Monday, November 20, 2017

Today -100: November 20, 1917: Of masses, war dinners, teachers, and enemy aliens


A federal grand jury indicts 7 members of the staff of The Masses, including Max Eastman and John Reed,  under the Espionage Act for knowingly distributed unmailable material and for conspiring to cause “Insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of [military] duty”. Reed (who is in Russia) is charged for writing an article, “Knit a Straitjacket for Your Soldier Boy,” and Arthur Young and Henry Glinterkamp are indicted for drawings, Glinterkamp for a cartoon of Death taking the measurements of a draftee for his coffin.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Hey, that’s what we call it in my house too!

The specific charges against the De Witt Clinton High School (Bronx) teachers who were suspended or transferred are made public. Thomas Mufson evidently thought it was proper to be neutral during a discussion of anarchism, A. Henry Schneer said patriotism should not be discussed in school, and Samuel Schmalhausen has a funny name and also doesn’t think it’s his job to inculcate an instinctive respect for the president and other government officials and did I mention he has a funny name? At the hearing, a faculty member complained that (this quote is from the newspaper, not necessarily the verbatim words of Isaac A. Dotey, who also has a funny name) “the pupils had of late consulted their own individual opinion, and that this had been subversive of discipline.”

Pres. Wilson bans enemy aliens (Germans only for now; the US is not at war with Austria or Turkey) from the District of Columbia, the Panama Canal Zone, within 3 miles of navigable streams or 100 yards of docks, piers, canals, railroad terminals, etc. Enemy aliens must register and must get government permission to travel or change jobs. They are not allowed to fly in airplanes or balloons. Within a few hours, before the news could reasonably be expected to have been disseminated, soldiers are sent into River Street in Hoboken (which also has a funny name). They grab 200 suspected Germans out of stores, rooming houses, saloons, and just off the streets. Before being sent to Ellis Island, some are held on an army transport ship. Which then mysteriously bursts into flame.


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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today -100: November 19, 1917: Of temporary supreme commanders, farms, and free men


Russia: Gen. Nikolay Dukhonin proclaims himself temporary Supreme Commander of the military “in view of my ignorance of the place of residence of the Chief Commander [Kerensky]”. The job will indeed be temporary.

Sen. Warren G. Harding suggests that every returning soldier should be given a farm if he wants one. He thinks cities are bad and tiny farms, like in France, are good.

French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau celebrates his new job by restoring the name of his newspaper to L’Homme Libre. He had changed it to L’Homme Enchainé when he fell afoul of the censors early in the war.


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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Today -100: November 18, 1917: Of Rodins, pork, disloyal/doubtful teachers, courts-martial, apartments, and Polish primes


French sculptor Auguste Rodin dies at 77. Which reminds me I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie “Camille Claudel 1915.”

Headline of the Day -100: 


The NYT editorial page strongly supports firing all “disloyal or doubtful” teachers.

The first US Army court-martial execution of the war, a soldier who raped and murdered a woman in France. Evidently, Gen. Pershing can give the go-ahead to a firing squad without any reference to President Wilson.

Six high-rise, high-class apartment buildings (elevators, telephone service, etc) in Harlem have been taken over by a black real estate company and are now being rented to black people (the previous white tenants are all leaving). Blacks have been moving into Harlem for a few years, but this is their first successful entry into the upper end of the real estate market.

Prof. Jan Kucharzewski is appointed prime minister of Poland.


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Friday, November 17, 2017

Today -100: November 17, 1917: Of thrift, operas, shams, political prisoners, fake sailors, and axes


Headline of the Day -100: 

TOTALLY worth it. The government is literally demanding the money out of children’s piggy banks. The new war taxes on, say, movie tickets, mean that things that used to cost a dime or a quarter now cost a penny or two more, so the government wants those pennies out of the piggy banks and back in circulation so it doesn’t have to mint new ones.

A bomb fails to go off at the Chicago Grand Opera during a production of Meyerbeer’s Dinorah. There is a flash and a smell of sulphur, which starts a panic until the orchestra starts up the Star-Spangled Banner, which as we know has magical powers against pipe bombs. It is suspected, naturally, that this is retaliation for the company’s ban on German opera.

At Princeton, Theodore Roosevelt says unless we break up Austria and Turkey and free their subject races, all the talk of making the world safe for democracy is a “sham.” He’s still bitching that the US didn’t declare war immediately after the sinking of the Lusitania.

The women suffragist prisoners are refusing to wear prison clothes and trying to make demands, and are being roughly handled, manacled to prison bars, put in cells with detoxing men, and any other humiliation the guards can imagine.

Kerensky seems to have fled again. Dressed as a sailor. After his little band of Cossacks made a deal with the Bolsheviks to turn him over.

The British ambassador to Russia refuses to see Foreign Minister Trotsky.

The German Independent Socialists ask for an immediate session of the Reichstag to consider Lenin’s peace offer.

Three Austrian nationals in Virginia, Minnesota are killed with an axe for buying Liberty Loans and giving money to the American Red Cross (we know this because the killer left a note).


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Today -100: November 16, 1917: Of tigers


French President Poincaré asks Georges Clemenceau to form a new government. “The Tiger” is 76 years old. A doctor, journalist, former political exile in the US during the Second Empire, Clemenceau has moved over the years from fierce radicalism to fierce not-radicalism, and has been highly critical of the government’s insufficiently ferocious prosecution of the war, to the extent that his newspapers were suspended several times early in the war.

There are now 32 suffragist hunger strikers in the Occoquan Workhouse.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Today -100: November 15, 1917: Of underwear. And other stuff.


The outside world has no idea what is going on in Russia, but boy are there a lot of contradictory rumors.

As Central forces move into Italy, Venice is evacuated. Including all the art, such as the symbol of Venice, the bronze horses of San Marco.

A warrant is issued for Robert Pettigrew, the former US senator from South Dakota and congresscritter from the Dakota Territory, for violating the Espionage Act by giving a newspaper interview in which he said the war was a capitalist scheme and suggesting men evade the draft. The government will eventually drop the charges, perhaps after hearing he’d hired Clarence Darrow.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Soldiers, who are being issued undershirts and underpants and may not want to go back to the traditional one-piece “union suit” with the little flap on the butt.

Sociologist Émile Durkheim dies. The NYT doesn’t notice.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Today -100: November 14, 1917: The bourgeoisie has endeavored to separate the army from the revolution


China rejects the recent US-Japan agreement recognizing Japan’s “special interests” in China and the “open door” for US trade in China. China says agreements between other nations are not binding on it.

Paul Painlevé resigns as French prime minister after 9 weeks, after losing a confidence motion. There is some push-back against the new inter-allied war council.

There are contradictory reports about the clashes between Bolshevik-controlled military forces and Kerensky’s. Trotsky is declaring victory, as was the custom: “The bourgeoisie has endeavored to separate the army from the revolution. Kerensky has attempted to break it by the violence of Cossackdom. Both efforts have failed. ... The opposition to Kerensky is the opposition to the landlords, the bourgeois, and Kornilov. The opposition to Kerensky is also the affirmation of the people’s right to peace, free life, the land, bread and power.”

Speaking of bread and power, Food Administrator Herbert Hoover bans the destruction of stale bread.

The newly enfranchised women of New York are now demanding the right to sit on juries. They’ll get it at, er, some point, but it won’t be mandatory as it is for men until the mid-1970s.

NYC Associate Superintendent of Schools John Tildlsey, after holding his own little inquisition for De Witt Clinton High School (Bronx) teachers, has suspended 3 and transferred 8 for “holding views which are subversive of discipline in the schools and which undermine good citizenship,” i.e., not being completely gung ho about the war. One of the teachers who was cross-examined (the article doesn’t say if he’s one of the ones disciplined) says that one question he was asked was “Don’t you believe that Jewish students, especially the Russians, need to be disciplined out of their individualistic tendencies?” They were also asked their views of the Bolsheviks, whether teachers should inculcate instinctive obedience to superiors like they do in Germany, etc.

