On Black Tom Island attached by an artificial causeway off Jersey City, New Jersey, rows and rows of warehouses stored arms and munitions intended to be shipped off to Europe to help the Allied powers engaged in World War I despite official American neutrality. One hundred years ago today, on July 30, 2016, a team of German saboteurs started a fire near the warehouses which eventually made its way to the weapons cache causing a massive explosion, killing causing the deaths of seven people in the area – including a police officer and a railroad employee. The explosion showered the nearby Statue of Liberty with shrapnel and blew windows out in Manhattan. The raised torch arm of the Statue of Liberty had several rivets blown out as a result, which led to the immediate closing of the arm to tourists – as it remains to this day.
Source: Warner, Frank. “When Liberty Trembled.” The Morning Call. 4 July 2009.
Featured Image. “Black Tom Pier.” By US government – this CIA page, Public Domain.
One hundred years ago today, World War I was raging in Europe and many in the United States were clamoring to join the fight. In San Francisco, war advocates sponsored a Preparedness Day Parade on July 22, 1916 to drum up popular support for the War. Some 50,000 people gathered in downtown San Francisco for the parade. Shortly after the march began, an explosion rocked the celebrations – someone had set off a bomb at the corner of Stewart and Market Streets. The bombing killed 10 and injured at least 40. Two radical labor leaders were quickly arrested after the attack. These two men, Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings, were both convicted of the crime after short trials. Billings was sentenced to life in prison and Mooney to death. However, as years passed, evidence of police misconduct and perjury began to come to light. In 1939, the governor of California pardoned both men. To this day, the perpetrators of this bombing are unknown. It is the worst terrorist attack in the history of San Francisco.
On July 14, 1868, a girl was born to a Progressive family of successful ironmasters in County Durham in the North of England. Throughout her life, this girl, Gertrude Bell, would break through many barriers that restricted women in Victorian Era Britain. For example, in 1886 she became the first woman to earn a first-class degree in history at Oxford. During the 1890s and early 1900s she spent much of her time climbing mountains in the Alps – a theatre reserved almost entirely for men. In fact, during this time she recorded 10 new paths or first ascents of peaks. Quite an achievement!
During this same period, Bell began to get study Arabic and archaeology, focusing on the Middle East. She was in the Arabian Peninsula when World War I broke out in 1914 and was caught up with T.E. Lawrence and the famous Arab Bureau of spies run out of Cairo. Throughout the war, she sent intelligence on Ottoman movements to the British military leaders and helped to maintain good relationships with Britain’s Arabic nomadic allies such as Prince Faisal. At war’s end, Gertrude Bell was the one woman at a conference held in Cairo to determine what to do with the Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra that were now mandated to Britain by the League of Nations. Bell was among the leaders of a movement to unite the provinces into a new state, Iraq, under Prince Faisal who would rule as king. This is exactly what happened!
True, she firmly believed in colonialism and the superiority of British society, but there is no doubting that Gertrude Bell was an important figure in women asserting their abilities to engage in “men’s” activities.
Featured Image: “Gertrude Bell.” Public Domain.
On July 12, 1917, nearly 1,200 miners, their supporters, and innocent bystanders in Bisbee, Arizona woke up to armed men barging into their homes and forcing the bewildered men onto boxcars hitched to a waiting train. The men who were so rudely awaken were, in large part, members of a new union – the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The miners had been on strike against “Big Copper” – the owners of the copper mines that dotted southern Arizona. The strikers wanted better wages and safer working conditions.
Less than two weeks prior to that fateful morning, an editorial in the newspaper the Arizona Republican had hinted that some sinister German plot was behind the strikers’ actions. This was just about 4 months after the United States had entered World War I. Supporters of the mine owners, known as Loyalty Leaguers, along with the owners themselves conspired to be rid of the strikers. Thus, on the morning of July 12, they owners arranged to have boxcars waiting on the railroad that ran through town while the Leaguers roused miners from their beds and forced them aboard. These 1,200 hapless men were then railroaded out of town to Hermanas, New Mexico – a crossroads town some 150 miles from Bisbee. There the men were left with limited rations and no shelter until a contingent of U.S. Cavalry arrived to help the men. No legal action was ever taken by the State of Arizona against the mine owners and suits brought against individual vigilantes all came back “not guilty” or had the cases dismissed.
June 14, 1894 was the birthday of Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg – a very interesting figure in the history of the Duchy. She became ruler of the small country in 1912 – the first female ruler since Maria Theresa in 1740. Marie-Adélaïde’s life was to be tragically short and complicated. Her country was invaded by German forces in the early days of the Great War in 1914. Her people became quite upset with her rule during her country’s occupation. The common perception was that she was too close to the Germans. In 1919 she was overthrown by her people and replaced by her younger sister, Charlotte. Marie-Adélaïde left the Duchy and joined a convent in Italy, but her stay was to be short-lived. She died on pneumonia at 29 years old in 1924.
Featured Image: “Marie-Adélaïde.” By Bain News Service, publisher – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ggbain.13940. Public Domain.
Donovan, Henry. Chicago Eagle. Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.
May 16, 2016 is the one hundredth anniversary of one of the most controversial secret agreements in history – the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This document, drawn up at the height of the First World War, was drawn up by the British and French diplomats, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot. This agreement, drawn up by the British and French, gave the two countries zones of control in the Ottoman provinces of the Middle East, should the Allies win the war. The pact, which was singed on May 16, 1916, was agreed upon by the British and French and authorized by the (still-tsarist) Russia. However, no local concerns were taken into account upon drawing the lines. Arab tribesman, who helped the Allied War effort, had been promised an independent state of their own – they would not receive one, but rather a second-tier state overseen by British and French benefactors. You can only imagine how upset the nations who found out that they had been duped became when the existence of this agreement leaked out in 1917 when the Russian government (now Bolshevik) leaked the agreement from the tsar’s archives.
Why should we care about a 100-year old secret agreement? Because it basically went into effect, drawing the borders of the modern Middle East: Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, etc. Many historians believe that this agreement, unintentionally, has led to many of the problems in the Middle East today. The reality of this on-the-ground can be shown by simply looking at Twitter. When the Islamic State (ISIS) crossed the border between Syria and Iraq, the Sykes-Picot line, they tweeted in celebration #SykesPicotOver.