Entirely New Social Life in Washington

America’s entering of World War I impacted the social scene in Washington:

“There will be no formal dinner for the Cabinet officers and their wives at the White House this year. That affair, as well as the three other important dinners and the four receptions ordinarily given in the course of the three Winter months, is removed from the White House social calendar for the coming season.”

Well, we all have to make sacrifices in life.

Interestingly, this same phenomenon has not seemed to occur in 21st century Washington. Despite 9/11 and the war launched in its aftermath, the 2002 White House Correspondents Dinner — the crown jewel event of the D.C. social scene — continued unabated, with Drew Carey and President George W. Bush both performing standup comedy routines.

Entirely New Social Life in Washington: Formal Dinners and Official Receptions Abandoned — Strangers Heartily Welcomed in Circles Which Were Once Too Exclusive to Penetrate (PDF)

From Sunday, October 21, 1917

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October 19th, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Life,Recreation

Immigration Tide May Turn from West to East

 

As this 1917 article correctly predicted, many European immigrants to the U.S. later moved back to Europe after the conclusion of World War I. By some estimates, that number was almost one-third of European immigrants to America. However, “relatively few” German-Americans returned back to Germany.

Immigration Tide May Turn From West to East: Millions of Our Foreign-Born Citizens Planning to Return to Europe After the War, Says Commissioner Frederic C. Howe (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 13th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Development,Life,War

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War

How should schools change their curricula during wartime? During WWI, New York State Education Commissioner John H. Finley attempted to answer that question.

“There is a twofold obligation on the teacher. First, it is essential that we defend the intellectual frontiers of our democracy. We must “dig ourselves into” their trenches and hold them. Second, the schools, public and private, teachers and pupils alike, must take an active part in helping the nation in the fight.”

Today, civics education in schools is on the decline — arguably during a period where Americans need it more than ever.

Finley defended the importance of schools amid a time of war, when others might suggest limiting education budgets or other similar measures in order to invest almost solely in the military:

“There are approximately as many teachers in the State of New York as there are New York men in the first contingent of the National Army; a teacher in the army of future defense for every soldier in the army of present defense. And what an army this is; this unseen mighty army which is helping to make a democracy worth saving by the other army! We who must remain at our posts of future defense cannot let these momentous days in the world’s history pass without doing our part to help bring in our own day that peace which will make the world a safe place hereafter for those whom we teach.”

Stirring words indeed.

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War: New York State Sets Example in Encouraging Teaches to Inform Pupils About America’s Aims — Lineup of the Colleges (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 12th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Education,War

Super-Golf Among American Players

In 1917, James Barnes set a new 72-hole golf record with 283 strokes.

In January of this year, Justin Thomas set the current 72-hole record with 253 strokes at the Sony Open in Honolulu — a full 30 strokes lower than the world record a century ago. That’s an astonishing average of only 3.51 strokes per hole.

Is there any world record from the worlds of sports, athletics, or physicality from 1917 that still stands today?

Super-Golf Among American Players: Professionals and Leading Amateurs Attain Perfection on Many Greens, Even the Casual Competitor Sometimes Gets a Record (PDF)

From Sunday, October 7, 1917

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October 6th, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Sports

Precedents for Expulsion of Senators

A U.S. Senate member getting expelled from office hasn’t happened since 1862. So when this 1917 article was written, it had already been 55 years since the last time.

It’s come close to happening since. In the past century, there have been 9 senators who faced expulsion proceedings. But all of them either resigned before they could be removed from office, or else did not meet the required threshold that two-thirds of the Senate vote to expel them.

The most recent case was in 2011, when Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) was charged with financial misconduct, but he resigned before he could be expelled.

The last time a senator even faced an expulsion vote at all, and didn’t resign beforehand, was in 1942. Sen. William Langer (R-ND) was charged with corruption, but the Senate voted 52-30 to keep him in office.

14 of the 15 Senate expulsions that have ever taken place occurred during the Civil War, when multiple senators were expelled for supporting the Confederacy.

But it might potentially happen again later this year.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is facing a corruption trial this month. If Menendez is convicted and is expelled (or resigns), under New Jersey state law, the governor would appoint the successor.

If it’s before January 2018, that would be Republican Gov. Chris Christie. But if it’s after January 2018, the next governor would have the privilege — and polling indicates that the November gubernatorial election will likely be a landslide win for Democrat Phil Murphy.

