Monday, September 30, 2013

September 1913

It's September 1913, and the headlines in the United States are dominated by New York politics.  Mayor Gaynor dies suddenly at sea, and the state's new governor goes to trial before a High Court of Impeachment in Albany.  George M. Cohan is The Man Who Owns Broadway, but he's in a serious accident on a different street, this one in Hartford, Connecticut.  President Wilson leaves the White House for a walk (in those days, they still allowed presidents to do such things) and almost gets run down by a streetcar.  An oceangoing tug becomes the first boat to enter the Panama Canal locks.  International congresses are the order of the day in Europe as Zionists, labor unions, Catholics and Socialists convene to press their agendas.  Ulstermen demonstrate in Belfast against Home Rule.  French aviators set new records.  The Balkan Wars are over, but trouble continues to simmer in the Balkans.  Austria-Hungary plans army maneuvers next June in Sarajevo.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand will attend (he shouldn't, but he will).


Mayor Gaynor

As the New York City mayoralty race was about to begin in earnest, it received a sudden shock with the news of the mayor's death on September 10.  Mayor William J. Gaynor died of an apparent heart attack as he sat in a deck chair aboard the White Star liner Baltic, two days before its arrival in Liverpool.  The mayor's health has been precarious in recent years, aggravated by the injury he received in 1910 when he was shot in the throat by a deranged former city employee as he boarded another ship for a journey to Europe.  (See the June 1913 installment of this blog).  The bullet remained lodged in his neck, causing discomfort and affecting his speech for the rest of his life.

Mayor Gaynor (with the shovel) accepting his nomination for reelection

Elected with Tammany's support in 1909, Mayor Gaynor had declared his independence and sought reelection as a reformer.  This year he failed to receive the nomination of the Citizens Fusion Committee, a non-partisan group of reform-minded New Yorkers, but as the month of September began his fortunes seemed to improve.  On September 1 Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party shifted its endorsement to him and on September 3 a group of prominent citizens nominated him in a ceremony on the steps of City Hall.  Unable to read his acceptance speech, he stood aside as it was read by his secretary, Robert Adamson, while the mayor brandished a shovel, the symbol of his campaign,  The next day he departed on the Baltic, seeking a period of rest prior to undertaking the rigors of the campaign.  His sudden death leaves the Tammany candidate, Edward McCall, in the race for mayor facing John Purroy Mitchel, the Fusion Committee's candidate.

 The High Court of Impeachment in Session in Albany

The High Court of Impeachment, comprised of the members of the New York State Senate and Court of Appeals, convened in Albany on September 18 to consider the case against Governor William Sulzer.  Before it began hearing evidence, it rejected two arguments made by the governor's lawyers that the trial should not proceed: first, that impeachment during the legislature's special session violated the New York constitution, which limits special sessions to the subject matter designated by the governor; and second, that because the acts charged in the impeachment resolution took place before Sulzer was governor, they cannot form the basis for impeachment proceedings.  The High Court began hearing evidence on September 24, and at month's end the case for the prosecution was nearing completion.

Another issue resolved this month was whether Sulzer may continue to exercise the powers of the governorship pending the outcome of the trial.  On September 2, Sulzer brought the issue to the fore by issuing a pardon for Joseph Robin, a prisoner confined at the penitentiary on Blackwell's Island.  Robin then petitioned Supreme Court Justice Hasbrouck for a writ of habeas corpus.  Justice Hasbrouck denied the writ on September 11, ruling that the Assembly's vote of impeachment had stripped Sulzer of the right to exercise any executive functions, including the right to issue pardons.  On September 23, Sulzer agreed to relinquish the office of governor pending the outcome of the trial.

