Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mommy, I have an "owie" - 1930s style

by Connie Cortright

My baby granddaughter is visiting our house this week. When she scratched herself in her sleep, her mother applied Neosporin to the area to prevent any type of infection. Of course, it made me wonder what mothers used in the 1930s when children were injured in play.

1930s First Aid Kit
I saw this first aid kit that a mother might have had back then. It contains iodine and mercurochrome to deal with injuries for children - no neosporin in sight (because it wasn't manufactured until the 50s).

From my memories as a child I remember my mom dabbing on mercurochrome (we called it "macurycomb" as I remember) when I was small. This substance caused the injury and skin around it to be covered in a red-orange hue. It was used as an antiseptic to kill any germs developing in the open area.

I asked Mom yesterday what she remembered of those days and the use of "macurycomb". She said that was the best thing to use to take away the swelling and help the cut or scrape heal quickly. As I remember this substance didn't sting too much when applied. In fact it was sometimes a badge of honor to be painted with the red color that would wear off in a couple days.

Mercurochrome was a mercury derivative of a red dye, hence the bright color. It was discovered around the turn of the century, but wasn't widely used as an antiseptic until the 20s and 30s. It became popular with mothers since it was easy to apply the tincture to children's injuries.

Across the country on the West Coast, my husband grew up with iodine being used on his cuts and scrapes. He remembers the terrible sting of this ointment when it was applied since it has an alcohol base. (I'm glad I grew up in Wisconsin.) Iodine was also used as an antiseptic for injuries.

Iodine was discovered in the early 1800s and has been used as a disinfectant and bactericide for much of the time since then. A solution of iodine and potassium in water was used during the Civil War in treatment of open wounds. By 1882 it was known that iodine kills microbes that cause infection and was widely used in World War I battle zones, also.

The difference between these two products is that mercurochrome is no longer on the market today. As the name suggests mercurochrome is made up, in part, of mercury - only about 1% by total weight, but by the 70s, enough was known about mercury to cause the much loved household product be added to the unapproved list of drugs. It could no longer be sold in pharmacies as it had for decades.

An item that is missing from the first aid kit above is band-aids. They were actually invented in 1921 by an employee of Johnson & Johnson because his wife was so prone to cutting her finger while working in the kitchen. He made the first such bandages by folding small pieces of gauze and sticking them to strips of adhesive tape, allowing his wife to cut a strip of bandage and apply it herself before he came home from work.

He took the idea to his boss who decided to manufacture them and sell them to the public. They weren't a big hit until Johnson & Johnson gave the Boy Scouts Troop free Band-Aids as a publicity stunt in 1924. Even in the 30s, they weren't widely used in households. After WWII band-aids became a expected part of first aid kits.

What memories do you have of getting "owies" fixed?

Information taken from Mentalfloss: not-so-modern-medicineCivil War RX and History of Band-Aids

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Veteran Affairs Catastrophe of 1932

by Connie Cortright

Much of the media has in the last couple months focused on the affairs of how the government is treating veterans in VA hospitals. The story of how the government treated veterans after World War I is much more appalling than the situation today.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons
When the vets came home from WWI in 1918-1919, they didn't have much financial support. It took the US Government until 1924 to pass a law giving the WW I vets any bonus for serving their country during the Great War. The Bonus Act of 1924 declared that all men who served during the war would receive an "adjusted service certificate" valued up to a maximum of $500 of domestic service or $625 (2010: $7,899) for serving overseas. The catch was that the certificates were not redeemable until 1945 - more like an insurance policy from the government.

During the Roaring Twenties with jobs so plentiful, most of the veterans didn't find this to be too big of a problem especially when Congress ruled that the vets could take out loans against the certificates up to 50% of the value before hand. However, the onset of the Great Depression changed things dramatically. Thousands of the veterans found themselves out of work, not able to support their families any longer.

1932 was a year of protests for many sections of the population from Detroit to Philadelphia to Washington DC--protesting the lack of jobs to support their families. A former army sergeant Walter W. Walters started rallying veterans and led them to Washington DC starting in May. They went to march on DC with the message to demand immediate cash payments for their certificates in their time of need. They called themselves The Bonus Expeditionary Force, but the media gave them the moniker of the Bonus Army.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons
The Bonus Army continued to grow with media coverage so that by the end of June, 20,000 veterans were in the area, many of them with their families causing the number to swell to about 43,000 people. After the area of DC became overloaded with people, the vets moved across the Anacostia River and set up camps on the Anacostia Flats. They built a typical Hooverville with scraps of wood, cardboard, and tin to form "houses" for them to live in.

