Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Joint Mexican American Committee Concludes

 Wealthy Mexican in flight

The Joint Committee between the US and Mexico concluded its business.  With the agreement of December 24, 1916 having been made, with Carranza having refused to sign it, and with events overcoming the United States that would give Carranza the result he wanted anyway, there was no more work to be done.

Porfirio Diaz 
Porfirio Diaz in full military costume.  The collapse of his rule lead to the long civil war in Mexico.

Some have stated that the mere existence of the Joint Committee was a success in and of itself, and there is some truth to that.  The committee worked for months on an agreement and came to one, and even if Carranza would not execute it as it didn't guaranty the withdraw of American forces, the fact that the country was now hurtling towards war with Germany made it necessary for that to occur without American formal assent to Carranza's demand.  By not agreeing to it, the US was not bound not to intervene again, which was one of the points that it had sought in the first place. Events essentially gave both nations what they had been demanding.

 Gen. Carransa [i.e., Carranza]

Even if that was the case this step, the first in the beginning of the end of the event we have been tracking since March, has to be seen as a Mexican Constitutionalist victory in the midst of the Mexican Revolution.  At the time the Commission came to the United States it represented only one side in a three way (sometimes more) Mexican civil war that was still raging.  Even as Carranza demanded that the United States withdraw his forces were not uniformly doing well against either Villa or Zapata.  Disdaining the United States in general, in spite of the fact that Wilson treated his government as the de facto government, he also knew that he could not be seen to be achieving victory over Villa through the intervention of the United States, nor could he be seen to be allowing a violation of Mexican sovereignty.  His refusal to acquiesce to allowing American troops to cross the border in pursuit of raiders, something that the Mexican and American governments had allowed for both nations since the mid 19th Century, allowed him to be seen as a legitimate defender of Mexican sovereignty and as the legitimate head of a Mexican government.

 Gen. Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata, 1879-1919

As will be seen, even though the war in Mexico raged on, events were overtaking the US and Mexico very quickly.  The Constitutionalist government was legitimizing itself as a radical Mexican de jure government and would quickly become just that.  Revolutions against it would go on for years, but it was very quickly moving towards full legitimacy.  And the United States, having failed to capture Villa or even defeat the Villistas, and having accepted an effective passive role in Mexico after nearly getting into a full war with the Constitutionalist, now very much had its eye on Europe and could not strategically afford to be bogged down in Mexico.  A silent desire to get out of Mexico had become fully open.  The rough terms of the agreement arrived upon by the Committee, while never ratified by Carranza, would effectively operate anyway and the United States now very quickly turned to withdrawing from Mexico.

 Gen. Alfaro Obregon & staff of Yaquis

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lex Anteinternet: Civil Holidays. Their observance, or lack thereof. A Wyoming Equality Day observation.

This is an old post that I've bumped up in this fashion on at least one prior occasion.
Lex Anteinternet: Civil Holidays:  Leann posted an item on her blog about Columbus Day, urging Congress to consider changing it to Indigenous Peoples Day .  I
I was reminded of it as it's both Martin Luther King Day nationally and Wyoming Equality Day in the state, but outside of state and Federal employees, it's not observed much here. That doesn't mean its not observed at all, but not much.  To the extent it is observed it tends to be observed almost ethnically or politically.  Indeed, people were slow to get to the office today and I had two employees ask me "Is this a holiday?"  It is, but not one that anyone takes off.

I'm not sure of what to make of that.  But I do know that if civil holidays aren't observed by employers there not really holidays.  That may sound harsh, but that's the reality of it.  It's just a day at work without mail.  In some cases, like Veterans' Day, its a day where things might be observed in some fashion; a lot of businesses give breaks to veterans and the movie channels run war movies non stop, but still, a holiday that businesses don't take off isn't a real holiday.

And that's a shame.

If these days are important, well, they should be observed. But unless the government affirmatively requires them to be taken off, most will not be.  Only the self employed who are very secure about their place in the world is going to observe some of them.  But in the United States, which has an aggressive attachment to concepts of free enterprise in the current era, a legal effort to require that business stand down would not go anywhere and would instead be controversial.

And, indeed, this has spread even to weekends, which used to be very widely observed, or at least Sundays were.  Even around here, in a region that notoriously has not had blue laws, it used to be almost impossible to get much more than basic grocery services on Sundays.  As a kid I recall you could not find an open gas station here on a Sunday.  On the 4th of July weekend you had to buy your gasoline early if you intended to go anywhere, or you were going nowhere.

I'm not sure the change has been for the good.

Admiral George Dewey dies

George Dewey, a hero of the Spanish American War and the only U.S. officer to ever hold the rank Admiral of the Navy died at age 79 on this date in 1917.  He had been an officer in the U.S. Navy since the Civil War but obtained fame during the war with Spain during which his fleet took Manila Bay, securing the Philippines for the United States.

 Dewey as a Captain while with the Bureau of Equipment.

Dewey was a Naval Academy graduate from the Class of 1858.  He saw very active service during the Civil War with service on a variety of vessels.  He married Susan Goodwin after the Civil War and had one son, George, by Susan in 1872, but she died only five days thereafter leaving him a widower with a young son.  He none the less shortly received sea duty, retaining it until 1880 when he was assigned to lighthouse administration duty, a serious assignment at the time.  His son was principally raised by his aunts and would not follow the military career of his father, becoming instead a stock broker who passed away, having never married, in 1963.  Dewey himself asked for sea duty again in 1893 as he felt his health was deteriorating with a desk job.  He was therefore assigned, at the rank of Commodore, to command the Asiatic Squadron in  1897.

Seeing the war coming and receiving what were essentially war warnings from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt in the weeks leading up to the Spanish American War, he based himself at Hong Kong, the British possession, and began war preparations from there.  His fleet was ordered out of harbor at Hong Kong only shortly before the declaration of war with Spain as the British, knowing that the war was to come, did not want a belligerent power in their ports, which they were effectively doing in the run up to war. His squadron was therefore well situated, if not completely re-outfitted, to attack Manila Bay only a few days later, on April 30, 1898 after war had been declared.  In a one sided victory which cost only one American life (of course the "only" wouldn't mean much to that sailor) Spanish naval power in the Philippines was essentially eliminated in the battle.  As a result he became a household name and a great American hero of the era.

 Heroic painting of Dewey in the Battle of Manila in the Maine State House.

Dewey married for the second time (second marriages were somewhat looked down upon for widowers) in 1899, this time to the widow of a U.S. Army general.  The marriage to Mildred McLean Hazen would be a factor, amongst several others, in keeping him from running for President in 1900, which was a semi popular position with some people and which he entertained.  His second wife was Catholic and the marriage had been a Catholic ceremony, which angered Protestants at a time at which it remained effectively impossible for a Catholic to run for that office.  In 1903 he was promoted to the rank of Admiral of the Navy in honor of his Spanish American War achievement making him the only U.S. officer to ever hold that rank.

 Dewey in 1903.

The extent to which Dewey was a huge hero at the time cannot be overestimated.  That he would seriously be considered as a Presidential contender, and seriously consider running, says something about his fame at the time.  His promotion to a rank that is matched only to that held by John Pershing in the U.S. Army, and which of course Pershing did not yet hold, meant that he was effectively at that time holding a rank that exceeded that granted to any other American officer during their lifetime and which has never been exceeded by any Naval officer since.  A special medal was struck bearing his likeness and awarded to every sailor or marine serving in the battle, a remarkable unique military award.  That he is not a household name today, and he is not, says a lot about the fickle nature of fame.

Armour's meat packing calendar from 1899, Dewey medal, as it is commonly known, on lower left corner.

There's no denying that Admiral Dewey's death had a certain fin de siecle feel to it, particularly when combined with the passing of Buffalo Bill Cody, which happened the prior week, and also in combination with the death of another famous person which was about to occur.  It is not that Dewey and Cody had similar careers or that they'd become famous for the same reason, but there was a sense that the transition age which began in the 1890s and continued on into the early 20th Century was ending.  Both Cody and Dewey had careers that started at about the same time. Both were Civil War veterans.  If Cody became famous well before the 1890s, which he did, it was also the case that in some ways the full flower of his Wild West Show came during that period.  Indeed, Cody had modified his show after the Spanish American War to feature the "Congress of Rough Riders", building on the romantic notions that the term "Rough Rider" conveyed. That term, of course, had come up during the Spanish American War to describe members of the three volunteer cavalry regiments raised during that conflict, never mind that only one of them, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, saw service in the war and that it was in fact deployed dismounted.

 Dewey receiving Roosevelt on board the Olympia, 1909.

Indeed, the actual Spanish American War had been a fully modern war, much like the Boer War was, and which saw the US attempting to belatedly adapt to that change.  The Navy was really better prepared for it than the Army.  That contributed to the peculiar nature of the era, however, with combat being much like what we'd later see in World War One but with the service still having one foot in the Civil War era.  By the war's end, of course, the US was a global colonial power, whether it was ready to be or not, and that was a large part of the reason that Dewey was such a celebrated figure.  His actions in the Philippines had significantly contributed to the defeat of a European colonial power, albeit a weak and decrepit one, and which helped to make the US a colonial power, albeit a confused and reluctant one.  The passing of Dewey and Cody seem, even now, to have the feel of the people who opened the door stepping aside to let they party in, just before they go back out.

Dewey in retirement, 1912.

The United States ratified the treaty of sale for the Danish West Indies . . .

on this day in 1917.

The sale had been arranged in 1916 and a treaty signed by the Danish Minister and U.S. Secretary of STate on August 4, 1916.  The U.S. Senate approved the treaty making the transfer on September 7, 1916.  But this was not without considerable controversy in Denmark and it was scheduled for a referendum in Denmark, which was held, passing the sale, on December 14, 196.  On December 22, 1916  the Danish Parliament approved the treaty.  Woodrow Wilson ratified the treaty on this day in 1917.  Ratification exchanges would occur the following day and the treaty proclaimed on January 25 by  the United States and March 9 by King Christian X.  The warrant for payment would be made on March 31, 1917, and the exchange of ownership occured on April 1.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

T. K. Whitaker as a model for Wyoming?

Irish politician T. K. Whitaker died this past week.

He would note be well known, or indeed known at all, to Wyoming's politicians. But maybe he ought to be.  He was a conservative politician whose economic reforms revolutionized the Irish economy.  As one of the columnists for the Irish Times related the other day:
In Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s great novel, The Leopard, a conservative 19th-century Italian aristocrat is shocked to find his beloved nephew is running away to join the revolutionaries. But the nephew famously explains: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
TK Whitaker was the greatest of Ireland’s conservative revolutionaries. He wanted things to stay as they were and, in a culture ravaged by mass emigration, people to stay where they were. He grasped the great paradox of his time: that Ireland could not be stabilised without radical change. He did not imagine just how deep the transformation would be. But he had the intellectual authority, the political skill and the quiet charisma to force a sclerotic state to alter the way it thought about itself.
Whitaker sponsored reforms that revolutionized the Irish economy with the goal of keeping the Ireland of the past.  He didn't quite succeed as his reforms sparked more change than he anticipated, but in some ways, he was a huge success.  Ireland went from being a country that, as late as the 1950s and 1960s, was hemorrhaging its young population at a stunning rate to being one where its Irish expatriates have been returning home for a long time. Ireland, which has a relatively small population by European standards, lost 500,000 people from 1945 to 1960.

Ireland's post independence economic policy was based on the one thing it had, farm ground, and the economy was based on protectionism from 1932 on.  It had an inward looking economy, which is admittedly different from Wyoming's but the way Whitaker approached the economy should be instructive to us nonetheless.

The key to that was Whitaker's realization that the Irish economy created a situation where there was no economic evolution or growth at all  Ireland completely missed out on the post World War Two European economic boom.  In part this was almost intentional in that Irish politicians wanted to keep Ireland Irish, which in their view meant protecting the near agrarian lifestyle that seemed to define Ireland.  Whitaker, a conservative, wanted to preserve that too but he also realized that perpetually hemorrhaging its young population was not going to achieve that goal.  Whitaker worked on slowly changing the economy to open it up to industry which in turn lead to the Celtic Tiger era of the 1970s-2000s and the Celtic Phoenix economy since 2007.  That stemmed the loss of the young.

A person can debate, of course, whether Whitaker's goal was really realized.  Ireland, like other countries that go into sudden wealth, hasn't handled all of it well and its culture has been done some damage.  Some nations, such as Norway, have handled such transitions better than others.  But his legacy cannot be ignored and provides a lesson.

Just this past week Governor Mead address the hemorrhaging of Wyoming's young.  This has been something I've heard politicians speak about since I was young, and I'm older than Governor Mead, a bit.  Living in Wyoming long term is not easy and it involves a conscious choice of choosing to live here over better economic prospects elsewhere.  It also means living in an economy that somewhat mirrors Ireland's in that the soul of the state is in agriculture, no matter what the Legislature may believe, but it is not possible for average Wyomingites to enter that field.  Like Ireland, you have to be born into the land to work it, usually.

I'm not suggesting that we should abandon agriculture in any fashion, and Ireland did not. But Whitaker realized that the traditional Irish economy was depleting the country of its young.  Wyoming has over the years emphasized an economy built almost exclusively on mineral extraction. That brings people in, usually temporarily, in boom cycles and takes a lot of people out, including natives, during bust cycles.

Moreover, because the economy is so heavily based on the extractive industries it puts the state's young in a difficult situation in which they have to determine if they want to enter that industry themselves, which many do not wish to do so, or one of the industries that supports the extractive industries in some fashion, or leave. That's a harsh thing to have to decide.  Quite a few people spend their entire careers until retirement living elsewhere and then coming back by which time, frankly, they aren't really the Wyomingites they were when they left.  You can't really work in Los Angeles for 40 years and come back the same person, with the same likes, and some concerns.  Indeed, that's not really even fair to your adopted state which supported you in your livelihood and which maybe has some claim on you when you retire.

As I'm not a T. K. Whitaker so I don't know what that economic change would fully entail, although I've given my views of it before.  I'm sure, however, that it entails looking outside the box at what we have and what we don't.  But when we've said that before, we've largely done nothing.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: Unknown, Lander Wyoming

Churches of the West: Unknown, Lander Wyoming:

This building obviously was built as a church, but no longer is used as one.  I don't know what its use is today.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Is President Elect Trump seriously insulting John Lewis?

President Elect Trump would do well to remember that he was unpopular with the voters.  The voters basically, for the most part, didn't like him.  They disliked Hillary Clinton more.  Part of the story of Trump's election isn't necessary that he won but that the Democrats lost.

John Lewis stated recently that he wasn't going to the inauguration and that Trump was an illegitimate President.  Some of Lewis' comments recently have struck me as a bit childish, and this is one, but its not like he has to go, and its not like people who feel differently need react.

Trump did.

On Twitter.
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to......mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!
There are some things you don't do, and this is one of them.

I don't know what the situation is in John Lewis' district.  I know that he's 76 years old and has a legitimate background in the Civil Rights era.  I also think that Mr. Lewis' refusal to attend the inauguration and calling Trump "illegitimate" is childish, but by the same token a President responding is worse.

Trump may not have the credit with the GOP on everything he thinks he does. Since the election the GOP has tried to get behind him for obvious reasons. But whether this will fully continue is yet to be seen.  Nebraska's Ben Sasse, who for many in the GOP was a last ditch "never Trump" alternative has come out in Lewis' defense and already some in Congress are showing more independence in bucking and questioning Trump than might be expected.  A few more ill advised comments like this and he might find himself being effectively a lame duck right out of the box, except where Republicans in Congress can use him.

Road Hazards

Yesterday, on my way to work, I had to divert my Jeep down at a busy intersection in order to drive around Tom the Turkey.

Tom is a local celebrity.  He's a great big tom turkey, a turkey Lothario, and he's mean.  He's also stupid and hangs around on busy streets continually.  I have to drive around him frequently, as to many others.

Only a few minutes before that, I had to slow to a near stop to miss antelope that were down by the college.  They've added the southern part of the college grounds and the municipal golf course to their winter range.

On the way home, I had to nearly come to a screeching halt near the same place as a herd of antelope again crossed the road. By this time the sun was going down and the light poor, and given where they were, they were not easy to see.

When I got home I had to run to the grocery store.  I took one the bypass roads to do it, a very busy one, and was confronted with a buck deer standing in the road.  Just standing there. Again, I missed it, but I was lucky that nothing was behind me as I slowed from 40 mph down to about 20 mph before it moved.

I came back the same way, and antelope bolted across the road.  A pickup barely missed one.

All of this was in town.

