Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Today -100: August 16, 1917: If ever there was a holy war...


The IWW threatens to call a general strike in Montana, Washington, Oregon and Idaho unless its demands are met: the release of IWW prisoners, no discrimination against IWWers or interference with IWW activities, a 10-hour day for harvest workers and better sanitary conditions.

Sen. Majority Whip J. Hamilton Lewis (D-Illinois) introduces a resolution for Congress to shut up about peace terms and leave it solely with Pres. Wilson to decide when it’s time to issue them. Sounds a bit like the Gag Rule of the 1830s, when Congress banned itself from receiving anti-slavery petitions.

Former Czar Nicholas and his family are removed from the palace they’ve been held prisoner in and sent to an unknown destination, presumably (and actually) Tobolsk in Siberia, the birthplace of Rasputin. He’s still got 50 servants.

Henry Ford, who financed the fiasco that was the Peace Ship, is no longer opposed to the war. He now favors “crushing militarism” by, um, military means. In unrelated news, Ford is now making airplane cylinders for the military.

Elihu Root, former US senator, former secretary of war, and former secretary of state, back from his trip to Russia, says that Americans who oppose the war should be shot at sunrise. Did I mention he has a Nobel Peace Prize?

The American Defense Society, consulting with the NYPD & the US District Attorney’s office, will work to stamp out street speeches it considers unpatriotic. Pres. Wilson will be asked to define treason (they’re hoping his definition will include simple speech acts), Mayor John Purroy Mitchel will be asked to require licenses for street meetings, and a Vigilantes committee will be formed. Theodore Roosevelt tells the Society that anyone who says treasonable things should be arrested, and at the Harvard Club he says “If ever there was a holy war, it is this war.” He rejects Wilson’s notion that we are fighting the German government and not the German people, until such time as the German people separate themselves from their government.


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today -100: August 15, 1917: #Sammies


China declares war on Germany and Austria.

Pope Benedict issues a peace proposal: no annexations or indemnities; Belgium, Serbia, and Romania to have their sovereignty restored; Germany gets its colonies back; no economic retaliation after the war; a court to arbitrate future disputes; “negotiations” to deal with Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, Balkans, Armenia etc. (the Vatican really wants independence for Catholic countries).

Suffragist picketers at the White House are again attacked. As usual, Navy sailors are prominent.

Headline of the Day -100: 


A grand jury indicts 105 people for the East St. Louis race riots. The grand jury reports that the riots were planned and that the “indolent public officials” knew and did nothing.

The Puerto Rican Insular Legislature passes resolutions for independence. (And a referendum for independence passed in June, 2017, so the history of Puerto Rico’s wishes being ignored is a long, proud one).

Attempts to call US soldiers “Sammies” are being resisted by the Sammies.

A new, long-delayed issue of the trench newspaper The Wipers Times (currently going by The B.E.F. Times, is out:

Late News from the Ration Dump.

    The Germans are short of shells.

    The Pope is raising an army to come and stop the war.

    We have the supremacy of the air – ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT.

    The Germans have no guns.

    We are going to dig in, and wait till the Chinese are ready.

    The Kaiser has been arrested by Hindenburg, and shot as a spy.

    The Germans have no bombs.


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Monday, August 14, 2017

Today -100: August 14, 1917: Of abductions, souvenirs, sick Mensheviks, and peace conferences


Armed men kidnap and deport a couple of IWW organizers from Rochester, Nevada.

National Woman’s Party picketers keep bringing “Kaiser Wilson” banners to the White House, and keep going home without them. One of the three they lose today is seized by a Navy bluejacket, who says he wants it as a souvenir.

Hell, now I want one.

Kerensky has been moaning about his state of health, saying that he does not have long to live.”I must hasten the work of liberating Russia and do the greatest good I can before I depart.” He has another 53 years to live.

Or maybe he was speaking metaphorically.

Britain, France and Italy will join the US in blocking delegates going to the Stockholm socialist peace conference.  The British government claims it is illegal for British subjects to engage in a conference with enemy subjects. There’s no actual law about this, they’re claiming it’s common law. I call bullshit.


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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Today -100: August 13, 1917: Of resolutions, Lenin hunts, and Jewish chaplains


Robert La Follette introduced a resolution asking Congress to name the terms by which the US would make peace with Germany, with no indemnities or territory. Pretty much every other senator will now block the resolution, preferring the same lack of stated peace terms as every other belligerent (except Russia).

There are rumors that Lenin has fled Russia, which his party denies and which isn’t true. Authorities are on the hunt for him.

A bill is introduced in Congress empowering Pres. Wilson to appoint Jewish chaplains to accompany the troops to Europe. The army has never had non-Christian chaplains before.


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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Today -100: August 12, 1917: The only way to win the war


The US will refuse to grant passports to the American delegates to the Stockholm socialist peace congress.

Russia will attempt to reimpose discipline on the army, replacing the commissars who were elected by the soldiers with appointed ones. The government is claiming that some of those elected commissars were the former czarist police (secret and otherwise) who were sent to the front and are now trying to undermine the war effort, using propaganda and vodka, as was the custom. Also blamed for the military collapse: German spies in Russian military uniforms, passing themselves off, with their perfect Russian, because Russian soldiers don’t have identity papers.

The Post Office revokes the second-class mailing privilege of the American Socialist.

Sinn Fein wins another Irish by-election, with William Cosgrave winning easily in Kilkenny.

