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

Germany Not Seeking Conquest, Says German

From August 6, 2016

Germany Not Seeking

Germany Not Seeking Conquest, Says German: Professor Moritz Julius Bonn Denies That She Would Impose Her Culture on Other Nations by Doctrine of “Might Makes Right” (PDF)

Yeah, about that…

Perhaps Germany was not seeking conquest in 1916, but if only that claim was as true in the 1940s, the world would be an immeasurably better place. At the time this article was written, Adolf Hitler was a lowly soldier fighting for Germany during World War I. His subsequent attempts at establishing the Third Reich make passages such as this seem downright oblivious and dangerous in their lack of foresight:

A nation flanked as Germany is, by the oncoming Slavic races in the East and the established nations of Europe in the West, is not at liberty to indulge in foreign adventures. She must aim at concentrating her people within her borders by foreign commerce and industry, not by trying domination over other European races across the sea.

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Written by Jesse

August 4th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Politics,War

One Auto For Each 25 Americans by January 1

From August 6, 1916

One Auto For Each

One Auto For Each 25 Americans by January 1: Remarkable Increase in Number of Cars Owned in This Country Will Soon Bring Total to 3,946,664, Valued at $2,000,000,000 (PDF)

These numbers have certainly skyrocketed in the past year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, as of 2014 there were 260.3 million total registered highway vehicles. For cars specifically, as of 2006 (the most recent year for which statistics were available) there were 135.3 million registered passenger cars. That’s approximately one auto for every 2.2 or 2.3 Americans, a far more even ratio than the one auto for every 25 Americans back in 1916. And those numbers are likely to level even further as last year was the best year for auto sales in American history with 17.5 million, due largely to an improving economy and low gasoline prices.

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Written by Jesse

August 3rd, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Business,Life

The Allies of the Future

From July 30, 1916

The Allies of the Future

Harvard professor Hugo Muensterberg wrote this essay about how the world order might look post-World War I. Some of his predictions or warnings seem relevant today, such as his hope that economic concerns would trump war-mongering. That is the overarching theory behind the Obama Administration’s significant easing of economic sanctions as part of the Iranian nuclear deal, and also the famous theory that two countries both with McDonald’s (almost) never go to war. Muensterberg in 1916 wrote:

Peace must be secured from within; not fortresses and guns but good-will must prevent strife in the future. Have not the nations learned through these two years that their material exchange binds them more firmly together than they ever fancied? Was not the sheet of paper on which these words are printed bought at an unheard-of price because they are fighting on the other half of the globe? In the world of the market every declaration of independence is in vain. As long as the guns are roaring, economic generals may work out their campaign plans for the destruction of the enemy’s commerce in future years; war is war. But peace is peace, and, above all, business is business.

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Do Sharks Attack Humans Only When Crazed?

From July 30, 1916

Do Sharks

A full 59 years before Jaws created a generation of terrorized beachgoers, people were worried about sharks and the possibility of being attacked. In fact, the fear should go the other way around, seeing as sharks kill about 10 humans a year but humans kill about 20 million sharks a year. So to answer the title question: do sharks only attack when crazed. NOAA says they actually mostly attack humans when mistaking us for their typical prey like sea turtles or marine mammals.

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Written by Jesse

July 28th, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Adventure,Nature

Golf Clubs Make It Hard for Women to Play

From July 30, 1916

Golf Clubs

Golf Clubs Make It Hard for Women to Play: Restrictions on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays Are the Rule at Most of the Organizations Round About New York (PDF)

Golf clubs have long been male-dominated, to the point that Augusta National Golf Club didn’t admit its first women until 2012. After an Olympics absence since 1904, both men’s and women’s golf have been reinstated at the 2016 Olympics in Rio next month. But it’s long been a struggle for women to be accepted into the sport, as the 1916 article above described:

These are the days on which the tired business man feels it — and not unjustly — his peculiar prerogative to rest and recreate. Obviously, if he is a golf player and therefore lost to other forms of outdoor sport, he wants the links to himself and his male friends, at least for a part of the day. The result is a host of varied limitations upon woman’s freedom of the links.

Fore!

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Written by Jesse

July 27th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Sports

Will ‘Cold Light’ Soon Be a Scientific Fact?

From July 23, 1916

Will 'Cold Light'

Will ‘Cold Light’ Soon Be a Scientific Fact?: M. Dussaud, French Engineer, Has Just Reported Definite Progress in Solving Problem That Will Be Revolutionary (PDF)

The problem in 1916: nobody had yet invented a “moving picture projector on which the film may be stopped without danger of ignition.” If you’ve ever pressed pause on a YouTube video without your computer blowing up, you know that this problem was solved.

Basically, most of the light through man-made sources a century ago was wasted as heat. Less than 10 percent made it through as energy. By contrast, for a firefly about 96.5 percent of their light made it through as energy. In 2011 a team of scientists at Tokyo Metropolitan University invented a 100 percent efficient artificial light source.

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Science,Technology

Mount McKinley Three Weeks from New York

From July 23, 1916

Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley Three Weeks from New York: New Railroad Will Pass Great Mountain, a Part of Extensive National Park, Which Congress Has Been Asked to Create (PDF)

The mountain had been colloquially referred to as Mount McKinley since 1896 and had clearly achieved widespread usage by this article’s publication in 1916, becoming the official name one year later in 1917. But indigenous Alaskans had long called it Mount Denali and never stopped doing so. Last September, President Obama announced that the name would once again officially become Mount Denali, in accordance with the wishes of most native Alaskans.

As was to be expected in this day and age, Obama’s set of a firestorm of controversy, with Republicans claiming this was political correctness gone amok and an intentional attempt to undermine a mountain named after a Republican president. Donald Trump has vowed to change the name back to McKinley if elected president.

Another notable tidbit from that article: the reference to “James Wickersham, the Delegate from Alaska in Congress.” Alaska didn’t become a state until 1959, so back in 1916 they had a Delegate much as the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico does today.

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics

Is O. Henry a Pernicious Literary Influence?

From July 23, 1916

Is O. Henry

Is O. Henry a Pernicious Literary Influence?: Mrs. Katharine Fullerton Gerould Says That He Wrote Expanded Anecdotes, Not Short Stories, with Nothing But Climax (PDF)

William Sydney Porter, popularly known as O. Henry, is perhaps one of the most beloved short story writers in the American canon. (I would recommend the wonderful Christmas story The Gift of the Magi.) But not everybody loved him. The author Katharine Fullerton wrote:

In the very shortest of Maupassant’s stories you find the people etched in so clearly that you know them; you know how they would act whatever extraneous conditions might enter. But you do not find this to be the case in O. Henry’s stories; you know how the people acted in one set of circumstances, but you have no idea how they would act at any other time…

In the modern short story the bad influence of O. Henry is to be seen in the treatment of material. In concrete incident the short story is better than it used to be, but it shows lamentable moral unconscientiousness. The author does not stand his short story up and relate it to life as he used to. O. Henry has taught him that this sort of labor is unnecessary.

Given America’s obesity problem in the 21st century, I think it’s more likely that O. Henry’s namesake candy bar is a more “pernicious influence” than the man himself.

 

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Literature

Carrier Pigeons an Aid to Preparedness

From July 16, 1916

Carrier Pigeons

Carrier Pigeons an Aid to Preparedness: Europe’s War Has Shown That Homing Birds Often Beat Aeroplanes and the Wireless in Carrying Military Dispatches (PDF)

As the sub-headline suggests, 1916 was an era where a bird could be counted on as more reliable and speedier than “aeroplanes” or “the wireless.” Today, of course, with supersonic jets and instant communication worldwide via the Internet and other digital devices, that is no longer true. The U.S. military stopped using messenger pigeons in 1957. Yet the NYT article estimates that 18,000 such pigeons were being used in France alone during 1916.

The author even suggests that readers mobilize to help out in the war effort, not by rationing food or donating war bonds as were the most typical methods, but by training carrier pigeons yourself:

And you, the reader, may take part in such a nation-wide scheme of preparedness by raising and training your own homing pigeons and holding them ready for the service of the military authorities in time of war or your community in time of peace. On every motor trip you can take a few pigeons and fly them back home from various distances, or any friend in a distant town will delight in flying them to you and telegraphing the moment of release. Express companies on all railroads carry crates at low cost, and I have uniformly found their agents courteous and willing to release the birds on arrival and to ship back the empty crates.

