Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Big Speech: Trees

1918. Poet Joyce Kilmer, U.S. Army sergeant, killed in France.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree .

MId Week At Work: Elevator Operator

At one time nearly every elevator had an operator.  Now elevator operators are rare, and where they exist are sort of a luxury throwback to a once common occupation.  They had operators, as they were not simple to operate at first, and then later required some operation in any event.

One of the great dramatic comedies of the 1960s (really reflecting the post World War Two, mid 60s United States) featured Shirley McClain in the role of an elevator girl, that being The Apartment.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Big Speech: Liesure, by W. H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

The Big Picture: Union Stock Yards, Chicago Illinois 1907

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The 33% not thrilled by their phones

Three out of the four of us acquired new cell phones yesterday.  33% of those recipients are not thrilled about it.

I'm in that 33%.

I was a late adopter of cell phones.  Having a thing that I could pack around all the time to take calls didn't strike me as something that I wanted to do, and my early experiences with people who thought they were the niftiest thing ever didn't do much to change my mind on that.  But, due to work and the adoption of technology in business, I ended up having to do it, taking at first one of my wife's cast off phones.

Following that, I was slow to adopt the smart phone.  I just wasn't that impressed.  But there came a time when I was tracking settlement negotiations in a case and found I was hindered without one. So on came the Iphone.

I just upgraded my Iphone to the Iphone 5s.  Not because I feel I must have the latest and greatest, but rather because as my Iphone 4 aged, and as new programs for Iphones seemed to come on at a steady speed, its battery life was down to way too short.  As I have adopted the use of the phone for electronic airline tickets, a feature I do indeed like, and as I travel around in that role a fair amount, this was becoming a problem. So I decided to upgrade to a new phone which will hopefully have a longer battery life.

My wife, and now my son, take care of all phone stuff as I'm way too disinterested in phones to bother with them, and as they really like cell phones. So when upgrading, they found a whole bunch of upgrades were available for their phones, and now there are three new smart phones in the family, only one of which is an Iphone.

They're thrilled, but they're bothered that I'm not thrilled.  And I'm not.  Its hard to get excited about a piece of equipment that I was never keen on in the first place and which intrudes on things at every hour of the day, everywhere.  I recognize what a brilliant piece of technology they are, but having an Iphone is sort of like having Steve Jobs following me around all day, eating in my kitchen, and screaming messages at me whether I want them or not.  The features I really like on the, the ability to get podcasts and listen to music, don't have much to do with the phone part.

It isn't that I don't like some of the things smart phones have brought to us.  I do.  I like the fact that text messaging, and the fact that everyone carries these things everywhere anymore, mean that I can catch up with my family, and vice versa, nearly effortlessly.

But there's no denying that cell phones have brought work into the home, and been a factor in the 24 hour a day work place as well.  And they mean that conversations that can wait of all types, now have to take place instantly.

Yesterday afternoon, I was high in the mountains at a cattle camp, and while there, there was a conversation about cell phones, and which ones sort of work on the mountain, and which ones don't.  Satellite phones even came into the conversation.  While I didn't say it, the fact that there's no cell phone service up there strikes me as a good thing, and while I know that day is ending, and will end soon, I'll be sorry to see it end. And it's hard not to look back to an era well within my memory when there were no cell phones, and a lot of places in my world were much remoter.  I miss that.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Land For 25 Cents: Homesteading In Wyoming by Wyoming Public Media on SoundCloud - Hear the world’s sounds

Land For 25 Cents: Homesteading In Wyoming by Wyoming Public Media on SoundCloud - Hear the world’s sounds

Law school applications down 37 percent since 2010; first-year class could be smallest in 40 years

Law school applications down 37 percent since 2010; first-year class could be smallest in 40 years

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Fate of Arab Christians

I've started a couple of threats on the topic of ISIL and what's going on in the Middle East.  In doing that, I wiped one out and decided not to publish it, and another I have still in the draft stage.  Post that appear here are sometimes in the draft stage for a very long time.

But that does no good if the intent is to comment on something topical, which this is.  The Sunni insurgent group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is acting to bring about the absolute end of Christianity in Iraq, and should it succeed in Syria, it will do the same there.

Christianity is one of the oldest surviving religions in the region, older than Islam in that region we so heavily identify with Islam, and even within relatively recent historical times its been fairly vibrant there, although it's always been repressed since the region came to be dominated by Islam.  In those areas where it remained strong, and they are surprisingly numerous, it was in part because populations of Christians remained relatively numerous.

And by Christians we mean Catholic and Orthodox Christians.  Not necessarily the Latin and Greek branches of those Faiths, but part of them.  Iraq, due to English influence, once had a small population of Anglicans, but by and large Christians in the region are some type of Catholic or some type of Orthodox Christian.

Americans tend to believe that all people are tolerant democrats at heart, which they are not.  One of the things that has been very difficult for Americans to accept is that large patches of the Islamic world are heavily intolerant to any other religion, and always have been. The violent suppression of other religions is a hallmark of Islam since its early days.  Now, it is true, as some will not doubt point out, that this isn't universally true, and there are plenty of contrary examples. Still, the exceptions don't make the rule, and by and large the cradle of Islam has been pretty consistently hostile to other Faiths.

In the Middle East, where this has not been true, it has tended to be the case that there remained reservoirs of significant populations of other peoples.  And where the governments in power have not acted to suppress Christianity in recent decades, its tended to be for this reason, or because the leaders and elites of those countries have been Westernized and tended to adopt some of our values, or because the governments were minority governments which themselves feared the majority.  And, finally, in some instance the governments were, whether we like it or not, secular governments that were heavily influenced by authoritarian philosophies.

This latter example is significant in that Islam really doesn't recognize a distinction between a secular and religious authority, and it its early days the two were the same.  Indeed, the entire concept of a Caliphate, which ISIL states its seeks to restore, is based on that.  For much of its history made no recognized distinction between civil and religious authority, so most early Islamic governments made some claim to having religious authority.  And the religion was spread at sword point early on. And the early part of its history resulted in a vast Islamic empire, whose titular ruler was the Caliph.

The Caliphs claimed authority by virtue of the delegation of that authority from Mohamed, and blood relationship to Mohamed, in some cases. The problem here, from that point of view, is that only two early Caliph are universally recognized by Moslems as a Caliph.  After the first two, the Sunni and Shiia split occurred, and they thereafter have a different view on who was legitimately a Caliph.  Hence the concern that Shiia Arabs in Iraq and Shiia Persians in Iran have over Sunni ISIL.

At any rate, it is definitely the case that for many long decades a Sunni Caliph held a claim of authority over a huge track of the Middle East, and even up into Spain at one point, before the Islamic tide began to recede.  Different dynasties arose and over time the claims to authority became murky.  The last person to claim any such authority was the Ottoman Abdülmecid II, who lost that position as a result of the revolt of the Young Turks and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  In the 1920s the Turkish parliament abolished the position, and it passed into history.  That established the concept of a secular government in the Islamic world, but one that was a military backed authoritarian one.  For the most part, most governments in that region that haven't somewhat followed that model haven't been successful.  And some of those that didn't follow it, but were still somewhat successful, were based on a quasi fascist model.

The net result of this is that since George Bush II we've been pretty naive about the region and we failed to recognize that if we took the lid off anywhere, the resulting mess would be very bad indeed.  In wiping out Baathist fascism in Iraq, we succeeded in unleashing rural radicalized primitive Sunnism there.

Now, I am not claiming for a second that every Sunni has murder of Christians in his heart.  That was never the case,  and it is less the case now than ever. But its less the case now than ever because the Arab world is slowly entering the globalized western world, and as it does the concept of a global theocracy appeals less and less to its base.  It's just not going to happen.  And most don't want it. For that matter, for much of its history, when there was a Caliphate, its legitimacy was open to question and its actual administration had fallen into the inevitable corruption that such things do.  The Caliphate ISIL imagines is one that didn't exist for a very long time.

