Archive for March, 2019

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?

Two months after the 18th Amendment established prohibition, this satire wondered how far the movement would go. Would Dickens and Shakespeare’s references to alcohol be expunged?

The losses would be appalling; Chaucer would be a walking casualty, Shakespeare a stretcher case, and the forces of Dickens would be decimated. Think of Mr. Pickwick bereft of the mellowing influence of punch! He would undergo a complete character transformation. Remembering the Cherryble Brothers, old Fezziwig, Mr. Micawber, Bob Cratchet at his humble Christmas dinner, and a score of others, one asks: “Can a Dickens character realize good cheer without the artificial aid of liquid inspiration?” The sheer capacity exhibited by Dickens’s world for exhilarating beverages suggests the principle of unlimited supply responding to the call of unceasing demand. Other times, other manners, indeed! Expurgate Dickens in terms of intoxicants and about the only unmangled characters will be Little Nell and Paul Dombey.

These fears went unrealized, as written references to alcohol were not removed. Indeed, even the most beloved book nearly a century later, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, would contain references to copious alcohol consumption by the character Hagrid — and that book has an 11-year-old protagonist!

However, what would be later censored in the 2010s were the n-word and the word “injun” in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

In 1919, those words were okay but alcohol was not. In 2019, those words are not okay but alcohol is. Times change.

 

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?: How Shakespeare, Rare Ben Jonson, Robert Burns, and Omar Khayyam Will Sound if They Are Revised to Fit Those Sober Days Soon to Come (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 15th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Humor,Literature

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please

Horace Mann School is considered one of the best private schools in the country, and the fourth-best in New York City. They offer 230 courses to their high school students. Warning, though, the school will set you back $51,000 per year.

This 1919 profile article describes the unusual self-directed approach to education at the school:

Some of us may remember periods in our lives when we took up the flying of kites, or the hunting for Indian arrowheads in the fields, and in the kindling enthusiasm of that time we grasped the principles of aeronautics, archaeology, and of geology, sciences with mouthfilling names of which we did not even hear until later years.

If the boys and girls who go to this school of the new order are guided aright in their building of houses and of the making of automobiles and fire engines out of wooden beams and wheels, the theory is that they will develop correct and accurate habits of thought.

But wouldn’t this approach ignore the so-called fundamentals of education? Not so.

The more formal things required in an education can be added. There is no laborious drilling in the alphabet; nothing is said about the multiplication table; and there is no endless repetition of words and phrases which the child mind cannot grasp. When the youngster makes houses, airplanes, submarines, or tea, he is acquiring skill in the use of tools and paste and dishes.

 

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please: New Method of Educating Children Provides First of All for Self-Determination, and Makes Playmates of the Old Schoolroom Bogeys (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 14th, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Education

Lo, the Movies Have Achieved “Revivals”!

Tired of sequels, remakes, and reboots at the movies? By 1919, the movie business was already old enough that they were bringing back “classic” movies.

Hugo Riesenfeld, managing director of the Rivoli and Rialto Theatres, has started to show a series of the first Chaplin comedies, and Mr. Griffith [D.W. Griffith who most famously directed 1915’s The Birth of a Nation] will soon open a theatre in New York with a repertory of the films which made him famous.

The Chaplin pictures and the Griffith productions, in this sense, are revivals, and practically the first since the photoplay established itself. When [1915’s] “A Night in the Show,” the first of the old newcomers, was put on at the Rialto two weeks ago, the box office began to have one of the busiest periods of its existence.

So it’s not quite Chaplin and Griffith Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Yet it was nonetheless something of a century-old precursor to the franchise system that has come to dominate Hollywood in the 2010s. Both developments relied on the essential idea that audiences want more of what they already know they love.

Lo, the Movies Have Achieved “Revivals”! (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 9th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Entertainment,Movies

Future of the Democratic Party

Politics in 1919 was similar to 2019: a president had just suffered a devastating setback as his opposing party regained control of the House of Representatives. But the chair of the president’s party in 1919 aimed for a spirit of more bipartisanship, while it’s hard to think of any olive branches Trump has extended to House Democrats thus far.

The big looming issue in 1919, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, was whether the newly-Republican Congress would approve Democratic President Woodrow Wilson’s plan to enter the U.S. in the League of Nations. Democratic Party Chair Homer S. Cummings advocated for why Republicans should support it across the aisle:

“I have been an advocate of the League for many years, long before the war began. I think it is the greatest thing in the world today — the most important. It is inconceivable that anybody who is familiar with the real conditions in Europe can think that there is any chance for permanent peace without a League of Nations. It is idle to talk of merely concluding a proper peace and then letting the world drift again.”

“If this world war taught us anything it is that, if one great nation gets into war with another, other great nations are drawn into it also. I would be much distressed to see this great idea made the subject of partisan appeal, for it is bigger than any party — too important to the world to be treated as a mere party issue. If I have anything to say as to the course of the Democratic organization, the League of Nations will be treated as a nonpartisan question, as nonpolitical, and will be discussed on the basis of what is best for America.”

It was not to be. Eight months after this article, in November 1919, the Senate would vote overall in favor of the treaty by 55-39, but at 58% support that felt a bit shy of the 2/3 support required. Democrats almost completely backed their own President Wilson by 42-4, but the opposition Republican majority mostly opposed it by 35-13.

Future of the Democratic Party: New National Chairman Discusses League of Nations and Labor Question as Possible Issues — Dismisses Defeat Last November as Temporary “Reaction” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 8th, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Politics

Radicalism as a Fashionable Pose

American cities in 1919 experienced exactly what’s happening there in 2019: the ideological middle had seemingly disappeared, with the extreme left monopolizing public debate and pressuring many others into self-enforced silence.

If you happen to believe in law and order, or marriage, or love of country, or religion, or even in the rights of capital as well as labor, be sure to keep in dark. And if you don’t happen to believe in free love or the domination of the unpatriotic over the earth, and above all if you don’t believe in socialism, keep that dark, too. For it’s very unfashionable to be the least bit conservative nowadays, and very, very fashionable to be radical! If they found you out, certain college professors, settlement workers, and New Republicans generally who are engineering this fad or crusade — as you choose to call it — would at once point at you with a finger of scorn as an “imperialist” or a reactionary, and they would certainly make fun of you.

Yes, you read that right: Republicans were often the ones advocating socialism. It was a different time.

This week’s decision by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though he was supposedly going to be the party’s “moderate” candidate, may seem like the final nail in the coffin for centrism in the party. But it’s not just among politicians but also non-politicians for whom something akin to purity tests have been increasingly applied in recent years, from the 2010s trend of campus speakers disinvitations to the ouster of Kevin Hart as this year’s Oscars host.

This next excerpt reads as though it could have been aimed at self-described “democratic socialists” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom officially declared for the presidency last week. (And who looks like he was alive in 1919 to read this.)

Then I should say to our college students, clubwomen, uplifters, and idealists of both sexes before they begin to study socialism with a too “open mind”:

“Why not carefully study your own form of government first? Be sure that you believe in the overthrow of our own patient old Constitution first. Suppose you do believe that great riches and great poverty are crimes, that the laboring man must have justice, and that there are some flaws in our own democracy. Even so, there are many opposed to socialism who believe as much. Why not give the present huge experiment along Socialist lines in this country time to digest and the prophets time to prove themselves either false or true before joining the Bolshevist Brotherhood?

“Why not wait, for instance, until the Russian Bolsheviki can prove that they can run a Government beneficently without both capital and labor — and not ‘pick on’ capital in the meantime?”

Radicalism as a Fashionable Pose: How Easy It Is for Parlor Socialists and Even Paid Propagandists to Find Gullible Listeners (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 7th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Life

Her Pressure On Congress

How were the top lobbyists for a woman’s right to vote trying to convince recalcitrant politicians in 1919? One method was by convincing the politicians’ mothers, explained the chair of the Lobby Committee of the National Woman’s Party:

It is important to know all about the mother, and that explains why a whole card is devoted to her. Mothers continue to have strong influence over their sons. Some married men listen to their mothers more than to their wives. You will hear a man telling his wife how his mother used to do it, and then we know from his frequent reference to his mother that if we can make of her a strong advocate for suffrage we have the best of chances of winning the son.

Little did she know how prescient that prediction would become. A year and five months later, the constitutional amendment had passed Congress and needed to be ratified by 35 states. 34 had, when it came to Tennessee. A 24-year-old state House member named Harry Burn had originally voted to table the amendment, until his mother changed his mind.

“I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification,” Burn later said. “I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery was mine.”

 

Her Pressure On Congress: Suffrage Lobbyist’s Card Index Keeps Tab on Members’ Home Influences, Financial Backers, and Even Golf Partners (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 1st, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics