Sunday, August 20, 2017

Today -100: August 20, 1917: Alas, Cornelius Cleary, we hardly knew ye


Idaho national guards under the command of the War Dept raid IWW headquarters in Spokane and arrest 27 Wobblies. The IWWers are told they are military prisoners. This is in response to a planned strike of agricultural and construction workers. And members of the Washington State National Guards, under the command of no one, attack IWW hq in Port Angeles and wreck it.

A 100-yard race between men of the army and navy reserve on Staten Island begins with a Marine sergeant firing a starting pistol and accidentally shooting a spectator with a truly stupendous and alliterative name, Cornelius Cleary, in the head.


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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Today -100: August 19, 1917: No, thank you


Austria responds to China’s declaration of war by saying no. I didn’t know you could just do that. The Austrian ambassador informs China that the declaration was illegal and unconstitutional, because it should have been passed by both houses of Parliament.

Finland’s Diet refuses to accept being dissolved by the Russian government.


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Today -100: August 18, 1917: Of generals, spies, more spies, and beer


The Senate Military Affairs Committee holds up two of the many new generals appointed by Pres. Wilson. They think Col. Carl Reichmann, who’s been in the army 35 years, is pro-German.

Mata Hari is sentenced to death as a spy by a French court-martial.

The government claims to have thwarted a German plot to infiltrate thousands of Germans into the US Army.

Hoover’s Food Administration denies stories that it plans to reduce the alcohol content of beer to 2%.


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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Today -100: August 17, 1917: Of race riots and u-boats


Some of the 105 people indicted by the grand jury for the East St. Louis race riots are arrested. 82 of the indictees are white, including 5 policemen and a former candidate for sheriff, and 23 black.

Lloyd George says German u-boats are now sinking way fewer ships and Britain is building a lot more ships, so it won’t be starved out.


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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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