The 1914 “Christmas Truce” as depicted in a British magazine, January 1915.
Due to a major paying project last month, I fell behind on this unpaying blog. I didn’t even get around to the news roundup for November, 1914. So, I’m going to combine November and December into a single post this time out. Without further ado…
Politics: On November 24, Benito Mussolini is expelled from the Italian Socialist Party. A school-teacher by trade, Mussolini has worked his way up the ranks of the Party and has been very successful as the editor of Avanti! (“forwards”), the party newspaper. He is expelled for disagreeing with the party line on neutrality in World War One, and he will soon begin a campaign for militarization and joining the war on the Allied side.
Diplomacy: Britain and France declare war on Turkey on November 5. The UK annexes the island of Cyprus, holding on to it until 196o, using it as a base in both World Wars, and recruiting Greek Cypriots to fight for the Allies.
Finance: The Federal Reserve Bank of the US opens on November 16.
War: US troops vacate Veracruz, Mexico, November 23, allowing Venustiano Carranza’s troops to occupy the city and establish it as his headquarters.
Law and Order: On December 17, President Woodrow Wilson signs the Harrison Narcotics Act into law, making cocaine and opiates illegal to sell or distribute, except under highly regulated medical exceptions. The immediate effect is to squeeze the supply of these drugs into the United States, driving the price up and creating a highly profitable criminal market, as well as forcing many addicts to suffer withdrawal due to inability to feed their addiction.
World War I: This is the December of the famous “Christmas Truce” on the Western Front. British and German soldiers crossed no man’s land between the trenches to exchange gifts and goodwill, and engage in football matches together. This symbolic moment of mutual respect and gallantry does not characterize the nature of trench warfare in general, and it is never repeated on such a scale during the war.
Industry: On December 15, a gas explosion at the Mitsubishi Hojyo coal mine in Japan kills 687 workers, the worst coal mine disaster in Japanese history.
Finance: On December 12, the New York Stock Exchange re-opens after more than four months of closure due to the war.
Films released in the last two months of the year include “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” “His Prehistoric Past” (the last movie Charlie Chaplin will make for Mack Sennett at Keystone Studios) and two “Perils of Pauline” clones: “The Hazards of Helen” and “The Exploits of Elaine,”
Born: Dorothy Lamour (the “sarong queen” of “Jungle Princess” and several Hope & Crosby “Road” movies) , December 10; Larry Parks (who played Al Jolson in “The Jolson Story” and “Jolson Sings Again” before being blacklisted as a former Communist), December 13; Richard Widmark (a diversely talented actor, mostly remembered for playing off-balance villains in film noir movies like “Night and the City” and “Kiss of Death”), December 26; Jo Ann Fleet (who was Cathy Ames in “East of Eden” and also Paul Newman’s mother in “Cool Hand Luke”), December 30.
Died: Stellen Rye, the German director of “The Student of Prague” died on November 14, as a prisoner of war in a French prison.