Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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

Posted in Development,Life,War

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

Posted in Health,Life,War

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

Posted in Humor,Life,War

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,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,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

Posted in Development,Life,War

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

Systematic Selection of Cooks for New Army

Once the draft was instituted for World War I in May 1917, the number of men in the American armed forces increased dramatically, prompting a comparably large percentage rise that you might not have even thought of: chefs.

It was said, without exaggeration, that “the honor of the profession was at stake.”

“M. Auguste Gay, chef of the Yale Club, and President of the Chefs de Cuisine, presided and told the men that the honor of the profession was at stake, that the crux of the situation was in their hands. He explained at length what an ill-fed army meant, how the health of the soldiers could not be trusted to raw recruits, who had never come nearer the kitchen than to inquire whether dinner was ready.”

The modern-day MRE — Meal Ready to Eat — consumed by American military personnel was not introduced in its modern-day form until 1963.

Systematic Selection of Cooks for New Army: Under Leadership of a New York Hotel Proprietor They Are Being Put Through Searching Tests by Competent City Chefs (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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Written by Jesse

August 23rd, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Life,War

“Are You Uhmuricun or American?”

Why is there so much slang, mispronunciation, and similar linguistic issues among native-born Americans? The writer Clarence Stratton suggests here that the fault lies in democracy itself:

“Our speech suffers because our wrongly interpreted democratic idea makes common people intolerant of anything like authority in everyday matters. The German acknowledges a standard of usage and pronunciation indicated by Hanoverian. In France and Spain academies determine currency and meaning, and the people recognize their decisions. Italians will quote to you the proverb that settles all linguistic standards for them.”

And to anybody in the modern-day red states who believes the New York Times is elitist and looks down on them, this passage from 100 years ago proves this is nothing new:

“The Southerner departs furthest from the norm of good American speech with his drawling utterance, his radical change of accepted sounds, and his entire disregard of certain letters.”

“Are You Uhmuricun or American?” — Language in United States Seems to Educator a Mass of Sounds Which Are Not Worthy of Being Considered Speech at All (PDF)

From Sunday, July 22, 1917

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Written by Jesse

July 20th, 2017 at 7:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Professor Blames Beer for German Outrages

What was causing German atrocities during World War I? Harvard geology professor Reginald Aldworth Daly suggested a largely-unheralded factor may have been alcohol:

“The Germanic peoples are the only great group who feed alcohol to the babies or very young children of middle and upper classes. Just at the time of life when the nervous system should be specially protected against all poisons, vast numbers of German children are kept mildly charged with alcohol. If the baby has not already been prenatally damaged because of the beer drunk by his mother, he still runs the risk of poisoning from the alcohol-bearing milk of a drinking mother or wetnurse. The child grows to manhood, drinking alcohol and continually handicapped in his development of cerebral, and therefore moral, control.”

Daly concludes with a quote from von Moltke: “Beer is a far more dangerous enemy to Germany than all the armies of France.”

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, Germany today still ranks among the biggest alcohol-consuming nations in the world, with an average 11.4 liters of alcohol consumed per capita, for citizens age 15 or older. The global average is 6.4. The U.S. number is 9.3. Highest in the world is Lithuania at 18.2.

Professor Blames Beer for German Outrages: Cumulative Effect of “Mildly Alcoholic State” on the Minds of Men Who Have Imbibed National Drink Since Babyhood (PDF)

From Sunday, July 1, 1917

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Written by Jesse

July 2nd, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Health,Life,War

Man’s Labor the Best, British Committee Decides; Woman Handicapped

As men entered World War I, women were called upon to perform traditionally male roles involving more physical labor and brawn. The British Health of Munition Workers Committee found:

“that, compared with man, woman has less strength, less endurance; that she can undergo neither such long hours nor such long periods of labor; that she cannot stand the strain of night work; that her body, physiologically different from man’s, is subject to ‘certain ailments and forms of physical disability’ that are ‘readily caused or at least accentuated’ by various forms of body activity, and that these ailments are ‘far-reaching in effect’; that the lifting and carrying of heavy weights, ‘all sudden, violent, or physically unsuitable movements in the operating of machines,’ and prolonged standing, are ‘highly provocative causes of trouble to women and girls.'”

Anybody who still claims that men have more stamina and women need more “days off” should read the news this week. Ivanka Trump had to fill in for her father at an event that he dropped out from citing “exhaustion.”

Man’s Labor the Best, British Committee Decides; Woman Handicapped: The Frailer Sex Lacks Nothing in Patriotism, But Needs More “Days Off” — Endurance in Munition Plants (PDF)

From Sunday, May 27, 1917

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Written by Jesse

May 25th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Business,Life

Making Vice Unattractive in Soldiers’ Camps

A new Federal Commission on Training Camp Activities was created shortly after the outset of American involvement in World War I, in hopes of preventing sin and vice among soldiers such as excessive drinking and prostitution. Among the attempted solutions: all soldiers were required to participate in sports and physical exercises, and soldiers were paired with homes and families that they could visit when on leave in the city. No word on whether prostitution was completely banished, but given that it still goes on in the military today (though perhaps at a lesser rate?), it clearly wasn’t 100 percent successful.

Making Vice Unattractive in Soldiers’ Camps: Federal Commission Just Appointed to Solve Vital Problem of Healthful Recreation for Young Men of Our New Armies (PDF)

From Sunday, May 20, 1917

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Written by Jesse

May 18th, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Life,War