Three Film Stars Get $1,000,000 a Year Each

Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks were earning a then- staggering $1 million per year in 1917. $1 million in May 1917 would be worth $17.5 million today. How does that compare to the highest-grossing movie stars now? That would only make Chaplin the 24th-highest paid movie star in the world last year.

Forbes ranked Dwayne Johnson as the highest-paid actor of 2016 at $67.5 million. Chaplin would be sandwiched between Matthew McConaughey at #23 with $18 million and Chinese film star Chan Bingbing with $17 million.

What’s fascinating look at the last is how many of the top 25 highest-paid actors may not be worth the salary. Many just in the past year alone have starred in box office domestic underperformers, relative to studios’ pre-release hopes: #3 Matt Damon with The Great Wall, #5 Johnny Depp with Alice Through the Looking Glass, #7 Ben Affleck with Live By Night, #8 Vin Diesel with xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, #13 Brad Pitt with Allied, #19 Scarlett Johansson with Ghost in the Shell, #20 Will Smith with Collateral Beauty, #23 Matthew McConaughey with Gold,

 

 

Three Film Stars Get $1,000,000 a Year Each: Motion Picture Business, at Pinnacle of Success, Sees No Sign of Waning Popularity — Tax Talk Stops Boasting of Profits (PDF)

From Sunday, May 27, 1917

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May 26th, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Man’s Labor the Best, British Committee Decides; Woman Handicapped

As men entered World War I, women were called upon to perform traditionally male roles involving more physical labor and brawn. The British Health of Munition Workers Committee found:

“that, compared with man, woman has less strength, less endurance; that she can undergo neither such long hours nor such long periods of labor; that she cannot stand the strain of night work; that her body, physiologically different from man’s, is subject to ‘certain ailments and forms of physical disability’ that are ‘readily caused or at least accentuated’ by various forms of body activity, and that these ailments are ‘far-reaching in effect’; that the lifting and carrying of heavy weights, ‘all sudden, violent, or physically unsuitable movements in the operating of machines,’ and prolonged standing, are ‘highly provocative causes of trouble to women and girls.'”

Anybody who still claims that men have more stamina and women need more “days off” should read the news this week. Ivanka Trump had to fill in for her father at an event that he dropped out from citing “exhaustion.”

Man’s Labor the Best, British Committee Decides; Woman Handicapped: The Frailer Sex Lacks Nothing in Patriotism, But Needs More “Days Off” — Endurance in Munition Plants (PDF)

From Sunday, May 27, 1917

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May 25th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Business,Life

Making Vice Unattractive in Soldiers’ Camps

A new Federal Commission on Training Camp Activities was created shortly after the outset of American involvement in World War I, in hopes of preventing sin and vice among soldiers such as excessive drinking and prostitution. Among the attempted solutions: all soldiers were required to participate in sports and physical exercises, and soldiers were paired with homes and families that they could visit when on leave in the city. No word on whether prostitution was completely banished, but given that it still goes on in the military today (though perhaps at a lesser rate?), it clearly wasn’t 100 percent successful.

Making Vice Unattractive in Soldiers’ Camps: Federal Commission Just Appointed to Solve Vital Problem of Healthful Recreation for Young Men of Our New Armies (PDF)

From Sunday, May 20, 1917

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May 18th, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Life,War

Captain Rupert Hughes Calls Authors to War

A then-popular novelist and National Guard member advised all writers and authors who were eligible to serve in World War I to do so. Indeed, some of what are considered the greatest novels ever written came out of experience in World War I: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Then again, we’ll never know how many potentially transformative works of literature from that era never saw the light of the day because their would-be authors were killed in action.

Captain Rupert Hughes Calls Authors to War: In a Talk About the Work Done by Men Who Write Country’s Popular Books He Praises the New York National Guard (PDF)

From Sunday, May 13, 1917

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May 12th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Literature,War

Conscript Inheritances, Suggests Bishop Brent

The first federal estate tax was created in 1916, with a top rate of 10 percent levied on transfers of assets to beneficiaries after one’s death. A year later in 1917, at the outset of American involvement in World War I, this essay proposed that the rate be essentially raised to 100 percent, thus ending the automatic transfer of land or inheritances from rich people to their children.

Needless to say, it didn’t pass. Through fits and starts, the rate did rise over time, currently standing at a top rate of 40 percent. But a century later in 2017, the push is in the exact opposite direction, with congressional Republicans and President Trump trying to eliminate the federal estate tax once and for all — essentially a 0 percent rate.

Conscript Inheritances, Suggests Bishop Brent: This Would Be the Reverse of Socialism, He Says, in Discussing Sacrifices That Must Be Made to Save Liberty in the World (PDF)

From Sunday, May 13, 1917

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May 11th, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics,War

Russia and democracy – nervous bridegroom

This cartoon from NYT Sunday Magazine 100 years ago this week holds up eerily well.

From Sunday, May 13, 1917

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May 11th, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Humor

Wealthy Men Willing to Pay Higher Taxes

The top income bracket always tries to fight increased taxes, but historically just about the only time they willingly acquiesce is during wartime, when abrupt increased governmental expenditures are required. What made 2001-02 so unprecedented was that President George W. Bush simultaneously lowered tax on the top income bracket while launching war and requiring increased government outlays. (Bush lowered taxes for all income groups, not just the wealthiest.) The result was a large spike in deficits and debt as a percentage of GDP. Although, to be fair, those numbers would increase even more under Bush’s successor Barack Obama — and will almost certainly increase even further under Donald Trump given his plans for lower taxes and higher expenditures.

Wealthy Men Willing to Pay Higher Taxes: Victor Morawetz Says the Government Must Remember It Cannot Get Funds of People Twice, by Taxation and Bonds (PDF)

From Sunday, May 6, 1917

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May 5th, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Business,Politics,War

Doctors Ready to Go, at Tremendous Sacrifice

Physicians called up for wartime medical service during World War I took tremendous pay cuts in the name of patriotism.

The highest professional income in the corps is said to be $140,000 earned annually heretofore by a New York surgeon. In the seven hospital units of this city it is estimated that there are more than sixteen men with an annual income from fees exceeding $50,000. The number with incomes above $25,000 is much larger.

In answering the call to service these men are volunteering their incomes along with themselves… The highest pay available for members of the Medical Reserve Corps as army surgeons is $3,000, and this is only for those holding the rank of Major; the sum ranges down to $1,500 for Lieutenants. Dr. George Emerson Brewer, head of the Columbia University Hospital unit of New York, ordered to France last week, has one of the largest professional incomes in the country; with his going to the service of his country that is reduced to a salary of $3,000.

What is the income disparity today? Fortunately for recruitment purposes, it’s much more level now. As of 2013, according to the Houston Chronicle, “On an apples-to-apples median pay basis, salaries for uniformed Army doctors are generally competitive with those of civilian sector physicians. Army doctors and other military personnel can also earn thousands more yearly in non-taxable allowances, such as those given to live in civilian housing off base.”

Doctors Ready to Go, at Tremendous Sacrifice: War Will Stop Incomes Ranging as High as $140,000 — Brewer, Coe, McKernon, Lambert, Morris, Hammond, and Gibney on List (PDF)

From Sunday, May 6, 1917

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May 4th, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Science,War

Real Democracy’s Need Is Discipline of Youth

Why was everything going to hell in 1917? Ralph Philip Boas, Associate Professor of English at Whitman College, suggested a large measure of blame should be placed on young people:

The danger of democracy is never that it will be too stern, too rigid, too intellectual, too conservative. No, the danger of democracy is that it will be too easygoing, too soft, too emotional, too fickle.

The weaknesses of democracy show nowhere more clearly than in its attitude in America. Our country is the paradise of youth; here we think only of our duties toward our children, never of our children’s duties toward us. An American works himself to death for his children — happy not in their respect and their love, but in their success. Everything is done for the American youth.

Look at his education. Schooling is free from the kindergarten through the university. The State taxes itself willingly that its boys and girls may have the best education which it can give them. And what does it ask in return? A sense of responsibility? A sense of gratitude? Service in the army? Service in civil life? No. It asks nothing in return.

It is pathetically proud of the advantages its youth enjoy, never once realizing this fundamental danger: If you train up young people to be soft and luxurious, to expect everything as a right and to give nothing in return, to absorb unthinkingly all the advantages of civilization without adding anything to those advantages, are you training up young people who can help in the great decisions of a democracy?

No.

Of course, this has been an age-old complaint — indeed, Aristophanes was complaining about “kids these days” back in 419 BC. And the same youth who Boas criticized in 1917 went on to become the adults who would lament the rise of rock ‘n’ roll a few decades later.

As Dick van Dyke asked in Bye Bye Birdie, ‘What’s the Matter With Kids Today?”

Real Democracy’s Need Is Discipline of Youth: A Land Where Responsibility Harmonizes with Freedom, Not a Mere Paradise for Children Without Sense of Obligation (PDF)

From Sunday, May 6, 1917

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May 3rd, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Education,Life,Politics

Cost of Home Here Has Soared in Decade

 

The most expensive New York City apartment in 1907 was $6,000. A decade later, in 1917, it had quintupled to $30,000. Those were the days. By 2017, the most expensive NYC apartment cost $100.5 million — and even that could be shattered by an estimated rumored $250 million apartment that’s currently under construction.

Cost of Home Here Has Soared in Decade: Highest Apartment Rent Ten Years Ago $6,000, Now Above $30,000 — Private Houses Are No Longer Choicest Residences (PDF)

From Sunday, April 29, 1917

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April 29th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Business,Development

U.S. Has Nearly as Much Gold as All Europe

The total amount of gold in 1917 was about $3.08 billion. Today that’s more than tripled to $11.04 billion, according to the Treasury Department. About 56 percent of that is held in the famed and heavily-guarded Fort Knox location in Kentucky.

The U.S. has had a long and complicated relationship with gold. American money used to be backed up by a gold standard since 1879, until President Franklin D. Roosevelt largely took the country off it in 1933. We were formally and fully taken off the gold standard by President Richard Nixon in 1971, and some critics such as former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul criticize this decision as being one of the key factors in subsequent inflation and the Great Recession of 2008-09.

U.S. Has Nearly as Much Gold as All Europe: Precious Metal Has Been Sent Across Atlantic Until We Have Accumulated $3,089,000,000 (PDF)

From Sunday, April 29, 1917

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April 28th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Business

Are We Americans a Warlike People?

Brander Matthews, Columbia University’s Chair of Dramatic Literature, tackled the question of whether Americans were inherently militaristic in this essay written shortly after the country’s entry into World War I. Matthews’ conclusion was that although we possessed some aspects of that trait, for the most part we weren’t militaristic. However, some of his reasoning arguably doesn’t hold up as well a century later.

He declares that only two of the five wars since independence up through 1917 were fully “necessary” — the Revolutionary War and Civil War — while declaring of the War of 1812, Mexican-American War, and Spanish-American War that “no one of them was absolutely necessary.” Since then, we’ve entered several additional wars that many historians regards as less than “absolutely necessary,” among them Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea.

Matthews also writes: “Whenever we have gone to war we have been found pitiably unprepared for it — which is satisfactory evidence that we are fundamentally unmilitaristic in spirit.” The subsequent rise of what Dwight Eisenhower coined the “military-industrial complex” likely render that critique inaccurate by 2017 as well, given our large standing military, Selective Service, and sizable contingent of weapons and ships.

Are We Americans a Warlike People?: Educator Says the Fact That We Have Entered All Wars Unprepared Shows That We Are Fundamentally Unmilitaristic (PDF)

From Sunday, April 29, 1917

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April 27th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Debate,War

Censorship Heavier Than Prussian Muzzle

The Espionage Act of 1917 remains one of the most controversial laws ever passed by Congress in American history. Signed into law in June 1917, it was used almost a century later to charge Edward Snowden and convict Chelsea Manning for releasing classified intelligence information. Defenders say the law protects national security, while opposers claim it violates the First Amendment and free speech.

