Category Archives: guest post

September 26, 2008, 12:11 pm

Lafayette, we are here. Part II.

Continuing his thrilling tale of yesteryear, David Silbey carries forward his epic This Day in History….

The American plan was flawed from the beginning. First, the attacks were spaced too closely together in time. To be successful, offensives in 1918 had to be complex, highly-planned and rehearsed, and heavily supplied. There was plenty of time to plan, supply, and train for the St. Mihiel assault, but not for Meuse-Argonne. American units would have to be pulled out of the St. Mihiel attack, have their casualties replaced, and retrain for the Meuse-Argonne, in the space of about ten days. This was simply not enough time. Second, the attacks were spaced too closely in distance. St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne were next to each other on the front, supplied by the same road network. Even worse, that road network ran through Verdun, the site of near continuous fighting in…

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September 25, 2008, 10:37 am

Lafayette, we are here. Part I.

We are pleased and privileged to welcome back David Silbey, who has suspended his campaign so he can provide us a truly outstanding This Day in History. Many, many thanks, David.

On this day in 1918, the United States launched an attack against the German trenches in the Meuse-Argonne region of northern France. It was the largest American effort since the Civil War; in absolute numbers it was the largest operation the United States had ever undertaken.

That which traditionally does not survive contact with the enemy.

 

For all that, it was a sideshow to the larger war. After the stagnation of 1916-1917, 1918 had become the year of resolution. The Germans, fresh from their victory over the Russians, had transported hundreds of thousands of soldiers back from the eastern front to the western. They knew that they had a limited amount of time to take advantage of the numbers,…

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September 16, 2008, 8:10 am

Vivan los Héroes de la Independencia!

[Editor's Note: Andres Resendez, our correspondent to the frozen wastes of Northern Europe, writes in from Finland today. Which suggests that the blog's reach now encompasses the entire globe. So don't mess with us, people. Anyway, Andres's outstanding new book -- it got an A- from Entertainment Weekly -- can be found here. And we're very grateful to him for taking the time to pitch in. Though really, he's in Finland, so what else does he have to do with his time? It's either this or pick a fight with a Swede. And we all know Andres isn't that kind of guy.]

On this day Mexico celebrates its independence from the Spanish Empire (no, it wasn’t Cinco de Mayo, although the fact that the latter is the better-known date in the United States prompts many interesting questions and a few tentative answers). Miguel Hidalgo y…

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September 13, 2008, 1:38 pm

Not by Might

[Teo has been running with wolves and stuff. But he's still kind enough to check in and drop some Southwestern flavah on us. This post either is or soon will be cross-posted at one of Teo's two excellent blogs: here or here.]

On this day in 1692, Don Diego de Vargas Zapata Luján Ponce de León, the governor of the Spanish colony of New Mexico, arrived at the town of Santa Fe, formerly the capital of the province but held since 1680 by the coalition of Pueblo Indians who revolted against the Spanish in that year and managed to drive them out of the area entirely. Vargas, an ambitious royal administrator and member of a distinguished family in Madrid, had only recently been appointed governor, but he had spent almost all of his short term so far planning obsessively for the reconquest of his nominal province, limited for practical purposes to the area immediately around the fortress …

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September 4, 2008, 9:25 am

“The Great Day of American Fascism” or “a Modern Tragedy”?

[Editor's Note: Our special guest today is Lori Clune. Professor Clune is an instructor in the history department at Fresno State and a graduate student in our program. Thanks, Lori, for doing this. We appreciate it.]

On this day in 1949, just north of Peekskill, New York, Paul Robeson attempted to stage a concert — again. The performance scheduled for August 27th to benefit the Civil Rights Congress had never happened; violence had prevented Robeson from even getting within a mile of the stage. Even though the Westchester County community (just up the road from the Clintons’ current digs in Chappaqua) had enjoyed three previous, peaceful Robeson concerts in as many years, 1949 proved different. Communism, and fear of it, was on the rise. The Cold War — 1949 style — included hydrogen bomb testing, Chinese communists…

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August 30, 2008, 8:23 am

Alberto Gonzales: Maverick

[Editor's note: Senior frontier correspondent, awc, sends along the following dispatch from the wilds of Alaska's history. Please be aware that this post likely will be updated and edited when awc's team of intrepid sled dogs, carrying in their intrepid maws more history, arrives later today at EotAW world headquarters.]