I wouldn’t count on agent being as “courteous and willing to release the birds on arrival” in this day and age.

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Written by Jesse

July 16th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Nature,War

Why Is the Birth Rate Constantly Declining?

From July 16, 1916:

Why Is The Birth Rate

Why Is the Birth Rate Constantly Declining?: Results of an Inquiry Conducted in England by National Council of Public Morals, Which Seeks to Regenerate the British Race (PDF)

In 1916, the United Kingdom’s population was approximately 34 million. By the time of the 2011 census, the U.K. population had increased to 63.2 million. Still, that increase was far less than that of the U.S. or the world at large over the past century, due in large part to Europe having some of the lowest birth rates in the world. That trend still holds today, with the U.K. having approximately 12.2 births per 1,000 population in 2014 — the U.S. had 13.4 births per 1,000.

What’s fascinating is that most of the reasons why the birth rate is deemed to be falling in 2016 are not major reasons for the same phenomenon in certain countries back in 1916. Increased education for women? Barely. Later ages for marriages and starting families? Not really. Abortion? That wasn’t legal in the U.K. until 1967, and for the most part wasn’t legal in the U.S. either until 1973.

It’s worth remembering that the U.K. population is approximately 65 million today and that it is far more industrialized that it was a century ago when reading this quote from Chairman Rev. Dean Inge back in 1916:

The Chairman added that, with regard to England, he did not think it desirable that the country should contain sixty, or seventy, or eighty millions of persons, entirely divorced from the land, employed in large towns in producing commodities under cheap conditions. “Is that,” the Chairman asked of the witness, J.A. Hobson, “a state of things which could possibly produce a satisfactory or healthy nation?”

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Written by Jesse

July 15th, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Life

The Great American Novel Never Will Come

From July 16, 1916

The Great American Novel

The Great American Novel Never Will Come: James Huneker, the Famous Critic, Discussing Certain Phases of Modern Fiction, Says There May Be Thousands but Not One (PDF)

Huneker’s main point in this essay was not that America will never produce great novels, but that America was so varied that it would be impossible for merely one to represent the whole country.

The question is, after all, an affair for critics, and the great American novel will be in the plural; thousands perhaps. America is a chord of many nations, and to find the keynote we must play much and varied music.

Among the novels published in the century after this essay ran: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, “Roots” by Alex Haley, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. All are considered among the greatest American novels.

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Written by Jesse

July 14th, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Literature

Many Writers Not Helped by College Training

From July 9, 1916

Many Writers

Many Writers Not Helped by College Training: W.W. Ellsworth, Veteran Publisher, Says That Our Educational Institutions Turn Out Critics, Not Creative Artists (PDF)

William Ellsworth had recently retired as president of the publishing house The Century Company — which in 1933 would merge with another company that would in turn merge with the present-day publishing company Prentice Hall. He worried that colleges were teaching people how to evaluate great literature rather than helping them produce it. He says:

“Fifteen years ago I made a count of 1,000 book manuscripts received in our office, and I found that 25 in the 1,000 were accepted, and 975 were declined. Of the twenty-five accepted, eleven were by authors who had written before and fourteen were bolts from the blue.

“Now, a count of one thousand book manuscripts received up to Jan. 1, 1916, shows that forty-one were accepted. And how many of these, do you suppose, were by new writers? Not one!

“Now, that is discouraging… I am not a pessimist, but I cannot help feeling that the art of authorship is not growing in America as it should, and that the colleges are apparently doing nothing to help this growth.”

Is that phenomenon still occurring today? If you have thoughts, leave them in the comments. I’ll say from personal experience that in college I did take courses like “American and British Literature” that required evaluation and analysis, but never classes on how to write creatively — perhaps that skill was honed in part through my work on the student-run newspaper, but certainly not from my courses.

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Written by Jesse

July 8th, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Literature