Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Her Own Way: The World in 1902

In Her Own Way, one of the characters goes off with the 91st Regiment of New York to fight in the Philippines. The Philippine-American War was fought from 1899 to 1902. The US acquired colonial rights over the Philippines from Spain as a result of the Spanish-American War in 1898, but indigenous revolutionaries revolted and attempted to establish self-rule. In 1898 US President McKinley (immortalized in Arcata by the statue in the Plaza) issued a Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation and sent troops to put down rebellions.

 The rhetoric of the time—reflected in the play—was America as the benevolent agent of modern civilization to a primitive Pacific island culture. But many, including Mark Twain, vociferously opposed these wars and denounced them as American imperialism.

 A number of New York National Guard units were called into service, and twelve infantry regiments from New York fought in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars, though it’s not clear that the 91st—which gained fame in the Civil War—was one of them.

 One of the characters in Her Own Way is addicted to stock speculation. He can’t resist the stock tip that could bring him instant wealth. Stock speculation was in fact rampant at the turn of the 20th century, and insiders were known to provide “tips” that paid off. It was the era of the Trusts and powerful banks, with little regulation (and no income tax.) It is said that attractive chorus girls in Broadway productions made small fortunes from stock tips provided by their wealthy Wall Street admirers.

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