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Becoming P.T. Barnum An American Original’s Shameless Start

Off Key: Star Spangled Controversy MacArthur’s Mexican Adventure

February 2017





February 2017

FEATURES 26 Becoming Barnum The emperor of hoopla had to start somewhere. His first step toward showbiz immortality was a logicdefying, ballyhoo-blaring doozy By Peter Carlson

34 Before Hillary Striving to be America’s first female president, the Democrat was far from first in a sisterhood dating to the 19th Century By Frieda Wiley

42 Off Key Long before Colin Kaepernick, the national anthem was a setting for political statements—and at times a political football itself By Joseph Connor

52 Silver Prints


As a teenager in post-war New York, Larry Silver documented his town in images that displayed a sophistication beyond his years

60 Cheating Death At Veracruz, Mexico, in 1914, Captain Douglas MacArthur provided advance notice that he was a warrior to be reckoned with By David Sears

DEPARTMENTS 6 Mosaic 10 Letters 12 Interview Peter Cozzens on the Indian Wars

14 Encounter Norman Mailer and Sonny Liston

18 Déjà Vu Candidates’ health: always worrisome

22 Game On A day so perfect it needed a replay


24 Cameo Katharine McCormick, mothers’ helper

68 Reviews 72 An American Place Woodford Reserve evokes the American spirit

ON THE COVER: P.T. Barnum got his start as a showman with an outlandish promotion mixing history and hogwash.



American History ONLINE


Visit and search our archive for great stories like these: FEBRUARY 2017 VOL. 51, NO. 6


No one officially warned Galveston, Texas, about a hurricane that struck on September 8, 1900. If only the United States had heeded Jesuits in Cuba.

Robber’s Portrait In July 1902, Harry Longbaugh—the Sundance Kid—posed with new wife Ethel (or Etta) Place for a photo.

Hitler Hoodwink About to interview Adolf Hitler in 1931, Dorothy Thompson did her homework. Germany’s future Führer didn’t scare this American journalist.



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Forecast Ignored



American History


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Forms must be received on or before 1/31/2017. Fax orders to 504-527-6088 or mail to: The National WWII Museum, Road to Victory Brick Program, 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130.

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by Sarah Richardson

White Might The Liberty Place obelisk hailed the post-Reconstruction return of white supremacy in New Orleans, Louisiana.


A contentious New Orleans memorial soon may be homeless. In August 2016, federal agencies ruled that the city is under no obligation to preserve or protect Liberty Place Monument. The artifact is one of four prominent Confederate memorials the city council has designated for removal. Museums have offered to take three honoring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard. No takers have emerged for the Liberty Place obelisk, a 35-foot homage to suppression of blacks’ rights and the resurgence of white supremacy. The privately funded Liberty Place display was installed in 1891 to celebrate an 1874 white insurrection. The Crescent City uprising pitted 5,000 Confederate loyalists of the White League against 3,500 New Orleans police and state militiamen. The three-day revolt claimed more than two dozen lives, ending only when federal troops stepped in. In 1932, a triumphalist inscription was

added to the column: “…United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election in November 1876 recognized white supremacy and gave us our state.” In 1974, the city replaced this message with one honoring slain policemen and defining the event as “a conflict of the Past that should teach us lessons for the Future.” Appeals of the monument removals are pending. Protests have enveloped another monument: an 1850s-era statue of Andrew Jackson erected to honor his victory over British forces in the War of 1812. Critics want the statue gone because Jackson owned slaves and as president forced Native Americans to relocate. On September 24, 2016, Jackson Square was the scene of a confrontation between protesters demanding the statue's removal and supporters of the obelisk, among them senatorial candidate and former KKK leader David Duke.


White Supremacist Monument Ditched


Death by Salt Disproved

The Ancestral Pueblan culture thrived for centuries in America’s arid southwest, raising corn in the region’s volcanic soil. Pueblans built roads, irrigation networks, and great houses made of stone with hundreds of rooms. They vanished in the 1200s—perhaps, archaeologists theorized, because irrigation concentrated salt, poisoning the soil. But salt compounds fertilized Pueblan fields, University of Cincinnati researchers report. Previous analysis did not delve deeply enough or account for minerals’ impact on soil quality, study leader Kenneth Tankersley says. The latest analysis, of a 1,000year-old soil layer, shows that Pueblan irrigation carried mountain runoff whose mineral content enhanced soil used to grow corn. This does not explain the Pueblans’ exit, but does cast doubt on salt poisoning.

Early American handwriting seems no more decipherable than Latin to high school students who never learned to write in cursive script, says Jim Ballard. For years, Ballard, of the Milton Historical Society in Vermont, has been recruiting secondary students to help transcribe old documents. Lately, he’s found that vintage script baffles young assistants. Similarly, historian Leah Grandy at Canada’s University of New Brunswick has found that matriculating undergraduates sometimes cannot read cursive script, even from recent centuries. A pilot program at Grandy’s institution teaches students how to read sources such as manuscripts related to loyalist Americans who fled to Canada's Maritime provinces during the Revolution. Early American scripts, or “hands,” are not complicated, but historians need to know which were used when, and to be able to recognize idiosyncrasies and nuances. Typed transcripts leave out “context and detail, such as the emotion of anger expressed in the style of the writer’s script or later notations and edits which could be germane to the dating, creation, and purpose of the document,” Grandy noted.

Paleographers Wanted

This Song Was Made for You and Me In 1940, Irving Berlin’s sunny “God Bless America” so annoyed Woody Guthrie that the folksinger penned “God Blessed America for Me.” Guthrie later renamed his sarcastic tune “This Land is Your Land.” Set to an old Baptist melody, the song mocks concentration of private property and wealth. A popular version included the lyric, “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me/The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’/ But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing/This land was made for you and me.” Ever since, "This Land" has been an anthem for social justice. Now a New York City law firm is suing to remove the composition from copyright protection. Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz argues that Guthrie never renewed his 1945 copyright and that since then many albums have printed his lyrics without a copyright notice. The firm is making a similar argument for another anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” in both cases acting on behalf of filmmakers who want to use the songs. The “We Shall Overcome” suit contends that the song existed in copyright-free form long before publishing company Ludlow Music, Inc., filed copyright claims in the early 1960s. A miners’ organization opened a meeting with the song in 1908, and striking tobacco workers were singing it in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1940s. In 1948, activist/performer Pete Seeger credited “We Will Overcome” as a composition by labor rights groups in his newsletter featuring songs of labor and the American people.


2017 7

Idiosyncratic enunciation of probing questions and commentary in a mid-Atlantic accent defined William F. Buckley’s 30-year run on his TV show, "Firing Line." Dissent magazine’s website argues that the conservative icon’s distinctive speech—and worldview— got its shape from his family’s immersion in Mexican culture and business. Until age six, Buckley spoke only Spanish. He learned English when he enrolled in a school in London. Buckley’s father, raised speaking Spanish in a small Texas town, made a career in the oil business in Mexico. Buckley père wanted his 10 children to speak Spanish. Author and Cornell University graduate student Bécquer Seguín contends that comparing Buckley’s flashy erudition and unusual accent to the diction of contemporary conservative icons Sarah Palin and Donald Trump helps illustrate how American conservatives’ values have changed. Seguín also reviews Buckley’s perennial interest in Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and in prospects in the mid-1900s for melding Catholicism and capitalism in South America. Buckley embraced human rights as part of his opposition to communism, writes Seguín, even citing Spanish to convey his view of the American stance on human rights. “The Spanish have a word: pujanza,” Buckley explained in an interview in Conversations with William F. Buckley, Jr. (2009). “It is used to define a really brave bull who keeps charging you and keeps on charging, such is his desire to get you. He has pujanza.”

Top Bid In the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” at Kinshasa, Zaire, Muhammad Ali reclaimed the heavyweight boxing title from George Foreman. On September 10, 2016, the belt Ali won in that match sold for $358,500 at Heritage Auctions. The belt turned up in 1988 in an abandoned storage locker. In the same auction, a 1964 note handwritten by Ali to Time magazine declaring his conversion to Islam sold for $131,450.


Circumnavigating Roadster Feted In 1908, a 1907 Thomas Flyer—sole American vehicle in a field of six—won a NewYork-to-Paris race. The one-time event, in the dead of winter, covered 22,000 miles in 169 days across three continents. In July, the National Association for Historic Vehicles and the U.S. Department of the Interior hailed the Flyer’s victory, which required a grueling transcontinental drive and transit by boat to Siberia for the leg to Paris. A cheering crowd of 250,000 watched the start. A New York Times reporter rode in the Flyer, filing stories from the Pacific by pigeon to a Seattle telegraph office. Of six cars from four nations, three finished; the French vehicle reached Paris first but the crew was disqualified for taking shortcuts. The Flyer, restored by hotelier Bill Harrah and displayed at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, since 1964, joins 11 other historic vehicles to be honored by the association.


William F. Buckley: El Hablo Espanol

Jackson, Mississippi is American History!

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Some Founding Fathers hoped or thought slavery would disappear on its own. That expectation had little to do with how Constitutional slavery played out between the dawn of the Constitution and 1865. Constitutional slavery governed slaves with a horrific grasp, and, due to federalism’s nature, the entire Union was implicated in Constitutional slavery’s mechanisms. When in 1860-61 a severe threat to Constitutional slavery surfaced, half the nation walked away from the Union.




American History columnist Peter Carlson (“Becoming Barnum,” p. 26), a former Washington Post reporter, has published several non-fiction books and is at work on a memoir. He lives in Rockville, Maryland. Frieda Wiley (“Before Hillary,” p. 34), is a freelance writer and pharmacist in Texas whose work has appeared in AARP, Everyday Health, and Arthritis Today. A former chemist, she spends her spare time studying wild plants, practicing yoga, and attending jazz festivals. Since retiring as an assistant prosecutor in Morris County, New Jersey, Joseph Connor (“Off Key,” p. 42; “An Old Soldier’s Plea,” p. 67), has been restoring antique shortwave radios, learning to play the five-string banjo, and writing for HistoryNet magazines. Before Larry Silver (“Silver Prints,” p. 52) began his long career as a photographer in advertising, he fell in love with street photography, creating images now on exhibit at the New-York Historical Society in New York City. He lives in Westport, Connecticut. New Jersey-based author and historian David Sears (“Cheating Death,” p. 60), writes often for HistoryNet. This issue marks his debut in American History.


The 13th Amendment, which destroyed Constitutional slavery, was written by cannon, not the reasoned debate of a democratic republic and a united union. Yes, after the Civil War, familiar democratic republican governing forms and state boundaries were evident, but to say that Lincoln “saved” the Union is to take a step too far, especially because the Union based so significant an amount of its economic and political power upon the ownership of man. Michael Smiddy Plattsburgh, New York Keep Confederate Names? Recently discovered your magazine. Impressive. Particularly enjoyed the article on the Barbary Wars (“Putting Pirates in their Place,” October 2016). Keep up the good work. As a military historian, I am troubled by the witch hunt to eradicate visible memories of the Confederacy. If the Southern Poverty Law Center has its sights on schools named after Confederate leaders, may we expect to see U.S. Army Forts Benning, Bragg, and Polk—named after Confederate generals who served the United States well before the Civil War— renamed Forts Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and Rosa Parks? This revisionist effort is not a sign of a healthy society; it is every bit as dangerous as the book burning which swept Germany in the 1930s. Philip Gioia Corte Madera, California



The Union, Reconsidered In “America’s Atlas” (December 2016), Peter R. Henriques writes, “Without Washington, there would have been no Union for Abraham Lincoln to save.” Let’s remember: The Union of Washington’s presidency and subsequent decades was held together with a blend of republicanism, Constitutional slavery, and democracy. Constitutional slavery recognized slaves as property, allowed slavery to exist in states choosing to practice it, corralled an enormous slave population with a fugitive slave provision, and awarded the white population living in regions with sizeable slave populations additional national political power.

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Death at Wounded Knee A Frederic Remington drawing of the massacre in South Dakota inspired this painting.



Why isn’t what happened to the Indians genocide? Merriam-Webster defines that as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” The government never intended to exterminate the native population of the West. But the government knew that cultural genocide would be the outcome of a policy, in the parlance of the day, to “civilize” or “Christianize” Indians—make them farmers and citizens. As tragic as the story is, it really was inevitable that the Indians would be pushed aside. The United

States was growing so fast as to make native ways of life requiring millions of acres of land to support tribal populations of a few thousand unsustainable. Who started the violence? Clearly whites did; in the West, Indians fought defensively. The cause of some conflicts was Indian raids—“depredations,” they were often called—but that’s how Indians fought. For them, mutilating the dead, which outraged whites, had a spiritual basis. Warriors believed a body entering the afterlife mutilated posed no threat in that world. Talk about personalities, starting with the Plains Indian warrior. Unless a youth showed the spiritual gifts to be a medicine man, the only way to prestige, wealth, and women was to prove himself as a warrior. Young men strove to distinguish themselves on raids against other tribes. A Crow youth could not even court a girl until he proved himself by stealing horses or taking a scalp in battle. The greatest feat of courage was counting coup—touching a live foe, usually


Peter Cozzens, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, is the author of The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West (Alfred A. Knopf, October 2016, $35). His next book will be a biography of Shawnee Chief Tecumseh.

How do you balance history? By presenting perspectives as evenhandedly and faithfully as sources permit, in this case examining actions of both Indians and whites in cultural context—in effect, creating balance. No epoch in American history has seen more narrative imbalance than the Indian Wars. The concept tends to be a struggle between good and evil, with the hero and villain roles reversing as needed to fit a changing national conscience. The story was far more nuanced.


with a decorated lance, or “coup stick.” Getting near enough to an armed enemy to touch him without trying to kill him outranked counting a dead enemy. Plains Indians held white scalps to be far less desirable than tribal enemy scalps. Warriors regarded whites—civilians and soldiers—as far less able opponents. The U.S. Army cavalryman? Soldiers on the frontier generally came from the lowest rungs of society, or were immigrants. Many saw the army as a ticket West, deserting in droves after reaching their stations. The exceptions were the Buffalo Soldiers—black troops who enlisted largely to prove their people’s worth. Black cavalrymen were more reliable and dedicated, and less likely to desert, than white counterparts. And Buffalo Soldiers were more skilled because they served longer. Indian agents? There were three classes. Political appointees took the job to cheat Indians of their annuities. I’ve found no dishonesty among Army officers named agents, who generally had Indians’ welfare at heart— and who knew any corrupt act risked court-martial and being cashiered. The third type were agents chosen by religious denominations, particularly Quakers. They could be too idealistic but they were uniformly honest.


