Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 1913

October 1913 sees the removal from office of the governor of New York and the departure of former President Theodore Roosevelt (another former New York governor) for South America. A new tariff bill becomes law in the United States, and America's biggest foreign policy headache continues to be her neighbor to the south. The Lincoln Highway is dedicated, the Panama Canal moves a step closer to reality, and the New York Giants lose their third consecutive World Series. A Jew is tried in Russia for ritual murder. The German Kaiser celebrates the hundredth anniversary of a victory over Napoleon, and Austria-Hungary forces Serbia to back down in the Balkans. Emmeline Pankhurst visits the United States, and Britain launches a new Dreadnought battleship. New achievements in aviation are offset by disasters in the air and at sea. In short, a typical month in the year before the outbreak of the Great War.


Colonel Roosevelt (Without His Glasses) Departing New York

Over 2,000 members of the Progressive Party filled the roof garden of the New York Theater on October 3 to honor former President Roosevelt the night before his departure for South America.  Gifford Pinchot was the toastmaster and mayoral candidate John Purroy Mitchell dropped in to pay his respects.  In his remarks, Roosevelt denounced Democrats and Republicans alike and pledged to stand by the Progressive Party and its principles.  The next day, accompanied by his wife Edith, he departed on the SS Vandyke.  On October 18 they arrived in Bahia, Brazil, where they were met by their son Kermit, who has been working for the past year for the Anglo-Brazilian Iron Company building bridges.  Colonel Roosevelt plans to address learned societies in each of the "ABC" powers (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) and then to embark on a journey of exploration in the Amazon basin.

New York's New Governor

Following his trial before the High Court of Impeachment in Albany, Governor William Sulzer of New York was found guilty on three of the eight counts against him: filing a false campaign fund statement, swearing under oath to the truth of that statement, and suppressing evidence by means of threats to witnesses before the Frawley Committee.  He was acquitted on the other counts, including those related to the alleged misappropriation of campaign funds.  He was officially removed from office on October 17, but was not disqualified from holding future office.  Almost immediately after his removal, he was nominated by the Progressive Party for a seat in the Assembly, and on October 21 he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds on his return to New York City.  Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Martin Glynn has been sworn in as governor.

The Lincoln Highway Spans the Continent

The first transcontinental highway for automobiles, the Lincoln Highway, was dedicated on October 31.  Ceremonies were held in cities along its route, which extends from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.  It is now possible for the first time to travel by automobile from coast to coast on improved roads.

  The World Series Champions

Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics defeated John McGraw's New York Giants on October 11 by a score of 3-1 to win the 1913 World Series series four games to one.  This is the third straight year the Giants have won the National League pennant only to lose the World Series.

 Demolition of the Gamboa Dike

The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have been joined.  On October 1, valves were opened allowing water from Gatun Lake to flood the Culebra Cut, the last remaining dry portion of the Panama Canal.  On October 10, President Wilson walked from the White House across the street to the State, War and Navy Building (recently renamed the Executive Building), and at 2:01 p.m. pressed a button that triggered an explosion demolishing the Gamboa Dike.  With the removal of the dike, the Culebra Cut became in effect an extension of Gatun Lake.

The New Tariff Schedule -- A Canadian View

The special session of the Sixty-third Congress, convened by President Wilson in April, continued this month with no indication that it will end before the constitutionally mandated regular session begins on the first day of December.  The Underwood-Simmons Revenue Act was passed on October 3 and immediately signed into law by President Wilson.  It establishes tariff rates significantly lower than those of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff enacted in the Taft administration, which came under much criticism, especially from Democrats, as unduly protectionist.  To replace the revenue lost by the tariff reductions, the Act imposes a tax on incomes, exercising the authority conferred by the recently ratified Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Still before Congress, and unlikely to be acted upon in the special session, are proposals to make sweeping reforms in the nation's system of banking and currency and legislation designed to strengthen the antitrust laws.

Wilson and Bryan Pondering the Mexican Situation

Mexico looks less and less like a functioning democracy.  On October 10, Victoriano Huerta, Mexico's provisional president, arrested 110 members of the Chamber of Deputies.  The next day he issued a decree formally dissolving the Congress and declaring all acts of the Congress void.  He also scheduled an extraordinary Congressional election for October 26, the date already set for a presidential election, in which Huerta had declared himself not to be a candidate.  The crime that led to the congressmen's arrest was placing their signatures on a resolution warning that they would abandon the capitol if they were not given assurances of their safety in the wake of the disappearance of Senator Belisaro Dominguez, who attacked Huerta's policies in a speech on the Senate floor earlier in the month and has not been seen since.  On October 14, Secretary of State Bryan instructed the American Charge d'Affaires to advise the Mexican government that, "in view of President Huerta's assumption of the role of dictator," the United States would not recognize the October 26 elections as legal and constitutional.  The elections, which took place as scheduled, were a farce.  Not enough votes were cast to make the result of the presidential election legal under Mexican law.  Huerta was not on the ballot, nor was his most formidable adversary.  General Venustiano Carranza, who leads an insurgency that controls most of the northern part of the country, has declared that "under present conditions no election can legally be held in Mexico" and that whoever is elected "will be a traitor to his country, and when captured will be shot without trial."  It is expected that when the new Congress, composed largely of Huerta allies, convenes next month, it will declare the election void and leave Huerta in power.

Count Leopold von Berchtold

Serbian incursions into the territory of the new nation of Albania continued until October 18.  On that date, Austria-Hungary presented an ultimatum to Serbia demanding that its forces evacuate Albania within eight days, failing which Austria-Hungary would take action "to ensure the realization of its demands."  After the ultimatum was sent, without waiting to learn Serbia's response, Kaiser Wilhelm sent congratulatory telegrams to Emperor Franz Josef and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the emperor's nephew and heir to the throne and a personal friend of the kaiser's.  When Russia failed to support her, Serbia complied with the ultimatum.  The end result is a diplomatic triumph for Austria-Hungary and its foreign minister Count Leopold von Berchtold.  It is likely seen by that country as a convincing demonstration of the efficacy of a strong stance in the Balkans, backed up when necessary by an ultimatum. For Russia, Serbia's patron among the great powers, it is another embarrassment reminiscent of 1908, when Russia was forced to back down after objecting to Austria-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Prince Josef Poniatowski

On October 19, 1813, the combined armies of Prussia, Austria, Russia and Sweden defeated Napoleon’s French army at the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations.  On the hundredth anniversary of the battle, Kaiser Wilhelm visited Leipzig to participate in a ceremony dedicating a monument in commemoration of the victory.  On the same day in Austria-Hungary, authorities allowed a procession of 30,000 Poles to march through the streets of Cracow and lay a wreath at the grave of Prince Josef Poniatowski, the Polish national hero who died in the battle.  German authorities, less tolerant of demonstrations of Polish nationalism, refused permission for Poles in Germany to do anything to honor Poniatowski’s memory.  When a group of Poles in Posen tried to place wreaths on the statue of another Polish hero, the poet Adam Mickiewicz, they were arrested and their leaders imprisoned.

Mendel Beilis After His Indictment

A bizarre murder trial took place in Russia this month.  Mendel Beilis, a Ukrainian Jew, was accused of killing a Christian boy for the purpose of using his blood in a religious ritual.  The prosecution's evidence consisted mostly of "experts" who testified to the existence of the supposed practice.  After a lengthy trial, an all-Christian jury found Beilis not guilty.  Beilis's prosecution, which revealed a shocking level of official antisemitism, has met with virtually universal derision and condemnation, even within Russia itself.

Emmeline Pankhurst at Madison Square Garden

Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of militant woman suffragists in Great Britain, arrived in New York on October 18 on the French liner Provence but was not allowed to come ashore at the pier.  Instead she was taken to Ellis Island where a board of special inquiry ordered her deported as an undesirable alien on grounds of "moral turpitude."  An appeal to Washington led to President Wilson's personal intervention.  After a meeting with Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson and Commissioner of Immigration Anthony Caminetti, the president ordered that Mrs. Pankhurst be allowed to enter the United States and remain for the duration of her speaking tour.  After her release from detention on October 20 she boarded a ferry boat that took her to the Battery, where she was met by an automobile that drove her to the home of Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont on Madison Avenue.  She began her tour that evening with a dinner speech to the Women's Political Union at the Aldine Club.  The next day she addressed a large crowd at Madison Square Garden.

The Queen Elizabeth Slides Down the Ways

The latest addition to the Royal Navy, H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, was launched at Portsmouth on October 17.  The new dreadnought will carry 15-inch guns, the largest in the world, and will be driven by steam turbines.  The day after the launch, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill renewed his proposal to Germany that the two nations agree to a one-year suspension of capital ship construction.

The steam to drive the Queen Elizabeth's turbines will be generated by boilers burning oil, a fuel that uses modern technology and is far superior to the coal that powers most of the world's steamships.  This presents a challenge for the Royal Navy.  While coal is plentiful in Great Britain, oil is not, so it is important for the Navy to find a reliable source of the new fuel.  The British government has taken a particular interest in the political turmoil in Mexico, an important oil-producing nation, and First Lord Churchill is working to make a deal with the recently formed Anglo-Persian Oil Company to provide government support for the company's exploration efforts in southern Persia in return for a long-term supply commitment.

The Volturno Burning at Sea

The Uranium Line steamship S.S. Volturno caught fire and burned in the North Atlantic on October 9.  Radio distress signals brought several ships to the rescue, and hundreds of passengers were eventually saved.  Over 100 died, however, mostly women and children who were put into lifeboats that sank or were destroyed in the stormy seas.

Zeppelin L2 As She Arrived at Johannisthal Last Month

Last month's crash of the German Zeppelin L1 in the North Sea was followed this month by another, sadly similar, tragedy for the German Navy.  On October 17 the L2, the largest Zeppelin ever built, exploded over Johannisthal and crashed during its final trial flight prior to joining the fleet.  All 28 of its passengers and crew were killed. 

 W. S. Luckey

In less tragic aviation news, five aviators competed on October 13 in a race sponsored by the New York Times in commemoration of Wilbur Wright's first successful powered flight ten years ago at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  The competitors took off at two minute intervals from Staten Island and circled Manhattan Island, flying up the East and Harlem Rivers and back down the Hudson, maintaining a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet.  The winner of the first place prize of $1,000, announced after the judges had satisfied themselves that no corners had been cut, was W. S. Luckey, who completed the course in 52 minutes and 54 seconds.  Five days later back in Europe, the French aviator Roland Garros, who flew across the Mediterranean last month, flew nonstop from Marseilles to Paris, a distance of 525 miles, in six hours.

October 1913 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, November and December 1913
New York Times, October 1913

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
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
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
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War
David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
Candice Millard, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
Patricia O'Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House