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Looking Forward, Looking Back: CBC News and the Revamped National

Article originally posted on August 2 at Activehistory.ca

The new anchors of The National. L to R – Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang, Adrienne Arsenault, Ian Hanomansing. Via CBC.ca

Since Peter Mansbridge announced last year that he was retiring from his post as anchor of The National, there has been plenty of speculation about how the show would use his departure as an opportunity to revamp. Criticisms of the show have ranged from political bias to being too centered around its anchor and many looked forward to a fresh start. As a result, yesterday’s announcement that the anchor position will be split among Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang, Adrienne Arsenault, and Ian Hanomansing created quite a stir.

While The Beaverton may have won for the funniest story about the change, the announcement simultaneously harkens back to the CBC’s earliest days, when announcers were not expected to be household names, while also signalling a potentially dangerous shift in how the national broadcaster intends to deliver its news.

During the Moose River Mine Disaster in the spring of 1936, J. Frank Willis became a celebrity for his fiery and extravagant descriptions over Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission stations. When the CBC started later that fall, General Manager Gladstone Murray wanted to make sure that no personality was bigger than the Corporation, which contributed to his effort to standardize the accent and vocabulary heard on CBC programs.

Over time that policy was challenged by the likes of Matthew Halton, whose updates from Europe during the Second World War made him one of the best-known journalists of the period. Since then, the idea that journalists should remain largely anonymous has really virtually disappeared. One could argue that Knowlton Nash and Peter Mansbridge shattered that idea in Canada as both are inextricably linked with the CBC’s wider news service.

In an era where news outlets are routinely accused of partisan motives, returning to the days of less prominent individual journalists can help alleviate that problem. For the CBC, the news division will no longer be identified by a single person, whose personal beliefs can come to represent the entire organization. Additionally, four people, who have very different professional backgrounds, bring different perspectives and, with that, a layer of protection against claims of partisanship.

If the CBC had just announced the personnel change, that would have been fine. But the Corporation added something to its announcement that made yesterday feel like yet another step in the ever increasing shift towards American style news.

(more…)

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Fourth Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

 

1916-pennies

We offer our two cents on 1916. Feel free to let us know what you think

Over the past month I have had, and overheard, many conversations with friends, family members, and coworkers about the year 2016, and the overwhelming consensus is that this has been an unusually bad year. Numerous events occurred that shocked the public, such as the outbreak of the Zika virus; the Brexit vote and its result; the expansion of ISIS and unrest in the Middle East; the polarizing Presidential Election in the United States; and the slew of celebrity deaths – David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, and Leonard Cohen, just to name a few.

 

It may seem like 2016 was a particularly bad year, but this is largely because we are still dealing with the immediate impacts of such events. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of history, 2016 will go down as a mundane year, but until enough time has passed we simply cannot accurately judge how 2016 will be viewed.

Luckily, we’re back with the Fourth Annual (?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket – wait, does anyone still read this? – to provide some historical hindsight on the most important people and events from 1916. As in years past, we have omitted any event affiliated with the First World War – you can read our rationale from last years bracket. After exhaustive deliberation – be free to interpret “exhaustive” as you’d like – we have selected sixteen of what we believe to be the most important events of 1916 and have grouped them into four categories: the Progress Bracket, the Business Bracket, the International Bracket, and everyone’s favourite, the Potpourri Bracket. Of course, some events had to be eliminated from contention, but that does not mean that they were not important in their own right. Some notable mentions include the births of Jackie Gleason, Roald Dahl, and Walter Cronkite; the Chicago Cubs playing their first game in what became Wrigley Field; and Mary Pickford became the first female to receive a million-dollar contract.

As always, we’d love to hear what you think is the most important event of 1916 and you can leave us a comment at the bottom of the page. Or, send an e-mail to historyslam@gmail.com.

Thanks for checking back in and enjoy!

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Canadian Parliament Burns Down

vs.

(4) National Research Council Founded

Aaron: Parliament Hill is an iconic symbol of Canada and a mainstay in any photograph of our national capital. But the current Centre Block is not the original. On the night of February 3 1916, the first Parliament burned to the ground. 

parliament

A fire started in a wastebasket in the Reading Room and the fire soon spread. The government, which was in session at the time, was alerted to the blaze and an effort to save as many papers, furniture, and artwork – including a portrait of Queen Victoria – was undertaken. Shortly after midnight, the large bell located in the Victoria Tower came crashing to the ground. In all, seven people were killed. Fortunately, the Library of Parliament was saved from the same fate. Efforts to rebuild commenced almost immediately. On September 1, the new cornerstone was laid and in 1920 the government was able to assemble for the first time in the as-yet unfinished Parliament building. In 1927, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King dedicated the new Peace Tower in honour of Canada’s war dead and its dedication to peace.

