Now that amateur data miners are getting a chance to pick through the 1940 Census, this rare glimpse back into the lives of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents could bring a renewed interest in their lives lived outside of the census-taker’s paper — including music, art and fashion. Could the 1940s make a cultural comeback?

In this photo provided by the National Archives at College Park, an enumerator, left, interviews a family outside a rail car for the 1940 Census. (AP/AP)


Women wore knee-length skirts (making a comeback this year as “the midi”!), sweetheart and necklines, oxford shoes and loafers (also popular these days), small hats and subdued colors. Couldn’t you see a version of the dresses below at your local Anthropologie?

An enumerator interviews a woman for the 1940 Census. (AP/AP)


Big Band music like the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Bing Crosby and Artie Shaw reigned the (few and limited, in those days) charts. Another popular song from a hit movie that year — “When You Wish Upon a Star,” from Disney’s Pinocchio — was recorded by Cliff Edwards, who provided the voice for Jiminy Cricket.


• In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American actor to ever take home an Oscar, at the 12th Academy Awards, which honored the previous year’s films.

• “The Philadelphia Story” is released, later earning James Stewart a best-actor Oscar.

• “Rebecca” is released, later taking the award for best picture.


Notable artists working in the 1940s included:

Edward Hopper:

Edward Hopper. "Dawn in Pennsylvania," 1942. Oil on canvas. Terra Museum of American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collections. (Terra Museum of American Art/Chicago/Art Resource, NY)

Jackson Pollock:

Jackson Pollock, “Untitled,” c. 1945, pen and black ink on brown paper prepared with yellow gouache. (National Gallery of Art/Leonard R. Stachura Fund)

William de Kooning:

Willem de Kooning, "Seated Woman." c. 1940. Oil and charcoal on Masonite. (Copyright 2011 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/© THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART)

Others include Andrew Wyeth, Arshille Gorky, Joan Miro (subject of an upcoming show at the National Gallery), Mark Rothko and Norman Rockwell.