Millions of Feet of Movie Films for Soldiers

Nearly a century before the release of — and subsequent suspected bomb scare related to — 2007’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, this 1918 article also contained the phrase “movie films.” But in this case, it referred to physical film, 7 to 8 million feet of which were shown to soldiers during World War I every week as recreation or downtime.

How were the films chosen?

After a number of experiments it has been decided that the week’s three movies at a camp shall include, as a general rule, the following: One all-man program — pictures of fighting, racing, adventure in the great outdoors; one comedy; and one drama.

The needs of the various camps differ widely. Obviously the Allentown camp, largely made up of college boys, requires a different type of picture from the on popular in a centre [sic] where thousands of negroes are assembled as muleteers and stevedores. [A stevedore is a person who loads and unloads cargo from ships.]

The decision of which films were shown to military members was entirely in the hands of one woman: Edith Dunham Foster, editor of the Community Motion Picture Bureau. “I try to get away from my own opinion entirely,” she explained, “and to look at the film with the eyes of a soldier.”

If only they had access to Avengers: Infinity War back then.

 

Millions of Feet of Movie Films for Soldiers: How a Woman Directs the Complex Task of Selecting Subjects, Censoring, and Shipping Motion-Picture Equipment to All American Camps (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 5, 1918

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Written by Jesse

May 4th, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Movies,War

Spies and Plotters

What’s the best way to handle and punish spies who give information to America’s enemies? In World War I, the different options split the country.

On one side was Sen. George Chamberlain (D-OR), whose bill introduced in Congress would have tried spies by court martial. On the other side was President Woodrow Wilson, a fellow Democrat, who called the bill “unconstitutional, unnecessary, and uncalled for.”

Sen. Chamberlain defended his position, arguing that his bill would adapt an antiquated interpretation to modern times:

The term ‘spy’ has had a very limited meaning in the past. It is unknown to the criminal law of the United States. A spy as such may only be punished by military law.

Our enemy of today uses very different tools from those employed at the time when spies were used to obtain information from the enemy. Germany has introduced new devices. The greatest injury wrought on us is not by the technical spy, but by sabotage, the destroyer of property by violence, the spreader of propaganda, and in other insidious and injurious ways.

By the Act of 1806 it was shown that Congress had the constitutional power to subject to court-martial civilians who acted as spies, as the word was then employed; in my opinion it has the same power today to subject to court-martial civilians who commit acts just as injurious to the members of our army and navy.

Ultimately, the senator’s position — and not the president’s — won out. Upon the 1950 adoption of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), spies are court martialed.

A recent example from 2016 is Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin: born in Taiwan, became an American citizen in 1998, but when serving in the military was suspected of giving secrets to China. Lin was court martialed and is now serving six years.

Spies and Plotters: Chamberlain Defends Drastic Bill Which He Withdrew — The Trials of Enemies in England, France, and Italy (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 28, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 26th, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

World’s Scientists in Life-and-Death Race

“These pictures are six months old,” says a quote from an army officer to begin this 1918 article, “so the devices they show are, of course, perfectly obsolete.”

World War I sparked a massive technological boom, a silver lining to an otherwise horrific blemish on humanity’s history. That would come to be true of World War II a few decades later as well. As this 1918 article describes:

“It is probable we would have had to wait a generation or two, without the stimulus of war, for the development of the airplane into a safe and practical vehicle, or for a satisfactory method of utilizing the antiseptic properties of chlorine, or for a feasible process of fixing atmospheric nitrogen — to mention only a few outstanding advances in the fields, respectively, of physics, medicine and chemistry.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson made a similar point at his eloquent Rice University commencement address in 2013, challenging the graduates to innovate without the impetus of war:

If you go to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, there is that section of his speech. ‘We’ll go to the moon before the decade is out.’ And it sends chills up your spine, because he galvanized an entire nation.

