Saturday, January 16, 2010

Today -100: January 16, 1910: Of election-day rowdiness, hotel suicides, kissing the book, expensive electrocutions, leather whips, and short breeches


The British are voting. Just as crowds were hostile to members of the House of Lords breaking tradition by speaking to election meetings, a crowd at Grimsby, outraged at Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George addressing voters on polling day, which is just not done, forced him to abandon the speech and flee. There were also shouts of “Traitor” and “Pro-Boer,” evidently from people still pissed at his stance during the Boer War a decade earlier. In his speech, LG had actually been refuting Balfour’s alarmism about the German menace, saying that if the German navy tried anything, it would be at the bottom of the sea in a matter of hours.

In Dundee, Winston Churchill, himself a once and future Tory, denounced the Conservatives as “the party of privilege and class.”

Rep. Henry is proposing a constitutional amendment to push the presidential inauguration back from March 4 to the last Thursday in April. The move is supported by D.C. hotels and the like, hoping for more business if there is a prospect of better weather.

In other hotel news, there has been a rash of suicides in Germany lately, possibly by people contemplating the prospects of the Germany Navy against the British Royal Navy, and the Association of Hotel Owners has issued a statement asking potential suicides to please do away with themselves somewhere other than in hotels, because there are really lots of alternative spots where they’d cause less inconvenient to others, and do you know what that does to the reputation of a hotel?

In Britain, witnesses in court have taken to refusing to kiss the Bible on health grounds, and the practice has been abolished altogether in Lambeth (London) Police Court. However, “To the poorer class the old formula seemed to appeal strongly. Remember you have ‘kissed the Book’ was usually the most crushing comment a defendant could make when challenging the statements of a witness.”

The NYC Board of Education bans competition or prizes being offered in high schools without authorization. This is aimed at a $100 prize offered by Mrs. Belmont to the female students at Wadleigh High School for the best essays on women’s suffrage.

New Jersey electrocuted six men in 1909 at a cost of $7,028. The cost of maintaining living prisoners was 33¢ a day.

At another institution of the state of New Jersey, the State Home for Girls in Trenton, it has been revealed that girls and women up to the age of 21 are lashed with leather whips. The NYT believes that whipping has been abolished in every other state. The trustees of the home complain that it has to house insane and feeble-minded girls alongside reformatory cases, that the state gives them no resources but expects them to train the girls, and that it expects them to discipline them without having a “proper house of detention so that we can separate temporarily the vicious girl”.

The shirtwaist strikers in Philadelphia have picked up a sympathizer: Helen Taft, daughter of the president, along with her fellow members of the Bryn Mawr Suffrage Club. After hearing about the conditions of shirtwaist makers, she said, “Really, I’ll never put on a shirtwaist again without a shudder. ... Why, it’s just like reading Nietzsche, isn’t it?” “And then,” the NYT snidely reports, “Miss Taft and her friends boarded a Thirteenth Street car and went to the opera.”

Headline of the Day -100: “King Drops Short Breeches.” Those invited to meet King Edward at Lady Paget’s, the men anyway, have been told they are to wear evening trousers instead of the usual black silk breeches and black silk stockings. “[T]he reason of the innovation is unknown.”

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