Annual Year in Review (100 Years Later): Physical Distancing/Bored At Home Edition

By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We offer our two cents on the most important events of 1910. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Remember December? It was only 4 months ago, despite how long ago it feels. When we convened for our Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)™ we wrote that 2019 had been “a slog” and that “consuming news this year has rarely left us with an overwhelming feeling of optimism.” Then 2020 came along and said “hold my beer.”

The work that has been published here on Active History and elsewhere putting contemporary events into context has been remarkable and we have eagerly visited the site every morning to see what new gem has been published. As we discussed in the most recent episode of the History Slam, though, we are also seeking content that will provide a brief respite from the news. That’s why marble racing has become a staple of lunch time at Sean’s house.

So we got to thinking if there was something we could do in that same vein and Aaron remembered that in our zeal to review years 100 years later, we hadn’t looked at the entirety of the 1910s and that it would be good to back and rectify this unacceptable oversight. So that’s what we are doing. Over the next 3 weeks we will recap the years which were not included during our annual brackets. This will culminate on May 13 when we determine the most important event of the 1910s with the eagerly anticipated ‘Winners at War’ Bracket.

Today, it’s 1910. We have 16 events broken into four brackets: Things That Move, Pre-Netflix and Chill, Well Intentioned Inventions, and, of course, Potpourri. As always, we welcome your thoughts on the matchups and hope that you enjoy these brackets in the lighthearted spirit with which they are written.

Things That Move Bracket

(1) Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy


(4) German Zeppelin Deutschland Makes 1st Commercial Passenger Flight

Aaron: The British Empire was built on the strength of its navy. As an island nation, the United Kingdom had to dominate the seas if it had any chance of expanding its influence. Before 1910, Canada, as a British dominion, was reliant on the Royal Navy to protect its offshore interests and maritime defence, which, up until the 20th century, was not a priority. The Royal Navy patrolled the seas and, until this time, was unrivaled on the seas.  That changed in May 1910, however, when the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier introduced the Naval Service Act. Its intent was to create a separate navy for Canada but one that, if necessary, could be placed under British control in times of war.

Recruiting poster from the First World War

The main impetus for the creation of a Canadian navy was the arms race between Britain and Germany – the Dreadnought crisis. Britain required assistance from its Dominions, either in the form of money or them assuming more responsibility for their maritime defence. Laurier and his supporters preferred the creation of a unique Canadian navy, arguing it was a better long-term solution. Canadian imperialists, on the other hand, believed that Canada’s responsibility was to the Empire first and that monetary contributions were the preferred option. French Canadian nationalists, led by Henri Bourassa, opposed Canada having any involvement whatsoever in Britain’s naval problems.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament in January 1910, and it proposed the creation of a small Canadian navy under the Department of Naval Services; the creation of a naval college at Halifax; and the construction of five cruisers and six destroyers. In October 1910, Britain transferred the Royal Navy cruiser the HMS Niobe to Canada, and in November it transferred the HMS Rainbow, which became the basis of Canada’s young navy. English Canadian conservatives famously decried the move and called it Canada’s “Tin Pot Navy”. With the onset of war in 1914, though, the issue became moot as Canada automatically entered the fight against Germany and its allies, and the ships under Canada’s control fell under the command of the Royal Navy.

Over time, Canada expanded its navy and the Royal Canadian Navy was instrumental in assisting the Allies during the Second World War. In 1945, Canada’s navy was one of the largest in the world. Today, the Royal Canadian Navy continues its mission around the world, offering support to those that need it while simultaneously protecting Canada’s maritime borders.

 So I said goodbye to all my friends/

And packed my hopes inside a matchbox/

‘Cause I know its time to fly­

-Led Zeppelin, “Night Flight,” 1975

The dawn of the 20th century brought immense changes in how people, and things, moved. The airplane is certainly the most famous of the early century, but the Zeppelin rigid air ship was the first aircraft used to transport people successfully.

The Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (DELAG), in English, the German Airship Travel Corporation, was founded in November 1909, and it commenced services in June 1910.  DELAG’s first ship, the Deutschland, made its first flight on June 19, 1910. It had a lift of 5,000kg, accommodation for 24 passengers, and a cruising speed of 51km/h. The Deutschland travelled from Friedrichshafen to Düsseldorf – in 9 hours. For 1910, that was quite an accomplishment, but also a failure. Due to the slow speed it was not feasible to use the ship for city-to-city service. Undeterred, DELAG built a second airship, the Deutschland II (the first was destroyed in an accident) and in May 1911 recommenced the city-to-city option for 200 deutschmarks.

DELAG showed that it was possible to transport humans from one location to another by air, significantly reducing travel time. Further advancements to Zeppelin technology continued to push air travel and newer and faster designs were created.

The winner of this match up is the creation of the Canadian Navy. The Naval Service Act was a significant step forward for Canada, not only in nation-building but putting Canada on the world’s stage. The navy – designated the Royal Canadian Navy on 29 August 1911 by King George V – played a significant role in helping the Entente powers during the First World War and, as noted earlier, became one of the world’s largest navies following the Second World War. It continues to play a significant role on the oceans around the world.

DELAG went on to offer some other incredible services, such as a regular nonstop transatlantic service – its first flight was from Friedrichshafen on 11 October and arrived in Lakehurst Field, New Jersey, on 15 October. However, DELAG ceased operations in 1935 – its successor was the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, which included the famous Hindenburg.

Sean: Oh, the humanity! I am in shock of the ease with which you have come to this conclusion. The Royal Canadian Navy is great and its history is filled with some of the most valiant individuals this country has ever produced – Captain Frederick Thornton Peters comes to mind. But in terms of innovation and long-term significance, an organization that provided passenger flight is a remarkable advance. Nautical navigation – even in conflicts – has been around forever, but flight, that was a game changer. And while my bias towards all things flying is well established, I don’t think this one is as open-and-shut as you make it out.

Aaron:  Your bias is totally showing, Sean. You saw “something that flies” and you immediately assumed that it should win. The sheer fact that the Canadian Navy is still around more than 100 years later, while the Zeppelin is in the dustbin of history is enough, in my humble opinion, for the result mentioned above. 

Sean: Dustbin of history? How do you explain this?

Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy Wins (67-60.)

(2) Raymonde de Laroche Becomes First Woman to Earn a Pilot’s Licence


(3) William Howard Taft is First President to Throw a First Pitch on Opening Day

Sean: Aviation v. Baseball – I am simultaneously thrilled and sad. Thrilled that these two are included, but sad that one of them has to be eliminated so early.

Raymonde de Laroche standing on one of her early aircraft

Born in the summer of 1882 as Elise Raymonde Deroche, Raymonde de Laroche (which was her stage name during her time as an actor) closely followed advancements in aviation through the first decade of the 20th century, befriending plenty of aviators in the process. In 1909 she pushed her friend Charles Voisin to teach her how to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. She had experience as a ballooner, but this was a completely different skill set. Her career got off to a difficult start with a crash not long after she started, resulting in a broken collarbone and concussion. Undeterred, she recovered and in March, 1910 was presented with licence #36 of the International Aeronautics Federation (F.A.I).

As a newly licenced pilot, she turned her attention to competitions, setting records for distance and altitude by a female pilot. She also won the Femina Cup for piloting a non-stop, long-distance flight of over four hours. Those achievements were not without danger, however, as she was seriously injured after she got caught in the wake of another plane during an airshow and crashed. Ever determined to fly again, she recovered and returned to the flight deck until the First World War grounded all women pilots. During the time she wasn’t permitted to fly, de Laroche served as driver for the French army where she transported officers, a job which required her to occasionally navigate artillery fire.

Following the war, de Laroche returned to the sky. With the advancements in aviation technology, she continued to push the limits and set records for female aviators, including for altitude by flying to nearly 16,000 feet. That summer, she was part of a test flight for a new aircraft, during which the plane went into a tailspin during its descent, killing de Laroche and the other pilot. A tragic end, but an all-too familiar one for early aviators. In retrospect, it may not be surprising that she was killed during a flight and that is was remarkable that she survived as long as she did given the dangers. In a morbidly ironic way, her ability to avoid death for as long as she did is a testament to her skill.

President Howard Taft throws the ceremonial first pitch from his box seat on Opening Day 1910.

Around a month after de Laroche earned her licence, William Howard Taft started one of the greatest traditions in baseball. On April 14 the Washington Senators were set to host the dastardly Philadelphia Athletics at Griffith Stadium. The ceremony was arranged by Major Archie Butt, a military advisor to Taft, which received the full support of Senators owner Thomas C. Noyes who recognized the significance of the president’s attendance at games. To kick off the festivities, President Taft stood up from his box seat and threw the ceremonial pitch to the great Walter Johnson, who was standing on the mound and proceeded to throw a 1-hit shutout.

There is a somewhat persistent myth that Taft threw from his seat because he was not a particularly athletic individual. If you go to a game today, teams parade the person (people) throwing the first pitch to the mound to deliver (hopefully) a strike (sometimes it doesn’t go as planned). But it wasn’t until Ronald Reagan in 1984 that a president threw an Opening Day first pitch from the field. Not all presidents have thrown out an Opening Day first pitch, but each one since Taft has thrown a first pitch before a major league game, with the exception of President Trump who, given the current circumstances of cancelled games, may not have an opportunity before the end of this presidential term. It should be noted, however, that Trump has thrown out the first pitch at minor league games prior to his election.

The idea of the president throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day could only be made more American if he had been simultaneously eating apple pie. It has been argued that the tradition lost some of its lustre when the Senators left Washington and presidents had to travel out of town (usually to nearby Baltimore) to throw out an Opening Day first pitch. That may be true, but when a president is in the stadium and delivers that pitch, that game takes on greater significance. It may not be ‘important’, but its symbolic value has mattered – heck, you could argue that the high point of George W. Bush’s presidency was his first pitch before game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

Despite this, I have to go with de Laroche in this matchup. We could live without presidential first pitches, but the innovation and progress in aviation from pioneers like de Laroche was essential to the industry. These people put their lives on the line every time they took the controls, with many giving their lives to the pursuit of flight. Add to that the fact that in 2020 the majority of pilots are men, with women reporting institutional challenges in entering the field, it makes de Laroche’s incredible achievements in aviation the more significant event.

Aaron: There is no way that President Taft threw the first pitch from his seat – he weighed 350 pounds! Then again, CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees weighs 290 pounds and is an ace on the hill. Also, if Bartolo Colon can last as long as he has in the Majors, maybe Taft could have accomplished the feat.

I agree with Sean on this one. Raymonde de Laroche pushed herself to the limits in the pursuit of advancing aviation and, simultaneously, showed the world that women are just as capable of being pilots as men. I’m sure that many women would have bravely volunteered to fly during the First World War, but were denied. This matchup is a fairly easy win.

Sean: You think Taft would walk all the way to the mound? Nonsense. 

Raymonde de Laroche Becomes First Woman to Earn a Pilot’s Licence Wins (91-76)

Pre-Netflix and Chill Bracket

(1) Film Version of Frankenstein Released


(4) First Electric Bulletin Press Installed at New York Times

Aaron: Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein – long title Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus – was first published in London in 1820. Since then, it has undergone numerous adaptations, both in television and film. But the very first film adaptation was released in 1910.  The film was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley and starred Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as Frankenstein’s monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor’s fiancée. Shot over the course of 3 or 4 days, the film is a “liberal adaptation” of Shelley’s story.

Amazingly, the story is told in only 14 minutes! You can watch the whole film here:

The film its boasted special effects as such: “To those who are not familiar with the story, we can only say that the film tells an intensely dramatic story by the aid of some of the most remarkable photographic effects that have yet been attempted. The formation of the hideous monster from the blazing chemicals of a huge caldron in Frankenstein’s laboratory is probably the most weird, mystifying, and fascinating scene ever shown on a film.”

