Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today -100: September 21, 1911: Of spitzbubs, dead Chinese, and collisions

Anthony Comstock (of Comstock Act fame) arraigns a Mrs. Bertha Hussmann for mailing a postcard to her husband which called him a “spitzbub.” Comstock thought she was calling him a thief, which would violate laws against mailing anything of a “defamatory, libelous, and scurrilous character,” but in fact the word better translates from the German as scamp or rascal. Use it in a sentence today.

Last week -100, 2,000 Chinese rebels were slain. You’d think that would be worth more than two sentences in the NYT. You would be wrong.

The White Star liner Olympic, the largest vessel afloat, collides with the HMS Hawke, limps back to Southampton. The NYT blames the Hawke, but an investigation will blame the Olympic and its captain, Edward Smith, for failing to yield the right of way. Smith’s next command will be the Titanic (another link between the collisions of the Olympic and that of the Titanic: the repairs to the Olympic tied up facilities and delayed the launching of the Titanic). 60 millionaires were on board, including Waldorf Astor, who was, um, related in some way to John Jacob Astor IV, who went down on the Titanic.

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