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

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Why Most American Jews Do Not Favor Zionism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:27 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Veteran as Job Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, February 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 10th, 2019 at 10:52 pm

Posted in Life

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919

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

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

 

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

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

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Politics

Winged Warfare and the League of Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, January 26, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 26th, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Debate,Development,War

America’s New Influence on European Life

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

What European women would look for in men:

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

How Europeans would eat:

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

How Europeans would dress:

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

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

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

 

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

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Food,Life,Sports

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Life

Recollections of Roosevelt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recollections of Roosevelt (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 12, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 12th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

McAdoo Talks of the Railways

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 5th, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Putting the Airplane to Peacetime Uses

The development of the airplane, first invented in 1903, truly took off as a result of World War I. In January 1919, after the war, what should be the purpose of airplanes?

This prediction largely ended up coming true:

Some of the practical men even go so far as to say that a perfectly developed peacetime air service, elastic enough to be used for defensive purposes, would make unnecessary a standing army of the proportions now being figured on. These men believe that, if the United States put its energies and ingenuity at work in the air, it would solve, once and forever, this perplexing problem of a universal training, a large standing army, and big military budget for the nation’s defense.

Well, except for the part about eliminating the big military budget for the nation’s defense.

Several other uses for airplanes were accurately predicted in that article as well, such as mail delivery and firefighting:

 

Airplane carrying of mail is practical, and as soon as the necessary steps have been taken for establishing air mail routes they will be flown — except in particularly bad weather — with a reasonable degree of regularity.

The Bureau of Forestry has use for planes in operating fire patrols, and with dirigible balloon auxiliaries in carrying fire-fighting crews and landing them in small clearings. As it is today these fire fighters have to go many miles round about, over mountains and almost impassable streams, canyons, and swamps to get into action and to stop a sweeping forest fire.

 

Putting the Airplane to Peacetime Uses: America Must Decide Whether Aviation Is to be a Minor Branch or the Chief Recourse for Defense — Progress in Mapping Aerial Lanes of Travel (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 5th, 2019 at 4:43 pm

SundayMagazine.org will take four months off, because NYT Sunday Magazine did the same in late 1918

Earlier this month, I noticed that the New York Times issues 100 years ago to the week no longer seemed to include a Sunday magazine section. Since the whole premise of this website is to analyze those magazine articles with some historical context and/or contemporary commentary, this presented a problem for me and my readers.

Skipping ahead in the archive, I discovered the answer in the Sunday, January 3, 1919 issue: the magazine section had ceased for four months due to a lack of paper as a result of wartime shortages.

A somewhat-similar situation occurred just a few weeks ago; though it did not involve shortages or war, it did involve an issue with newsprint that proved potentially existential to the newspaper coverage.

The Trump Administration’s Commerce Department announced intended tariffs on Canadian newsprint, the main source of paper for American newspapers — including state and local publications. Some newspapers with the narrowest profit margins even felt such tariffs could put their publications out of business. However, a unanimous 5-0 decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission halted the proposed tariffs in August.

Here is the full January 1919 retroactive announcement, in an article titled The Sunday Magazine Again.

When the conditions of war limited the supply of newsprint paper at the end of last Summer, The New York Times met the situation by a reduction of consumption. Among the changes found necessary was the suspension of the Sunday Magazine Section on Sept. 1.

While that part of the Sunday edition had won a high place in the esteem of our readers, especially in the period during which it had been printed and illustrated by the decorative rotogravure process, it had to give way temporarily; the wartime allowance of paper was not sufficient for the urgent news of the day and the full quota of the Sunday special features at the same time.

The paper scarcity has been relieved with the ending of the war conditions, and after a lapse of four months the Magazine Section will reappear next Sunday.

 

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Written by Jesse

September 15th, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

Stars and Stripes on Many English Homes

During WWI, millions of British people actually met Americans for the first time as they were stationed overseas. The result was America and England became as close as they’d ever been:

One of the incidentals of the war is the fact that great masses of American troops pass through England or are temporarily stationed there. Thus the towns and villages and countryside places have had two great experiences, reacting on each other, the first being the inspiring and exhilarating knowledge that America had come into the war with her vast forces on behalf of civilization; the second, personal contact with the American soldiers, with all the homely knowledge of them that is bound to arise from a friendly curiosity.

This even culminated in England celebrating America’s Independence Day — a day that set in motion the process of England losing one of their most important territorial holdings a century and a half before.

The English are not demonstrative. There is little or no ringing of bells or waving of flags to signal various battle successes. There has been an instinctive avoidance of arrogance or jubilation at public meetings. But nevertheless on one occasion this year, namely, on July 4, the British people let themselves go.

A distinguished French journalist recently arrived in this country, who has spent some years in London, tells me he has seen no enthusiasm during the war comparable with that he witnesses in London on that day. “At the meeting in Central Hall there were fervid scenes which deeply impressed all foreigners who know how the Britishers have to be intensely stirred before they demonstrate at all. No one could have been in the streets or at that meeting without realizing how the heart of Britain was moved.”

Stars and Stripes on Many English Homes: What the “American Invasion of Britain” Has Done in the Way of Making the Two Nations Friendlier than Ever Before (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 25, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 26th, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Posted in War

Danger in Optimism

An August 1918 article said it was completely unrealistic for WWI to be won by the end of the year. The war would end on November 11, less than three months later.

An example was given of a Midwest manufacturer who believe the war would be over by spring 1919, about 6-9 months after this article.

He held this idea so strongly that it had begun to affect his plans for the near future; instead of seeing a greater effort ahead, he saw a lessening effort, and, of course, those with whom he came in contact, especially his employees, were similarly affected, to a greater or less degree. The man was ardently loyal; little had he realized, in optimistically spreading an idea that was without logical foundation, that he was following a course which would have received the enthusiastic approval of German propagandists.

Why was that considered so unrealistic? Because the official projections of how many soldiers it would take to win the war kept rising considerably higher.

Our popular estimate that it would require 1,000,000 men to defeat the Germans, in addition to what the French and English had, was all wrong. Later we calculated that 3,000,000 would be required. Now the plans, in a clearer conception of the reality of the situation, have risen to an army of 5,000,000, and it may be necessary to go higher. It is evident that only the foolish optimist now arrives at an overestimation of the damage inflicted on the enemy by the present allied success and infers that anything like a vital blow has been dealt to the Germans, or is to be dealt in the immediate future.

A little cynicism is a good thing, but it’s possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction and become too cynical.

 

Danger in Optimism: Senator New Reflects Opinion of Official Washington in Deploring Prophecies that War Will End Soon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 18, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 18th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Is An Air Ministry Necessary?

America is debating whether to create a new military branch: the Space Force. 100 years ago to the week, America debated whether to create the air force — or, as they called it then, an “Air Ministry.”

A key difference between then and now was the stance of the president. While Donald Trump supports the Space Force creation, signing a policy directive in June to jumpstart the process, Woodrow Wilson during World War I was opposed to a new branch devoted to aviation.

Indeed, the Air Force would not be created for another 29 years in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. In the United Kingdom, the formation of the Royal Air Force was similarly controversial, but was formed in April 1918.

Planes and pilots were certainly used during WWI and WWII. In fact, the first military use of airplanes was before WWI, in 1909, A military airplane was also used in 1916 against the Mexican general Pancho Villa, who had raided a town in New Mexico and killed 17 Americans.

For years, the military’s air operations were under the auspices of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. “Because aircraft were initially used for observation and reconnaissance missions, rather than offensive/defensive work, it made some sense to have them be part of the Signal Corps,” Sarah Dunne, Archivist and Librarian for Maine’s Owls Head Transportation Museum, tells me.

This similar to how today space operations are under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force.

Interestingly, Trump’s Space Force directive overrules both Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, both of whom originally opposed the idea. That’s unlike in 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of War Newton Baker, and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels all opposed an “air ministry.”

Actually, why was it called an air ministry back then in the first place? “Odd that the writer chose the term ‘air ministry’ – very British. We didn’t have government departmentts called ‘ministries,’ I don’t think,” Dunne tells me. “Perhaps more than anything else, shows the American sense of kinship with the British?”

This 1918 article quotes extensively from Texas Senator Morris Sheppard, who opposed an “air ministry.” He gave four primary reasons:

#1: the status quo was already working.

“I took exception to the opinion that the Signal Corps had been inefficient in its handling of airplanes. Since then my opinion has not changed. I still believe that in the face of unparalleled difficulty there has been accomplished by our Government in aviation production an unparalleled task, and that it has been done with characteristic American energy, capacity, patriotism, and enthusiasm.”

#2: it would add more bureaucracy.

“Moreover, at the present time I see no reason for taking out of the hands of the Secretary of War and of the Secretary of the Navy and of the Aircraft Production Board the various controls which now emanate from them. To my mind that would only add a complication instead of removing one.”

“If we need a Ministry of Aeronautics, why not have also a Ministry of Submarines, or a Ministry of Military Food Supply, or a Ministry of Clothing, or a Ministry of Ordnance?”

#3: Congress shouldn’t oppose the president on a matter like this, especially during wartime.

“Those who advocate a Cabinet member for Aeronautics, despite the contrary opinion of the President, seem to me no less reckless than the pilot who takes the air without examining his petrol tank. If the President desires so radical a change in Government machinery — and if it becomes necessary he will desire it — then he will ask for it, and, of course, then he shall have it. But why impose on him what may be only a complication?”

#4: air should be considered less important than land or sea.

“While the airplane is highly important and while its quick production and development may even be vital to our military success, it is, and must be in its last analysis, only an adjunct to the army and navy. It seems to me a total misconception of its functions to segregate its production or its distribution from the routine work of the two great military branches of the Government.”

“That cannot be done any more than you can segregate its work in action from that of the army and navy. It can only operate in the field under the protection of the army and on the sea from the haven of the fleet. Why should it be regarded as a thing apart, a latter-day miracle, which is to wing us to victory in some marvelous manner, above our soldiers, beyond our ships?”

 

Is An Air Ministry Necessary?: Senator Sheppard of the Military Affairs Committee, an Administration Man, Tells Why He Thinks Not — Production Adequate, Public Tension Unjustified (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 11, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 14th, 2018 at 5:14 pm

Kaiser’s Heir, Prince of Failure

His father was Wilhelm II, the last kaiser of the German empire. As the oldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm became crown prince at age six and held the title for three decades until the fall of the German Empire in November 1918, three months after this article was originally published.

During WWI, he was one of the top military commanders despite being in his early 30’s and never having previously commanded a military unit larger than a regiment. It… did not go well. This article, filled with ludicrous exaggerated drawings depicted the Crown Prince as a bumbling fool, describes the man:

As a menace to the success of German campaigns, he has not missed a point in the game. He is known as the best friendly enemy the Allies ever had. His being ousted by Foch from the Rheims-Soissons salient is the most recent of a long series of errors which have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of his fellow-countrymen.

But that didn’t stop him earning illustrious prizes thanks to nepotism:

There have been plenty of telegrams of congratulation and awards of medals. It is said that on occasion the headstrong and ill-balanced heir has overruled experienced commanders, making necessary an undue haste to chide failure with medals. The first German drive toward Paris in 1914 was hardly smothered before the Crown Prince got his Iron Cross. That was soon followed by the Star of the House of Hohenzollern.

In later years Crown Prince Wilhelm would go on to befriend Adolf Hitler, who promised to restore the German monarchy, but their relationship soured once Wilhelm realized Hitler would actually do no such thing. The Crown Prince died in 1951.

 

Kaiser’s Heir, Prince of Failure: The Sad Military Career of Frederick William, Who Stops Losing Battles Only Long Enough to Accept Decorations and Study the Strategic Value of Frogs (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 4, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 5th, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Q.M.C. — Unfailing Provider of the Soldier’s Food

How were soldiers fed during WWI? By the Q.M.C., which stood for “Quartermaster [Corporal] Department of the United States Army.”

They tried to keep the costs relatively low:

The cost of the standard menu amounts to from 41 to 43 cents per day per man, varying according to the location of the camp and market price of the food.

Adjusted for inflation, that would be between $6.84 and $7.17 per man, daily.

It also worked:

The best evidence that he is well fed is the fact that the average gain of weight of the American boy since entering the service has been twelve pounds, and this despite the fact that they have been doing such strenuous labor.

This sample menu was given for a weekend and weekday in the army:

SUNDAY

Breakfast: cantaloupes (one-half each), oatmeal, sugar, milk, fried pork sausage, hot biscuits, coffee

Dinner: fresh vegetable soup, diced bread toasted, veal in a creole, boiled rice, string beans (fresh), lettuce salad, ice cream, cake, bread, ice water.

Supper: potato salad, bread, jam, iced tea.

WEEK DAY

Breakfast: corn flakes, sugar, milk, beef stew, boiled potatoes, toast, bread, coffee.

Dinner: boiled beef with dumplings, spinach, young beets, pickles, apple and peach pie, iced tea, bread.

Supper: spinach, young beets, pickles, hot Parker House rolls, iced tea.

Sounds like some great meals! Except for the whole “huge risk of dying or getting bombed at any moment” part.

 

Q.M.C. — Unfailing Provider of the Soldier’s Food: Not One Wearer of Uncle Sam’s Uniform Has Gone Hungry, Thanks to the Commissary Machine That Toils Day and Night (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 28, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 25th, 2018 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Food,War

Types of Feminine Slackers in New York

Almost everyone contributed and sacrificed for the war effort during WWI… but not everyone. A certain class of socialite women — with wealthy husbands and little to do — kept living their lives the exact same as before.

Genevieve Parkhurst profiled them in this 1918 article:

One woman had two Pekingese spaniels with her. She had traveled all the way from a Middle Western city.

“It is such an expense carrying them around,” she complained. “You know they have to have certified milk — a quart a day each, and it costs me $2 a day at the hotel for them.”

When it was suggested that it might be a good idea to give them a change of diet and send the milk money to the children of France, she exclaimed aghast: “What! Why, the poor little dears would suffer. They’ve always had their certified milk and cream and I could not think of depriving them of it.”

Getting a head start on the hedonism and excess to come during the 1920s, clearly.

Types of Feminine Slackers in New York: Random Observations on the Squanderer, the Waster, and the Trifler — Tinfoil as Proof of Patriotism — The Cost of Showy Gowns and Pekingese Spaniels (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 21, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 20th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Life

America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy

Clergy and religious leaders were losing influence and leadership in many different areas of life.

in philanthropy:

Look at the governing boards of such organizations as even the Red Cross, the Committee of Mercy and similar societies, and the astonishing fact reveals itself that the clergy are effectively boycotted! The very men on whose co-operation and good-will success in appealing for funds mainly depends are carefully excluded from membership; acknowledged to be essential in the gathering of the money, they are allowed no voice in its disbursement.

in politics:

As they forfeited no rights of citizenship by becoming clergymen, it would seem that it is as much their duty to be interested in politics as any one else. To be sure, for partisan politics in their public ministrations there is and should be no place, but there are always grave moral questions back on the political setting, and on these the clergy should constantly speak, just because they are clergymen.

Strange things have been happening in Washington. Certain “missions” from abroad have been here. They came about war and peace and international relationships. Naturally they were much entertained, not only in a private way, but also officially. Yet so far as we have been able to learn at not one of these official hospitalities were any clergymen present — their absence being markedly in contrast with their presence at certain of the foreign embassies, where they do these things better. Of course politicians were there, so were representatives of the army and navy; also the people with large pocketbooks, but the one class that should have been invited first of all was not invited at all. Why?

in the social realm:

The boycott which prevails so effectively in our political and philanthropic worlds is just as effective in the social world. For some reasons the hospitalities and social courtesies commonly extended to prominent men are rarely extended to the clergy… under penalty of loss of votes.

It was a very able (Episcopal) Bishop, the head of one of the largest dioceses in the East, who was thus addressed in his Diocesan Convention: “May I venture to make the suggestion that you go more about among your people in a social way? Thereby they would know you better and you would greatly increase your influence for good.”

Promptly the Bishop replied: “I heartily agree with my brother and thank him for his suggestion, but since I have been in this city I have received exactly three invitations to dinner and have accepted them all. What more can I do?”

This seems to be connected to what was, at the time, decreasing religiosity in many circles. President Woodrow Wilson, asked four years later in 1922 whether he believed in evolution, replied: “Of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.”

And now the vice president is Mike Pence.

 

America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy: Member of the Profession Discusses Its Lost Leadership and Suggests Reasons for the Change — Exclusion from Politics and Ostracism from Social Life (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 14, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 10th, 2018 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Religion

Insignia, Not Black Gowns, as War Mourning

Women in America had long worn all black to represent widowhood as a result of a husband dying in war. This 1918 article even noted that “There are now women who have been in black ever since the civil war.”

But that began to change during WWI. Women began wearing a three-inch black band sleeve on their arm, instead of dressing fully in black.

Explained Anna Howard Shaw, chair of the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenense:

The men are going over in the spirit of battling for the freedom of the world, cheerfully, with defiance of the enemy in their hearts. Once ‘over there,’ they do not murmur or repine, even in face of death itself. We women should lift our lives to the same plane, in appreciation of the exaltation of the service rendered by the men for the protection of ourselves and our homes. Instead of giving away to depression, it is our duty to display the same courage and spirit that they do. If they can die nobly, we must show that we can live nobly.

We should look on the insignia, therefore, not as a badge of mourning, but as a mark of recognition of exalted service, as a sign of what it has been their privilege to give to their country — a badge of honor. The wearing of the insignia will express far better than mourning the sacrifice that has been made, that the loss is a matter of glory rather than one of prostrating grief and depression.

 

Insignia, Not Black Gowns, as War Mourning: Women of America Asked to Forego Gloomy Evidences of Grief — Black Band on Sleeve to be a Badge of Honor for the Bereaved (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 7, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 7th, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Development,Life,War