With technological advancements, news travels so quickly that an event on the other side of the planet can be reported and disseminated around the world in the blink of an eye. During this COVID-19 pandemic, this is most useful. And we’re so use to getting our news immediately that we have a hard time thinking about having to wait hours, days, or even months to receive news! Whenever I read about an event from the 18th century, it always boggles my mind how people living in New France had to wait months for news from the mother country to reach them! Newspapers, and the ability to gather information, helped to speed up the digestion of news. And in 1910, another technological innovation made it even quicker.

On July 2 1910, the New York Times reported in a headline, “BULLETIN PRINTED BY UNSEEN HANDS – Throngs at the Window of the Times Building Watch Electric Press Displaying News”. In June, the Times installed the first electric bulletin press in its window, introducing the concept of breaking news. “The strange machine,” the article noted, “printed bulletins in plain sight of onlookers in letters an inch and a half high, with no one doing a hand’s turn. This caused as much comment as the stirring news of the day.” For the first time, people in New York City could pass by the Times building and receive up to the minute news. On July 4, the bulletin provided round by round updates on the Jack Johnson-James Jeffries boxing match.

Frankenstein may have been the first horror movie, and the first adaptation of Shelley’s work, but the eclectic bulletin press takes this round. Our ability to receive news quicker has had a far more important impact on society than films – yes, I know this is controversial – and that is why I believe that the bulletin wins. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch Frankenstein and then post my thoughts all over social media.

Sean: Mother country? Who are you and what happened to Aaron? 

Also – a 14-minute movie!?!?!? Be still my heart. I read this week that Frozen II has a runtime of 102 minutes. For a movie geared towards children. Has anyone at Disney actually met a child?

Anyway, I completely agree on this. The increased speed of disseminating news and information far surpasses the cultural significance of Frankenstein, especially since we have seen so many versions of that story on the screen (I think we can all agree that Young Frankenstein is the best of these).

On a related note, Aaron’s live tweeting of the film has just earned him an additional week of ‘vacation’.

Aaron: Woo! Vacation! Wait, do I have to do it in isolation still?

First Electric Bulletin Press Installed at New York Times Wins (59-38)

 (2) Guglielmo Marconi Successfully Transmits Wireless Signal Between Nova Scotia and Italy


(3) Boris Rosing Patents Cathode Ray Tube

Sean: Guglielmo Marconi has been a part of my life for a long time. As a historian of radio, his name has been in pretty much everything I have published on the subject. The Italian has quite a legacy in Canada, with two sites of his early 20th century experiments being designated National Historic Sites. Following the first transatlantic wireless transmission in 1901, Marconi continued to work to improve the technology and its reliability. In this effort, he competed against people like Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian-born inventor whose work was central to the advancement of amplitude modulation (AM) technology.

The reliability of wireless communications was really put to the test by the American federal government with the Wireless Ship Act of 1910. The legislation required all ships with more than 50 passengers to have a radio and operator. The government, having recently seen the monopolization of multiple industries, added a clause stating that the technology and operator must be capable of communicating with all ships, regardless of the type of radio used. The goal behind this was to ensure that it was the free market that would determine which radio sailors would want for their ships.

In part because of this, it became increasingly important for people like Marconi to  improve their technological capabilities. Events like successfully transmitting a signal between Nova Scotia and Italy were signs of Marconi’s ability to continually enhance his equipment. It certainly was not as significant as the first transatlantic wireless signal, but it served as yet another sign that in the battle with his competitors, Marconi was leading the pack.

Over in Russia, Boris Rosing was working on an invention that would also have a revolutionary impact on modern life. After studying physics and math at St. Petersburg University, he became an instructor in physics at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, where he was increasingly interested in magnetic hysteresis, which is a representation of the magnetizing force versus the magnetic flux density of a ferromagnetic material. This process proved important in memory storage for things like radio and computers. 

Russian Stamp honouring Boris Rosing

Towards the end of the 19th century, Rosing shifted his attention towards the possibility of television, Other inventors had tried to create a mechanical version, but Rosing hypothesized that it would be feasible with a cathode ray tube, a vacuum tube with electron guns and a phosphorescent screen that can be used to display images. It took some time and a few alterations to his plans, but by 1907 he had managed to build a rudimentary working television and submitted a patent application. In a testament to the efficiency of government bureaucracy, that patent was granted 3 years later. He continued his work on television, including helping a young researcher file a patent for a fully electric television in 1925, before he was exiled as a counter-revolutionary in 1931.

In terms of technological advancement, I think these are pretty similar. Neither is the definitive point for their respective medium, but they do represent important developments that improved the capability to communicate. Since I would put the achievements on a pretty level footing, I think I have to go to a comparison of the two as they exist today. This one is tough because I am, through and through, a radio person. I love radio – both the final product that you listen to and the production side. There is something incredibly personal with audio that you don’t get with visual media – the screen separates you from what you are consuming whereas sound is immersive. What really clinches this for me, though, is that 2 weeks ago my TV broke and it took 9 days before I could get it repaired and back in my apartment. I have to say, I didn’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. If you were to take radio from me though, that would be another story.

Aaron: But Sean…

I heard you on my wireless back in ‘52

Lying awake intent at tuning in on you

If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through

Sean: Oh, ah oh

Aaron: They took the credit for your second symphony

Rewritten by machine on new technology

And now I understand the problems you can see

Sean: Oh, ah oh

Aaron: Need I continue?


Guglielmo Marconi Successfully Transmits Wireless Signal Between Nova Scotia and Italy Wins (67-53)


Well Intentioned Inventions Bracket

(1) Binder Clip Patented


4) Robertson Screwdriver Patented

Please read the next few sentences as if it they were the script of a bad, late night infomercial:

Do you work in an office? Do you rely on countless printouts to do your job? Do you struggle to keep all of your files organized?

Well, help is on the way! Introducing, the Binder Clip!

This simple contraption easily binds all of your loose files together and easily allows you to unclip and remove a single sheet! No longer will you need to spend hours shuffling the pages around. Your boss will be impressed. Your coworkers will be impressed. And it is available to you for the low, low price of 50 cents each! Act now, and we’ll double your offer – just pay separate shipping and handling.

Image of the patent for the first binder clip

All jokes aside, the binder clip is essential in the modern office. We take for granted this simple invention; I know that I have a bunch of binder clips in my office drawer.

Although it has been modernized, the original design of the clips has largely remained the same since inventor Louis E. Baltzley created them in 1910. He was granted the US patent 1,139,627. Such a simple design and use has made them ubiquitous and truly an important invention.

For anyone that has attempted home DIYs – the woman to whom I am related to by marriage and I have done many, many, many DIY projects over the past two years – knows that the screw is one of the most important pieces of equipment. The versatility of the screw, combined with the strength and ease of use makes it essential to any construction site. They are also more dependable than nails – even when someone uses 10x the number required, like the previous owners of my house. Everyone that has used a flathead screw will also know how much of a pain in the behind they are: the screwdriver constantly slips out of the screw, slowing down the whole process.

Thankfully, in 1906 Peter Lymburner Robertson, a Canadian inventor, created the Robertson screw and screwdriver. With a square head and corresponding driver, this screw is more dependable than a flathead because it better grips the screw and enables the user to complete the task much quicker by not having to continually readjust. In 1910, Robertson received the U.K. Patent # 975,285 for his screwdriver. Since then, the Robertson screw has become the most commonly used in Canada, and its popularity is gaining around the world. Here is a link to Robertson’s US patent.

In this match up we have two heavyweights and two inventions that both deserve to move on. Both the binder clip and the Robertson screwdriver are commonly used around the world, and both greatly improved the lives of their users. But since only one can win, I have to pick the binder clip. The binder clip is used by more people around the world as – now I’m only assuming – there are more people that work in an office and push paper than work in the trades or attempt DIY projects at home. I know that I use a binder clip almost every day at the office – when I’m at the office!