One of the most amusing storylines being floated by Republicans is the idea that Sarah Palin is a maverick. Certainly, she appears less corrupt than her peers, no hard feat in the nation’s most crooked state. And she has diverged from party orthodoxy on a few issues.

The most obvious theme, however, that emerges from Palin’s bio is a Bush-esque obsession with loyalty. We all now know about her alleged attempts to pressure the state police to fire her former brother in-law. Less well known are her actions as mayor of the city of Wasilla.

Shortly after her…

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August 29, 2008, 12:01 am

our ears are / now / in excellent condition

[Editor's Note: Vance Maverick, the real original maverick, returns for another guest post. Thanks, Vance, for doing this. We very much appreciate it.]

On August 29, 1952, at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York, David Tudor gave the first performance of John Cage’s composition 4’33″ — consisting, notoriously, of nothing but silence. It remains Cage’s best-known piece: many more people have been provoked by it (take our own Dave Noon) than have ever attended a performance. In one sense it’s unrepresentative of Cage’s work — he wrote many, many pieces before and after it, full of all kinds of sound — but it’s a landmark, and understanding it does shed light on his extraordinary career. Further, it’s the representative extreme of a tendency in his work which is well worth learning to listen to — and in the right frame of mind, it’s 4’33″ well spent.

John Cage …

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August 26, 2008, 12:01 am

“Don’t Iron While the Strike Is Hot!”

[Editor's Note: Bryan Waterman, associate professor of English at NYU, joins us today to talk about, well, read it for yourself. Bryan was gracious enough to send along a bevy of links so that I could do some research and "make fun of [him].” To which I’d reply, friend, I’m not sure you understand the seriousness of this blog. And also: I do research at my day job. Anyway, Bryan’s first book, Republic of Intellect, is here. And he blogs, among other places, at a history of new york, where you can visit, if only virtually, Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery and experience some of the things about New York that are missing from your goyishe life in California’s Central Valley. Wait, did I say that out loud?

Thanks, Bryan, for doing this.]

On August 26, 1970, the fiftieth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, the notorious feminist author and activist Betty Friedan, out-going president …

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August 15, 2008, 1:09 pm

Behind the Curtain

[Editor's Note: Ben Alpers has returned for another foray into film history. Ben's excellent book can be found here. Ben himself, looking very serious, can be found here. Unless he's still abroad. Regardless, we are, as ever, grateful for his efforts.]

Sixty-nine years ago today, MGM’s The Wizard of Oz premiered at the Capitol Theater in New York. Like many major movie premieres of the day, this was a gala event. Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney provided live entertainment. Crowds had begun forming outside the theater at 5:30 in the morning. By the time the box office had opened at 8:00, police estimated that ten-thousand people were waiting to get into the 5,486-seat theater. “Two-hours later,” the New York Times reported, “the street queues, five and six abreast, extended from the box-office at Broadway and Fifty-first Street, west on Fifty-first Street, down Eighth…

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August 3, 2008, 12:18 am

Stirring the Pot

[Editor's Note: Michael Elliott returns with another dispatch from the far eastern edge of the American West. Thanks, Michael, for pitching in.]

