Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Today -100: January 4, 1911: Of sieges, debt peonage, and run-over New Yorkers

The Siege of Sidney Street in London. Several weeks before, some Latvians who the press would make out to be anarchists trying to finance their hideous cause but were probably just small-time burglars were interrupted by police while tunneling into a jewelry store. They killed two cops (three?) and escaped, going to ground in a house in Stepney, where they were discovered three weeks later. Home Secretary Winston Churchill, who naturally went along himself to observe the fun (a bullet passed through that nice top hat – questions about his recklessness were later raised in Parliament), sent in pretty much every cop in London to surround the house, plus Scots Guards from the Tower of London, who brought along a Maxim gun (which wasn’t used). A major gunfight ensued, lasting two hours, against what turned out to be just two people. The building was set on fire, Churchill refused to let the fire brigade put it out, and the two Latvians died, evidently at their own hands.

Click for the Manchester Guardian’s coverage.

Click for newsreel footage (3½ minutes):


The Supreme Court rules that Alabama’s labor contract law violates the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. The law prevented people who received pay in advance from quitting their jobs until it was repaid, and was used to reduce negroes to debt peonage.

Henry Cabot Lodge, although a three-term US Senator, is only now giving his first election speech, in advance of the Massachusetts state legislature’s vote on whether to give him a fourth term.

In 1910 376 people were killed by vehicular traffic in New York City, of whom 104 were killed by automobiles, 114 by or in trolleys, and 158 by horse-drawn vehicles. Part of the reason for the large number in the latter category is that while there is a stiff fine for drunk-driving an automobile it is not even illegal to drive a wagon drunk.

In 1910 there were roughly 500,000 automobiles in the US.

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