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

 

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Written by Jesse

June 4th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington

How did Washington, D.C. become “the swamp”? Around 1900, the rise of lobbying organizations in the nation’s capitol caused great controversy. By 1919, it was considered normal.

When one side of a case is represented only, the reaction is likely to be one-sided. This situation, from the first, has been the great magnet in bringing new national organizations to Washington.

This movement began more than twenty years ago, when lobbying was becoming a national scandal, and has grown to its present proportion almost unnoticed by the country. In order that its side of any proposed legislation might be legitimately represented, one organization after another made Washington its headquarters.

That’s only become more true by 2019. In August, I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the SWEET Act, which would end the federal subsidy for the sugar industry. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA10), who represents the Pennsylvania district where Hershey is located. If the federal sugar subsidy was eliminated, smaller manufacturers would have a much harder time withstanding the blow — massive corporations like Hershey would survive.

Of course, perhaps the most famous lobbying organization is the one described by humor writer Dave Barry in his book Lessons From Lucy earlier this year:

AARP is a powerful lobbying group representing the interests of senior citizens. Like, if a member of Congress even thinks about cutting Social Security benefits, an elite AARP tactical assault lobbying squad will descend on the congressperson’s office at a slow rate of speed and wave their catheters around in a threatening manner until the congressperson sees the light.

This blog’s created and former lead writer David Friedman now works for the AARP, producing videos and documentaries for their website and social media channels.

 

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington: Organizations Which Encircle the Capitol Dome and Influence Legislation for the Special Classes and Interests They Represent (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 7, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 4th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Primitive Delaware

For anyone who claims the New York Times is biased, or looks down upon certain areas of the country, it’s impossible to imagine them calling a state “primitive” as they did to Delaware in 1919.

This opening passage is brutal:

When Caesar Rodney put to blush all the other historic Caesars and Czars and Kaisers by signing the Constitution of the United States, he also put Delaware, whose representative he was, into the very forefront of the thirteen Colonies, for she was first to ratify. That was nearly a century and a half ago; and Delaware, having a contented sigh at this indefeasible proof of her initiative and progress, thereupon went away back and sat down.

The article lists several supposed examples of the state’s backward ways:

Delaware alone has the whipping post. It is not so very long since she abolished the pillory. She even retains the ancient system of indenture, whereby children are “bound out” to masters until they reach maturity; and in not other State, even in the “benighted” South, was it stipulated, say, a year ago, as it was in Delaware, that white men should not be taxed to help educate the negro.

Why was this the case?

Wilmington, with 105,000 inhabitants, is the only city having a population of more than 10,000. The peninsula between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays was settled by English stock, and until within the last quarter of a century no railroad disturbed its agricultural tranquility.

The peninsula stock, in Maryland as well as in Delaware, was almost undefiled with the passage of a century. The families intermarried. They retained many quaint locutions of the England of an earlier day. They were a people apart, somewhat like the mountaineers of Kentucky and Tennessee, a people of singular frugality and piety, among whom it was a special creidt to be a “meetin’ man” and who, when the charter was granted for the railroad which now forms the Maryland Division of the Pennsylvania, specified that no trains should run on Sundays. It was not until ten years ago that a law was passed amending that chart. The rural population takes its Bible verbatim.

It wasn’t just that those people existed in the state, but that their political power was disproportionate:

Each of the three counties is now represented equally in each branch of the General Assembly: so that Wilmington, which has half the population of the State and pays 95 per cent of its income tax, is outvoted two to one by the rural down-State Senators and Representatives, who cherish toward the “city” legislators that cordial animosity common to all such State Assemblies.

Interestingly, Wilmington’s population has actually declined in the past century. 105K at the time, it’s now about 70K, according to a 2018 Census estimate.

As for Delaware being backwards, they seem to have largely shed that reputation over the past century. (Although some Republicans might disagree.)