Feds and local police raid an IWW meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, and arrest 50 delegates.

Woodrow Wilsons personal secretary Joseph Tumulty denies persistent rumors that he has been arrested and imprisoned as a spy.


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Monday, November 13, 2017

Today -100: November 13, 1917: We are making all our statements now by means of cannon


In a speech in Paris, British Prime Minister Lloyd George says of the recent creation of an inter-allied council staff to oversee more central coordination of the militaries of Britain, France, and Italy, that the Italian disaster necessitated acting quickly without bringing in Russia (!) and the US, which will hopefully join soon. “Disaster,” by the way, is the word he uses to describe Italy’s military near-collapse. He also says the council is necessary because of past “blunders.” Actually, “incredible blunders.”

The military forces of Kerensky and the Bolsheviks clash.

Trotsky replies to an AP interview request: “we are making all our statements now by means of cannon. I have nothing to say otherwise.”

Judge Mallowney of D.C. police court suspends the sentences of the 41 suffragist White House picketers. So with this unexpected free time (so to speak), they go back and picket the White House again, although Woodrow Wilson is actually....

...in Buffalo, speaking at the American Federation of Labor annual convention, where he attacks pacifists: “I want peace, but I know how to get it, and they do not.”


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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Today -100: November 12, 1917: Of speedy wars, collapsing revolutions, wholesome truths, queens, explosives, salutes, and political prisoners


Headline of the Day -100: 


The Bolshevik revolution is “approaching collapse,” reports the NYT. Troops loyal to Kerensky are approaching Petrograd.

Supposedly, new self-appointed Russian foreign minister Leon Trotsky shows up at the Foreign Office and is met with obstruction – not being shown the secret treaties, being told there was no French interpreter available for him to send a telegram, etc – and “the typewriter girls of the Ministry assailed him with some wholesome truths about his origin, his aims, and his activities generally.” Assuming this has any basis in reality, “his origin” almost certainly means his Jewishness.

Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch, deposed by a US-backed coup in 1893, dies.

The Bureau of Mines plans to thwart bomb plots by arresting anyone in possession of explosives without a license.

There is some debate over whether white soldiers in the US Army can refuse to salute black officers.

The 41 suffragists currently out on bail, and 50 of their closest friends, force  their way into the yard of the prison where Alice Paul and Rose Winslow are being forcibly fed, and are able to talk with Paul and get some instruction about how to deal with prison when they’re sentenced. Demand political prisoner status immediately, she says. She complains that they’re force-feeding her 3 times a day where the British prison authorities only did it twice a day.


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Today -100: November 11, 1917: The Maximalists are in no way representative of the whole of Russia


41 suffragist picketers are arrested in front of the White House.

Kerensky resurfaces, in the town of Luga, 85 miles from the capital.

A temporary cabinet is named, with Lenin as prime minister and Trotsky foreign minister.

The Russian Embassy in Washington refuses to recognize the Bolshevik regime. Ambassador Boris Bakhmeteff, who will continue to pretend to be Russia’s ambassador until 1922 and will never see Russia again, says “The Petrograd events are a revolt of a party against a national government. The Maximalists are in no way representative of the whole of Russia.”

A mob of “Knights of Liberty” in Tulsa seize 17 IWW members from the police and flog and tar & feather them. The cops were already going to “persuade” them to leave town, as was the custom.


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Friday, November 10, 2017

Today -100: November 10, 1917: We offer a just peace, but we cannot accept unjust terms


Political parties in New York respond to the passage of women’s suffrage by hurriedly recruiting women. Tammany Hall is trying to figure out which ones to bribe with jobs, as was the custom. And the state will have to double the number of election districts.

The State Department thinks the Bolshevik Revolution can’t possibly last. The great hope among the Allies is that “some strong man” – not a Bolshevik – will emerge to take control of Russia.

Lenin says he will propose a 3-month armistice, during which time elected representatives of each country – not diplomats – can work out a peace. “We offer a just peace, but we cannot accept unjust terms.”

