Archive for July, 2016

The Allies of the Future

From July 30, 1916

The Allies of the Future

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Do Sharks Attack Humans Only When Crazed?

From July 30, 1916

Do Sharks

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

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Written by Jesse

July 28th, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Adventure,Nature

Golf Clubs Make It Hard for Women to Play

From July 30, 1916

Golf Clubs

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

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

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

Fore!

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Written by Jesse

July 27th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Sports

Will ‘Cold Light’ Soon Be a Scientific Fact?

From July 23, 1916

Will 'Cold Light'

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

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Science,Technology

Mount McKinley Three Weeks from New York

From July 23, 1916

Mount McKinley

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

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

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics

Is O. Henry a Pernicious Literary Influence?

From July 23, 1916

Is O. Henry

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Literature

Carrier Pigeons an Aid to Preparedness

From July 16, 1916

Carrier Pigeons

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 16th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Nature,War

Why Is the Birth Rate Constantly Declining?

From July 16, 1916:

Why Is The Birth Rate

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 15th, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Life

The Great American Novel Never Will Come

From July 16, 1916

The Great American Novel

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

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

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 14th, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Literature

Many Writers Not Helped by College Training

From July 9, 1916

Many Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by Jesse

July 8th, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Literature

Sir Edward Grey

From July 9, 1916

Sir Edward Grey

Sir Edward Grey — George Bernard Shaw profile about the foreign secretary of Britain [PDF]

The meeting of two great minds. George Bernard Shaw was one of the most acclaimed writers of his day as a journalist and playwright, and nine years after this article in 1925 he would win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sir Edward Grey was the 11-year Foreign Secretary for Great Britain (their equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State), and later the Ambassador to the United States and Chancellor at University of Oxford.

Shaw didn’t like Grey, to put it mildly. He writes:

As long ago as 1906, in referring to a very horrible episode in the history of our occupation of Egypt, I expressed my opinion that Sir Edward Grey was unfitted by his character and the limitations of his capacity for the highly specialized work of a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Nothing that has happened since has shaken that opinion.

That December, about five months after the article’s publication, a new Prime Minister took over and Grey’s 11-year reign in the position ended. Presumably Shaw was happy.

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Written by Jesse

July 7th, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Why Not Educational Experiment Stations?

From July 9, 1916

Why Not Educational

Why Not Educational Experiment Stations?: Nobody Yet Knows the Best Way to Teach Public School Children, Says Dr. P.P. Claxton, Federal Commissioner of Education (PDF)

Today the issue of federal versus state control looms large over the issue of education. For example, some states mandate teaching intelligent design or creationism in which God created the world in seven days during public school science classes, while others forbid the practice. (Here’s a state-by-state map.) Meanwhile, the Common Core curriculum adopted by most states in the country is being attacked by Republicans as “Obamacore,” a parody on “Obamacare” meant to voice their displeasure with what many conservatives perceive as unwarranted government intrusion into education.

In 1916 the country was having the same debate. The U.S. Department of Education wouldn’t be created until 1979 under President Jimmy Carter, but there was a position titled Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Education in the Department of the Interior, at the time filled by P.P. Claxton. The bureau’s powers were incredibly small compared to the Education Department’s powers today, as the 1916 article explained:

His Bureau of Education has no authority whatever over the schools of the country, save those in the Territory of Alaska and a few Federal land-grant colleges. It cannot bring about uniformity, for example, by formulating a national program and then telling the States to adopt it. It has no authority over teachers or textbooks. It can do nothing to give to the country a certain sense of unanimity of thought by providing that at a given age all the children in all the States shall be studying the same things in about the same way,.. Those are only samples of the ways in which the United States cannot help.

Yet Claxton opposed an increased role in federal involvement. Keep in mind while reading the following quote from Claxton that he would have likely been the frontrunner to take on a role like current Education Secretary John King if such a position were made available:

“You mean if this country were France and we had a central, administrative control of its public education. No, I do not think it would be better than what we have. It would not be flexible enough. The State or the county administration is much closer to the actual work than the Federal Government could ever hope to be. It is true, of course, that in this or that section the schools might be better under Government supervision than they are under local control and management. But the accumulated experiences of all the local and State school bodies of the country will give us a better understanding of what we need than could be obtained from any scheme of national administration. The local democracy will make our schools stronger than central control ever could.”

Some politicians today agree. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said he would consider eliminating the Department of Education entirely. As did fellow Republican presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee. Ronald Reagan tried to in the 1980s but failed.

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Written by Jesse

July 6th, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Education,Politics

Red Cross Organizes Medical Preparedness

From July 2, 2016

Red Cross

Red Cross Organizes Medical Preparedness: Colonel Jefferson R. Kean Tells Why It Is Necessary to Train Physicians for Complicated Duty of Caring for the Wounded (PDF)

The Director General of Military Relief for the American Red Cross discusses the necessity of military medical care. The Red Cross did life-saving work then and continues to do so now, a particularly vital service in such times as the aftermath of the Orlando massacre the other week. I’ve donated blood twice before and I’m scheduled to do so again a third time soon. You should too.

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Science,War