We as Canadians are an inquisitive bunch and we like to explore the world around us. This is something that our government realized and decided to foster. Due to the war raging in Europe, the National Research Council (NRC) was founded in 1916 to inform the government on scientific and industrial research. By World War II, the NRC was used to help the military develop new methods of warfare, including joint cooperation with the United States and the United Kingdom. Since the end of the War, the NRC has continued to expand and in 1985, under the National Research Council Act, established a strong mandate that encourages and supports scientific research across the country.

Both of these events occurred in Canada and so I can’t use my patriotism to influence my pick. But in terms of overall significance, I’m going to go with Parliament burning down. It is difficult to not pick the NRC considering the amount of research and innovation that has originated from that organization, but in terms of public recognition Parliament wins hands-down. It is one of the most recognizable buildings in this country and it attracts thousands of tourists every year. If you were to ask people on the street about the NRC I don’t think many would know what it is or what it does. Parliament, on the other hand, would garner instant responses.

Sean: Maybe the fire is why so many millennials don’t go to libraries, the danger and all. It’s tough to disagree on this. Of course, because I live in Ottawa and you live in the National Capital Region, perhaps we are biased. And is it smart for us, given our vocation, to not show a lot of love to a federal funding agency?

Aaron: ¯\_(?)_/¯

Canadian Parliament Burns Down Wins (100-27)

(2) National Parks Service Founded

v.

(3) Piggly Wiggly Opens

Aaron: Who doesn’t like being outdoors? The fresh air, the sweet smell of nature, the warmth of the sunshine…sorry, I got caught dreaming of summer – there is about a foot of snow on the ground as I write this. For nature lovers and everyone that appreciates the natural beauty of our world, the creation of the National Parks Service in the United States on August 25, 1916, is truly significant. Everything I’ve learned about the National Parks Service is from a truly inspiring woman, Leslie Knope, at the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana. In all seriousness, though, the creation of the NPS is vital to the preservation of our planet. For many years before its founding, several people recognized the importance of protecting parts of the US for its natural beauty. President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Parks Service Organic Act, which outlined the role of the NPS: to preserve and make available to the public the ecological and historical integrity of designated sites. Over the past one-hundred years, the number of national parks has risen to 59.

Meanwhile, Piggly Wiggly’s founding on September 6, 1916, in Memphis, Tennessee, changed how people thought about shopping and getting groceries. Up to this time, customers would arrive at the store and provide a list of goods to the store clerk, who would then gather the items. Because of the labour involved, the cost for goods was somewhat higher. Piggly Wiggly changed this by becoming the first true self-serve grocery store in which patrons could wander the aisles and select the products for themselves. Not only did this allow customers more freedom to get groceries, it also helped to lower costs. It also promoted the importance of packaging and brand recognition as customers sought out specific goods. Soon Piggly Wiggly issued franchises to hundreds of other stores and many other independent grocery stores soon followed suit with the self-serve format.

piggly-wiggly

Like most of us, we take for granted the self-serve layout of grocery stores and supermarkets. I’m sure I speak for the vast majority of us when I say that I would not want to go back to the format of handing my list to a clerk while and wait – although I guess that online shopping, which allows you to make a list and pick it up at your convenience, harkens back to the early twentieth century. Still, the freedom to browse the aisles has made the experience more enjoyable; except for when you go shopping on an empty stomach and spend way more than you originally budgeted, or when other people block the aisles with their shopping carts and are oblivious to the fact that you are patiently waiting to pass by, all the while they take as much time as possible to pick one can of soup…. Sorry, I went into a rant there. Overall, we can thank Piggly Wiggly for changing how we shop for food.

This is another tough match-up, which is why I’m being paid the big bucks to make tough decisions. *Note to self: ask the producer how much I’m being paid for this[Producer’s Note: You get nothing] In terms of global significance, the creation of the self-serve grocery store by Piggly Wiggly wins. Indeed, Americans are fortunate to have a federal agency that protects their nation’s wildlife and natural ecosystems, but more people have been influenced with the modern supermarket. For that reason alone, Piggly Wiggly is moving on.

Sean: “Piggly Wiggly is moving on.” Don’t I get a say in this? I know you’ve become a Dr. in the past year, but I’m not sure I care for the hubris in that statement. Besides, shopping is ever evolving – just look at Amazon’s plans for a new bricks and mortar grocery store with no check outs. If it wasn’t Piggly Wiggly, it would have been someone else. The Parks Service, on the other hand, is invaluable and has served the public for 100 years. Again, I will claim a bias on this one – I’ve had opportunity to explore a wide variety of national parks across the United States and have always been impressed (with one exception – how does the Grand Canyon volunteer not know about the lack of a shuttle in the winter?). From great vistas to ecological preservation, the parks service is much better than being stuck in a grocery store line behind someone with a fist full of coupons.

