Friday, November 27, 2009

Today -100: November 28, 1909: Of the demon rum, Halley’s comet’s tail, the white man’s burden, and the shadow of obscurity

Alabama will vote this week on prohibition. One problem: it’s an off-year election, so many people haven’t bothered to pay their poll taxes and will be unable to vote. Opponents of the amendment say it allows the cops to search private homes for liquor.

Astronomer John Brashear predicts that when Halley’s comet next comes around (May 1910), the earth will be submerged in the comet’s tail. However, he reassured his audience at the Outlook Club that earthlings would not be harmed by it and will “know no more of the presence of the tail of the comet than if a gentle breeze distributed the smoke of a campfire over a good-sized country.” However, the dead will definitely arise as zombies and eat the brains of the living. But other than that, it’ll be the gentle breeze distributing the smoke of a campfire thing.

Vice President James Schoolcraft Sherman found that the clerk at a post office in Albany did not recognize him (NY is his home state). Also the doorman of a theater. In a letter to the NY secretary of state, he writes, “in the shadow of obscurity I am unhappy.”

Headline of the Day, That Day Being November 28, 1909: “Does New York Want Woman Suffrage? Interesting Views of Prominent Men Who Discuss the Question.” They’re not kidding about the men thing: they sent a questionnaire out and printed the responses of 15 politicians, theologians and whatnot, all men. Oscar Hammerstein I, for example, approves of women voting in municipal and state, but not national elections.

Teddy Roosevelt, still in the middle of his long post-presidential shooting spree in Africa, writes in Scribner’s that Africans are much better off under colonial rule. While there have been mistakes, they most often arise from zeal to accomplish too much in the way of beneficence. So that’s okay then. Indeed the British colonialists’ error, like that of the US in dealing with Indians, is interfering too little with natives’ customs and practices. Missionaries and colonial officials should work hand in hand.

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