But what’s missing on the granite wall behind, where this is chiseled in, is the other part of the speech, where he introduces the war driver. No one ever spent big money just to explore. No, no one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. So we went to the moon on a war driver, but that’s conveniently left out in the granite wall behind Kennedy.

20 years after we landed on the moon, George Herbert Walker Bush wants to give a similar kind of rabble rousing speech that Kennedy did. July 20th, 1989, he goes to the steps of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, an auspicious day, commemorating the moon landing. An auspicious moment. And he puts a lot of the same language in his speech, reflecting on Columbus’ voyages, all the great explorers of the past, saying it’s our time. It’s time to go to Mars.

It got costed out at $500 billion. It was DOA in Congress at $500 billion. But wait a minute, that was going to be spent over about 30 years. You divide $500 billion by 30, that’s about $16 billion a year — that’s NASA’s annual budget. You could have just made that the trip to Mars.

But people got spooked by the money. Why? You know what else happened in 1989? Peace broke out in Europe, that’s what happened in 1989. The war driver evaporated. No, we didn’t go to Mars. And people are saying, ‘Oh, we lost our drive. We lost our will.’ No, it’s the same will we’ve ever had. We just weren’t threatened. That’s a sobering thought.

 

World’s Scientists in Life-and-Death Race: Allies Now Outstripping Teutons in Discovery and Invention, Which Have Been Speeded Up to Greater Progress in the Last Four Years Than in Previous Four Decades (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 21, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 19th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

The Atlas of Modern War

What was the cause of surging American military superiority in 1918? New York University Mechanical Engineering Professor Collins P. Bliss outlined how the prior century had been a frenzy of technological development in the art of warfare. (Including the usage of the phrase “motor traction” in the very early years of vehicles, before we’d really settled on a term for it.)

In the last hundred years the evolution of war has been more marked than in any other period since the invention of gunpowder… The familiar developments of the present conflict — the use of the submarine and airship, trench warfare, the employment of artillery on an unprecedented scale, especially in forming the barrage, the greatly extended use of the machine gun, the substitution of motor traction for horses, and the effective marshaling of numbers of men so immense that it had been conceived hitherto to be impossible to keep such forces in the field as mobilized and effective combatants — are all based upon a background of engineering skill. The engineer has led the way in bringing about this transformation of warfare. Without his ever-present help the new appliances would be useless in affecting the results of battles and campaigns.

In his 2016 book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari makes a similar point about technological developments in the century since 1918 as well — arguing that it helped lead to a dramatic decrease in war, especially since WWII or so:

While the price of war soared, its profits declined. For most of history polities could enrich themselves by looting or annexing enemy territories. Most wealth consisted of material things like fields, cattle, slaves and gold, so it was easy to loot it or occupy it. Today, wealth consists mainly of human capital and organizational know-how. Consequently it is difficult to carry it off or conquer it by military force.

Consider California. Its wealth was initially built on gold mines. But today it is built on silicon and celluloid — Silicon Valley and the celluloid hills of Hollywood. What would happen if the Chinese were to mount an armed invasion of California, land a million soldiers on the beaches of San Francisco and storm inland? They would gain little. There are no silicon mines in Silicon Valley. The wealth resides in the minds of Google engineers and Hollywood script doctors, directors and special-effects wizards, who would be on the first plane to Bangalore or Mumbai long before the Chinese tanks rolled into Sunset Boulevard. It is not coincidental that the few full-scale international wars that still take place in the world, such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, occur in places where wealth is old-fashioned material wealth. The Kuwaiti sheikhs could flee abroad, but the oil fields stayed put and were occupied.

Let us pray these developments only continue in the century ahead, especially in the places where there are still full-scale international wars.

 

The Atlas of Modern War: On the Shoulders of the Engineer Falls a Tremendous, Ever-Increasing Burden, Due to the Extraordinary Technical Demands of the Present Day (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 14, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 15th, 2018 at 10:17 am

Posted in History,War

Baseball as Means of Keeping the Doctor Away

With the MLB season just resuming again last week, let’s take a trip back to 1918, when the two biggest sports were baseball and boxing. Basketball and football were very much secondary on the popularity scale.

A recent conversation with my brother speculated about which people from 2018 would still be remembered by the general public in 100 years, with my brother suggesting that LeBron James would, under the logic that “Babe Ruth is still remembered 100 years later.” But even Babe Ruth hasn’t truly passed the 100-year test yet — although his professional baseball career began in 1914, he didn’t truly start becoming a legend until the 1920s, with his first MVP award not until 1923.

In this 1918 article, the biggest baseball players mentioned at the time and included in the featured illustrations were Ty Cobb, Charley Herzon, and Willie Keeler — none of whom are much remembered by anybody today outside of hardcore baseball fans. Just goes to show that you never really know who or what will last in the public consciousness.

This article describes how baseball was as much a psychological sport as a physical one:

“Then the discovery was made. The habit of many seasons had become somehow altered. He no longer swung with ease in a parallel to the ground. Instead he popped flies and hacked the ball toward the ground. The points found, it was necessary to discover what made the change.

“On examination again, it was brought out that a few enlarged glands in the neck, from some poor teeth, would become a little sore only when his bat was swung as he had originally trained, namely, on the horizontal. It was not much of a pain, but unconsciously for a month he had avoided that important movement. A batting “slump” was the result. Once the diagnosis was made, despite some delay in the removal of the cause, he resumed the horizontal swing and his restored batting average became apparent.”

Baseball as Means of Keeping the Doctor Away: How the Expert Batter Needs the Vigor and Sharpened Senses of Perfect Health — A Little Psychology on the Side (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 7, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 8th, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Health,Sports

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

System In Our War

The War Department underwent a substantial change at the beginning of World War I, transforming from a largely combat-based agency to a manufacturing- and business-based one. Assistant Secretary of War Benedict Crowell explained in this 1918 interview:

The War Department [has] become a business affair. He cited the aircraft work of the army as an example.

“A year ago,” said Mr. Crowell, “there were eleven officers, all strictly military men, and about 1,000 privates in the aircraft work. Now in that branch of the war business we have thousands of officers and 100,000 men. But 96 per cent. of those officers are trained business men and engineers from big civil enterprises. Most of them are in military uniform, but that is merely a matter of form that does not go to the substance of the business.

“And this change that has come over the aircraft division in its personnel is illustrative of what is being done or has been done by Mr. Baker [Secretary of War Newton Baker] throughout the department. There is very little about it today that is military, on this side of the Atlantic, except the outward form, the dress and the assumed military ceremonial. Under all that is the same sort of spirit and energy and organization that is indispensable to the successful business enterprise.”

In the words of comedian Bo Burnham to the tune of the classic Edwin Starr song War: “War! / What is it good for? / Increasing domestic manufacturing.”

 

System In Our War: An Interview with Acting Secretary Benedict Crowell, Who Tells of a Year’s Changes in Baker’s Department 

Published: Sunday, March 24, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 22nd, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Business,Politics,War

Need of Federal Budget in Wartime

In this 1918 interview, newly-chosen House Appropriations Committee Chair J. Swagar Sherley of Kentucky proposed the formation of a Budget Committee. It would be created the next year 1919 as a “special committee” for that session only, later becoming a permanent committee in 1974.

The current chair is Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR3). He has served for a few months ever since the previous chair, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN6), stepped down to focus more attention on her campaign for Tennessee governor. Here’s a list of all 36 committee members.

Although Sherley got what he wanted, he wouldn’t still be serving to see it. Sherley lost his November 1918 reelection bid, despite having been reelected to the House multiple times since 1903 at that point.

In 1933, Sherley would be asked by President Franklin Roosevelt to serve as Director of the Bureau of the Budget, today known as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). However, Sherley declined due to ill health. However, he wouldn’t die for another four years until 1941 — so perhaps he could have served after all.

