Priming the Feminine Voter for the Primaries

1920’s primaries were the first where women could vote in New York state. Henrietta Wells Livermore, Chair of New York’s Republican Women’s State Executive Committee in 1920, insisted it was vital that women vote, or else men may regret allowing suffrage at all:

According to the opinion of old-time politicians, it is only about 15 per cent of the men who turn out at the primaries. The women do not dare duplicate this figure. They will be accused of lack of interest, of playing with the vote as with a toy, of having the time but not the inclination to use that power over which they have fought for so long.

That number has about doubled a century later, with 28.5% of eligible voters voting in either a Republican or Democratic presidential primary in 2016. That represented the second-highest percentage since 1980, though a bit short of the modern record 30.4% in 2008.

 

The change was likely caused because primaries in 1920 generally didn’t “count” like they do now. Most states didn’t even have primaries — Oregon became the first in 1910 — and candidates were still ultimately decided at national conventions anyway.

Take four years later, in 1924. The Democratic primaries were won strongly by William McAdoo, while party leader wanted Al Smith. As a result, the convention took 99 ballots to nominate the compromise candidate John W. Davis, who few truly wanted as their first choice. Davis only won 25.6% of the Electoral College and 28.8% of the popular vote, losing decisively to Calvin Coolidge.

 

Priming the Feminine Voter for the Primaries: Political and Non-Partisan Organizations Establish Correspondence Kindergartens to Teach the A B C of the Ballot — Magistrate Norris Sees Opportunity Which the Male Contingent Has Neglected (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 4, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 30th, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Project to Make Great Lakes Another Mediterranean

Should the five Great Lakes be connected for transportation and navigation, like the Panama Canal? In 1920, it was being seriously debated.

Pro: the economics.

New exports would be developed. Our export of coal is in its infancy. The United States is said to have half of the world’s coal. It will be called for by the world more and more. But there is no way to get to the seaboard economically from the great producing centres. More than any other product it clogs up the railroads. With a water route open from the lakes to the ocean, our export of coal would grow by leaps and bounds.

Con: also the economics.

According to them, the… project would waste money and help cripple United States commerce. In support of the first objection they assert that the New York Barge Canal, which already exists, is the only economic and feasible method of transporting cargoes from the lake ports to the Atlantic seaboard. No matter how deep or how wide the new waterway is made, they insist that no ship will find it a sound business venture to potter through the innumerable locks and narrow waterways. The greatest speed a lake or ocean steam could make through this waterway would be four miles an hour. The expense entailed, it is asserted, would be too stupendous to make the trip pay.

Although the Great Lakes were connected naturally, it was often too shallow or difficult for ships to actually navigate in practice. Today, the Great Lakes Waterway (GLW) has now accomplished that goal. The Welland Canal, connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario, was completed in 1932. The Soo Locks, connecting Lakes Superior and Huron, was fully completed in 1943.

 

Project to Make Great Lakes Another Mediterranean: Western States Favor Plan, but Many in New York Fear Effect on Barge Canal — Improvement of St. Lawrence Would Yield 2,000,000 Horse Power — Outlet for Wheat Fields (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 28, 1920

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March 24th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Motor Owners Paying High Gasoline Prices

In March 1920, gas prices hovered at 31 to 35 cents a gallon. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $4.07 to $4.59 — or double the current national average of $2.21.

Two main factors caused the high 1920 gas prices: demand outstripping supply, and the end of World War I.

Gasoline consumption has increased in much greater proportion than its production in recent years. The number of motor cars in the United States was estimated at the close of 1919 at slightly more than 7,500,000, an increase of 23 percent during the year. For the same period the gasoline production only showed an increase of 9 percent.

While conservation in gasoline was strongly urged during the war and was sufficiently adhered to to show appreciable results, it is said that less care has been shown in gasoline economy since the signing of the armistice.

Today, there are also two main factors for the low gas prices: the broader economic crash in the past week due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), and this month’s oil conflict between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Source: GasBuddy.com/Charts

 

Motor Owners Paying High Gasoline Prices: No Stability in Retail Rates, Which Range from 31 to 35 Cents a Gallon Since Recent Increase (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 21, 1920

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March 20th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

China Chief Problem in Maintaining World Peace

This 1920 article named China as the country most threatening world peace. As the Chinese-originated COVID-19 disease shuts down life and economies across the globe, that prophecy appears prescient.

Indeed, President Trump has increasingly and controversially taken to calling it “the Chinese virus.” However, many medical experts including the World Health Organization have called on him to stop:

But aside from the coronavirus, is China otherwise the country most threatening world peace today? That’s hard to say — depending on who you ask, that ignominious title probably goes to North Korea, Russia, or Iran. China is likely up there, but probably not #1 in most experts’ minds.

Or maybe the country most threatening world peace is actually America? A 2017 Pew research poll found that globally, 35% of respondents thought America’s power and influence was a major threat, compared to 31% who said the same of Russia and China.

This 1920 article about China was written by Theodore E. Burton, a Republican former U.S. senator from Ohio. (He would later return to the position again for less than a year in 1928-29.) Burton suggested that China had massive potential, but that its poor economy and lack of national unity at the time would hamper it.

The result of all these conditions is that the Chinese are a people, not a nation, an aggregation of families and clans, so distinct in their aspirations and interests as to create almost insuperable obstacles to unity and political organization. With most of them life is a constant struggle for daily bread, and in that struggle the obligations of each day are primarily to relatives and neighbors. Thus loyalty is not to any Government, but to family and friends.

Since then, China’s economy has skyrocketed thanks to its partial embrace of free-market principles, and its national unity has also soared ever since the Chinese Communist Party’s takeover in 1949.

Burton quoted former Secretary of State John Hay about China: “Whoever understands this mighty empire, socially, politically, economically, and religiously, has the key to the world’s politics for the next three centuries.”

Yes and no. China has absolutely surged as a global power, now claiming the world’s largest population and second-largest economy. But the country that truly became the “key to the world’s politics” between 1920 and 2020 was less China and more the U.S., which a century ago was certainly a major player but arguably not yet the global superpower, as it would become in earnest post-WWII and especially post-Cold War.

 

China Chief Problem in Maintaining World Peace: Country Is Backward Politically Because Its Gaze Is Backward, and Its Enormous Natural Riches Are a Temptation to Stronger Powers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 21, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 19th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Will Congress Stop Federal Wastefulness?

There had always been some level of U.S. government waste, but for more than a century, those revenues were almost entirely collected through tariffs. That changed in the early 20th century, with the federal corporate tax created in 1909, income tax in 1913, and estate tax in 1916. People increasingly felt it was their own hard-earned dollars being wasted.

So a proposed 1920 committee to reorganize the government was suggested, hopefully to be headed by former Secretary of the Interior Franklin Knight Lane, who had resigned mere weeks prior “because his salary was insufficient to provide for his family.”

(The salary was $12,000 at the time, or about $178,939 adjusted for inflation. That’s about -16% lower than the current Secretary of the Interior’s pay: $213,600.)

The question is, How far will the reforms go? Will they be fundamental, reaching down to the first causes, or will the defenders of the old methods — bureaucracy, apprehensive of wide changes, and Congressmen true to the traditions of the pork barrel — succeed in forcing compromises that offer the appearance and not the reality of true reform?

Spoiler alert: it was the latter.

Last month I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act, a bill from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) which would require an annual report about government projects running $1 billion overbudget or five years behind schedule.

 

Will Congress Stop Federal Wastefulness?: Only a Thorough Reorganization of Government Departments, Each of Which Wears a Coat of Many Colors, Can End Bureaucracy and the Pork Barrel — Lane Is Suggested for Work (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 14, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 10th, 2020 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Politics

Shall Women Practice Party Regularity?

As women gained the right to vote in 1920, should they be partisan or independent? Two women debated the issue in the New York Times: Republican Henrietta Wells Livermore for women’s partisanship vs. Democrat Katrina Ely Tiffany for women’s independence.