I like wildlife, although as a stockman and hunter I don't have the Disney view of wildlife so common amongst the urban naive. But something needs to be done.  This has gone from a few head of antelope that eccentrically hung out near the college to entire large herds.  The antelope are now using a large area as winter range and there are a considerable number.  Deer have penetrated fairly far into the town. 

Somebody is going to get killed.

Best Posts of the Week for the Week of January 8, 2017

The best of the past week:

Monday, January 9, 2017


Friday, January 13, 2017

Meryl Streep, The Arts, Katie Nolan, Sports, and Leisure as the basis of Culture

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 11, 1917

Poster Saturday: Patria

The headlines, sort of, were invading theaters fairly regularly by this time.

This film was a fifteen part serial released on this date in 1917. The plot involved espionage and intrigue as Japanese spies seek to steal the Channing "Preparedness" fortune and then invade the United States through New York while allying themselves with Mexico.  The feastibility of the Japanese invading through New York, or indeed at all, was apparently not an issue for the script writers but it is odd that a film based on an enemy alliance with Mexico would have come out during that period of time in which a German diplomatic note proposing just that was sitting in the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

Patria Channing, with the assistance of U.S. Secret Service agent Donald Parr, foil the plot.

The film, which was financed by William Randolph Hearst , was investigated after World War One to see if it might have been German financed propaganda based upon a scheme discovered to have been proposed to influence movies by a German propagandist whose articles appeared in Hearst's papers, which was similar to the plot of the movie, but presumably this was found to be a mere coincidence.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Meryl Streep, The Arts, Katie Nolan, Sports, and Leisure as the basis of Culture

I didn't watch the Golden Globe awards.

And not just this year.

I never watch them.

So, as a result, I missed the entire Meryl Streep makes comments alluding to Donald Trump thing.

Now, let me note that given as I have not watched them, I'm not commenting on what she said.  As people who've read my prior comments here know I generally don't grasp why people listen to entertainers or sports figures on any issue.  Their job is entertaining and generally, while there are exceptions, I don't find their commentary particularly illuminating on anything.

That doesn't mean, in my view, that they should simply shut up.  People in a democracy have a right to speak, no matter how ill informed or vapid their comments may be. And, I'd further note, that Donald Trump, about whom she was commenting, came up partially due to the entertainment industry and hence there's a certain peculiar element to this.

What I take to be the case is that Streep, apparently, was condemning a comment Trump made about a crippled person who appeared in opposition to him at one of his rallies. As I didn't follow Trump that closely during the election and never thought he stood a chance, I'm not even prepared to comment on that.  If he said such things, that's terrible and he shouldn't have.

And, going to where I will comment, he ought to stop all this Tweeting.  It's embarrassing and not dignified and he should knock it off or at least be restrained.  Governor Matt Mead has a Twitter account and he's restrained.  Perhaps Trump could take Tweeting lessons from fellow Republican Mead.

Anyhow, that aside, sometimes you find really interesting and illuminating commentary even where it's not really intended to be.  Such as here:

This is commentary, in jest (but I suspect not entirely in jest) by Katie Nolan of Garbage Time.

Now, for those of you who do not know, Garbage Time is a sports, mostly football, commentary program that was designed to run, apparently, in "garbage time."  According to Wikipedia the term means:
Garbage time is a term used to refer to the period toward the end of a timed sporting event that has become a blowout when the outcome of the game has already been decided, and the coaches of one or both teams will decide to replace their best players with substitutes.
Okay, so that's what Garbage Time is and that's what Nolan has named her show.

Now, long time viewers here know that I don't really know much about professional sports and I'm particularly ignorant on football, which I don't like.  How, therefore, would I know about a show even called Garbage Time?

Simple enough.  I fly United.

United Airlines, as viewers here also know, runs a series on its planes, and on the Internet, called The Big Metal Bird.  It's clever and I like it. The host is Katie Nolan.  I wouldn't have known that Katie Nolan hosts and is well known because of Garbage Time, but YouTube does and as a result of having linked in all the Big Metal Bird episodes I did here Garbage Time now shows up in my suggested viewing links on YoutTube.  I rarely view one, as I don't know anything about the topics the show addresses.

But I did view this one because of the title.  And, while I'm not getting into the Streep/Trump flap, there's something here worth nothing.  Go and view the video.

Did you watch it?

Okay, if you did, you heard Streep say:
Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if we kick them all out you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts which are not the arts.

That comment is really worth breaking down.

First of all, I'd note, when I heard that "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners" I immediately thought of the Vanderpumps.  I'm not a football fan and I've never watched a MMA contest but if having television be all football and MMA matches is the price I have to pay to send the Vanderpumps back home, or preferably to Aleppo, bring it on.

My second thought was, well, . . . . Streep may not be over rated, but that sort of comment does come across as something being said by a self impressed pretentious snot.

Let's be honest to start with.  A lot that's put out by Hollywood, or any other moving picture endeavor, isn't art.  So, if football and MMA aren't art, well, probably Friends and The Big Bang Theory, let alone the whole Grownups franchise, certainly aren't either.

Which is an important point, as it Streep's comments, and indeed a lot of the concepts about film as art, misunderstand its relationship to leisure, which is not only significant, but frankly paramount.

Let's start first however, with the concept that film is art.

Some film is clearly art.  Every David Lean film is art in moving pictures.  Some John Ford films, and I'd argue in particular  The Searchers, is art.  But is all film art. . . well. . . . I doubt it.

Is Grownups art?  Are the appriximately 4,000,000,000 tear jerker football movies art?  What about The Hangover?  No, none of these are art.  What they are is entertainment, allegedly, but they aren't art.  And there's a lot more Hangover's filmed than Lawrence of Arabia's.   

Indeed, in recent years there have been so many trash films made that they simply overwhelm those which might be considered as art.  Bad films, low budget films, and the like, have always been made, and there are scads of examples going all the way back, but it's also the case that since external controls on the contents of movies have been largely removed they have tended more and more towards blue films even in allegedly family offerings.  A piece of crap like Grownups would have been a piece of crap if it had been filmed in the 1950s, but it wouldnt' have had a running series of jokes about boobs in it. Even doubtful propositions from the 50s and early 60s that edged on being quasi scandalous don't compare to the regular fare today, much of which is complete and total junk.

The fact that junk, the run of the mill, the bland, and the vapid grossly outnumbers art says something, however, and that needs to be taken into account.  Movies are entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Which takes us on to sports.  Quite frankly, there is art in sports and while Katie Nolan is joking, anyone who has truly watched sports has seen athletic art in motion.  A person has to be pretty dead to art if they find no art in Pele's soccer playing of old, or Sugar Ray Robinson's boxing, or Jim Brown's football field performance.  Seriously, there's more art in Jim Brown on the field in the 1950s than there is in the entire series of Friends.  But we have no delusions that sports are entertainment.

And entertainment is for leisure.

Josef Peiper, the German philosopher, claimed that leisure was the basis of culture, and there's good reason to believe him correct.  In this context, leisure isn't doing nothing, it's doing something, but what it isn't doing isn't is simply toiling.  If we think about it, cultures that have appreciated arts had the leisure to produce and enjoy them.  And you wont' find one of those culture that didn't also have sports.   Sports have been with us in every society that produced anything cultural and are, frankly, part and parcel of culture.

This doesn't mean that a person has to appreciate or participate in some fashion in every sport.  But it does mean that those people who take shots at sports in their entirety based on their concept of worthwhile cultural endeavors are taking shots at themselves.  People this year who go to see a film like Manchester By The Sea and who believe that its a fine work of art ought to realize that the same culture that produced it produced NASCAR.  Now, I'm not a NASCAR fan, but I also am not so naive to believe that NASCAR fans ought to be dragooned into a viewing of Manchester By The Sea.  Nor am I so naive to believe that there aren't a lot of NASCAR fans who will see Manchester By The Sea as well.

All  of this is perhaps all the more relevant in the era in which we find ourselves.  It wasn't always the case that a wide gulf between "art" and everything else was believed to exist, although that sort of snobbery has been around for a long time.  While I haven't studied it and therefore can't claim expertise on it, a lot of the current snobbish attitude of the type expressed by Streep seems to have had its origins, potentially, in the teens and twenties when the hardcore left was on the rise and its never left since.  One of the real hallmarks of radical leftism is that it had sort of a perverse Puritanical view of a lot of things in its early days, and really debased views on other things.  Suffice it to say the sort of eggheady psuedointelletuals who sat around and pondered Marx in the 1920s wasn't exactly in your sporting set.

