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List of 1938 Major News Events in History

  1. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes, was founded
  2. Orson Welles's radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is broadcast, causing mass panic in the eastern United States
  3. Great New England Hurricane
  4. Seabiscuit and War Admiral have their long awaited race to decide the best horse -- Seabiscuit beats War Admiral
  5. Germany -- Nuclear Fission Discovered
  6. The RMS Queen Mary breaks the record for the fastest passenger liner to cross the Atlantic Ocean
  7. German troops invade Austria
  8. Superman makes his first appearance during April when Action Comics #1 is published (issue dated June 1938)
  9. The U.S. Congress passes the Second Agricultural Adjustment Act
  10. Germany begins its persecution of Jews

More Detailed Information on each Event and those not included can be found below

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 21 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

What Events Happened in 1938

United States -- March of Dimes

1. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes, was founded on January 3rd.

2. The non-profit organization was established by President Franklin Roosevelt (who had contracted polio at the age of 39 in 1921) to combat the polio epidemic that mainly impacted infants and children, causing paralysis or death.

3. The name March of Dimes came from a joke made by entertainer Eddie Cantor during a fundraiser in which he asked people to sent the President their dimes, and they did, sending over 2 million dimes to the White House.

4. In 1949, the foundation appointed Jonas Salk to develop a polio vaccine.

5. By 1955 Salk had successfully developed a polio vaccine.

6. After the polio vaccine was developed, the March of Dimes changed its focus from polio to research about the cause and prevention of birth defects.

7. In the 1970s, its focus widened to include promoting education and resources for healthy pregnancies and again in the 1990s to include researching and preventing premature births.

Note - Check out the March of Dimes' website to find out more specifics about what they research and their mission.

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 .

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.

Cost of Living 1938

Average Cost of new house $3,900.00

Average wages per year $1,730.00

Average Monthly Rent $27.00 per month

Cost of a gallon of Gas 10 cents

A loaf of Bread 9 cents

A LB of Hamburger Meat 13 cents

Average Price for new car $763.00

Blanket $5.00

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

Born This Year

Evel Knievel October 17th

Christopher Allen Lloyd October 22nd

Ted Turner November 19th

Jon Voight December 29th

Rod Laver August 9 -- 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.

Other Major Events From 1938

United States -- Great New England Hurricane

1. The Great New England Hurricane began as a tropical cyclone near the Cape Verde Islands in early September.

2. It turned into a hurricane, which was officially unnamed, around September 9th and September 10 News Events.

3. The U.S. Weather Bureau was warned that the storm was spotted in the Caribbean around September 16th and was expected to hit Florida.

4. On September 19th it made an unexpected change of course and headed up parallel the Eastern United States and Atlantic Coast.

5. The Great New England Hurricane made landfall as a Category 3 storm near Long Island, New York at about 2:30 PM on September 21st.

6. There was little to no warning from the U.S. Weather Bureau with sustained winds of 120 MPH, about 15 ft. storm surges, and 40 - 50 ft. waves.

7. The storm continued to batter the New England region, hitting southern Connecticut, New York City, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey and was considered the worst storm to hit the region during the 20th Century.

8. As the storm reached Canada it finally dissipated and was officially over by September 23rd.

9. As a result of the hurricane, around 700 people died, over 1,700 people were injured, 8,900 buildings were destroyed, 3,300 boats were destroyed, and a total of about $620 million worth of damage was done to the region.

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 .

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.

Germany -- Nuclear Fission Discovered

1. Enrico Fermi begins experimenting with radioactivity and atomic energy in the early 1930s, and unknowingly demonstrates nuclear fission with uranium in 1934.

2. Enrico Fermi is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938 for the discovery of new elements related to the yet unidentified fission process (known then as "transuranic elements").

3. Physicists Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, and Fritz Strassman discover nuclear fission at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin, Germany during December of 1938 while conducting experiments bombarding elements with neutrons.

4. Soon after, Meitner escaped Nazi Germany. She moved to Sweden as a refugee but kept working on the data.

5. Meitner and her nephew Otto Frisch interpreted the data from their experiments to be an entirely new scientific process demonstrating that they could divide uranium atoms into lighter atoms and release a large amount of energy.

6. Otto Hahn was later awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944 for the discovery.

7. Hahn, Strassman, and Meitner refused to help with the development of nuclear weaponry in World War II, while Frisch and Fermi worked on the Manhattan Project.

Atlantic Ocean - RMS Queen Mary Speed Record

1. The RMS Queen Mary breaks the record for the fastest passenger liner to cross the Atlantic Ocean during August of 1938.

2. The Queen Mary was launched in 1934 and had previously held the honor in 1936.

3. It was bested by the SS Normandie in 1937 but the RMS Queen Mary reclaimed its title with the fastest Eastbound and Westbound Atlantic crossings the following year. The honor was unofficially known as the Blue Riband.

4. The Queen Mary held the title until 1952 when the SS United States surpassed its speed, a record that remains unbroken as luxury passenger liners faded in popularity.

5. The RMS Queen Mary was retired in 1967.

Czechoslovakia - Munich Agreement

1. Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom sign the Munich Agreement on September 30th.

2. The agreement allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, a region where about 3 million Germans lived.

3. Nazi Germany had already successfully annexed Austria in March without facing international consequences.

4. The agreement was considered an act of appeasement leading up to the outbreak of World War II as Hitler had been making increasingly aggressive and inflammatory speeches and threats about the annexation of the Sudetenland.

5. Czechoslovakia was not included in the discussions over the agreement but when faced with the prospect of resisting Germany alone, they agreed to submit to the demands.

6. By spring of the following year, Nazi Germany had completely annexed the whole of Czechoslovakia.

United States - Superman's First Appearance

The popular comic superhero Superman makes his first appearance during April when Action Comics #1 is published (issue dated June 1938). The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933 when they were teenagers and it was one of the first major superhero characters. Siegel and Shuster created the Superman comic until they were fired in 1947 and subsequently made very little money off the character as they had sold their rights for $130. The Action Comics #1 issue that first featured Superman is considered one of the most valuable comic books ever created and has sold for more than $3 million.

United States - Agricultural Adjustment Act

The U.S. Congress passes the Second Agricultural Adjustment Act during February. The law was created as a replacement for the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 which had been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the United States v. Butler case during 1936. The act was a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program and it mandated price support for corn, cotton, and wheat in order to keep the supply regular in times of low production. This was necessary at the time as economic and environmental conditions, like the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were disrupting the farming industry. It also established temporary support for other crops until 1940 and created the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.

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 , 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 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 . 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 .

6. Passports of German Jews are declared invalid in October , 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 . 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 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 this year 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.

Hughes Breaks Around the World Record

Howard Hughes breaks the around-the-world flight record during July. Hughes and his four-person crew flew a Lockheed 14 Super Electra for 14,672 miles. The whole trip took 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes. Hughes and his crew began their trip in New York City and made stops in Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Fairbanks, and Minneapolis before returning to New York City. Following the flight Hughes was celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through New York City. The around-the-world flight was just the latest in a string of aviation accomplishments that Hughes had been pursuing throughout the 1930s.

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 , 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 comes into effect in the U.S.

More Information for the Naval Act

The Naval Act also known as the Second Vinson Act becomes law during May of this year. 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 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.

Technology 1938


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

Popular Culture 1938

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

Other News Events 1938

Honeymoon Bridge

Honeymoon Bridge across Niagara Falls, collapses

New England Hurricane

New England Hurricane 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

Calendar For The Year 1938

1938 Calendar

Major World Political Leaders 1938

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 --