General William T. Sherman? He was doing as ordered, clearing areas for white settlement. When angry, he had a tendency to utter very infelicitous comments. Once, after soldiers were killed, he said, “We must exterminate the Sioux down to the last man, woman, and child.” He didn’t mean that literally. Addressing a West Point class in the late 1860s, he advised young officers to help achieve the “inevitable result”—herding Indians onto reservations—as humanely as possible. So Sherman was of two minds. He was not an exterminationist. Sitting Bull? He meant to resist white encroachment— but he and his followers fought only when they had to. If you define greatness as determination to defend a way of life, you could argue that Sitting Bull was the greatest Plains chief. But is that realistic? I’d argue that Spotted Tail of the Brulé was as great a chief. Many Lakota viewed Spotted Tail as a sellout because he was the first leading Lakota chief to come to terms with the whites and settle on a reservation. But Spotted Tail fought hard and continually for the best possible terms and to preserve what he could of his people’s way of life. What do we get wrong about the Little Bighorn? We think Custer was a disobedient fool. I thought so, until I researched the battle and realized that in attacking the Lakota-Cheyenne village Custer was carrying out General Alfred Terry’s orders. Custer was outnumbered, but

Aftermath The body of Chief Big Foot, slain at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, frozen solid.

he was acting on the best intelligence at the moment. The Army assumed that the village held 800 warriors. But in the days before Custer began his four-day march to the Little Bighorn, that number grew to 1,800. And soldiers assumed that when they were attacked, an Indian village’s inhabitants would flee. The afternoon of June 25, 1876, Custer’s men were exhausted. He wanted to rest a night and attack in the morning. But he was told, incorrectly, that he’d been discovered. He erred in splitting his command. But it’s wrong to say he disobeyed orders, and to call him a fool for attacking is unfair. Had Custer kept his men together he would have prevailed. What one moment would you have liked to be present for? Wounded Knee, to be sure that what I conclude really did happen. I don’t call that event a massacre, because a massacre is purposeful killing of noncombatants with little or no threat to the perpetrators. Even in the ravine? In the ravine, individual soldiers committed atrocities. Firing Hotchkiss guns into the ravine was horrible, but among those women and children, there were warriors firing at soldiers. The Seventh Cavalry leadership did not intend to massacre noncombatants. Tragically, many women and children killed early on were hit by Indian bullets in the crossfire. Which site did you find most moving? The site of the November 1876 fight at the principal village of the Northern Cheyenne. The Indians under Chief Dull Knife were camped in a huge box canyon along a fork of the Powder River in Wyoming Territory. The 4th Cavalry attacked at daylight and destroyed the entire village—and with it, almost all the Northern Cheyennes’ cultural patrimony. Soldiers drove the villagers into the mountains in temperatures that fell that night to 30 or 40 below zero. That battlefield is on a private ranch, so it’s preserved with complete integrity. That the site was the scene of a cultural apocalypse makes it particularly haunting. +


2017 13



Sonny Liston was not a guy to mess with. You did not want to annoy or irritate or pester or bother Sonny Liston because he was a very scary 225 pounds of muscle and long-armed menace who liked to hit people. The illiterate son of an Arkansas sharecropper, Liston broke heads for the mob in St. Louis and served two prison terms, one for robbery, one for beating up a cop. In the ring, he terrified opponents with his malevolent stare, then pounded them. On September 25, 1962, in Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Liston took the world heavyweight championship away from Floyd Patterson by flattening the champ two minutes and six seconds into Round 1. Knowing all that, nobody in his right mind would even consider attempting to upstage Sonny Liston mug to mug. But novelist Norman Mailer was not in his right mind when, the very next morning, he attempted to hijack Liston’s first press conference as champion, an escapade the writer lived to recount in Esquire and a legendary event in Mailer’s bizarre and epic career. In 1962, Mailer was one of America’s most famous—and infamous—writers. He had skyrocketed to fame at 25 when his World War II novel, The Naked and the Dead, became a bestseller in 1948. In the ‘50s, critics panned

his novels Barbary Shore and The Deer Park, both of which sold poorly. To make a living, Mailer wrote non-fiction, banging out pugnacious essays on hot-button topics—race, sex, dope, violence, politics— and assembling them and earlier pieces in a 1959 book, Advertisements for Myself, which caused a stir in literary circles. In 1960, Mailer became notorious in non-literary circles for stabbing wife Adele Morales after a party he’d thrown to announce his candidacy for New York’s mayoralty. Mailer’s penknife came perilously close to her heart, but Morales recovered. After 17 days confined for psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital, Mailer pleaded guilty to assault. The court sentenced him to three years’ probation. In September 1962, still on probation, Mailer traveled to Chicago and settled into the Playboy Mansion, a guest of friend Hugh Hefner. Mailer had two missions—to cover Patterson/ Liston for Esquire and to debate conservative writer William F. Buckley, Jr. The debate—topic: “What is the Real Meaning of the Right Wing in America?”— took place September 23 at Medinah Temple, on the Near North Side. Mailer and Buckley sparred verbally before 3,600 people who lustily cheered and booed. Mailer thought he’d


Punching In Heavyweight contender Sonny Liston, with an 84-inch arm span and 15-inch fists, played havoc with Floyd Patterson, left, in a 1962 championship match.



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A security guard asked Mailer to leave. Mailer refused. “If you don’t leave, we’ll have to remove you by force.” “Remove me by force,” Mailer said. “We’ll have to carry you out.” “Carry me out.” Guards lifted Mailer from his chair and lugged him away. Fifteen minutes later, he returned to find Liston answering questions. “I’m not a reporter,” Mailer yelled from the back of the room, “but I’d like to say…” “Shut the bum up!” a newsman yelled. “No,” Liston said. “Let the bum speak.” “I picked Floyd Patterson to win by a onepunch knockout in the sixth,” Mailer said, “and I still think I was right.” “You’re still drunk,” Liston replied. Mailer walked to the dais and joined Liston. “What did you do,” Liston said, “go out and get another drink?” “Liston, I still say Floyd Patterson can beat you.” “Aw, why don’t you stop being a sore loser?” Liston replied. “You called me a bum.” “You are a bum,” Liston said, laughing. “Everybody’s a bum. I’m a bum, too. It’s just that I’m a bigger bum than you are.” He stood and extended his right hand. “Shake, bum.” Mailer took Liston’s hand and pulled him close to whisper, “I know a way to build the next fight from a $200,000 dog in Miami to a $2,000,000 gate in New York.” “Say, that last drink really set you up,” Liston said, smiling. “Why don’t you go and get me a drink, you bum.” “I’m not your flunky,” Mailer replied. Liston stifled the desire to clobber the interloper. Mailer had made a fool of himself in front of a hundred reporters. Several wrote about that—but nobody chronicled Mailer’s foolishness better than Mailer. In the article Esquire titled “Ten Thousand Words a Minute”—20,000 words about a 126-second fight— Mailer dissected the bout, the Buckley debate, boxing, race, sportswriters, God, the devil, and of course, Norman Mailer. Half reportage and half essay, crazy and brilliant, the piece became a classic of the New Journalism. Ten months later, Liston and Patterson fought in Las Vegas. Again Liston KO’d Patterson in Round 1. Mailer was there. He didn’t write a word. +


Sitting In Guards evict writer Norman Mailer from a purloined perch at a hotel press conference the morning after Liston’s victory.

bested Buckley and bristled when, in The New York Times, reporter Gay Talese, an acquaintance, proclaimed the debate “a draw.” “It wasn’t a draw,” Mailer told Talese when they ran into one another a night later. Mailer, glass in hand, looked menacing. “Don’t throw that drink at me,” Talese said. Mailer didn’t throw; he drank. The next night, before the bell at Comiskey Park, he drank more. Mailer loved boxing. An amateur pug, he regarded prizefighting as a mystical metaphor for life. He pictured Patterson as “a liberal’s liberal” and “an archetype of the underdog.” Liston he considered a primal force: “Liston was voodoo, Liston was magic, Liston was the pet of the witch doctor.” Mailer had Patterson kayoing Liston in the sixth. When in a blink the contender hammered the champ to the canvas, the writer leaped from his seat. “Get up!” he yelled. “Get up!” The defeat stunned Mailer, who saw in it evidence that “the Devil had shown that the Lord was dramatically weak.” Which might be overthinking a punch-out. However, Norman Mailer took such things seriously. Afterwards, at Hefner’s mansion, Mailer waded into a fete several hundred strong—“a Bacchanalian orgy,” boxing promoter Harold Conrad called it, with “wild dancing, barebreasted broads in the swimming pool and colorful reports of indiscriminate humping.” “The party went on,” Mailer wrote, “and I drank and I drank some more.” But the writer wasn’t feeling festive. He was brooding, convinced Patterson was the better boxer and he’d win a rematch—an event the well-lubricated Mailer concluded only he could make happen. At dawn, still drinking, Mailer decided to announce his intent at a press conference Liston was to hold at the Sheraton-Chicago Hotel. Mailer washed, shaved, and hiked to the hall, where scores of reporters and photographers awaited Liston’s arrival. Mailer installed himself on the dais reserved for the new champ. “I came here prepared to make a case,” he announced, “that I am the only man in this country who can build the second Patterson-Liston fight into a $2,000,000 gate instead of a $200,000 dog.”



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September Surprise Laid low by illness and lower by treatment, William Crawford saw his candidacy fail. Above center, FDR at Yalta in February 1945, three months after winning and two before his death.


After Hillary Clinton abruptly left a 9/11 commemoration at the Ground Zero memorial, smartphone videos by onlookers showed the candidate stumbling off a curb and sinking into Secret Service agents’ arms before being thrust into a campaign van. Ninety minutes later, Clinton emerged from daughter Chelsea’s Manhattan apartment, waving and declaring she was “feeling great.” But within hours Clinton’s campaign was admitting that two days earlier doctors had diagnosed her with pneumonia. “Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign,” ran a Washington Post headline. Don Fowler, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, went so far as to urge his party to ready a mechanism in case Clinton had to abandon the race—“It’s something you would be a fool not to prepare for”—though Fowler stressed he did not think the Democrats would need such a contingency plan. Being president is hard work. “A drudgery,” Thomas Jefferson called the job. “A compound hell,” Herbert Hoover said. Woodrow Wilson half-seriously suggested restricting the office to “wise and prudent athletes.” Since the position is so rough, even on the healthy, illness can destroy a candidate—which is why those who run and their staffs labor to conceal or minimize medical liabilities. In 1823, as James Monroe’s presidency was winding down, his likeliest successor was William Crawford. Born in Virginia, raised in Georgia, Crawford, 51, was his era’s beau ideal of a southern politician: bold, proud, domineering. A biographer called him “majestic” and “vigorous,” with “magnetic voice, flashing blue eyes


and [an] enchanting smile.” Crawford fought two duels, in one killing his man and in the other taking a bullet in his left wrist. Albert Gallatin admired his “powerful mind,” but noted Crawford’s lack of “indulgence and civility.” Civil or not, Crawford served as a senator, minister to France, and secretary of war before joining Monroe’s cabinet as treasury secretary. We complain about how today’s presidential campaigns drag on, but the Monroe administration was an eight-year roller derby of wouldbe successors, including Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans. Well into 1823, Crawford was leading the pack, wielding Treasury Department patronage—all those customs jobs—and counting on the support of Virginia and New York, where up-andcoming political operator Martin Van Buren was running Crawford’s campaign. Then, in September 1823, disaster. Crawford, staying at a friend’s plantation in Virginia, contracted what was variously described as inflammatory rheumatism, erysipelas, and bilious fever. A doctor prescribed digitalis (foxglove), a powerful drug that induced a stroke, leaving Crawford paralyzed and blind. He partly recovered, with supporters trying to spin every recuperative advance—“He sees well enough,” one wrote, “to play whist as well as an old man without spectacles”—but Crawford’s campaign took a big hit, and he knew it, making him seriously uncivil. When Monroe, in a meeting at the White House, objected to some of Crawford’s customs appointments, the treasury secretary raised his cane as if to strike


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the president, calling Monroe a “damned infernal old scoundrel.” Crawford did not calm down until Monroe grabbed fireplace tongs and threatened to call in the servants. Come the election, Crawford carried only Georgia and Virginia and a few electoral votes elsewhere, finishing third behind Jackson and Adams. No candidate having a majority of the Electoral College, the contest went to the House. Van Buren reported that a New York member, intending to vote for Crawford, bowed his head in prayer. Opening his eyes, he saw on the floor a ballot for Adams. Thinking this a sign from God, the New Yorker voted accordingly. Adams took New York, 12 other states, and the election. He offered to keep Crawford on at Treasury, but the loser went home to Georgia, where he lived another 10 years. The 1944 election cycle featured another frontrunner with health problems. After leading the United States through the Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had smashed the traditional two-term limit with a third victory in 1940. Four years later, the Democrat was leading America through World War II. Paralyzed from the waist down by polio since 1921, FDR nevertheless projected a vigorous image, thanks to his million-dollar smile and to a considerate press that never showed him in a wheelchair. But by the end of Roosevelt’s third term, new ailments were piling up: gallstones, enlarged heart, hypertension, deafness, memory lapses. Reporter David Brinkley, seeing the president for the first time at a press conference, was shocked: FDR’s “face was more gray than pink, his hands shook, his eyes were hazy and wandering, his neck drooped in stringy, sagging folds accentuated by a shirt collar that

must have fit at one time but now was two or three sizes too large.” Word of Roosevelt’s appearance began to leak beyond the capital. “Let’s not be squeamish,” wrote the New York Sun. “Six presidents have died in office.” Roosevelt met the challenge head on. In mid-October 1944, he boarded an open Packard to tour four of New York City’s five boroughs. His motorcade set off in Brooklyn amid rain, but the president doffed his cape and rode in the exposed back seat, drenched but delighted. He gave a talk from second base at Ebbets Field, home of the Dodgers, ducked into a Coast Guard garage to change clothes, then rolled through Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. He paused again in Greenwich Village for a dry outfit and three restorative bourbons before delivering a major foreign policy address at the Waldorf Astoria. FDR’s triathlon buoyed him; her husband’s love of crowds, said wife Eleanor, gave him “exhilaration and energy and strength that nothing else did.” In November, Roosevelt thrashed Republican Thomas Dewey, carrying 36 states and 53 percent of the popular vote, a victory as impressive as its aftermath was brief. Five months later, Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Winning an election is one thing; surviving the job is another. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were all relatively young, but America’s modern political mix has included oldsters. Ronald Reagan was 69 when elected in 1980. John McCain was 72 in 2008. Bernie Sanders was 74 when he dropped out of this year’s contest. Hillary Clinton turned 69 in October, and in June Donald Trump turned 70. In the week following her collapse, Clinton released two pages of medical records, while during a TV interview Trump handed Dr. Mehmet Oz a one-page summary of a physical. We need more from candidates. Section 3 of the 25th Amendment prescribes how to transfer responsibility to the vice president when a president undergoes surgery; chief executives have invoked that section three times—Reagan once, George W. Bush twice—before colonoscopies. The amendment’s fourth section stipulates a more elaborate process for easing aside an incapacitated president unaware of his or her condition. But those are emergency measures. Better to give Americans a full organ recital before Election Day, and let voters judge which man— or woman—is most fit to serve. +


“Let’s not be Squeamish,” the New York Sun Wrote. “Six presidents have died in office.”

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Leap for Joy After Larsen retired his 27th Dodger, he and catcher Yogi Berra celebrated.


The 1956 World Series was a subway spectacular, the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. In game 5, at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon, October 8, Yankee pitcher Don Larsen faced and retired 27 Dodgers. Any perfect game is extraordinary, but Larsen’s, during a championship and against a lineup that included Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Gil Hodges, outran every adjective. It still does. In none of the preceding 52 series had a pitcher thrown a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game, and in the 58 World Series since that benchmark has stood. On March 2, 2007, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at New Jersey’s



Montclair State University screened a benefit replay of the perfect game. The theater was packed. I was researching a biography of Yogi, who caught the game and called the pitches for his partner in perfection. Neither had seen a full broadcast of the game—and even now, they would leave without seeing the first inning, which is missing from the film shown that evening. No one there had seen more than clips of pre-1965 professional baseball games—except Doak Ewing, a collector who owns 30 such films. He told the crowd he believed only 10 or so complete or near-complete recordings exist of pre-1956 pro games. “There are newsreels of highlights from thousands of games,” he said. “But scarcely anybody thought to keep recordings of entire games. Sports were looked on as mere entertainment; nobody knew that later on we’d regard them as history.” Ewing found the black-and-white kinescope— 16mm film shot off a TV monitor—at a flea market in Alaska, where the seller’s father served in the military. In the 1950s, TV networks routinely sent kinescopes to bases. Assigned to clear shelf space, the dad decided to hang onto canisters of the film of the perfect game. “The games were recorded in order to be shown to servicemen and then destroyed,” Ewing said. “We have this one by luck and accident.” On a huge screen, the grainy footage brought alive a vanished way of life, cultural and athletic. “The first thing you noticed is how much faster the game moved—how quickly they got the game going again after each side was out,” says Berra museum director Dave Kaplan. “There was usually only one commercial after each team’s at-bat, sometimes 90 seconds, some only lasting a minute. Sometimes there was a quick station identification.” Today’s ballgames, especially during the Series, attract multiple sponsors and a constant stream of ads, as well as promotions inserted digitally into the background—socalled native advertising. NBC’s broadcast of the 1956 Series had one sponsor: Gillette Safety Razors. The TV announcers calling the game—for the Yankees, Mel Allen, and for the Dodgers, Vin Scully, who is still calling games at 89—voiced some ads. Fellow fan Don MacNair told me during


Glory Day Larsen and Berra at work against a backdrop that telegraphs not only the national pastime but a bygone America. the screening that he had watched the game on his family’s TV by feigning illness to skip school that day. “Back then, all you saw on the screen was the game,” he said. “I didn’t realize how cluttered up modern telecasts are until I saw this one tonight. There was no box score in the corner, no ticker tape running across the bottom with scores of football or basketball games, no logo for the network or for Major League Baseball, and no commercials for other shows or sporting events flashing on the screen between batters. It was so enjoyable just to sit and watch the ballgame without all the distractions.” The commentary was also sparse. “Mel Allen and Vin Scully were great,” audience member Jim Pascuiti said. “Everything they said was to the point, and when there wasn’t anything to say, they kept quiet.” Or, as Yogi put it, “If they didn’t have anything to say, they didn’t say it.” When the big screen showed Larsen retiring Brooklyn batter Reese, the crowd was quick to remark on the absence of what today is a given: instant replay. “Better pay attention, because you’re only going to see everything once,” Ewing quipped. “Yup, that’s pretty much the way I remember it,” Larsen said. As the game progressed in replay, the legendary pitcher recalled that during those historic innings his teammates ostracized him, not wanting to put a hex on him. “They were superstitious,” Larsen said. “I wasn’t. I wanted to talk about it. I sat down next to Mickey Mantle and he was shocked. He got up and moved away.” In Inning 6, the shy Mantle helped preserve Larsen’s perfection with a running catch off Gil Hodges’s bat. Superstition gripped some announcers. Bob Wolff, who called the game on the Mutual radio network, told the museum crowd he wanted to avoid jinxing the pitcher. “I never said, ‘Larsen has a perfect game going,’” Wolff said. “I kept talking around it, saying things like ‘Well, all the base runners tonight have worn Yankee pinstripes.’” Yogi said the replay got his pulse racing

no less than the game itself had. “I kept worrying before each pitch as if I was playing the game tonight,” the Hall of Famer said. “‘Is this the right call? Am I set up in the right location? I don’t want to ruin this by calling for the wrong pitch!’ But watching the game again, I guess I did OK.” “I never shook him off once,” Larsen told the audience. Some used the evening to pass baseball history on to a new generation. Paul Lioy, who attended the game with his father, watched the replay with son Jason, who had flown in from Pittsburgh. Lioy senior reminisced about how Jason’s grandfather had pulled him out of school that day—and then threatened to short-circuit the experience. “I sure hope my grammar-school principal doesn’t read this,” Dr. Lioy said. “My father actually suggested leaving around the sixth inning so we could beat the traffic. Can you imagine?” Finding his inner Berra, the occupational health scientist declared, “It was like Back to the Future all over again.” “It was perfect the first time,” Yogi himself declared to the crowd. “And it was even better tonight.” (For info on DVDs of the game film:, 800-603-4353.). +

Together Again On July 18, 1999, Berra caught Larsen’s first pitch on Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium.


2017 23



Hats Off McCormick, left, killed an MIT rule requiring female students to wear hats in lab by noting that feathers are flammable.

Born Fighter Raised in wealth, McCormick stood with women of all classes regarding reproductive rights.


Through the 1920s, Katharine Dexter McCormick periodically sailed from Europe to New York with garment-stuffed trunks. Had U.S. Customs Service inspectors checked— they did not—they might have thought McCormick a clotheshorse. What she was was a smuggler—of birth control devices. Sewn into her wardrobe were diaphragms, long available in Europe but since 1873 banned in the United States. Posing as a scientist, McCormick met with diaphragm makers, bought products, and brought them to Brooklyn family planning advocate Margaret Sanger. McCormick’s dedication to women’s well-being led to one of the 20th century’s most consequential inventions: the birth control pill. McCormick grew up with activism. Her grandfather, Samuel Dexter, who made his money in land speculation, founded Dexter, a town in southeast Michigan, and maintained an Underground Railroad stop in his grand home. Father Wirt Dexter, a wealthy Chicago lawyer, led that city’s Relief and Aid Society, and mother Josephine fought for female suffrage. Their second child, Katharine, born in 1875, would embrace causes of her own. And she would use science to make the case for them. Katharine was 14 when Wirt Dexter died

of a stroke and 18 when meningitis claimed her brother, Samuel. Those premature deaths likely piqued an interest in medicine. Josephine and Katharine moved to Boston, where Katharine became the second woman to graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first to earn a degree in biology there. As an undergraduate, she fought a rule requiring female students to wear hats in the laboratory. Arguing that the plumes then fashionable were flammable, she won. Graduating in 1904, she wed Stanley McCormick, an heir to the International Harvester farm machinery empire founded by his father, Cyrus. Stanley and Katharine would remain wed for 40 years, but by 1906 doctors were hospitalizing him for daementia praecox, as schizophrenia was then known. Katharine became Stanley’s medical advocate, battling his siblings and his doctors to recognize the biology underlying her husband’s mental symptoms—a fight novelist T. Coraghessan Boyle rendered fictionally in his 1998 novel Riven Rock. Besides McCormick resources, Katharine had her own money. Upon her mother’s death in 1937, she inherited $10 million. Stanley never recovered. Along with representing her husband’s interests, his wife




took up the intertwined issues of women’s suffrage and reproductive rights. In 1909, Katharine spoke at a suffrage demonstration in Massachusetts, later serving as lieutenant, treasurer, and vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the group pushing for a constitutional amendment giving American women the vote. Brooklyn-based activist Margaret Sanger was jailed in 1917 for running a family planning clinic. McCormick joined the Committee of 100—a group of wealthy benefactors devoted to Sanger’s cause. “The clarion bell of her imprisonment awoke me, as it did others, into the definite realization of what must be done,” McCormick wrote later. “And with this realization came the awareness that a battle lay ahead.” McCormick and Sanger became lifelong friends. The 19th Amendment giving women the vote was ratified in 1920, but birth control remained outlawed—hence McCormick’s decade of diaphragm smuggling During the same period, she also endowed the Neuroendocrine Research Foundation at Harvard Medical School, the first facility to explore the role of hormones in mental illness. McCormick also believed that further research was needed to help women control the timing and frequency of pregnancies. When Stanley McCormick died in 1947, McCormick, 72, inherited more than $35 million. Taxes took much of that, but she still could fund the campaign of her dreams. Sanger’s family planning foundation was underwriting a small project using the costly hormone progesterone to halt ovulation in rabbits at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Reproductive biologist and in vitro fertilization pioneer Gregory Pincus was overseeing the rabbit study. McCormick, who was supporting schizophrenia research at that facility, suggested that she and Sanger meet with Pincus. The day the three met in 1953, McCormick wrote a $20,000 check to launch a birth control pill project. In time, her support totaled $2 million. Thanks to her generosity and to

Alumna Returns McCormick, top, dedicates an MIT dorm named for her spouse. At left, a 1960 package of birth control pills. breakthroughs in substitutes for natural progesterone, the project soon was delivering promising results. Clinical trials that began in 1956 led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 1960 of a prescription birth control pill. One of McCormick’s last gestures came in 1959. Her alma mater was resisting admitting more women, pleading lack of housing. With a pen and a checkbook, McCormick scratched out that excuse. Construction of Stanley A. McCormick Hall ushered in “an era in which the number of woman students steadily grew,” according to MIT. Late in life, as a symbolic celebration, Katharine Dexter McCormick got a prescription for birth control pills and had it filled at a drug store. “She carried herself like a ramrod,” said Elizabeth Notkin, Gregory Pincus’s wife. “Little old woman she was not. She was a grenadier.” McCormick was 92 when she died in Boston in 1967.+

FEBRUARY 2017 25


g Barnum The emperor of hoopla had to start somewhere. Here’s where—and how By Peter Carlson THE RINGLING ART LIBRARY


2017 27

Re: Joice Eager to flee a stolid but boring life as a grocer, P.T. Barnum spun up a wildly hyperbolic promotional campaign to draw curiosity seekers to pay to see an African-American woman said to be more than a century and a half old.


