Archive for July, 2019

Betting on Horse Races, Then and Now

In 1919, horse race betting was banned in every state. How times have changes. Horse betting is now legal in 41 states.

If you’re wondering, what are the places where it still remains illegal? Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to fall along partisan lines, with a curious mix of red states, blue states, and swing states still outlawing the practice: Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington D.C.

(In 1919, Kentucky and Maryland were the only two states which allowed an adjacent form of horse race betting called pari-mutuel, in which people bet against each other rather than against the race track.)

 

Betting on Horse Races, Then and Now: Following the Sport in New York Is Difficult, and the Odds Are Shorter Than in Old Days, but the System Is Little Changed — Advantages of Pari-Mutuel Method (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 3, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 31st, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Sports

The World Metropolis: New York or London?

In 1919, London’s long-held title as “the world metropolis” was threatened by the sharp rise of New York City. Which would win out?

There are a few ways to measure this.

By population, it looked like greater New York would soon overtaken Greater London around 1932:

Indeed, today the NYC metropolitan area is much larger than London’s, at 23.8 million versus 14.1 million. However, the NYC area only ranks #10 in the world and London only ranks #29. The Delhi, India area tops the list with 46.0 million people.

Another way is by the size of the area’s economy, or gross domestic product (GDP). New York City’s again ranks higher than London’s, at at estimated $1.71 trillion versus $595 billion. NYC “only” ranks #2 and London ranks #10 by this metric. Tokyo, Japan tops the list with $1.89 trillion.

Another way, even though it is far less quantitative or objective, is just by what “feels right.” For example, even though U.S. News and World Report technically ranked Princeton as the country’s best university this year according to the specific metrics they used in their tabulation, almost anybody in real life would tell you that the country’s best university is either Harvard or Yale.

Similarly, if any international readers will excuse this author’s American bias, New York City just “feels like” the world’s metropolis.

 

The World Metropolis: New York or London?: Twin Wonder Cities Will Tie in Population in 1932, British Journalist Believes, and Wall Street Will Become the Partner, Not the Rival, of Lombard Street (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 3, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Debate,Development

If We Should Enter Mexico, How Big an Army?

After June 1919’s Battle of Ciudad Juárez, the second-biggest battle of the 1910s Mexican Border War conflict, was America’s military too depleted following WWI’s recent end?

Foremost is the question whether Congress, in cutting off 175,000 men from the number asked for by the War Department, has reduced the force for the remainder of the fiscal year to a desirable point. This situation, however, as indicated by inquiry at Washington, is not bothering military men; they think that even with the army pared down, as it will be after Oct. 1, there will be an ample force to cope with whatever condition may arise in regard to Mexico.

Turns out the Battle of Ciudad Juárez was the last battle of the Mexican Border War. (A series of military conflicts along the U.S.-Mexico border from 1910 to 1919, it was not technically an official war.)

 

If We Should Enter Mexico, How Big an Army?: Estimates at Washington Range from 50,000 to 200,000, Dependent on the Political Situation Across the Border — Prolonged Guerrilla Warfare Possible (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 27, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 25th, 2019 at 11:01 am

Posted in Military / War

The Corner Where Traffic Cop and Fairies Meet

In 1919, Benjamin de Casseres described New York Public Library children’s section as a world apart from the hustle and bustle just outside its walls at 42nd St. and 5th Ave.:

Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue… is, as we all know, right in the very heart of practical, jazzing, money-scrambling little old New York. Only, and still more wonderful to relate, one suddenly disappears through a wall of solid marble into this little kingdom of what Peter Pan called the Never-Never Land, and those who can accomplish this miracle are not only your little believing Alices and Peters but any work-a-day person regardless of age, opinion or previous condition of incertitude about such miracles.

The quiet solitutde was the opposites of the pandemonium mere feet or yards away:

The contrast between the rip-roaring movement outside, with the jumble of autos, trolley cars, traffic cops, show windows, and moving care-laden and fashionable throns and this room is astonishing, and, if one is sentimental and imaginative, almost eerie. Here, in one step from the street, was a transposed world of silent adventure, flower decorated alcoves, fantastically colored panels and plates, and a great many kiddies of all ages, ranging from the tiny tot to boys and girls of 12 and 13 years, bent over books of strange and bloody deeds and fairy stories.

Which made re-entering the real world a tremendous letdown:

I went back into the dazzling light of Fifth Avenue, but the flash from the wheels and the sparkle on the cop’s badge and the long array of buildings stretching either way on the avenue seemed to me unreal and of no importance, and that room in the library that I had just left behind was the real thing, and the Fairy Godmother and the little heads concentrated on another world seemed to contain the thing we are all seeking.

That library at 42nd Street and 5th Avenute is still thriving: the Mid-Manhattan Library, featuring its Children’s Center with 40,000 volumes.

 

The Corner Where Traffic Cop and Fairies Meet: Just a Few Steps from Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street: Wonderland, With All Its Miracles (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 27, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 24th, 2019 at 11:01 am

Posted in Books,Life

All of Them Looking for a Man’s Job

After returning from WWI, many men who had previously been on the less stereotypically masculine end of the spectrum wanted more of a “man’s job” in employment.

Most of the men who come back from the war want to do something of more consequence than the work they did before. Having had a hand in the biggest job ever cut out for humankind, they are inclined to look down on the usual workaday task. It isn’t necessarily that they want to make more money. They just want to do something that seems to them of more importance to the world.

