Recently on Adirondack Almanack, two inventions of Ogdensburg native William Chauncey Geer (who lived in Potsdam for ten years of his youth) were addressed, one of them a writing implement to replace pens, pencils, and crayons (an idea that was ultimately relegated to oblivion). The other was a highly successful project resulting in a standard golf ball used by professionals for more than two decades.
Three of Geer’s other works deeply impacted America and the world. The subject here is the third most prominent among them — the gas mask. Its importance rose unexpectedly to critical levels during the First World War when the Germans began engaging in large-scale chemical warfare. » Continue Reading.
Endless commentary and opinions across various media reveal such modern political divisiveness that sometimes it makes you wonder: “Was it always like this?”
The answer is no: sometimes it was worse and sometimes it was better. Without going into detail, worse would be the Civil War, the Prohibition Era, two world wars, and the 1960s (daily televised scenes of police dogs and fire hoses used against civil rights and war protesters, daily gore and body counts from Vietnam, multiple assassinations). » Continue Reading.
The word hero is often tossed around loosely, but when it comes to wounded soldiers, no one argues that it’s fitting — so what does it say about someone else when wounded soldiers call them heroes? Consider American women during World War I. Although many wanted to, they didn’t have to serve because of their sex, and could support the troops by important actions at home. But some chose to place themselves near the front lines, and with no weapons to defend themselves. Their only protection came from nebulous agreements by both sides not to bomb hospitals and care centers.
That’s what nurses did, risking their lives to comfort, save the lives of, or ease the deaths of, soldiers. Which explains why so many wounded men referred to nurses as the real heroes. A fine example of that circumstance, with an unusual twist or two, involved Ruth Williams of Ogdensburg. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack History Museum is set to open for the 2018 season on Saturday, May 26th with a seasonal exhibit reflecting on World War One and a new permanent exhibit, Hiking in the Adirondack High Peaks.
The exhibit, Over There: Local Boys Go to War, examines the impact of World War I on the men of the Adirondacks. The exhibit features local stories and experiences presented through photographs, artifacts, and ephemera. » Continue Reading.
The Ticonderoga Historical Society has invited the public to a free program focusing on the Postal Service in World War One, on Friday, November 3 at 7 pm. Featured speaker will be Glenn Estus, President of the Vermont Philatelic Society.
As part of the overall support for U.S. Entry into World War One, The United States Post Office Department participated in efforts to help raise funds. One method included cancelling mail with slogans that encouraged Americans to buy Liberty Loans. The United States was not alone in this effort, and this program will also show how allied nations such as Canada, Newfoundland, UK, New Zealand, and Australia undertook similar programs. » Continue Reading.
A companion catalog to the New York State Museum exhibition of the same name, Aaron Noble’s new book A Spirit of Sacrifice: New York State in the First World War (SUNY Press, 2017) documents the statewide story of New York in World War I through the collections of the New York State Museum, Library, and Archives.
Within the collections are the nearly 3,600 posters of the Benjamin W. Arnold World War I Poster Collection at the New York State Library. The book interweaves the story of New York in the Great War with some of these posters, and artifacts from museums, libraries, and historical societies from across New York State, to illuminate the involvement of New Yorkers in the War. » Continue Reading.
The Ticonderoga Historical Society will open its newest multi-year exhibit with a program and reception on Friday, April 21 at 7 pm. Historical Society President Bill Dolback will present the opening talk, which is free and open to the public.
The new exhibit “Til It’s Over Over There” takes its name from a popular World War One era song and looks at United States’ entry into the war in 1917, nearly three years after the conflict began in Europe. » Continue Reading.
To mark the centennial of World War One the Historical Association in Canton is seeking to recognize St. Lawrence County contributions to the war effort as well as the war’s impact on local families.
In honor of the centennial of the United States’ entry into WWI in 1917, the Association has opened a new exhibition, “Come On!: Posters and Portraits of World War I.”
The exhibit shows posters for war bonds alongside photographic portraits of local soldiers. Most of the photos are unidentified, and the museum welcomes visitors who recognize a friend or family member to help identify them. » Continue Reading.
Goodness has long been an admirable part of our identity as Americans. It is evident at the national level in our response when natural disasters strike here or abroad. Closer to home, we see it manifested daily in our own Adirondacks and foothills, where people donate, volunteer, and reach out to help others. Our foundation as small-town folk is one of welcoming, caring, sharing.
Along with that comes the knowledge that we’re also lucky to be Americans, lucky to not have been born in some other country where things are much different. Many of the lessons we learned in school were derived from the struggles of others in less fortunate circumstances.
We were taught to appreciate certain rights and freedoms, to speak out against perceived wrongs, to defend the less capable, and to question the directives of those in leadership positions. In some countries, those rights are viewed as privileges for the chosen few, or are not available at all. » Continue Reading.
In observing National Women’s History Month 2016 (March), the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) has adopted the theme, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” Among the women specifically cited is Judy Hart (1941–present), whose 27-year career with the National Park Service included a stint as the first superintendent of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park in Richmond, California, a facility she helped create.
As the NWHP notes, “over 9,000 Rosies have contributed their stories to the park, and more than 2,000 have donated their personal items and mementos.” It’s fortunate that the Rosies are so well represented, but unfortunate that their World War I counterparts, who laid the groundwork for the Rosie movement, are largely overlooked. » Continue Reading.
A little-known forest retreat called Brandreth Park has several unimpressive dwellings and sparse communication with the outside world. Yet back in the dark days of World War II generals Eisenhower, Marshal, Patton and others in the American military headquarters of England and Europe felt it necessary to keep their lines of communication open and flowing with one of its residents, Major General Fox Conner, U.S Army, Retired.
It’s safe to say that most Americans have never heard of Brandreth Park or of this soldier who never served in WWII but who nonetheless contributed to the victory over Germany. Those who do remember Conner, consider him “the man who made Eisenhower”. » Continue Reading.
Much of the time spent honoring past members of the military is focused on heroes, or those who died in battle. It’s certainly appropriate, but often lost in the shuffle are individuals who survived unscathed after serving with great distinction. An excellent North Country example is Robert Haggart, who made a career out of military service, was known nationally, commanded tens of thousands of men, and was responsible for training vast numbers of naval recruits.
Robert Stevenson Haggart was born in April 1891 to Benjamin and Annie (Russell) Haggart of Salem, New York, in Washington County. After finishing school at the age of 17, he received an appointment to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. » Continue Reading.
Public endeavors that bring huge benefits to the participant (we’re talking state-level and national politics here) can be a tricky thing when you want people to know that you’re in it for them and not for yourself. A popular way for politicians to demonstrate their intentions (altruism) is to invoke the children, as in “our children and our grandchildren.”
I can’t help but laugh when it’s used today because it should be worn out by now. Yes, I know … it really means a concern for the future, but it’s so much more poignant and meaningful when it’s “for the kids.” The term has been used so much, it should be considered child-phrase abuse. » Continue Reading.
The Potsdam area of St. Lawrence County is home to many citizens of great accomplishment. The achievement list is extensive: a US Secretary of State; a Nobel Peace Prize winner; a judge on the World Court; an attorney known as the “Trust Buster” for defeating multiple gigantic corporations, including Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company; and a man who was the force behind the historic Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928.
There’s more, including a senator from Minnesota and a US Ambassador to Great Britain. By any standard, that’s an impressive list. What makes it truly mindboggling is one other fact: those are all the accomplishments of a single North Country native. Frank Billings Kellogg had such a varied, successful career that even an outline of his life is very impressive. He was born in Potsdam in December 1856, the son of Asa Farnsworth Kellogg and Abigail Billings Kellogg. The family moved to Long Lake, New York, in 1857, and then relocated west to a small farm in Minnesota in 1865.
Five years later, Asa’s health problems forced fourteen-year-old Frank to quit school in order to run the farm. In 1872, the family moved to Olmsted County, where they assumed operations of a larger farm. These seemingly trivial events would play an important role in Kellogg’s career.
