Today is the 105th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s address to Congress seeking a declaration of war on Germany. I was having a conversation the other day with someone about the ghosts and demons of the twentieth century returning today. It is haunting and sobering.
The have my article up and running about the Vigilantes over at Roads to the Great War. This was a lot of fun to write. For those who may not know, though I don’t mention it in the article Hermann Hagedorn was the leader of the Roosevelt Memorial Association from the early 1920s until the late 1950s.
I’m gearing up here in my home office to get some writing done on an article. The project is taking a little longer than I wanted but it will get down in due time. The laundry will get thrown in somewhere along the way as well.
I received an email yesterday from Mike Hanlon at Roads to the Great War, who let me know that they published my piece about Henry A. Wise Wood and the League for the Preservation of American Independence. I’ll let one read the entire thing if inclined, but in a nutshell Wood and like-minded individuals such as Senator Hiram Johnson did everything in their power to kill Woodrow Wilson’s Covenant for the League of Nations.
I don’t want to go into any details here, but some colleagues and I at work received some exciting new this past Friday about a public history project for which we submitted a proposal. We heard that ours was one of the winners. Now comes the task of ironing out some logistics and putting the thing together. When the time comes, I will share more.
Enjoy your Sunday.
(image/Library of Congress)
Summer has come full on. I was off today and had the windows open and fan on as I worked on an article I’m doing about Eleanor Roosevelt. I’ve got about 400 in the books and hope to write another 400 or so this evening before declaring victory. I would be remiss if I did not pause and note that today, June 28, 2019, is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors. I don’t intend to write too much about it right now because there is already so much good reading out there today. For now I though I would emphasize the quickness and degree to which resistance to the treaty, especially its covenant for a League of Nations, had manifested itself even before the ink had dried.
One hundred years ago tonight the League for the Preservation of American Independence held a rally in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. One of the American Independence League’s leaders was Henry A. Wise Wood, an engineer and inventor who had been active in the Preparedness Movement with Theodore Roosevelt and others in the Great War’s early years before American entry into the conflict. Born in 1866, Wood was the son of three-time New York City mayor Fernando Wood. The League for the Preservation of American Independence enjoyed tremendous popularity and easily filled Carnegie Hall that night in protest against Wilson, the Versailles Treaty, and prospective League of Nations. A spinout crowd gathered outside on the sidewalk. Wood asked that the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt fill the hall.
TR had died almost six months previously but almost certainly would have opposed the League of Nations. One Roosevelt who did support it was Franklin, who when he ran for the vice-presidency in 1920 advocated for the League. FDR’s position may or may not have been opportunism based on loyalty to Wilson and the knowledge that, because he and running mate Jacob M. Cox would likely lose the election, he could take a position confident in never having to carry it out. Franklin D. Roosevelt did learn the lesson of the failures of Versailles however, and when he became commander-in-chief began pushing for what became the United Nations a quarter of a century later.
(image/Library of Congress)
I hope everyone has been enjoying the day. I wanted to share this extraordinary poster from 1918 urging Americans to purchase was savings stamps. I think it illustrates–quite literally–that peace, if we can even call it that, was a tenuous thing six weeks after the Armistice. Americans and their allies were occupying Germany. Allied troops were also stationed in remote, freezing Siberia. This was in the wake of the assassination of the czar and his family. These were the early stages of the Russian Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt returned to Sagamore Hill on Christmas Day afternoon after having spend almost two months in a Manhattan hospital. In early December he had been too infirm even to walk; he was also blind in one eye and still feeling the effects of the jungle disease that had nearly killed him four years earlier on his expedition down the River of Doubt. Despite all this, there was nonetheless talk that Christmas week of 1918 of Colonel Roosevelt traveling to Europe to participate in the peace negotiations. Colonel Roosevelt quickly dispelled these rumors. Franklin Roosevelt, still the assistant secretary of the navy, was scheduled to sail for Europe aboard the Leviathan on December 31 to start wrapping up naval contracts and other business. Already in Europe was Woodrow Wilson, who spent December 25 in Chaumont, France with Pershing and the troops before heading to London. American and allied troops were also in Siberia, and General Pershing was talking over Christmas about transferring an entire division from Germany there to further support them.
The reference in the poster to the Čecho-Slováks–peoples formerly under rule of the now-dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire–hints at the complexity of the task Wilson and other leaders would face when trying to put the world back together. 1919 would be a fraught time.
(image/Library of Congress)
I was having a conversation with some students yesterday explaining that the name of the National League team currently playing in the World Series took its name from the period during which the team played in Brooklyn. Fans had to dodge the streetcars to get to the ballpark and thus became known as trolley dodgers. In 1916 however that was still a little ways in the future; the Brooklyn team that played the Red Sox in that year’s World Series was known as the Robins. Charles Ebbets was already the owner by this time. Later in the day I was speaking to someone whose daughter lives in Boston but whose family roots are in Los Angeles. We got into a discussion about how some of those great Dodger players of the 1970s and early 1980s will hopefully be in attendance over the coming week, throwing out first pitches and whatnot. Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski threw out the opening pitch in game one last night.
The last time the team that is now the Dodgers played the Red Sox in the World Series was 1916. Seasons ended earlier in those years, with the final game usually taking place around Columbus Day. In October 1916 the Battles of Verdun and the Somme were grinding to their awful conclusions. It was the final weeks of the presidential campaign and the incumbent Woodrow Wilson was running against challenger Charles Evans Hughes on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” Fenway Park was in its fifth season in 1916, but if you look at the score book above you will see that the games in Boston were played not in Fenway but at Braves Field. I was wondering about this when I saw the score card. During the game last night the Red Sox radio announcers eventually spoke about it, noting that the games were moved to the more spacious ballpark to see more tickets. Let that be a lesson to anyone who thinks organized baseball was once only a game and not a business. I say that with no cynicism.