What is America’s stupidest state? In a series of segments a few years ago, Bill Maher tried to find out:

Arizona vs. South Carolina

California vs. Oklahoma:

Montana vs. Florida:

 

Primitive Delaware: State of the Whipping Post and “Bound” Children, Awakened Now, Is Fighting Hard for Decent Schools (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 30th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Heavens a Hippodrome and All the Actors Airplanes

In 1919, some predicted that the future realm of acting would be not the stage nor the screen, but the sky with airplanes.

This is the key to the great Futurist drama. The Sardous, Gus Thomases, Ibsens, Sam Shipmans and Barries of the future will write for a stage whose wings will be Arcturus and Halley’s comet, whose footlights will be the electirc bulbs and lamp-posts of all the earth — even unto Philadelphia; whose roof will be heaven itself, whose actors will be airplanes cut and painted to resemble the characters of the play, driven and manipulated by hooded and goggled drivers. Instead of a prompter, a wig-wag aviator sitting on the edge of the moon. The stage manager will thunder his directions for rehearsals from a giant super-megaphone-telephone from the top of the Matterhorn or in a giant Caproni anchored to Mars.

What of the naysayers?

Do you believe it? No? Well, there were once those who believed the earth was flat, that the heavens were a series of blue-china saucers glued together, that Bryan was a radical and that booze was immortal.

Well, after Prohibition was repealed a few years later, it turns out booze was immortal. And similarly, the skeptics of “the theater of the sky” were right in their predictions, too.

That being said, it sounds super fun. Maybe it should take off. I’d watch it.

 

Heavens a Hippodrome and All the Actors Airplanes: Drama of the Futurists Where the Gestures Are Tail Spins, and the Waiting World Lies Flat on Its Back and Looks Up at the Busy Sky (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 29th, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer

A New York state hunter could only kill only one deer per season, which had to be a male buck with antlers. Starting in 1919, a hunter could kill two deer, including a male buck or a female doe. Would that decimate the animal’s population?

Even some hunters were opposed to the new law, for that very reason:

Most of the real sportsmen were opposed to allowing does to be shot, for they well knew that if the does were killed off, it would not be long before the last deer would be gathered in from the Adirondacks. But the demands of promiscuous hunters had sway. The law was passed.

Those fears didn’t come to pass. In fact, the opposite occurred.

In 1919, a census found there were “not more than 50,000 deer in New York State.” But by 2018, there were about 1 million. Hunters kill about a quarter-million deer in the state each year, including 227,787 in 2018. Yet the animal’s population has remained roughly steady.

As Oak Duke wrote for the Evening Tribune in upstate New York:

Long gone is the attitude of 50 years ago when there were few deer compared to now. A sighting, let alone a successful hunt, was more of a rarity. Now deer have become ubiquitous, a common sight, if not a serious bother to motorists, farmers, and outdoors recreationists worried about ticks.

 

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer: Hunters Permitted by New Law to Kill Does as Well as Bucks–Quail Still Protected, but Fight for End of Restrictions Is in Prospect (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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November 16th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Polite Masque of Pageantry and Prohibition

How were the first parties after Prohibition? According to this 1919 article, the NYC parties were not nearly as fun as before. In New Jersey, on the other hand…

First, in New York City:

Even the parties that evaded the mighty hand of the law were afraid to act as if they were having too good a time, lest the gods see and envy and smite. As for those others who may have partied in neighborhood studios, perhaps their abandon was restrained by the Christian charity which gloats not over less favored mortals — perhaps by a sobering walk across the street in the night air. Be that as it may, a visitor from Mars would have seen only a few hundred well-bred Americans dancing waltzes and fox trots apparently with much enjoyment. Not one “interpretive dance” was improvised… The ball closed at 4:30 A.M. instead of at the dear old bedraggled hour of 7.

Apparently a party ending at 4:30 A.M. was considered early. Good times.

But relatively to the comparatively staid New York, another nearby state acted like the ban on alcohol never happened.

