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

Campaigning from Porch and Stump

1920 Republican presidential candidate Warren Harding was accused of holding few true political beliefs:

When one speaks of Harding, of course, one means the unincorporated syndicate that goes by that name, headed by Senator Lodge and consisting of perhaps a dozen members of the Senate, including the one from Ohio, Mr. Harding… When Harding speaks one can see the vocal cords moving in the throat of the Senate, as happens sometimes with amateur ventriloquists. So, it may be, would be the case if Senator Harding became President Harding. It is what he means and they mean by “plural government,” though, of course, the President would have a voice in the caucus, as, indeed, he has now.

Harding won in a landslide, one of only four presidential elections in the past century in which the winner received at least 60 percent of the popular vote. Maybe it was that very vagueness which helped him. As another New York Times article that year said of Harding:

“It is complained that the President is too verbose and too vague. But this is … to miss entirely the point of popular acceptance. In the President’s misty language the great majority see a reflection of their own indeterminate thoughts.”

Clearly, the American public felt differently with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s version of Alexander Hamilton, who in the song The Election of 1800 declared his preference for a presidential candidate with concrete opinions, even ones he vehemently disagreed with, rather than a blank slate:

The people are asking to hear my voice

The country is facing a difficult choice

And if you were to ask me who I’d promote

Jefferson has my vote

I have never agreed with Jefferson once

We have fought on like seventy-five different fronts

But when all is said and all is done

Jefferson has beliefs… Burr has none

 

 

Campaigning from Porch and Stump (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 1, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2020 at 10:23 am

Posted in Politics

The Party of Discontent

Would a third party candidate spoil the 1920 presidential election?

At least three presidential elections in the past three decades alone were very likely altered by third-party candidates:

  1. 1992: Independent candidate Ross Perot earned 19.7 million votes, mostly from Republican George H.W. Bush, likely tipping the election to Democrat Bill Clinton.
  2. 2000: Green Party candidate Ralph Nader earned 2.8 million votes, mostly from Democrat Al Gore, likely tipping the election (particularly the results in Florida) to Republican George W. Bush.
  3. 2016: Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein jointly combined for 5.9 million votes, primarily from Democrat Hillary Clinton (particularly in Stein’s case). Shifting a combined 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would have lost Republican Donald Trump the election.

This 1920 New York Times Magazine article considered the possibility that Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs could throw the election. They drew a comparison to the at-the-time-well-recalled 1892 race:

In one memorable year, 1892, the discontented were chiefly Republicans, and in the West they voted for the Populist candidate, James B. Weaver, while in the East they stayed home in such large numbers as to elect a Democratic President [Grover Cleveland]. In recent years they have voted for Debs, without the slightest regard to his principles and solely by way of protest. This year, thanks to [Farmer–Labor Party presidential nominee Parley] Christensen’s nomination, neither party will be hurt more than the other.

Indeed, neither major party was disproportionately hurt that year. Harding won the election with a commanding 404-127 Electoral College margin and 60.3 percent of the popular vote, while Debs won 3.4 percent and Christensen won 1.0 percent of the popular vote – and neither won any electoral votes. It’s hard to claim that either Debs or Christensen changed the election result.

However, neither Perot, Nader, Johnson, nor Stein won a single electoral vote either, yet are widely considered to have changed the election result. What’s the difference? The close margins of those elections. Since this article was published in 1920, only three different third-party candidates have won so much as a single electoral vote, yet the margins were decisive enough among the two main candidates that none of them proved to be spoilers.

  1. 1924: Progressive Party candidate Robert La Follette won 13 electoral votes, though Calvin Coolidge won a commanding 382-136 Electoral College victory over John W. Davis.
  2. 1948: States’ Rights Democrat (Dixiecrat) candidate Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes, though Harry Truman won a commanding 308-139 Electoral College victory over Thomas Dewey. Thurmond likely took more votes away from Truman, meaning Thurmond’s candidacy didn’t change the election result so much as prevent Truman from winning by an even larger margin.
  3. 1968: American Independent Party candidate George Wallace won 46 electoral votes, but in an echo of two decades prior, Wallace’s candidacy didn’t change the election result so much as prevent Richard Nixon from winning by even more than his actual 301-191 Electoral College margin.

(Libertarian Party presidential candidate John Hospers technically won a single electoral vote in 1972, but that was Virginia faithless elector Roger MacBride, who was supposed to vote for Richard Nixon as his state had.)

As for 2020, neither Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen nor Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins appear to be making as much of a splash as their 2016 predecessors, at least so far. And no other candidate has announced who plausibly seems like they could even attain 1 percent of the vote, for now.

 

The Party of Discontent (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 25, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 25th, 2020 at 9:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Harding and the Front Porch Plot

In 1920, Warren Harding ran the last true “front porch campaign,” a major party presidential candidate campaigning primarily from home… until Joe Biden for several months in 2020.

This 1920 New York Times article explains the rationale for Harding, the Republican nominee, in trying to replicate the successful 1896 front porch campaign of fellow Ohio Republican William McKinley. Many voters wanted a change after the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic and World War I both killed millions.

The determination to have Harding make a front porch campaign was deliberate and calculated. It was made because that kind of campaign would continually suggest McKinley. It was not because front porch campaigning is necessarily better than stump speaking. It was to emphasize as sharply as possible the break with the recent past and the return to the past of McKinley’s time.

Around 600,000 would gather on Harding’s property in Marion, Ohio to hear him speak during the campaign, in a town of only 30,000 residents. And it worked. While Harding did make occasional speeches elsewhere, he didn’t travel nearly as widely as Democratic challenger James Cox, who visited 36 of the 48 states at the time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shutdown, Democratic nominee Joe Biden didn’t make an in-person public appearance between March 15 and May 25. But appearing on camera from home, he reached audience numbers that Harding a century earlier could only dream of. 600,000 people is small compared to the millions who watched Biden’s virtual appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

This 1920 editorial cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman — not published in the New York Times — depicts that year’s Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs, who was imprisoned at the time for urging Americans to resist the draft into World War I. (That was a criminal offense thanks to the Sedition Act of 1918, but would be legal today.) Debs won 3.4% of the popular vote, though no electoral votes. His sentence was commuted in 1921 by — who else? — President Harding, who met with Debs on his way home from jail.

File:EugeneDebs.gif

Harding and the Front Porch Plot (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 16th, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Politics

The Vice Presidency Comes to the Fore

“The two parties in 1920… have both nominated men of Presidential stature for Vice President,” a New York Times article that summer read. Those two men were FDR and Calvin Coolidge, who would both become president. In fact, 1920 is the only year in American history when both major-party vice presidential nominees later became president.

In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of only two losing vice presidential nominees of a major party to later ascend to the presidency. The other: John Tyler, who lost in 1836 as a Whig Party running mate for Hugh Lawson White, but would later be elected vice president in 1840 on the Whig Party ticket behind William Henry Harrison.

The article also stated: “To find a parallel to the present-day interest in both Roosevelt and Coolidge, one would have to hark back to 1884, when Logan and Hendricks ran for the same office.” Wait, who?

Former Indiana Senator and Governor Thomas Hendricks had previously been the 1876 Democratic vice presidential nominee behind New York Governor Samuel Tilden. The ticket won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. Hendricks was nominated for vice president again in 1884 behind another New York governor, Grover Cleveland. Winning the White House this time, Hendricks only served about eight months before dying unexpectedly of natural causes. The vice presidency remained vacant for the remainder of Cleveland’s term.

Illinois Senator and former Civil War Union Army General John Logan ran as the Republican vice presidential nominee, behind former Maine Senator and former Secretary of State James G. Blaine.

Both Hendricks and Logan are largely forgotten today, neither having served as president — although Washington, D.C. residents know the latter as the namesake of the city’s neighborhood Logan Circle.

 

The Vice Presidency Comes to the Fore: Both Parties Have Broken With Tradition to the Extent of Picking Men of Positive Achievement Well Qualified for High Office (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 11, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 11th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

America’s Unwritten Novels

The mostly-forgotten novelist Coningsby Dawson, speculated in 1920 that America would have difficulty producing great novels moving forward.

“I believe American novelists as a class to be the most unobservant and the least local in their affections. When I say local, I use that term in its best sense. Hardy and Kipling and Tolstoy and Balzac are local, but none of them is provincial. They select a certain area which they know and love and make it the mirror of the passions of the entire world. Very few American novelists have that love of a locality; they seem to lose their traditions and sense of race in the cosmopolitanism of the larger cities.”

Dawson also pinpointed another problem, at least in his view: the limited urban perspective of the novels being produced at that time.

“America, as she is today, is in the main totally unrepresented in the fiction of her contemporary novelists… New York, which is decidedly not a representative of the States, would certainly provide the setting for the biggest percentage of the novels; Chicago and Boston would tie for second place. Those three cities together would probably afford the background of 75 percent of the year’s output. To choose another great city at random, I can think of only one novel of consequence which places Cincinnati on the map — Susan Lennox [sic] — and Susan Lennox does not picture Cincinnati in such a way that you could recognize it.”

The novel Dawson references, a misspelling of 1912’s Susan Lenox, Her Fall and Rise is largely forgotten today but was adapted into a 1931 film with Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.

Dawson, for what its worth, seemed unable to write a great American novel himself. The man at least has a Wikipedia entry, but not a single one of his 20+ works does.

At least his 1920 article took a cautious tone on whether America will continue to write great novels. By contrast, a 1916 New York Times article — which SundayMagazine.org previously covered in 2016 — was pessimistically and more definitely titled “The Great American Novel Never Will Come.”

Still to be written in 1920 were many of what are now considered among the greatest American novels:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977)
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
  • Roots by Alex Haley (1976)

 

America’s Unwritten Novels: A Chart of the Country Shows What Has Already Been Done and Suggests the Vast Possibilities Still Open for Fiction Writers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 4, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 5th, 2020 at 11:59 am

Posted in Books,Future

This week, the New York Times Magazine became ‘Book Review and Magazine’

100 years ago this week, the New York Times combined their previously-separate Magazine and Book Review sections into one larger section on Sundays. If any history buffs or NYT aficionados know why they made this change, please feel free to comment below or send me a message. The Times didn’t seem to explain why anywhere else in the Sunday, June 27, 1920 issue, so far as I can find.

The two sections are distinct these days, so at some point in the past century they were separated once again. I’m not easily finding a record of when that occurred. For all I know, it might have been years or even decades after the 1920 merger.

In the name of consistency, I’m going to continue posting only the most interesting magazine features from 100 years ago to the week, and not the book reviews. There’s a reason this website isn’t titled SundayBookReview.org!

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Written by Jesse

June 26th, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

That Ideal Campaign Front Porch

On the 1920 campaign trail, future President Warren G. Harding revealed his perfect formula for eating waffles:

You eat the first fourteen waffles without syrup, but with lots of butter. Then you put syrup on the next nine, and the last half-dozen you eat just simply swimming in syrup. Eaten that way, waffles never hurt anybody.

Actually, it did hurt somebody: Harding. His formula for the best way to eat 29 straight waffles may have contributed to his death by cardiac arrest three years later, as one of four presidents to die in office of natural causes.

 

That Ideal Campaign Front Porch: Candidate to Follow Example of McKinley, One of His Political Heroes – Mrs. Harding, “The Duchess,” as a Waffle-Maker (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 20, 1920

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Written by Jesse

June 18th, 2020 at 10:19 am

Posted in Food,Life,Politics

Outlawed Whisky and the Bootlegger’s Big Profits

On this week a century ago, the Supreme Court upheld Prohibition as constitutional. That same week, a New York Times article reported that a startling amount of alcohol was being withdrawn from government warehouses “for non-beverage purposes.” Sure.

In March, 1919, before Federal prohibition went into effect, there was withdrawn from Government warehouses… 3,589,863 gallons taken out for beverage purposes. In March of this year, for purposes alleged to be non-beverage, 4,016,983 gallons of distilled spirits were withdrawn; that is, nealry half a million gallons more than the quantity taken out of bond in March a year ago for beverage purposes.

That could only mean one thing.

Most of the non-beverage whisky was used formerly for medicinal purposes; records show that in the past around 1,000,000 galoons were withdrawn a month for non-beverage use, and the inference is plain that a great part of the remaining 3,000,000 gallons taken out in March of this year was obtained in violation of the intent of the law.

As for the Supreme Court in June 1920, they ruled:

The prohibition of the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes, as embodied in the Eighteenth Amendment, is within the power to amend reserved by Article V of the Constitution. That Amendment, by lawful proposal and ratification, has become a part of the Constitution, and must be respected and given effect the same as other provisions of that instrument.

 

Outlawed Whisky and the Bootlegger’s Big Profits: With the Country’s Bone Dry State Confirmed by the Supreme Court, a Barrel of Corn Liquor Brings $2,000 and “Non-Beverage” Withdrawals from Bond Mount Amazingly (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 13, 2020

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Written by Jesse

June 11th, 2020 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Life

Tennis, A World Sport Epidemic

In 1920, one of the fastest-growing U.S. sports was tennis. From 2010 to 2018, though, the sport’s U.S. participation rate declined -5%.

First, 1920. This contemporary article, which uses the spelling “racquet” when describing the equipment, says tennis is “the game that… is gaining popularity more rapidly than ever.”

The 1920 article’s estimate of “more than three million tennis players in this country” meant roughly 2.8% of the population at the time. The most recent annual report from the Tennis Industry Association estimates 17.8 million Americans played tennis in 2018, or about 5.4% of the population.

So the percentage of the population playing tennis has roughly doubled in the past century. That’s the good news for the sport. The bad news it that the trend lines have reversed since 2010, with tennis participation declining by -5% from 2010 to 2018, following a +44% increase from 2000 to 2010.

It probably doesn’t help that no American male has won any of the sport’s four major annual “Grand Slam” titles — the U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open, or Wimbledon — since Andy Roddick in 2003.

 

 

Tennis, A World Sport Epidemic: In This Country All Ages and Both Sexes Are Wielding the Racquet With Increasing Joy and Skill (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 6, 1920

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Written by Jesse

June 4th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Sports

Penrose as Potential President Maker in Chicago

A week before the 1920 Republican convention, an article suggested Pennsylvania Sen. Boies Penrose could decide the party’s presidential nominee. As it turns out, he kind of did.

Heretofore the Old Guard has had more than one man capable of playing this part behind the scenes, with the loyalty of the ingrained partisan who in an hour of crisis will set aside personal fortunes and personal choice for the sake of harmony. In the last Republican convention there were two leaders of this kind — Murray Crane of Massachusetts and Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania. With the announced retirement of Mr. Crane as the National Committeeman from the Bay State, the authoritative organization leadership of the Old Guard, formerly divided among several, is concentrated in the hands of Senator Penrose.

Here’s what ultimately happened, according to the book Selling the President, 1920: Albert D. Lasker, Advertising, and the Election of Warren G. Harding by John A. Morello.

There may not have been a “smoke-filled” hotel room in Harding’s journey to the presidency, but there was a hotel room… It belonged to Boies Penrose, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, who in the summer of 1919 took it upon himself to find a presidential candidate. He was looking for someone with whom conservative Republican senators could work, and most likely do their bidding.

He was also worried about Leonard Wood. Republican Progressives were gravitating toward Wood in the wake of Theodore Roosevelt’s death. They seemed energized, and that spelled trouble for Old Guard Republicans such as Penrose. Penrose eventually settled on Harding as someone who could stand up to Wood, as well as go along with party elders.

Penrose’s influence ultimately helped Harding secure both the nomination and the presidency.

To him, Harding looked like presidential material and would be a safe bet for the Republican Party in 1920. Harding wasn’t a boat rocker; Penrose felt confident Harding would listen to him and other leaders and do what he was asked. That may be one key in trying to unlock the mystery of how Warren Harding, possessing some latent presidential ambitions but riddled with doubt about his chances, managed to become the Republican nominee for president.

As the nominee Harding could do what neither Lowden, Wood, or Johnson could — that is, parlay his apparent ambivalence on issues such as the League of Nations into something that would hold together all wings of the Republican Party until November. He truly seemed to be the essence of conciliation and compromise.

This is a similar strategy to the one Democrats are currently taking by nominating Joe Biden for president. Whether it will result in the same White House occupancy as Harding earned, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.

 

Penrose as Potential President Maker in Chicago: Pennsylvania Senator’s Leadership of the Old Guard, His Solid Backing in His Own State and His Skill as Arch-Politician, May Give Him Deciding Voice in Spite of Ill-Health (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 30, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 28th, 2020 at 9:16 am

Posted in Politics

Population Centre Moving East, Cities Lead

Several questions about U.S. population trends loomed over the 1920 Census. Here they were, along with their ultimate answers.

Are we entering on a new period in which our proportionate increase in population will be less than in the past?

Yes. The growth rate between 1910 and 1920 was +14.9%, the lowest on record up to that point.

The growth rate now is even lower than that. The population from 2000-10 grew at +9.7%, the second-lowest ever. Current projections for 2010-20 are for a growth rate of +7.7%, which would also be the second-lowest ever.

Is urban population for the first time in the history of the country to take lead over rural population?

Yes. According to the Census Bureau, “The 1920 census marked the first time in which over 50 percent of the U.S. population was defined as urban.”

By the 2010 Census, that number had jumped to 80.7%.

Has the great movement westward, which has been an outstanding feature in every census, slowed up, and, with the vast industrial growh in the East, is the centre of population to be stopped in its westward course and return a few points toward the East?

Yes. The median center of population had moved westward every decade between 1880 and 1910, but moved both slightly east and slightly north in 1920, from eastern Indiana to western Ohio.

It moved slightly east again in 1930, but has since moved both west and south every decade since. As of 2010, it’s located near Petersburg in southwestern Indiana.

 

 

Median Center of Population for the United States: 1880 to 2010

Population Centre Moving East, Cities Lead: Early Figures of New Census Seem to Promise This and Indicate Slowing Up of General Increase Rate to About Fifteen Per Cent. — Effect of Industrial Progress Speeded Up by War (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 23, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 19th, 2020 at 11:21 am

From Sorceress to Saint

In May 1920, Joan of Arc was declared a saint by the Catholic Church, almost 500 years after being burned at the stake for heresy.

After claiming she heard voices telling her to liberate France from English rule, she helped lead French forces as a teenager. Pro-English clergy captured her, found her guilty of heresy, and burned her at the stake in 1431, at age 19.

But a quarter century later, in 1456, Pope Callixtus III authorized a posthumous retrial for Joan, an ardent Catholic. The retrial officially declared her innocent, after 115 witnesses were called.

Almost five centuries later, Pope Benedict XV declared her a saint. He only declared four people as saints during his tenure. That number has increased dramatically with the last three popes, who have each declared dozens and dozens of people as saints.

According to this Washington Post graphic, the three most recent popes have surged the rate of saint declarations. This 2015 graphic actually considerably understates Pope Francis’s number, since his current total now stands at 56 people delcared as saints, meaning his bar should actually be larger than that of predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.

Source: Kevin Uhrmacher, graphics editor, Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2SV3iab

 

From Sorceress to Saint: Final Canonization of Joan of Are Has Worked This Change in Her Official Ecclesiastical Status (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 16, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 14th, 2020 at 10:11 am

Posted in Religion

Gov. Frazier’s Own Story of the Non Partisan League

The first U.S. state governor ever to lose their seat in a recall election? 1921: Lynn Frazier, a socialist who led North Dakota.

Frazier was affiliated with the Non-Partisan League (NPL) faction of the Republican Party, a socialist faction which only emerged in 1915 but won Frazier the 1916 election. At the time, North Dakota held governor elections every two years, with Frazier winning second and third terms in both 1918 and 1920. (The governor’s term was changed to every four years starting in 1964.)

As governor, Frazier implemented socialist policies, which were popular with the state’s voters for a time. But an economic downturn hit in 1921, and voters didn’t want to wait until 1922 to potentially throw Frazier out of office. So they successfully petitioned for a recall election in November 1921. Frazier lost in a squeaker, 50.9% to 49.1%.

The year before that, though, Gov. Frazier penned this New York Times article about how well his tenure was going:

Our state legislature enacted into law… state-owned terminal elevators and flour mills, a rural credit bank to be operated at cost, state hall insurance at cost, the exemption of farmers’ improvements from taxation, and a fair and just grain grading act.

It is very easy to see why certain financial interests are bitterly opposed to our organization, and are fighting it in North Dakota; because we are cutting off some of the easy profits that have been made by these interests in the past.

Frazier became the first governor in American history to lose a recall election. Yet although he lost the battle, he won the war, on both the personal and ideological levels. Personally, Frazier would shortly thereafter become a U.S. senator from North Dakota, from 1923 to 1941. Ideologically, six of the state’s subsequent nine governors were affiliated with the Non-Partisan League.

In the 1950s, the state party switched from Republican faction to merging with the Democrats. To this day, one of the two main parties in North Dakota is officially known not as the Democrats, but the North Dakota Democratic–Nonpartisan League Party.

The name change hasn’t done much good. The party last won a North Dakota governor election in 1988.

