The Year 1927 was a time of economic success – the natural outcome in times of peace. Vestiges of influenza still claimed lives, especially in Great Britain where up to 1,000 died per day; but the pandemic had passed in the United States.
Calvin Coolidge began his second term as President of the United States. He visited Keystone, South Dakota to dedicate Mount Rushmore as a National Park.
War memorials were erected on both sides of the Atlantic in 1927, as bodies of the slain were still being found and returned to grieving parents and wives. In Ypres, Belgium, the official WWI Memorial was dedicated in that year.
In 1927 the Mississippi River flooded to such an extent that 750,000 people were affected. It was the greatest natural disaster to hit the United States at that time.
Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, the first man to do so, landing his plane The Spirit of St. Louis , in Paris. A young Amelia Earhart earnestly read all she could about the trip – even then she was determined to beat his record.
Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs for his team, the New York Yankees. Inventor Philo T. Farnsworth transmitted the first television images. Singer Al Jolson sang in The Jazz Singer, the first talking motion picture. In New York City, the Holland Tunnel opened for traffic – and it has rarely stopped. In the same metropolis, Showboat opened on Broadway.
Some who were born ninety years ago were Coretta Scott King, Pope Benedict XVI, author Mary Higgins Clark, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, baseball great and Pennsylvania native Nellie Fox, actors Gina Lollobrigida and Sidney Poitier, and writer Erma Bombeck.
Those who died in 1927 included French writer Gaston LeRoux, author of The Phantom of the Opera ; the notorious Lizzie Borden, and in Gettysburg, 96-year old Emmanuel Weikert died on December 13th. Born in 1831, Mr. Weikert was a Civil War veteran who served with the 101st Pennsylvania Regiment. He was the oldest living Civil War veteran in Adams County at the time of his death.
The Year 1937 was a year where the Great Depression still pervaded America; and peace was frantically guarded, as war loomed again in Europe with Hitler’s "expansion program". Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain, realizing what could be the disastrous outcome for blatantly disobeying the Treaty of Versailles, insisted that Hitler sign a security pact. Hitler appeared to acquiesce, but kept up his intentions for extending German borders. In another broken nation, the Spanish Civil War raged; with rebel insurgents rising up with their leader, Francisco Franco. In 1937, Harold Dahl, an American pilot aiding the beleaguered loyalists, was shot down and condemned to death for his role against the rebels. Shortly before his planned execution, Dahl received a reprieve from Franco.
Accused of helping the Spanish rebels, Italy, led by Benito Mussolini, withdrew from The League of Nations.
In Asia,Japan invaded China with immense slaughter in Nanking. It was an ominous portent of things to come.
Franklin D. Roosevelt began his second term with the implementation of his New Deal. Ernest Hemingway published To Have and Have Not . John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit were also in bookstores. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind , published the previous year, won the Pulitzer Prize; and people across the nation were reading it. In movie theaters, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the first full-length animated motion picture, premiered with considerable success.
In Keystone, South Dakota, Abraham Lincoln’s likeness was unveiled and dedicated at Mount Rushmore.
In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public.
In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania invitations were issued to all 48 states, informing them of a final national Blue and Gray reunion to take place the following summer for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
On May 6, the airship Hindenburg , a dirigible from Germany, crossed the Atlantic with 97 people on board. While trying to land at the air base in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the ship caught fire and crashed, killing 35 people. Amazingly, 62 passengers and crew managed to survive. The accident ended the future for passenger-laden zeppelins.
Scarcely two months later, Amelia Earhart, in her attempt to be the first woman pilot to fly around the world, was lost over the South Pacific on July 2, with her navigator, Fred Noonan. Eighty years later, their disappearance is still a mystery as the airplane was never recovered.
Due to the need to save money, the five and dime store was a common business in small towns all over the United States. The most prosperous was the nationally known F. W. Woolworth Company.
In the Midwest, the years of drought had created havoc in terrible dust storms, the worst being in 1935 and 1936. By 1937, about nine million acres of homestead land was abandoned, making the homesteaders penniless and in hopeless debt. Even had they wanted to plant crops, the banks would not loan them money – they couldn’t due to the Depression – for purchasing seed, fueling the tractors or hiring workers. Known to history as The Dust Bowl, the experiment ended with ruined land and ruined lives. Many from Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado died from dust induced pneumonia. 5
England crowned a new king in 1937, the younger brother Albert of Edward VIII. The latter had abdicated the throne to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson. The couple, who became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, lived for nearly 40 years together on the Continent, banished from Great Britain by the Royal Family. Albert took the title of King George VI. He was the father of England’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Those who were born amid this trying year included baseball great Brooks Robinson, future Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, journalist Bob Schieffer, actors Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, comedian Bill Cosby, and notorious Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Those who left us in that year were Amelia Earhart, politician John D. Rockefeller, authors James Barrie, Edith Wharton and H.P. Lovecraft, composers George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel, J. Bruce Ismay of Titanic fame (or infamy), actress Jean Harlow at the young age of 26, and Civil War veteran Alvis D. Hewitt at the age of 95. Hewitt, a Tuscarora man and member of the Iroquois tribe from upper New York, was the last survivor of 285 Iroquois who joined the Union cause during the Civil War. A veteran of the 151st New York Infantry, Hewitt had taken part in The Gettysburg Campaign in chasing General Lee’s army to the Potomac, and later fought in the Mine Run Campaign. He was wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania. His passing was a solemn reminder that the surviving veterans of the Civil War were becoming rare indeed.6
The Year 1947 was one where peace had once again been established at a staggering price. World War II had ended in May 1945 against Germany, and later that summer against Japan. The relief of peace was short lived, however. In 1947 the Cold War began between the west and communism when the Soviets invaded Poland. That same year Russia invaded Hungary, and took over that nation in spite of great resistance. Harry Truman, President of the United States, issued the Truman Doctrine, enacted to halt the progression of Communism. The Communist concern caused some hysteria. Senator Joseph McCarthy began The House of Un-American Activities hearings, accusing Hollywood elites of Communist sympathies. Some were guilty, many were innocent. Careers were ruined. Some never worked again, as they were blacklisted after the publicity of the hearings reached across the nation.
To further protect the United States against the growing threat of Communism, President Truman signed into law the National Security Act. It brought about the creation of the CIA, the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council.
During the winter of 1947 a terrible blizzard struck the northern United States and Canada, burying entire cities in feet of snow. Across the Atlantic, Great Britain suffered similar issues with record snowfall. The following spring brought multiple tornadoes to the southern plains, devastating parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas.
The United Nations voted to create the nation of Israel and allowed displaced Jews to return to the land that had been part of their ancestry in millennia past. That same year, near the Dead Sea in Qumran, a young shepherd, trying to recover a lost sheep from a cave, threw a stone into the entrance and heard glass break. It was the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls, the first of many to be discovered after many centuries of obscurity.
In 1947 The Diary of Anne Frank was published. Tennessee Williams won the Pulitzer Prize for his drama A Streetcar Named Desire . Indira Gandhi became India’s first Prime Minister – as India and Pakistan became republics, liberated after decades of British rule.
In 1947 the Volkswagen Beetle was introduced to America. Jackie Robinson signed a contract to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In England, Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip of Mountbatten. That same year, Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, celebrated her 80th birthday. Writing by royal commission for the dowager queen, Agatha Christie, England’s famed author of mysteries, produced The Mousetrap as a radio play. The story remains the world’s longest running stage play, seventy years later.7
Some who were born in 1947 include authors Stephen King and Tom Clancy, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, baseball’s Nolan Ryan, basketball celebrity Kareem Abdul Jabar, singer David Bowie, former Massachusetts governor and Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, former California governor and movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and OJ Simpson.
Those who died in 1947 include gangster Al Capone, automobile mogul Henry Ford, pacifist Raoul Wallenberg, former First Lady Frances Cleveland, author Willa Cather, and Triple Crown Winner Seabiscuit.
The Year 1957 was the beginning of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term as President of the United States; and Ike often retreated to his Gettysburg Farm as he disliked life in the nation’s capital. In that year, he appointed Charles Whittaker to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Cold War continued, though Ike and the Soviet president, Nikita Khrushchev attempted to reconcile. Ike had even invited the world leader to his Gettysburg residence, where they talked among his Black Angus cattle.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed in Congress. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina set a record filibuster against its passage: 24 hours and 18 minutes. President Eisenhower sent Federal troops to Arkansas to allow nine minority students to enter Little Rock Central High School, in an attempt to end segregation.
Having recovered from a severe heart attack in 1955, Ike suffered a stroke in 1957, from ill health and the stress of his office.
That year the Soviets launched the first earth satellites, Sputnik I and II. Future astronaut Major John Glenn set the speed record, flying in a jet from California to New York City in 3 hours and 23 minutes. The Boeing 707 debuted.
That same year Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged. John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction with his book Profiles in Courage. In Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge opened to the public. Two teenaged boys, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, met at a garden fete in Liverpool, England.The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Hurricane Audrey devastated the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana, killing over 500 residents.
Some who were born in 1957 include Princess Caroline of Monaco, Caroline Kennedy, Osama Bin Laden, director Spike Lee, actor Daniel Day Lewis, golfer Payne Stewart, future Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and Martin Luther King III.
Some who died in 1957 were actor Humphrey Bogart, detective Elliot Ness, French composer Jean Sibelius, senator Joseph McCarthy, author Laura Ingalls Wilder, bandleader Jimmy Dorsey, comedian Oliver Hardy, designer Christian Dior, Hollywood film mogul Louis B. Mayer, and Prince George of Denmark.
The Year 1967 was a year of tumultuous exchange, much of it due to the War in Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson, who had become President with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, won the 1964 election. The Vietnam War had escalated with the United States bombing of Hanoi in 1967. Thousands protested the war, including one in New York City led by Martin Luther King Jr. Those who wished to support the U.S. troops in Vietnam staged a demonstration on 5th Avenue, with 50,000 participating.
The Six Day War between Israel and Arab nations also occurred that same year.
In the United States, three astronauts were killed when the Launchpad caught fire. NASA suspended any space launches for a time, to investigate the cause.
In 1967 Albert De Salvo was convicted of a series of murders. He was known as The Boston Strangler.
In Washington, D.C. the National Gallery of Art acquired Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de Benci. Fifty years later, the portrait remains – the only original da Vinci in North America.
In his Gettysburg office, Ike finished his memoirs, At Ease, which was published that year. Later that year his grandson, David, became engaged to Julie Nixon.
Among those who died in 1967 were poets Langston Hughes and John Masefield, actors Spencer Tracy, Basil Rathbone and Vivien Leigh; physicist Robert Oppenheimer, Lincoln biographer and poet Carl Sandburg, and folk singer Woodie Guthrie.
The Year 1977 found the United States free from war, but in the middle of an economic downturn and feeling the residue of an energy crisis. Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia, was President of the United States. In that year, Carter pardoned most of the American draft dodgers of the War in Vietnam. He also signed a treaty with Panama, giving up the United States ownership of the Panama Canal – the 48-mile stretch that connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Americans had purchased the land for the canal from France in 1904 and for ten years, at significant cost in treasure and human life, built the canal. The U.S. promised to turn over ownership of the canal and its entirety by the close of the 20th century.
That same year Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India, resigned. Brazilian soccer pro Pele played his final game before retirement. In Israel, Menachim Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel. Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, visited the Israeli Prime Minister in Israel, the first Arab leader to do so.
In 1977, passenger service began on The Concorde
, a supersonic jet with flights from New York City to London and Paris. Voyager I was launched. Rings were discovered on the planet Uranus.
There was a great blizzard in 1977 in the Great Lakes area and the Midwest, crippling states from New York to Michigan and Ohio.
In mid-July, a heat wave caused New York City residents to overuse air conditioning units. It caused a massive electrical failure for two days, creating a wide-spread blackout.
That summer Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her silver jubilee. The Seattle Mariners debuted in their home state of Washington. The Food Stamp Act was implemented. The miniseries Roots premiered on television.
There were some famous deaths in the year 1977. Among them were Elvis Presley, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx and Howard Hawks. Other historical figures who passed away that year included Clementine Churchill, the widow of Sir Winston Churchill, Ulysses S. Grant IV – great-grandson of the Civil War general and President of the same name; and pilot Gary Powers, who was shot down over the USSR during the Eisenhower Administration, having prevented any reconciliation in the Cold War for decades to come.
The Year 1987 saw an upswing in the nation’s economy, in spite of the Iran-Contra Affair. Ronald Reagan was in his second term as President of the United States. Gorbachev was the President of the USSR. In an attempt to show openness to the rest of the world, the Soviet leader introduced glasnost (Russian for candid ). When Reagan and Gorbachev met in Berlin, Germany; Reagan uttered his famous line in a speech: “ Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall .” Two years later, the wall did indeed come down.8
In 1987 Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. After a series of scathing reviews in the Senate, Bork was rejected.
That same year American Lynne Cox became the first person to swim the Bering Strait.
The Unabomber began a series of deadly assaults, beginning with a bomb left in a mailbox in Salt Lake City.
In 1987, Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess died in his cell, by suicide. He was believed to be the last of the Nazi war criminals. He was 93.
With the economy improving, three of artist Vincent Van Gogh’s original paintings were sold at record prices. Among them were his works “Sunflowers” and “Irises”.
Among those who died in 1987 were: Austrian singer Maria von Trapp, artist Andy Warhol, actors Fred Astaire, Lee Marvin, and Rita Hayworth; piano great Liberace, Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, Music Man Robert Preston, playwright Clare Booth Luce, and comedian Danny Kaye.
