The 20th century Triple Crown winners came along in years of world-historical import. Here’s just a snapshot of some of the major events in Triple Crown years.

1919 – Sir Barton

  • Post-World War I Paris Peace Conference begins; Treaty of Versailles signed
  • President Woodrow Wilson suffers a debilitating stroke campaigning for the treaty
  • Prohibition and women’s right to vote on way to 1920 implementation
  • Spanish flu pandemic recedes by summer; society racked by Red Scare, bombings, racial strife

1930 – Gallant Fox

  • Great Depression marked by increasing bank failures and unemployment
  • President Herbert Hoover signs the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act despite warnings from economists
  • Discovery of Pluto as the last planet in the solar system (later demoted to ‘dwarf planet’)
  • London Naval Conference compromises to increase Japan’s ratio of certain classes of ships

1935 – Omaha

  • Social Security established as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal
  • Term “Dust Bowl” coined as topsoil blows away throughout the drought-stricken heartland
  • Hitler defies Versailles Treaty by rearming, escalates persecution of German Jews
  • Mussolini’s Italy invades Ethiopia

1937 – War Admiral

  • Pope Pius XI condemns Nazism as well as atheistic Communism in major encyclicals
  • Fiery crash of the Hindenburg airship
  • Amelia Earhart, in midst of her flight around the world, vanishes over the Pacific
  • FDR’s “court-packing plan,” after Supreme Court struck down New Deal legislation, is thwarted
  • Japan invades China in a prelude to World War II
1941 – Whirlaway

  • Hitler besieges both ends of Europe, bombing Britain in “the Blitz” and invading the Soviet Union
  • U.S., “the arsenal of democracy,” gives Britain material support through the Lend-Lease program
  • FDR and Winston Churchill articulate vision of postwar international order in Atlantic Charter
  • Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor plunges U.S. into total warfare of WWII

1943 – Count Fleet

  • Kentucky Derby almost canceled due to wartime restrictions including gas rationing
  • Warsaw Ghetto uprising put down by the Nazis
  • The U.S. and British take North Africa and invade Italy
  • Germans surrender Stalingrad as Soviet forces continue to advance
  • John F. Kennedy, fighting in the Pacific, helps rescue crew after sinking of PT-109

1946 – Assault

  • Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech sounds the alarm about Soviet activity, heralds the Cold War
  • Nuremberg Trials conclude with conviction, execution of Nazi war criminals
  • Atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll
  • President Harry S Truman deals with railway, coal strikes

1948 – Citation

  • Truman wins Presidential election despite fractured Democratic Party
  • Truman issues Executive Order to desegregate armed forces
  • South Africa formalizes segregation through apartheid
  • Gandhi assassinated in India
  • Marshall Plan begins providing aid to war-decimated Western Europe
  • Soviets blockade West Berlin; U.S., Britain counter with Berlin Airlift to keep replenishing supplies
  • State of Israel established; war breaks out with Arab states

1973 – Secretariat

  • President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal intensifies as Senate hearings begin
  • Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns in scandal unrelated to Watergate
  • U.S. ends involvement in Vietnam following Paris Peace Accords
  • Pinochet regime seizes power in Chile after coup against Salvador Allende
  • Yom Kippur War brings OPEC oil embargo, ensuing energy crisis

1977 – Seattle Slew

  • President Jimmy Carter offers to pardon those who dodged the Vietnam draft
  • Panama Canal treaties signed, providing for ultimate return to Panama
  • New York City endures 25-hour blackout July 13
  • Elvis Presley dies

1978 – Affirmed

  • Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla elected Pope John Paul II after brief pontificate of John Paul I
  • Camp David Accords signify breakthrough for peace between Egypt and Israel
  • U.S., People's Republic of China announce diplomatic relations
  • Pro-Soviet coup in Afghanistan sets in motion chain of events leading to 1979 invasion by USSR

21st century - American Pharoah and Justify

Since we’ve just lived through American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), future historians will have a better perspective to offer context. At this writing, the American political scene roiled by the candidacy and then Presidency of Donald Trump looms large. On the international front, the ISIS caliphate’s terror campaign stands out in 2015, while in 2018, the world was gripped by the dramatic rescue of the boys’ soccer team stranded in the cave in Thailand.