Sunday, March 9, 2014


For more information on any of these names and events, start at the Wikipedia page for 1918.

In January, President Woodrow Wilson delivered a speech outlining his "Fourteen Points." While the Allies were fighting Germany out of age-old animosity, Wilson tried to take the war to a higher moral plane, outlining a sort of "Why We're in This War, and What We Expect Out of It."
The Red Baron's Plane

April brought the death of the German ace called "The Red Baron," though he was to fly again years later against his arch-enemy Snoopy. In late August, a skirmish between Mexicans and Americans at Nogales on the Arizona/Sonora border is sometimes called "the only battle of WWI fought on United States soil"--provided one accepts the shaky claims that the Germans were behind it. More likely it was the result of long-simmering cross-border tensions.
Quanah Parker

(Earlier, in January, the Battle of Bear Valley along the same border had been the site of the last battle between the U.S. Army and Indians--in this case, Yaquis--marking the end of the long series of so-called American Indian Wars dating back to the Jamestown Massacre in 1622. Coincidentally, some time that year the Native American Church was formally founded in Oklahoma by Comanche leader Quanah Parker to provide solace to his people through prayer with peyote.) And on the 11th day of the 11th month (November), at 11 a.m., the Armistice with Germany became official, ending the first of the century's two World Wars.
Nipsey Russell

Among the many notable births this year was a man who was always a favorite of mine. Comedian and "poet" Julius "Nipsey" Russell may never have won a Pulitzer, but his doggerel rhymes were always an inspiration. Here are three, from Wikipedia:

What is the secret of eternal youth?
The answer is easily told;
All you gotta do if you wanna look young
Is hang out with people who are old.
If you ever go out with a schoolteacher,
You're in for a sensational night;
She'll make you do it over and over again
Until you do it right.
The young people are very different today;
And there's one sure way to know;
Kids used to ask where they came from;
Now they'll tell you where you can go!
Incidentally, around 25 winners of the Nobel Prize were born in 1918. But I'll bet none of them could write like Nipsey.

--In the States--
  • January: The so-called "Spanish flu" was first observed in the U.S. in Haskell County, Kansas. By summer it was a pandemic, and an estimated 50-100 million people died worldwide--perhaps over 500,000 in the U.S.--probably spread by troop movements related to the war.
  • February: The last captive Carolina Parakeet (the only surviving breed of parrot native to the eastern United States) died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
  • March: The U. S. Congress standardized American time zones and approved the first daylight saving time, which has been repealed and re-enacted several times since.
  • May: General Motors acquired the Chevrolet Motor Company of Delaware.
  • June: Alfred Stieglitz began his nude studies of his future wife Georgia O'Keeffe in New York. Some of these now rank as some of the most expensive collectible art photographs in the world.
  • November: The Malbone Street Wreck occurred under an intersection in Brooklyn, New York; with at least 93 dead it stands as the worst rapid transit accident in world history.
  • December: President Woodrow Wilson went to the Paris Peace Conference, the first U. S. President to travel abroad while in office.

  • February: Most women over 30 were permitted to vote for the first time in the U.K.
  • February: Russia and nearby countries switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, losing two weeks.
  • March: Moscow became the capital of Soviet Russia.
  • March: American stage magician William Ellsworth Robinson--in his stage persona Chung Ling Soo, a parody of a real Chinese stage magician of the day--while performing in a London theater was struck in the chest by a live round that he was supposed to "catch"; he died the next day.
"Chung Ling Soo"
Salote, Queen of Tonga
  • April: Sālote became Queen of Tonga, a position she held until her death in 1965.
  • July: The entire Romanov family--Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, and all their children and retainers--were executed in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
The ill-fated Romanovs
  • November: The German army withdrew its support of the Kaiser, who then abdicated; the German Republic was declared.

--Quick Facts--

Music: Songs Published: The World War was still having a big influence on pop music. Note the catch-phrases "over there" (in Europe), "no-man's land" (the disputed area between the trenches), and "over the top" (going out of the trenches to cross no-man's land). And of course, Paris, French, officers…
  • "Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo (Mademoiselle from Armentieres)" by Edward Rowland
A vintage recording of "Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo"
  • "If He Can Fight Like He Can Love, Good Night Germany" words by Grant Clarke and Howard Johnson, music by George W. Meyer
  • "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)" words by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young music by Walter Donaldson
  • "Hello Central, Give Me No-Man's Land" performed by Al Jolson
  • "The Rose of No Man's Land" words by Jack Caddigan, music by James A. Brennan
  • "We'll Do Our Share while You're Over There" words by Lew Brown and Al Herriman, music by Jack Egan
  • "When Tony Goes Over the Top" words by Billy Frisch and Archie Fletcher, music by Alex Marr
  • "Would You Rather be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?" words by Sidney D. Mitchell, music by Archie Gottler
The always-popular novelty songs (read "corny"):
  • "Ev'rybody's Crazy 'bout the Doggone Blues, But I'm Happy" by Henry Creamer and Turner Layton
  • "I'll Say She Does" words and music by B. G. DeSylva, Gus Kahn and Al Jolson
  • "Ja-Da" words and music by Bob Carleton
  • "K-K-K-Katy" words and music by Geoffrey O'Hara
  • "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" performed by Al Jolson
And another sentimental song about a soldier parting with his sweetheart:
  • "Till We Meet Again" words by Raymond B. Egan, music by Richard A. Whiting

On the Screen:
  • Warner Bros. Pictures was established
  • birth of original canine actor Rin Tin Tin
  • Tarzan of the Apes, the first-ever Tarzan movie, starring Elmo Lincoln and Enid Markey

This film is in the public domain. Enjoy!

Books Published This Year:
  • My Antonia (Willa Cather), one of her greatest works and the final book of her "Prairie Trilogy"
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (Booth Tarkington), wins a Pulitzer next year
  • The Education of Henry Adams (Henry Adams), wins a Pulitzer next year
  • The Decline of the West (Oswald Spengler), an early work chronicling a paradigm shift, nothing less than the overturning of the Eurocentric view of history

Pulitzer Prizes:
  • Novel (later called "Fiction"): His Family (Ernest Poole)
  • Drama: Why Marry? (Jesse Lynch Williams)
  • History: A History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (James Ford Rhodes)
  • Biography: Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed (William Cabell Bruce)
  • Special Citations: (poetry) Love Songs (Sara Teasdale), made possible by a special grant from the Poetry Society of America
The other three categories had not been established.

President: Woodrow Wilson

  • Spiro Agnew, Vice President under Richard Nixon
  • Patty Andrews, member of the singing The Andrews Sisters
  • Pearl Bailey, singer and entertainer
  • Leonard Bernstein, conductor; composer of West Side Story
  • Joey Bishop, entertainer and member of the original "Rat Pack"
  • "Classy Freddy" Blassie, wrestling villain in the days of the WWA, before the WWF and the WWE
  • Sebastian Cabot, who played "Mr. French" on Family Affair
  • Art Carney, who played "Ed Norton" on The Honeymooners
  • Howard Cosell, "blustery, cocksure" sports announcer
  • Jack Elam, him of the crooked eye
Jack Elam
  • Philip José Farmer, sci-fi author
  • Richard Feynman, physicist and Nobel Prize winner
  • Betty Ford, First Lady of the U. S. (husband Gerald Ford)
  • John Forsythe, who played Bachelor Father, the voice of "Charlie" on Charlie's Angels, and patriarch "Blake Carrington" on Dynasty
  • Billy Graham, evangelist
  • Paul Harvey, radio broadcaster known for "The Rest of the Story"
  • Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips (better known as Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, or "Dear Abby"), twins and friendly competitors in the advice column racket
Eppie Lederer ("Ann Landers")
Pauline Phillips ("Abigail Van Buren")
  • Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time
  • Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize Winner
  • Jack Paar, host of The Tonight Show before Johnny Carson
  • Don Pardo, TV announcer and the voice of Saturday Night Live
  • Robert Preston, who played Harold Hill in The Music Man
  • Oral Roberts, evangelist
  • George Lincoln Rockwell, American Nazi leader
  • Nipsey Russell, comedian called "the poet laureate of television" (see above)
Nelson Mandela (Nobel site photo)
Anwar Sadat (Nobel site photo)
  • Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt and Nobel Peace Prize Winner
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist who wrote The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970
  • Mickey Spillane, creator of "Mike Hammer"
  • Theodore Sturgeon, sci-fi and horror writer
  • Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart
  • Efrem Zimbalist, star of 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I.
  • Henry Adams, author and historian whose The Education of Henry Adams (published posthumously) won a Pulitzer for Biography or Autobiography in 1919. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams, and thus the great-grandson John Adams, the 6th and 2nd presidents of the U.S., respectively.
  • Claude Debussy, French Impressionist composer of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
  • Sai Baba of Shirdi, Indian saint revered by both Muslim and Hindu devotees. He said, "One God governs all."
Shirdi Sai Baba
  • John L. Sullivan, first modern heavyweight boxing champ, and the first American athlete to earn over one million dollars
  • Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter

Monday, March 3, 2014


For more information on any of these names and events, start at the Wikipedia page for 1917.

A WWI "doughboy"
The biggest events of 1917 can be summed up in three words: World War I.  Of course, it was called that then; until World War II it was called simply "the World War" or "the Great War." Many of the event below relate to this.

In January, President Woodrow Wilson called for "peace without victory" in Germany; in February diplomatic ties were severed, and later that month the infamous Zimmermann Telegram revealed Germany's offer to give the American Southwest back to Mexico in return for an alliance; and in April the United States declared war on Germany.

In May the President was given the power of conscription--the draft; in August's Green Corn Rebellion, several hundred farmers protested that WWI draft in Oklahoma.

In the "Births" and "Deaths" below, the most interesting to me is the death of frontiersman and showman William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. I recall Joseph Campbell saying that seeing the "Wild West Show" at Madison Square Gardens had a major influence on his life and work. The show ran until 1913; Campbell was born in 1904.

Also note the birth of President John F. Kennedy, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957.

--In the States--

  • January: The US bought the Danish West Indies, now known as the US Virgin Islands.
  • January: The United States ended its search for Pancho Villa.

  • March: The Jones Act granted Puerto Ricans United States citizenship.
  • March: Woodrow Wilson began his second term as president.
  • March: Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman member of the United States House of Representatives.
  • June: The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.
  • June: The Lions Clubs International was formed.
  • July: The NAACP (formed in 1909) formed "The Silent Parade" in New York City to protest the East St. Louis Riot of July 2, as well as lynchings in Tennessee and Texas.
  • November: In a "Night of Terror" in the United States, influential suffragettes from the Silent Sentinels were deliberately subjected to physical assaults by guards while imprisoned.

  • February: Mata Hari was arrested in Paris for spying on behalf of the Germans.
  • March: Venustiano Carranza was elected president of Mexico.
  • March: Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his throne for his son. This is considered to be the end of the Russian Empire after 196 years.
  • May to October: Sightings by three Portuguese children of Our Lady of Fátima.
  • July: The British Royal Family took the name Windsor, rather than the too-German-sounding Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
  • November: The October Revolution in Russia.
  • November: The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals was founded in the United Kingdom.
  • December: Theosophist Annie Besant became president of the Indian National Congress.
  • Date Unknown: The first of the Cottingley Fairies photographs were taken in Yorkshire.

--Quick Facts--

Note that many of the songs this year centered around leave-taking as the boys went off to war: "Goodbye Broadway, Hello France"; "Goodbye Ma! Goodbye Pa! Goodbye Mule!"; etc. 

  • Eddie Cantor makes his first recordings

Songs Published:
  • "For Me And My Gal" words by Edgar Leslie and; E. Ray Goetz, music by George W. Meyer
  • "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" words by Joseph McCarthy, music by Harry Carroll (melody adapted from Chopin)
  • "McNamara's Band" words by John J. Stamford, music by Shamus O'Connor
  • "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" words by Ed Rose, music by Abe Olman
  • "Over There" words and music by George M. Cohan

Vintage photos and a 1917 recording of "Over There"
  • "Tiger Rag" words by Harry De Costa, music by Edwin B. Edwards, Nick La Rocca, Tony Sbarbaro, Henry Ragas and Larry Shields (note that my grandfather was credited with contributing to the composition of this song)
  • "Till The Clouds Roll By" words by P. G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern,music by Jerome Kern  
On the Screen: 
  • Buster Keaton makes his film debut
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Cleopatra, starring Theda Bara
  • Harold Lloyd
Books Published This Year: 
  • A Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs), first of the Barsoom series featuring John Carter
  • His Last Bow (Arthur Conan Doyle), a Sherlock Holmes collection
  • Prufrock, and Other Observations (T. S. Eliot)
  • The Wild Swans at Coole, Other Verses and a Play in Verse (W. B. Yeats) 
Pulitzer Prizes:  
  • Novel (later called "Fiction"): No award given
  • Drama: No award given
  • History: With Americans of Past and Present Days by His Excellency J.J. Jusserand
  • Biography: Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott assisted by Florence Howe Hall The other three categories had not been established yet.  
Nobel Peace Prize: International Committee of the Red Cross

      President: Woodrow Wilson (started second term in March) Births:
      • Desi Arnaz, actor and Cuban musician, married to Lucille Ball
      • Ernest Borgnine, actor on McHale's Navy 
      • Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange and many more
      • Arthur C. Clarke, sci-fi author whose works included 2001: A Space Odyssey 
      • Phyllis Diller, cackling comic genius