Showtime! Barnum’s later successes, top and bottom, flowed from the font of his restless imagination.



hineas Taylor Barnum—salesman and showman, hustler and huckster—sold Bibles for a while but made more money selling tickets to see a “mermaid” that was actually the tail of a fish sewn to the torso of a female orangutan with a baboon’s head affixed. Barnum created his era’s most popular museum and most successful circus. He invented the moving billboard, the outdoor spotlight, and the baby beauty pageant. He pioneered the freak show and the sideshow, exhibiting midgets and giants, bearded ladies and fat ladies, an armless boy and a legless man, not to mention the famous “Wild Men of Borneo,” who were actually two dwarfs from Ohio. Barnum invented the cross-country musical megatour, transforming Jenny Lind—a Swedish singer unknown in America—into a must-see songbird whose concerts enriched both warbler and impresario. He conceived the celebrity wedding, staging an exchange of vows between Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, midgets appearing at his New York museum, followed by a lavish reception for 2,000. Then he sent the newlyweds to the White House for another fete, this one hosted by President Abraham Lincoln. Barnum wrote one of America’s first celebrity autobiographies. Then he wrote a second. And a third. All told, his multiple memoirs sold over a million copies. In 1880, a century before Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal, Barnum pioneered the celebrity how-to-get-rich book, writing and marketing The Art of Money-Getting. Barnum was a genius of hype, a wizard of advertising, a virtuoso of promotion, self- and otherwise. He was a walking, talking exclamation point who plastered his name and face on nearly everything he created, including a circus poster touting himself as “The Sun of the Amusement World From Which All Lesser Luminaries Borrow Light.” “Barnum,” wrote historian Luc Sante, “embodied a unique combination of the showman, the preacher, the con artist, the speculator and the politician—the epitome of his era and a model for future generations.” Barnum was the founding father of American pop culture, a commodity he exported, taking showbiz global. But before all that—in 1835, as a curly-haired, baby-faced fellow of 25—Phineas Barnum began his career with a hoax so outrageous it later embarrassed even him. This foundational scam, involving George Washington and an elderly black woman, illustrates Barnum’s guile, humor, skill at media manipulation, and ability to tiptoe to the outer edge of decency—and gallop on, giggling all the way. In the summer of 1835, P.T. Barnum was restless. A few years earlier, he’d been a success in his native Bethel, Connecticut, running a lucrative lottery and publishing a weekly newspaper in which he lambasted politicians and clergymen,

He was a walking, talking exclamation point who plastered his name and face on nearly everything he created, including a circus poster touting himself as “the sun of the amusement world from which all lesser luminaries borrow light.”

particularly those who advocated banning lotteries. In 1832, a libel conviction landed him in jail for 60 days. When he emerged from the hoosegow, supporters cheered him. But cheers couldn’t pay his bills and in 1834, under pressure from its clergy, Connecticut outlawed lotteries. Barnum moved his wife and daughter to Manhattan and opened a grocery store at 156 South Street. The business paid his bills but he longed for something more lucrative, more exciting—a new hustle. During the summer of 1835, he found one. A friend mentioned that he’d recently sold his share in a remarkable property—161-year-old Joice Heth, said to have been, in her days as a late-middle-aged slave, the childhood nurse of George Washington. Now a featured attraction at Philadelphia’s Masonic Hall, Heth was drawing crowds of paying gawkers, but her promoter had tired of show business and wanted to sell the rights to display her. The premise was preposterous—161 years old? George Washington’s nurse?—but Barnum’s pal produced a clipping of a Philadelphia newspaper article characterizing Heth as “one of the greatest natural curiosities ever witnessed.” Barnum listened, intrigued. Hearing money and sensing fun, he traveled to Philadelphia to see this wonder. Sprawled on a couch in Masonic Hall, Heth resembled a living mummy. Wizened, wrinkled, toothless, and blind, weighing barely 50 pounds, with a wild thatch of white hair, the ancient black woman seemed, Barnum recalled, “far older than her age as advertised.” She could barely move—her left arm and both legs were paralyzed—but she could talk. She told stories about “dear little George” and occasionally broke into song, croaking Baptist hymns. “She was pert and sociable,” Barnum noted. He asked R.W. Lindsay about buying the rights to exhibit Heth, provided Lindsay could prove she was as advertised. Lindsay showed him a bill of sale, dated February 5, 1727, stating that Augustine Washington—father of the father of our country— agreed to sell a neighbor “one negro woman, named Joice Heth, aged fifty-four years.” The price: 33 pounds. “The evidence seemed authentic,” Barnum later wrote. Maybe, but Barnum, who was not one to let facts interfere with a good yarn, also wrote later that he himself had forged that bill of sale, marinating the document in tobacco juice to FEBRUARY

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that bill of sale, marinating the document in tobacco juice to simulate antiquity. Both tales are probably bogus: Lindsay had been exhibiting the dubious bill of sale for months, and Barnum simply seems to have recognized that the paperwork was good enough to gull rubes into paying to see Heth. Lindsay wanted $3,000; Barnum dickered him down to $1,000. It isn’t clear if Barnum was actually buying the slave, as he claimed in his 1855 memoir, or merely buying the right to exhibit her, as he claimed in his 1869 autobiography. Either way, he paid $500 on the spot and borrowed the balance, with his store as collateral. Then he brought Heth to New York. He had bet the family’s business on the old girl. Now he had to make her a star. Barnum contracted to present Heth on Broadway at Niblo’s Garden, the most elegant entertainment emporium in New York. He bought his star a dress and hired a

woodcut artist to portray her on a poster he hung all over town, along with heaps of hype touting “the most astonishing and interesting curiosity in the world,” and “nurse to Gen. George Washington” and “the first person to put clothes on the unconscious infant who was destined to lead our heroic fathers to glory, to victory, to freedom.” Barnum liked that line about dressing the baby Washington—he figured the image would entice women to buy tickets—but worried about New York’s newspapers. If they exposed Heth as a fraud, he’d be ruined. But he guessed that newspapermen’s love of money would overpower their love of truth. He made the rounds of newspaper business offices, offering to buy ads in exchange for puff pieces. Most publishers went for the bait, so he invited them to a pre-opening encounter with his marvel. Heth charmed the gentlemen of the press with stories that Barnum had taught her, including the familiar legend of young George and the cherry tree, which Heth identified as a peach. Reporters responded with crowd-pulling enthusiasm. “A greater object of marvel and curiosity has never presented itself,” the New York Sun reported. “The old creature is said to be 161 years of age,” said the Courier and Advertiser, “and we see no reason to doubt it.” “She will be a greater star than any other performer of the present day,” the Evening Star predicted. The Star was right. New Yorkers lined up outside Niblo’s by the score, eager to pay a quarter (today, $6.50) to eyeball the blind crone. Heth lay on a couch as customers strolled past, some pausing to ask questions. Many had never seen a black person up close; some felt her hair and rubbed her leathery skin. Some wanted to shake the hand that had washed Washington. Others mumbled prayers. A few took Heth’s pulse, finding it strong and steady. How did the star attraction feel about all this? Nobody knows. If Heth resented her role, she didn’t show it. Instead, she smiled, told stories about “little Georgie,” sang hymns, smoked her pipe, and appeared to enjoy herself. Barnum kept her spirits high with dollops of whiskey, later praising her as an “excellent actress” who was “always ready for fun.” Obviously, Heth knew she’d never nursed George Washington. Perhaps she enjoyed fooling white folks. She certainly exhibited a sly wit. When a visitor asked what she planned to do with her earnings, she replied, “Buy a wedding dress.” “Whom do you intend to marry?” the man asked. “Yourself, sir—if I can find no one else.” Originally booked for three days at Niblo’s, Heth spent two weeks on display eight hours a day six days a week. Barnum claimed to be making $1,500 a week—today, $40,000. David L. Rogers, a prominent surgeon, asked if, when the old woman died, he could perform an autopsy in hopes of discovering the secret of her amazing longevity. Barnum Really Big Show put off Roger’s request; his Taking his productions on the worldwide road, Barnum star was still alive and he was about to take her on turned show business into a global phenomenon. the road. Success and


Barnum guessed that newspapermen’s love of money would overpower their love of truth. He made the rounds of newspaper business offices, offering to buy ads in exchange for puff pieces.


Mini Me Barnum poses with protege Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, around 1850. At his tallest, Stratton, a carpenter’s son, stood 3’3”. FEBRUARY

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A Sucker Born Every Minute Barnum’s knack for flackery and skill as salesmanship transcended language, national borders, and cultural barriers.

sophisticated New Yorkers, he’d have no trouble rooking the rubes in New England. He was wrong. “Suddenly, I found a difficulty which I had not foreseen, and which threatened to turn all my milk sour,” he wrote afterwards. Barnum had overlooked the abolitionists. In 1835, the anti-slavery movement was tiny and weak, especially in New York, with its deep financial ties to the cotton industry. But in New England, abolitionism was growing. William Lloyd Garrison began publishing his newspaper, The Liberator, in Massachusetts in 1831, and a year later, helped form the New England Anti-Slavery Society. The Joice Heth tour’s first stop was Providence, Rhode Island, where abolitionist preachers told congregants it was immoral to pay money to gawk at a slave. “My attendance fell off,” Barnum recalled. “The priest-ridden people, under the anathemas of the clergy, came no more.” Barnum detested preachers. First they’d convinced Connecticut to ban lotteries, now they were spoiling his latest hustle. “I hated the priests with a Carthaginian hatred,” he wrote. He knew he couldn’t outfight the clergy; he had to outsmart them. He told the Providence Journal that he, too, was an abolitionist, and that Heth was a freedwoman touring to raise money to buy her great-grandchildren out of bondage. It was bunkum but it worked. Now preachers urged their flocks to see Heth; soon, the Journal was reporting that the exhibit’s stand had been extended a week due to “immense crowds of persons who have visited Joice.” Boston was next. Barnum wrote to ministers there, inviting them to meet Heth. Several did, and she corroborated 32 AMERICAN HISTORY

In Boston, Barnum presented Heth at prestigious Concert Hall where, in a smaller room, a chess-playing automaton was drawing crowds. The contraption was a cabinet topped with a wooden figure of a turban-wearing Turk. When enough customers gathered, the operator opened the cabinet to reveal countless gears and levers, then asked if anyone dared challenge the wooden Turk at chess. When a volunteer emerged, the operator turned a key and the Turk’s hand reached forward to make a move. The automaton nearly always won—but how? A connoisseur of chicanery, the sharp-eyed Barnum realized that a small man with a strong chess game had to be hiding inside. He loved the automaton and felt proud that his own humbug was outdrawing it. But after three weeks, Heth’s box office began to dwindle. Barnum got an idea: Inspired by the Turk, he wrote to Beantown newspapers, attacking his own exhibit as a hoax. “Joice Heth is not a human being,” the anonymous letter said. “What purports to be a remarkably old woman is simply a curiously constructed automaton, made up of whalebone, India rubber and numberless springs…” The double-reverse hornswoggle worked. “Hundreds who had not visited Joice Heth were now anxious to see the curious automaton,” Barnum wrote, “while many who had seen her were equally desirous of a second look, in order to determine whether or not they had been deceived.” From Boston, Barnum ran Heth through Lowell, Hingham, Worcester, Springfield, and Hartford, Connecticut, before bringing her back to Niblo’s. The show had hit the road again around Connecticut when, on February 19, 1836, in New Haven, Heth spoiled Barnum’s fun by dying. “The old woman had kicked the bucket,” Barnum wrote. “I could humbug the world no longer.” But Barnum’s mind kept churning out new humbugs. First, he considered keeping Joice Heth’s demise secret and taking a stand-in to England, where nobody would know the difference. Then he remembered the morbidly curious Dr. Rogers and his interest in autopsying Joice. Barnum booked a Broadway theater, the City Saloon, and arranged for the surgeon to perform the autopsy onstage. To watch the procedure would cost 50 cents a head—twice what gapers had been paying to eyeball the living Heth.


Barnum’s palaver about purchasing her enslaved descendants out of captivity. Why? Maybe Barnum forced her. Maybe she believed he would free her kin. Maybe she shared his love of a scam. Or maybe she simply realized that posing as George Washington’s nurse was the best job available to a crippled, blind, elderly black woman, slave or free. Barnum later admitted he never bought any slave’s freedom, and bragged that one Boston minister handed him $10 to help liberate Heth’s kin. “I took the money, I could not do less without betraying myself,” he wrote. “That night, a few friends and myself spent it on Champagne and oysters.”

Nearly 1,500 customers were looking on as attendants placed Heth’s body on an examination table. Rogers, suitably gowned, announced to the crowd that he would be searching for signs of ossiďŹ cation—the hardening of internal organs observed in the remains of the extremely elderly. He sliced open the cadaver, sawing through the chest and skull and examining the liver, lungs, heart and brain, concluding that only minor ossiďŹ cation had occurred. “Joice Heth could not have been more than 75 or, at the utmost, 80 years of age,â€? Rogers announced. Only one newspaper, the Sun, covered the event. The next day, a headline read: “Dissection of Joice Heth—Precious Humbug Exposed.â€? Even at 80, Heth couldn’t have nursed an infant George Washington born in 1732. Her stories of “little Georgieâ€? were hokum, no doubt concocted by her exhibitor. “It is probable,â€? the Sun concluded, “that $10,000 have been made from this, the most precious humbug of modern times.â€? Exposed as a con artist, your average hustler might slip quietly away. But P.T. Barnum was not your average hustler and he had yet another idea. He and assistant Levi Lyman called on James Gordon Bennett, the Herald’s feisty editor. Speaking conďŹ dentially, Barnum told Bennett, who detested his rivals at the Sun, that the autopsy had been a sham. Heth was still alive. Dr. Rogers had actually dissected Aunt Nelly, an obscure and recently deceased New Yorker, Barnum said. Of course, Bennett published the story. “JOICE HETH IS NOT DEAD,â€? the Herald trumpeted. “On Wednesday last, as we learned from the best authority, she was living at Hebron, in Connecticut.â€? The Sun had been snookered, the Herald enthusiastically reported, along with those hundreds who paid to watch the autopsy. “Such is the true version of the hoax, as given to us by good authority.â€? What a world. Thousands of New Yorkers had paid to see Joice Heth, alive and dead. Now the Sun was saying Joice Heth was dead—at age 80—while the Herald was reporting that she was still alive. And the Star was claiming that Heth was indeed dead and indeed had been 161 years old. Showbiz sure was more fun than selling groceries. “I had at last found my true vocation,â€? Barnum wrote.

Barnum plied that vocation until his death in 1891, gleefully exhibiting midgets and elephants, black swans and horned frogs, Siamese twins and circus acrobats, freaks and phrenologists—and “A Curious Mortuary Memorial to Washington and Lincoln, Ten Feet High and Composed of Over Two Million Sea Shells.â€? And much, much more! In his later years—when Barnum had grown rich and respectable and morphed into a temperance crusader and Christian pamphleteer who ballyhooed his attractions as “Moral Dramasâ€?—his Heth hoax embarrassed him. “The least deserving of all my efforts,â€? he called his ďŹ rst triumph, and he maintained steadfastly that he, too, had been bamboozled into thinking that bill of sale was genuine. That was malarkey. In the New York Atlas in 1841, Barnum boasted of bribing reporters, buying Champagne with donations to buy slaves’ freedom, and selling tickets to the theatrical autopsy. He confessed to forging that bill of sale— although he hadn’t. He reveled in his knack for the con and gift for grift, aunting his skill at eecing the multitudes. “Crown me with fame—erect a monument to my memory—decree me a Roman triumph,â€? P.T. Barnum wrote. “I deserve all—I stand alone—I have no equal—no rival—I am the king of Humbug.â€? +



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Before Hillary Clinton had her way paved by a gallery of women who pursued the presidency from many angles by Frieda Wiley On July 28, 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 68, accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, becoming the first female candidate for that office chosen by a major American political party. Clinton’s candidacy personally caps a decades-long career as First Lady, United States senator, and U.S. Secretary of State—and institutionally sums up a generations-long struggle dating to 1872 and including scores of women who have pursued the presidency. Here are profiles of 10 members of that sisterhood. 34 AMERICAN HISTORY


The Woman in the Arena After nearly 40 years in public service, Hillary Clinton hoped to become the ďŹ rst female president of the United States of America.

Victoria Woodhull When Victoria Woodhull first announced her candidacy for president in April 1870, she was too young (32) to qualify, had no political experience, little formal education—and was a woman pursuing the office nearly 50 years before the United States gave her sex the vote. As candidate of the Equal Rights Party, Woodhull declared that she spoke “for the unenfranchised women of the country, believing as I do prejudices which still exist in the popular mind against women in public life will soon disappear.” Earlier, she and her sister had opened Wall Street’s first female-owned brokerage; the revenue financed Woodhull’s political campaigns. In a weekly the two also founded, Woodhull endorsed free love, open marriage, and birth control. In the 1872 campaign, Woodhull shattered another taboo, picking as her running mate former slave Frederick Douglass. She pushed for women’s suffrage, social welfare, and an eight-hour workday. In the election, Woodhull received no electoral votes—Ulysses S. Grant won—but she fascinated Americans. She ran again in 1884 and in 1892, by which time she had alienated her countrymen. She died in England, to which she had moved with her third husband, in 1927. 36 AMERICAN HISTORY





Belva Lockwood “I cannot vote, but I can be voted for,” said Belva Lockwood, the second woman to seek the presidency and, in 1884, the first to undertake a formal campaign for that office. Incensed at pay inequity, Lockwood lobbied for female government employees to receive the same pay as men. The 54-year-old saw her 1884 nomination by the National Equal Rights Party as a way to advance female suffrage. With Marietta Stowe as her running mate, Lockwood vowed to reform family law and make women equal partners in matrimony and “common business.” She claimed to have received a few hundred thousand popular votes, but could not confirm the count. Born into a farming family in upstate New York, Lockwood married at 18, and, after her husband’s death three years later, supported herself and her daughter by teaching. Applying to several law schools that rejected her on grounds of gender, Lockwood finally enrolled at National University Law School in Washington, D.C., obtaining a degree in 1873. Lockwood successfully lobbied Congress to authorize women attorneys to practice before any federal court, in 1879 becoming the first woman to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. After her single presidential run, Lockwood returned to the law, practicing until age 84.

1964 Margaret Chase Smith “When people keep telling you you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try,” Republican Margaret Chase Smith said when announcing her candidacy in January 1964. Campaigning without support staff, Smith made personal contact wherever she could. “There is nothing more effective than a handshake and a little conversation,” she said. That summer at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Smith tallied 26 delegates against Senator Barry Goldwater’s 883, and she became the first woman placed in nomination for a major political party. In decades of challenging convention in regard to women and politics, Smith acquired much political experience—first as spouse to Clyde Smith, a member of the Maine State Senate when they married in 1930; next as her husband’s office manager in the U.S. House of Representatives; then on the campaign trail herself. The Skowhegan native was 33 when she wed Smith, and 43 when a mortally ill Smith persuaded his spouse to seek his House seat. She easily won a special election for the remainder of his term in June 1940, becoming Maine’s first female member of Congress. She was reelected in a landslide, serving eight years in the House championing women’s rights in the military and other causes. In 1948, Maine voters sent Smith to the Senate, the first woman to serve in both chambers of Congress. She served four Senate terms before losing in 1972. FEBRUARY

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Charlene Mitchell In 1968, Charlene Mitchell, the first AfricanAmerican woman to seek the presidency, may have faced steeper odds than any other White House hopeful. Nominated by the Communist Party and espousing solidarity with radical movements in post-colonial Africa, Mitchell, 38, campaigned mainly in bookstores and similar settings. Her choice of campaigning sites likely figured in her 1,075-vote showing, but Mitchell ran not to win but to raise awareness. “The question is...whether or not communists will be able to present to the American people their views and their platforms in a way that the American people can begin to understand what communism does see as some of the solutions to the problems in our country,” she said. A Communist Party member since age 16, Mitchell moved to New York City in 1971. In 1988 she ran against incumbent U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan, losing by a large margin. She lives in Harlem.

1972 Patsy Takemoto Mink Mink, 45, cast her 1972 Democratic candidacy as a way to highlight women’s and civil rights, federal education funding, and opposition to the war in Vietnam. Mink entered only the Oregon primary, polling less than 2 percent against seven others, including Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy. “What you endure is who you are,” she said. “I can certainly help somebody else in the future so they don’t have to go through what I did.” Takemoto grew up on Maui in Hawaii, experiencing WWII-era bias against her family and other Japanese-Americans. At college, including stays at two mainland universities, she experienced more racism. When she applied to medical schools, 20 rejected her because she was a woman. She shifted to law school, obtaining a J.D. from the University of Chicago. She and husband John Mink returned to Hawaii where she practiced law. In 1956, Mink won a seat in the territorial legislature, advancing to the territorial and state senates, and in 1965 to the U.S. House of Representatives. The first woman of color in Congress, Mink served 1965-1977 and 1989-2003. She co-authored Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which leveled the educational and athletic playing field for American girls and women.




1976 Ellen McCormack Ellen McCormack ran for president twice, in 1976 and 1980. A Roman Catholic, she had one issue: opposition to the 1973 Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized medical termination of pregnancies. McCormack, 50, called herself “the embodiment of a total philosophical commitment to outlaw abortion.” Contributions totaling $525,580 from 20 states entitled her to approximately half that sum in federal election funding, making McCormack the first female presidential candidate to receive federal monies. She used some of the money for television commercials in which she equated abortion with murder. The first female to receive Secret Service protection as a presidential candidate, McCormack made the ballot in 21 states, received 238,000 votes in 18 Democratic primaries, and got the votes of 22 delegates at the national convention. When critics accused her of violating the ban on federal funding of single-issue campaigns, McCormack moved to the Right to Life Party ticket, receiving 32,000 votes. A first-generation Irish-American, the New York City native was a mother of four, grandmother, and housewife.


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1984 Sonia Johnson Nominated for president in 1984 by both the U.S. Citizens Party and the Peace and Freedom Party, Sonia Johnson was the first third-party candidate to qualify for federal matching funds. She received 72,161 votes, or 0.08 percent of the popular vote, but no electoral votes. Johnson, a teacher from Idaho and fifth-generation Mormon, initially dedicated herself to her household, raising four children while teaching English in Korea, Nigeria, Malawi, Malaysia, and Samoa, to which her husband’s work took the family. The Equal Rights Amendment, which the Church of Latter Day Saints forcefully opposed, so galvanized Johnson that in 1977 she co-founded Mormons for ERA. In 1979, the church excommunicated her, alleging anti-church activities. The ERA never passed, but Johnson developed a following among feminists and women questioning Mormon policies.



Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm In 1972, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, D-New York, made headlines as the first AfricanAmerican to seek the presidency under a major party’s rubric. “I felt the time had come when a black person or a female person could and should be president of the United States,” said Chisholm, who in 1968 had won a trailblazing election to Congress. The Brooklyn-born daughter of a laborer and a seamstress, Chisholm grew up with her mother’s parents in Barbados and traced her eloquence to the British-style education she got there. After working as a nursery school teacher and educational consultant, she won election in 1964 to the New York legislature, and in 1968 ran for the House seat representing her Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Fluency in Spanish helped her win a two-thirds majority. Her House office was female, half its members African-American. After amassing 152 presidential delegates at the 1972 party convention in Miami, Florida, the 48-year-old Chisholm returned to her House duties, as she liked to say, “unbossed and unbought,” which was both her campaign slogan and title of her autobiography. Chisholm ended her seven-term congressional service in 1983. She died in 2005.



1988 Lenora Fulani In 1988, psychotherapist and activist Lenora Branch Fulani became the first woman to have her name placed on the ballot for president in every state and the District of Columbia. Representing the New Alliance Party, known for its “black-led, multiracial, pro-gay, and pro-socialist” stance, Fulani in November smashed another record, receiving 225,000 votes—the most ever for a female presidential candidate in a general election. “I am a leader who has chosen to be outside corporate America and inside the real mainstream with my people and other outsiders,” Fulani, 38, said. She lacked enough supporters to qualify for TV debates, but her party—formed by her graduate school mentor and campaign manager Fred Newman—placed fourth, behind the Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians. In 1992, Fulani qualified for the ballot in 48 jurisdictions, gaining access to $2 million in federal matching funds. However, against Bill Clinton she only got 0.07 percent of the vote. She partnered briefly and oddly in 1994 with billionaire White House hopeful Ross Perot. The Texan’s Patriot Party supporters were predominantly middle-class whites disgruntled at bipartisan government. The pair cited democracy as their shared principle. Fulani says her political aspirations were shaped by two events: her father’s death of pneumonia because no ambulance would come to her impoverished Chester, Pennsylvania, neighborhood, and the ouster by her Baptist church of a choir director for being gay.

Patricia Schroeder When friend and fellow Colorado Democrat Gary Hart withdrew from the presidential race in May 1988, Patricia Scott Schroeder—a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee— stepped up. “I don’t want to run as a symbol,” she said. “I really don’t want to be perceived as a being only a women’s candidate.” Schroeder formed an exploratory committee, and an A-list Hollywood elite gathered at producer Norman Lear’s home to hear her speak. Though admiring of Schroeder, most on hand threw money at hopefuls they viewed as likelier winners. Short of cash, she tearfully withdrew. Schroeder grew up in a military family in Ohio, Texas, and Iowa. After the University of Minnesota, she matriculated with Harvard Law School’s Class of 1964, that institution’s first coeducational class and an environment she termed overwhelmingly sexist. Schroeder served in the House from 1972, when Coloradans sent her to Congress as their first female representative, until she retired in 1997. Her legislative legacy includes the Family and Medical Leave Act (1993) and the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act (1993).


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Off Key America’s national anthem was a lightning rod for controversy long before Colin Kaepernick stayed in his seat By Joseph Connor


FEBRUARY 2017 43


“The Star-Spangled Banner” grew out of the War of 1812, a two-year scuffle between the United States and Britain. In September 1814, having burned Washington, D.C., British forces were advancing on Baltimore, 35 miles north. Only Fort McHenry, a brick bastion at the mouth of Baltimore harbor, stood in the way. Aboard warships out on Chesapeake Bay, the British were holding Americans taken prisoner during the Washington campaign. The POWs included Upper Marlboro, Maryland, physician William Beanes, 65. Friends asked Washington lawyer Francis Scott Key to seek Beanes’s release. Key, 35, sailed from the capital under a flag of truce with a federal official authorized to negotiate prisoner exchanges. Meeting on Wednesday, September 7, 1814, with British Major General Robert Ross on one of many warships arrayed to assault the fort, Key persuaded Ross to release Beanes. 44 AMERICAN HISTORY

However, with an attack on Fort McHenry imminent, Ross kept the two aboard, lest they reveal British plans. On Tuesday, September 13, 1814, the king’s fleet began firing cannon and rockets. American gunners at Fort McHenry countered. Salvoes continued through the night. Eight miles out on the bay, Key could see blasts but not any clear outcome until dawn revealed the American flag still waving over the fort. The British, about to withdraw, released Beanes and Key. The Americans had prevailed. The elated lawyer quickly composed “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” a rhyming verse expressing Key’s exhilaration at seeing the American tricolor flying by the dawn’s early light. Handbills of his doggerel circulated around Baltimore. The Baltimore Patriot newspaper ran the poem, retitled “The StarSpangled Banner,” propelling the lines nationwide. Key set his


olin Kaepernick’s decision to protest racism and police brutality by refusing to stand for the national anthem has uncorked a particularly American fury. Critics demand the 49ers quarterback, an African-American, get to his feet, as players have been doing since leatherhelmet days. Supporters applaud his gesture, which has spread across the country’s playing fields. L’affaire Kaepernick is only the latest controversy to envelop “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Way before Kaepernick was staying in his seat—and American soccer star Megan Rapinoe was taking a knee—in protest, the stirring song was stirring controversy. Through the 1920s, America’s most renowned band leader and many others bitterly resisted a prolonged effort to make the old tune something most Americans thought it already was: the official national anthem.

Watching O’er Those Ramparts A modern print imagines Francis Scott Key spotting the tricolor over Fort McHenry after an hours-long British barrage. Opposite, his poem’s first stanza in Key’s handwriting.


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verse to the melody of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a ubiquitous 18th century British drinking song. To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full Glee, A few Sons of Harmony sent a Petition, That He their Inspirer and Patron wou’d be; When this Answer arriv’d from the jolly old Grecian “Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, No longer be mute, I’ll lend you my Name and inspire you to boot, And, besides, I’ll instruct you like me, to intwine The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

Smiles and Glares The verses that stir hearts also stir protests, such as soccer player Megan Rapinoe’s, below.


