Monday, July 06, 2015

Today -100: July 6, 1915: Of pipes, bombs, and booze

Headline of the Day -100:

Tomorrow the Times will report not only that J.P. smoked, but also that he shaved.

“Frank Holt” is denying being Erich Muenter. Authorities have brought in someone who used to know Muenter to identify him, but Holt’s too banged up for him to be sure.

A bomb explodes at NYPD headquarters. No one is hurt. Suspicion falls on Frank Holt, just on general principles.

The American Temperance Life Insurance Association of New York goes bust. The problem: they expanded their client base from total abstainers to moderate drinkers, increasing the death rate. The company’s president was Frank Delano. Some relation of FDR?

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Today -100: July 5, 1915: Of trick matches and surrenders

Frank Holt/Erich Muenter now says his plan was to hold J. P. Morgan’s wife and children hostage while J. P. induced manufacturers to stop exporting arms and ammunition to Europe. “The dynamiter declared he had thought out the problem most thoroughly and that the war would cease when the export of arms ended.” Under the 3rd degree and deprived of sleep, Muenter isn’t giving the same story twice, and looks increasingly batshit crazy. The authorities are still trying to work out if Holt and Muenter are the same person – and don’t seem to have asked him yet – and what sort of matches he used in the Capitol Building bombing. And, oh yeah, where he got all that dynamite.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The London Daily Chronicle reports that German troops in Gallipoli are shooting any Turks who look like they might surrender to the Allies.

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

Today -100: July 4, 1915: This explosion is the exclamation point to my appeal for peace

J. P. Morgan Jr. is shot twice by one “Frank Holt,” a teacher of German at Cornell. The corpulent banker will be okay, though.

It was “Holt” who set that bomb in the Capitol Building. In a letter to several Washington papers under the nom de boom “R. Pearce,” he explains that he placed the bomb because he opposes the US selling munitions to the Allies: “This explosion is the exclamation point to my appeal for peace.”

Then he placed another bomb... well, no spoilers... then he trained it to J. P. Morgan’s Long Island mansion. Morgan is helping finance the Allied war effort, so “Holt” planned to convince him to stop doing that, only, after “Holt” forced his way past the butler by brandishing two revolvers, Junior impolitely refused to engage in a friendly dialogue about the war and munitions and current events and instead rushed him, so “Holt” shot him twice in the groin. He was then brought down by Morgan, Morgan’s wife Jane, and a butler, who brained him with a lump of coal. He was then tied up by the servants and, just to class this whole scene up a bit, the British ambassador.

Holt is actually Erich Muenter (which authorities are already beginning to piece together). He was born in Germany in 1871 and emigrated to the US in the ‘90s. He taught German at the University of Kansas and then at Harvard until he took a... sudden sabbatical... in 1906 after killing his wife, who died 10 days after giving birth from slow poisoning by arsenic (yes, he was poisoning her while she was pregnant). Muenter shaved his beard, changed his name to Frank Holt, remarried, had two more kids (the two from his unfortunate first marriage staying with their grandparents), and started working his way up the academic food chain again, teaching at the University of Oklahoma, Emory, and Vanderbilt and getting a PhD at Cornell (his dissertation: “The Effect of the Works of Shakespeare on German and French Literature”). He would have moved on from Cornell to Southern Methodist University in the fall, as head of the just-opened university’s German department, presumably because at SMU he would be less likely to run into someone who knew him at Harvard – he once had to take several days off when a Harvard German professor came to lecture at Cornell.

The America’s Cup yacht race is almost halted out of respect for Morgan, but he sends word that the show must go on.

Francisco Lagos Cházaro formally takes over as President of Mexico. No one pays much attention.

Meanwhile, Huerta’s co-conspirator Gen. Pascual Orozco, supposedly under close observation by soldiers and Justice Dept agents in El Paso, escapes and crosses into Mexico. Huerta is re-arrested.

Sing Sing’s Warden Thomas Osborne tells a meeting of prison reformers that he won’t be forced out (he will totally be forced out). He says before he arrived, “The old system was rotten from top to bottom.” The keepers went about the prison with bottles of whiskey over their necks and fed it to paying prisoners through a rubber tube stuck between the bars of their cells. “There was corruption all around them, and there was no possible chance of a man leaving a prison of this kind without being more corrupted than when he came in.” He more or less accuses Superintendent of Prisons John Riley of being part of the old “grafting ring.”

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Friday, July 03, 2015

Today -100: July 3, 1915: Of infernal machines, autocratic but helpful dictators, prisoners, and horns

A bomb or infernal machine explodes in the Senate wing of the Capitol Building around midnight. Details and lots more mayhem tomorrow.

Former Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz dies in exile in Paris at 84. In addition to that hagiographic obit, the NYT runs an editorial that refers to his “autocratic but helpful rule”.

NY Superintendent of Prisons John Riley is systematically undermining the reformist warden of Sing Sing Thomas Osborne, most notably by randomly transferring prisoners from Sing Sing to Auburn, undermining Osborne’s system of rewards for good behavior. One prisoner attempted suicide when told he was being transferred. (Riley defends himself tomorrow, saying that he acted after Osborne failed to answer his letters, and because Sing Sing was becoming increasingly overcrowded and there’s a freshly built prison that can take the overflow.)

