Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware

The iconic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware is a misnomer. The river was actually modeled after the Rhine River in Germany, leading to several inaccuracies. According to Wikipedia:

“The river is modeled after the Rhine, where ice tends to form in jagged chunks as pictured, not in broad sheets as is more common on the Delaware. Also, the Delaware at what is now called Washington Crossing is far narrower than the river depicted in the painting.”

After this 1918 article, the original 1851 painting was destroyed in a 1942 bombing raid, as the original was housed in Germany. The two other versions also painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze are still intact, currently housed at the Met in New York City and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

The painting was also parodied last month in Geico’s commercial Washington Crossing the Delaware Turnpike:

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware: Leutze’s Famous Painting Really Represents the German River, and German Soldiers Were Used as Models — American Pupil Aided Artist to Get Proper Uniforms (PDF)

From Sunday, February 17, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Art,History

Conscription of All Men Up to Forty-five Years?

Maryland Senator Joseph Irwin France was Congress’s primary advocate during WWI of forcing all men between ages 18 and 45 to register for the draft.

That is not to say that all men up to aged 45 would actually be forced to fight in combat. As France explained:

“The second section of the bill… authorizes the President to consider all enrolled between ages of 18 and 20, inclusive, as members of a Federal cadet corps subject to call for military and nonmilitary training and for noncombatant national service. The men between 21 and 31 by the terms of the bill constitute the Federal first line of defense corps, who may be called into military service in accordance with the conscription act already in force or put into noncombatant national service. A third group is made up of the men between 32 and 36 years of age. It is the second line of defense corps, whose members may be called upon for military or nonmilitary training or for noncombatant national service. The fourth group, consisting of the men from 37 to 45, is the Federal reserve corps, also subject to call for noncombatant service.”

France’s bill didn’t go anywhere. Less than a year into his first Senate term at the time this article was written, France ran for reelection in 1922 but lost.

As for me, under the rules of current U.S. military draft law, I aged out of the draft only last month.

Conscription of All Men Up to Forty-five Years: Senator France, Author of Bill Subjecting Them to Government’s Call, Says It Is the Only Way to Solve War’s Industrial Problems (PDF)

From Sunday, February 10 , 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 10th, 2018 at 9:01 am

Posted in Debate,Politics,War

When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals was largely about how Abraham Lincoln stacked his Cabinet with several people who had run against him for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination. Lincoln named:

  • New York Senator William H. Seward as Secretary of State
  • Pennsylvania Senator Simon Cameron as Secretary of War
  • Former Missouri Congressman Edward Bates as Attorney General
  • Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase as Secretary of the Treasury, and later nominated by Lincoln as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)

Donald Trump appointed two people who ran against him for the Republican nomination to his Cabinet:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Energy Secretary
  • Physician Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Barack Obama nominated several intra-party rivals as well:

  • Delaware Senator Joe Biden as Vice President
  • New York Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

Obama was a vocal fan of Team of Rivals, which he repeatedly cited as one of his favorite books of all time — and specifically mentioned that Lincoln was his favorite president. Obama did keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, a Republican holdover from George W. Bush’s administration.

Perhaps not quite a “team” of rivals, although Obama did retain or reappoint several other notable non-Cabinet appointees of Bush such as Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chair and Robert Mueller as FBI Director. In contrast, Trump did not keep any of Obama’s Cabinet appointees, and axed several of Obama’s other appointees such as James Comey and Janet Yellen.

(Not going to lie, though — I tried reading Team of Rivals but couldn’t finish it. It’s 916 pages long.)

When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet: Discussion About Such a Body Today Recalls How His Great Tact and Firmness Enabled Him to Allay Discord Among His Advisers (PDF)

From Sunday, February 10, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 9th, 2018 at 9:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Has the Power of Public Opinion Waned?

Was the power of public opinion on American politics declining in 1918? Job E. Hedges, former Republican candidate for New York governor, said yes and blamed it on political primaries:

With the increase in our population, the average citizen is necessarily unable to have before him all the facts from which to draw his conclusions and express himself affirmatively or negatively at the polls. This necessarily compels the citizen to act through a representative of his selection with similar beliefs. Here the direct primaries have demonstrated their inefficiency. They have militated against the formation of public sentiment and at the same time increased the power of money.

The first state to hold a presidential primary was Florida in 1901, and by 1920 (two years after this article was published) 20 of the 48 states had primaries. But Hedges’ argument caught hold as many states discontinued their primaries. Indeed, as late as 1968, only 12 states used them.

The modern presidential primaries as we know them today — first Iowa, then New Hampshire, with all states participating — truly began in 1976.

As for “the power of public opinion,” modern polling as we know it today wouldn’t begin until the Gallup Organization’s founding in 1935.

Has the Power of Public Opinion Waned?: Job E. Hedges Says It has Ceased to be a Great Aggressive Force in America Since the Direct Primary Idea Became Popular (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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February 2nd, 2018 at 9:45 am

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight

While about 20 percent of the population at the time were enrolled as library borrowers and took out an average of three books per year, World War I soldiers in the camps were enrolled at a rate of 40 percent and took out an average of 12 books per year.

Half a million book volumes were already located in the military camp libraries by February 1918, less than a year after American entered the conflict, with a “soldiers book fund” containing more than $1.5 million.

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight: Books in Camp Are Used Twice as Much as Those in City Libraries — Many Men Acquire Valuable Habit for the First Time (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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February 1st, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Education,War

Some Good in the Garfield Shock

The hyperbole-free New York Times described a contemporary January 1918 government decision as “Probably no executive order in this country ever aroused such a unanimity of expression.”

What was this controversial decision that had the entire nation on edge? “Fuel Administrator Garfield’s recent five-day closure of industry and business east of the Mississippi River.”

Wait, what?

Harry Garfield, son of former president James A. Garfield, was serving as president of Williams College when he was named by President Wilson as the first Administrator for the Fuel Administration, a new agency created to better manage American resources during World War I.

As this article from 1914-1918-online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War details, a massive coal shortage was causing many homes and businesses to go without heat, energy, and light. The problem was distributional rather than supply-based, as railcars intended to transport coal were halted or even abandoned due to backlogs on the railways.

Since this problem was primarily on the east coast, Garfield ordered most factories east of the Mississippi River closed for five days, from January 18-22, 1918, and then again every Monday thereafter. The plan generated massive outcry of government overreach, and indeed the policy was abandoned mere weeks later.

Even at the time it seems hard to imagine that executive order being considered more controversial and significant than, say, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. There have certainly been a wealth of more controversial presidential administration executive decisions since then, ones whose controversy hasn’t dimmed over the decades as Wilson’s/Garfield’s did — from Roosevelt’s Japanese internment camps to Ford’s blanket pardon of Nixon.

Some Good in the Garfield Shock: Ex-Judge Lacombe Analyzes the Situation — Workless Days Order May Yield Eventual Benefits in Spite of Almost Unanimous Criticism

From Sunday, January 27, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 25th, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Business,Politics

Female Labor Arouses Hostility

As more women entered the workforce during WWI, men were having a difficult time adjusting:

A conflict that was peacefully adjusting itself before the war has been churned into fresh fury. It is the ancient contest between male and female labor. Most often silent, it now threatens to become vitriolic. Many regard it as the powder magazine of the present labor world, one that an unforeseen match may explode into a national calamity.

Only those with an ear close to the ground hear the rumblings of the coming storm. The restraints of patriotic appeal have held in leash an ever-mounting resentment in the ranks of labor, organized and unorganized, and as yet this has found only a superficial expression. But there exist signposts which point the easy road to trouble.

Is it true that America, like Europe, is to have feminized industry? If so, will man resign his present place without a fight? If he does fight, what form will the contest take?

The present-day answers to those question:

  • Will America have feminized industry? As of December 2017, the official male unemployment rate was 4.0% while the female rate was a bit lower at 3.8%. (The “full” unemployment rate is usually about twice the “official” rate.) So women had a better rate of finding jobs than men.
  • Will man resign his present place without a fight? If he does fight, what form will the contest take? Man hasn’t “resigned” his place in any meaningful sense — it’s not like everything is run by women. But men have definitely put up a fight. Read the New York Times’ thorough expose Harvey Weinstein’s Complicity Machine if you doubt it. 2016 also saw the biggest gender gap in presidential voting ever, with a 24 point differential between men voting for Trump and against a potential first female president by +12, while women voted for Clinton by a reverse +12.

Female Labor Arouses Hostility: Union Leader Asserts That Men Workers Regard Substitutions as Exploitation of the Weaker Sex, Unnecessary as Yet and Tending to Cause Industrial Unrest (PDF)

From Sunday, January 20, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Business

War’s Biggest Trick: “The Suicide Fleet”

The Trojan horse had its 20th century equivalent in the “His Majesty’s Ship No. 1-14” fleet of fake battleships commissioned by the British Navy during World War I.

A Royal Naval Reserve Officer described the ostensibly powerful vehicles:

The ships seemed in trim for any daring venture that the sea in wartime could afford, and I wondered if the tale that they were dummies were not a farce for the consumption of spies. Never have I seen warships with appearance more genuine. Huge gray monsters they were, with double turrets fore and aft, from which great guns protruded; wicker masts with crow’s nests and gaunt naval bridges towered above decks stripped for action and anti-aircraft guns and range-finders pointed in every direction. All of them had steam up as if ready to dash to sea and engage a prowling enemy at any moment. Not in my twenty years at sea, in which time I have seen the navies of all the powers, have I gazed upon a more formidable squadron, if the eye alone were judge.

But on board the joke was evident at a glance. The fighting turrets were little wooden barns, with bare rafters inside. The great guns were logs, graduated from a sawmill, tapered and bored in exact imitation of naval cannon. Not a single real gun aboard! We could not have sunk a rowboat!

There were 14 such ships in all, and they worked: the Germany military bragged about torpedoing one of them, not realizing how little damage they had actually inflicted on their oppoentns.

War’s Biggest Trick: “The Suicide Fleet” — British Squadron of Fourteen Wooden Ships, with Wooden Guns, Deceived Germans for Months and Decoyed Them Into the Dogger Bank Disaster (PDF)

From Sunday, January 13, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 16th, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Posted in War

Keeping Civil Disputes Out of the Courts

“A reform that may be widely extended” proved prescient. In this article, New York City Municipal Court Justice Edgar J. Lauer detailed the growing trend of settling legislation out of court, which helps keeps costs down and help prevent the judicial system from getting too overloaded.

By the 21st century, 97 percent of civil cases are settled without going to trial. (Although detractors counter that such sidestepping prevents the establish of useful case law.)

Keeping Civil Disputes Out of the Courts: New Methods of Settling Legislation Have Been Adopted by the New York Municipal Judges — A Reform That May Be Widely Extended (PDF)

From Sunday, January 13, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 15th, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Development,Law

Maryland Law Which Makes Everybody Work

Maryland and eight other state governments made work mandatory during 1917 and 1918, amid the labor shortage caused by so many men serving in World War I. Although many considered it a violation of personal liberty, the official unemployment rate dropped from 4.5% to 1.4% as a result.

For comparison, the official unemployment rate in December 2017 was 4.1% — the lowest rate since 2000. (A fuller measure of the unemployment rate pegs it 8.1% currently, but that’s still one of the lowest rates in years.)

So how come no states have compulsory work laws anymore? Such laws were declared illegal after World War I was over.

Maryland Law Which Makes Everybody Work: Conscription of the Unemployed Rich and Poor Has Begun in One State, and Congress Has Before It a Similar Plan for the Nation (PDF)

From Sunday, January 13, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 15th, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Business,Politics

Foods People Won’t Eat Because of the Names

Muskrat. Field mouse. Dogfish. All are examples of foods that Robert T. Morris, M.D. cited in 1918 as foods many people refused to consume due to their names.

This article leads off by describing how many people wouldn’t eat dogfish, because it brought to mind a dog as much as a fish. According to Wikipedia, by 2018 the species is primarily called a bowfin, although “Common names include mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, griddle, grinnel, cypress trout and choupique.” They should really settle on just one name.

Foods People Won’t Eat Because of the Names: Dogfish Not at All Popular Until It Came to be Called Grayfish — Dainty Morsels from the Muskrat and Field Mouse (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 11th, 2018 at 8:27 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Thirty-two Camps Have Newspaper in Common

The newspaper Trench and Camp was started for soldiers in training during WWI, with the intention that half the content would be national and identical among each of the 32 editions, with the other half of content being written by local writers.

Trench and Camp did not survive past approximately 1919. What most Americans now think of as the primary publication dealing with the military, Stars and Stripes, began in its modern incarnation during WWI.

However, it had apparently not received enough attention by January 1918 for the New York Times Sunday Magazine to profile it yet — Trench and Camp was still apparently the bigger of the two publications at that point.

Thirty-two Camps Have Newspaper in Common: Four Pages of Each Issue Printed Here for All, Four More Pages of Local Interest Printed at Nearby Cities for Each Cantonment (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 10th, 2018 at 8:17 am

Posted in Journalism,War

Using the Camera to Illustrate Fiction

Books in 1918 were starting to use real people portraying the characters instead of illustrations, as books had previously done for centuries prior:

The two “illustrating photographers” employ a scout who is sent out to the locations where suitable models for the character required may be found, but most of the new models — and the list of 3,000 is receiving constant increments — come through the good offices of those who have already posed and who spread the word that it is easy money for pleasant work. When a story deals with east side or rural types or some other specialized characters, the photographs do not reproduce made-up actors, but originals — real east side tradesmen, real farmers from the high grass.

The modern-day descendants of those photographic pioneers include Jason Aaron Baca, who has posed as the male model on more than 600 romance novels and counting.

Using the Camera to Illustrate Fiction: Models Pose for Photographs Showing Scenes in the Story — How Two Artists Originate the Plan (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 9th, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Art,Fiction

Civil War Food Prices Were Lower Than Those of Today

Between 1861 and 1863, the Civil War caused huge percentage price jumps. Eggs went from 15 to 25 cents per dozen, cheese from 8 to 18 cents per pound, and a bushel of potatoes from $1.50 to $2.25.

But if the prices were actually lower than they were in 1918, why was there so much more economic anger about prices during the Civil War than during World War I? Because during the Civil War, income and wages were doing a much worse job at keeping pace with inflation.

Ostensibly the lesson here for the present day would be that politicians should try their best to insure that wages go up. Yet in 2016, American middle-class incomes reached their highest levels ever, yet the presidential election reflected seemingly the opposite result.

Civil War Food Prices Were Lower Than Those of Today (PDF)

From Sunday, January 9, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 9th, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Business,History

Where Women Supplant Men Because of War

 

Among the jobs which were women were filling in for men in larger numbers as a result of World War I: streetcar conductors, subway guards, elevator runners, firefighters, munition works, the felt hat industry, radium plating, and wagon drivers.

As a man, I would gladly volunteer for even the most unjust war to avoid an occupation of radium plating. Guess how Marie Curie died?

Where Women Supplant Men Because of War: Changes Taking Place in Many Industries — Employers Report New Workers’ Adaptability in Fields Hitherto Barred — Equal Pay Now the Rule (PDF)

From Sunday, December 30, 1917

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December 31st, 2017 at 8:01 am

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here

In what is probably the single best piece of writing I’ve seen during my time running Sunday Magazine, this article describes the fewer toys, barren shop windows, and a new somewhat lonelier holiday celebration for Americans in the throes of World War I.

It is a changed Santa Claus that will visit New York on this, the first Christmas that has found America buckled down to the grim task of playing a part in the great world conflict — a war-rationed Santy who is trying to do his bit.

The old twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, cheery smile, and jolly paunch — symbols of merriment and hospitality, of kindliness and generosity — have lost some of their pristine glory. When hard-fisted necessity in the guise of the Higher Cost-of-Living, has been busy depleting the pocketbook for these many months past, when Charity is making her appeals for the starving and homeless in many quarters of the globe, when Patriotism is crying for funds with which to fight the enemy, the gift-pack must perforce shrink, the stuffed turkey be forsworn, the punch-bowl stay dry.

But if the old spirit of Merry Christmas has been tempered, if it has been shorn of some of its jollity, some of its splendidly careless generosity, because there is no longer “peace on earth,” there has come a community kindliness, a sobered realization of the ties that bind us to those outside our circle of kinship and friendship, a bestowal of hospitality and generosity upon the stranger and the poor such as we have never before seen. And so, after all, those gaudy colored angels perched upon their Christmas-card cloud can still trumpet forth with all their old fervor “good-will toward men.”

Be thankful for all that’s going right in the year 2017, whether in your own personal life or in the world at large. Happy holidays… and to all a good night.

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here: First Christmas of the War Finds America No Longer the Lavish Spender of Other Years — Signs of Great Changes Seen on All Sides (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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December 24th, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Life,War

Ebb of Pacifism in America

Prior to American entry in World War I, there was a not-insubstantial and vocal contingent of opposition. Eight months later, that had shriveled up to nearly nothing:

“But today the great majority of the altruists are out of the peace party; they recognized the reality of a war of justice, and quit idealism for humanity. Some of the altruists are still in the party, but they ‘are singing low,’ to quote one of the most influential who, accordingly, insists upon the anonymity of this quotation. And such flabby activity of the peace movement as exists today is being stimulated by the Socialist, the anarchist, the alien propagandist, or ‘the professional gasbag element.'”

One particular example was mentioned, a man who remains a household name even today. (Although his later Nazi sympathies would color how fewer generations would view his stances on war and politics.)

“Because of the sensational methods of his peace advocacy, the name of Henry Ford stands out. Mr. Ford spent $400,000 in his expedition to ‘get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas.’ Upon his return to this country he announced that he was ready to spend $25,000,000, or as much more as might be necessary, to prevent any improvement or extension of the naval or military establishment of the United States. Four months after we declared war he said that ‘we must prepare to go the limit for the struggle.’ A little later, in taking $5,000,000 of Liberty bonds, he said that the United States, in making war on Germany, did ‘the best thing that ever happened for the world.’ He has also come out for universal military training, and now he has himself joined the staff of the Shipping Board.”

Imagine getting that level of nearly-unanimous support on anything today, especially something so consequential.

Ebb of Pacifism in America: Voices Which Were Loud Last Summer Have Been Silenced by a Few Months of War — How the Leaders Came to Realize the Futility of Their Old Arguments (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 23rd, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Politics,War

“Keep Jolly!” Somme Veteran Tells Our Men

How does a soldier keep from going insane in wartime? Maintain your sense of humor. That was the advice in this 1917 article. Among the examples they gave were:

“They give absurd names to everything. The Tommies call the ‘R.I.P.’ that is put on a soldier’s grave ‘Rise If Possible.’ When the rats were bad in Belgium and we were amusing ourselves by shooting at them along the parapet, I heard a pal of mine tell a rookie that those trench rats were so big that he had seen one of them trying on his greatcoat.”

Alas, people wouldn’t become that fun until the late 1970s. If this was the best humor they had to offer, a lot of WWI soldiers probably did go insane.

“Keep Jolly!” Somme Veteran Tells Our Men: Soldiers at the Front Would Go Crazy If They Didn’t Joke, Says Lieutenant Alexander McClintock, U.S.R., Formerly in the Canadian Army (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 22nd, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Posted in History,War

Troublous Times for the Theatre Business

 

“In fact, the last week has been about the worst week in the history of the American theater.” That was the worry gripping Broadway in December 1917. What was causing this?

“Pro Bono Publico writes to his favorite paper that it is because the plays presented nowadays are so inferior that intelligent people won’t tolerate them.” This is similar to the main explanation for why movie box office in summer 2017 had its lowest-selling summer since 1997: that almost every summer release besides Wonder Woman and Dunkirk was terrible. (It wasn’t competition from Netflix and the like; Netflix was almost as massive in 2016 and 2015, which were comparatively stronger box office years.)

Other explanations offered included a wartime tax on theater tickets, and the fact that war started to become more “real” for Americans outside of combat round October due to several factors such as a sugar shortage, even though America had entered the conflict in April.

Troublous Times for the Theatre Business: All Sorts of Suggestions for Remedying War Slump Are Being Considered by the Managers — The Question of Prices and Ticket Speculators (PDF)

From Sunday, December 16, 1917

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December 16th, 2017 at 12:20 pm

War Gifts and Taxes Threaten Home Charity

 

Domestic charitable organizations were facing a challenge in 1917. Because most charitable donations were suddenly going overseas as a result of American involvement in World War I that year, domestic charities found their donations drying up, according to Charity Organization Society of the City of New York President Robert W. de Forest”

“The need in Europe is great — very great. Let us help Europe to meet it if we can. But the direct responsibility for meeting that need falls on the great nations of Europe, one of which certainly is wealthier than our own [referring to the United Kingdom]… Yes, I believe in giving liberally to help suffering in Europe, but we should hold ourselves sufficiently in reserve to be able to relieve suffering at home.”

Today, charitable giving is consistently reaching new highs. Americans gave a record $390.0 billion to charity in 2016, itself up from the previous record the year before: $373.2 billion in 2015. The economy has been good and improving the past few years, while the nation was not at war.

War Gifts and Taxes Threaten Home Charity: How Local Benefactions Are Affected by American Philanthropy in Europe — New Government Levies Curtail Incomes of Those Who Formerly Gave Freely (PDF)

From Sunday, December 16, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 15th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Politics,War