Four Newspaper Illustrations from 1914

A century ago, in 1914, war erupted across Europe following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a conflict that by its end claimed 37 million casualties worldwide. It was four years of fighting that closed the 19th century and set the 20th into motion. Because its worst horrors remained to be seen (Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum est” captures the disillusion well), there was still hope it’d come to a speedy end.

Although this small sample is not representative of every published illustration, political cartoon, and comic, it still provides some insight into the nation’s feelings of that decisive year. Here we see doubt over the merits of sustaining a standing army (this being 15 years after the Spanish-American War and the nation’s first foray into imperialism). We see as well both doubt and optimism for war — and finally hope for 1915.

I hope you find them as interesting as I did.

The Day Book - The Unbidden Guest - 1914

“The Unbidden Guest!” The Day Book, February 21, 1914. 

The Day Book - War - 1914

“War!” The Day Book, April 17, 1914.

The Day Book - One Possible Good Result of the War - 1914

“One Possible Good Result of the War,” The Day Book, August 19, 1914.

The Sun - Let There Be Peace - 1914

“MCMXV: Let There Be Peace,” The Sun, December 27, 1914.


Three Poems by William Reed Dunroy

Corn Tassels by William Reed DunroyGrowing up in southwestern Iowa, the poet William Reed Dunroy arrived in Omaha, NE, at the age of twenty. Shuffling between jobs, Dunroy soon enrolled in the University of Nebraska and then became a contributor to The Lincoln Courier. Though he spent only ten years in the state, Nebraska was the central focus of his three books of poetry. In fact, his Corn Tassels (1897) was dedicated “To the state I love, NEBRASKA, and to her people.”

Reviewed by a Chicago paper, Corn Tassels

… tells of prairies and sod houses and desolation and aspiration and other things which are mixed in with the life of the homesteader. But while youth impels the author to write pessimistically sometimes, a wholesome life and an honest heart cause him to see a great deal of good in his sandhill world (quoted in Shipers 196).

More than a century later, the scholar Dr. Carrie Shipers summarizes his work thus:

Dunroy’s use of rhyming iambic tetrameter and pentameter is frequently clumsy, and his musings on such themes as death, hope, and the comfort to be found in Christian faith can be cloyingly conventional (201).

Dr. Shipers is right, but what follows now are three poems from Corn Tassels that I found particularly interesting. Melancholic – melodramatic – hopefully you enjoy them, too.


The Rose in Her Hair

There’s a scarlet rose in my lady’s hair
And her gown in silken white,
On her cheek there’s a delicate rosy glow
Like the birth of a ruddy light.

There’s a pale white rose in my lady’s hair
And her gown is a leaden white,
Her cheeks are pale and her slender hands
Are clasped together tight.

There’s a phantom rose in my lady’s hair,
And her gown in misty white,
I see her no more in all the world,
Save in my dreams at night.


Life is but a tragic tale,
By countless players told,
Birth begins it, marriage next,
Then death — the play is old.

Laughter and joy to some,
To others, sorrow and shade,
Two dates carved on a stone,
And the play is played.

Dead Leaves

Whirl, dead leaves, whirl,
In your withered waltz of death,
Whirl to the dirging music piped
By Autumn’s sighing breath.

Whirl, dead leaves, whirl,
Dance with the ghostly breeze,
Over the bare brown earth,
Under the naked trees.

Whirl, dead leaves, whirl,
And drift in a dreary dance,
Like our own short lives
Blown here and there by chance.

Further Reading

Minnesota on the Death of Darwin: “If one such man arises in a century, that century is fortunate.”


Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

There’s a certain charm about small-town newspapers. In the case of those early publications – long before radio, television, the Internet – this was where a community got its news, entertainment, and gossip. This was Facebook. As an archival historian, let me tell you: there’s always something waiting to be discovered. So, after realizing that April 18 marked the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s death, I thought I’d do a quick Digital Archive search to see how Minnesotans responded.

But, first, I’d like to share something published three months earlier, on January 18, 1882. Now, for those unfamiliar with the evolution-creationism debate, the Nye-Ham debacle was their first exposure to the creationist movement. Far from being a contemporary phenomenon, though, that kind of nonsense proliferated before the ink on The Origin of Species was dry. Fortunately, then as now, there was always someone available to mock the church – before there was PZ Myers there was the small-town editor doing newspaper-vaudeville. One example of this comes from the New Ulm Weekly Review, which published the text of a “sermon” by the fictional Reverence Plato Johnson.

(Now, if you think modern newspapers are radical for even acknowledging evolution exists, understand that articles like this were standard fair – the religious and wealthy being common targets in the Midwest).

Bruddern de drouble wid some folks is dat dere brains is too large. I don’t ‘tend to be pussonal, an’ has no reference whatever to any man in dis ‘sembly; but dere is people in this worl’ who has ‘pression dat dey oughter have created de Lord, an’ dat it was a act of condescenshun on dere parts dat they ‘lowed de Lord to create dem at all …

It’s no wonder this was the land that produced Sinclair Lewis.

Dis Darwin says dat a man is de gran’son ob a monkey, and dat the Bible ain’t go the truff ob de matter at all. You’se all the chillen of baboons, my belubbed. Wat you tink ob dat? How you like your ancestors? In de beginnin’ every one ob you had a long tail – dat was long ‘for you wore trousers – an some ob you got your tails twisted off, an’ some ob you was ‘shamed ob ’em, an’ rubbed ’em off against de trees; an’ at lass de tails got so disgusted dat dey refused to grow. Dat’s what you are, an’ dat’s whar you cum from. Now, den, my idea is dat ebery man oughter speak for himself on dis subjec’. Ef Mr. Darwin was born up in a tree while his mother was stealin’ cocoanuts, it don’t follow that my mudder was up anoder tree doin’ the same tin. Darwin is dead shore dat his ancestors were apes, an’ he oughter know. I ain’t goin’ to contradict it. Ebbery man must look after his own family. As for me, I’se a Bible Christian, an’ was made out ob de dust, an’ don’t take no stock in the monkeys. … De fust chapter ob Gensis am good ’nuff for me, belubbed. Pass de box.

Do you know what’s wrong with people? Their brains are too large! They say we evolved from monkeys? How ignoble! We came from dirt! Now pass the collection plate.

Three months later, when Darwin died from illness, the Library of Congress’ archives reveal a wide spread. Across Minnesota most newspapers reported Darwin’s death, acknowledging his celebrity, and occasionally editorializing that “his theories remain unproven.” Others mourned him alongside two other major nineteenth-century figures who passed around the same time: “Three illustrious men in the realm of poetry, learning and philosophy have recently died, within a few weeks of each other, namely: Longfellow, Darwin, Emerson.” (That same issue also printed the bewildered comments of a reverend from the New York Evangelical Alliance: Evolution “excludes God; it excludes intelligence from everything.”)

At least one newspaper got it right, though, when it published the following letter:

The week past is memorable for the death of a man who has not left his equal behind. It is to the honor of our age that it has proved that nature has not yet lost the power to produce those rare men, not born in every generation, who by their genius change the thought of the world. Charles Darwin was not simply the most distinguished naturalist and philosopher of his age; he was a man who ranks by the side of Copernicus, in astronomy, and Newton, in physics, and Linnaeus, in natural history, and Lavaisier, in chemistry, who revolutionize thought, and whose insight discover new principles of science, which shall guide the researches of generations. If one such man arises in a century, that century is fortunate. To such men as these the world is debtor; men of a genius as true as that of its great singers and teachers, Socrates and Plato and Shakespeare and Goethe. [St. Paul Daily Globe, May 7, 1882]

One-hundred and thirty-two years later, this is still true. Of course, in much the same way we’ve expanded the domain of physics to include that which Newton couldn’t even imagine, so too have we expanded Darwin’s theories to include and account for the full diversity of life. Since Darwin we’ve discovered genetics and mapped the genome; we’ve peered inside the skull to study nature’s imprint on the brain; we’ve uncovered the natural bridge between the social and physical sciences; we’ve gotten a whole lot better at saying, “Maybe I just don’t know – but what if?”

“If one such man [or woman] arises in a century, that century is fortunate.”

Einstein’s Eyes: Yeah, they’re still around.

“A part of him is still with me” (not meant to be creepy at all).

You may or may not be aware of this fact, but when Albert Einstein died in 1955 an autopsy was performed on his body and – because of his reputation as a genius – his brain was removed to be studied. Approximately 20 years later it would be “rediscovered,” studied some more and then 20 more years later would be returned to Einstein’s granddaughter Evelyn, the “road trip” of which would be recorded in Michael Paterniti’s Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain (2001). All in all one could say it makes a fun story and a semi-accomplishment for science (we’re learning about certain regions being larger and Glial cells)!

But then there’s this weird little historical footnote: they also took his eyes. And not in a “Maybe they were genius eyes???” kind of way either. It was done because they were Einstein’s fucking eyeballs.

As reporters soon discovered, Harvey did not have permission. Nor did he have a legal right to remove and keep the brain for himself. When the fact came to light a few days later, Harvey managed to solicit a reluctant and retroactive blessing from Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, with the now-familiar stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science, and that any results would be published in reputable scientific journals. But Einstein’s dignity had already been compromised. He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters. Yet not only did Harvey take the brain, he also removed the physicist’s eyeballs and gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein’s eye doctor. They remain to this day in a safe deposit box in New York City, and are frequently rumored to be poised for the auction block. [from NPR]

Every time the eyeballs are rumored to be on auction Abrams has to make it clear that they’re all rumors and that he has no intention to sell. Why? Because

“Albert Einstein was a very important part of my life – a lasting influence,” Abrams, 82, said during an interview on Thursday at his winter home west of Boynton Beach. “Having his eyes means the professor’s life has not ended. A part of him is still with me.

How are you supposed to interpret that? “He’s not dead … because I have his eyes.” And if it isn’t already creepy imagining the two as besties, it becomes downright insane when you read the last article and Abrams makes it clear that, if anything, they were acquaintances at best.