      • Ella Fitzgerald, jazz legend
      • Zsa Zsa Gabor, "actress" and personality, dahling
      • Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India
      • Dizzy Gillespie, jazz great Katharine Graham, journalist and publisher
      • Carl Karcher, Businessman and founder of Carl's Jr.
      • John F. Kennedy, U.S. president and Pulitzer winner
      Young JFK, top left
      • Robert Lowell, double Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet
      • Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation and Guru to the Beatles
      • Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines
      • Dean Martin, singer, actor, and original "Rat Pack" member
      • Carson McCullers, author of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
      • Irving Penn, New York-based photographer
      • Sidney Sheldon, popular novel writer
      • "Diamond" Jim Brady, flashy businessman and owner of the first private automobile in New York
      • William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, frontiersman and showman (see above)
      • Émile Durkheim, French sociologist called the "father of sociology"
      • Scott Joplin, archetypal ragtime composer and pianist

      Welcome to The Pulitzer Century

      Hello, and welcome to yet another blog on

      NB: Regular posts will commence
      around the start of April, 2014.

      The Project

      Learn about the medal on the Pulitzer site
      This project is rather ambitious. I plan to write about every Pulitzer Prize-winning book or play from the inception of the awards in 1917 until the 100th anniversary in 2017.

      There are about 965 individual works to be considered, and around 1100 days to do it in. Plus, I hope to do a quick sketch of each year in which the awards were made, to put them in context.

      My Method (A Confession)

      Do I really intend to read almost a book a day, plus write 100 separate historical essays?


      In fact, to take the "essays" first, I will mainly abstract certain entries from Wikipedia's lists of yearly events (here's the one for 1917) that I think will give an adequate impression of what was happening.

      Covers of Pulitzer winners at LibraryThing
      Click picture for larger version
      As for the books and plays, I will do that for which I have been scolding students for decades: I will write about books without reading them (and plays without seeing them).

      Instead, usually I will read about the books and plays. In some cases (especially with the poetry) I may read portions, as available. I'll familiarize myself with the works' plots, themes, unique characteristics; get to know something about the authors' lives and intentions; and then share with you what I've learned.

      In most cases I'll use Wikipedia. In some cases, the works themselves are available online (especially the earlier ones), or excerpts of them are on Amazon. The Pulitzer site has "citations" for the more recent works. And then there are the blogs (listed at right) reflecting the views of those who have gone before me.

      I will, of course, have read some of these books, or seen movies of the plays, and will let you know when that's the case. And sometimes, a work may "hook" me enough to get me to read it, but probably not until after I write about it (perhaps years after). I'll come back here and say a few words about those books.

      The Great Books of the Western World
      So here we go. In addition to my Shakespeare Project (reading all of the Bard's plays, and viewing the BBC version) and my Decade of Great Books (a ten-year reading plan), I'm about to undertake a crash course in the literature and history of the 20th century. Join me!

      What Do You Mean, "The Pulitzer Century"?

      The 20th century has been called, rightly or wrongly, "The American Century." Certainly during that time, our literature and other cultural artifacts have made an outsized impression on other cultures.

      20th-century collage borrowed from another site
      Click picture for larger version

      And so--as an American expat who has spent most of the years since 1997 in Asia--I will look at the Pulitzer Prizes for Letters* and Drama (and, peripherally, at other phenomena such as the Academy Awards, the Grammys, and American recipients of Nobel Prizes) as a means of understanding that era.
      *The Pulitzer Prizes for Letters include: Fiction (since 1917); Drama (since 1917); Poetry (since 1922); History (since 1917); Biography or Autobiography (since 1917); and General Nonfiction (since 1962).
      A young Joseph Pulitzer
      The Pulitzer was established by immigrant journalist and newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer in his will. There are currently about 30 categories in the realms of journalism (writing, including reporting and commentary; photography; and cartooning); and seven awards in "Letters, Drama, and Music."

      (I have decided not to write about music, as the recipients are largely outside of my experience. Do you really know much about Caroline Shaw's Partita for 8 Voices; Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts by Kevin Puts; Zhou Long's Madame White Snake; Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concerto; or the Double Sextet by Steve Reich?* These are the winners in the past five years. The only work on the list I can say I really know is 1945's Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland. Shame on me.)
      *Behlendorf, you are disqualified from answering this question.
      While the journalism awards are interesting, there are so many that to explore them would be like reading hundreds of old newspapers.

      Not that I have anything against those awards, or think the less of them.* Once, in Tokyo, I was fortunate to see an exhibition of all the prize-winning photographs to that point. Similar exhibitions have been mounted elsewhere, but it was especially stirring to be standing in front of these iconic images--standing, that is, in a foreign land.
      *In fact, I'm proud of the fact that one of my talented Baquet cousins won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting.
      Nevertheless, as more of a bookish guy than a newsie, I'm looking at the fiction, the historical commentary, the poetry and drama that my era has produced, and that has influenced it in turn. I think this is going to be exciting.