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President: Harry S. Truman (D)
Vice-President: Alben W. Barkley (D)
House: 263 (D) 167 (R) 2 (Other) 3 (Vacant)
Southern states: 103 (D) 2 (R)
Senate: 54 (D) 42 (R)
Southern states: 22 (D)
GDP growth: 7.3 % (Annual)
3.0 % (Quarterly)
Fed discount rate: 1½ %
Inflation: -1.3 %
Unemployment: 6.4 %
February: The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin indulges the agency’s “sex-fueled imagination.” The University of Nebraska’s Dr. James M. Reinhardt writes, “It is my contention that any form of sex perversion tends to bring about the degeneration of the personality of the pervert. … He heeds no warnings and is insensitive to consequences. … The bank robber, embezzler, the forger, even the hired murderer, hopes to enhance his social security and prestige with the fruits of his crime. Not so the perverted sex criminal. His fiendish craving is devoid of any social ‘link.’ He is the most sordidly selfish of all criminals and inherently the most intolerable.”

Feb 1-2: Two days of talks between the United Mine Workers and bituminous coal mine operators end in failure when Northern and Western operators walk out, saying it is useless and misleading to continue meetings. Southern operators also go along with the walkout. The mine owners agree to accept President Truman’s proposal for a 70-day truce and the appointment of a three-man presidential board to resolve the seven month-long labor dispute.

Feb 2: France’s normally fractious National Assembly comes together and ratifies a pact with the State of Vietnam under former emperor Bao Dai. The pact grants the French colony limited sovereignty as a part of the French Union, which is meant to operate similarly to the British Commonwealth but with France retaining control over foreign and military affairs. The National Assembly’s sudden unity comes two days after the Soviet Union recognizes the break-away Vietminh movement under Ho Chi Minh, who has proclaimed the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. France’s pact clears the way for  American and British recognition of the Bao Dai regime.

Feb 2: The popular game show What’s My Line? debuts on CBS. It will run until 1967.

Feb 3: Britain publicly reveals that it has arrested German-born atomic physicist Klaus Fuchs, and charged him violating the Official Secrets Act by spying for the Soviet Union. One of the charges leveled against him in London’s historic Bow Street Magistrate’s Court is that “on a day in February, 1945, in the United States” he “communicated to a person unknown information relating to atomic research which was calculated to be, or might be, directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.” Fuchs, who acquired British citizenship in 1942, works at the main British atomic research center at Harwell. Fuchs had worked at Los Alamos from 1943 to 1946 before returning to Britain to work at Harwell. The person Fuchs communicated with was American lab chemist Harry Gold, who will lead investigators to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Fuchs had given a full confession to MI5 in January.

Feb 3: South Africa’s Economic Affairs Minister Eric Louw says that all foreign journalists who “slander” South Africa should be deported. The Government Minister is responding to foreign criticism of the National Party’s apartheid policies. He says, “The Government has no intention of restricting freedom of the press in the generally accepted sense, but the opposition seems to make no distinction between freedom and misuse of information.”

Feb 4: Two flaming crosses light up the night sky at Alton, Illinois. The first cross is spotted on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River at Alton Dam at about 8:30 p.m. Its location makes it clearly visible from downtown Alton. The second cross is burned in a vacant lot in the African-American part of town at about 11:00 p.m. The cross-burnings follow reports of renewed Ku Klux Klan activity in the area. The day before, the NAACP filed a lawsuit on behalf of several African-American parents to enjoin the state from funding Alton’s public schools under a state regulation denying aid to districts practicing segregation. State law has prohibited racial segregation in public schools for several years, but it has been widely ignored in the southern part of the state. Last year, the state implemented a new regulation barring state funds from segregated school districts. East St. Louis bowed to pressure and peacefully integrated its schools earlier this week. The Alton school board stands to lose about $288,000 a year (about $3.2 million today) if state funding is cut. Several black Alton residents report that they have been receiving harassing and threatening phone calls since the lawsuit was filed. Gov. Adlai Stevenson warns that “Illinois will not tolerate the Ku Klux Klan or any organized racial hatred or intimidation.”