Babe Ruth, Casey Stengel, Fred Merkle and Tris Speaker were just some of the players who squared off in the World Series 102 years ago. Lincoln Logs were invented that year, presumably due to interest in the 16th president just a few years after the centenary of his birth and in the wake of the 50th anniversary of the American Civil War. It was the final season before America joined the Great War. While Europe burned Americans took in the World Series to forget the world’s troubles as best they could.
(image/Lincoln Eng. Co., via Wikimedia Commons)
I am having my coffee and a bite to eat before heading off to the Tomb. I see it is raining. It is too early to tell how it might effect the event at Sakura Park that runs from 12:00 – 8:00. I am watching the progress of Hurricane Florence as well. In addition to the terrible havoc it might unleash on many lives and communities, it may effect next week’s Camp Doughboy weekend on Governors Island. We will keep our fingers crossed that the Florence, and the storm building behind it, do not turn into major tragedies.
I was gathering my notes yesterday for next week’s talk about John Purroy Mitchel and came across this political cartoon which I thought I would quickly share. It is from the August 9, 1915 Brooklyn Daily Eagle and, coincidentally or not, is positioned next to an article about Mitchel’s participation in the Plattsburg training camp that summer. The cartoon shows Theodore Roosevelt explaining the dangers of what he and his supporters called hyphenated-Americanism during the Great War. The United States was not yet in the war when this cartoon was published. This was, however, just three months after the sinking of the Lusitania. The tension between Roosevelt, General Leonard Wood, Mayor Mitchel and other Preparedness advocates against President Wilson was building.
Just a few weeks after this cartoon appeared Roosevelt gave a controversial speech at Plattsburg taking the Wilson Administration to task for what he saw as its poor response to the war. General Wood was in attendance in Plattsburg with Roosevelt and later reprimanded by Secretary of War Lindley Garrison.
Here is some stunning footage of John Purroy Mitchell’s funeral at St. Patrick’s one hundred years ago today. Note Theodore Roosevelt and, I believe, Charles Evans Hughes, who ran against Wilson in 1916, walking behind the casket as the pallbearers take Mitchel into the cathedral.
The have my article up and running over at Roads to the Great War about the life, times, and death of John Purroy Mitchel. New York City’s Boy Mayor was all of thirty-four when he became mayor in 1914. Initially he was an ally of Woodrow Wilson, who in 1913 had appointed him Collector of the Port of New York. Men like Chester Arthur had previously held the collectorship. Mitchel and Wilson soon had a falling out over what the mayor saw as the president’s poor leadership during the war. Soon, Mitchel was very publicly allying with friends like Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood advocating for Preparedness. When he lost his re-election bid, Mitchel became a military aviator. He died in a flight exercise in Louisiana on July 6, 1918, one hundred years ago today.
(image/courtesy of Margaret Maloney via Wikimedia Commons)
I would be remiss if I did not pause and write a few words on this, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was less than a year old when he was killed in Memphis. Oddly however, the older I get the more events like this seem less like “history” and more like current events. Here in full-blown middle-age, my entire concept of time has evolved. When my father was alive he lived within a few hour’s drive from Memphis. I visited each summer I would usually borrow his car and take an overnight side trip to somewhere or other. More than once that place was Memphis. I visited the Lorraine Hotel, site of the King assassination and home today to the National Civil Rights Museum, more than once. Walking in the vicinity one could see the empty lots that were the results of the riots and, later, urban renewal. I have not been there now in many years, but I believe that gentrification is at last moving things along.
I remember when MLK Jr. Day became a holiday in the early 1980s. Again, at the time I thought his death was part of some ancient past, and yet the creation of the holiday was only fifteen years after the shooting. The evolution of the holiday itself has a convoluted history, one mired in national and even international events. A search of the New York Times digital archive from 1983 pulls up all kinds of articles about the unresolved issues of the Civil Rights Movement as well as commentary from TASS, the Soviet news agency, offering their cynical take on the drama of the holiday hanging in the balance. When King was assassinated the Tet Offensive was in its fifth week. Bobby Kennedy gave the eulogy for King and would himself be assassinated two months later. All that spring and summer there were riots and political upheaval across the United States, in Paris, Czechoslovakia, and Mexico City just before the Summer Olympics.
Viewed a certain way, King’s activities can be seen in the context of the World Wars. His assassination came just fifty years after Woodrow Wilson issued his Fourteen Points, and twenty-seven years after FDR announced the Four Freedoms in his January 1941 State of the Union address. King knew these things. It is not an accident that the Civil Rights Movement here in the U.S., and Independence Movements around the world, developed how and when they did. One can’t help but think of things like Ho Chi Minh at Versailles after the Armistice pleading his case for an independent Vietnam. King was reluctant to speak publicly against Lyndon Johnson because of all the president had done for Civil Rights, but in the year before his assassination King’s denunciations of the war in Southeast Asia became increasingly strident. In the library where I work, over the past fifteen years, a colleague and I have been ordering the King Papers as they have incrementally released. The historiography on the release of someone’s correspondence is itself a fascinating genre. History is a humbling thing and the deeper one goes the more one sees the relationships between what are very complicated events.
(image/White House Photo Office)