So far in the #explore1918 series, I’ve written about how World War I impacted free speech, Eastern European immigrants’ cultural pride, literature, and the legality of condoms. Next I’m going to turn to a subject that everyone can relate to: Food! What was it like to cook and eat in 1918? Aside from technological differences- …
Confronting an Age-Old Problem Let me take you back to 1918, when World War I camp hospitals overflowed with soldier-patients suffering from battle wounds, influenza, and… gonorrhea. Long before the use of penicillin, venereal diseases weren’t easy to treat and they were a major public health risk, both on and off the battlefield. They also …
There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
My past two entries for #explore1918 have dealt with serious political issues: specifically, censorship and sedition in wartime through the lens of the Philadelphia Tageblatt trial; and an odd and unsuccessful effort to associate Balkan state self-determination with the Declaration of Independence and Second Continental Congress. I also want to explore some cultural aspects of 1918, and I’ll begin by …
A Remarkably-Timed Celebration
Although the Great War would not end for another three weeks, and much of the city was laid low with the deadly Spanish influenza epidemic, for some the mood in Center City Philadelphia was jubilant on October 26, 1918. Great fanfare accompanied a highly-publicized meeting of “representatives from eleven oppressed nationalities of Central Europe” to sign a Declaration of Common Aims at the city’s fabled bastion of democracy, Independence Hall.  Children tolled a replica Liberty Bell, local politicians glad-handed the crowd, and various national flags waved in the breeze.
September of 1918 was a fraught time in Philadelphia.
Day after day, newspaper headlines carried a grim mixture of battle updates from the Great War, seemingly endless lists war casualties, appeals for Liberty Loan bond donations, and cautious warnings about a new and dangerous strain of influenza that had begun to sweep army camps, killing with great speed and gruesomeness. Locally, however, another drama was playing out: a court trial that would have serious implications for the German-American community of Philadelphia and the limitation of free speech in wartime.
Hi folks! Boy, 2017 was a humdinger, huh? You may notice that this site looks and behaves a little differently than before- and that my blog now has a name, Mudlarking (here’s the backstory). I’m still fussing with it a little, but it’s nice to start out the new year with a tabula rasa, so to speak.
I suppose a quick summary of 2017 is in store. Here’s the highlights reel:
I often say that I’m lucky that I study the reformers of the Progressive Era (roughly 1890-1917) because they obsessively documented everything they ever saw or heard or thought. As a result I’m awash in primary source materials, many of them in the public domain: magazine articles, autobiographies, organizational bulletins, and sociological studies of just about everyone and everything. I gather whatever I find of these, and I read much of what I collect. I digest these materials and cross-reference their ideological origins and the results and impact of their findings. Most recently, I’d been digging into Florence Kelley’s writings when I came across a pretty striking essay where Kelley anticipates historian Richard Hofstadter’s thesis about what made the era’s reformers tick.
In 1887, Kelley (sociologist, activist, settlement house worker, prolific author, and founding member of the National Consumers’ League and the NAACP) published an article titled “The Need of Theoretical Preparation for Philanthropic Work,” in which she breaks down the complicated practice of “philanthropy” (“love of mankind,” literally translated) in an unequal society. Bourgeois philanthropy, she cautions, is really just a palliative measure, a “work of restitution for self-preservation,” and its only consequential effect is to maintain the class system and the status quo. Working class philanthropy involves changing the system: lobbying for better working conditions and protections against exploitation of labor. The latter form goes beyond the token acts of charity Kelley saw many would-be philanthropists dabbling in, but it requires self-awareness and an understanding of the mechanics of power.
Archivists need an elevator pitch. They need to use it widely and often, and they should encourage the people who work within them (for example: historians, teachers, genealogists, and journalists) to have one at the ready, too. Out of sight often means out of mind, and this undoubtedly extends to the visibility of archives and …