 

 

Need of Federal Budget in Wartime: Secretary of the Treasury Should Be Real Premier of Finance, Says Chairman of House Committee on Appropriations — Few Changes Necessary to Start New System (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 17, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 14th, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Business World’s Grievance Against Germany

President Trump spent the past few weeks ratcheting up his trade wars, which he claims would be “easy to win.” He has implemented tariffs on steel and uranium, in a move that even many or most of his own party’s Congress members oppose, not to mention most other world leaders. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, and indeed America’s $566 billion trade deficit in 2017 was the highest since 2008.

But this 1918 article by Edward A. Bradford made a similar case to the argument against Trump today — namely, that freer markets rather than protectionism benefit all. Similar to how the current administration’s policies are trying to discourage Americans from purchasing products from China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and other nations, the feeling was widespread in 1918 that Americans shouldn’t purchase products or encourage business from Germany once World War I was over. Bradford rebutted that notion:

It is necessary to curb Germany in order to make the world safe for democracy. It is even more necessary in order to make the world safe for business. And the number of those who care for business is incomparably larger than the number of those who care for politics…

Business makes the whole world kin, and there is business under monarchies and democracies alike, without regard to politics. There is no law about politics, and probably never can be so long as politics does not disturb property and business. But there is a world law of business, for all the world trades together, and thereby establishes a common law of business…

No nation can allow another nation to impose law upon it, and no formula for international law can be agreed upon. Under our laws a man is entitled to trial before a jury of his peers. There can be no such jury in international cases. The case starts with prejudices, which never were so strong as now. The world is in hostile camps, and there are those who would like to see business done under systems of boycott or economically hostile organizations. This war must have an end, but a war of boycott would run interminably, with loss for all and benefit to none.

Business World’s Grievance Against Germany: A Nation Organized Like a Trust, Conspiring for Restraint of all Trade Without Guidance of Reason or Conscience (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 17, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 13th, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Business

File of ‘La Libre Belgique’ Now in New York

The daring, revolutionary, and anti-authoritarian Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique [The Free Belgium] was published during World War I — its authors and location a state of almost complete mystery.

As this 1918 article details:

“Since the beginning of 1915 this small four-page sheet has been published, almost weekly, ‘somewhere in Belgium,’ in defiance of the Germans and despite their vigorous and persistent efforts to suppress it. Its publishers have not been caught, though hundreds of arrests have been made ‘on suspicion.’ Huge fines have been imposed and long terms in jail endured by those apprehended with it in their possession, but the source of its being, the presses from which it emanates, the ‘cave automobile’ in which it is published, and the daring spirits who first gave it life and who have maintained it under ever-increasing danger are still as free as when the enterprise began in February, 1915.”

The paper was published 56 times in 1915, 48 times in 1916, and 11 times in the first three months of 1917, for a total of 115. A copy of every issue during that entire run was snuck out and brought to America by the Catholic priest Father Jean Baptiste De Ville while in Belgium, at great risk to his own life.

Their operating creed was laid out through a piece published in the publication’s very first issue:

“La Libre Belgique will live in a cave, and propagate, like Catholicism, in the catacombs. It will live in spite of persecution and official censure because it shall tell the truth, and because there is something stronger than might, stronger than Kultur [culture], something stronger than the Germans — the truth! And Belgium is the soil of truth and liberty.”

What happened to this newspaper? It ultimately published 171 issues during the war (115 by the time of this article), and still lives on today with a 35,500 daily print circulation in Belgium, plus more than 1 million online visitors.

File of “La Libre Belgique” Now in New York: Banker Has Bought It from a Priest Whom the German Invaders Could Not Prevent from Collecting Copies of Secretly Issued Newspaper (PDF)

Published Sunday, March 10, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 9th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Journalism

France’s Airman-Artist Tells How He Works

Henri Farré was the official painter of the French government during World War I, whose job was to paint battles as he observed them from airplanes.