Yesterday, the NYT ran a letter from a Mr. Gridley Adams about the need for automobilists (is the term autoist going out of fashion?) to provide their vehicles with a really loud horn – and not those rubber things that people ignore because vaudeville has just made them funny – and honk it at every intersection or when approaching people riding bikes or motorcycles.  Today the Times disputes the notion that everyone needs to get out of the way of a car simply because it announces its presence with an imperious honk.

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Today -100: July 2, 1915: Of Admiralty business, war babies, and blackmail

Headline of the Day -100:

Britain announces that the Armenian was “engaged in Admiralty business,” so Wilson doesn’t have to upbraid Germany over sinking this particular ship and killing these particular American citizens (and mules). Also, the u-boat ordered the Armenian to stop and fired warning shots, but the mule ship tried to run (the captain admits this), which under the rules for this kind of thing made the Armenian fair game.

The Archbishop of York, presiding over a committee on “war babies,” says the responsibility for men giving way to temptation rests not chiefly with them, but with those who, often against the will of the men, pestered them with their attentions.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt has an emergency appendectomy.

Rudolph Malik, an Austrian salesman stuck in the US after the war began, is indicted for sending a letter to Woodrow Wilson demanding $300 or he’d commit a “political crime.” (Update: in court his lawyer will claim that Malik’s threat didn’t constitute a criminal act because there is no such thing as a “political crime” in US law).

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Today -100: July 1, 1915: Of Armenians, reading and whiting, and secret bases

It’s just not a good year for Armenians. In this case, it’s the steamship SS Armenian, which is torpedoed off Cornwall. A British ship bringing 1,422 war mules from the US for use by the French army.  The majority of the Armenian’s dead crew are Americans, including muleteers, almost all of whom were black. Mules are considered contraband, so the Germans will consider themselves justified.

Headline of the Day -100: 

No, that typo isn’t revealing at all. The New York constitutional convention.

Italy protests its nominal allies Serbia and Montenegro invading Albania and capturing Scutari.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: A “very reliable source” tells the NYT that Germany is trying to build a secret submarine base on an island off the New England coast, from which u-boats would attack freighters carrying munitions.

The US arrests four more Mexicans implicated in Huerta’s plot, which as he said was to visit his daughter and then take in the Panama-Pacific Exposition and definitely not to restore him to power in Mexico through violence.

Secretary of War Garrison telegrams Col. Morgan at Fort Bliss asking him to stop treating Huerta to such courtesies as dinners in his honor, invitations to review the troops, etc., given that he is, you know, under indictment.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

¿Quien es mas punchable?

With Chris Christie entering the race, it’s time once again to rank the Republican candidates’ faces from least punchable to most punchable. Here’s what I got:
Your mileage may vary.

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Today -100: June 30, 1915: Of mediators, mind-readers, and cheering diggers

Woodrow Wilson cancels his trip to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco because he’s certain the warring European countries are about to ask him to mediate a peace agreement. Any day now.

The conviction of mind-reader W. Bert Reese for fortune-telling is overturned on appeal after he proves that he can, in fact, read minds, correctly recounting things the judge wrote down. Reese says it’s not his fault if he has abnormal powers. Reese once convinced Thomas Edison that he was a genuine psychic.

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Today -100: June 29, 1915: I have not willed this!

Georgia’s new governor, Nathaniel Harris, says the Frank case is over and everyone should go home. Former Gov. Slaton flees the state.

Speaking of fleers, Huerta says that far from planning to lead another uprising in Mexico, he would only return to Mexico if it needs him to defend its flag. Very reassuring.

Supposedly, Kaiser Wilhelm visited the Western front and wept over a pile of dead German soldiers, “I have  not willed this!”

Germany and the US disagree over whether the 1799 US-Prussian Treaty allows Germany to sink American ships such as the William P. Frye. Germany seems to think it can sink as many ships as it likes, providing it then pays compensation in an amount it determines by itself.

Headline of the Day -100:

And the tuberculosis-industrial complex grinds to a halt. The strike is at the Montefiore Home Country Sanitarium for Consumptives in Bedford Hills, NY, where a new superintendent put in place rules strictly segregating the sexes and barring inmates from leaving without permission.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Today -100: June 28, 1915: Of lamps, mazes of machinations, and boomeranging psyops

It’s the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Inspired by his factory burning down six months ago, Thomas Edison invents a “fireman’s lamp,” a portable lamp with a two-pound battery that can see through smoke.

Former Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta and Gen. Pascual Orozco are arrested in New Mexico for violating US neutrality laws by planning military intervention in Mexico. Both are released on bond. Huerta claims he wasn’t about to cross into Mexico but is actually on a perfectly innocent visit to his daughter and then a vacation at the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco, although curiously his ticket was only to El Paso.

Carranza applauds the US’s “act of justice” in disrupting Huerta’s “maze of machinations conducted in secrecy against the peace of Mexico by well-known reactionaries”.

Yes, he actually said “the peace of Mexico.”

The London Daily Mail claims that Austria, in talking up the idea of a separate peace with Serbia as a propaganda ploy to create difficulties between Serbia and Italy, nominal allies who both lust after the same territory, has unintentionally made the Italian public euphoric at a prospect of peace which is entirely unrealistic.

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