On This Day, Feb. 9, 1950 – McCarthyism Ushers in the Era of the Red Scare

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1950 – U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that the State Department was riddled with Communists. This was the beginning of McCarthyism, a period of intense anti-communism, also known as the Red Scare which occurred in the United States from 1948 to about 1956.

The word “McCarthyism” now carries connotations of false, even hysterical, accusation, and of government attacks on the political minority. From the viewpoint of the political and cultural elite, the suppression of radicalism and radical organizations in the United States was a struggle against a dangerous subversive element controlled by a foreign power that posed a real danger to the security of the country, thus justifying extreme, even extra-legal measures. From the radical viewpoint it can be seen as class warfare. From the viewpoint of the thousands of innocents who were caught up in the conflict it was a massive violation of civil and Constitutional rights.

One of the tools used was the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 which required Communists and Communist organizations to register with the federal government. The McCarran Act was gradually ruled unconstitutional in a series of Supreme Court decisions, beginning in 1964, and it was completely repealed in 1990. Another was the Smith Act of 1940, a federal criminal statute outlawing “advocacy of violent overthrow of the government.”

Under the Smith Act, the leadership of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party were prosecuted, as was the leader of the Communist Party, Eugene Dennis, and eleven members of the party’s National Committee. Since CPUSA had not explicitly advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, the prosecution was on somewhat shaky ground, and based its case against the party’s leaders on Communist works of literature they possessed. Instead of arguing this legal technicality, the CPUSA leadership denounced the law under which they were tried itself, a defence which failed. Others who were tried under the Smith Act in later years successfully based their defences on more technical grounds.

The Smith Act was declared unconstitutional in its full form by the Supreme Court in 1957, and limited to much more specific offences.


1825 – The U.S. House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams president. No candidate had received a majority of electoral votes.

1861 – The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America elected Jefferson Davis as its president.

1870 – The United States Weather Bureau was authorized by Congress. The bureau is officially known as the National Weather Service (NWS).

1884 – Thomas Edison and Patrick Kenny executed a patent application for a chemical recording stock quotation telegraph (U.S. Pat. 314,115).

1885 – The first Japanese arrived in Hawaii.

1895 – Volley Ball was invented by W.G. Morgan.

1895 – The first college basketball game was played as Minnesota State School of Agriculture defeated the Porkers of Hamline College, 9-3.

1900 – Dwight F. Davis put up a new tennis trophy to go to the winner in matches against England. The trophy was a silver cup that weighed 36 pounds.

1909 – The first forestry school was incorporated in Kent, Ohio.

1942 – The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff held its first formal meeting to coordinate military strategy during World War II.

1942 – Daylight-saving “War Time” went into effect in the U.S.

1943 – During World War II, the battle of Guadalcanal ended with an American victory over Japanese forces.

1953 – The movie “Superman” premiered.

1960 – A verbal agreement was reached between representatives of the American and National Football Leagues. Both agreed not to tamper with player contracts.

1960 – The first star was placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star was for Joanne Woodward.


1964 – The Beatles made the first of three record-breaking appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” 73 million people watched the show. It was their American TV debut.


1969 – The Boeing 747 flew its inaugural flight.

1971 – The San Fernando Valley experienced the Sylmar earthquake that registered 6.4 on the Richter Scale.

1971 – The Apollo 14 spacecraft returned to Earth after mankind’s third landing on the moon.

1975 – The Russian Soyuz 17 returned to Earth.

1997 – “The Simpsons” became the longest-running prime-time animated series. “The Flintstones” held the record previously.