1903: A year to remember

1903:  A year to remember

If you’ve visited this space before, you know that it’s usually a rant about the fragile state of our democracy and the danger posed by “alternative facts.”

There’s a reason it’s called the Chicago Board of Tirade.

Let’s take a break from all that today and think about a simpler time in our history that provided fertile ground for the dreams of men to flourish.

We tend to take things around us for granted, as if they’ve always been there and they always will be. The upcoming generation has never known a time without cell phones or internet.

I remember rotary phones and I remember when we didn’t have to dial area codes.

I remember when we used to look through the TV Guide to find shows that we could watch in color on our new 25 inch RCA television console.

Modern life started out slowly, but picked up speed quickly.  For decades new information was added to man’s knowledge base at a rate that doubled every year.

For the record, the first customer-dialed area code call was placed in 1951.  It was a call from Englewood, New Jersey, to Alameda, California, but direct distance dialing didn’t become common until the 1960’s.

Some years went by unceremoniously. In some years, things took a bunny hop forward. Hop, hop, hop.

1903 was one of those years and it was an especially momentous time for the motorcycle.  The first self-powered vehicle to cross this country (in 50 days) was a motorcycle.

Twenty days later, an automobile (of sorts) made the same trip.

That same year, a new motorcycle shop was set up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by two twenty-somethings named William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles were adapted for use by the U.S. military during WWI and in 1920, a Harley was the first motorcycle to win a race at speeds over 100 MPH.

Harley and Indian were the only two American motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression.  Harley-Davidson celebrates its 115th anniversary in Milwaukee from August 29 – September 2, 2018.

In January of 1903 the first west-east radio broadcast was made from the U.S. to England.  An east-west transmission had occurred 13 months earlier.

In February we took lease, in perpetuity of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

In July, Dr. Ernst Pfenning of Chicago became the proud owner of the first Model A Ford.  In September the first stock car race was held in Milwaukee.

In October the first modern World Series was played between the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Boston took the series 5 games to 3.

In December (this is a big one), Orville Wright made the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  The flight lasted twelve seconds and reached an altitude of ten feet.

The first box of Crayola crayons sold for 5 cents in 1903.  It contained eight colors; brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet and black.

Alice in Wonderland, an 8-minute adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s book was released in the U.K. in 1903, only one copy of that movie exists today.

It was in 1903 that the Coca-Cola company removed cocaine from its famous soft drink.  Not surprisingly, sales fell for a short time and many people started speaking very slowly.

It seems all too often that what today’s discourse is missing is a sense of fact-based history.  Just this weekend the President of the United States told a rally in Tennessee that black people have been voting for Democrats for 100 years.

The FACT that the Voting Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1965 would only have been an inconvenient truth.

Fact-based history has not fared well under this administration.

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