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

Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years

If the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was first introduced in 1878, why didn’t it pass Congress until 1919? Four major reasons: women’s minds had to be changed, so did men’s, politics, and money.

1.) Women’s minds had to be changed.

In the beginning of the movement the entire world, including women, believed confidently that women were mentally, physically, morally, spiritually inferior to men, with minds incapable of education, capacities too rudimentary to permit of their even looking after their own property, bodies too feeble to perform the simplest tasks for which men earned wages.

2.) Men’s minds had to be changed.

The illerate, undeveloped man held the view of the cave man that the woman belonged to him to do with as he pleased. She existed for him to dominate. In the refined, educated man this primitive instinct developed into a chivalrous, high-minded spirit of protection.

To ask for a vote was equivalent to declaring the government of men a failure, because it connoted that a dependent class was so dissatisfied with it as to demand a share in remaking it.

3.) Politics.

It is necessary that the members of a Legislature or Congress voting to submit an amendment which aims to enfranchise a class are obliged to pass the amendment on to the electors before the class to be enfranchised has received its vote. Legislators are deprived thus of the support of grateful voters, newly enfranchised, while forced to meet the condemnation of that part of the existing electorate which does not approve an extension of the suffrage.

4.) Money.

Individuals, corporations, or groups with unscrupulous intention have found it to be a certain protection to their selfish interests, when threatened by legislation, to be on good terms with the parties in power and with leading men of Legislatures and Congresses. To this end they have made large contributions to political campaigns.

Where their special interests, as in the case of the liquor business, have become a powerful issue their contributions have gone to both parties. All such interests have unfailingly opposed woman suffrage and have prevented in consequence the normal movement within the political parties toward the recognition of woman suffrage as a great and growing issue.

What naturally follows is the opposite question: how did it eventually pass Congress in 1919?

The first two factors — misogyny among both men and women — was ameliorated because of the states which passed suffrage first proving the naysayers wrong, beginning with Wyoming in 1890.

The greatest educator in the removal of prejudice proved to be woman suffrage in operation. Although the whole world scorned the little pioneer border settlement of Wyoming in its brave endeavor to do justice to women, it nevertheless carried a greater influence than it is now possible to measure. Year after year the women voted. The testimony continued that they voted wisely and well; that they were independent; that they were high-minded and recognized the necessity of continued improvement in political methods.

The third factor — political logistics, like how only men who were often hostile to the cause could decide whether to give women the right to vote — changed by the aforementioned trends in public opinion.

In the long run, popular sentiment controls in this country. Votes may be bought and evil influences may round up such voters to defeat a question now and then, but in the long run sentiment will not tolerate that sort of thing. Our business, therefore, has been to arouse popular sentiment, to tell the real truth to the people, wherever there were ears to hear or eyes to read.

The fourth factor — moneyed interests being opposed — fell in large part once Prohibition had passed a few months earlier, in January 1919.

 The most hostile and effective opponent of woman suffrage has been the liquor interests of the country… The liquor dealers reasoned that, since women were not the manufacturers of liquor or the consumers of liquor, but were the greatest sufferers from its evils, a larger proportionate number could be depended upon to vote for prohibition than men.

Once Prohibition passed anyway, on the basis of men’s votes, the moneyed interests no longer had nearly the zeal towards preventing women from voting.

Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years: Leader Tells of Hindenburg Line of Germans Broken in West, Gives Political Sidelights, and Finds Causes for Victory’s Delay Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 15, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 14th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Development,Politics

Investigating the War

A century ago, House committees were heavily investigating the executive branch, while the president’s own party (in the House minority) accused the committees of partisan warfare. Sound familiar?

None of the investigations, the Republican leader said, would be inquisitorial, but they would be undertaken and conducted only so far as the interests of the country demanded. Democratic leaders scoff at such assertions. Visibly they are disturbed at the prospect… because the Republicans, being in charge, can guide the investigations and explode whatever is collected at the right psychological times from a political standpoint.

“What they are going to do,” said one Democrat, “is to keep these investigations boiling along, or some of them, clear into the Presidential campaign, and release their stuff at the time when the voters are beginning to think of the coming Presidential election. And they are not only going to tear everything wide open; they are going to pull up the flooring besides.”