The arrest of all members of the Kerensky government is ordered on the grounds of complicity with Gen. Kornilov’s revolt, which is ridiculous.

The prison doctor where the suffragette White House picketers are being held says they weren’t force-fed, they “merely want to advertise themselves by saying they have been fed forcibly.” He is lying.

Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration wants cranberries dropped from Thanksgiving dinner, as they require too much sugar.


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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Today -100: November 9, 1917: Now we have a revolution


The Bolsheviks seize the Winter Palace. It’s all pretty bloodless so far. The Petrograd Soviet promises an immediate “democratic peace” and the redistribution of land. The military death penalty is re-abolished. “Now we have a revolution,” Lenin says, “The peasants and workers control the government. This is only a preliminary step toward a similar revolution everywhere.” But does this mean anything outside Petrograd? Will the rest of the country and the military follow? Will Kerensky (currently nowhere to be found) establish a competing government in Moscow?

Headline of the Day -100: 


This is the Balfour Declaration. Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour writes to Lord Walter Rothschild to pass on to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland that the UK now supports “a national home for the Jewish people” “in Palestine.” Which is all quite vague, and intentionally so. A home doesn’t necessarily mean a state, and “in Palestine” doesn’t necessarily mean all of Palestine. Balfour says this shouldn’t “prejudice the civil or religious rights” of non-Jews in Palestine.

Hunger-striking suffragist prisoners Alice Paul and Rose Winslow are forcibly fed.

In Montgomery, Alabama, a black soldier from the Ohio National Guard brushes against a white woman on a crowded street car. For this infraction, he is kidnapped by a bunch of white men and taken away in a car towards an unknown fate. More soldiers from his battalion (so also black) rush off in pursuit in carjacked automobiles, and....  the NYT never runs a follow-up, so who knows.


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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Today -100: November 8, 1917: What’s the Russian for “It’s on, bitches”?


Headlines of the Day, on opposite columns of the front page:



I just found the juxtaposition funny, for some reason.

So yeah, the October/November Revolution has begun. Kerensky outlaws the Petrograd Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet and deploys guards he thinks he can trust from the officers’ training schools and Cossacks and the Women’s Battalion of Death. The Preliminary Parliament votes, 123-102, to work with the government but rejects a resolution for the suppression of the Bolsheviks.

Alice Hill Chittenden, president of the NY State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, is not at all bitter about losing the referendum: “when radicalism and socialism prevail, woman suffrage will carry.” She also blames pacifism and says New York men will “rue the day.” Rue the day, I tell you!

Another classical music performance canceled. I hadn’t realized this was going to be such a thing. This time it’s two Pittsburgh performances by violinist/composer Fritz Kreisler (you can hear him on YouTube). Kreisler used to be a lieutenant in the Austrian Army, invalided out in 1914, so there’s public outrage by people who haven’t noticed that the US is not at war with Austria.


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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Today -100: November 7, 1917: There is no Hohenzollern here


Ohio: a prohibition referendum narrowly loses, for the 3rd time, and women’s suffrage loses 57-43.

Prohibition very narrowly loses in Iowa but wins 3 to 1 in New Mexico. There are now 27 dry states.

Women’s suffrage loses in Maine 65-35, but wins in New York (54-46). The NYT blames the reversal from 1915 on low turnout as people are too concerned with the war to make the world safe for democracy to bother voting. Or something.

NYC Boy Mayor John Purroy Mitchel is defeated, winning 23% of the vote, not much more than the Socialist Morris Hillquit (22%), while Judge John Hylan gets 46%. Hylan’s plurality is the largest in New York history. Tammany Hall sweeps the municipal elections, and Al Smith (future presidential candidate) is the new president of the Board of Aldermen. The city also elects 7 socialists to the state Assembly.

A sampling of editorials is entitled “Papers in Other Cities Do Not Like New York Election Result.” The Washington Post, for example, says the high socialist vote “confirms fears of a bad situation in which soapbox orators hold an unfortunate power in molding the views of the unthinking Americans.”

Gov. Charles Whitman says that, contrary to everything Mitchel said before the election, Germany should not be encouraged by the Hylan victory. “The people of New York State are patriotic. There is no Hohenzollern here.”

Suffragette Alice Paul goes on hunger strike in the District prison, demanding better food for the suffragist picketer/prisoners. They’ve been getting salt pork and cabbage. (In fact, the issue is that the suffragists are not being allowed to buy outside food like other prisoners).

Leon Trotsky, president of  the Petrograd Soldiers’ and Workers’ Soviet, asks the Petrograd Garrison to ignore orders from the government unless approved by the Soviet’s Revolutionary Military Committee.


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Monday, November 06, 2017

Today -100: November 6, 1917: Of special interests, symphonies, operators, acute perils, and masses


Secretary of State Robert Lansing signs an agreement recognizing Japan’s “special interests” in China, while Japan recognizes the “open door” for US trade in China.

Baltimore bars the Boston Symphony from playing because of the danger of disorder from idiots, including former governor Edwin Warfield.

New York Telephone has an ad in the Times asking customers not to dial the operator to ask for election results. They’ve provided this service in the past but there’s a war on, you know.

Hungary is refusing to send grain to Austria. The Austro-Hungarian Empire is not going well.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Radical... pacifists. Trotsky predicted the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet would come into power Sunday (which was 2 days ago).

Newsdealers are refusing to handle periodicals that the Post Office has barred from the mails, fearing prosecution. It is only illegal to sell the particular issues which the PO deems un-mailable, but dealers are barring every issue of any magazine, such as The Masses, that has been censored. They are probably right to be cautious, because they can be prosecuted for carrying something which is later declared seditious.


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Sunday, November 05, 2017

Today -100: November 5, 1917: Of POWs and chain letters


NYC mayoral candidate John Hylan claims that the Mitchel campaign tried to pressure a government employee, a photographer, into saying that he’d seen Hylan at the Friends of Peace convention in 1915, but that man denies the story. It’s all very fishy.

The first US prisoners of war are captured during the first clash between US and German soldiers.

The government claims to have discovered a German plot to clog the US mails through the use of chain letters, aka the “peace prayer” chain.


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Saturday, November 04, 2017

Today -100: November 4, 1917: Of over-the-top New Yorkers, zones, and savings


NYC Mayor John Purroy Mitchel says he will definitely be re-elected because “the real Americans of this city will go over the top against the forces of disloyalty.”

“Over the top,” by the way, is a very new phrase, referring to going over the top of the trenches at the start of a battle.


Question of the Day:


“In the Zone,” one of his sailor one-acts, opens, his first professional production.

A Lithuanian carpenter is arrested carrying a bomb onto a Navy troop transport ship in a NY shipyard.

A. Mitchell Palmer, the future attorney general and dickwad who currently rejoices in the title Alien Property Custodian, says that while the government will be seizing German companies’ property in the US, individuals’ postal savings accounts won’t be touched.


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Friday, November 03, 2017

Today -100: November 3, 1917: Of fires, muck, masses, quitters, and women’s reasons


There is evidently a German “uprising” in southern Brazil. Which seems to just mean a railway strike.

The US government says that since the US entered the war, fires have destroyed $25 million worth of food, most of those fires started by German spies or sympathizers, because German spies are responsible for everything bad that happens now.

Theodore Roosevelt demands that Boston Symphony conductor Karl Muck be deported for refusing to play the Star-Spangled Banner. Muck offers his resignation, which has not yet been accepted, and plays the tune.

A Circuit Court upholds the banning of The Masses from the mails, which evidently means that just producing the magazine is now illegal, through logic that seems ridiculously faulty. The court also says that the crime of obstructing enlistment in the military does not require that the magazine directly advise people not to enlist, but that it prints absolutely anything that could be interpreted by those inclined to so interpret it as impeding, hindering, restraining or putting an obstacle in the way of recruitment, including the “natural and reasonable effect of the publication”.

