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Wikimedia Commons

Grand Vizier Assassinated, Serbia and Bulgaria Prepare for War

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 73rd installment in the series.

June 11-13, 1913: Grand Vizier Assassinated, Serbia and Bulgaria Prepare for War

On Wednesday, June 11, 1913, Mahmud Shevket Pasha, who was serving as both Grand Vizier (akin to prime minister) and Minister of War for the Ottoman Empire, was on his way to the War Ministry in Constantinople when his car broke down on the busy Divan Yolu avenue running through the old city center. After the driver pulled over to make repairs, another open-topped car—one of just 100 in use in the city at that time—pulled up alongside Shevket Pasha’s car and two men, each holding revolvers in both hands, stood up and unleashed a fusillade which hit both the Grand Vizier and his aide, Ibrahim Bey. The audacious assassins then jumped out of their car, approached the Grand Vizier’s car, and fired ten more shots before driving off. Shevket Pasha’s supposed last words were suitably dramatic: “My country; alas, my country!”

Judging by newspaper coverage, the brazen murder of the Ottoman Empire’s elder statesman (Shevket Pasha had played a key role in establishing constitutional government) elicited expressions of sympathy in Europe – but not much surprise. Political murders were all too common in the years leading up to the First World War, as demonstrated by the assassination of Greece’s King George by an anarchist just a few months before, and there was a long tradition of Ottoman Grand Viziers coming to bad ends. It was widely believed that Shevket Pasha’s assassination was revenge for the murder of the previous War Minister, Nazim Pasha, in the coup in January 1913, with one newspaper noting: “It has been generally believed that ever since Nazim Pasha’s murder Shefket Pasha has been virtually under sentence of death.”

The circumstances of the crime were obviously suspicious, beginning with the alleged breakdown and the fact that Shevket Pasha’s driver apparently escaped unharmed. Equally suspicious was the fact that the third passenger, Echref Bey, “escaped as if by a miracle” and then had not one but two pistols misfire when he tried to shoot back at the assassins. In their haste to escape the attackers left one assassin behind, a “lame innkeeper” who conveniently implicated a group of known gangsters and bookies. On June 24, 1913, the innkeeper and eleven other “real or alleged plotters” were found guilty and promptly hanged.

Whoever killed Shevket Pasha, his demise was viewed as a blow against the Committee of Union and Progress, or Young Turks, who supposedly relied on his reputation and prestige to govern; it was also seen as a major setback for the Ottoman Empire’s efforts to reform its military following its humiliating defeat in the First Balkan War.

In fact, both of these contemporary analyses turned out to be wrong. After Shevket Pasha’s death the Young Turk triumvirate – Enver Pasha, Taalat Pasha, and Djemal Pasha – simply appointed a weak-willed Egyptian member of the CUP, Said Halim Pasha, as a figurehead Grand Vizier, and consolidated power in their own hands. Shortly afterwards, in January 1914, the energetic, charismatic Enver Pasha took the reins as Minister of War and pushed military reforms at an even faster pace, including a purge of old officers who were no longer fit to command, a new structure for Turkish divisions based on the cutting-edge Germany model, and new, more efficient plans for conscription and mobilization. As a result of all these reforms the Ottoman Empire, viewed by Europeans as a negligible quantity after the First Balkan War, presented a much greater threat than any of its opponents realized in the coming conflict.

Serbia and Bulgaria Agree to Arbitration, But Prepare for War

In spring 1913, tensions between Serbia and Bulgaria reached a boiling point, as the former allies turned on each other over the spoils of the First Balkan War. By June 1913, the situation was so alarming that the indecisive Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, felt compelled to use Russia’s traditional role as patron of the Slavic states to force a peaceful resolution on its feuding client kingdoms. On June 12, 1913, Russia demanded that Serbia and Bulgaria agree to submit to arbitration by Russia over the division of conquered Turkish territory in Macedonia. Both sides naturally agreed – one didn’t just say “no” to Russia – but as usual Sazonov’s efforts were too little, too late.

