Archive for November, 2017

Family of Fifteen, All Living, Oldest Seventeen

 

Francois Gannaz of Sallanches, France had fathered 15 living children under the age of 18. So the Institute of France bestowed on him half of the Etienne Lamy Prize, which was worth 10,000 francs or about $2,000 in 1917, equivalent to about $36,500 today. That’s right, a monetary prize for having the most children.

Perhaps even more impressively (in a manner of speaking), Gannaz’s wife had her first child at age 26, unlike most families that large where the woman usually has her first child as a teenager. Her most recent child as of the article’s publication was born when she was 43.

Their names were Pierre, Clovis, Alcide, Lucien, Fernand, Louis, Lucie, Léonie, Marie, Alice, Francois, Marie, Luc, Gabriel, and Jean Baptiste.

The Guinness World Record for the most children born to one woman is 69 by a Mrs. Vassilyeva of Russia in the 1700s, with 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. It’s much more difficult to ascertain which man has fathered the most children — in all likelihood it was a man with multiple wives from centuries (or millennia?) past, before paternity testing existing.

Family of Fifteen, All Living, Oldest Seventeen: French Father Wins Prize for His Record-Breaking Brood — All Born Healthy and Have Been So Ever Since (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 17th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers

Before the age of email, instant messaging, texting, and even mass phone calls, communication from families to soldiers was much more difficult, as this 1917 article details:

“The time when the soldiers from the firing line did not get the home mail they were hoping for came at the end of one of the eighteen-day periods in which it was impossible to send any mail from America because there were no ships going over. There have been two such periods since our troops arrived in France.”

That was during World War I. My maternal grandfather delivered mail to the troops during the Korean War several decades later, and even then there were complications delivering the mail. Today, as you can imagine, the situation is significantly easier.

Interestingly, another excerpt from the article reveals the discrepancy between inbound and outbound letters: 450,000 letters per week to the troops, but only 376,000 letters per month from them — almost five times as many letters to the troops as from them.

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers: Every Week 450,000 Letters Go to France, and Lack of Ships Has Complicated the Postal Problem — Cantonment Service Systematized (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 16th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in War

Why Stocks Tumbled in 1917 and Rose in 2017

In November 1917, the prices of most stocks were between 20 and 70 percent below where they had stood a year before. The plummet was so steep that rumors abounded that the Stock Exchange would be entirely shut down, permanently.

This article from the time interviewed former Director of the U.S. Mint George E. Roberts for his analysis of the stock market’s plummet. He laid the blame at four causes, quoting directly:

1.) The demands of the Liberty Loan. Every one [sic] has subscribed or has pledged to subscribe about all the spare cash he can must for the coming few months.

2.) The collateral demands of the war, the Red Cross, the hundred and one charities which reach forth on every hand to waylay the pocketbook.

3.) The vast needs for new and quick industrial investments to meet the munition and supply demands of the war.

4.) The uncertainty of the immediate future. Those who have available cash hesitate to invest it in stocks or bonds, even at the present ridiculously low prices. They would rather wait a bit and see what the Winter brings forth.

The market eventually self-corrected. In fact, if you had invested $1,000 in Coca-Cola stock during its original 1919 initial public offering, two years after this article was published, that stock would be worth $9.8 million today.

A century later in 2017, the opposite question is being asked: why does the stock market keep going up? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently wrote an excellent article analyzing this question after the Dow reached a new record high.

Thompson, like Roberts a century before him, laid out three or four reasons for the stock market’s performance:

1. It’s simple: Corporations everywhere are making a bunch of money.

2. A1 chaos doesn’t drive the business cycle.

3. There aren’t many obvious signs of bubbles, or causes for imminent corrections.

Thompson’s reason #2 in particular on its face may seem to contradict Roberts in 1917, since Roberts’ theory was that the page-A1 chaos of the time — namely World War I — was exactly what was driving the business cycle.

Then again, WWI truly consumed everything about the economy, politics, culture, and life. By contrast, Trump’s headline-driving tweet of the day usually generates more of a “Wasn’t that interesting?” response (or “Wasn’t that terrifying?” depending on who you ask) rather than proving transformative to the markets.

Usually… but not always. After Trump tweeted attacking their respective companies, Amazon’s stock market value dropped $5 billionBoeing dropped $550 million, and Toyota lost $1.2 billion in five minutes.

Why Stocks Tumbled: No Business Panic and No Prospect of One, Says George E. Roberts, Banker — Wartime Causes of Low Prices (PDF)

From Sunday, November 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 8th, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Business,War

Suffrage’s Cost High, Effect on Elections Nil

When trying to decide in 1917 whether to grant women the right to vote, men had several factors to consider beyond just the obvious “it’s the right thing to do” factor.

One was whether granting suffrage changed election outcomes. Another was how much extra it would cost, due to almost twice the number of new voters needing extra election machines, county clerks, and the like.

Illinois, which had already legalized the practice statewide, tracked women voters and found that it barely changed election outcomes at all. For the 1916 presidential election, Illinois men and women both voted for Hughes over Woodrow Wilson, with the margin only being 1.6 percent. The exact same margin was found for the Chicago mayoral race.

As for increased election costs, it was estimated that New York state would see expenses rise $2.8 million as a result, equivalent to about $52.7 million today. The article ends by referring to how that money could presumably be better spent as World War I raged on:

“In other words, the taxpayers of this State would be subjected through suffrage to an extra expense equal to about three times the amount of money spent on the spectacular suffrage campaign, and an amount sufficient to buy 57,400,000 rounds of ammunition for our troops.”

Suffrage’s Cost High, Effect on Elections Nil: Illinois, Only State with Accurate Records of Men and Women Voting Separately, Proves That Big Expense Leaves Results Unchanged (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 4th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp

Decades before the USO tours started in 1941, a prototype version called the Liberty Theaters was started in 1917.

Marc Klaw, a member of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, was tasked with building 16 such theaters for up to 600,000 soldiers to view. “We will have eight companies on the road all the time, four dramatic and four vaudeville,” Klaw said. “Plays will be up to date, and only first-class performers will be engaged.” Irving Berlin was one of the first performers to sign up.

The modern version, the USO, has 160 locations around the world and has entertained an estimated 75 million Americans throughout its history.

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp: Soldiers in the Cantonments Will See Best Plays and Leading American Actors Each Week — Highest Ticket PRice Twenty-five Cents (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 3rd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Theater,War

Less Sugar Means Good-bye to Your Surplus Fat

As the government asked Americans to spend more conservatively in the early months of WWI, one way in which people could save money quickly became apparent.

“In 1916 the per capita consumption of sugar in Germany was approximately 20 pounds a person per annum… In England it was about 40 pounds; in France about 37 pounds, and in Italy about 29 or 30 pounds. In the United States it was 85 pounds! In New York City it was almost a hundred pounds.”

Americans may have cut back on the sugar intake during WWI, but alas the trend didn’t stick. Per capita sugar consumption is now more than 100 pounds per year. And America consumes by far the most sugar per capita of any nation.

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Source: Business Insider

Less Sugar Means Good-bye to Your Surplus Fat: Uncle Sam’s Appeal Demands a Tightening of Belts Among the Sweet-Toothed, for Whom This Extravagant Country Is Famous (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 2nd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Health