An example was told of a man who was formerly a professional dancer, but upon returning from the war desired something else:

This toe dancer… said he wanted his brains and his hands to helpout his toes earn a living. The $30,000 contract made no difference. [Or about $454 thousand in 2019’s dollars.]

“I’ve lived too long in the open,” he said, “to go back into the theatre. I’ve been out under the sun and stars. No more of the white lights for me. I don’t want to be paid $2,000 a month for twirling my body on my toes. If I’m going to do any twirling from now on, I’ll do it with my hands and the muscles of my back. I want a man’s job, in God’s world.”

He got his man’s job.

These are anecdotal, making hard data hard — if not impossible — to come by. But has this become far less common of a turnaround in the modern post-draft military, where (perhaps) the less stereotypically “masculine” men are less likely to enlist in the armed forces in the first places?

All of Them Looking for a Man’s Job: That’s What the Soldiers Seek, but Their Notions Vary – -A Toe Dancer Scorned $30,000 a Year and Turned Farmer, and a Shoe Salesman Went in for Exporting (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 19th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Sobriety Just Grew, Without Awaiting Dry Laws

Yes, there was once a time when Atlantic City was the poster child for good behavior.

In 1919, Prohibition went into effect. But Atlantic City had already embraced the anti-alcohol ethos long before.

“There was a time,” said Sam again as the boom swung toward Spain, “when seven out of ten men got on my boat here with flasks in their pockets, and on Sundays the crowds I took out were half loaded before they got on and jagged to the scuppers when I landed them. Within late years, long before they put over prohibition on us, not one passengers in twenty — yes, not one in fifty — that I carry has anything on his hip, and on Sunday I do not carry one intoxicated man or woman in a hundred. Is there any rum on board now?” he asked, negotiating a roller that looked like Davy Jones’s own private make.

Chrous: “No!”

“The American people vindicated again!” said Sam, twirling the wheel a la roulette.

To be fair, Atlantic City wasn’t really “Atlantic City” yet — the first legal casino wouldn’t open there until 1978.

The first legal casino in Las Vegas, if you’re wondering, opened in 1931.

Sobriety Just Grew, Without Awaiting Dry Laws: Look at the All-American Seaside Resort, for Example: Atlantic City Became a Mirror of Decency Before It Knew Prohibition Sobriety Just Grew (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 18th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life,Recreation

If You Don’t Believe the War Is Over — Look at These Summer Magazine Covers

Magazine covers during summer 1919, after WWI had ended, were different than during summers 1917 and 1918 during the war:

For two Summers the June, July, and August covers displayed about the same thing that they showed in the other three seasons — beautiful girls dressed as nurses, or canteen workers, or motor corps drivers, or Salvation Army maids.

However, the girls have taken off their uniforms. The war is over. There is a rush back to beach costumes on the front covers.

Of course, the one similarity both during and after the war is that the magazine covers still featured posing “girls.” But at least they were wearing something — the first issue of Playboy wouldn’t be published until December 1953.

If You Don’t Believe the War Is Over — Look at These Summer Magazine Covers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 20, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 17th, 2019 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Art,Journalism

Collective Bargaining for Actors’ Wages

Theater actors in July 1919 wanted higher pay for extra performances. When managers refused, the first strike in American theater history occurred.

The old contract had specified eleven national holidays in the year on which the actor was required to play a matinee without additional salary… The actors demanded that they be paid upon a basis of eight performances a week, and that all performances over that number, for whatever cause given, should be paid for proportionately.

The managers, in reply, said that it was a financial impossibility; that it was at variance with all the established customs of the theatre and would mean simply that the players must accept smaller salaries; that actors often had been paid for full week when only six or seven performances had been given in place of the scheduled eight — and refused.

The next month, this resulted in the first strike in American theater history. According to the Actors’ Equity Association, “The strike lasted 30 days, spread to eight cities, closed 37 plays, prevented the opening of 16 others and cost millions of dollars.”

In the end, the actors won.

Collective Bargaining for Actors’ Wages: Equity Association Demands, Not an Eight-Hour Day, but Pay for Overtime, and Managers Refuse to Recognize the Union — Possible Effect on Playgoers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 13, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 12th, 2019 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Business,Theater

Can the United States Get 500,000 Volunteers?

In the months after WWI ended, could the military still recruit the same number of volunteers they had during wartime?

Secretary of War Newton D. Baker argued yes: “He has stated not only that such an army [of 500,000 men] could be raised by voluntary enlistment in peace time, but that to raise it would be no more difficult than to enlist an army of 100,000 men.”

Oregon Senator George Chamberlain, at the time a member of the Committee on Expenditures in the War Department, argued no: “So eminent an authority as Senator Chamberlain of Oregon, on the other hand, holds that since the war is over voluntary enlistments in large numbers are a thing of the past?”

Who ended up being proved correct? It’s surprisingly difficult to get exact figures when searching for terms like ‘number of military volunteers by year,’ but it appears Chamberlain’s pessimism was right.

There were about 300,000 volunteer enlistments during WWI. By 1939, also a time of peace — and with a U.S. population millions larger than in 1919 — there were only 334,473 total military members.

The military isn’t meeting its own volunteer levels in the present day, either. The Army set a goal of 80,000 new recruits last year, but they only got about 70,000.

Can the United States Get 500,000 Volunteers?: An Affirmative Answer Is Indicated by the Way Recruits Have Responded to the New Idea of Service to the Man as Well as to the Country (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 6, 1919

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Written by Jesse

July 3rd, 2019 at 4:35 pm