And one small correction, the main character from your favourite show doesn’t like the outdoors.

Aaron: There is no doubt that the NPS is an excellent institution that does great work, but in terms of the wider influence I think that Piggly Wiggly wins. More people visit grocery stores and supermarkets with the layout that Piggly Wiggly established in 1916 than visit a National Park in the United States. I’m all about the utilitarianism.

Piggly Wiggly Opens Wins (61-57)

International Bracket

(1) Easter Uprising

vs.

(4) Canada-U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty

Sean: There are certain historical issues that I hesitate to write about because of my inability to fully comprehend their subtleties. English-Irish relations is one of those issues. Regardless, I am able to recognize the significance of the Easter Rising. Depending on your interpretation, the seeds of the Rising were planted during the Great Famine of the 1840s. During that time, there were a lot of people who lost faith in British government to properly address their concerns. That contributed to the rise of the Home Rule movement in Ireland and the establishment of the Irish Republic Brotherhood. A bill for Irish Home Rule was defeated in parliament in 1886 and 1893, but finally passed at the outbreak of the First World War, but was suspended until the war’s conclusion.

In 1916, the IRB Military Council responded to the suspension by organizing an uprising in an effort to seize control of Ireland from the British. The six-day rising, which started on April 24, saw the group take control of spots throughout Dublin and the proclamation of an Irish Republic. Not a group to take this kind of thing lightly, the British sent troops to suppress the Rising and, six days later, hundreds of people were dead, thousands were wounded, thousands more were imprisoned, and the country was under martial law. The leaders of the Rising were executed almost immediately (between May 3 and 12) while claims of British atrocities was yet another point of contention for the Irish people.

A more positive development in international relations, the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty between Canada and the United States could be viewed as an important milestone in environmental history. In my own research, I’ve often pointed out that radio waves don’t recognize borders – well, neither do animals and birds may be the worst offenders. With so many birds crossing the border each year, Canada and the United States entered into an agreement whereby migratory birds are protected in each country. As a result, it is illegal to hunt, capture, or kill hundreds of species of birds. The treaty also protects nests and eggs. In addition to these protections, the enactment of the treaty has led to bird sanctuaries in both countries and a greater awareness of birds’ role in the ecosystem.

As for which one is more important, I’m going to claim my North American bias and go with the bird treaty. As more and more work is done on the importance of environmental protection, having such an early marker that helped preserve and protect natural space was a major step at that time. Let’s not forget that it was in the aftermath of North America’s Industrial Revolution, where the environment wasn’t exactly a primary issue. That’s not to say that the Easter Uprising is not important, but the bill on Home Rule had passed. Whether the British would have honoured the promise to end its suspension following the war is debateable, but, given its rather conflicting historical interpretations, I wonder about the need for armed rebellion.

Aaron: Birds? Seriously? North American bias or not, I don’t think birds should win. The Easter Rising was much more important. Indeed, the Irish had been contesting British rule for decades and desired more than home rule. The Easter Rising, although a short-term failure, laid the basis for the first Irish Republic, which was created in 1919. Many of those who survived the uprising in 1916 banded together and successfully formed a government before declaring a republic. Meanwhile, as you mention, birds don’t care about the border or our laws. If birds want to poop while flying they don’t care what side of the border they’re on! I understand that the treaty was created to protect hundreds of species of birds, but I have a hard time agreeing that this somehow trumps the Easter Rising.

Birds.jpg

Sean: I feel as though you’re just biased towards Irish coffees. Birds are important – without birds, what would happen to the binocular business? Plus, these are birds that otherwise would have been threatened and could have gone extinct without the treaty – and with all do respect, I don’t think the Irish were threatened in the same way. Even if they do poop on you, there are still worthwhile.

Aaron: I’m just having a really hard time picking birds over people, no matter how important those birds may be.

Easter Uprising Wins (68-62)

(2) Last British Indian Workers Arrive in Suriname

v.

(3) British Summer Time Introduced

Sean: As we’ve discovered in the political climate of the United States, language matters, so it’s important to be clear here. The people arriving in Suriname were indentured servants. Under the system of indentured servitude, over a million Indian labourers were transported to various spots around the British Empire, with over 30,000 of those going to Suriname. For the most part, these individuals were used as a source of cheap, controllable labour following the British abolition of slavery in 1833. The case of Suriname is a little different, though, as the first indentured servants did not arrive until the 1870s. This was the result of a negotiation between the Dutch and the British in which the Dutch got access to the labour while the British got some old slave forts in West Africa. Indentured servants were sent for five years and were provided passage home at the end of the tenure, although many stayed. There are many courses that examine global slavery following abolition, and certainly the situation in Suriname is an important part of that story. The end of such a system of forced labour is a positive development for humanity.

