Archive for January, 2019

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919

The current polar vortex has caused temperatures to hit record lows or near-lows across much of the country, including -60° F with the wind chill in Minnesota. But 100 years ago this week, the exact opposite was happening:

For two weeks, said the [Weather Bureau] statistician last Wednesday, the average temperature has been 39 degrees. The normal temperature for March is 38 degrees. So at the end of January we were just on the verge of entering into April. It may be remembered that on Jan. 1 temperature was 50 degrees. That is four degrees above the normal temperature for a day in the middle of April.

 

Surely global warming deniers will point to the fact that temperatures were significantly warmer a century ago this week as proof that global warming is a hoax. But in the words of Stephen Colbert:

Blossom Time in January New York, 1919: Somehow the Weather Man Got His Dates Mixed This Winter, and the Trees Began to Bud Two Months Ahead Their Schedule (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Nature

ROOSEVELT’S SUCCESSOR: Who Will Be Republican Leader and Candidate for Presidency in 1920? — Outlook Two Years in Advance.

Prognosticators did much better predicting 1920’s Republican presidential nominee two years out than predicting 2016’s nominee.

From the time of the November [1916] election issues between the two parties began to sharpen more rapidly. Two recognized leaders were in command; on the one side Wilson, on the other side Roosevelt [a former Republican president]. Then came, unexpectedly, Roosevelt’s death [in January 1919, a month prior to this article], and since then one fact has continued to impress itself more deeply on the Republican Party: What the party needs most is a leader.

In theory the next president after World War I would be a military leader, but that was not to be:

When the United States entered the war, the prediction was made, based on past experience, that our next President would be some General whose deeds in the fighting on the other side had thrilled the popular imagination. The civil war made Grant President, the Spanish-American War elevated Roosevelt. [And a few decades later, World War II would elevate Eisenhower.] But this war, owing to the suppression by the censorship policy of individual achievement, apparently has left us without a war hero of Presidential popularity among the American Generals who fought in France.

So who would be the 1920 Republican nominee? The anonymous author predicted either former President William Howard Taft or Ohio Senator Warren Harding.

On the Senate list Mr. Harding comes nearer to commanding the support of both ends of the party than any of the others. As Chairman of the Republican National Convention in 1916 he delivered the keynote speech, and the impression he made throughout the proceedings was a positive one. He is of distinguished appearance, and a charm of personality is one of his assets.

But so far as distinct leadership is concerned he has yet to win it; he appears to be a man who advances steadily to a purpose without haste and with reserve force for the greater occasion. It has been made apparent that he is to take a more prominent part in the Senate.

In a recent speech he sharply criticised [sic] the President for not having devoted himself immediately on his arrival in Europe to bringing about a speedy peace, and also for not having given more attention to pressing reconstruction problems in this country. Practical things here at home, the Senator said, were being neglected while the dreams of idealism were being chased abroad.

Harding would indeed go on to win both the nomination and the presidency the following year.

In the past decade, of course, neither of our two presidents were the frontrunners for their party nomination prior to announcing. In fact, the top five Republican candidates at this point in the election cycle last time around were Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker — none of whom even ultimately finished in the top four:

ROOSEVELT’S SUCCESSOR: Who Will Be Republican Leader and Candidate for Presidency in 1920? — Outlook Two Years in Advance. (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Politics

Winged Warfare and the League of Nations

100 years ago this week, the the League of Nations was agreed to at the Paris Peace Conference. Formally launching a year later in January 1920, the League was tasked with setting laws and norms for the increasingly international post-WWI world order.

In 1919, former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Charles Warren discussed all the intricacies and nuances in deciding questions related to airplanes alone, a technology that had advanced by leaps and bounds during WWI:

Suppose that the nations shall agree to forbid attack by submarine on merchant ships; is such a rule to apply to attack by airplane? How can an airplane identify a merchant ship? How can it exercise the right of search? How can it provide for safety of passengers and crew? How is a sea blockade to be enforced against airplanes? What effect is the case and speed with which air attacks can be launched to have on the rules as to initiation and declaration of war? What actual protection can neutral territory have against aerial passage?

How is the law as to the bombardment of cities to be framed with reference to air attacks? Is a city containing munition works, barracks, camps, &c., or surrounded by forts, to be immune from such attacks? If not, what are to be the restrictions on the scope of such attacks? If such a city is to be immune, what is to be its right to refuse to surrender on demand of the attacking air force? Are the laws as to sea transportation of contraband by neutrals to apply to neutral airplanes transporting contraband in the air over land? What are the rights of enemy airplanes flying over the sea coast territorial waters of neutrals? These are only a few of the questions to be considered.

Thorny questions, all. But perhaps the real question, Warren surmised, was what would the war have looked like if the technology at its end had been available at its beginning?