However, there are rumors that in Jersey — where people still vote against prohibition — things are different. A Halloween party in a certain country club over the river dared to be a masquerade ball in which the thermos bottle was the only thing that did not wear a mask. It stood boldly on every table. Folks say that it was a nice party, and they’re building another tube to Jersey from chastened New York.

In the words of the song Blow Us All Away from Hamilton: “Everything’s legal in New Jersey.”

 

Polite Masque of Pageantry and Prohibition: Prunes and Prisms Also Would Have Been Perfectly at Home at the First Bohemian Ball in the City of Dreadful Drought (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 15th, 2019 at 1:40 pm

First Woman Magistrate Judges Fallen Sisters

In 1919, Jean H. Norris became the first female judge in New York City history. But her name isn’t celebrated today, because in 1931 she was disbarred and removed from the bench.

Upon first rising to the position, Norris’s promotion was trumpeted:

The first few rows of the courtroom were filled with women. A few of them had opened the morning session with congraulatory speeches, a thing as unheard of in the annals of the court as was the occasion which prompted it. A group of fashionable women sat beaming at the proceedings in the last few rows. Their attitude manifested complete satisfaction with the woman who represented them in this high capacity.

By 12 years later, quite the opposite reaction would have occurred. Judge Norris was found to have falsified court records, convicted a girl without evidence, and endorsed a product in violation of judicial ethics.

First Woman Magistrate Judges Fallen Sisters: Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained in Jefferson Market Court at Mrs. Norris’s First Session, but Eloquence of Mere Men Is Curtailed (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 7th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Southward With the Coffee-Pot Tourist

As the weather got colder in November 1919, an article described how some folks were making their annual pilgrimage to live down in Florida for a few months — in far more flowery language than would ever be used now:

Whatever in the Spring the young man’s fancy lightly turns to, and just as surely as the sap in that season of etherial madness rises in the tree trunks, there comes in the Fall to all Northern mankind and birdkind the urge of the migratory instinct southward. It isn’t only the plutocrats and society lovers that go to have their pictures taken for the illustrated papers at Palm Beach in their Winter splendor of Summer raiment. It is likewise those who though neither one nor another are both. And even in this spendthrift season, when a world’s ransom is being lavished on the pomp and circumstance of peace, there are still thrifty tourists, as well as the other sort.

Many go down south during the cold months nowadays as well. My recent GovTrack Insider article about the Canadian Snowbirds Act describes a congressional bill that would increase the duration Canadian retirees could spend in the U.S., often in Florida, from six months to eight months.

Southward With the Coffee-Pot Tourist: It Is Not Only the Spendthrifts but the Thrifty Also Who Migrate to Florida for the Summer of Their Wintertime (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 6th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Metropolitan Museum’s Rarest Treasures

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director was asked in 1919 what was the museum’s “one great treasure among many,” he answered the Estruscean bronze chariot.

[It is] the only complete one in the world. It is a magnificent triumphal affair and was found in the tomb of the hero who once rode proudly in it through the streets of ancient Rome.

The story of the chariot’s discovery is more interesting still, though not mentioned in the 1919 article.

An Italian farmer named Isidoro Vannozzi was digging a wine cellar when he accidentally came across the item in 1902. Vannozzi only earned about $6,000 in today’s money for selling the chariot he found, even though it was ultimately sold for $1.7 million in today’s money. (And likely actually worth far more than that by now, were it ever to be sold again, given the skyrocketing prices for both art and antiques in the 117 years since then.)

After a series of sales, it finally came to the Met in 1903 — six years before a 1909 Italian law forbade the export of culturally significant Italian relics.

A century later, the museum still possesses the chariot. Photos are in the public domain:

Metropolitan Museum’s Rarest Treasures: Fewer Than Fifty Are Marked With Double Stars on the New List (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 3rd, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Art

Our Unguarded Treasury

Lest you think wasteful or redundant government spending is a uniquely 20th century phenomenon, this example from 1919 is as bad as anything happening today.