I firmly believe that most things are human inventions – even space and time. And Daylight Savings Time is one of my favourite examples of this. Moving the clocks forward an hour started in earnest in 1916, but using the British version for this list just sounds classy. Advocates of Daylight Savings argue that it promotes post-work activities in the summer – shopping, sports, patios – by extending sunlight. Some have also argued that it promotes energy conservation, but those claims have been heavily disputed. Opponents of the scheme have argued that its benefits are highly overrated and that, in fact, it is unhealthy – the rash of heart attacks the Monday after the change seems to support that. A common misconception is that Daylight Savings Time is intended to help farmers. But as one farmer succinctly put it, cows don’t care what time it is.

If we use long term ramifications as the guide to determine a winner, this one is difficult. Daylight Savings time is still around – for most of us we only remember that fact the night before the clocks the change and you get a notification on your phone – whereas indentured servitude in Suriname is not. Of course, the presence of 30,000 Indians in Suriname had a significant cultural and political impact on the country that is still present. Additionally, the case of Suriname did not end Indian indentured servitude globally as the system lasted through the early 1920s. Nevertheless, it was a major step forward, whereas the benefits of Daylight Savings Time are, at best, contested.

Aaron: It’s hard to argue against the end of indentured servitude. No one, no matter what the circumstances, should ever be an indentured servant. As for Daylight Saving Time: it’s great in the summer when it is light out until 9PM, but man is it tough in the winter when we switch back to standard and it feels like the sun never comes out.

Last British Indian Workers in Suriname Wins (76-67)

Progress Bracket

(1) Jeanette Rankin Elected to Congress

v.

(4) Louis Brandeis Appointed to U.S. Supreme Court

Aaron: This is a very tough match up and one that you would think that both should make it through considering the groundbreaking achievements of both Rankin and Brandeis. That, however, is not possible and so I will try to justify my choice below.

Before 1916, no woman was elected to the United States Congress. But thanks to the efforts of Jeanette Rankin, that changed. Rankin was heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement and in 1916 she ran for one of Montana’s two at-large seats in the US House of Representatives. With help from her brother Wellington, an influential member of the Republican Party, Rankin won her seat by 7,500 votes. During her first term in the House, Rankin voted against President Wilson’s war declaration, which garnered severe criticism. In 1918, she stood in the House and proposed a bill that would eventually form the basis for the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. She would later run for Congress again in 1940, and was the only member of the House and Senate to vote against going to war with Japan in 1941.

Much like how Ranking broke barriers for women, Louis Brandeis did the same for Jews in the United States. We’re all aware of how prevalent anti-Semitism was across the Western World – and, regrettably, it remains to this day – and so the appointment of Brandeis as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States was an important event for human progress. As a social progressive, Brandeis found himself in the middle of many reform movements, such as fighting against monopolies, big corporations, and mass consumerism. His views on social progress caught the attention of Woodrow Wilson who, during the 1912 Presidential Election, adopted many of the crusades to which Brandeis had been associated with. On January 28 1916, President Wilson nominated Brandeis for a seat on the nation’s highest court; this nomination was severely criticized, largely due to overt anti-Semitism. However, Brandeis had just as many supporters as detractors, and on June 1 the Senate approved his nomination.

Both Rankin and Brandeis helped to shatter barriers in the United States, which has helped move our society forward. As to who had the more important impact, I have to give my nod to Rankin. There is no doubt that anti-Semitism greatly influenced American public opinions, and nominating a Jew to the Supreme Court was unpopular at the time. Yet, I would argue, women faced more obstacles simply because they were women. Rankin’s commitment to social progress and gaining voting rights for women is incredible. The fact that she also took a hard pacifist line in Congress, despite immense pressure to the contrary during both World Wars, makes her re-election that much more impressive.

Sean: I don’t want this to be construed as anti-Rankin at all, because clearly her election was a major step forward, but is there a case to be made that Brandeis had more influence? Serving on the Supreme Court is a major achievement and provides an incredible amount of power. Brandeis was on the court during major cases on freedom of speech, right to privacy, and the New Deal. As a result, his fingerprints may be found on more areas of American life than Rankin. For that reason, I’m thinking it might be Brandeis who should move on.

Aaron: It always pains me to do this, but I have been swayed by your logic Dr. Graham. Rankin’s election is very important, but to simply compare their positions – Congresswoman vs. Supreme Court Justice – it seems like Brandeis should move on.

Louis Brandeis Appointed to U.S. Supreme Court Wins (65-63)

(2) Manitoba, Saskatchewan, & Alberta Enact Women’s Suffrage

vs.

(3) Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn

Aaron: In years past we have addressed the issue of women’s voting rights and sketched a rough timeline of when places around the world extended this right. This year, we make it to Canada. Women had very limited opportunities to vote in British North America and then Canada, and it was due to the perseverance of the suffragists that women were slowly enabled more opportunities to vote. By 1900, women who owned property were able to vote in some municipal elections; the next step was securing the right to cast a ballot in a provincial election. On January 28 1916, Manitoba became the first province to allow women to vote in provincial elections – but not in federal elections as that was and is a separate jurisdiction. Alberta soon followed suit, granting voting rights to women on April 19, and Saskatchewan thereafter on May 14.

The year 1916 also saw progress made in the area of birth control and women’s reproductive rights. Until this year, contraceptives in the United States were considered obscene and, in some cases, were illegal, unlike in Europe where birth control was more prevalent. A social reform campaign was launched to increase attention to the usefulness of contraceptives led, in part, by Margaret Sanger. Sanger had visited Europe in 1914 and while in the Netherlands came across birth control clinics. When she returned to the United States, Sanger sought to create something similar. Unfortunately, New York State law made the distribution and even promotion of contraceptives illegal. Despite this, on October 16, 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the US. A few days after its opening, Sanger was arrested and the clinic was shut down. The next clinic would not open until 1923. Sanger ultimately served 30 days in jail.

In terms of which is more important, I’m going with Sanger’s birth control clinic. Extending the right for women to vote in provincial elections was significant, but since women had some opportunities at a local level to vote, and since in 1917 some women were able to vote in the federal election, it doesn’t compete with what Sanger accomplished. Opening a birth control clinic to assist women in spite of an absurd law took courage and conviction, and Sanger’s stand clearly demonstrated both. It caused Americans to start to re-think reproductive rights and access to birth control. It makes me sad to see that some in the United States are still debating contraceptives and women’s access to them.

margaret-sanger

Sean: I think I agree with your rationale here. The suffrage movement was strong and making significant gains, but what Sanger did pushed women’s rights into the forefront in a new way. So I’m on board, but what about my desire to ensure we have some sort of Saskatchewan representation in the next round?

Aaron: Despite your best effort, you failed.

Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn Wins (90-65)

Business Bracket

(1) Coca-Cola Markets Contour Bottle

v.

(4) John D. Rockefeller Becomes World’s First Billionaire

Sean: “Have you opened a Coke today?” I haven’t – in fact, it’s been years since I’ve downed one. But that doesn’t mean it’s not great and that the contour bottle isn’t iconic. Starting with glass, the design of a bottle of Coke was patented in 1915, with consumers getting their hands on them the following year. The idea behind the design was simple, by contouring the bottle it would be easier for people to hold on to. Not all of Coke’s bottlers jumped on the idea at first and it wasn’t until after the First World War that the design, which Raymond Loewy has called a “perfect liquid wrapper”, became the norm for all consumers. The bottle remains a defining feature for Coke, which is exactly what the company hoped for when it commissioned the re-design.

Rockefeller is one of the most recognizable names in American life, with a reach that extends around the world. That legacy starts with John D. Rockefeller. The son of a con-man, Rockefeller settled in Cleveland and founded the Standard Oil Company. A strong proponent of horizontal integration, Rockefeller came to dominate the industry, at one point earning around 90% of the American oil market. The company was found to be in violation of anti-trust laws in 1911 and was broken into smaller entities, some of which still exist in some form, but by that time Rockefeller had amassed his fortune. Like Andrew Carnegie, who made his money in the steel industry, Rockefeller is perhaps best known today for his philanthropy. From founding institutions of higher education to funding scientific research, the Rockefeller Foundation has been one of the most influential philanthropic organizations in American history, and having a billion dollars in 1916 (roughly $24 billion today) would certainly get you on your way.

Whereas in other categories I submit to my North American bias, here I have to go with global significance and recognition. Coke is a global phenomenon and that bottle is a major part of the reason why. The expansion of Coke into Africa and Latin America is really the final frontier for the company. That’s not to say it’s a good thing – certainly there are plenty of negatives associated with their expansion – but the global significance is huge.

Aaron: I agree completely. Coca Cola is everywhere in our lives, especially now during the holiday season. It’s hard to watch TV without seeing a commercial with Santa Claus or some cute polar bear family enjoying an ice-cold Coke. Some people even get angry when at a restaurant and the server responds, “Is Pepsi ok?” Rockefeller becoming the first billionaire is important for Rockefeller and his descendants, but for the rest of us who will never come anywhere close to being worth a billion dollars, it’s hard to agree in his favour to move on in this bracket. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a tall, cold, carbonated beverage to get back to.

