Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea!

A month after the 18th Amendment banned alcohol, Gerald Van Casteel satirized the push for banning anything which seemed wasteful or excessive, in the name of morals or productivity: namely, banning sleep.

I now suggest a reform by prohibition far more fundamental. While we are in the mood to prohibit let there be no half measures.

There is one overpowering habit that affects not only the whole human race, without exception, but has grown also upon most of the animal kingdom. I refer to that form of wastefulness known as sleep.

The farseeing reformers who have instituted our midnight cabarets are glimpsing a new dawn, and the child’s objection to going to bed is the inarticulate protest of nature. Edison says he can work with less than half the sleep we ordinarians require. If it were not for the handicap of his sleep-habituated ancestors and environment he would probably not sleep at all. Away with this incubus and let us insist that everybody live twenty-four hours a day! A Society for the Suppression of Sleep offers a great career to wideawake reformers.

As humor columnist Dave Barry wrote in his December 2018 “year in review” column:

Meanwhile Seattle becomes the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils in all restaurants. San Francisco, sensing a threat to its status as front runner in the Progressivelympics, responds by banning food and beverages in all restaurants.

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea! (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Veteran as Job Hunter

An anonymous Canadian soldier penned this reflection about the difficult transition from life in the trenches of World War I back to the civilian working world.

In January 2019 the official veteran unemployment rate was 3.7%, lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.0%.

From the February 1919 article, a visceral description of what was then called “shell shock” and is now more commonly called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD:

You got to remember that the way Bill looks at things isn’t like you do. He’s seen so many nasty things occur right in his immediate locality, like his pals getting their heads blown off, that he’s kind of callous, kind of cynical and disillusioned about life. He’s seen human life itself held so cheap that he figures it down to consisting of merely dodging death, with a sing-song or a smoke in between that a shell may end any second. Put him in an office and he’s apt to make fun of filing systems and such like, which don’t get him far with the office manager, who’s been educated to believe filing systems are serious things and don’t understand that Bill used to spend all his time in the trenches.

How the Homecoming Soldier Likes His Welcome: On the Surface All Goes Well, but There Has Been a Relaxation of the Sympathy and Help Which He Needs as Much as Ever How the Homecoming Soldier Likes His Welcome (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 10th, 2019 at 10:52 pm

Posted in Life

America’s New Influence on European Life

American soldiers had spent years in Europe during World War I. What effect would that have on Europeans? This article predicted several ways, including what they’d eat, how they’d dress, and what women would look for in men.

What European women would look for in men:

[American men] were more serious, too. At close quarters they lacked some of the characteristics of the English and French soldiers. They were abrupt and direct in speech. They were also less accustomed to formality, less used to the ameliorating word, and had altogether less respect for convention, as we understand it in Europe. They were also more individual. Altogether, with their omissions and their qualities, they were of a type which is as strange in Europe as some distinct race. Withal, they had the essentials of strength and manliness above everything else. The gentle women of the world have never failed to appreciate such qualities. No wonder that feminine Europe has fallen in love with the American soldier.

How Europeans would eat:

Europe will very likely get new dishes added to its dietary through its closer association with the United States. Why cannot we have the delicious grapefruit for breakfast that you have here? Why are we denied buckwheat cakes? Broiled chicken is almost unknown in European restaurants. Many Europeans fall in love with it when they come to America. Corned beef hash will begin to appear on bills of fare. I should not be surprised to see waffles become almost a rage.

How Europeans would dress:

The Americans are probably the best-dressed nation in the world, in the sense that they are more careful and precise and sometimes more elaborate than any other people. … Americans carry this habit with them to Europe. They do not always dress in the same way as Europeans, but they always dress extremely well from an American point of view. Hitherto Paris has been the home of ladies’ fashion for the world, London the centre of men’s fashion, and it is an interesting speculation whether America may not leave an impression on the dress of people abroad.

The author Frank Dilnot, New York correspondent for the London Daily Chronicle, did correctly predict one American aspect that would NOT catch on in Europe: baseball.

It is a game peculiarly suited to the American temperament, but there is such a variety of well-rooted and much loved pastimes, especially among an out-of-doors people like the British, that I cannot see baseball supplanting cricket, for example. Cricket has a subtle charm not to be known by those who have not played it or been brought up to it from boyhood.

 

America’s New Influence on European Life: People Over There Sure to Imitate Us, Says a Briton, But They Won’t Play Baseball or Eat Our Breakfast Bacon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Food,Life,Sports

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows

Now that World War I was over, people were having fun — a lot more fun:

The social matron again breathes more freely. The makers of war munitions are now the makers of the munitions of peace! … No longer is put the question, “What clothes can I spare to give the league?” Instead, every one is asking, “What shall I wear to the costume ball?”

In fact, thanks to the impending start of Prohibition, people were arguably having too much fun:

Woven and entwined in the very structure of this new house of social joys there is a potent apprehension. It concerns the approach of that fearful date, July 1, 1919. In anticipation of the fatal day, it seems that the gayeties of this season are augmented even beyond the powers of a mere armistice. Peace itself could hardly furnish the fillip of the indulgence (discreet, always, we hope) created by contemplation of the awful dryness which must follow next July. Many who heretofore would have refused “just another glass” are now induced to lower the last barriers on the score that they may never have another chance.

To paraphrase the late great Prince: “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1919.”

Society Again in Frills and Furbelows: Peace Partly Solved the Servant Problem, and It’s No Longer Bad Form to Give Course Dinners and Dress Well (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 19, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Life

Types of Feminine Slackers in New York

Almost everyone contributed and sacrificed for the war effort during WWI… but not everyone. A certain class of socialite women — with wealthy husbands and little to do — kept living their lives the exact same as before.

Genevieve Parkhurst profiled them in this 1918 article:

One woman had two Pekingese spaniels with her. She had traveled all the way from a Middle Western city.

“It is such an expense carrying them around,” she complained. “You know they have to have certified milk — a quart a day each, and it costs me $2 a day at the hotel for them.”

When it was suggested that it might be a good idea to give them a change of diet and send the milk money to the children of France, she exclaimed aghast: “What! Why, the poor little dears would suffer. They’ve always had their certified milk and cream and I could not think of depriving them of it.”

Getting a head start on the hedonism and excess to come during the 1920s, clearly.

Types of Feminine Slackers in New York: Random Observations on the Squanderer, the Waster, and the Trifler — Tinfoil as Proof of Patriotism — The Cost of Showy Gowns and Pekingese Spaniels (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 21, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 20th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Life

Insignia, Not Black Gowns, as War Mourning

Women in America had long worn all black to represent widowhood as a result of a husband dying in war. This 1918 article even noted that “There are now women who have been in black ever since the civil war.”

But that began to change during WWI. Women began wearing a three-inch black band sleeve on their arm, instead of dressing fully in black.

Explained Anna Howard Shaw, chair of the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenense:

The men are going over in the spirit of battling for the freedom of the world, cheerfully, with defiance of the enemy in their hearts. Once ‘over there,’ they do not murmur or repine, even in face of death itself. We women should lift our lives to the same plane, in appreciation of the exaltation of the service rendered by the men for the protection of ourselves and our homes. Instead of giving away to depression, it is our duty to display the same courage and spirit that they do. If they can die nobly, we must show that we can live nobly.

We should look on the insignia, therefore, not as a badge of mourning, but as a mark of recognition of exalted service, as a sign of what it has been their privilege to give to their country — a badge of honor. The wearing of the insignia will express far better than mourning the sacrifice that has been made, that the loss is a matter of glory rather than one of prostrating grief and depression.

 

Insignia, Not Black Gowns, as War Mourning: Women of America Asked to Forego Gloomy Evidences of Grief — Black Band on Sleeve to be a Badge of Honor for the Bereaved (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 7, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 7th, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Vagaries of the German “Michel”

“In Germany, a ‘Michel’ is, freely translated, a fool, a clown, a weak-wit of great physical power when aroused, but wholly dominated by his masters of higher intellect or greater power. You hear it every day and everywhere in Germany.”

So reported A. Curtis Roth, the former American Consul General in Plauen, Saxony, Germany in 1918. He provides this example:

Is any clearer evidence needed of the “boobery” of the race than the conduct of a German in a foreign land? Does he, as a guest, keep quiet and listen, trying to absorb some knowledge of the new country? He does nothing of the sort. Acting upon the principle that everything in the world was created for the German, he howls and blusters, organizes noisy societies such as he knew in Germany, and makes himself a general nuisance.

Or try this:

The Germans in America, while I was still acting for our Government in Saxony… had collected a considerable sum of money which they wished to devote to the relief of German war widows and orphans… Imagine my surprise when I learned that, following a long and serious conference among themselves, the various [German] Town Councils had voted unanimously to decline the money, because it came from America and was tainted, even though it had all been contributed by men of German blood, or men and women born on the soil of Germany. And this was long before America took a hand in the fight!

I don’t believe this stereotype still exists today — unless it does and I’m just not aware of it? The main German stereotype now appears to be that they always talk like this:

 

Vagaries of the German “Michel” — In Plain American It Means “Boob,” Yet the German Applies It to Himself and Seems Proud of the Title (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2018 at 10:34 am

Posted in Humor,Life

War as a Tonic for Jaded Feminine Nerves

WWI caused a marked declined in women’s slouching — a change which some doctors attributed to the war itself..

Said Dr. Eugene L. Fisk, director of the Life Extension Institute in June 1918:

The most gratifying physical change in women is in their posture. Time was, not so far distant, when the clouch was a fashionable attitude for women. This began in society, was seen on the stage, and was reflected widely among workingwomen. It was accentuated by the hobble skirt and the turkey trot, just before the war.

The last year has come like a breath of fresh air to the physical habits of all women. I believe the unconscious influence of the military largely accounts for it. The soldier has captured the popular imagination. The military bearing, the military salute, the military appearance appeal to the women even more quickly than to the men, and they react to it automatically in their physical manners. A girl who glides or slouches or minces along is no longer considered desirable by young men or envied by her associates.

What may make this doubly surprising is that WWI actually generally marked the end of corsets in America. Corsets forced women to sit up straighter with better posture, so one might think that their decline as a fashion would actually cause more slouching rather than less.

War as a Tonic for Jaded Feminine Nerves: Physicians Say They Are Now Treating Fewer Women Whose Ills Are Imaginary — Military Heels, Sensible Toes, and the Erect Carriage Instead of the Slouch (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 23, 1918

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Written by Jesse

June 22nd, 2018 at 10:53 am

Echoes in Lighter Tone from Washington

Should we be referring to WWI as the stenographers’ war? That’s what one article in 1918 predicted that “future historians” might call it:

And, hurrah, here come the stenographers! They are here from multi-storied city skyscrapers and from country lawyers’ offices; from business colleges and from just-learned-it-by-myself; calm, self-possessed, clear-eyed; helpers of detail — helpless men. Power resides in their right hand and in their left… Therefore, some future historian may call this the stenographers’ war. At least, they know who is running it.

Alas, the conflict eventually came to be known as World War I. One wonders if we just missed out on an eccentrically-named conflict instead, such as the 1739 one between Great Britain and Spain called the War of Jenkins’ Ear.

 

Echoes in Lighter Tone from Washington: Some Observations on the Military Salute, the Stenographer, and the Temporary Buildings — Wartime Capital Seen in Its Amusing Phases (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 16, 1918

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Written by Jesse

June 17th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Where Boys Learn to Farm and Be Soldiers

Although this 1918 article about a program to teach urban children and teenagers about agriculture and farming is interesting, the main cause of the program’s creation was based on a profound misunderstanding of the future to come:

“We are going to need more and more boys on the farms, now and after the war; it is really one of our great national problems.”

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics graph below shows, farmers and farm laborers dramatically decreased throughout the remainder of the 20th century. (Interestingly, although it’s only a small difference, farming has actually increased as a share of U.S. employment since 2000, from 1.2 percent to the current 1.4 percent.)

Where Boys Learn to Farm and Be Soldiers: Unique Experiment of a Manufacturer — Based on the Theory That Agriculture Can Be Made Fascinating to City Youths if Properly Taught (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 31, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 29th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Life

Propaganda to German People by Balloon Routes

 

“Ironclad ignorance and skillfully applied misinformation are the two hypnotizing agents by which the military masters of Germany’s restless and suffering millions keep them loyal and obedient.” How to combat this?

Henry Louis Smith, President of Washington and Lee University, proposed an idea that could only be considered legitimate in the pre-internet age: send balloons with  messages containing Western ideas over France, Spain, and Italy, letting the eastern or northeastern winds transmit them into the German and Austrian Empires for their citizens to read.

“If the masses of the German people could read for themselves the messages of President Wilson and the other allied statesmen, could receive the argument and appeals of reformers in every land, could learn the facts concerning the war and the state of public opinion throughout the world, their blind loyalty, cemented by ignorance and falsehood, would be fatally and permanently disintegrated.”

“The following method would accomplish this result rapidly, inexpensively, and thoroughly in spite of frontier guards and police supervision, and also without violating morals or international law, imperiling its agents, or interfering with present military operations.”

I almost always try to avoid commenting on modern American politics or society in these posts, but the idea that the free flow of intellectual or progressive ideas would cause “ignorance and falsehood [to be] fatally and permanently disintegrated” certainly seems to have been disproven in the past few years.

As for Germany specifically, it’s hard to imagine this plan would have worked. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected in 1932 — it seems doubtful at best that this plan would have changed more than a few minds out of the many millions of Germans who would ultimately help elect Hitler.

Propaganda to German People by Balloon Routes: Scientist’s Novel Idea of Using Air Currents to Flood the Enemy’s Land with Educational Messages on Innumerable Small Carriers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 24, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 24th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Foods People Won’t Eat Because of the Names

Muskrat. Field mouse. Dogfish. All are examples of foods that Robert T. Morris, M.D. cited in 1918 as foods many people refused to consume due to their names.

This article leads off by describing how many people wouldn’t eat dogfish, because it brought to mind a dog as much as a fish. According to Wikipedia, by 2018 the species is primarily called a bowfin, although “Common names include mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, griddle, grinnel, cypress trout and choupique.” They should really settle on just one name.

Foods People Won’t Eat Because of the Names: Dogfish Not at All Popular Until It Came to be Called Grayfish — Dainty Morsels from the Muskrat and Field Mouse (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 11th, 2018 at 8:27 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here

In what is probably the single best piece of writing I’ve seen during my time running Sunday Magazine, this article describes the fewer toys, barren shop windows, and a new somewhat lonelier holiday celebration for Americans in the throes of World War I.

It is a changed Santa Claus that will visit New York on this, the first Christmas that has found America buckled down to the grim task of playing a part in the great world conflict — a war-rationed Santy who is trying to do his bit.

The old twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, cheery smile, and jolly paunch — symbols of merriment and hospitality, of kindliness and generosity — have lost some of their pristine glory. When hard-fisted necessity in the guise of the Higher Cost-of-Living, has been busy depleting the pocketbook for these many months past, when Charity is making her appeals for the starving and homeless in many quarters of the globe, when Patriotism is crying for funds with which to fight the enemy, the gift-pack must perforce shrink, the stuffed turkey be forsworn, the punch-bowl stay dry.

But if the old spirit of Merry Christmas has been tempered, if it has been shorn of some of its jollity, some of its splendidly careless generosity, because there is no longer “peace on earth,” there has come a community kindliness, a sobered realization of the ties that bind us to those outside our circle of kinship and friendship, a bestowal of hospitality and generosity upon the stranger and the poor such as we have never before seen. And so, after all, those gaudy colored angels perched upon their Christmas-card cloud can still trumpet forth with all their old fervor “good-will toward men.”

Be thankful for all that’s going right in the year 2017, whether in your own personal life or in the world at large. Happy holidays… and to all a good night.

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here: First Christmas of the War Finds America No Longer the Lavish Spender of Other Years — Signs of Great Changes Seen on All Sides (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 24th, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Life,Military / War

War’s Subtle Changes in New York Life

How did World War I change daily life in New York City, even for those who weren’t fighting in the trenches?

  • Women weren’t wearing as fashionable clothing. “Fashionable social life expressed its lyric genius in a cumulative series of events designed to reveal feminine Spring in its most ardent mood. Not in 1917.”
  • People were rationing their food intake. “Eating has followed drinking as one of the pasttimes no longer in vogue.”
  • Knitting became huge. “This extraordinary popular activity has seized the feminine half of the community with a democratic disregard of classes. The servant and the mistress are alike obsessed.”
  • Theater took a hit. “All ordinary attractions fall almost instantly. In one week seven stars folded their tents on Broadway. Plays that might have prospered in some other season have no chance this year.” [The simultaneous surging popularity of movies also played a large role.

War’s Subtle Changes in New York Life: Although the City Is Outwardly Moving in the Same Old Ways, There Are Marked Differences Just Beneath the Surface (PDF)

From Sunday, November 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 2nd, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Life,Military / War

Family of Fifteen, All Living, Oldest Seventeen

 

Francois Gannaz of Sallanches, France had fathered 15 living children under the age of 18. So the Institute of France bestowed on him half of the Etienne Lamy Prize, which was worth 10,000 francs or about $2,000 in 1917, equivalent to about $36,500 today. That’s right, a monetary prize for having the most children.

Perhaps even more impressively (in a manner of speaking), Gannaz’s wife had her first child at age 26, unlike most families that large where the woman usually has her first child as a teenager. Her most recent child as of the article’s publication was born when she was 43.

Their names were Pierre, Clovis, Alcide, Lucien, Fernand, Louis, Lucie, Léonie, Marie, Alice, Francois, Marie, Luc, Gabriel, and Jean Baptiste.

The Guinness World Record for the most children born to one woman is 69 by a Mrs. Vassilyeva of Russia in the 1700s, with 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. It’s much more difficult to ascertain which man has fathered the most children — in all likelihood it was a man with multiple wives from centuries (or millennia?) past, before paternity testing existing.

Family of Fifteen, All Living, Oldest Seventeen: French Father Wins Prize for His Record-Breaking Brood — All Born Healthy and Have Been So Ever Since (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 17th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Servants and War Saving in the Home

 

When the government is asking you to save money but your servant keeps spending, what to do? We all have problems in life.

During World War I, the government encouraged personal frugality in order to ensure as much money as possible went towards the war effort. Said the wife of a prominent and wealthy New York lawyer:

“Let them [servants] feel that they are as big factors in the nation’s plan of conservation as you yourself or any one else. Let them understand that it isn’t some little personal idea of yours to save money for yourself, but that the nation’s needs demand it.”

And she had some thoughts on certain types of servants in particular:

“The colored servants, frequently characterized as wasteful and thriftless, she says, have a kindred feeling with the American mistress, because they, too, are native Americans. They are apt to help her better than any others at this time.”

A nice sentiment?

Servants and War Saving in the Home: A New York Woman’s Plain Statement of Economy Problems Faced Nowadays in the Kitchen and Pantry of an Unpretentious Family (PDF)

From Sunday, October 28, 1917

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Written by Jesse

October 26th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Entirely New Social Life in Washington

America’s entering of World War I impacted the social scene in Washington:

“There will be no formal dinner for the Cabinet officers and their wives at the White House this year. That affair, as well as the three other important dinners and the four receptions ordinarily given in the course of the three Winter months, is removed from the White House social calendar for the coming season.”

Well, we all have to make sacrifices in life.

Interestingly, this same phenomenon has not seemed to occur in 21st century Washington. Despite 9/11 and the war launched in its aftermath, the 2002 White House Correspondents Dinner — the crown jewel event of the D.C. social scene — continued unabated, with Drew Carey and President George W. Bush both performing standup comedy routines.

Entirely New Social Life in Washington: Formal Dinners and Official Receptions Abandoned — Strangers Heartily Welcomed in Circles Which Were Once Too Exclusive to Penetrate (PDF)

From Sunday, October 21, 1917

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Written by Jesse

October 19th, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Life,Recreation

Immigration Tide May Turn from West to East

 

As this 1917 article correctly predicted, many European immigrants to the U.S. later moved back to Europe after the conclusion of World War I. By some estimates, that number was almost one-third of European immigrants to America. However, “relatively few” German-Americans returned back to Germany.

Immigration Tide May Turn From West to East: Millions of Our Foreign-Born Citizens Planning to Return to Europe After the War, Says Commissioner Frederic C. Howe (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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Written by Jesse

October 13th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars

The urban population has surged from 29.5 percent in 1880 to 46.3 percent in 1910. The Census Bureau estimates that cities contain 62.7 percent of the U.S. population today.

A major change in rural life came with the development and popularity of the car. In 1917, the top two states by number of cars per capita were Iowa and Nebraska, then as now major agricultural states. (Today those two states rank #5 and #10.) The top two today are Montana and Wyoming.

This article describes the transformative effect that the car had on rural life.

“There was the railroad. It was to intersect the country until no isolation would be left. Then came the telephone. It was to knit the countryside together by wire and long distance conversation and thus banish isolation. Next came rural mail delivery. It was to make the change by the delivery of daily papers at the farmer’s door, by establishing continuous touch with the city and the outside world.”

“No one hit upon the actual cause. The trouble with the farm was three miles an hour — three miles by horse and buggy or two by team and wagon. Even the best social ideas would not work at such a rate of moving about. The rate of three miles an hour limited the size of the community, set a bound on the number of people one would meet in the course of a lifetime. Twelve miles is a long drive by horse and buggy, and that was about the radius of the farm families’ social life; the actual neighborhood life was restricted to about four miles from home. Six miles was a good way to go to church; seven or eight miles would be attempted for a social party.”

Today, the trend might be going in reverse, as many Millennials are ditching cars altogether. Only about 60 percent of 18-year-olds have a driver’s license, down from 80 percent in the 1980s.

Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars: Country Existence Ameliorated by Speeding Up from Three to Twenty Miles an Hour — Tremendous Influence in Rural Social Life (PDF)

From Sunday, September 16, 1917

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Written by Jesse

September 14th, 2017 at 5:36 pm