Unlike other protests springing up around the nation (which were in essence Communists trying to cause problems), Walters made sure that this camp was regulated and well run. Everyone who joined the protest had to prove that he was honorably discharged from the military. The camp was laid out in organized streets and kept very clean. The veterans were told that they had to do military marches every day to keep them orderly. Many times these were marches past Capitol Hill to remind the Congress and President Hoover that these veterans were there and needed their money.

By June 15, the House of Representatives passed a bill giving the vets immediate cash bonuses, but two days later the Senate voted it down. Walters kept the vets from rioting by telling them to "Sing America and go back to your billets." Some of the vets at this time returned home when the government offered them free transportation.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons
The remaining men marched daily until late July with tensions mounting between the  Bonus Army and local policemen. On July 28 the police were ordered to force the vets to evacuate any space within DC city limits, starting a near riot. To stop the violence, President Hoover ordered the Army from Fort Myer, led by General Douglas MacArthur, to come restore order. MacArthur attacked the vets with soldiers using bayonets and tear gas, cavalry (led by George Patton) and five tanks against unarmed aging veterans. The vets retreated in the face of the danger and fled DC. Hoover ordered MacArthur to stop the attack since they were out of the city, but in his arrogance, he continued over the 11th Street bridge into Anacostia Flats.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons
After giving the vets one hour to evacuate the women and children, MacArthur ordered the soldiers to march through the squatters camp, roust the vets and families, and burn all the huts and tents with the contents to make sure the vets couldn't come back.

In the end, two vets were killed, along with a baby from the camp, and 54 injured in the "battle". In an interview after the battle, MacArthur defended his actions by proclaiming that the "Reds had concocted the riot"; he saved the country from a revolution. How wrong he was. The blame for this terrible incident was laid at the feet of President Hoover, who lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The question I asked myself after researching this was how a US army could attack unarmed fellow citizens. Of all the topics I've researched, this is the most shocking to find out about the history of the 20s and 30s. Do you think something this horrible could ever happen in our country again?

Information taken from Wikipedia: Bonus Army and History net: the Bonus Army

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't Touch That Dial

by Connie Cortright

Now that we've heard all about the invention and improvements on the radio in the decade of the 1920s, let's look at what the radio craze produced. Why did all the millions of people across America want to listen to a radio?

As we've heard before, radios connected people from all walks of life with the outside world for the weather forecast or news bulletins. By the late 20s radio broadcasters enlarged the broadcast day from just the evening hours to the entire day. Farmers could hear the news and market reports while they were eating dinner over the noon hour.

A wife could listen to her favorite soap opera on the radio while ironing her husband's shirts. In fact, the name "soap opera" was attached to melodramatic radio programs with a continuing plot line sponsored by detergent companies. The first such soap opera Painted Dream started in 1930.  Guiding Light started as a radio program in 1937 and switched to a television soap in 1952 finally ending production in 2009 - the longest running soap opera produced. Other radio soaps were  Ma Perkins and Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories.

 Evening radio shows leaned more toward entertaining with music including National Barn Dance, Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, NBC Symphony Orchestra, and American Album of Familiar Music.

Fibber McGee & Molly
The light hearted listener was entertained by many choices of comedy radio programs. The better known ones are Amos & AndyFibber McGee and Molly, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Many of these programs started during the decade of the Great Depression. No wonder listeners tuned in every evening to laugh and be entertained while during the day they struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table. They needed a good laugh to brighten their lives.

The longest category for radio shows are the ones named after the sponsoring company. It makes sense that if you're sponsoring a program your name might as well be in the title such as: Bell Telephone HourPalmolive HourKraft Music Hall, Champion Spark Plug HourGeneral Electric ConcertFord Sunday Evening HourFleischmann's Yeast HourCarnation Contented Hour, and Chevrolet Music Moments Revue. I've heard of the companies, but never the radio shows.

The titles that are most recognizable from all these radio programs were ones that started as radio broadcasts and later became television shows in the late 40s or 50s. Many of them I watched as a child. You'll recognize many also, I'm betting. They include Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Dick Tracy, Death Valley DaysThe Jack Benny ProgramFlash GordonCharlie ChanThe Adventures of Ellery Queen, and Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Which was your favorite program you listened to or watched on television years ago? I'm betting you've heard of many of these titles before. It's hard for us to imagine how large an impact radio had on the lives of all the citizens of this country in the 20s and 30s. Probably comparable to television in today's world.

Information taken from 1930s American radio programs and Wikipedia.