In 1875, when he was nineteen, Frank left the farm and moved to nearby Rochester, Minnesota, where he ran errands and did chores in exchange for the opportunity to read and study law in a local office. He worked on nearby farms to support himself.
Two years later, the young, self-taught lawyer was admitted to the bar, and within a year was appointed Rochester city attorney. In 1881, he became Olmsted County attorney, a position he held until 1887. During his tenure, Frank won an important case representing two townships against a railroad company, which helped establish his eventual career path.
He married Clara Cook in 1886, and in the following year became a member of Davis, Kellogg, and Severance, a new firm that for decades remained one of the top corporate law firms in the Midwest. Among their clients were some of the most powerful businessmen and politicians in the country.
For several years, Frank was a Minnesota delegate to the Republican National Convention, while also serving the party in several other capacities. In 1905, his reputation led to assignment as prosecutor of the Western Paper Trust for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. His efforts forced the company to dissolve in 1906, and Kellogg became known as a “trust-buster.”
During the next several years, Teddy Roosevelt appointed him to similar ventures against several railroad trusts and Standard Oil, the massive corporation owned by J. D. Rockefeller, the world’s richest man. In each case, Kellogg won, enhancing his public persona. His victory over Standard Oil solidified the perception that Frank was the nation’s top trust-buster.
In 1912, he was elected president of the American Bar Association. Kellogg left Republican ranks to support Roosevelt’s presidential campaign under the Progressive Party, but in 1916, he returned to the GOP and became the first Minnesota senator ever elected by popular vote.
After serving for six years, Kellogg lost his re-election bid. In 1923, shortly after leaving office, he began his first diplomatic mission, having been assigned by President Harding to the Fifth Pan-American Conference, held in Chile. Harding died later that year, and when Kellogg returned, President Coolidge appointed him as US ambassador to Great Britain, a position he assumed for two years.
In 1925, Coolidge named him Secretary of State, and through 1929 he represented American interests around the world. Kellogg was a strong proponent of arbitration rather than military involvement to settle international disputes. He signed a record number of treaties during his tenure (more than eighty). The most famous of all was the Pact of Paris, often referred to as the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
In the years following the horrors of World War I, French Foreign Minister Aristide Brand called for a treaty with the US, specifically denouncing war. Kellogg was less than enthusiastic initially, wary of making the US appear weak.
But the concept aligned with his own beliefs, and Kellogg seized the opportunity, offering a remarkable counter-proposal: a treaty “renouncing war as an instrument of national policy.”
He pushed the idea for all he was worth, and in August 1928, an agreement was signed. Eventually, more than 60 nations committed to the alliance.
Though war continued in the years to come, Kellogg’s efforts were lauded by many as an honorable, honest attempt at eliminating war as a tool for settling differences. Until the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, war had been accepted worldwide as a legal policy. There was no clause providing for punishment of violators, causing some to label the new pact as a futile effort. Others deemed it an idea well worth pursuing.
After leaving office in 1929, Frank toured Europe and America, receiving many honorary degrees and other laurels for his work towards ending international conflict. In addition to the French Legion of Honor medal, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929.
A year later, Kellogg was elected to the World Court, but resigned in 1935 due to health reasons. He passed away in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 21, 1937, one day shy of his 81st birthday. Death spared him the great disappointment of seeing world war afflict the planet less than two years in the future.
Though some dismissed his efforts for world peace as misguided and unrealistic, many others admired Kellogg’s adherence to a noble, worthy cause. To not pursue the opportunity would have meant giving up hope.
And as a man who rose from the humble beginnings of a poor farm boy, a self-educated attorney who reached the top of his profession, and a man who performed for years on the world stage, Frank Kellogg knew a thing or two about hope.
Photos: Frank Billings Kellogg (circa 1900); in the East Room of the White House in 1929, standing are Calvin Coolidge, President Herbert Hoover, and Frank B. Kellogg, with representatives of the governments that ratified the Kellogg-Briand Pact; Frank Billings Kellogg (1912).
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
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