Archive for August, 2020

Chivalry in Office Elevators

Elevators were still new enough in 1920 that some aspects of “elevator etiquette” still had to be ironed out. For example, should a man remove his hat when a woman enters the elevator?

Every male whose business it is to travel up and down in the passenger elevators of commercial buildings must face this question many times a month: “Should I or should I not remove my hat when a woman enters the car?”

Where does politeness begin and where will a cold end?

Has a man more rights to his headgear in a commercial elevator than in a Ritz elevator?

If business is business, then keep the hat on.

If you are going up to join the Midnight Bounders, why, take the hat off.

Is there a business politeness as well as a social politeness?

Suppose the girl is only a stenographer that gets into the car with you in the Woolworth Building. Should you be as chivalrous as you would be in a “lift” at the Hotel della Robberie if Mrs. Fuller Rhino of Chicago got in?

Profound and ultimate questions of conscience which may yet bring the Supreme Court to loggerheads.

In high-rise buildings before the widespread adoption of the elevator, the first floor was the most desirable and expensive, while the top floor was the least desirable and cheapest. That only changed with the widespread adoption of the elevator in the 1920s, also the decade when the term “penthouse” was invented.

Today, elevator etiquette was best described by the stand-up comedian Steven Wright: “When I was little, my grandfather used to make me stand in a closet for five minutes without moving. He said it was elevator practice. Every once in a while when I’m in an elevator, I’ll ask the other guy, ‘Did your grandfather make you do this too?'”

Here’s a video — with almost 1 million views, incredibly — of a guy riding an elevator from 1931:

Chivalry in Office Elevators (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 29, 1920

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Written by Jesse

August 28th, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Life

Brand of the Movies on Babies’ Names

As motion pictures gained popularity in the 1910s and 1920s, baby names changed based on the most popular characters and stars.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) tracks the popularity of baby names over time, starting in 1900. After this quote, I track the the trajectories of some of the names which proved popular around 1920.

And so I knew that it was upon us — the motion-picture name period… Mixed in with the Rosanas and the Giovannis of the imported element came the babies of our good, sturdy American stock surnamed Smith and Jones. Norma and Pearl they were, Madge and Billie, Mae (spelled just as the electric lights spell it) and Blanche (with an “e”). Also a renaissance of Marys. On through the foreign Oscars and Giuseppes, Marys appear in quantities unprecedented.

How did those names fare in the long run?

  • Norma: the #69 name of 1920, peaked at #22 in both 1931 and 1932. Last ranked in the top 1,000 in 2002.
  • Pearl: the #62 name of 1920, actually peaked in the first year of available data (1900) at #24. Seemed to last rank in the top 1,000 in 1986, then disappeared for more than two decades, until reappearing in 2007 and staying there almost every year since, ranking #647 in 2018.
  • Madge: the #303 name of 1920, peaked in the first year of available data (1900) at #232. Last appeared in the top 1,000 in 1948. It’s short for Margaret: the #4 name of 1920, peaked at #3 every year between 1905 and 1911. Ranked #127 in 2018.
  • Billie: the #212 name of 1920, peaked at #79 in both 1929 and 1930. Last appeared in the top 1,000 in 1997, though one wonders if the 2019 breakthrough of pop star Billie Eilish will provide the name a renaissance.
  • Mae: the #99 name of 1920, peaked at #53 in 1902. Seemed to last rank in the top 1,000 in 1969, then disappeared for more than four decades, until reappearing in 2010 and staying there every year since, ranking #554 in 2018.
  • Blanche: the #102 name of 1920, peaked at #58 in 1902. Last ranked in the top 1,000 in 1964.
  • Mary: the #1 name of 1920, and indeed every year between 1900 and 1946. It never even dropped out of the top 10 until 1972. These days it doesn’t even rank in the top 100, at #126 in 2018.

My own name, Jesse, peaked in popularity at #37 among boys born in 1981. What happened that year? Here’s a hint:

 

Brand of the Movies on Babies’ Names (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 22, 1920

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Written by Jesse

August 19th, 2020 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Development,Life,Movies

Harding, Baseball Fan

Future President Warren Harding’s “front porch campaign” of 1920 rendered him unable to attend a Major League Baseball game, as he usually did each summer. So on September 2, they brought a game to him.

The Chicago Cubs came to Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio to play an exhibition game against a semi-pro local team, the Kerrigan Tailors. With 5,000 in attendance, Harding pitched for the Tailors against the first (and only the first) opposing batter, including a first pitch strike as determined by “a charitable umpire.” The Cubs won 3-1.

A few weeks prior, Harding explained his love of the sport in this New York Times article:

“Baseball is one of our finest institutions… No other sport of which I know so well expresses the genius of our land. It affords every opportunity to express the individual merit of particular stars, and yet it does not glorify the individual unduly at the expense of the community. The dominant motive is teamwork. It affords an apotheosis for the get-together and pull-together spirit. It is a wonderful curative for the ills that come from the overdevelopment of the ego.”

He also invested in more than half a dozen baseball teams:

“In former years when Marion had a ball club I was always interested in it financially, although we never made any money and from the mere standpoint of the ledger it might have been called a loss. Although I never got back directly any of the money that I invested in Marion ball clubs, I never considered the money lost. I always considered it a finer investment than I might have made in some other enterprises which would have paid a more tangible profit.”

Harding also recalled his own personal best baseball play:

Then along late in the game I had the misfortune to knock a two-bagger. At least the coaches along the sidelines insisted it was a two-bagger, and even yet I can hear the yells that greeted me as I started to run. It was made very plain to me that the fate of Marion and perhaps even my own future right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depended upon my reaching second base. I did reach second base, but at what a cost! I felt the effects of that slide for two weeks.”

The incumbent president has an interesting history with the sport.

Donald Trump claimed that in high school he was the best baseball player in New York state and was scouted by the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, but Slate investigation of contemporary box scores and interviews with former teammates found most of Trump’s claims false. Trump wasbooed by fans at Nationals Park when attending a World Series game in 2019. And he is currently the first president not to throw out a first pitch at a Major League Baseball game since William Howard Taft in 1910. (Although Trump did throw out an honorary first pitch pre-presidency, at a 2006 Yankees vs. Red Sox game at Fenway Park.)

 

Harding, Baseball Fan: Republican Nominee Has Played First Base on the Marion Team, and Helped Support It Later — He Loves the Partisanship of the Diamond (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 8, 1920

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Written by Jesse

August 13th, 2020 at 7:01 am

Posted in Politics,Sports