But there are still a lot of poorly educated, or just desperate, Sunnis who will and are turning to the root core of their faith, and that root core has always advocated the violent evangelizing of the entire world, and the conversion of it at sword point.  Most of the time, most weren't acting that way, but there are spectacular examples to the contrary.  That's what  they are now trying to do in Iraq.  Christians are being ordered to convert or die.  Churches are being destroyed.  And there's even an order to Christians for them to give up their daughters to Islamist for marriage.

I fear that we're going to do nothing about this, even though it was our act in bringing down Saddam Hussein, who as a Baathist was a secularist, that caused this to come about.  And we're likely to watch this story repeat itself in Syria, to our shame.  We're going to ignore the situation as the hard truths of it don't fit the My Pretty Pony world we like to pretend exists.  We don't like to admit that there's a large group of people who are not democrats, and not tolerant.  We don't like to admit that those people will act lethally. And we don't like to admit that we blew it in invading Iraq in the first place, and blew it again by leaving too soon, and blew it further by thinking the the government we left there was going to work.

And we also have a hard time, or at least many Americans do, in appreciating that the Christians in the region are real Christians.  They definitely aren't evangelical protestants.  They trace their communities to the very earliest days of Christianity, and they are Arab Christians.  To many in the west, that seems very foreign and strange.

There are lessons here in great numbers, but I fear that nobody is going to bother learning them.

Today In Wyoming's History: Natrona County International Air Port, formerlly t...

Today In Wyoming's History: Natrona County International Air Port, formerlly t...: Twelve locations on the ground of the Natrona County International Airport, which started out as a United States Army Air Force base during ...

Standards of Dress

Over the weekend, I drove down to Ft. Collins to purchase a couple of suits. "Business Suits" that is.

While I work as a lawyer, I really don't like buying formal wear at all. I'm not sure why, but it may be the peasant in me. I rarely wear suits, and never wear them except in court. A lot of times in court I'll wear a sports coat and tie, although I should probably wear suits more often. While sports coat and tie are very common here, even combined with black jeans and nice cowboy boots, as I will sometimes do, I actually was privy to a female lawyer, who moved in here from elsewhere, complaining about that recently, so perhaps I should forgo that for the most part and try to look a little more "lawyer like".

Anyhow, what a remarkable change in dress standards we have witnessed in the past half century. Up until at least the 1950s, men who worked in town wore suit and tie darned near every day, unless they have a fairly physical job. And they wore suit and tie quite a bit outside of work as well. Photographs as late as the 50s show, for example, men wearing suits just to board aircraft.

This started to change in the 60s, I suppose as a part of that turbulent era, as young males adopted jeans and t-shirts in a conscious, semi-conscious, or unconscious, effort to emulate the "working man", whether they were working men or not. And as the boomers of that era aged, the old clothing standards never really revived. Now it is common really to view sports coats and ties as being fairly dressed up, when they used to be regarded as fairly dressed down.

Taking this back a bit further, I recently watched one of the special features of the DVD version on the new Coen Brothers "True Grit" film. For those who have not seen the film, I highly recommend it. Anyhow, the portion of the special features addressing dress was quite interesting, with the clothing designer noting that for town dress, even though the majority of people in town would have been farmers, she would have expected them to be relatively formally dressed. That's probably fully correct.

As long time readers of this blog, i.e, me, as I'm probably the only reader, this blog is part of an effort, really, to look into the 1910 to 1920 time frame, but with a lot of interest in earlier in later eras. I'd expect the 1910 to 1920 era to have about the same sartorial standards as the earlier era depicted in True Grit, and which continued on for quite some time later. That is, even in that heavily agricultural era, in most of the US, town dress was fairly formal. Rural working dress would not have been of course, but people in town would not normally have been dressed down no matter what their station in life may have been.



I've recently had a couple of experiences that reminded me of this old post.

One of these was that I was in Court the other day, when a docket call was going on.  A docket call is when parties with various types of cases, usually criminal cases, appear before the court briefly.

When a person appears before the court, they probably ought to try to look sharp.  It makes some sort of impression on everyone, I'm quite sure. But sartorial standards  have fallen so low that it seems many people don't know that, and a few of those people are the lawyers, amazingly enough.

While I was there I noted that a large number of people appearing before the court were in t-shirts.  I suppose that was everyday attire, and that's what they had.  Nonetheless, it doesn't leave the best impression.  It particularly does not of the t-shirts have a vaguely legal theme.  One person had on t-shirt that had the words "Southern Justice" on it, with the scale of justice tipped to one side.  Granted, we aren't in the south, but if you are making an appearance in a criminal case, that's a bad idea.  Another person had one that said something about "Pirate's *****."  It was probably whimsical or even a little risque, but still, pirates were thieves and you probably don't want the court to associate you with them.

At one time, except for the extremely poor, shirt and tie would have been expected for men.  A person might even have risked being dressed down for failing to wear that, save for cases of poverty.  Following that old rule here remains a good idea.

Epilogue II


Another experience that caused me to ponder this a bit recently is that I've been doing a fair amount of traveling, which means that I've been getting a fair amount of airport and airplane time.

If you glance through photos from the 1950s or early 60s, when air travel really took off, of people traveling in airplanes, its a bit of a shock to see how dressed up everyone was.  Men, for example, routinely were in suit and tie.  Servicemen were in their dress uniforms.  Hardly anyone is really dressed down.

Now, just the opposite is true.  I cannot ever personally remember a time when people were not fairly informally dressed in the airport or on airplanes.  Indeed, if I see a man with a tie on, I know he's come right from, or going right to, a meeting.  Indeed, pretty much only business travelers routinely dress in a "dressed up" fashion, with "business casual" being the norm for them.

Recently, however, the level of dress has been amazingly varied.  Some people opt to travel in clothes designed for the gym, I guess, and are really dressed down.  I've travelled plenty of times in airplanes in my jeans, and thought I was comfortably dressed, but I can't imagine wearing trousers designed for the gym on an airplane.  I'd feel self conscious and uncomfortable.

But not as self conscious as I would feel at a store in my pj's, but that's antihero odd trend, mostly exhibited by women.  I'm starting to see a few women in stores wearing their pj's and slippers.  I appreciate people are pressed for time, but nobody is ever that pressed for time.  It looks sloppy and most people don't really want to be seeing non family members in their pj's, particularly in public.  I guess it says something about how informal our era has become that people shopping in their pajamas isn't wholly unusual.  Or just seeing somebody out in public in their pajamas isn't wholly unusual.

Epilogue III

The Clothing of Youth.

Recently I've also had an odd experience that causes me to recall this thread.

I pass a local high school everyday, and in the course of doing that, I notice some rather interesting clothing styles.

Teenagers in that age range have always given us some interesting clothing trends, to be followed by, or sometimes lead by, people in their early 20s.  For example, people in their 20s gave us all the interesting clothing associated with the Jazz Age, including shorter skirts and raccoon coats.  In the 1950s this age range gave us Levis and t-shirts for people who weren't really working in labor, although most clothing was still pretty conservative.  Photos from the 1930s and 1940s show this age range dressed like adults, which in the years of World War Two and the Great Depression, they were.  The 60s, of course, brought in all sorts of stuff, and when I was in high school we pretty much all wore t-shirts to school.

The oddest high school age trend I've noticed are girls who have adopted the "Furry Lifestyle", going to high school dressed as cats or wolves. That's just weird in my opinion, but some do it every day, even wearing tails.  Very odd.

But that's now what inspired me to write.  Every day when I go by the high school I see one kid who is wearing a suit and tie. Every day.  And he looks perfectly natural in it.  Indeed, I've seen him so often that way, I'd now be shocked if he wasn't dress that way.  Interesting to see that in somebody so young.

Epilogue IV

Manly Dressing.

