100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Congress Moves To Ban Fight Films

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas in 1878. He worked as a dock worker but in 1901 he fought experienced boxer Joe Choynski in Galveston in an illegal match. Both men were jailed and Choynski taught Johnson the skills of boxing while they were in prison. Johnson developed his own style of boxing that was slow and deliberate. It was very effective but it was criticized in the press as being cowardly and devious. By 1902 Johnson had won at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents. Johnson won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in February 1903. He wished to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship but reigning champion James J Jeffries refused to face him. Johnson fought former champion Bob Fitzsimmons in July 1907 and knocked him out in two rounds.

Jack Johnson

Johnson finally won the world heavyweight title in December 1908 beating reigning world champion Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia in 14 rounds. For the next 2 years, Johnson faced several fighters each called “the Great White Hope”, a racial taunt at the African American champion. Finally in 1910 former undefeated heavyweight champion James J Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge Johnson. He had to lose 100 pounds to get to fighting weight. “The Fight Of The Century” took place on July 4, 1910 in front of 20,000 people, at a ring built just for the occasion in downtown Reno, Nevada.

On July 4, 1912 Johnson defended hit title against “Fireman” Jim Flynn in New Mexico. Despite being warned by the referee Flynn continually attempted to headbutt Johnson and the local sheriff eventually stepped in to stop the fight in Johnson’s favor. The fight was filmed and producers hoped to successfully distribute it just as the Jefferies fight had been. Aware of the riots from the 1910 fight Southern Congressmen introduced bill that would outlaw the interstate transportation of fight films. Representative Seaborn Rodenberry of Georgia referred to Johnson specifically as “an African biped beast” and stated “no man descended from the old Saxon race can look upon that kind of contest without abhorrence and disgust.” These Southern racists did not want a film of an African-American beating a white man shown anywhere. Representative Thetus Sims of Tennessee pressed the bill forward and it became known as the Sims Act.

On July 31, 1912 the Sims Act was passed by Congress. This was the first time the US federal government had stepped in and enforced censorship in motion pictures. It is also the first time Congress involved itself directly in a sports-related matter.

Jack Johnson – “Fireman” Jim Flynn – fight promoter Jack Curley

First Old Home Day In Massachusetts Town

Carlisle, Massachusetts was first settled by English colonists in 1651. Carlisle became a town in 1805. At a town meeting in 1909 it was proposed that the town celebrate a “Old Home W

eek”. The proposal failed.

On July 31, 1912 Carlisle, Massachusetts held their first Old Home Day. “It was a beautiful summer day with the Town Flag flying on the Common and the Soldiers’ Monument in the Square decorated with flags and flowers.” There were parades, a milkmaid contest and a scramble for a greased pig.

Releasing the “Greased Pig”
Old Home Day
July 31, 1912
Carlisle, Mass.

Postmarked July 31, 1912

The town of Mamaroneck, New York was purchased from Native American Chief Wappaquewam by an Englishman named John Richbell in 1661. Mamaroneck is divided into 3 parts: the Village of Larchmont, the Village of Mamaroneck, and the town of Rye. In the 1890’s the parts of Mamaroneck situated closest to the water thrived and became well known as a summer resor

t for families from New York City. In 1895 most of the 3 villages/towns voted to incorporate as the Village of Mamaroneck.

In 1901 a Mamaroneck woman noticed a large rock at the entrance of a local park. The rock had George Washington’s face. It was theorized that years earlier the roadway needed widening, blasting occurred and the face emerged in the aftermath. It immediately became a point of pride and wonder, adopted by the community. When the New York Times ran a story on what was being called Washington Rock, its fame was spread far and wide.

Postcard of Washington Rock
Mamaroneck, New York

Japan Emperor Dies After 44 Years On Throne

Japan had been ruled by leaders of the Tokugawa family since 1600. The Tokugawa shoguns instituted a ruled mark by distinct class restrictions with a samurai elite maintaining military power. The emperor was a titular title and a figurehead with very little power who never left the capitol Kyoto. From 1868 to 1869 a civil war raged in Japan between forces of the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court. Tokugawa eventually gave up power to the emperor realizing the futility of his situation and hoping the Tokugawa house could be preserved and participate in the future government. This restoration of the Emperor is known as the Meiji Restoration, “Meiji” means “enlightened rule.” The goal was to combine western advances with the traditional eastern values.

Japan was seeking to keep pace with the rest of the world. Rapid industrialization took place as well as land reform that saw all feudal domains returned to the state and turned into prefectures. The strict class structure that had dominated Japanese society for over 200 years was abolished and to dissolve the samurai, conscription into the Army began in 1873. Suddenly the right to bear arms, reserved just for the samurai, was open to any class. While their was some resistance and open rebellion by the samurai, being better educated than most of the population they became teachers, gun makers, government officials, or military officers. Japanese artisans now no longer making weapons and armor for the samurai began creating masterful pieces of sculpture and art.

The Emperor Komei died in 1867 at 36 years old and his 16 year old son Mutsuhito became Emperor Meiji. With the guidance of reforming politicians, Emperor Meiji oversaw Japan becoming a modern power and overcame the warring lords who reluctantly acceded to his wishes.

On July 30, 1912 Emperor Meiji died after 44 years of rule that saw Japan go from an isolated feudal society to a modern industrialized nation. It is the end of the Meiji era. His heir Crown Prince Yoshihito will become Emepror Taisho. His reign will begin the Taisho era.