 George M. Cohan

George M. Cohan, the actor, songwriter, playwright and producer of Broadway shows, was seriously injured in an automobile accident on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut on September 4.  His 13 year-old daughter Georgette and two men traveling with them also sustained injuries.  The machine in which they were riding was passing another automobile when it struck a heavy garbage wagon that turned into its path.  The collision killed the horse and upended Mr. Cohan's automobile.  The driver of the wagon sustained only minor injuries, but Mr. Cohan and the other occupants of the automobile were taken to the hospital, where initial fears that they might not recover proved unfounded.  Mr. Cohan and his party were in Hartford to attend the final rehearsal of his new play, "Seven Keys to Baldpate," before the beginning of its Hartford run the following week.  His prior productions have earned Cohan the title "The Man Who Owns Broadway."  They include productions titled "Little Johnny Jones" (1904), "George Washington Junior" (1906), "Forty-five Minutes From Broadway" (1906) and (somewhat immodestly) "The Man Who Owns Broadway" (1909).  One of his most popular songs is "The Yankee Doodle Boy" from "Little Johnny Jones," recorded in 1905 by Billy Murray (click to play):


A Streetcar on Pennsylvania Avenue

In another mishap two days later, President Wilson was almost run down by a streetcar while taking a walk in Washington with his physician, Doctor Cary Grayson.  As they were returning to the White House, they proceeded across the street diagonally, apparently unmindful of the traffic regulation that requires pedestrians to cross only at intersections.  A streetcar hurtling down the street would likely have struck the president but for the timely intervention of a policeman who ran onto the track and held his arms up to bring the car to a halt.  The president and Dr. Grayson were apparently unaware of the danger until a Secret Service agent ran across the tracks behind them and hurried them out of the way.

Lee Shubert

Prostitution, or "white slavery," has been the subject of much public interest in recent years.  Two productions on Broadway that deal with the subject, "The Lure" and "The Fight," have been playing to large audiences at the Maxine Elliott and Hudson Theaters, respectively, but have been discontinued following the issuance of warrants for the arrest of the producers, Lee Shubert and William Harris, on charges that the plays are indecent and "public nuisances."  Under an agreement reached between the producers and the authorities, both plays will be performed for the grand jury and performances will be discontinued pending the grand jury's determination as to their morality or immorality.

Not to be outdone, Congress in 1910 enacted the "White Slave Traffic Act," known as the Mann Act after its principal sponsor, Representative James R. Mann (Rep., Ill.).  Farley Drew Caminetti, son of the Commissioner of Immigration in the Wilson administration, and Maury Diggs, former California State Architect, were indicted in California federal court for violating the act by transporting two women across the Nevada state line for "immoral purposes" and for "enticing" the women to accompany them.  Attempts last June to delay the trial resulted only in embarrassment to the administration (see the June 1913 installment of this blog).  Diggs was tried last month and convicted on four counts.  Caminetti was tried this month and found guilty on one count, transporting one of the women, but not guilty of transporting the other or of "enticing" either one.


 Senator James A. Reed

The currency bill, which if it becomes law will create a new Federal Reserve System, passed the House of Representatives on September 18 by a vote of 285-85.  The House rejected an attempt to add a provision to the bill prohibiting interlocking directorships (directors serving on the boards of competing corporations).  The bill has now gone to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Banking and Currency Committee.  Senator James A. Reed (Dem., Missouri), a member of the committee and of the president's own party, has already indicated his opposition.  On September 23, the New York Clearing House Association, many of the functions of which would be assumed by the proposed Federal Reserve Board, appointed a committee to study and report on the bill.

The First Boat Through the Locks

The first vessel to enter the Panama Canal locks was the oceangoing tug Gatun, which transited the three Gatun locks from the northern (Atlantic) end of the canal to Gatun Lake on September 26, returning through the locks to the Atlantic the next day.  Beginning in the morning, water from the lake was allowed into the locks, and by 4:45 in the afternoon the lock at the Atlantic end was filled.  As thousands of cheering spectators looked on, the Gatun entered the lock, announcing its arrival with a long blast from its whistle, joined instantly by a chorus of celebratory whistles from the other ships in the harbor.