With Republicans only holding a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, every vote counts —  see this summer’s health care repeal which failed by only a single vote. So a Senate seat that potentially switches parties could change things dramatically in Washington and the country at large.

Precedents for Expulsion of Senators: Some Cases During Civil War Days Recalled by Present Demand for Oustin of La Follette and Other Obstructionists (PDF)

From Sunday, October 7, 1917

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October 5th, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Shifting Tastes of the Theatergoers

Theater critic John Corbin lamented the rise of the anti-hero on the stage in 1917:

“Clever trickery wins delighted applause, while the ancient law, moral as well as statutory, is scorned and derided. The phenomenon is interesting and rather disquieting… Like government, the drama is best when it is of the people, by the people, and for the people. As the literary critics say, it should portray the life and express the mood of its time. Yet the American drama of today has largely reversed Lowell’s apothegm. It pays to call old notions fudge and bend our conscience to our dealing. The Ten Commandments love to budge, and fortune ever follows stealing.”

Corbin surely would not approve of many modern-day critics’ ranking of The Godfather as the greatest film of all time.

Shifting Tastes of the Theatergoers: Decline of European Influence Has Been Followed By “the Sub-American Drama,” with East Side Flavor Dominant and Crooks as Leading Characters (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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October 1st, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Theater

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing

The War Department (later renamed the Defense Department) in 1916 placed “song leaders” in the training camps for the military. Why?

“‘A songless army,’ says Major Gen. J. Franklin Bell, commander of Camp Upton, ‘would lack in the fighting spirit in proportion as it lacked responsiveness to music. There is no more potent force in developing unity in an army than in that of song.'”

We eventually won World War I, though it’s hard to say how much if anything song had to do with that. Still — from “cadence calls” that cadets sing out in time to their steps as they go on runs, to USO tours which bring popular music performers to entertain the troops overseas, music has always played a part in the U.S. military.

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing: Organized Work Being Done Under Experienced Leaders in Camps All Over the Country — Difficulties of a Song Leader’s Job (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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September 30th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Music,War

Enter America as Chief Fur Trader

World War I had unexpected effects on the fur market, not least because of… the invention of the submarine?!

“American buyers and American furs no longer play the parts they formerly did in England. The submarine is one of the chief reasons. It has caused a scarcity of ocean freight space and a big jump in war risk insurance on cargoes.”

Another factor was the plummeting number of materials (read: animals) brought into the U.S. from other nations.

“Another way in which the war has affected the fur situation has been to cut down the supplies of skins received from other countries… However, as a result of depleted supplies, prices have advanced sharply, particularly on skins of animals not native of this country…

“It has been ably aided by Fashion, which is figuratively crying for furs and still more furs. Proof that the women of the country are responding to the cry is seen in the fact that, despite the higher prices, the fur trade as a whole is enjoying one of the best seasons it has ever had.”

Today, animal skins are a $40 billion business — although according to Kopenhagen Fur, the global production of fur has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Enter America as Chief Fur Trader: Foreign Countries Formerly Ran the Business of Selling Pelts, but New York and St. Louis Are Now the Leading Markets (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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September 29th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Business,Development

Artistic Instinct of Negroes Should Be Developed

This 1917 article lamented the lack of flourishing culture in the African-American community. The Harlem Renaissance would start a mere year later in 1918, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Led by such figures as Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Richard Wright, the period would produce an explosion of literature, music, and art from the African-American community.

Artistic Instinct of Negroes Should Be Developed (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 2017

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September 28th, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Art,Development

Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars

The urban population has surged from 29.5 percent in 1880 to 46.3 percent in 1910. The Census Bureau estimates that cities contain 62.7 percent of the U.S. population today.

A major change in rural life came with the development and popularity of the car. In 1917, the top two states by number of cars per capita were Iowa and Nebraska, then as now major agricultural states. (Today those two states rank #5 and #10.) The top two today are Montana and Wyoming.

This article describes the transformative effect that the car had on rural life.

“There was the railroad. It was to intersect the country until no isolation would be left. Then came the telephone. It was to knit the countryside together by wire and long distance conversation and thus banish isolation. Next came rural mail delivery. It was to make the change by the delivery of daily papers at the farmer’s door, by establishing continuous touch with the city and the outside world.”

