Obviously, World War II gets a lot of the attention when talking about the ’40s. It even gets some here. But other stuff did happen, too. Take a look back at one of the most iconic and transformative decades in US history with these fun facts about the 1940s.
And, for all you mid-century fans and history enthusiasts, don’t miss our fun facts about the 1950s.
Some 1940s Trivia
- Comic book audiences met famed Marvel superhero Captain America for the first time in 1941.
- A gallon of gas cost an average of 11 cents at the start of the decade and 18 cents at its end; in today’s terms, that equates to about $1.99 and $1.92, respectively.
- The cocker spaniel was the most popular dog breed of the decade; take a look at the other most popular dog breeds of the mid-century years.
- After nearly 15 years of work, the carving of Mount Rushmore concludes in late 1941.
- We achieved a significant speed record in flight: Charles Yeager breaks the sound barrier on October 14, 1947 in the Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet.
- The longest-running show in television history, which is still on today—Meet the Press—debuted on November 6, 1947; read about other major tv shows of the 1940s.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) became the first and only US President to serve a third term at the start of the forties; he also became the first and only one to serve a fourth term during the decade.
- The New York Yankees played in five of the decade’s 10 World Series match-ups, winning four of them.
- In 1943, the first kidney dialysis machine was built—out of stuff like aluminum cans and washing machine parts; check out these other medical breakthroughs of the 1940s.
- Fifty countries signed the charter establishing the United Nations (UN) in 1945.
- Average life expectancy was 60 years for American men during the ’40s and 68 years for American women.
- Pin-up girls were a wild fad of the era, particularly among soldiers during the second world war; here are some more fads of the 1940s.
- Only 55 percent of all US homes had indoor plumbing at the start of the decade.
- The average annual income in America in 1940 was $1,368 (about $24,500 today), and it was $2,950 in 1949 (approximately $31,100 today).
- Goodnight Moon—one of the most famous children’s books of all time and still widely read to little ones at bedtime today—was published in 1947; take a look at some more classic American books published in the 1940s.
- The National Basketball Association (NBA) was founded in 1946, though it was known for the first few years as the Basketball Association of America (BAA).
- The first NBA game—played on November 1, 1946—pit the New York Knickerbockers against the Toronto Huskies at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto; the Knickerbockers scored the first point in league history and eked out a victory at 68 to 66 in front of a crowd of 7,090.
- If you say that someone “cracks you up” or really “cuts a rug,” you’re using terminology that dates back to the ’40s; feast your peepers on all this other swell slang from the 1940s.
- The age of eligibility to be drafted into US military service was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1942.
- Also in 1942, Congress let more women join the war effort by establishing female military units like the Army’s Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC), the Navy’s WAVES, the Women Air Force Service Pilots, and the Coast Guard’s SPARs.
- Widely cited as the greatest film of all time, the Orson Welles masterpiece Citizen Kane premiered in 1941; here are some other classic movies of the 1940s.
- On average, a new car cost $850 in 1940 and $1,420 in 1949; that’s around $15,200 and $15,000 in today’s money terms.
- Chicago was well represented in NFL Super Bowl games of the decade, with the Chicago Bears playing in five of 10 (winning four of them) and the Chicago Cardinals playing in two others (winning one).
- Two groundbreaking innovations of the ’40s from military scientists include the atomic bomb and the Slinky; read about more inventions of the 1940s.
- The US population was 132.1 million and the world populations was 2.3 billion in 1940; by the end of the decade, the US population was 152.3 million and the world population was over 2.5 billion.