Suppose that in August 1914, Germany had suddenly launched a fleet of 1,000 airplanes instead of an army of 1,000,000 men; what might have been the result to Paris, to the coast towns, to London? Suppose that France and Russia had possessed similar airplane forces, what might have been the result to the Rhine towns and Berlin? The attack could have been made in a few hours, instead of a few weeks. It could have been made on the English and French fleets, or upon the German fleet, as well as upon the land forces and the cities.

Is it not possible that the result of such initial attacks might have gone far toward settling the war before actual extensive movement of troops could be begun? Is it not possible that the speedy, tremendous destruction, the burning of cities, and the killing and gassing of civilians might give an initial impulse to one side or the other which no amount of subsequent victories on land or sea could repair?

The U.S. never actually officially joined the League of Nations, despite President Woodrow Wilson wanting to, because Congress was unable to muster the 2/3 approval necessary.

The League itself lasted until 1946, when it disbanded after proving unable to prevent the rise of the Axis Powers in World War II.

Winged Warfare and the League of Nations: World Federation Necessary to Enforce Regulations for Air Fleets, Neutral and Belligerent, in Time of War — “Freedom of the Seas” Involved (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 26, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 26th, 2019 at 2:34 pm

America’s New Influence on European Life

American soldiers had spent years in Europe during World War I. What effect would that have on Europeans? This article predicted several ways, including what they’d eat, how they’d dress, and what women would look for in men.

What European women would look for in men:

[American men] were more serious, too. At close quarters they lacked some of the characteristics of the English and French soldiers. They were abrupt and direct in speech. They were also less accustomed to formality, less used to the ameliorating word, and had altogether less respect for convention, as we understand it in Europe. They were also more individual. Altogether, with their omissions and their qualities, they were of a type which is as strange in Europe as some distinct race. Withal, they had the essentials of strength and manliness above everything else. The gentle women of the world have never failed to appreciate such qualities. No wonder that feminine Europe has fallen in love with the American soldier.

How Europeans would eat:

Europe will very likely get new dishes added to its dietary through its closer association with the United States. Why cannot we have the delicious grapefruit for breakfast that you have here? Why are we denied buckwheat cakes? Broiled chicken is almost unknown in European restaurants. Many Europeans fall in love with it when they come to America. Corned beef hash will begin to appear on bills of fare. I should not be surprised to see waffles become almost a rage.

How Europeans would dress:

The Americans are probably the best-dressed nation in the world, in the sense that they are more careful and precise and sometimes more elaborate than any other people. … Americans carry this habit with them to Europe. They do not always dress in the same way as Europeans, but they always dress extremely well from an American point of view. Hitherto Paris has been the home of ladies’ fashion for the world, London the centre of men’s fashion, and it is an interesting speculation whether America may not leave an impression on the dress of people abroad.

The author Frank Dilnot, New York correspondent for the London Daily Chronicle, did correctly predict one American aspect that would NOT catch on in Europe: baseball.

It is a game peculiarly suited to the American temperament, but there is such a variety of well-rooted and much loved pastimes, especially among an out-of-doors people like the British, that I cannot see baseball supplanting cricket, for example. Cricket has a subtle charm not to be known by those who have not played it or been brought up to it from boyhood.

 

America’s New Influence on European Life: People Over There Sure to Imitate Us, Says a Briton, But They Won’t Play Baseball or Eat Our Breakfast Bacon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Food,Life,Sports

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows

Now that World War I was over, people were having fun — a lot more fun:

The social matron again breathes more freely. The makers of war munitions are now the makers of the munitions of peace! … No longer is put the question, “What clothes can I spare to give the league?” Instead, every one is asking, “What shall I wear to the costume ball?”

In fact, thanks to the impending start of Prohibition, people were arguably having too much fun:

Woven and entwined in the very structure of this new house of social joys there is a potent apprehension. It concerns the approach of that fearful date, July 1, 1919. In anticipation of the fatal day, it seems that the gayeties of this season are augmented even beyond the powers of a mere armistice. Peace itself could hardly furnish the fillip of the indulgence (discreet, always, we hope) created by contemplation of the awful dryness which must follow next July. Many who heretofore would have refused “just another glass” are now induced to lower the last barriers on the score that they may never have another chance.

To paraphrase the late great Prince: “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1919.”

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows: Peace Partly Solved the Servant Problem, and It’s No Longer Bad Form to Give Course Dinners and Dress Well (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Life

Recollections of Roosevelt

President George H.W. Bush died recently in November 2018, and a century ago America lost another former president: Theodore Roosevelt, at age 60. The week after his early January 1919 death, this eulogy recalled the man who had served as president from 1901 to 1909.

While our current president is often described as a populist, his policies in office have often been the opposite: lowering the tax rate on the top income bracket and making the overall tax system less progressive, doing nothing to curb the effects of big money in campaign finance, installing Supreme Court justices who have lessened the effects of unions.

