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Blog Archive 22
WARNING: Some of the content to be found in this section, including the archives deals with topics of a violent or sexual nature in both pictures and text, and is meant for a mature audience. If you feel you may be offended by such content you should leave this page now.
ARCHIVESTable of Contents
Current Blog Page
24. June 2020 - Aug 2020
23. Apr 2019 - May 2020
21. Sept 2017 - Jan 2018
20. Mar 2017 - Aug 2017
19. Aug 2016 - Feb 2017
18. Aug 2015 - June 2016
17. Jan 2015 - June 2015
16. July 2014 - Dec 2014
15. Jan 2014 - June 2014
14. July 2013 - Dec 2013
13. Jan 2013 - June 2013
12. July 2012 - Dec 2012
11. Jan 2012 - June 2012
10. July 2011 - Dec 2011
9. Jan 2011 - June 2011
8. July 2010 - Dec 2010
7. Jan 2010 - June 2010
6. July 2009 - Dec 2009
5. Jan 2009 - June 2009
4. July 2008 - Dec 2008
3. Jan 2008 - June 2008
2. July 2007 - Dec 2007
1. Aug 2006 - June 2007
To keep the blog page a reasonable length the articles found within will be archived approximately every six months. To access older content, click the links on the left side of this page.
The Whistle Stop
It is easy to forget in this age of automobiles that there were few good roads spanning this country just a hundred years ago. Only the bravest or perhaps the most foolish dared to leave cities by car to travel any distance. Even at this date, the primary methods of transportation remained the steamship and railroad, which were both widely used. The public’s great reliance on railroads caused many lines to establish far more stations than we are accustomed to today. While many were of grand design, others were little more than a wooden platform, just enough to designate a stop. The size of a station was proportional to its use, and so was the frequency of service. To keep speed up, systems were devised to let trains run past these remote stations when there was no one there in need of service. One method was for a train to blow its whistle on approach, alerting a station manager or awaiting passengers to flag the train down to stop.
Although railroads were a new technology in the early 19th century, their advantage in speed coupled with the many whistle stops were not lost on politicians who saw them as an easy means of connecting to people while on the campaign trail. William Henry Harrison was the first presidential candidate to take advantage of this situation. He not only traveled to towns by train in 1836, but stopped at many small stations, giving speeches from the back of his privately chartered railroad car. This was largely a rural nation back then, and gathering at these out of the way stops were the only means by which most people could ever hope to hear from a candidate. This method of campaigning eventually grew to be so widespread that it became synonymous with the term whistle stop.
While President William McKinley ran an unpretentious front porch campaign in 1900, his running mate, Theodore Roosevelt took to the rails. He understood early on that communicating directly with people was key to getting their support, and one of the best ways to reach out to people was from the back of a train. He would use whistle stop touring throughout his entire political career not only for personal gain but to rouse many to his progressive causes. Roosevelt took to the rails again on his first campaign for president traveling 14,000 miles across twenty-five Western states in 1903. Within these eight weeks he managed to give 263 public speeches. He would crisscross the nation again in 1912 while running for a third term for president on the Bull Moose ticket.
Meeting up close with the public was an effective way of campaigning but it also had its drawbacks. President Garfield was shot point blank by a disgruntled office seeker while leaving the train station in Washington DC back in 1881. Roosevelt himself was propelled into the presidency when McKinley was shot in 1901 while greeting well wishers. Though not on a train, Roosevelt was shot in the chest while preparing to give a speech in Milwaukee during his 1912 tour. Luckily, the folded speech in his breast pocket that the bullet passed through was very long, blunting its impact. He continued to deliver his speech in a bloody shirt before seeking medical help. There were a different breed of candidates back then.
Also taking shots at candidates were amateur photographers who could use these informal whistle stops to get in close enough to their subject. Many of these photographs, which are often slightly blurry and rarely have the well balanced composition of a professional still have an immediacy about them that is striking. The one above, which was printed as a real photo postcard is rather unassuming until one takes a closer look at the detail below. The animated figure leaning over the back of the train is none other than Teddy Roosevelt.
Written on the back is “Caldwell 1905.” Could this be Caldwell NJ? Hardly a direct route between New York and Washington. The summer foliage indicates this stop was made well after Roosevelt won the election. It probably represents a casual stop made by the newly elected President. Even when not running for office, Roosevelt understood that there was still a need to persuade, and the back of a train made a fine bully pulpit.
Theodore Roosevelts success with whistle stop touring ensured its continuance. An official presidential railcar, the Ferdinand Magellan was built in 1928, and bulletproofed by his cousin Franklin Roosevelt when he became president. While President Eisenhower was the last to officially use this railcar, the tradition of whistle stop touring continued well past its necessity. Even if the whole notion of campaigning by rail seems antiquated in this age of social media, it retains great symbolic value that cannot be overlooked. Where early politicians used whistle stop touring as a means to connect with ordinary people, this sort of campaigning has now become a trope that projects the same sort of connections. The success of the tour is not as important as the media cover it attracts since we all understand its meaning.
It is interesting to ponder how many of these little snippets of history are lying about hidden in old albums, their owners clueless to the treasure within. While finding such a prize is always exciting, it might be better if we just refocus our vision instead of going on a hunt. Every real photo postcard is a snippet of history. They might not all tell a grand story but they do tell us what was important to those who lived before us. Taking photographs today has become far too casual; their ease of acquisition degrading their value. When real photo postcards are examined, we must place ourselves behind the camera and ask why am I inspired? In this way we may learn more about a time than through any words written in a book.
For a conflict of such suffering and destruction that was essentially being fought over nothing, one might think that efforts to end the Great War would have been undertaken well before four years of bloodshed had passed. The fact is there were those who tried. The problem was that anyone supporting peace was seen as an agent of the enemy, out to deprive them of the spoils or revenge that were bound to come their way. Peace need not be bargained for as long as victory was inevitable. As long as death reigned on the battlefield, there were opportunities to fulfill long standing ambitions for power and feed greed. The war might have gone on much longer under these conditions if the troops fighting it were only numbers on paper. As real human beings they not only grew weary of war, they grew suspicious of those sending them off to die. By 1917, most elite troops and volunteers had perished in battle, Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces were nearly spent, mutiny filled the ranks of the French Army, and Russian troops simply began to walk home. If the American Expeditionary Force did not enter the fight, the conflict would have inevitably collapsed under its own weight.