Sen. Warren G. Harding says that to win the war the United States needs to have a “complete and supreme dictator” – his words – even if it’s that Democrat Wilson. He says the “system of legislation,” you know, Congress and all, is unsuited for wartime, because decisions need to be made instantly. But doesn’t that mean the complete abandonment of democracy? he is asked. “Call it what you will; it is the only way to win the war. However, it means that we abandon nothing except the incapacity of all legislative bodies in wartime.” Congress’s job would be “remain on the side lines, as it were, closely watching the great game, ready at any moment to rescind the powers it has delegated.” But wouldn’t that make us just like Germany? “Our advantage over the Germans is that we would put on autocracy as a garment only for the period of the war, whereas they wear autocracy as the flesh that clings to their bones.”

I know why this blog is giving space to a first-term senator, but I have no idea why the Sunday NYT devoted so much newsprint to Harding.


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Friday, August 11, 2017

Today -100: August 11, 1917: Kaiser Wilson


Suffrage picketers at the White House displease passers-by with a banner reading: “Kaiser Wilson – Have you forgotten your sympathy with the poor Germans because they are not self-governed? Twenty million American women are not self-governed. Take the beam out of your own eye.” The banner doesn’t last long.

Theodore Roosevelt wants Congress to ban all German-language newspapers for the duration.

Pres. Wilson orders one of the draft exemption boards in NYC disbanded because of alleged irregularities (they were exempting a lot of people, but that’s about it, so far). Everyone they exempted will have to be re-examined.


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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Today -100: August 10, 1917: Of draft resisters and aspersion by innuendo


18 are arrested in Texas, supposed members of a plot for organized resistance to the draft.

Dr. Fritz Bergmeier, publisher of the St. Paul Volkszeitung, is arrested for “cast[ing] aspersion by innuendo” on US war measures. He’ll be interned as an enemy alien rather than tried.


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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Today -100: August 9, 1917: Of controlled food, conscription, and fake assassins


The Senate finally passes the Food Control Bill.

Canada’s Senate passes a bill for conscription.

Now that Russia’s political prisoners have been released, returning Siberian exiles are being feted and showered with gifts, leading, inevitably, to people like Catherine Smirnov, who made out like a bandit assassin when she claimed in Minsk that she had assassinated Ivanov, the governor of Odessa. She is arrested when it turns out Odessa never had a governor named Ivanov, but it did have a con artist named Catherine Smirnov.

And here's Siegfried Sassoon on Passchendaele.


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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Today -100: August 8, 1917: Of copper mines, national guards, and smoking soldiers


Jeanette Rankin makes her first speech in Congress, calling for it to give Wilson the power to take over copper mines to deal with the current strikes, which she blames more on the mining companies and their blacklists than on the IWW. She attacks John Ryan, the president of Anaconda, personally. If she has forgotten that Anaconda owns all the newspapers in Montana, she will be reminded of the fact when she runs for re-election.

Black groups protest a War Department ban on training negro national guard troops in the South.

Liberia declares war on Germany.

An important shipment of goods for American soldiers in France is “lost,”
which I assume means its ship was sunk. The Red Cross has accepted a donation of tobacco from Liggett & Myers to make up the shortage. Yes, the Red Cross handed out cigarettes to troops.


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Monday, August 07, 2017

Today -100: August 7, 1917: Of draft resisters, impeachments, masses, and trotskies


Woodrow Wilson tells Sen. J. Hamilton Lewis that Germany’s peace feelers aren’t genuine and it is not the time to talk peace with it. Wilson also told Lewis that he wants Congress to pass a couple of bills and then adjourn until December, because who needs the legislative branch hanging around being all oversighty when you’re trying to run a war?

The US district attorney in Oklahoma is going to demand the death penalty for 200 draft resisters he is charging with treason.

The impeachment hearing for Texas Gov. James Ferguson hears that he deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars of state funds in a bank in which he is the principal shareholder. And that he had a personal account in it which was overdrawn by more than $30,000.

The Masses is still banned from the US mails, pending appeal, the Circuit Court having overruled Learned Hand’s injunction.

Trotsky is arrested.


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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Today -100: August 6, 1917: Of court-martials, confessions of faith, and attempted lynchings


Kerensky withdraws his resignation. But he’s still struggling to put together a cabinet and in particular to get the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets) on board. The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets are worried that Kerensky’s consolidation of power would reduce their influence. He’s also trying to bring in prominent former exiles like the anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, who will be offered the post of education minister, which he will refuse.

Gen. Kornilov has a general who refused to shoot deserters court-martialed and sentenced to death.

The National Security League (a hyper-loyalist group) demanded that all German-American organizations denounce the German government and tell all their relatives back in Germany that they do so. The groups mostly wrote back to tell the League to go fuck itself. Now it’s demanding that all 450 German-language newspapers subscribe to a “confession of faith” that “the objects of America in this war are noble, unselfish, and that they square with the highest aims of morality and religion” while “the aims of Germany in this war are sordid, selfish, and opposed to the principles of human liberty.” And so on.

Frank La Monte, a Socialist candidate for mayor of Evansville, Indiana, who has been making speeches against conscription, narrowly escapes being lynched.


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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Today -100: August 5, 1917: Of commanders and draft resisters


Gen. Kornilov accepts the post of Commander in Chief of the Russian armies, on the condition that he gets absolute control of the war, responsible, in his words, only to his conscience and the people.

In Oklahoma a posse capture that band of draft resisters, killing one. Interestingly, the band seems to have included whites, blacks and Mexicans. There are also anti-draft disturbances in Georgia and North Carolina. The provost marshal general, Gen. Crowder, helpfully points out that anyone who fails to show up and request exemption will be automatically enlisted in the military and if they don’t show up they can be executed.


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Friday, August 04, 2017

Today -100: August 4, 1917: God has been wearing his “laundry day” underwear for 3 years now


Gen. Erdelli, the military governor of Petrograd, is assassinated!

(Update: Or not!)

The Russian government dissolves the Finnish Landtag, which declared independence last month. It says Finland can’t do that unilaterally.

A NYT editorial comes out against the lynching of Frank Little, while suggesting that the IWW are just as bad as the lynchers, indeed saying that the IWW is trying to “lynch the United States.” It scolds, “A civil tongue becomes the disaffected in war. ... It is dangerous to be publicly offensive when popular emotion is strong”. Which sounds an awful lot like “He was asking for it.”

Armed bands of draft resisters roam Oklahoma, supposedly.

Headline of the Day -100:



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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Today -100: August 3, 1917: Play ball!


More women’s battalions are being set up in Russia.

Christabel Pankhurst, in Britannia: “I consider the Pacifists a disease. They are a disease which comes of over-prosperity, and of false security.”

The Russian government decides not to give the vote to the Romanovs.

Woodrow Wilson says the baseball season shouldn’t be stopped because of the war.


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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Today -100: August 2, 1917: Others take notice


Frank Little, one of the leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World, is lynched. Six masked men grab him from his boarding house in Butte, Montana, in his underwear, and hang him from a railway trestle. Pinned to his corpse is a card reading: “Others take notice. First and last warning. 3-7-77 L D C S S W T.” The number is a reference to the nineteenth-century Vigilantes of Montana, the initials presumably those of the next men to be murdered. Little had been organizing miners and talking shit about US soldiers (“Uncle Sam’s scabs in uniform”) and the war (“capitalist slaughter fest”). US District Attorney B.K. Wheeler calls the lynching “the most unwise thing that has happened in Butte,” adding that just the day before he’d asked the Attorney General whether he should prosecute Little for those speeches. The identity of the killers remains a mystery to this day, presumably thugs working for Anaconda Copper and/or Pinkertons, but not Dashiell Hammett. Hammett is in Butte as a Pinkerton strikebreaker and later claimed to have been offered $5,000 to murder Little.

Elsewhere in the paper, the NYT claims that IWW leaders are Germans or run by German agents in a campaign to disrupt the war effort. It mentions how important copper is to the war, but fails to mention the deaths in June of 168 miners in a fire at an Anaconda mine, which helped spur the current strike wave.

Impeachment proceedings open against Texas Gov. James Ferguson in a special session of the Legislature that begins with each member being searched for weapons. In addition to the previous charges of embezzlement, etc, the speaker of the House adds a new one: trying to bribe the speaker of the House to stop the impeachment.

The Senate votes 65-20 for a constitutional amendment for prohibition, with a 6-year deadline for ratification by the states.


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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Today -100: August 1, 1917: Of sympathetic strikes, lack of sympathy to marriages, and women mayors


The IWW threatens to start sympathetic strikes across the US unless the IWWers deported from Bisbee are returned.

The government is threatening to jail women who marry men subject to the draft.

Headline of the Day -100: 


She was the only candidate in the Democratic primary, nominated over her objections but finally persuaded into taking office. It’s Moore Haven, by the way, not Moorehaven. Marion Horwitz is the first woman mayor south of the Mason-Dixon line.


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Monday, July 31, 2017

Today -100: July 31, 1917: Of food dictators, doping, and thousand-eyed girls


Pres. Wilson wins his battle with Congress over the composition of the food board. They wanted a a three-member board, he wanted a single food dictator, Herbert Hoover.

Black soldiers stationed in Waco, Texas clash with police, who shoot them, as was the custom.

Justice Dept agents are investigating an alleged widespread plot for “pro-German” doctors to dope men before their draft medical inspections.

On Broadway, mentalist Leona La Mar, the Girl with the Thousand Eyes, adds to her act a bit where she guesses the draft numbers of audience members.


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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Today -100: July 30, 1917: Of legions and canning


Gen. Jozef Pilsudski, leader of the Polish Legions, which have been fighting against Russia under Austrian command, is arrested (along with other leaders of the Legions) because he ordered members to refuse to take an oath to the German kaiser (I believe they already had to take one to the Austrian emperor). Pilsudski, who was only ever in the fight against Russia to gain autonomy for Poland, had watched the lip service of the Central Powers to Polish autonomy grow weaker as Russia became weaker. He will be held prisoner until the end of the war, and then rise to power (and then to dictatorial power in the 1930s) in Poland.

Germany threatens to withhold coal from Switzerland unless it makes a huge loan to Germany.

A mass meeting of negroes, representing NYC negro churches, clubs, etc, calls for black representation in the Legislature and Board of Alderman, squads of negro police and firemen, and a negro-only bathhouse.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Much of the newspaper for the next few days is taken up by lists of New Yorkers called up for draft examination.




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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Today -100: July 29, 1917: Your hands are full of blood


The race rioting in Chester, Pennsylvania resumes.

Kerensky: “It is a spectre of anarchy which needs to be obliterated.” He closes Russia’s borders. The Petrograd Executive Committee of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet calls for Lenin and Zinoviev to be put on trial for inciting revolt and receiving German money.

Meanwhile, former Czar Nicholas is reported to have broken his leg bicycling. I doubt it, but here’s a picture of Nicky on a bikky... no, that doesn’t work, does it?


8,000 negroes march on Fifth Avenue, NYC in protest against Jim Crow, disfranchisement of blacks, and the race wars of East St. Louis, Waco, Memphis, etc. The police complain about a banner picturing a negro woman kneeling before Wilson, appealing to him to bring democracy to the US before trying to do so in Europe, so they put it away, but other banners said “Make America Safe for Democracy,” “India is Abolishing Caste, America Is Adopting It,” “Your Hands Are Full of Blood” (yick), “Pray for the Lady Macbeths of St. Louis,” “We are Maligned as Lazy, and Murdered When We Work.”

