On This Day

What Happened in December 1938

Historical Events

  • Dec 1 School bus & train collide in Salt Lake City Utah
  • Dec 3 AAUs decides to continue linear measuring system over metric
  • Dec 6 117 Spanish knights under capt Piet Laros return to Netherlands

AgreementTreaty of Interest

Dec 6 French/German non-attack treaty drawn (Ribbentrop-Bonnet Pact)

Foreign Minister of the German Reich Joachim von Ribbentrop
Foreign Minister of the German Reich
Joachim von Ribbentrop
  • Dec 7 Philip Barry's "Here Come the Clowns" premieres in NYC
  • Dec 7 W9XZY broadcasts facsimile of St Louis Post-Dispatch by radio
  • Dec 8 Highest temperature for December in US recorded in La Mesa Calif
  • Dec 9 1939 NFL Draft: Ki Aldrich from TCU first pick by Chicago Cardinals
  • Dec 10 CFL Grey Cup: In repeat of last year, Toronto Argonauts defeat Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 30-7 to retain Championship
  • Dec 10 Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Zen teacher, Rinzai line, enters Zen priesthood

Nobel prizeNobel Prize

Dec 10 Italian scientist Enrico Fermi receives the Nobel Prize for Physics (work on reduced radioactivity)

Father of the Atomic Bomb Enrico Fermi
Father of the Atomic Bomb
Enrico Fermi

Sport awardNFL Championship

Dec 11 National Football League Championship, Polo Grounds, NYC: New York Giants beat Green Bay Packers, 23-17; record title game attendance 48,120

American Football Player Mel Hein
American Football Player
Mel Hein
  • Dec 13 Los Angeles freezes at 28°F
  • Dec 14 AL permits Cleveland & Philadelphia to play night games
  • Dec 14 Major League Baseball agrees on use of a standard ball; disagrees on increasing rosters from 23 to 25 players, although Commissioner Judge Landis eventually decides on 25
  • Dec 14 Will Harridge is elected to a 10-year-term as AL president
  • Dec 15 Groundbreaking begins for Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Dec 16 Adolf Hitler institutes the state decoration and civil order of merit, Cross of Honour of the German Mother

Dictator of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Dictator of Nazi Germany
Adolf Hitler
  • Dec 17 Discovery of nuclear fission using uranium by Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann
  • Dec 17 Utrecht Central Station destroyed by fire
  • Dec 20 Boston Bruins rookie goalie Frankie Brimsek records his 3rd straight shutout with a 3-0 win over the New York Americans, making it his incredible sixth shutout in his first 8 NHL games

Film PremierThe Wizard of Oz

Dec 23 Margaret Hamilton's costume catches fire in filming of "The Wizard of Oz"
Learn More >>

Publicity still of the Wizard of Oz, showing the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Dorothy and Cowardly Lion
Publicity still of the Wizard of Oz, showing the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Dorothy and Cowardly Lion
  • Dec 23 Discovery of the first modern coelacanth in South Africa.

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Dec 25 George Cukor announces Vivien Leigh will play Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind"

Actress Vivien Leigh
Actress
Vivien Leigh
Director George Cukor
Director
George Cukor
  • Dec 26 Tom Goddard takes a cricket hat-trick for England v South Africa
  • Dec 28 Paul Gibb scores 106 on Test Cricket debut v South Africa
  • Dec 29 Construction on Lake Washington Floating Bridge, Seattle, begins
  • Dec 31 Dr R N Harger's "drunkometer", 1st breath test, introduced in Indiana
  • Dec 31 Dutch national debt hits ƒ3,986,629,805.70

Famous Birthdays

  • Dec 1 Bill Playle, New Zealand cricket batsman (8 Tests), born in Palmerston North, New Zealand (d. 2019)
  • Dec 1 Sandy Nelson, Santa Monica, 50s rocker (Teen Beat, All Night Long)
  • Dec 3 Jose Serebrier, Uruguayan conductor and composer (Star Wagon), born in Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Dec 3 Martyn Taylor, teacher/campaigner
  • Dec 4 Andre Marrou, American Libertarian Presidential candidate (1992), born in Nixon, Texas
  • Dec 4 Liesbeth Struppert, Dutch actress (Miep Gies-Anne Frank), born in Deventer, Overijssel, Netherlands (d. 1994)
  • Dec 4 Lynn Blessing, vibes player (d. 1994)
  • Dec 4 Yvonne Minton, Australian-British soprano, born in Sydney, Australia
  • Dec 4 Richard Meade, British equestrian (3 Olympic Golds 1968, 1970), born in Chepstow, Monmouthshire (d. 2015)
  • Dec 5 J. J. Cale, American rock guitarist (After Midnight), born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (d. 2013)
  • Dec 6 Patrick Bauchau, Belgian actor
  • Dec 9 Elizabeth H "Rina" Venter, South African minister of Health care
  • Dec 9 William Thomas McKinley, composer
  • Dec 9 [David] Deacon Jones, American NFL defensive end (LA, SD, Washington), born in Eatonville, Florida (d. 2013)
  • Dec 10 Yuri Temirkanov, Russian conductor (Kirov), born in Nalchik, Russia
  • Dec 11 Enrico Macias, Algerian-French singer, born in Constantine, Algeria
  • Dec 11 McCoy Tyner, American jazz pianist (John Coltrane Quartet), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Dec 12 Joel Chadabe, American composer, born in NYC, New York
  • Dec 13 Alvin Curran, American composer, born in Providence, Rhode Island
  • Dec 13 Tom Shaw, American golfer (The Tradition 1993), born in Wichita, Kansas
  • Dec 13 Tony Gomez, British rocker (Foundations), born in Colombo, Ceylon (d. 2015)
  • Dec 14 Hal Williams, American actor (Pvt Benjamin, 227, Sanford & Son), born in Columbus, Ohio
  • Dec 14 Janette Scott, English actress (Day of the Triffids), born in Morecambe, Lancashire, England
  • Dec 14 Leonardo Boff, Brazilian Catholic theologian (liberation theology) and writer, born in Concórdia, Santa Catarina, Brazil
  • Dec 15 Dennis RB Madide, South African Internal minister of Transkei
  • Dec 15 Bob Foster, American boxer (world light-heavyweight champion 1968-74), born in Borger, Texas (d. 2015)
  • Dec 16 Frank Deford, American sportswriter
  • Dec 16 Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress and director (The Emigrants, Persona), born in Tokyo, Japan

Person of interestJimmie Lee Jackson

Dec 16 Jimmie Lee Jackson, American civil rights protester and church deacon, shot and killed by an Alabama State Trooper in 1965, born in Marion, Alabama (d. 1965)

Civil Rights Activist Jimmie Lee Jackson
Civil Rights Activist
Jimmie Lee Jackson
  • Dec 17 Peter Snell, New Zealand middle distance runner (3 Olympic gold 1960, 64), born in Opunake, New Zealand
  • Dec 17 Carlo Little, English drummer (d. 2005)
  • Dec 18 [Bryan] Chas Chandler, English rock bassist (The Animals-House of the Rising Sun) and manager of Jimi Hendrix, born in Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Dec 18 Roger E. Mosley, American actor
  • Dec 20 John Harris Harbison, American composer, born in Orange, New Jersey
  • Dec 21 Larry Bryggman, American actor (Dr John Dixon-As the World Turns), born in Concord, California
  • Dec 22 Matty Alou, Dominican baseball outfielder (NL batting champion 1966; MLB All-Star 1968-69), born in Haina, Dominican Republic (d. 2011)
  • Dec 22 Lucien Bouchard, French-Canadian lawyer & politician, born in Saint-Cœur-de-Marie, Quebec
  • Dec 23 Bob Kahn, American internet pioneer, born in Brooklyn, New York City
  • Dec 24 Ralp Inbar, Dutch TV host (Banana Split), born in The Hague, Netherlands (d. 2004)
  • Dec 24 Valentim Loureiro, Portuguese politician, and former football chairman of Boavista F.C. and Liga Portuguesa de Futebol Profissional
  • Dec 25 David Borden, composer
  • Dec 25 Wibo van de Linde, Dutch TV host/director (Avro)
  • Dec 25 Duane Armstrong, American painter (Fields of Grass), born in Fresno, California
  • Dec 26 Bahram Beizai, Iranian playwright and film director
  • Dec 26 Alamgir Kabir, Bangladeshi film director (d. 1989)
  • Dec 28 Bruce Yarnell, American actor (Outlaws), born in Los Angeles, California (d. 1973)
  • Dec 28 Janet Hough Bryant, author/performing artist/educator
  • Dec 28 Richard Sudhalter, British(?) writer/jazz musician
  • Dec 28 Frank Kelly, Irish stage and screen actor (Father Ted), born in Dublin (d. 2016)

Person of interestJon Voight

Dec 29 Jon Voight, American actor (Deliverance, Midnight Cowboy), born in Yonkers, New York

Actor Jon Voight
Actor
Jon Voight
  • Dec 29 Wayne Huizenga, American businessman, CEO (Waste Management, Blockbuster), and sports team owner (Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers, Florida Marlins), born in Evergreen Park, Illinois (d. 2018)
  • Dec 31 Atje Keulen-Deelstra, Dutch speed skater (world champ, born in Grou, Netherlands (d. 2013)
  • Dec 31 Henricus G Wijmans, Dutch graphic artist
  • Dec 31 Rosalind Cash, American actress (Omega Man, Wrong is Right), born in Atlantic City, New Jersey (d. 1995)

Famous Divorces


Broken heartDivorce of Interest

Dec 6 Actress Bette Davis (30) divorces musician Harmon Nelson (31) due to cruel and inhuman manner after more than 6 years of marriage

Actress Bette Davis
Actress
Bette Davis

Famous Deaths

  • Dec 4 Dina Appeldoorn, Dutch pianist and composer, dies at 54
  • Dec 7 Harry Moses, cricketer (6 Tests for Australia 1887-95), dies
  • Dec 8 Friedrich Glauser, German-language Swiss writer (b. 1896)
  • Dec 9 Johannes van Laar, Dutch chemist (thermodynamics), dies at 78
  • Dec 10 Mario Pilati, composer, dies at 35
  • Dec 11 Christian Lous Lange, Norwegian pacifist and internationalist (Nobel Peace Prize 1921), dies at 69
  • Dec 12 James McNeill, Irish politician, 2nd Governor-General of the Irish Free State, dies at 69
  • Dec 14 Maurice Emmanuel, French composer and musicologist (Salamine), dies at 76
  • Dec 19 Stephen Warfield Gambrill, American politician (Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland), dies at 65
  • Dec 20 Annie Armstrong, American missionary leader, dies at 88
  • Dec 21 Helen Miller Shepard, American philanthropist who established Hall of Fame, dies at 70
  • Dec 23 Robert Herrick, American novelist (Chimes), dies at 70
  • Dec 24 Bruno Taut, German architect (b. 1880)
  • Dec 25 Karel Čapek, Czech author, playwright and critic (R.U.R.), coined term "robot", dies of pneumonia at 48
  • Dec 27 Emile Vandervelde, President (1900–1918) of the International Socialist Bureau and Minister of 3 Belgian governments dies at 72
  • Dec 27 O Mandelstam, writer, dies
  • Dec 27 Calvin Bridges, American geneticist (b. 1889)
  • Dec 28 Florence Lawrence, silent screen actress (Confidence), dies at 48
  • Dec 31 Richard Nicolaas Roland Holst, Dutch artist and painter, dies at 70