The Year Was 1947

Hollywood screen writers and directors walk up steps of federal court, Washington, D.C. (from Library of Congress Photo Collection at year was 1947 and the effects of World War II were still being felt. The Cold War had begun, and in 1947, Communists took control of both Poland and Hungary. Much of Europe had been devastated by the war. Economies were in ruins and hunger and desperation fed the general discontent. With the balance of power in Europe in play, the United States and Russia were in a stand-off.

At a commencement ceremony at Harvard University, George C. Marshall proposed an economic aid program that would lead to recovery with the Western European governments that chose to accept it. The Marshall Plan, as it became known, dispensed today’s equivalent of $17 billion to the countries that chose to accept it and allowed democracy to keep a hold on much of Western Europe.

The “Red Scare” made it to the United States as the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) launched an investigation of the movie industry. Following inquiries with industry insiders, nineteen people were named as having communist views. Ten of these people refused to cooperate, citing their First Amendment rights and became known as the “Hollywood Ten.” They were blacklisted in response to their refusal to cooperate. 

In Canada, a blizzard swept in on 30 January and lasted ten days, burying towns from Calgary to Winnipeg and shutting down some railroads until spring. 

In Wisconsin, a blizzard dumped 18.1 inches of snow and ten-foot drifts were created by sixty-mile-an-hour winds. You can read reminiscences from that storm on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website.  There’s also a photo gallery from the storm online at

That year also saw the coldest temperature recorded in North America at Snag, Yukon–63 degrees below zero. Brrr!

In Texas, a man-made disaster unfolded on 16 April when the French freighter, the “Grandchamp,” loaded with ammonium nitrate exploded in a Texas City slip. That and the explosion of a ship in an adjoinging slip caused significant property damage and the “Grandchamp” explosion killed 568 people, and it’s estimated that 3,500 more were injured, making this the worst industrial disaster in U.S. history. 

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9 thoughts on “The Year Was 1947

  1. Considering what is going on in the world today something that happened in 1947 sure seems like news to me.

    On 29 November 1947 the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, a plan to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict in the British Mandate of Palestine, was approved by the United Nations General Assembly.

    Much of what is transpiring today is a result of this major event, and it happened the year I was born.

  2. First of all it was the fifth amendment.They were charged with contempt of congress.Second it wasn’t their views of communism,they were card carrying members of the party.Like Larry Parks,Lucille Ball and others.There were at least 280 who were blacklisted.And it was not a red scare that we knew.It was a red menace.I was 10 years old at that time and have never forgotten it.

  3. I was interested in reading your article regarding the Texas City Disaster, as I was a high school student living in Texas City at that time. You incorrectly gave the name of the ship that exploded. It was the Grandcamp (not the Grandchamp). My uncle was among those killed at the Monsanto Company, but the rest of our family was spared. This is the 60th anniversary of the disaster, and each year, survivors are invited to pose for a photo.

  4. My husband’s family lived in Texas City at the time of the explosion and have many stories about it. His grandfather helped out and another Aunt and Uncle were killed as well as others in the family being affected. I’ve heard some interesting stories about it.

  5. Actually, the temp was -83 degrees, but was officially updated to -81.4 degrees F.
    The coldest recorded temp in the ‘lower 48 states’ is -70 at Rogers Pass near Helena, Montana in 1954.

  6. I find it strange that an 18 inch snowfall in Wisconsin is covered in this artile but the 24 plus inches that fell on New York City in December of 1947 is not mentioned.

  7. At the time of the Texas City explosion, I recall gathering around a radio (before TV or Cell phones) at high school in Houston, hoping to get some news from the scene. The fathers of some of my classmates were working at the dock site and no one except rescue personal was allowed in or out of the area. The fate of many was not known for days.

  8. Re Texas City. The accident happened when the crew of the ship closed all cargo hatches in hopes of putting out the fire. Instead, steam presure built up and caused the explosion. Nitraes do not burn by themselves IE Madison Wisc, Univ Wisconsin Library explosion.

  9. I was born in 1947. I remember growing up with the “Cold War” hanging over our heads everyday. As a young girl, I dreamed of war (still do occassionally). What they put in our minds!I remember being 5 y/o, 1952, and hiding under dining room table!

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