In contrast, there was a time not all that long before that, and indeed concurrent with that, that the highly educated, and those with refined educations at that, regarded the appreciation of sports as an aspect of culture.  University students risked their lives playing football in an era when only a small percentage of Americans attended university and those who did were all destined for high paying employment as a rule.  The well to do often participated in the equine sports. Hunting had a broad popularity across classes.  The authors of the agrarian defense I'll Take My Stand based part of their argument on a Southern culture which emphasized leisure and field sports (conveniently ignoring, I'd note, that Southern Blacks weren't participating in that much).

Perhaps this is making much out of Streep's ill advised snobbish comment, but maybe not.  One of the things that sociologist have worried about in regards to modern life is the decline in leisure. This can be argued in more than one way on whether this observation is real or not.  But irrespective of that in the general population, it seems quite true in the Middle Class.  Returning to politics, I suppose, part of this last election was a signal on the part of that class that they've basically had enough of everything and want a not all that long ago past back, if they can.  Being a snot about what those people like is not only arrogant, but incredibly naive.

Friday Farming: Blog Mirror: Food For Thought By Returning To Farming's Roots, He Found His American Dream

Food For Thought

By Returning To Farming's Roots, He Found His American Dream

The USS Milwaukee wrecked.

Back on December 14, 2016, we ran this item about an event that occurred on December 14, 1916:
Lex Anteinternet: The Submarine H3 runs aground, leading to the ulti...: The U.S. submarine the H3, operating off of Eureka California with the H1 and H2, and their tender the USS Cheyenne, went off course in heav...
On this date in 1917 the USS Milwaukee, a cruiser, was beached and wrecked during the efforts to refloat the H3.She'd ultimately break up and was a loss.

The wrecked USS Milwaukee.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Holding back the breeze?

King Canute proving that he couldn't hold back the tide.

Last week I had a couple of posts on coal and its prospects.

One of them related that the Tribune was reporting that coal was up to 75% of its pre bust production, an impressive recovery.  As that article noted this level of production might be market reasonable, rather than market overheated, and reflect the actual level of ongoing demand for the time being. That's really good news for coal.

The other article discussed the long history of coal's decline as an energy source.  The two articles aren't really inconsistent with each other and reflect, I suspect, the truth of coal's situation.  Long term, it's been in decline for market share for over a century.  Short term, it captures new markets from time to time and its still around right now, and will be for a long time.

Well, not if a handful of Wyoming's legislators have their say.

It's really unlikely to pass but some of our state's lawmakers want to pass a bill that requires power generators to stop supplying power via wind energy and which will financially penalize them if they do.  The idea is that this forces the power companies to stick to hydroelectric and coal in Wyoming.

This is really silly.

It may also be unconstitutional as an act in restraint of legitimate legislative power in restraint of trade, including trade across state lines, and "special legislation" favoring one type of company over another.

But beyond that, it's just flat out silly.  

Wyoming is such a small domestic electric market that, at best, all this would do is harm domestic industry, such as wind farms and power companies with wind generators, while benefiting nobody.  How much electricity do these fellows think we consume?  Power generation is on a big grid, gentlemen, and those power plants are generating power for people in California, not you, really.

And Wyomingites benefit from the wind generation industry, just like they do the coal industry.  Jobs constructing and maintaining wind farms, etc., all play their part in our employment picture.

It's odd how in Wyoming everyone routinely claims that we're radically in favor of the free market. . . right up until it impacts our pocket books and then some of us aren't so keen on it anymore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 11, 1917

This illustration by Norman Rockwell has appeared here before, but we're running it today on the anniversary of its publication.  It's called "Fact and Fiction".

The birth of the "pickup"

Courtesy of the 100 Years Ago Today Subreddit and the 365 Days of Motoring website we learn that today was the day that Ford introduced the TT, that is, its Model T based pickup truck.  Or rather, truck, they weren't all boxed trucks, but trucks in general.

It wasn't simply a Model T conversion. The chassis was heavier than that of the Model T, reflecting its intended use.

Apparently it was originally just a chassis, and the body was up to the owners.  According to 365 Days of Motoring, Ford offered the complete package, body and all, starting in 1924.  The grand total for production for 1917 was three.  Yes, only three, but the following year over 40,000 would be built and numbers were always higher than throughout its ten year production run.

Pickups have always been a big deal in the American West. Somehow, however, they've come to be a huge deal in the American automotive market in general and make up a big percentage of vehicles sold each year.

Swept away in the Amazon's flood?

This is posted in the window of a small local business.

I wonder if its correct?

On a related note, recently some group claimed that the appeal of the Affordable Health Care Act will cost Wyoming 4,000 jobs. That's nearly impossible to believe.  When the AHCA was passed it didn't seem to add 4,000 jobs.   I note this in not taking a position on the AHCA, but merely to note that statistics aren't always on the mark on such things and reality is more complicated that simple, or even complicated, statistics would often maintain.

Which takes me back to the Amazon thing.  No doubt, I think, on line retailing does take away from local retailing, especially on some sorts of things.  On the other hand, particularly in the West and rural areas, catalogs used to fill a lot of the same role, in slow motion.  A person could order darned near anything from Sears including, starting in 1916, entire houses. Even really big houses.

Of course, ordering a house, I guess, from Sears is one thing.  But now a person can order darned near anything over the net and have it come to their mailbox, and that definitely is new.  Indeed, not only can you do that, but it's becoming so that you have to do that.  I wrote here the other day about shoelaces, for example, and even though I've tried once again to find some locally, I just can't find them.

Probably if you are in retail you'll notice this the most and appreciate the impact of it the most.  Contractors don't have to contend with Sears mail order homes anymore (which were quite nice, by the way) but book sellers and the like do have to content with Amazon. And that no doubt does have a negative impact on them, and on us all as well. Quantifying it however, isn't easy.

Massive explosion in Lyndhurst, New Jersey

On this day in 1917 a massive explosion occurred at a recently constructed ammunition plant which was providing ammunition under contract to Canada.  Sabotage was suspected at the time but a commission found in 1931 that there was no evidence to support that claim.

The disaster was bad enough but would have been worse but for the heroic act of Theresa Louise "Tessie" McNamara in staying at her post as a switchboard operator and providing notice to each link on the circuit that a fire had broken out and people needed to evacuate.  She's credited with saving up to 1,400 lives.

The belief at the time that the explosion was caused by German sabotage contributed to growing American support for entering the war in Europe.  Ironically, the Black Tom explosion of that past July had been caused by German saboteurs but that was not known at the time. So the Germans were blamed in the minds of some for an explosion they had not caused, but were not blamed for one which they had.

The Zimmerman Note sent

A encoded telegram was sent from the Foreign Secretary of the German Empire Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt reading as follows..
We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.

The text proposed to invite Mexico into World War One as a Germany ally with the enticement that it was to receive those territories lost during the Mexican War.  Rather obviously Germany lacked a concrete understanding as to the degree of Mexican military strength, but as absurd as it sounds, in 1915 some vague Mexican revolutionary forces actually considered, and indeed attempted, to sponsor an uprising in that territory, albeit to little effect.  And Carranza's government did study the proposal, finding it unrealistic.

The note was decoded by the British in subsequent days, as will be seen, with negative consequences for Germany

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A monumental day in the petroleum industry. January 10, 1901

It was on this day in 1901 that a well, after many persistent efforts by its backers, struck oil at Spindletop Dome near Beaumont Texas.

Lucas Gusher.

The Lucas Gusher, as it was known, blew petroleum oil 150 feet in the air at a loss of 100,000 bbls per day for nine days before it was brought under control. It was the first producing well on the Gulf Coast and gave rise to Texas' oil industry and, for that part, to much of the oil industry in the United States.  The population of nearby Beaumont went from 10,000 to 50,000 people rapidly and the culture and industry of Texas was forever impacted.

Port Arthur, Texas, south of Beaumont.

Liz Cheney, Congresswoman from Wyoming?

 The small size of the "official portrait" is the one easily downloadable, and in the public domain, but it reflects the views of a lot of Wyoming natives about "our" Congresswoman, born in Wisconsin, raised as a child in Casper and Washington, graduating from high school in Virginia and rediscovering Wyoming when she correctly assessed that she might be able to use her father's memory to launch a political career here.