Somewhat off topic, but a podcast episode on men's dress on the Art of Manliness. 

Epilogue V.

Clothing at Church.

Okay, now for one that's again observational, but a bit counterintuitive.

You can fairly easily find, on the net, various gentle reminders by at least Catholic clerics, and probably others, that when people arrive at Churches on Sunday, they perhaps ought to dress up a beyond their usual standards, which as noted is, in the US, a pretty low standard. But you won't find those here locally.  Indeed, looking back to when I was a kid, I can't recall the standards of dress for Sunday Mass being particularly high.  And my recollection is pretty good.

I'm not saying that there was never a year when those attending Mass on Sunday didn't dress up. There may have been, but I can't recall it, and my memory stretches back on that at least to the late 1960s.  People have, in the time I can recall, always worn their regular clothing. So here's a local phenomenon, at least, that counters the trend noted here to an extent. Whey would that be?

I'm not entirely certainly, but I suspect that reflects something about the conditions of the rural West and perhaps something about the demographic I'm recalling.  In an area where a lot of people had very rural jobs, or heavy labor jobs, their clothing may have been their clothing, and that was the way it was. So they wore what they wore.

This isn't to say they wore dirty clothing or anything of the type.  That would not be true.  But, for example, people from ranches wore blue jeans and boots, and a clean shirt.  Men of any walk of life only rarely wore a tie.  School age kids wore what they wore to school, if they went to public school, where there were not uniforms.

Having said thsi, I suspect that if a person went back further than the 1950s, they'd find a  different situation at work.

Now, having made this observation, I will add a couple.  One thing that I now see at Mass that I never saw when younger was young men wearing shorts.  We didn't have any shorts, and that may be the reason why, but I do wonder if our parents would have approved of that.

And another is that t-shirts have changed over the years, which is interesting. I've written on this before, but t-shirts seem to have their own trend line at Church, at least by my narrow personal observation.  When I was young, we would wear t-shirts to Mass, including the period of time during which I was a university student.  In the 1990s I was seeing a lot of t-shirts, including quite a few of the type with highly rude slogans on them, which really weren't appropriate for Mass, if appropriate for anywhere.  Now, however, that's increasingly uncommon.  T-shirts aren't disappearing, as noted earlier, but young people at Mass do not wear them as much as they used to.  Indeed, I'm seeing a lot of nicer athletic shirts of one kind or another now. T-shirts that do show up, in season, are generally pretty appropriate for general wear.  And very recently I've seen some young people who wear t-shirts that specifically have a religious message, indicating that these shirts were chosen intentionally for the message, making them oddly appropriate as an informal piece of apparel for this setting.

Indeed, in spite of my earlier comments on t-shirts, I somewhat wonder if this all indicates a trend line away from t-shirts.  They're not going to disappear, but they do seem to dominate less of the clothing worn by people than they did only a decade ago.

Epilogue VI.

Clothing at Church.

But then, on the other hand. . . . 

Sometimes, after you write something, you find a reason that you have to reconsider or modify your prior stated item.  And this weekend I happened to observe something that causes me to do that.  It's a minor item, and I've already noted it on the post on hats and caps.  The item is women's head coverings at church, or more specifically the Catholic Mass.

Women at Mass, 1940s.

It was once a rule that women attending Mass, in some localities, had to have their heads covered.  I don't recall this rule personally, and indeed my personal recollection is quite the opposite.  But I was aware that hit had been a rule.  I'd just forgotten it.

In fact, it was further a rule that Catholic Priests, for much of the 20th Century, had to wear a hat while outdoors. Typically that was the typical men's business wear type hats of the time.  I.e., we'd expect a Fedora or a hat of that type. As I understand it, and I may not understand it well, this rule had to do with expressing respect.

This is all largely a thing of the past, which shows our changing views on this topic, but I recalled it as I happened to see two separate families at Mass in which the woman or girls were wearing lace head coverings.  It was practically startling in light of the fact that it is so rare.  Indeed, all of these girls and women were dressed very conservatively.  That shouldn't be read to mean something like Amish, which would be completely false, but simply nicely conservatively dressed.  Indeed, the conservative dress was really working for them, which points out the irony of conservative dress in loose clothing standards times being attention getting, irrespective of its intent.

I was aware that some people have continued on this old practice voluntarily, which isn't to say that I'm making a pitch for the rule to be returned.  Not at all.  I'm merely noting it.  And, by the same token I should note that certain religions have an actual rule requiring daily conservative dress, with strict Orthodox Jews being the most notable.  It's interesting that in their case, this does indeed make their appearance more distinct than in former eras, when many people were somewhat similarly dressed on a daily basis.

Epilogue VII

Men dressing their age

Just before this update, I posted Pope's "An Essay on Criticism", which is the source of the quote "fools rush in where Angels fear to tread".   I note that, as what I'm about to say is probably foolish.

I was at an event recently which had young people at it.  It was on a really nice day, the first really nice sunny day we'd had for awhile.  It was an outdoor sporting event, but one of those individual sports of skill, as opposed to a team sport.  And its a sport that probably sees a lot more participation from adults than it does from children, but most of the people who engage in it learned the sport as children, as its generally outdoorsy, usually people dress somewhat in that fashion while engaging in it, assuming that they don't have clothing specially made for it, which some do.

Anyhow, while at this a father and son set showed up, which is a gratifying thing to see, but they were both dressed, well. . . sort of like toddlers.

That may sound like a peculiar description, and in part that's because of my age.  Allow me to define it further.  Both father and son (son probably about 10 or 11, father probably 30 something) were wearing baseball caps with the brims completely flat, in the style currently popular with teens.  Both had their hats a bit off kilter directionally as well, which is common with aficionados of that cap genre.  Both were wearing floppy shorts, and both we wearing the brightly colored jersey of some athletic team.  It presented, shall we say, an extremely youthful appearance.

It was also clothing that was generally inappropriate for the activity, although you could get by.  But the odd thing is that it made father and son look like twins separated by a vast gulf of time.

Now, part of my reaction to this is no doubt as this clothing style simply didn't exist when I was young.  Wearing team jerseys was common, and I don't have an objection to it, but the shorts and off kilter cap look would have gotten us beat up when I was a teen, and there's no way that we would have affected that style.  I think it odd looking when I see teens wearing it now, but then teens have always tended, to a certain degree, to angle for odd clothing, although I can't really think of that being the case when I was a teen (maybe we wore badger robes rather than bear robes. . . its' been a long time ago).

Anyhow, while its not apparent to us, Americans have a reputation as being the sloppiest dressed people on the planet, and while its up to people to dress how they want to dress, stuff like this sort of contributes to that.  And at some age, you just can't get by dressing like a youngster anymore.

In the theme of this blog, I flat out do not think this occurred with men at all up until fairly recently.  Men always dressed like adults.  If you heard criticism of a man dressing under his age, it was for trying to affect one of the adult style of the era. So, for example, if you had a guy in his 50s wearing chains and keeping his shirt unbuttoned, in the 1970s, he'd get a verbal busing behind his back, no doubt.  A guy that age probably couldn't have gotten away dressing in a Zoot Suit in the 40s, for that matter. But to dress as "youthful" as we see some adults dress now would not only spark some degree of ridicule, but you'd really have people talking about you in a former era, if you were a man.  With women this seems to be markedly less of a trend now, and women still have the age old social control of getting criticism from their fellows if they dress too much like a teen, when they're not.  So we don't really find the phenomenon of women dressing way down in age to be common.

Epilogue VIII

It turns out that essays of this type are more common than I'd thought, or that I would have guessed.  A website I stumbled on has an entire series of them, basically cast in the vein of assistance.

An essay related to this topic, Four Reasons To Learn Style Rules.

And, Style, Not Sin, Part 1

Style, Not Sin, Part 2..

An essay on shoes from the same source; Style Starts With Shoes.

