House of David

Where else but in America would a fairly offbeat religious cult become known for fielding a first class baseball team?  Founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in October 1903, the Israelite House of David was loosely part of a movement started by Joanna Southcott in1792 who had proclaimed herself the first messenger, the woman robed in the Sun mentioned in Revelation 12:1-6.  In 1895 the Purnells declared that they had been bonded by the Holy Spirit and that the two of them were the seventh messenger mentioned in Revelation 10:7.

The Purnells soon found themselves heading a commune which owned 1000 acres in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  This being America the cult founded several successful businesses.  Mr. Purnell was a sports enthusiast and had his followers play baseball.  In 1913 the cult founded the House of David Baseball Team which quickly achieved fame barnstorming around the country.  The team members played with long hair and beards.

Trouble came to the cult when 13 young women confessed in court that they had sexual intercourse with Purnell while still minors.  Purnell died before he was brought to trial.  Mary Purnell formed the New House of David with a faction proclaiming itself the Old House of David.  Each faction fielded ball teams.  The original House of David team by the late twenties was employing profession ballplayers including Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige and Mordecai Brown.  Some of the pros would wear fake beards while playing for the team.  There were several teams claiming the House of David label, including an all black team that played in the Negro League. (more…)

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Published in: on January 31, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Treasury Salute: Edwin Booth

During World War II the Treasury sponsored radio salutes to great Americans of history.  The above video is their salute to Edwin Booth.

Perhaps the finest American Shakespearian actor of his day, Booth was the son of Junius Brutus Booth, most assuredly the finest American Shakespearian actor of his day, and the brother of John Wilkes Booth.  Junius Brutus Booth threatened to assassinate President Andrew Jackson, read about it here, and John Wilkes Booth of course did assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.  Edwin Booth, who supported the Union as much as his brother did the Confederacy, saved the life of Robert Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln in late 1864 or early 1865.  Lincoln recalled the incident in 1909:

The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.

The incident was recalled by the Chicago Tribune immediately after the assassination of Lincoln, to remind its readers that Edwin Booth had nothing to do with the murder of Lincoln by his brother:

And here it is only thoughtful and honest to say that the Union cause has had no stronger and more generous supporter than Mr. Edwin Booth. From the commencement he has been earnestly and actively solicitous for the  triumph of our arms and the welfare of our soldiers. An incident — a trifle in itself — may be recalled at this moment when the profound monotony of grief overwhelms us. Not a month since, Mr. Edwin Booth was proceeding to Washington. At Trenton there was a general scramble to reach the cars, which had started leaving many behind in the refreshment saloon. Mr. Edwin Booth was preceded by a gentleman whose foot slipped as he was stepping upon the platform, and who would have fallen at once beneath the wheels had not Mr. Edwin Booth’s arm sustained him. The gentleman remarked that he had a narrow escape of his life, and was thankful to his preserver. It was Robert Lincoln, the son of that great, good man who now lies dead before our blistered eyes, and whose name we cannot mention without choking. (more…)

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Why We Fight: The Battle of China

Hollywood director Frank Capra directed many classic films including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.  However, he thought his best work was the Why We Fight series of films that he directed for the Army during World War II.  Sicilian born Capra was the son of Italian immigrants and was an American patriot to his fingertips.  He served in the Army during World War I as a Second Lieutenant.  Immediately after Peal Harbor he enlisted in the Army.  He was put to work making films explaining to American GIs why the US had to fight and win World War II.  Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall explained to Capra the importance of this task:

Now, Capra, I want to nail down with you a plan to make a series of documented, factual-information films – the first in our history – that will explain to our boys in the Army why we are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting … You have an opportunity to contribute enormously to your country and the cause of freedom. Are you aware of that, sir?

The films he produced are widely considered to be masterpieces today. (more…)

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Why We Fight: The Battle of China  
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First State of the Union Address

 

The first state of the Union address, then called the President’s annual message to Congress, was delivered by President Washington to the First Congress on January 8, 1790.  It is also the shortest.  Would that his predecessors, as in so much else, had followed his example!  Here is the text of the speech:

 

 

 

FELLOW CITIZENS Of the SENATE, and HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES,

I EMBRACE with great satisfaction the opportunity, which now presents itself, of congratulating you on the present favourable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of Northcarolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received)— the ruling credit and respectability of our country— the general and increasing good will towards the government of the union, and the concord, peace and plenty, with which we are blessed, are circumstances auspicious, in an excellent degree, to our national prosperity.

In reforming your consultations for the general good, you cannot but derive encouragement from the reflection, the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope.– Still further to realize their expectations, and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach, will in the course of the present important session, call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. (more…)

Published in: on January 28, 2014 at 6:27 am  Comments Off on First State of the Union Address  
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Ursuline Nuns, Thomas Jefferson and Synchronicity

 

 Synchronicity

I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I assumed the synchronicity mavens of Almost Chosen People might be amused by it.

 

I have long been amused by how often the phenomenon of synchronicity has reared its head in my life.  Synchronicity is a coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related.   Jungian theory hails synchronicity as an explanatory principle on the same order as causality.  Throughout my life I have seen events arise that seem completely unrelated but suddenly a connection appears.

Yesterday I had posts fisking anti-Catholic bigot Jami Stiehm here, and a post on the Ursuline nuns and their role in the battle of New Orleans here.  Today Ed Morrissey at Hot Air supplies the connection between the two:

 

Arguing that Jefferson would cheer federal dictates on the choices of health insurance for nuns is therefore either high ignorance or deliberate obtuseness. In fact, we have a historical record for Jefferson’s thoughts on the freedom of religious expression specifically for Catholic nuns, in his own hand. Joanne McPortland reminded us of this yesterday at Patheos:

In 1804, the Ursuline Sisters, who had fled the anti-Catholicism of the French Revolution to found schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the Louisiana Territory, wrote to President Thomas Jefferson of their concerns that the United States government, now in control of New Orleans, would interfere with their freedom to operate their institutions and set their own regulations. They were aware of Jefferson’s support of the French Revolution and of his writings concerning the “wall of separation” he saw in the First Amendment’s guarantees.

Jefferson’s letter in response–often omitted from collections of his works–is respectful, clear, and reassuring. Read the text and substitute Little Sisters of the Poor for the Ursulines, and it’s immediately apparent that Stiehm is conjuring the wrong guy.

I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana.

The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you, sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.

Whatever the diversity of shade may appear in the religious opinions of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your institution cannot be indifferent to any; and its furtherance of the wholesome purposes of society, by training up its younger members in the way they should go, cannot fail to ensure it the patronage of the government it is under.

Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it.

I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship and respect.

The letter, in Jefferson’s hand, is on display in the museum of the Ursulines in New Orleans, where I’ve seen it. It is recognized, rightly, as one of the founding documents in our American understanding of freedom of religion.

It’s difficult to see how Stiehm could have possibly been more ignorant on freedom, religion, tolerance, and the law than in her self-exposure at US News. (more…)

Published in: on January 27, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ursuline Nuns, Thomas Jefferson and Synchronicity  
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To Rouse A Sleeping Giant

A fascinating video detailing the paths of Japanese and US merchant shipping during World War II.  Beginning in 1943 the US is increasingly dominant with the Japanese shipping clinging to the Asian coast down to the oil in the Dutch East Indies.  1944 shows the obliteration of those Japanese routes and by the surrender in 1945 Japanese merchant shipping is virtually non-existent.  A stark reminder of just what madness it was for the Japan to start a war it could not win with the US.

At the end of the epic movie Tora, Tora, Tora, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the head of the combined Japanese fleet, after the successful attack on Pearl Harbor, refuses to join in the elation of his staff, and makes this haunting observation: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”  The line is almost certainly apocryphal.  The director of the film, Elmo Williams, claimed that Larry Forester, the film’s screenwriter, had found the line in a 1943 letter written by Yamamoto.   However, he has been unable to produce the letter, and there is no other evidence that such a letter exists. (more…)

Published in: on January 26, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Winter War

Something for the weekend.  Today my family is going down to Champaign-Urbana to participate in  Winter War 41 .  I have been participating in this wargaming and rpg gaming extravaganza since 1975.  The only possible song for this weekend is Finlandia Hymn by Jean Sibelius.  The above video is a tribute to the brave Finnish troops who defended their nation against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.

An English translation of the Finnish lyrics:

O, Finland, behold, your day is dawning,

The threat of night has been banished away,

And the lark of morning in the brightness sings,

As though the very firmament would sing.

The powers of the night are vanquished by the morning light,

Your day is dawning, O land of birth.

  O, rise, Finland, raise up high

Your head, wreathed with great memories.

