Thursday, March 04, 2010

Today -100: March 4, 1910: Of civil wars, trolleys, lynchings, schools of crime, and presidential hoe-downs


I’ve more or less stopped following the stories of battles in Nicaragua, because they seemed highly untrustworthy, but the NYT reports that Estrada’s insurrection has been almost completely defeated, the impetus (as well as the possibility of direct American intervention) having gone out of it with Zelaya’s resignation.

The NYT publishes the positions of various sides in the Philadelphia trolley strike. The Central Labor Union complains that the trolley company sent detectives to spy on the union, fired employees purely for union membership, broke the agreement covering wages and negotiations, etc. Its manifesto also focuses on the role of City Hall in using violence and arrests against unionists and bringing in the State police. The trolley company claims that the June 1909 closed shop agreement was the result of “political coercion” and says it is fighting for the rights of its employees to deal directly with the company “without the intervention of an organization officered and controlled by outside men” and for the right of the company to fire anyone for any reason. Mayor John Reyburn criticizes the ministers’ association for “support[ing] a lot of men in the destruction of property and murder... Why, the same men would be the first to burn down their churches.”

In Dallas, a lynch mob of 3,000 people seized a black man in a courtroom where he was being tried for attacking a 3-year-old white girl, threw him out the window, which broke his neck, then dragged his body half a mile away and hung it on a spike. The mob stormed the jail, but other prisoners had been removed. Firemen tried to disperse the mob with water but “retired from the contest” when threatened with being lynched themselves. The first sentence of the longish story mentioned an “old negro” at the head of the mob, but nothing more was said about him.

Two women, 18 and 19 years old, arrested for shoplifting, tell the court that they were “instructed in the art of pilfering in a school of crime fitted up in imitation of a department store” in the home of a fellow employee of a button factory. Charmingly Dickensian, no?

President Taft gave a dinner in honor of Speaker of the House Cannon (who, rumor has it, he would love to get rid of). Afterwards, they danced. Cannon did a Highland fling, then, as he bragged about how well he’d done it, “For answer the President stepped smilingly forward and those who were present say the two executed several steps of an old-fashioned ‘hoe-down’ that delighted every one. Both were puffing when they finished.”

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