The People History

What Happened in 1938 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture

What happened in 1938 Major News Stories include The First use of A seeing eye dog, Minimum Hourly Rate of 25 cents, Seabiscuit beats War Admiral, Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia, (Fannie Mae - FNMA) Established, Germany begins persecution of Jews, Great New England Hurricane, Howard Hughes sets a new Round The World Record of 3 days, 19 hours, March of Dimes Polio Foundation Created

1938 following a number of years of success with the US economy a recession hit which caused unemployment to rise back to 19%. In Europe Germany was continuing it's strategy of persecuting the Jews and occupation in Czechoslovakia, the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain went to Germany fearing another world war and after agreeing to allow Hitler could occupy Czechoslovakia declared "Peace in our time" . The law changed in the US that meant the minimum hourly wage was 40 cents per hour for a 44 hour working week. On September 21st a giant hurricane slammed into the east coast with little or no warning from the Weather Service , the hurricane caused 40 ft waves to hit Long Island and sixty three thousand people were left homeless and some 700 dead. On October 30th Orson Wells dramatization of "War of The Worlds" radio programme caused panic when it was broadcast more like a news breaking story than a play. Most of the world cheered when Germany's Max Schmeling was defeated by a knock out in the first round by the great Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship
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Cost of Living 1938

How Much things cost in 1938
Average Cost of new house $3,900.00
Average wages per year $1,730.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 10 cents
Average Cost for house rent $27.00 per month
A loaf of Bread 9 cents
A LB of Hamburger Meat 13 cents
Average Price for new car $763.00
Blanket $5.00
Liptons Noodle Soup 10 Cents
Kellogs Corn Flakes 3 Pkgs 25 cents
Mixed Nuts 19 Cents per pound
Pork Loin Roast 15 cents per pound
Channel Cat Fish 28 cents per pound
Below are some Prices for UK guides in Pounds Sterling
Average House Price 545

United States --- War of the Worlds

  • Orson Welles's radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is broadcast, causing mass panic in the eastern United States.
More Information and Timeline for War of the Worlds Broadcast
The War of the Worlds was a radio adaption of the H.G. Wells' novel of the same name. It was directed by future film genius Orson Welles for the Mercury Theatre on the Air radio show on October 30th of 1938.

The Radio drama began with an announcement that let listeners know that it was not a real news broadcast, however many listeners missed the disclaimer as they were switching stations from another program. The play was broadcast without commercials and was done in a style that emulated real breaking news reports, creating a realistic feeling to the drama. The reports chronicled an alien invasion of the Eastern United States.

After the play had ended, newspapers reported that the broadcast had incited a mass panic in the country, stating that many believed the hoax to be real. While it is true that some listeners were disturbed by the fake reports, there was no evidence of a mass panic taking place. In reality, not very many people had actually listened to the program and it is thought that many of the reports were made up by newspapers who had been angry that the booming business of radio was increasingly taking a large portion of their ad revenue.


United States --- Seabiscuit and War Admiral

  • Seabiscuit and War Admiral have their long awaited race to decide the best horse which Seabiscuit beats War Admiral
More Information and Timeline for Seabiscuit and War Admiral
1. In 1937 , War Admiral dominated the horse-racing scene in the Spring and won the Kentucky Derby.
2. War Admiral wins the Triple Crown in 1937, going so fast in one race that his rear feet overran his front hooves, taking a chunk out of one so that he left a trail of blood behind him.
3. War Admiral ranked as the number one horse with Seabiscuit ranked as number two.
4. The two horses' owners arrange a winner-take-all match-up between the two horses at the Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore on November 1st of 1938.
5. The country is divided about who will win the epic race with many believing that War Admiral was the superior horse. However, during the Great Depression, many people also were more inclined to root for the underdog so there was an equal amount of people hoping for the less perfect horse to win with Seabiscuit.
6. War Admiral was expected to lead the race, however, Seabiscuit had been carefully re-trained and took the lead for the majority of the race. Seabiscuit's jockey chose a risky strategy in that he slowed down and allowed War Admiral to catch up only for Seabiscuit to pull ahead by four lengths, winning the historic race.
7. After the "Race of the Century," War Admiral continued to win and retired in 1939. He had won a total of twenty-one races out of twenty-six.
8. Seabiscuit continued to the race as well, but was injured soon after the historic face-off. Seabiscuit attempted a comeback in 1940, miraculously winning at race at the Santa Anita Handicap in March of 1940. The horse was then retired that year having won a total of thirty-five races during his career.

