100 Years Ago Today

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

Archive for the category “African-American”

Advertised January 11, 1913

William Vincent Cahill was born in Syracuse, New York in 1878. He began his studies of art at the Art Students League in New York learning from Howard Pyle and then went on to study in Boston, Massachusetts. He moved to New York and is a successful illustrator for magazines and advertisers.

Tom Amidon was the head miller for a small grain mill in North Dakota. In 1893 the mill was on the verge of closing when when Amidon who had begun making a wheat-based hot breakfast cereal for his family, suggested to the other millers that they try selling it. Amidon coined the porridge Cream of Wheat because it was made from the “cream of the crop.” The product made its debut at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.  The cereal became very popular. In 1900 boxes featured the image of a African-American chef  named Rastus developed by artist Edward V Brewer.  It has been suggested that  a chef named Frank L White from a popular Chicago restaurant was photographed in 1900 and was the model for Rastus.

In the January 11, 1913 issue of THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, an advertisement for Cream Of Wheat appeared with artwork by William V Cahill.

"Breakfast's Ready Li'l Missy"

“Breakfast’s Ready Li’l Missy”

Parfums Lubin is one of the oldest perfume manufacturers in the world.  Pierre Francois Lubin founded the company in 1798 and his fragrances won over the Imperial Court and was worn by the likes of Josephine Bonaparte. When the Bourbons were restored, Lubin dedicated his fragrances to Queen Marie-Amelie. Eventually Lubin’s perfumes were worn by all the crowned heads of Europe, and were imported to America in 1830.

In the January 11, 1913 issue of LA VIE PARISIANNE, Parfum Lubin advertised it’s new scent – “Chrysantheme” with an alluring exotic nude.





Boy Arrested For Firing Gun On New Year’s In Louisiana

Louis Armstrong was born in August 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was raised by his grandmother and uncle. He attended the Fisk School For Boys and only saw his father in parades while his mother was absent working in “houses of pleasure”. It was in this atmosphere that Armstrong was exposed to live bands playing in brothels and dance halls. Armstrong dropped out of school and worked for a junk dealer who treated Armstrong like a member of the family. He also joined with other boys and played on the street corners for money.

On January 1, 1913 Louis Armstrong was arrested by police after firing his stepfather’s pistol to celebrate the arrival of the new year. He will most likely be sentenced by the juvenile court to the Colored Waifs’ Home For Boys in New Orleans.

Colored Waifs' Home For Boys in New Orleans 1913

Colored Waifs’ Home For Boys in New Orleans

African American Boxer Weds In Illinois

Jack Johnson is an African American boxer who is reigning heavyweight champion. He is controversial because of his race and lifestyle.


After failing to indict Johnson on abduction charges involving a young woman Lucille Cameron who had refused to testify againsthim, Jackson was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago for violation of the Mann Act for arranging for an old acquaintance (who now had a grudge) to travel with him. Jackson makes no apologies for his choice of companions or how he chooses to live his life.

On December 4, 1912 Jack Johnson shocked much of America and snubbed his nose at the authorities by marrying “outside his race” to Lucille Cameron at Johnson’s mother house in Chicago attended by white and colored guests. Outside, police kept over 1,000 spectators at bay. Johnson tried to protect Cameron’s privacy.

“I will not tell where she is now, where the ceremony will be performed or anything else about it. I don’t want Miss Cameron annoyed.”

The marriage has already sparked a heated debate on racially mixed marriages.

Wedding photograph of Jack Johnson and Lucille Cameron December 4, 1912

Wedding photograph of Jack Johnson and Lucille Cameron
December 4, 1912

Ragtime Song Recorded in New York

African music entered the American culture when the slave trade brought almost half a million Africans to the United States. Festivals at such places as Congo Square in New Orleans allowed slaves to perform their music and similar gatherings took place in New England and New York. As African-Americans became familiar with western music and instruments and were introduced to harmony through religious hymn, they mimicked what they heard through cakewalk dances and spirituals. White America also started absorbing African American music expressed through composers like Stephen Foster and through minstrels shows.

Where segregation limited employment opportunities for most African Americans, black musicians were able to provide entertainment in dance-halls, minstrel shows and in vaudeville. Black pianists played in bars, clubs, and brothels. By the 1890′s from this mix Ragtime with its “syncopation” developed. At first Ragtime was passed to white musicians who started making early sound recordings. Tom Turpin published his HARLEM RAG in 1899, the first rag published by an African-American. In 1899 a classically trained African American pianist Scott Joplin became the “King of Ragtime” with his international hit “MAPLE LEAF RAG”.White musicians like Ben Harney began to pick up on ragtime style and produce songs that popularized the music to white America.Mike Bernard was born in New York City, New York in March 1881. He was a child prodigy on piano and once played for the Kaiser. In 1900 Bernard heard Harney perform and decided to compete against him. He soon became known as one of the best ragtime performers in the country. He pioneered a style of music that appealed to the public but is often derided by purists as “pseudo-ragtime that was looked down upon by the admirers of the “genuine ragtime” that is played by African-American musicians.On December 2, 1912 Mike Bernard recorded “Everybody Two Step” written by Earl C Jones and Wallie Herzer on Columbia Records.
"Everybody Two Step" sheet music

“Everybody Two Step” sheet music

Prison Transport In Florida

The 13th Amendment of the Constitution outlawed slavery but allows for penal labor as it states that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This led to the “convict lease” system which became popular in the South in the late 19th century. State governments who could not afford penitentiaries and needed money could leased out prisoners to work for private individuals and companies. This brought about the “chain gang.” Tens of thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily arrested and leased to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Since the responsibility to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical care for the prisoners was put upon the “employer,” extremely poor conditions, numerous deaths, and a system of near-slavery existed in the penal systems of the southern US.