The only other governor ever successfully recalled was California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, when he was ousted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Gov. Frazier’s Own Story of the Non Partisan League: North Dakota Executive, Twice Elected by Farmers in “Anti-Capitalist” Movement, Describes Benefits and Economies Derived from New Form of Government (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 16, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 13th, 2020 at 10:31 am

Posted in Politics

‘Dark Horses’ in the Coming Presidential Campaign

A month out, who were the dark horses for the Republican and Democratic nominations of 1920?

According to this article, here were some potential surprise candidates to keep an eye on… and how each of their fortunes turned out.

Republicans

Pennsylvania Senator Philander C. Knox. Never officially receiving any votes for the nomination, Knox was seen as a potential compromise candidate. A subsequent New York Times article a month later explained why he didn’t get the nomination:

Various objections to Mr. Knox as a Presidential candidate were raised. He was too old. It was said that he was not in good health. He had voted against woman suffrage and for prohibition. He was from a State that did not need a favorite son at the head of the Presidential ticket to keep it in the Republican Party. And the Knox boom died then and there.

“He was not in good health” proved prescient. Knox died about a year and a half later, in October 1921, at the age of 68.

(Yes, his first name was actually Philander.)

Pennsylvania Governor William Cameron Sproul. Sproul ranked fourth on the initial ballot, the closest he came. He was actually offered the vice presidency, but declined — yet would have become president had he accepted, because Warren Harding died in office.

Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge ranked seventh in the initial ballot, coming as close as sixth in subsequent ballots. Later nominated for vice president. Coolidge became president himself upon Harding’s death.

Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen. Allen never actually received any votes for the nomination. He would later become a U.S. senator from Kansas.

Democrats:

Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. Marshall ranked sixth in the initial ballot, coming as close as fifth in subsequent ballots. Marshall came exceptionally close to becoming president himself while serving as vice president, due to President Wilson’s stroke which left him almost incapacitated. Marshall spent his post-veep years quietly, returning to private law practice in his native Indiana.

Virginia Senator Carter Glass. Glass ranked 10th in the initial ballot, coming as close as sixth in subsequent ballots. Today, he ranks #31 all time for tenure in Congress, serving for more than 42 years.

Democratic National Committee Chair Homer S. Cummings. Cummings ranked 11th in the initial ballot, coming as close as seventh in subsequent ballots. He would later serve as FDR’s attorney general.

 

 

Secretary of Agriculture Edwin T. Meredith. Meredith ranked ninth in the initial ballot, the closest he came. Honestly, not much happened to him after this.

 

 

 

‘Dark Horses’ in the Coming Presidential Campaign: Chances of Knox, Sproul, Allen, Coolidge, Capper and Other Republicans at Chicago — Democratic Contingencies Include Carter Glass, Cummings, Colby, Meredith, Marshall, Houston, Baker and Daniels (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 9, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 7th, 2020 at 10:31 am

Posted in Politics

Who’s Who Among Nominees for the Hall of Fame

Of 1920’s seven inductees into NYC’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans, probably only two would be considered household names today: Mark Twain and Patrick Henry.

That year’s honorees feature many names that would stump a modern audience, even a well-educated one. This 2018 New York Times article quoted Cultural Landscape Foundation executive director Charles A. Birnbaum:

The Hall is a monument to “the changing nature of fame itself. That’s one of the reasons it has to endure. That conversation is still going on.”

Here were 1920’s seven inductees:

  1. Mark Twain, the author and humorist most famous for creating the characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and whose quips and witticisms are still quoted today.
  2. Patrick Henry, the Founding Father and Virginia governor most famous for his line “Give me liberty or give me death!”
  3. Roger Williams, the minister who advocated separation of church/state and was an early abolitionist.
  4. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a sculptor who designed prominent statues including of Abraham Lincoln and William Tecumseh Sherman.
  5. Alice Freeman Palmer, the President of Wellesley College and one of the most prominent advocates for women’s education.
  6. William Thomas Green Morton, the first dentist to use ether as an anesthetic. This 2018 New York Times article cited Morton as one of the three most obscure names in the Hall.
  7. James Buchanan Eads, the inventor who constructed the first steel bridge.

The last three names inducted in 1976 were American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and horticulturist Luther Burbank. Nobody has been added since, and the hall has fallen into disrepair.