Union soldiers sang the original verses at Fort Sumter as they were running the American flag back up the bastion’s flagpole on April 14, 1865. When news of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender reached Washington, crowds of federal workers marched to the White House and sang the song. Performed at Civil War veterans’ reunions and Fourth of July and Decoration Day celebrations, the song began to annoy some listeners. One was the Marine Band’s 34-yearold leader. Professor John Philip Sousa favored a homegrown anthem, even when played informally. “We ought not to adopt as our national air the work of a foreigner,” Sousa said in 1884. “The words of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ are American, but the music is English.” During the Spanish-American War, Spanish troops in Cuba enjoyed recordings of the tune, not realizing it was the enemy’s “national air.” As the United States’ imperial adventure unfurled, bands blared the song for American soldiers cheering victories at Manila, capital of the Philippines; at San Juan Hill, outside Santiago de Cuba; and in Puerto Rico. In 1901, the U.S. Army ordered the song played nightly as the flag was being lowered at bases and camps. Singing along was another matter. Soldiers stood, but few had the lyrics down. The custom of standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner” was not universally appreciated. On the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, a hotelier banned the tune in 1909 after a guest from the Lower 48 “twitted” him for refusing to stand.


For several decades, musicians performed the American version on national holidays like January 18—the date of the American victory at New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812—Independence Day, and George Washington’s birthday. An 1854 anti-temperance march in Manhattan by German-Americans featured the song. But in the main “The Star-Spangled Banner” was simply another patriotic tune, like “Hail, Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle.” By the time the South was seceding from the Union, the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” had become familiar enough to inspire Confederate parodies: Oh, say can you see, Through the gloom and the storm, How peaceful and blest was America’s soil, ‘Til betrayed by the guile of the Puritan demon, Which lurks under virtue And springs from its coil…


Changing the Guard “Star-Spangled Banner” fan and Prohibition foe Rep. John Linthicum, D-Maryland, right, succeeded Rep. John Hill, D-Maryland, as leader of House “wets.”

In San Diego in 1912, union-busting vigilantes forced nearly 100 members of the radical International Workers of the World to kiss the flag, stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and march to the county line. The management of a theater in Washington, D.C., booted a man for creating a disturbance when, in 1913, he stood for the song. Europe went to war in 1914 amid strong isolationist and pacifist sentiment in the United States. President Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916 with the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” In this context, skeptics found “The Star-Spangled Banner” excessively bellicose. Katherine D. Blake, a pacifist and suffragist, offered an anti-war alternative: O say can you see, you who glory in war, All the wounded and dead Of the red battle’s reaping Can you listen unmoved to their agonized groans Hear the children who starve, And the pale widows weeping? Henceforth let us swear Bombs shall not burst in air, Nor war’s desolation wreck all that is fair. But the star spangled banner by workers unfurled Shall give hope to the nations And peace to the world. America’s 1917 declaration of war on Germany lessened debate about the song. Organizers of Liberty Bond rallies, patriotic gatherings, and any flag-flying event could rely on

Home State Heroics Senator Millard Tydings, D-Maryland, steered the 117-year-old tune through the Senate to passage and enactment in 1931.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” to animate crowds. When American troops in France captured a German army band, the doughboys made the musicians play the song as they marched into captivity. Sousa, now famed for robust compositions like “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Washington Post March,” may have disdained the song’s anthemic ambitions, but he and his musical outfits thrilled wartime audiences with Sousa’s own stirring arrangement. On September 5, 1918, before the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs met at Comiskey Park to begin that season’s World Series, U.S. Navy sailor Jackie Fred Thomas opened the game with a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner”—a Series first. The crowd of 19,274 joined in. “When the final notes came, a great melody rolled across the field,” wrote The New York Times. “Onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day’s enthusiasm.” Southpaw Babe Ruth held the Cubs to six hits and pitched the Sox to a 1-0 victory, presaging another Boston championship Displays of dissent met with outbursts of patriotic fervor. The Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1917 attacked Episcopalian Bishop David H. Greer, who did not share the lyrics’ endorsement of war, for barring performances of the song at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. In 1918, when a New Haven, Connecticut, man wrote “Deutschland über Alles” on his Selective Service questionnaire, a mob forced him to sing the song and kiss the flag. Although most Americans assumed wrongly that the FEBRUARY

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“The Star-Spangled Banner” was the national anthem, periodic efforts to make that presumed status official came to naught. In 1913, anticipating the song’s centenary, Rep. Jefferson M. Levy, D-New York, floated a bill that died in committee, as did variants in 1917 and 1918. Some congressmen backed deservedly forgettable alternatives. including “Uncle Sam’s Power,” “Before the Gates,” and “The U.S.A.” In 1921, Rep. John Charles Linthicum, D-Maryland, whose district included Fort McHenry, took up the guidon. A teetotaler who nonetheless led House “wets” opposing Prohibition, Linthicum was drawn into the anthem issue by the National Society of U.S. Daughters of 1812 and by his personal interest in Fort McHenry and its preservation. The six-term House member made official recognition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” a personal crusade. “There seems to be something in this poem, in this anthem,” he said. “which affects us as no other poem or anthem could affect us.” When Linthicum did introduce legislation to designate a national anthem in April 1921, however, the issue stirred no interest. Taking a stand either way would alienate some voters, so Congress repeatedly decided by not deciding. The song’s most famous foe was Sousa, now at the height of his fame. A national anthem should be “a vigorous, inspiring air and a poetic composition of nobility” like Britain’s “God Save the King” and France’s “La Marseillaise,” Sousa wrote, emphatically noting that “The Star Spangled Banner” possessed none of those characteristics. An anthem must be simple to sing, Sousa added, observing that “The Star-Spangled Banner” occupies “an almost impossible register for most voices.” His own “The Stars and Stripes Forever” might do, the band leader implied. For the untrained voice, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a challenge, as an anonymous wit noted: Oh, say, can you sing from the start to the end, What so proudly you stand for When the orchestras play it; When the whole congregation, in voices that blend, Strike up the grand hymn And then torture and slay it? How they bellow and shout When they’re first starting out, But ‘the dawn’s early light’ finds them Floundering about. ‘Tis ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ They’re trying to sing But they don’t know the words Of the precious old thing.

“The words and the tune of that song are admittedly unsuitable for the purpose of a national anthem,” wrote the New York Times.


Hark! The ‘twilight’s last gleaming’ Has some of them stopped, But the valiant survivors press forward serenely To ‘the ramparts we watched,’ Where some others are dropped And the loss of the leaders is manifest keenly; Then ‘the rockets’ red glare’ Give the bravest a scare And there’s a few left to face The ‘bombs bursting in air’ ‘Tis a thin line of heroes that manage to save The last of the verse And ‘the home of the brave.’ After the First World War, the song’s martial themes alienated many. Columbia University Professor Clyde R. Miller said the lyrics linked patriotism “with killing and being killed, with great noise and clamor, with intense hatreds and fury and violence.” Another Columbia professor, Peter W. Dykem, said that unless the nation is in crisis, the song “falls flat.” Some critics decried Congress as meddlesome. Pacifist Lucia Ames Mead said the popular will, not legislative decree, should elevate a national anthem. The public “by natural selection will decide which anthem is most expressive of their ideals and dear to their hearts,” Mead said, finding an ally in Oscar Sonneck, chief of music at the Library of Congress. Popular taste will prevail, Sonneck said, regardless of what legislators do. With Prohibition the law of the land, the melody’s public-house roots grated on temperance advocates, just as its British origins irked those who wanted an all-American anthem. The historically minded objected to choosing a composition that celebrated a single event in an obscure war. Passions solidified and amplified. “The words and the tune of that song are admittedly unsuitable for the purpose of a national anthem,” declared The New York Times. “Words that nobody can remember to a tune nobody can sing,” the Herald Tribune sneered. “No one with a normal esophagus can sing [it] without screaming, nor any one read its lines without marveling at those who call them poetry,” wrote author Poultney Bigelow. From advocates came equally strong sentiments. Norman R. LaTourette of the Veterans of Foreign Wars attacked pacifists and their “powerful and well-financed propaganda…to replace Francis Scott Key’s inspiring words with something more flowery and meaningless.” When a New York organization said its Independence Day 1926 celebration would not include a vocal rendition, so as not to offend Britons—the obscure third verse slags loyalists as “hirelings” and “slaves”—Linthicum barked that Americans afraid of offending Britain “should go to England and sing ‘God Save the King’ and not bask under the sunshine and prosperity of the American republic while entertaining such strong allegiance to other lands.” “The people have carried the melody and words in their hearts for over a century,” said Rep. Emanuel Celler, D-New York, who was pushing his own anthem recognition bill.


Marching to a Different Drum March king John Philip Sousa campaigned vigorously on behalf of a truly American anthem.

“Such age-worn choice seems irrevocable.” Asked Rep. John Hill, R-Maryland: “Why should we have an Army, why should we have a Navy, if we want to sing some psalm…or some other piffle as a national anthem?” Linthicum revived his measure without success in 1923, in 1925, and again in 1927. An April 22, 1924, House Judiciary Committee debate showed Congress to be as divided on the topic as the public. Celler urged congressional recognition to protect the song “against aspersions cast upon it by certain unpatriotic people.” “A barroom ballad,” Rep. George S. Graham, R-Pennsylvania, scoffed. In 1929, Linthicum introduced his bill yet again. This time, his backers bore down harder on their lobbying, while critics confined themselves to talk and letters to newspaper editors. On Friday, January 31, 1930, the House Judiciary Committee took up H.R. 14. The Marylander pulled out the stops. To show the song could be sung, Linthicum brought sopranos Elsie Jorss-Reilley of Washington and Grace Evelyn Boudlin of Baltimore, accompanied by the Navy Band. “If I quavered on those high notes all would be lost,” Jorss-Reilley said later. Her timbre was firm and “(t)he stirring notes…rang…in the House judiciary committee room and echoed through the long corridors of the House Office Building,” the Associated Press reported. Presenting a petition with nearly 5 million signatures endorsing the bill, Walter I. Joyce, VFW national commander and a Spanish-American War veteran, said, “I stood on San Juan Hill in ‘98 and heard four bands play that tune. All around me in the pup tents men were lying sick with fever but when they heard that glorious old tune, every man somehow got to his feet.” According to a New York veterans’ group commander,

Patriotic Sign-Off In TV’s early days, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the last thing aired before screens went black.

“A bunch of pinks and lime-juicers” were stalling the bill. Francis Scott Key-Smith pleaded on behalf of his grandfather’s song. Female supporters sported red, white, and blue sashes. Linthicum entered into the record telegrams of support from 25 governors and resolutions of support from 150 organizations, including the VFW, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans of the World War, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Daughters of 1812. Even the Musicians’ Mutual Protective Union jumped on board. No one spoke officially against the bill, which received committee approval, followed on April 21, 1930, by House passage. Senator Millard Tydings, D-Maryland, steered the legislation through to passage by that body. President Herbert Hoover signed the bill on March 3, 1931. The United States finally had an official national anthem. Though popular between the wars, the anthem still could cause a rumpus. In 1938, a Long Island couple had retired for the evening when from a bedside radio came the familiar strains. The husband jumped to attention, making his wife do the same. She found the situation so upsetting she sought counsel from New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who had no answer. An editorial writer suggested turning off the radio before turning in. The anthem’s popularity increased as war broke out in the Far East and in Europe. On August 18, 1940, residents of Andover, New Jersey, irate that the Ku Klux Klan and the German-American Bund were holding a rally in their town, loudly sang the anthem to drown out the speechifying. In 1942, Congress codified the habit of rising for the anthem: “…all present should stand and face toward the FEBRUARY

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A favorite World War II jest turned on the famously obscure lyrics: GI returns from patrol. Sentry asks for the password. Soldier draws a blank. Okay, sentry says, you can prove you’re a Yank by reciting “The Star Spangled Banner.” The soldier say he can’t remember the words. “Aaaah, g’wan an’ pass,” the sentry says, “You’re American, awright.” During the war, stadiums hosting major league baseball and professional football games began to stage live performances or play recordings of the anthem. “The national anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kick-off,” NFL Commissioner Elmer Layden said after Japan’s surrender. “We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for.” During the 1950s, the anthem became a fixture on television, not only by way of sporting events but to mark the end of the broadcast day, accompanied by footage of the starspangled banner waving. In the 1960s, protest against racial injustice and the American presence in Vietnam sometimes took the form of

Protesting Protest Spectators booed quarterback Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco at a preseason Chicago Bears/Cleveland Browns game.


remaining seated during the anthem. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, African-American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos, on the dais for winning gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meter sprint, angered many fellow Americans by raising black-gloved fists through the playing of the anthem. Similar ire greeted Jose Feliciano’s Latin-inflected arrangement of the anthem at that year’s World Series and Jimi Hendrix’s screaming feedback-addled rendition from the August 1969 Woodstock pop festival. As American musical tastes became less buttoned up, non-standard but heartfelt performances, like Whitney Houston’s at the 1991 Super Bowl, drew accolades. Over the years, candidates for a replacement anthem have never been in short supply, with Katharine Lee Bates’ “America, the Beautiful” leading the list, joined by numbers like Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” In a 2014 resolution, the U.S. Senate expressed hope that “The Star-Spangled Banner” will “remain our national anthem in perpetuity.” With its attributes and flaws, its reliability as a conduit for patriotic fervor and as a context for protest, difficult to sing and easy to parody, “The Star-Spangled Banner” likely will live up to that vision. +


music. Those in uniform should salute at the first note of the anthem, retaining this position until the last note. All others should stand at attention, men removing the headdress.”

Mexico City Memory American 200-meter medalists Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) protest during the National Anthem at the 1968 Olympics.


Silver Prints

The Walk Into Paradise City “At the old Pennsylvania Station, a man was walking with two children out of the building into this beautiful light. I was moved by that light and the family.” 52 AMERICAN HISTORY


An artist recalls boyhood days chronicling his home town, New York City, with a native’s eye


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was born in the East Bronx in 1934. I started in photography when I was 12, with a Brownie. In 1949 I applied to the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan. At the time that was the only high school in the country that was teaching photography. I got in—much to my grade school art teacher’s surprise; I wasn’t a very good artist. At first I tried to make my pictures pretty, like painted landscapes. The hub of the photo world was Peerless Camera, at Lexington and 44th. I started hanging out there. A camera salesman who mentored me belonged to the Photo League, a group that included Aaron Siskind, Berenice Abbott, Weegee, W. Eugene Smith, and Paul Strand. These photographers, and also Alfred Stieglitz’s point of view, persuaded


me that a photo shouldn’t look like a painting but should depict life in a way that lets you interpret the image. I became a street photographer, wandering around the Bronx and Manhattan. I wanted not just to record what was going on but to record it in its own environment. I was in high school from 1949 to 1953, so I was about 15 to 18 years old when I was taking these photographs. I learned to use the situation, streets or poles, to make the images stronger. A lot of pictures I took were of children. They didn’t intimidate me. After high school, I got a scholarship to the Art Center School in Los Angeles. I returned to New York and became an advertising photographer, and I did well, but when I look at these pictures I see my camera in my hand, and remember what I was thinking. It’s amazing to look back. + Photographs by Larry Silver, 1949-1955 is at the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan through December 4.


Game Face “This was at a polio camp upstate. Polio was a big problem in those days. I felt sympathy for these kids, but I also felt they were going on with their lives, trying to overcome this problem.”



Street Eats “Just after school let out, about 3 p.m., I was walking to the subway when I saw this boy on Third Avenue somewhere between 73rd and 76th. I have no idea what he’s eating.” FEBRUARY 2017 55



Ship to Shore “This boy was on a police barricade on the West Side Highway, near the docks. He’s beneath a ship’s bow. I lowered my camera to elongate the hull.”


Available Light “I liked to use perspective to highlight a subject. The lower level of Penn Station could be dark and moody, but with beautiful light. The staircase leads right to that figure.”

Geometry in Action “One of my favorites. The ladder, the window, and the carriage form a triangle.” FEBRUARY 2017 57



Urban Idyll “This is in Central Park, facing east toward Fifth Avenue. The skyline shows up in my work, but as part of the environment. The buildings were just part of the background. My primary interest was people and the activities around me.”


Decisive Manhattan Moments “The photo of the car on the Lower East Side is another favorite of mine. I was struck by the contrast between the brand-new Cadillac and and the tenement and clothesline. If I’d only framed the Cadillac, it would just have been a car. If I’d only framed the building, it would just have been a building. Together they make a statement. The photos at upper right and lower left were in the Grand Central Terminal waiting room. Both shots were difficult. Back then film was slow and there wasn’t much light, so I had to use a long exposure to get the man and the soldier and that great sunlight on the floor. To hold the camera steady I propped it on a bench. The kid with stuff on his mouth was on Manhattan’s West Side. Like Problem We All Live with other kids, I“The just stuck my camera in hisWith” face and he 1964, Norman Rockwell looked at me andInafterward he walked away.” painted innocence and courage againston a backdrop ugliness. Fore more information the exhibit,ofvisit FEBRUARY 2017 59

Cheating Death The Superintendent Within a decade of his Mexican exploits, Douglas MacArthur was back at West Point as Academy commander. 60 AMERICAN HISTORY


With trouble brewing in Veracruz, a young U.S. Army officer lived up to his hair-raising heritage By David Sears

ouglas MacArthur was a paradox. He received 13 awards for bravery, including the Medal of Honor. Perhaps the most gifted battlefield soldier America ever produced, he orchestrated remarkable victories in France, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Korea, yet economized on casualties. As viceroy of Japan, he bestowed forgiveness and introduced Dai Nippon to civil liberties and equal rights for women. Yet MacArthur’s heroics, displays of principle, and magnetic aura inevitably were offset by his pettiness, paranoia, and appalling vindictiveness. In short, wrote biographer William Manchester, “No more baffling, exasperating soldier ever wore a uniform.” MacArthur first achieved fame as a boy brigadier in the Great War. Doughboys called him “the fighting Dude,” and he seemed to enjoy a charmed life. Once, near Saint-Mihiel, he and a young tank officer were standing close together as German rounds crumped closer and closer. “Don’t worry, Major,” Douglas MacArthur said as George Patton flinched. “You never hear the one that gets you.” As the next war was engulfing the United States and Japanese pilots were raiding Corregidor, MacArthur, walnut cane under one arm and a crushed, weathered campaign hat atop his head, stood by a hedge, coolly counting enemy fighters and bombers. “Look what they have done to the garden,” he remarked with patrician aplomb as water splashed and clods of earth erupted around him. Some Corregidor veterans later vilified him as “Dugout Doug,” but MacArthur was never one to dodge shot and shell. Still, even his valor could generate controversy. Perhaps the earliest example came in 1914 when, during a standoff between the United States and Mexico, MacArthur conceived and executed a covert reconnaissance deep into enemy territory outside Veracruz. It’s fair to say that the 1903 West Point graduate inherited his brass. In November 1863 at Chattanooga, Tennessee, in what Manchester termed an “act of magnificent insubordination,” young MacArthur’s father, Arthur Jr., a stripling Union Army captain, screamed “On, Wisconsin!” as he led his 24th Regiment volunteers triumphantly up Missionary Ridge. A quarter-century later, after spending many years at dirt-choked frontier duty, Arthur would receive a Medal of Honor for his Missionary Ridge feat. String-pulling by his father, a well-connected Washington judge, boosted his visibility and finally propelled him up the ranks. Missionary Ridge was one bookend to Arthur’s career. The other was his role in the Filipino insurrection of 1899-1902. First as an army brigadier and then as the archipelago’s military governor, Arthur MacArthur managed to outfight and outfox guerrilla leader Emilio Aguinaldo and his insurrectos.

In time, however, Arthur crossed William Howard Taft, President William McKinley’s political emissary to the Philippines. When Taft replaced him in Manila, Arthur MacArthur returned stateside to higher rank and shrinking relevance until, while attending the 24th Wisconsin’s 1912 reunion, he collapsed and died, leaving behind wife Mary and sons Arthur III, a navy officer stationed aboard a destroyer, and Douglas, an army captain at Fort Leavenworth. Two years later, in April 1914, Captain Douglas MacArthur, now serving on the army General Staff, was sidelined with tonsillitis and living with his mother at the Hadleigh apartment house at 16th and U streets NW in Washington, D.C. Reading an order in the form of a telegram from Chief of Staff Major General Leonard Wood, Pinky MacArthur, who had known Wood since Arthur’s frontier fort days—indeed, Arthur’s passing had pulled Douglas into Woods’s orbit— rousted her bachelor son, 34, and got him into uniform. Pinky MacArthur believed in her son’s high destiny, but not everyone agreed. Douglas graduated first in his class at West Point and served creditably as a shavetail engineering officer in the post-insurrection Philippines, but on subsequent assignments his performance stirred doubts. He was, wrote Manchester, “already haughty, dashing, fearless, and consumed by the ambitions bequeathed him by his parents.” In November 1903, during his Philippines tour, two Filipino bandits ambushed Second Lieutenant MacArthur. A shot ripped the peak of his campaign hat, but MacArthur coolly leveled his revolver to dispatch both attackers. “Begging thu Loo’tenant’s paddon,” said a sergeant accompanying him, “but all the rest of the Loo’tenant’s life is pure velvut.” MacArthur’s hauteur showed in his disinterest in routine assignments and his questioning of authority. In 1905, a superior wondered “with what enthusiasm he [MacArthur] would carry out work…if objection [by MacArthur] came in the way.” In 1907, the commandant of the army’s Engineer School of FEBRUARY

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Studly Shavetail Always elegant, Second Lieutenant MacArthur cut a martial figure even on frontier duty. 62 AMERICAN HISTORY

His Biggest Fan Mary “Pinky” MacArthur never wavered in her faith in her younger son, seen here plebe year at the Academy.


On the Border Captain MacArthur, stationed at San Antonio, Texas, participated in a 1916 campaign against Mexican raiders.


Application rated MacArthur’s work “not equal to that of most of the other student officers.” The most damning assessment appeared in a 1908 efficiency report. “Lieutenant MacArthur’s duties,” wrote Major William V. Judson, “were not performed in a satisfactory manner.” The young officer partially rehabilitated himself. Reversing the reputation of Fort Leavenworth’s lowest-rated infantry company, MacArthur rose to adjutant of his battalion and, in 1911, to captain. Still, he had achieved no breakthrough to match Dad’s on Missionary Ridge. MacArthur reached the State, War and Navy Building— today’s Executive Office Building—on Thursday, April 23, 1914, to find Wood fresh from meeting Lindley Garrison, President Woodrow Wilson’s interventionist Secretary of War. Wood had begun his army career as a civilian doctor working on contract. Commissioned in the Medical Corps, he switched to the cavalry, during the Apache Wars garnering a Medal of Honor and in the Spanish-American War serving as overall commander of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders regiment. Upon Spain’s capitulation, Wood became Cuba’s military governor. Appointed army chief of staff in 1910, Wood was a political soldier who shared TR’s notions about wielding U.S. power and Roosevelt’s conviction that America’s army should be prepared to fight anybody anywhere at any time. Wood, Garrison, and Wilson were furious at a provocation by Mexican president Victoriano Huerta. The preceding February, Huerta, in league with American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, had overthrown his predecessor and now was fighting off various insurrectionist factions. Huerta had angered the Americans by insulting their flag at a tense time between the United States and Mexico. On April 9, U.S. Navy gunboat Dolphin had dispatched sailors in a whaleboat to purchase gasoline at Tampico, an oil town on the Bay of Campeche off the Gulf of Mexico. Mexican soldiers arrested and jailed the nine Americans. Authorities quickly released the bluejackets, but American naval forces commander Admiral Henry T. Mayo demanded of Huerta a formal apology and a 21-gun salute. Huerta issued the apology but declined to order the salute, even though prior to the Tampico incident Dolphin, at Mexico’s request, had rendered several such volleys. Tensions worsened. Wilson contemplated sending Wood south on a punitive expedition. In his office, Wood told MacArthur he had thought of adding the captain to that expedition’s staff, but instead had decided to send MacArthur ahead to assess the Mexican situation. “I can be off in an hour,” MacArthur assured Wood. After securing passage for MacArthur aboard battleship Nebraska, the general sent off his man with instructions specifying that MacArthur obtain “all possible information which would be of value.” Boarding Nebraska at New York City a day later, MacArthur soon sailed. He was en route when a brief, bloody clash erupted between the forces of the United States and Mexico. Tipped off that a German vessel bringing Huerta arms and ammunition was bound for Veracruz, Mexico’s

main Gulf port 300 miles south of Tampico, Wilson bypassed Congress and ordered American sailors and Marines to seize Veracruz. The invasion succeeded, at a cost of 500 casualties on both sides. The U.S. Army’s 5th Brigade, with 7,000 troops, occupied Veracruz after an entry an American journalist portrayed as “hobnailed brogans [striking] the asphalt with the regularity of pile drivers.” Captain MacArthur reached Veracruz on May 1 and soon was at Brigadier General Frederick Funston’s 5th Brigade headquarters. MacArthur and his host presented a striking physical contrast. Funston, 15 years MacArthur’s senior, was carrying much more weight on his 5’5’’ frame than in his youth, and his red hair and Van Dyke had gone gray. A spare six-footer, MacArthur cut the more martial profile. But Funston was a bona fide combat legend. After stints as a reporter and explorer, he entered military life in 1896 as a filibuster, or mercenary, fighting for pay on behalf of Cuba’s revolt against Spain. In 22 battles, Funston twice sustained chest wounds and had both legs crushed when a horse fell from under him. Captured and paroled by Spanish authorities, he returned stateside in January 1898 to acclaim and a colonelcy in the 20th Kansas Volunteers. When the 20th deployed to the Philippines as part of Arthur MacArthur’s counterinsurgency campaign, Funston again stood out. In March 1901, Funston, masquerading as a POW, penetrated insurgent territory and, with excellent timing, personally captured guerrilla leader Aguinaldo. The deed catapulted Funston to brigadier in the regular army—a career arc of only five years. This was clear evidence to Douglas MacArthur of how, with America pursuing its “manifest destiny,” derring-do could accelerate a soldier’s career.

the invasion succeeded, at a cost of 500 casualties on both sides. the U.s. army’s 5th brigade occupied veracruz.

Now Funston faced a bind no valor of his could unknot. Funston’s 7,000-man brigade was chin-to-chin against Huerta’s 11,000. For all of Wilson’s public boldness, the president was keeping his bantam general on a short leash, explicitly ordering that Funston stay inside the lines. “If a disaster should result,” Funston confided to his diary, “I must not be held responsible.” The Mexicans seemed ready to fight, so Funston badly needed to understand his transportation options. Veracruz was short on horses, mules, and trucks. The port had rail yards and plenty of freight cars but was without locomotives—at least, no locomotives that Funston could lay hands on. Engines might be in yards somewhere inland but he could not risk crossing Mexican lines to look for them. MacArthur faced a delicate situation. He reported not to Funston but to Wood, who pointedly had ordered that he obtain all necessary information. Funston needed to know FEBRUARY

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MacArthur’s Mission In April 1914, Lieutenant Douglas MacArthur survived a series of gunfights fought along rail lines linking Alvarado to Veracruz. He was behind enemy lines searching for locomotives the U.S. Army could appropriate should Mexico and the United States go to war.




El Tejar Paso del Toro

El Presidente Victoriano Huerta poised 11,000 soldiers against 7,000 Americans who had occupied Veracruz.