I’m getting in late on this, but I’ve been thinking about this act of desperation:

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been spending some time of late hanging around sites related to the civil rights movement, and I’ve been listening, when I can, to some of the veterans of that movement. The fact is that when the Obama candidacy comes up, the civil rights veterans that I have heard really do come close to using some of the language that this ad mocks. I don’t want to generalize too much, because I have only a handful of examples to draw on, but my sense is that for a number of people, specifically African Americans rooted in the civil rights movement, Obama is indeed someone who…

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July 24, 2008, 4:23 pm

United States of America v. Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States

[Editor's Note: Kathy Olmsted, awesome as ever, joins us to talk about Nixon. Perhaps you all could lean on her to just suck it up and join the blog? Here's an argument to use: she wouldn't have to post any more often than she already does.]

On this day in 1974, White House chief of staff Alexander Haig walked into President Richard Nixon’s study in his compound in San Clemente and gave him the decision just handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States of America v. Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States. The president scanned the text and then exploded, snarling epithets about his three appointees who had joined the rest of the court in the 8-0 decision. The court had ruled that the president must surrender the audiotapes of several oval office conversations to the Watergate special prosecutor. Thus began two of the most dramatic weeks in U.S. presidential…

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July 18, 2008, 12:01 am

“A plague of initials”*

[Editor's Note: Sandie Holguin, a very dear friend and occasional commenter at the EotAW, has kindly agreed to provide us with a history lesson about the Spanish Civil War. Sandie's book can be found here. (Apparently, her middle name is Eleanor. Who knew?) Thanks, Sandie, for doing this.]

On this day in 1936 (also on July 17, aka “yesterday,” if you want to get technical), a group of disgruntled army officers led by General Emilio Mola initiated a military rebellion against Spain’s democratically elected Popular Front government. The revolt began in Spanish Morocco a little earlier than planned, and soon thereafter, the Army of Africa and General Francisco Franco, who secretly had been whisked away from his exile in the Canary Islands, were supposed to use Morocco as a launching point from which to cross the Straits of Gibraltar and invade southern Spain. Meanwhile, other…

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July 16, 2008, 8:13 pm

Mustard Moment

[Editor's Note: Michael Elliot, whose book is "one of the finest recent works in the field of memory studies" sends along this dispatch from the American South. Contributions to the fund we're setting up to cover Michael's child's therapy bills can be sent directly to Michael's paypal account.]

I’ve just returned from a quick historical road-trip with my son, age 4, through Alabama. We hit civil rights sites and museums in Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery. (Also on the itinerary: the Sloss Furnaces, minor league baseball, and a zoo.) I ascribe to the blank-slate school of parenting, in which the whole raison d’etre of offspring is the chance to indoctrinate/mold/shape the child into a smarter, better version of oneself. So this kind of road trip is pretty much what I have had in mind since the day G. was born.

Like most of my parenting ventures, this one reminded me how…

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June 24, 2008, 9:42 am

“The Biograph Girl with the Curls”

[Editor's Note: Ben Alpers, author of this excellent book, is back. And since I spent yesterday first driving to San Francisco, then getting on a plane at SFO, then flying to Cleveland, and then driving from the Cleveland airport to the East Side, all with two kids in tow, I really appreciate the help -- even more than usual, that is.]

On this day in 1916, Mary Pickford signed a contract with the Famous Players Film Company that made her the most highly paid, and powerful, female star in Hollywood. The contract guaranteed her $10,000 per week for two years, thus totaling over $1 million. Just as importantly, it created a separate production unit within the studio, Pickford Film Corporation, over which Pickford, and her mother Charlotte, would have control. This gave the star enormous say over her roles and even the final cut of her films. She was also able to reduce the number …

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June 21, 2008, 1:33 pm

Happy Birthday, United States

[Editor's Note: Commenter Matt Dreyer sends along the following as food for thought. I don't know how many times I need to tell the rest of you people to step up and start pulling your weight. This is a group endeavor.]

On June 21st, 1789 New Hampshire ratified the United State Constitution. It was the ninth state to do so. Article VII of the Constitution states, in full, “The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution between the states so ratifying the same.” June 21st is therefore, whatever a bunch of crazed July 4th partisans might want to tell you, the birthday of the United States as opposed to the date, give or take, on which a motley collection of colonies declared independence from Great Britain.