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Historical Facts: 1940-1950

Vodka wasn’t drunk much outside of Russia until the 1950s, when it caught on as a mixer for cocktails. Posted 8/15/2011

General Mills introduced Cheerios in 1941. Posted 4/15/2013

The first James Bond novel, Casino Royal, came out in 1953.  It contained more descriptions of food than of killing people.  For the British reading public still on food ration coupons, this was a great fantasy escape. Posted 4/15/2014

Frozen fish fingers, called fish sticks in America, first went on sale in Britain in 1955.  They were originally going to be called “frozen cod pieces”. Posted 2/15/2016

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt allowed only female journalists at her press conferences to ensure that newspapers would have to hire women. Posted 3/15/2017

It wasn’t until 1953 that the first women graduated with a law degree from Harvard Law School. Posted 3/15/2018

The hairspray industry grew when the aerosol process, which was based on spreading wartime insecticides, was patented in the 1940s. Posted 5/01/2018

The Badge of Military Merit was a military award of the United States Armed Forces created by George Washington in 1782. It is largely considered America's first military decoration, and the second oldest in the world (after the Cross of St. George). The award was only given to noncommissioned officers and privates. The Purple Heart is the official successor to the Badge of Military Merit and was reinstated by Franklin D. Roosevelt to honor soldiers wounded in action. Posted 11/01/2021

In 1953 the first espresso bar, Moka Bar, opened in Britain.  By the end of the decade, there were 500 espresso bars in London.

 London’s espresso revolution was launched by an itinerant dental-equipment salesman from Italy called Pino Riservato. Travelling up and down the country hawking his wares, he’d become mortified by the abysmal quality of England’s coffee, which was often made from chicory and coffee essence; real ground coffee was rare. Fortunately, he was related to a director of the Gaggia company in Italy and so set about trying to sell the revolutionary, high-pressure, steam-blasting espresso machine to English cafés. When no-one bought the espresso machines, he decided to renovate a bomb-damaged launderette located at 29 Frith Street, near Shaftesbury Avenue, and opened the Moka Bar, London’s first espresso bar.

 Unlike London’s drab cafés, Riservato was determined to offer Londoners something modern and cool (then a new word lifted from black American jazz musicians). He kitted out his venue with a curvaceous Formica-covered bar, metal stools, bright lights, and on the bar, the pièce de résistance: the gleaming Gaggia espresso machine, which amazed customers.

 The Moka Bar was hugely popular. It was soon serving over 1,000 glasses of espresso a day, sometimes crowned with foamed milk and chocolate sprinkles to form another novelty: cappuccino. Since renting property in central London was reasonably affordable and coffee bars thrived on a makeshift, speakeasy-style aesthetic, Riservato, who sold Gaggia machines to other risk-takers, triggered an espresso bar boom. By 1960, there were over 500 in London, many clustered in the West End, and Soho in particular. Posted 1/15/2024

The most popular car in 1950s Britain was the Morris Minor.  It could do 0-50 in 30 seconds. Posted 2/15/2013

In early 1950s Britain, less than 10% of households owned a car.  By the end of the decade, 1 in 3 households had one. Posted 8/01/2013

On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit at a popular swimming pool in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Reard dubbed "bikini," inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week. Posted 7/15/2014

The Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, sold pies. Local college students used the empty tins (embossed with the words "Frisbie's Pies") to play catch. In 1948, Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni found a way to capitalize on this free toy by creating a plastic version called the Flyin' Saucer and later renamed it the Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. (This was after the alleged UFO sightings in Roswell, New Mexico.) When the founders of Wham-O bought rights to the toy and renamed it Frisbee, sales truly went out of this world. Posted 8/15/2016

The actress Maureen O’Hara became an American citizen on January 25, 1946 but retained her Irish citizenship. It was the first time in history that the United States government recognized an Irish citizen as Irish.  This led to a change in process for all Irish immigrants. Posted 1/15/2021

Selma Burke was a magnificently talented sculptor. She never received credit for her portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was later featured on the U.S. dime.

Posted 2/01/2023

Harvard University accepted its first small number of female medical students in 1944. Posted 3/15/2024

During WWII, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol covered more than 3,700 mile of coast and employed about 24,000 men. Patrols on horseback worked in pairs, riding about 100 feet apart, usually covering a 2-mile stretch. They were called "Sand Pounders" and were able to cover difficult terrain quickly and efficiently. circa 1945. Posted 5/31/2024

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