Feb 4: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, former Director of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, testifies in a closed hearing before the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy that because of the secrets that Klaus Fuchs passed to the U.S.S.R., the Soviets not only had an easier time developing its atomic bomb, but that it also has a head start in the race to develop the hydrogen bomb. Groves also testifies that the British were responsible for providing security clearances for Fuchs and other British nationals sent to the U.S. to aid in the bomb’s development.

Feb 4: United Mine Workers union president John L. Lewis rejects President Truman’s call for a 70-day truce while a three-man presidential commission works out a solution to the seven-month labor dispute between the UMW and bituminous coal operators. The miners had been working a three-day-a-week schedule in lieu of a full work stoppage, until wildcat strikes began breaking out in January. Now, the 100,000 striking miners have made it clear that they have no intention of working the abbreviated schedule and demand a full five-day schedule at full pay under a signed contract. This increases pressure on President Truman to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and seek a court injunction ordering the coal miners back to work for eighty days. Lewis acknowledges that possibility in his letter to Truman, but warns, “It is questionable whether one could postulate that such mass coercion would ensure enthusiastic service from grateful men.”

Feb 6: With fewer than 30,000 out of 400,000 bituminous coal miners showing up for work this Monday, President Truman invokes the Taft-Hartley Act and orders the miners back to work. He also appoints an emergency three-man board to study the dispute and report back to him by next Monday. Under Taft-Hartley, Truman will have to seek a court injunction to compel the miners to go back to work for eighty days. The Taft-Hartley Act had been passed over Truman’s veto in 1947 and Truman has repeatedly vowed to get the act repealed since then. Despite that, this is now the eighth time Truman has invoked Taft-Hartley to deal with a crippling strike.

Feb 6: F.B.I director J. Edgar Hoover and his assistant (and lover) Clyde Tolson testify in a closed hearing before the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy. They tell the committee that accused spy Klaus Fuchs had a very long record of “sympathy with Communist ideology,” according to Sen. Brien McMahon (D-CT), who briefed reporters afterward. Hoover confirmed that the German-born Fuchs had been interred in Canada in 1940 as a enemy (German) alien, and was released in 1941 to begin atomic research work for the British. He was  given British citizenship in 1942. Hoover said that it had been fairly easy to determine “the Communistic background” of Fuchs’s family, and he couldn’t explain why the British failed to do so. Hoover also explained that under the law at the time,  the FBI did not conduct background investigations for Manhattan Project employees until 1947.

Feb 7: The U.S. and Great Britain extend diplomatic recognition to the State of Vietnam in French Indo-China. Recognition is also extended to the French Protectorates of Laos and Cambodia, which had attained limited self-government powers in 1949.

Feb 7: U.S. coal supplies reach a thirty-year low when the nation’s stockpiles dip to an eighteen to nineteen-day supply. The coal strike is now inducing layoffs in other industries. The Chesapeake & Ohio, Norfolk & Western, and Pennsylvania Railroads, all of them principal coal haulers, begin issuing furlough notices to 16,500 railroad workers. The Baltimore & Ohio, which is down to a one-day reserve, confiscates about fifty cars of coal in its freight yards in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Ohio. The Interstate Commerce Commission had authorized the seizures in January to keep the trains moving. The ICC also orders a further 20% cut in coal-burning railroad service to take effect by the end of the week. The New York Central suspends forty-three passenger trains and five others. Steel producers and their workers are also feeling the pinch. Wheeling Steel Corporation is cutting operations in half. Youngstown Sheet and Tube has shut one blast furnace and banked three open hearths. General Motors and Ford are cutting back production, despite record demand for new cars and trucks, in order to conserve their coal stocks. Meanwhile, coal producers have cut off credit at company stores just as public and private welfare agencies struggle to provide emergency relief for miners’ families.

