Unintentional bogus history: Archduke Ferdinand assassinated! British lead assault on Damascus!

June 30, 2014

Santayana said it:  Those who don’t remember history, yada, yada, yada.

It almost turned Dada-esque over the weekend, when a Syrian television editor mistook a “history-as-it-happened” Twitter feed for actual events.

One reason to learn history, I tell students, is so that you cannot be jived by politicians and others who wish to persuade you falsely.  Add to that:  So you won’t be suckered by false news reports when you’re at the editor’s desk.

I wonder how many hoaxes get started this way?

Is that today's newspaper? Toronto Daily Star, June 29, 1914. Not today's edition.

Is that today’s newspaper? Toronto Daily Star, June 29, 1914. Not today’s edition.


1914 — photo of Flag Days past, present, and yet to come

June 14, 2014

A guy speaking on Flag Day. Unremarkable, except, look at the year, look at the audience.

Caption from the Library of Congress:  Flag Day exercises, State, War, and Navy Building. Wilson speaking; Bryan, Daniels, [Breckinridge Long], William Phillips, F.D. Roosevelt, etc. present

Caption from the Library of Congress: Flag Day exercises, State, War, and Navy Building. Wilson speaking; Bryan, Daniels, [Breckinridge Long], William Phillips, F.D. Roosevelt, etc. present

Flag Day was marked in 1877 by a few hundred Americans, fresh from celebrating the nation’s centennial, on the centennial date of the resolution from the Second Continental Congress that designated the flag, with stars and stripes.  Pushed by history teachers who used the celebration as a teaching tool, unofficial ceremonies continued across the nation.

President Woodrow Wilson — himself a professor of history and politics — issued a proclamation for a national celebration to continue each year, in 1916.

This photo was taken two years before that proclamation, in the centennial year of the “Star-spangled Banner.”

Professional photographers Harris & Ewing captured Wilson in mid-speech, in declamation form without a public address system or any other amplification.  (I wonder:  Who was the first president to use a microphone and amplification?)

Reporters for newspapers, and maybe an official scribe, work to capture Wilson’s speech in text form; Wilson was probably speaking extemporaneously, without a prepared text.  Whatever Wilson said, his remarks were not captured officially in Presidential Papers, though they may be available in other venues (behind a paywall for me)Wilson’s speech, delivered at 4:00 p.m., was titled “The Meaning of the Flag.”  A few snippets from the speech suggest that it was mostly a diatribe that whipped up sentiment against German immigrants in America, ultimately ending in violence against many U.S. citizens and residents.

The platform was the steps of the State, War and Navy Building, now the West Executive Office Building next door to the White House.  Then the building housed three departments; today State has its own complex in Foggy Bottom, a few blocks away; War was renamed Defense after World War II, and moved across the Potomac to Virginia, to the Pentagon, where the Navy’s chief offices also reside.

On the platform with Wilson were his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, former Congressman from Nebraska who ran for the presidency six times, most famously capturing the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1896 with this “Cross of Gold” speech; and immediately to the left of Wilson in the photo is his young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would go on to be crippled by polio, then elected Governor of New York and, in 1932, President of the U.S.

In the photo above, Bryan is almost wholly cut out, on the extreme left edge.

Others on the stand include William Phillips, sitting on Roosevelt’s right, though a chilly couple of feet away; Breckinridge Long, to Phillips’s right; and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, in a light colored suit, to Long’s right and Bryan’s left.

You won’t find William Phillips in most history books, but he played important roles in American state affairs for four decades.  Returning early from an assignment in London in 1912, he booked passage on the RMS Olympic, avoiding passage on the grander, RMS Titanic a week later.  An odd little history of the Olympic gives a great, brief description of Phillips’s career:

A career diplomat, he would shortly go on to work closely with Woodrow Wilson and to be involved in the latter’s 14-point peace plan following the Great European War.

Wilson made him an Assistant Secretary of State, and Phillips would later be Ambassador to Italy at the time of Mussolini. Later in the war he became London head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, forerunner of the CIA), and would come into contact with an operative named Walter Lord.

Breckinridge Long also held important posts over 40 years, but his legacy is much less happy.  As Assistant Secretary of State for Visas during World War II, Long set up obstacles to U.S. immigration by people who were threatened by Nazi governments in European nations, sometimes countermanding orders from President Franklin Roosevelt.

Josephus Daniels, son of a southern shipbuilder murdered for his Union sympathies during the Civil War, published newspapers in North Carolina most of his life.  President Wilson appointed him Secretary of the Navy, where he became close friends with his Assistant Secretary Franklin Roosevelt; FDR appointed Daniels Ambassador to Mexico.  Among Daniels’s newspaper holdings was the Raleigh News and Observer.  An opponent of the Ku Klux Klan, Daniels argues for white supremacy, and claimed that African Americans would block progressive reforms.

No, “cup of joe” is not a reference to Josephus Daniels and his order banning alcohol from Navy officers’ messes.

On that speaker’s stand, on Flag Day, 1914, were the president and a future president, experience dating back to the Civil War and future leadership through the end of World War II.  Interesting photo.

Your flag is already flying for Flag Day, right?

Absent in most photos of the dignitaries at Wilson's speech:  The U.S. flag.  This photo, from farther back, shows the U.S. Marine Band, which played for the occasion, and the U.S. flag on the main pole in front of the State, War and Navy Building.  Photo from the Lincoln Highway National Archives and Museum.

Absent in most photos of the dignitaries at Wilson’s speech: The U.S. flag. This photo, from farther back, shows the U.S. Marine Band, which played for the occasion, and the U.S. flag on the main pole in front of the State, War and Navy Building. William Jennings Bryan is more clearly shown, also, on the left of the row of seats behind Wilson. Photo from the Lincoln Highway National Archives and Museum.


January 21: Odd conjunction of history with Louis XVI and Vladimir I. Lenin

January 21, 2014

This is mostly an encore post.

The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press inform us that France’s King Louis XVI died on January 21, 1793.  In 1924, Russian revolutionary Vladimir I. Lenin died on January 21.

Portrait of Louis XVI

France’s King Louis XVI died on January 21, 1793.  He is seen here in his most famous portrait, in happier times. Image via Wikipedia

Both died of strokes, but of different kinds of strokes.  Lenin’s was a cerebral stroke; Louis’s was the stroke of the blade of a guillotine.

Painting of Lenin in front of the Smolny Institute, circa 1925,  by Isaak Brodsky - Wikipedia

Lenin died on January 21, 1924.  Painting of Lenin in front of the Smolny Institute, circa 1925, by Isaak Brodsky

Ruminations on the date, and the men:  How much of current history can be understood by studying those two events, and those two men?  How much if we add in George Washington, and Napoleon, other men affected by revolution?

A few years ago I had a sophomore student spell out the importance of people in history.  Israel Pena observed that  Americans got rid of their king through revolution, and ended up with George Washington as leader, and then president.  Washington’s modeling of his life after the Roman patriot Cincinattus led Washington to resign as commander of the Continental Army when the warring was done, instead of declaring himself king, and then later to step down from the presidency after two terms, to promote peaceful retirement of presidents.

The French got rid of their king through revolution in 1789, but in the chaos that followed, they got Napoleon who took over the government after battlefield victories against France’s enemies.  Then Napoleon declared himself emperor, and took off on a reign of conquest and war across Europe.

France’s revolution produced Napoleon; America’s revolution produced Washington, and that has made most of the difference.

Mr. Pena’s commentary compared only those two nations.  What if we add in a third nation and revolution:  Russia?  Russia got rid of its king (czar) through revolution in 1917.  In the chaos that followed it got a government led by Lenin, and upon Lenin’s early death, taken over by Joseph Stalin.

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart - Wikipedia

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart – Wikipedia

Is the future of a nation written by the character of the men who run the government?  One might make a good case that the deaths of these men paint most of the picture we really need to have. Louis XVI died at the age of 39, on the guillotine; Vladimir I. Lenin, died at the age of 53, of stroke.  Both still worked to cling to the strings of power; Compare the deaths of Washington and Napoleon. George Washington. died in 1799 at the age of 67, of complications from a strep throat, but in retirement and in his bed at Mount Vernon, Virginia; while Napoleon Bonaparte died at 52, probably from stomach cancer, while he suffered in humiliating exile on the far distant South Atlantic isle of St. Helena, in 1821.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 - Wikipedia

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 – Wikipedia

Revolution marked these men. Three of them led revolutions, and the fourth was put out of power by one.  Whose life would you have preferred to follow?  Which of these lives is most meritorious of modeling?

Which one lived the life that put his nation on the more secure footing so that its citizens might live good lives, and die of old age in their beds, rather than at war?

Can one person really push the history of a nation so much?  Or are these four lives simply emblematic of the nations they ruled?

Something to ponder on a January 21.


January 18, 1919: Paris Peace Talks open, ending World War I

January 18, 2014

Coming just after World War I, stuck rather at the beginning of the end of the Progressive Era, the Paris Peace Conference that led to the Treaty of Versailles get shorted in most history books.

The talks are difficult to explain easily.  And serious dipping of toes into these historical waters turns up the errors of the resulting treaty, including the onerous provisions saddled on Germany, and the oft-portrayed-as-betrayal of the Arabian allies of the Allies, whose lands were carved up with formal borders creating new nations where tribes previously didn’t bother with such formalities.  The treaty’s errors in Europe resulted in World War II, and the treaty’s errors in the Middle East plague the world still.

Woodrow Wilson took his 14 Points to France, won some  of them with the Europeans, but later lost the entire ballgame with the U.S. Senate.  His frantic, public campaign for ratification of the Treaty probably contributed to his stroke, which left him disabled for the remainder of his presidency and the rest of his life.

No wonder people want to forget it.

We’re coming up on the 100th anniversary of World War I, which started with the June 1914 assassination of  Austria’s Crown Prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, formerly in the Republic of Serbia but at the time under the captive thumb of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Maybe we should strive to understand the Paris Peace Conference better, to better understand how we got into those messes, and how we might yet get out of the remaining ones.

The Library of Congress’s Today in History feature carries this very nice, concise write-up:

The Paris Peace Conference

Portions of Territory Proposed to be taken from Germany,
December 31, 1919.
Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures, 1913-1919

On January 18, 1919, a few months after the end of World War I, leaders from the Allied nations began a series of discussions that became known as the Paris Peace Conference to settle issues raised by the war and its aftermath. Preceded by a series of armistices in September, October, and November 1918, that ended World War I, the Paris Peace Conference brought together representatives from the victorious nations. Russia had withdrawn from the fighting and was not invited. Because Allied leaders held Germany responsible for the war, German leaders attended only the conclusion of the discussions.

Preliminary meetings between the leaders began on January 12, 1919, after British Prime Minister David Lloyd George arrived in Paris.  Lloyd George, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Premier Georges Clemenceau of France, and Premier Vittorio Orlando of Italy emerged as the leaders of the conference and became known as the Big Four. The conference ended approximately one year later when the League of Nations, an international organization adapted from one of President Woodrow Wilson‘s Fourteen Points plan for peace, was organized.

political cartoon showing two men, one gesturing towards the other
The seance that failed,
C. K. Berryman, artist,
circa 1918-19.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

group of four men standing outside a building

“Big Four” — Photo by Edward Jackson.
Photo shows “Big Four” world leaders at World War I Peace Conference in Paris, May 27, 1919. From left to right: Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Premier Vittorio Orlando, Premier Georges Clemenceau, and President Woodrow Wilson.
Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).  Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

political cartoon of a man looking at a large scroll of paper labeled peace treaty
At Last!,
C. K. Berryman,
July 10, 1919.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Wilson’s idealistic Fourteen Points generated heated opposition from Clemenceau and Lloyd George in particular as each disagreed on the details of how to proceed. Eventually, however, the League of Nations was formed in 1919-20 as an alternative to traditional diplomacy. The United States did not join, in part because of opposition and disagreement among a group of powerful U.S. senators led by Foreign Relations Committee Chair Henry Cabot Lodge. The discussions also resulted in the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, the Treaty of Saint-Germain with Austria, and the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria.

More:


Propaganda posters: J. C. Leyendecker’s Uncle Sam at bat (fit for August)

July 28, 2012

Get in the game with Uncle Sam, WWI poster by J. C. Leyendecker, Museum of Play image

“Get in the Game with Uncle Sam” poster from World War I, by J. C. Leyendecker in 1917 — image from National Museum of Play

No matter how much the Texas State Board of Education wishes to run away from America’s heritage, we can’t.

Nor should we want to.

Propaganda is not a bad word.  There is bad propaganda, stuff that doesn’t work.  There is propaganda for bad purposes, stuff that promotes bad policies, or evil.  But good propaganda is stronger, long-lasting, often full of great artistic merit, and instructive.

Images of Uncle Sam provide clear pictures of what Americans were thinking, from the oldest versions to today.

This poster above is a World War I poster designed to convince Americans to get involved in the war effort.  J. C. Leyendecker, a noted illustrator, cast Uncle Sam as a baseball player up to bat.  The poster says simply, “Get in the game with Uncle Sam.”  Perhaps uniquely, this poster showed Sam in yellow-striped pants, instead of the more traditional red-striped.  Could an artist take such liberty today?

Nicolas Ricketts at the Strong Museum of National Play offered a good, concise description of the politics and history of the poster at the blog for the Museum (links added for your convenience):

Meanwhile, then-president Woodrow Wilson, who had won reelection in 1916 on an anti-war platform, faced the need for American participation in the terrible “Great War” raging in Europe. He and his cabinet knew that American involvement loomed. But how could the government convince the American public that this was necessary? One idea was to create a poster that urged Americans to metaphorically “Get in the Game,” along with their patriotic national symbol, Uncle Sam.

Artist J. C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) designed the poster, commissioned by the Publicity Committee of the Citizens Preparedness Association, a pro-war organization with federal support which also sponsored “preparedness parades” and other nationalistic activities. Leyendecker himself emigrated from Germany at age eight and was approaching the pinnacle of his career in 1917 when he created this work.

The poster just preceded James Montgomery Flagg’s famous “I Want You” image of Uncle Sam, which later became the best-known likeness of the country’s unofficial symbol. Leyendecker’s version, in spite of his baseball bat, is possibly less affable to contemporary eyes than Flagg’s friendlier Sam. But the bat he holds connected him to many Americans, who perhaps then decided that America should “get in the game.”

Some of this older propaganda had a humorous twist I think is too often missing from modern posters.  It was more effective for that, I think.

The image of Sam at bat shows up in many places in the internet world, but most often stripped of its identifying links to Leyendecker.  That does disservice to the art, to history, and to Leyendecker, who was one of our nation’s better illustrators for a very long time.

Visit the National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

More posters, almost random, found through Zemanta:

English: Uncle Sam recruiting poster.

The most famous Uncle Sam recruiting poster, by James Montgomery Flagg (1917). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

James Montgomery Flagg 1917 poster: "Boys...

James Montgomery Flagg 1917 poster: “Boys and girls! You can help your Uncle Sam win the war – save your quarters, buy War Savings Stamps” / James Montgomery Flagg . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Odd conjunction of history: January 21, Louis XVI and Vladimir I. Lenin

January 21, 2012

The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press inform us that France’s King Louis XVI died on January 21, 1793.  In 1924, Russian revolutionary Vladimir I. Lenin died on January 21.

Portrait of Louis XVI

France's King Louis XVI died on January 21, 1793. He is seen here in his most famous portrait, in happier times. Image via Wikipedia

Both died of strokes, but of different kinds of strokes.  Lenin’s was a cerebral stroke; Louis’s was the stroke of the blade of a guillotine.

Painting of Lenin in front of the Smolny Institute, circa 1925,  by Isaak Brodsky - Wikipedia

Lenin died on January 21, 1924. Painting of Lenin in front of the Smolny Institute, circa 1925, by Isaak Brodsky

Ruminations on the date, and the men:  How much of current history can be understood by studying those two events, and those two men?  How much if we add in George Washington, and Napoleon, other men affected by revolution?

A few years ago I had a sophomore student spell out the importance of people in history.  Israel Pena observed that  Americans got rid of their king through revolution, and ended up with George Washington as leader, and then president.  Washington’s modeling of his life after the Roman patriot Cincinattus led Washington to resign as commander of the Continental Army when the warring was done, instead of declaring himself king, and then later to step down from the presidency after two terms, to promote peaceful retirement of presidents.  The French got rid of their king through revolution in 1789, but in the chaos that followed, got Napoleon who took over the government after battlefield victories against France’s enemies.  Then Napoleon declared himself emperor, and took off on a reign of conquest and war across Europe.

Mr. Pena’s commentary compared only those two nations.  What if we add in a third, Russia?  Russia got rid of its king (czar) through revolution in 1917.  In the chaos that followed it got a government led by Lenin, and upon Lenin’s early death, taken over by Joseph Stalin.

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart - Wikipedia

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart - Wikipedia

Is the future written by the character of the men who run the government?  One might make a good case of that in the deaths paint most of the picture we really need to have, that of Louis XVI, at the age of 39, on the guillotine; of Vladimir I. Lenin, at the age of 53, of stroke, both still working to cling to the strings of power; and compare the death in 1799 of George Washington, at the age of 67, of complications from a strep throat, in retirement and in his bed at Mount Vernon, Virginia; and of Napoleon Bonaparte, 52, probably from stomach cancer, while he suffered in humiliating exile on the far distant South Atlantic isle of St. Helena, in 1821.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 - Wikipedia

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 - Wikipedia

Revolution marked these men, three of whom led them, and the fourth of whom was put out of power by one.  Whose life would you have preferred to follow?  Which of these lives is most meritorious of modeling?


Christy World War I poster to fetch more than $400 at auction

January 6, 2012

That’s a safe bet — the bid at the moment at Heritage Auctions is at $450.  How much is it worth?

Howard Chandler Christy World War I poster, 1918 - Third Liberty Loan - Heritage Auctions image

Howard Chandler Christy poster from 1918, for the Third Liberty Loan to finance World War I - Heritage Auctions image

Heritage Auctions describes the poster:

World War I Propaganda Poster by Howard Chandler Christy (Forbes, 1918). Third Liberty Loan Poster (20″ X 30″) “Fight or Buy Bonds.” War.
Howard Chandler Christy was so good at illustrating iconic beautiful women in uniquely styled poster art, that they soon became known as “Christy Girls.” He used some of these images to sell war bonds during WW I. His lovely art was instrumental in raising countless millions for the war effort. An unrestored poster with good color and an overall very presentable appearance. It may have tears, pinholes, edge wear, wrinkling, slight paper loss, and minor stains. Please see full-color, enlargeable image below for more details. Rolled, Fine+.

Posters from the wars are great teaching tools.  I tell my students to watch to see if their parents or grandparents have any of these old posters lying around.  $450 would buy books for a semester at college.

Heritage Auctions plans to sell this poster, and many others, this coming Sunday, January 8.


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