Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today -100: February 22, 1911: Of peers, dancing in Flushing, the black line, and running over dogs

British Tory Party leader Balfour says he will consent to removing the House of Lords’ veto power only if any measure of Irish Home Rule is submitted to a popular referendum.

Irish Nationalist MPs will boycott George V’s coronation ceremonies.

The Taft admin has sprung a proposed treaty with Japan on a Senate that evidently didn’t know it was being negotiated. It’s much like the expiring 1894 treaty but leaves out the provision requiring Japan to accept American racial exclusion laws. The Tafties want it ratified quickly, hoping the Californian delegation won’t provoke the usual racist agitation while the lucrative 1915 Pacific-Panama Exposition can still be taken away from San Francisco.

The Flushing Association (an organization of the hoity toity of Flushing)(which would be a great name for a rock band) calls on the Board of Education to eliminate dancing in public schools. It’s not the dancing they object to per se, it’s that black and white pupils might be required to dance... together.

But how do you determine that all-important question, who is white and who is black? “In an endeavor to determine scientifically the race of a child, staff physicians at Johns Hopkins Hospital to-day made an examination of Luella Loftridge, an eleven-year-old girl, who is trying to obtain her freedom from a negro institution in which she has been confined for nearly seven years. The examination, it was said, did not settle the question, and the lawyers for the girl declared that there would be no cessation of the fight for her release. ... The physical characteristics by which physicians are said to be able to detect the presence of negro blood, but which are held by some authorities to be utterly valueless, played a large part in the examination. The main point to be settled – one that has been the subject of unlimited debate for decades – is what can really be considered the line of demarkation between a white person and a negro. In the present case it was stated that all the accepted tests for the presence of negro blood, save one, had failed. That one is the presence of a black line across one of the girl’s fingernails”. Neither Google nor the NYT index shed any light on the subsequent fate of Luella Loftridge.

Playwright Henri Bernstein asked the leading actress in his play “Après Mois” in the Comédie-Française in Paris to wear a trousers skirt. This set off a scandal at the public dress rehearsal (spoiler alert: not the last scandal associated with this performance – keep watching this spot!). The American ambassador was heard to exclaim, “Gee whiz!” The offending garment will no longer be displayed.

A letter to the editor from guest publication The Car in Britain, written by George Bernard Shaw, entering a discussion in that periodical on what to do when one runs over a dog (I’m folding in a follow-up later in the March 15th issue)(um, the squeamish might stop reading at this point). GBS says that he has been in a car, driven by himself or his chauffeur, on 13 occasions when it has killed a dog. In one incident, his driver ran over the dog of an 8-year-old girl. They stopped, but “When the begoggled monster who had just killed her dog approached her, possibly with the intention of continuing his fell work, she went into screaming hysterics”. So he suggests that the most tactful thing to do is “withdraw as rapidly as possible”, although he does confine that advice to dogs: “On the whole, when you kill a human being, stop.” He disagrees with those authors of letters to The Car who point out “that the motorist who runs away loses an opportunity of demonstrating that he is a gentleman, and thereby defeats the main purpose for which, in the opinion of many respectable Englishmen, the universe was created.”

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