The British, still objecting to the preferential treatment of American ships, take a more jaundiced view.  An editorial in The Standard, an English newspaper, has advocated the building of a competing canal across nearby Colombian territory, giving Colombia a chance to avenge the loss of its former territory.  The Standard maintains that the Monroe Doctrine should not be considered an obstacle, since invoking the doctrine to prevent the building of a second canal would be "equivalent to the assertion of sovereign rights over every American republic, which so far is not a pretension American statesmen have put forward."

Theodor Herzl at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, 1901

The Eleventh International Zionist Congress was held in Vienna September 3-10.  The First Zionist Congress, organized by the late Theodor Herzl, was held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897.  Members of Jewish societies throughout the world who attend the Congress advocate the creation of an independent Jewish state in Ottoman Palestine.  At this year's Congress, $100,000 was pledged for the establishment of a Jewish university in Jerusalem.  This year's attendees viewed a motion picture film showing Jewish residents of Jerusalem going about their daily affairs (click to play):


Friedrich Ebert (left) at the Socialist Party Convention in Jena

Europe hosted three other international congresses this month.  On September 1, the British Trades Union Congress convened in Manchester.  For the first time time in its history, the Congress was attended by representatives of the American Federation of Labor and labor organizations from France and Germany.  The German Catholic Congress convened in Metz on September 4 to consider questions affecting Catholics worldwide, including "forces hostile to Catholicism -- Socialism, Freemasonry and Modernism."  On September 14 German Socialists convened in Jena, where Friedrich Ebert was elected leader of the Social Democrats (sometimes called the Nationalist Socialist Party) to succeed August Bebel, who died last month.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

In the Balkans, Bulgaria and Turkey have reached a final agreement regarding the international border between the two countries.  Trouble continues to fester, however, along another border, the one between Serbia and Albania.  Serbia, victorious in both Balkan wars, has not fully reconciled itself to the existence of Albania, a nation created by the Treaty of London earlier this year at the insistence of the great powers, especially Austria-Hungary, for the avowed purpose of depriving Serbia of a port on the Adriatic.  In a move vigorously denounced by Vienna, Serbia has sent troops into Albanian territory to suppress what it claims are cross-border raids into Serbian territory.  Also on Serbia's western border is the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was annexed to the empire in 1908 over the bitter opposition of Serbia and Russia.  In a move seen by some as provocative, Austria-Hungary has made plans to conduct army maneuvers next summer in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the emperor's nephew and heir to the throne, will attend the maneuvers in his capacity as inspector-general of the Army.

Sir Edward Carson Signing the Ulster Covenant

Last September the Ulster Covenant, pledging the signatories to refuse to recognize the authority of an Irish government, was signed in a ceremony led by Sir Edward Carson.  Carson and his Protestant followers, fearing rule by a Catholic-dominated Irish parliament, have vowed to resist home rule by all available means, not excluding violence.  The intensity of their opposition has grown as the legislative process has moved irresistibly toward the adoption of the government's home rule bill, which appears likely to become law next year.  On September 24 five hundred delegates met in Belfast to organize resistance to any decrees of an Irish parliament; and shortly afterward some 12,000 men demonstrated against home rule in the streets of Belfast.

 Adolphe Pegoud

Frenchmen performed impressive feats in the air this month.  On September 2, Adolphe Pegoud flew his monoplane upside down, and followed that accomplishment on September 21 by performing a "loop the loop," both believed to be firsts in aviation history.  Roland Garros completed the first flight across the Mediterranean on September 23, flying 558 miles from Frejus on the French coast to Bizerte, Tunisia.  Finally, on September 29, Maurice Prevost, flying at Rheims, set a new speed record of 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) per hour.  The month was not as successful for the Germans: the Zeppelin L1, en route from the German naval base on Heligoland Island to the German mainland on September 9, was forced down by a storm and crashed in the North Sea.

September 1913 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, October and November 1913
New York Times, September 1913

Books and Articles:
Miranda Carter, George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Charles Emmerson, 1913: The World Before the Great War
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Richard C. Hall, Balkan Wars 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Louis W. Koenig, Bryan: A Political Biography of William Jennings Bryan
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
Patricia O'Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House