Monday, October 26, 2015

Dry Illinois

Prohibition began nation-wide in January 1920; Illinois was already 87% dry by 1919. Chicago remained wet with more than five thousand saloons, nearly two thirds of the saloons in the state. That ended on July 1, 1919 when Illinois enacted a dry bill ending the sale and transportation of alcohol within the state. The bill also allowed a "search and seizure" provision, which allowed any judge, including a justice of the peace, to grant a writ of search on the word of any citizen that alcohol was being sold. There were exceptions for sacramental and industrial uses and alcohol could still be sold by druggists for medicinal purpose.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mourning Is Becoming In Electric Blue

By the end of the First World War, conventional widow's weeds were falling out of style. Women no longer wore dark veils or wore black for an entire year. Some time spent in mourning was still to be expected; in addition to black, other colors such as purple, lavender, and white were also colors of mourning.

Note the prices on each gown, that was a good month's salary at the time.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chicago Political Shenanigans, Old School

Abraham Lincoln was the second man nominated as the candidate for the Republican Party. The first was John C. Feemont in 1856. The Republicans separated themselves from the Whigs over the issue of slavery.

The expected front-runner for the 1860 Republican nomination was William H. Seward of New York. If they had chosen any place other than Chicago for their convention, Seward may have won. The convention was held at the Wigwam, a wooden convention hall that was built soon before and burnt down soon afterwards. The Wigwam was located on Wolf's Point the northeast shore of the convergence of the North and South branches of the Chicago River. It is now a parking lot.

Lincoln, who had lost the race to Stephen A. Douglas for the Illinois seat in the Senate, but had made a national name for himself in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, had dithered on the decision to run for president. Joseph Medill, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, credited himself for convincing Lincoln to run. It wasn't until the favorable reception of Lincoln's Cooper Union Address speech in New York 1860, that Lincoln decided to run.

The six-foot, redheaded mayor of Chicago, "Long John" Wentworth also hoped for the nomination. Credentials were challenged - and forged - claques were paid to shout down opposition speakers, and 'spontaneous' torchlight parades appeared and disappeared. When Wentworth early on realized he was not going to secure the nomination, he put his support - and all of his shenanigans - behind Lincoln.

Stephen A. Douglas, also from Illinois, was the Democratic Party front-runner in 1860 at their convention in Charleston, South Carolina. The Democrats could not reach a consensus and the convention was adjourned without nominating a candidate. When the convention was re-convened in Baltimore, Maryland, Douglas won on the second ballot. The cost was that many Southern Democrats walked out of the convention. Two other Democratic candidates, John Bell and John C. Breckinridge, split the Democratic vote three ways, thus ensuring the election of Lincoln.

After Lincoln's election, he named Seward as his Secretary of State. Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia, known at that time as "Seward's Folly".

An interesting historical note is that John Bell's running mate, Edward Everett, later gave the two hour speech at Gettysburg that overshadowed Abraham Lincoln's two hundred and seventy-eight word Gettysburg Address, of which the world did, in fact, note and did long remember. Everett's words are not remembered.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tale of Two Cities

And why, in April 1919, would the Chicago Tribune have society notes for New York and Washington, D.C.? Was this a second city form of low self-esteem?


Society notes were common columns in newspapers of that day. The columns would chronicle who had whom to dinner, who was a houseguest of whom, who was opening their summer house, who was closing their city home, and who was leaving for Europe on what ship.

Keeping track of the society New York and Washington was reasonable considering the former publisher of the Tribune, Joseph Medill McCormick (known as Medill), became the senator from Illinois the month before. Medill was the brother of one of the co-publishers of the Tribune, Robert R. McCormick. The other co-publisher and first cousin of the McCormick brothers, Joseph Medill Patterson, would soon be leaving the Tribune for New York to create a new newspaper New York Daily News in June.

Friday, April 12, 2013

On the Town

The story has been published in all the Roosevelt biographies for nearly a half a century. Here are the basics: Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Deleno Roosevelt returns home ill from a tour of the World War I battlefields of France in September 1918. When his wife, Eleanor, unpacked his luggage she discovered a cache of love letters to Franklin from her social secretary Lucy Mercer. The marriage is shattered. There is talk of divorce. Franklin is reminded that Lucy Mercer is a Roman Catholic and cannot marry a divorced man. Louis Howe, Franklin's political advisor, tells him that he cannot attain higher office as a divorced man. Finally, Franklin's mother, Sara, tells him that she will cut him off financially if he divorces his wife.

It is an interesting story, no doubt true, but it seems to be told from Eleanor's perspective. All the arguments to continue the marriage are addressed to Franklin. There are no arguments as to why Eleanor should continue the marriage.

At that time, Eleanor was the mother of five children between the ages of three and thirteen. Although she came from a privileged life, she may not have had enough personal wealth to maintain her status without Sara Roosevelt's help.

Eleanor could not have turned to her side of the family. Her brother Hall was married, beginning his own family and may have began his decline into alcoholism. Her uncle Theodore Roosevelt, disappointed that the Wilson administration would not use him in World War I, was mourning the loss of his son, Quentin, who died in France in July 1918; he was only months away from his own death in January 1919. The grandmother who raised Eleanor, Mary Ludlow Hall, was also nearing the end of her life; passing away in August of 1919.

The biographers have this as a life-changing crisis in the marriage of Franklin and Eleanor. So, I was surprised to find the following while reading the newspapers from a mere seven months after this crisis.

Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, 21 April 1919, "Washington Society"

Society will be lining up actively for the Victory loan and Salvation Army drives which will be on tomorrow. Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, wife of the president is honorary chairman of the loan committee, and Mrs. Thomas Riley Marshall, wife of the vice president, honorary chairman of the "army" committee, having wired from Arizona that she would "do anything for the Salvation army and Evangeline Booth."
Working for the loan will be Mrs. Charles S. Hamlin, Mrs. Blaine Beale, Mrs. Archibald Hopkins,… Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mrs. Louis Brownlow and others.

Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, 22 April 1919, "Washington Society"

Washington, D. C., April 21 — [Special] — Maj. Gen. George Barnett, commandant of the Marine corps, made the presentations tonight at the Easter ball given at the Marine Barracks under the auspices of the Woman's Army and Navy league and the guests were received by Mrs. Emerson H. Liscum, president of the league, assisted by Mrs. Newton D. Baker, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mrs. George Barnett and Mrs. Alexander Sharp, chairman of the ball committee.

Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, 25 April 1919, "Washington Society"

Washington, D. C., April 24 — [Special] — Maj. Gen. George Barnett and Mrs. Barnett entertained at dinner tonight at the commandant's house, Marine barracks, in compliment to the acting secretary of the navy and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mrs. Barnett's sister, Mrs. Henry Mustin, is with her for a visit preparatory to opening her N street, which was rented for the winter months.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Is There A Third Option?

"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying,  "My mother, drunk or sober."
         G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant, 1902

Chesterton wasn’t the only one who got it wrong. Stephen Decatur’s toast was not, “My country right or wrong.” The most common form of the quote is, "Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!" But that is only the beginning of an interesting story.

The toast was offered at a diner in Commodor Stephen Decatur's honor in April of 1816. This was quoted in Alexander Slidell Mackenzie’s 1849 biography Life of Stephen Decatur . Mackenzie was not shy in editorializing, he added, "May it ever remain the rallying cry of patriotism throughout the land". Life of Stephen Decatur, p. 295.

 However, Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations Requested from the Congressional Research Service, (Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989; Suzy Platt, editor) and notes a contemporary quote from a April 20, 1816 newspaper as, “Our country—In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right, and always successful, right or wrong.” The second version is supported by two contemporary papers Norfolk Historical

So, we have three quotes, with three different meanings.

Commodore Stephen Decatur served with distinction during the First Barbary War (1801-1805), the War of 1812, and the Second Barbary War (1815). In the First Barbary War, Decatur was part of the four warship force of the fledgling U.S. Navy sent by President Jefferson against the Ottomans at the port of Tripoli. Lieutenant Decatur led the attack to recapture the U.S.S. Philadelphia which had run aground. (Yes, this is the same war where the United States Marines, under Lt. O'Bannon, distinguished themselves by taking the fortress city of Derna on "the shores of Tripoli").

In the Second Barbary War, Decatur forced negotiations with both the Bey of Tunis and the Dey of Algiers to end enforced enslavement of American sailors, the tributes paid and granted the U.S. full shipping rights.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In The Pink

Did you know that mercurochrome is illegal? It cannot be distributed across state lines in the U.S. That bright pink-orange badge was a part of my childhood, now gone because of its mercury content.

Early in the book, one character is knocked down. I had a section of dialog while the wound is being dressed.

Note to self: Was mercurochrome available in April, 1919?

Probably not.  It was still a new discovery in Johns Hopkins in 1919. It is doubtful that it would have been commercially available in April. Even if it had been available, it would be more likely that someone would have to go out to buy it then be on the shelf of a medicine cabinet, waiting to be used.

I replaced mercurochrome with tincture of iodine.

Cecil Adams’ “Straight Dope” has an article on what happened to mercurochrome: