Archive for April, 2019

High Carnival of Costume Balls as Prohibition Draws Near

Prohibition was ratified in January 1919, but didn’t go into effect until a year later, in January 1920. So what to do during that final year of alcohol? “A bacchanalia of jollity and nummery” — also known as costumed danced parties.

Never have there been so many [costume balls], within the memory of the Oldest Dancing Man. Heretofore artists and “the Broadway crowd” have been content with half a dozen masquerades during the Winter, but this year, partly as a reaction from the war, partly because the advent of prohibition has cast its shadow before, the number of these gay fêtes and the attendance at them have surpassed all records.

At few other events could you find such a mixture of classes, professions, and walks of life:

Never has Gotham abandoned itself to such a bacchanalia of jollity and nummery. The costume ball is a social melting pot, and has drawn Park Avenue equally with Broadway, Washington Heights equally with Greenwich Village, debutantes equally with chorus girls. Artists and brokers, writers and bankers, actors and merchants, those conspicuous in the fashionable world and those known best to readers of the 15-cent magazines have commingled in scenes of brilliant revelry with others inconspicuous in any walk of life.

And the costumes were something else:

Clowns in spangles and aborigines in tiger skins have adorned the dancing floors. Red Robin Hood has one-stepped with [the goddess] Astarte, the Toreador [bullfighter] with a ballet girl, Pierrot [a sad clown character from French pantomime] with Maud Muller [a maid from an 1800s poem], the Red Indian with a Khorassan [Persian] maiden, the acrobat with Gretchen, and all who could with the chorus girls who arrive after the theatres close, attired often in the abbreviated garments they wore on the stage.

Sounds like a blast! Maybe we should institute Prohibition again a year from now.

High Carnival of Costume Balls as Prohibition Draws Near: Oriental Note Dominates the Revels, Where Harem Girls, Dervishes, Geishas, and Maharajas Are the Order of the Evening — Midnight Festivities Attract Throngs to Hotels and Dancing Halls (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 27, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 26th, 2019 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Life

No German Music — Lest We Forget

Eleonora de Cisneros, a major opera singer in 1919, argued that April of that year was too soon to enjoy German music, coming so soon after WWI:

There are 800,000 Germans in New York City who want German music! But you men and women who listened to that music, if you have a drop of allied blood in your veins, how could you applaud it? … I would as soon have applauded as I would have laughed at a procession of the weeping, violated women-children of France and Belgium! … The man or woman who can today listen to German music as in antebellum days is either a German, a neutral, or a pacifist!

How long was enough time to wait? Cisneros didn’t say. But in 1963, the song “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto topped America’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, 18 years after Japan was America’s enemy in World War II.

No German Music — Lest We Forget (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 18th, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Debate,Music

Our Super-Poison Gas

Prior to the atomic bomb’s invention, it was described as “the most terrible instrument of manslaughter ever conceived… a drop on the hand would cause intolerable agony and death after a few hours.”

At the time it was called methyl, now referred to as Lewsite. It was first synthesized in 1904, but production ramped up in 1918 for WWI. Luckily, it was never deployed in that conflict — saved by the bell:

The signing of the armistice spared the enemy any first-hand acquaintance with the terrors of methyl. Major Gen. W.K. Sibert, in command of the Chemical Warfare Service, had directed that 3,000 tons of it, in shell and drums, be in readiness on the battlefield March 1, 1919. Ten tons a day were being produced in an eleven-acre plant near Cleveland, Ohio, and the plant was two months ahead of its schedule when Foch crossed No Man’s Land to offer terms to a beaten foe. It is estimated that ten tons of methyl is one ton more than enough to depopulate Manhattan Island; and so it is not difficult to guess what would have happened had Hindenburg and his cohorts persisted until Spring.

1997’s Chemical Weapons Convention banned the production or stockpiling of Lewisite. In 2012, the U.S. destroyed its final remnants of its Lewisite stockpile. At least 98% of the stockpiles have been destroyed globally.

Our Super-Poison Gas: First Story of Compound 72 Times Deadlier Than “Mustard,” Manufactured Secretly by the Thousands of Tons (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 18th, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Military / War

Channel Tunnel After a Hundred Years of Talk

In 1919, a tunnel under the English Channel “has been brought much nearer to practical realization.” It wouldn’t be opened until 1994.

Supposedly early 1919 had all the elements going for construction, now that World War I had recently ended:

Generally speaking, however, it is taken as an accepted fact that opposition to the tunnel is no longer serious on military or naval grounds, and that, as the French Government has always been sympathetic to the scheme, it only remains for the British Government to press the button for work to begin without delay. According to some enthusiasts, not even Parliamentary sanction is required.

However, the 75 year delay after that point perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering that already it had been in the works for 45 years:

The first work was done on the tunnel in 1874, when a French company sank an experimental shaft in France. In 1881 the Southeastern Railway Company’s Chairman, Sir E. Watkin, obtained an act permitting him to sink a shaft on the English side. A boring was driven for 2,105 yards toward the Channel, when in 1882 the construction was stopped by the Government. Since then the scheme has been in abeyance, but in 1913 the Government called for reports from naval and military authorities with a view to permitting the construction if they were favorable. Then the war came and nothing more could be done.

But something more was ultimately done, 75 years later. Just goes to show: slow and steady wins the race. Very slow, apparently.

 

Channel Tunnel After a Hundred Years of Talk: Plans for Railway Tubes Between England and France Are Maturing Now That the Two Countries Have Reached a Decision Channel Tunnel After a Hundred Years of Talk (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 13, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 11th, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Development

Bobbed Hair and Maiden Names for Wives!

Reporting on a 1919 meeting of the Women’s Freedom Congress used the headline “bobbed hair and maiden names for wives!”– exclamation point and all.

…an impassioned please by Fola La Follette that all women retain their maiden names after marriage. Miss La Follette, who has retained her individuality by refusing to be known by the name of her husband, George Middleton, doesn’t seem to have much use for men anyway. She explained with pathetic earnestness that if as a spinster you had made a name for yourself in any profession, that name, being an asset in the economic world, should surely be retained after marriage.

This decade, about 22% of American women keep their maiden name after marriage.

 

The author also had some choice words about the conference attendees’ looks, from their hairstyles to their faces:

Mixed in with the usual bobbed-hair types (oh, but the ugly ones are more ugly for the bobbing!) and the aforementioned uplifters were some clear cut, gentle faces — women with that air of fine bearing and breeding which rarely if ever is found in the militant type. Charming are the agitators as a rule, and the sincere ones among them courageous, and fine in their way; but gentle — never! What then were these gentlewomen doing in this assembly?

Needless to say, it’s impossible to imagine any respectable news outlet today commenting on women’s looks in such a manner at a political event, rather than a fashion event or awards show.

Bobbed Hair and Maiden Names for Wives!: That Might Be Adopted as the Slogan of the New Freedom for Women, if a Recent Meeting in New York is to be a Criterion (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

April 6th, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Development,Life