It’s time once again to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine to take a stroll down memory lane to visit our old friend — the year 1919. For a year that is now a century old, 1919 doesn’t look a day over 68.
The year started with a bang on Jan. 1 when Edsel Ford took over the Ford Motor Company from his daddy, Henry Ford. Those of you of a certain vintage may recall his namesake car, the Ford Edsel, which appeared in 1958. The Edsel turned out to be one of the worst cars ever produced, although it provided many jokes for 1950s-era comedians. The Edsel only lasted until 1960 when production stopped due to lack of buyers. Naturally, if you have an Edsel now, it is worth a lot more than it was then.
In January, the tragic Boston Molasses Disaster took place. A storage tank filled with more than 2 million gallons of molasses collapsed. A 25-foot-high tsunami of molasses rushed through the streets of Boston at 35 miles an hour, killing 21 people and injuring more than 150 others. It was a sticky situation. To make matters worse, the 16th Amendment, creating Prohibition, went into effect the next day.
Politically, things were grumpy in 1919. The War to End All Wars, also known as World War I, had just ended. Like all things, nothing is finished until the paperwork is done. The winning team and the losers got together in Paris in January to work out the terms of the victory in the Treaty of Versailles so that the world could live in peace forever.
The treaty worked out about as well as the Titanic did in 1912 or the Edsel in 1958. The German’s were made to say, “I’m a bad country, kick me, and Uncle three times.” The Germans promised to pay the Allies much more in reparations than they could have done without using a rubber check. Unfortunately, the winning team was never told that winning is enough and a victory dance in the end zone is too much. The seeds of World War II were planted at Versailles.
In January, the Nazi party was founded as the German Farmers Party. Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in Italy in February. The first congress of the Communist International met in Moscow in March and picked Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin as its leaders. Trouble was brewing. The poo was heading toward the fan. As Roman Emperor Claudius once said, “Let all the evil that lurks in the mud, hatch out.” The hatching started early in the year.
Not everything was grim in 1919. The comic strip “Barney Google” first graced the funny papers in June. Barney Google’s side kick, Snuffy Smith, eventually became the star of the strip. Snuffy’s wife, Loweezy, spent most of the strip hanging out clothes on the line and gossiping with her neighbor, Elviney. When Mrs. Smith was startled by news of some local event, she would blurt out, “Land O’ Goshen!” The “Snuffy Smith” comic strip continues to appear in fine newspapers 100 years later.
A bit of presidential medical trivia occurred the fall of 1919. President Woodrow Wilson was out on a long tour promoting the League of Nations. He had a stroke in October 1919, which left him essentially incapacitated for the rest of his term of office until 1921. Wilson’s wife, Edith, kept the country from learning how bad off Woody was by cutting off access to the president. Edith served as the country’s first female president for the rest of Woody’s term in office, acting as regent. She made presidential decisions in Wilson’s name while Woody recuperated. Just for a moment, ponder something like this happening now. President Melania has a nice ring to it.
In October, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” first appeared in The New York Globe newspaper, dazzling and amazing readers ever since. You can now be dazzled and amazed at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Not to be outdone by the man with the world’s longest toe nails, Felix the Cat made his film debut in November 1919 in “Feline Follies.” Felix is credited with being the first cartoon character to gain a major audience. Mickey Mouse did not make his film debut until 1928, so Felix beat Mickey to the audience, although Mickey beat Felix to the bank.
So, what have we learned about 1919? Sometimes, the people selling wars to the public do not always tell the truth. If you suddenly smell a strong odor of molasses, either make pancakes or get to higher ground immediately. Melania might make a better president than our current Dear Glorious Very Stable Genius Leader. Bless his heart. Land O’ Goshen, I’m just sayin’. Happy New Year.