Livermore:

Women are not primarily office seekers. Therein lies their value in a political organization. They can sit on political committees and lend their efforts toward shaping the principles which will be followed by the members of the party. Without affiliation, the way is long and roundabout. With affiliation, they can strike their blows where they will do the most good.

Tiffany:

Women are a new force in the political life of the nation. Some men recognize that fact; others do not. Until all of them, or at least a majority of them, do, it is foolish for them to insist upon women’s loyalty to a program with which they have had nothing to do. No political party should depend on the entire loyalty of its women members if they have not had a voice in shaping the platform of the party and helping to select the candidates.

In recent years, women seem to be acting more according to Livermore’s position.

In 1994, female voters leaned more Democratic than Republican by 6 points; by 2017, that was up to 19 points. And female voters voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 15 points.

 

Shall Women Practice Party Regularity?: Opinion Among Suffragists Is Divided, Some Maintaining That Independence Would Be More Effective as a Political Factor — Four Types Among the New Acquisitions as Voters (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 7, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 5th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Simplify the Income Tax? — Perhaps, But Not Soon

Federal corporate tax was created in 1909, income tax in 1913, and estate tax in 1916. By 1920, there were already calls for the tax code’s simplification.

How quaint. Back then, federal tax law ran less than 500 pages. Now it’s more than 70,000.

Source: Tax Foundation

So why is the tax code so complex? One of the biggest reasons given by this 1920 article was limiting follow-ups on the part of tax collectors:

A chief decision, in the policy that was developed, was to reduce correspondence to as low a point as possible, both for the convenience of the taxpayer and the government, because even a small exchange of letters with 4,000,000 persons would mean an immense item. This is a reason given for putting the great number of questions on the income tax blanks. The aim was to bring out the material for a complete audit, without the necessity of follow the receipt of the return from the taxpayer with letters for more information. The friends of Daniel C. Roper, Collector of Internal Revenue, say that only his genius for organization enabled him to mold a machine that could take on and carry such a huge load.

So what to do? One of the most important writers of the 1913 tax law, Rep. Cordell Hull (D-TN4), suggested that objections about complexity would largely dissipate on their own, as people became more familiar with the process each year:

“I think also that the number of complaints will be reduced as the taxpayers become more accustomed to making out the blanks. If each one read the instructions first, carefully, there would not be much difficulty now. A man starts in without having posted himself in advance, makes mistakes, and has to go back. As to difficulties that can be removed, Congress will be enabled to legislate more accurately as soon as it gets the technical facts.”

That prediction was not to be.

 

Simplify the Income Tax? — Perhaps, But Not Soon: Washington Buzzes With Official Reasons for the Complicated Blanks, and One Congressional Reformer Actually Predicts a Method Which Taxpayers Can Understand (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 7, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 4th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

SundayMagazine.org will take three weeks off, because NYT Sunday Magazine did the same in February-March 1920

On February 21, 1920, New York Times readers were greeted with this message:

 

The magazine’s hiatus didn’t last too long, only three weeks, returning on March 7. Albeit in a diminished form, as the editors warned, with fewer articles than before.

Coming exactly 100 years ago to the week that America’s second-largest newspaper chain McClatchy filed for bankruptcy, it’s a reminder that America’s newspaper industry has often seemed down — but it’s never been out. No, not even in the 2010s and 2020s.

In fact, during the past few years, the largest increase in newspaper and magazine print subscriptions has actually been among Millennials. That left-leaning generation not only sees fact-checking and journalism as a bulwark against Trump and the right, but they’re often into pre-digital throwback technologies, responsible for the 14-consecutive-year increase in vinyl record sales.

 

SundayMagazine.org will resume the week of March 7.

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February 18th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

ABC of Foreign Exchange

From 1870 to 1914, most Western countries adopted the gold standard, with the primary intent to keep inflation in check. It set a standard value for a country’s currency based on an equivalent value of gold.  The U.S. began doing so in 1900.

