1938 – Henry Ford is awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle

Henry Ford was celebrating his 75th birthday when he was presented with the Grand Cross by the German Ambassador. The highest decoration that Germany awarded to non-citizens, it was given to him in honour of his service to German industry (i.e. helping equip the Wehrmacht), and also, one can’t help thinking, his service to the cause of anti-Semitism.

Ford’s German company, Ford-Werke, would later get him in trouble when it violated the Geneva Convention by employing prisoners of war in 1940. Ford himself was a staunch opponent of American entry into World War Two right up until the day before Pearl Harbour – he changed his tune very quickly thereafter.

Referenced in:

Henry Ford was a Facist — David Rovics

1938 – Albert Hofmann accidentally discovers LSD

Albert Hoffman was a chemist working for Sandoz Laboratories in Basel when he discovered LSD-25. He had been researching lysergic acid derivatives, hoping to find a stimulant for the respiratory and circulatory systems with fewer birth defects than existing drugs. On the day, he was disappointed in the substance he had created, and moved on to other work.

It would be five years until he returned to it and, accidentally absorbing some of it via his fingertips, had the world’s first acid trip.

Referenced in:

Oh My Beautiful Problem Child — Intercontinental Music Lab

1938 – Action Comics #1 introduces Superman

In 1938, two young men named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created not just a character, but an entire genre.

Their creation was Superman, a strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Although actually, he wasn’t that powerful to begin with – sure, he could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but a) buildings were generally less tall in the Thirties; and b) today he can fly between planets. He didn’t yet have his heat vision, his x-ray vision or his super-breath. He lacked many aspects of his background that we now all know: he worked for the Daily Star, not the Daily Planet; his arch-enemy was the Ultra-Humanite, not Lex Luthor; and the planet Krypton had yet to be invented (so he had no Supergirl, no Krypto, no General Zod and no kryptonite, among others).

He would become one of the top-selling characters of all time, and one of the most iconic characters in popular fiction, spawning comics, radio serials, tv shows, movies and even a Broadway musical.

Referenced in:
Superman Lover – Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson

I for one can’t believe either of the following facts:
1) that DC Comics isn’t attempting to revive the musical
2) that Freidrich Neitzsche has not been spinning in his graves for seven decades and counting now…

1938 – Orson Welles broadcasts “War of the Worlds”

It is probably the most infamous radio broadcast of all time: Orson Welles’ Halloween 1938 dramatisation of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”.

Welles transplanted the story from England to Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, and told it as a series of news reports, keeping the tension and hysteria of it all steadily rising. It terrified audiences at the time – like a hell of a lot of Welles’ work it is arguably a great work of art, and an enormous prank at once.

Whether or not there was panic during the broadcast, there was considerable outrage afterwards – how that has to do with the alleged ‘cruelty’ of it, and how much with people just hating to be fooled is an open question.

Referenced in:

Radio GaGa – Queen

Alternately, it is possible that aliens did blast through from the Eighth Dimension, and hypnotise Welles into covering it up. But if so, I’m sure Buckaroo Banzai will sort it out.