Archive for November, 2019

Primitive Delaware

For anyone who claims the New York Times is biased, or looks down upon certain areas of the country, it’s impossible to imagine them calling a state “primitive” as they did to Delaware in 1919.

This opening passage is brutal:

When Caesar Rodney put to blush all the other historic Caesars and Czars and Kaisers by signing the Constitution of the United States, he also put Delaware, whose representative he was, into the very forefront of the thirteen Colonies, for she was first to ratify. That was nearly a century and a half ago; and Delaware, having a contented sigh at this indefeasible proof of her initiative and progress, thereupon went away back and sat down.

The article lists several supposed examples of the state’s backward ways:

Delaware alone has the whipping post. It is not so very long since she abolished the pillory. She even retains the ancient system of indenture, whereby children are “bound out” to masters until they reach maturity; and in not other State, even in the “benighted” South, was it stipulated, say, a year ago, as it was in Delaware, that white men should not be taxed to help educate the negro.

Why was this the case?

Wilmington, with 105,000 inhabitants, is the only city having a population of more than 10,000. The peninsula between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays was settled by English stock, and until within the last quarter of a century no railroad disturbed its agricultural tranquility.

The peninsula stock, in Maryland as well as in Delaware, was almost undefiled with the passage of a century. The families intermarried. They retained many quaint locutions of the England of an earlier day. They were a people apart, somewhat like the mountaineers of Kentucky and Tennessee, a people of singular frugality and piety, among whom it was a special creidt to be a “meetin’ man” and who, when the charter was granted for the railroad which now forms the Maryland Division of the Pennsylvania, specified that no trains should run on Sundays. It was not until ten years ago that a law was passed amending that chart. The rural population takes its Bible verbatim.

It wasn’t just that those people existed in the state, but that their political power was disproportionate:

Each of the three counties is now represented equally in each branch of the General Assembly: so that Wilmington, which has half the population of the State and pays 95 per cent of its income tax, is outvoted two to one by the rural down-State Senators and Representatives, who cherish toward the “city” legislators that cordial animosity common to all such State Assemblies.

Interestingly, Wilmington’s population has actually declined in the past century. 105K at the time, it’s now about 70K, according to a 2018 Census estimate.

As for Delaware being backwards, they seem to have largely shed that reputation over the past century. (Although some Republicans might disagree.)

What is America’s stupidest state? In a series of segments a few years ago, Bill Maher tried to find out:

Arizona vs. South Carolina

California vs. Oklahoma:

Montana vs. Florida:

 

Primitive Delaware: State of the Whipping Post and “Bound” Children, Awakened Now, Is Fighting Hard for Decent Schools (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 30th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Heavens a Hippodrome and All the Actors Airplanes

In 1919, some predicted that the future realm of acting would be not the stage nor the screen, but the sky with airplanes.

This is the key to the great Futurist drama. The Sardous, Gus Thomases, Ibsens, Sam Shipmans and Barries of the future will write for a stage whose wings will be Arcturus and Halley’s comet, whose footlights will be the electirc bulbs and lamp-posts of all the earth — even unto Philadelphia; whose roof will be heaven itself, whose actors will be airplanes cut and painted to resemble the characters of the play, driven and manipulated by hooded and goggled drivers. Instead of a prompter, a wig-wag aviator sitting on the edge of the moon. The stage manager will thunder his directions for rehearsals from a giant super-megaphone-telephone from the top of the Matterhorn or in a giant Caproni anchored to Mars.

What of the naysayers?

Do you believe it? No? Well, there were once those who believed the earth was flat, that the heavens were a series of blue-china saucers glued together, that Bryan was a radical and that booze was immortal.

Well, after Prohibition was repealed a few years later, it turns out booze was immortal. And similarly, the skeptics of “the theater of the sky” were right in their predictions, too.

That being said, it sounds super fun. Maybe it should take off. I’d watch it.