World War I changed all that. Most nations temporarily suspended their gold standards, to print way more money to pay for their surging military costs. The U.S. returned to a gold standard again in 1919, the year after the war ended. Not every country which previously had a gold standard followed suit, though, which created some big problems for international trade circa 1920:

The point here is the confusion of the exchange of currencies produced by the breakdown of the monetary system… Why is that greater just now than at any other time? It is because of the difficulties of the keepers of international accounts who have to deal with fractions without a common denominator.

Exchanges of currencies used to be managed by the use of gold. When different currencies would buy equal amounts of gold, the currencies were of equal value in the same place… But gold can now be got for currency at par only in the United States. In other countries gold is at a premium, and if the gold is at a premium the currency given for it must be at a discount.

On only the second month of FDR’s presidency in April 1933, he tried to counter the Great Depression by ordering Americans to trade in their gold for dollars, which (unlike gold) they could actually spend to hopefully jumpstart the economy. As a result, the U.S. created the gold stash at Fort Knox, Kentucky, which exists to this day at a value of more than $6 billion.

Because the U.S. government now held most of the world’s gold, other countries gradually began using the dollar as a benchmark by which to value their currency, rather than gold as they had before. Even today, despite fears that the Chinese yuan could someday replace it, the U.S. dollar remains the peg by which foreign exchanges are measured.

The U.S. discontinued the gold standard in 1971.

Thanks to the article History of the Gold Standard by Kimberly Amadeo in The Balance for much of this information.

ABC of Foreign Exchange: Most Important Crisis in History of International Trade Has Caused Dramatic Upset in Financial Capitals of World (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 15, 1920

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Written by Jesse

February 12th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Economy / Finance

The Next War

In 1920, Harvard government professor Albert Bushnell Hart accurately predicted Germany and Italy might launch another world war. His prediction that it may occur within five years was a bit pessimistic — it actually took 19.

When you turn to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the patient has taken not ether but hasheesh [sic], and is either submerged in dreams or raving with terror and fury. Germany undoubtedly wants peace for the present, but, as a vigorous and intellectual German has recently written: “We Germans in general remain sound and complete; so much the world will certainly experience in the future.” Nobody can believe that the German people have been made a peace-loving nation by their defeat.

He was right about Germany, which later became one of the three main Axis powers in World War II, along with Japan and Italy. Speaking of which, Hart was also concerned about Italy too.

The cry which went through the world in 1917 was that civilization was dying unless the Western powers could band together “to make democracy safe” and, much more directly, to make safe their capitals, ports, factories, mines, and fields. For this, 2,000,000 American soldiers crossed the sea, and by their actual fighting and their presence turned the balance. And who can fail to see that democracy is still at least unsatisfied, even in the democratic countries of Great Britain, France, and Italy? Public opinion in those countries is still a boiling pot; nobody can say with any confidence what party or what political group will be in power and make the decisions in those three countries five years hence. And all those countries are in a dangerous, and some in a desperate, financial situation.

So what do to if international tensions boiled over into a worldwide conflict again? Hart’s answer reflected a perceived inevitability:

What would we do in those circumstances? What could we do, but what was done in 1917? Declare war and trust in Providence!

He was right… for better or for worse.

The Next War: Demoralized but Bellicose World May Come to It in Five Years, Unless the League and Universal Training Are Adopted as Protection (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 8, 1920

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Written by Jesse

February 6th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Carillon Tower Planned as a Victory Memorial

In 1920, a tower of bells to honor America’s WWI victory — one bell provided by each U.S. state — was planned for Washington, D.C. The structure was never built.

Further to enhance the proposed carillon with a peculiar memorial significance, bills have been introduced in Congress to grant the use of 200,000 pounds of brass shell cases, or other brass or copper salvaged from the battlefields of France, to be used in the making of the bells. War metals from each of the allies will also be sought for the bells.

Although several of these bell towers — called “carillons” — were built to honor WWI globally, including several in the U.S., none were built in the Washington, D.C. area.

The nation’s most prominent WWI carillon today is probablythe 240-foot structure in Richmond, Virginia. Although not a carillon because it contains no bells, the 217-foot Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri is also a prominent memorial to the war.

