Tremendous Cost of War to the United States

Federal expenditures multiplied more than 10-fold after America entered World War I.

Even then, though, the drastically increased spending was still far less when adjusted for inflation than the federal government spends today. The 1917 spending was about $10.73 billion, which would be about $205.3 billion today. But this fiscal year will spend about $4.14 trillion, or about 20 times what we were spending in 1917.

Still, it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.Three of the four biggest drivers of modern-day federal spending are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — none of which existed back in 1917.

 

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States: Estimate of the Total Expenditures for Year Ending Next June IS $10,735,807,000 — Last Year’s Outlay Was $1,041,635,116 (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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Written by Jesse

August 24th, 2017 at 11:39 am

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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August 23rd, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Life,War

The Obstructionists: Small Group of Senators and Congressmen Whose Tactics Encourage Enemy and Block War Plans

A full century before the Freedom Caucus, there were “the Obstructionists.”

The comparisons aren’t exact. The modern-day organization of several dozen hard-line conservatives in the House has helped kill or at least significantly delay or water down legislation supported by most congressional Republicans, such as Affordable Care Act repeal, tax reform, raising the debt ceiling, and more — all on the basis that existing proposals weren’t far enough to the right. The so-called “Obstructionists” wasn’t so much an official caucus as an informal group of legislators who banded together in opposition to one particular issue above all else — American involvement in World War I — rather than on a variety of issues.

But there were some commonalities. For example, both groups were all men.

The congressional votes to commence American involvement in WWI were lopsided but not unanimous: 82-6 in the Senate and 373-50 in the House. By comparison, the congressional votes for the other world war a few decades later were 82-0 in the Senate and 388-1 in the House. And the the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan a mere three days after 9/11 passed 98-0 in the Senate and 420-1 in the House.

The Obstructionists: Small Group of Senators and Congressmen Whose Tactics Encourage Enemy and Block War Plans (PDF)

From Sunday, August 19, 1917

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August 17th, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Politics

Need of Dictator Urged by Harding

Four years before he became president, Ohio’s Republican Senator Warren G. Harding argued in favor of drastically increased powers for the presidency — even though the commander-in-chief at the time was a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

The level of willingness to accede so completely to a partisan opponent was arguably last seen in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when most congressional Democrats granted significant powers to the presidency and executive branch, despite being controlled by Republican President George W. Bush.

Harding’s words are stunning to modern-day ears and chats from the left that Trump is #NotMyPresident. Perhaps his words were stunning even to ears at the time:

“Whom have you in mind for this position as supreme dictator?” Mr. Harding was asked.

“At the present moment there is but one possible man,” replied the Senator from Ohio, “the President of the United States. I must say he is not my choice, but the people of the country have chosen him, and he is the only one to whom we can turn. Why quibble with events which are already accomplished? Mr. Wilson is our President, duly elected. He is already by the inevitable force of events our partial dictator. Why not make him complete and supreme dictator? He will have to answer to the people and to history eventually for his stewardship. Why not give him a full and free hand, not for his sake, but for our sake? He is not likely to succeed half bound; unbound he will have every chance. If he fails, then it is his fault, not ours. If he fails under present conditions, it is our fault, not his.”

Harding’s recommendation was heavily influenced by the perceived need for a national leader with stronger powers during the ongoing World War I. It is not clear whether Harding still believed in a “supreme dictator” by 1921 when he took office, after the war had concluded.

“It was only the logic of events combined with the perception generally of the unparalleled character of Mr. Lincoln that powers were placed more and more in the hands of the President, until, toward the close of the war, Congress as well as the Cabinet had all but abdicated in favor of the one man who had proved himself a safe dictator for the destinies of the nation.  The same thing must occur in this war, and the sooner it comes the better for all of us. We will never be actually in the war, never be a menace to Germany in a modern military sense, until it does come.”

Harding, for what it’s worth, is consistently ranked as one of the worst presidents of all time.

Need of Dictator Urged by Harding: Republican Senator from Ohio Favors Absolute Power for President, Even If He Is a Democrat (PDF)

From Sunday, August 12, 1917

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August 10th, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Politics

How much WWI took over everyone’s lives

American entry into World War I “started” 100 years ago plus a few months ago, in April 1917. One thing that’s really striking to me is just how much it overtook everything about people’s lives. In working on this week’s entries for Sunday Magazine, here were the magazine headlines from New York Times Sunday Magazine 100 years ago this week, a relatively “typical” week of the conflict:

  • New Board of Seven: Frank A. Scott, Chairman, Talks of His Committee—Second Great Industrial Phase of War Task
  • Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front: Outline of British Methods Shows How the American Soldiers Are Being Taught—Trenches Flooded With Gas for Practice
  • Kerensky’s Intimate Talks to Men at the Front: Weak-Kneed Soldier, Who Interrupted Him with Plea for Speedy Peace, Was Ordered to Go Home in Disgrace
  • Labor’s Part in War’s Successful Prosecution: True Source of Military Power Is United Energy of a Nation’s People, Yet the Whole World Is Continuing Class Struggles Labor’s Part in War’s Successful Prosecution
  • Allied Relief and Rid Cross Near Agreement: Expect Soon to Smooth Over Difficulties Created by Plan to Take from Donations to War Sufferers Their Individual Character
  • Battling an Africa Far from War’s Limelight: How a Plucky Band of Englishmen Hauled Boats Over Mountains and Wrested Control of Lake Tanganyika from Germans
  • America Reconciled to Sacrifices of the War: History Teaches Lesson That Individuals Do Not Count—Victory Over Germany Will Be a Mere Incident in Uplifting the World
  • Mayor’s Grandfather Prophesied This War When Germans Were Winning in 1870-71
  • History of the War in American Cartoons: Art at Home and Abroad
  • Women Striving for Efficiency in War Work: Ida Tarbell, of Woman’s Committee of Council of National Defense, Describes Co-ordination in Work of Many Organizations
  • Sailor Tells of U.S. Fleet’s Brush with U-Boat: First Torpedo, Which Missed American Ship Only Thirty Yards, Was Followed by Two Others While the Deck Guns Boomed
  • Women at the Beaches Only Knit, Knit, Knit: Other Pleasures and Labors Are Abandoned for the Wartime Craze, Which Reaches Its Climax at Atlantic City
Even the article about knitting contained a subheading tying it into the war!
My grandparents talk about WWII just consumed everything about their lives. It’s fascinating to me just how all-consuming a true all-out war can be. Let us hope we never see one again.

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Written by Jesse

August 6th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food

According to the historical consumer price index, 30 cents in August 1917 was worth $5.65 in June 2017, the most recent month for which inflation can be calculated. Can you live on $5.65 worth of food per day in the modern era?

The article portrays it as a major feat, but it actually doesn’t strike me as too difficult, especially if you eat homemade prepared meals and don’t eat out. Get some bread, turkey, American cheese, and mayonnaise — you can make two sandwiches for lunch at the cost of, what, maybe a dollar or two? Have some Cheerios and milk for breakfast, that’s maybe another dollar or two.

But you would almost certainly have to spend more than $5.65 to eat what the author, Dr. Mary K. Isham, describes over the course of a day:

  • “A bowl of steamed whole wheat with milk and sugar” [for breakfast]
  • “Three cheese sandwiches, a large glass of iced whiskyless eggnor with a few  drops of vanilla instead, and a big banana” [“for luncheon”]
  • “Two slices of beef loaf, baked yesterday; boiled corn on the cob, a plate of combination salad, three slices of bread and butter, coffee, half a sugar melon, and two wafers of chocolate peppermint” [for dinner]

 

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food: New York Doctor Tells How She Manages to Spend Only That Much for Three Square Meals Consisting of First-Class Viands (PDF)

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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August 5th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in Health

Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front

Soldiers in boot camp preparing for entry into World War I had to confront a relatively new invention: poison gas. As this BBC World Service article notes, the first major gas attack ever used in warfare took place in January 1915, but actually killed comparatively few soldiers relative to the amount of fear it spread.

Still, soldiers had to be prepared:

“Gas also has become a contingency to which men must be accustomed during their training… They are passed through a dugout filled with asphyxiating gas, and the efficiency of the apparatus with which they are supplied is practically demonstrated. Gas is more dangerous to the morale of the troops than to their actual safety, and this demonstration of its harmlessness, if the right steps are taken to counteract it, through which every man going to the front must pass, does much to disarm the gas attack of its worst terrors.”

Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front: Outline of British Methods Shows How the American Soldiers Are Being Taught — Trenches Flooded With Gas for Practice (PDF)

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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August 4th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in War

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business

Although we now usually associate the phrase “draft dodger” with Vietnam avoiders going to Canada, the phenomenon occurred on a lesser scale during World War I as well. (Though far less frequently, given the almost unanimous American support and patriotism for the war effort.)

This article on the subject begins in the second-person, being addressed to “you” — a form of writing almost entire unseen in the pages of the New York Times during this ear.

“A word with you, Mr. Would-Be Slacker. If you’re thinking of trying to dodge the selective draft by pretending physical disability when you get before the local examination board, here’s a bit of advice: Don’t. Since you are Mr. Would-Be Slacker there is no use preaching patriotism to you. But here is something that will influence you: If you try to dodge the draft and are caught, there is a heavy penalty, both fine and imprisonment; and you’re almost sure to get caught.”

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business: Scientific Methods for Detecting Malingerers Who Pretend Ailments of Eyes, Ears or Muscles (PDF)

From Sunday, July 29, 2017

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July 28th, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Health,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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July 20th, 2017 at 7:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as Nation’s Anthem

The Francis Scott Key song, though written in 1814, was not fully recognized as the American national anthem until patriotic fervor struck upon involvement in World War I in 1917. The Star-Spangled Banner would not be officially declared as the American national anthem until 1931, and would not even be played at a sports game for the first time until 1918.

As this article notes: “No theater audiences stood while it was being played in 1898, and, in fact, the general disposition at that period, at least in the Northeastern part of the United States, was to elevate ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,’ to the place of honor.”

I can personally attest that being the singer for the national anthem before a sports game, as this column I wrote for my college newspaper years ago recounts:

‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as Nation’s Anthem: Only Since the Present War Against Germany Began Has It Been Generally Recognized — The Real Story of Its Origin (PDF)

From Sunday, July 15, 1917

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July 19th, 2017 at 7:31 am

Posted in History,Music,War

Harden, Who Talks Freely and Yet Avoids Jail

 

Maximilian Harden’s German newspaper Die Zukunft, or The Future, was willing to write in defense of American President Woodrow Wilson and against Kaiser Wilhelm II, despite a sharp German crackdown on the press.

How? The article speculates that perhaps Harden possessed embarrassing or incriminating information against the Kaiser that he was using as blackmail — not unlike current claims of Russian blackmail against President Trump. Indeed, Harden had previously exposed a homosexual relationship between members of the German Cabinet in 1907, a shocking scandal at the time.

Alas, Harden ended his newspaper in 1923 and passed away in 1927, before his pen could have perhaps done some more fighting against Hitler.

Harden, Who Talks Freely and Yet Avoids Jail: German Editor’s Astonishing Record of Assailing Junkerdom and Praising America — One of the Few Who Dare to Speak (PDF)

From Sunday, July 8, 1917

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July 6th, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Journalism

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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July 2nd, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Health,Life,War

Orville Wright Says 10,000 Airplanes Would End the War Within Ten Weeks

Less than 14 years after Orville Wright became the first human being to ever take flight in an airplane, he had lived to see his invention was being used in World War I, the first major war to utilize the technology en masse. (His brother and co-inventor Wilbur Wright had passed away in 1912.)

In this article, Wright predicted that “10,000 airplanes [used by the U.S.] would end the war within ten weeks.” Alas, that prediction proved overly optimistic. The war continued for several more years despite U.S. manufacturers producing 12,000 airplanes per year.

Orville Wright Says 10,000 Airplanes Would End the War Within Ten Weeks: Building a Vast Aerial Fleet Is “the One Thing That the United States Can Do and Do Quickly” – Our Plants Equal to the Task (PDF)

From Sunday, July 1, 1917

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July 2nd, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Technology,War

Making Middle-Aged Men Fit to Help in War

The unprecedented manpower required for World War I fighting forces provoked worries that those men older than 45 might be required to fight, in a way that was previously unthinkable. Yale’s Mentor of Athletics Walter Camp suggested that “Each man should so order his own life as to put himself into proper physical condition.”

“At the bottom of his heart every man who feels the urge of his manhood wants to have an actual part in the actual game. He may be doing his full share in a dozen different ways, his services may be infinitely more valuable along civilian lines than they could be on the tented field, and yet the supreme call may come and he wants to be ready to answer. In the final clash, in the ultimate onslaught of the enemies of civilization, it is the reserves that will count, yes, even to the very last man. And you or I may be that man.”

In other words, get those jumping jacks in.

Making Middle-Aged Men Fit to Help in War: Walter Camp Urges Plan of Moderate Physical Training, on the Plea That Americans Over 45 Years Old May Yet Be Needed (PDF)

From Sunday, June 24, 1917

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June 21st, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Health,War

Alcohol Upheld as an Aid to Medical Practice

A prominent physician in 1917 believed:

“His strong conviction that the time would never come when alcohol would no longer be used in illness.  So far as Dr. Robinson can see, that time should not come, for there are conditions which absolutely demand the use of alcohol as a prominent part of medicine.”

According to a physician I asked in research for this post, alcohol is almost never used in modern-day medicine anymore. He wrote, “I can’t think of an illness where alcohol is used. Several over the counter cold medicines and mouthwashes have small amounts of alcohol, used to make the active ingredients more soluble. But, other than perhaps sleepiness, the alcohol has no actual medicinal value.”

According to the San Diego State University Center for Alcohol & Drug Studies and Services, here is a list of medicines containing alcohol. As you can see, there aren’t many, and even the ones that do rarely contain above a single-digit percentage.

So much for that 1917 prediction.

Alcohol Upheld as an Aid to Medical Practice: Dr. Beverly Robinson, Eminent Clinician, Takes Issue with Dr. Charles H. Mayo and Other Champions of Prohibition (PDF)

From Sunday, June 17, 1917

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June 19th, 2017 at 10:09 am

Posted in Health

What the New Army Expects of Its Chaplains

As American involvement in World War I escalated dramatically, more and more chaplains were needed to provide religious guidance and support for soldiers.

“There are now sixty-six chaplains appointed to the regular army, representing every Christian denomination. The scheme of the General Staff for the new army provides one Chaplain with every new regiment ordered. This will mean that in six months, at the latest, about 300 clergymen will be called from their parishes to work with American troops at home and abroad.”

You may not think of chaplains when they think of Americans deployed overseas in wartime, but 23 chaplains died during World War I while on active duty.

As for the reference to chaplains “representing every Christian denomination,” the first Buddhist chaplain was added in 2004 and the first Hindu chaplain in 2011. An effort to install the first atheist chaplain in 2015 was rejected by military lawyers, in a controversial decision.

What the New Army Expects of Its Chaplains: One of Them Outlines His Views Based Upon Years of Experience with Regulars — Preaching Only a Part of the Duties (PDF)

From Sunday, June 17, 1917

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June 17th, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Religion,War

Business Men in Control of American Colleges

Evans Clark, a professor of history and politics and Princeton, lamented the increased influence of members of the business community on American universities in 1917. Clark perceived these board of trustees or regents as often lacking either familiarity or best interests of the school they represented:

Princeton University, however, is legally not the Faculty and students, the community citizenship, but a group of twenty-nine men in no way responsible to them, and none of whom lives or functions at the university. These twenty-nine men at Princeton, and other small groups like them in every college and university community, are in law rulers whose power is absolute.

They have the legal authority to employ and dismiss whomsoever they wish in the service of their institution — the President, the professors, administrative officers, janitors, and day laborers. And no one of these, it is well to note, has any more constitutional security of tenure than another. They can discharge a janitor who complains that his wages are low, or an instructor who makes the fact known to his classes.

That Trustees and Regents to not exercise in practice every one of the powers granted to them by law is proof not of any lack of authority, but merely a lack of desire to do so.

It’s an increasing issue now: according to a 2015 Atlantic article, “Twenty percent of U.S. college presidents in 2012 came from fields outside academia, up from from 13 percent six years earlier, according to the American Council on Education.”

Business Men in Control of American Colleges: Member of Princeton’s Teaching Force Criticises Condition Which He Regards as a Baneful Autocracy in Higher Education (PDF)

From Sunday, June 10, 1917

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June 8th, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Business,Education

Part Played by Doctors in Time of World War

Two years after this was published, Charles Mayo would found the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota-based nonprofit medical research center that is ranked was the best hospital in the nation last year by U.S. News and World Report. In 1917, though, he was the president of the American Medical Association. He had some thoughts on the role that doctors and the medical profession could play in World War I.

The benefit to our country after the present war in having some thousands of medical officers trained in sanitation, hygiene, and the prevention of disease will be incalculable. Through lax examinations of recruits and the natural effects of prolonged living and overcrowding in trenches and underground structures, tuberculosis will become a menace to our soldiers, as it is today in France.

The present war is one of remarkable proportions, and the medical service has assumed an importance such as it never had before. The old army hospital gangrene is a thing of the past. A knowledge of the care of infections, prevention of tetanus, vaccination for smallpox and typhoid, the cause and prevention of typhus, the old camp fever, also cholera, the plague, and fevers of all sorts, including the new trench form, is a training requirement of the army medical officers, and results in the restoration to duty of a high percentage of the injured.

Fortunately, smallpox has been eradicated from the earth. Other suggestions that Mayo mentioned in the article, such as changing the age at which an M.D. is received from 29 to 25 because “death overtakes the average physician at the age of fifty-eight” have not quite come to pass.

Part Played by Doctors in Time of World War: Dr. Charles H. Mayo’s Address on Country’s Educational Requirements, Prohibition, and Need of Physician in the Cabinet (PDF)

From Sunday, June 10, 1917

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June 7th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Health,War

Ranks of Outdoor Sport Are Thinned by War

World War I was preventing athletic competitions from occurring as they normally would:

“For the first time in forty-one years the intercollegiate games, in which all the larger college teams of the East and many from the West have been participants, have been abandoned because of the fact that more than a thousand of the students who would under normal conditions have been training for the sports have either left college for the preliminary training camps or have given up athletics for the military drill which monopolizes the athletic fields. For the first time since the close of the war between the States there will be no big college regattas, nor any national rowing regatta. National golf and tennis championships have been declared off, either for good and sufficient sentimental reasons or because of ‘unnecessary hysteria’ over the sporting situation, as some of the followers of these sports declare.”

Read the mesmerizing Sports Illustrated cover story “The Week That Sports Stood Still” from their first issue after 9/11 for a more contemporary example of the same phenomenon.

Ranks of Outdoor Sport Are Thinned by War: Athletic Leaders in Camp, and Colleges Cancel Dates, But Government Is Trying to Prevent Stoppage of Healthful Recreations (PDF)

From Sunday, June 3, 1917

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June 2nd, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Sports,War

Marconi on the War Needs and Ideals of Italy

 

Guglielmo Marconi — in the above article given the Americanized first name William — invented the radio in 1895. Although it took a bit more time for the technology to become widespread and used en masse by the public, it had already earned him the Nobel Prize by 1909 and household name recognition by this article’s publication in 1917. In a fascinating story, Marconi was originally supposed to be on board the Titanic in 1912.

In this article, Marconi — by this point an Italian Senator — offers his thoughts on Italy and the war. Among other things, he explains why Italy’s original August 1914 declaration of neutrality could no longer stand, why Italy’s terrain and geography made it “the most difficult front in Europe,” and why Italians were forced to adopt two meatless days a week.

Marconi on the War Needs and Ideals of Italy: Wireless Telegraph Inventor Tells How America Can Help His Country — He Thinks Submarine Problem Still Unsolved (PDF)

From Sunday, June 3, 1917

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June 1st, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Technology,War