On This Day

What Happened in May 1939

Historical Events


Historic PublicationBatman Appears!

May 1 Batman first appears in Detective Comics #27
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Cover page of Detective Comics #27, the first comic in which Batman appeared
Cover page of Detective Comics #27, the first comic in which Batman appeared
  • May 1 Pulitzer Prize awarded to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Yearling)

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 2 Lou Gehrig ends 2,130 consecutive game streak, Yanks beat Tigers 22-2

Baseball Player Lou Gehrig
Baseball Player
Lou Gehrig
  • May 3 The All India Forward Bloc is formed by Subhash Chandra Bose
  • May 6 1st performance of Honegger/Claudel's "Jeanne d'Arc Ouch B-cher"
  • May 6 65th Kentucky Derby: James Stout aboard Johnstown wins in 2:03.4
  • May 7 Germany and Italy announce an alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis
  • May 13 64th Preakness: George Seabo aboard Challedon wins in 1:59.8
  • May 13 SS St Louis departs Hamburg with 937 Jewish fugitives
  • May 14 Lina Medina of Peru becomes the world's youngest confirmed mother in medical history at the age of five
  • May 16 1st AL night game, Philadelphia Shribe Park (Indians 8, Athletics 3 in 10)
  • May 16 US food stamps are 1st issued in Rochester, New York
  • May 17 1st televised baseball game is broadcast on NBC, with Princeton defeating Columbia 2-1
  • May 20 "3 Little Fishies" by Kay Kyser swam to #1
  • May 20 1st regular transatlantic airmail (Pan Am: NY to Marsseille France)

AgreementTreaty of Interest

May 22 Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini sign "Pact of Steel" in Berlin, Germany

Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini
Italian Dictator
Benito Mussolini
Dictator of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Dictator of Nazi Germany
Adolf Hitler
  • May 23 British parliament plans to make Palestine independent by 1949

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 23 Dmitri Shostakovich appointed professor at conservatory of Leningrad

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 23 Adolf Hitler proclaims he wants to move into Poland

Dictator of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Dictator of Nazi Germany
Adolf Hitler
  • May 23 Submarine USS Squalus sinks in the Gulf of Maine, drowning 26, 33 remaining crew rescued from a depth of 243 ft (74 m) by divers using newly developed heliox air systems (divers later awarded the Medal of Honor)
  • May 25 Carl Storck becomes 2nd NFL president
  • May 30 Indianapolis 500: Wilbur Shaw wins in 4:20:47.412 (185.131 km/h)

Famous Birthdays

  • May 1 Judy Collins, singer (Send in the Clowns, Clouds), born in Seattle, Washington

Person of interestMax Robinson

May 1 Max Robinson, 1st African American network TV anchor (ABC), born in Richmond, Virginia (d. 1988)

