Fist Of History

Posts Tagged ‘1937’

Packing the Court – the Judical Procedures Reform Bill of 1937

Monday, April 6th, 2015


So it is 1936 and you are President Roosevelt, you just won an incredible ass-kicking of a re-election campaign, the country is slowly lumbering towards something resembling economic recovery, but you want to do more.  Beyond that, several critical pieces of legislature that make up part of your legislative reform efforts, commonly known as the New Deal, were up for review by the Supreme Court only a year ago and they got significantly spanked, specifically the Court sharply limits your ability to remove people from appointed offices that disagree with you, shuts down a key piece of bankruptcy protection law that shields debtors from banks, and crushed your National Industrial Recovery Act.  To add further insult to injury all three rulings were read on the same day, 27 May 1935, to increase the public attention and humiliation factor.


Now the first option would be to accept these setbacks with quiet dignity and attempt a new method of achieving the same legislative ends.  The problem with that is it would take time, the cooperation of Congress, and would still face the same Supreme Court that was hostile to your earlier efforts.  Alternatively you could take a new approach and attempt to exercise the power that Congress has over the Supreme Court, specifically its power to shape the Supreme Court, including defining how large it was.  Hence Roosevelt’s 1937 Judicial Procedures Reform Act, which at its heart allowed the President of the United States to appoint additional judges to the Supreme Court, subject to Congressional approval, beyond the current nine, with a maximum allowable addition of six extra judges.  However there was a caveat, new judges could only be appointed at the rate of one per judge who was older then 70 years and six months of age – i.e. for every “old fuddy judge who doesn’t like the New Deal” you can appoint a new shiny younger judge who will probably be open to the new ideas of the New Deal.

roosevelt fireside

Roosevelt attempted to win the American public to his legislative reform ideas with a fireside chat on 9 March 1937 and Congress took up the legislation for debate, however from the start his idea was not warmly received.  Republican opponents referred to it as an effort to “pack the Court” and key members of the Democratic party, both party bosses and members of Congress, found the bill a distasteful effort by the President to exert undue influence on the Supreme Court.  It was killed in the House, in Committee, and also failed in the Senate due to vigorous opposition from the Republicans.

In the end, the effort failed, however later in 1937 the Court was more open to New Deal legislation and, in general, the Supreme Court’s justices stated that most of the problems with the New Deal legislation they dealt with was due to it being poorly written, and far too broad, rather than conceptual issues.

For those curious about applicability, if that bill was in force today the President would be able to appoint four additional justices, if those slots had not already been filled.

Sources:  Wikipedia article on the Judicial Procedure Reform Act of 1937

World War II and Hersheys Chocolate

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014


World War II was a time of considerable logistical challenges, the United States had to develop entirely new methods of meeting the fuel, ammunition, clothing, and food needs for a larger field army than it had ever previously assembled as well as finding enough additional capacity in the economy to provide military supplies for its own Navy, Air Force, and the military forces of most of the other nations engaged in hostilities.  One of the challenges that the U.S. military in particular wanted to address was how to turn chocolate bars, produced by the Hershey corporation, from simply a dessert item into a special emergency food ration that could meet a soldiers daily caloric needs.  The U.S. military in the late 1930s anticipated a major conflict was coming and many of its branches began some quiet planning in anticipation of the conflict.  This pre-planning led to a key meeting in 1937 between Captain Paul Logan (U.S. Army Quartermaster General’s office), William Murrie (President, Hershey Foods Corporation), and Sam Hinkle (Chief Chemist, Hershey Foods Corporation.)  A series of specifications were developed for this new food, specifically:

  • The chocolate bar emergency ration must weigh a maximum of four (4) ounces
  • The chocolate bar emergency ration must have a high caloric value
  • The chocolate bar emergency ration must be able to withstand high temperatures
  • The chocolate bar emergency ration must have no more flavor than “a boiled potato”

The last requirement was considered absolutely vital so that the soldiers did not actually eat the emergency ration as a treat but instead saved it until they were ordered to consume it.  Hershey’s was proud to assist the U.S. Army in its planning and successfully developed this product, from a combination of:  chocolate liquor, sugar, skim milk powder, cocoa butter, oat flour, vanillin (an extract of the vanilla plant.)  Testing showed the product in its initial configuration met the first three requirements but not the last, so Hinkle kept cutting the sugar and replacing it with oat powder until the right lack of flavor was achieved.