The primary carillon in the Washington, D.C. area today is the Netherlands Carillon to honor WWII, erected in 1954 just outside Arlington National Cemetery.

Construction on the long-awaited WWI memorial in the nation’s capital only began last month: December 2019.

 

Carillon Tower Planned as a Victory Memorial: Music of Bells, One Provided by Each State and Territory, Would Sound Over Washington as Daily Reminders of America’s Part in the World War (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 1, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 28th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Art,Military / War

France’s New President

When Paul Deschanel was elected president of France in January 1920, this article predicted great things. Instead, his behavior proved so erratic that he resigned after seven months and entered a mental institution.

Now if Paul Deschanel is to tread carefully in the footsteps of his excellent predecessors of the Third Republic, he has received the best possible schooling during his long career as President of the Chamber. He is promoted from presiding officer of a legislature to presiding officer of a nation. Aside from that and still with due attention paid to the traditions of the Presidency, as far as political affairs are concerned, there are great possibilities for Paul Deschanel.

Actually, the opposite occurred. Deschanel’s behavior became increasingly unhinged, culminating in falling out the window of a moving train and subsequently wandering around outside aimlessly in his pajamas. He resigned the presidency in September 1920 and entered a sanatorium.

Yet upon his release he was elected to France’s Senate, where he served for the rest of his life — apparently without incident, as far as I can tell.

Deschanel’s prior political position, President of the Chamber of Deputies, is equivalent to the American position Speaker of the House. Fortunately, America has had the opposite track record as France: only one Speaker of the House has ever become president, James K. Polk, and historians rank him in the top third of all presidents.

France’s New President: Paul Deschanel’s Shadowy Office Better Matched to His Personality Than to the Rugged Figure of Clemenceau (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 25, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 22nd, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Unhappiness

In the early months of Prohibition, a common phrase swept the land.

“Of course, that was before the first of July,” one heard everywhere. Men winked at you in the street and whispered that “was before the first of July.” Children in the schools are taught ancient and modern American history now. Our ancient history was pre-July. Our modern history was post-July. Our laughter subsided into a whisper. We used to speak of Uncle Sam. Now we speak in awesome tones of his successor, Geoffrey Bootleg.

One man interviewed in this 1920 article postulated that with alcohol banned, freedom at large would soon follow:

“Do you know that when the barroom goes, democracy goes with it? Under the Caesars and Cromwell there were no bars. The bar parlor, the wine room, the cantina, the barroom flourish in direct ratio to the quantity and quality of the freedom that exists in a country. All Bastiles are undermined by the music of clinking glasses in public places. All Bastiles rise also to the pump of hidden stills.

“The American barroom abolished caste. The proletariat, the bourgeoisie, and the patrician got together over the bar rail. All men were created free and equal before a white apron. In the barroom race, color, or present condition of servitude melted into universal goodfellowship. Liquor was the eternal democrat. Laughter and drink leveled all humanity before the big mirror. There was, in the good old barroom, a continual interlocking of classes.”

That premise is certainly debatable. If bars were really the great equalizer in society, there wouldn’t have been such a large number of bars back then with signs in the windows reading ‘No Coloreds Allowed.’ And Prohibition was repealed in 1933, right at the moment that — at least under the economic libertarianism definition — unprecedented government intervention caused a substantial decrease in Americans’ freedom.

 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Unhappiness: Now That Our Bronze Goddess Enlightens the World With Wood Alcohol, the Inalienable Right to Decline a Drink Is Alienated (PDF)

Published: January 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 16th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

Democratic Candidates: Hoover, Without a Political Past, With Palmer and McAdoo in Forefront of Discussion

10 months before the 1920 presidential election, there were three leading Democratic candidates. None would become that year’s nominee, but one would later be elected president… as a Republican.

The three leading contenders were Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, former Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo, and former Federal Food Administrator Herbert Hoover.

Prior to the 22nd Amendment’s ratification in 1951, limiting the president to two terms, then-second term Democratic President Woodrow Wilson hoped to serve a third term. But party bosses were skeptical about nominating him following his debilitating stroke in October 1919, which left him immobile.