Woodrow Wilson’s Guns American sailors and soldiers return fire at Mexican snipers. 64 AMERICAN HISTORY

La Laguna La Piedra








The Legend General Frederick Funston invaded Veracruz with an expeditionary force and a reputation for audacity.

where to find locomotives. If that was not necessary information, what was? Washington was very far away. Like his forebear at Chattanooga, MacArthur would seize the moment. Constant Cordier, a captain in one of Funston’s regiments and a Washington pal, pointed MacArthur to a Mexican rail engineer. The railroad man, in his cups, had told Cordier there might be locomotives at Alvarado, 42 miles southeast. MacArthur found the engineer in a rundown cantina, sobered him up and, using his smattering of Spanish, proposed a deal. If the Mexican led MacArthur to Alvarado, MacArthur—upon their successful return—would pay the engineer $150 in gold. The Mexican agreed and the two laid plans. Two train lines ran out of Veracruz: broad-gauge rails extending nearly 300 miles south from Veracruz to Tehuantepec near the Pacific coast, and a narrow-gauge line southeast to Alvarado. American forces held the narrow-gauge line only as far as El Tejar, nine miles outside Veracruz. Four miles farther, at Paso del Toro, the Tehuantepec and Alvarado lines crossed. To avoid encountering Mexican troops holding Tejar, MacArthur and the engineer agreed that they would obtain a handcar and travel by broad gauge from Veracruz to Paso del Toro. At Paso del Toro the engineer would have two railroad workers waiting to transport the men the final miles into Alvarado on a narrow-gauge handcar. There is dispute about how MacArthur equipped himself for his foray. “He decided to take nothing except his .45 pistol, his dog tags and a small Bible,” Arthur Herman writes in a new biography. “He wasn’t even traveling in uniform, though that meant if he was caught, he could be shot as a spy.” Other accounts, including MacArthur’s after-action report to Wood, have him in uniform, but dress probably didn’t matter. At around the same time, a U.S. Army private, Samuel Parks, stole two horses and crossed into Mexican territory. The enemy summarily executed Parks. MacArthur was risking all as he set out at dusk under squally, overcast skies to reach the rendezvous that would take him behind the lines.

After crossing on foot unseen through American lines, MacArthur found the Mexican engineer at a siding, waiting with the promised broad-gauge handcar. Over the engineer’s objections, MacArthur patted him down, confiscating a .38 and a dagger. MacArthur then allowed the engineer to frisk him, to signal that the Mexican would be getting his $150 in gold only after they returned—if they returned. Their handcar, sometimes called a “pump trolley,” was powered by a seesaw-like “walking beam.” Rhythmically pushing down and pulling up on the beam, the two sped along the Tehuantepec line as far as the Jamapa River, where the rail bridge was down. On the bank, the men found a small canoe in which they crossed the Jamapa. At the far shore, MacArthur and the engineer stole two ponies and trotted them alongside the Tehuantepec line. Skirting Paso del Toro, the pair found the railroad workers with a narrow-gauge handcar waiting on the Alvarado rails. MacArthur searched his new conspirators, finding no weapons. After hiding the stolen ponies, the four pumped toward Alvarado. Small bridges and culverts dotted the rail line. The Mexicans stopped to check the first structure, prompting MacArthur to draw his .45 as a prod. “After getting into the spirit of the thing,” he wrote in his account to Wood, “their conduct was most admirable.” Still, MacArthur was taking no chances. At each town he tied himself to one man and sent the other two through on the handcar while he and his accomplice circled the village and rejoined the party on the far side. “This took time,” MacArthur admitted later, “but was the only way I could avoid detection.” Making Alvarado shortly after 1 a.m., MacArthur almost immediately found what he was searching for: five railroad engines. Two were yard switching machines, “worthless for our purpose,” but three were “fine big road pullers,” he wrote later. Quickly inspecting the locomotives, MacArthur joined the other men aboard the handcar to undertake the 42-mile run to Veracruz—and experience a host of troubles. The pre-dawn return ride was uneventful as far as Salinas. There, as before, MacArthur, tethered to a companion, set out to edge around the coastal town. Five armed men confronted them—in MacArthur’s words, “one of the marauding bands that infest the country with brigandage as a trade.” The American and the Mexican made a run for it, outdistancing three pursuers but not the other two, who cornered the railroaders. Shots might alert Mexican soldiers and panic the men waiting with the other handcar, but MacArthur could see no alternative. He stopped, aimed, and fired his .45 automatic. Both assailants went down. Shaken, the quartet reunited and, pumping the handcar in a blinding mist, pushed on to La Piedra—where 15 armed horsemen surrounded them. “We were among them before I realized it and were immediately the center of a melee,” MacArthur said later. The engineer stopped a slug with his shoulder. Three rounds passed through MacArthur’s clothes FEBRUARY

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without striking flesh. Riders knocked the American from the handcar. Regaining his feet, the captain fired, taking down four foes at close range. The other assailants fled. After reloading his .45 and patching up the wounded engineer, MacArthur led his squad—bloodied, exhausted, and rattled—north “with all possible speed.” Near La Laguna, halfway to Paso del Toro, the men encountered three mounted pistoleros. A running gunfight ensued, with the handcar rolling hard and riders trying to keep up. Remarkably, the car, occupants laboring like human pistons, outdistanced two horsemen. But the third, “unusually well mounted” in MacArthur’s estimation, “overhauled and passed the car.” After taking another bullet through his shirt and having rounds twice ricochet inches away, MacArthur “felt obliged to bring him down.” The man fell—as did his mount, sprawling dead across the tracks. It took all four men to drag the carcass and the corpse out of their path. Luck seemed to bend their way at Paso del Toro. Leaving the other two men with the narrow-gauge handcar, MacArthur and the engineer retrieved the ponies and rode to the Jamapa. The canoe was as they had left it. They set to paddling but a snag overturned the boat. The river was shallow enough to keep the pair from drowning, but MacArthur needed what little remained of his waning strength to keep the wounded Mexican’s head above water as he hauled him ashore. It was after dawn when the men—soaked and disheveled, one wounded, the other in a shirt ventilated by four bullets—passed through the American lines at Veracruz. The adventure was over, but, typical of Douglas MacArthur, controversy was already brewing. 66 AMERICAN HISTORY

Had the United States gone to war with Victoriano Huerta, MacArthur’s exploit might have made headlines. “It is a mystery to me,” Cordier said after seeing MacArthur’s condition, “that any of the party escaped.” MacArthur relayed his information about locomotives to Funston’s aide, who, perhaps because of the incident involving the executed private, did not forward the hard-earned intelligence to his boss. The American occupation of Veracruz settled, MacArthur biographer D. Clayton James writes, “into a quiet routine of administering municipal affairs, collecting customs revenues, and introducing public health and judicial reforms.” During Funston’s seven-month standoff with Huerta, MacArthur’s sally and Parks’s killing marked the Veracruz occupation’s only “hostile acts.” MacArthur initially remained circumspect about his escapade. He mentioned the episode in passing in a May 7 dispatch to Washington. Departing Veracruz on August 20, MacArthur arrived in Washington to find that Wood, having fallen out of favor with the Wilson administration, had been replaced as army chief of staff. As a result of the combat at Veracruz, the Navy Department showered sailors and Marines with Medals of Honor. Lopsided naval profligacy—46 naval and nine Marine awards, only one for a U.S. Army man—may have figured in the official army response to MacArthur’s daring reconnaissance run. The imbalance—the most valor awards for a U.S. battle before or since—likely was indicative of new Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels’s partisanship. However, the list of medals also reflected intense house-to-house fighting by sailors and Marines before army troops reached the scene.


American Rifles After an initial clash, troops began months of wary eyeballing.


Two days before MacArthur left Veracruz, Constant Cordier wrote to Wood, “If any deed of daring merits the Medal of Honor surely MacArthur’s audacious undertaking is one.â€? Wood, now heading the Department of the East and with MacArthur’s report in hand, agreed, and recommended the captain for a Medal of Honor. However, when Wood’s endorsement and documentation reached Funston, the case began wobbling. The old campaigner claimed that not until after returning from Veracruz did he learn of the young officer’s venture. “I had not the slightest information regarding the reconnaissance made by Captain MacArthur,â€? Funston said. The case for MacArthur’s receiving the medal fared little better with an army review board. Two of three members, while conďŹ rming MacArthur’s “distinguished gallantry,â€? nonetheless questioned the “advisabilityâ€? of awarding the Medal of Honor for an action undertaken without the local commanding officer’s knowledge. The third man didn’t equivocate: he said the case for MacArthur lacked “incontestable proofâ€? and there was nothing “clearly to distinguish him from the gallantry and intrepidity above his comrades.â€? Even with that thumbs-down, the matter simmered. Still pulling strings, Wood was able to keep MacArthur’s candidacy alive, requesting clariďŹ cation—whereupon Douglas MacArthur intervened on his own behalf. Excoriating the board for “rigid narrow-mindedness and lack of imagination,â€? the captain protested vehemently to army Chief of Staff Major General Hugh M. Scott. That special pleading doubtless sealed his fate. On March 2, 1915, with MacArthur still assigned to the General Staff, the board conďŹ rmed an “adverse recommendation.â€? The roller coaster that was Douglas MacArthur’s career, after soaring on a foreign battleďŹ eld, bottomed out in Washington’s corridors of power. His ride, however, was just beginning. +

Old Glory United States military personnel at Veracruz keep watch beneath a familiar banner.

Fading Away MacArthur, 83, warned LBJ, left, not to send American forces into Vietnam. Johnson did anyway.

An Old Soldier’s Plea Fifty years after his Mexican adventure (p. 60), Douglas MacArthur was battling what would be OPZĂ„UHSPSSULZZH[>HS[LY9LLK4LKPJHS*LU[LYPU >HZOPUN[VU+*:OVY[S`ILMVYLUVVUVU4HYJO  [OLMYHPSMVYTLYĂ„NO[PUNTHUOHKH visitor: President Lyndon B. Johnson, bearing a bouquet of roses and chrysanthemums and on OPZSHWLS[OL:PS]LY:[HY[OH[4HJ(Y[O\YHZ JVTTHUKLYVM(SSPLKMVYJLZPU[OLZV\[O^LZ[ 7HJPĂ„JOHKH^HYKLKOPTMVY]HSVYPU 3)1 had come out of kindness—and, ever the campaigner, in hopes of a photo opportunity. -YVTOPZJOHPY4HJ(Y[O\Y^LHYPUNOPZ>LZ[ Point bathrobe and drawing on a lifetime in the military, performed one last service to his country. The old soldier, 84, beseeched the president not to commit ground troops in Vietnam—the same message he had given 1VOUZVUÂťZWYLKLJLZZVY0U 4HJ(Y[O\Y[VSK President John F. Kennedy that anyone wanting [VW\[(TLYPJHUMVYJLZPU[VTHPUSHUK(ZPH ¸ZOV\SKOH]LOPZOLHKL_HTPULKš>LYL[OL UH[PVU[VZLUKL]LUHTPSSPVUTLU4HJ(Y[O\Y [VSK1-2¸^L^V\SKZ[PSSĂ„UKV\YZLS]LZV\[U\Tbered on every side.â€? LBJ got his photo and ^LU[OPZ^H`6U4HYJO+LMLUZL:LJYL[HY` 9VILY[:4J5HTHYHHK]PZLK1VOUZVU[OH[[OL ZP[\H[PVUPU:V\[O=PL[UHT¸OHZ\UX\LZ[PVUHIS` been growing worse;â€? the beleaguered republic ULLKLKTVYL(TLYPJHUZ\WWVY[;OYLL^LLRZ SH[LY4HJ(Y[O\Y^HZKLHK;OH[(\N\Z[H[ 1VOUZVUÂťZILOLZ[*VUNYLZZWHZZLK[OL;VURPU .\SM9LZVS\[PVUNP]PUN[OLWYLZPKLU[IYVHK WV^LYZ[V^PKLU[OLJVUĂ…PJ[PU=PL[UHT —Joseph Connor FEBRUARY

2017 67

What the Public Saw Lyndon Johnson and wife Lady Bird with daughters Lynda Bird, right, and Lucy Baines.

Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas By Joan Mellen Bloomsbury, 2016; 384 pages; $35


In the 20th book of a diverse oeuvre of biographies, cinema, and literature, Joan Mellen documents Lyndon B. Johnson’s career in cronyism, mainly in his home state but also on the international stage. The title reflects LBJ’s penchant for obscuring his personal and financial affairs and his membership in a cadre of pols and business types given to enriching themselves at voters’ expense. The subtitle might well have mentioned Billie Sol Estes, who, after serving his king, tried unsuccessfully to drag him into disgrace. Citing recently released FBI files, interviews, books, newspaper and magazine articles, and diaries, Mellen traces Johnson’s lifelong dance with power and infamy. Analyzing the 1948 campaign, she shows how Johnson, ever the clever puppeteer, had marionettes falsify records and destroy ballots at arm’s length from their boss to defeat Coke Stevenson by 87 votes in a Democratic primary runoff that assured Johnson of a U.S. Senate seat. “Johnson was not elected to the United States Senate, and so should not have served there,” Mellen writes. In the Senate, as he had in the House, Johnson toadied to his betters, engineering profitable arrangements that Mellen illuminates using sources well-known but in this context previously untapped—Estes, influence peddler Bobby Baker, and federal contractors willing to kick back dough to a frenemy they mostly feared. Mellen establishes Johnson’s corruption by showing that

he directly awarded government work that was worth millions to cronies. As LBJ was amassing paydays and political clout, men and women in his circle were dying under mysterious circumstances. The fallen included Johnson’s loose-lipped younger sister Josefa, who expired at 49 only hours after leaving a Christmas party at her brother’s home in 1961. As Lyndon Johnson rose, so did Mac Wallace, one of Josefa’s beaus. LBJ counted Wallace among his elves in the 1948 campaign. Wallace later worked for the U.S. Agriculture Department and a military contractor favored by Johnson. A 1952 murder conviction seemed no bar to advancement. Wondering whether Johnson pondered which, if any, of many dangerous secrets Wallace knew, and whether LBJ did anything about that, Mellen plunges into Wallace’s self-destructive story: college comer, weapons merchant, holder of a controversial security clearance, convicted but unpunished murderer, chronic drunk, dead in a one-vehicle accident for which all official reports disappeared. Faustian Bargains stands apart from the latter-day run of LBJ books by distinguishing fact from opinion and primary from hearsay evidence, conscientiously not vaulting to conclusions and satisfying the author—and this reader—that Lyndon Johnson was a killer more than metaphorically. —Richard Culyer is a writer in Hartsville, South Carolina


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