Tuesday History: Headlines from July 4, 1917

READ ALL ABOUT IT: The Asheville Citizen included this illustration on the front page of its July 4, 1917 publication.

Are you curious what Asheville residents were reading about on Independence Day, 100 years ago, today? To start, The Asheville Citizen called for thunderstorms on July 4, 1917. Below the day’s weather report, the top headline proclaimed: “AMERICAN GUNNERY TWICE DEFEATS GERMAN EFFORTS TO TORPEDO TRANSPORTS: With Safe Arrival of the Final Contingent of American Troops in France, Details of Two Attempts by U-Boats to Sink American Transports Are Made Public — One Submarine Sunk by American Ships.”

World War I consumed most of the front page. An additional headline read: “AUSTRO-GERMANS ARE EVACUATING CITY OF BRZEZANY: Russian Armies Are Investing the City From Three Directions.”

Even Independence Day was viewed through the lens of battle: “AMERICANS WILL CELEBRATE REAL WAR TIME FOURTH: American Troops on Foreign Soil.”

On the national front, The Asheville Citizen anticipated a bitter fight between the Senate and House over the war revenue bill. Dubbed the “rich man’s bill,” by Illinois Rep. Henry Rainey, the article quotes the congressman as saying: “From the wealthy man’s viewpoint the senate draft certainly is an excellent measure. It would lift income [tax], automobile [tax], retroactive income [tax]and other taxes from the wealthy and settle the burden on the tea, sugar, cocoa and other necessaries used in every home.”

The only top news story unrelated to the war reported: “THIRTEEN COMPANIES OF GUARDSMEN PATROL STREETS OF EAST ST. LOUIS TO PREVENT RECURRENCE OF RIOTING: Rioting Resulted in the Death of Twenty-Eight Persons, Wounding of Seventy-Five and the Burning of 310 Negro Homes, and has Terrorized the Entire Community — Troops and Police are Charged with Negligence.” The article went on to note that employment, strikes and racial tension led to the riots.

It wasn’t until page three that The Asheville Citizen touched on local news. But even then, the war found its way into the story: “FIVE MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT LANDED BY LOCAL FIRM, REPORTED: Declared That Carolina Wood Products Company Will Build Naval Training Station at Norfolk — Will Also Build Parts for Airplanes Here.”


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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