The rival claims of Serbia and Bulgaria were simply irreconcilable: their attachment to Macedonian territory was emotional, dating back to the medieval period, and neither Serbia’s King Peter nor Bulgaria’s Tsar Ferdinand could afford to be seen as weak by their own subjects.  Thus even as they agreed to submit to Russian arbitration, Serbian and Bulgarian armies continued to concentrate near their shared border; meanwhile Serbian diplomats cemented a military alliance with Greece directed against Bulgaria, and Serbian officers organized paramilitary units in Bulgarian-controlled territory to sow chaos once fighting began. The Second Balkan War was less than three weeks away.

U.S. Senate Committee Recommends Women’s Suffrage

The years before the First World War were a time of political and social upheaval in the New and Old Worlds alike. In the U.S., the main causes of turmoil were the shifting balance of power between rural and urban areas, industrial labor unrest, and a huge influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. But the U.S., like Britain, was also divided by the issue of women’s suffrage.

Women on both sides of the Atlantic had been demanding more legal rights, including the right to vote, since the mid-19th century, if not before (Abigail Adams was advocating women’s rights as early as 1776 in private letters to her husband). In Britain, the women’s suffrage movement developed as part of the broader push to eliminate property requirements and extend the franchise to the working class; in the U.S., it was closely connected with the abolitionist movement, with female Quakers and evangelical Christians (many from New England) playing a key role in advancing both causes. Notable events in the U.S. included the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, while in Britain the London Society for Women’s Suffrage was formed in 1867.

After the Civil War, the American suffrage movement received new impetus from the Progressive Movement as well as from trailblazing Western states and territories. Those granting women the right to vote in local and state elections included Wyoming in 1869, Utah in 1870 (later repealed), Colorado in 1893, and Idaho in 1896; they would later be joined by Kansas (1910); California (1911), Oregon and Arizona (1912), and Alaska (1913). But most states still denied women the right to vote, and women’s suffrage advocates turned to Congress in hopes of a federal amendment.

On March 3, 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, suffragists paraded in Washington, D.C., where they were harassed by angry mobs. They convened on the capitol again on April 7 to present petitions demanding a women’s suffrage amendment: the “Anthony Amendment,” after Susan B. Anthony. This goal seemed even more plausible after the 17th Amendment, providing for direct election of the U.S. Senate, was formally adopted May 31, 1913. Democracy was in the air; maybe it would now include women as well.

The prize seemed within reach on June 13, 1913, when the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Women’s Suffrage published a report that recommended giving women the right to vote. The report noted that women already owned property and paid taxes, highlighting the embarrassing fact of taxation without representation. The Senate also recommended creating a parallel committee on women’s suffrage in the House of Representatives, which would remove the issue from the purview of the House Judiciary Committee which had “tabled” (ignored) several earlier suffrage laws.  

It wasn’t going to be that easy, however. In addition to their traditional prejudices, Congressmen were simply leery of granting such a huge expansion of the franchise, which would force them to take into account the needs and desires of a vast new constituency. Thus the Anthony Amendment ran into the political sands in 1913 and 1914, when America’s attention turned to cataclysmic events unfolding overseas. Women’s suffrage would also be delayed on the other side of the Atlantic, as the British House of Commons voted down a law which would have given women the right to vote on May 7, 1913. 

But the struggle was far from over, and suffrage advocates were increasingly militant. On June 4, 1913, the radical suffragist Emily Wilding Davison was trampled after trying to block a horse owned by King George V at the Epsom Derby; her death on June 8 made her a martyr for women’s rights, and her funeral procession on June 14 attracted tens of thousands of mourners. In the end it would take the destructive upheaval of the Great War, which laid bare the bankruptcy of all the old political arrangements, to break men’s resistance to women’s suffrage in the U.S., Britain, and Europe.

See the previous installment or all entries.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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