Why Are You a Democrat or a Republican?

From September 24, 1916

Why Are You a Democrat or a Republican?: We Are Fortunate in Having a Permanent Election issue on Which We May Take Sides Without Impairing Our Loyalty (PDF)

why-are-you-a-democrat-or-a-republican

Columbia Professor Brander Matthews was able to write the following in 1916, of American political parties:

Now, it is impossible to declare abstractly that either party is absolutely right… Each can respect the other and respect the other’s point of view. Both can agree to disagree without being moved to hatred or to contempt. And here is where we Americans have our inexpugnable advantage over the voters of most other countries. Here also is where the American citizen who has had the benefit of an education which has liberated his mind, which has freed him from the unnecessary prejudices, and which has trained him to try to understand (and even to esteem) the opinions he does not share.

About that…

This year, 58 percent of Republicans have “very unfavorable” views of the Democratic Party, up from 21 percent in 1994 — while 55 percent of Democrats have “very unfavorable” views of the Republican Party, up from 17 percent in 1994. That’s according to survey data from the Pew Research Center.

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Written by Jesse

September 25th, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Politics

What Is the Matter with the Modern Boy?

From September 24, 1916

what-is-the-matter-with-the-modern-boy

What Is the Matter with the Modern Boy?: He Is Less of a Boy, But Not More of a Man, Than His Father Was — The Reason and Cure Outlined by One Who Knows Him (PDF)

In the words of the musical Bye Bye Birdie, “What’s the Matter With Kids Today?” They’ve been asking that question for ages, and in 1916 a boys’ school headmaster named Thomas S. Baker continued that storied tradition. He laid the blame for the modern boy at several primary culprits including the rise in popularity of sports and movies during the previous generation.

On movies:

What effect is the indulgence in this form of imaginative debauch going to have upon the minds of American boys?… The boy gets his sentiment and his imaginative excitement in big ladlefuls from the moving pictures. They certainly are not stimulating to his mentality, although they may have a very exciting effect upon his emotions. The unrealities which are laid before him cannot fail to give him a distorted view of life.

On sports:

I have been frequently asked what sort of things the boys of today like to read… The greatest element in their reading is the sporting pages of the newspapers. This is the boy’s favorite hunting ground. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports before he develops any interest in the other portions of the newspapers. If his school work demanded an examination in the biographies of athletes or the condition of contemporary athletics, he would receive a mark that would make a strong contrast to his other averages.

Alexandra Petri wrote a great humor column for the Washington Post a few years ago about how every generation thinks the subsequent generation is just the worst, going back to at least Ancient Greek times. Worth a read, if you want a laugh with a serious point:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2014/05/15/millennials-are-going-to-be-less-narcissistic-than-ever-suggests-new-study/

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Written by Jesse

September 25th, 2016 at 3:41 pm

American Sentiment and American Apathy

From September 24, 1916

american-sentiment-and-american-apathy

American Sentiment and American Apathy: Until We Prove Our Resolution as Well as Our Reasonableness, Self-Congratulations Are Out of Order, Says Noted Author (PDF)

Then as now (at least to some extent), there was a fear among some that America’s values were going astray, that materialism and societal divisiveness were rampant while patriotism and tolerance were not. Author Agnes Repplier outlines that anxiety in this paragraph:

If the United States is a land where hatred dies, why are our industrial disputes settled by strikes to the accompaniment of violence? Are the soldiers who fire from trenches inspired by hatred, and the rioters who fire from curbstones inspired by brotherly love? How much blood has been spilled, how many “social war” crimes have been committed, how many workmen have been maimed, how much property has been destroyed in fifty years of strife between employers and employed! Is acquisitveness a nobler spur than patriotism? Is caste a stronger bond than country?

Just remember: 2016 is actually a relative calm period in American history.

