Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today -100: March 16, 1910: Of the census, inter-state commerce, official cars, unnecessary noise, general strikes, plain-clothes cops, and Frisco


Since I raised the question of race in the 2010 census, let’s look at 1910. The 1910 census was the last to categorize people as mulattoes (the more specific Octoroon and Quadroon designations were dropped after 1890). The Census Bureau defined mulatto for its enumerators as “all other persons having some proportion or perceptible trace of negro blood”. One problem with this system was that “perceptible” varied according to the race of the census worker (you’ll recall the Bureau’s fear that white people would be enumerated by black enumerators), with black census workers managing to detect more mulattoes than white ones. Efforts were also made to detect the racial purity of Native Americans. Asians were either Chinese or Japanese. Everyone else was “other.”

While recent socialist-led demonstrations in Germany for greater democracy (Prussia’s system is particularly antediluvian) have been met by police sabers, the Reichstag has voted to introduce a bill to make the government responsible to it rather than to the kaiser. It also voted to make Alsace-Lorraine, seized from France in 1870 and soon (spoiler alert) to be seized back, a federal state, with a diet elected by universal suffrage and a secret ballot.

An interesting discussion of separation of powers in the Senate. Taft’s bill for changes in inter-state commerce law, including the establishment of a Court of Commerce which would mostly deal with railroad cases, came to the Senate floor without a single senator willing to speak in support of the president’s bill (which isn’t to say the R’s won’t force it through anyway). Albert Cummins (R-Iowa) attacked the bill for having been re-written several times by the White House at the request of railroad magnates, with the Inter-State Commerce Committee simply adopting those changes verbatim. This is a departure, Cummins says, from Roosevelt, who said it was improper for the executive to suggest precise phrasing of bills.

Meanwhile the House of Reps has voted not to provide the vice president and speaker of the House Cannon with official automobiles.

The Society for the Prevention of Unnecessary Noise (evidently a women’s group) is lobbying NYC Mayor Gaynor against the Fourth of July, but it turns out he likes fireworks. So they plan to make his life miserable by phoning him at all hours and bombarding him with letters and requests for visits.

Since taking office 2½ months ago, Gaynor has been engaged in a fairly impressive attempt to reform the NYPD, cracking down on corruption and cracking down on cracking heads with clubs. Now he’s asking the police commissioner how many plain-clothes cops there are and what exactly they do that they couldn’t do in uniform. He also wants to know how many cops “are assigned to what is called special duty”. I don’t know what that is.

Compare and contrast: March 1910, the British Liberals plan to turn the House of Lords into a wholly elected body; March 2010, the Labour Party plans to turn the House of Lords into a wholly elected body.

The Philadelphia general strike – which may soon be joined by a state-wide sympathy strike – is growing or declining, depending on who you believe. The transit company says that today it operated more trolleys than on any day since the strike began, although they are also running over quite a few people. And the mayor and public safety director tell The New Theatre not to perform John Galsworthy’s play about a strike, “Strife.”

A letter from a former resident of San Francisco says that he never heard Los Angeles referred to as “Los,” but that there was an ad on the SF street cars asking people not to call the city “Frisco,” a term which rankles San Francishoovians to this very day.

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