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Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 marked the beginning of the Second World War. The War brought economic growth in the early 1940s, but a temporary halt to non-military production. When the war ended in 1945, the world's nations set out to painfully rebuild economies, cities and lives. Countries across the world, including Canada and the United States, conducted significant research and development during the war to improve weapons and vehicles. Much of this research was used in peace time to develop new technologies for everyday life. Commercial aviation benefitted from radar, which had been used in aircrafts and ships, and from mobile radio communications, used in emergency vehicles, as well as pressurized air cabins, now available in civilian airliners. Microwave technology was re-worked to be used in a modern time-saving device: the microwave oven. Approximately 1,120,000 vehicles were sold in Canada during this decade.


The 1941 Dodge D19S Luxury Liner Special with Chrysler's 'Fluid Drive' transmission


Dodge automobiles are now equipped with Chrysler's "Fluid Drive" transmissions.

Since most automakers had switched to wartime production during the Second World War, the changes in Dodge from 1940 to 1941 were mainly cosmetic. One of the few mechanical changes was Chrysler's Fluid-Drive, which was now available as an option on Dodges for the first time. Fluid Drive served to minimize the use of the clutch on a manual transmission, making acceleration smoother with less vibration, and was a predecessor to the fully automatic transmission. This model was built in Canada.

Photo: Reynolds-Alberta Museum I.C.96.24.1

The 1947 Cadillac was considered to be the most attractive of those produced in the 1940s and was especially popular among Hollywood celebrities.


The 1947 Cadillac is the last model released before the introduction of the distinctive tail-fin feature in 1948.

The post-war Cadillac design benefitted from the company's war time experience of building light tanks and motorized gun carriers. The car's parts and systems were improved and strengthened for reliability and performance for civilian use. The post 1947 Cadillac's tail-fin feature was inspired by aircraft design.

Photo: Canada Science and Technology Museum 1977.0613

The 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster


The 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster sells for between $1200 and $1,900 new.

In the years following WWII, there was little new civilian vehicle design. However, consumers were ready to purchase cars, even if the design was very similar to that of pre-war vehicles. The 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster was a worked over version of the 1942 Fleetmaster. 264,584 were produced.

Photo: Canada Science and Technology Museum 1970.0104

The 1947 Chrysler C39 Convertible


Chrysler cars offer post-war consumers durable, comfortable family cars.

The Chrysler C39 in the collection of the Canada Science and Technology Museum is one of two survivors of the original twenty-four cars that were produced for the Canadian market.

Photo: Canada Science and Technology Museum 1976.0356

In The News

Troops of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders going ashore from LCI 299 (left) at Bernières-sur-mer, Normandy


On June 6th—known as "D-Day"—the Allied forces of Great Britain, Canada, and the United States attack German forces on the beaches in Normandy, France.

In a carefully coordinated effort involving attacks from land, sea, and air, Allied forces breached "Fortress Europe," and broke through German lines defending the coast. It was an important victory for the Allies, one which gave them a foothold in Europe. Approximately 14,000 Canadians participated in the Normandy campaign. Of those, some 5,000 were killed. 359 died on D-Day alone.

Photo: 6 June 1944
Gilbert A. Milne / Canada Dept of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-137013

The Trinity explosion rises over the desert.


On July 16th, 1945, the United States military tests the first atomic bomb in New Mexico.

The United States, in collaboration with Great Britain and Canada, secretly worked on the development of an atomic bomb, referred to as the Manhattan Project. The test in New Mexico was called Trinity, named by the lead scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, after a poem by the 17th century English poet, John Donne. Shortly after this test, the U.S. military decided to use the atomic bomb against Japan with the goal of forcing a Japanese surrender. On August 6th, the first bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, and a second bomb hit Nagasaki on August 9th. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed in the bombings, or died of injuries and radiation sickness in the aftermath.

Video: 16 July 1945
U.S. Department of Energy

Signing of the Trans-Canada Highway agreement, in the Railway Committee Room of the Parliament Building


Parliament passes the Trans-Canada Highway Act, which ensures cost sharing between the federal government and the provinces for a highway that would join all the provinces of Canada.

The Trans-Canada highway is one of the world's longest highways at 8,030 km, and extends from Newfoundland in the east to Vancouver Island in the west. Construction began in 1950, and the first section was opened by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1962. The final section was added in 1971.

Photo: 1949
National Film Board of Canada, Library and Archives Canada, PA-196291

Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and Hon. A.J. Walsh shake hands following the signing of the agreement admitting Newfoundland to Confederation.  Ottawa, Ontario.


Newfoundland becomes Canada's 10th province.

Previously a dominion separate from Canada with ties to Great Britain, Newfoundland did not join Confederation easily. There was significant opposition to the idea of joining Canada but Joey Smallwood, who supported the union and who would become the province's first premier, won the day. Two referenda were held in 1948—the first gave the anti-Confederation side more votes, but not a plurality. The second referendum gave the Confederation side enough votes to accept Canada's offer and Newfoundland became the 10th province.

Photo: December 1948
National Film Board of Canada/ Library and Archives Canada / PA-133280

Pop Culture

“Just Married”


The average cost of a new car is $850 and the average annual salary is $1,900.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the price of a new car was less than half of the average annual salary. The shift to a wartime economy created economic growth, more employment and greater incomes. This growth made automobiles increasingly more affordable and would help to usher in the car culture of the post-1950s.

Photo: 1942
City of Edmonton Archives EA-160-898

Canada's first Drive In Theater, the Skyway, was opened in 1946 and closed in 1970.


Canada's first drive-in theatre opens in Stoney Creek, Ontario and has room for 750 cars.

The popularity of drive-in theatres peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, when most Canadian cities had at least one drive-in. A reflection of North America's love affair with the automobile, drive-in theatres offered in-car speakers, snack concessions and, perhaps most importantly, privacy for teenagers on date night. Starting in the 1970s, the large areas of land used by drive-ins had become valuable for real estate development, and the decline of the drive-in theatre began. Drive-ins still exist today, but are mostly a novelty.

Photo: Courtesy of the Erland Lee Museum

Photo of the Baby computer


Researchers at Victoria University in Manchester, England, build the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, or "The Baby," which is believed to be the first operable electronic digital computer that stored its programs internally.

"The Baby" was built using metal office racks and hundreds of valves or vacuum tubes. The keyboard was a series of buttons and switches. The machine was not portable—it took up a whole room—and information was read directly off a cathode ray tube.

Photo: ca. 1948
University of Manchester

The De Havilland Comet was the world's first commercial jet airliner


The first commercial jet airliner flies for the first time.

The world's first commercial jet airliner, the 36-seat Comet 1, made by De Havilland, flies for the first time on July 27.

Photo: Airline History Website