O, rise, Finland, you showed to the world

That you drove away the slavery,

And that you did not bend under oppression,

Your day is dawning, O land of birth. (more…)

Published in: on January 25, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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World War II in Europe Day by Day

The above video certainly gives an appreciation for the dramatic and sudden changes in control of territory by the Axis and the Allies in World War II.  Unlike the long static fronts of World War I, except in the East, battle lines did not remain stationary for long normally in Europe during World War II, except, ironically, in the East where there were periods of stasis, for example during the siege of Leningrad, on parts of the front.  After the phony war at the beginning of the War, blitzkrieg war tended to be the norm in the West, with the notable exception of the Italian campaign.

Published in: on January 24, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on World War II in Europe Day by Day  
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Bobbie The Weather Girl

Any American stationed in Vietnam in 1967-1969 will recall Bobbie the Weather Girl, going away the most popular feature of American Forces Vietnam Network broadcasts.  Bobbie Keith was an army brat, the daughter of an Army intelligence officer in Vietnam.  Twenty years old in 67 she was a clerk for the Agency for International Development in Vietnam.  Chosen almost at random to be the Weathergirl, her good looks and a flare for comedy made her an instant hit.  A patriot, in her spare time on weekends she would visit combat units her fans invited her to, often coming under enemy fire.  To homesick grunts she was the epitome of the girl next door and was cheered wherever she went.  From an interview in 2009:

Clearly you were you a sex symbol, right?

I never thought of myself as being a sex symbol. I was treated more like the girl the guys left behind. I wore White Shoulders perfume back in those days, and the guys would say, “Oh my girlfriend wears that… that reminds me of my girlfriend.”  I was reminding the guys of their loved ones they left behind. I don’t think anyone ever treated me as a sex symbol. No. Even when they did the pin-ups. I wasn’t a movie star. I wasn’t Raquel Welch. I wasn’t Hollywood. I didn’t have any talents. I was just there, an American girl. It could have been anybody. There’s a way to conduct yourself and a way not to. And I think because I was on military bases as a brat growing up I could recognize and deal with this very chauvinistic organization full of testosterone.

Did you ever feel exploited or used?

No, never. The guys at the TV station treated me with a lot of respect. They were so cute. I think of all of those people as my big brothers. They took good care of me. When you treat people the way they want to be treated, if you treat somebody in that environment like “okay you’re my big brother,” then they act like your big brother, they become your big brother. They become your siblings. I never had a problem.

Were you ever criticized for doing the show?

Well, yeah, there were a couple of occasions, like when they painted the temperatures on my body. I don’t think any of us thought of it as being sexist, as even being cheeky. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a take-off of Goldie Hawn on the TV show Laugh-In. Somebody—I think in Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker’s office—took offense, so they put an end to that. Maybe if I had seen the show on TV I would have thought so too, but we didn’t think of it that way. (more…)

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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1864: The Coming Year

Situation at Beginning of 1864

Not much of note was going on during the Civil War 150 years ago.  The War had entered a quiet stage, as if both Union and Confederacy, exhausted by the extreme exertions of the prior year, were gathering strength for the decisive year that lay ahead.

The political calendar for the Union ensured that it would be decisive.  The Republicans had lost 20 seats in the 1862 elections, primarily due to the War, and Confederates could hope that Lincoln, as all Presidents subsequent to Jackson, would be a one term President and he and his party would be repudiated at the polls, bringing an end to the War and independence for the Confederacy.  Unionists realized that unless Lincoln won reelection, the War was likely lost, as a Peace Democrat would be unlikely to continue the War.  More than in any election in American history, the Union elections of 1864 hinged upon the perceived success or failure of the Union war effort.

The third anniversary of the beginning of the War would come in April, and the Union could take solace in the fact that progress was being made.  The Union controlled the Mississippi and the largest Confederate city, New Orleans, was firmly in the Union grasp.  The Union blockade was beginning to bite, with the Union controlling ports and enclaves the length of the Confederate coast line.  Tennessee was completely subdued with the Union holding large portions of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  However, the cost had been frightful and at the rate of the last three years, it might well take at least another three years to see the War end in Union victory.  No doubt even ardent Union supporters wondered if Union morale could endure the costly and bloody conflict for much longer.  1864 would have to see a speed up in the process of the Union winning the War, or eventual victory would never come. (more…)

Published in: on January 22, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on 1864: The Coming Year  
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