History

Tuesday in Mooseville – Primary Sources The Game: Who Said It? 12/11/18

You may notice these next few weeks…I’m in holiday mode.

I’m leaving Friday morning for our long holiday weekend with The Kiddo and SIL, and that’s where my head is at (and has been for at least a week). So instead of doing a deep dive into some obscure historical figure or event, I thought I’d stick with history…but let the community do the work! I’ll provide the quotes, and you provide the answer (not to worry, I’m making this multiple choice). I have included the hyperlinks to the source of the quote, labeled “Answer found here”, so you can check your answer or, if you’re in a less playful mood, skip the guessing and go straight for the answer. Have fun, and may your curiosity be piqued!

Tuesday in Mooseville – Primary Sources: William Howard Russell On the Civil War (Finally, Final!) 11/27/18

Caricature of the war correspondent William Howard Russell (1821-1907), from the magazine Punch, October 8, 1881. Artwork by Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910)

Reading the last four letters reprinted by Project Gutenberg (The Civil War in America, by William Howard Russell) was a soul-draining, but necessary, reminder that this is indeed who we are. What these letters show me is that without directly confronting our history, we will repeat our mistakes. Without recognizing the role of myth in the way our history is taught, we will not learn or grow. The good news is that as long as photos of young girls in tears after being tear-gassed shock us; as long as news of the death of yet another African-American man at the hands of police anger us; as long as we are willing to stand up and speak out, we have a chance. Who we are is not who we have to be.

(Today’s quotes provided without commentary; the parallels are so obvious that commentary seems superfluous.)

Tuesday in Mooseville – Primary Sources: William Howard Russell On the Civil War (2nd of 3) 11/20/18

William Howard Russell, “Bull Run Russell”, London Times between 1860 and 1865. First he was feted; then he was shunned.

I’m continuing with William Howard Russell’s dispatches to the London Times, written as he visited the United States at the beginning of the Civil War. Before I return to his reports, I want to share Russell’s philosophy about how his reports were written:

Russell viewed his job as listening to stories and retelling what he heard and saw, as making “bare statements” of fact. Privately, Russell admitted, “I would rather the North shd. be the victor than the South,” but publicly he tried to report what he observed without taking sides. (The Special Correspondent)

Today, we deride this form of journalism as mere stenography, but during the 1860s, the practice of maintaining “journalistic anonymity” and sharing the stories as they were heard was a relatively new practice. Of course, after his acclaimed reports on the Crimean War, Russell had no anonymity, and both North and South were eager to court his attention. Eventually, however, he angered both sides, who viewed him as a supporter of their opponent. The nickname, “Bull Run Russell” was a sarcastic and angry jibe by northerners at his brutal reporting on the Northern retreat after Bull Run. It would not take long for Southerners to join the North in its dismissive and often abusive attitude towards William Howard Russell.

A Boyhood Memory of World War II London

Jack, left, and Don, right in 1939

Tradition says that anyone born within the sound of Bow bells is a true Cockney. My husband Don certainly qualifies on that score: he was born at Lambeth, not far from the church of St. Mary-le-Bow. “Grandpa is walking, talking history,” I tell our grandchildren. Recently he shared his boyhood memories of wartime London with us.

“I had just turned nine three weeks before Britain declared war on Germany,” Don recalled. “The news was broadcast on the wireless that Sunday and the next day the teachers announced it at Lowther Road Primary School, which I attended.”

Soon after the announcement Don’s school was evacuated by train to Burnham, 30 miles from London. He was evacuated with his brother Jack, who was two years older. When the children arrived the organizers of the evacuation arranged for them to be placed in people’s homes. As Don and Jack were the last two evacuees, the organization didn’t have a place for them, so finally the boys were billeted with a family who lived in a row of cottages.

Asked what it was like living with strangers, Don replied, “It wasn’t very nice. My brother and I had to share a blanket, even though it was quite cold. The place was a real pigpen. After every meal what we didn’t eat was scraped back into a pot and we had it the next day. We went to the local school, which was set up for the evacuees to attend in the morning and the local children in the afternoon. My older brother Bob, who was 14 and therefore hadn’t been evacuated, came to visit us. After he told our mother about the conditions we were living in she complained bitterly, so a nicer house was found for us. When the owner found out she would be raking lice out of our hair, she said she would never have taken us in if she’d known. The war was little in evidence at that time, so our parents brought us back to London at Christmas 1939.”

After Don and Jack returned home, Don’s school was bombed. When the schools finally reopened nine months later, Don attended Barnes Central School with Jack.

All three boys helped their father dig an Andersen shelter in the back garden of their house. “He had to go down three feet to dig the six-by-eight feet shelter,” Don remembered. “The dirt we dug out was put back on top of the corrugated steel roof. It was damp in the shelter, which is how I developed bronchial problems. Dad never came down there, so after a while we simply stayed in our house during air raids. We lived in West London and the worst bombing was in the East End.”

Asked if he ever saw a dogfight between the RAF and the German planes in the searchlights at night, Don shook his head. “No, when the planes were dropping their bombs the searchlights were used to aid the anti-aircraft guns on the ground. We used to jump on our bicycles after an explosion to see if we could pick up any shrapnel, mainly from the big guns fired by the army. Later in the war we saw and heard the V-1 and V-2 rockets, also called ‘buzzbombs.’ The engine made a droning noise. One of them fell at the back of the Regency Cinema in Hammersmith, obliterating my dad’s truck that was parked there.”

When V-E Day was declared in May 1945 Don was nearly fifteen. “Everyone was overjoyed that the war was over. We all went to the West End and stayed around Trafalgar Square among the huge crowds.”

During the “austerity” that reigned in Britain until 1954, Don attended Kingston Technical College in Richmond-on-Thames, served two years in the Royal Air Force, and later spent some time working in Rhodesia. In 1965 he emigrated to America where he married, became a U.S. citizen, and brought up a family.

It’s easy to forget that from 1939 to 1942 it was not a foregone conclusion that the Allies would win the war. The threat of a German invasion of Britain was all too real. We Americans must remember that we owe Britain—standing alone against Germany until America entered the war in December 1941—our undying gratitude.

 

Don today

Tuesday in Mooseville – Primary Sources: William Howard Russell On the Civil War 11/13/18

William Howard Russell during the Crimean War, 1855

I had never heard of William Howard Russell before reading Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South by Christopher Dickey (h/t basket and janesaunt for the book recommendation). Russell is NOT the secret agent of the book title; he was a foreign correspondent for The Times of London, who first gained fame as a Crimean War correspondent. His blunt and realistic portrayals of the cost of war were shocking and mobilizing for the British public, and Florence Nightingale is alleged to have been motivated to get involved with and change battlefield treatment practices in part because of Russell’s dispatches. In 1861, he travelled to the United States and the Confederate States, and his observations were published in the Confederacy-supporting Times. What follows are excerpts from his dispatches; the collection from which I am drawing is available here: The Civil War in America.

Tuesday in Mooseville – A Year At a Glance: 1927, Sears Edition 11/6/18

Lindbergh’s famous flight (20-21 May, 1927) commemorated by the U.S. Post Office

I figure we’re all going to have the attention span of a fruit fly today (What Animal Has the Shortest Attention Span? ), so I decided to do a light, but [hopefully] fun revisit of an old Sears catalogue. This time the year is 1927: the year of Lindbergh’s flight; the silent film, It, is released, making Clara Bow the first “It” girl; The Jazz Singer, the first film with “synchronized dialogue” (and the unfortunate use of blackface) is also released; the year production of the Model T ended and the Model A started; when the radio network CBS Is created; Stalin takes control in Russia, and Calvin Coolidge is president with the average net income for Americans being $5496.73 ($79,746.50 today). (Statistics of Income for 1927, p. 3). The Roaring Twenties were…

…a decade in which many of the defining characteristics of late twentieth century life were determined, particularly with regard to mass movements of society. Mass production, mass distribution, mass marketing, and mass consumption held sway, and the rise of a mass service industry followed, due in part to so-called “technological unemployment,” the forced movement of workers out of blue-collar jobs as a result of the increased efficiency of new machinery and processes. (Laboring to Prosper)

Sears was ready to meet the demand, with a catalogue featuring a cover with a Norman Rockwell drawing, showing a woman, a man, and the family dog poring over the pages of the Big Book.

Tuesday in Mooseville – Voting Rights Potpourri 10/30/18

Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (Anyone who has the time and inclination to identify those pictured wins my undying gratitude.)

I was going to do this post next week, but since so many people have already voted, I decided not to wait. Consider this your motivation for the day, with a few persuasion points, as you talk to neighbors, friends, and even strangers, and encourage them to vote.

Tuesday in Mooseville – A Year at a Glance: 1908, Sears Version 10/23/18

Sears Roebuck and Company Mail Order Plant, Bounded by Lexington and Grenshaw Streets, Kedzie Avenue and Independence Boulevard, Chicago, Cook County, IL; 1908.

I am a firm believer that too many history textbooks focus on dates and Big Events like wars, while giving scant coverage to the daily lives of the people who are living in and through those times. I was reminded of this while I was on my recent vacation; I picked up a reproduction of the 1908 Sears, Roebuck catalogue and have since spent more time than I care to admit reading the listings. I bought it as a resource for theatre costuming and props, but today I’m using it as a resource for connecting dates and big and small events with the people who lived in 1908.

Tuesday in Mooseville – Primary Sources: TR, Race Suicide, and Blaming Women 10/16/18

Theodore Roosevelt, Nobel Peace Prize photo, 1906.

In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt was in the second year of his first elected term as president (he assumed the presidency in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley); it is seven years after the Battle of San Juan Hill, two years after construction of the Panama Canal commenced, four years after the publication of Edward Ross’ paper, The Causes of Race Superiority, and one year before he receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering the peace between Russia and Japan, ending the Russo-Japanese War. It’s not clear of the impact of Ross’ paper on the American public, but it is clear that Roosevelt was aware of the concepts it promoted (we also know that Ross sent a copy of his book, The Changing Chinese: The Conflict of Oriental and Western Cultures in China in 1911, and TR responded with a cordial and almost chatty letter. Letter from Roosevelt to Ross). In 1905, Roosevelt addressed the National Congress of Mothers (a precursor to the PTA) and included his own spin on the concept of race suicide. The entire address)(

Tuesday in Mooseville – Primary Sources: Edward Ross and Race Suicide 10/9/18

American sociologist and eugenicist Edward Alsworth Ross (1866-1951)


I had strongly considered backing off from difficult topics for awhile, in deference to the difficult past few weeks. But then I saw this tweet by one of my favorite Twitter-follows:


Some may not like the bluntness of @Ange_Amene, but I’ve always found her willingness to be true to herself, even if it enrages fellow Democrats and/or white feminists, to be refreshing and much-needed. And I also happen to think she’s right about “doesn’t know shit”; privilege more often than not has protected white folk from knowing and understanding history as it was, rather than as it was taught (often in support of white supremacy). So while it would be easier to stick with something lighter, today I’m focusing on a little-known phrase, “race suicide”, and how one prominent sociologist framed it and popularized the concept.