While this may seem like a strange occupation to be funded at taxpayer expense after the invention of the photograph, WWI was also the first major military conflict to feature aviation. And we still have official portraits of major figures such as presidents commissioned even today, despite a camera in every person’s back pocket.

In the 1918 article, Farré explained his methods:

“How do I do my work?” he went on, in answer to a question. “I am, say, somewhere in the rear of the fighting. An attack is begun. I am notified. Up I go with one of our pilots. We approach the field of battle, strike into the mist of it, keeping straight over it. I take in every detail. I saturate my brain with the topography of the place. I transform my head into a camera. It took me six months to learn to do that, but now I find it easy. I concentrate. I fix my eyes on every feature of the landscape beneath me. My brain becomes a photographic plate.

“Sometimes we hover over the battle as long as half an hour. Shells burst around us. Other airmen plunge to the ground. But we escape. Then my pilots whirls around and we fly back to the rear. We land. I have no time to lose. I sit down immediately and sketch from memory the scene I have just witnessed. From what I remember and a system of jotting down numbers for colors while I am in the air, I make a rough sketch of the battle I have just witnessed.”

The 1918 article does not do justice to Farré’s paintings, showcasing only two and in grainy black-and-white at that. Here is one in full-resolution color from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to give a sense of the man’s talents:

France’s Airman-Artist Tells How He Works: Lieutenant Farre, Official Painter of War as Seen from the Air, Has Risked His Life Over Scores of Battles in Full Swing (PDF)

Published Sunday, March 3, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 8th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Art,Transportation,War

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

Case Against National Prohibition

In February 1918, six of the required 36 states had ratified the constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol, after the House and Senate had both done so the previous August and December, respectively.

Edgar M. Cullen, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court), broke his decades-long silence on political matters to speak out against the proposal:

“I am opposed to incorporating in the Federal Constitution the proposed amendment at any time. I appreciate fully the magnitude of the evils which excessive indulgence in intoxicants entails. I honor all those good and earnest men and women who are working to diminish the evil by impressing on the people its injurious effects. Though I differ with him, I admire the devotion to his faith of one who, believing that all drinking is wrong, wholly abstains from it…

“‘But the same right that he had to regulate his conduct is possessed by others who differ from him. The ‘total abstainer’ is wholly different from the prohibitionist. The first lives up to his own standard of morality, which, as it affects only himself, he has a perfect right to do. The second seeks to impose his standard upon others who do not believe in it and to compel them by law to regulate their lives according to his notions.”

No dice. Less than a year after this article’s publication, Montana’s ratification in January 1919 pushed the 18th Amendment over the top.

However, Cullen’s viewpoint won out in the end. The 21st Amendment repealed prohibition in December 1933, marking the only constitutional amendment which was ever formally overturned.

Case Against National Prohibition: Ex-Judge Cullen Says Federal Amendment Would Be Particularly Bad Just Now and Productive of Evil in the Future (PDF)

From Sunday, February 24, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 23rd, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware

The iconic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware is a misnomer. The river was actually modeled after the Rhine River in Germany, leading to several inaccuracies. According to Wikipedia:

“The river is modeled after the Rhine, where ice tends to form in jagged chunks as pictured, not in broad sheets as is more common on the Delaware. Also, the Delaware at what is now called Washington Crossing is far narrower than the river depicted in the painting.”

After this 1918 article, the original 1851 painting was destroyed in a 1942 bombing raid, as the original was housed in Germany. The two other versions also painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze are still intact, currently housed at the Met in New York City and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

The painting was also parodied last month in Geico’s commercial Washington Crossing the Delaware Turnpike:

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware: Leutze’s Famous Painting Really Represents the German River, and German Soldiers Were Used as Models — American Pupil Aided Artist to Get Proper Uniforms (PDF)

From Sunday, February 17, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Art,History

Conscription of All Men Up to Forty-five Years?