Sean: You mean a Pepsi?

coke-contour-bottle

Coca-Cola Markets Contour Bottle Wins (74-41)

(2) Boeing Founded

v.

(3) BMW Founded

Sean: It’s time for one of my favourite annual traditions – arguing in favour of aviation winning this prestigious(?) competition. If you’ve ever driven between Portland and Seattle, you’ve passed the massive Boeing facility along the interstate. The company is headquartered there because founder William Boeing was involved in the timber business. After he saw a manned flying machine in 1909, Boeing was enthralled by flight and wanted to learn more. Boeing learned to fly himself, but frustrated with the difficulties of getting replacement parts for this plane, thought that he could create a more efficient production system. In 1914, Boeing built a hanger on the shores of Seattle’s Lake Union and, with the growing appetite for new aviation technology on account of the First World War, incorporated Pacific Aero Products Co, which would be renamed Boeing Airplane Co., in 1916. And as long as you turn them off every once and a while, they tend to make very good airplanes.

For BMW, the origins are a little more complicated. The product of mergers, the company has used March 7, 1916 as its founding. This could be contested, though, as Karl Rapp’s motor company, which was part of the 1916 restructuring, started its operations in 1913. Further clouding the waters, the company didn’t start producing automobile engines until the late 1920s. Before that it was involved in aviation and military production. Once it started with its automobile production, however, the company became a globally recognized brand known for making some of the best cars to ever hit the road.

Once again, I have to revert to my aviation bias here. Cars are great – I don’t want one or anything, but I hear they’re lovely – but planes have changed the way we live. And think about how essential they have become in such a short amount of time. When you’re in a plane and get to see that view out the window, you are in the less than 1% of human beings who have ever lived who have gotten to see the world from that perspective. Think about that. Kings and Queens and Emperors and William Henry Harrison didn’t have the chance to see that. On this issue, I think it’s pretty clear.

Aaron: It is now my turn to disagree with Sean over his aviation bias. Sure, planes have changed our lives, but so have cars! Since we’re not talking about the first plane being manufactured I don’t have to worry about being grilled about my car bias – I am well aware that BMW did not manufacture the first car. Automobiles are much more influential and important part of our lives than planes. For most of us, we use a car every day and not a plane. Therefore, the advancement of the auto industry with BMW entering the game gets my nod

Sean:

JEJ.gif

You don’t actually believe that do you!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! That’s nonsense. Just because cars allow you to live outside Ottawa, that doesn’t mean that cars are more influential than planes. Land transportation has been a thing for thousands and thousands of years, air transportation, not so much. And I think you can make a case that Boeing is more influential than BMW. With fewer options in aviation than automobiles, Boeing has a larger market share of its industry than does BMW of its. For that alone, I think it has to be Boeing.

Aaron: Because I know you’ll cry and break the computer if you don’t get your way (#truth), Boeing wins.

Boeing Founded Wins (87-85)

Second Round

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Parliament Burns Down

vs.

(3) Piggly Wiggly Opens

Aaron: This next match up really isn’t difficult at all. Piggly Wiggly wins easily.  The creation of the modern grocery store layout is much more important in a long-term context than Parliament burning down, especially since reconstruction efforts commenced seven months later. I await my colleague’s disagreement…

Sean: Sorry to disappoint, but I completely agree. The building where our chucklehead politicians sit got a little charred. Boo-hoo. They rebuilt it and everything was fine. They just had to find another place to sit. The Piggly Wiggly is much more influential in people’s daily lives and I think it’s the deciding factor here.

Piggly Wiggly Opens Wins (94-86)

International Bracket

(1) Easter Uprising

v.

(2) Last British Indian Workers Arrive in Suriname

Sean: This one is tough – both events led to major societal and political changes in their respective countries. But one came through violence and the other through legislation. That’s not to say, of course, that indentured servants didn’t open resist their treatment, but the lack of violence, to me, makes the end of indentured servitude a little more palatable. Add that to the executions that took place after the Easter Uprising, and, on the whole, the situation in Suriname seems like a better development in world history.

Aaron: I completely agree. I know that I championed the Irish Republic in the last round, but I truly appreciate any event that ends any sort of slavery or indentured servitude.

Last British Indian Workers Arrive in Suriname Wins (77-66)

Progress Bracket

(3) Margaret Sanger Opens First Birth Control Clinic

v.

(4) Louis Brandeis Appointed to Supreme Court

Aaron: This is another great match up and no matter who moves on, they deserve to. For my fictitious money, (thanks, producer!) I have to side with Sanger’s birth control clinic. The courage that Sanger showed by opening such a clinic in spite of its illegal nature and societal viewpoints on the subject is truly commendable. Sanger’s actions helped to allow women to have a choice over their reproductive rights (as they should) and to advance our society as a whole.

Sean: That’s a very good point – I guess there is a reason they gave you one of those doctorates after all. I do wonder, though, if Brandeis’ appointment marked a major step forward in the political acceptance of Jews. Let’s not forget that this is in the same era as Al Smith running for President in the midst of strong anti-Catholicism. Any progress for religious tolerance represented a major societal gain in the United States’ never ending quest to uphold the values of its founding documents.

Aaron: I don’t disagree with your argument about Brandeis’ importance; but I feel that for long-term importance Sanger wins. Brandeis’ appointment wasn’t illegal, whereas opening a birth control clinic was, which makes the clinic more important.

Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn wins (67-66 (OT))

Business Bracket

(1) Coca-Cola Markets Contour Bottle

v.

(2) Boeing Founded

Sean: I think this one is pretty clear. Boeing has changed the game in aviation. It’s so influential that the President-Elect is making stuff up about it’s contract for the next Air Force One. Apart from the absurdity of that, it does remind us that Boeing is responsible for taking the President of the United States around the world. Can a coke bottle do that?

Aaron: If given enough of a chance a Coke bottle might be able to fly, but you’re too biased with your head in the clouds, semi-literally. Besides, Coke is a more recognized name around the world and it takes years to kill you instead of a four minute fall from the sky.

Sean: Recognizable, probably. More influential, I really don’t think so. Boeing is ubiquitous in a way that Coke isn’t Go to any airport in the world and it will be littered with Boeing planes. They move millions of people and billions of dollars worth of goods each year. And until Donald Glover does an episode of Atlanta where he visits the Coke Museum, I think it’s Boeing all the way.

Boeing Founded Wins (77-76)

Final Four

Boeing Founded

v.

Piggly Wiggly Opens

Sean: I don’t think there will be any surprise that I’m all in on Boeing for this one. Apart from all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, let’s talk about some of Boeing’s developments. First to do a double-decker plane. And not with the innovations on the Dreamliner – lighter, more fuel efficient, comfortable, and major changes in the design of the cabin. They are changing the airline industry – more direct flights and getting away from the hub model. That leads to more options for consumers and greater efficiency across the whole industry. It’s just another way in which Boeing is changing the way we live.

Aaron: I want to disagree. Oh boy do I want to disagree. But, I can’t. Boeing is certainly more influential than Piggly Wiggly. This hurts me more than you can even imagine. Sean finally gets his aviation love affair in the Enrico Palazzo Memorial Championship Game.

Sean: That is about which that I am speaking.

Boeing Founded Wins (51-44)

Last British Indian Workers Arrive in Suriname

v.

Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn

Aaron: I usually try to argue in terms of what was more important, but this is one where both are very important for a myriad of reasons. Promoting birth control against ending indentured servitude. It’s almost as if I can’t choose. Almost. My vote is still for Sanger and the clinic. I am truly awed by Sanger’s determination and I fully support any movement that gives women control of their reproductive rights.

Sean: If Sanger was so important why do you have a baby?

Aaron: Well, you see, when a Mommy and a Daddy love each other very much they [insert awkward parent-child sex-talk here]. And that’s why.

Obama.gif

Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn Wins (55-50)

Enrico Palazzo Memorial Championship Game

Boeing Founded

v.

Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn

Sean: Finally, it took four years, but we have an aviation event in the finals. Kevin Garnett was right, anything is possible. This one is certainly difficult, but I want to go for Boeing on this one. The increased availability of birth control is a major development and Margaret Sanger is rightly lauded for her activism (if she hasn’t, she should be discussed as a possibility to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill). All that being said, Boeing has fundamentally changed the way everyone lives. Even if you don’t fly, the spread of people, ideas, and goods that has been facilitated by aviation has had some sort of impact on your daily life. Birth control, for as important as it is, doesn’t have the same reach. Every women has the right – or at least should – but not everyone uses it or is influenced by it in the same way as Boeing.

boeing-747

Aaron: Certainly Boeing can be credited for helping to move people, ideas, and goods all around the country, but Sanger’s clinic in Brooklyn changed how we look at women’s health. Without access to birth control, many women were subjected to unwanted and dangerous pregnancies. Being able to control ones reproductive system in a healthy manner is something that is taken for granted today, at least in the developed world. Access to flying, however, is without much of the same limitations, despite the increase hysteria around the world. Healthy women, in my humble opinion, beats airplanes.

Sean: Can we take points away from Sanger because of Brooklyn and how it has become a hipster paradise?

Aaron: Where is Boeing again?

Sean: Withdrawn

sanger

Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn Wins (41-37)

Aaron Boyes has a PhD from the University of Ottawa.

