My column in the Daily Beast: “Not Much Passes the 100-Year Test. Will Trump?”

In my time running SundayMagazine.org, it’s become increasingly apparent to me and my readers just how few of the most prominent people, places, and things from 100 years ago are still well remembered tgoday.

What does this insight reveal about who and what from this era might still be well remembered 100 years from now?

My prediction: despite how big the biggest people, places, and things seem to us at the moment, almost nothing and nobody lasts 100 years in the public’s consciousness.

Will Trump? Will Obama? Will 9/11? Will today’s technology? What about the biggest movies or songs?

I tackle these questions in my new opinion column for the Daily Beast: “Not Much Passes the 100-Year Test. Will Trump?”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/not-much-passes-the-100-year-test-will-trump

 

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

June 4th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?

Two months after the 18th Amendment established prohibition, this satire wondered how far the movement would go. Would Dickens and Shakespeare’s references to alcohol be expunged?

The losses would be appalling; Chaucer would be a walking casualty, Shakespeare a stretcher case, and the forces of Dickens would be decimated. Think of Mr. Pickwick bereft of the mellowing influence of punch! He would undergo a complete character transformation. Remembering the Cherryble Brothers, old Fezziwig, Mr. Micawber, Bob Cratchet at his humble Christmas dinner, and a score of others, one asks: “Can a Dickens character realize good cheer without the artificial aid of liquid inspiration?” The sheer capacity exhibited by Dickens’s world for exhilarating beverages suggests the principle of unlimited supply responding to the call of unceasing demand. Other times, other manners, indeed! Expurgate Dickens in terms of intoxicants and about the only unmangled characters will be Little Nell and Paul Dombey.

These fears went unrealized, as written references to alcohol were not removed. Indeed, even the most beloved book nearly a century later, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, would contain references to copious alcohol consumption by the character Hagrid — and that book has an 11-year-old protagonist!

However, what would be later censored in the 2010s were the n-word and the word “injun” in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

In 1919, those words were okay but alcohol was not. In 2019, those words are not okay but alcohol is. Times change.

 

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?: How Shakespeare, Rare Ben Jonson, Robert Burns, and Omar Khayyam Will Sound if They Are Revised to Fit Those Sober Days Soon to Come (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 15th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Humor,Literature

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please

Horace Mann School is considered one of the best private schools in the country, and the fourth-best in New York City. They offer 230 courses to their high school students. Warning, though, the school will set you back $51,000 per year.

This 1919 profile article describes the unusual self-directed approach to education at the school:

Some of us may remember periods in our lives when we took up the flying of kites, or the hunting for Indian arrowheads in the fields, and in the kindling enthusiasm of that time we grasped the principles of aeronautics, archaeology, and of geology, sciences with mouthfilling names of which we did not even hear until later years.

If the boys and girls who go to this school of the new order are guided aright in their building of houses and of the making of automobiles and fire engines out of wooden beams and wheels, the theory is that they will develop correct and accurate habits of thought.

But wouldn’t this approach ignore the so-called fundamentals of education? Not so.

The more formal things required in an education can be added. There is no laborious drilling in the alphabet; nothing is said about the multiplication table; and there is no endless repetition of words and phrases which the child mind cannot grasp. When the youngster makes houses, airplanes, submarines, or tea, he is acquiring skill in the use of tools and paste and dishes.

 

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please: New Method of Educating Children Provides First of All for Self-Determination, and Makes Playmates of the Old Schoolroom Bogeys (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 14th, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Education

Lo, the Movies Have Achieved “Revivals”!

Tired of sequels, remakes, and reboots at the movies? By 1919, the movie business was already old enough that they were bringing back “classic” movies.

Hugo Riesenfeld, managing director of the Rivoli and Rialto Theatres, has started to show a series of the first Chaplin comedies, and Mr. Griffith [D.W. Griffith who most famously directed 1915’s The Birth of a Nation] will soon open a theatre in New York with a repertory of the films which made him famous.

The Chaplin pictures and the Griffith productions, in this sense, are revivals, and practically the first since the photoplay established itself. When [1915’s] “A Night in the Show,” the first of the old newcomers, was put on at the Rialto two weeks ago, the box office began to have one of the busiest periods of its existence.