United States --- Fair Labor Standards Act

  • Fair Labor Standards Act ( Wages and Hours Bill ) passes regulations "labor of persons under eighteen years of age"
More Information and Timeline for Fair Labor Standards Act
Many believe that the Fair Labor Standards Act was one of the defining laws of the New Deal and one of the more important laws to come out of the Great Depression in the United States.

The Fair Labor Standards Act did several important things:
1. It defined the maximum work week as forty-four hours in a seven day week.
2. It created a national minimum wage.
3. It made employers pay employees "time and a half" for overtime work in certain jobs.
4. It also stopped "oppressive" child labor in most cases.

The law had been discussed in several forms prior to its adoption in 1938, but proponents were afraid that the conservative Supreme Court would strike it down as unconstitutional as they had done before with several liberal measures that were intended to curb the Great Depression.

However, around the time that FLSA was being discussed and formulated, President Roosevelt had threatened to pack the court with a new Justice for every justice over the age of seventy that had refused to retire. It was at this moment that the Supreme Court had a change of heart on the New Deal measures and fell in line with FDR's goals. This paved the way for the Fair Labor Standards Act to easily pass through the Congress without fears that the Court would strip it of any usefulness.

Germany --- Nazi Germany Escalation

  • Germany begins its persecution of Jews
More Information and Timeline for Nazi Germany Escalation
1. While Germany had already been increasingly war-like and anti-Semitic since Hitler had taken over the country. Many more dramatic events happened in 1938 to ramp up to the beginning of World War II in the following year and acts against Jewish persons in Europe became more aggressive.
2. Germany invades Austria in March of 1938. Austria then becomes a part of Germany in what was known as the "Anschluss."
3. Germany begin deporting Polish Jews to Poland, Poland refuses to accept the majority of them and they are forced to live on the border between the two countries.
4. Tension between Germany and Czechoslovakia is increasingly escalated, implying an impending war.
5. Germany introduces a law that requires people who are Jewish but do not a have a traditionally Jewish first name to add either "Israel" or "Sara" to their names in August of 1938.
6. Passports of German Jews are declared invalid in October of 1938, and they are required to have the letter "J" stamped onto their passports for them to become valid again.
7. Kristallnacht occurs on November 9th and 10th of 1938. Nazis attack Jewish businesses throughout the country. At the end of it all 267 Synagogues were destroyed, 7,500 Jewish businesses were looted and destroyed, at least 91 people were killed and up to 30,000 Jewish men were arrested.
8. The German government closes all Jewish businesses on November 12th, only a few days after Kristallnacht.
9. Jewish parents begin sending their children to the United Kingdom in December of 1938 with the hope that their children can escape some of the German persecution. The rescue efforts were called "Kindertransport" and save up to 10,000 children between 1938 and 1940. Many of these children's parents were killed during the Holocaust.
10. It was clear that these actions were building up to the outbreak of World War II that would start the next year, and the Nazis were also accelerating their persecution of the Jews that would become the Holocaust and kill millions. In the next year more and more Jewish people would be sent to ghettos and concentration camps where millions would die from the conditions or be killed.

United States --- Civil Aeronautics Authority

  • The Civil Aeronautics Authority is established by the United States government.
More Information for the Civil Aeronautics Authority.
During June of 1938, the United States government created the Civil Aeronautics Authority with the passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act. The purpose of the act was to create an independent board to regulate and oversee the safety of non-military aeronautics. The newly created agency would also be tasked with the investigation of accidents, crashes, and complaints related to civil aviation. The development of this authority was important in that it gave the fledgling civil aeronautics industry federal oversight to help legitimize and standardize civil aviation practices.

United States --- Naval Act of 1938

  • The Naval Act of 1938 comes into effect in the U.S.
More Information for the Naval Act
The Naval Act of 1938 also known as the Second Vinson Act becomes law during May of 1938. The law stated that the United States Navy would increase its size and strength by 20 percent. The law was a direct reaction to increased aggression from Japan and Germany in the lead up to World War II. Japan had invaded China in 1937 and Germany had annexed Austria in March of 1938, making it clear that the United States would eventually be drawn into the impending worldwide conflict. The act specifically mandated the construction of 105,000 tons of battleships.

