One of the top-grossing American films of 1940 was the western Santa Fe Trail, the seventh Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland collaboration. The story concerns John Brown’s campaign against slavery just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Starting out on an acting career, young Ronald Reagan appeared in the story line as George Armstrong Custer. [Read more…] about Wilhelm Grosz: The Red Sails of Forced Migration
On February 4th, 2006, La Repubblica reported the funeral in Rome of Romano Mussolini. His death had been made public by former actress and politician Alessandro Mussolini, Romano’s daughter out of his first marriage to Maria Scicolone (the younger sister of Sophia Loren) on the website of her neo-Fascist party Alternativa Sociale.
The church service began with Gershwin’s “Summertime” and ended with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Outside the church hundreds of mourners paid their respect with Fascist salutes.
Fascism, jazz and black gospel mentioned in the same context and a service that had started with a classic tune by a composer of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry. What brought this contradictory intertwining about? [Read more…] about Jazz, Mussolini and Italian Fascism
When the sidewheel steamboat Horicon II was launched on Lake George in 1910, she was both the longest and fastest passenger vessel to ever sail the lake. Over the next 29 years, she would be used for transportation of cargo and residents around the lake, as well as cruises for tourists.
The construction of a road on the west side of the lake, as well as the region’s rapidly increasing mobility with the introduction of the automobile, brought a dramatic decline in passengers. In response to this trend, in 1932 the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, owners of the steamboats on the lake through the Lake George Steamboat Company, announced that they would not be running boats that year. [Read more…] about The Showboat Era on Lake George 1933-1937
Baker had started her career as a young dancer in Vaudeville shows where her exuberant talent was quickly spotted. When she moved to New York City she joined in the festival of black life and art now known as the Harlem Renaissance, but segregation and racism drove her away from home. [Read more…] about The Cabaret Trail: 1920s Urban Nightlife in New York, Paris & London
One of the effects of colonial expansion in the nineteenth century was that museums stopped being exclusively Euro-centered. The mapping of the annexed world was a responsibility of colonial governments which employed scholars to carry out the tasks of collecting and recording. Curators changed their collecting focus.
Works of art from Africa and Pacific Oceania that were looted, stolen or cheaply acquired without concern about provenance, found their way from British, French, Dutch, and Belgian colonial territories to the museums and curiosity shops of Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Brussels. [Read more…] about The Cake Walk, Prohibition & John Philip Sousa: Ragtime Wild Paris
The John and Alice Coltrane Home in the Dix Hills neighborhood of Huntington, on Long Island, NY, was awarded a million dollar grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the preservation of the house, enhance organizational capacity, and expand programmatic offerings.
The multi-year grant is expected to be used to support rehabilitation of the home where great works of twentieth-century music were created, and to hire a full-time executive director to lead the project. The home is where jazz saxophonist John Coltrane lived from 1964 until his death in 1967 and in which he composed A Love Supreme. [Read more…] about Historic John Coltrane Home Gets $1M Grant
On November 11th, 1919, the first anniversary was celebrated of the Armistice that ended the First World War. For the occasion, a grand ball was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Top of the bill was the hugely popular Southern Syncopated Orchestra, one of the first jazz bands to visit Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. [Read more…] about Anxiety Over Jazz In Ireland Followed A Tragic Shipwreck
On April 6th 1917 America declared war against Germany. It was the first time in the nation’s history that the United States sent soldiers abroad to defend foreign soil. In May 1917, General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing was designated Supreme Commander of the troops in France. He assembled the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in July 1917 and its involvement on the battlefield tipped the balance in favor of Allied Forces towards the middle of 1918. [Read more…] about ‘Black Devils’ At War In Europe & At Home
When Paris first heard American jazz, it is – from our perspective – impossible to make sense of the cultural thunderbolt that must have hit audiences. This music was so wholly different to European ears that it was either scornfully rejected or eagerly accepted. [Read more…] about Harlem & The Hellfighter Band That Set France Jazz Mad
Throughout the nineteenth century, prostitution was rife in American cities. In 1820 there were an estimated two hundred brothels in New York, growing to more than six hundred after the Civil War. By the early 1840s the city was the nation’s whoring capital, its own Gomorrah.
Most houses of assignation before the Civil War were owned and controlled by women. Some madams made spectacular careers, nobody more so than Fanny White whose Mercer Street brothel was, from 1851 onward, a meeting place for Congressmen, dignitaries and diplomats – a Manhattan whoreocracy. [Read more…] about Manhattan ‘Flash’ Culture: Madams and Sporting Men