Between the time the German Empire made its first peace overtures to President Wilson, and when delegates met in an isolated railroad carriage parked in the woods north of Paris, much had changed. Not only were Americans excluded from the talks, Wilson’s proposals for fairness outlined in his Fourteen Points held no place there. Perhaps on another day the German delegates would have walked out on the harsh French demands that offered nothing beyond capitulation. This however was no ordinary day. Revolution had installed a new government in Germany and the orders were to end the fighting on any terms offered. At 5:00 on the morning of November 11, signatures began being applied to an armistice agreement that would go into effect at 11:00 effectively bringing all combat to a close.
While it is totally understandable that time was required to spread word of the ceasefire, the hour seems to have been chosen for its poetry rather than necessity. This would have mattered little had not General Foch, the overall commander of the Allied forces on the Western Front refused to relent in his pursuit of killing Germans. The rational given for this was that the Germans could not be trusted to lay down their arms, that this might only be a trick to buy them time to regroup. I suppose that explanation might seem reasonable to someone whose mind was poisoned by hatred. There was certainly much sympathy for this position among those who sought revenge above all else. The thousands of families back on the Homefront who lost a loved one in the six remaining hours of the war would come to see the situation quite differently. As bells of peace were frantically ringing all over Paris, the French commander ordered the Allied offensive to continue as if nothing had changed.
General Pershing believed Germany was getting off too easy with an armistice and wanted American forces to deliver as many punishing blows as they could before being forced to stop. Since this stance was in direct conflict with the directives received from President Wilson, he issued no specific orders. He must have known he could rely on similar anti-German sentiments held by fellow officers, and the ambitions of those who saw this as the last opportunity to gain glory before heading home. The 157th Brigade, commanded by General William Nicholson was pressing toward the German lines at Ville-Devant-Chaumont that morning when their advance was stopped by German artillery fire. Leading the way was the 313th Regiment, Baltimores Own. They were still trying to maneuver out of the marshy valley floor beneath a ridge called the Côte Romagne when news of the armistice arrived. To their astonishment, orders called for them to attack even though it was already 10:44. They had been fighting steadily since joining the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in mid-September and the survivors could not understand why they were being told to take further risks. Instead of waiting out the last few minutes in safety, they were now once again in line, advancing silently with bayonets fixed toward the Germans blocking the road. It is difficult to say if their slow pace was due to the fog rolling through the valley or just an attempt to whittle away the time. In either case it wasn’t slow enough to avoid trouble. Now it was time for the Germans to be astonished. They thought the insane brutality of the war already behind them when they spotted shadowy figures stepping out from the edge of the fog. When they opened up with machine gun fire, the Americans hit the ground looking for what ever cover they could find. Content with a standoff, all firing suddenly ceased.
That might have been the end of the story if it wasn’t for Private Henry Gunther. He had been a Sargent just a few weeks back, but this was before being demoted for writing a letter to a friend describing the miserable conditions he was facing in France, and advising him to evade the draft. Gunter was a first generation American, son of German immigrants from the East Baltimore neighborhood of Highlandtown. His family had been harassed by authorities, who suspected them of being enemy sympathizers and possibly spies. Now he felt his own loyalty was being questioned as he served the nation. His fellow soldiers noticed that his behavior was growing increasingly rash, that he became obsessed with proving his patriotism. While all the other soldiers of his regiment clung to the valley floor waiting impatiently for the minutes to tick away, Gunter stood up and began running toward the enemy’s position. No one followed. His Sargent call for him to return The Germans cried out and gestured for him to stop but it was no use. Gunter continued without pause and began firing as he advanced. A machine gunner then let out a short burst and a single bullet ripped through Gunter’s head. He was dead before his body hit the ground. One minute later, the armistice took effect.
The Germans carried Henry Gunther corpse to the American lines where he was buried on the spot. He won the honor of being the last man killed in the First World War but he was only one of 3500 Americans to fall that day. British, French and German casualties would add thousands of additional names to the final list of the dead. This did not pass unnoticed by those who saw soldiers as more than toys to be played with. Congressional hearings were held over the necessity of these last minute attacks. While harsh allegations of soldiers’s lives being thrown away were landed, no one was ever held accountable for the loss. Even in France where the vitriol against Germany ran high, there was enough embarrassment to have all the death records of soldiers killed that day to be changed to November 10. While idealists believed the horrors of the Great War would be enough to convince us that it would truly be the war to end all wars, a hundred more years of history has shown us that there will always be another last soldier to die. The only question unanswered is under what circumstances will this happen.
The end of the Great War brought on a flurry of postcard production. There were cards depicting the signing of the armistice, victorious troops marching into liberated Alsace and Loraine, and united Allies celebrating their victory and sometimes the destruction of Germany. Cards of victory parades would follow, and then of monuments to honor the dead. Many postcards depicted the graves of soldiers, both as a memento and to give hope that loved ones who disappeared in battle might have received a proper burial. The topic of peace had long been a troubling one for publishers because calls for an end to the war could be construed as treason if expressed in the wrong terms. Peace through victory was the official position of most nations. Some cards lamented its horrors, but only because this could always be blamed on the enemy. True desires for peace had to be disguised through symbolic representations that spoke nothing of politics or the way the war was being conducted. Their generic appearance often makes them difficult to date. I cannot say when the Italian postcard above was published but its message is clear. It tells us all we need to know; that we can only find the things we truly value in the absence of war.
I have been personally appalled by the way much of the Great War centennial has been marked. Too many books and articles have been filled with the words of apologists for the incompetent and self-serving. False myths continue to be propped up and those seeking truth are accused of revisionism. There are new calls for blind patriotism, for it is a proven key to manipulation. We continue to support the falsehoods the war as originally wrapped by propagandists because we must feel good about ourselves at all cost. Our mistakes must stay buried with those who died for them for we are all righteous and noble. It is sad to say that a hundred years has not been long enough for us to open our eyes, to make us any more honest. Tomorrow we will honor those in the military who serve and have served us and rightfully so. Wreaths will also be laid at the foot of monuments for those who sacrificed their lives while serving. Let us honor them by speaking the right words, words that honor them and not those that call for adventurism. Death and war may go hand in hand, but it is important to recognize that soldiers are not just weapons to be deployed in battle, that they must be treated as people with real lives and families who have agreed to sacrifice all for the rest of us in times of need. It is this generosity of spirit that should be recognized and respected on Veteran’s Day.
Standing Between War and Peace:
The centennial anniversary of the end of World War One is nearly upon us and plans for a memorial in Washington, DC have gone awry. While one may still be built, the process has been delayed by endless infighting not unlike that which occurred a hundred years ago over the fate of New York’s Victory Arch. The absence of such a monument was never an oversight or rebuff to our veterans; it just represented the mood of the times. Although the American Expeditionary Force was largely responsible for the final Allied victory, the celebratory mood soon disintegrated when the goals behind this sacrifice were not met. The United States would drop out of the Paris peace talks and eventually sign a separate treaty with Germany. In the end the United States never joined the League of Nations that President Wilson fought so hard to create. Most Americans felt cheated that their sacrifice in lives and fortune were not appreciated by the Allies they fought to help. Most Americans back then wished to forget this misadventure. With this in mind, the motives behind creating a new monument have to be called into question.
Dissatisfaction with the Great War did not translate into displeasure with its veterans. Jubilation broke out on many streets in November 1918 when news of the Armistice reached our shores. Victory parades were held, and it seems that every little town across America erected a monument dedicated to those who served. When their numbers were small, names were often added to existing monuments that honored those who fought in the Civil War or Spanish-American War. Their service was recognized by the individual communities that make up America because that is where the loss was most heartfelt. The larger monuments were all temporary, quickly erected to be ready to greet the troops as they returned from France. It may seem odd that the model chosen to commemorate the conclusion of such a modern war was the triumphal arch of Ancient Rome, but its symbolism had remained relevant over the passing centuries.
If you take a flexible sapling and bend it180-degrees, you have an arch. What seems simple enough in wood, is not so easy to replicate in hard material like stone or brick. Although examples of stone arches can be found in a variety of ancient civilizations, their use was not widespread. To some extent, this might have been due to the slowness in which information traveled, which tended to keep knowledge local. More likely, arch work did not easily fit into established traditions that were difficult to change. The Romans without many traditions of their own borrowed from much older cultures that they respected. Much came from the Etruscans who were the first to go beyond the utilitarian use of arches and place them within their architecture as an element of design. As practical knowledge in engineering and materials grew, so did the use of arches until they became commonplace within the Roman Empire, used in everything from aqueducts to temples.
A unique Roman application of the arch was its placement in a new type of monument. These seem to first appear during the years of the Roman Republic and were referred to as fornices. Though none survive, we do know they were free standing arches that contained carved narratives commemorating military victories. The form we are most familiar with is the triumphal arch that arose with the ambitions of Imperial Rome. These were round-top arches flanked by massive piers that gave the entire structure square-like proportions. Since the piers provide the support, columns were reduced to decorative elements that carried on the classical tradition. The heavy entablature over the arch became the receptacle for the inscription that gave the arch its specific meaning. Narrative sculpture was also added to the piers and the structure was often topped with a portriga, a sculpture of a chariot pulled by four horses.
While not enough writing survives to give us a clear understanding of how these Roman arches were perceived in their own time, there their focus seems to have shifted away from the accomplishments of soldiers to the aggrandizement of leaders. This change however does not seem to have been totally successful. The Arch of Titus, built in Rome by the Emperor Domitian around 82 CE is was meant to honor the Emperor’s older brother Titus after his death, but it still commemorates his life through his military victories. Once the function of these monuments became ingrained within Roman society, its potent symbolism was not easily erased. Instead of forcing the issue, which may have been impossible, the public’s attachment to these arches was recognized as something that could be exploited. The emotions residing behind traditional symbolism would be used to give credence to new meanings. That which once played a societal role could now be used for propaganda supporting the Empire and those who ruled it.
Many other triumphal arches were built in Rome though few survive. The largest still standing is the Arch of Constantine, a triple arch dedicated in 315 CE. It was built over the Via Triumphalis, the road used by emperors when returning victoriously from war. Its location shows that the arch was not just a monument; it also functioned as a portal within an important public ritual. While the Arch of Constantine was ostensibly built to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, there is a lot more politics at play here than first meets the eye. This victory was not over a foreign enemy but over the Western Roman Empire by the ruler of the Eastern Empire. To help legitimize his reign despite his unlawful succession, Maxentius is portrayed as a tyrant while Constantine is shown to be the rightful ruler of Rome. Numerous other Emperors are also honored here so that Constantine can be viewed in the context of other respected rulers.
The size and duration of the Roman Empire ensured that its traditions would spread beyond Rome. France, then Gaul, became the recipient of many triumphal arches. One of their more notable is the Triumphal Arch of Orange (Arc de triomphe d’Orange) though there has been much debate over its origins and meaning. While it is generally accepted to have been built by Emperor Augustus to commemorate his victory at Actium in 31 BCE, honors were later added to mark the victories over the German tribes of the Rhine under the reign of Emperor Tiberius. While these additions might have only been a way of avoiding the construction of a costly new arch, it might also show that these arches were perceived as living monuments that could be adapted to fit current needs. Underneath, there seems to be a universality that serves the empire. Its carved reliefs not only refer to the specific achievements of these two Emperors but speak to the greater power of Rome. Besides celebrating victories, many triumphal arches seem to serve as a means of tying the present to the past. While this helps to reinforce the values of a society, it also allows rulers to ride on the coattails of their predecessors.
If standalone arches were part of a living tradition, it can make deciphering their meaning more difficult when there is no supporting context. This is especially true of the many small arches dating from Roman times that lack narrative carvings and have little recorded history. The Arch of Campanus in Aix-les-Bains, France is a good example. It is usually given the title, funerary monument, even though the dead were not allowed to be buried within city walls. It may have marked the route of funeral processions, but there are no definitive answers. Today it is respected for its age, important as a tourist attraction rather than its illusive meaning.
The tradition of the triumphal arch may have disappeared with the fall of the Roman Empire, but it began to be revived in the 15th century following renewed interest in the ancient world. This cultural shift inspired many young aristocrats to round out their classical education by visiting cities like Rome. As these travels became more fashionable, they evolved into the Grand Tour where the purchase of mementos in the form of engravings became popular. These images of classical architecture joined the many paintings and drawings depicting Rome that were produced by the artists who flocked to this important center for the study of art. This flow of imagery exposed many who lived beyond the classical world to its wonders, which furthered the growth of neoclassical ideals. This familiarity would create fertile ground for triumphal arches to enter the vocabulary of designers and architects.
When the construction of triumphal arches was first revived, most were incorporated into buildings or walls. Large free standing arches did not become common again until the 17th century. Construction was especially active in France where they had been an ancient tradition. Two good examples are the arches commissioned by Louis XIV in 1672 that commemorate his victories in the Franco-Dutch War. The Porte Saint-Denis, designed by Francois Blondel on the Roman model not only honored the king as a military leader through its sculpture but is location. It took the place of the old toll gate after the walls guarding the eastern approach to Paris were torn down. The removal of these walls not only allowed the city to grow, it demonstrated that the borders of France were now free from threat as a result of the Sun King’s leadership.
The second arch commissioned by Louis XIV to replace a city gate was the Porte Saint-Martin, designed by Pierre Bullet and built in 1674.
The Ponte de Paris at Lille, which was completed in 1692 is another triumphal arch commissioned by Louis XIV. It commemorates the king’s victorious siege and subsequent annexation of the city from its Spanish rulers. Unlike the free standing arches that were becoming more common, this arch over the road to Paris originally served as monument and gate within the city’s ramparts. After the city’s wall was demolished in 1858 its circular moat was transformed into a decorative garden. The beauty spot is now more of a civic monument to the city’s past than the recognition of past exploits.
The Porte Bourgogne is another arch that was built to replace a gate when a city wall was removed. Designed by André Portier, it replaces the Salinières gate on the road to Paris, which was once Bordeaux’s official entrance. While clearly based on a Roman arch, its proportions are new; much taller than square. It is a good example of the trend in archways to become further divorced from military affairs in favor of aggrandizing a leader. This arch was dedicated to the Duke of Burgundy in1757 without commemorating a specific military event. While it follows a tradition, it blurs the line between a triumphal arch and a ordinary monument.
The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia, was opened on the site of an old city gate to Berlin in 1791. While it contains no archways, it is an important variant to the Roman tradition of the Triumphal arch. Prussia had no ancient archways of its own since it was never part of the Roman Empire. In many ways its cultural identity was tied to its resistance to Rome, which was only enhanced by growing anti-papal sentiment in this largely Protestant kingdom. When its designer, Carl Gotthard Langhans, looked for classical inspiration, he went to Ancient Greece and chose the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. This gate was also unlike the traditional triumphal arch in that it did not commemorate a military victory but was dedicated to peace. Ironically the first procession to take place under the Peace Gate was the triumphal entry of Napoleon after his army captured Berlin in 1806. Its quadriga featuring the goddess Victoria was then looted and taken to Paris. No matter the specifics of design or the purpose for which it was built, if a structure takes the form of a portal, it also takes on the symbolism inherent to it as if it were an archetype. The most significant symbolism attached to the Brandenburg Gate came in the 1960’s after the erection of the Berlin Wall. Associations with the Nazi regime were forgotten when seen through Cold War eyes. It was now the portal between Communist and Capitalist worlds.
After the successful conclusion of the War of the Third Coalition in 1805, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned a commemorative arch to be built into the entrance to the Tuileries palace. The Arc du Carrousel, completed in 1908 mimicked the Roman model. Its sculptural reliefs provided a narrative of the campaign from the battles of Ulm and Austerlitz to the famed meeting of the emperors. Its quadriga crown was taken from St. Marks in Venice as a war trophy. While not built for procession, it was similar to the Arch of Constantine in that its symbolism was meant to help legitimize Napoleon as the self-proclaimed emperor of France. Once Napoleon was disposed, the quadriga was returned to Venice and another depicting the allegory of Peace led by Victories was commissioned by the restored Bourbon king. It was left as a free standing structure on the Champs-Elysées after the Tuileries burnt down in 1871.
In addition to the Arc du Carrousel, Napoleon also commissioned Jean-Francois-Thérèse Chalgrin to design the much larger Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It is untypical of many arches for it lacks classical columns and is built to elongated proportions. It was a massive undertaking; begun in 1806 on Napoleon’s 37th birthday, its slow construction slowed further after its architect died. When Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne, construction stopped completely. Although fresh victories inspired Louis XVIII to resume work in 1823, the arch was not completed until 1836 under the reign of King Louis-Philippe.
Even though Napoleon’s remains passed under the Arc de Triomphe when they were returned from his grave in exile in 1840, the monument was never intended to honor him or any general or victorious campaign. Unlike other kingdoms at that time with professional armies, the French republic was forced to raise an army from scratch and every able-bodied man of age was expected to enlist or lose their citizenship. While this citizen army initially suffered for lack of training, it eventually grew into the formidable and loyal Grande Armée under Napoleon. The introduction of citizen armies not only changed warfare, they changed the meaning of the triumphal arch. Although an arch is an extremely simple form, it can be employed for reasons beyond aesthetic value. For one thing, it has no corners. When used in a doorway it represents a smooth passage. Triumphal arches were not just monuments; they were portals from one world to another. When victorious armies marched beneath them, it represented a society at war that could now live in peace. After the Napoleonic Era, it wasn’t just a nation state that was transformed but the battle hardened volunteers, conscripts and reservists who were now re-entering civilian life.
La Porte Saint Martin in Paris was commissioned by King Louis XIV in 1674 to commemorate his many military victories. It is referred to as a gate rather than an arch only because it replaced a medieval gate in the wall to the once fortified city. On this German postcard the arch has been repurposed to show the victorious Prussian Army entering Paris after the defeat of Napoleon 1n 1814, a counter punch to French portrayals of Napoleon entering Berlin in 1808. This scene clearly demonstrates the problem with such monuments. The memory of specific triumphs may be lost to us over time allowing the more symbolic content of the form to remain in place. Such generalized structures of triumph were often turned on their heads as circumstances changed. While arches always refer to victory, the victory is always sweeter when humiliating the enemy at the same time.
Although the triumphal arch came to mark an important rite of passage like the coming of age, most postcards only focus in on their value as tourist attractions or as patriotic expressions. The theme of soldiers integrating back into society was however widely taken up by publishers during World War One. Even efforts to hide this difficult transition indicate a widespread concern over the issue. Publishers were in a bind as they made great efforts to support the war by presenting soldiers as efficient killing machines that could easily defeat the enemy, while at the same time addressing the worries of those back home by showing soldiers returning from battle were still gentle human beings who have not lost their humanity. Both messages, even if contradictory were what customers for postcards wanted to see because comfort is more important than reality
In 1825, King George IV commissioned two arches to be built in London commemorating the British victory over Napoleon. The Marble Arch, designed by John Nash was to function as the official entrance to the Buckingham Palace courtyard. In this respect it was like the Arc du Carrousel outside the Tuileries, seemingly built to commemorate a military victory while aggrandizing the occupants of the royal palace. Change of monarchs and supervisors led to many delays, and when finally dedicated in 1833 it was a reduced version of the original lavish concept. It eventually fell victim to it urban environment, being forced to move twice to accommodate the increase in traffic.
Constitution Arch, also commissioned by George IV was designed by Decimus Burton as the western portal into London. While it commemorated the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it also had associations to the British royal family because its location on Constitution Hill lined up with Buckingham Palace for ceremonial processions. Public complaints that it did not relate well enough to its purpose led to a rededication in 1846, when it was renamed Wellington Arch, and crowned with an exceptionally large equestrian statue of the victorious general of Waterloo. This statue was so unpopular due to its poor proportions that it was removed in 1883 after Lord Wellington’s death and replaced with a quadriga featuring the angel of Peace. This arch was also eventually relocated due to traffic concerns.
The triple arched Siegestor (Victory Gate) in Munich is another example of patriotic allusions that cannot be separated from the kings that rule. Commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria to commemorate the end of the Liberation Wars against Napoleon, it was completed in 1852 when German nationalism was on the rise. While it is topped by the personification of Bavaria, her quadriga, is led by four lions, the heraldic symbol of the ruling Bavarian monarchy. Unlike its neighbor Prussia, Bavaria retained a large Catholic population after the Counter-Reformation, so this triumphal arch is one of the few in Germany to be inspired by a Roman model.
This article consist of two parts; click on the link below to continue reading.Standing Between War and Peace - part 2
REVIEW by Alan Petrulis
Tales of Wonder
It has often been stated that myths were created to help us cope with a world we could not yet fully understand. I believe that they explain the world quite well, and it is us today that are losing our capacity to appreciate the symbolism and metaphors of old. Despite this, our ability to analyze and apply logic has not displaced our preference to understand the world through myth. Horses gallop across fields because that is what horses do. People tell stories because that is what makes us human. Fairy tales are one form of such stories whose universal appeal keeps them alive. By the turn of the 20th century, when the postcard craze began, the most popular tales were already ingrained into every level of society. An illustration from any number of these would have been met with immediate recognition. Postcard publishing is foremost a profit oriented enterprise, and the vast amount of fairytale postcards created is not only testament to their appeal, it makes their intrinsic worth obvious.
Most are familiar with the high quality illustrations that began to grace children’s picture books in the latter half of the 19th century, but it is the largely forgotten picture postcard that grew to become the most important decimator of visual information. This vast reservoir of imagery has been tapped for Tales of Wonder, the latest book by Jack Zipes. Splendidly illustrated with nearly five hundred excellently reproduced postcards, the importance of fairytales in our lives is confirmed through this popular medium. The book begins by making a solid connection between the act of storytelling telling and their interpretation through postcards. Postcards do not tell new stories as much as they provide a new language through which traditional messages are reinforced. An excellent forward by Marina Warner greatly helps to make this connection. A number of cards also illustrate this activity, showing us that the forming of intimate bonds through the telling of stories was a widely accepted idea. Stories are an indispensable form of nourishment that we continually crave.
The meat of the book is centered on classic fairytales such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. We are given a very detailed history of the origins of each tale and how they evolved over the centuries as well as interpretations of their deeper meaning. This is written in such a casual manner that it almost masks the extensive research behind it. While this is not a dry academic book, Zipes long standing investigations into fairytales clearly shines though. Supplementing his comments are transcriptions of the entire fairytale for us to scrutinize for ourselves as well as for our enjoyment. Sometimes two versions of the same tale are given so we can better understand how narratives change over time. These are not static tales but stories that continually reflect the values of an ever changing society.
Each fairytale is accompanied by numerous postcard illustrations, often spanning decades of production. We are also treated to one full card set for each story. Postcards were often sold in packaged sets so that they could more easily present a flowing storyline. An interesting aspect of this presentation is seeing what salient points of the story were once emphasized, since we may no longer consider them as important today. This is no small matter for it is though pictures that a fairytale is often defined. Since these are basically moralizing tales, postcards can give us some insight into attitudes held at the time of publication. For the most part postcards did not instruct but mirror the buyer. If out of sync with society’s values, they would not find many customers.
If this book seems to concentrate on classic fairytales, it is because they represent the most familiar versions of very common themes. It is this universality that has allowed these stories to permeate many different cultures where they remain popular. There are however other tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen who greatly affected the public’s appreciation of this genre, and as a result drew the attention of many postcard publishers. This work does not go unnoticed as Zipes dedicates a chapter to each. Chapters that follow deal with Russian fairytales and fairytale novels like Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland. The narrative here is unfortunately lacks the depth of the previous section on classic tales and I was left a little wanting. Even so, the basic themes are noted and each chapters is lavishly illustrated. There is even some information on individual artists with multiple examples of their work.
Jack Zipes is much more a historian of fairytales than he is of postcards. For the most part this goes unnoticed; we are generally given just as much postcard history as we need to put these images into context, but in a few places this falls short. A good example is his chapter on Russian postcards where the author makes some insightful comments of why fairytales were neglected in the years of Stalin but does little to explain their absence in pre-revolutionary times. I can understand why answers are not easily forthcoming, but then the open questions should have been emphasized more. All cultures have strong storytelling traditions but their appearance on postcards is more closely tied to where centers of industry and the presence of a middle-class were located. I know the author is aware of such connections; adding just a little more information on these relationships would have provided a much better perspective on the cards being presented to us. This is not to say they are all from one source. Cards from many nations are shown but a better understanding of them would have been achieved if the constraints of the postcard industry were also noted. Similarly, the common understanding of fairytales also made their narratives easy to exploit for political propaganda. While this is a topic large enough for an entirely different book, we are provided with a few examples that are not accompanied by any explanation.
I may wish there was more to this book, then again I always want more. What I’ve been given is more than adequate for a single volume complimented by an overly generous amount of illustrations. Although the book’s large square format is untypical, it is totally suited for the topic. Not only does it easily allow illustrations to accompany text, it goes beyond the practical to create the mood of a children’s book. This is not to say that this is a mere picture book. While children will indeed enjoy the stories and most certainly the illustrations, Zipes provides serious insights into how popular culture taps into stories that remain meaningful to us because they are still relevant in providing meaning to our lives. This is not a book just oriented toward postcard collectors or those interested in fairytales, it would make a fine addition to any library. Its real audience is every adult who still carries a bit of childhood exuberance in their heart.
No Ordinary Spud
The Internet may put a wealth of information at our fingertips, but I fear that it is creating a more myopic view of the world. Despite the ability to be exposed to new ideas, are we just following what is familiar to us? I find that many young people do not seem to know a world apart from what appears on the screens of their devices. They have no idea of how much exists outside of their digital experience and how much they are being robbed of. Since the first website was posted, code writing that allows an interactive experience has grown more sophisticated. Now we can even move from one page to the next in a manner that mimics the turning of pages in a book. While this is an impressive effects, it only catches our attention because of the mastery of its illusion. Taken at face value, who would have ever thought that so many would be impressed by so little. While the internet provides us with a new medium to explore, many formats of presentation it incorporates are quite old. One need only look at some of the more interesting postcards produced a century ago, and the earlier 19th century paper novelties that inspired them.
One such card that I came across features a potato, not just any potato but one that is die cut into the shape of one. While this alone makes it a novelty card, its shape is not its most interesting feature. It is a folded card with an inside flap, which gives it six sides for printing. The outside cover if you wish to call it that, is rather plain. There is a full bleed of a potato on the front and a divided back for the address and postage, just like a typical postcard. We are however introduced to the first of many superlatives that indicate this is no ordinary spud but the world’s finest Idaho Russet.
As soon as the folding card is opened we are greeted by three landscapes with the invitation to drive to the land of the world famous Idaho potato. All three accompanying captions explain how Idaho’s good earth and irrigation dams produce record yields. Some praise for Idaho onions are thrown in for good measure as they are not famous enough to deserve their own card.Under the flap we are greeted by a cooked potato topped with a slab of very yellow butter. Idaho Russets after all are the finest for Mashing, steaming, frying, baking. And of course they’re grand, the grandest you’ve ever tasted. Three recipes are provided so you can verify these claims yourself.
Even though the publishers name is absent, it was obviously created to promote the sale of Idaho potatoes and increase tourism for the state in which they are grown. While it must now seem like a stretch that cards such as this would have the ability to attract people to potato fields on their vacation, the idea is not as unusual as it sounds. Vacations today tend to focus on activities whether it be at amusement parks or by spending time in nature; but this is mostly a modern phenomena. Amusements and outdoor activities have certainly existed in the past, but tourism at the turn of the 20th century was focused on building the American Myth. In a nation where there were still living veterans of the civil war that tore the county apart, many thought it important to find a unifying narrative that we could all rally around. Enterprise and the working of this land were part of the pioneer saga that flowed into the American myth. It was therefore not uncommon for any sort of representation of bounty, natural or manmade, to be incorporated into the language of tourism. The abundant use of exaggeration and superlatives had long been a unique part of Americanism, and it flowed naturally into print.
Tourism was not just about getting us to spend money, it was a method of instruction, to tell us who we were as Americans. See America First campaigns broadened our perspective to show us people and places outside our own communities that many had been tied to their entire life. Yet this promotion wasn’t about diversity but unity. We might see new and exciting things, but they would all be brought into the fold of the familiar. Perhaps the potato farmer in Idaho was not so different from those growing corn in Iowa or oranges down in Florida. Postcards played a huge role in this effort, providing people in one part of the county with insights into the rest of it, which they would probably never see first hand. It did not matter if these two dimensional objects were only providing a one dimensional outlook; that was their purpose. They simplified the complex, they made it easier to understand what it was to be an American. Even the most benign looking postcards, like those cut into the shape of a spud, were part of this propaganda effort. There was however an inherent flaw in this effort for the power of myth to unify is as strong as its power to divide. This can lead to extreme forms of oppression when the divisions are found within a single nation. National tourism along with the postcards that support it were exclusively aimed at moulding the beliefs of their White middle-class audience. The characteristics of the spud emphasized on this card, tastier, meatier, WHITER, do not seem arbitrary for in America, all things are better when they are white.
The question that this postcard now presents to us is why is its message is so arcane and difficult for the average person to see. Although this card is undated, it is typical of those produced from the 1930’s into the early 1960’s when official efforts were still being made to revitalize national tourism. It was at this point that oppressed people who have never felt like they were part of this myth begin to have a voice, and this country’s unifying narrative began to fall apart. Without a centralized myth to hold us together we have become more self-focused, serving-serving and a more divided nation. The solution for too many today is to long for the golden age, the good old days or even a time when America was great. These were indeed real times; not of greatness but when the illusion of greatness could be sustained, a time when those apart from the mainstream knew their place or conveniently did not exist. For those excluded from this myth there was never anything so great about the past.
While identity politics now seem to rule our society, few on either side of the divide seem to have any real understanding of our history. What is worse, there is no understanding of the mechanisms that form the root of our problems and perpetuate them. It is if there were a race to create the most myopic point of view, no doubt fueled by hatred that blinds us to the truth. The solution may not lie in old postcards, but they can give us more than a glimpse into the past. To truly understand them is to see how our paradigms are shaped and formed. Perhaps with a better understanding of how things work we can create new more inclusive myths that make all our lives richer.
