The Year 1913

A lot happened in 1913. It’s a year often neglected by history books since so much that was world-changing occurred during the 1914 to 1918 Great War that followed. However, I’m working on a project that spins around the years 1913 to 1916 so I’ve had the good fortune to learn more about this time. These are some of the remarkable events that happened a hundred years ago.

In 1913:

  • Joseph Stalin, Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky and Marshal Tito live in the same city – Vienna. Some historians believe Adolf Hitler was in Vienna from 1908 to 1913. Those individuals in the same city, in the same year.
  • The Parliament of South Africa forbids black Africans from owning or buying land.
  • The British House of Commons rejects women’s right to vote. Suffragette Emily Pankhurst is jailed for three years.
  • The most significant event in Irish labor history, The Dublin Lockout, occurs.
  • Gandhi begins his Great March in South Africa.
  • The First Balkan War (which began in 1912) ends. The Second Balkan War begins and ends.
  • The King of Greece, George I, is assassinated.
  • Stainless steel is invented.
  • The zipper is invented.
  • The radio receiver is invented.
  • The x-ray machine is invented.
  • The Federal Reserve System (the central banking system of the United States) is invented.
  • Ford introduces the first assembly line.
  • The first packaged cigarette (Camel) is invented.
  • The first Indian feature film, Raja Harishchandra, is released.
  • The first elastic bra is patented.
  • The United States introduces income tax.
  • The first crossword puzzle is published.
  • The Foundation Stone for the Australian capital in Canberra is laid.
  • The Woolworth Building opens in New York City.
  • The Great Lakes Storm kills 250 people, destroys 19 ships, strands 19 others.
  • Richard Nixon, Rosa Parks, Albert Camus, Gerald Ford, Hedy Lamarr, Benjamin Britten, Jesse Owens and Vivienne Leigh are born.
  • Frida Kahlo is diagnosed with polio.
  • Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract.
  • Houdini starts performing upside-down straitjacket escapes.
  • Coco Chanel opens her first boutique.
  • D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers is published.
  • Igor Stravinsky’s ballet score The Rite of Spring premieres in Paris, and starts a riot.

Reviewing Charles Emmerson’s book 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War, an uncredited Economist article says: ‘The world of 1913 was quite like that of 2013: modern, substantially urbanised and, even as Woodrow Wilson set about slashing import tariffs, thriving on global trade. The report of a bad harvest in Canada could mean a fall on the London stockmarket the next day, and the arrangement of imports of Russian wheat by the end of the week. The European empires augmented these linkages; advertisements in one London paper recommended holidays in Sudan, with travel by “express steamers and sleepcar trains-de-luxe”. Yet challenges to colonial rule in India, South Africa and elsewhere, were becoming louder…’

For all we like to believe that ours is the first time of fast change, it’s not true. The people of 1913 may not have known about international events and inventions as quickly as the internet now allows, but their world changed dramatically, rapidly and profoundly in a very short space of time. And then, they had to live through a war in which more than 35 million people across the globe were wounded or died. Imagine…

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