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1937 (MCMXXXVII) was a common year starting on Friday (dominical letter C) of the Gregorian calendar, the 1937th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 937th year of the 2nd millennium, the 37th year of the 20th century, and the 8th year of the 1930s decade.
- March – The first issue of Detective Comics is published in the United States. It goes on to become the longest continually published comic book in American history; it is still published as of 2015 .
- March 10 (dated March 14 (Passion Sunday)) – The encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With burning concern") of Pope Pius XI is published in Germany in the German language. Largely the work of Cardinals von Faulhaber and Pacelli, it condemns breaches of the 1933 Reichskonkordat agreement signed between the Nazi government and the Catholic Church, and criticises Nazism's views on race and other matters incompatible with Catholicism.
- March 17 – The Atherton Report (private investigator Edwin Atherton's report detailing vice and police corruption in San Francisco) is released.
- March 18 – New London School explosion: In the worst school disaster in American history in terms of lives lost, the New London School in New London, Texas, suffers a catastrophic natural gas explosion, killing in excess of 295 students and teachers. Mother Frances Hospital opens in Tyler, Texas, a day ahead of schedule in response to the explosion.
- March 19 – The encyclical Divini Redemptoris of Pope Pius XI, critical of communism, is published.
- March 21
- March 26
- The Dáil Éireann passes the Executive Authority (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937, which abolishes the office of Governor-General of the Irish Free State, retrospectively dated to December 1936.
- 17 million unemployed in the USA.
- May 1 – A general strike occurs in Paris, France.
- May 6 – Hindenburg disaster: In the United States, the German airship Hindenburg bursts into flame when mooring to a mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Of the 36 passengers and 61 crew on board, 13 passengers and 22 crew die, as well as one member of the ground crew.
- May 7 – Spanish Civil War: The German Condor Legion Fighter Group, equipped with Heinkel He 51 biplanes, arrives in Spain to assist Francisco Franco's forces.
- May 12 – The coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth takes place at Westminster Abbey, London.
- May 21
- A Soviet station becomes the first scientific research settlement to operate on the drift ice of the Arctic Ocean.
- As one of the reprisals for the attempted assassination of Italian viceroy Rodolfo Graziani, a detachment of Italian troops massacres the entire community of Debre Libanos, killing 297 monks and 23 laymen.
- May 27 – In California, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic, creating a vital link between San Francisco and Marin County. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button in Washington, D.C., signaling the start of vehicle traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge.
- May 28 – Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
- May 28 – In Germany Volkswagen Group is founded, to build a "people's car". A new town is set to be created to house the thousands of workers who will be involved in the production of the car.
- May 30
- July 1
- July 2
- July 4 – The Lost Colony historical drama is first performed at an outdoor theater in the location where it is set, Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
- July 5
- The canned precooked meat product Spam is introduced by the Hormel company in the United States
- The highest recorded temperature in Canada, at Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan, is 45 °C (113 °F).
- July 7
- July 9 – The silent film archives of Fox Film Corporation are destroyed by the 1937 Fox vault fire.
- July 11 – American popular composer George Gershwin dies in Los Angeles of a brain tumor, age 38.
- July 20 – The Geibeltbad Pirna is opened in Dresden, Germany.
- July 21 – Éamon de Valera is elected President of the Executive Council (prime minister) of the Irish Free State by the Dáil (parliament).
- July 22 – New Deal: The United States Senate votes down President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court of the United States.
- July 24 – Alabama drops rape charges against the so-called Scottsboro Boys.
- July 25–31 – Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Beiping–Tianjin, a series of actions fought around Beiping and Tianjin, resulting in Japanese victory.
- July 28 – The Irish Republican Army attempts the assassination by bomb of George VI in Belfast.
- July 29 – Tungchow Mutiny: units of the East Hopei Army mutiny and kill Japanese troops and civilians in Tōngzhōu.
- July 31 – NKVD operative order 00447 «Об операции по репрессированию бывших кулаков, уголовников и других антисоветских элементов» ("The operation for repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements") is approved by the Politburo of the Soviet Union, initially as a 4-month plan for 75,950 people to be executed and an additional 193,000 to be sent to the Gulag.
- August 2 – The Marihuana Tax Act Pub. 238, 75th Congress, 50 Stat. 551 (Aug. 2, 1937), is a significant bill on the path that will lead to the criminalization of cannabis. It was introduced to U.S. Congress by Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. (The Act is now commonly referred to using the modern spelling as the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.)
