Archive for September, 2016

Why We Still Need New Methods in Our Prisons

From October 1, 1916


Why We Still Need New Methods in Our Prisons: Adolph Lewisohn Says Reforms Have Not Gone Far Enough and Points Out Need of Improvements in Different Institutions (PDF)

The President of the National Committee on Prisons in 1916 made several suggestions for prison reform, including:

I hope that gradually the number of children placed in institutions, particularly in correctional institutions, will decrease to a minimum and that those who must be placed in institutions shall be so treated that they will be able to take care of themselves or be properly taken care of upon their discharge.

The number of person placed in jails before they are found guilty should also be reduced to a minimum, and those who have to be detained should be carefully segregated and not mixed up with habitual criminals, which often may have a bad influence upon them, especially upon young people.

Prison reform continues to this day: in August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they would no longer contract out to private prisons. If you haven’t read the breathtaking Mother Jones magazine expose on the private prison industry published this summer, which helped provoke public outcry leading to the Justice Department’s change, you really should (even though it’s practically the length of a small book):

My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard: A Mother Jones Investigation

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 30th, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Posted in Development

Why Are You a Democrat or a Republican?

From September 24, 1916

Why Are You a Democrat or a Republican?: We Are Fortunate in Having a Permanent Election issue on Which We May Take Sides Without Impairing Our Loyalty (PDF)


Columbia Professor Brander Matthews was able to write the following in 1916, of American political parties:

Now, it is impossible to declare abstractly that either party is absolutely right… Each can respect the other and respect the other’s point of view. Both can agree to disagree without being moved to hatred or to contempt. And here is where we Americans have our inexpugnable advantage over the voters of most other countries. Here also is where the American citizen who has had the benefit of an education which has liberated his mind, which has freed him from the unnecessary prejudices, and which has trained him to try to understand (and even to esteem) the opinions he does not share.

About that…

This year, 58 percent of Republicans have “very unfavorable” views of the Democratic Party, up from 21 percent in 1994 — while 55 percent of Democrats have “very unfavorable” views of the Republican Party, up from 17 percent in 1994. That’s according to survey data from the Pew Research Center.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 25th, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Politics

What Is the Matter with the Modern Boy?

From September 24, 1916


What Is the Matter with the Modern Boy?: He Is Less of a Boy, But Not More of a Man, Than His Father Was — The Reason and Cure Outlined by One Who Knows Him (PDF)

In the words of the musical Bye Bye Birdie, “What’s the Matter With Kids Today?” They’ve been asking that question for ages, and in 1916 a boys’ school headmaster named Thomas S. Baker continued that storied tradition. He laid the blame for the modern boy at several primary culprits including the rise in popularity of sports and movies during the previous generation.

On movies:

What effect is the indulgence in this form of imaginative debauch going to have upon the minds of American boys?… The boy gets his sentiment and his imaginative excitement in big ladlefuls from the moving pictures. They certainly are not stimulating to his mentality, although they may have a very exciting effect upon his emotions. The unrealities which are laid before him cannot fail to give him a distorted view of life.

On sports:

I have been frequently asked what sort of things the boys of today like to read… The greatest element in their reading is the sporting pages of the newspapers. This is the boy’s favorite hunting ground. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports before he develops any interest in the other portions of the newspapers. If his school work demanded an examination in the biographies of athletes or the condition of contemporary athletics, he would receive a mark that would make a strong contrast to his other averages.

Alexandra Petri wrote a great humor column for the Washington Post a few years ago about how every generation thinks the subsequent generation is just the worst, going back to at least Ancient Greek times. Worth a read, if you want a laugh with a serious point:

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 25th, 2016 at 3:41 pm

American Sentiment and American Apathy

From September 24, 1916


American Sentiment and American Apathy: Until We Prove Our Resolution as Well as Our Reasonableness, Self-Congratulations Are Out of Order, Says Noted Author (PDF)

Then as now (at least to some extent), there was a fear among some that America’s values were going astray, that materialism and societal divisiveness were rampant while patriotism and tolerance were not. Author Agnes Repplier outlines that anxiety in this paragraph:

If the United States is a land where hatred dies, why are our industrial disputes settled by strikes to the accompaniment of violence? Are the soldiers who fire from trenches inspired by hatred, and the rioters who fire from curbstones inspired by brotherly love? How much blood has been spilled, how many “social war” crimes have been committed, how many workmen have been maimed, how much property has been destroyed in fifty years of strife between employers and employed! Is acquisitveness a nobler spur than patriotism? Is caste a stronger bond than country?

Just remember: 2016 is actually a relative calm period in American history.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 25th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Life

Minister Who Would Be Governor of Florida

From September 17, 1916


Minister Who Would Be Governor of Florida: Having Won the Democratic Nomination, the Rev. Sidney J. Catts Is the Centre of Stormiest Political Fight in State’s History (PDF)

Sidney Catts won the 1916 Democratic primary to become the nominee for Florida governor, but the party leaders were upset that the “outsider” pastor and insurance salesman with no political experience was to become their standard-bearer. The party went to the state Supreme Court and got them to demand a recount, which didn’t include Catts. Catts, having essentially had the primary election stolen from him upon this subsequent recount, then became the Prohibition Party’s nominee and won the general election in November, beating the official Democratic nominee William Knott handily.  Although many prohibitionists won statewide office running as Democrats or Republicans, to this day Catts remains the only candidate ever elected to a statewide office under the Prohibitionist Party banner.

And Florida never had a shady recount election with a politically-influenced court ruling ever again.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 17th, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Politics,Religion

War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets

From September 17, 1916


War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets: Need of Products Which Europe Cannot Now Supply Has Successfully Stimulated Experts to Produce Satisfactory Substitutes (PDF)

War has always been one of the most powerful motivators for scientific advancement. As astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil DeGrasse Tyson noted in his 2013 Rice University commencement address, “No one has ever spent big money just to explore. No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver. That part got cleansed from our memory.” Of President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 proposal to send humans to Mars, Tyson said, “People were saying, ‘We’ve lost our drive, we’ve lost our will.’ No, it’s the same will we’ve ever had. We just weren’t threatened.”

World War I was no different. This article details some the ways in which that scientific advancement was occurring at the time, a silver lining to the ultimate dark cloud. Later in World War II, that scientific advancement would come most prominently in the form of the Manhattan Project and nuclear weapons.


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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 16th, 2016 at 5:46 pm

The Wages of the Locomotive and Its Driver

From September 17, 1916


The Wages of the Locomotive and Its Driver: Comparison of the Work and Pay of the Trainmen and the Trains Considered as Representatives of Labor and Capital (PDF)

The men (and they were all men) who works on the railroads wanted pay raises in 1916, in an article that echoes present-day debates. Should the federal minimum wage should be increased from its current $7.25 to $12, as Hillary Clinton endorses? What worker protections are the 327,000+ Uber drivers entitled to?

This article also contains the first infographic I’ve come across in these archived Sunday Magazine posts, one visualizing the rise in railroad stock prices over the preceding two years. Infographics generally did not achieve widespread use in print until USA Today was created in the 1980s, rendering the sight of one here striking — usually articles would just print tables of numbers in lieu of visualizations.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 15th, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Business

Edison Tells Why He Will Vote for Wilson

From September 10, 1916


Edison Tells Why He Will Vote for Wilson: We Are at Peace, and the Country Was Never So Prosperous, Why Change? (PDF)

Thomas Edison was one of the most sought-after political endorsements of the day, as the inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph was one of the most popular people in America. Here he throws his hat behind incumbent President Woodrow Wilson’s reelection bid, which he would ultimately win in November. Edison argued, as the sub-headline states, that the country was at peace and its economy was at unprecedented highs.

And in what could be seen as a parallel to Donald Trump’s “big beautiful wall that Mexico will pay for” in 2016, Edison also appreciated Wilson’s measured policies towards that country:

“President Wilson’s Mexican policy has been wise and just and courageous. Mexico has been a troublesome neighbor, but war and conquest are not going to make her a better one. Both against England, and then against human slavery, the United States has worked out her salvation through revolution, and it was a pretty slow, trying process.”

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 10th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Politics

Washington’s Letter Vanishes from Baltimore

From September 10, 1916


Washington’s Letter Vanishes from Baltimore: Was a Link with the Past, Recalling Memories of Constitutional Convention and the Carrolls of Carrollton (PDF)

Shortly after George Washington was elected as president, Bishop John Carroll sent him a letter on behalf of American Catholics congratulating him on the post and stressing the need to maintain religious liberty. Washington wrote back, saying, in part: “As Mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of Civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost Nations in examples of Justice and Liberality.”

More then a century later, when documents were being indexed at a cathedral in Baltimore where the letter was believed to be located, it was discovered that the letter was missing. It was not know since when the letter had been gone. This article from Catholic Review notes that the letter was subsequently found and is now housed at the the Archdiocese of Baltimore — but that it’s also not known when the letter was recovered, either!

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 9th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Religion

New Rules of Conduct Needed for Nations

From September 10, 1916


New Rules of Conduct Needed for Nations: Robert Bacon, Former Ambassador to France, Discusses the Breakdown of International Law and Suggests a Remedy (PDF)

Amidst the horrors of World War I, Bacon suggested that a stronger system of international law was necessary. He listed six “principles of justice, universal and fundamental,” including life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, equality before the law, and the right to property. He proposed more concrete measures to ensure that they were enshrined in international law:

They are declared by the Supreme Court to be the universal and fundamental rights, and from this source all other rights can be derived which nations should enjoy… The Supreme Court has rightly declared that the rights of municipal law are also rights of international law, and, in so doing, has solemnly stated that the principles of justice apply alike to individuals as to nations. We, in this country, must admit this to be so; we cannot overrule the Supreme Court of the United States. Its decision is law for us, and, armed with its authority, it is for us to insist that these principles be recognized by the nations of the world, just as they are recognized and must be recognized by us.”

Are those rights great? Yes. But the argument that the U.S. should impose those values on the rest of the world has often met with mixed results — notably in Iraq since 2003.

In terms of strengthening international law, sure enough, the subsequent decades after Bacon’s article would see the adoptions of the United Nations in 1945, the World Bank in 1945, the International Monetary Fund in 1945, and the Geneva Conventions in 1949 — but not without tens of millions in unnecessary bloodshed. Debates still linger to this day (and presumably always will) about how much power international bodies should have to dictate law versus sovereign states setting policies within their own borders.


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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 8th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Politics