August 13, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The headlines:

One Great Battle Rages Over Front of Fully 300 Miles

“The Germans still strove today to force their way through Belgium to the French frontier.

“Along the Franco-German frontier, too, fierce fighting raged from the Belgian to the Swiss border.

“French, Belgians and English struggled desperately to drive the Germans back.”

Fight on French Soil Is Fierce One And Hand to Hand

“French and Germans were fighting furiously today on French soil just west of the Luxembourg frontier.”

“Much of the fighting, instead of being long range, which it was expected would be the rule in the present war, was hand to hand, and the slaughter was dreadful.”

“General Joffre, the French commander, was covering immense distances up and down the lines in a racing automobile. Georges Boillot, thrice winner of the Grand Prix, acted as his chauffeur.”

Thrifty French Salted Down All Small Change

William Philip Sims, reporting from Paris, observed that he “came near to starving to death in Paris because nobody had change for my money.” French housewives had to buy on credit or go without market products as smaller merchants were caught without change. This was due to the French having changed all of their paper money in silver and gold coin against the fear of inflation during the war. The “change famine” lasted until the Bank of France began issuing smaller 25 franc notes.

Cattle Cost Down and Beef Price Up Shows It Is Graft

Reacting to the apparently abnormal inflation of food prices, President Wilson, writing to his Attorney General said that “The rapid and unwarranted increase in the prices of foodstuffs in this country on the pretext of conditions existing in Europe is so serious and vital a matter that I take the liberty of calling your attention to it.” This was in response to the price of beef increasing while the price of cattle was dropping on the markets as evidence of price gouging.

Decide To Repair the Steel Bridge Will Build Later

“Decision to replank the steel bridge over the Willamette river here, to put new stringers where needed, and to stiffen the approach at the west end was made this morning as the result of an examination of the bridge by the county courts of Marion and Polk counties. This work is found necessary to make the bridge passable until a new structure could be built.”

“During the examination this morning it was found that the top portions of the stringers had become infested with dry rot, that the nails were working loose from the planking, and that a majority of the piling sustaining the approach were mere hollow shells, inside being weakened by dry rot. Pounding on the outside with a pocket knife resulted in revealing the decayed interior. Bolts were found to be loose, although the bracings were strong and well put together.”

On the editorial page, and reflecting concerns that affect us a century later, the editor notes how “Oregonians . . . spend some printer’s ink and spoil much innocent white paper changing and amending the state constitution . . . in order to do something which it is discovered that sacred instrument prohibits.”

August 14Whether out of levity or telegraphing the paper’s opinion of the franchise for women, the editor notes the following:

No doubt the Kaiser was deceived as to the course England would take when he declared he would back up Austria. You see the Kaiser had no means of knowing, and of course never suspected the suffragettes would quit and thus leave England free to join his enemies.

On the labor front, the paper reports that and Attorney General’s opinion provides that women can only work nine hours a day picking hops. However, girls may work longer hours provided their mothers’ act as chaperones.

The August 13th edition of the the Statesman includes this letter from Gustav Maag, pastor of the German M. E. church:

I wish to take slight exception to the statement credited to R. N. Avison in connection with the war, in today’s issue of your paper, and also to an editorial of The Statesman in the same issue. I am a native of Switzerland and take a somewhat neutral position, but desire to correct erroneous impressions given your readers regarding the situation of Germany in the European war.

I desire to correct the statement of Dr. Avison, who I understand is a Canadian, and probably sympathizes with the triple entente. I lived for many years as pastor in Germany and know the German people and government well. The statement about oppression and clamor for democracy has no foundation; because the German people love and honor their emperor and rulers and are loyal to a man. Even the Socialist party in Germany has through its foremost leader in the Reichstag tendered its services in this war. There is absolutely no revolutionary element like the chauvinists and apaches in France, who are always ready to cause trouble. Dr. A. E. Rucher, editor of the Haus and Herd at Cincinnati, Ohio, who was a professor for seventeen years at Frankfort am Main, and an American citizen, said to me recently that Ge the best governed nation in the world.

The charge that the Emperor William is an ambitious military dictator falls in the ground when we remember that for forty-three years Germany has stood for an maintained the peace of Europe. As for Germany seeking an outlet for her products in Austria-Hungary that is nonsense, because Austria-Hungary comes near to being the granary of Europe.

I take especial exception to the prophecy of Rev. Avison who declares “With the powers arrayed against Germany as they now are, she has but little chance of ever regaining her power. She will sink back and be a second Italy, Spain or Portugal.” Does Dr. Avison imagine that a nation of seventy million such people as the Germans, with their record of achievement in history, in commerce, in warfare, and science and morality and religion, can be reduced to the condition of Spain? He has a false conception of the character of the German people.

Dr. Avison speaks of the oppression of the poor by high taxes in Germany. Can he give us any authority for his statement, as compared with the taxation of the people in Oregon? Are they really so much better off here, or does he know anything about it? Will he give us the per capita military expenditures of Great Britain, Germany and the United States? He will find the budgets of the three nations compare favorably for Germany from the standpoint of military taxes.

Germany is amply provisioned for a year and if Dr. Avison would go to Germany with me and see the government military stores held in advance for just such occasions, he would not talk about the German nation facing starvation. The conclusion that Germany is being hurled back a hundred years by the mistakes of her ruler must be proven by the logic of events. It is an idle speculation.


About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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