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100 Years Ago: February 1917


This is my 26th review of a National Geographic Magazine reaching its century mark.



As you can see from the cover there are three articles and a batch of photogravures in this issue.  The first article is on the state of immigration in this country as it stood one hundred years ago.   It is entitled “Our Foreign-Born Citizens” and has no byline.  While the article is 36 pages long, the last 16 pages are photographs.  The remaining 19 photographs (several full page and almost full page) are scattered through the article.  There are also two full-page charts containing nine bar graphs showing the states with the most immigrants from each country.  Lastly, there is a full-page map of the United States showing the percentage of immigrant “stock” (i.e. immigrants or children with at least one immigrant parent) in each state.

Photo courtesy of Philip Riviere.

The article itself discusses the politics of immigration with three presidents vetoing a restrictive immigration bill and the congress finally being able to override the latest veto.  The bill requires literacy and will cut immigration by a third to a half depending on the country of origin.  It then goes into the Great War and its effect on immigration.  Lastly, it discusses the debt we owe the immigrants and projects a future population and gives an estimate on how many people this country could support (900 million).


The second article entitled “Prizes for the Inventor – Some Problems Awaiting Solutions” by Alexander Graham Bell is his commencement speech to the McKinley Manual Training School in Washington, D.C.  It has seven full-page photographs.

Mr. Bell paints a promising future for those inclined to science, especially electrical and mechanical engineers.  “It is safe to say that scientific men and technical experts are destined in the future to occupy distinguished and honorable positions in all countries of the world.  Your future is assured.”

The need for alternate energy sources such as alcohol is stressed since coal and oil “are now within measurable distance of the end of supply”.  He talks about advancements in telephony and radio, and so on.  He notes to the female students that a woman discovered radioactivity.  He then goes into experiments reclaiming water from sea, fog, and even breath.  He discusses the savings that insulation can provide and the need for and experiments in air conditioning.  And he ends his discussion on transportation with a prediction of large scale air travel.


Between the second and the last articles of this issue are “16 Pages of Photogravure” entitled “Little Citizens of the World”.  As the title implies, these are images of children from around the globe.  In the past issues these engravings have been brown, but in this case, they have a distinct greenish hue.

As stated, these images are Photogravures. This is an art form in and of itself. Photogravure is a photo-mechanical process whereby a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which has been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high-quality intaglio print that can reproduce the detail and continuous tones of a photograph. It registers a wide variety of tones through the transfer of etching ink from an etched copper plate to a special damped paper run through the etching press. The unique tonal range comes from its variable depth of etching.  That is, the shadows are etched many times deeper than the highlights.


The fourth article is entitled “Bohemia and the Czechs” by Ales Hrdlicka, the Curator of Physical Anthropology in the U.S. National Museum.  Of its 25 photographs, 16 are full-page.  It has no map but references the August 1915 “Map of Europe”.

The article begins with the Allies stating that one of their conditions for peace with Germany was “the liberation of the Czecho-Slovaks from Austria-Hungary”.  It then goes into the nation’s history, its ups-and-downs.  It discusses the Bohemian’s contribution to science, music, literature, and such.  It then discusses famous Czechs finishing with immigrates to America.


After the text of the third article (there are still five full-page photos after this page) there is a notice to the members to beware of “Fraudulent Solicitors”.  Apparently, people had been passing themselves off as agents of the Society and selling bogus subscriptions.  Members are warned to only deal directly with National Geographic.



Tom Wilson

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