Saturday, February 27, 2010

Today -100: February 27, 1910: Bunga bunga!

At the other big strike in Pennsylvania, the State Police shoot at strikers at the Bethlehem Steel Works, killing one and wounding two others. The NYT keeps stressing that some of the strikers are “foreigners,” and darkly notes that foreigners have bought up every pistol for sale in the area.

A bomb went off in a NYC tenement. Someone, presumably a member of the Black Hand (as the Mafia was known), was trying to put it together in his apartment. He escaped before police arrived, but did leave behind three fingers.

The NYT has caught up with the story of the Dreadnought Hoax, actually carried out in England on the 7th. Several members of the Bloomsbury Group, which first made itself known to the wider public with this event, disguised themselves as princes from Abyssinia and were given a royal tour of the H.M.S. Dreadnought, the most powerful battleship in the Royal Navy or indeed the world. This is them:

The one on the left, “Prince Sanganya,” is Virginia Woolf (Virginia Stephen, as she then was). To her right are Duncan Grant, Adrian Stephen (Virginia’s brother), playing the translator, Anthony Buxton, Guy Ridley and Horace de Vere Cole, playing a Foreign Office attaché (as of late February, their real names were not known beyond their circle of friends). They blacked up, put on false beards and shoes with turned-up toes, and spoke in a gibberish comprised of bits of Greek and Latin, pointing and exclaiming “Bunga bunga.” For some time thereafter, people on the streets muttered the phrase whenever a sailor from the Dreadnought went past. (Update: I’ve just discovered that the term has an altogether less pleasant meaning now.) After the incident, the ship was sent out to sea until the embarrassment died down.

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