Monday, January 2, 2012

You Heard it Here Last—Top Stories of 1912

Teddy Roosevelt campaigning.

Discerning readers of Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, who number in the dozens not counting the confused folks who end up here by mistake, undoubtedly noticed the lack of a end-of-the-year round-up stories.  You know the kind—the ones you find in every conceivable print or electronic journal because the staff can slap together a past-up job and go about holiday partying.

Our philosophy, however, is that if you can’t remember what happened this year, you need more help than this blog can provide or are a regular consumer of Fox News.

Almost as ubiquitous are the look-ahead-to-the-coming year beloved by pundits this time of year.  What’s going to happen?  How the hell should I know?  Aside for some scheduled events like the Olympics and the November elections it’s anybody’s guess.  And we don’t even know who the scheduled events will turn out.

Want a prediction anyway?  O.K. Here it is.  News will happen, most of it horrible, frightening or discouraging.  Good news will occur more frequently if we make it than if we let it happen to us.

Instead, in an attempt to be truly useful, today we will look back a century to the big news stories of 1912.  Why? Because I am a useless history geek and because it might help put this year’s crap shoot into perspective.

January—At the Prague Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, Vladimir Lenin and his faction known as the Bolsheviks bolted the party and establish their own.  Bolshevik meant majority, but in fact it represented as small fraction of the much larger body.

The Lawrence Textile Strike erupted January 11 when workers in the mills of that Massachusetts found their pay cup when a new state lowered the maximum work week.  Led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) the mostly women workers speaking dozens of languages battled the bosses and the National Guard in what became known as the “Bread and Roses” strike.   The two month long strike won its demands, but the IWW was unable to build a lasting organization in the Mills and conditions deteriorated again.

April—The RMS Titanic, promoted as unsinkable, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic late on April 14.  A few hours later, after sending the first ever SOS message by wireless, the ship went under.  More than 1,500 died.

March—Vaudevillian Al Jolson released the best selling record of the year, That Haunting Melody—a song absolutely no one remembers today.

May—The Olympic Games opened in Stockholm, Sweden on May 5.  Native American athlete Jim Thorpe would win an unprecedented five Gold Medals.

March—The last  surviving members of British explorer Robert Scott’s ill fated expedition to the South Pole are believed to have died of starvation and cold on March 29.  Their frozen bodies and logs of their anguish were found by relief parties the following October.

June—U.S. Marines landed in Cuba to insure the government kept up its “obligations” to American banks.  Two months later they would also land in Nicaragua to prop up a conservative government dominated by large land owners and to protect the interests of United Fruit.  Together these two events began almost two decades interventions and occupations of Central American and Caribbean nations derisively call Banana Republics.

August—Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage was published by Grosset & Dunlap becoming one of the biggest selling novels of the year.  Not only did it establish Gray, it helped launch the whole western/cowboy genre and influenced popular culture for years.

October—The First Balkan War erupts on October 8 when Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia attacked the weakened Ottoman Empire in an attempt to expel Turkey entirely from the region.  Within two weeks two Bulgarian pilots performed the first aerial bombing in war, dropping explosives on a railway station.  The war ended in two months with Turkey humiliated.

Also on October 8, the World Series began between the New York Giants and Boston Red Sox.  Boston won in eight games.  One game ended in a tie due to darkness.

November—After Theodore Roosevelt, disgruntled with handpicked successor William Howard Taft, led liberals out of the Republican Party and into the  new Progressive Party, college president Woodrow Wilson was elected the first Democrat to the White House since Grover Cleveland.  Socialist Eugene V. Debs came in 4th with more than 900,000 votes.

December—The skull of the alleged missing link, known as the Piltdown Man was presented to the  Geological Society of London on December 8.  It was not until 1953 that it was proved to be a fraud.

On December 28 the Mack Sennett released Hoffmeyer’s Legacy, the first film featuring the Keystone Cops.

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