Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century

Our Times 2

I now partner with Dr. Fritz McCameron who hosts a three hour long big band music program every Sunday morning on WBRH, the Baton Rouge Magnet High School public radio station.  Once a month I do a show, and Fritz does the others.

I like to do a segment that I call “Name That Year,” in which I give information about a “mystery year,” and play music that was popular that year.  Most of my information concerning the mystery year (except for the information about the music I will use) comes from one of my favorite books: Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century.  This oversized 685 page book, which was published in 1995, contains a tremendous amount of information on each year from 1900 thru 1994.  Each page is loaded with a wide range of items that are fascinating to read about, and the format of the pages makes you want to read every single word, and to enjoy every one of the many gorgeous illustrations.

The best way to demonstrate the breadth of the information provided for each year is to pick a year and list some of the items provided in this magnificent book.  Let’s look at what was going on in 1914 – 100 years ago:

New that year were Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum, teletype machines, the national 4-H Club, feature-length film comedies (silent, of course), and automobile maps (courtesy of Gulf Oil).

The Fox Trot (named after vaudevillian Harry Fox) was very popular that year.  A newly married couple, Vernon and Irene Castle, made their reputations in the world of dance by demonstrating the popular dance.

President Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.  For six years Anna May Jarvis worked to bring this about.

President Wilson signed the Clayton Antitrust Act into law.  It strengthened the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

World War I began with all its horrors – including trench warfare.

The Panama Canal opened for business.

Tarzan of the Apes, the first in a series of novels about a British nobleman raised by apes, was published.  Its author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, turned to writing only after 14 years of failed business ventures.

Robert H. Goddard filed two patents that had to do with rocketry – something which obsessed him.  The patents called for the use of multi-stage rockets propelled by liquid fuel.

After living in South Africa for 20 years attorney and activist Mohandas K. Gandhi returned to his native India, much to the relief of white South Africans.  While in South Africa Gandhi often experienced racism, and perfected his concept of passive resistance.

Notable births included U.S. poet John Berryman; authors William S. Burroughs, Ralph Ellison, John Hersey Bernard Malamud, Octavio Paz, and Dylan Thomas; Norwegian explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl; boxer Joe Lewis; baseball player Joe DiMaggio; U.K neurologist Alan Hodgkin; and U.K. actor Alec Guinness.

Notable deaths included U.S. writer Ambrose Bierce; Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand; naturalist John Muir; Pope Pious X; U.S. retailer Richard Sears; and inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse.

Notable books included Dubliners by James Joyce; The Congo by Vachel Lindsay; Trees by Joyce Kilmer; and The Titan by Theodore Dreiser.

Notable films included Max Sennett’s Tillie’s Punctured Romance; D. W. Griffith’s The Avenging Conscience; and The Perils of Pauline.

The Boston Braves defeated the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series; boxer Jack Dempsey debuted; and golfer Walter Hagen began his career, winning the U.S. open at the age of 21.

The Federal Trade Commission was established; and Henry Ford began paying his employees a phenomenal $5 for an 8-hour day’s work.

The Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature were not awarded in 1914.

Notable quotes sited for 1914 include: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” – British foreign minister Sir Edward Grey; “Wounded; wounded everywhere, maimed men at every junction; hospitals crowded with blind and dying and moaning men.” – British war correspondent Philip Gibbs writing about the first six months of World War I; “Objections to dancing have been made on the grounds that it is wrong, immoral, and vulgar.  This it certainly is not—when the dancers regard propriety.” – Vernon and Irene Castle

New and used copies of Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century (edited by Lorraine Glennon) are still available from various sellers on the internet.  Five people have reviewed it on Amazon, and they all awarded the book the maximum of five stars.  Sixteen people reviewed it at Goodreads, and gave it an average of 4.06 stars out of a possible 5 stars.

20th Century

During my research for this post, I found another book with a 1999 copyright entitled The 20th Century: An Illustrated History of Our Lives and Times that is also edited by Lorraine Glennon.  I have looked at it and it is an update of Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century in that it takes us into the year of its publication.  Either book will give you many, many hours of pleasure.

I mentioned that I play popular music associated with the mystery year.  Here are some of the songs that debuted in 1914:

  • Burlington Bertie from Bow
  • Down Among the Sheltering Palms
  • If I Had You by Irving Berlin
  • The Music Box Rag
  • That’s a Plenty
  • They Didn’t Believe Me by Jerome Kern
  • Play a Simple Melody by Irving Berlin
  • Colonel Bogey March
  • Aba Daba Honeymoon
  • La Cucaracha
  • St. Louis Blues by W. C. Handy
  • Twelfth Street Rag
  • Vienna, City of My Dreams by Rudolf Sieczynski
  • I Was a Good Little Girl Till I Met You [So now you buy my frills and frocks, and things I dare not tell/Quite frequently I darn your socks and other things as well/I know some things I never knew in all my single life/You’ve taught me quite a thing or two since I became your wife.]
  • The Little Ford Rambled Right Along
  • Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle [/when Rip Van Winkle went away/and while he slept for 20 years/who was it kissed away her tears]
  • The Yellow Dog Rag by W. C. Handy
  • Fido Is a Hot Dog Now [He’s in a place below/where all the naughty doggies go/down, down, down/where there isn’t any snow]
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