Friday, June 27, 2008

Would a Woman Make a Good President?

A woman today would not make a good President for the identical reason that no man would make a good President who has been deprived, as woman has been and for as long as woman has been, of practically all participation in political life and all political responsibility. . . . She has been deprived of all civic imagination, all civic knowledge and all civic responsibility, so far as man could so deprive her. . . . Will there be women who will make good Presidents? That is another question, and one to which I give the ready answer, Yes. Woman's political capacity may be denied at the present time, but her capability is undoubted. There are many administrative functions in political life which she would perform far better than man; there are none which, as President of the United States, she would not perform as well, given the experience and practice which men enjoy.

These lines, written by lawyer Alice Parker Lesser, appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe on October 8, 1905, as part of a feature opinion piece by four Boston women. They had been asked by the Globe to comment on a recent speech by Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer who had addressed "a large audience of young women at one of our prestigious female colleges, to intimate that within the present generation the suffrage might be extended to women in every State, and to excite the enthusiastic applause of his emotional hearers by the hint that before they became gray-haired there might sit in the White House a woman who, like Queen Victoria, will shed lustre upon this country."

Elm Court House Party, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1905
In addition to Mrs. Lesser, the other writers solicited for this piece included, according to the Globe sub-head, "the Following Women of Boston Who Have Engaged in Professions and Business": Elizabeth C. Keller, a physician and surgeon, Katherine E. Conway, editor of the Pilot, and Mae D. Frazar "of the Frazar Touring Co.".

Five years earlier, in a similar opinion piece entitled "Will a Woman Ever Be President of the United States?", Alice Parker Lesser had commented, somewhat sadly and quite presciently: "I have persuaded myself that some time in the future a woman will be president. But hardly in the next century."

Lesser also suggested that women would soon earn the right to vote. She herself was a women's suffrage leader, and would go on to serve as the delegate from Massachusetts to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Convention in Stockholm in 1911.

The last reference I can find to Mrs. Lesser was in a 1914 interview, so I don't know if she was still around in 1920 to exercise her right to vote. I certainly hope so.

Illustration Credits and References

The photo above was taken at a house party at Elm Court, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1905. It was reprinted in the Boston Globe on October 30, 2005. Click here to read the article about this 100-room "cottage" built by William Sloane and Emily Vanderbilt Sloane in 1886.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Boston Marathon

Fred Lorz, 1906, marathon runnerPhoto of Fred Lorz in 1906.

Patriots' Day has been a legal holiday in Massachusetts since 1894. It commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the start of the American Revolution.

Bostonians who are familiar with modern Patriots' Day activities would find a lot to recognize in the holiday celebrations that took place on April 19, 1905. The Lexington fife and drum corps marched over Paul Revere's route; 25,000 spectators were on hand in Concord to view a civic and military parade; and dances, dinners, and athletic events also marked the date.

The 1905 Boston Marathon boasted 78 starters, about half of whom finished the race. (At that time the distance was 25 miles--mostly the same as today's route, finishing at the corner of Boylston and Exeter, near the Boston Public Library, but starting in Ashland instead of neighboring Hopkinton.) The winner was Fred Lorz of New York, in a time of 2:38.25; second place finisher was Louis Marks, also of New York; and third place went to a local man, Robert Fowler, running for the Cambridgeport Gym.

Lorz tripped over his trainer (one of 60 bicyclists accompanying the runners) near the end of the race, but was able to cross the finish line--the next day's Boston Daily Globe catches the felled bicycle and the falling runner in a terrific action photo.

Many behaviors that characterize the Marathon today were already present in 1905. A media car (the Globe's "White Steamer") led the runners; Wellesley women cheered on the "fellows" as they passed the College; and the huge crowd of men, women, and children near the finish line (most of whom who had waited in place for an hour and a half) shouted for every runner and "there was no let-up [in cheering],even after the first few had plodded in".

1905 was also the first year in which George V. Brown fired the starter's pistol at the beginning of the race. (Brown would go on to serve as starter until 1937, and his descendants are still honored with the responsibility.)

There were also a few differences! A Dr. Blake, who was examining the runners at the end of the race, noted that most men were in pretty good shape, but that those who had not drunk whiskey along the route "fared better".

Race winner Fred Lorz had achieved some negative press the year before when he participated in the 1904 Olympic marathon, run in conjunction with the St. Louis World's Fair. After suffering an injury at the nine-mile mark, he rode in a car for 11 miles; when the car broke down, he ran the rest of the way to the finish and was originally hailed as the winner. (See Rosie Ruiz!) After being tossed out of membership in the AAU, he was later reinstated when it was determined that he did not intend to defraud, and had merely thought to play a practical joke. After winning the Boston race in 1905, Lorz, who actually seems to be not much of a joker-type (given the pompousness of the quote which follows and the expression on his face in the photo above) referenced his history: "I guess those people who said I tried to steal the St. Louis race will now do a little thinking. . . I never claimed to have won the Olympic race, and after I finished I told Sec. James E. Sullivan of the AAU that I rode in that automobile."

Third place finisher Fowler would also be involved in another interesting race, when he participated in the running of the Empire City Marathon in Yonkers, NY on January 1, 1909, a bitterly cold day. Fowler won that race, setting a world record that lasted for about six weeks, but the race was declared over after the first seven men crossed the finish line. The New York Times surmised in their story lead that "the incompetency of the Yonkers police" was responsible for the premature finish. The Yonkers police chief, who was responsible for keeping order, rode a horse up and down the track; scorers and officials were interfered with by a boisterous crowd of 10,000; and three mounted police "rode through the group of scorers repeatedly". When an official complained, Chief Wolff "merely smiled and drove his horse at the officials, scattering them left and right."

