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1941 Fifty Years Ago

March 2023
1min read

Having passed the Senate by a vote of 60 to 31, and the House by 317 to 17, the Lend-Lease Act was signed by President Roosevelt on March 11, making an initial seven billion dollars available to the Allied cause, particularly to a desperate Great Britain. Three days before, in a radio address to the nation, Roosevelt had declared that the American “democratic way of life” could not withstand “the death of democracy over the rest of the earth.” Through the course of the war, the United States would send more than fifty billion dollars to the Allies through lend-lease.

Bloomingdale’s department store offered relief for customers anxious about the war in Europe when the Wackaroo went on sale in February. Life magazine explained how to use the small, mass-produced sculpture, which was designed to be smashed: “Take it out on the Wackaroo. When you are mad or feel like busting things, grab him quick.” The placid-looking bust, with its smooth features and small hands protruding from the head for an easy grip, was created by the sculptor Frances Ferrer. Soothing war nerves with the Wackaroo cost fifty cents a pop.

Sherwood Anderson, author of Winesburg, Ohio and A Storyteller’s Story , died on March 8 of peritonitis, in the Panama Canal Zone. The American writer had swallowed a toothpick along with his hors d’oeuvre while on a cruise with his wife. He was sixty-four.

Anderson held a kaleidoscopic variety of jobs before he walked out of the paint factory he managed in Elyria, Ohio, when he was forty, to make his way to Chicago. There he made a success at advertising, trying all the while to become a writer of stories, many of which chronicled the lives of people who had left the Midwestern farms for the boarding houses of the big cities. He lived in Chicago, New York, Paris, and New Orleans but was a steady defender of the small town, writing nostalgically in the face of its retreat. “If any man can find beauty in an American factory town,” he challenged, “I wish he would show me the way.” Anderson eventually bought a farm of his own in Virginia and ran two newspapers—one Republican, the other Democratic.

While his quirky, lyrical stories went in and out of style with editors and the public, Anderson remained the idol of a dazzling generation of writers whom he generously encouraged. “Sherwood Anderson was the father of all my works,” wrote William Faulkner, “and those of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc. … He showed us the way.”

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