Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Nazi Reaction to D-Day

A few weeks after D-Day, the leading German weekly Das Reich ran this cartoon.  A battered American soldier wants to recover in Hell, since conditions there are better than for the Allied army attacking German’s “Atlantic Wall.”  The Nazis had put great effort into building fortifications — but in the event they were not sufficient to hold back the invasion.

“I'm coming from the Atlantic Wall and would like to rest up here....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prohibition and Business Opportunities

Prohibition came into effect with the on January 15, 1920. Besides the business opportunities seized by criminal elements, others found ways to profit from the ban on booze, too.

This article from the Milwaukee Journal reports the “first of dry America’s floating ‘wet spots,’” a Great Lakes vessel turned into a ship that would make three winter trips a week between Miami and Havana.  Once past the three-mile limit, there would be plenty to dink.  The fare was $35, presumably not including drinks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Nazi Response to FDR’s Peace Message (1939)

In mid-April 1939, Franklin Roosevelt sent a message encouraging peace to Hitler and Mussolini.  Hitler responded on 28 April 1939 with a two-and-a-half hour speech that scornfully rejected FDR’s message.  This cartoon from Julius Streicher’s anti-Semitic weekly Der Stürmer (#19/1939) shows FDR sliding down the manuscript of his peace message into Hell, where laughing devils wait.

The caption translates: “Sliding down. The paragon of virtue and apostle of peace elicits hellish laughter.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lindbergh Flies to Paris in 1927

It’s hard today to imagine the excitement occasioned by Lindbergh’s solo flight to Paris in 1927. People sensed, I think, that the world had changed, that if today Lindbergh could fly alone to Paris, tomorrow they would be able to as well, if not by themselves.

Today I post two editorials from the Eugene Register-Guard. The first appeared on 21 May 1927, the day Lindbergh landed in Paris. In fact, the headline of the issue reports just that. This, however, was before the rapid pace of our day, and the editorial page had already been set in type before Lindbergh landed. The paper therefore hedged its bets, not knowing whether or not they had a triumph or a tragedy in store.  Lloyds of London, in fact, refused to insure Lindbergh’s flight.  It seemed too risky.

The editorial praised Lindbergh’s bravery, and left open the possibility of failure.

The second editorial appeared on 23 May 1927. Lindbergh was a hero, and now his example was put to use.  The country, the editorial notes, was still filled with valiant young people willing to follow Lindbergh’s example, if perhaps in a less spectacular fashion. And the Pacific Northwest was daring great things.

Others seized on Lindbergh’s example. The issue had an ad from a local department store about to open its new building. The ad claims that this, too, was an example of American spirit: “American Aviators and American Businessmen lead the world.”

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Two Editorials for 4 July 1942

The 4th of July had always been an occasion for newspaper editorials.  Today I'm adding two rather different editorials from 1942.  The United States had been in the war for seven months, and things were not going well.  The Milwaukee Sentinel carried a rather typical editorial titled “Our Nation’s Natal Day” with general claims of how the nation needed to draw on its traditions to face the new crisis.

The Eugene Register-Guard took a more interesting approach. In an editorial titled “The Crisis Calls for Realism,” it frankly admitted that the war situation was grim.  The Germans were advancing on Egypt, the Japanese toward India.  And the Russians, while demanding resources, were unwilling to help us in the East.  It ends by complaining about “hazy thinking” in Washington.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Medical Quackery (1888)

People have always been susceptible to promises of medical miracles. Today’s post is an ad from the 13 April 1888 issue of The Manistee Times-Sentinel.  One Dr. Baker promises to treat successfully “every conceivable form” of a range of illnesses. He promises to prepare his amazing medicines individually for each patient.

It wouldn’t be hard to find similar promises on the Internet today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pearl Harbor Editorial (1941)

This editorial from the Spokane Daily Chronicle of 8 December 1941 is the newspapers’s response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the day before.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nobel Prizes of 1929

This editorial from the Montreal Gazette of 14 November 1929 comments on the recipients of the Nobel Prize.  It provides a brief description of the winners in the sciences, but gives most of the space over to a discussion of German author Thomas Mann.  The editorial optimistically asserts that Mann is a firm believer in the Weimar constitution, and hopes that he will contribute to lasting peace between France and Germany.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A German Cartoon on Churchill’s Radio Speeches

This cartoon comes from the 13 September 1940 issue of the Wiener neueste Nachrichten. The title at the top: “The strong man at the microphone.” Churchill is giving a speech over Radio London while being pumped full of hot air, presumably.  One chap says to the other: “Don’t pump in too much, Tommy, or he will pop.”