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Today -100: July 28, 1917: Of governors, shrinks, and conscripting foreigners


Texas Gov. James Ferguson is indicted, along with other state officials, for misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement. Immediately after being arrested, he announces his re-election campaign.

Dr. Mortimer Raynor, a psychiatrist employed by the NY Department of Corrections at Welfare Island penitentiary, has joined the Army and will test soldiers for courage to determine which ones should be sent to the front and which ones really shouldn’t.

The Senate is working on a bill to conscript non-citizen immigrants from friendly countries.  But not those who can’t legally become US citizens, i.e. Chinese and Japanese, and not those from countries without conscription (Canada, Australia). This would all require the consent on those countries.


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Today -100: July 27, 1917: Of race riots, women spies, and horsies


3 killed, 2 white, 1 black, in a race riot in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Just a two-sentence story at this point.

Supposedly, Gen. Kornilov punishes an entire division for failing to fight – by executing all of them with artillery. I strongly doubt this is true.

New York’s last horse-drawn streetcar line shuts down. The NYT waxes nostalgic.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today -100: July 26, 1917: Of women’s battalions of death and crazy men in politics


The Russian government is loudly threatening to execute soldiers who refuse to fight.  Evidently Gen. Kornilov threatened to resign if capital punishment in the army wasn’t restored.

Russia’s Women’s Battalion of Death, practically the only soldiers who are willing to fight, goes into battle for the first time. Does pretty well.

Countess Sofia Vladimirovna Panina, the first woman cabinet minister ever in any country, resigns as Assistant Minister of Social Tutelage (party politics, nothing personal).

The Russian government has ordered the arrest of Lenin, if they can find him, which they can’t. If convicted as a German spy, he’d be executed. If not, he’d be put under house arrest as a precaution against “a crazy man in politics at this crisis.”

Russia won’t accept the Finnish Landtag’s declaration of independence.

31 Wobblies are expelled from Bemidji, Minnesota by a mob which blames them for a sawmill fire.


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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today -100: July 25, 1917: Of merciless rule, the masses, war orphans, and conscription


Headline of the Day -100: 


Lenin’s newspaper Pravda is suppressed.

Federal District Judge Learned Hand grants a preliminary injunction against the NY postmaster banning The Masses from the US mails.

The French state will assume guardianship of all war orphans.

The Canadian House of Commons passes a bill for conscription. The vote divides along linguistic lines.

The puppet Polish Council of State gives up the idea of fielding an independent Polish army, presumably because almost no one signed up for it, and will put the few who did sign up under German command.



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Monday, July 24, 2017

Today -100: July 24, 1917: Mostly Russia stuff today


Headline of the Day -100:


Of the Leninite outbreak. As well he might be. Tsarist officials imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress were also worried when it was occupied briefly Bolsheviks and Kronstadt sailors.

The Pan-Russian Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviets and the Pan-Russian Council of Delegates of Peasants vote unlimited dictatorial powers to Kerensky to deal with the outbreaks and the war (in that order). They also re-name the Cabinet the Government of National Safety, something like Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution, because that turned out so well. Lots of arrests of Bolsheviks and a rear admiral.

Headline of the Day -100:  

Granted, that’s according to correspondent Herbert Bailey, who also says Kerensky “possesses all Peter the Great’s energy and twice his wisdom, is the national hero.” He also notes that Russian peasants don’t like Jews.

Siam declares war on Germany and Austria.


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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Today -100: July 23, 1917: Criminal levity?


Russian troops are retreating. Which is not what their commanding officers ordered them to do. Germany has broken through the front lines, facilitated, the Provisional Government says, “by the criminal levity and blind fanaticism of some and the treachery of the others.”

The provisional government also lists a whole raft of progressive measures it intends to implement, including equal suffrage, the 8-hour day, restoring the land to the peasants, etc, and therefore asks the people to support the country, “which has ceased to be for those inhabiting it a cruel stepmother.”


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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Today -100: July 22, 1917: Of deportations, champagne, the masses, and the long tentacles of Germany


The Bisbee, Arizona sheriff has resumed deporting unemployed men who haven’t applied to the Vigilance Committee for “clearance” to work.

Headline of the Day -100:


Champagne and bomb-throwing, what could go wrong?

Federal District Court Judge Learned Hand rules that the postmaster-general can’t ban The Masses for merely criticizing the government. While the government’s position seems to be that anything that might interfere with the war is unmailable, Judge Hand says if the writing isn’t prosecutable as treason, it can’t be banned. The US attorney specifically complained about some cartoons (I posted one of them on July 10th).

Kerensky blames the Leninist riots in Petrograd on the Germans, because of course he does.


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Friday, July 21, 2017

Today -100: July 21, 1917: 258


The US selective service lottery has begun, with the ceremonial drawing of numbers from a big glass bowl. 10,500 numbers. It took 16½ hours. And one of them was blank, so they have to figure out which number wasn’t in the bowl (Update: 4,664). The first number, chosen by a blindfolded Secretary of War Newton Baker, was 258. The next number was drawn by Sen. Chamberlain, similarly blindfolded, then other officials, before the rest of the tedious work was done by blindfolded college students (fraternity hazing was pretty boring back then), interrupted every so often by Major Gen. Devel stirring the capsules containing the numbers with a long wooden spoon.

The new German chancellor, Georg Michaelis, described by the NYT as having a disproportionately large head, gives an introductory speech to the Reichstag. He follows the German line in blaming Britain for the war, because it didn’t dissuade Russia from mobilizing its army, which forced Germany to declare war purely in self-defense. That’s their story, and they’re sticking with it. Naturally, Michaelis fails to say what Germany’s war aims are, except “peace with honor” and secure borders (which is code for unspecified annexations). He supports the absolute right of the kaiser rather than the Reichstag to appoint officials.

After he’s done speaking, the Reichstag passes a peace resolution disavowing annexations of land and indemnities as contrary to a lasting peace.

Prince Lvov resigns as Russian prime minister and is replaced by Alexander Kerensky, who retains his post as minister of war. His ascension to power is celebrated, as was the custom, with an assassination attempt.

Australia bans the IWW.

Caesar Campus, president of the Sirio Match Company of Brooklyn, writes to the secretary of the navy with a cunning plan to defeat u-boats. Falcons! Carrying bombs! The details, which you can read in the article, don’t make the idea any more plausible, and in fact make me think this man shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches, much less own a match company.


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Today -100: July 20, 1917: These misguided extremists don’t mind a little sedition


Headline of the Day -100:


But just in case, the Cabinet is thinking about moving the government to Moscow.

Russia’s minister of justice, named Perverzev if you can believe it, resigns in an argument over whether Lenin is a German agent. The offices of Pravda are raided.

Woodrow Wilson orders the imprisoned suffragist White House picketers released from the workhouse. They’re initially hesitant about accepting the pardon, but it was unconditional, so it doesn’t interfere with their ability to protest in the future. Also, can you actually refuse a pardon? Don’t they just kick you out of prison?

The NYT is its usual dickish self (I use the term advisedly) on the subject: “These misguided extremists don’t mind a little sedition. They gayly defy the law, pose as martyrs. .... Then, the prison one-piece dress is really coarse and unbecoming. One meets such vulgar people in one’s quest of excitement and martyrdom, and corned beef and cabbage is no congenial cate to a dainty stomach.”

The Corfu Declaration is signed by representatives of the Serbian government and various southern Slav nationalities currently subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to create a new country, the Union of Southern Slavs (Yugoslavia).

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today -100: July 19, 1917: Of pickets, martial law, tetanus, and war phonographs


Woodrow Wilson is upset by the jailing of the suffragists who protested outside the White House – probably a Southern male thing. He met with their lawyer, Dudley Field Malone, and has now met for 45 minutes with the husband of one of them, who says that Wilson may push for women’s suffrage as a wartime emergency measure. Meanwhile, in the Occoquan Workhouse, the suffragists are put in with black women, as degrading a thing as the authorities can think to do (the workhouse, you will be surprised to hear, is normally segregated).

The Russian government puts Petrograd under martial law to deal with outbreaks. Cossack patrols, men in trucks firing machine guns into the crowds on Nevsky Prospect, what could go wrong? The Bolsheviks disingenuously blame counter-revolutionaries for the demonstrations, but refuse to condemn them.

Three men, probably Germans, are arrested in Kansas for supposedly trying to spread tetanus through infected sticking plasters.

Never one to miss an opportunity to cash in, Thomas Edison introduces a new “war phonograph,” a sturdy iron model that can stand up to army life, designed to be listened to outdoors.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today -100: July 18, 1917: Of picketers, prohibition, and windsors


The 16 suffragists who were arrested in front of the White House are sentenced to a $60 fine or 60 days in the workhouse, and choose the latter. Up till now, the sentences have been 3 days.

Puerto Rico votes for prohibition.

5 members of the Russian Cabinet resign in protest over plans to grant autonomy to Ukraine.

In a British Cabinet reshuffle, Winston Churchill is brought back in, as Minister of Munitions. Sir Edward Carson, who just three years ago was openly plotting treasonous revolt in Northern Ireland, has been added to the War Cabinet, another sign of the Coalition government’s rightward shift.

King George V changes his last name and that of all his relatives from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to “Windsor.” He’s naming his family after the castle. Or possibly the necktie knot.


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Monday, July 17, 2017

Today -100: July 17, 1917: Tool or man?


The NYT front page is a little confused


about the new German chancellor, Georg “Tool-Man” Michaelis.

Mostly tool, by the way. Or at least increasingly irrelevant as Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff usurp more and more civil governmental functions.

Some Northern senators are complaining that the Census Bureau’s methods of calculating the numbers of men to be drafted in each state is unfair, disadvantaging northern states where there are high numbers of immigrants.

Greece considers itself to now be at war with the Central Powers. But doesn’t plan to actually declare it, for some reason.

German Crown Prince Wilhelm calls submarine warfare “the last argument of Kings.”

Resistance to the introduction of conscription is increasing in Quebec. Many are taking their money out of banks to pressure the government. 

The Justice Department fails to find any evidence of German financial backing for the IWW.

Novelist Upton Sinclair quits the Socialist Party, saying it’s become too pro-German.

Sen. Ben Tillman (D-South Carolina) says the race riots in East St. Louis were caused by white prejudice against the negro. “The more the Northern people know of the negro the less they like him. ... The white blood, becoming once aroused, grows savage and very cruel.” He thinks that white Northern men being trained in military camps in the South will improve their understanding of the negro problem. I shudder to think what Pitchfork Ben’s solution to the negro problem might be.


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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today -100: July 16, 1917: The end of the war is not nigh, but...


A corporal smuggles his wife, disguised as a soldier, onto a military transport ship heading for France. She is discovered after 3 days at sea. I’ll be very annoyed if there’s no follow-up story.

(Hey, there is one. She’s Hazel Carter and claims her husband knew nothing about it. If she had landed in France, she planned to offer her services as a nurse – which the American Red Cross already rejected. She must be thrilled that the articles keep mentioning her “masculine features.”)

A Rev. Dr. J. B. Phillips was arrested in Tennessee for discouraging men from enlisting in the military, since the world is going to end before the war will, so why bother?


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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Today -100: July 15, 1917: I would not endanger the lives of loyal American citizens in attempting to protect the I.W.Ws


The new German chancellor is Georg Michaelis, described by the NYT as “a bureaucrat of the old type.” He was the Prussian under-secretary of finance and the German food commissioner. And no “von” in his name; he’s the first commoner to hold the office. Other than that, the only interesting thing about him is that he spent several years in Japan. The ouster of Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg is being blamed by many on Crown Prince Wilhelm, who never liked him, but it’s really more like a right-wing coup against the prospect of the “parliamentization” of the Reichstag, i.e., making the German government responsible to the elected Reichstag rather than the crown, as the majority in the Reichstag becomes increasingly critical of the war, the way it’s being waged, and the lack of stated war aims. Kaiser Wilhelm did not bother consulting with any member of the Reichstag before appointing Michaelis.

The IWW men and other Bisbee deportees say they won’t return to Bisbee unless accompanied by US soldiers. Evidently they actually believe the US government will support their right not to be kidnapped from their homes and deported. Spoiler Alert: It won’t. Sheriff Harry Wheeler, replying to Arizona Gov. Campbell’s request for an explanation of his actions, says “I can protect law abiding and peaceful citizens, but I cannot guarantee the technical rights of lawbreakers and criminals. I would not endanger the lives of loyal American citizens in attempting to protect the I.W.Ws.”

American-born lead miners in St. Francois County, Missouri force foreign miners out of the area at gunpoint. The Western Federation of Miners blames the IWW, but it would.

16 suffragist picketers are arrested at the White House, celebrating Bastille Day with banners reading “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Today -100: July 14, 1917: May I not respectfully urge the great danger of citizens taking the laws into their own hands


The German Reichstag is on strike. And the NYT front page is peddling rumors that Kaiser Wilhelm has abdicated.

Woodrow Wilson complains about the Bisbee Deportation, cabling the governor of Arizona, “may I not respectfully urge the great danger of citizens taking the laws into their own hands”. He thinks the kidnapping of 1,200 people creates “a very serious responsibility”. The governor of New Mexico, where the men were dumped, is trying to pass the whole thing to the feds, who are currently feeding the deportees. New Mexico has put them under arrest, as one does with kidnapping victims, I guess.

Finland’s Diet declares virtual independence (everything but foreign policy). Russia would prefer that this be negotiated.

Patent medicine manufactures win a court case against the NYC Health Department requirement that they tell the department the ingredients of their alleged medicines.

The US plans to add 1,152,985 soldiers to the Army over the first year of the war. The War Office has drawn up quotas for each state, about which there will be much bitching.


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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Today -100: July 13, 1917: They cannot mine copper with machine guns or dig it with bayonets


Headline of the Day -100:

This is the Bisbee Deportation. “Vigilantes,” many of them employees of Phelps-Dodge and other owners of striking copper mines in Bisbee and sworn in by Cochise Country Sheriff Harry Wheeler, with machine guns mounted on automobiles, round up 1,200 IWW members, strikers, and anyone else who doesn’t answer questions to their satisfaction (such as, Are you willing to work?), and put them on cattle cars belonging to the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad, which shares directors with Phelps-Dodge. Oh, and about those cattle cars: many still had cow shit in them, not all of them were supplied with water, much less potable water, in Arizona in the summer, over 110 . Enjoy your breakfast! The cars arrive in Columbus, New Mexico (note: across state lines), whose authorities refuse to take charge of the kidnapped men. So the train starts again and dumps them in the middle of the desert. IWW Secretary-Treasurer Big Bill Haywood rejects the story spread by the mine-owners that the IWW campaign is backed by German money and says “the deportations will not affect the general situation. They cannot mine copper with machine guns or dig it with bayonets.”

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg and his cabinet quit. It seems they were responsible to the Reichstag after all, despite theoretically only answering to the crown, their position having become untenable when the left and center parties join to threaten to refuse to vote war credits unless the government sets out its war aims. Meanwhile, Kaiser Wilhelm offers the possibility of equal suffrage in Prussia. Clearly a desperation move, but as it happens one he can do himself by decree, as opposed to reforming the German Reichstag.


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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Today -100: July 12, 1917: Patriotism has nothing to do with profits


Kaiser Wilhelm offers some constitutional reform. The Cabinet still won’t be responsible to the Reichstag, but a new supervisory committee will be. There will also be a shakeup of the current Cabinet. Foreign Minister Alfred Zimmermann is out. It’s all a bit muddled, and looks like Willy set it up so he can easily retract it in the future if his hand gets stronger.

Continuing the replacement of Irish Nationalists by Sinn Feiners, Éamon de Valera is elected to Parliament for East Clare in a by-election caused by the death of Willie Redmond, brother of the Nationalist party leader. De Valera was one of the commanders in the Easter Rising and was sentenced to death; he was amnestied last month. Eventually he’ll be Ireland’s taoiseach and president.

Woodrow Wilson says he will determine the prices of the raw materials, manufactures, shipping etc required to prosecute the war, and the public must get the same prices as the government, or else. Patriotism and profits must not be mentioned together, he says. “No true patriot will permit himself to take toll of their heroism in money or seek to grow rich by the shedding of their blood. When they are giving their lives, will he not at least give his money?” I think you’ll find they won’t, Mr. President, but thanks for asking. In addition to not being thrilled at the government setting their prices, industrialists don’t particularly want government auditors looking into their businesses to determine what prices are fair. They’re also a bit dubious about his message that there are other incentives to production than wacking great profits. It’s like, “dude, do you even know us?”

Several states have suspended child labor laws because of the war and general dickishness.

Henry Ford is suing Louis Enright, to whom he lent a car in order for Enright to test out his alleged invention of a process to make gasoline for 2¢ a gallon. Ford wants his car back.

The War Department will send troops to Washington state because the governor says the IWW plans to destroy crops and decimate the US’s strategic apple reserves, or something. The NYT seems to think the IWW is everywhere, “paralyzing industry and terrifying labor,” and that its demands for better wages are a “pretext” for its plot to sabotage the war effort.

The IWW members who were forcibly put on cattle cars in Jerome, Arizona are released by order of the governor.

Rep. Leonidas Carstarphen Dyer (R-Missouri) wants East St. Louis, Ill. renamed by executive order, because the race riots there are embarrassing the residents of St. Louis, Missouri, which hasn’t had a race riot in ages (two months).

The US Army will now enlist men as short as 5’1” and 110 pounds.

French Prime Minister Alexandre Ribot rejects the idea of a plebiscite in Alsace-Lorraine to decide what country the province will be a part of. “We have an imprescriptible right over Alsace-Lorraine,” he says.

A Russian Pole is arrested for supposedly causing the explosion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard (in the Bay Area) that killed 6 people. The government will later put the blame on another guy, a supposed German spy, but there’s no proof that sabotage was actually involved.


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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Today -100: July 11, 1917: We must fight and conquer


The IWW denies that it’s under German influence or that it’s planning a revolution.

What it is doing is spearheading a series of strikes in copper mines in Arizona. In Jerome, vigilantes round up 67 IWW activists and put them in cattle cars headed for California.

Jeanette Rankin introduces a bill for a $5 million fund to support the wives and children of soldiers, which you’d really have thought someone would have done before now.

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg rejects the idea, now supported by the (Catholic) Zentrum party as well as the Socialists, of peace without annexations. “We must fight and conquer,” the chancellor says. He attacks Zentrum party leader Matthias Erzberger as unpatriotic (the people who will assassinate Erzberger in 1921 shared that sentiment). But he still refuses to name his peace terms.

Theodore Roosevelt’s son Kermit joins the British army, resigning from the US army, where he was in officers’ training, to do so. He’ll be going to Mesopotamia.

Brazil discovers that Germany has a secret submarine base on its territory. Or has it?


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Monday, July 10, 2017

Today -100: July 10, 1917: We regard as enemies those who advocate the abolition of our government


Anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman are convicted of conspiracy to obstruct the draft, sentenced to 2 years and $10,000 fines, after which they will be subject to deportation. The judge tells them, “In this country of ours, we regard as enemies those who advocate the abolition of our government, and those who counsel disobedience of our laws by those of minds less strong.”

Numerous lefty newspapers, including The Masses, The Appeal to Reason, The American Socialist, etc., have been banned from the US mails under the Espionage Act, which declares “nonmailable” any publication affecting military performance or obstructing recruiting (by, say, opposing conscription) or other vaguely defined offenses. Other publications have been held up while the government decides whether they’re kosher. All of which is intended to have a wider chilling effect, as is the refusal of Post Office Solicitor William Lamar to give reasons when banning things. The August issue of The Masses, he said, was banned because of its “entire tone and spirit.” You can evaluate its entire tone and spirit for yourself here. Here’s a cartoon from the issue:


That’s “Labor” and “Democracy” chained to the cannon.

Harry Auren (or possibly Aurin), whoever that is, is sentenced to 30 days (or possibly 90 days) for disorderly conduct for distributing a circular which quotes the Declaration of Independence “with uneven emphasis,” whatever that means. A State Supreme Court justice will release him, saying there is a right to criticize the government and laws.

Secretary of War Newton Baker orders soldiers not to attack anti-conscription (or other) meetings... while in uniform.


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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Today -100: July 9, 1917: Of exports, bullets, and reichstags


Pres. Wilson declares that he now has complete control over exports. A large list of products will require an export license. One thing he plans to do with this power is starve neutral countries of food they might sell on to Germany, which is a bit ironic considering that Wilson’s main complaint about Germany that led him to decide on war was their interference with the US sale of goods to one side of the war. And Wilson is joining the Allied policy of trying to starve Germany into submission, without any public debate over the morality of that course.

The Illinois state militia will claim that the reason it failed to stop the East St. Louis race riots was that it didn’t have enough bullets.

Matthias Erzberger, leader of Germany’s (Catholic) Zentrum Party, commits his party to electoral reforms and calls for a peace without annexations. News of the last part hasn’t reached the NYT yet (3 days later), or indeed the German public, thanks to censorship. The government is losing control of the Reichstag.


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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Today -100: July 8, 1917: Of emperors, wobblies, and race riots


Chinese Boy-Emperor, or I guess Tween-Emperor now, Hsuan Tung abdicates, again, as the Republican army menaces Peking.

Warrants are issued in Arizona for 15 IWW activists for calling a strike at the Golconda Company copper mine. Gov. Edward Campbell says IWW hq gave the strike order. The IWW denies it. He also hints at dark German influences and says even if there aren’t any, the strike directly benefits Germany.

Rep. William August Rodenberg, whose district includes East St. Louis, says the race riots in that city were not about race but labor conditions. They were about both, dude.

German newspapers have been downplaying the arrival of US troops in France, saying they are few in numbers and lack proper equipment.

Greece broke off diplomatic relations with Turkey, so Turkey will deport all Greeks and confiscate their property.


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Friday, July 07, 2017

Today -100: July 7, 1917: Of apologies for the murder of the helpless, draft cards, wobblies, and naked Russians


The Chicago newspaper The American Socialist is barred from the mails.

At a Carnegie Hall meeting organized by the American Friends of Russian Freedom, Theodore Roosevelt praises the Russian Revolution and denounces the race riot in East St. Louis. He’s followed by Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor, who blames the events in East St. Louis on those “luring” black men from the South, which he says “is on a par with the behavior of the brutal, reactionary, and tyrannous forces that existed in Old Russia,” because the blacks would be used to keep wages down for, you know, regular white workers (while representing a major wage increase for the blacks over what they could earn in the South, but for some reason Gompers doesn’t mention that). This outrages Roosevelt, who waves his fist literally in Gompers’s face, saying “never will I sit motionless while directly or indirectly apology is made for the murder of the helpless.”

Police and military – with bayonets – raid an anti-conscription meeting in Paterson, New Jersey called by the American Union Against Militarism and arrest young men who are unable to show draft registration cards. One of the speakers was Rev. Norman Thomas of the East Harlem Presbyterian Church, the same Norman Thomas who will run for president as a Socialist candidate 6 times (1928 to 1948).

The Army claims that the International Workers of the World have plans to burn crops simultaneously throughout South Dakota.

Peasants in Odessa who have been unable to get clothing are threatening to organize naked processions.


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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Today -100: July 6, 1917: Of censorship and race riots


The government rather quickly backs off from censoring cables from France to US newspapers. Or as the New York Times puts it,


The American Federation of Labor denies that unions were responsible for the race riots/pogrom in East St. Louis.


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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Today -100: July 5, 1917: Of censorship, deportations, and roughneck pacifists


Although Congress refused to include press censorship in the Espionage Act, the War Office just goes ahead and starts censoring press reports sent to US newspapers from France anyway. Which was a surprise to the AP, which was told that it could pick up its redacted reports from George Creel’s Committee on Public Information. It was also a surprise to the Committee on Public Information, which now has to create an extra-legal censorship system on the fly.

IWW organizer Joseph Graber, who has been organizing Pennsylvania coal miners, is arrested on Pres. Wilson’s order, his presence in the district declared a danger to the United States. They can do this because he is an “enemy alien.” He immigrated from Warsaw in 1910, and that part of Poland is
currently under German occupation. That’s an odd definition of “enemy alien,” which would also apply to every Belgian and change with every shift of the front lines. The government is claiming Graber is a German agent, which is of course bullshit.

Theodore Roosevelt, in a Fourth of July speech partly devoted to attacking “roughneck pacifists,” whatever that means, calls for no discrimination against Americans of German background in the military. Doesn’t say a thing about the racial segregation of the military.


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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Today -100: July 4, 1917: American citizens are being murdered in East St. Louis


A race riot (black v. white) starts in NYC, when a cop tries to disperse black National Guards who were just hanging out.

While arrests were made during the East St. Louis race riots, almost everyone’s been released. The pogrom is settling down. The secretary of the Freedman Foundation telegrams Woodrow Wilson asking for federal intervention to prevent more bloodshed, saying “American citizens are being murdered in East St. Louis.”

At her trial, Emma Goldman denies the accuracy of the report of her speech by a police stenographer, saying she speaks too quickly to be recorded accurately, which she proves by getting the same cop to attempt to take down her words in court, which he can’t. Witnesses say that neither she nor Berkman have ever advocated violence.

Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg says Germany will win soon. “If we hold our ground against enemy attacks until the submarine warfare has done its work, the war is won for us.”


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Monday, July 03, 2017

Today -100: July 3, 1917: Timber!


Race riots continue in East Saint Louis, Illinois. Blacks are shot and lynched, and their homes burned. No accurate count has ever been made of the deaths, but roughly 150 or so. The militia tamp down the rioting, although it doesn’t sound like they were trying that hard. The police are at best useless, at worst active participants. The NYT account is surprisingly detailed.

Russian Minister of War Alexander Kerensky personally leads troops into battle against Austria in Galicia. The Kerensky Offensive is going very well, they say. Enjoy it while it lasts, Alex, enjoy it while it lasts.

A military coup in China puts boy-emperor Hsuan Tung back on the throne as figurehead.

Thing I discovered about 1917 America today: they called the stuff you make cans out of “aluminium,” like the British still do. Anyway, Sen. James Reed (D-Missouri) attacks the president of the Aluminium Company of America (which is now Alcoa) for using his seat on the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense to raise the price paid for aluminum for army canteens, of which 1 million will be ordered from his company.

Wilson finally issues rules for draft exemptions. Interestingly, while men with dependents can claim exemption, his wife or other dependents can put in a claim on their own.

The National Civil Liberties Bureau, the forerunner of the ACLU, forms to protect free speech and the rights of conscientious objectors.

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, foremost English actor of his generation, although his acting style is considered rather formal and old-fashioned now, dies at 64. He leaves a bunch of children, legitimate and otherwise. Amongst the latter is Carol Reed, director of The Third Man.


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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Today -100: July 2, 1917: Of potato riots, peace parades, race friction, and East St. Louis


Headline of the Day -100:


Great name for a rock band.

Soldiers and sailors attack a peace parade – or as the NYT headline puts it, a “‘Peace’ Parade” – in Boston and attack the Socialist Party hq.

A meeting at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in NYC discusses the negro migration out of the South. There is a consensus that it’s less about higher wages and more about not being treated like shit and lynched and whatnot. Fred Moore, editor of the New York Age says “There is no race friction in the North.”

A race riot/pogrom begins in East Saint Louis, Illinois.


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