Family of Fifteen, All Living, Oldest Seventeen

 

Francois Gannaz of Sallanches, France had fathered 15 living children under the age of 18. So the Institute of France bestowed on him half of the Etienne Lamy Prize, which was worth 10,000 francs or about $2,000 in 1917, equivalent to about $36,500 today. That’s right, a monetary prize for having the most children.

Perhaps even more impressively (in a manner of speaking), Gannaz’s wife had her first child at age 26, unlike most families that large where the woman usually has her first child as a teenager. Her most recent child as of the article’s publication was born when she was 43.

Their names were Pierre, Clovis, Alcide, Lucien, Fernand, Louis, Lucie, Léonie, Marie, Alice, Francois, Marie, Luc, Gabriel, and Jean Baptiste.

The Guinness World Record for the most children born to one woman is 69 by a Mrs. Vassilyeva of Russia in the 1700s, with 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. It’s much more difficult to ascertain which man has fathered the most children — in all likelihood it was a man with multiple wives from centuries (or millennia?) past, before paternity testing existing.

Family of Fifteen, All Living, Oldest Seventeen: French Father Wins Prize for His Record-Breaking Brood — All Born Healthy and Have Been So Ever Since (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 17th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers

Before the age of email, instant messaging, texting, and even mass phone calls, communication from families to soldiers was much more difficult, as this 1917 article details:

“The time when the soldiers from the firing line did not get the home mail they were hoping for came at the end of one of the eighteen-day periods in which it was impossible to send any mail from America because there were no ships going over. There have been two such periods since our troops arrived in France.”

That was during World War I. My maternal grandfather delivered mail to the troops during the Korean War several decades later, and even then there were complications delivering the mail. Today, as you can imagine, the situation is significantly easier.

Interestingly, another excerpt from the article reveals the discrepancy between inbound and outbound letters: 450,000 letters per week to the troops, but only 376,000 letters per month from them — almost five times as many letters to the troops as from them.

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers: Every Week 450,000 Letters Go to France, and Lack of Ships Has Complicated the Postal Problem — Cantonment Service Systematized (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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November 16th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in War

Why Stocks Tumbled in 1917 and Rose in 2017

In November 1917, the prices of most stocks were between 20 and 70 percent below where they had stood a year before. The plummet was so steep that rumors abounded that the Stock Exchange would be entirely shut down, permanently.

This article from the time interviewed former Director of the U.S. Mint George E. Roberts for his analysis of the stock market’s plummet. He laid the blame at four causes, quoting directly:

1.) The demands of the Liberty Loan. Every one [sic] has subscribed or has pledged to subscribe about all the spare cash he can must for the coming few months.

2.) The collateral demands of the war, the Red Cross, the hundred and one charities which reach forth on every hand to waylay the pocketbook.

3.) The vast needs for new and quick industrial investments to meet the munition and supply demands of the war.

4.) The uncertainty of the immediate future. Those who have available cash hesitate to invest it in stocks or bonds, even at the present ridiculously low prices. They would rather wait a bit and see what the Winter brings forth.

The market eventually self-corrected. In fact, if you had invested $1,000 in Coca-Cola stock during its original 1919 initial public offering, two years after this article was published, that stock would be worth $9.8 million today.

A century later in 2017, the opposite question is being asked: why does the stock market keep going up? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently wrote an excellent article analyzing this question after the Dow reached a new record high.

Thompson, like Roberts a century before him, laid out three or four reasons for the stock market’s performance:

1. It’s simple: Corporations everywhere are making a bunch of money.

2. A1 chaos doesn’t drive the business cycle.

3. There aren’t many obvious signs of bubbles, or causes for imminent corrections.

Thompson’s reason #2 in particular on its face may seem to contradict Roberts in 1917, since Roberts’ theory was that the page-A1 chaos of the time — namely World War I — was exactly what was driving the business cycle.

Then again, WWI truly consumed everything about the economy, politics, culture, and life. By contrast, Trump’s headline-driving tweet of the day usually generates more of a “Wasn’t that interesting?” response (or “Wasn’t that terrifying?” depending on who you ask) rather than proving transformative to the markets.

Usually… but not always. After Trump tweeted attacking their respective companies, Amazon’s stock market value dropped $5 billionBoeing dropped $550 million, and Toyota lost $1.2 billion in five minutes.

Why Stocks Tumbled: No Business Panic and No Prospect of One, Says George E. Roberts, Banker — Wartime Causes of Low Prices (PDF)

From Sunday, November 11, 1917

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November 8th, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Business,War

Suffrage’s Cost High, Effect on Elections Nil

When trying to decide in 1917 whether to grant women the right to vote, men had several factors to consider beyond just the obvious “it’s the right thing to do” factor.

One was whether granting suffrage changed election outcomes. Another was how much extra it would cost, due to almost twice the number of new voters needing extra election machines, county clerks, and the like.

Illinois, which had already legalized the practice statewide, tracked women voters and found that it barely changed election outcomes at all. For the 1916 presidential election, Illinois men and women both voted for Hughes over Woodrow Wilson, with the margin only being 1.6 percent. The exact same margin was found for the Chicago mayoral race.

As for increased election costs, it was estimated that New York state would see expenses rise $2.8 million as a result, equivalent to about $52.7 million today. The article ends by referring to how that money could presumably be better spent as World War I raged on:

“In other words, the taxpayers of this State would be subjected through suffrage to an extra expense equal to about three times the amount of money spent on the spectacular suffrage campaign, and an amount sufficient to buy 57,400,000 rounds of ammunition for our troops.”

Suffrage’s Cost High, Effect on Elections Nil: Illinois, Only State with Accurate Records of Men and Women Voting Separately, Proves That Big Expense Leaves Results Unchanged (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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November 4th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp

Decades before the USO tours started in 1941, a prototype version called the Liberty Theaters was started in 1917.

Marc Klaw, a member of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, was tasked with building 16 such theaters for up to 600,000 soldiers to view. “We will have eight companies on the road all the time, four dramatic and four vaudeville,” Klaw said. “Plays will be up to date, and only first-class performers will be engaged.” Irving Berlin was one of the first performers to sign up.

The modern version, the USO, has 160 locations around the world and has entertained an estimated 75 million Americans throughout its history.

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp: Soldiers in the Cantonments Will See Best Plays and Leading American Actors Each Week — Highest Ticket PRice Twenty-five Cents (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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November 3rd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Theater,War

Less Sugar Means Good-bye to Your Surplus Fat

As the government asked Americans to spend more conservatively in the early months of WWI, one way in which people could save money quickly became apparent.

“In 1916 the per capita consumption of sugar in Germany was approximately 20 pounds a person per annum… In England it was about 40 pounds; in France about 37 pounds, and in Italy about 29 or 30 pounds. In the United States it was 85 pounds! In New York City it was almost a hundred pounds.”

Americans may have cut back on the sugar intake during WWI, but alas the trend didn’t stick. Per capita sugar consumption is now more than 100 pounds per year. And America consumes by far the most sugar per capita of any nation.

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Source: Business Insider

Less Sugar Means Good-bye to Your Surplus Fat: Uncle Sam’s Appeal Demands a Tightening of Belts Among the Sweet-Toothed, for Whom This Extravagant Country Is Famous (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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November 2nd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Health

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army

If soldiers in WWI thought the Axis Powers were scary, they had nothing on chlamydia.

During the war, the U.S. military lost more than 7 million “person-days” and were forced to discharge more than 10,000 men due to sexually transmitted diseases.

Mere months into the war, top official realized this could become a serious problem. William H. Zinsser, Chairman of Council of National Defense’s Sub-Committee for Civilian Cooperation in Combatting Venereal Diseases, said:

 “One nation, during the first year and a half of war, lost the services of more men through venereal disease than through death or wounds in battle. One regiment which participated in a furious attack in Northern France was sent back of the lines to recuperate, and there joined another regiment which had been encamped behind the front for some time and had seen no actual fighting at all. Will you believe that the latter regiment, the one that had not been in action, had lost the services of more men through venereal disease during its stay behind the lines than the one back from the firing line had lost in the attack?”