This appeared near the height of the London Blitz when Germany was confident of victory.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Boy Mailed Using Parcel Post (1914)

This brief article from Corbett’s Herald (Providence, RI) of 7 February 1914 reports that a boy was shipped home by his grandmother upon payment of 18¢ in postage.  He arrived, the article says, in good condition. That probably would not work today.

Monday, May 9, 2011

News on the Holocaust from July 1944

In the same issue the Pittsburgh Press that carries the article on the 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler I posted yesterday was an editorial showing that the Holocaust was increasingly becoming known.  The extent, however, was still uncertain. Many more than 1,715,000 Jews mentioned in the article had been killed by the time the article appeared.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Assassination Attempt on Hitler (20 July 1944)

Six weeks after D-Day, a group of German officers attempted to kill Adolf Hitler.  The attempt almost succeeded. In the United States as in Germany (and the rest of the world), people were at first not sure what it meant.  Was Germany collapsing? Would the war end with an internal German revolt?  The paper’s prediction that German faced “civil war” was , unfortunately, optimistic.

The Pittsburgh Press carried the story on its front page on 21 July 1944..  I include the first part of the story here.  To read the full story, follow the link on Google News.

Monday, May 2, 2011

U.S. National Debt Increases by $500,000,000 (1931)

Today (2011), newspapers are carrying stories about the enormous increase in the American national debt. It’s a perennial story.  This article from the 3 June 1931 issue of the Milwaukee Journal reports the alarming news that the national debt will have increased by $500,000,000 at the end of the fiscal year 1930-1931.

President Hoover was proud to have reduced expenditures by $180,000,000 the previous summer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hitler’s 1923 Beer Hall Putsch

Hitler tried to take over Germany in November 1923, the so-called “Beer Hall Putsch” that became a German national holiday once Hitler succeeded in taking power in 1933.  This article from the 9 November 1923 issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel takes the confused Associated Press reports and suggests Hitler was on the way to power.  In fact, the Putsch rapidly collapsed. Hitler received a remarkably brief prison sentence, using the time to write Mein Kampf.  The full newspaper is available on Google News.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Great German Inflation of 1923-1924

One of the classic examples of inflation comes from Germany after World War I.  This article from the Dawson Daily News reports the situation, providing numbers incomprehensible even today. Still, these kinds of inflation do recur.  Recently, Zimbabwe issued banknotes for 100 trillion dollars before reissuing the currency,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jim Crow in the Military during World War II

The U.S. has a long history of newspapers intended for a Black audience.  They make interesting reading. This article is from the Baltimore African-American, 2 February 1943.  A high-ranking Black officer had just resigned his post in the Pentagon because he saw that promises made to Blacks were not being met.  I also attach an editorial cartoon on the theme. The full newspaper is available on Google News.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Great Train Wreck of 1906

We still use the metaphor of a “train wreck,” but big train wrecks are rare today.  They were once more frequent.  The story here, taken from the Las Vegas Times of 5 May 1906, reports a huge wreck in Montana. According to the article, cars piled up 40 feet high. The conductor notes at the end that at least a dozen tramps were on board. The original is available on Google News.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

German Cartoon on the German-Soviet Pact of 1939

When Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact on 23 August 1939, World War II essentially began.  Hitler now felt free of the threat of a two-front war.  A little over a week later he turned his armies loose on Poland.

The agreement was a tremendous relief to Germans — it seemed another of Hitler’s diplomatic master strokes. This cartoon from the 25 August 1939 issue of the Freiburger Zeitung expressed the sense of relief. In the first frame, England and France are discussing how  to “encircle” Germany while Stalin listens quietly. In the second frame, France announces it will attack from the West. In the third frame, England announces it will attack by sea. In the final frame, against the backdrop “Non-Aggression Pact with Germany,” Stalin leaves saying “...and we won’t come at all!”

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pittsburgh Judge Outraged at Acquittal (January 1900)

This 13 January 1900 article from the Pittsburgh Press reports an outraged judge. Despite his clear directions to the jury to find two men accused of illegally selling alcohol on Sundays guilty, the jury decided both were innocent.  One suspects the members of the jury had little doubt that the accused had in fact broken the law — but that they rather liked the idea of a Sunday glass of beer. The newspaper can be found on Google News.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

German Editorial Cartoon (December 1940)

This cartoon from a Vienna newspaper is captioned: “The British Admiralty has been totally silent about the convoy sunk on 2 December. It would be a blessing for England if silence really were golden.” The Germans had in fact sunk eleven of the forty-nine ships in Convoy HX-90.

