From Holden's Hat, A Catcher in the Rye encyclopedia anyone can roam around in the rye...
Picture of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Cloud During World War II

The time of when The Catcher in the Rye was released included a great amount of events and significant information during the times before, during and after it's release. Life in the 1940's (Late 1940's, mainly circa 1949) had a great deal in it's time with many impacting events such as World War II. Inventions, people at the time, popularity of music and more have to do with this time and it would be greatly different from today. The information provided would be somewhat to almost greatly similar to the novel and Holden in ways of speaking and being a teenager in 1949.

  1. Medicine
  2. World War 2
  3. Inventions of the 1940's
    1. Examples of New Inventions
  4. Economy
  5. Cultural History
    1. Cost of Items in the 1940's
  6. Major World Political Leaders 1949
  7. Life as a Teenager in 1949
  8. Sports
  9. Historic Events
  10. Reference/External Links


Medicine in the 1940's and health has also improved in ways of technology, equipment and certain practices becoming better. Research from scientists for medicin has been improved, family doctors declined, and this helped treat more people and prevent disease from making others sick. The main cause for the significant improvement of medicine is because of World War II. The war effort and the events during the war had people research ways to cure sickness and injuries with development and research. Because of better medical techniques, surgery was improved and more diseases were curable or treatable such as radiation sickness.

Many doctors including Dr. Frank E. Adair and Dr. Herbert D. Adams and more doctors Doctors of the 1940's have made a significant impact in the health field as new discoveries help make cures to those such as lung and breast cancer. Others have won awards such as Walter Rudolf Hess who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the functions of internal organs.

World War II

Various events happened in the 1940's especially World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. In Europe, the United States, Great Britain and the USSR fought against Nazi Germany and Italy. Events of invasion of Operation Overlord (D-Day on Normandy, France) and Battle of the Bulge were involved. In the Pacific of the United States verses Japan, this involved Pearl Harbor, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the home front, many people contributed such as Rosie the Riveters working in factories, rationing, women and other racial minorities in the war.

More on: Wikipedia: World War II

Inventions of the 1940's

The 1940's had a great new wave of technology and other items made whether for home use or the war. These significant inventions were the improvement of their predecessors, or first made, such as part of a computer. These inventions marked the beginning of interesting features that would later improve over time such as a color television or a computer chip. These include a Frisbee, made in 1948 which is made out of plastic. Before, they used to be made out of metal and hurt many people. At the time, this item was good for fun during World War II and has made a significant impact back then. ENIAC, invented in 1946 also makes a great impact and leads to better computers today. Below is a table with more examples of inventions made.

Examples of New Inventions

Colour TV
Colour TV

Colour Television (1940)
In 1940, prior to RCA, CBS researchers led by Peter Goldmark invented a mechanical color television system based on the 1928 designs of John Logie Baird.
(Read More...)
The Jeep
The Jeep

The Jeep (1940)
Following a tender put out by the US Army during the Second World War, Karl Pabst of Willy’s Truck Company invented the first Jeep, which was put into production...
(Read More...)
Electronic Digital Computer
Electronic Digital Computer

Electronic Digital Computer (1942)
The Atanasoff-Berry Computer was the world's first electronic digital computer. It was built by John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry at Iowa State University...
(Read More...)
The Slinky
The Slinky

The Slinky (1943)
Richard James and Betty James invented the slinky in 1943. Richard James was a naval engineer trying to develop a meter designed to monitor horsepower on naval...
(Read More...)
Silly Putty
Silly Putty

Silly Putty (1943)
The history of silly putty is quite amusing. In 1943 James Wright, an engineer, was attempting to create a synthetic rubber. He was unable to achieve the properties...
(Read More...)
Atomic Bomb
Atomic Bomb

The Atomic Bomb (1945)
At 5:29:45 (Mountain War Time) on July 16, 1945, in a white blaze that stretched from the basin of the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico to the still-dark skies...
(Read More...)
Microwave Oven
Microwave Oven

The Microwave Oven (1946)
It was during a radar-related research project around 1946 that Dr. Percy Spencer, a self-taught engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, noticed something very unusual...
(Read More...)