An amusing example of needless expense continued after attention has been repeatedly called to it exists in connection with the Coast and Geodetic Survey. The building which this service occupies lies directly across the street from the House Office Building. A steam supply main from the Capitol power plant passes directly through the basement of the building of the Survey to the House Office Building. The Survey, however, is not permitted to use steam from this pipe, but is required to operate its own separate boilers, purchase coal, hire firemen and other help for operating an independent heating plant in the very basement through which an ample supply of Government steam passes to another building.

It got worse.

So, also, a local electric plant is working in the basement of the House Office Building, across the street, but the Coast Survey is obliged to purchase current from a commercial company and to employ a force of dynamo tenders throughout a twenty-four hour day. In this case, where the law requires a service to operate a light plant and a heating plant, where both light and heat are available from a central power plant maintained by the Government, the chief of the service estimates that $4,000 per annum is wasted. The change of a few words in the law would correct it. This has been asked, but has not been done.

A more recent attempt to cut down on redundant government spending is through the Duplication Scoring Act, a congressional bill which I wrote about for GovTrack Insider in September. But just like that aforementioned 1919 line — “The change of a few words in the law would correct it. This has been asked, but has not been done.” — the Duplication Scoring Act has similarly received neither a House nor Senate committe vote.

 

Our Unguarded Treasury: Haphazard Financial System Which Has Necessitated the New Budget System for Federal Government (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 2nd, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

What’s Wrong With Labor?: Federation Threatened with I.W.W. Control from the Inside

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a revolutionary socialist labor union. In 1919, a bitter debate brewed them and the more mainstream and moderate American Federation of Labor (AFL).

One organization’s aim was to attain some method of cooperation between capital and labor and the consequent mutual benefit. The other aimed to eliminate capital.

With such diametric opposition in ideas, the two organizations stood at challenge from the start, as no rival labor organizations had stood before.

All the radical elements, with the turbulent Western Federation of Miners at the head, were, it seemed, to rally around the I.W.W., purging the American Federation of units antagonistic to its purposes, and establishing a chasm between the two. Chasm there was, and across it were hurled the bitterest epithets heard in the labor world.

Ultimately, the IWW lost the debate and the AFL won.

The IWW went from 150+ thousand members in 1917 down to only 3,845 members as of September 2019, according to their most recent annual LM-2 report filed with the Labor Department.

Meanwhile, in 1955 the AFL merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to form the AFL-CIO, now the nation’s largest union federation with 12+ million members.

What’s Wrong with Labor: Federation Threatened With I.W.W. Control from the Inside (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 26, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 23rd, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Business,Debate

A Tenderwing in the High Air

This 1919 article about the novelty of air travel made a few projections. “Tenderwing” didn’t become a common word as predicted, but the practice of photographing airplane passengers did disappear as predicted.

A tenderfoot is defined as one who is not yet hardened to the life of the plains, so a person who is not yet hardened to the life of the air must be a tenderwing. The word isn’t in the dictionary yet, but I fancy it will be there some day soon.

That… didn’t happen.

All prominent people like to have their pictures taken, including Presidents and Generals. And right here let me say, please, that taking pictures of air travelers about to get aboard will soon be over. In a few months the novelty will be worn thin, and the news value of the thing lost forever. There is no particular lust for photographs of obscure citizens about to enter a railroad train. There used to be, but there isn’t now.

That did indeed happen.

This article also references a plane flying at 90 miles per hour, far slower than the 575 MPH average for a commercial jet today.

A Tenderwing in the High Air: Sensations and Observations of a Confirmed Groundling on an Aerial Passenger Liner Between New York and Washington (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 18th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Technology

Making Men Mentally Fit for Football

Could going out and goofing off the night before a big sports game help players perform better? Cornell football coach Al Sharpe thought so, and tested his theory before the big 1913 rivalry game versus UPenn.

Twenty times in the twenty years prior to the then-approaching battle the teams of these two great universities had met on the football gridiron, and only once had Cornell scored a victory. “Going to Philadelphia for the annual slaughter,” was the parting shot of the Ithacan villagers each year.