Who’s Who Among Nominees for the Hall of Fame: Unusual Number of Foreign-Born Candidates Suggested on This Year’s List — Twenty of the Eighty-Nine Names Will be Chosen by Committee Next Fall — The Famous and Less Famous (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 9, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 6th, 2020 at 2:21 pm

Posted in History

How Inflation Touches Every Man’s Pocketbook

In 1920, inflation was rampant, with prices double what they’d been five years prior. That would quickly change: prices would peak that June, then decline, fluctuate, and not exceed their June 1920 levels again until November 1946.

What was the primary cause of huge inflation from 1915 to 1920? According to Johns Hopkins political economy professor Jacob Hollander in this article from the time, the primary cause was quantitative easing:

The amount of money which the Government and the banks have supplied the country for the purpose of carrying on its business is twice as great as it was five years ago. The business of the country consists in producing goods and services and in exchanging them.

The amount of things to be exchanged — goods and services — is practically no greater than it was before the war. But we have been supplied with twice as much money to do this exchanging. Consequently two dollars are worth no more than one was before; or, what amount to the same thing, prices have doubled. This condition of having twice as many money units with which to carry on the country’s business is what we mean by inflation.

In other words, it was largely the politicians’ fault:

Inflation is due to the financial mistakes of the Administration at Washington (1) while we were getting ready for war, (2) while we were at war, and (3) after war was over. During each of these periods the Treasury permitted and, indeed, encouraged an increase in the country’s money supply, with the certain prospect of rising prices.

What about in the modern era? As of March 2020, prices were about double what they’d been in April 1990. That means it took about three full decades for prices to double, far more than the five years it took from 1915 to 1920.

 

 

How Inflation Touches Every Man’s Pocketbook: Primer in H.C.L., Prepared by Expert, Shows Why Dollar Does Only Half as Much Work as Before War–Remedies Are Difficult (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 2, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 29th, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Chauncey M. Depew on the Middle Class Union

Advocacy organizations exist for various interests: AARP for the elderly, NRA for gun rights supporters, unions for teachers and transportation workers. In 1920, many proposed a “middle class union” to advocate for the middle class on all issues.

The transportation strike hit the doctor of philosophy who commuted to his classes at Columbia just as it hit the shoe salesman who commuted to Fifth Avenue. At one point their interests were identical, however widely they may have varied at other points.

Wait, but isn’t democratic government in general supposed to represent the middle class? Alas, that institution’s failures on that count were the main factor necessitating a middle class union in 1920, supporters claimed:

It is argued that our Government is designed to do exactly what it is proposed to do by means of a Middle Class Union. In a democracy the ballot is supposed to be the last resort. But when the fruit of the ballot is a legislator whose life is his re-election he often finds his life threatened by a minority organization, while there is no majority organization to reassure him or defend him or bring the majority influence to bear on him.

The final sentence of the article: “Perhaps it will be the next thing on the books — who knows?” We now know… and it wasn’t.

There are a few organizations which somewhat qualify for the title, such as Consumers Union which began in 1936, but they primarily advocate on behalf of the masses for issues like product safety specifically. A general “middle class union” to advocate against transportation strikes and the like? That never really took shape.

 

 

Chauncey M. Depew on the Middle Class Union: Need for Organization of Public to Protect Itself Against Strikers and Profiteers Set Forth by Former Senator–Objectors Answered, Advantages Outlined (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 25, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 25th, 2020 at 12:08 pm

Candidates and Issues Still in Doubt

Three months before 1920’s party conventions, General Leonard Wood and former Treasury Secretary William McAdoo were the Republican and Democratic frontrunners, respectively. Neither became the nominee.

For the Republicans, Wood actually earned the most votes on the convention’s first ballot, but at 29.2% didn’t claim a majority, so voting continued. He continued leading on the second through eighth ballots, but not enough to claim victory. As the other main contender Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden slowly lost much of his support, many gradually flocked to Ohio Sen. Warren Harding, who had only finished an astonishingly low sixth place initially. Harding finally took the lead on the ninth ballot, claiming an outright majority on the 10th and clinching the nomination.

For the Democrats, the process somehow took even longer… more than four times longer. McAdoo earned the most votes on the convention’s first ballot, but at 24.3% didn’t claim a majority, so voting continued. He continued leading on the second through 11th ballots, when the lead was taken by Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, who had finished third initially. McAdoo and Cox continued fighting back and forth, with McAdoo actually reclaiming the lead on the 30th through 38th ballots. But Cox finally clinched the nomination on the 44th ballot.