Investigating the War: Chairman Graham of House of Representatives’ Special Committee Outlines Scope of Inquiry Into Expenditures (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 15, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 13th, 2019 at 10:54 am

What the Army Did to Them

Many WWI soldiers returned home as changed men. Women, while grateful for the military victory, were often dismayed at what had become of the men they sent away, calling it “the lowering of the quality of young American manhood.”

What emerged from the talk of which these samples have been reported was that at least half the women present were aware — or thought they were aware — of the lowering of the quality of young American manhood — or perhaps of a dulling of its fineness — growing out of military service, whether at home or abroad.

If this was the price paid for becoming heroes — and none of the women failed in proper pride that way, none was a pacifist, none was tainted with any sort of pro-Germanism, all had their own man or men in the service and were glad of it — if this was the price their country and their womenfolk had paid for seeing a patriotic duty bravely done — then it was a heavy price to pay.

This specific example of one man was provided, as emblematic of the larger problem.

A youth well born and bred, and one whose home-made manners, she said, had been a model of what such manners should be. She had met him again after he came back from overseas, and he had said things to her that she had never in her life before had said to her in polite society. Army life had done that to him, she insisted with some vehemence.

Considering that Donald Trump avoided the Vietnam War because of his supposed bone spurs, imagine how vile his demeanor and language would be if he’d gone.

What the Army Did to Them: The Present State of Young Men in America Is Discussed With Mixed Emotions by Some of Their Women Folk Army (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 8, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 7th, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Life,Military / War

If Germany Doesn’t Sign — Starvation

Germany surrendered November 1918, ending WWI in practice, as all countries agreed to cease hostilities while peace terms were negotiated. But the peacce terms weren’t finalized until June 1919. That month, the world asked: would Germany sign?

This article from the time described just how horrendous it would be for Germany if they didn’t sign the Treaty of Versailles, with the operative word in the headline being “starvation.” As it happened, Germany would indeed sign the treaty mere weeks later.

However, Hitler disobeyed more and more elements of the treaty, until he declared it null and void entirely in 1935. Some historians have suggested that a more lenient treaty would have rendered Germany a more prosperous and able nation post-WWI, potentially preventing the rise of a strongman leader like Hitler — and maybe avoiding WWII entirely.

If Germany Doesn’t Sign — Starvation: Allies Are Ready to Enforce a Blockade More Rigorous Than Ever Before, Should Enemy Balk at Peace Terms — Suggestion of Marching to Berlin Overruled (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 8, 1919

 

Germany made their final WWI-related reparation payment in 2010!

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2023140,00.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11442892

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Written by Jesse

June 6th, 2019 at 9:47 am

Plans For Dry New York

With Prohibition going into effect mere weeks away, what were the bars of New York City to do? Replacement options were sprouting in an attempt to replicate the bars’ former atmospheres, only without alcohol.

The Salvation Army, for one, is getting ready to enter the field. It will run substitutes for saloons, which, it is hoped, will preserve the opportunities for sociability and innocent forms of recreation presented by the saloon, as we have always known it, without the aid of the cup that cheers and likewise inebriates…

So there is already one Salvation Army “bar,” with a genuine brass rail and everything in the way of drinks except alcoholic ones…

The Salvation Army has options on five places now run as regular saloons and may soon have twenty-five liquorless saloons in operation in New York ready for the drought after July 1.

These must have not have been super popular, considering that Prohibition was repealed 14 years later.

And good thing, too. Speaking as somebody who performs at a piano bar every Friday night, alcohol consumption among patrons is heavily correlated to the amounts that customers tip to hear their favorite songs.

Plans For Dry New York: Saloon-Substitutes for City’s Ten Thousand Drinking Places Doomed to be Liquorless On and After July 1 Broadway of Old (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 8, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 5th, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Business,Life

Puritan Attacks on the Stage and Its Clothes

Revealing clothing was becoming more popular at social events in 1919 — more revealing by the standards of the day, at least. Acceptable clothing in the staid theater, however, changed much more slowly.

In a recent play a young actress engaged in a game of “strip poker” in which she “lost” large quantities of her hosiery and lingerie. Certain case-hardened first nighters were shocked; but, as it happened, she went from the theatre to a costume ball in the identical disarray, and there created not a ripple of protest.

Even today, one is usually expected to dress up to attend a theatrical show. Theatergoers, then as arguably now, generally tended to be a little more prim and proper than the average person on the street. That might explain why, despite the proverb “sex sells,” such tactics generally didn’t attract theater audiences in 1919.

That the exploitation of nudity has at times been a serious evil is obvious to every right-minded playgoer. But the remedy is not so obvious. … Certain managers have gone so far in catering to the roving eye as to shock the man in the street, not to mention his wife and his daughter. The result has been financially disastrous.

Nowadays, we see more nudity in theater than ever, asNew York Times theater critic Ben Brantley would write nearly a century later in 2013:

Full nudity has been a customary part of the mainstream Western theater since the 1960s and ’70s, while avant-gardists were regularly disrobing for public consumption a good decade earlier. But I have never been confronted with as many chests, buttocks and genitalia as I have in visits to Broadway and West End theaters during the last six months.

The times, they are a-changin’.

Puritan Attacks on the Stage and Its Clothes: Plays Which Offended Fundamental Morality Are Not Successful Nowadays, Despite What Reformers Say of Lingerie Displays and Scanty Skirts (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 1, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 2nd, 2019 at 10:26 am

Posted in Theater

Magna Charta of Childhood

World War I changed how many governments viewed their responsibilities toward children. While previously they had largely kept their hands off, the war took a huge toll on children’s health, child labor, and education. Governments felt more of a need to step in.

In the U.S., what did the government do around this time?

Congress passed a laws restricting child labor, though it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 5-4 decision Hammer v. Dagenhart. Congress then passed a constitutional amendment banning child labor in 1924, but it was only ratified by 28 of the required 36 states.

This May 1919 article explains why:

Before the war it seemed possible for statesmen to ignore the existence of children. What happened to the millions of young people of every great nation was, prior to August 1914, of slight interest to governments. Before the great war, it is perhaps safe to say that no Cabinet meeting of any great power had at any time devoted its full attention to the national problems raised by the very existence of children.

Every government knows now that such neglect is no longer compatible with national safety either in war or in peace. Military mobilization and the great test of industrial efficiency during the war revealed weaknesses appallingly vast. Neglect, it was perceived, was silently doing damage hardly less great than enemy invasion. Because of this realization, and not because of any newfound tenderness for children, governments generally have begun to give serious thought to childhood.

 

Child labor would only be banned in America in 1938 under FDR, with the Fair Labor Standards Act. And this time, the law was never struck down by the Supreme Court.

Magna Charta of Childhood: Representative of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Serbia, Italy, and Japan Are Joined With Americans in Evolving an International System of Child Welfare (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 25, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 23rd, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Pressure For Suffrage

In late May 1919, “The political pilots of the movement now assert that they have converted a sufficient number of statesmen to assure a suffrage victory.” Indeed, the House would pass it that week, followed by the Senate two weeks later.

But many may have gone along unwillingly, because of extreme public pressure:

A Senator, who had been a leader in the fight against the suffrage movement, said just before the adjournment of the last Congress:

“Three-fourths of the Senators who have come out in favor of the amendment are against it in their hearts. They have been politically sandbagged.”

This was an extreme statement from a heated partisan, but it is probably no exaggeration to say that no fewer than one-third of the Senators were swung over when, if they had followed their own individual opinions, they would have remained in the column of the antis. Never before had they been brought into contact with such a political machine as was shoving them along. The impact of the three pressures gave them a push from behind and from each side.

How did this work in practice? Alice Paul, Chair of the National Woman’s Party, explained.

“Senator McCumber was opposed to suffrage, and, I understand, still is, but when, following our efforts in his home state, the Legislature passed a resolution in favor of it, he took that as a mandate, and we won his vote. Senator Culbertson is another instance; we got two-thirds of the members of the Legislature in his State to sign a petition in favor of the amendment, and that results in the addition of the Texas Senator to our list. We have a strong organization in South Carolina, and when Senator Pollock was elected we turned on him a body of opinion, and Senator Pollock is now for suffrage.”

One wonders if, in these politically polarized times of 2019, the same phenomenon could potentially occur for the most important issues of today, in which public opinion is against Congress’s opinion. For example, 90% of Americans support universal background checks on guns, yet the plan seems dead on arrival in the current Congress.

