists and the Soviet Union. 

America's economic success after World War II can be attributed to factories

that not only perfected production processes, but employed millions as well.


     As the United States braced itself for war, both conservative and religious communities played major roles in limiting academic

 freedom. A representative case was that of Bertrand Russell. A prominent left-wing philosopher, Russell was hired by New York City College to teach logic and mathematics. He was condemned by conservatives for his unconventional views regarding marriage and sexuality, labeled an anarchist by newspapers, and disliked by clergymen for his opposition against organized religion. His application was eventually denied by New York courts and ultimately halted when funding was withdrawn from his position--a deliberate stance by the government in limiting free thinking. The courts cited Russell as “unqualified” for his position despite his notoriety as both a philosopher and a mathematician. Similarly in lower levels of education, teachers with unconventional views were labeled as “reds” and investigated by committees created to seek out fascist and communist. Speculative teaching methods and textbooks were also evaluated by similar committees for “un-American activity.”

     The onset of this paranoia was caused by World War II and the events that followed.  The fascist party of Italy as well as a looming communist sphere of influence from Soviet Russia pervaded the sense of security of the US.  A complete disdain for their government systems was developed by the society of the US. Every facet, including education was probed at even the slightest abnormality to find the fabled fascist or communist sympathizers. The federal government established the biggest opponent towards academic freedom: the House of Un-American Activities Committee which spearheaded campaigns towards revising textbooks of "non-American" themes and forcing teachers and professors alike to sign loyalty oaths. As a result, free thought in America was severely limited. The only mainstream voices were those that appeased anti-communism and religious groups.

     After World War II, it was realized that among army recruits and schoolchildren alike a lacking of knowledge in western culture. An initiative called the "Great Books" program was created to not only educate the nation about subjects outside the commonly accepted ones (philosophy, political science, literature, etc.), but to dissolve the progressive mindset of specialized education. In the end, the program was never fully successful due to its lack of "universal value," but it did manage to influence other colleges and universities to make their own changes in curriculum. These initial instances of detracting from the then accepted areas of study (the sciences, economics, etc.) was the first step in changing the limited system of education. As a result, modern colleges and universities equally emphasize the importance of both hard sciences and social sciences--a clear representation of America's overall acceptance of a diverse field of studies.


Philosopher Bertrand Russell, one of the most important American  philosophers of the twentieth century, was declared

Bertrand Russell, a highly acclaimed philosopher and mathematician who was

rejected a teaching position because of his liberal views.



     The fashion of the 1940s, as with everything else, was affected directly by the war. With the government demanding every yard of cloth for clothing the soldiers cloth was in very short supply. Also, materials like silk, nylon, and wool were very expensive and limited the progression of fashion in the 1940s. For women, their styles stayed at the standard 1930 fashion of padded square shoulders in suits and dresses that fell down to the knee or mid-calf. (see picture) To create some diversity in their clothing women tried different accessories such as different dresses, leather handbags, or high heels.

     The men that were not out fighting the war had to deal with very static and restricted clothing. Men dressed in simple two-piece suits in black or gray. Also, this stop in the advancement of men's fashion was due to many of the men going out the war. This gave the designers no incentive to design any new clothes so men's fashion was essentially stalled at this point until the end of the war. Also, many men's clothing producer's found that it was much more profitable to produce uniforms for the government and this led to further slow down in men's fashion. As a result, many men went back to the old two-piece suits of the late 1930's. 

     After the war, however all of this changed. The flow of materials was reestablished and the men were home, so designers went back to work. Also, the war brought upon great economic growth, which meant people and families had more money to purchase their new clothing. They wore their new clothes along with their new cars, new homes, and newfound wealth. Women's fashion went to emphasize soft curves and shorter skirts. Men converted to gray and brown suits with white shirts complemented by slim ties.

