Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today -100: January 12, 1917: Of lubes and lynchings, picketers, fireworks in the Meadowlands, and not exterminating the German people

Gov. Augustus Owsley Stanley of Kentucky personally prevents the lynching of a black man, Lube Martin (that can’t be his correct name, can it?), after his trial for killing a white man is postponed. Hearing of the threats to kill the judge if he didn’t order Martin returned to Murray (that’s a place), Gov. Stanley charters a special train, saying he’d give the mob “a chance to lynch the governor of Kentucky first.”

The Senate passes a measure to ban from the US mails printed matter – including newspapers – containing liquor ads.

Pres. Wilson invites the suffragist picketers inside to get warm because, well, January might not have been the best time of year to start picketing the White House. The invitation is not accepted.

Explosions destroy the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, a munitions factory in Kingsland, New Jersey (the Meadowlands), going on and on for four hours as hundreds of thousands of shells, intended for export to Britain and Russia, detonate. No one will ever be sure whether sabotage was involved, although West Germany will be coerced into paying some compensation in the 1950s. There is a hero: Tessie McNamara, who ran the telephone switchboard and made sure every department evacuated before barely making it out herself. There were no casualties, not even the police chiefs of Kingsland and Rutherford, who were in an automobile when a shell fell on it and wrecked it. Not helping: the idiots, not all of them children, who decide that unexploded shells make good souvenirs.

After last July’s explosions in New York Harbor, NY and NJ tightened their rules for the handling of explosives. One of the companies fighting local safety measures was, you guessed it, the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, which went to court to preserve its ability to ship explosives by rail through Jersey City.

The Entente finally responds  to Wilson’s letter sent 4 weeks ago asking both sides to set out their objectives, and they actually do: evacuation of foreign occupation forces from Belgium, Serbia, France, Russia, Montenegro, Romania with reparations, the “reorganization of Europe,” return of Alsace-Lorraine to France and some territory to Italy, “liberation” of Slavs, Romanians (they mean Transylvania), Italians, Czecho-Slovaks (i.e. the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), enfranchisement of subject populations in the Ottoman Empire and the removal from Europe of that Empire, “decidedly alien to Western civilization.” They are positioning themselves as “not fighting for selfish interests, but, above all, to safeguard the independence of peoples, of right, and of humanity.” They do say that they do not aim for “the extermination of the German people and their political disappearance,” so that’s nice of them.

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