“Pressure” For Suffrage: Three Interlocking Systems of Political Machinery Used by Women in Converting the Members of Congress (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 25, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 23rd, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Politics

Outlook for Touring in Europe Next Autumn

WWI caused more than a slight decline in tourism to Europe. Now that the war was over in late 1918, would summer 1919 return tourism to normal levels?

It would probably take until spring 1920 for tourism to Europe to return to normal levels, predicted Gilbert E. Fuller, President of the American Association of Tourist and Ticket Agents. But that varied country by country:

“France is keener to have American tourists than business men just now,” said Mr. Fuller, “because she has as yet nothing to sell to the latter, whereas the former only ask to see the battlefields where the Americans and their allies fought.”

“In Belgium I was told that everything was in readiness even now for tourists. Food is plentiful — more so than in any other European country I visited — but prices are high, as they are everywhere else.”

“Italy wants tourists, but food is scarce there just now and no definite plans have been made.”

“Switzerland wants tourists, but just now it is one of the most difficult countries in Europe to enter or leave.”

“England’s principal reasons for unwillingness to have tourists just yet are lack of food and the fact that most of the great London hotels have been commandeered for Government offices and their interiors entirely transformed, so that, even if they were again available as hotels, they could not be made ready for tourists for some time.”

“Germany is not on the map so far as prospective tourist travel is concerned. Aside from the fact that people don’t want to go there, no tourist agency is making any plans for travel in Germany.”

Perhaps Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation was on to something when he said, “I would sooner visit Europe than have something romantic happen between us.”

Outlook for Touring in Europe Next Autumn: But Promoter of Pleasure Travel, Just Returned, Says Conditions Will Be Far Below Normal Until Spring of 1920 (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 18, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 16th, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Life,Recreation

National Menace of Our Depleted Forests

The hit country song Wagon Wheel, written in 1973, begins with the lyric “Headed down south to the land of the pines.”

Not exactly. A 1919 headline warned “Supplies of Southern Pine Likely to be Exhausted in Ten Years.” Today, only 3% of the supply remains.

Smithsonian Magazine interviewed Chuck Hemard, author of the 2018 book “The Pines,” about what allowed any of the Southern pines to remain, rather than going completely extinct. His answer: that the remaining pines were essentially an ecological afterthought.

Despite deforestation, many of the remaining longleaf pines you feature in your book have survived hundreds years. What do you think help accounted for their survival?

Because they’re literally remnants or leftovers, meaning at the time many of these logging sites had trees left on them that were either undesirable as merchantable timber, or located geographically on a spot that was hard to log.

 

National Menace of Our Depleted Forests: Supplies of Southern Pine Likely to be Exhausted in Ten Years, and Program of Conservation Is Needed to Protect Country and Its Industries (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 11, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 9th, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Nature

Cellars and Attics for Archives

In 1919, America’s most important governmental and historical papers were stored haphazardly and dangerously.

[There are] a hundred different places in Washington in which valuable Government papers are stored. In this situation Washington stands alone among the capitals of the world. All other countries of importance have their archives concentrated in a special building furnished with every possible protection against loss by fire or deterioration.

 

There appeared little appetite for something similar in the U.S., though.

The agitation for a national archive building began in the seventies of the last century [1870s]. Fifty different archives bills have been introduced. Two got by the Senate, but not one past the House. Meantime a site was authorized and purchased, but on account of the long delay — while pork-barrel measures were attended to regularly — the site was used for another building.

It wasn’t that people were opposed, per se, but rather that it was low on the list of importance.

On the whole no other Congressional neglect furnishes a parallel to this one, for there never has been any organized opposition to the idea; it was generally admitted to be a sound one, even by members who did not apprehend its high importance, but after all it was a rather vague need.

But World War I drastically increased the need.

The war, it is estimated, will double all the papers that had been accumulated by the country up to 1917. Records include not only those of the army and navy and other regular departments, but of special activities, such as the Food Administration, the Fuel Administration, the Railroad Administration, and War Industries Board.

After all, the physical conditions were subject to great risk.

At present the greater part of the Government’s archives are stores in the two worst places to prevent them from deterioration: in attics and in cellars. To preserve papers under the best conditions requires an even temperature, light, and an absence of excessive moisture. In the attics the papers are subjected to a terrific heat in the Summer time, so great that spontaneous combustion has been feared.

The National Archives would be created by Congress 15 years after this article, in 1934. The actually transfer of records to the new National Archives building began in 1936.

And what a collection it is. From their website:

There are approximately 10 billion pages of textual records; 12 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; 25 million still photographs and graphics; 24 million aerial photographs; 300,000 reels of motion picture film; 400,000 video and sound recordings; and 133 terabytes of electronic data.

Cellars and Attics for Archives: These and Rented Non-Fireproof Buildings House Many of the Most Valuable Records in Washington (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 4, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 1st, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Politics

High Carnival of Costume Balls as Prohibition Draws Near

Prohibition was ratified in January 1919, but didn’t go into effect until a year later, in January 1920. So what to do during that final year of alcohol? “A bacchanalia of jollity and nummery” — also known as costumed danced parties.

Never have there been so many [costume balls], within the memory of the Oldest Dancing Man. Heretofore artists and “the Broadway crowd” have been content with half a dozen masquerades during the Winter, but this year, partly as a reaction from the war, partly because the advent of prohibition has cast its shadow before, the number of these gay fêtes and the attendance at them have surpassed all records.

At few other events could you find such a mixture of classes, professions, and walks of life:

Never has Gotham abandoned itself to such a bacchanalia of jollity and nummery. The costume ball is a social melting pot, and has drawn Park Avenue equally with Broadway, Washington Heights equally with Greenwich Village, debutantes equally with chorus girls. Artists and brokers, writers and bankers, actors and merchants, those conspicuous in the fashionable world and those known best to readers of the 15-cent magazines have commingled in scenes of brilliant revelry with others inconspicuous in any walk of life.

And the costumes were something else:

Clowns in spangles and aborigines in tiger skins have adorned the dancing floors. Red Robin Hood has one-stepped with [the goddess] Astarte, the Toreador [bullfighter] with a ballet girl, Pierrot [a sad clown character from French pantomime] with Maud Muller [a maid from an 1800s poem], the Red Indian with a Khorassan [Persian] maiden, the acrobat with Gretchen, and all who could with the chorus girls who arrive after the theatres close, attired often in the abbreviated garments they wore on the stage.

Sounds like a blast! Maybe we should institute Prohibition again a year from now.

High Carnival of Costume Balls as Prohibition Draws Near: Oriental Note Dominates the Revels, Where Harem Girls, Dervishes, Geishas, and Maharajas Are the Order of the Evening — Midnight Festivities Attract Throngs to Hotels and Dancing Halls (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 27, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 26th, 2019 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Life

No German Music — Lest We Forget

Eleonora de Cisneros, a major opera singer in 1919, argued that April of that year was too soon to enjoy German music, coming so soon after WWI:

There are 800,000 Germans in New York City who want German music! But you men and women who listened to that music, if you have a drop of allied blood in your veins, how could you applaud it? … I would as soon have applauded as I would have laughed at a procession of the weeping, violated women-children of France and Belgium! … The man or woman who can today listen to German music as in antebellum days is either a German, a neutral, or a pacifist!

How long was enough time to wait? Cisneros didn’t say. But in 1963, the song “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto topped America’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, 18 years after Japan was America’s enemy in World War II.

No German Music — Lest We Forget (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 18th, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Debate,Music

Our Super-Poison Gas

Prior to the atomic bomb’s invention, it was described as “the most terrible instrument of manslaughter ever conceived… a drop on the hand would cause intolerable agony and death after a few hours.”

At the time it was called methyl, now referred to as Lewsite. It was first synthesized in 1904, but production ramped up in 1918 for WWI. Luckily, it was never deployed in that conflict — saved by the bell:

The signing of the armistice spared the enemy any first-hand acquaintance with the terrors of methyl. Major Gen. W.K. Sibert, in command of the Chemical Warfare Service, had directed that 3,000 tons of it, in shell and drums, be in readiness on the battlefield March 1, 1919. Ten tons a day were being produced in an eleven-acre plant near Cleveland, Ohio, and the plant was two months ahead of its schedule when Foch crossed No Man’s Land to offer terms to a beaten foe. It is estimated that ten tons of methyl is one ton more than enough to depopulate Manhattan Island; and so it is not difficult to guess what would have happened had Hindenburg and his cohorts persisted until Spring.

1997’s Chemical Weapons Convention banned the production or stockpiling of Lewisite. In 2012, the U.S. destroyed its final remnants of its Lewisite stockpile. At least 98% of the stockpiles have been destroyed globally.

Our Super-Poison Gas: First Story of Compound 72 Times Deadlier Than “Mustard,” Manufactured Secretly by the Thousands of Tons (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 18th, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Military / War

Channel Tunnel After a Hundred Years of Talk

In 1919, a tunnel under the English Channel “has been brought much nearer to practical realization.” It wouldn’t be opened until 1994.

Supposedly early 1919 had all the elements going for construction, now that World War I had recently ended:

Generally speaking, however, it is taken as an accepted fact that opposition to the tunnel is no longer serious on military or naval grounds, and that, as the French Government has always been sympathetic to the scheme, it only remains for the British Government to press the button for work to begin without delay. According to some enthusiasts, not even Parliamentary sanction is required.

However, the 75 year delay after that point perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering that already it had been in the works for 45 years:

The first work was done on the tunnel in 1874, when a French company sank an experimental shaft in France. In 1881 the Southeastern Railway Company’s Chairman, Sir E. Watkin, obtained an act permitting him to sink a shaft on the English side. A boring was driven for 2,105 yards toward the Channel, when in 1882 the construction was stopped by the Government. Since then the scheme has been in abeyance, but in 1913 the Government called for reports from naval and military authorities with a view to permitting the construction if they were favorable. Then the war came and nothing more could be done.

But something more was ultimately done, 75 years later. Just goes to show: slow and steady wins the race. Very slow, apparently.

 

Channel Tunnel After a Hundred Years of Talk: Plans for Railway Tubes Between England and France Are Maturing Now That the Two Countries Have Reached a Decision Channel Tunnel After a Hundred Years of Talk (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 13, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 11th, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Development

Bobbed Hair and Maiden Names for Wives!

Reporting on a 1919 meeting of the Women’s Freedom Congress used the headline “bobbed hair and maiden names for wives!”– exclamation point and all.

…an impassioned please by Fola La Follette that all women retain their maiden names after marriage. Miss La Follette, who has retained her individuality by refusing to be known by the name of her husband, George Middleton, doesn’t seem to have much use for men anyway. She explained with pathetic earnestness that if as a spinster you had made a name for yourself in any profession, that name, being an asset in the economic world, should surely be retained after marriage.

This decade, about 22% of American women keep their maiden name after marriage.

 

The author also had some choice words about the conference attendees’ looks, from their hairstyles to their faces:

Mixed in with the usual bobbed-hair types (oh, but the ugly ones are more ugly for the bobbing!) and the aforementioned uplifters were some clear cut, gentle faces — women with that air of fine bearing and breeding which rarely if ever is found in the militant type. Charming are the agitators as a rule, and the sincere ones among them courageous, and fine in their way; but gentle — never! What then were these gentlewomen doing in this assembly?

Needless to say, it’s impossible to imagine any respectable news outlet today commenting on women’s looks in such a manner at a political event, rather than a fashion event or awards show.

Bobbed Hair and Maiden Names for Wives!: That Might Be Adopted as the Slogan of the New Freedom for Women, if a Recent Meeting in New York is to be a Criterion (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 6th, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Development,Life

Peace Taking Over War’s Inventions

Several months after World War I ended, technological innovations produced for the conflict were being repurposed for peacetime uses.

Take this sound pinpointer, used to calculate where distant enemy weapons were located. This same invention could also be used for bridges.

One thing about bridges that has puzzled engineers up to this time is some way to measure the stresses… The plan, yet in embryo, is to adapt the instrument that listens to guns to listening to steel bridges, and by the vibrations received in the microphones to calculate the measure of the strain on the structure, or on any part of it.

Or take a device for measuring steel without drilling into it, used to speed up the production of rifles. This same invention could not be used for railroads.

A flaw in the rail is the explanation of many a railroad accident in which lives are lost and properly destroyed. The defect is within; there is no way of telling at the mill. So it is with steel in bridge building and other structures; a bad place inside may one day bring disaster. With this device developed to test out large pieces of steel, a step from uncertainty to certainty in an important matter will be taken in a great industry.