What probably is not obvious to folks is that in spite of what we'd think, even in the US which has next to no clothing rules left, people still judge each other by appearances.  People don't think that this is the case, but it tends to be to a surprising degree.

Epilogue IX

Regarding the courtroom item noted above, I'm not the only lawyer to have noted this, the Bow Tie Lawyer has commented on it recently as well. 

USDA Announces New Support for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

USDA Announces New Support for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Nice, I suppose, but the real problem faced by beginning farmers and ranchers is that land prices aren't priced for farmers and ranchers.

Everything else just chips away at the edges.  If would be farmers and ranchers can't afford the land, they will not be getting a start in it, no matter what.  That's a problem that is difficult to address unless the proposed solutions are fairly radical in nature, which nobody seems to want to take on.

Friday Farming: British Women's Land Army

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On Riding A Bicycle

Most summers I ride my bicycle to work quite a bit.  I do that as it forces me to get a bit of exercise, it saves on the use of diesel fuel, and because I just like doing it. This year, however, I got around to that for the first time today.  I didn't get a chance earlier as it seems the City of Casper and the State of Wyoming has determined to rip up every street I might conceivable wish to ride on this summer, simultaneously.  On my way here today, for example, I went through two construction zones.

British Army bicycle, World War Two.

I have noticed more intrepid bicyclists riding through the highway construction zone near my house, so not all have been deterred.  In watching them, and in riding this morning, I've been reminded by some of the odd behavior bicyclists exhibit, and which motorist also exhibit in regards to them.  Only a minority of each exhibit these traits, but still, its interesting.

The dangerous motorist exceptions.

One thing that riding a bicycle causes you to encounter are the dangerous motorist, of which there are two types. The Super Courteous Motorist, and the Super Aggressive Motorist.  This morning, I encountered the Super Courteous Motorist.

People of this type, when encountering a bicycle stopped at an intersection, will choose to yield their right of way even it means getting everyone killed in the process.

That's what I encountered this morning.  I was stopped on a quiet residential street I take that intersects a very heavily traveled street. All I have to do is what a car, or a pedestrian, would do, which is wait for a break in traffic.  It's not a long wait.  Still, some motorist came to a screeching halt on the busy street nearly causing a fast moving car behind her to nearly plow right into her rear end.  She simply parked there in the street, with cars whipping around here, expecting me to proceed out into traffic.  I'm not going to do that, as she's the only party yielding and the same rules of the road that apply to cars, apply to me.  Finally, I had to get her moving again by repeatedly waiving her on, while other motorist went right around her.  I suspect she was probably insulted by my refusal to bike out into heavy traffic to validate her courtesy.  Still, it's not a very thoughtful action in the true sense. She was very nearly injured by the fact that a car behind her had to avoid crashing into her, and I would have been injured had I taken her offer up.

The opposite of this is the person who seemingly takes personal exception to somebody riding a bike.  They're not going to yield an inch, not even to give you a little more room when you are already over the fog line.  Doggone it, if they can't be bothered to ride, you can't either, even if it means blasting by you when they know they're close.

The arrogant bicyclist exception.

Just as there's a Super Aggressive Motorist, there's the super aggressive bicyclist.  These people know they have the same legal rights as automobiles, and they're going to use them. They ride in the travel lane no matter what.

The problem here is that bikes are actually not all that easy to see, and if a motorist doesn't see them, it's bad for the bicyclist.  Some bikers just won't acknowledge that for some odd reason.  As an example of this, the other day on my way to work I fell behind a bicyclist who absolutely refused to yield to vehicles.  We were in a 40 mph zone at the time, and he was riding fast, but not all that fast. Still, I slowed down and simply rode behind him. When the road divided and became two lanes, he kept it up. At that point the speed limit drops to 30 mph, but most people keep on going 40 mph.  I dropped my speed, and a person pulled out to pass me but did notice him.

What's the point of that.  If you get hit by a car, you're doomed. Wake up.

The funky bicyclist.

It's been a feature of American life since the late 1970s that anything the boomers take up comes with a new set of clothing no matter how long people have undertaken the activity.  So it is with bicycling.

Bikes first entered the American scene in numbers in the 1890s, where they were really the vehicle that really liberated people from what they cold do on foot in the cities.  Bikes have been around ever since, but it wasn't until the 1990s that people thought they had to dress like they were in the Tour de France to ride a bike.

If you look at photos from any era prior to that, you'll find a lot of people dressed in every day clothing riding bikes.  Men in suits, students in their day clothes, even soldiers in their uniforms.  Now people seem to think they have to wear a jersey and tight shorts.

Well, being a contrarian, I'm having none of it.  I've ridden a bike to work in the summer for 25 years and I wear my office clothes doing that.  Some days that means a tie.  I'm not going to ride in the Tour de France but I'm just as much of a bicyclist in the traditional sense as those guys.  I can wear what I want, and frankly a lot of people who don't race bikes (I get it for bicycle racers) could dress a little more normally as well.

Watch out for the Bull: Frank the Farm Truck Roars Back to Life

Watch out for the Bull: Frank the Farm Truck Roars Back to Life

Watch out for the Bull: Peach Cobblers and Cutting Hay

Watch out for the Bull: Peach Cobblers and Cutting Hay

Mid Week at Work: Drilling

In the pre hard hat days, obviously.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lincoln Nebraska + Two Toy Cameras


When I was a kid, I routinely wore a couple of items of camouflage in the winter. I had a camouflage Jones Hat, and a camouflage winter coat.  Both had the "duck hunter" pattern of camouflage, which is why I had them to start with.  I'm a duck hunter.

U.S. Army troops, World War Two, wearing the duck hunter pattern of camouflage developed for the Army.  This pattern wasn't used by the Army long, as it was found in Europe that troops routinely associated camouflage with the SS.  This photo is additionally interesting in that every soldier in the photograph is armed with a bolt action M1903 and M1917s rifles, rather than the M1 Garand, and the one soldier with a hat wears the early war pattern of fatigue brimmed hat.  It's probably a relatively early war photo.  The use of M1917s is fairly rarely seen in photographs from World War Two.

The duck hunter pattern was a product of World War Two.  The U.S. Army started developing it after the Germans, and then the British, introduced camouflage smocks early in the war. The Germans were pioneers in the field, realizing that with cotton print clothing it was now easy to issue a smock with a camouflage pattern.  The British did the same for paratroopers after being impressed with German paratroopers early in the war. The US followed suit, but not being too keen on smocks, simply went for a cotton camouflage uniform.

That uniform saw very little Army use in the war, because by the time the Army first fielded it in June 1944, camouflage was already heavily associated with German machinegun crews, and camouflage wearing U.S. troops started to take some friendly fire. So the pattern was withdrawn, and the existing clothing supplied to the Marines, who wore it in the Pacific.  That soured the US Army on camouflage for a long time, but duck hunters did take up the pattern post war, and it came to be identified with them as a result.  This was so much the case that when the Army first bought some camouflage uniforms, again in this pattern, on a limited basis early in the Vietnam War and during the Bay of Pigs adventure, for Cubans, it bought civilian duck hunter items, which were pretty close to the U.S. Army item of World War Two anyway.  Indeed, I have a shirt in the pattern that I used hunting as a kid, and it's darned near identical to the World War Two Army item.

It wasn't until the Vietnam War that the US really changed its mind about camouflage. The war saw the unofficial adoption of Vietnamized French patterns (the Lizard pattern) in the form of the Tiger Stripe pattern.  By war's end, the services had introduced the woodlands pattern in a tropical combat uniform, although it was issued mostly to Marines and Air Force ground support personnel.  It wasn't until the early 1980s that the Army started to issue a new woodlands pattern to every soldier.

By that time, I was in the National Guard and my basic training cycle was the first one at Ft. Sill to receive the new woodland uniform.  

At that time, if you wore camouflage, it meant one of three things.  1)  you were in the service; 2) you were  a hunter, and probably a bird hunter; 3) you'd recently been in the service. That's about it.