The two party’s conventions look to be much less down-to-the-wire in 2020. Actually, if social distancing guidelines still remain in effect by August, there might be no in-person conventions at all.

 

Candidates and Issues Still in Doubt: Open Question for Conventions — But Wood for Republicans and McAdoo for Democrats Now Seem to Have Best Chances (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 19th, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics

The Anti-Wilson ‘Mania’

Woodrow Wilson was unpopular near his presidency’s end, but how would he be remembered by history? This 1920 article predicted he’d be remembered well. By 2017, a C-SPAN survey of historians ranked him the 11th-best president.

The 1920 article noted that Wilson was hated by many during his own lifetime, just like Washington and Lincoln… who would ultimately rank #2 and #1 in that same C-SPAN survey.

Indeed, so far as the printed page is concerned, it is hard to match even in the unrestrained public press of today in its treatment of Wilson the brutality, insult and viciousness of the newspaper attacks upon Washington, who, it might be supposed, had so far won the gratitude and admiration of his countrymen as to enshrine him forever in their affection and veneration. As for Lincoln, who preserved the nation which Washington had created, can we match in Washington’s day or in Roosevelt’s day or in Wilson’s day the sneers and contempt which dogged his footsteps until the day of his assassination?

So how would Wilson be remembered by history? The 1920 article predicted his ultimately strong historical reputation fairly accurately:

But if Washington’s one track led to the creation of the nation, and Lincoln’s one track led to its preservation from disunion, and Roosevelt’s one track led to its second preservation by stopping the corruption of its governmental sources — to what terminal point will history say that Wilson’s one track has led? Is it not reasonably probably that when history is written it will concern itself little with but one conclusion, namely, that Wilson was chosen — by God, or, if you please, by fate, or by national evolution — to see to it that the war did not end without the creation of some form of international legal organization around which should revolve, under the leadership of the United States, a bona fide effort to make wars of aggression difficult and unpopular; to combat the fool notion that war is a legitimate, if not a desirable, “out-of-door” sport for civilization, and to make it as unfashionable as public opinion has finally made the duel, the slave trade, the lottery and the drunkard — and that he “delivered the goods”!

That being said, Wilson’s reputation seems to be slipping. C-SPAN’s 2000 survey ranked Wilson #6, then in 2009 down three spots to #9, then in 2017 down another two spots to #11.

In other words, Wilson dropped five spots from 2000 to 2017. That ties Andrew Jackson for the second-largest drop of any president during that span. Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland tied for the largest drop, falling six spots each. (Wondering which president improved the most? Ulysses S. Grant, jumping 11 spots.)

 

The Anti-Wilson ‘Mania’: Analyzed by One Who Finds the President as Lonely and Well-Hated as Lincoln in 1862 (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 19th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Future,History,Politics

Nonagenarian Suffragist

Despite the stereotype that the elderly are the age group most opposed to societal progress, a 97-year-old male named Stephen Smith was a strong supporter of women’s voting rights in 1920.

He traced his evolution on the issue to his time at Geneva Medical College in 1847, when Elizabeth Blackwell enrolled as the first women in American history to receive a medical degree. As Smith told it:

Geneva Medical College was made up of the rowdiest lot of young ruffians it has ever been my good fortune to meet. I was one of them, so my saying this is all right… So greatly did they manage to disturb the community, that a petition was signed by the people and submitted to the authorities asking that the college be closed as a public nuisance.

There was a distinct change in the manners of the school from that day. Miss Blackwell, a little Quaker woman, with all the pluck in the world, changed that howling mob of boys into a lot of well-mannered, respectful young men. Not the least of her effect on the school was her influence on the instructors.

This, in turn, prompted Smith to reconsider women’s effects in other previously all-male institutions, such as voting.

My turning suffragist dates back to that period. If one woman without any conscious effort could accomplish that reform in that school of rascals, think what a country of enlightened women can accomplish once they set their minds to it!

The 19th Amendment guaranteed women’s right to vote in August 1920, four months later. Smith would live to see that momentous change, eventually dying in August 1922 at age 99.

 

Nonagenarian Suffragist: Dr. Steven Smith, at the Age of 97, Tells of His Conversion to Women’s Progress (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 11, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 8th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History