 

Heavens a Hippodrome and All the Actors Airplanes: Drama of the Futurists Where the Gestures Are Tail Spins, and the Waiting World Lies Flat on Its Back and Looks Up at the Busy Sky (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 29th, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer

A New York state hunter could only kill only one deer per season, which had to be a male buck with antlers. Starting in 1919, a hunter could kill two deer, including a male buck or a female doe. Would that decimate the animal’s population?

Even some hunters were opposed to the new law, for that very reason:

Most of the real sportsmen were opposed to allowing does to be shot, for they well knew that if the does were killed off, it would not be long before the last deer would be gathered in from the Adirondacks. But the demands of promiscuous hunters had sway. The law was passed.

Those fears didn’t come to pass. In fact, the opposite occurred.

In 1919, a census found there were “not more than 50,000 deer in New York State.” But by 2018, there were about 1 million. Hunters kill about a quarter-million deer in the state each year, including 227,787 in 2018. Yet the animal’s population has remained roughly steady.

As Oak Duke wrote for the Evening Tribune in upstate New York:

Long gone is the attitude of 50 years ago when there were few deer compared to now. A sighting, let alone a successful hunt, was more of a rarity. Now deer have become ubiquitous, a common sight, if not a serious bother to motorists, farmers, and outdoors recreationists worried about ticks.

 

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer: Hunters Permitted by New Law to Kill Does as Well as Bucks–Quail Still Protected, but Fight for End of Restrictions Is in Prospect (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 16th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics

Polite Masque of Pageantry and Prohibition

How were the first parties after Prohibition? According to this 1919 article, the NYC parties were not nearly as fun as before. In New Jersey, on the other hand…

First, in New York City:

Even the parties that evaded the mighty hand of the law were afraid to act as if they were having too good a time, lest the gods see and envy and smite. As for those others who may have partied in neighborhood studios, perhaps their abandon was restrained by the Christian charity which gloats not over less favored mortals — perhaps by a sobering walk across the street in the night air. Be that as it may, a visitor from Mars would have seen only a few hundred well-bred Americans dancing waltzes and fox trots apparently with much enjoyment. Not one “interpretive dance” was improvised… The ball closed at 4:30 A.M. instead of at the dear old bedraggled hour of 7.

Apparently a party ending at 4:30 A.M. was considered early. Good times.

But relatively to the comparatively staid New York, another nearby state acted like the ban on alcohol never happened.

However, there are rumors that in Jersey — where people still vote against prohibition — things are different. A Halloween party in a certain country club over the river dared to be a masquerade ball in which the thermos bottle was the only thing that did not wear a mask. It stood boldly on every table. Folks say that it was a nice party, and they’re building another tube to Jersey from chastened New York.

In the words of the song Blow Us All Away from Hamilton: “Everything’s legal in New Jersey.”

 

Polite Masque of Pageantry and Prohibition: Prunes and Prisms Also Would Have Been Perfectly at Home at the First Bohemian Ball in the City of Dreadful Drought (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 15th, 2019 at 1:40 pm

First Woman Magistrate Judges Fallen Sisters

In 1919, Jean H. Norris became the first female judge in New York City history. But her name isn’t celebrated today, because in 1931 she was disbarred and removed from the bench.

Upon first rising to the position, Norris’s promotion was trumpeted:

The first few rows of the courtroom were filled with women. A few of them had opened the morning session with congraulatory speeches, a thing as unheard of in the annals of the court as was the occasion which prompted it. A group of fashionable women sat beaming at the proceedings in the last few rows. Their attitude manifested complete satisfaction with the woman who represented them in this high capacity.

By 12 years later, quite the opposite reaction would have occurred. Judge Norris was found to have falsified court records, convicted a girl without evidence, and endorsed a product in violation of judicial ethics.

First Woman Magistrate Judges Fallen Sisters: Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained in Jefferson Market Court at Mrs. Norris’s First Session, but Eloquence of Mere Men Is Curtailed (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 7th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Development,Politics

Southward With the Coffee-Pot Tourist

As the weather got colder in November 1919, an article described how some folks were making their annual pilgrimage to live down in Florida for a few months — in far more flowery language than would ever be used now:

Whatever in the Spring the young man’s fancy lightly turns to, and just as surely as the sap in that season of etherial madness rises in the tree trunks, there comes in the Fall to all Northern mankind and birdkind the urge of the migratory instinct southward. It isn’t only the plutocrats and society lovers that go to have their pictures taken for the illustrated papers at Palm Beach in their Winter splendor of Summer raiment. It is likewise those who though neither one nor another are both. And even in this spendthrift season, when a world’s ransom is being lavished on the pomp and circumstance of peace, there are still thrifty tourists, as well as the other sort.

Many go down south during the cold months nowadays as well. My recent GovTrack Insider article about the Canadian Snowbirds Act describes a congressional bill that would increase the duration Canadian retirees could spend in the U.S., often in Florida, from six months to eight months.

Southward With the Coffee-Pot Tourist: It Is Not Only the Spendthrifts but the Thrifty Also Who Migrate to Florida for the Summer of Their Wintertime (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 6th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Metropolitan Museum’s Rarest Treasures

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director was asked in 1919 what was the museum’s “one great treasure among many,” he answered the Estruscean bronze chariot.

[It is] the only complete one in the world. It is a magnificent triumphal affair and was found in the tomb of the hero who once rode proudly in it through the streets of ancient Rome.

The story of the chariot’s discovery is more interesting still, though not mentioned in the 1919 article.

An Italian farmer named Isidoro Vannozzi was digging a wine cellar when he accidentally came across the item in 1902. Vannozzi only earned about $6,000 in today’s money for selling the chariot he found, even though it was ultimately sold for $1.7 million in today’s money. (And likely actually worth far more than that by now, were it ever to be sold again, given the skyrocketing prices for both art and antiques in the 117 years since then.)

After a series of sales, it finally came to the Met in 1903 — six years before a 1909 Italian law forbade the export of culturally significant Italian relics.

A century later, the museum still possesses the chariot. Photos are in the public domain:

Metropolitan Museum’s Rarest Treasures: Fewer Than Fifty Are Marked With Double Stars on the New List (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 3rd, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Art

Our Unguarded Treasury

Lest you think wasteful or redundant government spending is a uniquely 20th century phenomenon, this example from 1919 is as bad as anything happening today.

An amusing example of needless expense continued after attention has been repeatedly called to it exists in connection with the Coast and Geodetic Survey. The building which this service occupies lies directly across the street from the House Office Building. A steam supply main from the Capitol power plant passes directly through the basement of the building of the Survey to the House Office Building. The Survey, however, is not permitted to use steam from this pipe, but is required to operate its own separate boilers, purchase coal, hire firemen and other help for operating an independent heating plant in the very basement through which an ample supply of Government steam passes to another building.

It got worse.

So, also, a local electric plant is working in the basement of the House Office Building, across the street, but the Coast Survey is obliged to purchase current from a commercial company and to employ a force of dynamo tenders throughout a twenty-four hour day. In this case, where the law requires a service to operate a light plant and a heating plant, where both light and heat are available from a central power plant maintained by the Government, the chief of the service estimates that $4,000 per annum is wasted. The change of a few words in the law would correct it. This has been asked, but has not been done.

A more recent attempt to cut down on redundant government spending is through the Duplication Scoring Act, a congressional bill which I wrote about for GovTrack Insider in September. But just like that aforementioned 1919 line — “The change of a few words in the law would correct it. This has been asked, but has not been done.” — the Duplication Scoring Act has similarly received neither a House nor Senate committe vote.

 

Our Unguarded Treasury: Haphazard Financial System Which Has Necessitated the New Budget System for Federal Government (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 2nd, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics