Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 1912

In July 1912, the Democrats finally nominate a candidate for president, and the split in the Republican Party widens when progressives issue a call for a separate convention. Meanwhile, a diplomatic crisis is unfolding between the United States and Great Britain over the soon-to-be-completed Panama Canal, British Prime Minister Asquith is defending Irish Home Rule, and the naval race between Great Britain and Germany is gathering momentum. Halfway around the world, with the death of the Meiji Emperor, a long and eventful era in Japan's history comes to an end.


The Democrats' Vice-Presidential Nominee

On Monday, July 1, the Democratic convention in Baltimore resumed its attempt to nominate a candidate for the presidency.  On Saturday, the twenty-sixth ballot had found Speaker Champ Clark clinging to a narrow but diminishing lead over New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson.  On Monday morning the twenty-seventh ballot was uneventful, but on the next ballot Indiana switched its vote from Governor Thomas Marshall, its favorite son candidate, to Wilson.  Two ballots later, Wilson’s vote total passed Clark’s for the first time.  With the forty-third ballot Tuesday morning Wilson had a majority, and at 3:30 that afternoon the forty-sixth ballot gave him the nomination.  Oscar W. Underwood, whose delegations from the Deep South had blocked Clark’s nomination after Tammany's switch to Clark on the tenth ballot, was offered the vice-presidential nomination, but he declined it.  The nomination then went to Governor Marshall, whose switch to Wilson Monday morning gave his candidacy a badly needed boost at a critical moment.

Governor Wilson, Speaker Clark and other Democrats at Sea Girt, July 20, 1912

Governor Wilson had followed the proceedings in Baltimore from the governor’s summer residence in Sea Girt, New Jersey.  On July 20, his defeated adversary Speaker Champ Clark led a delegation of Democratic congressmen to Sea Girt to assure Wilson of their support in the general election.

Senator Dixon

The losers on the Republican side are less accommodating.  Progressive supporters of former President Roosevelt are making clear their adamant refusal to accept their party’s nomination of President Taft for another term.  On July 7 in New York City, sixty-three Republican leaders from forty states, led by Senator Joseph M. Dixon of Montana, issued a call for delegates to meet at a national Progressive convention in Chicago on Monday, August 5, for the purpose of nominating candidates for president and vice-president of the United States.

Harriet Quimby Preparing to Take Off on Her Ill-fated Flight, July 1, 1912

The inherent dangers of aviation were on vivid display this month.  On July 1, the popular aviatrix Harriet Quimby and her passenger were killed near Boston when a gust of wind flipped their aircraft throwing them out of their seats a thousand feet in the air.  Miss Quimby was the first woman in the United States to receive an aviator’s license, and earlier this year became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.  In another aerial mishap the next day, a privately built dirigible balloon, the Akron, exploded and crashed off the beach near Atlantic City, New Jersey, killing its builder and four crew members.  The explosion took place when a hot sun came out on a previously cloudy day, causing the hydrogen gas in the balloon to expand rapidly.  The balloon suddenly gained altitude and a flame appeared at the top, followed by the explosion.

Jim Thorpe Competing at the Olympics

The 1912 Olympic Games, which ended this month in Stockholm, went off without a hitch.  This was a welcome development after the recent history of the games, which have been marred by discord, confusion and tragedy since the modern games began in Athens in 1896.  Eight years ago the games were forced to accept a subordinate role with the World's Fair in St. Louis.  Four years ago the games were moved to London at the last minute after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius caused the Italian government to cancel plans to hold them in Rome, and two years later the Olympic Committee canceled plans to hold interim games in Athens every four years, half-way between the regular quadrennial games. This year's games ended with American athletes winning most of the medals.  Jim Thorpe, an American Indian from the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, turned in the most impressive performance, including gold medals in both the Decathlon and the Classic Pentathlon.  It is reported that when King Gustav congratulated him on being the best athlete in the world, Thorpe replied "Thanks, King."

Sir Edward Grey

The Panama Canal Bill, now pending before the Senate, provides for free passage for American ships sailing between American ports.  On July 11, the Senate received Great Britain’s formal objection to the bill.  The British government argues that the free passage provision violates the terms of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, which provides for nondiscriminatory access to the canal for ships of all nations.  Senators Elihu Root (Rep., N.Y.) and Theodore Burton (Rep., Ohio) urged amendment of the bill to comply with the terms of the treaty.  Sir Edward Grey, Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, outlined Britain’s position on the matter to the House of Commons on July 16. 

Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, First Sea Lord

A Royal Navy fleet review was held at Spithead on July 9.  Forty-four battleships, five battle cruisers and twenty-five armored cruisers were on display in a demonstration of British maritime power in response to the challenge presented by the new German Naval Law.  On July 22, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill delivered a speech in the House of Commons in which he presented a substantial upward revision of the Naval Estimates.

Dublin's Theatre Royal

Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, whose sponsorship of the Home Rule Bill has made him a popular man in the south of Ireland, received a warm welcome on a visit to Dublin July 18.  He told a capacity crowd at the Theatre Royal that the Home Rule Bill will pass the Commons and go to the Lords by Christmas of this year, and asserted that "[t]here is nothing incompatible between the vision of Ireland as a nation and loyalty to a United Kingdom in which Ireland is an integral and an enfranchised and self-governing part."  In other news from Great Britain, the results of the Board of Trade’s investigation into the Titanic disaster were made public in London on July 30.  The accident was said to be due to excessive speed, but no individuals were directly blamed.

Adolph Zukor

On July 12, the Famous Players Film Company, founded earlier this year in New York by Hungarian immigrant Adolph Zukor, released a 40-minute motion picture.  Called “Les Amours de la Reine Elisabeth” (“The Loves of Queen Elizabeth”) it was produced in France and stars the world-famous actress Sarah Bernhardt.  This is believed to be the first attempt to portray a full-length theatrical production through the medium of motion pictures (click to play a brief excerpt):


Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha, the New Grand Vizier

On July 21, Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha succeeded Mehmed Said Pasha as Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire.  Tewfik Pasha, Turkish ambassador to Great Britain, was first offered the post, but declined.

Pascual Orozco With the Tools of His Trade

The Mexican revolution (or civil war if you prefer) continued this month.  On July 3, Mexican government troops under the command of General Victoriano Huerta decisively defeated rebel forces led by Pascual Orozco near Chihuahua, Mexico.  Few observers believe this is the end of armed resistance to the government of President Francisco Madero.

The Late Meiji Emperor

The Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito) of Japan died July 30 after a reign of 45 years.  The Meiji Emperor (so named after the era of his reign) ruled over Japan during a significant period of Japanese history, having ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne only a few years after Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry’s 1853 expedition forced Japan to open its doors to world trade.  The period of his reign, referred to as the Meiji Restoration, saw an impressive surge in Japan’s international power and influence, punctuated in recent years by successful wars against China in 1894-95 and Russia in 1904-05.  The new emperor is the Meiji Emperor’s son, Crown Prince Yoshihito.  The new heir apparent is Yoshihito’s eleven year-old son Hirohito.

July 1912 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Records and Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, August and September 1912
Democratic National Convention, 1912, Official Report of Proceedings
New York Times, July 1912

William J. Bryan, A Tale of Two Conventions
James Chace, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs -- the Election That Changed the Country
Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill, Volume II, Young Statesman 1901-1914
Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics
Josephus Daniels, The Wilson Era
Lewis L. Gould, Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics
Lewis L. Gould, The William Howard Taft Presidency
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
William G. McAdoo, The Crowded Years
Patricia O'Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House
Earl of Oxford and Asquith, Memories and Reflections, 1852-1927
Henry F. Pringle, The Life and Times of William Howard Taft
Joseph Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him