Sean Graham is an editor with Activehistory.ca. He is also the host of the History Slam Podcast.

Hyperbole, Hot Takes, and Hillary’s Qualifications

With the History Slam on hiatus until the New Year, I decided to write a piece for Activehistory.ca in an attempt to answer a nagging question that I’ve been wondering about: was Hillary Clinton the most qualified person to ever run for President? The current President said she was during the campaign, a statement which got a lot of traction on Twitter. But I was curious, so decided to look through the resumes of some other presidential nominees. The process highlighted the need for rationale, reasonable discussion in an environment that currently favours easily distilled talking points and gives credibility to the loudest voices in the room. You can find the full post here.

Year in Review (100 Years Later)

With all do respect to Jim Nantz, we have a tradition like no other over at Activehistory.ca. Each year, the Man, Myth, and Legend Aaron Boyes and I put together a March Madness style bracket to determine the most important events of the year 100 years later. The rationale is simple, it takes time to truly understand the significance of any given year, which is why the year in review articles for 2015 will surely misstate the importance of a wide variety of things that may seem important now, but have no long term impact. To find out what we thing was the most important event of 1915, you can find the full post here.

Year at Harvard

In the week or so that I’ve been in Cambridge, MA, I’ve discovered that Harvard is a pretty interesting place. From the newly refurbished art museum to the yard, the place is teeming with activity and history. While the complete lack of straight or easily navigable streets is a little difficult to deal with, I think I’m getting the hang of it. Before I did, however, I continued a time honoured tradition for me in a new place of getting lost early on and wandering aimlessly through the streets. In North Bay this meant hopping on random buses and hoping to end up back on campus while in Regina I somehow ended up at a gas station on the edge of town asking to use the phone to call a cab. In Cambridge, I walked in circles for a couple of hours trying to find the history department – which I’m happy to say I finally did. But since then, I have managed to orient myself to the campus and have started to settle into my new responsibilities.

But what exactly am I doing here? This has been the most common question I’ve been asked over the summer – and only a couple times was it asked with a sense of disbelief that someone like me could have gotten a position at Harvard. The easy answer is that I’m here to be the William Lyon Mackenzie King Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Canada Program at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. What that entails, however, is a little more nuanced.

In addition to participating in the Canada Program’s activities, I will have the opportunity to work on turning my dissertation into a manuscript as well as starting a new research project. The research project is not entirely a continuation of my dissertation, but it’s also not not a continuation either. While the dissertation was an institutional study of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from its inauguration in 1936 to the outbreak of the Second World War, the new project will expand the temporal framework while further investigating the corporation’s inclination towards continental integration.
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Six Days Without Power: The Perfect Christmas Gift

Downed branches and power lines in my parents' driveway. Sunday December 22, 2013.

Downed branches and power lines in my parents’ driveway. Sunday December 22, 2013.

On Saturday night, as I ate dinner with my parents at their house in Georgetown, Ontario, the lights went out. I had been here less than 24 hours and suddenly the creature comforts of home were gone. With the power out, I ventured out to seek refuge (and a couple adult beverages) with my best friend Dave and his girlfriend Vanessa. As I walked home just after midnight, I was confronted by the scope of the storm as a live power line was strewn across the road with a police officer warning to stay back.

Through the night, the steady sound of (freezing) rain fall was periodically interrupted by crashing tree branches. As the sun rose on Sunday morning, we emerged to discover a thick sheet of ice, tree limbs blocking roads, and a neighbourhood devoid of electricity. Around 10 AM a final blow landed as a branch from a tree in the front year finally succumbed to the weight of the ice, bringing with it the lines that connected the house to the hydro pole, thus ensuring a lengthy outage

Me cooking up some breakfast in the great outdoors. December 24, 2013.

Cooking up some breakfast in the great outdoors. December 24, 2013.

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First Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket

This article was originally posted at ActiveHistory.ca on Friday December 20, 2013.

By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

Each year, websites and magazines come out with year in review articles that attempt to summarize the year and highlight the major events of the previous 12 months. While these can be entertaining, they are fraught with peril as it is difficult to determine what, moving forward, will prove to be influential. If you look back at some of these articles, things that were thought to be significant fade into oblivion while lesser known events or people end up being the most memorable.

With the perspective of 100 years, however, determining the significant events of a given year becomes a little easier. That is why we are inaugurating our First (Annual?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket. We compiled the major events of 1913, ranked them, and put them into a ‘March Madness’ style bracket. The four ‘regions’ are the Humanist Region, the International Region, the Innovation Region, and the Potpourri Region.

The results of the first two rounds can be seen in the bracket here with the primary factor being the long-term significance of the event. For the final sixteen, we decided to engage in a back and forth debate to determine the biggest event of 1913.
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