In the words of Bo Burnham: “War! Huh! What is it good for? Increasing domestic manufacturing.”

 

Peace Taking Over War’s Inventions: Tests for Gun Barrels Serve for Steel Rails and Big Gun Detectors Measure Bridge Strains — Bureau of Standards’ War Work Not Lost (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 23, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 20th, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?

Two months after the 18th Amendment established prohibition, this satire wondered how far the movement would go. Would Dickens and Shakespeare’s references to alcohol be expunged?

The losses would be appalling; Chaucer would be a walking casualty, Shakespeare a stretcher case, and the forces of Dickens would be decimated. Think of Mr. Pickwick bereft of the mellowing influence of punch! He would undergo a complete character transformation. Remembering the Cherryble Brothers, old Fezziwig, Mr. Micawber, Bob Cratchet at his humble Christmas dinner, and a score of others, one asks: “Can a Dickens character realize good cheer without the artificial aid of liquid inspiration?” The sheer capacity exhibited by Dickens’s world for exhilarating beverages suggests the principle of unlimited supply responding to the call of unceasing demand. Other times, other manners, indeed! Expurgate Dickens in terms of intoxicants and about the only unmangled characters will be Little Nell and Paul Dombey.

These fears went unrealized, as written references to alcohol were not removed. Indeed, even the most beloved book nearly a century later, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, would contain references to copious alcohol consumption by the character Hagrid — and that book has an 11-year-old protagonist!

However, what would be later censored in the 2010s were the n-word and the word “injun” in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

In 1919, those words were okay but alcohol was not. In 2019, those words are not okay but alcohol is. Times change.

 

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?: How Shakespeare, Rare Ben Jonson, Robert Burns, and Omar Khayyam Will Sound if They Are Revised to Fit Those Sober Days Soon to Come (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 15th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Humor,Literature

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please

Horace Mann School is considered one of the best private schools in the country, and the fourth-best in New York City. They offer 230 courses to their high school students. Warning, though, the school will set you back $51,000 per year.

This 1919 profile article describes the unusual self-directed approach to education at the school:

Some of us may remember periods in our lives when we took up the flying of kites, or the hunting for Indian arrowheads in the fields, and in the kindling enthusiasm of that time we grasped the principles of aeronautics, archaeology, and of geology, sciences with mouthfilling names of which we did not even hear until later years.

If the boys and girls who go to this school of the new order are guided aright in their building of houses and of the making of automobiles and fire engines out of wooden beams and wheels, the theory is that they will develop correct and accurate habits of thought.

But wouldn’t this approach ignore the so-called fundamentals of education? Not so.

The more formal things required in an education can be added. There is no laborious drilling in the alphabet; nothing is said about the multiplication table; and there is no endless repetition of words and phrases which the child mind cannot grasp. When the youngster makes houses, airplanes, submarines, or tea, he is acquiring skill in the use of tools and paste and dishes.

 

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please: New Method of Educating Children Provides First of All for Self-Determination, and Makes Playmates of the Old Schoolroom Bogeys (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 14th, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Education

Lo, the Movies Have Achieved “Revivals”!

Tired of sequels, remakes, and reboots at the movies? By 1919, the movie business was already old enough that they were bringing back “classic” movies.

Hugo Riesenfeld, managing director of the Rivoli and Rialto Theatres, has started to show a series of the first Chaplin comedies, and Mr. Griffith [D.W. Griffith who most famously directed 1915’s The Birth of a Nation] will soon open a theatre in New York with a repertory of the films which made him famous.

The Chaplin pictures and the Griffith productions, in this sense, are revivals, and practically the first since the photoplay established itself. When [1915’s] “A Night in the Show,” the first of the old newcomers, was put on at the Rialto two weeks ago, the box office began to have one of the busiest periods of its existence.

So it’s not quite Chaplin and Griffith Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Yet it was nonetheless something of a century-old precursor to the franchise system that has come to dominate Hollywood in the 2010s. Both developments relied on the essential idea that audiences want more of what they already know they love.

Lo, the Movies Have Achieved “Revivals”! (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 9th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Entertainment,Movies