So it’s not quite Chaplin and Griffith Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Yet it was nonetheless something of a century-old precursor to the franchise system that has come to dominate Hollywood in the 2010s. Both developments relied on the essential idea that audiences want more of what they already know they love.

Lo, the Movies Have Achieved “Revivals”! (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 9th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Entertainment,Movies

Future of the Democratic Party

Politics in 1919 was similar to 2019: a president had just suffered a devastating setback as his opposing party regained control of the House of Representatives. But the chair of the president’s party in 1919 aimed for a spirit of more bipartisanship, while it’s hard to think of any olive branches Trump has extended to House Democrats thus far.

The big looming issue in 1919, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, was whether the newly-Republican Congress would approve Democratic President Woodrow Wilson’s plan to enter the U.S. in the League of Nations. Democratic Party Chair Homer S. Cummings advocated for why Republicans should support it across the aisle:

“I have been an advocate of the League for many years, long before the war began. I think it is the greatest thing in the world today — the most important. It is inconceivable that anybody who is familiar with the real conditions in Europe can think that there is any chance for permanent peace without a League of Nations. It is idle to talk of merely concluding a proper peace and then letting the world drift again.”

“If this world war taught us anything it is that, if one great nation gets into war with another, other great nations are drawn into it also. I would be much distressed to see this great idea made the subject of partisan appeal, for it is bigger than any party — too important to the world to be treated as a mere party issue. If I have anything to say as to the course of the Democratic organization, the League of Nations will be treated as a nonpartisan question, as nonpolitical, and will be discussed on the basis of what is best for America.”

It was not to be. Eight months after this article, in November 1919, the Senate would vote overall in favor of the treaty by 55-39, but at 58% support that felt a bit shy of the 2/3 support required. Democrats almost completely backed their own President Wilson by 42-4, but the opposition Republican majority mostly opposed it by 35-13.

Future of the Democratic Party: New National Chairman Discusses League of Nations and Labor Question as Possible Issues — Dismisses Defeat Last November as Temporary “Reaction” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 8th, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Politics

Radicalism as a Fashionable Pose

American cities in 1919 experienced exactly what’s happening there in 2019: the ideological middle had seemingly disappeared, with the extreme left monopolizing public debate and pressuring many others into self-enforced silence.

If you happen to believe in law and order, or marriage, or love of country, or religion, or even in the rights of capital as well as labor, be sure to keep in dark. And if you don’t happen to believe in free love or the domination of the unpatriotic over the earth, and above all if you don’t believe in socialism, keep that dark, too. For it’s very unfashionable to be the least bit conservative nowadays, and very, very fashionable to be radical! If they found you out, certain college professors, settlement workers, and New Republicans generally who are engineering this fad or crusade — as you choose to call it — would at once point at you with a finger of scorn as an “imperialist” or a reactionary, and they would certainly make fun of you.

Yes, you read that right: Republicans were often the ones advocating socialism. It was a different time.

This week’s decision by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though he was supposedly going to be the party’s “moderate” candidate, may seem like the final nail in the coffin for centrism in the party. But it’s not just among politicians but also non-politicians for whom something akin to purity tests have been increasingly applied in recent years, from the 2010s trend of campus speakers disinvitations to the ouster of Kevin Hart as this year’s Oscars host.

This next excerpt reads as though it could have been aimed at self-described “democratic socialists” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom officially declared for the presidency last week. (And who looks like he was alive in 1919 to read this.)

Then I should say to our college students, clubwomen, uplifters, and idealists of both sexes before they begin to study socialism with a too “open mind”:

“Why not carefully study your own form of government first? Be sure that you believe in the overthrow of our own patient old Constitution first. Suppose you do believe that great riches and great poverty are crimes, that the laboring man must have justice, and that there are some flaws in our own democracy. Even so, there are many opposed to socialism who believe as much. Why not give the present huge experiment along Socialist lines in this country time to digest and the prophets time to prove themselves either false or true before joining the Bolshevist Brotherhood?

“Why not wait, for instance, until the Russian Bolsheviki can prove that they can run a Government beneficently without both capital and labor — and not ‘pick on’ capital in the meantime?”