Roosevelt, on the other hand, walked the walk. His administration brought more than double as many anti-trust lawsuits as his three predecessors combined, helped enact legislation to increase the safety of food and medicines, and established national parks free for all citizens. He attempted to create a national income tax on top incomes (which passed shortly after Roosevelt left office) and tried to institute an eight-hour workday for all employees.

This portion in particular does a vivid job of describing Roosevelt’s personality, at the intersection of the political and the personal — and what he meant to the American people:

His democracy was the true sort. It was not indiscriminate, and there was an aristocracy to which he paid tribute in his own mind — the aristocracy of Worth. Where he did not find it he was never at ease; he could use unworthy men (not for unworthy purposes, however) in the vast continental game of politics he played, as a party leader must, but never without contempt, and he always felt happy when he could get rid of them. A President or the leader of a national party must work with such instruments as the people choose to give him in Senate, House, and party machine, and the people do not always pick out saints.

It was his keenest joy to find this aristocracy of Worth in what to most people would be unexpected quarters. When he found it, he recognized an equal, whether the man having it was a wolf-killer, a ranchman, or a statesman. Neither did he care if public opinion were set against the man’s worth, so long as he himself had found it.

It was always strange to me to see how the solemn profundities and the unco’ guid [a Scottish term meaning people who are strict in matters of morals and religion] among our varied population used to regard this trait of his as something discreditable to him. He received visits from [heavyweight champion boxer] John L. Sullivan at the White House! He entertained Booker Washington there! He was a friend of boxers and actors! With what a sneer would they pronounce the words “Jack Abernathy, a wolf-killer,” and “Bill Sewall, a guide,” in listing Roosevelt’s friends.

Mean minds, incapable of imagining that a man would do anything except for advantage, cast about for Roosevelt’s motive. It must be that he had a motive; by which they meant a selfish one. They hit on it — it was spectacular drama to impress the crowd, or demagogic ostensible democracy to get votes. It was not possible to suppose that he actually liked these boxers and wolf-killers and reporters and wanted to be with them.

 

Recollections of Roosevelt (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 12, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 12th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

McAdoo Talks of the Railways

Most of America’s railroads were placed under federal government control in December 1917 because of World War I, in a move called “possibly the largest American experiment with nationalization.” The new U.S. Railroad Administration was headed by Treasury Secretary William McAdoo.

Under existing law, control of the railways were set to return back to private hands within 21 months of the end of the war. Yet shortly after war ended, McAdoo, who was set to retire from the Cabinet to co-found a law firm, stunned many by advocating Congress extend the government’s control of the railways for an additional five years — even though it was peacetime.

Why? Because massive investments were needed that he thought were unlikely to occur under private control.

The… difficulty in the present situation, as Mr. McAdoo views it, is financial, and affects annual permanent improvements that are, in his opinion, imperative for the maintenance of a national transportation system commensurate with the country’s growing needs. Up to the signing of the armistice about $600,000,000 had been spent in improvements during the year 1918. The authority for these expenditures was the “necessity of war” as recognized in the law. When hostilities ended this necessity could no longer be urged. Without this co-operation of the corporations owning the railroads it would be difficult under the existing law, Mr. McAdoo said, to develop and adopt a comprehensive plan for the improvement of the railroad system as a whole; and even with the consent of the corporations twenty-one months would be too short a time in which to make and apply such a plan.

McAdoo did not get his wish. The U.S. Railroad Administration ended in March 1920, with all railroads once again returning to private ownership.

McAdoo Talks of the Railways: Retiring Director General Foresees Private Ownership as Result of Five-Year Extension of Federal Control of the Nation’s Transportation System (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 5th, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Putting the Airplane to Peacetime Uses

The development of the airplane, first invented in 1903, truly took off as a result of World War I. In January 1919, after the war, what should be the purpose of airplanes?

This prediction largely ended up coming true:

Some of the practical men even go so far as to say that a perfectly developed peacetime air service, elastic enough to be used for defensive purposes, would make unnecessary a standing army of the proportions now being figured on. These men believe that, if the United States put its energies and ingenuity at work in the air, it would solve, once and forever, this perplexing problem of a universal training, a large standing army, and big military budget for the nation’s defense.

Well, except for the part about eliminating the big military budget for the nation’s defense.

Several other uses for airplanes were accurately predicted in that article as well, such as mail delivery and firefighting:

 

Airplane carrying of mail is practical, and as soon as the necessary steps have been taken for establishing air mail routes they will be flown — except in particularly bad weather — with a reasonable degree of regularity.

The Bureau of Forestry has use for planes in operating fire patrols, and with dirigible balloon auxiliaries in carrying fire-fighting crews and landing them in small clearings. As it is today these fire fighters have to go many miles round about, over mountains and almost impassable streams, canyons, and swamps to get into action and to stop a sweeping forest fire.

 

Putting the Airplane to Peacetime Uses: America Must Decide Whether Aviation Is to be a Minor Branch or the Chief Recourse for Defense — Progress in Mapping Aerial Lanes of Travel (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 5th, 2019 at 4:43 pm