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100 Years Ago: October 1917 – The Nation & Beyond

100 Years October: 1917 – The Nation & Beyond

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

Verbal Attack By Bolsheviks. Petrograd, Oct. 1, 1917: A fierce attack against the provisional government was delivered in the democratic congress by Kamenoff, one of the leaders of the Bolshiviki (the radicals). He said: “The masses are combatting Kerensky and his colleagues, because they believe these ministers are only pawns in the hands of the rich.” He was answered by a minister who cried: “The Bolshiviki are trying to impose a rule of terrorism and frightfulness upon the masses and impose the will of a small fraction upon the majority.”

London in A State Of Siege. London, Oct. 3, 1917: For the first time in centuries London is in a state of siege. It has been brought about by the continuous raids that the Germans have been making for the past ten days. Special bomb proof shelters have been constructed all over the city. The thunder of guns is becoming common to the ears of Londoners…while batches of wounded soldiers are arriving daily from Flanders front.

War Tax Bill Signed. Washington, Oct. 4, 1917: The war tax bill became law yesterday, with President Wilson’s signature. It touches directly or indirectly the pocket books of everybody in the country, through taxes [in part] on income, excess profits, liquor, tobacco, soft drinks, passengers and freight transportation, proprietary medicines, chewing gum, amusements and talking machines records.

Marines Anxious. Washington, Oct. 9, 1917: The marines are waiting the word to go “over there.” Almost unbelievable strides have been made in whipping into shape thousands of recruits in this arm of the service. The yearning for the great adventure thrills officers and men alike.

U.S. Will Reject Peace Proposal. Washington, Oct. 9, 1917: The United States will reject any German proposal of peace that carry with them only a demand for the restoration of the status quo ante bellum.  President Wilson, when addressing the newly organized league for national unity said that the war must continue until the enemy is beaten.

Battle of Flanders Greatest In History. London, Oct. 10, 1917: The battle of Flanders in which both French and British armies are now on the offensive against the Germans, today covers a field  twenty square miles in extent.  It is the greatest engagement the world has ever known with an estimated  more than one million men.

Brits Plan A Freer India. London, Oct. 10, 1917: Plans formulated by the British government for granting a larger measure of self-government to the people of India have been explained by secretary of state E. Montagu. “My journey is the direct outcome of government’s announcement in parliament that its policy in India is to develop self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of representative government.”

War Refugees From Palestine. An Atlantic Port, Oct. 10, 1917: With minds and bodies almost wrecked by starvation and European war horrors, eighty-nine Jewish war refugees from Palestine arrived here on a French liner today. No words could produce the story of their escape from Palestine, subsequent attacks by Turks, rescue by representatives of American Funds for Jewish war relief, their safe arrival at Berne Switzerland and the hazardous trip across the Atlantic. They told of Jerusalem, a city one holding 65,000 Jews. But 25,000 are left – the others have starved to death. Many have relatives in America by whom they will be cared for. Others will be taken care of by Jewish charity.

More Bernstorff Plots. Washington, Oct. 10, 1917: Count von Bernstorff while ambassador of Germany to the United States, plotted the destruction of the Canadian-Pacific railway at several points. Count von Bernstorff also cabled his government that an organization known as “An Embargo Conference” was about to enter on a vigorous campaign to secure a majority of both houses of congress.

Plot To Poison Aviation Students. Philadelphia, Oct. 11, 1917: A startling discovery by military authorities of a plot to poison aviation students is printed today. It resulted in the arrest of Private Samuel Livingwood who was taken to Governor’s Island. An investigation of the young man’s room resulted in the finding of two pounds of cyanide of potassium. The amount is sufficient, officials say, to cause the death of all 1,200 aviation pupils now in Princeton school of instruction.

Homes Of Rich To Be Hospitals. New York, Oct. 13, 1917: Ferncliffe, the $8,000,000 country home of Vincent Astor overlooking the Hudson river, is to be converted temporarily by the War Department into a hospital for convalescent American soldiers who may be wounded in France. It became known yesterday that other wealthy and patriotic New York men have offered their country homes for the same purpose.

Merchant Marines Conscripted. Washington, Oct. 15, 1917: America’s merchant marine today was conscripted for war duty. The order of the shipping board requisitioning all privately owned American vessels of 2,500 tons or over went into effect this morning.  [It is estimated] some 450 ships passed into control of the United States government.

Women To Learn Rudiments Of Law. New York, Oct. 16, 1917: Many arrangements have been made to protect the women left behind by the soldier boys in their departure for the service. A scheme is being arranged to train these women, many of whom will be venturing into business for the first time, in the practical rudiments of the law. Mrs. E. Penfield, a member of the New York bar said, “It is unfortunate but true, that most lawyers dread to handle cases for women, and that bankers and brokers don’t care to do business for them.”

Troops On The Firing Line. American Field Headquarters, France, Oct. 27, 1917: American troops are on the firing line. A red-haired Irish gunner fired the first American shot in the war, on French soil. The case of the first American shell is to be sent to President Wilson.

It was 6 o’clock in a morning thick with fog. The artillery firing continued all day long and late in the afternoon the Sammies moved toward the trenches. The drizzle turned into a heavy downpour and in the bleakness of the night the Sammies were silhouetted against the white walls as they silently moved forward. The silence was suddenly broken as the men broke into song, singing “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the boys are marching.” From somewhere a little girl appeared. She marched silently alongside a Sammy until the column vanished at the crossroads.

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