1940s



HISTORIC EVENTS

The forties are pretty well
defined by World War II. US isolationism was shattered by the Japanese bombing of
Pearl Harbor. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt guided the country on the
homefront, Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the troops in Europe. Gen. Douglas
MacArthur and Adm. Chester Nimitz led them in the Pacific. The discovery of
penicillin in 1940 revolutionized medicine. Developed first to help the military
personnel survive war wounds, it also helped increase survival rates for surgery. The
first eye bank was established at New York Hospital in 1944. Unemployment almost
disappeared, as most men were drafted and sent off to war. The government
reclassified 55% of their jobs, allowing women and blacks to fill them. First, single
women were actively recruited to the workforce. In 1943, with virtually all the single
women employed, married women were allowed to work. Japanese immigrants and
their descendants, suspected of loyalty to their homelands, were sent to internment
camps.

There were scrap drives for steel, tin, paper and rubber. These were a source of
supplies and gave people a means of supporting the war effort. Automobile
production ceased in 1942, and rationing of food supplies began in 1943. Victory
gardens were re-instituted and supplied 40% of the vegetables consumed on the
home front. In April, 1945, FDR died, and President Harry Truman celebrated V-E Day
on May 8, 1945. Japan surrendered only after two atomic bombs were dropped on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States emerged from World War II as a world
superpower, challenged only by the USSR. While the USSR subjugated the defeated
countries, the US implemented the Marshall Plan, helping war-torn countries to
rebuild and rejoin the world economy. Disputes over ideology and control led to the
Cold War. Communism was treated as a contagious disease, and anyone who had
contact with it was under suspicion. Alger Hiss, a former hero of the New Deal, was
indicted as a traitor and the House Un-American Activities Committee began its
infamous hearings.

Returning GI\'s created the baby boom, which is still having repercussions on
American society today. Although there were rumors, it was only after the war ended
that Americans learned the extent of the Holocaust. Realization of the power of
prejudice helped lead to Civil Rights reforms over the next three decades. The
Servicemen\'s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights, entitled
returning soldiers to a college education. In 1949, three times as many college
degrees were conferred as in 1940. College became available to the capable rather
than the privileged few.

Before the war, British and German inventors were working on jet aircraft. The
designs had flaws, and the prototypes crashed, killing the pilots. It wasn\'t until 1948
that a U.S. company, Boeing, developed the Sabre, the first operational jet fighter.
Television made its\' debut at the 1939 World Fair, but the war interrupted further
development. In 1947, commercial television with 13 stations became available to
the public. Computers were developed during the early forties. The digital computer,
named ENIAC, weighing 30 tons and standing two stories high, was completed in
1945.



ART & ARCHITECTURE


As Adolf Hitler systematically eliminated artists whose
ideals didn\'t agree with his own, many emigrated to the United States, where they
had a profound effect on American artists. The center of the western art world
shifted from Paris to New York. To show the raw emotions, art became more
abstract. Abstract Expressionism, also known as the New York School, was chaotic
and shocking in an attempt to maintain humanity in the face of insanity. Jackson
Pollock was the leading force in abstract expressionism, but many others were also
influential, including Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Robert
Motherwell, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Piet Mondrian, Arshile Gorly, Adolf Gottlieb,
and Hans Hofmann. Andrew Wyeth, the most popular of American artists, didn\'t fit in
any movement. His most popular work, Christina\'s World was painted in 1948.
Sculpture, too, bacame abstract and primitive, utilizing motion in Alexander Calder\'s
mobiles, and modern materials such as steel and "found objects" rather than the
traditional marble and bronze.
In architecture, nonessentials were eliminated, and simplicity became the key
element. In some cases, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe\'s famous glass house,
even practicality was ignored. Modern glass-and-steel office buidings began to rise
after the war ended. Pietro Belluschi designed the prototype Equitable Savings and
Loan building, a "skyscraper" of twelve stories. Eliel Saarinen utilized contemporary
design, particularly in churches. The dream home remained a Cape Cod. After the
war, suburbs, typified by Levittown, with their tract homes and uniformity, sprang up
to house returning GI\'s and