Monday, January 31, 2022

What's So Great About the GREAT WAR?

Woodrow Wilson is the only United States President who was born in a country that had lost a war, the Confederate States of America. He remembered the...the devastation, the deprivation, the degradation that comes from losing a war. He carried that with him.

On August 4th, he wrote to the leaders of the newly warring nations that he would “welcome an opportunity to act in the interest of European peace.”

Almost from the outset of the war, Woodrow Wilson was trying to find diplomatic solutions. He believed if all the heads of state could sit at a table and confer, they could probably have ended this war. There didn’t have to be a war here...

Thursday, January 27, 2022


The Panama Canal (Spanish: Canal de Panamá) is a 48-mile (77.1 km) ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade;  the 10 hour crossing shaving 2 weeks off a dangerous trip around the tip of South America. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake (85 feet (26 m) above sea-level). The Gatun Lake was used to reduce the amount of work required for a sea-level connection. The current locks are 110 feet (33.5 m) wide. 

What was the strategic importance militarily and economically of the Panama Canal?

How did the Panama Canal fit Roosevelt's 'Big Stick' policy? Dollar Diplomacy?

How did Roosevelt change the image or reputation of the United States?

If we could build the Panama Canal why not an Ohio to Hawaii Highway?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Bully! A Splendid Little War

The charge up an obscure Cuban hill on July, 1 1898 was a pivotal point in Theodore Roosevelt's political career. When war broke with Spain in April of that year, Roosevelt was serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He immediately quit his position and helped form a regiment of volunteers. The "Rough Riders" enlisted cowboys and college men led by Roosevelt under the command of Leonard Wood. They arrived in Cuba in time to take part in the Battle of San Juan Hill.

Read the actual account of the battle of San Juan Hill and compare it to the video.

1) Was the film historically accurate?

2) What is the 'bias' of both accounts?

3) What information was intentionally left out?  Why?

4) How would the story be different if the Spanish were telling it?

5) Who were the real heroes of San Juan Hill?  Why aren't they included in the accounts?

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Devil In the White City

It is estimated that the United States accounts for 85% of the World's serial killers; more than the rest of the world combined! How do we explain this?

Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America...

The Chicago World's Fair produced a number of firsts besides Ferris’ 264-foot-tall wheel. Among the well-loved commercial products that made their debut at the Chicago World’s Fair were Cracker Jack, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Technological products that would soon find their way into homes nationwide, such as the dishwasher and fluorescent light bulbs, had early prototype versions on display in Chicago as well. The U.S. government also got in on the act, issuing the country’s first postcards and commemorative stamps and two new commemorative coins: a quarter and half dollar. The half dollar featured Christopher Columbus, in whose honor the fair had been staged, while the quarter depicted Queen Isabella of Spain, who had funded Columbus’ voyages—making it the first U.S. coin to honor a woman.

Perhaps the most famous first wasn't advertised in the fair literature:  America's First Serial Killer! Unbeknownst to festival goers, there was a mass murderer in their midst. For several years before and during the exposition, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was busily luring victims (including a number of fairgoers) to a three-story, block-long building called the “Castle,” where they were tortured, mutilated and killed. Although H. H. Holmes’ heinous crimes weren’t discovered until after the fair ended, it’s believed that he was responsible for dozens of deaths in Chicago.

In his best selling book The Devil in the White City  Author Erik Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing.


Daniel Burnham (Architect)           HH Holmes (Killer)

"Beneath the gore and smoke and loam, this story is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow" 
1) In what ways does the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 change America? What lasting inventions and ideas did it introduce into American culture?

2) How did the 'White City' compare with Chicago, the 'Black City' or any other American City of the time?

3) How did Holmes' hotel contrast with the buildings of the World's Fair? Can architecture reflect goodness or evil, or are buildings neutral until used?

4) How was Holmes able to get away with so many murders without becoming suspect? Were you surprised by how easy it was for him to commit crimes without being caught?

5) What does the story reveal about “conflict between good and evil"? What is the essential difference between men like Daniel Burnham and Henry H. Holmes? Are they alike in any way?

6) After the Fair ended, Ray Stannard Baker noted "What a human downfall after the magnificence and prodigality of the World's Fair which has so recently closed its doors! Heights of splendor, pride, exaltation in one month: depths of wretchedness, suffering, hunger, cold, in the next" [p. 334]. What is the relationship between the opulence and grandeur of the Fair and the poverty and degradation that surrounded it? In what ways does the Fair bring into focus the extreme contrasts of the Gilded Age?

