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What Have We Learned about 1940?

For most of us, it was over 72 year ago, a whole different world.  With the release of the U. S. Federal Census for April 1940, there have been many discoveries about our relatives.  As more states have been fully indexed, more will be known.

Some interesting and fun items about life in 1940 can be learned now. Some of this data came from the census of 1940 because things related to money, jobs and income, were of primer concern to everyone coming off the Great Depression of the 1930s.

First the population in the United States was about 132 million.  Most workers made 43 cents an hour.  Yes, I said 43 cents!  The average yearly salary was about $1,300. There was still about 8.1 million people unemployed in 1940. Being a farmer was still a major occupation for most Americans. Very few citizens had more than an 8th grade education.  If they had attended a college that was very rare.

There were no televisions, the concept had only been introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair. Now there were radios, in fact on the census people indicated if there was a radio in the household, which most people did have. They also loved going to the movie theater.  Every town had at least one.  Some of the movies of 1940 included ‘Haunted Honeymoon’, ‘Charlie Chan’, ‘Dark Command’, ‘Fantasia’, and ‘His Girl Friday’ to name a few.

Many people rented rather than owned a home.  Monthly rental could run from $8 to $25 a month. Only about 55% of all residences had indoor plumbing.

The new Alien Registration Act of 1940 encouraged aliens to become American citizens.  This truly made America a melting pot.

Another very popular form of entertainment was watching in person baseball games, listening on the radio to baseball games or playing baseball. Football was played but the number one sport was baseball.

Clothing styles were slow to change.  Men and women worn those things they had from the 1930s, just updating here and there.

It was a different time as is every decade or era.  Our ancestors were happy and enjoyed what they had, yet kept their eye on the war clouds that lingered so close.

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