JAN   FEB   MAR   APR   MAY   JUN   JUL   AUG   SEP   OCT   NOV   DEC
   JANUARY   
   1950   
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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: -2.1 %
Unemployment: 6.5 %
Jan 4: Indiana’s Sexual Psychopath law ensnares a gay man. This story, at least as it is described by the Palladium-Item of Richmond, Indiana, is every gay man’s worst nightmare. Police arrested John Catron in November and charged him with vagrancy “after he admitted homosexual activities with two other men.” The news reports do not indicate how this conversation came about, but it appears that the “homosexual activities” were entirely consensual. The previous March, Indiana enacted a psychopathic offender law that allows anyone with “criminal propensities to the commission of sex offenses” to be put away indefinitely in a state mental hospital until he is “fully recovered,” which could be for life. Prosecutor William H. Reller is itching to use this law. He upgrades the charge from vagrancy to sodomy, so that the case will qualify for disposition under the sexual psychopath law. After two physicians examine Catron, Judge G.H. Hoelscher declares him a criminal sexual psychopathic person and turns him over to the custody of the Indiana Hospital for Insane Criminals on the grounds of the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Jan 4: The New York Sun, which has published every afternoon since 1833, puts out its final issue. The conservative Sun was bought by the rival evening paper, the liberal New York World-Telegram, the day before. Many of the Sun’s more popular columnists and features will move to the World-Telegram, but most other Sun employees will be laid off. The Sun’s closure leaves New York City with three city-wide afternoon and evening newspapers: The World-Telegram, The New York Post, and The New York Journal-American.

Jan 4: To help alleviate coal shortages brought on by a work slowdown by the United Mine Workers, the Interstate Commerce Commission orders railroads with short coal supplies to cut coal-burning passenger service by one-third beginning at midnight Sunday. The order will result in the cancellation of about 600 coal-burning passenger trains. Railroads consume about 16% of all coal production. Many communities in the Northeast have imposed coal rationing, although a mild winter has helped to preserve stockpiles. UMW workers have been working on a three-day-a-week schedule in a partial strike action since December 1. Miners have been striking off and on since last June when the UMW’s contract with coal operators expired.

Jan 6: California doubles its penalty for sodomy. The minimum penalty remains at one year, but the maximum penalty goes from ten years to twenty. The change is part of a package of five sex crime bills hurriedly pushed through the legislature in reaction to a statewide sex crime panic following the molestation-murder of six-year-old Linda Glucoft near Culver City last November. One of the bills signed by Gov. Earl Warren (R) makes killing a child during a sex attack an automatic first-degree offense punishable by death or life without parole; another makes child molestation a felony (it had been a misdemeanor until now); two bills strengthen sex registry requirements; and the fifth bill doubles the penalty for sodomy.

Jan 6: Rep. Frank L. Chelf (D-KY) responds to the national sex crime panic with a proposal to amend the Fugitive Felon Act to allow federal prosecution of perpetrators of sexual crimes against minors if they cross state lines while escaping capture. Under his proposal, these individuals would be subject to imprisonment for from 10 to 20 years. Chelf says he originally favored a law extending federal jurisdiction over all sex crimes, but found that the Constitution prohibits him from doing so. “A sure-fire, certain and strict law wold be the greatest deterrent to prospective sex criminals.” The law currently allows for federal prosecution for those crossing state lines to avoid prosecution for murder, kidnaping, burglary, robbery, rape, assault, extortion or “mayhem”,” but with imprisonment of up to only five years. Federal prosecution would be in addition to any prosecutions taking place in the state where the crime occurred. In practice, the Fugitive Felon Act is used mainly to streamline the extradition process and allow federal authorities to locate and capture fleeing suspects. Congress will decline to act on Chelf’s amendment.

Jan 6: The United Kingdom extends diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China. Norway, Denmark and Ceylon quickly follow suit.

Jan 7: A fire at the women’s psychiatric ward at Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Iowa, kills 40 patients locked inside. Police and fire fighters rescue twenty-five women from their rooms after removing the iron bars from their windows.

Jan 8: American actor Michael Kearns is born in St. Louis, MO. In 1991, he will become the first openly HIV-positive actor following his interview on Entertainment Tonight.

Jan 9: Coal miners begin a full-scale wildcat strike against mines operated by subsidiaries of major steel companies. About 70,000 miners walk off the job at these co-called “captive” mines operated by U.S. Steel, Carnegie-Illinois,, Jones and Laughlin, Weirton, Republic, and Youngstown Sheet and Tube. Youngstown will be forced to cut steel production on Wednesday. United Mine Workers leaders say no official strike call has been issued, but operators accuse the union of following a “checkerboard” pattern to harass mine owners through calling for walkouts in a different section of the coal industry each week. Nearly 50,000 miners in six states have walked off the job. Miners have been working on a three-day-a-week schedule since December 1 in lieu of a full strike.