Picturing the Eulenburg Affair
Parlez-vous alemand? In the early 1900’s, this phrase, Do you speak German? might be heard in the various pissoirs and cruising spots around Paris. It was code for Are you homosexual? Indeed, same-sex love was already being labeled the German vice, and Berlin seen as much the destination for boy lovers as Paris was for those seeking girls. In Germany, there had been scandals involving homosexuality in the army, but they received little press until the apparent suicide of industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp in 1902 when proof of his dalliance with boys on the Isle of Capri was made public. In spite of this coverage, it was the Eulenburg Affair that truly shocked Germany, and would grow into an international news story that led to more serious consequences.
A group of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s closest friends and cabinet members were brought to trial on charges of homosexuality in a series of five civil trials and court-martials lasting from 1907 to 1909. In the course of the proceedings, which were highly publicized both in Germany and abroad, and in which the famous gay pioneer sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld testified, concepts of homosexuality and homosexual identity would become issues of public concern and widely discussed. In a sense, the affair could be seen as the cauldron in which modern gay identity was born. Both the recently published GAY BERLIN by Robert Beachy in 2014, and JEWS QUEERS GERMANS, by Martin Duberman in 2017 address the Eulenburg Affair and bring it deservedly to our attention. As a collector of early postcards, I would like to share some of my discoveries regarding this important episode in queer history, its context, and its ramifications, given the importance of postcards in generating and disseminating social concepts at the time.
The charges of homosexuality in the government and in the military were taken very seriously in Wilhemine Germany (1890-1918). Homosexuality was persistently viewed in the public mind as a perversion, one that could be transmitted to the youth of the country and jeopardize its security. Men engaging in homosexual behavior were seen as effete, weak, lacking courage and open to blackmail. This explains the enormous public concern given to charges of homosexuality in Germany’s military and ruling elite. It also explains why Germany’s chief enemy, France, frequently defamed Germany by depicting their military personnel on postcards as unmanly and effeminate. While feminizing one’s enemy was standard practice in propaganda, French postcards were particularly profuse and imaginative in doing so. Similar sentiments, however, can be found on Polish, Italian and Belgian cards, while Germans themselves at times gave a humorous twist to the situation.
On the card above titled The Moltke-Harden Trial, Count Kuno von Moltke is shown leaving the courthouse where his libel case is being heard against Maximilian Harden, editor of the news magazine, Die Zukunft. Harden had accused Moltke, the recently resigned military commander of Berlin and member of the Kaiser’s inner circle, of being homosexual. Testimony revealed that Moltke was in a sham marriage to his wife, Lilly von Elbe, who blamed her husband’s infatuation with Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg for the marriage’s failure. Eulenburg, an intimate friend of the Kaiser, was a prince and hereditary peer in the Prussian House of Lords, and had served as Ambassador to Austria-Hungary before being exposed as homosexual. At trial’s end, Moltke, with his delicate sensibilities and somewhat effeminate manners, was deemed “subconsciously homosexual,” a position argued by sexologist Hirschfeld, while Harden was acquitted. At no point was Moltke accused of violating paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which criminalized homosexual acts and against which intellectuals in Germany and elsewhere were fighting to have abrogated since 1871. Over fifty foreign journalists were assigned to cover this and the subsequent trials and hundreds of articles covering the events were published. On the second day of the first trial, police were called in to control the crowds outside.
A parody of the Eulenburg affair can be found coded on this rare German card above, supposedly based on a ballad by German writer Friedrich Schiller. It tells of the love between the Knight Phili and his sweetheart, Tütü. Their love is jeopardized by a villain named Maxe, who at the end stabs Tütü. There is no such ballad by Schiller. Here, instead, Phili is the nickname of Prince Eulenburg; Tütü refers to Moltke and, as revealed at the trials, was his early childhood pet name, now used only by his two sisters and Prince Eulenburg; Maxe is Maximilian Harden, the journalist who in numerous articles exposed the homosexuality of both Eulenburg and Moltke. The card employs the German word süsse in its caption, The Knight Phili and his sweet Tütü. Süsse(r), meaning sweet/sweetie in German is also common slang for homosexual. Maxe, who is referred to as evil, a curse, is initially shown with a figure holding up a newspaper, no doubt referring to Harden’s own paper, Die Zukunft, whose inflammatory articles were the center of attention in the Eulenburg affair.
A humorous spoof on the Eulenburg affair can be found on this German card featuring a fairy tale maiden and two couples. The centered and larger depicted couple is composed of two men in an embrace. The male on the left is pictured as effeminate, dressed in a checkered suit and with his derri�re protruding outward. The men cry out to one another: “My Sweetie! You, my beloved soul!” To their right is an ordinary looking older German couple. Here the wife admonishes her husband with the words: “Look, old guy, you never flatter me with such pretty names.” On the left side of the card, in an inset with the words: Phili-fairy tale, is a long haired young princess with the outline of a castle tower behind her. In addition to the reference to Prince Eisenburg (Phili), the terms Sweetie and My Beloved Soul were mentioned in the libel trials as terms of endearment exchanged between Moltke and his supposed lover Eulenburg.
The association of Prince Eulenburg with the homosexuality believed to be rampant throughout Germany and its military prevailed for many years after the trials of 1907-1909. On the French propaganda postcard above, mailed in 1920, an effeminate Crown Prince Wilhelm testifies in court. “Yes, Your Honors, I am the same type of person as Henry III (a fool of a man, I agree). I wanted the war because I had promised it to my darling officers. If my father had refused, I would have caused a scandal à la Eulenburg, you understand?” Henry III was a sixteenth century king of France, who was said to have had homosexual relations with his court favorites, known as the mignons, the same word used by the crown prince to describe his officers. Wilhelm stands with his rear end extended outward and upward while his monocle and bright red lips further indicate effeminacy. The card, titled The Crown Prince at the Council of War is number 4 in a series called The Enemy. What is noteworthy is that recipients of this French card were presumed to know of the Eulenburg scandal in Germany which occurred more than a decade earlier.
This undated Italian card referring to the Battle of the Marne in World War I again evokes the name of Eulenburg to refer to homosexual behavior. On the card, two officers after the battle have the following dialogue: “First officer: It was von Eulenburg who opened the(his) rear to von Bulow. Second officer: Golly! Once again?” Von Bulow refers to the German Ambassador to Italy from 1914-1915, who was unable to succeed in persuading Italy to join the Central Powers. Earlier he had been accused by journalist Maximilian Harden of homosexual behavior at the all-male social gatherings of the Kaiser’s friends hosted by Prince Eulenburg.
Kaiser Wilhelm’s second son, Eitel Friedrich, though married, was rumored to be homosexual, and like his older brother, Wilhelm, he also fought in the First World War. The French postcard above hints at Eitel’s illicit relations with his orderlies, those soldiers assigned to be his personal servants, while depicting him in the most unflattering (for a soldier) manner. The top of the card reads: Visions of the Great War. The pretty little family. Eitel Fritz, sweet friend of the orderlies. Below the caricature, the caption reads: “One of the ways of getting volunteers into Eitel Fritz’s regiment.” Eitel is shown from the rear with protruding buttocks and standing daintily with one foot in front of the other. His gloved hand to his puckered lips, he is returning a salute to two other servicemen. The card is signed by the artist/illustrator Jerzy d’Ostoya (1878-1937).
A scathing allusion to Moltke can be found on another French propaganda card from the First World War. It was mailed in 1914, and depicts a French soldier penetrating his bayonet into the rear of a German soldier, who is throwing up his arms in pain. The translated French caption above the illustration reads War 1914 and the one below reads Sheaths for French bayonets patented by Moltke. Feminizing the enemy is standard practice in war propaganda, as are depictions of enemy soldiers being bayonetted in the rear, but Moltke’s derrière portrayed as a patented sheaf for bayonets, recalls the accusations of his homosexual liaisons from a decade before.
The theme of rampant homosexuality in the German military extends to this illustrated post card printed in Poland. Here, four German officers are assiduously inspecting a group of Turkish soldiers from behind, focusing on their derrières. The card reads: “In Constantinople, during a military inspection by a body of German generals. “Von Schweinemann: Delicious material, no? Von Hinterlader: Outstanding! Chap for chap! Perfect for the Prussian guard!” The name Schweinemann translates as Pig Man, while the name Hinterlader which literally means breach-loading gun, is vulgar for homosexual.
German soldiers were known at times to prostitute themselves, if only to earn a bit of extra income, and there were areas of Berlin as well as bars where one could visit to make the encounters. On this Italian postcard, titled COMPETITION, a prostitute looks out rather resentfully from behind a corner at two men about to enter a building. The man bending over in front to open the door is a German soldier. Directly behind, if not pressed against his protruding derrière, is a finely dressed gentleman in a top hat. Below the scene, the caption reads: “She: The German soldier is really the greatest conqueror in the world.” An alternative and equally applicable translation of conquistatore is seducer.
During the Eulenburg trials, questions arose as to the nature of male homosexuality. Was it inborn, as many thought, indicative of a third sex, or acquired? Or was it simply one variant in the array of sexual feelings and behavior exhibited by men? Due largely to the public discussions generated by the trials, the word homosexual signifying a personality type started to gain currency. On the anti-German card above, printed in Brussels, we see in profile the head of a German officer, made to look effeminate with his eye liner, monocle and reddened lips. Below are the words “Une ’tante’ d’Allemagne!,” best translated as a German Auntie. It is a rare and early example on the post card of how society was becoming to view homosexuals as a type rather than just a behavior. Tante today remains in French a pejorative term for the male homosexual.
This colorful propaganda card depicts German soldiers, their helmets set aside, drinking and enjoying a drag act by one of their fellow officers. The caption below, German leisure moments, is in French, English and Russian, while on the verso, The European War of 1914-1915. Patriotic Edition. appears in French. One reclining officer swings a parasol while a tilted picture on the wall hints to the debauchery taking place. Occupation allemande translates also as German military occupation, recalling other anti-German propaganda postcards depicting German officers enjoying orgies in occupied Belgium.
This illustrated French card portrays a German soldier in womanŕs garb viewing himself in a mirror by candlelight. The caption reads: Fits me like a glove! The card is more of a gender bender in that the German soldier with his steel helmet and hairy arms and legs contrasts with his frilly night gown. It suggests that beneath the militaristic appearance of the German soldier there lurks a womanly figure wanting to come out. The German enemy is less a fearsome figure than one to be ridiculed.
A rather curious French card labeled The Belly Dance: souvenir of a voyage to Morocco, refers to Kaiser Wilhelm’s visit to Tangier in 1905. The Kaiser declared he had come to support the independence of Morocco, a stance that was in fact a challenge to French influence in the country. The French card infers that the only return for Germany was a belly dancer in the form of a German soldier performing a sexy dance with a veil. Rather ironically, three years later, while performing a pas seul in a tutu in the presence of the Kaiser at a private estate, chief of the Military Secretariat Dietrich von Holsen-Haeseler, dropped dead and the affair, with its homosexual implications, was for the time hushed up.
Germans were not without a sense of humor when it came to homosexuality, as we saw on the third card from the top that satirizes the Eulenburg affair. On the card directly above titled Kleidermusterung! (Clothing Inspection) drawn by the marine painter Karl Blossfeld, two sailors in a line waiting for clothing inspection break rank. The one furthest to the right assumes a feminine pose of modesty with his eyes cast downward and his left arm held coyly behind his head. The adjacent sailor glances over with desire. Here, the image of the male sailor, long the icon of heterosexual virility and object of female desire, takes on a new twist. British cards, likewise, though not condoning same-sex attraction, at times acknowledged it through humor.
The first quarter of the twentieth century, as we have seen, witnessed a heightened interest in homosexual behavior in Germany, spurred on by high-profile government scandals and concerns for state security. The Eulenburg Affair of 1907-1909 set the stage for open public discourse on the nature of homosexuality while at the same time drawing attention all the more to Germany as a center of homosexuality, the German vice. This association of Germany with homosexuality was then employed for propagandistic purposes by Germany’s enemies in the First World War. The picture postcard, a ubiquitous means of communication at the time, reflected and served to reinforce and disseminate this image.