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army: For the First Time in History a Nation Takes Advance Steps to Avert an Evil Worse Than Battle Casualties (PDF)

From Sunday, October 28, 1917

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October 27th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Health,War

Servants and War Saving in the Home

 

When the government is asking you to save money but your servant keeps spending, what to do? We all have problems in life.

During World War I, the government encouraged personal frugality in order to ensure as much money as possible went towards the war effort. Said the wife of a prominent and wealthy New York lawyer:

“Let them [servants] feel that they are as big factors in the nation’s plan of conservation as you yourself or any one else. Let them understand that it isn’t some little personal idea of yours to save money for yourself, but that the nation’s needs demand it.”

And she had some thoughts on certain types of servants in particular:

“The colored servants, frequently characterized as wasteful and thriftless, she says, have a kindred feeling with the American mistress, because they, too, are native Americans. They are apt to help her better than any others at this time.”

A nice sentiment?

Servants and War Saving in the Home: A New York Woman’s Plain Statement of Economy Problems Faced Nowadays in the Kitchen and Pantry of an Unpretentious Family (PDF)

From Sunday, October 28, 1917

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October 26th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Entirely New Social Life in Washington

America’s entering of World War I impacted the social scene in Washington:

“There will be no formal dinner for the Cabinet officers and their wives at the White House this year. That affair, as well as the three other important dinners and the four receptions ordinarily given in the course of the three Winter months, is removed from the White House social calendar for the coming season.”

Well, we all have to make sacrifices in life.

Interestingly, this same phenomenon has not seemed to occur in 21st century Washington. Despite 9/11 and the war launched in its aftermath, the 2002 White House Correspondents Dinner — the crown jewel event of the D.C. social scene — continued unabated, with Drew Carey and President George W. Bush both performing standup comedy routines.

Entirely New Social Life in Washington: Formal Dinners and Official Receptions Abandoned — Strangers Heartily Welcomed in Circles Which Were Once Too Exclusive to Penetrate (PDF)

From Sunday, October 21, 1917

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October 19th, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Life,Recreation

Immigration Tide May Turn from West to East

 

As this 1917 article correctly predicted, many European immigrants to the U.S. later moved back to Europe after the conclusion of World War I. By some estimates, that number was almost one-third of European immigrants to America. However, “relatively few” German-Americans returned back to Germany.

Immigration Tide May Turn From West to East: Millions of Our Foreign-Born Citizens Planning to Return to Europe After the War, Says Commissioner Frederic C. Howe (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 13th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Development,Life,War

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War

How should schools change their curricula during wartime? During WWI, New York State Education Commissioner John H. Finley attempted to answer that question.

“There is a twofold obligation on the teacher. First, it is essential that we defend the intellectual frontiers of our democracy. We must “dig ourselves into” their trenches and hold them. Second, the schools, public and private, teachers and pupils alike, must take an active part in helping the nation in the fight.”

Today, civics education in schools is on the decline — arguably during a period where Americans need it more than ever.

Finley defended the importance of schools amid a time of war, when others might suggest limiting education budgets or other similar measures in order to invest almost solely in the military:

“There are approximately as many teachers in the State of New York as there are New York men in the first contingent of the National Army; a teacher in the army of future defense for every soldier in the army of present defense. And what an army this is; this unseen mighty army which is helping to make a democracy worth saving by the other army! We who must remain at our posts of future defense cannot let these momentous days in the world’s history pass without doing our part to help bring in our own day that peace which will make the world a safe place hereafter for those whom we teach.”

Stirring words indeed.

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War: New York State Sets Example in Encouraging Teaches to Inform Pupils About America’s Aims — Lineup of the Colleges (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 12th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Education,War

Super-Golf Among American Players

In 1917, James Barnes set a new 72-hole golf record with 283 strokes.

In January of this year, Justin Thomas set the current 72-hole record with 253 strokes at the Sony Open in Honolulu — a full 30 strokes lower than the world record a century ago. That’s an astonishing average of only 3.51 strokes per hole.

Is there any world record from the worlds of sports, athletics, or physicality from 1917 that still stands today?

Super-Golf Among American Players: Professionals and Leading Amateurs Attain Perfection on Many Greens, Even the Casual Competitor Sometimes Gets a Record (PDF)

From Sunday, October 7, 1917

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October 6th, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Sports

Precedents for Expulsion of Senators

A U.S. Senate member getting expelled from office hasn’t happened since 1862. So when this 1917 article was written, it had already been 55 years since the last time.

