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Saturday, November 06, 2010

1920 - SETTING THE STAGE

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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Thursday, November 04, 2010

BADGERS MAKE STRANGE BEDFELOWS

I have always admired Alexander Hamilton. How could you not admire a man who could write, “A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous” That kind of self knowledge belies the life of a boy who was abandoned by his father at the age of ten, at twelve watched his mother die in the bed next to him, and was then adopted by a cousin who shortly thereafter committed suicide. Hamilton not only survived this horror show but within ten years became one of the most successful and powerful men in America, the man who invented the American economic system. But that childhood also goes a long way to explaining how such a smart man, a happily married man and a devoted father could fall for something as old and obvious as the Badger Game.
In 1791 in Philadelphia, twenty-three year old Maria Reynolds, a lovely and avaricious mental midget, approached Hamilton, who was the Secretary of the Treasury. She told Hamilton that her husband, James Reynolds, had abandoned her and their daughter. Could the noble and handsome Secretary Hamilton provide her with the funds to return to New York? Smitten and horny, with his wife living in far off Connecticut, Hamilton agreed to deliver $30 to her rooms that evening. Let the games began.
The original badger game involved sticking a live badger in a box and then sending in a terrier. After a few seconds the owner would pull the dog out. If the dog held the badger in its jaws, it was marked as a plus. Then the badger would be returned to the box and the dog would be sent in again. This was repeated several times in front of a crowd of Neanderthals, with the shouting and betting building to a crescendo. The similarity between the original sport (outlawed in England in 1835) and the blackmail sting performed on Hamilton is that the dog could be counted on to grab the badger every time, even though the pooch was never allowed to actually eat the badger. The same goes for the mark in the human game.
Shortly after Hamilton’s first liaison with Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Reynolds made his re-appearance in the role of the wronged husband. He wrote Hamilton, “You have deprived me of every thing that’s near and dear to me. … You have made a whole family miserable.” James was a born con-man who had been one of Hamilton’s commissariats during the revolution, scrounging food, clothing and ammunition for the Continental Army despite the penury of Congress. But he was also a wife beater – if we believe Maria. Although why we should do that I have no idea.
Eventually James got to the point. “…give me the sum of (a) thousand dollars and I will leave town and take my daughter with me…”. Hamilton paid, and James then wrote, “I have not the least objections to your calling (on my wife), as a friend to both of us”. The dog now had the scent and Hamilton continued to visit Maria and pay James regularly – in April, $135, in May and June, $50, in August, $200.
The game went on for two years, with Hamilton enjoying the nubile Maria in Philadelphia, while urging his wife to stay in Connecticut. Hamilton even borrowed from friends in order to keep James silent. But the end of the game was predictable, given James’ character.
James Reynolds and his partner Jacob Clingman were arrested for cheating revolutionary war veterans out of their back pay, which Congress had been cheating them out of for years. Naturally James expected his “friend” Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, to rescue him. Hamilton, however, was not willing to use his official office to cover up his personal peccadilloes. He refused to help the crook. Angry, James started singing to anybody who would listen that Hamilton had given him inside information on Government bond sales. In particular Jacob Clingman sang to Hamilton’s arch enemy, Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson thought it was Christmas. Hamilton was his political enemy. He gleefully dispatched Congressmen James Monroe and Fredrick Muhlenberg to confront Hamilton in person. And to their stunned surprise Hamilton admitted to the affair, but he denied everything else. He even provided proof in the form of letters between himself and both of the enterprising Reynolds’, James and Maria. Muhlenberg and Monroe were so nonplussed they agreed to keep the affair secret. Needless to say, Jefferson was not happy that Christmas had been canceled.
Hamilton resigned from Washington’s cabinet in January of 1795. But Jefferson had made no promise of secrecy, and he filed the information away for use at some opportune future moment, which came in 1797, which is how we know of the entire sordid tale.
Shortly after Jefferson leaked the entire story, the lovely Maria divorced her imprisoned husband James, and immediately married his partner in crime, Mr. Clingman. The newlyweds then moved to Alexandria, Virginia and dropped out of history. Maria's divorce attorney back in New York was Aaron Burr, who would in a very few years shoot Alexander Hamilton down in a duel. And that, one way or another, is the way most badger games end.
In contrast there was William A.E. Moore, a “friend” of President McKinley who appointed him U.S. Counsel to Durban, South Africa. Mr. Moore was in route to Durban with his wife, Fayne Strahan, when, while spending the night in Paris, he surprised the lovely Fayne “flagrante delecto” with a Russian nobleman. Mr. Moore offered to swallow his insulted pride for a mere $2,000, but the Russian chose instead to call the police. Mr. Moore’s diplomatic appointment was revoked and he was forced to return to the United States.
Then in 1898 the pair tried the same gag on Mr. Martin Mahon, proprietor of the New Amsterdam Hotel, in New York City. (a bit of a comedown this, from a Russian nobleman to a hotel owner.) This time, when William burst into the room he took the trouble to beat up the mark, poor Mr. Mahon, and steal $175 from his wallet. William then stuffed a cigar into Martin’s mouth and walked him up and down Fifth Avenue as if they were bosom buddies. Again, the mark went to the police and this time William Moore was sent to Sing Sing for several years, for assault and attempted blackmail. Fayne, meanwhile, went to South Dakota where she got a divorced from William. Some years later she moved to London where she took to the stage, as a chorus girl in the hit musical, “The Messenger Boy”. William was eventually released from jail and inherited $125,000 from an uncle. Last heard of, he was living in luxury. And thus were the wages of sin for what today would be called “Gifters".
And in case you are thinking that these are dusty historical footnotes, a couple of years ago, in San Antonio, Texas, Ted Roberts, attorney at law, was convicted of three counts of theft for a badger scam he ran with his wife and fellow attorney, Mary Roberts. She was convicted of 5 counts of fraud. Mary trolled the internet looking for married men who were seeking sex. She engaged them in chat rooms until they either revealed their fantasies or actually met her for sex. There upon Ted would knock on the door and quietly inform the marks that he was going to sue them for “alienation of affection”, unless they agreed to “settle” out of court.
The couple netted something around $160,000 from five marks that we know of,  before they were caught. Testifying for the defense, past president of the Texas Bar Association, Broadus A. Spivey (No, seriously, that was his name), said that the badger game as played by the couple from law school was not illegal because it was not substantially different than a lawsuit. Under oath Broadus insisted, “Litigation is coercive.” Neither the judge nor the jury failed to see through that little fig leaf of judical logic, but...
...I will leave the story there, in case there is anybody left in this nation who does not already despise lawyers.
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GETTING LOST

"I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” The words were written by Daniel Boone. And if Daniel were to wake up from his current sleep, he would be bewildered again. And when he found out that most of him was back in Kentucky, he would be very angry. Because once he was dead, this man who kept moving his entire life to avoid “people” finally fell into the clutches of the "people" he hated the most - politicians and their close kin in the real estate business.
Daniel Boone was not who you think he was. He never wore a coonskin cap. He was born in Pennsylvania, the sixth child of Quaker parents. As an infant he was a victim of religious intolerance. His parents were forced to sell their land and leave their faith after two of their elder children married outside the “Society of Friends”. Daniel reached adulthood in North Carolina. There he showed such natural talent as a hunter, he  dropped out of school to take it up professionally. Most of what he killed was sold in public markets. A sister-in-law to taught him to read and write, and other men would later follow him because he could regal them with readings from the “Bible” and “Gulliver’s Travels”. When he was 21 years old he married 16 year old Rebecca Bryan. They had ten children - although when they found the time I have no idea, Daniel was away from home so much.
Daniel was a short and shy man, and taciturn except when surrounded by his family. He was not the first white man in Kentucky. He was however one of the first Europeans who managed to walk out of Kentucky alive. He was not a great Indian fighter, and in his old age insisted, “I never killed but three”, adding, “I am very sorry to say that I ever killed any, for they have always been kinder to me than the whites.” And when he walked back into Kentucky it was as the supervisor of forty lumbermen, hired to cut a trail through the forest. Boonsboro was named after him because he was in charge of the crew who built the fort. It was not his fort.
In 1799, after being cheated out of his property by Kentucky lawyers and politicians, he took his family completely out of the United States, settling in what was then the Spanish territory of Missouri. He returned to Kentucky only once, in 1810. Missouri had changed hands twice by then, once to the French and again to the Americans. To placate the Kentucky lawyers who could now harass him, Daniel returned only long enough to pay off his debts. He then immediately returned to Missouri. It was there, surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grand children that Rebecca died, in 1813. And it was there that Daniel Boone died in September of 1820, after eating too many sweet potatoes and suffering indigestion. He was 85.
The funeral service was preached by a son-in-law of Daniel’s son, and was held in a barn because so many extended family members wanted to pay homage to a man who had never been wealthy but had always been loved. He was buried in a coffin he built for himself, next to his beloved Rebecca, in a family graveyard on Teuque Creek. The Missouri statehood convention in St. Louis adjourned for the day out of respect for the old man. But as was common with frontiersmen and women, the graves (above) were unmarked until the 1830’s.
Then, in the mid-1840’s, as the Boone legend was created by novelists (and with hundreds of trees baring marks supposedly carved by Daniel, which increased the property value) investors in Frankfort, the capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, decided that the late Daniel was just the draw they needed to attract new customers (and investors) in their new municipal cemetery. One booster wrote that it was “…fitting that the soil of Kentucky should afford the final resting place for his remains, ….that the generation which was reaping the fruits of his toils (should)…have in their midst…the sepulcher of this Primeval Patriarch whose stout heart would be watched by the cradle of this now powerful Commonwealth.”
Kentucky appealed to Daniel’s only surviving son, Nathaniel, describing their offer of the “Most beautiful cemetery in the west…” and assuring him that “$10,000 will be expended on the grounds and improvements”. But the answer from Nathaniel, who knew how his father felt about Kentucky, was a firm and short“no”.
So Frankfort officials dispatched an aging nephew of Daniel's, who still lived in Kentucky, William Linville Boone, along with two more animated representatives to speak to the family. Jacob Swigert was a longtime country court Judge in Frankfort, and Clerk for the Kentucky Court of Appeals for the last twenty years. Thomas L. Crittenden (above) was the 26 year old son of the American Secretary of State, and was being groomed to join the power structure in Kentucky. In fact, Swigert sold his home in Frankfort to young Crittenden, but through an intermediary, to disguise the transfer.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) the trio arrived in Missouri while Nathaniel was away on militia duty. So the trio descended upon Harriet Boone Barber and Panthea Boone Boggs, granddaughters of Daniel, through his deceased son Jesse. Whatever the two women told the Kentuckians, the trio decided it meant they had agreed to the Daniel’s removal to the Commonwealth.
The next morning, July 17, 1845, the determined delegation appeared at the front door of Harvey Griswold, who now owned the graveyard. Harvey argued, but the lawyers from Kentucky answered every protest, promising to erect a monument to replace the missing relics of Daniel and Rebecca. And with the approval of the two grandaughters, it appeared the law was on the Kentucky side. Three local men had been hired to disinter the graves; King Bryan, Henry Augbert, and Jeff Callaway. Jeff had been a slave for the Callaway family, and now as a free man he was digging up the father of his one time owner, Mrs. Flander Boone Callaway.
The work attracted a crowd of thirty to forty people, most of them related to Daniel and Rebecca. As the three men worked, Thomas Crittenden addressed the crowd, assuring them that all was being done legally and properly (it was not) and that Kentucky was going to erect a memorial to the great man on this spot. They never did. Meanwhile the three black men continued to dig. The coffins had long since rotted into the soil, but the workers did not realize this until they had reached the graves and struck bone and shrouds.
Wrote a St. Louis newspaper, “Some bones crumbled when hands tried to lift them, but the three black men put what they could in pine boxes.” Another observer noted that the bones were handled “as carelessly as if they belonged to an ordinary mortal.” The St. Louis reporter observed that “A number of local people picked up teeth and bits of bone…” and kept them as personal mementoes, along with the silver cufflinks from Daniel’s best shirt. The next day landowner Harvey Griswold found either Daniel’s or Rebecca's jaw bone laying on the ground. It is hard not to describe what the officials from Kentucky achieved as less of a removal, and more than a desecration.
On Friday, September 12, 1845, the “remains” of Daniel and Rebecca Boone laid in state in the (old) State House. That night, the skeletons were arrainged on a table to be examined as if they were paleontology exhibits. Daniel’s skull, minus his jaw, was passed around, examined even by eight year old John Mason Brown. When the skull had finally been examined by a phrenologist, all the bones were reloaded into two elaborate coffins and finally allowed a measure of peace.
On Saturday, September 13, a grand procession of bands and marchers followed the hearses, each pulled by four white horses up the hill to the cemetery on a bluff overlooking the Kentucky River. Speeches were made, and prayers were said, and then a brisk business was made selling burial plots near the now sacred site where Daniel Boone’s bones now rested.
But the cemetery never allotted money to build the promised monument, and it was not until 1860 that the state of Kentucky approved $2,000 to build one. And it was not until after years of damage by souvenir hunters that the Daughters of the American Revolution convinced the state legislature to repair the monument and erect a fence around it. What a shock; the politicians had lied to Daniel, even after he'd been dead for 25 years.
Needless to say, Kentucky never allotted money to erect the promised monument on the original grave site in Missouri. And in July of 2008, a thief stole the bronze plaque bolted to a boulder which had been placed there in 1915 (again by the D.A.R.) to mark the humble spot where Daniel had wanted to rest in peace. It is estimated it would cost the state of Missouri $10,000 to replace it that plaque. It does not seem likely any modern politicians, who see no advantage in investing in America’s future, will be willing to invest that amount of cash in our past.
It puts a lie to one of the most insightful things that the self educated hunter Daniel Boone ever said, “Curiosity," he wrote, "is natural to the soul of man, and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections”.  Evidentially, Daniel, that is true only if there is money to be made out of those objects, and then, everything is for sale, even the soil feed by our earthly remains.
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

1920 - MAY FLOWERS

I feel sorry for Michael “Leaping Mike” Manosky (above). He was the man who stepped into Babe Ruth’s shoes for the Boston Red Sox in 1920. He played 142 games for the Bean Town boys that year, with 532 at bats, getting 152 hits, 23 doubles and nine triples, for a .297 batting average. It was a record that most major leaguers would have envied. And when New York came to Boston for their first four game series beginning on April 19, the Sox swept all four games, scoring a total of 20 runs to an anemic seven for the Yankees. The Red Sox closed April with 9 wins and just 2 losses.
With the next four game series beginning on May 1st at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan (above), the results were reversed, with New York scoring 20 runs and Boston just 5, but the Red Sox managed to take at least one game, on May 3rd. The Sox record now stood at 11 wins and 5 losses. But the tide had turned. The Yankees swept all four games of the next series in Boston, beginning on May 27, the infamous Bob Shawkey outburst game. The Sox ended May with a record of 22 and 14.
Like the Red Sox season, in April Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer’s fortunes seemed on the rise. There was just one bump on Palmer’s ride to the White House. Beginning in January, Under Secretary of Labor Louis Freeland Post had had freed over 3,000 of J. Edgar Hoover’s 4,000 radical detainees. Palmer called it an insurrection, and demanded that President Wilson fire Post. And when Wilson refused, Palmer had gone public, complaining to his allies in Congress about Post’s “tender solicitude” for revolutionaries.
In the words of one historian, “Palmer and Hoover cast Post as an arbitrary, untrustworthy administrator whose aim was to undo the law. They claimed, by contrast, to be law’s servants, operating in adherence to the requirements of the Sedition Act and the will of the legislators who passed it.” In that vein the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization issued a “sensational” report of Post's “liberal” deportation decisions. The press chimed in, displaying what Post later called “deportations delirium.” And then on April 15, 1920, Kansas Congressman Homer Hoch called for Post’s impeachment.
The call for impeachment triggered hearings before the Congressional Committee on Rules (above), and immediately Post requested the opportunity to testify before that committee. And on Friday, May 7, 1920 he took the oath.
 Immediately Post was attacked by the chairman (and eugenics supporter) Congressman Albert Johnson (above) from Washington state. “We have given you time to empty the jails as far as you could” said Johnson. In response Secretary Post said he was simply following the rules. It was an argument that infuriated the reactionaries. Said Congressman Hoch, “You realize, of course, Mr. Secretary, that all of these rules you have laid down – or the deposing of these deportation regulations – that every one of them operates to make it more difficult to deport an alien.”
To which Post (above) replied, “Every rule in the interest of personal liberty makes it more difficult to take personal liberty away from a man who is entitled to his liberty.” In other words, Post was reminding the members of the committee that the orders of deportation were based on accusations, and that there had been no finding of fact in any of the cases. In one specific case a Mexican had admitted to investigators that he was an anarchist. But, argued Post, “I found on reading further, his meaning of the word did not tally with the definitions of anarchism….I came to the conclusion he…was not an anarchist within the meaning of the law.” In other words, you may think of yourself as a thief, but that by itself does not make you guilty of embezzlement.
To New York Congressman Garret, the Secretary’s actions were an affront to Congress. Referring to the Sedition Act, he pointed out, “I would say that it was a fair presumption that Congress intended, in the passage of that act, irrespective of the differences between the rights of aliens and the rights of citizens under the Constitution of the United States, to eliminate the rules that would be applicable in court.”
But Post was not afraid of facing that argument, either. “In other words," he suggested, "…when a complaint is made against a man under this law and the case comes before the Secretary of Labor, he must deport the man, whether the man is innocent or guilty?...The issue is: Not whether those who violate the law shall be deported, for we are deporting them . . . but whether those who have not violated the law shall be deported”. He again reminded the Congressmen that the arrest warrants issued by Palmer and Hoover were merely accusations, not verdicts of guilt. Such a judgment could only be made by a judge or a jury. And in this case, Louis Post, in his role as Under Secretary of Labor, was effectively the judge. Expecting a "bleeding heart liberal", the committee found itself faced with a man who saw himself as the defender of law and order, and stuck to that arguement.  Public opinion shifted to support for Post.
After his testimony, one New York newspaper wrote that “…Louis F. Post deserves the gratitude of every American for his courageous and determined stand in behalf of our fundamental rights. It is too bad that in making this stand he found himself at cross-purposes with the Attorney General, but Mr. Palmer's complaint lies against the Constitution and not against Mr. Post.”
It did not hurt that Hoover’s sweep of 4,000 radicals had turned up no bombs and just four pistols.
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