Then Al Sharpe took hold.

He suggested a different pre-game tactic:

Imagine their sensation when, upon ascertaining all were present, Al Sharpe addressed them substantially as follows:

“Men, I want every one of you to chase out of this hotel. Go to theatres. Do anything you fancy will entertain you. And don’t dare to show your heads in here before midnight if you expect to get into tomorrow’s game.”

Did it work?

As might be expected, the members of the Cornell football squad slept long and late on the morning of the game. In fact, they awakened only in time to consume a very late breakfast before departing for Franklin Field and their game of games. The nervous, draggy hours that had furnished other Cornell teams with nothing but worries and doubts concerning their ability to defeat the oft-conquering Pennsylvania teams had passed, and before such doubts could formulate in their minds the game had begun.

Cornell won.

The success continued:

Cornell, under Al Sharpe, won the 1914 game from Pennsylvania, also, and the 1915 game as well, and incidentally, in the last-named year, won a clean-cut victory over Harvard, a university Cornell never before had defeated on the gridiron.

Although this 1919 article was too prim to mention it, does “Do anything you fancy will entertain you” include sex? If it did, then it probably wouldn’t have hurt athletic performance either, despite a long-held myth that sex impedes subsequent athletic performance. A study last year in The Journal of Sexual Medicine by researches at California State University, San Marcos, found sex didn’t impede athletic performance.

Making Men Mentally Fit for Football: Gridiron Battles Depend Only in Part Upon Physical Condition, as Is Shown by These Anecdotes of Some Famous Coaches (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 17th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Sports

If the Treaty is Rejected — What Then?

Although WWI fighting ended November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles to formally end the war was registered in late October 1919. Requiring territorial changes and reparations, enough U.S. senators opposed it to prevent 2/3 passage by Congress.

Here, two U.S. senators debated the pros and cons of the treaty: Nebraska Democrat Gilbert Hitchcock in favor and Idaho Republican William Borah against.

Sen. Hitchcock, in favor:

This treaty… was secured from Germany at the cannon’s mouth. They all represent concessions which Germany would not willingly grant.

We have withdrawn our armies from Europe except a few thousand men, and have practically completed demobilization. We are through fighting, and Germany knows it. If we fail to hold her to the bargain made at Versailles when the armies were in the field and when Germany was helpless, we will be compelled to negotiate as equals and lose a large part of all that was granted in the settlement.

Sen. Borah, against:

If the treaty is rejected, the United States will be relieved at once of all obligations, legal or moral, to take part in European affairs, and we will as a people be enabled to take up at once and devote our entire time and attention to the solution of impending domestic problems.

Whatever we should see fit or think proper to do in the way of friendly assistance, advice, or support for other peoples anywhere, we should be able to do of our own volition and in our own way, relieved entirely of the embarrassment of carrying forward the plans and schemes of other nations.

Two Senate votes were taken on November 19, 1919, exactly a month after this article’s publication. One vote rejected the treaty 41-51, the other vote later in the day rejected the treaty 39-55.

However, enough other nations signed the treaty that it went into effect regardless. This is similar to other international agreements during the Trump administration, such as the Paris climate accords, which remain in effect with almost every nation besides the U.S. still party to its provisions.

Also, clearly 1919 was an era when referring to “Hitchcock” by last name alone — as this article does — meant the Nebraska senator Gilbert, not the film director Alfred.

If the Treaty is Rejected — What Then?: The Question Answered by Hitchcock and Borah (PDF)

Published: October 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 16th, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Putting American Women “On Another Footing”

A 1919 campaign sought to end high heeled shoes for women. Clearly, it didn’t work.

No other country except China has set itself up seriously as a rival to America in the business of mutilating women’s feet, and China has reformed. Footbinding is obsolete there, or at least obsolescent. In the United States footbinding by a somewhat more modern process, with the aid of high-heeled and pointed shoes, continues almost unabated. The female of the species hereabout is becoming a one-toed, sharp-footed animal.