Radicalism as a Fashionable Pose: How Easy It Is for Parlor Socialists and Even Paid Propagandists to Find Gullible Listeners (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 7th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Life

Her Pressure On Congress

How were the top lobbyists for a woman’s right to vote trying to convince recalcitrant politicians in 1919? One method was by convincing the politicians’ mothers, explained the chair of the Lobby Committee of the National Woman’s Party:

It is important to know all about the mother, and that explains why a whole card is devoted to her. Mothers continue to have strong influence over their sons. Some married men listen to their mothers more than to their wives. You will hear a man telling his wife how his mother used to do it, and then we know from his frequent reference to his mother that if we can make of her a strong advocate for suffrage we have the best of chances of winning the son.

Little did she know how prescient that prediction would become. A year and five months later, the constitutional amendment had passed Congress and needed to be ratified by 35 states. 34 had, when it came to Tennessee. A 24-year-old state House member named Harry Burn had originally voted to table the amendment, until his mother changed his mind.

“I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification,” Burn later said. “I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery was mine.”

 

Her Pressure On Congress: Suffrage Lobbyist’s Card Index Keeps Tab on Members’ Home Influences, Financial Backers, and Even Golf Partners (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 1st, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Sport Recrudescence on Heels of Army Training

World War I, though horrendous, brought a silver lining: young men who had become physically fit during military service now had unprecedented interest levels in exercise and sports.

Maybe a World War III would solve America’s current obesity crisis?

Athletic activity during the coming season should set a new mark in American sports. Army life has aroused a new interest for out-of-door games. Youths whose diversion in the past has been nothing more vigorous than billiards have learned in military service to exercise, and they like it. After that strenuous training the American boy is going to get out and do something himself.

After a year of soldiering a young man who lives at 110th Street now walks back and forth to Forty-second Street every day to business. Hiking has become a habit with him. Unless he walks five or six miles a day he doesn’t feel fit. This is the spirit which is likely to bring about a great revival of sports during the Spring and Summer. Golf and tennis are the sports which probably will command the greatest interest among amateurs. Championships have been restores and new events have been instituted.

“Recrudescence,” if you were wondering, means “a new outbreak after a period of abatement or inactivity,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Sport Recrudescence on Heels of Army Training: Returning Soldiers, Often Physically Fit for First Time in Their Lives, Show Active Interest in Golf, Tennis, Baseball, and Other Exercise

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 28th, 2019 at 11:47 am

Shall We Deport the Interned Aliens?

Several thousand Germans and Austrians were interned during World War I, suspected of being agents or spies. ANow that the war had ended a few months prior, it was time for most of them to be released:

But the department believes that the greater number of the persons now behind the wire fences should be sent out of the country. The majority are regarded as having been “distinctly dangerous during the war.”

So what should be done with them? A bill was introduced in Congress that would allow any of them to be unilaterally deported by the Secretary of Labor — a man named William B. Wilson, no relation to then-President Woodrow Wilson.

The heads of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the subject took opposing views, even though they were both southerners from the same party.

In favor was the House Immigration Committee Chair, Rep. John Burnett (D-AL7):

He takes the stand of the Department of Justice that the majority of the interned aliens are dangerous and should be deported. He believes that the measure will pass his committee successfully… The fact of internment or conviction is defined by the bill as prima facie evidence that the aliens are “undesirable,” and the decision of the Secretary of Labor is to be final.

Opposed was the Senate Immigration Committee Chair, Sen. Thomas Hardwick (D-GA):

“If I retain my present frame of mind I shall certainly not vote for any law giving one man the power to determine who should be deported. This might be done in wartime. But in peacetime, no! I would consent to a law allowing a trial by jury of these people. But I could not consent to giving this power to one man. This is not Russia!”

As best I can tell, this specific bill didn’t pass Congress, but all the several thousand people interned were eventually deported back to their nations of citizenship — the last in April 1920, a year and a half after the war ended.

 

Shall We Deport the Interned Aliens?: Representative Burnett’s Bill in Congress Is Enlisting Strong Support, but Has Aroused Opposition, Including Senator Hardwick’s (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 27th, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Memorial Temple Under Way in Washington

What went wrong with the planned National Victory Memorial Building?

The hall with a 7,000 seat auditorium inside was intended for Washington D.C., at the site of what is now the west building of the National Gallery of Art. The structure was intended to be completely separate from the Washington Monument, even though it was originally supposed to honor the same man.

Ground would later be broken in November 1921, but a lack of funds prevented it from ever opening. Intended to be paid for entirely with private funds, $2.5 million to $3 million was needed, but only about $500,000 was actually raised.

Despite the support of President Woodrow Wilson who was president at the time of this article, and his successor Warren G. Harding, the project was formally abandoned in August 1937. The cumulative donations were donated to George Washington University (GWU), where it was used in part to construct the auditorium Lisner Hall.

An auditorium where I myself have been several times, including the time I saw a talk by Richard Dawkins and asked him this question:

Memorial Temple Under Way in Washington: Fund Left by the First President Was Basis of Project for Majestic Structure Which Can Be Utilized as a Joint Monument to the Men of ’17 and ’76 Memorial Temple Under Way in Washington (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 23, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 21st, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Development

Is the Czar Dead?

Was the czar dead? It was February 1919 and seven months had elapsed since anyone had heard from Russia’s Czar Nicholas II. Turns out, yes: he was executed.

The tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917 after the February Revolution, then he and his family were imprisoned in the Ipatiev House. More than a year later on July 17, 1918, Bolshevik authorities killed them all. The tsar was dead.

As was his family, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this 1919 article by Carl W. Ackerman, a New York Times correspondent.

I have just returned to the United States, after a tour of investigation, with all of the facts and testimony I was able to obtain in Siberia and Russia about the last known days of the Romanoffs. After weighing this evidence carefully I am inclined to think, although I cannot prove it, that the Czar is dead, but that his family still lives somewhere in Russia.

Fake news! A grave containing the tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters was discovered in the late 1970s, with the remaining daughter and son found in 2007. DNA testing proved who they were: https://genetics.thetech.org/original_news/news108

In the lyrics of Bret McKenzie from the comedy music group Flight of the Conchords: “A man is lying in the street, some punk has chopped off his head / But I’m the only one who stops to see if he’s dead. / [Pause] / Turns out he’s dead.”

Is the Czar Dead?: Six Chances in Ten That He Was Executed by the Bolsheviki — Fate of His Family Also Doubtful (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 23, 1919

 

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 21st, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea!

A month after the 18th Amendment banned alcohol, Gerald Van Casteel satirized the push for banning anything which seemed wasteful or excessive, in the name of morals or productivity: namely, banning sleep.

I now suggest a reform by prohibition far more fundamental. While we are in the mood to prohibit let there be no half measures.

There is one overpowering habit that affects not only the whole human race, without exception, but has grown also upon most of the animal kingdom. I refer to that form of wastefulness known as sleep.

The farseeing reformers who have instituted our midnight cabarets are glimpsing a new dawn, and the child’s objection to going to bed is the inarticulate protest of nature. Edison says he can work with less than half the sleep we ordinarians require. If it were not for the handicap of his sleep-habituated ancestors and environment he would probably not sleep at all. Away with this incubus and let us insist that everybody live twenty-four hours a day! A Society for the Suppression of Sleep offers a great career to wideawake reformers.

As humor columnist Dave Barry wrote in his December 2018 “year in review” column:

Meanwhile Seattle becomes the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils in all restaurants. San Francisco, sensing a threat to its status as front runner in the Progressivelympics, responds by banning food and beverages in all restaurants.

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea! (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Why Most American Jews Do Not Favor Zionism

29 years before Israel was founded, Jewish Congressman Julius Kahn (R-CA4) advocated against forming a Jewish state, arguing four main points. Here’s how his four points hold up (or don’t) today.

First — It creates a divided allegiance, as between our country and its Stars and Stripes and Zion with its white flag with the blue star. The Zionists, even in this country, are bent upon following their flag. The real American Jew knows but one flag, the Stars and Stripes. The American Jew sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” as his national anthem. The Zionist sings “The Hatikvah” as his.

This argument doesn’t hold much weight in 2019. It’s become clear that supporting America and supporting Israel is not an either-or proposition.

Second — The Zionist doctrine is in conflict with our own free institutions. The Zionists believe in the foundation of a Government which shall embrace both Church and State. That is not in keeping with the trend of modern statecraft anywhere. In that respect Zionism is decidedly reactionary. Besides, the Jews of Palestine are a small minority of the population. Will the other people who live there consent to domination by this minority?

I’m not certain what the demographics of Israel were in 1948, but now it’s 74.3% Jewish — the opposite of a small minority. Have the other people “consented” to such domination? Not exactly. The country is rife with strife and violent attacks such as suicide bombings occur with some level of regularity. As for the idea that Israel would not respect a separation between religion and state, there’s some merit there: just look at this 2018 law declaring that only Jewish people have a right to self-determination.

Third — There is the practical objection against the huddling together in a confined territory of enormous numbers of the Jewish people. As every one [sic] knows, Palestine is small; it could never support the millions of Jews who live in countries where Jewish persecution is a matter of common occurrence. That huddling together has had a baneful effect in Russia, Rumania [sic], Galicia, and Poland. The result would be a continuance of these disadvantages in the proposed new home.

Israel does in fact support million of Jews — about 6.6 million of them to be exact. And Israel only has the world’s #31 highest population density.

Fourth — The greatest danger to the Jews in all those countries where they are on an entire equality with every other class of citizens is that, with the establishment of a separate Jewish State, they would be looked upon as aliens where today they are respected citizens. They would frequently be told to go to their own country, Palestine, by those agitators and fanatics who have a hatred of the Jew in their hearts.

With the exception of maybe a few extremists, this prediction has not been borne out.

So with a century of hindsight, Rep. Kahn’s arguments probably go 1 for 4.

Perhaps Kahn’s arguments may have had some level of credence at the time, but they didn’t stand up to scrutiny after Adolf Hitler attempted “the final solution” in the Holocaust. Three years the end of World War II, Israel was founded in May 1948.

A 2018 Gallup poll found American support for Israel at 74%, tying the previous high recorded in 1991. However, a YouGov poll found that the support level is highly polarized: 65% of Trump voters see Israel as an ally, compared to 29% of Clinton voters.

Americans' Sympathies Continue to Be More With the Israelis Than With the Palestinians

And if Julius Kahn couldn’t support Zionism, surely he could at least support Zion Williamson:

Why Most American Jews Do Not Favor Zionism: Their Allegiance to This Country Is the First Reason, and They Object to a Union of Church and State in Palestine or Elsewhere (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:27 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Veteran as Job Hunter

An anonymous Canadian soldier penned this reflection about the difficult transition from life in the trenches of World War I back to the civilian working world.

In January 2019 the official veteran unemployment rate was 3.7%, lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.0%.

From the February 1919 article, a visceral description of what was then called “shell shock” and is now more commonly called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD:

You got to remember that the way Bill looks at things isn’t like you do. He’s seen so many nasty things occur right in his immediate locality, like his pals getting their heads blown off, that he’s kind of callous, kind of cynical and disillusioned about life. He’s seen human life itself held so cheap that he figures it down to consisting of merely dodging death, with a sing-song or a smoke in between that a shell may end any second. Put him in an office and he’s apt to make fun of filing systems and such like, which don’t get him far with the office manager, who’s been educated to believe filing systems are serious things and don’t understand that Bill used to spend all his time in the trenches.

How the Homecoming Soldier Likes His Welcome: On the Surface All Goes Well, but There Has Been a Relaxation of the Sympathy and Help Which He Needs as Much as Ever How the Homecoming Soldier Likes His Welcome (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 9, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 10th, 2019 at 10:52 pm

Posted in Life

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919

The current polar vortex has caused temperatures to hit record lows or near-lows across much of the country, including -60° F with the wind chill in Minnesota. But 100 years ago this week, the exact opposite was happening:

For two weeks, said the [Weather Bureau] statistician last Wednesday, the average temperature has been 39 degrees. The normal temperature for March is 38 degrees. So at the end of January we were just on the verge of entering into April. It may be remembered that on Jan. 1 temperature was 50 degrees. That is four degrees above the normal temperature for a day in the middle of April.

 

Surely global warming deniers will point to the fact that temperatures were significantly warmer a century ago this week as proof that global warming is a hoax. But in the words of Stephen Colbert:

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919: Somehow the Weather Man Got His Dates Mixed This Winter, and the Trees Began to Bud Two Months Ahead Their Schedule (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Nature

ROOSEVELT’S SUCCESSOR: Who Will Be Republican Leader and Candidate for Presidency in 1920? — Outlook Two Years in Advance.

Prognosticators did much better predicting 1920’s Republican presidential nominee two years out than predicting 2016’s nominee.

From the time of the November [1916] election issues between the two parties began to sharpen more rapidly. Two recognized leaders were in command; on the one side Wilson, on the other side Roosevelt [a former Republican president]. Then came, unexpectedly, Roosevelt’s death [in January 1919, a month prior to this article], and since then one fact has continued to impress itself more deeply on the Republican Party: What the party needs most is a leader.

In theory the next president after World War I would be a military leader, but that was not to be:

When the United States entered the war, the prediction was made, based on past experience, that our next President would be some General whose deeds in the fighting on the other side had thrilled the popular imagination. The civil war made Grant President, the Spanish-American War elevated Roosevelt. [And a few decades later, World War II would elevate Eisenhower.] But this war, owing to the suppression by the censorship policy of individual achievement, apparently has left us without a war hero of Presidential popularity among the American Generals who fought in France.

So who would be the 1920 Republican nominee? The anonymous author predicted either former President William Howard Taft or Ohio Senator Warren Harding.

On the Senate list Mr. Harding comes nearer to commanding the support of both ends of the party than any of the others. As Chairman of the Republican National Convention in 1916 he delivered the keynote speech, and the impression he made throughout the proceedings was a positive one. He is of distinguished appearance, and a charm of personality is one of his assets.

But so far as distinct leadership is concerned he has yet to win it; he appears to be a man who advances steadily to a purpose without haste and with reserve force for the greater occasion. It has been made apparent that he is to take a more prominent part in the Senate.

In a recent speech he sharply criticised [sic] the President for not having devoted himself immediately on his arrival in Europe to bringing about a speedy peace, and also for not having given more attention to pressing reconstruction problems in this country. Practical things here at home, the Senator said, were being neglected while the dreams of idealism were being chased abroad.

Harding would indeed go on to win both the nomination and the presidency the following year.

In the past decade, of course, neither of our two presidents were the frontrunners for their party nomination prior to announcing. In fact, the top five Republican candidates at this point in the election cycle last time around were Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker — none of whom even ultimately finished in the top four:

ROOSEVELT’S SUCCESSOR: Who Will Be Republican Leader and Candidate for Presidency in 1920? — Outlook Two Years in Advance. (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Politics

Winged Warfare and the League of Nations

100 years ago this week, the the League of Nations was agreed to at the Paris Peace Conference. Formally launching a year later in January 1920, the League was tasked with setting laws and norms for the increasingly international post-WWI world order.

In 1919, former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Charles Warren discussed all the intricacies and nuances in deciding questions related to airplanes alone, a technology that had advanced by leaps and bounds during WWI:

Suppose that the nations shall agree to forbid attack by submarine on merchant ships; is such a rule to apply to attack by airplane? How can an airplane identify a merchant ship? How can it exercise the right of search? How can it provide for safety of passengers and crew? How is a sea blockade to be enforced against airplanes? What effect is the case and speed with which air attacks can be launched to have on the rules as to initiation and declaration of war? What actual protection can neutral territory have against aerial passage?

How is the law as to the bombardment of cities to be framed with reference to air attacks? Is a city containing munition works, barracks, camps, &c., or surrounded by forts, to be immune from such attacks? If not, what are to be the restrictions on the scope of such attacks? If such a city is to be immune, what is to be its right to refuse to surrender on demand of the attacking air force? Are the laws as to sea transportation of contraband by neutrals to apply to neutral airplanes transporting contraband in the air over land? What are the rights of enemy airplanes flying over the sea coast territorial waters of neutrals? These are only a few of the questions to be considered.

Thorny questions, all. But perhaps the real question, Warren surmised, was what would the war have looked like if the technology at its end had been available at its beginning?

Suppose that in August 1914, Germany had suddenly launched a fleet of 1,000 airplanes instead of an army of 1,000,000 men; what might have been the result to Paris, to the coast towns, to London? Suppose that France and Russia had possessed similar airplane forces, what might have been the result to the Rhine towns and Berlin? The attack could have been made in a few hours, instead of a few weeks. It could have been made on the English and French fleets, or upon the German fleet, as well as upon the land forces and the cities.

Is it not possible that the result of such initial attacks might have gone far toward settling the war before actual extensive movement of troops could be begun? Is it not possible that the speedy, tremendous destruction, the burning of cities, and the killing and gassing of civilians might give an initial impulse to one side or the other which no amount of subsequent victories on land or sea could repair?

The U.S. never actually officially joined the League of Nations, despite President Woodrow Wilson wanting to, because Congress was unable to muster the 2/3 approval necessary.

The League itself lasted until 1946, when it disbanded after proving unable to prevent the rise of the Axis Powers in World War II.

Winged Warfare and the League of Nations: World Federation Necessary to Enforce Regulations for Air Fleets, Neutral and Belligerent, in Time of War — “Freedom of the Seas” Involved (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 26, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 26th, 2019 at 2:34 pm

America’s New Influence on European Life

American soldiers had spent years in Europe during World War I. What effect would that have on Europeans? This article predicted several ways, including what they’d eat, how they’d dress, and what women would look for in men.

What European women would look for in men:

[American men] were more serious, too. At close quarters they lacked some of the characteristics of the English and French soldiers. They were abrupt and direct in speech. They were also less accustomed to formality, less used to the ameliorating word, and had altogether less respect for convention, as we understand it in Europe. They were also more individual. Altogether, with their omissions and their qualities, they were of a type which is as strange in Europe as some distinct race. Withal, they had the essentials of strength and manliness above everything else. The gentle women of the world have never failed to appreciate such qualities. No wonder that feminine Europe has fallen in love with the American soldier.

How Europeans would eat:

Europe will very likely get new dishes added to its dietary through its closer association with the United States. Why cannot we have the delicious grapefruit for breakfast that you have here? Why are we denied buckwheat cakes? Broiled chicken is almost unknown in European restaurants. Many Europeans fall in love with it when they come to America. Corned beef hash will begin to appear on bills of fare. I should not be surprised to see waffles become almost a rage.

How Europeans would dress:

The Americans are probably the best-dressed nation in the world, in the sense that they are more careful and precise and sometimes more elaborate than any other people. … Americans carry this habit with them to Europe. They do not always dress in the same way as Europeans, but they always dress extremely well from an American point of view. Hitherto Paris has been the home of ladies’ fashion for the world, London the centre of men’s fashion, and it is an interesting speculation whether America may not leave an impression on the dress of people abroad.

The author Frank Dilnot, New York correspondent for the London Daily Chronicle, did correctly predict one American aspect that would NOT catch on in Europe: baseball.

It is a game peculiarly suited to the American temperament, but there is such a variety of well-rooted and much loved pastimes, especially among an out-of-doors people like the British, that I cannot see baseball supplanting cricket, for example. Cricket has a subtle charm not to be known by those who have not played it or been brought up to it from boyhood.

 

America’s New Influence on European Life: People Over There Sure to Imitate Us, Says a Briton, But They Won’t Play Baseball or Eat Our Breakfast Bacon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Food,Life,Sports

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows

Now that World War I was over, people were having fun — a lot more fun:

The social matron again breathes more freely. The makers of war munitions are now the makers of the munitions of peace! … No longer is put the question, “What clothes can I spare to give the league?” Instead, every one is asking, “What shall I wear to the costume ball?”

In fact, thanks to the impending start of Prohibition, people were arguably having too much fun:

Woven and entwined in the very structure of this new house of social joys there is a potent apprehension. It concerns the approach of that fearful date, July 1, 1919. In anticipation of the fatal day, it seems that the gayeties of this season are augmented even beyond the powers of a mere armistice. Peace itself could hardly furnish the fillip of the indulgence (discreet, always, we hope) created by contemplation of the awful dryness which must follow next July. Many who heretofore would have refused “just another glass” are now induced to lower the last barriers on the score that they may never have another chance.

To paraphrase the late great Prince: “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1919.”

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows: Peace Partly Solved the Servant Problem, and It’s No Longer Bad Form to Give Course Dinners and Dress Well (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Life

Recollections of Roosevelt

President George H.W. Bush died recently in November 2018, and a century ago America lost another former president: Theodore Roosevelt, at age 60. The week after his early January 1919 death, this eulogy recalled the man who had served as president from 1901 to 1909.

While our current president is often described as a populist, his policies in office have often been the opposite: lowering the tax rate on the top income bracket and making the overall tax system less progressive, doing nothing to curb the effects of big money in campaign finance, installing Supreme Court justices who have lessened the effects of unions.

Roosevelt, on the other hand, walked the walk. His administration brought more than double as many anti-trust lawsuits as his three predecessors combined, helped enact legislation to increase the safety of food and medicines, and established national parks free for all citizens. He attempted to create a national income tax on top incomes (which passed shortly after Roosevelt left office) and tried to institute an eight-hour workday for all employees.

This portion in particular does a vivid job of describing Roosevelt’s personality, at the intersection of the political and the personal — and what he meant to the American people:

His democracy was the true sort. It was not indiscriminate, and there was an aristocracy to which he paid tribute in his own mind — the aristocracy of Worth. Where he did not find it he was never at ease; he could use unworthy men (not for unworthy purposes, however) in the vast continental game of politics he played, as a party leader must, but never without contempt, and he always felt happy when he could get rid of them. A President or the leader of a national party must work with such instruments as the people choose to give him in Senate, House, and party machine, and the people do not always pick out saints.

It was his keenest joy to find this aristocracy of Worth in what to most people would be unexpected quarters. When he found it, he recognized an equal, whether the man having it was a wolf-killer, a ranchman, or a statesman. Neither did he care if public opinion were set against the man’s worth, so long as he himself had found it.

It was always strange to me to see how the solemn profundities and the unco’ guid [a Scottish term meaning people who are strict in matters of morals and religion] among our varied population used to regard this trait of his as something discreditable to him. He received visits from [heavyweight champion boxer] John L. Sullivan at the White House! He entertained Booker Washington there! He was a friend of boxers and actors! With what a sneer would they pronounce the words “Jack Abernathy, a wolf-killer,” and “Bill Sewall, a guide,” in listing Roosevelt’s friends.

Mean minds, incapable of imagining that a man would do anything except for advantage, cast about for Roosevelt’s motive. It must be that he had a motive; by which they meant a selfish one. They hit on it — it was spectacular drama to impress the crowd, or demagogic ostensible democracy to get votes. It was not possible to suppose that he actually liked these boxers and wolf-killers and reporters and wanted to be with them.

 

Recollections of Roosevelt (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 12, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 12th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

McAdoo Talks of the Railways

Most of America’s railroads were placed under federal government control in December 1917 because of World War I, in a move called “possibly the largest American experiment with nationalization.” The new U.S. Railroad Administration was headed by Treasury Secretary William McAdoo.

Under existing law, control of the railways were set to return back to private hands within 21 months of the end of the war. Yet shortly after war ended, McAdoo, who was set to retire from the Cabinet to co-found a law firm, stunned many by advocating Congress extend the government’s control of the railways for an additional five years — even though it was peacetime.

Why? Because massive investments were needed that he thought were unlikely to occur under private control.

The… difficulty in the present situation, as Mr. McAdoo views it, is financial, and affects annual permanent improvements that are, in his opinion, imperative for the maintenance of a national transportation system commensurate with the country’s growing needs. Up to the signing of the armistice about $600,000,000 had been spent in improvements during the year 1918. The authority for these expenditures was the “necessity of war” as recognized in the law. When hostilities ended this necessity could no longer be urged. Without this co-operation of the corporations owning the railroads it would be difficult under the existing law, Mr. McAdoo said, to develop and adopt a comprehensive plan for the improvement of the railroad system as a whole; and even with the consent of the corporations twenty-one months would be too short a time in which to make and apply such a plan.

McAdoo did not get his wish. The U.S. Railroad Administration ended in March 1920, with all railroads once again returning to private ownership.

McAdoo Talks of the Railways: Retiring Director General Foresees Private Ownership as Result of Five-Year Extension of Federal Control of the Nation’s Transportation System (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 5th, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics