front page 1940

On June 18, 2019, LNP celebrated its 225th anniversary. The earliest newspaper to which today’s LNP traces its roots was the Lancaster Journal, first published on June 18, 1794, by William Hamilton and Henry Willcocks from a news office located in a tavern building at the King Street site of the current LNP building.

To celebrate 225 years of Lancaster newspapers, we present this series of 52 front pages from the history of the newspapers which would eventually become LNP. 

Looming war

In July of 1940, the United States was still over a year away from officially getting involved with World War II. 

However, with the benefit of hindsight, there were signs before that fateful Sunday, Dec. 7, that U.S. forces would not stay neutral for long. One such sign is featured on the cover of this July 11, 1940, front page of the Lancaster New Era, in the form of an article questioning when President Franklin D. Roosevelt would announce his campaign for a historic third term. Ahead of the 1940 Democratic Convention, political insiders questioned whether Roosevelt would make a wartime push for the presidency or cede his push to allow other esteemed members of the party, such as Postmaster General James Farley and Roosevelt’s own Vice President John Nance Garner, to run their own campaigns. At the convention just a week after the printing of this front page, Roosevelt made his intentions known to run for a third term and was roundly accepted by the Democratic Party. When he was formally elected in 1941, Roosevelt dumped Garner in favor of former Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace.

Several conflicts in the summer of 1940 – chiefly the Battle of France, which resulted in areas of France falling under German and Italian control – led to one of the first instances of a peacetime draft in the United States. President Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 on Sept. 16, 1940, which required men between 21 and 36 years of age to register. When the United States officially entered the war, the age range was extended to include men 18 to 45.

Though several skirmishes would occur before the United States officially entered the war, the first American military casualty occurred on April 21, 1940. Aeronautical meteorologist Robert Losey was in Norway to study the meteorological effects of the war but was diverted to assist other Americans across the Swedish border in the lead-up to a German Luftwaffe bombing mission. While taking shelter in a tunnel, a bomb was dropped that shot fragments of shrapnel everywhere, including through Losey’s heart, killing him.

On a more hopeful note, it was reported in the New Era that the Lancaster Rotary Club would be reaching out to the Lancaster, England, Rotary Club with an offer to take in children “so long as war clouds and the threat of German invasion hangs heavily over the British Isles.” At the time, Lancaster, England, was considered an area particularly vulnerable for air attacks. Despite the respective Rotary Clubs exchanging correspondence for several months throughout 1940, the idea was formally vetoed by the English Rotary Club president J. Allan Watts in November. In a letter of explanation, Watts said that the risks associated with crossing the ocean were greater than the danger of bombings at home.