     As a whole the 1940s did advance the fashion of America considerably and if not more then previous decades. Although, advancement was stunted by the war America quickly rebounded with radical styles and new choices due the enormous amount of wealth that flooded America at the end of the 1940s. 

A group of women dressed in the fashion of the 1940s


film & theater 

     The film industry, much like all other aspects of American culture, was affected by World War II. A whole shift in genre occurred; actors enlisted in the army and entertained troops overseas while those that stayed in the United States portrayed the United States in a campaign against evil on the silver screen.

     After the war, the Hollywood film industry was pressured by many sources. The US Justice Department accused the studios of a monopoly in the distribution of movies. Anticommunist government officials accused the industry of being too dangerous in that it supposedly propagated communist sentiments. In addition to these accusations, the film industry saw a major up-and-coming competitor: the television. The shrinking film industry desperately clawed to stay alive, looking for some new genre to revitalize its image—that genre was film noir.

     Film noir explored the darker side of the human experience as inspired by the hardships of World War II. The genre was most commonly known for its usage of low-key black-and-white visuals as it delved into the subjects of human depravity, failure, and despair. The emergence of film noir marked a shift in American attitude. Rather than centering itself around the communal, high-spirited themes of the Depression, it focused more on the individual and his or her struggles with personal identity. This sudden change in film styles was representative of American society as well. The film industry tried to find its new identity by exploring the multi-layered nature of humans much as society did. Right out of the largest war of modern history with higher income than ever, the American had to find and grasp for that identity of which at the time, was somewhat of a haze amidst all the conflicting religious and political viewpoints. 

     American drama made disappointing progress during the 40s. Unlike many other mediums of expression, drama did not participate in the modernist experiment of individualism. Instead, the 40s changed from its uplifting, often political focus into a much more pessimistic view of American society and its future. Considering the reemergence of film and accessibility of the television attracted former theatre goers which ultimately diminished the  importance of American drama in the 40s.


The film noir genre was known for its unique use of lighting and

explorations into the human experience


food & drink

     The economic successes traced to World War II ushered in a new era of food and drink consumerism to America. With higher wages and an employed force twice that of the previous decade, financial desperation and food conservation was history. The injection of money only meant one thing for America: a budget that had much more room for recreational spending, one area of which was food.

     The food service industry quickly grew to cater to audiences of all meals. Bakeries, such as those of the then newly-founded Duncan Donuts franchise, satisfied those seeking breakfast as well as the worker on coffee break. Fast and convenient meals from McDonald's and Stuckey's appeased the hungers of workers and families across America who were looking for a quick fix. The further popularization of the automobile (also from the money injection) paved the way for drive-in restaurants that served clients with their emblematic "carhops" on roller skates. Pizza was an especially popular food in small towns and big cities alike.

     The snack and beverage industries also took shape. Those who needed a snack found themselves eating M&Ms while Coca-Cola was right beside it, ready to quench the thirst of those positively affected by the booming economy that emerged from the war. 

     The reception of fast food restaurants illustrated the state of the average American: a busy job that needed quick meals and resulting disposable income that could be used to consume even more restaurant food for more recreational purposes.


McDonald Brother's store in San Bernadino, CaliforniaThe fast food restaurant in its youth--before it grew golden arches. Restaurants

like this became especially popular in the 40s because of the economic successes

due to World War II.


print culture

     The nation had its eyes on World War II (1939-1945). Media outlets followed every development in the war until 1946, the year that most troops returned from Europe. Newspapers heavily emphasized propagating news to the doorsteps of every American. A common newspaper during this time would consist mostly of stories and photos concerning the war. As a measure of the seriousness of the war in print culture, thirty-seven American reporters and others associated with the news died while trying to get thorough coverage on the war.

     The 1940s, despite being so focused on the war, was also the golden age for comic strips. They primarily focused on a younger audience with comic books featuring such superheroes, detective adventures, and funny cartoons. What set this decade apart from previous ones in terms of comics was the distribution. Comics in this era could be found in magazines, comic books, etc.