Ohio Governor James M. Cox ended up winning the Democratic nomination, on the party convention’s 44th ballot.

Hoover was seeking the Democratic nomination because of his lead role helping rebuild Europe after World War I under a Democratic president, although that position was relatively nonpartisan. Two months after this article, in March 1920, Hoover switched his allegiance to the Republicans and sought that party’s nomination instead. The strategy failed, with Hoover failing to even break the top 10 candidates at the Republican convention.

In early 1920, there were also three leading Republican candidates. One of them, Warren Harding, would win the nomination — and the presidency. Sunday Magazine recently covered the New York Times‘ similar article about the top three Republican contenders:

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign

That certainly wasn’t the end for Hoover, but the beginning. He would serve as Harding’s Secretary of Commerce for all eight years, then won the presidency himself in 1928.

 

Democratic Candidates: Hoover, Without a Political Past, With Palmer and McAdoo in Forefront of Discussion (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 15th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Madame Ouija, Bolshevik of the Spirit World

The huge fad in 1920: ouija boards. Americans went crazy trying to communicate with the deceased and the great beyond.

This January 1920 article hyperbolized and satirized the trend:

Telephones are rapidly falling into the discard; men, women and children ring up Hyperspace and talk with their ancestors and their pre-natal souls. Books are being written with the aid of “controls”; the stock market has abandoned the ticker for the ouija pointer; the weather forecaster has tossed his maps and wind measures into the river and gets his predictions from the spirits.

Why did the board surge in sales then? Likely because of the era’s tumult, wrote Linda Rodriguez McRobbie for Smithsonian Magazine:

It’s quite logical then the board would find its greatest popularity in uncertain times, when people hold fast to belief and look for answers from just about anywhere, especially cheap, DIY oracles. The 1910s and ’20s, with the devastations of World War I and the manic years of the Jazz Age and prohibition, witnessed a surge in Ouija popularity.

In May 1920, no less a chronicler of the American way than Norman Rockwell painted a couple with a ouija board for a Saturday Evening Post cover:

 

Madame Ouija, Bolshevik of the Spirit World: Sinister Suggestion by a Worshipper of the Psychic Goddess That There’s a Slight Impediment in Her Veracity (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 11, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 8th, 2020 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Life

Paraguay, Land of the Tea With a “Kick”

This 1920 article predicted Paraguay’s beverage yerba mate “may become a habit some day in the United States.” It was not to be.

The article also noted the country’s 10:1 female-male ratio. Today, it’s completely even.

A celebrated and valuable product of the little inland South American Republican of Paraguay is “yerba maté,” made from the leaf of a very tall, bulky tree. The leaves are cut from the branches, placed on brushwood and roasted slowly in holes sunk in the ground and lined with skins.

The tea is imbibed through a “bombilla,” or tube, which is placed in the “maté,” or gourd, containing the infusion. An alcoholic “kick” is not claimed for yerba maté, but that it is refreshing to a degree — that it will certainly buck one up — is attested by the fact that a large proportion of the people of Central South America are irrevocably addicted to it. Its popularity extends to all classes.

A century later, it had yet to catch on in the U.S.

The women outnumber the men ten to one, which really indicates a considerable gain for the male sex, because fifty years ago the score was said to be twenty-five to one in favor of the women.

Paraguay’s gender disparity has completely evened out by now, with the country’s male:female ratio at a virtually-identical 1.01 to 1, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. (If anything, that means men actually slightly outnumber women.)

Paraguay, Land of the Tea With a “Kick”: Yerba Mate May Yet Become a Favorite Dry Beverage Here–Inland South American Republic, With Ten Women to Each Man, Seeks Commercial Advancement (PDF)

Published: January 4, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 2nd, 2020 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Food,Life,Travel

Young Men More and More Active in Politics

In 1919, young men were becoming more active in politics. Is that true in 2019? Even if so, they still have perhaps the lowest political activity rate of any age/gender combo.

Only 33% of men aged 18-29 voted in the 2018 midterm election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Higher percentages of women in that age group voted (38%), and a far higher percentage of men aged 65+ voted (68%).

The consequences were literally world-changing. Donald Trump very likely would have lost if most the young men who claimed to strongly oppose him — which numbered millions — actually voted for Hillary Clinton. Instead, millions of young men who professed to dislike both Trump and Clinton didn’t vote at all.

(And even a not-insubstantial number of young men who did vote cast ballots for third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or write-in votes for Bernie Sanders or Ron Paul.)

This 1919 article doesn’t have similar turnout data, since such statistics were barely collected back then, if at all. It does include this explanatory quote from Republican National Committee Chair Will H. Hays, who tied the rise of young men in politics to the end of World War I the year prior:

It is a natural aftermath of war. During the last few years millions who hitherto thought that they could do nothing for their country have given generously themselves, their time, their money. It has been a revalation.

Millions of boys realized that the future of the nation was in their keeping. Those who had never thought of any of the serious things which make up America were suddenly brought face to face with reality. As they crossed the continent, as they crowded into ships to make the perilous journey overseas, as they worked and fought in France and as they rested they thought in unfamiliar ways of their country.

It seems to me that the spirit which was awakened under the stimulation of the conflict will not be content to forget the service of that high season. Young men will not forget. The nation which had the supreme demand upon them in time of war still wants their service and they know it. And they know their country needs this service.

Most interesting to modern eyes is FDR being listed in an accompanying photo compilation of young men in politics. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was 37 at the time. Today, we tend to think of him more as the grandfatherly figure he had become by his presidency, particularly his 1940s-era third and fourth terms when he led the nation during WWII.

Young Men More and More Active in Politics: Will H. Hays, Republican National Chairman, Says Stern Duty of Taking Part in Public Life Confronts Youth of the Country (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 28, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 27th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign

Who would become the Republican presidential nominee in 1920? In December 1919, three candidates led. Warren Harding ended up as president. Frank Lowden and Leonard Wood were largely forgotten by history.

This article broke down the pros and cons of each:

Ohio Senator Warren Harding

Advantages:

  • “Senator Harding stands out most conspicuously in the eyes of the Republican powers that be as a safe man… He apparently knows the secret of making advances in life without arousing antagonisms.”
  • “His greatest advantage from a political standpoint is that he hails from a pivotal State, a doubtful one with a big electoral vote. From being considered a rock-ribbed Republican State, Ohio has gone Democratic in the last two Presidential elections.” [Indeed, Ohio would vote Republican for Harding the following year. And it remains among the bigger swing states today.]

Disadvantages:

  • “Senator Harding has failed to come out in a clear-cut fashion on some of the important issues that have arisen in this country since the armistice, his opponents point out. They have waited in vain, they assert, to hear from him on the steel strike, the coal strike, the Plumb plan, and on radicalism generally.” [Indeed, this flip-flopping / wait-and-see approach were major marks against recent losing candidates John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and currently Joe Biden.]

Illinois Governor Frank Lowden

Advantages:

  • “In Governor Lowden’s career, starting from a humble beginning, there is a quality that has its appeal to the voter. He is the son of a village blacksmith.”
  • “He has an excellent record as administrator and reformer of the Illinois State Government… When he was elected Governor in 1916 there were 128 State commissions, overlapping in wastefulness and inefficiency. These were consolidated into nine departments and an effective budget system was introduced.”

Disadvantages:

  • “He lives in a State which is regarded as safely Republican.” [But so was Illinois a safely Democratic state for Barack Obama, so this argument seems flimsy to modern ears.]
  • “His large wealth could be made the target of attack to prejudice labor against him.” [Donald Trump is literally one of the wealthiest people on planet earth, and certainly in America, yet that didn’t seem to prejudice voters against him.]

Major General Leonard Wood

Advantages:

  • A beloved military hero. “In 1886, in the campaign against the Apaches in the West, his conduct as a medical and line officer won for him the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
  • “Because of his close association with Theodore Roosevelt, the following of the late leader is rallying to him.” [Roosevelt, a beloved two-term president whose face would later be carved into Mount Rushmore, had died in January of that year.]

Disadvantages:

  • “As the campaign unfolds, General Wood, as an officer under the President as Commander in Chief of the Army, is withheld from making known his views on questions uppermost before the people, or in putting his own energy in the fight for the nomination.”
  • “There is nothing in the army regulations to prevent him from becoming a candidate for the Presidency, but the ethics of it is another question, it is stated.”

 

Of these three leading Republican candidates at the time, Harding would go on to win both the nomination and the presidency.

But ’tis not always thus. Trump wasn’t in the top three Republican candidates before he announced — in fact, most people didn’t even think he was actually going to run at all. (He had been talking about running for president since at least 1988, but most people dismissed it at self-promotional since he’d never actually pulled the trigger.)

Of the top four Democratic candidates right now, three of them were initially viewed as top tier contenders — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders — but current fourth place Pete Buttigieg most certainly was not. Indeed, most people hadn’t even heard of him back on January 1.

 

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign, With Some Dark Horses in Background Republican Candidates (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 20th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Criminal Is a Defective, but Not a Type

Which matters more for influencing criminal behavior: nature or nuture? This 1919 paper from England, “the most complete first hand scientific study of the criminal that exists in any language,” found it was nature.

Presenting what seems to be the most complete first hand scientific study of the criminal that exists in any language, it goes a long way toward proving that there is no “criminal type,” and casts grave doubt upon the previously held theory that the criminal is a product chiefly of environment.

Dr. Goring comes to the conclusion that physical and mental defectiveness, like many other human qualities, is inherited, and he infers that crime is, to a large extent, a product of nature rather than of nurture and environment.

So what indeed determines criminal behavior, according to the study? Primarily inherited mental disorders:

First convictions show a preilection for the age period 15 to 25, which Dr. Goring concludes to be significant. Comparing this fact with the age incidences of liability to various diseases, he is inclined to interpret the facts as evidence that a “mental constitutional proclivity is the primal source of the habitual criminal’s career.”

The nature vs. nurture debate still plagues us today. Coming down on the nature side is the thought-provoking book  Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa. I actually had an email correspondence with Kanazawa after reading his book, and he was very friendly and helpful in elucidating some of his book’s ideas further. Coming down more on the nurture side is the 2018 documentary Three Identical Strangers, which I’d also highly recommend.

Every month I listen to the debate show Intelligence Squared U.S., in which teams of two debate a topic and the audience votes on which side most changed their minds. October’s episode on nature vs. nurture was terrific. I won’t spoil which side won, but the final score was +7% to +5%, one of the closest matches in the history of the show.

 

Criminal Is a Defective, but Not a Type: Conclusions from Biometrical Study of 3,000 British Convicts Discredit Lombroso’s Theory and Minimize the Influence of Environment (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 19th, 2019 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Science,True Crime

Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis

The end of World War I was great news for everyone, but especially for psychiatrists. Shouldn’t war have meant more need for psychiatrists, and peace meant less need? Actually, it was apparently the opposite.

They’re all back, it seems — that neurotic clan of wealthy women, ranging from hysterical debutantes to idle spinsters — from the victims of coddling husbands to “misunderstood wives.” Before the war their favorite indoor sport was symptoms. From April 1917 to November 1918, the neurosthenic market had a sensational slump. But the war is over — for the ladies, if not for prohibitionists.

One professional explained how the war had slashed demand for psychological services.

“Young girls,” said the doctor, “whose sole end in life had been to succeed in society and to make a ‘suitable match’ got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floors of canteens and hospitals. They had no time for introspection. Moreover, they had an emotional outlet, since patriotism is as intense an experience as religion.”

Interestingly, something similar may be happening currently. America is not at war, yet people seem to be more worried. Therapists have reported huge post-2016 spikes in people citing Donald Trump as a cause of their stress, worry, or psychological symptoms. (Those on the right call this “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”)

 

Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis: War’s Compensatory Outlets Closed, the Neurologists’ Waiting Rooms Are Crowded Again, and the Sanitaria for the Newly and Idly Rich Are Booming (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 14, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 10th, 2019 at 11:10 am

Posted in Health