The Washington Post publishes some of that AP interview with Kerensky mentioned here yesterday under the title “Russia Quits War; Blames English for Not Sending Fleet.” The Russian embassy is now scrambling to reassure everyone that Russia is not in fact quitting the war.

The Russian government has decided not to abandon Petrograd after all (Germany has stopped what had looked like an all-out attempt to capture the capital in favor of a push to knock Italy out of the war).


Two ads, NYT, page 11:


The NYT is also opposed to the women’s suffrage amendment.


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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Today -100: November 2, 1917: Yellow calls to yellow


The Bolsheviks do badly in Russian municipal elections, 7% in the big cities, less in small towns. And they abandon plans for a demonstration in Petrograd. So the government is pretty sure the Bolshies are on the decline.

Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky tells the Associated Press that Russia is “worn out” and everyone else should just carry on with the war while Russia has a bit of a lie-down. He also complains that the German navy is in the Baltic and where the hell is the British navy?

NYC Mayor John Purroy Mitchel releases a poster of the letterhead of the Friends of Peace listing John Hylan as an honorary vice president. Hylan calls it a forgery, and again states that a lot of people were once listed as hon veeps without their permission, including several in the Mitchel campaign and administration, and anyway that was before the US entered the war, as was the endorsement of Hylan by the Hearst-owned German-language Deutsches Journal in 1915 that Mitchel is now citing as proof of treason or something. Mitchel says the result of this election will be seen in Germany, and if German soldiers read that “the Kaiser wins in New York,” they will be encouraged and strengthened, and “the American in the trench a hundred yards away may pay with his life as the penalty for disloyalty at home. The time has come to choose between the seditious and the loyal, between enemies and friends, between traitors and Americans.”

Theodore Roosevelt on Socialist mayoral candidate Morris Hillquit: “Yellow calls to yellow, and that is all there is in that campaign.”

By the way, look who else is running, for the #2 position in city government.






In Britain, the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social and Political Union changes its name to the Woman’s Party with a platform of a little bit of feminism and a lot of screw-Germany-into-the-ground-forever.

The Metropolitan Opera decides to leave Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde out of the new season. In London German operas have been performed only in English translation since the start of the war. Tomorrow the Met will announce the exclusion of all German-language opera. It was the Met that originally brought Parsifal to the US and which gave the first performance of the complete Ring Cycle in the Western Hemisphere. German operas still under copyright, like Strauss’s Rosenkavelier, would actually be illegal to perform under the Trading with the Enemy Act.



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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Today -100: November 1, 1917: Of perjury, rallies, and unserious music


NYC mayoral race: John Hylan denies Mayor John Mitchel’s charge that he is a member of the Society of Friends of Peace. So Mitchel now demands he repeat that under oath subject to perjury. And, er, how would he even do that?

Socialist New York mayoral candidate Morris Hillquit holds a rally filling Madison Square Garden. The government sends stenographers as a subtle warning to watch what he says.

Henry Higginson, the founder and chief patron of the Boston Symphony, threatens to shut it down if there continues to be pressure from the public and the government  to play the Star-Spangled Banner, which he considers inappropriate for a program of serious symphonic music. The clamor, which was stirred up by the Providence Journal, will continue until the symphony’s conductor, Dr. Karl Muck, a German-born Swiss citizen, is interned in March.

A new issue of the Wipers Times is out.

From the diary of Lieut. Samuel Pepys: “On the Thursday of last week we did take up our residence in a new part of the trench. Tis a noisome place, and I am disgusted of it. The mud is of a terrifying stickiness, and I am feared for my breeches, which cost me one guinea at the Hope Brothers’ establishment in Cheapside. Also I have spoiled my new coat on the barbed wire, which has grieved me, as it was of a good shape and fitting. ... As I must take a party out for the sandbagging, to bed at 7 of the clock, after a poor dinner, the Macconnochie being but of medium quality and not too hot.”

And a poem:

Sentry! What of the night?
The sentry’s answer I will not repeat.
Though short in words, ‘twas with feeling replete,
It covered all he thought and more,
It covered all he’d thought before,
It covered all he might think yet
In years to come. For he was wet
And had no rum.


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