Swing Age & World War Two, American Home Front Bibliography

1934 to 1947

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

The many older books can be located in second-hand book stores, reference libraries via ILL (Inter-Library Loan), or by book finders, like that at Barnes and Noble or Alibris or Amazon. Of course, you know to read magazines and newspapers of the time to pick up the period flavour and concerns.

For costume, avoid most books: they often lump "the Forties" together, though there were two fashion periods, the shoulder pads, high hem, late-Thirties-like fashions of the first half, and the purposely revolutionary, corsetted, narrow-shouldered, long, full-skirted Neo-VictorianNew Look from Dior after the War. Best to read back issues of the fashion magazines of the period. There's the usual Costumers Manifesto, but look for crazy things at Retronaut.

For guides to states and cities, you want the Work Projects Administration guides.

Alexander, Edwin P.

American Locomotives: A Pictorial Record of Steam Power, 1900-1950 ****
Bonanza Books, NY, 1950
Clear terse text with photos and line drawings, to let you know what's up front on the trains in the first part of the century. You can't just fake your way through a steam train accident or sabotage based on diesel. T3

Alpern, Andrew; New York's Fabulous Luxury Apartments With Original Floor Plans from the Dakota, River House, Olympic Tower and Other Great Buildings; 1975, McGraw-Hill, NY, as Apartments for the Affluent: A Historical Survey of Buildings in New York; Dover, NY; 1987.

American Red Cross

First Aid Textbook ****
The Blakiston Company, Philedelphia, 1933, rev. 1940; 256 pg, index
How times (and practices!) have changed! Features traction of broken limbs, abhorred today, but more practical in a world where it might be a day's travel to a doctor, or even a phone. T3

Angelucci, Enzo, & Paolo Maricardi

World Aircraft: Commercial 1935-1960 *
Rand McNally & Co, Chicago, NY & SF, 1979; 317-320 pg per vol., index T2

Beebe, Lucius M.

Mr. Pullman's Elegant Palace Car ***
Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1961
A wonderful collection of photos, scaled layouts of cars, and reproduction of artwork, with pithy text somewhat allergic to dates. Just dig in: information ranges from the Civil War through the 1950's. T2

Mansions on Rails, The Folklore of the Private Railway Car ***
Similar, detailing the PV, or Private Varnish, with an emphasis on early elegance. T2

The American Woman's Cook Book by Ruth Berolzheimer, 1943, Consolidated Book Publishers, Chicago, IL. The section on dumplings is excellent. The supplement in the back is on cooking within the limitations of rationing, which was added for this edition.

Boardman, Barrington

Flappers, Bootleggers, "Typhoid Mary" & the Bomb: An Anecdotal History of the United States from 1923 to 1945 ****
Harper and Row, NY, 1988; 319 pg, index
"History by flashes of lightning" Asimov called this. Despite the title, there is quite a bit about the War in Europe, including an especially revealing detailed report of Hitler's publicly changing position towards the USSR. T3

Carlson, John Roy

Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America--The Amazing Revelation of How Axis Agents and Our Enemies Within Are Now Plotting to Destroy the United States. *****!
Books, Inc., Dist. by E. P. Dutton & Col, Inc., New York; 1943; 4 pg of photos, many document illos, several indices
Every other book I have read on the subject, any on this list, speaks only briefly and without detail of Father Coughlin, if they mention anything at all of the "ultra-American" or "patriotic Christian" groups. This author infiltrated the pre-War terrorist groups like the Iron Guard, the Hitlerite wing of the German-American Bund, and the connected activities of America First and dozens of other groups across the country, all of whom supported Lindbergh for president and were sometimes underwritten by Henry Ford. The author began his investigations in 1938, but obviously this had been going on, by the information he includes, since '34. Any other book on this list, except Singer's, reduces the entire Axis espionage effort to a few dolts dropped off by sub in a single week, quickly rounded up and put away. This shows that most of the espionage, sedition, demoralization, and other undercover work was being conducted by people already in America. Because it is little known and mistaken for a novel, it only cost fifty cents plus shipping from Amazon's "other sellers." T2

Casdorph, Paul D.

Let the Good Times Roll: Life at Home in America During World War II *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1989; index, no bibliography
Strictly chronological order. Does a good job of covering the not-good times (silly title), including both gains and losses in integration and civil rights, the affects of war on people's minds at home, and all the intricacies of the government agencies and controls. Very few illos, mostly of famous people T2

Cassin-Scott, Jack; plates by Angus McBride; Women at War 1939-45; 1980; Osprey Publishing Ltd., London. Includes British, American, German, Nazis, 1939-45, but fewest of Americans.

Chapman, Charles Frederic

Piloting, Seamanship, and Small Boat Handling ****
Motor Boating, NY, 1922, rev. periodically; 688 pg, index
Rules of the Road, weather signs, navigation, marlinspike seamanship, social etiquette, flags and signalling: just about everything! Gospel. Often known simply as "Chapman." T3

Costello, John

Virtue Under Fire: How WWII Changed Our Social and Sexual Attitudes *****!
Fromm International Publishing Corp., 1985; 294 pg, index, bibliography
Documentary of innumerable cases of interpersonal relationships, sexual harassment, and gallantry, in all sorts of mixes of male and female, military and civilian. Anyone who thinks it was all according to the Hayes Office movies, or all an extended dirty joke, is wrong on either count. Quite an eye-opener. T2

Crowther, Bruce & Mike Pinfold; The Big Band Years, 1988 Facts on File, NY.

DeGouy, Louis; Patricia M. Kelly, ed; Luncheonette: Ice-Cream, Beverage, and Sandwich Recipes from the Golden Age of the Soda Fountain; 1989, Crown Publishers, NY; portions of Soda Fountain and Luncheonette Drinks and Recipes; J. O. Dahl, 1940 reminds us that people grabbed lunch without franchise fast food.

Fermi, Laura

Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe, 1930-1941 ***
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2nd ed. 1971
A precise but emminently readable story of the efforts of American academics to rescue their fellows from the Nazi regime, giving valuable background on what their lives had been like in Europe, and what they faced in the New World. The bulk is given over to following the continuing success of these figures (and the occasional failure) and the effect they had on American arts and sciences by being here. T3

Friedrich, Otto

City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's ****
Harper and Row, NY, 1987; index and bibliography
Dishes on all the scandal, crimes, and headlines, chronologically from 1939 to 1950. Great reading! T2

Gould, Leslie A.

American Youth Today ***
NY; Random House, 1940
An exoneration of the American Youth Congress via a partisan's history of the organization, anti-discrimination, pro-union, and pacifistic -- in short, pre-War Communist-Socialist. An interesting sidelight on teenagers of the period who were doing more than jitterbugging. Also includes interesting stories most histories let slide -- anti-union vigilantes, racist and fascist demagogues like Father Coughlin, etc. T2

Henry, Mark

The US Navy in World War II ***
Osprey Elite, 2002; 64 pages
Illustrated by Ramiro Bujeiro. While being a uniform book, it also strikes on two areas often completely slighted: women and blacks in the Navy, and the appearance of the Coast Guard, for the war transferred from Dept. of Transportation to Dept. of the Navy. gives a light overview of operations and jobs. T1

Hiscox, Gardner D., M.E., editor

Henley's Formulas for Home and Workshop ****
New York; Crown Publishers; 1907, rev. 1927 (1980)
All those rote formulas for Cosmetics, Perfumes, Beverages, and pyrotechnic parlor tricks, not to mention photographic chemicals, vetrinary treatments you should NOT use on a non-fictional beast, and how much "butter the size of an egg" should be. T2

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
The Contemporary half not only has all the European names for American troops, but naming practices for the Pacific Islands, as well as all the countries of Asia. Family names as well as those for individuals. T1

Krammer, Arnold

Nazi Prisoners of War in America *****!
Scarborough House, Lanham MD, 1979, rev. 1991; index and bibliography
One of our friends who wrote a novel based on this had the interesting experience of a workshopper declaring that there were never any PW's in America, or at least only a handful. Find out how many hundreds of thousands there were, where they were kept, the internal politics of the camps, and their own Great Escape. T2

Lingeman, Richard R.

Don't You Know There's a War On? The American Home Front 1941-1945 ****
G. P. Putnam's Sons, NY, 1970; index and selected bibliography
A pretty good coverage of life, with occasional killer details like the color of particular ration stamps, or black market gasoline racketeering. But the section on fashion is completely lost, as it largely describes the post-war New Look. T1

Melton, H. Keith

OSS Special Weapons and Equipment; Spy Devices of WWII ****
Sterling Publishing, 1991; 128 pg, index, glossary
Dazzling! An actual catalog for OSS agents, annotated. What length fuses are available to your agent and what are the key colours? How small a radio can he or she have? Belt-guns, .22-calibre cigarettes, knock-down and pistol crossbows, how to knife a guard or blow up a ship, compasses in a button, gilhooleys, "Who Me?" in a tube -- just everything. T3

The Military Service Publishing Company

The Officer's Guide *****!
Harrisburg, PN, 9th ed. 1943
If you want to present an Army officer and you haven't been one, or weren't in the right branch of service, this is great. It covers the National Guard as well, with organization of the Army, the command structure, what you wear, with whom you serve, your first station, your last will and testament, ad infinitum. Mercifully written before gobbledegook, in a clear and simple format, which is neither flowery nor dull. T3

National Geographic, the editors of

The Complete National Geographic; 103 Years of National Geographic Magazine on CD-ROM ****
National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 1991
Not only are there interesting articles on the war, especially on the peoples of the Pacific Theatre, but this gives you a glimpse of how science went on despite the war in places like South America. Complete with all the ads. T1

1928 Handy Railroad Atlas of the United States *****

Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kalmbach Publishing, nd
The original Rand McNally copyright on the index page is 1923; the metropolitan maps are from 1937. For most of this century, people are more likely to make long trips by train than by auto or plane, and this is the era of the luxury train: The Twentieth Century, The Broadway Limited, the Sunset Limited, etc. A must-have, only in used books. T3

Nock, O .S., editor

Encyclopedia of Railroads ****
Galahad Books, NY, 1977; 480 pg, index
History of railroads and equipment over the entire world, including Africa, Asia, and south America. Sections on equipment and operation, also the great luxury trains, past and present. Gorgeous colour layout, oversize. One lap-breaker worth the effort of lifting. T1

"Old Sarge"

How to Get Along in the Army *****!
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., NY & London, 1942
An NCO's guide, not on "how to soldier," but all the hints and kinks of staying healthy, blister-free, out of trouble, and in your barracks-mates' good graces. The anecdotes provide many incidents for the character in basic training. T2

Post, Emily

Etiquette *****
New York; Funk & Wagnalls, 1922, 1927 (42 chapters), 1931 (1 chapter) and 1934 (no notable changes); 1943 (dealing with rationing)
For those in the high life, or trying to emulate it. Incredibly picky about vocabulary, etc., but that is how one tells the Ins from the Outs. Valuable chapters on wardrobe and dress, entertainments acceptable to Society, country visits, and child-rearing (besides what the nanny does). Look in newspapers of the time for Post's column which will tell you how to handle rationing etiquette, hitchhiking servicemen, etc. T2

Eugenics and Sex Harmony. The Sexes, Their Relations and Problems, &c. by Herman H. Rubin, MD; 1933, NY, Elliot Publishing Company.

Shea, Nancy

The Army Wife ****
Harper and Brothers, NY, 1941 revised edition
Put together to meet the needs of women who suddenly found their husands in the army, on the bones of a book for girls marrying cadets or other men already in, Shea tells what to expect in almost any situation. T2

Simon, George T., compiler. The Big Bands Songbook, 1975 Barnes & Noble, NY.

Simonds, Frank H., Litt.D., and Emeny, Brooks, PhD

The Great Powers in World Politics: International Relations and Economic Nationalism ***
NY, et al; American Book Company, 1939.
Originally published in 1935 and revised in 1937; with the precipitation of events into war in 1939 several chapters were continued in the back. Good for the chronology, and the maps of the Great Powers before WWI and during the interregnum, also for its view of WWI, the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles. Takes the stand that a Great Power like Germany or Japan has the right to control or to own necessary resources of material and energy, condoning a political and, if necessary, military rather then an economic solution. Combined with their not-too-grudging admiration of Hitler's handling of politics and aggression, this reads like undercover Geopolitik, and is actually a subtle pro-fascist text. T1

Singer, Kurt

Spies and Traitors of World War II *****!
Prentice Hall, NY, 1945
The story of Adm. Canaris, the German spy-master, and various agents around the world, on both sides. Explains why Argentina was a refuge for Nazis (Peron was a fascist), and has a wonderful last chapter on the stated post-war aims of the Nazi underground. He does vastly underestimate Hitler's wrath with Canaris, which eventually led to his execution, which the author does not know. T2

Terry, T. Philip

Terry's Guide to the Japanese Empire, including Chosen (Korea) and Taiwan (Formosa), with chapters on Manchuria, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the chief Ocean Routes to Japan ****
Boston and New York; Houghton Mifflin Company, 1933.
"1080 pages, 8 maps, 21 plans ... notes on Geography, Language, Literature, History, Architecture, Art, the People and their Homes, Crafts, Customs, Sports and Religions, the Imperial Family, and the Government and its Functions, ... How to Reach Japan, Travelling Expenses, Money, Guides, Seasons, Climate, Hotels and Inns, Food, Tips, Plan of Tour Health, What to Wear, Photography, Hunting and Fishing, Automobiling, Mt. Climbing, Shops, Curios," et cetera! A complete treasure. Terry also wrote, by this date, a Guide to Cuba and one to Mexico. Such compendious period guidebooks are an instant Time Ticket. T2

Time Life Books, the editors of

This Fabulous Century: Sixty Years of American Life, volume 5. 1940-1950 *
Time-Life Books, NY, 1969
Fashions, fads, infamies, in crisp original photographs, and reproductions of ads and newspapers of the times. However the text has consistently turned up glaring errors of fact and date. Good for pictures, but bad for information, though this volume is the least flawed of the set. T1

editors of the New York *World*

The World Almanac and Book of Facts *****!
published annually by the New York World
Since 1886, this is an instant window on any year, due to its detailed General Chronology of the previous year, which in the 1944 edition runs from 1 December 1942 to 30 November 1943. But the tide charts and moon cycles and holidays are for the cover year, 1944. During WW2, they also ran a special section on the military aspects of the war, in all theatres, so you can find out on which days who bombed where. Your library should have this on microfilm. If not, buy your own copy from Ann Arbor; it's worth it. T3

Ventry, Arthur F. D. E., Baron, and Koesnik, Eugene M.

Airship Saga: the history of airships, etc. ****
New York; Blandford Press, 1982.
A fine exploration of the development of commercial and naval dirigibles, which were only ever successfully done by the Germans, with their implied end through anti-Nazism and the necessity of other countries building large airplanes instead. Points out how most accidents were the result of improper use and lack of maintenance, and how very few people were hurt in the Hindenburg "disaster." T2

Von Braun, Wernher, and Ordway, Frederick I., III

History of Rocketry and Space Travel ***
New York; Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1966.
Excellent for the early history of rocketry, which with your characters may be involved. T2

Wall, Robert

Airliners ****
Seacaucus, NJ; Chartwell Books, 1980.
From the earliest to the Concord, and into speculation, this big picture-heavy book gives a thorough and unusual coverage, including a fine chapter on the lighter-than-air airliners like Graf Zeppelin. Lots of period cutaways showing interior layouts, and interior shots, many with passengers in real-life clothes. Also airports, menues, stamps, "the front office", and travel posters.

WPA

The WPA Guide to Massachusetts: The Federal Writers' Project Guide to 1930s Massachusetts
Pantheon Books, NY, reprinted 1983
Will do for a guide into this period. Describes towns, histories, points of interest. A few maps, descriptions of travel routes, and too few period pictures, alas. Find out how much hasn't been built yet! T3

also in this series:
The WPA Guide to Illinois
The WPA Guide to New Orleans
The WPA Guide to New York
The WPA Guide to Washington, DC


Video

There's some astonishing stuff out there, from aircraft training films to deathcamp footage "For Adults Only." This a sample of items to get you grounded.

The Way We Were: American Homefront *****!

Reader's Digest Video
Video reconstruction using all those promotional filmlets of the time to reconstruct your neighborhood and its activities -- in a very positive light. T1

The "Why We Fight Series" *****!

All seven of the Frank Capra films, originally made to be shown in boot camps. Superb. Sometimes sold separately. VII: "War Comes to America: The Front at Home" because this is what your characters have lived through, a retrospective of American reaction to all three Axis powers, leading up to the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. T1


Music

Tommy Dorsey: Radio Days Volume One; Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra ****

1989; Star Line Productions, Inc.; CDPO Box 1571, Glendale, CA 91209
Transcriptions from 1936 and 1937 radio shows which would greatly benefit from remastering and remixing to even out the sound quality -- though this way it sounds like you're hearing it over a period radio! Valuable early Swing. Vocals by Edythe Wright and/or the Three Esquires. Short liner notes.


Websites

American Memory ****!

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ammemhome.html

For everything American, whether books, maps, pamphlets, or pictures. The Library of Congress might have up what you're looking for, as well as things you never imagined were available.

America in the 1930s ***

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/RADIO/radiofr.html

The University of Virginia's American Studies programs provides a variety of essays as websites, and ebooks of books of the time, which may cover the topic you need: the night of War of the Worlds broadcast, or the building of the Chrysler Building.

Dining Through the Decades *****!

http://www.leitesculinaria.com/features/dining.html

An entertaining overview on popular trends in American cuisine from the 1900s through the 1990s. Includes recipes from each decade

 

H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***

http://www.ucr.edu/h-gig/topperindex.html

A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern, and 20th C<yours>), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.

  • Leave for H-GIG


To Pacific Theatre Bibliography

To European Theatre Bibliography

Back to Times and Places