Somehow, since that time, the wearing of camouflage has exploded as a major fashion item.  It's simply everywhere.

Yesterday, in the office, I saw a pair of camouflage Capri pants.  I see camouflage ball caps everywhere.  Lots of kids routinely wear camouflage shorts.  I've even seen an advertisement for camouflage saddle oxford shoes.  

How did that all occur?
 Your camouflaged correspondent in South Korea.  First pattern woodlands BDU uniform, with woodlands M65 Field Jacket, and Vietnam War era pattern reversible helmet cover.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Western Union Horses

I was looking at something in regards to the Johnson County War the other day, and was reminded that the horses used by the Invaders were leased from Western Union. Indeed, one of the Invaders who detached from the column was identified as such by the fact that his horse bore their brand, and by that time, in Buffalo, they knew that the Invaders had Western Union horses.

Does anyone know the story behind Western Union horse. When did they stop leasing them and how much of their business was based no horse leasing?

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Riding and physical fitness

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Riding and physical fitness

The Big Picture: Employees of 7-20-4, R. G. Sullivan, Cigar Factory, Manchester, N.H., no. 192, Members of Cigar Makers, International Union, June 24, 1921

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Men, women, work and careers. Work in the age of certification

Recently there was some discussion on the nature of modern life and work on the excellent 1870 to 1918 blog.  This came about due to discussion on the entry regarding Newfoundland's soldiers on the Somme, although it isn't directly related to the contexts of that post.  The basic observations that inspired this post had to do with the decline in rural occupations, and indeed the yielding of those occupations to tourist based ones in some instances, and the change in the career and employment options available to women.  A couple of the older posts on this blog, including the one on Romanticizing the Past and Women in the Workplace were linked in, and they are relevant to this post, but already contained posts so I won't go back over and restate what's in those posts.

 Really rosy view of the availability of work from a British motivational series of the 1920s.  The campaign was obviously somewhat naive, but it did come in an era when there was less delineation between categories of work.

The comments to the thread developed a couple of significant themes, one being the nature of modern opportunities in general, and the other being the increased opportunities for women.

This blog, as we know, tries to explore the turn of the prior century, and often compares that period (and others) to the present one. We stray from that quite a bit, but this is a topic, albeit, a big one, that might be explored a bit here, as there are global changes to the nature of work in the US, and of course there's been a huge change in the nature of work for women.  And it raises some massive questions.  Has the nature of lifelong work improved, or declined?  Can that question even be asked when put in a gender context?  Has there been any changes for those entering employment, or sustaining employment, at all?  Was the motivational poster above really reflective of that period and how about now?

Let's start with the topic of female employment.

The entry of women into the non farm, and non domestic, workplace.

The story might not be quite the one that common folklore would have us believe.  We all know that story, which basically holds that women didn't work outside the home prior to World War Two, and the reason for that was both societal, and unfair.  Upon closer examination, that story doesn't hold up.  Rather, what we'd find is that the rise of women in occupations outside the home had been going on since at least the mid 19th Century, and it expressed itself first in occupations that had a close association with with existing female roles.  And the change, as we've already explored somewhat, was more than a little due to technology.  And as we can also see, it was partially due to the spread of wealth somewhat as well.  We can also see that women weren't exactly living a life of leisure prior to this slow shift, or during it.

A World War Two era poster saluting female workers, only one of which would have been in a "traditionally female" occupation at that time.  That tradition was actually quite thin, however, as even females secretaries, such as portrayed in the bottom left hand corner of the print, had only been around for a little over twenty years at that time, and only entered that field following the introduction of the typewriters. As already explored here, we take the position that the introduction of machinery, both domestic and in the office, brought about the introduction of women into the workplace, not World War Two.

a.  The mid 19th Century up to the mid 20th Century

Readers of this blog know that it is our view that the common story about World War Two bringing about a revolution in female employment outside the home is a myth.  Women were not employed in industry for the first time during World War Two and women by and large didn't stick with their industrial occupations post war.  That they were employed during the war is true, but as we've earlier noted, it was domestic machinery that changed their status, and indeed men's status, in regards to household duties.

Woman oiling machine tools, Colt Manufacturing, World War One.  Women occupied wartime industrial jobs during the Great War just as they did during World War Two.  It's just been forgotten.

Female English mechanic, World War One.  Supposedly Germany didn't have a female mechanic until after World War One.  This mechanic probably elected to leave her job after the Great War ended.

 British poster using the efforts of women as a YWCA campaign theme.  Women occupied an incredibly broad number of occupations during World War One.

Concerning machines, and as we need to start somewhere in this tale, something we've touched on only a little in regards to this story, is the introduction of a business machine that had a role in this revolution, although we have addressed it a bit before. That machine was the typewriter, and it's really the typewriter that started the revolution in "word processing" that's ongoing today.  When I first went to work in the law, a quarter century ago, typewriters were still in use and even now our office has one for limited use.  But when they came in, they were truly revolutionary.  One of their impacts was that they introduced women into the office.  We'll start this part of this story there.

 A photograph of a revolution.  Black tenant farmer's wife learning how to type, in hopes of off the farm employment.  This photograph comes right at the point in which thousands were making this transition, from necessary farm employment, now made easier due to mechanization and domestic machinery, to business employment.

The exact process of this is murky, but prior to the typewriter secretaries were generally male.  Certain types of secretaries, such as legal secretaries (scriveners) were specialist. Whey they were all males, as a rule, is something that's not clear to me, and it may in fact have been an accidental product of the domestic labor conditions at the time.  That is, scriveners were all day at their desks and in an era, as already explored, when there had to be by necessity people who were all day at their domestic tasks, perhaps that's just the way it is.  Be that as it may, however, the arrival of the typewriter and the arrival of the female secretary happened simultaneously and drove scriveners out of work fairly rapidly. The extent to which this bucked the general trend is hard to overestimate, as here we have a male job, with no domestic female equivalent job, in which women burst on to the scene, and took over the role, fairly rapidly.

More generally, however, taking into account what we know from earlier discussions, and adding to it what we've sent out above, what we can say is that the general effect of this process was that, at some point prior to World War One, and taking place over a very long time, a series of occupations had slowly opened up to women. They were very limited.  Nursing was one such profession.  Teaching was another.  Industrial seamstresses a third.  And starting around World War One, but more the case by the 1920s, secretaries were an exceptional forth.

Red Cross recruiting poster for nurses serving in the rural United States.  This poster shows the extent to which female occupations were already emerging in their own right. Public Health Nurses frequently operated without the assistance of doctors and largely on their own.  This nurse is shown mounted, and is riding in the conventional fashion.  Indeed, with the short stirrups she's actually riding in the English or Military fashion of the time, a fairly advanced seat.

All of this, of course, in addition to one of the most overlooked of traditional female occupations, that being the female unit of the farm family. That may sound odd, but it's amazingly overlooked. We should take a look at all of this a little more closely, starting with farming.

When people look back now, and say their "ancestors" were farmers, they often are more accurate than they know.  Farms were family units, male and female.  From antiquity to the up until even the present, it's really pretty much impossible to efficiently run a farm, if not outright impossible, as a single individual.  Our collective memories of pre World War Two farms, formed by such dramas as Little House on the Prairie or The Walton's, is very far off the mark.  Those who like the "Little House" series probably ought to read Giants In The Earth for a more realistic view of farming the north country.

 Greek peasants at Marathon. While this photo was obviously taken for another reason, it shows the ancient nature of farming still ongoing in this location at the time this photo was taken. Farmers in their field, including a woman.  The same scene no doubt existed at Marathon in the time frame of the famous battle.

More than any other occupation, women were involved in farming to an extent that made their role indispensable in the pre mechanization era.  Indeed, it was so critical that the conscription and enlistment of farmers during World War One drove Europe the brink of starvation and women were required to carry on farming alone, or with underage youth. Female farm workers were brought from Canada to farm in Great Britain and France to take up the slack.