Tupperware (1947)
Tupperware was invented by Earl Tupper, a New Hampshire tree surgeon and plastics innovator, who began experimenting with polyethylene, a new material...
(Read More...)
The Frisbee
The Frisbee

The Frisbee (1948)
In 1948, a Los Angeles building inspector named Walter Frederick Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni invented a plastic version of the Frisbie that...
(Read More...)

Velcro (1948)
1948, and a Swiss mountaineer called George de Mestral was out walking through the woods. He returned home covered with burrs that had attached themselves...
(Read More...)


The economy in the last decade (the 1930's) was severely poor. This was the decade of the Great Depression. Started by a stock market crash and other factors before 1929, many people lost money, their jobs, unemployment rose to 25%, and so much worse. The Depression ended in 1941 and 1942 when the United States created and
1940s Style for a Woman
1940s Style for a Woman
sold more weapons to the military during the war. The money made during the time, stopped the depression. Many people started working and got jobs which reduced unemployment and more technology of planes and more were built.

More on: 1949 Economy

Cultural History

Significant history was made by the people many during World War II. For instance, many European artists fled their home country to keep far contact from the battlefield and stay away from Hitler's threats. Many people were able to work again during the war due to the opening of jobs needed to help the war. Women were needed to replace men in the factories to help production and unemployment sharply decreased and they also participated in the Battle field, helping the men. Many people at home had to do something to support the war. Rationing, recycling of products, conserving, victory gardens and more was needed to help the allied side. Other minority races such as African Americans helped fight in the war, although it created some conflict. The worst came to the Japanese with the code by President Roosevelt when he ordered Executive Order 9066: to intern Japanese American citizens to camps during the war as a scare from the Japanese opponents.

More significant events happened such as baby booming in the late 40's, the G.I. bill for veterans and the Cold War, the spread of communism. The United Nations also replaced the League of Nations and the popularity of music, radio and literature increased such as the release of the Catcher in the Rye, and Hiroshima, an article by John Hersey.

More on: Cultural History: 1940-1949

Cost of Items in the 1940s

  • Yearly Inflation Rate U.S.A. -0.95% UK 2.6%
  • Average Cost of new house $7,450.00
  • Average wages per year $2,950.00
  • Cost of a gallon of Gas 17 cents
  • Average Cost of a new car $1,420.00
  • Minimum Hourly Wage Rate 70 cents per hour
  • Bacon per pound 50 cents
  • Dobbs Hat $8.50
  • Kitchen Table and Chairs $100.00
  • Below are some Prices for UK guides in Pounds Stirling
  • Average House Price: $1,911

Major World Political Leaders 1949

  • Australia Prime Minister Ben Chifley Till 19 December
  • Australia Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies From 19 December
  • Brazil President Gaspar Dutra
  • Canada Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent
  • China Chairman of the People's Republic of China Mao Zedong
  • France President Vincent Auriol
  • Germany Chancellor Konrad Adenauer From 15 September
  • India Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru
  • Italy Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi
  • Japan Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida
  • Mexico President Miguel Alemán Valdés
  • Russia / Soviet Union
  • Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars Joseph Stalin
  • South Africa Prime Minister Daniel François Malan
  • United States President Harry S. Truman
  • United Kingdom Prime Minister Clement Attlee

Life as a Teenager in 1949

Includes Clothing, Music, Slang & Customs

Kids were called "Teenagers" at this time. Many of them were different than teens today. Education in the 40's had a great deal to do with gender. The girls learned to make different types of clothing, like dresses, beauty care, and laundry. Boys training involved more physical activities, like football, and this prepared them for the war. School was much more important than a job at this time and a variety of courses were offered as well as learning life lessons. Life adjustment education was given if a student didn't learn well in college prep classes. Boys at the time graduated and went to war. Not many people completed higher than the 8th grade. The SAT was also very important at the time to measure a student's level for admission to a college.

