Early American Marxism website — New Files
Update 11-17: Sunday, December 25, 2011.
NEW PUBLICATIONS 11-17 * DEC. 25, 2011.
NEW ON WIKIPEDIA THIS WEEK
Early American Marxism website — New Files
Since the NFL bailed out of playing on Christmas Sunday in favor of a full schedule on Christmas Eve Saturday, I switched AA days at work. I ground it out yesterday and get to watch games today. I even got my Christmas shopping done, so I don’t get stuck burning my day on that. Life is good.
My best friend from college checked himself in to the ER in Tillamook, OR with chest pains. They wound up transporting him to Portland and keeping him for observation for two days. That’s not good. I’m going to give him a call towards midday, when supposedly he will be en route home. I was gonna buy him a jumbo bag of pork rinds for Christmas — a sick joke and a long story — but decided not to do it. He would have appreciated the effort though.
I got a few paragraphs on the American Legion written yesterday. It is coming slowly. I expect I’ll spend all three days next week getting that and A.J. Muste up to snuff. My observation about the Legion is that Teddy Roosevelt Jr. COULD have exerted a much more dominating influence than he did, but he decided for whatever reason to step back a little and to let the group develop its own leadership organically. If I were a historian studying a question of history, that would be the big issue so far: why exactly did he do this?
I just learned this morning that TRII died in 1944 as a Brigadier General on the beach at Normandy. His old man may have been a big-mouthed blowhard ultra-nationalist asshole, but one must tip one’s hat to TRII for putting his money where his mouth is. R.I.P.
There were two preliminary meetings prior to the founding convention of the organization in the fall of 1919, one in Paris and the other in St. Louis. The Paris session seems to have been sporadically attended, the one published vote tally I’ve seen adds up to 350 or so and emphasizes that not everyone voted, by way of apology. The official attendance was listed on the page before I started as an all-too-round 1000. My guess is that something just short of 500 is more likely, based largely on a photo of the proceedings, up now on WP.
The St. Louis session, on the other hand, is listed at 1100 in one source I’ve seen. That’s possible, but could well be an exaggeration, too. Political organizations have a tendency to pump up their numbers, I have learned.
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Ralph Darlington, The Political Trajectory of J.T. Murphy. Liverpool UP, 1998.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Blacks and Reds: Race and Class in Conflict, 1919-1990. Michigan State UP, 1995.
Richard Seelye Jones, A History of the American Legion. Bobbs-Merrill, 1946.
Excellent question. I’ve been fired up and working on The American Legion since last night and there seems to have been a “gang of four” behind the establishment of the organization — NOT the same four mentioned in later histories, which somehow insert “Wild Bill” Donovan of the OSS and the CIA. I’ve pretty much got it pegged here:
[The falling morale] situation was a particular matter of concern to Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son of the 26th President. One day in January 1919 Roosevelt had a discussion at General Headquarters with a mobilized National Guard officer named George A. White, a former newspaper editor with the Portland Oregonian. After long discussion, Roosevelt suggested the establishment at once of a new servicemen’s organization including all members of the AEF, as well as those soldiers who remained stateside as members of the Army,Navy, and Marine Corps during the war without having been shipped abroad.
Roosevelt and Green advocated ceaselessly for this proposal until ultimately they found sufficient support at headquarters to move forward with the plan. Orders were issued to a group of 20 non-career officers to report at Paris on February 15, 1919. The selection of these officers seems to have been handled by Roosevelt, later acknowledged as the father of the American Legion plan.
The group of 20 was given the task by Gen. John J. Pershing of providing a set of recommendations aimed at curbing the problem of declining morale. A series of proposals resulted from the day-long session, including elimination of restrictive regulations, organization of additional athletic events and recreational opportunities, and the expansion of leave time and entertainment programs At the end of the day, the group retired to an Allied Officers Club, where Lt. Col. Roosevelt unveiled his proposal for a new veterans’ society.
Most of those present were rapidly won to Roosevelt’s plan. The group decided to declare all of their actions provisional until a duly elected convention of delegates could be convened and made no effort to predetermine a program for the still-unnamed veterans organization. Instead they sought to expand their number through the convocation of a large preliminary meeting in Paris, to consist of an equal number of elected delegates from the ranks of enlisted men and the officer corps.
A provisional executive committee of four people emerged from the February 15 “Roosevelt dinner”: Roosevelt in the first place, who was to return to the United States and obtain his military discharge when able, and then to gather assistants and promote the idea of the new veterans’ organization among demobilized troops there; George White, who was to travel France touring the camps of the AEF explaining the idea in person; as well as veteran wartime administrator Eric Fisher Wood and former Ohio Congressman Ralph D. Cole, who were to establish a central office and to maintain contact by mail and telegram with the various combat divisions and headquarters staffs, as well as to publicize activities to the press.
Anyway, the conventional histories I was working from pretty much just give the names, I had to figure out the functions — the Legion was Teddy Junior’s baby and he did organizing in America, White — an Oregonian — was the field organizer in Europe, and the central office was staffed by one guy who was a former Congressman and………….some dude that didn’t have a Wikipedia page, Eric Fisher Wood.
A quick Google search indicated that this was a fairly big fish in his own right. To make a long story short, I wound up writing his biography.
Meet Eric Fisher Wood.
Well, a second biography of A.J. Muste rolled in yesterday, so that’s where I’ve decided to turn attention. I identified and wiped out a “howler” last night, a contention long standing in the existing article (unfootnoted) that Muste gave an anti-War sermon on Sunday that inspired his congregation to hold an impromptu meeting afterwards which summarily fired him and expelled from his parsonage.
It doesn’t seem that there is anything at all to this melodramatic tale. Muste himself is quoted as saying he resigned his position in December 1917 after having taken a 2 month vacation during the summer. No doubt he was under substantial pressure due to his pacifist views, but there’s nothing at all, it would seem, on the “mob with pitchforks abruptly throwing him onto the street” scenario.
Nat Hentoff’s bio is the pioneering work, JoAnn Oooiman Robinson’s the later, more detailed and scholarly study, fully endorsed by Hentoff on the dj flap. Together they will flesh out the Wikipedia bio nicely.
Muste is an interesting character in the Great American Drama. The closest parallel is to his friend Norman Thomas. Both were clerics and pacifists who turned to movement politics. Muste left radical politics to dedicate himself to pacifism full time in 1936, Thomas remained entrenched in the declining Socialist Party of America. They’re both very close figures though, in terms of their political trajectory.
Anyway, I’ve squirreled around with AfD and internal WP drama too much already today, time to get back to work.
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Nat Hentoff, Peace Agitator: The Story of A.J. Muste. Macmillan, 1963.
Gary Edward Holcomb, Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha: Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.
Edward Kellogg, Labor and Other Capital . Kelley, 1971
William Pencak, For God and Country: The American Legion, 1919-1941. Northeastern UP, 1989.
Daniela Spenser, Stumbling Its Way Through Mexico: The Early Years of the Communist International . University of Alabama Press, 2011.
Well, I got most of my Christmas nonsense taken care of yesterday, and thank god for that. The line at the Corvallis Post Office wasn’t bad at all, something like 10 or 15 minutes, which passed fast. The shopping experience was frustrating, but I pretty much knew what I was after going into battle, which is the hard part.
I managed to spark a Padilla Miami while I was walking the dog, so I got my cigar in on Cigar Day. Hurray. Not quite as much pop as I like in a cigar, but certainly Within Acceptable Parameters. I’ve got a shitload of Padillas in my humidor(s), it’s one of my “go-to” brands…
Last night was a football night, so there wasn’t much accomplished in the research-and-writing department. I was spinning through an old 1926 book by David Saposs called Left Wing Unionism at bedtime and found some good content for a weak bio that I had started a long time ago on Max S. Hayes and wound up working a little bit on it before I went to sleep. When I woke up I felt like continuing, so I crunched a few more sources and got it up to marginally passable status, looking like this.
There’s still a ton of work to be done before this thing is remotely close to being “finished,” such as detailed coverage of his 1920 campaign for Vice President of the United States and more background on the 1912 campaign against Gompers, but compared to the way I had left it earlier, this thing is at least passable as a document of his life.
I’m not completely sure where I’m headed next. I don’t really have enough material on the American Legion to grind that out properly. I’m not at all fired up to work on A.J. Muste or the Social Democratic Party of Wisconsin either.
Usually that means it’s time to go read microfilm and see what I can see, but I’m half way through typing up an overlong SLP diatribe. Once you sink 3000 words of typing, you don’t want to move on until the other 3000 words are done, or else you lose it all. But is the end product worth the effort? That is less clear, even for me.
Normal people would call it a massive waste of time.
Well, I’ve killed enough time, back to work.
I dislike all holidays, but Christmas is probably the worst. It’s the most disruptive of routine. Work schedules get screwed up, mandatory shopping enters the equation (which involves coming up with ideas, searching, battling traffic and other shoppers, standing in line at the post office). Even the old standard of my life, the NFL, is messing with me this year, moving every game but one from Christmas Day to Christmas Eve Saturday.
Of course, THAT would just happen to be the one day that I’m working this week!
So even though my schedule looks like 5 off, 1 on, plus Sunday to work on my website, I got up this morning feeling like today was already definitely ruined and the whole week was in jeopardy. If I don’t get the shopping thang nailed today, the damage could spread.
No doubt about it, Christmas sucks.
• • • • • • • • • •
Well, I haven’t heard back from David McMullen, Ellen Dawson‘s biographer, so I’m a little unclear whether I should press onwards and finish it up or leave her to him. It’s not like I’ve got any lack of Wikipedia work: Social-Democratic Party of Wisconsin, two more books dealing with Paul Grottkau and perhaps as well with his nemesis Philip Van Patten, and the titles on A.J. Muste and the American Legion are now starting to roll in, meaning that those are sliding back into my gunsights.
I reckon I’ll let Dawson sit for another week and will move on to Grottkau and the American Legion. The latter may come as a surprise to those who know me, it being a right wing “patriotic” organization and all, but I discovered that Wikipedia’s page on the Legion was REALLY TERRIBLE and decided to dive in and get it done right.
The Legion is absolutely a big player in the story of American radicalism during my main period of interest (1916-1924) and it’s something I need to master. Fun facts of the day: four World War I officers are credited with coming up with the idea of the American Legion: Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Teddy Junior — thus their obsession with “100% Americanism” — “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the OSS and founding father of the CIA, and an editor of the Portland Oregonian being three of them. Also the editor of their official organ, The American Legion Weekly, went on to found The New Yorker magazine.
See all the cool shit you can learn by branching out in the research topics just a little?
Well, it’s fast heading for 10 am and I have to get going on my shopping expedition at noon, so time’s a wastin’ if this day isn’t going to be a total loss.
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Early American Marxism website — New Files
Friday morning 10:00 am, posted in the evening.
I got an email from David McMullen last night, Ellen Dawson‘s biographer. I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN that we had been in communication, that he had told me he was doing a Wikipedia piece on her and hoped to finish it up after the holidays.
It’s a very good thing indeed that I didn’t have that extra day to finish up the piece on her, otherwise I would have felt like a total jerk instead of half a jerk. Anyway, he was very nice and complimentary and I apologized profusely for having blanked out our previous communication.
It’s weird how memory can shut something like that out. I’m reminded of going back to Eureka, California for my 25th high school reunion. I had stayed up to date with names and exploits of many of my classmates through my best friend, Dave Adams, who was much like Farris Bueller in that the jocks, socials, gearheads, brains, etc. all thought he was a “righteous dude.” Dave had multiple citizenship in high school social cliques and got along with everyone.
Dave worked in a local Safeway store as a department manager, and he was seeing classmates all the time. Everybody goes to the grocery store, after all. I’d visit him once a year and he’d always get out the old high school yearbooks (that I never owned) and we’d flip though and he’d give me the rundown on this person or that, what they were doing, who was getting divorced or married again, or had kids or surgery or died.
So anyway, over the years I was kept up to speed. And when it was time I drove down for the EHS 25th… (I actually graduated from Crescent Valley HS in Corvallis, Oregon because my family moved in the middle of my Junior year, but that’s quite another story.)
At the dinner that evening there was good old Chuck Annis. We had had classes together since like 5th grade. He gave me the nickname “Mouse” — a play on “Timothy Mouse” of Disney fame, which was ironic in my case since I was tall and gangly and most un-mouselike. I had the nickname for a couple years. We played in band together all through Junior High — he played tuba, I played drums, back row of the room sort of instruments.
So anyway, I went up to Chuck to say hello.
And he did not know me.
I don’t mean to say he didn’t recognize me — he honestly didn’t know of my existence, I had been completely erased from the hard drive spinning inside his head.
That was…………. disconcerting.
What’s worse: a couple people came up to me to say hi and I did the exact same thing to them.
But forgetting ever having corresponded with a person back-and-forth twice just two weeks ago?!?
That’s really weird.
Friday morning, 9:45 am, posted in the evening.
This is being written from work since my free half hour in the morning was diverted by an emergency situation on Wikipedia. The Administrators’ Noticeboard/Incidents (ANI), well known by careful observers as the main “drama board” on WP, was in full-on Lynchmob Mode over the alleged copyright transgressions of a contributor this morning.
Copyright Investigations (CCI) had opened a case against Richard A. Norton a month ago. That the investigation happened at all was more or less the result of the initiative of his personal enemies, in my opinion, as these things usually are. Since he’s a prolific contributor with tens of thousands of edits, a few carefully selected “bad” edits in the form of close paraphrases of copyrighted sources, were parlayed into a massive investigative case.
Scores of hours of time of volunteer time was poured into taking a close look at his entire editing history, and the small violations gradually mounted into a little heap.
Norton had been banned from starting new articles for 30 days during the investigation. When that time elapsed, he immediately began starting new pages again, including the restoration of one close paraphrase/copyright violation.
And, on cue, his enemies have tried to make that one restoration — of material he didn’t originally write, no less! — into a “permanent ban” case against him at ANI. The reasonable voices advising a temporary extension of the article creation ban (the main CCI investigators) were in real danger of being drowned out by the drama hounds who enjoy pulling the wings off grasshoppers for entertainment.
Wikipedia, backstage, is a lot like Lord of the Flies sometimes.
So the blog piece I had in mind got put on hold.
I’ve been in a pissy mood about having to go back to work today. I need another day to finish Ellen Dawson, I knew beforehand that I was going to need another day on Ellen Dawson — and I just don’t have it. It’s pretty frustrating to know that with a simple stroke of the scheduling pen a week ago, I’d be here finishing that up rather than grinding out 8 more hours of existence. But today is pay day, I do have checks to write and stuff to do down there and it is what it is.
The Dawson piece, viewable in the link above, is coming along nicely, albeit slowly. There’s only about 3 and a half hours of work showing in that piece and I did another hour of typing on a way-too-long-for-what-it-is piece from the SLP newspaper The People from 1898, so yesterday has to be regarded as a poor one in terms of production. Maybe it’s good that I’m headed back to work for a few days. It will refocus my energy, which was dissipated writing the long “welcome — but there are problems with your article” thing to an AfD victim yesterday, and engaging in other forms of messing around.
The Dawson writing may not look like much. A professional historian, meaning somebody who has to publish or perish, would say that it is nothing more than a glorified book report. Even Wikipedians would call it “One Source” writing and flag it as such if that’s the condition the article remained in. But there is a real knack to that sort of writing, being able to distill the essence of 80 pages or whatever of a biography into a handful of readable paragraphs without engaging in “close paraphrase” or making other forms of copyright violation.
And if it’s so easy, how come more people don’t do it, in this age of hundreds of thousands of free pdf books on the internet?
No, indeed, it’s a hard form of writing all its own.
I just might be the best Junior High School Book Report writer of all time.
• • • • • • • • • •
Dawson is an interesting case. There is absolutely sufficient sourcing available to get her past Wikipedia’s “General Notability Guideline” as an encyclopedia-article-worthy topic. The fact that there is a book written ABOUT her gets her about 90% of the way home right there. She also figures as an object of significant coverage in two books by Communist historian Philip S. Foner and one monograph on the 1929 Gastonia strike, at a minimum. But outside of that, it’s slim pickings — an “incidental mention” here or there.
I honestly don’t know if her name was ever mentioned in the New York Times, for example. Her obituary is said to say nothing of her life as a textile union leader, the basic mainsteam histories of American Communism don’t mention her, nor do the basic volumes of labor leader biographies, and her time as a person of significance was short — 1926 to 1930 or so, it would seem.
Her biographer speaks of having “saved her from oblivion” or some such, echoing the sentiments I expressed myself about what I do at the start of this blog, and he sort of did. I knew OF her before I knew of his book, I had her bio listed on my “to do” list. But would I have ever been able to muster sufficient sources to flesh out a useful biography, would it have ever been written?
As it stands, I have McMullen’s bio to use as a main source, then I can flesh out detail with the sources dealing with that little 5 year interlude of activity and slide a couple primary sources in at the end, assuming I go back and get them. The end result will be a pretty good piece, very much an “addition to the literature” in its own way.
Another little step forward to “saving” Dawson’s memory.
Again: that’s what my Wikipedia work is all about, that’s all there is, there is no more — either you “get it” or you don’t…
• • • • • • • • • •
I spent another 90 minutes searching for photos last night, with nothing much found. There was a sort of interesting shot of Big Bill Haywood for $30, but it was literally a strip torn out of the middle of a larger image. Maybe worth half that, if I were feeling generous. Lots of interesting crap to look at. For example, did you know that Deep Dish Pie was invented in California in 1918 as a means of saving dough for crust as an austerity measure during World War I? They called it “Hoover Pie,” Hoover being the US government’s “Food Czar” in this period…
It’s almost worth dropping $30 on that to make a gift of it to the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, which is a place I’ve been a few times to do historical work. Almost, but not quite.
Still, it’s really cool hunting through old newspaper photos. My one seller has over 400,000 currently listed on ebay, by the way. That’s a pile.
Well, time for me to go eat some food and to get ready for work.
I’d rather be writing.
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