JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Saturday, November 06, 2010


I guess the best way to tell this unbelievable story is the simplest way. On May 13, 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a 21 year old student on leave from Harvard, committed suicide in his mother’s home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Shortly before his death, Cyril had admitted to his elder brother that he was a homosexual. The brother, George, decided that his sibling’s suicide had not been caused by the young man’s rejection by his admired older sibling, but by the unspeakable shame he suffered having been seduced by degenerates.
George first released his rage by beating up Harry Dreyfus, who was the proprietor of a Beacon Hill bar, “CafĂ© Dreyfus”, as well as a restaurant in Cambridge, frequented by Harvard students. Harry admitted he and Cyril had been lovers, but added that Cyril had broken off the affair months before. He also gave George  the name of “other’s” who had been Cyril’s "friends" at Harvard. And on May 22, 1920, George took those names to Acting Dean Chester N. Greenough. It seems George was thus handing off the anger he felt over his brother’s suicide. Dean Greenough accepted that anger and passed it on.
The behavior of the boys at Perkins Hall on the Harvard Yard in 1920 would be recognizable to any college student in America today: long hours in lecture halls and libraries, surrounded by books and tests and deadlines, accentuated by boisterous alcoholic binge parties featuring promiscuity and role playing, the participants being young people out from under parental oversight for the first time in their lives. The only unfamiliar element to today’s twenty-somethings might be the limited contact avilable with the opposite sex; Harvard was still a purely male institution in 1920. And yet there is no reason to believe there were more homosexuals extent than there are today.
The most popular spot for the parties in Perkins Hall in 1920 was on the second floor, the room of Ernest W. Roberts, a pre-med student. His father was a conservative congressman. Roberts was indiscrete enough and young enough that he had written a letter to Cyril, detailing his sexual activities. And Cyril’s brother George had turned that letter over to Dean Greenough. That letter, and Harry Dreyfus’ confession, became exhibits at a secret court convened to weed out homosexuality at Harvard.
For two weeks in June of 1920, five self appointed judges expelled students, issued reprimands and ruined lives and careers that were just beginning. There were no opportunities for appeal. The juges were operating  under no authority, other than their own moralistic sense of mission. The court issued a five hundred page report and transcript, which Harvard then locked away. It was a horribly typical homophobic behavior which was to be repeated thousands of times for the rest of the 20th century.
In all 14 students were expelled, and even blackballed by Harvard if they attempted to transfer to any other Ivy League college. In addition one teacher was also fired. One student victim, Eugene Cummings, committed suicide. Another of the court’s victims wrote to Dean Geenough, “Mother says she was warned never to send me to Harvard, but no specific reason was given. Now we know! Harvard has a reputation for this sort of thing that is nationwide.” It was not clear if the boy was referring to Harvard’s reputation for witch hunts or homosexuality. Congressman Eugene Roberts, who son Ernest was considered by the court as “certainly the ringleader”, was only worried about one thing; “I would further like to be informed if this most deplorable affair has been or will be made public.”
Ernest Weeks Roberts, expelled from Harvard for homosexual behavior, married and opened an antique shop in Wellesley Hills, and became an interior designer. He died in 1958, remembered as a life long Republican.
It was on the last Friday in May that Joseph Daniels, part owner of the Daniels and Wilson Furniture Company of Lexington, Massachusetts (above), visited the offices of “The Old Colony Foreign Exchange Company” in the Niles Building in downtown Boston. But Mr. Daniels was not seeking to join the mobs lined up to hand over their life savings.
What Mr. Daniels wanted was the $35,000 that the Old Colony's Chief Executive, Charles Ponzi,  still owed him for the furniture currently gracing Ponzi's mansion (above) in Lexington. But the CEO was not available to respond. Mr. Daniels, infuriated by the flood of dollars clearly visible in the company offices, and by the CEO's refusal to pay his bill, decided that he had no choice but to begin legal action against Mr. Ponzi.
Needless to say, Mr. Daniels was never going to be paid. Ever.
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