Jan 10: Yakov Malik, the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations, leads an angry walkout from the Security Council after it votes 8-2 against replacing the Nationalist Chinese delegation with one representing the  Communist regime. Despite only controlling the island of Taiwan, the Nationalist delegation will continue to represent all of China in the Security Council and exercise its veto. Three days later, Malik will vow not to participate in the Security Council as long as the Nationalist representative sits at the table.

Jan 10: British Prime Minister Clement Attlee has set the date for general elections to take place on February 23, following the completion of a full five-year term of government. The Labour government has enjoyed a 146-seat lead in Commons following the electoral landslide of 1945 that ended Winston Churchill’s wartime government. That dominance in Parilament allowed the government to carry out its mandate to establish the National Health Service and nationalize basic industries and public utilities such as civil aviation, coal mining, the railways, public utilities, and the steel industry. Through it all, unemployment and inflation has remained low, wages and working conditions have improved drastically (mine safety improvements and a five-day work week are particularly notable accomplishments(. But housing shortages, continued rationing, and a drastic 30% devaluation of the Pound Sterling in September have taken their toll on the electorate.

Jan 10: The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, which has already cut steam passenger service by a third due to coal shortages, says it will pull its dining, lounge and tavern cars from service. The company says it takes 18.8 pounds of coal to pull each car one mile.

Jan 11: United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis urges the 70,000 striking miners employed by “captive” coal mining subsidiaries of major steel mills to resume their three-day-a-week slowdown schedule on Monday. Those miners had walked off the jobs entirely beginning last Monday. They will resume working the shortened work schedule that has been in place since Dec 1. The UMW has imposed the shortened schedule in lieu of a full work stoppage during the winter when demand for coal is at its highest. The UMW has been on strike off and on since last June when the UMW’s contract with coal operators expired.

Jan 12:  U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson delivers a major speech at the National Press Club. Later called the “Defense Perimiter Speech,” Acheson counters Republican charges that the Truman Administration does not have an Asian policy following Mao Tse Tung’s Communist takeover of mainland China. Acheson says that the “Single most important fact” shaping U.S. policy is the Soviet Union’s “attaching” Mongolia, Manchuria and Sinkiang (in northwestern China) into the Soviet sphere. This, he says, gives the U.S. the opportunity of bringing upon the Soviets the “hatred and righteous anger of the Chinese people,” and warns the U.S. against pursuing “foolish adventures” that could distract the Chinese from the Soviets’ actions and divert Chinese anger to the U.S. Dean also surveys the moves toward independence along the Asian Pacific rim, and argues that any country that seeks help from the Soviet Union will just end up being controlled by the Soviets. Dean says that the U.S. has a vital interest in maintaining a “defense perimeter” — a line running from the Aleutian islands to Japan and the Ryukyus islands, and down to the Philippines. This line represents, in effect, the geographic boundary of American security guarantees. After North Korean invades the South in June, critics will recall this speech and claim that Dean inadvertently gave a green light to the Soviets and North Korea by apparently excluding South Korean from the U.S. “defense perimeter.”

Jan 12: West Germany ends rationing for all food items except sugar. Hitler’s Nazi regime had first imposed limited rationing in 1939 immediately upon the outbreak of World War II, which became more severe as the war wore on. Rationing continued after the war under Allied occupation, and then under the Bonn government after the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany last May. Meanwhile, Britain is still rationing tea, butter, margarine, meat, sugar, and petrol, all of which will become a major campaign issue in the general election scheduled for February.

Jan 12: The British WWII submarine HMS Truculent collides with an oil tanker in the Thames Estuary and sinks. Sixty-four crew members die, most of them from hypothermia after successfully escaping the submarine. The sub was returning from sea trials after a major re-fit.

Jan 13: The judge says, “Send him to Springfield.” So he is there. Then what? A U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee looking into the Justice Department’s proposed budget for 1951 questions James V. Bennett, director of the Federal Prison System. That system includes the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. Under questioning from Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-PA), Bennett acknowledges that when homosexual men are sent to Springfield, there is little the staff there can do to “cure” these men. But Bennet does reveal that the staff has conducted medical experiments on some of these men, with so-called “passive homosexuals” being given hormone treatments in a failed effort to turn them straight.

Jan 14: Most of a railroad carload of coal disappears while in transit schools and hospitals in Pontiac, Michigan. On January 5, forty-eight tons left the Pittsburgh Consolidated-operated coal mine at Closplint, in Harlan County, Kentucky. When the shipment arrives in Pontiac, only eleven and a half tons remain. Pontiac officials say that the city’s schools and hospitals will be out of fuel by Monday. While spot shortages are experienced by several communities across the country, the relatively mild winter weather coupled with industrial conservation measures and limited coal rationing for residential heating has eased the strain somewhat on coal stockpiles.

Jan 16: Seventy thousand coal miners ignore United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis’s request that they resume their three-day-a-week slowdown schedule. The miners, employed by several “captive” steel company-owned subsidiaries, stayed out from work in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and six other adjoining states. Mine owners say United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis is actually encouraging the wildcat strike, a charge that Lewis vigorously denies. The striking miners, many of them holding pickets that read “No Contract, No Work,” say that while they support Lewis generally, they won’t return to work on a three-day-a-week schedule. They say they would rather work a full five-day work schedule or none at all. Says one striking southwestern Pennsylvania miner: “When the steelworkers go on strike, nobody gets excited. But when the miner tries to get a better break for himself and his family, everyone is against him. Nobody blames the operators.” After some six months of part-time paychecks and work stoppages, some 400,000 miners have lost an average of $1,300 ($14,000 today) in wages since their contract expired last June — a loss of more than a third of their annual income. The wildcat strike will spread to almost 100,000 frustrated miners by month’s end.

Jan 16: The U.S. Army adopts a policy allowing African-American soldiers to qualify for all Army jobs and schools. Until now, African-Americans have been restricted to mess halls and other housekeeping jobs. The Army is the last of the three major branches to integrate. The Navy and Air Force opened all of their positions to African-Americans in 1949, in compliance with President Truman’s 1948 order integrating the armed services. The Army still maintains a maximum African-American recruitment cap of 10%.

Jan 17: In what becomes known as the Great Brink’s Robbery, eleven thieves steal more than $2 million (about $21.5 million today) from Brink’s headquarters in Boston. Police criticize Brinks for poor security procedures, noting that the gunmen entered the office by opening six locked doors using pass keys. A company spokesman says several employees have pass keys and “possibly some former employees still have them.”

Jan 21: Former State Department official Alger Hiss is convicted of two counts of perjury in connection with accusations that he had been a Soviet spy. The two-month-long trial is the second, after the first trial ended in a hung jury last July.

Jan 24: German-born physicist Klaus Fuchs, an émigré to the U.K. who worked for Britain’s and America’s nuclear research programs, confesses to MI5 that since 1943 he had spied on behalf of the Soviet Union. While stationed at Los Alamos during World War II, he had given the Soviets precise information, including blueprints, of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Especially worrying for the U.S. and U.K., he reveals that he had also passed along much of what American scientists had postulated about a theoretical hydrogen bomb. Fuchs’s confession, which will not be publicly announced until February 3, identifies American lab chemist Harry Gold as his courier to the U.S.S.R. Gold, in turn, will implicate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Jan 25: Alger Hiss is sentenced to five years in prison following his conviction of perjury. He will serve forty-four months before he is released in 1954.

Jan 25: Secretary of State Dean Acheson tells a news conference that regardless of what the courts or others might do, “I do not intend to turn my back on Alger Hiss.” He cites as his guiding principles those “stated on the Mount of Olives” Acheson’s remarks quickly blow up to become a major political issue with Republicans and Southern Democrats demanding his resignation.

Jan 25: Six month-long contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler break down over pension benefits, leading 85,000 auto workers to walk off the job. Another 23,000 workers are idle at Briggs Manufacturing, which makes bodies for Chrysler. The strike will last until May.

Jan 25: The U.S. Minimum Wage increases from 40 cents an hour ($4.25 today) to 75 cents an hour ($8.00 today).

Jan 27: Chilean author Augusto d’Halmar dies in Santiago, Chile (b. Apr 23, 1882). He earned the National Prize for Literature in 1942.

Jan 27: The U.S. signs individual mutual defense treaties with each NATO member state. They are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Jan 28: The French National Assembly votes 401-193 to approve limited self-government for the State of Vietnam within the French Union. The extent of the state’s sovereignty is limited, with France retaining control of foreign policy and all military affairs. The Assembly names former emperor Bao Dai as head of state for Vietnam rather than as a monarch. The State of Vietnam’s control is mainly to the South, while the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) controls much of the  the North, the central coastal areas, the far south and areas near Saigon. Saigon is reaffirmed as Vietnam’s capital, but Bao Dai maintains his headquarters in Phanrang due to Viet Minh activities near Saigon. Ho Chi Min, who heads the DRV and the Viet Minh resistance movement, mocks the State of Vietnam’s quasi-independent status. He says his movement is fighting for “real independence, not Bao Dai independence.”

Jan 30: New Jersey State Commission on Habitual Sex Offenders finds “sexual psychopath laws” ineffective. New Jersey has been undergoing a sex crime panic much like the rest of the country. But unlike other states, where legislatures have reacted with draconian “sexual psychopathic” laws, New Jersey’s Legislature decided that careful study was needed before taking any rash actions. In 1949, it established a commission to study whether “the sexual deviate or the sex psychopath should have specific recognition in our statutes for the prevention, treatment and cure.” The Commission releases its report, which studies the sexual psychopathic laws enacted in twelve other states. “In general, the statues appear to have served only the purpose of satisfying the public temporarily that ‘something is to be done’,” reports the Commission. “Thus far no problems have been resolved by the new sex laws that have been enacted. On the contrary, some extremely dangerous precedents have been established.” Among those precedents are absences of due process and the indefinite commitment of ordinary sane people in understaffed and crowded mental hospitals. The report says the perception of a rampant sex crime wave is a false one, and finds no evidence that “sex deviates” can be properly diagnosed or treated. When the Legislature enacts a sexual psychopath law in March, it will heed the Commission’s advice and restrict the law to pedophiles and violent criminals.

Jan 30:The United Mine Workers’ wildcat strike against steel company-owned coal operators continues to spread despite instructions from top union officials. When top UMW officials send a sharply-worded order to return to work to a 900-man local in Rosedale, Pennsylvania, the miners respond by not only staying off the job, but by picketing other mines in central Pennsylvania. That local alone is credited with adding 10,000 area miners to the strike ranks. An estimated 100,000 miners are now off the job. Meanwhile, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad announced that it will have to lay off 3,800 shop workers due to cutbacks in routes served by coal-powered trains.

Jan 31: American political consultant and gay rights activist Fred Karger is born in Glencoe, IL.

Jan 31: President Truman orders the development of the hydrogen bomb. The White House releases a statement from the President: “It is part of my responsibility as Commander in Chief of the armed forces to see to it that our country is able to defend itself against any possible aggressor. Accordingly, I have directed the Atomic Energy Commission to continue its work on all forms of atomic weapons, including the so-called hydrogen or super-bomb. Like all other work in the field of atomic weapons, it is being and will be carried forward on a basis consistent with the over-all objectives of our program for peace and security.” He directs the AEC to press forward with the H-bomb’s development “until a satisfactory plan for international control of atomic energy is achieved.” The announcement follows more than a month of growing political pressure from both parties Truman’s order is widely praised as a step to keep ahead of the Soviets following their successful atomic bomb detonation in September. It is also likely that pressure on Truman intensified following the arrest one week earlier in Britain of atomic physicist Klaus Fuchs for espionage, even though Fuchs’s arrest won’t be made public until February 3.

Jan 31: Republican opposition to extending $60 million (about $645 million today) in economic aid to South Korea falls away with a new bill linking that aid to continued assistance for the Chinese Nationalist government in Taiwan.

Jan 31: The Soviet Union announces its recognition of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh. Ho’s Viet Minh resistance movement has been fighting for Vietnam’s full independence from France. The Soviet move comes two days after France established the quasi-independent State of Vietnam, headed by former emperor Bao Dai, within the French Union. The Soviets begin supplying aid to the Vietminh communist resistance fighters against the French-backed State of Vietnam. France vigorously protests the Soviet recognition, but the French government is itself hobbled by internal division and instability as it tries to approve a budget that is heavily-laden with expenditures for defending Vietnam.

Jan 31: President Truman asks for a 70-day truce between the United Mine Workers and coal companies while the two sides submit their case to a soon-to-be-named presidential board. Truman gives both sides until 5:00 p.m. Saturday to answer his “request,” which, in the telegram sounds more like an ultimatum. Truman is under tremendous pressure to impose a cooling-off period by declaring an emergency under the Taft-Hartley Act. Meanwhile, the Interstate Commerce Commission’s review of railroad companies’ coal stockpiles shows that they are down to about a fifteen-day supply. The ICC estimates that about 600 to 700 coal-burning passenger trains have been withdrawn from service or are operating on limited runs.

   1950   
   JANUARY   
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