The 4th film shoot

It was colder than I thought it would be when I met a colleague this morning at the CUNY Graduate Center to take some location footage for our WW1 documentary. We shot here for a bit before moving down to 30th Street to get a better angle to film the Empire State Building. I got my masters degree here over a decade ago. One thing that is so unique about the Grad Center is that it has no campus per se, You felt less detached and more connected to the metropolis that was going on just outside while you were sitting there in class. I always found that comforting and felt it gave what I studied more immediacy. People who know Old New York may recognize this building as the site of the B. Altman’s department store. I believe my grandmother took my aunts here when they would visit the city back in the day. I’m sure they followed their excursions with a trip to the Automat.

Back in Brooklyn we filmed some exteriors at our own campus. Again, the school has that urban feel with a strong energy and so much going on all around it. Speaking of our campus, I received the good news today that our library will almost likely receive a significant Great War display from a particular European organization this coming September-October. If it seems like I am being a little vague that’s because I am. I will go into greater detail when things are truly finalized. I cannot tell you how excited we are about this. The Great War is proving a timely opportunity to raise public awareness of this shared history; with various public officials unduly straining our relations with long time allies, it seems up to those interested in public history to remind the public of the historical ties that bind us to others.

Snow day redux

As the caption on the image suggests, Eleanor Roosevelt was still finding herself when this image was taken in her early middle-age

We had the second and presumably last snow day of the winter today. With April almost here I imagine we won’t be getting many more blasts like this one. New York City itself was spared the worst of it. That said, I did not leave the house all day. It looked pretty slick out there. I had grand visions of writing today but it did not come to pass. I don’t think I realized until getting up this morning how tired I was. I would rather be busy than not but with the semester in full swing there has been so much to get done. Now I’m charged up for tomorrow.

This morning I began part one of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s three-volume history of Eleanor Roosevelt. The first installment goes from 1884-1933. Part one came out in 1992, twenty-five years ago. It was interesting to read the introduction, in which Dr. Cook discusses what in the early 1990s were still fairly new trends in historiography that incorporated Women’s Studies and other aspects of social history into scholarship. The third installment came out late last year. I intend to read all three works over the late winter and early spring and am curious to see how if at all the author’s perspective changes over time.

I am only up to the wedding of her parents Anna and Elliott but apparently Dr. Cook’s thesis is that it was Eleanor’s 1918 discovery of Franklin’s relationship with Lucy Mercer after he came home from visiting the battlefields in Europe during the Great War that led to the new phase in her life. She was only 34. Any marriage is more complicated than it appears to outsiders but the Mercer discovery unquestionably changed Franklin and Eleanor’s relationship. It is reasonable to assume that it also sparked her increased confidence and willingness to reach out and build a wider social and political support network for herself.

(image/New York Public Library)

Sunday morning coffee

Both junior officers in the First World War, Ted Roosevelt and George Patton had become generals by the time this image was taken in Sicily in 1943 during the Second.

When I attended the World War I Centennial Commission trade show in June 2014–my gosh, now almost three years ago–I remember meeting representatives from the Library of Congress among other institutions. That came back to me yesterday when I read this Washington Post article about an upcoming exhibit about George Patton’s involvement in the First World War. I must say I know less about Patton than I do Eisenhower, about whom I wrote my masters thesis, but the exhibit apparently makes the case that the Great War was Patton’s defining moment, more so than what he did later in the Second World War. I will undoubtedly see the exhibit sometime this summer. Before I do I may have to read Carlo D’Este’s Patton: A Genius for War. D’Este is quoted in the Washington Post piece; my well-thumbed copy of his Ike biography is sitting on the bookshelf here next to me a I type these words.

Things will be picking up in the coming weeks as we get closer to the 100th anniversary of America involvement in the Great War. There will be a big event in Kanas City at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Here in New York City the 69th Infantry Regiment will be having something in Father Duffy Square that same day. I really hope to get to that, schedule permitting. If things go as planned we will be filming the third of our three film shoots tomorrow for our documentary. We are hoping to get the film finished by the first week of April. We’ll see how it goes. I came across this collection of 1917 images compiled by the Atlantic published this week in recognition of International Women’s Day. Many outlets, especially those like the Atlantic whose provenance dates back to the First World War and earlier, will be doing things to mark the occassion. To me the most moving is number 24, which captures three French women out in a field pulling a plow. It is difficult to convey in words the toll that the Great War took on Europe’s people and infrastructure.

(image/Los Angeles Times via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Hagedorn’s ‘Challenge’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10 March 1917

One hundred years ago the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a number of readers’ poems related to the escalating war situation. As it turns out one of the submissions was by none other than Hermann Hagedorn. When Theodore Roosevelt died two years later Hagedorn became the secretary of the Roosevelt Memorial Association. He later became the director, a position he held until 1957. For more check out this post I did in 2014 on the 50th anniversary of Hagedorn’s death.

Hagedorn was a longtime acquaintance of Roosevelt. As the son of a German immigrant he was helpful in Roosevelt’s campaign against “hyphenated Americanism” in the lead-up to American involvement in the Great War. It is important to remember that Roosevelt himself had had a strong attachment to Germany prior to the war; for starters he had traveled through the country with his family as a youth, and while he was president his daughter Alice christened the kaiser’s yacht. Hagedorn believed passionately that Americans of German origin should embrace their new nation. Still, the relationship between the two was more than that. Like Roosevelt Hagedorn was a man of letters who appreciated the written word. It is safe to guess that “Challenge’ did not win any literary awards, but the poem is a fascinating look at that moment just before the United States became involved in the First World War.

Wilson’s second term begins

This grainy image captures the cold and grim mood in Washington as President Wilson (top hat, in carriage) attends the ceremony for his second inaugural on 5 March 1917.

This grainy image captures the cold and grim mood in Washington as President Wilson (top hat, in carriage) attends the ceremony for his second inaugural on 5 March 1917.

Woodrow Wilson’s second inaugural was one hundred years ago today. As then stipulated by the Constitution he had actually taken the oath the day before, Sunday 4 March, in a small ceremony in the Capitol building observed by his wife Edith, a few cabinet members, and some close friends. It was the fourth time in American history that the inaugural had fallen on a Sunday with public ceremonies thus moved to the following day. In a strange parallel to the 2017 inaugural there was a woman’s march taking place a well, with suffragists coming from around the country to press their cause as Wilson was to begin his second term. The final week of Wilson’s first term had been a tense one. It was ironic that Wilson was taking the oath there and then in that small chamber just after the noon hour on 4 March; when Wilson had arrived at the Capitol earlier that morning, Senator Robert M. La Follette was still successfully filibustering the Armed Ship Bill that would have given President Wilson the authority to arm merchant vessels in defense against German u-boat attacks. When the Sixty-Fourth Congress officially came to an end at the noon hour, so did the hopes for passage of the Armed Ship Bill.

New York City mayor John Purroy Mitchel reached out to President Wilson as the president began his second term.

New York City mayor John Purroy Mitchel reached out to President Wilson as the president began his second term.

It had been a trying final week for Wilson On 1 March the Zimmerman Telegram had been made public to the American people. The German secret communiqué to Mexico with its offers of potentially reclaiming lands lost during the Mexican-American War fell on sympathetic ears, especially after the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution, subsequent occupation of Veracruz, and border skirmishes with Pancho Villa. The international scene was a tinderbox, and Wilson’s inaugural was understandably a grim one. Surprisingly he got a little help from an unexpected source, Mayor John Purroy Mitchel of New York City. Mitchel had been active in the Preparedness Movement with Leonard Wood, Theodore Roosevelt and other for some time and thus not a natural ally of Wilson’s. Still Mayor Mitchel reached out to the president on the day of the inaugural offering the administration the use of New York City’s civilian piers as well as full cooperation for use of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other maritime facilities. Securing New York’s hundreds of miles of water and shorelines was of paramount importance.

(images/top, Library of Congress; bottom, the Brown Brothers for The World’s Work.)

The second film shoot

Our small group was out again today, this time in Yonkers for the second film shoot in the World War 1 documentary we are making. Today was more about exterior shots than interviews. It was cold with the wind blowing off the Hudson River. As the project moves along I will talk more in depth about our doughboy himself. In the meantime I wanted to share a few images from the day.

Here are a few of us filming in from of the Yonkers City Hall.

Here are a few of us filming in from of the Yonkers City Hall.

Here is another angle. This Great War memorial was dedicated in 1922. I took more still images for eventual submission to the WW1 Memorial Inventory Project.

Here is another angle. This Great War memorial was dedicated in 1922. I took more still images for eventual submission to the WW1 Memorial Inventory Project.

One of our number has a gift for choosing the best camera spots, in this case a traffic median triangle.

One of our number has a gift for choosing the best camera spots, in this case a traffic median triangle.

Again a different angle. This stretch of roads was the site of Memorial and Veterans Day parades for decades. Our doughboy, his five sons, and many of his grandchildren marched along this way.

Again another angle. This stretch of road was the site of Memorial and Veterans Day parades for decades. Our doughboy, his five sons, and many of his grandchildren marched along this way.

Gold Star Mothers. This monument was dedicated in 2006 and stands across from the Yonkers train station.

Gold Star Mothers. This monument was dedicated in 2006 and stands across from the Yonkers train station.

Alas logistics got in the way of taking a group photo of our entire party of six but here are some of us after our group had lunch at a local micro brewery. All in all not a bad way to spend the day. And productive too.

Alas logistics got in the way of taking a group photo of our entire party of six, but here are some of us after we finished up in the afternoon. One can see how cold and windy it was. Still the sun was bright and the snow held off. Overall a fun and productive day. Thanks everyone for help making it happen.

 

“Federal Reserve Students”

George True Blood, seen here on Governors Island in 1917 after his promotion to brigadier general, was responsible to the tens of thousands of applications pouring in to the Eastern Department that winter just before America joined the war.

George True Blood, seen here on Governors Island later in 1917 after his promotion to brigadier general, was responsible fro the tens of thousands of applications pouring in to the Eastern Department that winter just before America joined the war.

Americans were watching with increasing anxiety as the winter of 1917 moved along. Everyone was wondering what would happen with the German u-boat attacks and looking ahead to what spring and summer might bring. No one of course knew that the United Sates would enter the war the first week of April. The first week of March 1917 officials were predicting that 50,000 men and 10,000 young males between 15-18 would registeri to attend the Military Training Camps for civilians in Plattsburg, New York and elsewhere before they opened that June. They were to be called “Federal Reserve Students.”

Things had changed a great deal since the first camps in 1913; as pf summer 1917 the civilian camps were to officially be under the auspices of the Army. This had a number of implications. For one thing in previous years the men had paid their own way, which explains why most Plattsburg men came from upper class families, usually from the Northeast where interventionist sentiment was stronger than in the South and West. The Army would pay for uniforms, food, arms, and travel expenses. The duty of processing the letters of interest fell to Leonard Wood and his staff at the department of the East on Governors Island. He tasked his chief of staff Colonel George True Bartlett to take care of it.

Theodore Roosevelt was watching it all closely and was never happier than when he heard that his eighteen-year-old nephew, William Sheffield Cowles Jr., his sister Anna’s only son, was intending to attend. As it turned out, neither Cowles nor the other 60,000 boys and men attended the civilian training camps that winter. When war indeed came, the Army prioritized the camps at Plattsburg and elsewhere exclusively for military use alone.

(image/Library of Congress)

Sunday morning coffee

Little did I know when Sami invited me to the circus at the Barclays Center three Februaries ago that Ringlings would be shutting down a few years later.

Little did I know when Sami invited me to the circus at the Barclays Center three Februaries ago that Ringlings would be shutting down a few years later.

There were so many people in the city yesterday on this unseasonably warm weekend. I’m headed out in a bit to hang out with a friend for the day. Often I work on Sundays but today I’m putting it all aside as I rest and gather for what will be a busy week. Earlier this past week my friend Sami Steigmann emailed me and others the link to his new website. As I have said before Mr. Steigmann is becoming an increasingly known figure in the field of Holocaust memory. He was born in the bloodlands of Eastern Europe in 1939 when Europe and the rest of the world seemed determined to commit suicide. The Second World War reached the small enclave that was his village a year or so later, with terrible consequences.

We are almost two decades into the twenty-first century and the events of the twentieth are still playing out in ways big and small all around us. Sami’s is just one of the hundreds of millions lives touched by those events. The mind can’t wrap itself around such numbers however; the only way to comprehend it is through stories about individual people. I don’t know if Sami put it together himself but the website is beautifully done. It is a helpful reminder that that World War 2, and even the First World War, are not merely history but in a very real sense current events, with the effects being felt today on personal lives.

Ted Roosevelt’s life in words

Roosevelt at Doubleday, Brooklyn Daily Eagle 20 Aug 1910If you live in or around New York City please remember that I will be speaking about the writing and publishing career of Ted Roosevelt at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace on Saturday 4 March, one week from today. I wrote about his father Theodore Roosevelt’s journalistic career last week. It is more complicated than I can go into here–that’s what the talk is for–but one thread to keep in mind when it comes to the Roosevelt clan is that the written word was important to almost all of them. Ted was an executive at Doubleday in the 1930s, after his stints in Puerto Rico and the Philippines and before he rejoined the Army in 1941. His father knew the Doubledays well and even laid the cornerstone for the publishing house’s Garden City Long Island headquarters when they relocated from New York City in 1910. If you note, in the caption he emphasizes the shift from the city to what was then rural Long Island and what he sees as the positive influence it will have for people and business–like Doubleday–who make that demographic shift. It is not reading too much into it to say he is foreseeing the post-Second World War rise of suburbia. Levittown was in Long Island.

I have been pulling my speaking material together this week and have started gathering the images as well, which I intend to put into a Powerpoint later today. The image above is from the 20 August 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Roosevelt would have just gotten back from his post-presidential safari in Africa and return swing through Europe, where he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize and attended the funeral of King Edward VII that May. Note the heaviness of Roosevelt’s dark suit, which he is wearing under no shade in the dog days of August. It is lost on us how grueling the speaking circuit can be for politicians.