Maryland Senator Joseph Irwin France was Congress’s primary advocate during WWI of forcing all men between ages 18 and 45 to register for the draft.

That is not to say that all men up to aged 45 would actually be forced to fight in combat. As France explained:

“The second section of the bill… authorizes the President to consider all enrolled between ages of 18 and 20, inclusive, as members of a Federal cadet corps subject to call for military and nonmilitary training and for noncombatant national service. The men between 21 and 31 by the terms of the bill constitute the Federal first line of defense corps, who may be called into military service in accordance with the conscription act already in force or put into noncombatant national service. A third group is made up of the men between 32 and 36 years of age. It is the second line of defense corps, whose members may be called upon for military or nonmilitary training or for noncombatant national service. The fourth group, consisting of the men from 37 to 45, is the Federal reserve corps, also subject to call for noncombatant service.”

France’s bill didn’t go anywhere. Less than a year into his first Senate term at the time this article was written, France ran for reelection in 1922 but lost.

As for me, under the rules of current U.S. military draft law, I aged out of the draft only last month.

Conscription of All Men Up to Forty-five Years: Senator France, Author of Bill Subjecting Them to Government’s Call, Says It Is the Only Way to Solve War’s Industrial Problems (PDF)

From Sunday, February 10 , 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 10th, 2018 at 9:01 am

Posted in Debate,Politics,War

When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals was largely about how Abraham Lincoln stacked his Cabinet with several people who had run against him for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination. Lincoln named:

  • New York Senator William H. Seward as Secretary of State
  • Pennsylvania Senator Simon Cameron as Secretary of War
  • Former Missouri Congressman Edward Bates as Attorney General
  • Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase as Secretary of the Treasury, and later nominated by Lincoln as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)

Donald Trump appointed two people who ran against him for the Republican nomination to his Cabinet:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Energy Secretary
  • Physician Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Barack Obama nominated several intra-party rivals as well:

  • Delaware Senator Joe Biden as Vice President
  • New York Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

Obama was a vocal fan of Team of Rivals, which he repeatedly cited as one of his favorite books of all time — and specifically mentioned that Lincoln was his favorite president. Obama did keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, a Republican holdover from George W. Bush’s administration.

Perhaps not quite a “team” of rivals, although Obama did retain or reappoint several other notable non-Cabinet appointees of Bush such as Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chair and Robert Mueller as FBI Director. In contrast, Trump did not keep any of Obama’s Cabinet appointees, and axed several of Obama’s other appointees such as James Comey and Janet Yellen.

(Not going to lie, though — I tried reading Team of Rivals but couldn’t finish it. It’s 916 pages long.)

When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet: Discussion About Such a Body Today Recalls How His Great Tact and Firmness Enabled Him to Allay Discord Among His Advisers (PDF)

From Sunday, February 10, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 9th, 2018 at 9:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Has the Power of Public Opinion Waned?

Was the power of public opinion on American politics declining in 1918? Job E. Hedges, former Republican candidate for New York governor, said yes and blamed it on political primaries:

With the increase in our population, the average citizen is necessarily unable to have before him all the facts from which to draw his conclusions and express himself affirmatively or negatively at the polls. This necessarily compels the citizen to act through a representative of his selection with similar beliefs. Here the direct primaries have demonstrated their inefficiency. They have militated against the formation of public sentiment and at the same time increased the power of money.

The first state to hold a presidential primary was Florida in 1901, and by 1920 (two years after this article was published) 20 of the 48 states had primaries. But Hedges’ argument caught hold as many states discontinued their primaries. Indeed, as late as 1968, only 12 states used them.

The modern presidential primaries as we know them today — first Iowa, then New Hampshire, with all states participating — truly began in 1976.

As for “the power of public opinion,” modern polling as we know it today wouldn’t begin until the Gallup Organization’s founding in 1935.

Has the Power of Public Opinion Waned?: Job E. Hedges Says It has Ceased to be a Great Aggressive Force in America Since the Direct Primary Idea Became Popular (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 2nd, 2018 at 9:45 am

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight

While about 20 percent of the population at the time were enrolled as library borrowers and took out an average of three books per year, World War I soldiers in the camps were enrolled at a rate of 40 percent and took out an average of 12 books per year.

Half a million book volumes were already located in the military camp libraries by February 1918, less than a year after American entered the conflict, with a “soldiers book fund” containing more than $1.5 million.

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight: Books in Camp Are Used Twice as Much as Those in City Libraries — Many Men Acquire Valuable Habit for the First Time (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 1st, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Education,War

Some Good in the Garfield Shock

The hyperbole-free New York Times described a contemporary January 1918 government decision as “Probably no executive order in this country ever aroused such a unanimity of expression.”

What was this controversial decision that had the entire nation on edge? “Fuel Administrator Garfield’s recent five-day closure of industry and business east of the Mississippi River.”

Wait, what?

Harry Garfield, son of former president James A. Garfield, was serving as president of Williams College when he was named by President Wilson as the first Administrator for the Fuel Administration, a new agency created to better manage American resources during World War I.

As this article from 1914-1918-online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War details, a massive coal shortage was causing many homes and businesses to go without heat, energy, and light. The problem was distributional rather than supply-based, as railcars intended to transport coal were halted or even abandoned due to backlogs on the railways.

Since this problem was primarily on the east coast, Garfield ordered most factories east of the Mississippi River closed for five days, from January 18-22, 1918, and then again every Monday thereafter. The plan generated massive outcry of government overreach, and indeed the policy was abandoned mere weeks later.

Even at the time it seems hard to imagine that executive order being considered more controversial and significant than, say, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. There have certainly been a wealth of more controversial presidential administration executive decisions since then, ones whose controversy hasn’t dimmed over the decades as Wilson’s/Garfield’s did — from Roosevelt’s Japanese internment camps to Ford’s blanket pardon of Nixon.

Some Good in the Garfield Shock: Ex-Judge Lacombe Analyzes the Situation — Workless Days Order May Yield Eventual Benefits in Spite of Almost Unanimous Criticism

From Sunday, January 27, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 25th, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Business,Politics

Female Labor Arouses Hostility

As more women entered the workforce during WWI, men were having a difficult time adjusting:

A conflict that was peacefully adjusting itself before the war has been churned into fresh fury. It is the ancient contest between male and female labor. Most often silent, it now threatens to become vitriolic. Many regard it as the powder magazine of the present labor world, one that an unforeseen match may explode into a national calamity.

Only those with an ear close to the ground hear the rumblings of the coming storm. The restraints of patriotic appeal have held in leash an ever-mounting resentment in the ranks of labor, organized and unorganized, and as yet this has found only a superficial expression. But there exist signposts which point the easy road to trouble.

Is it true that America, like Europe, is to have feminized industry? If so, will man resign his present place without a fight? If he does fight, what form will the contest take?

The present-day answers to those question:

  • Will America have feminized industry? As of December 2017, the official male unemployment rate was 4.0% while the female rate was a bit lower at 3.8%. (The “full” unemployment rate is usually about twice the “official” rate.) So women had a better rate of finding jobs than men.
  • Will man resign his present place without a fight? If he does fight, what form will the contest take? Man hasn’t “resigned” his place in any meaningful sense — it’s not like everything is run by women. But men have definitely put up a fight. Read the New York Times’ thorough expose Harvey Weinstein’s Complicity Machine if you doubt it. 2016 also saw the biggest gender gap in presidential voting ever, with a 24 point differential between men voting for Trump and against a potential first female president by +12, while women voted for Clinton by a reverse +12.

Female Labor Arouses Hostility: Union Leader Asserts That Men Workers Regard Substitutions as Exploitation of the Weaker Sex, Unnecessary as Yet and Tending to Cause Industrial Unrest (PDF)

From Sunday, January 20, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 18th, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Business