In April of 1917, the bill was still being debated in Congress. Republican Senator William Borah of Idaho opposed the measure, claiming it was more restrictive than the forces we had just entered World War I to fight against:

“The things they are allowed to say and write and publish in autocratic Prussia today will be prohibited in this democratic America by the terms of this very law,” continued the Idaho Senator, “and we propose to enact it as one of the preliminaries to our entering this war to rid the world of Prussianism.”

Alas, Borah’s fight was a lonely one. The measure passed the Senate 77-6. While the House vote attracted a much higher percentage against, it still passed handily 260-107.

Censorship Heavier Than Prussian Muzzle: Senator Borah Characterizes the Espionage Bill — Senator Cummins, in Voicing His Opposition, Criticises President Wilson (PDF)

From Sunday, April 29, 1917

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April 26th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Pan American University Planned for Panama

The concept of a university linking both North and South America was already off the ground by 1917.

“Now comes Dr. Edwin Grant Dexter, President of the Instituto Nacional de Panama, with a tangible suggestion and plan for the doing of this very thing. He would establish a point of academic, cultural contact between the two continents by means of a Pan American University at Panama, the middle place of the hemisphere, a rallying point for fellowship and a common endeavor for the welfare of all the twenty-one republics, both North and South.

“Such a university already has been authorized by the Republic of Panama, seven acres of land bordering on the United States Canal Zone are immediately available for the purpose, a million dollars’ worth of school buildings and dormitories already in operation…”

What happened? A search for ‘Pan American University’ reveals both the University of Texas – Pan American (a defunct Texas college founded in 1927) and also Panamerican University (a Catholic school in Mexico City founded in 1967). And searching for information on Edwin Grant Dexter doesn’t seem to reveal anything insightful. If anybody knows what happened with this plan, please reply in the comments section.

Pan American University Planned for Panama: New Bond Between North and South America Outlined by Dr. Edwin Grant Dexter — Twenty-one Republics Are Interested (PDF)

From Sunday, April 22, 1917

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April 20th, 2017 at 7:38 am

Posted in Education

Conscription Needed – By Mayor John Purroy Mitchel

In the first month and a half after America entered World War I, only about seven percent of the hoped-for number of young men to volunteer for military service actually did so, according to People’s History of the United States. In May 1917, the Selective Service Act of 1917 was enacted, making WWI only the second conflict to require a military draft. Drafts were subsequently enacted for World War II, and the Cold War conflicts of Korea and Vietnam, though since 1973 the country has relied on an all-volunteer military.

On April 22 of that year, though, a draft was not certain. The first branch of Congress to pass the legislation would not occur for another few days, until April 28. New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel wrote this opinion column advocating for the measure:

“We have so vividly before us the melancholy experience of England in the present war. We shall never know how many thousands, or hundreds of thousands, were simply slaughtered because of England’s unpreparedness. It has been said, and I believe truly, that if England had had universal service — and that would have meant land forces comparable with those of France and Germany — this war would not have come about.”

Conscription Needed: Mayor Mitchel Urges Support of Administration So That Country May Be Able to Protect Itself (PDF)

From Sunday, April 22, 1917

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April 19th, 2017 at 7:38 am

Posted in Politics,War

U.S. May Yet Raise $75,000,000,000 for War

Immediately after the United States entered World War I, the country was making plans to potentially collect as much as $75 billion to cover the American financial cost of the conflict. According to an estimate from the Congressional Research Service, WWI ended up costing the U.S. about $20 billion, or a little more than a quarter of the original drastic estimate.

Adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars (the year the cost estimate was made), that cost would come to about $253 billion. In constant inflation-adjusted dollars, that made WWI by far the war with the highest American financial cost up to that point, at more than quadruple the combined Union and Confederacy costs in the Civil War. But WWI would go on to be dwarfed by WWII, coming in at a staggering 16.2 times higher cost. WWI would later be overtaken in cost as well by Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

U.S. May Yet Raise $75,000,000,000 for War: Milton W. Harrison of the American Bankers’ Association Believes Americans Can Produce This Sum to Fight Germany (PDF)

From Sunday, April 15, 1917

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April 14th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in War

Where College Boys Prefer Study to Baseball

Reed College in Oregon, which held its first classes in 1911 only six years prior to this article, undertook several unusual initiatives among colleges at the time to created a student body excelling in academics. Among them was a mandatory senior thesis for undergraduates, not just graduates, and a lack of official intercollegiate sports teams. Both the undergraduate senior thesis and lack of NCAA sports teams still exist to this day.

Where College Boys Prefer Study to Baseball: Reed College of Portland, Oregon, Now in Its Sixth Year, Has Emerged Successfully from Unique Experiment in Education (PDF)

From Sunday, April 15, 1917

 

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April 13th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in Education,Sports

Democracy of the Joke And Lack of German Humor Discussed by Leacock

On the very week that America entered World War I, Stephen Leacock explained in an article how one of the Allies’ unheralded strengths in the battle of ideas was their sense of humor, while one of Germany’s greatest weaknesses was their lack thereof:

“Do you know what is the most democratic form of literature? It is humorous literature. For of humorous literature the only test is: Do they laugh or do they not laugh? No King ever posed as a humorist. No King ever was a humorist, that is, an intentional humorist.

And one proof of the democracy of humor is its absence in Germany. Is there any one not a German to whom the German joke appeals? The German joke, like the peace of God, passeth all understanding.

Real humor is universal in its appeal; its popularity extends beyond national boundaries. Mark Twain has been translated into every language, and he is as funny in French or modern Greek as he is in English… Charles Dickens is the property of all the world; we think of him as a great humorist instead of as a man who wrote to amuse the English. But German humor does not cross the Rhine. The world knows German philosophy and German science and German scholarships, but it knows nothing of German humor. And the reason for this must be that there is no German humor to know.”

The best example of so-called ‘German humor’ ever might be this early Steve Carell clip with American comedians as “Germans who say nice things” —

 Democracy of the Joke And Lack of German Humor Discussed by Leacock: Famous Canadian Wit Also Gives His Views on the Perversity of the Russian Verb (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 8, 1917

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April 10th, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Humor,War

What It Costs in Money and Effort to Devise a Circus Spectacle

You might recognize the name of the man featured in the above photo: Alfred T. Ringling, more famous as half of the Ringling Brothers. It took a lot of work for him to run the circus:

“The working basis of a spectacle is 1,000 people, 100 to 150 horses, 10 to 25 elephants, about as many camels, sacred cows, zebras, and other exotic animals as needed, and about 30 minutes by the clock. When the spectacle is being given in Madison Square Garden a couple of hundred “supers” are hired; but when the show gets on “the road” under canvas and the Barnum & Bailey army is recruited up to its full marching strength by the addition of its corps of canvasmen and its corps of cook-house men, etc. every actor in the spectacle is a circus person and, conversely, practically every circus person is a spectacle actor.”

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus stopped using elephants in May 2016, and in January 2017 announced their circus would end completely in May after 146 years. Check here to see if their farewell tour will be stopping by you in the next month.

What It Costs in Money and Effort to Devise a Circus Spectacle: Just a Short Curtain-Raiser, But It Means Nearly as Much Work as All the Rest of the Performance (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 8, 1917

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April 9th, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Entertainment

Each Worker Loses 9 Days Yearly by Illness

In 1917, the average worker lost nine days annually due to illness, according to Frederic W. Loughran, then medical adviser to the New York State Insurance Fund. In 2013, the average worker only called in sick 4.9 days per year. This even though the average full-time private sector employee had eight paid sick days off.

Each Worker Loses 9 Days Yearly by Illness: Lack of Attention to Principles of Modern Industrial Hygiene Responsible at Present for Enormous Waste in Our Factories (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 8, 1917

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April 8th, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Business