1st African-American Network TV Anchor Max Robinson
1st African-American Network TV Anchor
Max Robinson
  • May 1 Ray Aranha, actor (Nick-Married People), born in Miami, Florida
  • May 1 Frank Beard, American golfer (11 PGA Tour titles; US Open 1965, 75 3rd), born in Dallas, Texas
  • May 2 Sumio Iijima, Japanese physicist, born in Koshigaya, Saitama, Japan
  • May 2 Gates Brown, American MLB player (Detroit Tigers: 1963-75), born in Crestline, Ohio (d. 2013)
  • May 3 Jonathan Harvey, English composer (Bhakti, Music of Stockhausen), born in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham (d. 2012)
  • May 4 Amos Oz, Israeli author (My Michael), born in Jerusalem
  • May 4 Paul Gleason, American actor (Breakfast Club, Die Hard), born in Jersey City, New Jersey (d. 2006)
  • May 5 James R. Jones, American lawyer and politician (U.S. Ambassador to Mexico), born in Muskogee, Oklahoma
  • May 5 Cesare Fiorio, Italian sporting director of various Formula One teams, born in Turin, Italy
  • May 6 Anthony Blacker, Master-General of Ordnance
  • May 6 Herbie Cox, American rocker (Cleftones), born in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • May 6 Zhanna Yorkina, Russian cosmonaut, born in Soltsy, Russia (d. 2015)
  • May 6 Chet Allen, American child actor (Amahl and the Night Visitors), born in Chickasha Oklahoma (d. 1984)
  • May 7 Johnny Maestro, American rock vocalist (Crests-16 Candles, Brooklyn Bridge), born in Manhattan, New York (d. 2010)
  • May 7 Marco St John, American actor (Rayford-Ball Four), born in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • May 7 Ruud Lubbers, Dutch politician, Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1982-94), born in Rotterdam, Netherlands (d. 2018)
  • May 7 Volker Braun, German writer (Provocation for me), born in Dresden, Germany
  • May 7 Sidney Altman, Canadian-American molecular biologist (Nobel 1989), born in Montreal, Quebec
  • May 8 Otis Paul Drayton, Glen Cove NY, 4x100m runner (Olympic gold 1964)
  • May 8 János Göröcs, Hungarian soccer midfielder (62 caps; Újpesti Dózsa, Tatabányai Bányász), born in Gánt, Hungary (d. 2020)
  • May 9 Bruce Mather, Canadian pianist and composer, born in Toronto, Ontario
  • May 9 Herbert Hippauf, baseball player
  • May 9 Kenneth Warby, fastest man on water at 300 knots (345 mph)
  • May 9 Ralph Boston, American long jumper (Olympic gold 1960; first to break 27 feet [8.2m] barrier), born in Laurel Mississippi
  • May 9 Pierre Desproges, French humorist (d. 1988)
  • May 9 Ion Ţiriac, Romanian tennis manager
  • May 11 Milt Pappas, American baseball pitcher, (3-time MLB All Star), born in Detroit, Michigan (d. 2016)
  • May 11 Carlos Lyra, Brazilian musician
  • May 12 Ronald Ziegler, White House press secretary for Nixon
  • May 12 Miltiadis Evert, Greek politician
  • May 12 Reg Gasnier, Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame centre and captain (36 Tests; 3 World Cup; St. George), born in Sydney, Australia (d. 2014)
  • May 13 Harvey Keitel, actor (Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs)
  • May 13 William W Cobey Jr, (Rep-R-NC, 1985-87)
  • May 13 Hildrun Claus, German athlete
  • May 14 M N Fathulin, cosmonaut
  • May 14 Troy Shondell, American singer (This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up)), born in Fort Wayne, Indiana (d. 2016)
  • May 15 Brian Hartley, British mathematician (group theory) (d. 1994)
  • May 15 Dudley Wysong, American golfer (PGA C'ship 1966 runner-up), born in McKinney, Texas (d. 1998)
  • May 17 Wim de Bie, CEO (Simplistic Covenant)
  • May 17 Gary Paulsen, American author of young adult literature, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • May 18 Patrick Cormack, British politician (C), born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire
  • May 18 Giovanni Falcone, Italian magistrate (d. 1992)
  • May 18 Gordon O'Connor, Canadian politician, born in Toronto, Ontario
  • May 18 Gary S. Paxton [Larry Wayne Stevens], American musician and songwriter (Monster Mash, Alley Oop), born in Coffeyville, Kansas (d. 2016)
  • May 19 Henry Herbert, 17th earl of Pembroke, English peer and director (Emily) (d. 2003)
  • May 19 Dick Scobee, American pilot and astronaut (STS 41C, killed commanding Space Shuttle Challenger), born in Cle Elum, Washington (d. 1986)
  • May 19 James Fox, English actor (The Servant), born in London, England
  • May 19 Nancy Kwan, Hong Kong-born American actress (Flower Drum Song, World of Suzie Wong), born in Hong Kong
  • May 19 Richard Lowe Teitelbaum, American composer, born in New York City
  • May 19 Tomasz Sikorski, Polish minimalist composer (Solitude of Sounds), born in Warsaw, Poland (d. 1988)
  • May 19 Livio Berruti, Italian athlete
  • May 19 Sonny Fortune [Cornelius Fortune], American jazz saxophonist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 2018)
  • May 19 Jānis Lūsis, Latvian athlete (Olympic gold men's javelin 1968, silver 1972, bronze 1968), born in Jelgava, Latvia (d. 2020)
  • May 21 Heinz Holliger, Swiss composer, oboist and conductor, born in Langenthal, Switzerland
  • May 23 Michel Colombier, French composer and songwriter (d. 2004)
  • May 24 Gert Schutte, Dutch politician (GPV), born in Nieuwpoort, Netherlands
  • May 25 Dixie Carter, American actress (Designing Women, Edge of Night), born in McLemoresville, Tennessee (d. 2010)

Person of interestIan McKellen

May 25 Sir Ian McKellen, English film and theatre actor (Lord of the Rings, X-Men), born in Burnley Lancashire

  • May 26 Brent Musburger, American sportscaster (CBS Sports, The NFL Today; ESPN, ABC; VSiN; radio play-by-play Las Vegas Raiders), born in Portland, Oregon
  • May 26 Gerald Ronson, English multi-millionaire
  • May 26 Merab Kostava, Georgian anti-Soviet leader
  • May 27 Donald "Don" Williams, American country singer (I Believe in You), born in Floydada Texas (d. 2017)
  • May 27 Earl Cairns, CEO (S G Warburg & Co)
  • May 27 Socratis Kokkalis, Greek businessman
  • May 27 Leo LeBlanc, American country musician and pianist who was legally blind, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (d. 1995)
  • May 29 Al Unser, American auto racer (Indianapolis 500 1970-71, 78, 87), born in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • May 30 Michael J Pollard, actor (Bonny & Clyde, Roxanne), born in Passaic, New Jersey
  • May 30 Dieter Quester, Austrian racing driver
  • May 31 Charles Drain, American soul singer, born in Eupora, Mississippi (d. 1995)
  • May 31 Terry Waite, English Anglican Church envoy/Lebanese hostage, born in Bollington, Cheshire

Famous Weddings


LoveWedding of Interest

May 29 Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (25) weds Aliza Arnold

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin
Israeli Prime Minister
Menachem Begin

Famous Deaths

  • May 3 [Karl Eduard] Wilhelm Groener, German general, dies at 71
  • May 11 Evgenii Miller, Russian counter-revolutionary, dies at 71
  • May 20 Joe Carr, NFL hall of famer/NFL president (1921-39), dies at 59
  • May 22 Ernst Toller, German playwright, commits suicide at 45
  • May 22 Jiri Mahen, Czech author (b. 1882)
  • May 25 Joseph Duveen, British art connoisseur (Elgin marbles), dies at 69
  • May 26 Charles Horace Mayo, American surgeon and co-founder (Mayo Clinic), dies at 74
  • May 26 Cornelis J Cutters, supreme commander of Navy (1910-18), dies
  • May 26 Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, Supreme commander of Dutch Navy (1910-18), dies at 86
  • May 27 Joseph Roth, Austria journalist (Fluctuate ohne Ende), dies at 44
  • May 29 Ursula Ledóchowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic saint and foundress of the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus, dies of a carcinoma at 74
  • May 30 Floyd Roberts, Auto racer, killed during 1939 Indianapolis 500 (b. 1904)