In addition, the Times observed that the "contest in several respects savored of a farce. One contestant smoked a pipe while running around the track, another essayed a theatrical faint in front of the judges."

Police behavior seems to have been much more appropriate at the Boston race in 1905. Approximately 70 city policemen were on duty to control the crowd (estimated at over 75,000 between Coolidge Corner and the finish of the race). The Globe observed that these officers "did their work well, gave no offence, and left the scene with every spectator feeling that the police are humane and capable."

Fowler would go on to savor a win in the Boston Marathon in 1909, only a few months after the Yonkers farce. Frederick Lorz would finish second that year.

Illustration Credits and References

Photo of Fred Lorz above from the Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

Click here to read more about the bizarre 1904 Olympic marathon. (Lorz's deception is only part of the story!)

Click here to see a short article, accompanied by a WBZ-TV video, about George V. Brown, race starter, whose bronze statue was unveiled at the running of the 2008 marathon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Diary: June 18, 1905

South Station, Boston, 1905South Station in Boston ca. 1905, photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The day before, Cynthia had taken the train from Boston to Harwich (on Cape Cod), the location of her family home. Her Aunt Myra, her suitor, Ben, and others met her at the train. On June 18, she began the task of getting the house ready for the summer.

Cynthia's sea captain father, traveling with her mother, was still at sea and would not arrive until much later in the summer.

Came down to the house, opened the windows, and aired all out. Unpacked my trunk. Ben over in p.m. Stayed at Aunt Myra's.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cy Young on the Fourth of July

Cy Young in Chicago in 1905This photograph of Cy Young was taken in Chicago in 1905.

Cy Young (for whom baseball's Cy Young pitching award was named) was the pitcher on opening day of the 1905 season for the Boston Americans. (The Americans would take on their nickname, Red Sox, as their official team name less than three years later. But they were just the "Americans" when they started out in 1901, to distinguish themselves from the National League team, the Boston Beaneaters.)

Cy Young's birth name was actually Denton True Young; he earned the nickname "Cy" from "Cyclone", for the speed of his fastball. (And the Boston papers had a tendency to refer to him as "Old Cy".)

On the Fourth of July, 1905, the 38-year-old Young was the starting pitcher in the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics. He pitched 13 scoreless innings (after the opening six) but went on to lose the game in the 20th inning.

Opposing pitcher Rube Waddell also pitched the full 20 innings for Philadelphia, and both pitchers would eventually find themselves in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cy Young later said of this game: “For my part, I think it was the greatest game of ball I ever took part in.”

Illustration Credits and References

The photo originally appeared in the Chicago Daily News in 1905; I found it at this site.

The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society has an excellent write-up about this pitching duel.

Lots of baseball information available here:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Antonio Corsi

Antonio CorsiNOTE: This post was first published in my other blog,, on February 15, 2008.

This is a story about a man who was very well-known in the first quarter of the 20th century, but whom very few have heard of today. He was an artist's model (and a silent-film actor towards the end of his career) who worked in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, among other cities, and was the most sought-after artist's model of the day.

Although he was Italian-born, his Roman nose and exotic looks made him able to pass as a Turk, a Mexican, an American Indian, and a variety of other ethnicities. He maintained a studio in New York City with hundreds of costumes and could show up as any character an artist could imagine.

If you live(d) in Boston, you will have seen Corsi in many different settings. For example, he was the model for the famous Appeal to the Great Spirit sculpture by Cyrus Dallin, which has stood on Huntington Avenue in front of the Museum of Fine Arts for 99 years.
Appeal to the Great Spirit, Cyrus Dallin, Boston
He also posed for 11 of the 16 figures in John Singer Sargent's Frieze of Prophets, which is one of the murals Sargent painted in the Boston Public Library (all of which I saw for the first time on a trip back to Boston last fall).

I encountered Corsi for the first time in the pages of a family diary from 1905. Cynthia, the young woman writer (who was 22 at the time), was living in Boston and studying at the Eric Pape School of Art. Twice she mentions a model in class by the name of Antonio Corsi. For example, here's her post from March 20, 1905:

Raining today; went in school. Antonio Corsi posed nude this morning, costume of pirate in afternoon.

That brief sentence intrigued me! I had to look him up, and was quite amazed to discover the level of his fame, and the prodigious amount of posing he did. Here's a photo of Corsi posing for an art class at about the same time as the diary. Imagine holding that pose for hours!
Antonio Corsi posing for art class

Pierre-Auguste Cot, The Storm, Antonio CorsiHere's another famous painting for which Corsi posed, The Storm by Pierre-Auguste Cot (owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC). Corsi was 11 or 12 at the time, and posed for both the male and female figures in this painting. (Look at the calves, thighs, and feet of both characters--they are almost identical.)

When I started researching Corsi, I immediately found a website dedicated to his work. Jake Gorst, owner of Jonamac Productions, is working on a documentary on Corsi, along with an exhibition of a treasure-trove of photographs (including those appearing in this post), and a book about Corsi's career. You can learn lots more about Corsi at this site--click the Multimedia tab to see all the photographs!