Recently elected Congresswoman Liz Cheney, of Virginia but a Wyomingite by way of the thin connection of Jackson Hole, has, in the words of the Tribune "irked" sportsmen by her vote to make the transfer of public lands budget neutral.

"Outraged" was the world used in the article itself.

I'm not outraged as I never expected her to act like she was from here. She's from the State of Money and Power.  Not Wyoming.  I truly wonder to what extent, on an issue like this, she's even bothered to inform herself.  Of course, in a theoretical defense of her actions, votes on these sorts of resolutions are extraordinarily anti democratic and basically make a joke out of democratic pretenses as they lump so many things together that nobody really knows what they are voting for, quite often.  The newly nominated Secretary of the Interior, who is from Montana and who is opposed to such transfers, also voted for this and is catching a lot of flack.

Unlike that fellow, however Cheney's spokesman had come out with the bottle of pablum to feed to the voters about how this assures that such lands will be administered by those in Wyoming and Wyoming industry. No, they won't. They'll assure that they are sold to the highest bidder and that's not going to be anyone we know. They won't even live here.

Well, while she likely thought that everyone holds the same views of her circle, she's likely learning otherwise now. She probably wants to hang on to her seat at least until she can secure an appointment to something else, which I'd bet dollars to donuts is her goal.  Wyomingites who do not wish to transfer public lands into the hands of the out of state wealthy should get in touch with her and let her know how they feel.  The next higher office or appointment is always on the minds of politicians, but keeping their current seat is usually the first thing on their minds.

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody passes on

William F. Cody, a figure truly "fabled in song and story", died on this day in 1917 in Denver, Colorado.

 Cody in 1903.

Cody was born in 1846 in Iowa but spent his early years in Toronto, Ontario, before his family returned to US, settling in Kansas.  His father died when he was eleven and he went to work as a mounted messenger.   He jointed the Pony Express at age 14.  And he served as a teenage civilian scout to the U.S. Army during the Mormon War.  He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and then as a scout for the Army thereafter, winning the Medal of Honor in 1872.

 William F. Cody as a Union soldier.

His award of the Medal of Honor was at a time at which it was the nation's only military medal and the criteria were less severe than they later became.  His was one of hundreds stricken under a military review that was tightening up the requirements in 1917, although mercifully that came the month after his death.  The medal, however, was restored in his case, in 1989.  The restoration included four other civilian scouts.  Interestingly, although Cody was a showman, he never made a big deal of having received the medal.

 Cody as an Army scout.  His appearance here is typical for the era, including some shirt embellishments that were quite common, but not what we'd normally associate with the rugged frontier today.

After serving as s civilian scout Cody became a buffalo hunter, as is well known.  He hunted under a contract with the Kansas Pacific Railway in order to supply meat to railroad construction crews.

Cody in 1880.  Cody appears to be armed with a sporting version of the trapdoor Springfield military rifle in this photograph.

In 1883 he founded is Wild West Show, which resulted in the spread and preservation of his name, although he had appeared on stage as early as 1872.  His show toured the globe.

In 1895 he was instrumental in founding the town in Park County, Wyoming, that bears his name.  He entered ranching in the area at the same time.  He also founded the Erma Hotel.

He was for forty years to Louisa Frederici, although in the early 20th Century Cody sued her for divorce. Divorce was not automatic in those days and he lost the suit and, in fact, the couple later reconciled.  The couple had four children but Cody would outlive three of them and Louisa outlived all of them.  He was baptized as a Catholic the day prior to his death.  His funeral was held in Denver and buried at Lookout Mountain near Golden Colorado that summer.  Efforts by partisans in Wyoming to have him relocated to Cody lead to the grave site being reinforced to prevent that from occurring involuntarily.

National Women's Party commences White House protest

The picketers would until June 1919, with police interruption.

Exposition. L'architecture régionale dans les provinces envahies du 10 janvier au 10 février 1917

A regional architecture show slated to run a month in France.  Odd thing to think of, what with the war raging.

Monday, January 9, 2017


Sometimes, when you start an article like this, you don't end up where you expected.  This is one such example.

 Young couple, 1910s or 1920s by appearance of clothing.

Lex Anteinternet: Ancestry.com: 11 Skills Your Great-Grandparents H...:  Here's another entry from Ancestry.com with some interesting items: 11 Skills Your Great-Grandparents Had That You Don’t.  I started to run through some of these awhile back and post on the, and then frankly some of them got incorporated into other thread.  Here's one that I flat out haven't posted on, but perhaps I should.  "Courting".

The Ancestry item stated the following:
1. Courting
While your parents and grandparents didn’t have the option to ask someone out on a date via text message, it’s highly likely that your great-grandparents didn’t have the option of dating at all. Until well into the 1920s, modern dating didn’t really exist. A gentleman would court a young lady by asking her or her parents for permission to call on the family. The potential couple would have a formal visit — with at least one parent chaperone present — and the man would leave a calling card. If the parents and young lady were impressed, he’d be invited back again and that would be the start of their romance.
This may seem trivial, but if you think of it, it truly isn't.  Wars come and go, political movements rise and fall, but the interaction between men and women, in spite of the confusion some such as Justice Kennedy may have about it, is truly eternal and crosses all cultures at all time.

Which means that changes in the culture regarding this are huge in implication, but which also likely means that some things change less than we might at first suppose.  Let's take a look at this (and please add comments if you have any), and let's focus in the era that the blog supposedly focuses on and which we've been focusing on to some degree recently.  It'll be interesting to see what changes there have been, what the norm was and is, and what that means (maybe).

And let's start with average marriage age:


Males Females
1890 26.1 22.0
1900 25.9 21.9
1910 25.1 21.6
1920 24.6 21.2
1930 24.3 21.3
1940 24.3 21.5
1950 22.8 20.3
1960 22.8 20.3
1970 23.2 20.8
1980 24.7 22.0
1990 26.1 23.9
1993 26.5 24.5
1994 26.7 24.5
1995 26.9 24.5
1996 27.1 24.8
1997 26.8 25.0
1998 26.7 25.0
1999 26.9 25.1
2000 26.8 25.1
2001 26.9 25.1
2002 26.9 25.3
2003 27.1 25.3
2005 27.0 25.5
2006 27.5 25.9
2007 27.7 26.0
2008 27.6 25.9
2009 28.1 25.9
2010 28.2 26.1

Hmmm. . . not quite as big of change as you might have supposed, I'm guessing. Correct?

Indeed, I'm betting you were thinking that the average marriage age in 1890, when this table started, was probably in the teens for girls/women and just above that for men.  Well, not so much.  It was 22 years of age for women, and in 2010 it it was 26.1.  An an increase of four years, which is significant I'll admit.  For men it was 26.1 and now its 28.2.  An increase of only two years (but which is telling in other ways).  For 1920, the year closest to 1916 and 1917, which we've been focusing on, the average male age for marriage was 24.6 (a slight depression from what it had been in 1910) and it was 21.2 for women, a drop in age 1890 and from 1910, for that matter, although only slightly.  Something was going on there.

Why are we starting here, by the way?  Well, that's telling because that's the direction that courting or dating, or whatever, leads.  Or, as the school ground rhyme in common circulation for generations goes:

[Name] and [Name]
sitting in a tree,
First comes love,
then comes marriage,
then comes baby
in a baby carriage

Or, if you prefer Sinatra, the barely altered lyrics from the playground The Kissing Song to Love and Marriage.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, brother
You can't have one without the other.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
It's an institute you can't disparage
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it's elementary
Try, try, try to separate them
It's an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can't have one, you can´t have none
You can't have one without the other
Try, try, try to separate them
It's an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like the horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can't have one, you can´t have none
You can't have one without the other
No sir.

A lot of pop sociology would have you believe that a century ago everyone was on their way to being married by 18, if not younger.  Well, whatever the process was, that clearly wasn't the result.  Indeed, for reasons that we'll get into below, while there were undoubtedly some young marriages, the upper limit for marriage was likely quite a bit older, especially in some demographics, than generally supposed.

Well, that's marriage, let's get back to how those men and women got married.  Let's discuss courting.

And we'll do that by first discussing dating.

Now, I know that sounds counter-intuitive, based on what we started off with above, but it isn't, as that's the process we're actually generally familiar with.  If there's a change, we need to start with what we know to know what the change was from.  It's evolved a great deal over the years but not so much that its not fairly recognizable throughout its history, which gets back to the fact that the close attention to this sort of thing tends to overemphasize changes to some degree.