On November 30, 1912 a photo of a cage used to transport prison labor was taken in Florida.
Prison labor transport cage used to transport convicts from camp to work on the road between DeLand and Daytona, Florida November 30, 1912

Prison labor transport cage used to transport convicts from camp to work on the road between DeLand and Daytona, Florida
November 30, 1912

Postmarked November 28, 1912

In 1912 the US mails over 900,000,000 postcards a year. They cover a wide range of topics including racial subjects. This interesting image shows a white young matron giving a basket of Thanksgiving goodies to an old man in a tattered coat, a “mammy figure” and a young boy holding a raccoon. The basket contains a turkey, a pie, a bottle of wine, wrapped presents and what appear to be books. This image of “white benevolence” is probably quite different than what was experienced by African-Americans in the South at the time

Miss Maud Hewit
Crestwood, Kentucky
R # 21
Hello Maud & Myrtle
How are you all? We sure did have an awful nice time while at your house. Give my love to your Mother and Father and your other sis Bess and the little ones. When do you think you all will come down?
Hattie & Dan (?)
Crestwood, Kentucky is just NE of Louisville and lies very close to the Indiana boarder.

Thanksgiving Day In The South – 1912

Heavyweight Boxing Champion Indicted In Illinois

In October 1912 Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson was arrested on a charge of the abduction of Lucille Cameron, an 18 year old prostitute.


Authorities could not make the charges stick as Cameron refused to testify against Johnson. But the controversial fighter still offends some authorities with his behavior.

In March 1909 Johnson had visited the Everleigh Club, an exclusive all-white bordello in Chicago. He was not allowed in but convinced 5 of the girls to go for a ride with him in his car. One of them was Belle Schreiber the 23-year-old daughter of a Milwaukee policeman. She was soon Johnson’s new favorite. In October 1910, Johnson helped her open her own brothel, paying the first month’s rent and buying all of the furniture. They argued violently and had an on-and-off relationship.

On November 7, 1912 Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago for violation of the Mann Act. Belle Schreiber testified that Johnson had arranged for her railroad trip from Chicago to Pittsburgh for immoral purposes. Johnson refutes the charges.

Belle Schreiber – 1910

Champion Boxer Faces Racially Motivated Charge

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.

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. Recently Johnson defended hit title against “Fireman” Jim Flynn in New Mexico.The fight was filmed and producers hoped to successfully distribute it just as the Jefferies fight had been. Congress passed the Sims act which outlawed the interstate transportation of fight films.


Johnson is a independent African-American who does not fit stereotypes or the roles white society thinks he should conform to. He openly socializes with white women and paid no deference to the color line. In January 1911, Johnson married Brooklyn socialite and divorcee Etta Terry Duryea. Etta suffered from severe depression and after just 8 months of marriage, committed suicide by shooting herself in the head in September 1912. Shortly afterwards Johnson began seeing Lucille Cameron, an 18 year old prostitute, an act that outraged the public.

On October 17 1912 Jack Johnson is arrested on a charge of abduction. Lucille Cameron denies the charge and will refuse to testify against Johnson.

Pancake Mix Uses Presidential Election

Aunt Jemima was a character created for a minstrel show by Billy Kersands in 1875. Chris L Rutt of St Joseph, Missouri bought a flour mill in 1888. They sold a ready-to-make pancake mix from surplus flour. In 1889 Rutt viewed a minstrel show with the Aunt Jemima character and decided to use it for selling his pancake mix. A new owner hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima in 1890. Green operated a pancake-cooking display at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893, appearing beside the “world’s largest flour barrel” using the slogan “I’se in Town, Honey.” African-American authors criticized the image as offensive and demeaning.

Aunt Jemima advertisement featuring former slave Nancy Green

On October 15, 1912 an advertisement capitalizing on the presidential campaign appeared in the Urbana Courier-Herald in Illinois showing the 3 candidates – Roosevelt with a gun as the intrepid hunter, Taft with a golf club and Wilson with a top hat.

Aunt Jemima ad
Urbana Courier-Herald
October 15, 1912

1912 Vanderbilt Cup in Wisconsin

The Vanderbilt Cup was started by William Kissam Vanderbilt II who loved races : horse races, yacht races and especially the new automobile races. He would anger citizens and officials alike when he sped furiously through the towns and villages of Long Island, New York. In 1904 Vanderbilt held the first Vanderbilt Cup a race drew the 14 top drivers and their vehicles from across the Atlantic Ocean as well as America. The Vanderbilt Cup was instrumental in improving the technology of the emerging automobile as companies participated and made improvements on the racing model that they incorporate in their commercial vehicles.

In 1912 the Vaderbilt Cup is being held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with drivers driving the best and fastest competition cars of the time. The 8 competitors is the smallest field ever but with the best racers in America : Teddy Tetzlaff, Ralph De Palma, Spencer Wishart and Ralph Mulford. It was supposed the be one of the greatest sporting events of the year but bad weather forced a 2 week delay wiping out the profits for the event.On October 2, 1912 a crowd of 60,000 watched 38 laps of the 299.44 mile race ticked off one-by-one to see Ralph DePalma take the 299-mile road course Vanderbilt Cup in his 90hp Mercedes. Drivers are dissatisfied with the track and it looks like it will be awhile before a race is held in Milwaukee.

1912 Vanderbilt Cup Pit Crew badge

Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson attending the 1912 Vanderbilt Cup race
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 2, 1912

1912 Vanderbilt Cup Race
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 2, 1912

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