Sometimes, alas, fashion and style win out over health. I’ve always suspected that for the opposite sex, wearing a tie for 8+ hours a day slightly chokes your throat and may hurt breathing or your respiratory system.

Putting American Women “On Another Footing”: Campaign Is Under Way Against the High Heel and the Pointed Toe, Which Are Accused of Deforming the Female of the Species (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 12, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 11th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Golden Apples in the Great Northwest

1849 was the California gold rush. The early 20th century was the Texas oil boom. 1919 was… the Pacific Northwest apple boom?!

Orchards which a few years ago could be purchased for $200 and $300 an acre are today bringing $2,000 to $2,500 an acre. Boxes of apples which the grower considered profitable if sold at 75 cents and $1 per box, a good profit, are today selling at $3 and $5. There are indications that by Winter a higher price will be paid.

What about today? According to USApple, the top 10 apple-producing states today include all three which could be considered the Pacific Northwest: Washington at #1, California at #5, and Oregon at #8.

Golden Apples in the Great Northwest: Boom Has Struck Fruit-Growing Country, Indians and Ranchers Are Investing Sudden Profits in Motor Cars, and Some Trolley Lines Are Going Out of Business (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 12, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 10th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Food

The Awakening Middle Class – by Thomas R. Marshall, Vice President

In 1919, as now, the vice president was a former Indiana governor. Though Mike Pence is Republican and Thomas R. Marshall was a Democrat, there were also some similarities.

For example, Marshall originally turned down Woodrow Wilson’s running mate offer, while Pence strongly considered stepping down as Donald Trump’s running mate in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” scandal. (The Republican National Committee also considered replacing Trump with Pence at the top of the ticket, and adding former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as running mate.)

In this September 1919 article, Marshall suggested that Americans should all come together despite their differences such as wealth gaps.

The old methods of legislation must stop, or the Republic must die. The war, ostensibly if not really, wiped out for us the political, hyphenated American; the war will have been in vain if it shall not also have wiped out for us the hyphenated, economic American, and has not taught us that, from him who has most to him who has least, as the days go by, individual right will grow less and invidual duty will grow larger.

The apocalyptic warning that the country must follow Marshall’s recommendation “or the Republic must die” is a hyperbolic phrasing very unlike the comparatively soft-spoken Pence — but very much like the bombastic rhetoric of Pence’s boss.

The most consequential — or depending on one’s view, least consequential — aspect of Marshall’s eight-year vice president took place the same week this article of his published. On October 2, 1919, President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Wilson’s Secretary of State, as well as both the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress, wanted Marshall to step in as acting president.

However, since Marshall disagreed with Wilson many policy issues, he was kept in the dark about the true extent of Wilson’s dire condition so that he would not assume any “acting president” responsibilities. Marshall himself never personally met with Wilson during his period of near-incapacitation. It is said that First Lady Edith Wilson in many ways essentially ran the White House and executive branch during this period.

Marshall had a sense of humor about the whole ordeal, sending his successor as vice president Calvin Coolidge a letter of “sincere condolences” for being elected to the position.

The Awakening Middle Class: By Thomas R. Marshall, Vice President of United States (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 5, 1919

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Written by Jesse

October 1st, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Business Before Pleasure on the Wire

In 1919, NYC had 3+ million telephone calls daily — more than the system could handle. “The strain at times is tremendous, and we hear many complaints of the inadequacy of the service, the slowness of operators in responding, and the tardiness of making connections.”

In an era where calls required an operator to connect the two parties, the rise in calls was outstripping the rise in operators.

As a matter of engineering record it now takes about ten seconds on the average to get the echo of “Number, please,” and from twenty-five to thirty seconds on the average to get a connection. The operators are far less numerous than they should be; it takes a year to train one so that she will have “poise on the board,” or, in other words, so that she will not lose her head in emergencies, and equipment lacking on account of the war embargoes is just being got in. In the halcyon days Central used to answer on an average in three seconds, but then the burden on the switchboards was not so heavy.