- August 5 – The Soviet Union commences one of the largest campaigns of the Great Purge, to "eliminate anti-Soviet elements." Within the following year, at least 724,000 people are killed on order of the troikas, directed by Joseph Stalin. This was an offensive that targeted social classes (such as the kulaks), ethnic or racial backgrounds which were seen as non-Russian, and Stalin's personal opponents from the Communist Party and their sympathizers.
- August 6 – Spanish Civil War: Falangist artillery bombards Madrid.
- August 8 – Japan occupies Beijing.
- August 14 – The Battle of Shanghai.
- August 26 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Japanese aircraft attack the car carrying the ambassador of Great Britain during a raid on Shanghai.
- September 2 – The Great Hong Kong Typhoon kills an estimated 11,000 persons.
- September 5 – Spanish Civil War: The city of Llanes falls to the Falangists.
- September 7 – CBS broadcasts a two-and-a-half hour memorial concert nationwide on radio in memory of George Gershwin, live from the Hollywood Bowl. Many celebrities appear, including Oscar Levant, Fred Astaire, Otto Klemperer, Lily Pons and members of the original cast of Porgy and Bess. The concert is recorded and released complete years later in what is excellent sound for its time, on CD. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is the featured orchestra.
- September 10 – Nine nations meet in the Nyon Conference, led by the United Kingdom and France, to address international piracy in the Mediterranean.
- September 17 – Abraham Lincoln's head is dedicated at Mount Rushmore.
- September 19 – Swiss professional ice hockey club HC Ambrì-Piotta founded.
- September 21 – George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London publishes the first edition of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.
- September 25 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Pingxingguan: The Communist Chinese National Revolutionary Army defeats the Japanese.
- September 27 – The last Bali tiger dies.
- December 4 – The Dandy comic is first published in Scotland; it will still be running as of 2011 .
- December 11 – Italy withdraws from the League of Nations.
- December 12
- USS Panay incident: Japanese bombers sink the American gunboat USS Panay.
- Mae West makes a risqué guest appearance on NBC's Chase and Sanborn Hour, which eventually results in her being banned from radio.
- December 13 – Second Sino-Japanese War: The Battle of Nanking ends with the Japanese occupying the city. In the Nanking Massacre which follows, Japanese soldiers kill over 300,000 Chinese in 3 months.
- December 16 – The original production of the musical Me and My Girl opens at the West End Victoria Palace Theatre in London. A later revival of this musical would win an award.
- December 21 – Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length traditionally animated film, premieres in selected theaters.
- December 25 – At the age of 70, legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini conducts the NBC Symphony Orchestra on radio for the first time, beginning his successful 17-year tenure with that orchestra. This first concert consists of music by Vivaldi (at a time when he is seldom played), Mozart, and Brahms. Millions tune in to listen, including U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- December 29 – The new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) comes into force. The Irish Free State becomes "Ireland", and Éamon de Valera becomes the first Taoiseach (prime minister) of the new state. A Presidential Commission (made up the Chief Justice, the Speaker of Dáil Éireann, and the President of the High Court) assumes the powers of the new presidency, pending the popular election of the first President of Ireland in June 1938. The new constitution prohibits divorce.
- January 1 – Anne Aubrey, English actress
- January 4
- January 6
- January 8 – Dame Shirley Bassey, Welsh singer
- January 13
- January 14
- January 15 – Margaret O'Brien, American child actress
- January 16 – Francis George, American cardinal (d. 2015)
- January 18
- January 19 – Giovanna Marini, Italian singer-songwriter
- January 21 – Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria, heir to the Bavarian Royal House
- January 22 – Joseph Wambaugh, American author
- January 25 – Ange-Félix Patassé, former President of Central African Republic (d. 2011)
- January 27 – John Ogdon, English pianist (d. 1989)
- January 29 – Bobby Scott, American musician, producer and songwriter (d. 1990)
- January 30
- January 31
- March 2 – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria
- March 4
- March 5 – Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria
- March 6 – Valentina Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut, first woman in space
- March 8 – Juvénal Habyarimana, President of Rwanda (d. 1994)
- March 9 – Harry Neale, Canadian ice hockey coach and broadcaster
- March 14 – Benny Paret, Cuban welterweight boxer (d. 1962)
- March 15 – Valentin Rasputin, Russian writer (d. 2015)
- March 17 – Frank Calabrese, Sr., American gangster in the Chicago Outfit (d. 2012)
- March 20 – Jerry Reed, American country musician (d. 2008)
- March 22 – Armin Hary, German athlete
- March 23 – Craig Breedlove, American race car driver
- March 27 – Thomas Aquinas Daly, American painter
- March 30 – Warren Beatty, American actor and director
- April 5 – Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State
- April 6
- April 9 – Valerie Singleton, English television presenter
- April 10 – Bella Akhmadulina, Russian poet (d. 2010)
- April 15 – Robert W. Gore, American inventor
- April 16 – George "The Animal" Steele, American professional wrestler
- April 17
- April 18 – Jan Kaplický, British architect of Czech origin (d. 2009)
- April 19
- April 20 – George Takei, Japanese American actor, director and author
- April 22 – Jack Nicholson, American film actor
- April 26 – Jean-Pierre Beltoise, French race car driver (d. 2015)
- April 27
- April 28 – Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq (d. 2006)
- April 29 – Jill Paton Walsh, English novelist
- May 1 – Una Stubbs, British actress
- May 2 – Gisela Elsner, German writer (d. 1992)
- May 3 – Hans Cieslarczyk, German football player
- May 4 – Ron Carter, American jazz musician
- May 5 – Trần Đức Lương, President of Vietnam
- May 6 – Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, American boxer (d. 2014)
- May 8
- May 12 – George Carlin, American comedian (d. 2008)
- May 13
- May 15
- May 16 – Yvonne Craig, American actress (d. 2015)
- May 17 – Hazel O'Leary, U.S. Secretary of Energy
- May 18
- May 21
- May 24 – Roger Peterson, pilot who flew the plane on The Day the Music Died (d. 1959)
- June 1
- June 2 – Sally Kellerman, American actress
- June 3
- June 4 – Gorilla Monsoon, American professional wrestler and announcer (d. 1999)
- June 7 –
- June 8 – Toni Harper, American child singer
- June 9 – Harald Rosenthal, German biologist
- June 10 – Luciana Paluzzi, Italian actress
- June 11 – Robin Warren, Australian pathologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- June 15
- June 16
- June 18
- June 19 – André Glucksmann, French philosopher and author (d. 2015)
- June 23 – Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland
- June 25 – Keizō Obuchi, 54th Prime Minister of Japan (d. 2000)
- June 26 – Robert Coleman Richardson, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)
- June 28 – Ron Luciano, American baseball umpire and writer (d. 1995)
- August 2 – Coenraad Bron, Dutch computer scientist (d. 2006)
- August 4 – David Bedford, American musician (d. 2011)
- August 5 – Herb Brooks, American hockey coach (d. 2003)
- August 6 – Barbara Windsor, English actress
- August 8 – Dustin Hoffman, American actor
- August 14 – Alberta Nelson, American actress (d. 2006)
- August 16 – David Anderson, Canadian politician
- August 18
- August 20
- August 21
- August 26
- August 27 – Alice Coltrane, American jazz harpist, organist, pianist and composer (d. 2007)
- August 29 – James Florio, Governor of New Jersey
- August 30 – Bruce McLaren, Founder of McLaren Racing (d. 1970)
- August 31 – Bobby Parker (guitarist), from USA (d. 2013)
- Cathie Jung, owner of the smallest waist on a living person (measuring just 15 in.).
- March 8 – Howie Morenz, Canadian ice hockey player (b. 1902)
- March 9 – Paul Elmer More, American critic and essayist (b. 1864)
- March 11 – Joseph S. Cullinan, American oil industrialist, founder of Texaco (b. 1860)
- March 12 – Charles-Marie Widor, French organist and composer (b. 1840)
- March 15 – H. P. Lovecraft, American writer (b. 1890)
- March 17 – Austen Chamberlain, English statesman, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1863)
- March 20 – Harry Vardon, English golf professional (b. 1870)
- March 22
- March 29 – Karol Szymanowski, Polish composer (b. 1882)
- April 10 – Ralph Ince, American film director (b. 1887)
- April 14 – Ned Hanlon, American baseball manager and MLB Hall of Famer (b. 1857)
- April 16 – Jay Johnson Morrow, American military engineer and politician, 3rd Governor of the Panama Canal Zone (b. 1870)
- April 19 – William Martin Conway, British art critic and mountaineer (b. 1856)
- April 19 – William Morton Wheeler, American entomologist (b. 1865)
- April 21 – Saima Harmaja, Finnish poet (b. 1913)
- April 22 – Arthur Edmund Carewe, Armenian-American actor (b. 1884)
- April 24 – Lucy Beaumont, English actress (b. 1873)
- April 25 – Michał Drzymała, Polish rebel (b. 1857)
- April 27 – Antonio Gramsci, Italian Communist writer and politician (b. 1891)
- April 29
- Paul Behncke, German admiral (b. 1869)
- The 300,000 Chinese in Nanking, the Capital of China.