1901: Am I So Very Ugly?

Walter Crane - Am I So Very Ugly (ca. 1901)

Walter Crane: “Am I so very ugly?” illustration for Beauty and the Beast (ca. 1901)

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1883: Long Lake

Grafton Tyler Brown - Long Lake [Now called Kalamalka Lake] B.C. (1883)

Grafton Tyler Brown: Long Lake, B.C. (1883)

Born to African-American parents who had left the slave state of Maryland for the free state of Pennsylvania in 1837, Grafton Tyler Brown set off for Sacramento at the age of 17 and worked there as a hotel steward and porter. He also began to paint. After moving to San Francisco, he worked as a lithographer, eventually opening his own studio and publishing The Illustrated History of San Francisco in 1878. There, he also started to pass as White. He left the Bay Area in 1882 and moved to British Columbia, where he became the first professional artist in the provincebut he stayed only two years before returning to the states. He lived in Tacoma and Portland, becoming well-know for his paintings of the American Northwest. Later he moved to Helena, Montana, and finally to St. Paul, where he stopped painting and worked as a draftsman for the US Army Corp of Engineers.

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1919: Ireland in Chains

Amelia Rosser as Ireland (1920)

On July 4, 1919, American supporters of Irish independence crashed the Independence Day parade in Washington D.C. Their participation had been officially banned by the parade organizers because Ireland was not a “fully accredited” nation, butundeterredthey decorated a car and simply drove it from a side-street into the parade of floats.

Draped in green and orange and adorned with pro-independence signs, the car featured activist Amelia Rosser dressed as “Ireland in Chains” and was driven by Jasper “Jack” La Follette, son of former Representative William La Follette of Washington state. The Washington Post reported the story as follows:

The morning of the parade, a beautifully decorated automobile bearing placards which said: “All free nations are in the pageant—official statement. I am refused a place” and “There will be no peace in the world until Ireland is free” appeared on the streets.

It was driven by Jack La Follette, with Miss Rosser attired as Erin as a passenger. Ten minutes before the parade, the nervy Jack had maneuvered his car to the head of the parade where it remained for a block when it was forced out by order of Louis Brownlow, the police commissioner.

La Follette drove his car around the block, again entered the parade and continued to the end while 100,000 cheered.

The police forced him out of line several times but he returned and, just to make the demonstration more perfect, he and Miss Rosser passed twice in review before the east front of the Capitol.

Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Rosser was a tireless activist for Irish independence,  traveling across the country to lead protests and demonstrations. She once helped organize a longshoremen’s strike in Boston, stopping ships bound for Great Britainand she was expelled from the U.S. Capitol in 1920 when she and several other women shouted from the galleries for the US to cease its support of British colonial rule.

Sources here, here, and here. The picture above is dated 1920 by the Library of Congress; I think there’s a chance this is actually from the 1919 Independence Day Parade, but Rosser may simply have employed the “Ireland in Chains” costume on several occasions.

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1946: First They Came

First They Came - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Although this is one of the world’s most famous poems, there is no definitive version of it. Indeed, there is no clear evidence that its author, the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, ever put it into poetic form. Several variations exist, naming different groups in different orders; is there a correct version?

In a well-researched website (and a more detailed article), history professor Harold Marcuse explains that Niemöller, who initially supported Hitler but then later came to deeply regret his failure to oppose Nazi persecution, formulated the idea of the poem in a series of lectures following the war; Marcuse says, however, that he “could find NO printed document connected directly to Niemöller quoting or authorizing his exact words in a or the poetic version.”

As to which groups Niemöller included and in which order, Marcuse’s research indicates that he always started with Communists and always ended with “me,” but varied the groups in the middlealthough always including “the Jews.” He usually named Social Democrats and/or trade unionists, and at times included disabled people, “occupied countries,” Jehovah’s Witnesses, and possibly Catholics.

The list is historically accurate: communists, socialists, and trade unionists were among the first groups to oppose Nazism early in Germanyin the political arena and ultimately through clashes in the streetsand they were thus  among the first targeted by Hitler and imprisoned in concentration camps. Hitler painted the picture of the Jewish communist union organizer to sway German capitalists toward fascism. (He alsoregardless of the contradiction—used the image of the greedy Jewish capitalist to incite German workers.)

Marcuse’s suggestion for the most faithful rendition would be “Communists, Trade Unionists and/or Socialists, possibly the Disabled, Jews, and me.”

Sadly, this means that the version in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with its omission of “Communists” (above), is unfaithfulnot only to the existing historical record but to the challenging spirit of the poem itself.

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1871: Wasp in a Wig

Ralph Steadman - Wasp in a Wig (1977)

In 1870, illustrator John Tenniel wrote to Lewis Carroll suggesting that he delete an episode from Through the Looking-Glass:

Don’t think me brutal, but I am bound to say that the ‘wasp’ chapter doesn’t interest me in the least, & that I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking – with all submission – that there is your opportunity.

For more than 100 years, the text of this “wasp” scene was presumed lost; in 1974, however, Sotheby’s brought to auction what appeared to be the galley proofs of the missing section. It was published in Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice (1998) and now appears in some modern editions of the book.

Doubt has been expressed about the authenticity of the passage—with some saying that the writing is not up to the quality of the rest of the work (perhaps not surprising for a passage the author chose to delete) and others pointing out that no analysis of the paper, ink, or handwriting has ever been performed.

Here is the full text:

…and she was just going to spring over, when she heard a deep sigh, which seemed to come from the wood behind her.

“There’s somebody very unhappy there,” she thought, looking anxiously back to see what was the matter. Something like a very old man (only that his face was more like a wasp) was sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree, all huddled up together, and shivering as if he were very cold.

“I don’t think I can be of any use to him,” was Alice’s first thought, as she turned to spring over the brook: – “but I’ll just ask him what’s the matter,” she added, checking herself on the very edge. “If I once jump over, everything will change, and then I can’t help him.”

So she went back to the Wasp – rather unwillingly, for she was very anxious to be a queen.

“Oh, my old bones, my old bones!” he was grumbling as Alice came up to him.

“It’s rheumatism, I should think,” Alice said to herself, and she stooped over him, and said very kindly, “I hope you’re not in much pain?”

The Wasp only shook his shoulders, and turned his head away. “Ah deary me!” he said to himself.

“Can I do anything for you?” Alice went on. “Aren’t you rather cold here?”

Continue reading

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1894: Swans

Józef Pankiewicz - Nocturne - Swans in the Saxon Garden in Warsaw by Night (1894)

Józef Pankiewicz: Nocturne: Swans in the Saxon Garden in Warsaw by Night (1894)

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1883: The Skaw Spit

Johan Krouthén - The Skaw Spit, Skagen (1883)

Johan Krouthén: The Skaw Spit, Skagen (1883)

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