Saturday, December 13, 2014

Twelve Thirteen Fourteen

Today is December 13, 2014, the last consecutive string of numbers (12 -13 - 14) in this century, and the last all of us except a few who can't read yet will see.  We can be grateful we are not observing 12-13-1914; as anxious as people were at that time, four months into the Great War, they must have been unaware it was going to get a lot worse.

The defining moment had just arrived, but people can only appreciate when and what that moment is at a later date.  The German Empire's Schlieffen Plan to quickly sweep through Belgium and capture Paris had bogged down after the First Battle of Ypres, which ended in mid-November.  The front lines stabilized into a long and incredibly costly stalemate.  On the Eastern Front, current events did not preduct future ones; the Russians were holding their own on the border with East Prussia.  To the east lay the city of Grodno, where my Great-Aunt Minnie, who had emigrated to America and married a cousin of my grandfather's, was from.  It wasn't until the end of her life I learned I had a relative born in Czarist Russia.

My grandfather, born in 1895, was headed to Iowa from Pennsylvania in the near future to escape the draft by doing full-time farm work.  Wheat chaff got lodged in his ear, compromising his hearing, but he found that out when it was removed a half-century later.


King Peter watches Serb Army drive Austrians out, December 1914

The apex of the mechanical era of the Industrial Revolution coincided with the Great War; cars, trucks, railroads and farm equipment changed things quickly.  The lack of paved roads created problems; that took decades to solve even while the horse population dwindled faster than anyone could have guessed.  Many square miles of timothy hay grown in Ohio were suddenly useless on the market and dairy cows moved in to fill that loss.

Cars but few paved roads: Dumfries, VA, Route 1

The boom years for agriculture caused by the demands of worldwide war collapsed quickly into a two-decade depression after the Armistice while the prosthetic device industry improved technologically and grew.  The Marriott fortune began out West due to the insatiable market for beans; after the war J.W. Marriott went into selling root beer, a pretty smart move, it turned out.  There were winners and losers by the millions, and millions more succumbed to the mis-named Spanish Influenza.  Television's beginnings were only a decade off in 1914.

The working class:  munitions workers

Daring fashion, 1914


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