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.


Nathan Bigelow on Woodrow Wilson, TODAY (March 5), at Austin College

March 5, 2014

Too late for most of us, but history teachers near Sherman, Texas, ought to zip out as soon as school is out this afternoon, and head over to Austin College.

From North Texas e-News:

Nathan Bigelow, Professor of Political Science at Austin College in Sherman, Texas; Bigelow will present

Nathan Bigelow, Professor of Political Science at Austin College in Sherman, Texas; Bigelow will present “The Evolving Political Thought of Professor [Woodrow] Wilson,” March 5, 2014.

Bigelow to share insight on political evolution of Woodrow Wilson

SHERMAN, TEXAS — Nathan Bigelow, Austin College associate professor of political science and chair of the Department of Political Science, will present “The Evolving Political Thought of Professor Wilson” on March 5 at 4:30 p.m. in Wright Campus Center, Room 231. A 4 p.m. reception in nearby Johnson Gallery precedes his presentation, which highlights his recent sabbatical study. The event, free and open to the public, is hosted by the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching.

Bigelow said his talk will focus on the bookends of Woodrow Wilson’s academic career: Congressional Government (1880), in which he made a broad critique of the American constitutional system, and Constitutional Government (1908), written just before he left academia for a career in politics, in which he reassessed many of his original positions. “I contend that his evolving thought can be traced to changes in the political environment during this time – specifically, increased party discipline and invigorated presidential leadership,” Bigelow said.” I will use newly available quantitative measures of this time period to help support my argument.”

The Robert and Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, is directed by Bernice Melvin, Margaret Root Brown Chair of Foreign Languages and Literatures and professor of French. Within the mission of the center is the encouragement of ‘bold exploration of intellectual frontiers” and “fostering lively intellectual dialogue within and across academic disciplines.”

Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.

Texas history and social studies teachers have been working to bolster teaching of the Progressive Era, Imperialism, and important figures of those times including Woodrow Wilson, after testing indicated Texas students are too often unfamiliar with the times and events.  Sherman area history teachers are lucky to have this close by.

I’ve been unable to discover whether professional education credit will be offered.


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 gets 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.

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