     More and more magazines were targeted towards the younger audience. Highlights for Kids was a source of educational/educational reading material. Seventeen offered advice to teenage girls and young women.

     This influx of comic books and other reading materials including paperback books pushed out the pulp fiction magazines popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The pulp magazines lost their writers to book publishers and comic books while the longer, racy stories presented in paperback books were more attractive to the American audience than the pulp magazines that disappeared. By the 50s, pulp magazines went unpublished.


Comics in the 1940s were more widely spread than ever. Archie was just one of the many

comics created targeting a younger audience of readers.



sports & games

     The 1940s represented a very important decade for all of sports. The war siphoned off many of the popular male athletes of the time. This led to the rise of women in professional sports. The owners of the Chicago Cubs and the Dodgers jointly created the AAGBL, or All-American Girls Baseball League because the major league baseball season was on the line. Also, in golf Mildred Didrikson Zaharias and Patty Berg became very famous athletes.

After the war, sports began its change towards big business. People had new amounts of wealth and sports attendance began to rise. Also, television brought a rapid expansion of advertising and brought many new viewers to professional sports. Sports also became unionized and players started to demand higher salaries and bonuses.

     As the fan base grew and more money flowed into professional sports the racial barricades began to fall apart. In 1947 Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and within years, a handful of black players were some of the best in the game.

     Lastly, American sports started to become part of the entertainment industry. The players became national heroes and endorsement deals began to take hold. Also, television and advertising money became reinvested into sports to allow their teams to reach new heights. All in all, American sports helped to brighten the spirits of a country dulled by the Depression and war.


Pictured above is Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player.


music & literature

     The first half of the 40s was dominated by big band and swing jazz music in the era known as the swing era. Both were characteristically upbeat genres played by large ensembles of approximately 25 musicians.  The era drew to a close during the middle of the decade for several reasons. Many ensembles were broken up by the draft of World War II.  Others lost funding because of their inability to tour due to the wartime conditions of the economy.

     As the swing era drew to a close, music stripped itself of all ornamentation and focused on a concept that was being explored by film, literature, painting, etc.—individual expression. The characteristically long solos of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker accompanied by considerably smaller ensembles exemplified the significance of an individual in music.

     Another form that arose from the swing era was bebop. Disgruntled swing musicians claimed bebop to be an elitist style of jazz that did not sit well with the American public. Bebop’s divergence from standard time signatures made music unsuitable for dancing, or as swing musicians would view it, self-indulgent. Bebop was highly based on individual virtuosity, seeing as the improvisations and fast-paced music required extreme attentiveness to appreciate. Bebop and other forms of music emerging from the swing era were much less accessible to the public: they required a higher level of sophistication to understand which represented the era nicely. Employment was much higher, the capacity for cultured individuals increased; in the eyes of these musicians, it was more financially feasible to play in small ensembles and of less importance to appeal to the general public.

     Gravitation towards individualism was also observable in literature. Authors were heavily influenced by an area of French philosophy known as existentialism which argued that the choices an individual defined his or her existence. The philosophy yielded much creative freedom and leniency, but one had to consider the consequences when poor choices were made. This further adds the attraction of American society in the 1940s towards individualism. Politics, the community, etc. were all diminishing in value because they were all such commonly discussed subjects. Forms of expression, including literature, had to find a new method of expression which happened to be individualism.


The late Miles Davis, a man who paved the way for jazz after

             the decline of big band and swing music.


the way we lived


government & politics

     President Franklin Delano Roosevelt [FDR] used his great foresight and predicted correctly that World War II would bring about the end of the British Empire. Using this, he carefully managed America's position in the war so at the end she would stand as one of the most influential countries in the world and replace Great Britain. With the completion of the war, Americans' wealth and status grew immensely. This, in turn, helped big business, and these in turn gave the government huge amounts of wealth and power, domestically. After the war, however, the single biggest change in American political life was the expansion of the army. 

     Before the war the U.S. had felt no reason to have a large and professional army. The war changed all this with 16 million Americans being drafted or signing up for military service. Tensions with the Soviet Union led the American government to feel as though their country was being threatened at all times by outside enemies. So, in response the Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], and the National Security Council were established. Next, the government joined hands with weapons manufacturers to create what is known as the "military-industrial complex". Also, this complex worked with universities to develop new technologies using the new research available from these institutions. 

     The government itself saw a very dramatic shift due to the death of Roosevelt and the presidency of Truman. FDR was a democrat and very stanch one, but his successes were so great, that even some republicans such as Thomas Dewey and Wendell Willkie supported him. However, when he died, and Truman took the presidency, Senator Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon attacked his administration. This led to period of distrust and constant accusation known as The Red Scare. Individuals who expressed liberal views were largely criticized by both church and state. McCarthy's hunt for communist sympathizers was all inclusive: actors, movie producers, teachers, professors, etc. were all accused. This lead to a lot of paranoia and limited forms of expression--those who wanted to voice their opinions were afraid of being labeled a "red" by McCarthy and his group of anticommunists.

     For government and politics the 1940s started out as a great era of growth and seemed as though the government would actually accomplish something. The death of FDR changed the whole situation though. Politicians became involved in their own political squabbles rather than focusing on the country as a whole, which led to an almost reversal of FDR's policies in the past 10 years. 


Joseph McCarthy, the man who threatened the nation with his supposed list of communists.
In the end, there was no list--it was just used as an intimidation tactic.



      During the 1940s America had only two leaders and it is quite apparent which of the two was much more capable. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was arguably the most popular president of the United States ever. He is the only one to be elected to four straight terms in office. He led the country through the Great Depression and World War II. Also, he brought the U.S. to a point where the country held huge amounts of power, influence, and wealth.  He established great relations with other countries such as Great Britain. His reformative policies were very popular because he took great action in a time of great trouble. Although some viewed him as a dictator 

     On the other hand there is Harry Truman, what some consider to be a failed presidency. Roosevelt kept his policies within a very small group of trusted advisors and unfortunately Truman was not in this group of advisors. So, when Truman took office he was in complete shock as to what to do. He had absolutely no idea as to what was necessary to continue running the government. he then decided to pursue his own policies and this was a huge mistake for America. He heightened tensions with the Soviet Union and just destroyed what FDR was doing.  


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man of great foresight.


law & justice

     The 1940's brought with them the increased prosperity of the Americans, domestically, and the constant threat of other nations, internationally. Both of these affected the United States laws very significantly. President Roosevelt's efforts to help the country gave rise to huge changes in society and the government. To make sure that these laws were passed efficiently without obstacles he made many improvements, the biggest of which was probably appointing a total of 8 supreme court justices to the court. Also, these justices shared Roosevelt's liberal social beliefs. 

     Next, no discussion of law and justice can be complete without a discussion of crime. Even with the new-found prosperity and wealth crime continued to run rampant throughout the United States. One possible explanation of this is the new public interest in these spectacular crimes. People began relying more heavily on newspapers and radio and these mediums realized that by publishing these stories they could attract more listeners or readers. Americans were able to learn about crimes as they happened and followed them with an almost schoolboy fascination. A small town by the name of Las Vegas was slowly gaining reputation as a gambling center and with it came drugs, prostitution and loan sharking. 

     Another big portion of Law during the 1940s was the past-war courts for military criminals. Throughout the war, Americans knew that genocide was occurring, but no one guessed the magnitude of the killings. As the allied armies marched through what used to be Hitler's regime and freed concentration camps the numbers began to show their real size. Although many argue that no amount of punishment would be adequate for the war criminals of the Nazi Party, the sentences at least proved that there was justice to be served for those who wrong. 


Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed many of the members of the Supreme Court, whose

building can be seen above. It was noted to be one of the most liberal panels in American history.



     The depression caused a huge dip in church membership however the 1940s represented a sort of revival with huge amounts of new members and new congregations. During the war, the church played a huge role in keeping the morality and spirits of both the American people and the soldiers fighting alive and strong. More than eight thousand clergy enrolled in the armed forces as chaplains and the church also provided bibles and other literature to the soldiers. Church's also held a special responsibility as America's moral conscience. They helped separated families get back on their feet and monitored the nation's morality to make sure it did not dip too low. The churches also served as a community center of sorts. People were able to come here to donate things to troops, pray for their loved ones, or maybe even just as a something to do on a sunday morning.

     On the war front, many religious leaders such as Archbishop Francis Spellman traveled to the front lines to provide services to the soldiers getting ready to fight. He boosted their morale and spirit and actually helped them to fight better. Some chaplains served as psychological counselors to the the victims suffering from shock and/or trauma. This actually led to the creation of pastoral psychology, which combines religious faith with standard psychological practices to provide a ground for someone to build up from. This man of faith was a great relief for many soldiers who had started to doubt the existence of god in the hellish environment of war. 

     Lastly, the post-war period proved to be a double-edged sword for the church. it was good in the sense that it attracted millions of new members who had more time, more money, and more faith. People saw their neighbors go to church so they decided to attend as well. The downside to all of this was that the whole meaning of church was lost. People who went simply because of their neighbors went simply to show off their wealth and flaunt their possessions. So, in many ways, the only losses the church felt were due to its successes. Many priests argued that the growth of these churches meant nothing if the faith was only becoming shallower. This criticism has only escalated as the decades continue. 



Church membership during the Great Depression decreased.

The 40s was seen as a period of the revival of Christianity.  


positive political cartoon

This political cartoon comments on how the Allied powers (represented by an FDR assisted by Churchill) is willing to use its own resources to help bring liberty to Europe. Europe is pictured as a shackled hand unable to reach world liberty so the US and Great Britain are trying to get liberty to Europe through fighting World War II

negative political cartoon

After WWII, the US had many problems...


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


     The United States entered the 1940s as a state crippled by its disastrous stock market crash. The first half of the decade focused on World War II. America focused all of its economic power on producing materials for the war. Not only did it fuel its own capacity for war, the US lent a lot of war supplies to other countries as well. Increased production quotas required the nation to hire more workers. At the end of the war, the manufacturing process was refined to the point that factories could start producing goods unrelated to the war. Essentially, the war accelerated the growth of the US economy after the Great Depression. With this increased money flow, the average American had access to much more in terms of employment and lifestyle.

     The arts before the 1940s focused mainly on political policy and the United States as a community trying to lift itself out of the depression. After these focuses were eliminated by increased spending, society looked inwards towards individual expression. Music, literature, film, and other forms of expression all deflated their accessibility to the general populace and looked inwards towards much more obscure forms of expression.

     The increase in employment made the lifestyles of Americans much busier. As a result, many industries arose to cater to this demographic. Those occupied by jobs found convenience in the fast food industry. Print culture focused primarily on the coverage of the war for its duration, but expanded to appeal to the younger generation of consumers with comic books and magazines.

     The huge growth in the economy of the United States gave rise to a generation not worried about financial security. They were able to spend more and splurge more. This led to Americans taking longer vacations, buying bigger houses, and showing off more. They bought their kids new clothes and new toys. These grew up almost being “spoiled”. Many children attended private schools and overall the standard of life increased. It created a very casual but well-to-do attitude, nowadays defined as suburban. 

     The 1940s were a period of growth for America in more ways than one. All aspects of society grew, however, no decade can be perfect and Joseph McCarthy saw that to the end. He caused a split amongst the Americans between the "communists" and the capitalists. This decade however, provided America with a platform as the strongest nation in the world.  


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