Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Look Back at a New Year

"The Conscript" by W.A. Rogers in New York Herald, January 1, 1917
100 years ago, you might be forgiven for being wary of the new year ahead of you. From our standpoint, we know that 1917 was the year that the U.S. would enter World War I.

But as the calendar turned, there was still some hope that peace might be in the offing. Seizing on a December invitation by Kaiser Wilhelm to the Entente powers to negotiate for peace, President Wilson proposed a series of settlement plans at the beginning of the year. He was also working behind the scenes to get other neutral countries to band together to persuade the belligerents to accept them. The Senate, backing Wilson's proposals by a vote of 48 to 17, thought peace was at hand.
"Released" by Magnus Kettner for Western Newspaper Union, January 8, 1917
Apparently, the markets, flush with two years of wartime profits, thought so, too.
"Did Anybody Say 'Peace'?" by Gibb in The Sunday Chronicle, Patterson, New Jersey, January 14, 1917
Germany, with its troops holding forth in France and Belgium and having success in Romania, had published its own peace proposals in December (meanwhile sending secret messages to Mexico urging President Carranza to declare war on the U.S.  which would be revealed later in January). The Triple Entente of Great Britain, France and Russia decided that German and American talk of peace was utter foolishness.
"Still Fishing" by William "Noax" Noakes in Regina Morning Leader, January 13, 1917
President Wilson's domestic critics joined in the skepticism.
"Experience as a Peace Maker" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, January 4, 1917
Wilson's overtures to other neutral countries further offended Entente leaders when Spain publicly rejected his private diplomacy. The Entente countered with their own peace proposal, consisting of terms the Central Powers would never accept without being militarily defeated: German evacuation of occupied territories; reparations for France, Russia and Romania; liberation from the Austrian and Ottoman Empires of Italians, Romanians, and Slavs; and creation of a "free and united Poland."
"A Common Sense View" by Winsor McCay in New York American, January 10, 1917
Now, if it occurs to you that McCay's focus on the monetary cost of the war, as opposed to its human cost, is maybe just the tiniest bit soulless, hey, at least it's not openly racist. For a truly jaw-dropping counterpoint to peace optimism, here's the first editorial cartoon of the year from Chicago Examiner's Harry Murphy:
"Must Peace Wait for This?" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, January 2, 1917
Yellow Peril, really? Ouch.

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