Woman farmer, World War One.  Women from cities were trained to farm during World War One and World War Two, but no doubt the more common event was that they simply took over their husbands roles as their children picked up the slack for them.

"Freedom, Work, Bread!"  A German communist recruiting poster appeals to a German landser to turn his bayonet fixed rifle and hand grenade against the government.  Part of the appeal is scene by the depiction of work he doesn't have (farm and train in background) and to poor women working the fields alone.

Now, we know things were changing by the 1920s.  And we know things were changing before then. Perhaps we ought to stop and synthesize things a bit here before moving on. With all of the above in mind, what do we know?  Running up to, let's say, 1910, we know the following:
  • Farming was the dominant industry everywhere, and labor on farms was so heavy, no one person could do it themselves.
  • Domestic work was so heavy that no one person could do it themselves either.  Men at work had to reply at somebody at home just to live.
  • Addressing something we hadn't earlier, there was no public assistance for anything, so the byproduct of male female unions, putting it delicately, had to be the duty of those engaged in that activity.
This leaves us, whether people care to like it or not, with a world in which it's going to necessarily be the case that almost all office and industrial employment is male and all domestic work is female. This wasn't, contrary to what some later theorist would like to imagine, the result of inherent male prejudice, but rather because of the way of the world and the nature of work a the time.

Now, starting in the late 19th Century, things began to change. We've seen that. Women began to have a few occupational roles outside the home.  Nursing came in first, teaching second, seamstresses third, secretarial work fourth, and then by the mid 20th Century, many other occupations. Why was that, and why those roles.

Here too, we can see the hand of mechanization at work.

Mechanization really began to hit farming mid 19th Century, although we generally fail to appreciate that.  Prior to that, the number of mechanized implements in farming was quite small. But by the mid 19th Century engineers had turned their talents to farming machinery, and farming machines began to come in. They still required a vast amount of heavy labor to be used, but it wasn't quite as heavy as before.  A slight decrease in labor on the farm resulted, and it was slight.

Wealth also increased in society, and with wealth comes leisure.  Indeed, some have claimed that leisure is the true measure of the success of a society. At any rate, this opened up the door a bit for some women to take up careers, even if only briefly in their lives.  It was natural that the first careers that opened up were ones they were already associated with.

Nursing has been associated with women forever, and probably due to the fact that in the homes, women filled that role, with that sort of nursing equating really with being a type of physician.  They very rarely became physicians as that career wasn't open, as the education for it also wasn't open.  But that when nursing developed as a career in its own right, that women would enter it isn't too surprising.  Aiding in that, in Europe it had long been the case that nursing was associated with nuns, both Catholic and Protestant, and the word for nurse in many countries outside the US is in fact "Sister", taking that title from nuns.  Even in English, outside the US, nurses are commonly called "Sister" and their clothing for many years mimicked that of nuns.

 Nuns of the Battlefield Monument, Washington D.C.

This also raises a topic that's very much overlooked, in that an extremely long standing female career option was the religious life.  For women in the Christian world, if they were Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans or Anglicans, an option always existed to take religious vows. As has already been seen, women who had taken vows were also often in other roles, the most noted examples being educational and nursing roles.  In much of the Western world female religious (nuns) have decreased in numbers since the 1950s, so it's now easy to forget the role they once played, but in terms of the teaching and medical fields, they were pioneers having a very strong presence long before their secular compatriots occupied the same fields.

Teaching has a similar history.  Early on almost all school teachers were men, but most people were educated at home, and the person doing that teaching was almost always female.  Even in wealthy families that role was usually assigned to a female member of the household.  Theodore Roosevelt, for example, was primarily educated by an aunt.  Patton was educated at home by the female members of his household.  When women began to have the opportunity to work outside the home a bit, being a teacher was a natural role for an educated woman, although early on they were mostly assigned to grade school.  Prior to World War One it was already the case that women were becoming a force at the high school level, and also about that time the self segregation that society entered into in teaching whereby primary school teachers were almost always female had also set in.  This displaced, it should be noted, that role for men, where they had formerly been prominent (and not always too popular).

 Woman schoolteacher in early 20th Century, with pupils on field trip in Washington D. C.

Interestingly, the education of the young had not only been something that women had conducted at home for generations, but here to their role was anticipated by female religious, as nuns, together with monks had fulfilled this role for quite some time.

Nun escorting children to school.

A grimmer role was that of garment worker, or industrial seamstress.  Also leaning on a traditional role, when it remained common for wives to sew the clothing worn by their families, this work was grueling and dangerous.  It tended to be the domain of poor women, who had the skills to do it, but whom lacked the opportunity or education to do anything else.

Seamstress strike. These strikers might not actually be poorer garment workers, but perhaps a more skilled class of tailor.  They are certainly well dressed.

All of this is demonstrate, in a long roundabout fashion, that women had started to enter some pioneering female employment roles by the turn of the prior century.

At that point, mechanization, and wealth in society, began to change things at a more rapid pace. Agricultural mechanization started to increase.  Domestic machinery began to be introduced.  And societal wealth increased to the point where the hiring out of some domestic chores began to occur.  None of this was rapid, but by the end of World War One, it was relatively well established.  Women accordingly were freed from some of the labor that they'd previously been required for, and their presence in the workplace increased. They also began to attend colleges and universities in much greater numbers.

Western College for Women University, 1904.

This takes us to about 1920 or so, at which point women really began to move into the workplace, albeit in roles where they already had a toehold.  In the 1920s, 30s and 40s, things would really take off, setting the stage for what would happen in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. but that isn't all that occurred that would impact women in society long-term, the hard objectification of women also began in earnest.  This is a party of the story that has also been widely misconstrued.

An automobile calendar for the year 1908.  Note how the woman in this calendar is portrayed, just on the cusp of widespread photography and movie film.  A stark contrast to later portrayals.

The portrayal of women as objects has a long history, but modern mechanization really boosted it beyond any measure ever previously seen, and it also gave the means to do it in a mass distribution method that had never previously been encountered. As this directly impacts women at work, it's part of the story.

Photography, most particularly  the moving image, took the image to a new level that it had never before existed in.  No longer slow, and capable of portraying motion, movies and high quality black and white film really burst forward in the decade following World War One.  Nearly entirely unrestricted in any fashion, it also gave the means to distribute images of women in an alluring state, and the means to do so was very rapidly exploited.  The 1920s proved to be a decade in which women were portrayed in this fashion to an extent only recently rivaled, and unfortunately now surpassed.  In the 1920s this received push-back, and while the movie production codes and the like were now ridiculed, it did put the brake on the depictions of women in a purely objectified form, although not before the genie was out of the bottle.  At the very point, therefore, at which women were entering the general male workplace, their objectification as objects had begun. This stands on its head the later notions of Victorian naivete, and instead gives rise to the rather unseemly nature of the dual view of women in Western society that has existed ever since, and which has never been overcome.  The situation which, in a few short years, would give rise to one portrayal in war production posters, and quite another on war machines, and a short while later in glossy magazines, and then ultimately sporting magazines and advertising.

b.  The mid 20th Century until today

 Depression era employment poster seeking (apparently cheerful) female domestics.

From the 1920s until the early 1960s is pretty much a rising slope, in terms of women employment.  It was a steady rise, tied closely to the rise of domestic machinery, as we've already explored.  At no point was it really a dramatic spike, as so often claimed in regards to World War Two, and at no point was there a dramatic decline, as sometimes claimed about the 1950s.  It simply increased, spurred on or depressed by economic conditions or war, but never arrested not never diverted, just as the progress of domestic machinery, along with other machinery, improved.  Today (and I'm obviously taking huge leaps in time and omitting a great deal here) there are few jobs that women cannot pursue, and few careers that they cannot entertain. So, after over a century of transition, everything should be rosy, right?

Well, certainly not uniformly.

c.  Having to work

Articles celebrating the "progress" of women in the workplace, which would be better addressed toward transition in their work roles combined with some progress, generally tend to note what other articles addressing economic distress do, that being that many women must work, and much of that work isn't of a "fulfilling career" variety, even taking into account that the "fulfilling career" comments themselves are much overdone.

Truth be known, even going back a century many women "had" to work, especially if we take into account the high percentage of women who lived on farms. All farm women worked, and by necessity. They weren't the only women working by necessity even then, however.  Certainly every seamstress employed in a garment factory was there by necessity.  But over time one of the grim realities of the progress of women in work is that many women now work by necessity, rather than by election.  This doesn't mean that they've gone from no labor to labor, by compulsion, but rather that they've gone from heavy domestic labor to business labor typically combined with retained domestic labor. And, as we'll note below, the fortunes of the middle class have somewhat in recent years, they've picked up a bigger share of the family labor burden, whether they wished to or not.

And due to societal changes, a certain percentage of women find themselves bearing 100% of a family budget.  The phenomenon of the "single mother" is actually no more common now than it was in the 19th Century, but the reasons are completely different, and the economic impact accordingly quite different.  In the 19th Century the condition of being a single mother tended to be due to industrial and farming accidents which could result in at least some outside effort to provide assistance to the mother left behind, or in the case of farm wives, left them with at least a share of their husband's farm (if he solely owned it) by operation of law.  So, while things were grim for them, they tended to be not quite so long term desperate as typically today.  The situation of the father simply being absent was quite rare, and scandalous. 

By and large, no doubt, women are now left with greater employment options than ever before.  They are also left with greater economic burdens and expectations. And because their options are nearly as great as mien's, they share in the actual nature of the male employment reality, there no longer being a male and female one. So let's take a look at that.

 Depression era poster urging girls to consider career options, with those careers being seamstress, secretary, teacher and something else I'm not sure of.

 Depression era poster urging you men to consider their career options, an early example of something that's become part of education generally today.

The evolution of the workplace for men.

Great Depression era WPA poster.  Frankly, this Depression Era poster is sort of scary in a nearly Nazi like way.

"Man may work from sun to sun but woman's work is never done."  

That old proverb is no doubt heard less now, but while it went to praise the work of women, it was pretty true of male work for most of the pre World War One era. As Henry Fairlie described in his classic essay, The Cow's Revenge, most men worked at least six days a week, and pretty much ten hours a day, if they had jobs in town. And for most people, that was pretty heavy labor.  People educated enough to work in offices were pretty fortunate in that urban setting, which probably gave rise to the comment you'll hear even today of "at least you're indoors" from people who are also working indoors.  Most work in the 19th Century was very physical, to say the least, and working conditions were grueling.  As part of that, the typical calculation of risks was much different than it is today, and the acceptance of industrial accidents was much greater.

 Poster urging employers to hire the returning veterans of World War One.

Of course, a very high percentage of men prior to World War One (and after) worked on farms and the opportunity to own a farm was much higher than it is today.  Indeed, the chance of ultimately owning your own business of any kind was much higher than today.  That's what got us rolling, really, on the thread about the Somme, as Newfies by and large had outdoor employment at that time, although it was focused on the fishing industry.

 Depression Era Farm Resettlement Administration poster. The FRA sought to resettle farmers who had lost their lands during the Depression on new lands, but the program was not widely subscribed to and not greatly successful.

While the rural population began to decline as a percentage of the population, it still remained surprisingly large well into the 1950s.  It was at that time that the impact of mechanization really began to take hold in farming and ranching, with there being a revolution in machinery and transportation, in part because of the impacts of the war.  The peak year in farm income in the United States was actually 1919, and more homesteads were filed during the teens than in any other decade, in part because of the Great War.  This was followed, of course, by a disastrous farm depression following the war, but it was really the onset of mechanization in the full form, fueled in part by the advances in machinery brought about by World War Two, that caused the last of the horse powered machinery to basically go out in the 1950s, to be followed by a decline in small machinery in the decades thereafter.

At the same time, the United States came out of World War Two as the only intact industrial nation in the world.  This greatly eased this transition as many well paying industrial jobs were available in the United States and for the first time many Americans went to college and universities who would not have been able to otherwise. Entire demographics, such as Catholics, started going to university. A university degree had such value that any university degree translated into a well paying job depending upon where a person located themselves.  The professions retained and indeed gained a status such as they'd never had before.  The onset of full scale unification of retail markets had not really started so it still remained the case that small shopkeepers could and did do well. This situation went on up until the 1970s, at which time economic forces ground the country to a halt.  By the time the economy started emerging for the doldrums of the 1970s, the economy had begun to greatly change.

Starting in the 1970s, manufacturing jobs in the United States began to decline in number and in quality in a way that the country had never experienced.  Having really started to emerge as an industrial nation after the Civil War, the US was a latecomer to the industrial revolution and saw the beneficial, as well as the destructive, aspects of industrialization last well into the 1960s.  In the 70s, heavy industry began to shift overseas where nations had never experienced it, or which had their industry destroyed during World War Two, began to emerge and new industrial forces.  The decline has never ceased and industry in the US is a mere shadow of its former self, with its former well paying blue collar jobs a thing of memory only for the most part.  This occurred, moreover, just as women began to enter the workplace in massive numbers.

The resulting new economy was a "service economy", driven by the needs of urban consumers.  Entire classes of retail businesses disappeared as the emphasis developed on economies of scale.  Computerization brought in an entire new industry, but in some ways it accelerated the process.  In the mean time, economies of scale also played themselves out in the farming industry, while an increase in surplus wealth in the upper sectors of the economy became a factor in the ranching industry.  During the depressed 1970s, and even into the 1980s, it remained possible for a person with financing to purchase a working ranch in the United States. By the 1990s that had started to die and by the late 1990s that had died.  It then followed with farming. For the first time in the nations history buying a working quantity of agricultural land became an impossibility, a radical shift on the nation's nature which the nations has refused to acknowledge.


Added to this, starting at some point in the 1970s, and probably due to the increasing number of college graduates being in the workforce, we entered the Age of Certification, which we are full in now.

As you'll recall from earlier in this lengthy post, it was once the case that a college degree, any college degree, was the ticket to a while collar career.  It was quite common for a college graduate with a degree in darned near anything to walk through the door of a company and obtain employment in a managerial role, irrespective of what his degree was in.

There were occupations, of course, which required specific educations.  Engineering, for example, always did.  Indeed, the lack of trained engineers in the US gave rise to West Point, as the military lacked a sufficient pool of trained engineers to draw from.   Generally individuals in scientific fields had the appropriate degrees. And of course physicians, dentists and veterinarians did.  By the post war period, lawyers almost all did (the actual requirement for a degree didn't come until surprisingly late).  It's interesting to note, however, that very few of these pursuits, with the medical and legal ones providing the notable exceptions, required a degree beyond a bachelors degree.

By the 1980s, this had really started to dramatically change. With college attendance having gone in the 1970s from a hope to nearly an expectation, the number of individuals with degrees dramatically increased.  In the sciences it became the case that the entry level degree for employment went from the bachelors degree to the masters degree.  Masters In Business Administration became very common for those with a serious desire to pursue a business degree.

Beyond that, many occupations that had never required any degrees started to, or otherwise required certification. Some of this was simply due to the march of technology, which now required special training.  By the time of this writing certification has become very widespread.

For example, policemen and fireman now typically have degrees and are certified. The average policeman has at least a community college degree and has been through a law enforcement academy.  Only a couple of decades ago many were able to enter police forces by virtue of having been veterans of military service, which is now no longer the case.  One highway patrolman in Wyoming actually has a law degree, something that was previously only common in law enforcement with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Firemen typically have associates degrees and are certified in their field.  Even many blue collar degrees require certificates.  To find that somebody is "OSHA Certified", or something of the type, is not uncommon at all.  Certifications have even spread into many recreational endeavors.