Dating is a process by which, in very general terms, young men and young women self identify somebody they are interested in and "ask them out".  The process is generally under the control of the actor, rather than somebody else, but this may be less the case than people sometimes suggest, depending upon the circumstances.  Certainly in the case of young people on their own, or largely on their own, they act relatively independently in making these actions.  Usually (although not always) a young man identifies an young woman he's interested in, and approaches her and asks if she'd like to go do something. Attend a movie, go to lunch, whatever.  That's pretty much what the initiation of dating is like.  Some sociologists, or perhaps pop sociologists, will claim that the young no longer date, but that's bunkus.  Learned or allegedly learned people who maintain that do so as they have an odd view that dating was defined in reality by the 1970s series Happy Days. Apparently they never saw The Best Years of Our Lives, which would be a more instructive cinematic portrayal.

Dating, as an institution (if it is one) or as social behavior, had its common spread, as noted, in the 1920s and not largely before (although its dangerous to take that too far).  The reason that it came into play at that time had to do with the increase in education, and not just at the college level, although that played a big part of that.  Starting in the 1920s there was a notable increase, although nothing like that after World War Two, of young people, male and female, attending college and university.  Indeed, the joke about young women going to college for their "Mrs Degree" probably originates at about that time and was even barely hanging on, albeit barely, when I went to university in the 1980s.  Anyhow, as universities were remote from where people grew up, usually, that meant that you had a population ranging from the late teens to the early 20s that was living away from home and therefore the traditional Courting, which we will get to in a moment, didn't quite make sense and they had to act, somehow, on their own.  More on that later.

I'd note before we go on, however, that this same era saw an increase in people going all the way through high school. We're so used to this now that we just assume it always was, but that is very much not the case.  Even in the 1940s somewhat less than half of all Americans did not graduate from high school   Sticking it out through high school is really a post World War Two phenomenon.  However, attending high school had become common by the early 20th Century, which isn't necessarily the case for earlier eras and with each passing year more people stuck it out.  This tends to be missed in the stories about Dating and Courting but that plays a real role in the story.  Prior to this being common, young women were part of their households quite  early, but not out in public the way that they were in school. The same is true for young men.

And, added to that, as we will shortly see in this month's late month's post, employment of the young in industry of all types, male and female, was seeing a big increase in this era as well. That had a similar impact on this story to school.  Again, in a rural, and perhaps even agrarian, society people didn't move around much, and tended to know the people they knew, whom their parents also knew.  But if you were working in Boston as a teenager in an office. . . well.

Teenage worker, about 15.  She'll appear again later this month.  Probably in her case she's an Irish immigrant and school is over for her.

Teenage office boy, a very common employment for smart young men who were not attending school.  I'm not saying that the young man here and the young woman above were dating, but I am saying that young men in this situation and young girls in the photograph above were meeting each other in a context outside of being residents of neighboring farms.  Again, this young man will appear again later this month.

Added to that, it was also the case that the American population has always been a lot more mobile than people tend to recall now.  People like to imagine that up until some time recent, say the 60s or 70s, everyone grew up in the same town and always stayed there.  In truth, in the United States, there was always a significant element of the population for whom that wasn't true.

For example, in the American West the population tended to be all immigrants, if only internal immigrants by majority, well into the 20th Century and Wyoming remains peculiarly prone to this as 55% of the state's population came in from somewhere else.  In 1916 it would have probably been something like 70% or higher.  In the 1890s almost everyone, save for the Indians, had come in from somewhere else. Some of these, to be sure, were entire families that moved in, but an awful lot of these people were young men and young women (far more men than women) that had immigrated to this region.  The traditional concept of courting, which we haven't really gotten into yet, obviously wasn't going to work for these people and rather what they did to meet each other was much more akin to what we'd call dating.

By way of a personal example of this, my paternal grandfather was from Dyersville Iowa but left there at age 13.  When he married he was living in Denver, Colorado.  I'm not sure of the details of how he met my paternal grandfather, but I know that it wasn't through a process exactly like that mentioned above.  Rather, I suspect he met my grandmother at Mass and the relationship started there, but his parents would have had no role in that and its likely his parents never met her parents, ever.

Likewise, in big cities there were huge populations of immigrants, and they were often young without their parents. Again, by way of a personal example, my father's grandmother came from Ireland at age 3, with her sister who was 19.  The family could only afford to send two people out of Ireland, so t hey sent the youngest and the oldest, figuring that was giving the youngest a good chance at life and that her 19 year old sister was older enough to take care of her, which she did.  Both married in the United States.  I have no idea how they ended up in Denver, but again, their parents not only didn't play a role in their "courtship", they never saw their parents again. . . ever.

All of which might go to suggest that the traditional concept of "courtship" and "courting" might be off the mark to some degree, as well as that as a revolutionary change to "dating".  While there was definitely a change, and we don't dispute that, the basis for that change was not only much broader than generally claimed but it also went back quite a bit further than people imagine.  That is, it's nice, or repressive, depending upon your view and whether you are a sociologist, to imagine a world which, prior to the 1920s, every young introduction was arranged by the family according to a rigid set of rules, but it just isn't true.  Something did change, but the degree to which you'd recognize it would depend a lot on your place in society and where you lived.  If you were living in Cheyenne  or Denver, for example, it might not have been that much of a change, although there definitely was one, than you would have noticed in Crab Apple Cove, Maine. 

Well, having defined dating, a bit, what is courting?  According to Ancestry.com, and we'll repeat the definition, its as follows:
A gentleman would court a young lady by asking her or her parents for permission to call on the family. The potential couple would have a formal visit — with at least one parent chaperone present — and the man would leave a calling card. If the parents and young lady were impressed, he’d be invited back again and that would be the start of their romance.
That's probably a fairly accurate, general, definition of courting.

It's also not really the idea that people have now when they hear the word. No, they tend to think of something like out of the Duggar's television show.  That sort of relationship is defined by something like this:
Courtship is a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the protection, guidance, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage. (See Proverbs 3:5–7.)
That definition comes from a Fundamentalist Christian website which likely has a Duggar like view of courting.  The emphasis in the text is from the original.  Is that courting? Well, maybe of a type, but its relationship with traditional courting might be relatively strained.  Indeed, to take the Duggar example, that sort of "courting", which many people have in mind when they hear the word, is actually somewhat closer to being an Arranged Marriage.  When people hear of "arranged marriages" they tend to think of something that happens in India today, or that they imagine to have been common in distinct social groups of the pat, but that's actually quite a bit closer to what we see described above.  That's evidenced by the fact that its not that uncommon to find examples of brides in particular refusing arranged marriages.  That is, in that "courtship" phase they made up their minds that Billy Bob, or whomever, was a dud and they rejected the counsel of their parents and prospective in-laws, often to upset their feelings, but nonetheless.  Anyhow, we shouldn't really assume that the Duggar's or those of like mind are "courting" but rather what they're really doing is testing the waters, barely, on an arranged marriage.

Match, one of those on line dating, or whatever, sites defines it, on the other hand, defines courting like this:
"Courtship" is a rather outdated word used to describe the activities that occur when a couple is past the dating stage and in a more serious stage of their relationship. It happens before the couple becomes engaged or married and is usually meant to describe when a man is attempting to woo a woman, with marriage as the end goal. Dating has a more informal connotation and implies that the couple is not necessarily exclusive.
That's likely more accurate, quite frankly, than the one with the bold text cited just above but it isn't exactly accurate in a historical sense either.  Rather, what that describes is a stage of dating that often had no defined term that applied to it, and still tends not to have one.  In high school terminology that term used to be "going steady" and that seems to have crept down from the use of the term in the 30s and 40s by people in their 20s and 30s, but by and large it tends to have no real term and courting isn't really it.

Not that this matters. What we're seeking to do is to look at the practice that preceded dating.  If we've diverted a bit in regards to the definition of "courting" its to try to disrupt the preconceived notions of what that is. So, if you have in mind something like one of the many Duggar's and whatever they are doing, push it out of your mind.  If you have in mind something like what Match is stating, push that out too.

So what was it.

Well, Ancestry.com basically defines it, but as we've already noted from our discussion above, that couldn't have been as widely applicable in society pre 1920, or at least as strictly defined, as people might believe. And we have to look at by culture and economic status.

The question when we do a thing like this is how far back to we actually go?  A person can keep going back and back until their analysis becomes completely useless.  If we go back, for example, to tribal societies we're not going to be really learning anything as their conditions of life are different and, of course, we're outside of the era that we're trying to focus on even though we would, quite frankly, learn some things.

 Tinglit couple.

So we'll start with the Medieval era.

Already, no doubt, people are rolling their eyes thinking that nothing that far back can be relevant.  Well, we just saw a post, we should keep in mind, in which erudite pundit George F. Will stated that in the mid 19th Century Americans lived in a world "more Medieval than modern", and while I disputed that and still do, there's something to that.

People were, of course, getting married and giving in marriage in the Medieval era and, in spite of what some now imagine, all the common problems and vices that exist in the current world existed then as well, and certainly did in regards to human interactions.  When we think of marriages in the Medieval Era we most often think of the marriages of monarchs which are, quite frankly, a really hideous example.  Most people were not monarchs.  Marriages of royalty had a power broking quality to them as long as monarchs amounted to a hill  of beans and, quite frankly, they're still rather strange in some ways.  So we shouldn't look to them except to note that they were often arranged for political reasons.

For common people, however, none of this is true.  They chose their own spouses and men and women had the freedom to find and contract a marriage.  That's actually much like today, other than that their world was very immediate.  Is that courting?

It probably is, given the context of the world in which they lived.

In that world most people knew everyone they were ever going to know from birth on.  People moved very little, as a rule, and classes that did move, were suspect.  Given that, for most people, their spouse was somebody that they knew very early on and therefore they knew their characters very early on.  When they were "of an age to marry" something like courting occurred, but in a highly natural and informal way.   You don't really need to be introduced to the parents of your future spouse if you've known them for two decades, in other words.

Now, no doubt, some formal interaction between families occurred in this context, but probably much less than people typically imagine.  Indeed, contracting a marriage itself was blisteringly informal, contrary to what people now imagine.  At least up until the 1050s all of Europe was Catholic which gives people the concept that all marriages were formalized in a Mass like Catholic weddings today but in fact that's not true and indeed it doesn't reflect the Catholic, or Orthodox, concept of marriage today.  Marriages are actually preformed by the couple themselves and that's exactly how they were in the Early Medieval period.  A couple that decided to marry simply determined that they would and exchanged their promise to be spouses.  "Church marriages", as we now have them, came about slightly later for most people (they were a feature of the marriages of nobles already, but for another reason) which was in large part because the Church was seeking to protect the rights of women.  It was too easy for men to disavow a hastily contract marriage free of any obligation which was bad for obvious reasons so the  Church, as a matter of Canon law, started requiring all marriages to be in Church in order that both the solemn nature of the obligation was obvious and so that their were witnesses.  Piers Plowman, in other words, couldn't disavow his marriage to Edyth Weaver by simply saying "nope, didn't happen".

Going forward, the conditions described above were the conditions for the great mass of people up until at least t he industrial revolution.  In the later phases of this, as we enter the Renaissance and on into the  Age of Enlightenment, we did get a courtly class, or rather one of minor nobility, that while not rich was rich in comparison to most people and that is where we get much of our current romantic nature of courtship for those who have that image in mind when they think of "courting".

If you are so inclined you can find about a million Georgian era paintings of courtship in this context.  Think of every courtship described by Jane Austen and you are there.  The romance between all the male and female characters in Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility defines this type of courtship and the descriptions, while highly romantic, are fairly accurate.  Fairly accurate, of course, for that class.

Indeed, while providing an historical record of courtship was not their intent, the two fairly recent movies made out of those Jane Austen films provide, as do the books themselves, a nice depiction of courting behavior amongst the English landed class, and indeed amongst the European landed class (it occurs to me that I need to add those films to our Movies In History series).  I'm cautious about mentioning movies in the context of historical analysis, but in some instances they portray it very well and the books noted and the films based on it do a nice job of this.  I suspect the book Emma does as well, although I haven't read it, but the film based on it and set in contemporary Los Angeles, Clueless, has an odd courtly feel to it in spite of its setting, which might say something about the nature of courting and dating that we will get to later.  Another book that excellently portrays the same thing, in the same class, but in a different setting, is War and Peace, although in my view War and Peace has never been successfully made into a decent film.

Anyhow, if you want to get the classic romantic portray of courting these texts give really good examples of it.  Generally, the young female characters identify suitors and hope to secure their attention in a public venue of some sort, and then its up to the suitor to make his introduction in some fashion, usually in a relatively formal way.  Pride and Prejudice provides good examples of successful and unsuccessful attempts of this type. The activities that are depicted tend towards gatherings and sometimes outdoor venues and activities of some sort.

In all these texts you can get hints that things didn't quite work the same way for lower classes, but only hints.  For the most part, as they lived in a smaller world, their conduct in these regards remained much as it had always been except, perhaps, in urban areas where underclass communities were obtaining a reputation for lawlessness and immorality which, while exaggerated, wasn't wholly undeserved.  In any event, if Jane Austen's novels remain popular it isn't because they describe something fully alien to us, although they certainly do in part, but rather because the opposite is true.

Young couple, at the races. 1910.

Across the Atlantic, where there were fewer people to engage in courtly behavior and where there was a large class of yeomanry well into the 19th, and even 20th, Century we could skip much of what's depicted in these novels and just get to the rule, which was that bay and large people tended, outside the Frontier, to meet somebody in a very local circumstance and much of what was described in the introductory Ancestry.com paragraph was correct, although it would have been much less alien than described.  For people, for example, growing up in a farming community in the Midwest chances are high that they all attended the same community events and attended the same churches, so they met each other routinely well before they were "courting".  Courting probably actually reflected, in that context, that they were moving on to the "steady" aspect of what was described for dating, and that's why the families took it seriously and began to interact with each other differently.

 Two young couples.  Migrant farm workers in Louisiana and their children, 1939.  Probably none of these people met by "dating", and maybe not by "courting".  Off topic, note nice example of newsboy cap on man in center.

This is also why some period literature strikes us as more odd than Austen's novels.  If we read, for example Giants In The Earth's sequel Peder Victorious we are presented with the shocking proposition that young Peder marries an Irish girl from the farming community.  Now this wouldn't seem that weird, but if we take into account that communities were very tight knit religiously and ethnically, it would have been.

We have to modify all of this to take into account ethnicities, in fact, which impact all of this, as well as geography.  Some ethnicities had very distinct courting customs that persevered in North America at least for awhile, while others died out but still left a bit of an impact.  In Ireland, for example, a custom existed requiring the introduction of a male suitor to the family by way of a Babhdóir, who acted both as a matchmaker and as a chaperon in the early stages of the relationship.  This process involved such things as rides in "dog carts" and the like and if it progressed, when it became serious, involved the woman's family touring the home of the male suitor, to see if it was suitable for their daughter if they married.  This sort of process is depicted in the film The Quiet Man, although at a point at which it had no doubt largely waned (a better depiction of 20th Century customs is given in the novel and the film Durango).  The Irish do not seem to have imported the custom to the United States, but well into the mid 20th Century the majority of Irish immigrants and Irish Americans met their spouses at church or in Catholic schools.  My parents, I'd note, met just that way (church) and I'm fairly certain that my father's parents (she was an Irish American, he was a German American) met that way also.  At least one of my cousin's met her spouse that way as well, so this does keep on keeping on.

A remotely similar custom existed in Jewish communities in some, but not all, regions of Europe and in the United States in that initial meetings between couples were made by a Shadchan, a matchmaker. There's a common idea that all such individuals were professionals but that's erroneous.  The role was simply that played by a person making the introduction.  Unlike other matchmaking traditions, this one actually lives on in Orthodox Jewish communities due the strict criteria that exist for the entire courting process in those communities, that process serving a singular purpose.

A really good depiction of southern European courting is given to us by the move The Godfather in which the highly formalized tradition in Italy is depicted.  That tradition did somewhat carry on in the form of a big meeting of the parents event, although that's common to courting and even dating in general.  The recently film Brooklyn depicts such an event, in the context of dating.
All that's well and good, as noted, but once we get out of rural areas it broke down.  Marriages certainly took place but the meetings were obviously much less formal and look a lot more like dating, quite often.  And hence, the problem, as we will see, in actually distinguishing if this tradition is real or simply something similar to a larger process.

Anyhow, in the rural West a lot of unattached young men simply met young women, somewhere.  Typically, for men part of a cultural community such as a religion or ethnicity, they met them there. The idea that all young men were cowboys who met barmaids or soiled doves is erroneous.  Of course, meetings weren't limited to churches, but men grossly outnumbered women and the presence of an unattached young woman drew attention fairly readily.  Invitations to dances,and the like, drew suitors, but suitors whose families were often quite remote.  As homesteading advanced, ranching families tended to know each other but it wouldn't be correct that the courting that subsequently developed was of the really formal type discussed above.  Some of it would resemble that, but not much.

Women were so small in numbers in some communities that crossing big cultural boundaries was quite common.  It's well known that Frontiersmen routinely married Indians and quite often those marriages were successful in spite of a huge cultural gap between the spouses. This continued on into the 20th Century and its not uncommon to find men with rural occupations marrying into nearby Indian Tribes or, further south, into preexisting Hispanic communities.  Like the French, Hispanic communities were broad in their views towards other cultures and did not object to intermarriage at all, as long as the Catholic religious views of the Catholic spouse were respected.

As the Frontier populated with men, some men became sufficiently lonely that they simply skipped courting entirely, which of course required a like minded women to do the same.  This resulted in the "mail order bride" and something that might be called speed courting, which again was surprisingly common.  A newstory from 1916 gives us an example of this:
Chicago Girls Want Husbands
CHICAGO:  So many Chicago girls want to go back to North Dakota as wives of bachelor farmers who were here on special train for the stock and horse show, that an official cupid committee  has been announced.  It is announced that a committee will take charge of all love letters and see that the right girl gets tho right man.
The author of that article seemed somewhat skeptical of the phenomenon, and I have to say that I am as well.  But it is true that unattached young women, and not always single immigrants as often depicted in film and in story, did sometimes arrange to travel by train to meet a fiance in the West that they knew not at all, thereby really taking their chances.

Well, what of all of this?

Starting off on all of this I noted that I didn't end up in this article where I thought I would. And the reason is that I'm not really convinced that things have changed as radically as people suppose here and that our grandparents therefore had some special skill that younger generations lack, although I think there is a little to it, as I'll note below.

The reason that my view changed in these regards is that I think that dating and courting, as we've defined them above, are actually just basically two sides to the same coin and not as different as we might suppose.

Dating, as we have noted, came in during the 1920s, or so we're told. But as we have also noted, ti seems fairly clear that something like dating existed in some places, for much of the same reasons it later would, quite a bit earlier.  If Joe Smith, cowhand who is filing for a small homestead, rides into town and asks Mable Jones outside of the Methodist Church on Sunday morning if she'd like to attend the ranch dance at the Goose Egg next Saturday, are they courting, or dating?  Smith's parents probably live in Arkansas, and Jones in Maine.  No family introductions will be occurring.  I think that's dating.

For that matter, if Otto Ungs asks Gertrude Meis if she would like to attend the St. Patrick's Day picnic that the Irish at Holy Ghost are putting on next Thursday in downtown Denver, are they dating or courting, even if Meis' parents like in Denver and will be there?  Hard to say, but it crosses some line a bit.

And I think what we've really seen, to a large degree, is that there's been some societal evolution that's confused us a bit on what we've seen.  We can see that in the history of dating, actually.

Much is made of the "went to college" aspect of dating vs. courting. And there's something to that.  But unless we are prepared to accept the idea that the relatively few people who attended college in the 20s and 30s had a massive influence on the behavior of the many who did not, younger than them, we have a bit of a problem here. And I've already suggested that the spread of "dating" was due to wider reasons than the increase of the college aged population after World War One.

 Cinema exploiting the exotic nature of college, to most Americans, and single couples in a movie being made at Columbia University in 1927.  Films inform our concept of things and movies like this probably continue to influence our concept of this story today.

Well I doubt that.

And if we look at dating over time, I think the doubt is born out.

We've already explored the somewhat fluid nature of society and of this entire process above. But what I didn't emphasize there is that society itself was generally more balkanized, if you will, than it now is.  Indeed, it was by quite some measure.

Let's start with the college example, to which so many people routinely cite.  Yes, young people did attend alone, as noted, but who attended?  Well, mostly white Protestants attended.

Indeed, depending upon the school, being a Protestant and of means was practically necessary.  So, if a person was going to Princeton or Yale, they were Protestants and of sufficient means to attend.  Most of the Ivy League schools, in fact, had chapel requirements until well after World War Two.  So, for those dating young people at these schools, they were dating very much within their classes.  It wouldn't be very likely for much wide mixing to occur in this context and if it did, it was likely to be withing Protestant confessions.  Not that this couldn't be a problem, it could be, but it wasn't likely at all, for example, for Jewish or Catholic college students to be anywhere in this mix.

This gets more blurred, however, when you start considering state colleges, which were already well up and running.  They had wider diversity than the Ivy League, but there were still wide demographics that did not attend them.  So, for them, you might get a sort of wider mixing portrayed well (but still somewhat out of the context we're describing) by the movie A River Runs Through It, in which we see a young college educated Presbyterian man meet a young woman, who has dropped out of college, who is a Methodist, back in their Montana home town.

 Sharecroppers dance, 1939, Oklahoma.

Otherwise the demographic factors already discussed were in operation.  People met their spouses within the group of which they were part, which is still the case today, but the groups are larger.  Many people met at church.  People certainly met at school, but schools were generally local.  In areas with distinct ethnicities the schools reflected that.  In areas where there were sufficient numbers of Catholics there were Catholic schools (and still are) and Catholic students met each other there.  In large enough cities this was sufficiently the case that such schools might even reflect distinct ethnicities.  Denver had, and still has,  Polish Catholic school, where students learn Polish.  Salt Lake City has an excellent Greek Orthodox school.  There are Jewish schools in some areas, and even where there are not where there are large Jewish communities Jewish children will often attend "Hebrew School" to learn aspects of their faith.  Mormon students even today attend an institution which Mormons refer to as "seminary" although its distinctly different than what that means in the typical context.

Continuing out, even public schools reflected this.  Prior to really good school transportation all the students in a rural school were from the immediate area.  Black students were, in areas with large black populations, subject to segregation.  And so on.

And, in many ares of the country, communities themselves were very much made up of people who were like each other.  This is still true, of course, but was more so at the time.  Taking another movie example, albeit one that was depicting its own era, the film Marty does a good job of depicting dating at the time it was filmed in the 1950s.  Notable in it is that it depicts a romance and conditions all amongst people who are of the same basic class, background and religion.  Another, more recent and fairly accurate depiction is given by the film Brooklyn.

 Dancing young couple, San Angelo Fat Stock Show, San Angelo Texas, 1940s.

If this doesn't quite reflect dating today, that's because society has become more fluid and societal lines with it.  Busing and the end of segregation has ended some of the sharp ethnic lines that once existed.  Affirmative action programs, which followed in the wake of the huge expansion of the college population following World War Two, have changed the mix in college.  The concept that careers are the end all and be all of existence has caused college graduates to often delay their marriages which means that many now find spouses in their professional lives.  The end of the Protestant nature of universities, and for that matter the end of the Catholic nature of Catholic universities, has meant that the former divisions that existed in private higher education are largely gone.  So, in essence, there is a wider pool

Also, and it can't be denied, the destruction of standards brought about by the 1960s and the unrestrained adoption of views hostile by nature by the political left and its adherents has brought about a lot of confusion in the entire are of male female relationships and relationships in general, and that's done damage to dating and marriage in general.  Not that its destroyed them, but it's definitely done damage.

Which,  suppose, brings me to my concluding point.  Its easy to take a romanticized view of the past, but it's also easy to dismiss claims that the past, in some ways, was better, at some things, than the present. And here we have to give pause.  Nobody but a hopeless romantic would suggest that the world should adopt something like what we see in portrays of Georgian courting as a standard, and for most people, that was never the standard anyway.  And frankly the "courting" rituals depicted in the Duggar's, or rather the arranged marriages we see there, are frightening.  But something has been lost by the destruction of standards brought about in the wake of the 60s and 70s, but which only came into full fruition in this century.  Part of that is simply based on the emphasis on the wrong, and indeed, quite trivial influences we now see, both societal, career and economic.  Taking something out of the past, while maybe not possible, should at least be done by influence.  The close nature of prior behavior within closer communities produced, it would seem, fairly good results based on things that were more solid than career and checkbook.

Rural African American couple in the 1920s.