Austria --- German troops invade Austria

  • German troops enter Austria
More Information for German Annexation of Austria.
During March of 1938 Nazi Germany forcibly annexed neighboring Austria when German troops invaded the country in what was known as "Anschluss" or the union of the two countries. Upon annexing Austria, German dictator Adolf Hitler appointed a new government of his choosing to replace Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg who had opposed the annexation. Schuschnigg had been bullied by Hitler to appoint Austrian Nazis to positions of power and later resign. After his resignation, Schuschnigg was imprisoned until the end of World War II. While it was unclear whether Austrian citizens truly agreed with the annexation or if they complied due to the terrorizing threat of German retribution, citizens seemed to show outward support. Austrians approved the "reunification" with a 99.7% plebiscite in support of it during the following month, although it is thought that the vote was rigged.

Calendar For The Year 1938

1938 Calendar

Honeymoon Bridge
  • Honeymoon Bridge across Niagara Falls, collapses
New England Hurricane
  • New England Hurricane of 1938 on September 21st (or Great New England Hurricane or Long Island Express
Freak Waves at Bondi Beach
  • Freak Waves at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia cause 300 swimmers to be dragged out to sea
Floods and Landslides
  • Floods and Landslides in Los Angeles cause 200 deaths
seeing eye dogs
  • The First use of A seeing eye dogs occurs
Agricultural Adjustment Act
  • Agricultural Adjustment Act is passed helping farmers affected by Dust Bowl
Fannie Mae - FNMA) Established
  • Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae - FNMA) Established
Howard Hughes
  • Howard Hughes sets a new Round The World Record of 3 days, 19 hours
March of Dimes
  • March of Dimes Polio Foundation Created on January 3rd
  • A 450 metric ton meteorite struck the earth in an empty field near Chicora, Pennsylvania
RMS Queen Elizabeth
  • RMS Queen Elizabeth is launched at John Brown, Clydebank, Scotland.
Italy wins World Cup
  • Italy wins the World Cup in France defeating Hungary
Los Angeles Floods
  • The Los Angeles Floods on February 27th leave much of Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties, the flood was caused by oceanic storms with heavy rainfall in the Los Angeles Basin leaving more than 100 dead and roads, bridges and thousands of homes and buildings destroyed

Popular Culture

  • Action Comics issues the first Superman comic
  • Orson Welles's radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is broadcast, causing mass panic in the eastern United States.
  • Adolf Hitler is Time magazine's "Man of the Year" (as most influential during the course of the year, not as 'best' man of the year)
  • Kate Smith sings a rendition of Irvin Berlin's 'God Bless America' for the first time on radion during an Armistice Day broadcast

Popular Films

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney
  • Jezebel, starring Bette Davis


Born This Year

Evel Knievel October 17th
Christopher Allen Lloyd October 22nd
Ted Turner November 19th
Jon Voight December 29th
Rod Laver August 9th -- Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
Bernard L. Madoff April 29th -- Queens, New York, USA
Manuel Noriega February 11th -- Panama City, Panama
Oliver Reed February 13th -- Wimbledon, London, England
Kenny Rogers August 21st -- Houston, Texas, United States
Ted Turner November 19th -- Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.


  • Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.
  • Steam locomotive "Mallard" sets the world speed record for steam by reaching 126 mph.
  • Ball Point Pens are introduced
  • Teflon Introduced
  • Du Pont announced a name for its new synthetic yarn: "nylon".
  • The First Nylon Products Toothbrushes are marketed

Inventions Invented by Inventors and Country ( or attributed to First Use )
Ballpoint Pen Hungary by Laszlo Biró - also called a biro (UK)
Photocopier USA by Chester Carlston
Freeze Dried Coffee by Nescafe

Major World Political Leaders

Australia -- Prime Minister -- Joseph Lyons --
Brazil -- President -- Getúlio Vargas --
Canada -- Prime Minister -- William Lyon Mackenzie King --
Germany -- Chancellor -- Adolf Hitler --
Italy -- Prime Minister -- Benito Mussolini --
Japan -- Prime Minister -- Fumimaro Konoe --
Mexico -- President -- Lázaro Cárdenas --
Russia / Soviet Union -- General Secretary of the Central Committee -- Joseph Stalin --
South Africa -- Prime Minister -- James Barry Munnik Hertzog --
United States -- President -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --
United Kingdom -- Prime Minister -- Neville Chamberlain --