The Darkroom


Image: article in unspecified 1939 magazine.

“The Darkroom was a real camera store on the Miracle Mile at 5370 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. It opened in 1938 (or 1935 or 1937, depending on which book or website you want to believe). The 9-foot-tall camera was made of black vitrolite (an opaque pigmented glass), with clear glass as display windows. The round window in the position of the camera lens echoes the use of round porthole-style windows in other Streamline Moderne buildings of 1930s.”

Excerpt from . Click on the link to see newer images and how this storefront was copied at theme parks.



Great American Circus


Image:  Ticket wagon of the 1939 Great American Circus. From Vol. 11, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1967 Bandwagon, magazine of the Circus Historical Society (see excerpt link below).

The Great American Circus was hastily assembled in southern California and lasted a little more than a year. Here is a greatly condensed description:

“In early 1939, Fanchon and Marco were approached by Charles Nelson, an agent, with the idea of establishing a tented circus.

“It was not until about a week before the show was to open that the final contract was issued…

“When the go ahead was finally received three or four commercial painting crews attacked the equipment with spray guns. Everything was painted orange and as soon as the paint was tacky it was lettered with the Great American Circus title in blue and white on the orange body. The show moved out of quarters [in Baldwin Park*] on Sunday for Inglewood, with Arthur still doing lettering. Every time the train stopped for a moment, he would jump out, and paint a couple of more letters, and thus the Great American Circus was painted on the move.

“It is very hard to relate the next five days of the show’s existence, without first understanding the many handicaps they suffered. When you realize that the whole show was framed in less than five days, you can begin to see the problems. To begin with, there was no working labor, and those that were there had no idea of what they were doing. How does one explain circus logistics to a working man, who has never seen a stake or jack before in his life, let alone when you’re on the road, and moving it every night. The show opened in Inglewood, California on May 24th, 1939 under the auspices of the Inglewood Parent-Teachers Association, after two days of moving the show on the lot.

“It was felt that had the show lasted through the Southern California dates [in 1940], it would have been a real winner. The show was just beginning to pick up the additional working men they needed, and the advance ticket sales for the future dates were great.”

Excerpts from Bandwagon, Vol. 11, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1967 . Click on the link for the full story and more photos. The Circus Historical Society does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in the information in these online articles. Information should always be checked with additional sources.



Private Lives


“The one panel comic Private Lives was similar to the more famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and focused on little known facts about famous figures and personalities. This particular edition of the comic was published on May 17, 1939 and spoke of General Francisco Franco’s somewhat ironic fascination with Mickey Mouse.

“The text refers to the then recently resolved Spanish Civil War and it bloody aftermath. Franco rose to power in Spain as a result of that conflict and was allegedly responsible for executions of dissidents that numbered in the thousands.”

Excerpt and Edwin Cox cartoon from .

Migrant laborers


Image: 1939 photo by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration from .

“In Farm Security Administration migrant labor camp during pea harvest. Family from Oklahoma with eleven children. Father, eldest daughter and eldest son working. She: ‘I want to go back to where we can live happy, live decent, and grow what we eat.’ He: ‘I’ve made my mistake and now we can’t go back. I’ve got nothing to farm with’.” Brawley, Imperial County, California.

First successful helicopter


On this date in 1939 Igor Sikorsky piloted the first successful helicopter which he also designed. While he was a pioneer in vertical flight he was not the inventor of the helicopter. However, his improvements of a single lift rotor and a tail rotor made the craft controllable. This prototype led to the first production helicopter.

Although this test occurred in Connecticut, it influenced flight around the world.

See more at