Here are the next decade’s best from Letters of the Century. Check out 1900 – 1909 here.
America from 1910 – 1919: About 4% of Americans have college diplomas • People freak out and buy comet pills or refuse to leave their homes because of the passage of Halley’s comet • The Boy Scouts begin their history • The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire kills 146 people • The Titanic sinks • Lifesavers are invented • The 16th Amendment, allowing federal income tax, is passed • Picasso and Duchamp are included at the Armory Show, shocking and stunning thousands and thousands of people • D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation premiers in New York City • The Lusitania sinks • The US joins WW I • An international influenza epidemic kills 21 million people worldwide over a single year • Warner Bros. and Louis B. Mayer Pictures are organized • The Treaty of Versailles ends WW I.
Best description of American girls:
If you try to stop and say hello to such a girl, she calls a police agent, and then you go to jail or pay $18.00.
• Aart Plasier, Dutch immigrant.
Most annoying smartass making fun of Gertrude Stein:
Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times.
• publisher Arthur Fifield to Gertrude Stein
Clearest reason that other countries think we’re smug:
Europe is ceasing to be interesting except as an example of how-not-to-do-it. It has no lessons for us except as a warning.
• Walter Hines Page to his son.
Edward Cullen of the decade:
…if I could only steal in and sit by your bedside and watch you as you sleep and throw loving thoughts about you to make sleep sweeter…! I would not touch you: that would startle you, for you would not be expecting me.
• Woodrow Wilson! to Edith Galt, who would become his second wife.
Most like your grandmother:
…we stopped at a moving picture show and saw Charlie Chaplin, who is horrid…The foghorn on Alcatraz is the most lonesome sound I ever heard and I don’t see how the prisoners on the island can stand it.
• Laura Ingalls Wilder, to her husband.
Best prediction of the future:
Your loving actress daughter, Ruth Gordon (a name you will one day see in lights), December 22, 1915, my favorite day of my life.
• Ruth Gordon, Maude of Harold and Maude, after her first ever performance.
Best Valentine’s Day poem:
The rose is red,
The violet’s blue
But VOTES are better.
• A suffragette to Congressman Edward Pou.
Worst reminder of the bad old days:
All the officers here know we are making this hunger strike that women fighting for liberty may be considered political prisoners; we have told them. God knows we don’t want other women ever to have to do this over again.
• Rose Winslow to her friends, while she was held in jail for picketing the White House.
Best forerunner of Hawkeye on MASH:
One can stand to see one, two or twenty men die, but to see these poor devils dropping like flies sort of gets on your nerves.
• An Army doctor stationed at a camp during the influenza outbreak, which killed 20 million people in a single year.
Most heartbreaking confidence:
I pin my faith to the idealistic, youthful – naïve, if you like – determination of the American people that this shall be the last war.
• Elizabeth Stearns Tyler to her friend at the end of World War I.
AND A LITERARY BONUS!
Then – & believe me when I say this is sudden for me, too – I expect to be married soon. And I hope & pray that after you have thought things out, you’ll be able to forgive me & start a wonderful career & show what a man you really are.
• Agnes von Kurowsky to Ernest Hemingway
Man, Agnes did not pull her punches. Hey, remember how you thought we were in love? Well, I’m getting married good luck with your career. He did, after all, base Catherine in A Farewell to Arms on her. Whatever, better that than Woodrow Wilson WATCHING YOU SLEEP. And Ruth Gordon – we should all be so lucky. ’20s up next! I’m excited.
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