Crown Price Yoshihito, now Emperor Taisho
July 1912

Emperor Meiji


British Investigation Into RMS TITANIC Sinking Ends

After intercepting telegraph messages that the White Star Lines wanted to send the surviving crew members of the RMS TITANIC back to Great Britain as soon as they landed in the US, Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan convened a Senate sub-committee to investigate the tragedy as soon as the rescue ship RMS CARPATHIA reached New York harbor.


In Great Britain, a week after the disaster President of the British Board of Trade requested the Lord Chancellor to appoint a Wreck Commissioner to investigate the disaster.

On July 30, 1912 after 36 days of testimony the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry into the sinking of the RMS TITANIC turned in its final report into the circumstances attending the loss of the loss of 1,490 lives.

“The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons appearing in the annex hereto, that the loss of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated.”

The entire transcripts of the British Board of Trade Wreck Commission Inquiry :http://www.titanicinquiry.org/BOTInq/BOT01.php

Wreck Commissioner Charles Bigham, Lord Mersey of Toxteth, President of the Probate, Divorce & Admiralty Division of the High Court

Sheriff Killed While Attempting Arrest Of Police Shooter In Texas

On July 26, 1912 Dallas, Texas police office T A Tedford was on mounted patrol when he was sent on a disturbance call. When he arrived on the scene the suspect opened fire striking him in the side. After falling off of his horse the suspect shot Tedford again, killing him. The suspect fled the scene.

On July 30, 1912 a suspect in the Tedfford murder had been identified and Sheriff Charles Stephens, City Marshal Tom Ferguson and Constable Enos Elder went to arrest Leonard Potts. Potts was sitting on the porch when the officers approached and began firing 2 automatic pistols. He killed Sheriff Stephens and slightly wounded Constable Enos Elder. Potts escaped into the river bottoms and is being sought. Sheriff Stephens had been married for only six months to Mollie Stephens, a school teacher.

Officer Down Memorial Page :http://www.odmp.org/officer/12759-sheriff-charles-stephens

Sheriff Charles Stephens

Rain Causes Train Wreck That Kills 3 In Colorado

On July 30, 1912 rains fell in a torrential downpour in Pinon, Colorado about 6:30pm for about 20 minutes. Water undermined the track as the current in Fountain Creek cut out the bank. 4 hours later the track gave way under the weight of the locomotive of the Rock Island Express traveling at an estimated 20 mph and flew 25 feet crashing and killing at least 3 people.

Passengers cars in Fountain Creek near Pinon, Colorado hanging over the embankment. The inset is all that can be seen of the locomotive. The bottom photo shows the Pullman being lifted from the river
July 30, 1912

Recorded July 30, 1912

Clarence Whitehall was born in Morengo, Iowa in 1871. He first studied in Chicago, Illinois then later made his stage debut at La Monnaie in Brussels, as Capulet in Roméo et Juliette in 1888. He became the first American to sing with the Opera-Comique in Paris, France. In 1904 he made a highly successful debut at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany as Wolfram in Tannhauser and went on to sing in many Wagnerian roles including at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, in the first Ring Cycle given there in the English language. He made his New York Metropolitan Opera debut in November 1909.

Ciro Pinsuti was a pupil of Rossini who made his home in England since 1848 where he became a professor at the Academy of Music in London in 1856.

On July 30, 1912 Clarence Whitehill went to the Victor recording studios in Camden, New Jersey and recorded Bedouin Lover Song.

Bedouin Love Song by Clarence Whitehill

Thanks to the incredible collection at University of California Santa Barbara Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings :http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.php

Clarence Whitehill as Wotan in Wagner’s “The Ring Cycle”

Postmarked July 30, 1912

7/30 – 1912

My dear Seely,

I haven’t forgotten the film but I am unable to locate them just now.

We send our best

E. King

Watkins Administration Building


Fred Loring Seely was married to Evelyn Grove daughter of Edwin Grove who owned owned Paris Medicine Company. Its primary money-making product was Grove’s Chill Tonic used to treat malaria. Edwin believed the Asheville, North Carolina climate would have health benefits and be the ideal location for a resort.

Assassination Attempt On Albanian Rebel Leader

When the constitutional reformists known as the Young Turks came into power in the Ottoman Empire, they put pressure on Ottoman Europe’s provinces by increasing taxes, forcing conscription in the Ottoman army and the disarming of  civilian populations. After a suppressed uprising in Albania in June 1910, the Sultan visited Pristina and in June 1911 declared an amnesty. Anumber of concessions were suggested including establishment of Albanian schools, military service to be restricted to Albania, suspension of all conscription and taxes for 2 years and appointment of government officials who speak the Albanian language. By the end of 1911 Albanian members of Ottoman parliament requested additional rights for Albanians in cultural and administrative spheres. The next election in the Ottoman parliament was rigged and hardly any Albanian opposition members were seated in the new Chamber in Constantinople. Open rebellion against Ottoman authority began in Albania.

The Ottoman Empire was wracked with crisis as the war with Italy continued.  The Italians bombed the Dardenelles and occupied the islands of Rhodes in May 1912. The military was in an uproar and many were supporting the Albanian insurgency as a sign of their displeasure of the current government. On July 22 the grand vizier resigned and his replacement named an entirely new Cabinet. The Albanian deputies and a military society called “Saviors of their Country” demanded the entire Chamber be dissolved.

On July 29, 1912 an assassination attempt on Albanian deputy and rebel leader Hassam Bey failed in Albania. This will only strengthen the resolve of Albanian rebel forces, further encourage opposition in the military and weaken Ottoman control over the region.

Ottoman Albania – 1912

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