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100 Years Ago: September 1917 – The Nation & Beyond

100 Years AGO: September 1917 – The Nation & Beyond

Selected from the pages of the Penny Press and lightly annotated by Sally Haase

submitted 9/21/17   

I.W.W. Riots Were Pro-German Plots. Washington, Sept. 6, 1917: The United States government today is in possession of facts showing conclusively the source of financial support of the Industrial Workers of the World and other anti-war propagandist. This was the main object of yesterday’s series of nation-wide raids upon headquarters of the various radical organizations. All bank books, ledgers and account records were seized.  The result, officials say, will show the ramifications of the pro-German plots throughout the United States.

German People Demand Reform. Amsterdam, Sept. 6, 1917: Sentiment in favor of reforms which will “make for peace” is sweeping throughout Germany.  It already is certain that with the reconvening of the Reichstag the question of reform and its application to peace proposals will be forced to the front.

Russia Headed to New Revolution. Washington, Sept. 10, 1917: The portent of what might be a new revolution in Russia reached here today saying that General Korniliff has been displaced as commander in chief of the army. Other unofficial advices were to the effect that Premier Kerensky had declared the town and district of Petrograd to be under martial law. Nothing shows that Petrograd was in immediate danger through the approach of the German war machine, and it was admitted that the [partial civilian] evacuation might now mean serious internal trouble.

Some German Papers Closed To Mail. Washington, Sept. 10, 1917: Postmaster General Burleson has in preparation an order which will bar a large number of German language newspapers published in all parts of the United States from the mails. Only those newspapers whose utterances have been found by the department of justice to be treasonable and seditious and who have given aid and comfort to the enemy may be excluded.

Revolutionary Troops March To Petrograd. Copenhagen, Sept. 11, 1917: With the Germans pounding at the roadways leading to Petrograd, revolutionary troops under General Korniliff have begun a march upon the Russian capital. Advices from Petrograd reported that Korniliff’s Cossacks were about 80 miles from the city. A clash with forces loyal to Kerensky is believed imminent.

IWW Members To Be Indicted. Chicago, Sept. 12, 1917: Approximately 200 of the more prominent and active members of the Industrial Workers of the World will be indicted by the federal grand jury. The indictments are based on the charge of conspiracy and, [unofficially] startling disclosures relative to the IWW plans are forthcoming. On the front cover of “The I.W.W. song book” [appear the words,] “To fan the flames of discontent.”

Plots Against Food Supply. Washington, Sept. 15, 1917: Well determined plots having as their object unrest over the food supply of the United States were discovered today by the department of agriculture and the food administration. In [several] German communities there have been persistent rumors of poisoned food in the United States army. One story spread in a small community told of an on-coming army, seizing food wherever it went.

President Orders Licensing of Sugar. Washington, Sept. 16, 1917: President Wilson today by proclamation placed the sugar industry in the United States under license, beginning on October 1. Under this proclamation [the] sugar industry of the United States comes under complete control of the government.

Hartford “Suffs” Resign. Hartford, Sept. 19, 1917: Declaring that she had come to feel that the policy of the National Woman Suffrage association in the work for the federal suffrage amendment is “futile, academic and out of date.”  Mrs. Catherine Houghton Hepburn, for several years president of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage association, presented her resignation as president to the association.

US Army To Meet Fire With Fire. Washington, Sept. 20, 1917: The American armies in France will meet the Kaiser at his own game. Liquid fire and gas will be brought into play against the enemy. Engineer regiments will be trained in projecting of gas waves and the use of liquid fire. One regiment so trained will be included in every division.

Big Air Machine Carries 8 Passengers. Washington, Sept. 22, 1917: Escorted by two smaller war planes, the giant 12 passenger [plane], piloted by Lieut. Emilio Resnati, ended it sensational flight from Langley field, VA and alighted at the Polo grounds here today. The great bird machine carried eight passengers on its flight. Watched by President and Mrs. Wilson from the south portico of the White House and by all official Washington, the graceful machines circled around the White House and the Washington monument.

Caught In Federal Dragnet. New York, Sept. 27, 1917: Ninety spy suspects, all of them unnaturalized Germans and most of them war factory mechanics were being held at police headquarters when the police and navy “secret office” men completed their sensational round up of alien enemies here. From official sources comes the information today that arrangements are now being made to take the entire crowd to Ellis Island where they are to be interned until the expiration of the war. No charges have been preferred. Papers, blue prints and maps, for the greater part written in German, were seized. Quantities of emery compound that would quickly destroy machinery and render useless the works of any engine were seized.

U.S. To Retain All Commandeered Ships. Washington, Sept. 27, 1917: British and French diplomats were disturbed when they realized that steel ships built for British and French firms and commandeered by the Emergency Fleet corporation are to be retained by the United States at the conclusion of the war. Their expectation was that the ships would be turned back to those who originally contracted for them when the war was over. Now they learn that the vessels are to go to make up the greatest merchant fleet [1,600 ships] in the world…under the control of the United States government. [The Emergency Fleet corporation was established to “acquire, maintain, and operate” merchant ships to meet national defense, foreign and domestic commerce during WWI.]


100 years ago, much has changed and, then again, nothing has changed.