“No one hit upon the actual cause. The trouble with the farm was three miles an hour — three miles by horse and buggy or two by team and wagon. Even the best social ideas would not work at such a rate of moving about. The rate of three miles an hour limited the size of the community, set a bound on the number of people one would meet in the course of a lifetime. Twelve miles is a long drive by horse and buggy, and that was about the radius of the farm families’ social life; the actual neighborhood life was restricted to about four miles from home. Six miles was a good way to go to church; seven or eight miles would be attempted for a social party.”

Today, the trend might be going in reverse, as many Millennials are ditching cars altogether. Only about 60 percent of 18-year-olds have a driver’s license, down from 80 percent in the 1980s.

Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars: Country Existence Ameliorated by Speeding Up from Three to Twenty Miles an Hour — Tremendous Influence in Rural Social Life (PDF)

From Sunday, September 16, 1917

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September 14th, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Development,Life

The Case Against Suffrage

If you thought the people fighting for the women’s right to vote were all women and the people opposing it were all men, think again.

Some women didn’t want the right to vote at all, as shown in this 1917 article about the wife of the U.S. senator from New York who also led the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.

“But do we want the tactics of the female of the species to mold our policies of government, the spirit of our institutions, or the enforcement of our laws? I, for one, am very positive that we do not.”

Wadsworth also contended that even if she supported suffrage (which she didn’t), the timing of the initiative right in the middle of World War I was inopportune.

“They are forcing their pet issue upon an electorate that should have no other issues presented to it for decision than those growing out of the fearful life-and-death struggle of the world for democracy.”

Wadsworth also noted that the measure was being rejected by voters frequently in recent years:

“Did you know that since the close of 1912 the voters of thirteen States, including such big States as New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri, have declared at the polls that they do not want woman suffrage; and that the voters of only two States, Nevada and Montana in 1914, have said that they want it?

Unfortunately for Wadsworth, the 19th Amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote was added to the Constitution less than three years after this article was published.

Case Against Suffrage: Presented by Mrs. James W. Wadsworth, Jr., Leader of Women’s Organization Which Wants No Votes (PDF)

From Sunday, September 9, 1917

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September 10th, 2017 at 10:08 am

Posted in Politics

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations

In one of the best examples of backhanded compliments ever, George MacAdam wrote in 1917:

“Women make good soldiers? Why not? Women are a great deal more combative than men. If you don’t believe me, ask any married man. A fighting woman is by long odds fiercer than a fighting man. If women had the physical strength and could be disciplined — (make a note of that) AND COULD BE DISCIPLINED — they would dominate the earth.”

President Obama allowed women in combat roles in 2013. Some predict that President Trump could reverse and once again ban women from combat roles, though he currently has yet to do so. (Although some fear Trump reversal of Obama’s policy allowing transgender soldiers could be an opening salvo.)

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations (PDF)

From Sunday, September 2, 1917

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August 30th, 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in Debate,War

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States

Federal expenditures multiplied more than 10-fold after America entered World War I.

Even then, though, the drastically increased spending was still far less when adjusted for inflation than the federal government spends today. The 1917 spending was about $10.73 billion, which would be about $205.3 billion today. But this fiscal year will spend about $4.14 trillion, or about 20 times what we were spending in 1917.

Still, it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.Three of the four biggest drivers of modern-day federal spending are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — none of which existed back in 1917.

 

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States: Estimate of the Total Expenditures for Year Ending Next June IS $10,735,807,000 — Last Year’s Outlay Was $1,041,635,116 (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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August 24th, 2017 at 11:39 am

Systematic Selection of Cooks for New Army

Once the draft was instituted for World War I in May 1917, the number of men in the American armed forces increased dramatically, prompting a comparably large percentage rise that you might not have even thought of: chefs.

It was said, without exaggeration, that “the honor of the profession was at stake.”

“M. Auguste Gay, chef of the Yale Club, and President of the Chefs de Cuisine, presided and told the men that the honor of the profession was at stake, that the crux of the situation was in their hands. He explained at length what an ill-fed army meant, how the health of the soldiers could not be trusted to raw recruits, who had never come nearer the kitchen than to inquire whether dinner was ready.”

The modern-day MRE — Meal Ready to Eat — consumed by American military personnel was not introduced in its modern-day form until 1963.

Systematic Selection of Cooks for New Army: Under Leadership of a New York Hotel Proprietor They Are Being Put Through Searching Tests by Competent City Chefs (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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August 23rd, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Life,War

The Obstructionists: Small Group of Senators and Congressmen Whose Tactics Encourage Enemy and Block War Plans

A full century before the Freedom Caucus, there were “the Obstructionists.”