The creation was listed as the D Ration Bar.  Hershey produced a limited stockpile of them for the Army and with the outbreak of war in 1941 the U.S. Army ordered a vastly expanded amount of these ration bars along with issuing extremely detailed instructions on how to package the rations against possible gas attack.  (Very detailed, it involved special wrapping, sealing, and shipping rules.)  This wonder of food could be used in almost any climate in the world, provided 600 calories per 4 ounce bar, and soldiers could eat three of them a day to meet their minimum caloric intake needs.  They even had a special vitamin shot of B1 worked into the formula to hold off certain tropical diseases.  There was only a couple of minor problems that the Army considered irrelevant, trivial matters.  Mainly, the average U.S. Army solder hated Ration D bars with a passion one normally reserved for someone actively shooting at you.

First the D Ration bars did not have the flavor level of a “boiled potato” but instead had a more nuanced flavor that soldiers described as “bitter.”  No additional words, just “bitter”, apparently a point many of them brought up in their post-war memoirs.  Another problem was the bars were extremely hard, to the point that soldiers with any sort of tooth issues simply couldn’t eat them and even soldiers with excellent teeth resorted to the “shaving off small bits of the bar to eat” solution to the problem.  When issued the D Ration bars soldiers often tossed them away rather than carry them or traded them to individuals unaware of their lack of flavor for more palatable foodstuffs.  Following traditional economic models apparently as knowledge of the D Ration’s unique flavor and mouth-feel spread the trade market for them would crash.

Post World War II the D Ration was discontinued as the Army found it “obsolete” however I personally wonder if it was also just because too many serviceman complained about it.

In 1943 the Army also asked the Hershey corporation to develop a special “jungle chocolate bar” that could withstand higher temperatures but actually tasted like chocolate.  Hershey was successful however soldiers still found the hardness of the item a major challenge.  However the “Jungle Bar” has the distinction of getting to ride, in 1971, to the Moon with the Apollo landings.

Source:  Hershey Community Archives entry on World War II chocolate, Wikipedia entries on United States military chocolate and United States military rations

Tupolev ANT-25 – record setting flight of 1937

Monday, June 9th, 2014


Meet the Tupolev ANT-25, an experimental aircraft developed by the U.S.S.R. in the early 1930s as part of a broader Soviet effort to fund, and expand, the position of the Soviet Union as an aircraft development powerhouse.  The Tupolev ANT-25 was developed on a recommendation by Soviet planners that a long distance aircraft be created to close the distances within the U.S.S.R.  The ANT-25 was able to successfully fly initially between Moscow and Kharkov, a total distance of 7,500 miles, which for technical reasons was not considered a record setting flight at the time.  As a combination publicity stunt and proof-of-concept the Soviet Union’s leadership decided to send the ANT-25 on an over-the-pole flight from Moscow to San Francisco.


Between 18 to 20 June 1937 the ANT-25 successfully made the flight from Moscow, over the North Pole, over Canada, and then entered into U.S. territory passing over Seattle.  Due to weather and the demands of the flight though the crew was not able to make it to San Francisco and instead had to land in Vancouver at an airbase.  They were welcomed as heroes by the local population and vetted as heroes throughout the U.S. as a result of the flight, including a heroes welcome in New York and guests at a major speech by Franklin Roosevelt to commemorate the event.  However in private within the U.S. the reaction was not as pleasant, the U.S.S.R. had just exhibited an incredible level of aircraft design and skill and FDR wanted to find out why the U.S. aircraft development was not as sophisticated.  The U.S. military leadership did not have a response at the time, however other forces would work to end the U.S.S.R.’s advantage in aircraft research and design.

The popular reaction included optimism that this flight represented but the first step in both nations crossing the pole regularly in airplanes and Popular Mechanics speculated that soon air mail service between both countries would be established.


Those forces were mainly Joseph Stalin, who decided in part of his normal fits of paranoia that the aircraft designers who were responsible for creating wonders like the Tupolev ANT-25 were actually working to undermine his rule and the Soviet Union.  The aircraft development program was shuttered for several critical years and the designers shipped out to the Russian Far East to spend time in prison camps.  It wasn’t until the outbreak of World War II and the German air force’s initial crushing victory over the Soviet air force that the imprisoned designers were taken out of prison and pushed into a crash development effort to improve Soviet aircraft.

Sources:  Wikipedia entry on Tupolev ANT-25, Popular Mechanics article on the Tupolev ANT-25, Russian President’s Archive article on the Tupolev ANT-25