Feb 9: With the Alger Hiss affair and the arrest of Klaus Fuchs on espionage charges still fresh on everyone’s minds, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) gives a speech to the Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, in which he alleges that Communists have infiltrated the State Department. He holds up a piece of paper and says, “While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were known to the Secretary of State, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department.”

Feb 10: In a recorded interview airing on a Salt Lake City radio station, Sen. Joseph McCarthy says that he has the names of 57 card-carrying Communists on the State Department payroll. On the same day, Republican Party Chairman Guy G. Gabrielson speaks at a Lincoln Day observance in Charleston, West Virginia, and condemns the Truman administration for failing to recognize “the dangerous degree to which Communists and fellow travelers have been employed in important Government jobs, especially in the State Department.”

Feb 10: At a hearing in the Bow Street Magistrates Court in London, prosecutors read part of a confession made by atomic physicist Klaus Fuchs, who had passed along atomic secrets to the Soviet Union since 1943. According to the confession, Fuchs says he acted according to his conscience and in the interest of humanity. He also confirms that he is a dedicated believer in Communism, but he disagrees sharply with the form of Communism practiced in the Soviet Union today under Stalin. Fuchs says that is why he stopped providing secret information to the Soviets a year ago.

Feb 11: Dozens of fiery crosses appear in three states Saturday night. Thirteen burning crosses are sighted in the Orlando area alone, including eight in Orlando itself and two in Winter Park, where one is burned on the lawn of a negro clinic and another on the campus of Rollins College. In Jacksonville, five crosses erected at high points surrounding the city are set ablaze simultaneously. When a dozen or so crosses flare in the Tallahassee area, one officer remarks, “They’ve burned so many lately no one pays attention to them. I don’t know how many there were.” Four more crosses appear in nearby Iron City, Georgia. In the Birmingham area, crosses appear at a farm near Adamsville, the former coal mining community of Brookside, and on the high school grounds at Leeds. Four more crosses burn in African-American neighborhoods at Lanett, Alabama, and three more appear across the state line in West Point, Georgia. Lanett Police report that the crosses are burned at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a black-owned cafe, and in front of two African-American homes. Chief Jack Rearden says he’s puzzled. “We haven’t had any trouble at all here with the Negroes of this city.” A columnist for the Lanett newspaper begs to differ. Floyd Tillery writes in the Valley Daily Times-News that he doesn’t think “anyone should secretly burn crosses.” But he says that whoever burned them are reacting to “the filth [and] revolting immorality that exits there day and night.” He says quotes klansmen as standing “for law and order and moral decency in our community, and we believe that our people — especially the women and children — should have protection” from the “undesirable conditions which the police do not seem able to control.”

Feb 11: Sen. Joseph McCarthy makes public a letter he sent to President Truman charging that the State Department had discharged only 80 of 300 employees who are allegedly “certified” as security risks. He adds the the dismissals were only done “after a lengthy consultation with Alger Hiss.” McCarthy demands that Truman order the State Department to release its personnel records, and he reveals his partisan motives: “Failure on your part will label the Democratic party as being the bed-fellow of international communism.” The State Department responds by challenging McCarthy to turn over his list of names.

Feb 11: A Federal court orders United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis to order striking coal miners to return to work on Monday. Lewis complies with the order, and notifies the coal operators that he is ready to resume negotiations on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. But whether striking miners will obey Lewis’s order remains an open question. The temporary court order will remain in effect until February 21 to give the court time to decide whether to issue a broader eighty-day return-to-work injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act.

Feb 11: Sen. Karl E. Mundt (R-SD) complains that American Communists have spent a million dollars to defeat his bill to require party members’ registration with the Attorney General. “They are openly bragging about it,” he says. “They are telling their followers that they can lick the bill if they can get just a few more dollars.”