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Written by Jesse

September 25th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Life

Minister Who Would Be Governor of Florida

From September 17, 1916

minister-who-would-be-governor-of-florida

Minister Who Would Be Governor of Florida: Having Won the Democratic Nomination, the Rev. Sidney J. Catts Is the Centre of Stormiest Political Fight in State’s History (PDF)

Sidney Catts won the 1916 Democratic primary to become the nominee for Florida governor, but the party leaders were upset that the “outsider” pastor and insurance salesman with no political experience was to become their standard-bearer. The party went to the state Supreme Court and got them to demand a recount, which didn’t include Catts. Catts, having essentially had the primary election stolen from him upon this subsequent recount, then became the Prohibition Party’s nominee and won the general election in November, beating the official Democratic nominee William Knott handily.  Although many prohibitionists won statewide office running as Democrats or Republicans, to this day Catts remains the only candidate ever elected to a statewide office under the Prohibitionist Party banner.

And Florida never had a shady recount election with a politically-influenced court ruling ever again.

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Written by Jesse

September 17th, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Politics,Religion

War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets

From September 17, 1916

war-has-taught-our-chemists

War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets: Need of Products Which Europe Cannot Now Supply Has Successfully Stimulated Experts to Produce Satisfactory Substitutes (PDF)

War has always been one of the most powerful motivators for scientific advancement. As astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil DeGrasse Tyson noted in his 2013 Rice University commencement address, “No one has ever spent big money just to explore. No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver. That part got cleansed from our memory.” Of President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 proposal to send humans to Mars, Tyson said, “People were saying, ‘We’ve lost our drive, we’ve lost our will.’ No, it’s the same will we’ve ever had. We just weren’t threatened.”

World War I was no different. This article details some the ways in which that scientific advancement was occurring at the time, a silver lining to the ultimate dark cloud. Later in World War II, that scientific advancement would come most prominently in the form of the Manhattan Project and nuclear weapons.

 

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Written by Jesse

September 16th, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Science,War

The Wages of the Locomotive and Its Driver

From September 17, 1916

wages-of-the-locomotive

The Wages of the Locomotive and Its Driver: Comparison of the Work and Pay of the Trainmen and the Trains Considered as Representatives of Labor and Capital (PDF)

The men (and they were all men) who works on the railroads wanted pay raises in 1916, in an article that echoes present-day debates. Should the federal minimum wage should be increased from its current $7.25 to $12, as Hillary Clinton endorses? What worker protections are the 327,000+ Uber drivers entitled to?

This article also contains the first infographic I’ve come across in these archived Sunday Magazine posts, one visualizing the rise in railroad stock prices over the preceding two years. Infographics generally did not achieve widespread use in print until USA Today was created in the 1980s, rendering the sight of one here striking — usually articles would just print tables of numbers in lieu of visualizations.

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Written by Jesse

September 15th, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Business

Edison Tells Why He Will Vote for Wilson

From September 10, 1916

edison-tells-why

Edison Tells Why He Will Vote for Wilson: We Are at Peace, and the Country Was Never So Prosperous, Why Change? (PDF)

Thomas Edison was one of the most sought-after political endorsements of the day, as the inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph was one of the most popular people in America. Here he throws his hat behind incumbent President Woodrow Wilson’s reelection bid, which he would ultimately win in November. Edison argued, as the sub-headline states, that the country was at peace and its economy was at unprecedented highs.

And in what could be seen as a parallel to Donald Trump’s “big beautiful wall that Mexico will pay for” in 2016, Edison also appreciated Wilson’s measured policies towards that country:

“President Wilson’s Mexican policy has been wise and just and courageous. Mexico has been a troublesome neighbor, but war and conquest are not going to make her a better one. Both against England, and then against human slavery, the United States has worked out her salvation through revolution, and it was a pretty slow, trying process.”

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Written by Jesse

September 10th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Politics

Washington’s Letter Vanishes from Baltimore

From September 10, 1916

washingtons-letter-vanishes

Washington’s Letter Vanishes from Baltimore: Was a Link with the Past, Recalling Memories of Constitutional Convention and the Carrolls of Carrollton (PDF)

Shortly after George Washington was elected as president, Bishop John Carroll sent him a letter on behalf of American Catholics congratulating him on the post and stressing the need to maintain religious liberty. Washington wrote back, saying, in part: “As Mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of Civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost Nations in examples of Justice and Liberality.”