It’s come close to happening since. In the past century, there have been 9 senators who faced expulsion proceedings. But all of them either resigned before they could be removed from office, or else did not meet the required threshold that two-thirds of the Senate vote to expel them.

The most recent case was in 2011, when Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) was charged with financial misconduct, but he resigned before he could be expelled.

The last time a senator even faced an expulsion vote at all, and didn’t resign beforehand, was in 1942. Sen. William Langer (R-ND) was charged with corruption, but the Senate voted 52-30 to keep him in office.

14 of the 15 Senate expulsions that have ever taken place occurred during the Civil War, when multiple senators were expelled for supporting the Confederacy.

But it might potentially happen again later this year.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is facing a corruption trial this month. If Menendez is convicted and is expelled (or resigns), under New Jersey state law, the governor would appoint the successor.

If it’s before January 2018, that would be Republican Gov. Chris Christie. But if it’s after January 2018, the next governor would have the privilege — and polling indicates that the November gubernatorial election will likely be a landslide win for Democrat Phil Murphy.

With Republicans only holding a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, every vote counts —  see this summer’s health care repeal which failed by only a single vote. So a Senate seat that potentially switches parties could change things dramatically in Washington and the country at large.

Precedents for Expulsion of Senators: Some Cases During Civil War Days Recalled by Present Demand for Oustin of La Follette and Other Obstructionists (PDF)

From Sunday, October 7, 1917

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October 5th, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Shifting Tastes of the Theatergoers

Theater critic John Corbin lamented the rise of the anti-hero on the stage in 1917:

“Clever trickery wins delighted applause, while the ancient law, moral as well as statutory, is scorned and derided. The phenomenon is interesting and rather disquieting… Like government, the drama is best when it is of the people, by the people, and for the people. As the literary critics say, it should portray the life and express the mood of its time. Yet the American drama of today has largely reversed Lowell’s apothegm. It pays to call old notions fudge and bend our conscience to our dealing. The Ten Commandments love to budge, and fortune ever follows stealing.”

Corbin surely would not approve of many modern-day critics’ ranking of The Godfather as the greatest film of all time.

Shifting Tastes of the Theatergoers: Decline of European Influence Has Been Followed By “the Sub-American Drama,” with East Side Flavor Dominant and Crooks as Leading Characters (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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October 1st, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Theater

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing

The War Department (later renamed the Defense Department) in 1916 placed “song leaders” in the training camps for the military. Why?

“‘A songless army,’ says Major Gen. J. Franklin Bell, commander of Camp Upton, ‘would lack in the fighting spirit in proportion as it lacked responsiveness to music. There is no more potent force in developing unity in an army than in that of song.'”

We eventually won World War I, though it’s hard to say how much if anything song had to do with that. Still — from “cadence calls” that cadets sing out in time to their steps as they go on runs, to USO tours which bring popular music performers to entertain the troops overseas, music has always played a part in the U.S. military.

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing: Organized Work Being Done Under Experienced Leaders in Camps All Over the Country — Difficulties of a Song Leader’s Job (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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September 30th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Music,War

Enter America as Chief Fur Trader

World War I had unexpected effects on the fur market, not least because of… the invention of the submarine?!

“American buyers and American furs no longer play the parts they formerly did in England. The submarine is one of the chief reasons. It has caused a scarcity of ocean freight space and a big jump in war risk insurance on cargoes.”

Another factor was the plummeting number of materials (read: animals) brought into the U.S. from other nations.

“Another way in which the war has affected the fur situation has been to cut down the supplies of skins received from other countries… However, as a result of depleted supplies, prices have advanced sharply, particularly on skins of animals not native of this country…

“It has been ably aided by Fashion, which is figuratively crying for furs and still more furs. Proof that the women of the country are responding to the cry is seen in the fact that, despite the higher prices, the fur trade as a whole is enjoying one of the best seasons it has ever had.”

Today, animal skins are a $40 billion business — although according to Kopenhagen Fur, the global production of fur has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Enter America as Chief Fur Trader: Foreign Countries Formerly Ran the Business of Selling Pelts, but New York and St. Louis Are Now the Leading Markets (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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September 29th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Business,Development

Artistic Instinct of Negroes Should Be Developed

This 1917 article lamented the lack of flourishing culture in the African-American community. The Harlem Renaissance would start a mere year later in 1918, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Led by such figures as Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Richard Wright, the period would produce an explosion of literature, music, and art from the African-American community.

Artistic Instinct of Negroes Should Be Developed (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 2017

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September 28th, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Art,Development

Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars

The urban population has surged from 29.5 percent in 1880 to 46.3 percent in 1910. The Census Bureau estimates that cities contain 62.7 percent of the U.S. population today.

A major change in rural life came with the development and popularity of the car. In 1917, the top two states by number of cars per capita were Iowa and Nebraska, then as now major agricultural states. (Today those two states rank #5 and #10.) The top two today are Montana and Wyoming.

This article describes the transformative effect that the car had on rural life.

“There was the railroad. It was to intersect the country until no isolation would be left. Then came the telephone. It was to knit the countryside together by wire and long distance conversation and thus banish isolation. Next came rural mail delivery. It was to make the change by the delivery of daily papers at the farmer’s door, by establishing continuous touch with the city and the outside world.”

“No one hit upon the actual cause. The trouble with the farm was three miles an hour — three miles by horse and buggy or two by team and wagon. Even the best social ideas would not work at such a rate of moving about. The rate of three miles an hour limited the size of the community, set a bound on the number of people one would meet in the course of a lifetime. Twelve miles is a long drive by horse and buggy, and that was about the radius of the farm families’ social life; the actual neighborhood life was restricted to about four miles from home. Six miles was a good way to go to church; seven or eight miles would be attempted for a social party.”

Today, the trend might be going in reverse, as many Millennials are ditching cars altogether. Only about 60 percent of 18-year-olds have a driver’s license, down from 80 percent in the 1980s.

Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars: Country Existence Ameliorated by Speeding Up from Three to Twenty Miles an Hour — Tremendous Influence in Rural Social Life (PDF)

From Sunday, September 16, 1917

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September 14th, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Development,Life

The Case Against Suffrage

If you thought the people fighting for the women’s right to vote were all women and the people opposing it were all men, think again.

Some women didn’t want the right to vote at all, as shown in this 1917 article about the wife of the U.S. senator from New York who also led the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.

“But do we want the tactics of the female of the species to mold our policies of government, the spirit of our institutions, or the enforcement of our laws? I, for one, am very positive that we do not.”

Wadsworth also contended that even if she supported suffrage (which she didn’t), the timing of the initiative right in the middle of World War I was inopportune.

“They are forcing their pet issue upon an electorate that should have no other issues presented to it for decision than those growing out of the fearful life-and-death struggle of the world for democracy.”

Wadsworth also noted that the measure was being rejected by voters frequently in recent years:

“Did you know that since the close of 1912 the voters of thirteen States, including such big States as New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri, have declared at the polls that they do not want woman suffrage; and that the voters of only two States, Nevada and Montana in 1914, have said that they want it?

Unfortunately for Wadsworth, the 19th Amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote was added to the Constitution less than three years after this article was published.

Case Against Suffrage: Presented by Mrs. James W. Wadsworth, Jr., Leader of Women’s Organization Which Wants No Votes (PDF)

From Sunday, September 9, 1917

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September 10th, 2017 at 10:08 am

Posted in Politics

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations

In one of the best examples of backhanded compliments ever, George MacAdam wrote in 1917:

“Women make good soldiers? Why not? Women are a great deal more combative than men. If you don’t believe me, ask any married man. A fighting woman is by long odds fiercer than a fighting man. If women had the physical strength and could be disciplined — (make a note of that) AND COULD BE DISCIPLINED — they would dominate the earth.”

President Obama allowed women in combat roles in 2013. Some predict that President Trump could reverse and once again ban women from combat roles, though he currently has yet to do so. (Although some fear Trump reversal of Obama’s policy allowing transgender soldiers could be an opening salvo.)

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations (PDF)

From Sunday, September 2, 1917

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August 30th, 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in Debate,War