Thursday, December 31, 2015

The year 1916 was a surprising, interesting year in U.S. history

1916 Boston Red Sox. 
This week’s edition of The Evergreen marks the final edition of The Courant for the year 2015, and next week’s paper will be the first edition of the year 2016. Much has taken place in Conecuh County and in the rest of the world during the preceding year, and I’m sure that we’ll be able to say the same this time next year.

In a couple of weeks, in this space, as I usually do on the first or second Thursday of every month, I’ll offer up my monthly review of all the interesting things that were happening in Conecuh County a century ago, way back in January 1916.

The year 1916 was an interesting year in history, and you might be surprised by some of the things that occurred during that year a century ago. On Jan. 24 of that year, the temperature dropped from 44 degrees to –56 degrees in one day in Browning, Mont., which was the largest temperature change ever recorded during a 24-hour period.

Later, in early March, during the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa and 500 Mexicans raided Columbus, New Mexico and killed 12 U.S. soldiers. About a week later, President Woodrow Wilson sent 12,000 soldiers over the border with orders to hunt down Villa. These troops, which included General John Pershing, were eventually called back out of Mexico, without capturing Villa, when the U.S. officially entered World War I later that year.

A couple of months later, in May, The Saturday Evening Post published its first cover featuring a Norman Rockwell painting, and in June President Wilson signed a bill officially incorporating the Boy Scouts of America.

On July 1, the Battle of the Somme began in France, and it wouldn’t end until Nov. 18. More than one million soldiers died during this battle. British casualties on the first day totaled 57,470, including 19,240 who were killed, making it the single bloodiest day in British military history.

Also that July, at least one shark attacked five swimmers along the coast of New Jersey, resulting in the deaths of four. These attacks, which are now known as the “Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916,” were the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel, “Jaws,” and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster movie by the same name.

On Nov. 1, 1916, the first 40-hour work week officially began at the Endicott-Johnson factories in New York. On Nov. 7, during that year’s presidential election, Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson beat Republican challenger Charles E. Hughes.

In the wide world of sports, the Pittsburgh Panthers won college football’s national championship. That October, the Boston Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins, four games to one, to win the 1916 World Series. 

Earlier that year, on April 20, the Chicago Cubs played their first game in Weegham Park, which we know today as Wrigley Field. Also that year, on Oct. 7, Georgia Tech’s football team beat Cumberland College, 222-0, in the most lopsided victory in college football history.

Famous people born in 1916 included comedian Jackie Gleason, novelist Walker Percy of Birmingham, actor Gregory Peck, future Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, children’s author Roald Dahl, anchorman Walter Cronkite, historian and author Shelby Foote and actor Kirk Douglas. Famous people who died in 1916 included writer Jack London, who died of kidney failure in California on Nov. 22.

As you can see, 1916 was an eventful year in American and world history. Who’s to say what 2016 will bring, but I’m sure that it will likely be as eventful as that remarkable year a century ago.

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