The comparisons aren’t exact. The modern-day organization of several dozen hard-line conservatives in the House has helped kill or at least significantly delay or water down legislation supported by most congressional Republicans, such as Affordable Care Act repeal, tax reform, raising the debt ceiling, and more — all on the basis that existing proposals weren’t far enough to the right. The so-called “Obstructionists” wasn’t so much an official caucus as an informal group of legislators who banded together in opposition to one particular issue above all else — American involvement in World War I — rather than on a variety of issues.

But there were some commonalities. For example, both groups were all men.

The congressional votes to commence American involvement in WWI were lopsided but not unanimous: 82-6 in the Senate and 373-50 in the House. By comparison, the congressional votes for the other world war a few decades later were 82-0 in the Senate and 388-1 in the House. And the the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan a mere three days after 9/11 passed 98-0 in the Senate and 420-1 in the House.

The Obstructionists: Small Group of Senators and Congressmen Whose Tactics Encourage Enemy and Block War Plans (PDF)

From Sunday, August 19, 1917

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August 17th, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Politics

Need of Dictator Urged by Harding

Four years before he became president, Ohio’s Republican Senator Warren G. Harding argued in favor of drastically increased powers for the presidency — even though the commander-in-chief at the time was a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

The level of willingness to accede so completely to a partisan opponent was arguably last seen in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when most congressional Democrats granted significant powers to the presidency and executive branch, despite being controlled by Republican President George W. Bush.

Harding’s words are stunning to modern-day ears and chats from the left that Trump is #NotMyPresident. Perhaps his words were stunning even to ears at the time:

“Whom have you in mind for this position as supreme dictator?” Mr. Harding was asked.

“At the present moment there is but one possible man,” replied the Senator from Ohio, “the President of the United States. I must say he is not my choice, but the people of the country have chosen him, and he is the only one to whom we can turn. Why quibble with events which are already accomplished? Mr. Wilson is our President, duly elected. He is already by the inevitable force of events our partial dictator. Why not make him complete and supreme dictator? He will have to answer to the people and to history eventually for his stewardship. Why not give him a full and free hand, not for his sake, but for our sake? He is not likely to succeed half bound; unbound he will have every chance. If he fails, then it is his fault, not ours. If he fails under present conditions, it is our fault, not his.”

Harding’s recommendation was heavily influenced by the perceived need for a national leader with stronger powers during the ongoing World War I. It is not clear whether Harding still believed in a “supreme dictator” by 1921 when he took office, after the war had concluded.

“It was only the logic of events combined with the perception generally of the unparalleled character of Mr. Lincoln that powers were placed more and more in the hands of the President, until, toward the close of the war, Congress as well as the Cabinet had all but abdicated in favor of the one man who had proved himself a safe dictator for the destinies of the nation.  The same thing must occur in this war, and the sooner it comes the better for all of us. We will never be actually in the war, never be a menace to Germany in a modern military sense, until it does come.”

Harding, for what it’s worth, is consistently ranked as one of the worst presidents of all time.

Need of Dictator Urged by Harding: Republican Senator from Ohio Favors Absolute Power for President, Even If He Is a Democrat (PDF)

From Sunday, August 12, 1917

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August 10th, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Politics

How much WWI took over everyone’s lives

American entry into World War I “started” 100 years ago plus a few months ago, in April 1917. One thing that’s really striking to me is just how much it overtook everything about people’s lives. In working on this week’s entries for Sunday Magazine, here were the magazine headlines from New York Times Sunday Magazine 100 years ago this week, a relatively “typical” week of the conflict:

  • New Board of Seven: Frank A. Scott, Chairman, Talks of His Committee—Second Great Industrial Phase of War Task
  • Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front: Outline of British Methods Shows How the American Soldiers Are Being Taught—Trenches Flooded With Gas for Practice
  • Kerensky’s Intimate Talks to Men at the Front: Weak-Kneed Soldier, Who Interrupted Him with Plea for Speedy Peace, Was Ordered to Go Home in Disgrace
  • Labor’s Part in War’s Successful Prosecution: True Source of Military Power Is United Energy of a Nation’s People, Yet the Whole World Is Continuing Class Struggles Labor’s Part in War’s Successful Prosecution
  • Allied Relief and Rid Cross Near Agreement: Expect Soon to Smooth Over Difficulties Created by Plan to Take from Donations to War Sufferers Their Individual Character
  • Battling an Africa Far from War’s Limelight: How a Plucky Band of Englishmen Hauled Boats Over Mountains and Wrested Control of Lake Tanganyika from Germans
  • America Reconciled to Sacrifices of the War: History Teaches Lesson That Individuals Do Not Count—Victory Over Germany Will Be a Mere Incident in Uplifting the World
  • Mayor’s Grandfather Prophesied This War When Germans Were Winning in 1870-71
  • History of the War in American Cartoons: Art at Home and Abroad
  • Women Striving for Efficiency in War Work: Ida Tarbell, of Woman’s Committee of Council of National Defense, Describes Co-ordination in Work of Many Organizations
  • Sailor Tells of U.S. Fleet’s Brush with U-Boat: First Torpedo, Which Missed American Ship Only Thirty Yards, Was Followed by Two Others While the Deck Guns Boomed
  • Women at the Beaches Only Knit, Knit, Knit: Other Pleasures and Labors Are Abandoned for the Wartime Craze, Which Reaches Its Climax at Atlantic City
Even the article about knitting contained a subheading tying it into the war!
My grandparents talk about WWII just consumed everything about their lives. It’s fascinating to me just how all-consuming a true all-out war can be. Let us hope we never see one again.

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August 6th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food

According to the historical consumer price index, 30 cents in August 1917 was worth $5.65 in June 2017, the most recent month for which inflation can be calculated. Can you live on $5.65 worth of food per day in the modern era?

The article portrays it as a major feat, but it actually doesn’t strike me as too difficult, especially if you eat homemade prepared meals and don’t eat out. Get some bread, turkey, American cheese, and mayonnaise — you can make two sandwiches for lunch at the cost of, what, maybe a dollar or two? Have some Cheerios and milk for breakfast, that’s maybe another dollar or two.

But you would almost certainly have to spend more than $5.65 to eat what the author, Dr. Mary K. Isham, describes over the course of a day:

  • “A bowl of steamed whole wheat with milk and sugar” [for breakfast]
  • “Three cheese sandwiches, a large glass of iced whiskyless eggnor with a few  drops of vanilla instead, and a big banana” [“for luncheon”]
  • “Two slices of beef loaf, baked yesterday; boiled corn on the cob, a plate of combination salad, three slices of bread and butter, coffee, half a sugar melon, and two wafers of chocolate peppermint” [for dinner]

 

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food: New York Doctor Tells How She Manages to Spend Only That Much for Three Square Meals Consisting of First-Class Viands (PDF)

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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August 5th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in Health

Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front

Soldiers in boot camp preparing for entry into World War I had to confront a relatively new invention: poison gas. As this BBC World Service article notes, the first major gas attack ever used in warfare took place in January 1915, but actually killed comparatively few soldiers relative to the amount of fear it spread.

Still, soldiers had to be prepared:

“Gas also has become a contingency to which men must be accustomed during their training… They are passed through a dugout filled with asphyxiating gas, and the efficiency of the apparatus with which they are supplied is practically demonstrated. Gas is more dangerous to the morale of the troops than to their actual safety, and this demonstration of its harmlessness, if the right steps are taken to counteract it, through which every man going to the front must pass, does much to disarm the gas attack of its worst terrors.”

Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front: Outline of British Methods Shows How the American Soldiers Are Being Taught — Trenches Flooded With Gas for Practice (PDF)

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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August 4th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in War

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business

Although we now usually associate the phrase “draft dodger” with Vietnam avoiders going to Canada, the phenomenon occurred on a lesser scale during World War I as well. (Though far less frequently, given the almost unanimous American support and patriotism for the war effort.)

This article on the subject begins in the second-person, being addressed to “you” — a form of writing almost entire unseen in the pages of the New York Times during this ear.

“A word with you, Mr. Would-Be Slacker. If you’re thinking of trying to dodge the selective draft by pretending physical disability when you get before the local examination board, here’s a bit of advice: Don’t. Since you are Mr. Would-Be Slacker there is no use preaching patriotism to you. But here is something that will influence you: If you try to dodge the draft and are caught, there is a heavy penalty, both fine and imprisonment; and you’re almost sure to get caught.”

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business: Scientific Methods for Detecting Malingerers Who Pretend Ailments of Eyes, Ears or Muscles (PDF)

From Sunday, July 29, 2017

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July 28th, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Health,War