Source: Wiener neueste Nachrichten, 2 December 1940.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Red Scare in 1920

There was great fear of the Communists in the United States not only during the McCarthy Era, but also just after World War I. This article from the 4 January 1920 issue of the Milwaukee Journal reports on nation-wide arrests of radical elements with a tone that suggests the newspaper didn’t take the revolutionaries too seriously. I’ve included only the opening and closing of the article.  If you want the whole, it is available on Google News.

I’m particularly impressed by the estimate that the radicals had $200,000,000 to support their activities — a truly enormous sum in 1920 that would have bought a lot of bombs.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Non-Existent Planet “Discovered” in 1931

The 7 July 1931 issue of California’s Modesto Bee carried an AP story reporting that a Japanese observatory claimed to have discovered a new planetoid larger than the Earth itself. Since then, a number of significant bodies in the solar system have been discovered and Pluto was dethroned as a full planet, but the Japanese discovery turned out not to exist. The full newspaper is available on Google News.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Legal News from 1939

This clipping from the Pittsburgh Press of 21 April 1939, available on Google News, reports two unusual legal matters. In the first, Lieutenant-Governor Lewis of Pennsylvania disguises himself as a prisoner to form his own opinion as to whether or not a condemned prisoner is “mentally normal” and determines that “if he is feeble-minded, so am I.”

Next to it is an item about a husband fined $2 for preferring two dogs to his wife.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Future of Air Travel in 1939

This article reports a speech by the manager of Union Airways, a New Zealand firm, in April 1939. He discusses his ten-day trip from Australia to England — part of which was on air-conditioned “flying boat” that carried 22 passengers and flew at 150 mph. The original article from the Wellington Evening Post of 27 April 1939 is available on the PapersPast site.

A current Airbus 380, by the way, can have a takeoff weight of as much as 575 tons.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Put the German Kaiser on Trial in 1920?

Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on 18 November 1918 at the end of World War I and took refuge in The Netherlands. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, stipulated that he should be brought to trial. However, the Dutch refused to extradite him. The Allies kept trying, as evident in this editorial from the Pittsburgh Press of 19 January 1920, but he lived in comfortable exile until his death in 1941. The original newspaper is available on Google.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Australian Editorial Cartoon on Roosevelt and Hitler

The cartoon below appeared in Melbourne’s The Age on 2 May 1939. Franklin Roosevelt had commented that Hitler had not completely closed the door to peace in his speech of 28 April 1939 (although FDR wasn’t at all optimistic).  The Age has a bedraggled and de-feathered dove returning  from Europe while FDR says: “Well at least you got back alive.” Like many comments at the time, the cartoon holds out a thin hope of peace. The original newspaper is available on Google.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Forebodings of War in 1939

This editorial from the Spartanburg Herald (South Carolina) appeared on 17 April 1939. Franklin Roosevelt had just issued an appeal to Hitler and Mussolini not to attack a list of 31 countries.  Hitler’s 50th birthday was three days away, and people were speculating that the Nazis might occupy the free city of Danzig as a birthday present. The editorial was one of many from the period longing for a peace that was not to be. The full newspaper is available on Google News.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Miss America," as Seen from New Zealand in 1929

The Wellington Evening Post carried this story about the "American girl" of 1929 on 5 February 1929. The full newspaper is available on the PapersPast site from New Zealand.

Mail Order Goes Wrong

This article from the Davenport Weekly Republican of April 9, 1903 reports a problem. People ordered things by mail, but failed to make it clear how to deliver their orders.

The full article, like many of the others that will appear here, is from Google's amazing page of digitized newspapers.

Competition between Milkmen

When I was a child, milkmen still delivered milk to the door. But in Milwaukee in 1939, there was a choice of at least four companies providing the service.  In this letter from the Milwaukee Journal of April 21, 1939, a women defends the choices they provide.


Of late I have been reading newspapers from the 1930's as part of a larger project. I keep coming across unrelated, but interesting, stories.  Increasingly, long runs of old newspapers are available on line, and they make fascinating stories.

I'm going to post things that strike my fancy here as I come across them.  Should you find something interesting, let me know.