 

Indeed, 82 years later, the same issue still existed to an extent. There were numerous reports of NYC residents unable to get their phone calls through on 9/11, because the system was jammed.

Business Before Pleasure on the Wire: Effect of ‘Phone Philandering on the Call Frequency Curve of the City and Some Suggested Mitigations (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 28, 1919

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Written by Jesse

September 29th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life,Technology

Plans for a Roosevelt Memorial at Oyster Bay

Mere months after President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1919 death, memorials were planned at his home in Oyster Bay, New York and also Washington, D.C.

Interestingly, this 1919 article about the man refers to him more than once as “Colonel Roosevelt,” despite his having served as president. This implies the military title was considered the higher honor, especially in that patriotic environment immediately after World War I.

That’s almost impossible to imagine today — even if a general or similar military officer ever becomes president again, surely they would forever more be referred to as “President.”

The New York memorial Sagamore Hill officially dedicated in 1928, while the D.C. memorial became Teddy Roosevelt Island and was not dedicated until 1967. The latter is less than a mile from where I live, and is lovely to walk to, especially around this time of year.

Plans for a Roosevelt Memorial at Oyster Bay: Half Mile of Shore with Elms and Monumental Structures Would Become a Sort of National Grove of Academus (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 28, 1919

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Written by Jesse

September 27th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Development

Conspiracy of Silence Against Jazz

By September 1919, jazz was really starting to permeate the country. Some were not thrilled, as in this article which described the genre as “that negation of rhythmical sound and motion.”

The close-up dancing offended the sensibilities of many, such as the article’s author Robert J. Cole:

If there is one thing the dance of the moment lacks it is distance. Distance, enchantment, glamour. And without these it can never hope to snare the favoring attention of those to whom the dance, in spite of all the hurly-burly, yet lives a glory and a gleam in the ideal vision of art.

Of course, by 2019, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll are probably the two older genres most cited by those who claim that modern music is terrible.

The first printed use of the word “jazz” in a musical context was in 1916. The word’s earliest appearance in the New York Times, according to a search in the newspaper’s archives sorted by date, appears to be a September 1917 reference to “Bagpipers, a jazz band” at a tennis exhibition.

Conspiracy of Silence Against Jazz: Exponents of the True Poetry of Motion Seemed to Agree with That Young Author, Daisy Ashford, That Least Said Soonest Mended (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

September 19th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Music

The Revel of Luxury

The Roaring Twenties arguably started in 1919. WWI ended in November 1918, there was peace, times were good, and people of all classes spent like crazy:

If luxury and leisure have conspired to set a pace of money spending hitherto undreamed of, this dissipation hitherto ascribed so exclusively to New York society has become diffused and general. There is nothing sectional about the exuberance of today. Vacationists from the smaller cities of the South and West have vied with the man from Wall Street in the distribution of easily acquired wealth. There is nothing in it to rekindle class hatred, so effectually effaced during the period of war, for the reason that there is “class” now among the masses. Railroad wage-earners boasted a two-million-dollar relief fund before hinting of a strike. The man from the forge is buying diamonds; clerks bet a cool thousand on the races, and the farmer who has not already bought an automobile is planning to do so with the singing of the next harvest song.

It’s hard to believe what a 180º difference this had been from the war years, which had still been raging less than 365 days prior:

Pleasure, pleasure! Who can turn churlishly from all these contemplations of luxury and give heed to the cry about the high cost of living? Who can take seriously the wail of hard times when blacksmiths are joining the jeweled ranks?

Is this the America that stopped every wheel just one year ago when the Government needed gasoline?

Good times. And not too different from 2019, actually, with unemployment at or near 21st century its low and Americans spending tons of money. Including money they don’t have — see the record levels set in 2019 for student loan debt, auto loan debt, and mortgage debt.

The Revel of Luxury: Summer Season’s Record of Money-Spending by Americans Who Can Afford the High Cost of High Living (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

September 18th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life