Archive for September, 2021

The Popularizing of Polo

This 1921 article said polo was gaining popularity, with 5,000 attending that year’s national championship in Philadelphia.

At 2019’s last pre-pandemic championship in Palm Beach, the crowd was a “near-sellout”… at a 1,640-seat venue.

What went wrong over the past century? According to this article by Michael Barr for Texas Escapes, tracing the history of the sport’s rise and fall in the Lone Star State, the economic crash of the 1930s changed everything:

Polo grew in popularity throughout the 1920s…. Then came the Great Depression, and polo’s popularity with the general public declined. The sport seemed pretentious and extravagant at a time when many Americans were out of work and didn’t have enough to eat. And polo’s reputation never recovered, even in the economic boom of the post-war years.

Golf has long been considered a high-class sport as well, yet the sport’s popularity boomed with the ’90s-2000s superstardom of Tiger Woods, as January’s HBO documentary Tiger so effectively documented. Perhaps if polo could mint even just one certified superstar, that could begin to change its fortunes around. Think of skateboarding transforming from an underground subculture to part of the mass culture also in the ’90s-2000s, thanks largely to Tony Hawk.

 

The Popularizing of Polo (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 25, 1921

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Written by Jesse

September 24th, 2021 at 11:21 am

Posted in Sports

The League and the Washington Conference

As the first multinational arms control conference in history approached in fall 1921, this preview article asked:

Will the spirit that defeated the work of Mr. Wilson [the U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the country’s entry into the nascent League of Nations] also defeat the plans of Mr. Harding? After the disillusionment and reaction that followed the armistice [which ended World War I], can public opinion once more be raised to a level of clarity and strength that will make partisan issues and personal interests subservient to the welfare of the whole human race?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, was yes. Or rather, it was yes… for a time.

The Washington Naval Conference would be attended by representatives of nine nations — Belgium, Britain, China, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, and the U.S. — and result in three major arms control treaties.

However, the treaties were not renewed and ultimately expired in 1936. World War II started in 1939, with U.S. involvement beginning in late 1941. It’s unlikely that the treaties would have prevented World War II even if they’d remained in effect, though, since Germany was not a party to the agreements.

 

The League and the Washington Conference (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 18, 1921

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Written by Jesse

September 17th, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Bored Americans Abroad

After World War I had ravaged the continent for several years, the summer of 1921 finally brought American tourists back to Europe.

While the war had ended in November 1919, summer 1920 tourism had still not quite recovered to the pre-war level, as this September 1921 New York Times Magazine article described.

Various reasons besides the high cost of transportation have kept him [a typical American tourist] mostly on his own side of the ocean since the end of the war. He was weary of Europe; there was a blight on its romance and a blur of its picturesqueness. He had discovered the unparalleled holiday charms of his own continent. He did not hanker for the dangers and discomforts that might beset him on the worn and shaken highways of unsettled lands.

But now he is back.

And how exactly did the post-war travel experience compare to pre-war?

The war has not really changed the quality or variety of Europe’s attractions for the tourist… but we seem just now rather difficult because Europeans have suffered hardships on so universal and overwhelming a scale that the little discomforts that annoy us are the happy accompaniments of normal times to them. When one gets out of the American track one sees at once how much less exigent are other travelers.

Without this resumption of American travel to Europe, the plots of The Da Vinci Code or Spider-Man: Far From Home could have never taken place.

 

Bored Americans Abroad (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 11, 1921

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Written by Jesse

September 9th, 2021 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Travel

Next in Power to Harding

Ironically, this 1921 New York Times Magazine profile called Charles G. Dawes “the most powerful man, excepting the president, in Washington today” four years before he actually became vice president.

At the time, Dawes was the first director of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Budget, now known as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). No, he wasn’t the Treasury Secretary, a position which itself would raise some eyebrows if called the second-most powerful position in D.C. He was the head of a bureau within the Treasury Department.

Of course, it wasn’t Dawes’ position which merited him that superlative, but the man himself.

In part, the power Mr. Dawes has achieved is due to his own robust courage and vigor. He came reluctantly from a bank presidency to what he term “an ossified haymor,” and he came on the express stipulation that what he said had to go. President Harding agreed to that condition, and has stood by the agreement with a mild persistence which even his admirers had not suspected before he took the Executive chair.

(A haymow is the part of a barn where hay is stored. Presumably that word was much more commonly known back in the comparatively agricultural days of 1921.)

Dawes, this article claims, helped balance the federal budget.

As a result, the United States is now living within its income, and is spending actually less than Congress has authorized. Within three weeks after taking office Mr. Dawes was able to announce a saving of more than a hundred millions of dollars out of the appropriations… It is not necessary to set down here a detailed catalog of his economies, but some of the things he has done may be chronicled as indicating the remarkable power he wields. They indicate power, because Washington said at the outset they couldn’t be done.

It’s unclear how much this was actually Dawes’ doing. According to historical statistics from the OMB, the federal government ran a deficit in 1917, 1918, and 1919 during World War I, but then it ran a suplus in 1920 — the year before Dawes took office.

Dawes would go on to become the ostensible second-most powerful person in Washington in 1925, when he served as vice president for Calvin Coolidge. During the next four years, Dawes and Coolidge became increasingly distant, even publicly taking opposing stances on a farm bill. Coolidge didn’t run for president in 1928 and neither did Dawes, though he did serve for that year’s eventual winner Herbert Hoover as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

 

 

Next in Power to Harding (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 4, 1921

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Written by Jesse

September 2nd, 2021 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Politics