While the increase in education that certification reflects is not a bad thing by any means, a byproduct of it is that skills are generally not terribly transferable in the modern world, or at least not perceived to be.  When looking back on the lives of men in prior eras, it's not uncommon at all to find men switching back and forth between widely varying careers.  You'll often find that somebody worked as a sheriff's deputy, then went to work in a business, then went on to something else.  Examples of firemen becoming policemen and vice versa are not uncommon.  And what has particularly changed is that the hiring of high school graduates, or even non high school graduates, for what are now white collar jobs is nearly non existent.

As an example of the latter, some time ago I listed to a podcast in which the author of a book detailed an interview with a World War One veteran. The veteran related that just before the US entered the Great War, he had graduated from high school.  Somebody had told him about an insurance agency in a neighboring town needing an office worker, so he went there and obtained the job.  Save for his period of service, he'd stayed with the insurance company his entire life and had risen up to a fairly high local position in it.  He'd never gone to university, and he'd never seen the need to. Today, that couldn't happen.

Or, for some personal examples, my great grandfather on my mother's side started working as a boy for a large insurance company in Canada.  He stayed with it, his talents were appreciated, and he rose up to be the head of the Canadian branch of the company.  My grandfather on my father's side started working for packing houses when just a teenager, and was moved to the office where he rose up in the management of one such company, until he opened his own.  In both of these examples, this just could not happen today.  Indeed, given the ages both of these men commenced work (13 years in my grandfather's case), their entry into employment might even have been illegal by today's standards.

So where does that place us today?

 Depression era WPA poster urging worker safety.

The initial question, raised in regards to the posting regarding the Newfoundland troops who served at the Somme, was:
The symbolic change has been farms (usually not far from urban areas) that partially depend on tourism, kids having their pictures taken with the farm animals, and so on. Hay rides, etc . At the other extreme, you have enormous enterprises growing corn or wheat for the “agribusinesses.” I am not either for or against either of these particularly (you can easily see the political fault lines here). Do we just live in an unfortunate period of history?
The answer to that of course depends very much on your prospective and position. We live in a period, without doubt, where  the impact of poverty in the Western world has been so greatly reduced that even the American poor would not generally be regarded as such in most of the world.  Indeed, Europe and North American are so wealthy that it gives a person pause to consider the injunction that "it's easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven".  We can hardly grasp the poverty of other regions of the world, but then it is also the case that we can hardly appreciate the extent to which some of those regions are rocketing into prosperity  For the first time in its history, for example, the majority of Mexican citizens are middle class, and in spite of our fears to the contrary, immigration from Mexico into the United States has basically ceased, and even possibly reversed, with more people coming south over the border than going north.

But at the same time the profusion of university degrees has resulted in a huge number of Americans being able to only enter basic white collar jobs even though they have an education.  Jobs that in 1919 went to men who had high school degrees only now require two year and even four year degrees.  Individuals with college degrees in fields without directly application to a business need, or sometimes even with directly application, sometimes must enter jobs that are at the basic entry level and be content with them.  The classic "degreed barrista" at Starbucks isn't really a joke.  In the professions, consolidation has started to come in, in some quarters, and an oversupply of once safe jobs has lead to a decline in employment combined with a return to their historical, pre World War Two status, as solidly middle class, rather than upper middle class, occupations..  That is most pronounced right now in the law, which was a vehicle for lower middle class Americans to enter the upper class for much of the nation's history, but which sees a fair amount of unemployment in the ranks now.  Those who do obtain employment without full four year degree often find themselves in a certification cycle that ultimately determines a career path for them with some permanence, or at least potentially so.

Making matters worse, the big box cubicle environment of much of American urban work has lead to a dissatisfaction rate with employment in the US which is well up over 50%.  As American employers have become more and more remote from their employees, the employees, it seems, who have less and less of a chance of owning anything of their own, care less and less for their work.  Hopes of starting up their own enterprises, still portrayed as an American Dream, are increasingly in the nature of pipe dreams, and in some sectors, such as agriculture, they approach the level of fantasy.  Former rural occupations have dried up in the face of the inability to buy into them, mechanization and the outright disappearance of many such jobs.  Men and women who dream of owning their own farms, fishing boats or appliance stores probably have to be content with that forever being a dream.

Enter back into this picture the plight of women again.  Throughout the 70s and 90s it was still common to hear the feminist rhetoric about "fulfilling careers", something that was also said to young men but with little actual enthusiasm for the most part except by starry eyed boosters on any one career sector.  Now women have largely come into the same situation as men, in which competition for career spaces is a fact of life, and the fulfillment aspect of that having little to do with reality.  For women without an education, and particularly for those with children but no spouse, the burdens faced in life are substantial.

Oddly, that this has occured seems to be poorly understood in the economy at large, or even somewhat denied.  Occasionally, it's explained away as a good thing, on purely economic terms.  Part of the problem here is that the voice of any one occupational field tends to be dominated by its oldest members, who often have very little connection with things at the entry level.  Taking law, for example, the depth to which institutional changes are being forced upon the field has been slow to be grasped, even as a crisis in certain sections of the field set in.  The voice of the law is probably on average much older than in most industries, so those who claim to speak for the profession often came up in it decades and decades ago, in a completely different environment.  So we've seen law schools continue to churn out new graduates who are lured with promises of lucrative careers and with a degree that "can be used for a lot of things" when the reality of that passed long ago.  In other areas, I've recently seen it claimed by a happy economist that the destruction of rural occupations is a good thing, really, as the displaced workers have been more overall productive in the urban cubicle jobs that some (but certainly not all) have obtained, which may be true in terms of pure efficiency, but which apparently isn't sufficiently appreciated by workers as to change their views towards their individual occupations.  The dominance of large retail outlets in that sector is commonly asserted to be a good thing even though its quite obvious that it has virtually eliminated the small "mom and pop" shop that once existed in nearly ever sector of the retail economy. That prices are lower for consumers is obvious, but that those same consumers now have no hope of every owning a retail outlet of their own is seemingly less appreciated.

On the other hand, working conditions are much better in every manual occupation than they used to be.  We don't have very many Hanna Mine disasters anymore, for example.  And we don't have hundreds of poor women jammed into urban warehouses with poor ventilation sewing close for starvation wages either.  And by and large, while the poor remain with us, we don't have nearly as much desperate starvation level poverty as existed in prior eras.

Some of this is, of course, a pretty grim conclusion, if taken too far, and depending upon your view.  If you dream of owning your own fishing boat, or owning your own farm, or owning your own radio store, things are probably not terribly rosy.  If you are a woman, and entered any one field hoping that field would be "fulfilling", depending upon how suited you were for it naturally, you may have found that the occuaption amounts to work, and by and large it may in fact be the case that leisure, rather that labor, is the basis of an intellectual and fulling society.  But perhaps it need not be as grim as it might seem.  Industrial and farming accidents, dictatorial labor bosses, left vs right strikes, and the like, are all things mostly of the past now.  If work is not as fulfilling as people once hoped for, the old work probably wasn't either.  But at the same time it is distressing that Americans have fewer and fewer personal options, and for many their work-lives will necessarily involve working for remotes bosses they care little about and who care little directly for them.  This can be addressed, of course, but it's doubt that people can conceive of doing that now.  Having benefited so directly from the type of corporate capitalism Americans essentially pioneered, doing anything else brings up claims of "Socialism", that being the system which we so clearly ran into the ground, and which was so clearly unworkable.  But perhaps a little Distributism, that system advocating the principal of Subsidiarity, might be in order.  That "third way", championed by Chesterton and Belloc  during the mid 20th Century, advanced the thesis of an economy geared towards the individual family, a goal everyone claims to always support but which very rarely actually is.