Feb 12-14: The Paramount Theater in Marshall, Texas, defies a city censorship board’s ruling and shows the Oscar-nominated film Pinky, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Jeanne Crain, a white actress playing Pinky Johnson, a light-skinned black woman passing as white. Several plot points in Pinky trouble city fathers. First, she is sexually assaulted by two white men after they learn she is black. Second, Pinky and a white man fall in love, and he stays in love with her after learning she’s African-American. And third — and worst of all — they embrace and kiss. Pinky is the second most popular film for 1949, but the Marshall City Commission, responding to complaints from the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, dusts off an unused 1921 city ordinance and re-activates its Motion Picture and Vaudeville Censorship Board. The reconstituted board promptly bans the film in its “unanimous opinion that the said film is prejudicial to the best interests of the citizens of the City of Marshall.” The segregated Paramount Theater — whites on the ground floor, blacks in the balcony — shows the film anyway for a three-day run. Theater manager W.L. Gelling is arrested and charged with fifteen misdemeanors, one for each showing, and fined $100 (about $1,100 today). Gelling and East Texas Theaters, Inc., will appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in  a separate but similar case, will strike down the ordinance in a landmark 1952 ruling that extends First Amendment protections to films.

Feb 13: John Peurifoy, the State Department’s deputy undersecretary for security, challenges Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) to supply the names of “fifty-seven card-holding Communists” who McCarthy claims are working at the State Department. Peurifoy tells reporters that he asked McCarthy for the names in a telegram sent in Saturday.  “If I can find a single one, I will have him fired before sundown.” Peurifoy says he knows of no Communists on the department’s payroll, and that the President’s loyalty board did not certify 300 employees as disloyal, as McCarthy claimed, nor were there eighty employees out of such a list let go. He says that 202 employees who had been identified as possible security risks had left the department since January 1, 1947, either through resignation or reduction in force. But none of them were fired. Peurifoy emphasizes, “As far as the department can ascertain, the Senator’s alleged statements are without foundation in fact.”

Feb 13: As expected, 370,000 striking coal miners ignore both the Federal court injunction and United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis’s order to return to work.

Feb 13-14: Two days of rioting flair up in three South African townships outside of Johannesburg. Natives (black Africans) in Newclare, Sophiatown and Western Native Township stone vehicles, block roads and set fire to shops. Hundreds of fire fighters and police are dispatched to the three adjoining townships. White residents in Newlands, which abuts the three Native townships, approve a resolution demanding that the government removes the “black patch.” They threaten that if the government doesn’t act, the residents will take the law into their own hands. Nationalist Prime Minister D.F. Malan attributes the violence to communism and to recent speeches which, he claimed, “stirred up” the natives. “The time has come when non-Europeans are beginning to make demands that even the most liberal-minded could not accept. No government would accede to their demands. The supremacy of the white man must be maintained, but in such a way that justice is done to both sides.”
Feb 14: Margaret Webster, a prominent Shakespearean actress and producer, announces that her troupe’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” scheduled for Feb 2 at Natchitoches, Louisiana, had been cancelled because there are two black actors in the production. The actors are Austin Briggs-Hall, who plays the part of Biondello, the page to Lucentio, and Edmund Cambridge, who plays the haberdasher. Webster learned of the cancellation in a letter from Dr. Sherrod Towns, head of the music department at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches: “…We are certain that you can understand and appreciate our concern over the particular parts these two people are to play. Unfortunately, we are entirely too far in the deep South to have them appear on the stage. While this letter is not the place or occasion to philosophize on the evils of segregation, suffice it to say that to date, negroes have not appeared in our auditorium in companies of their own, much less mixed groups, and we frankly feel that the time to begin the practice in this area has not yet arrived.” Webster says she cast the two actors because they were “the best possible actors for the particular parts” and refuses to withdraw them from the production. College president Dr. G.W. McGinty says that the state board of education forced the play’s cancellation, and that “we had nothing to do with it.” He refused to comment on whether the he agreed with the board’s action. But one board member says that the question of the troupe’s appearance at Northwestern State did not come up before the full board.

Feb 14: The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China sign thirty-year alliance of friendship and mutual assistance. The agreement includes both military and economic assistance between the two countries.

Feb 15: The Walt Disney animated film Cinderella premieres in Boston.

Feb 17: Two Long Island Rail Road trains crash head-on in Rockville Centre, killing 29 and injuring 115. As part of a grade crossing elimination program, a temporary track had been set up alongside the original line to carry one train at a time past 2,000 feet of construction. According to reports, the eastbound train from Penn Station ran through a stop signal and proceeded onto the single temporary track just as the westbound train was leaving the Rockville Centre station and entering the same track. This accident is the worst so far in LIRR’s history.

Feb 19: With striking coal miners defying orders from a Federal court and from United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis, power companies in New York and Minnesota begin rolling brownouts  to conserve coal stocks. The famous massive electric signs of Times Square are turned off, and other signs lighting Broadway theaters, stores or other advertising are either shut off or dimmed. Several cities begin rationing coal, and as many as 23,000 steelworkers around Pittsburgh are furloughed because there isn’t enough coal to keep the blast furnaces and open hearths running.

Feb 20: McCarthy links homosexuality and Communism. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) delivers a five-hour floor speech in the Senate in which he claims that eighty-one Communists or “fellow travelers” occupy top positions in the Truman Administration, including a “speechwriter in the White House.” At one point in his lengthy speech, he describes “Case 14” as a homosexual who had been fired by the State Department, but then re-hired. While discussing “Case 14” and that of another homosexual man, “Case 62,” McCarthy directly links homosexuality and Communism. He says a top intelligence official told him that “practically every active Communist is twisted mentally or physically in some way.” McCarthy implied that the men in these two cases were susceptible to Communist recruitment because, as homosexuals, they have what he calls “peculiar mental twists.”

Feb 20: A Federal judge cites the United Mine Workers for civil and criminal contempt of court over coal miners’ refusal to heed an earlier court order and go back to work. The judge also renews the injunction to remain in effect until March 3 in order to consider arguments for issuing a full eighty-day injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act. The effects of the coal shortage had been eased somewhat by milder than normal winter weather. But that ends today as an arctic blast with high winds sends temperatures plunging into the single digits and lower throughout the northeast and midwest, and even to the low twenties in parts of Florida. Pittsburgh dealers say they have effectively run out of coal for home heating. Hospitals in New York City are running on a truck-to-furnace basis, with coal being burned as fast as it can be delivered. St. Louis public schools go on a two-day-a-week schedule, and Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson (D) declares a state of emergency. Many cities are now under strict coal rationing with many more considering it.

Feb 22: An unmasked gang shoots a white storekeeper to death in front of his home outside of Pell City, Alabama. Just before he is shot, Charlie Hurst, 39, tells his son, “I think the Ku Kluxers are after me.” The son, nineteen-year-old Howard Hurst is wounded in the hip. The trouble begins at 7:30 p.m. when a carload of men call the elder Hurst out of his home. When Hurst emerges, two men begin dragging him to the car. When Hurst calls out for help, Howard comes out of the house carrying a .22 caliber rifle. Howard tries to shoot, but he can’t get the rifle to fire. A man inside the car leans out and and fires at Howard, wounding him in the hip. Charlie then break free and runs back to Howard, grabs the rifle, and fires three shots at the car. A man in the car fires back, hitting Charlie three times. The Hurst men are rushed to the Pell City hospital, where the father dies soon after arrival. One of the raiders, Roy Heath, will tear up his KKK membership, denounce the group and shoot himself the following Sunday. Two are arrested on Monday: Talladega businessman Claude Luker, and self-styled Baptist preacher Rev. Alvin Horn, who is an acknowledged KKK leader for the region. Three more are arrested in the following weeks: farmer Albert Wilson, 32, Pell City textile worker Charles Charlisle, Jr., 23 and Pell City mattress manufacturer and former policeman C.M. Hunter. Carlisle will be convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He will be paroled after three years. The others will be acquitted or see their charges dropped.

Feb 22: Seven states are now rationing coal supplies: Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. A United Press survey shows that about 60,000 workers in other industries are now out of work because of coal shortages, with 40,000 more workers at Ford Motor Company and 23,000 employees at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company expected to be laid off soon. This is in addition to about 370,000 striking coal miners.

Feb 23: About 84% of Britons turn out in soggy weather to vote in the general elections. Early returns indicate that Labour, under Prime Minister Clement Attlee, may retain a majority of fifty to seventy seats. But as Conservative votes come in from rural areas, Labour’s majority drops to five. Labour loses a net 78 seats to retain 315, while the Conservatives under Winston Churchill gain 90 for a total of 298. The Liberals under Clement Davies lose three and retain nine, with three more seats held by two minor parties. The main issue during this election is a law passed last November which allows the government to nationalize Britain’s basic industries. Attlee will stay on as Prime Minister, but he will have much less room to maneuver as he attempts to nationalize Britain’s iron and steel industries. Many do not expect this government to last long.

Feb 24: The Ku Klux Klan places warning signs on the door of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Selma, Alabama. The signs read, “The KKK is looking at you.” St. Elizabeth’s is run by the Fathers of St. Edmonds and caters to the African-American community. The church is a mother mission supporting twelve other missions to African-American parishioners throughout the south. It also operates the Good Samaritan Hospital, an old folks home, a free library, and a grade school in Selma — all of them serving the needs of black residents who are barred from white-only institutions. Fr. Norman Lambert issues a statement: “We are doing our work while respecting all local customs regarding races; we have nothing to hide, and will discuss our efforts at any time in open. Signs which appeared on our church the past Friday night are a cowardly gesture, and may be compared to the secret police of Russia.” Similar signs also appear at Tabernacle Baptist Church just to the north on the same block, and at the newly-built Hudson High School, the city’s first public high school for African-American students.

Feb 24: The Regents of the University of California vote 12-6 to require all employees in the university system to sign a loyalty oath disavowing support for Communism. The Regents set a deadline of June 30. Any faculty member who refuses to sign will be dismissed. The requirement will be overturn by the California Supreme Court in 1952.

Feb 25: The profoundly influential variety television program Your Show of Shows premieres on NBC. It stars Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris, Carl Reiner and James Starbuck.

Feb 27: The United States Steel Corporation, which the New York Times calls “the colossus of the steel industry,” has been relatively unaffected by the coal strike, until now. Today, the company’s giant steel mills around Pittsburgh have cut their production in half. This cutback is the most dramatic in the steel industry that has been crippled by the coal shortages brought on by the strike. Meanwhile, with freezing weather descending on much of the country, many communities are struggling to keep homes warm and industrial furnaces going. Michigan joins seven other states to impose rationing. Indianapolis is forced to close all of its public schools. The Army has ordered all posts with less than a thirty-day supply to drastically cut consumption. Price gouging is taking place in several Midwestern states, with prices double or triple what they had been. Police are called out to coal yards in Chicago to quell arguments between housewives and coal distributors.

Feb 28: The State Department reports dismissing 91 homosexuals. U.S. Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy testifies before a Senate subcommittee that the State Department has dismissed 202 employees since 1947 who were considered “poor security risks.” One was fired and the rest were allowed to resign. According to Peurifoy, 91 of those let go were “for moral weakness … Most of them were homosexual. In fact, I would say all of them were.” Peurifoy’s statement goes mostly unnoticed in the papers, meriting just a paragraph or two in the larger story about Acheson’s testimony about Alger Hiss. But in the following few weeks, Peurifoy’s 91 homosexuals will catch the attention of Republican leaders and conservative newspaper editors and columnists. McCarthy and his supporters will quickly turn the red scare into a lavender one for the rest of the year.