Saturday Evening Post Time Capsule: January 1917

As America entered 1917, Jazz made its way to New York, Charlie Chaplin entertained in theaters, and Americans were prospering from the war. But the good times were about to come to an end.

A busy conference hall
Image from page 261 of "Electric Railway Journal" (1908)

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Featured image: Image from page 261 of “Electric Railway Journal” (1908)

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  1. Jazz did not come to New York in 1917. It was already there for years. Ragtime, led by one of our greatest composers of jazz, James Reese Europe, made sure of that. His regimental band was one of the best ever and in 1918, while Harlem’s Hell Fighters were overseas, it brought jazz to the French countryside during an epic train trip from the coast to the Alps, stopping along the way to perform in village squares. Lieutenant Europe was tragically murdered while conducting his band in 1919. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

  2. I’m actually pretty surprised the U.S. stayed out of World War I as long as it did. We tend to think of it as being a shorter war (a year and a half) in 1917-’18, than it actually was.

    My grandfather Henry W. Pierce (1891-1977) was in the U.S. Army for that duration, and to this day don’t know how he did it. It was mind-boggling. In the ’70s (almost 6 decades later) he’d talk about it as though it was a recent event. As a teen at the time, I empathized, but didn’t fully understand what a horrific event it really was, and of course, the passage of several decades not making that much difference. Why would it? How could it?

    Interesting too about the flourishing economy in 1917, the various and vanishing auto makes, Chaplin in the theaters, and the suffragettes getting closer than they realized to closing the deal on women having the right to vote.


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