More then a century later, when documents were being indexed at a cathedral in Baltimore where the letter was believed to be located, it was discovered that the letter was missing. It was not know since when the letter had been gone. This article from Catholic Review notes that the letter was subsequently found and is now housed at the the Archdiocese of Baltimore — but that it’s also not known when the letter was recovered, either!

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Written by Jesse

September 9th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Religion

New Rules of Conduct Needed for Nations

From September 10, 1916

new-rules-of-conduct

New Rules of Conduct Needed for Nations: Robert Bacon, Former Ambassador to France, Discusses the Breakdown of International Law and Suggests a Remedy (PDF)

Amidst the horrors of World War I, Bacon suggested that a stronger system of international law was necessary. He listed six “principles of justice, universal and fundamental,” including life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, equality before the law, and the right to property. He proposed more concrete measures to ensure that they were enshrined in international law:

They are declared by the Supreme Court to be the universal and fundamental rights, and from this source all other rights can be derived which nations should enjoy… The Supreme Court has rightly declared that the rights of municipal law are also rights of international law, and, in so doing, has solemnly stated that the principles of justice apply alike to individuals as to nations. We, in this country, must admit this to be so; we cannot overrule the Supreme Court of the United States. Its decision is law for us, and, armed with its authority, it is for us to insist that these principles be recognized by the nations of the world, just as they are recognized and must be recognized by us.”

Are those rights great? Yes. But the argument that the U.S. should impose those values on the rest of the world has often met with mixed results — notably in Iraq since 2003.

In terms of strengthening international law, sure enough, the subsequent decades after Bacon’s article would see the adoptions of the United Nations in 1945, the World Bank in 1945, the International Monetary Fund in 1945, and the Geneva Conventions in 1949 — but not without tens of millions in unnecessary bloodshed. Debates still linger to this day (and presumably always will) about how much power international bodies should have to dictate law versus sovereign states setting policies within their own borders.

 

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Written by Jesse

September 8th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Politics

Nation to Honor Lafayette Next Wednesday

From September 3, 1916

Nation to Honor Lafayette

Nation to Honor Lafayette Next Wednesday: 159th Anniversary of Birthday of French Hero of American Revolution Recalls His Triumphal Visit to United States Ninety-two Years Ago (PDF)

How would people in 1916 have reacted if told that, a century later, Daveed Diggs — a black man — would win the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his rapping role as Marquis de Lafayette?

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Written by Jesse

August 31st, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Recreation

Crisis in Suffrage Movement, Says Mrs. Catt

From September 3, 1916

Crisis in Suffrage Movement

Crisis in Suffrage Movement, Says Mrs. Catt: Votes-for-Women Leader Tells Why Emergency Convention of National Woman Suffrage Association Will Meet Next Week (PDF)

1916 was a critical tipping point in the women’s suffrage movement. Although the 19th Amendment granted all women in the U.S. the right to vote, a growing number of states had already granted that right prior to the amendment’s passage. According to a count from the Constitution Center, the amendment gave the right to vote to the 21 states that had not already done so.

As the article from 1916 describes:

In our own country the sentiment for nation-wide suffrage grows stronger daily. With this growth in sentiment has come an increased demand for the passage of the Federal suffrage amendment, and because women throughout the country are turning to that Federal amendment for relief from their political disabilities it enters into the political campaign this year with an importance it never had before.

The women of six States will vote for President this year for the first time, and those of six others have the Presidential vote. One group of suffragists has made bold claims that it will persuade enough women within these States to vote against the President, because his party in Congress has blocked the Federal amendment, to defeat him. The audacity and novelty of these claims have piqued the curiosity of some and aroused the angry indignation of others. The main body of suffragists have yet to speak.

The amendment was ultimately passed by Congress in June 1919 and approved by the requisite number of states in August 1920.

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Written by Jesse

August 31st, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Politics

City’s Summer Music Problem Solved at Last

From September 3, 1916

City's Summer Music

City’s Summer Music Problem Solved at Last: Success of Popular-Priced Concerts Which Filled Madison Square Garden Leads to Outdoor Opera at City College Stadium (PDF)

An article about the then-recent attempts in 1916 to have low-priced opera and orchestral concerts for the New York City public. This sentence in particular illustrates just how long ago this was: “When you get something like 8,000 persons at a concert in New York it means something!” Later today as of this writing, Bruce Springsteen is playing MetLife Stadium which has a seating capacity of 82,000.

The 1916 article also quotes Oscar Hammerstein, a major figure in orchestral composing at the time. You may better know his son Oscar Hammerstein II, who several decades later as a member of the famed duo Rodgers and Hammerstein composed such legendary Broadway musicals as The Sound of MusicThe King and I, and Oklahoma!

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Written by Jesse

August 30th, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Entertainment,Music

Is Spelling Reform, Ten Years Old, a Success?

From August 27, 1916

Is Spelling Reform

Is Spelling Reform, Ten Years Old, a Success?: Professor Brander Matthews Finds That the Public Has Had a Change of Heart and Is No Longer Contemptuously Hostile (PDF)

In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt tried to shorten the spellings of about 300 words. Although the presidential directive was overturned by Congress, there was still a surge of support for this measure pushed by the Simplified Spelling Board. This article checked in a decade later to see whether most of the shortened spellings took off. But what about a century later?

In 2016, we indeed use honor instead of honourcheck instead of cheque or checquehiccup instead of hiccoughmaneuver instead of manoeuvre, and plow instead of plough. But we haven’t substituted stedfast for steadfast, or wo for woe.

I particularly enjoyed this masterfully crafted sentence from the 1916 article, about proposed spelling changes:

But thru and thruout aroused the most excited protests. They were denounced as diabolical specimens of orthographic mayhem.

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Written by Jesse

August 27th, 2016 at 11:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Hughes Is Proving an Effective Campaigner

From August 27, 1916

Hughes Is Proving

Hughes Is Proving an Effective Campaigner: His Vote-Getting Methods Compared With Those of Wilson and Roosevelt by One Who Has Seen All Three In Action (PDF)

Compare the description of the Republican presidential candidate in 1916 to the Republican presidential candidate in 2016:

The campaign as conducted by Hughes himself lacks little in vigorous utterance, biting sarcasm, and systemized attack upton Democratic policies and Democratic leaders.

Those were the days.

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Written by Jesse

August 26th, 2016 at 11:28 am

Posted in Politics

China’s Industrial Revolution Now In Progress

From August 27, 1916

China's Industrial Revolution 2

China’s Industrial Revolution Now In Progress: Chow Tsz-Chi, Former Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, Points Out the Opportunities In His Country for Americans (PDF)

If you thought China was advancing a century ago, China’s economy overtook the U.S. to become the world’s largest in 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund. To some extent that’s an unfair comparison because China has about quadruple the U.S. population, but still — the U.S. had the world’s largest economy for many decades and was once thought by many to be unbeatable.

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Written by Jesse

August 25th, 2016 at 11:23 am

Posted in Business,Development

Why American Business Is Constantly Pounded

From August 20, 1916

Why American Business

Why American Business Is Constantly Pounded: James A. Emery, Counsel for Council of Industrial Defense, Discusses Influences at Work in Congress and State Legislatures (PDF)

James Emery bemoaned the state of business in 1916:

“There never was a time when it has been so easy to excite popular feeling against business; there never was a time when so many organized influences have been working to substitute laws of equalization for equal laws, to turn our States into social laboratories conducting experiments at the expense of the well-to-do and successful.”

The government and the public were against business back in 1916? The top corporate tax rate than was 2 percent. Today it’s 35 percent.

The percentage of American public expressing “a great deal or quite a lot” of confidence in big business declined from 34 percent in 1975 to only 18 percent in 2016. (I couldn’t find data going back to 1916, when polling was much less common, but it seems to reasonable to assume that confidence was even higher back then, considering that the general trend in the past century has been declining confidence in virtually every American institution.)

 

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Written by Jesse

August 19th, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Business

Big Decline in Total Vote in New York State

From August 20, 1916

Big Decline

Big Decline in Total Vote in New York State: Although Population Increased Thirty Per Cent from 1900 to 1915 the Neglect of Citizenship Duty Has Become Noticeable (PDF)

The voter turnout rate dropped in New York state, as a percentage of the population, between 1900 and 1915. Two main reasons were listed by the New York Times:

Two principal reasons are given by politicians for the steadily decreasing vote, in proportion to population, during the last decade. The first is the law of 1906 requiring publicity of campaign receipts and expenditures. Under that law contributions for political campaigns are made with the name of the contributors accompanying them. The result has been to reduce the amount of money available for campaign purposes, and the political workers, especially those in the rural districts, complain that they have not sufficient funds with which to get out the vote on election day.

The second reason is the signature law of 1908. Voters in the cities are required to sign their names in a poll book or admit their inability to do so.

The most recent presidential election at the time, 1912, saw 17.32 percent of the New York state population turn out to vote, according to statistics provided in the article. That has gone up significantly since then. With 7,081,536 state votes for president and about 19,607,000 residents in 2012, New York state saw a voter turnout rate of about 36.11 percent of the population.

 

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Written by Jesse

August 18th, 2016 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Politics

Will This New Author Prove a Second Conrad?

From August 20, 1916

Will This New Author

Will This New Author Prove a Second Conrad?: James Huneker, the Noted Critic, Prophesies About William McFee, Whose Story of the Sea Has Captured Literary London (PDF)

William McFee was the hot new author sensation in 1916, with his nautical-themed novels including Casuals of the Sea and Letters from an Ocean Tramp. He would go on to write dozens more novels for decades to come, through the early 1950s.

But to answer the headline’s title question of whether McFee would come to be considered another Joseph Conrad, by 2016 none of McFee’s works would still be as widely read or renowned by critics as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim.

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Written by Jesse

August 17th, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Literature

Humidity This Summer Has Broken Record

From August 13, 1916

Humidity This Summer

Humidity This Summer Has Broken Record: It’s a Notable Contrast to Just a Century Ago, Which Was “The Year Without a Summer,” When Snow Fell in June (PDF)

Ah, the days before global warming and the climate crisis.

James H. Scarr, then the head of the New York Weather bureau, stated in 1916: “The highest average mean temperature for July occurred in 1901, and was 78 degrees. The coolest July within this period of forty-five years was in 1884, when the average was 70 degrees.” If only that was still true. AccuWeather data shows that the average mean temperature in July in New York City is about 82 degrees — higher than ever the highest average ever recorded in the city a century ago.

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Written by Jesse

August 11th, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Nature

Where Catholics and Non-Catholics Should Unite

From August 13, 1916

Where Catholics

Where Catholics and Non-Catholics Should United: Bishop McFaul Says They Should Work Together for the Stamping Out of Evil in a Spirit of Patriotism and Service (PDF)

Amidst a presidential campaign where non-Catholic Donald Trump has gotten into a feud with Pope Francis — that’s right, a feud with the Pope — it’s important to remember that this is actually a period of low inter-religious tension in this country. (With the exception of Muslims, it seems.) In this article from 1916, Rev. James A. McFaul suggests people put aside their religious differences in the spirit of unity as World War I raged on. The Catholic percentage of the U.S. population has gone from about 14.2 percent then to 24.3 percent now.

This gem was also enjoyable, regarding the newest form of visual media at the time:

The readers of The New York Times, I doubt not, have followed the discussion which has been going the rounds of the press regarding moving pictures. Delegations in which were both Catholic clergymen and non-Catholic went to the capital of the State of New York to urge that the youth of this country be fended from the obscene and the immoral when they sought recreation in the film theaters.

I’m sure Rev. McFaul would have loved Deadpool.

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Written by Jesse

August 11th, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Religion