Life for a teenager typically included a working father, a stay at home mother and several children. Dinner would usually be a sit down with the whole family(Sundays). Today, this rarely happens. In the 1940's,family relationships were close, and teens were given more responsibilities in the home so they'd be ready if their parent left for the war. A teen's usual routine in the 40's was work, work, work! This was especially ture if their family was poor & needed the financial help. Many jobs had low pay, 25 cents. These jobs included being a bus boy, a locker room attendant, a swimming teacher, working in a warehouse, a waitress, and delivery boys.

The rules for teens were very strict at the time, especially when it came to dating. Girls were not allowed or barely allowed to date until 16 years of age. Time restrictions were enforced as well. Expectations of the "boyfriend" were observed and parents were keeping a good eye on the couple. They would do dances, like the jitterbug.

Teens would keep themselves away from adults at some times.
The style of clothing for teens were oversized multi-print skirts, zoot suits, and wide brimmed hats. Since rationing of clothing was necessary for the war, some clothing went through tough times. Ladies used markers to draw nylons on.
The activities a teen would do is go to a club and buy food and drinks off the oversized menu. One of the most popular music genres was swing. Music a teen would listen to includes Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, jazz types of music. Rock music is also great for many. Teens would also use slang, just like Holden did at the time which created language only some would understand. Music lists and slang lists are included below. Teens at this time and even right now want to enjoy life and have fun.

List of Music Hits:
100 Greatest "Roots of Rock" Songs of the '40s
1940s Lingo


Jackie Robinson

Sports were popular in the 1940's. However, the tragedy of the 1940's and World War II and sports have a connection. Ever since Pearl Harbor, this was when Japan declares war on the United States and sports became interrupted. Many baseball stars served for the military, as well as football players, boxers and even more. Roosevelt encouraged baseball to continue on. Athletes such as baseball player Hank Greenberg and football players Dave Smulker and Chuck Gelatka served in the military.

Besides war, there were many significant events that go on at this time, Jackie Robinson (shown on right) was the first African American to play
Major League Baseball in 1947. He played Brooklyn Dodgers and won the National Leagues Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.

Roller skating became popular ever since 1935 and even in the 40's. Leo Seltzer gathered roller skates and convinced many to skate and hit others to make them crash. This became popularized and called "Roller Derby". Boxing was also another sport and this includes Rocky Grazalo.

Historic Events

external image hair1949declhj.jpg
Many significant events happen in 1949. As the economy and growth gets better, the U.S. goes into another confilct in the Cold War. Below are links that direct to to more events as well as several bullet points. Also below are several more pictures of the taste in the 1940s.

An Example of a 1940s Car
An Example of a 1940s Car


  • China Becomes Communist
  • First Non-Stop Flight Around the World
  • George Orwell Publishes Nineteen Eight-Four
  • NATO Established
  • Soviet Union Has Atomic Bomb

  • Cease-fire in Palestine (Jan. 7).
  • Truman proposes Point Four Program to help world's less developed areas (Jan. 20).
  • Israel signs armistice with Egypt (Feb. 24).
  • Start of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—treaty signed by 12 nations (April 4).
  • Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) established (May 23).
  • First successful Soviet atomic test (July 14).
  • Communist People's Republic of China formally proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong (Oct. 1).
  • German Democratic Republic (East Germany) established under Soviet rule (Oct. 7).
  • South Africa institutionalizes apartheid.

References/ External Links

  1. Life in the 1940s: Article
  2. Medicine Awards: 1949
  3. Bookrags Medicine: 1940's
  4. E-Notes: Medicine
  5. Medicine 1940's
  6. Golden Age of Medicine
  7. Teens Today VS. Teens in 1940s
  8. Life as a Teen in 1949
  9. Sports & War
  10. The Decade Of War
  11. 1940 Events
  12. 1949 Historical Events