The Year 1997 was one of many changes. Bill Clinton began the year with his second term in office. He was soon beleaguered in the Lewinski Affair – though he denied any affiliation with the young intern, evidence soon proved otherwise.
In 1997, the Red River flooded at such a level to cause a deluge in North Dakota and Minnesota that residents had never before endured.
That same year the Confederation Bridge was completed in Canada. It is to date the longest over-water bridge in the world, connecting Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick. In 1997 an earthquake in Italy collapsed the ancient Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Millions of poultry were killed to quell the bird flu outbreak in Hong Kong. That same year, Great Britain agreed to turn over the government of Hong Kong to the Chinese, to take place at the end of the 20th century.
F.W. Woolworth, a 117-year old business of five and dime stores, popular during the First World War and Great Depression, especially, closed its doors. That same year The Gettysburg Experience debuted in July in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Jeanne Calment, the world’s oldest surviving person at that time, died in Arles, France at the age of 122. She recalled, as a young girl, seeing an artist come into her father’s store for painting supplies. He was Vincent Van Gogh.9
On August 31, Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident while escaping from the aggressive paparazzi in Paris with her boyfriend Dodi al Fayed. Her funeral at Westminster Abbey was seen by over 2 billion people around the world.
Other 1997 deaths included explorer Jacques Cousteau, actor James Stewart, designer Gianni Versace, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, comedian Red Skelton, and one of the last survivors of the Titanic – Edith Brown (at age 101). Any further Titanic survivors were infants at the time, and unable to remember the horrific night in the North Atlantic.
In an interesting twist of fate, actor James Stewart, who died at age 89, was the grandson of Colonel Samuel McCartney Jackson, a soldier with the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. Colonel Jackson fought courageously in the Wheatfield with his unit on July 2, 1863. His grandson, who never knew him, died on the 134th anniversary of the 2nd day’s fight at Gettysburg, a place he had visited as a youth. Stewart, on his father’s side, was also related to an Irish immigrant named Samuel Gettys. Samuel’s son, James, was the founder of the Borough of Gettysburg.10
The Year 2007 was one where war again sullied the landscape, in Iraq since 2002. A series of attacks and suicide bombings occurred all over the area, predominantly in Bagdad. George W. Bush was in his second term as President, and had recently lost Congress to the Democratic party.
In 2007 several Live Earth concerts were held in cities world-wide to create an awareness for climate change. That same year former Vice-President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in alerting the world to global warming.
The Phoenix spacecraft was launched that year for a mission to Mars. A massive earthquake struck Peru. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.
Others who left us in 2007 included Boris Yeltsin, Anna Nicole Smith, Lady Bird Johnson, Merv Griffin, Deborah Kerr, and Evel Knievel.
In looking back, it seems incredible that these events happened so long ago – for many it appears that they had occurred more recently.
To quote the historian George Santayana (1863-1952): "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness...They who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 11
Here is one from John Masefield that is much more optimistic: “ Most roads lead men homewards. My road leads me forth .” 12
Hence the reason for this article. It’s important to look back and realize. It’s more important to look ahead, and go there.
Sources: Bryant, Jane. Snapshots from the Past: A Roadside History of Denali National Park . National Park Service: 2011. Clark, Christopher. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. Curran, John. Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making . New York: HarperCollins, 2011. Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time . Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 2006. The Gettysburg Times, 09 Oct, 1937. Gettysburg Times, November 21 and 28, 1917. The Gettysburg Times, “Twenty Years Ago”, Mar. 22, 1937. The Gettysburg Times, Dec. 31, 1937. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History . New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. The Jimmy Stewart Museum, Indiana, PA. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations . Oxford University Press, 1980 (3rd edition). General Crawford’s Division File, Gettysburg National Military Park. Weikert, Edward L. The History of the Weikert Family: 1735-1930 . Harrisburg, PA: The Telegraph Press, 1930. Other information is gleaned from the author’s journals and personal recollection.
1. The Gettysburg Times, March 22, 1937.
2. The Gettysburg Times, Nov. 21, 1917.
3. The Gettysburg Times, Nov. 28, 1917.
4. Bryant, p. 4.
5. Egan, p. 279.
6. The Gettysburg Times, Oct. 9. 1937.
7. Curran, p. 193.
8. Author’s journal, 1987.
9. Author’s recollection on the death of Jeanne Calmet in 1997. It was on the news announcing her death that Ms. Calmet remembered seeing VanGogh enter her father’s shop purchasing brushes and paint.
10. Crawford Division File, GNMP. Jimmy Stewart Museum, Indiana, PA.
11. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, p. 414.
12. Ibid., p. 334 .