7) At the end of The Devil in the White City, Larson writes "The thing that entranced me about Chicago in the Gilded Age was the city's willingness to take on the impossible in the name of civic honor, a concept so removed from the modern psyche that two wise readers of early drafts of this book wondered why Chicago was so avid to win the world's fair in the first place" [p. 393]. What motives, in addition to "civic honor," drove Chicago to build the Fair? In what ways might the desire to "out-Eiffel Eiffel" and to show New York that Chicago was more than a meat-packing backwater be seen as American?  In what ways were they problematic?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Chicago World's Fair

The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was an event of immense cultural importance to America and the World nearing the turn of the century. From May 1 to October 31, 1893, Chicago and the Exposition were host to 27 million visitors--nearly one quarter of the country's population at the time. Fairs encompassed the spectrum of experience and interest of the 1800s--from sport to entertainment to high culture. To understand their importance and draw in modern terms, they could be seen as a combination of the Olympics, DisneyWorld, the Superbowl, and the National Gallery--an international entertainment and cultural event with lasting social importance.

Particularly amazing was the fact that this futuristic view of what urban life could be grew out of the ashes of the Chicago fire just 22 years before.

Click here to begin your tour. How did the fair show America was the best?

Like the 'Gilded Age' the Columbian Exposition suspended reality. It was a fantasy.  None of it was real. The buildings of the fair were designed to be temporary and unfortunately, most of them were destroyed. The exceptions being the replica Statue of the Republic (above) and the old Palace of Fine Arts. It's since been converted into the city of  Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. The rest of the Columbian Exposition is long gone. So what happened to all the other buildings you ask? 

Like most World’s Fairs, the storied “White City” of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was mostly destroyed after the end of the Fair, and little evidence remains today. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to experience the fairgrounds in person. Thanks to the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA, and through the wonders of technology we can, however, still take a 'virtual' stroll through the grounds by clicking here.

What was the LEGACY of the Chicago World's Fair?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Yellow Kid

 Learn about the impact of visual design in early newspapers and how it continues to influence media today. Discover the competitive tactics—that crossed the line into fake news—Joseph Pulitzer and William R. Hearst employed to outsell each other, particularly in their personal competition to sell newspapers during the Spanish-American War.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Remember the Maine!

"All war is based on deception." -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
On February 15, 1898 an explosion ripped throught the hull of the USS Maine. President McKinley told the American people that the USS Maine had been sunk in Havana Harbor by a Spanish mine and the sailors were given a hero's burial in Arlington National cemetery. The American people, outraged by this apparent unprovoked attack, supported the Spanish American War in large numbers.

But was this the Truth?

 Conspiracy theorists and historians have offered some other possible explanations over the years:

1) A covert operation by the US government blew up the ship (It was not a front line battleship) to make a case for war.

2) A fire in a coal bunker accidentally lit off an adjacent ammo magazine.

3) William Randolph Hearst arranged to have the ship explode so as to profit from selling his newspapers.

Read the official report and then you make the call. Be sure to support your answer with facts.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Crucible of Empire

Teddy Roosevelt charging up the San Juan Heights, the Rough Riders and the sinking of the battleship, the U.S.S. Maine---these are what people commonly know about the United States' war with Spain in 1898. What they may not remember is that this was the war that steered the United States to center stage as a world power. Victorious over Spain in Cuba and the Philippines, the United States, a nation founded in opposition to imperialism, grappled with its new role as an imperial power.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Washington's Farewell Address


In 1796, Mr. Washington's "warnings of a parting friend" cautioned Americans about the "wiles of foreign influence." Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon, who explores the history and legacy of the address in his new book, joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss "Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations."

While Washington focused mainly on domestic issues in the address, he ended with a discussion of foreign affairs. “It is our true policy,” he declared, “to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world,” a statement that would shape American foreign policy for more than a century to come.

In his Farewell Address, Washington took neutrality a step further. “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is,” he advised, “. . . to have with them as little political connection as possible.” This advice was translated by the presidents who followed Washington into a policy of unilateralism. Under this policy, the United States “went it alone” in its relations with other countries, and did not seek either military or political alliances with foreign powers.

Was Washington more of a 'Realist' or 'Idealist?' 

How did Washington's foreign policy influence the War of 1812 and the Monroe Doctrine?

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Realism vs. Idealism: Is Santa Real?


If your decision was motivated mainly by realism, • your decision-making process was guided by reason and rationality. • you were motivated by self-interest. • you believed that you were protecting your own needs and security. 

If your decision was motivated mainly by idealism, • your decision-making process was guided by morals and ethics. • you were motivated by the desire to help others. • you believed that you were acting in the best interest of your family and community