This Day in History – December 12 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… DECEMBER 12

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1878 – Joseph Pulitzer begins publishing St. Louis Dispatch.

Pulitzer, an immigrant from Budapest, spoke both French and German better than English, got his start in journalism by observing and then kibitzing on a chess match in a library in St. Louis. The two players were editors of a failing German newspaper. They offered him a job and through hard work climbed the ladder until he was publisher. Expanding his business holdings he acquired the Dispatch. He was a tireless worker, to the detriment of his health. Attacking trusts and monopolies, supporting organized labor and exposing political corruption, he was committed to raising the standards of journalism. Pulitzer was founder of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for excellence in American journalism. His competition with Wm. Randolph Hearst however did not bring out the best in either. What resulted was Yellow Journalism featuring speculation, sensationalism, and even fabrication of the news.

From what I’ve read he was mostly a credit to his profession other than in his competition with Hearst. Their sensationalism in trying to sell papers helped push the U.S. into war with Spain over Cuba and the suspicious sinking of the USS Maine.

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1903 – Roger Casement completes report about abuses in Congo.

As a young man Casement worked for the British Colonial Service in Africa. During this time he met writer Joseph Conrad and both initially believed colonization would be beneficial for the people of that continent. They both later changed their minds. King Leopold of Belgium was reaping huge rewards from the Congo and Casement wrote of the brutal treatment the natives received, including child slave labor. His report caused a sensation and garnered him a knighthood in 1911 for his humanitarianism. T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) contemplated writing a book about him. They did have some things in common in that both spoke out on behalf of dark-skinned men, and both were suspected of having sex with those same dark-skinned men.

Five years after he was knighted he was hanged for treason and his naked body thrown into a lime pit. At the outbreak of the First World War he was arrested for smuggling weapons from Germany to Ireland for the Irish Rebellion. Also captured were his diaries depicting homosexual acts. The diaries were used to silence pleas for leniency from such notables as George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Conan Doyle. Association with such a man could prove to be embarrassing for them.

A gay, Irish, gun-running, humanitarian diplomat seems like someone I should read more about. Only one book has been written about him, however, and it has yet to be translated into English. 

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1917 – Boys Town founded.

The orphanage for boys was founded by Father Edward Flanagan. He borrowed ninety dollars from a friend and rented a house for wayward, homeless and orphaned boys in Omaha. So many boys showed up he borrowed more money and bought a farm. Funded by charitable gifts the facility continued to grow with the addition of dormitories, a school and admin buildings. It now encompasses 935 acres in Nebraska. It gained a national reputation in 1938 after “Boys Town,” a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, appeared on the silver screen. From Omaha.com: “Father Flanagan took advantage of Boys Town’s fame to advocate for changes in America’s system of care for children. Through his own fiery speeches and in partnerships with other social advocates, he was able to shut down nearly every reform school, where children were often abused and used as free labor. He also shamed faith-based orphanages into adopting his more-compassionate model of care, where youth received an education and enrichment through music, the arts and religion. In doing so, Father Flanagan showed the country that even the most troubled kid could become a good citizen.”

I had a friend in the Navy who grew up in an orphanage in Philadelphia. Judging from his bitter asides, little of Father Flanagan’s compassion resided there.

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Birthdays:

1745 – John Jay.

Founding Father. Jay was a delegate to both the 1st and 2nd Continental Congress. Along with Hamilton and Madison, he argued for more a centralized form of government. Jay and Benjamin Franklin were negotiators on the Treaty of Paris in which Britain recognized America’s independence. He was selected as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), Jay’s court ruled that the federal government ultimately had power over the states. Jay also served as Governor of New York and as an early abolitionist helped abolish slavery in that state.

Although he was imperfect, being a slaveholder, I’ll go out on a limb and say that as a nation we are better off because of John Jay.

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1821 – Gustave Flaubert.

French writer. His most famous work is “Madame Bovary.” The publication of the novel brought him a charge of immorality by the French government, from which he barely escaped conviction. A perfectionist, he sometimes spent a week working on one page as he searched for the best phrase or adjective. (Wow!) Flaubert was also a noted cynic as this observation of his proves: “To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.”

Hmmm, so that’s why people in Wisconsin seem so happy.

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1925 – Cora Lee Johnson.

Civil Rights activist. I think this excerpt from a speech she gave tells us what we need to know about her:

“I want to tell you about Black people and work in America. Black people do nothing but work in America but we do not get paid, so they do not call it work. There is this myth that Black people are lazy, do not like to work, and only want to have babies and live on welfare. Black people cannot find jobs in America. It is hard to get a job even if you have an education. And there are no jobs for uneducated people. There is a sign at the factory that states ‘Help Wanted. Experienced Operators Only.’ Where are Black people going to get experience? Of course white folks do not need experience.”

Some might believe that’s what made America great.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.

Sources:

Wikipedia.org

OnThisDay.com

Pulitzer.com

Omaha.com

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We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Gustave Flaubert caricature) – Seba Armstrong / Shutterstock.com

gustauve flaubert caricature - Seba Armstrong - Shutterstock - embed

* Joseph Pulitzer (video) – National Geographic / YouTube.com

* Boys Town (video) – CBS Sunday Morning / YouTube.com

* Gustave Flaubert (video) – The School of Life / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 3

December 4

December 5

* December 8

December 9

December 10

December 11

December 13

* December 15

December 16

December 18

December 19

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

December 28

January 1

January 3

* January 4

January 6

January 7

January 8

January 11

January 12

January 14

January 15

January 17

January 19

January 22

January 23

January 24

January 28

January 29

February 1

February 2

February 3

February 5

February 9

February 10

February 12

February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 22

February 25

February 28

February 29

March 2

March 4

March 6

March 9

March 11

March 12

March 14

March 15

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 22

March 23

March 27

March 28

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 4

April 6

April 9

April 11

April 13

April 16

April 18

April 21

* April 22

April 23

April 26

April 28

April 29

May 1

May 2

* May 3

May 5

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 11

* May 13

May 16

May 17

May 22

May 24

May 26

May 27

* May 28

May 29

May 31

June 1

June 3

June 4

June 8

June 10

June 11

June 13

June 16

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 22

June 24

June 27

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

July 4

July 9

July 10

July 13

July 14

July 15

July 19

July 20

July 23

July 24

July 25

July 29

July 30

July 31

August 2

* August 3

August 6

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 13

August 16

August 17

August 19

August 21

August 23

August 24

August 25

August 28

August 29

August 31

September 2

September 4

September 5

September 6

September 10

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16

September 17

September 20

September 21

September 23

September 25

September 26

September 27

September 29

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 4

October 5

October 6

October 7

October 10

October 11

October 12

October 13

October 14

October 15

October 16

October 18

October 19

October 20

October 23

October 24

October 25

October 26

October 27

October 29

October 30

October 31

November 1

November 2

November 3

November 4

November 5

November 6

November 7

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 11

November 12

November 13

November 14

November 15

November 16

November 17

November 18

November 19

November 20

November 21

November 22

November 23

November 24

November 26

November 27

November 28

November 29

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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