Sean: I use them as my wallet. And I’m not the only one.












‘Nuff said.

Binder Clip Patented Wins, 120-119 (3OT)

(2) Marie Curie Discovers Process to Isolate Pure Radium


(3) George Claude Displays Neon Lights at Paris Motor Show


Sean: In 1903, Marie Curie won the Nobel prize for Physics along with Pierre Currie and André-Louis Debierne. In the citation, it was noted that the award was for the group’s discovery of radioactivity. Marie had always been interested in radium – it had been part of her doctoral work and was central in the work that led to the Nobel prize. Following her Pierre’s death in 1906, Marie was appointed to his professorship, becoming the first woman to teach in the Sorbonne and continuing her work on radium and radioactivity.

Marie Curie in her lab

This work was published in 1910. Her treatise on radioactivity documented the properties of radioactive elements and their compounds. This was a remarkable breakthrough and understanding those properties created an environment in which doctors and scientists could employ radiation in experiments and medical treatments. Today, it is commonplace to hear of people going for radiation treatment after a cancer diagnosis and getting an X-ray is a simple procedure, but that is only because of Curie’s breakthrough.

That was not the most significant development included in her publication, however, as she had also successfully produced radium as a pure metal, thus proving its existence beyond doubt. For this, she was awarded her second Nobel prize, this time for chemistry. Following the First World War, radium became popular in consumer products, including watches and paint, for its luminescent quality. That has, fortunately for us, fallen out of favour, but it demonstrates how influential Curie’s discovery was, not only in scientific circles, but also for consumers.

Around the same time as Curie’s treaties published, a 40-year old engineer was preparing for the Paris Motor Show. Eight years earlier, Georges Claude devised a method of liquefying gases. From a practical perspective, doing so allows gases to be easily transported – think an oxygen tank in a hospital. Claude’s method allowed him to do this on an industrial scale and build a successful business. 

A byproduct of that business was that he produced a lot of neon, an inert gas that glows when placed in an electric field. In the early 1900s, Daniel McFarlan Moore had developed a lamp that used nitrogen as neon was scarce at the time. Using a similar tube design, however, Claude took advantage of the neon by placing it in sealed tubes. He would then pass an electric current through gas, which produced light. He displayed his invention for the first time in December 1910, after which he had the idea of bending the glass in the tube, thus creating the world’s first neon sign. While pure neon tubes may not be as common as they once were, their legacy as both a source of lighting and in advertising is almost unparalleled.









Between the two, I think I might have to go with Marie Curie on this one. Not to diminish the significance of neon lighting, but the ability to isolate radium has had such a profound impact on the world, both in positive and negative forms. From improved cancer treatments to facilitating scientific developments, radium has been a source of good. At the same time, however, its use in weaponry and the personal health risks associated with radium has contributed to incredibly tragic moments. Since we have to look at this holistically, I think it’s obvious that Curie’s discovery was the more important of the two. 

Quick question: how did I, the person whose compulsory science credit in undergrad was a course entitled ‘Fundamentals of Arithmetic for Teachers (which was quite interesting as it was basically number theory), end up writing all the science topics?


Marie Curie Discovers Process to Isolate Pure Radium Wins (77-66)

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Union of South Africa Established


(4) Mexican Revolution Begins

Sean: Over 1908 and 1909 delegates of the British colonies of the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange River, the latter three having been annexed following the Second Boer War (1899-1902), met to discuss the terms of a possible union. It would be incorrect to suggest that these individuals were representatives of their colonies, as only white men could participate in the process, despite the fact that the white population was less than 20% of the total population in these colonies. That they were not representing the people of their respective colonies when details of the plan emerged. The notion of a federation was dismissed in favour of a unitary state, with power centralized in the all-white Parliament. Eight senators representing the concerns of non-white people were to be appointed to the Senate, but voting was restricted to whites. Some even argued that, despite its discriminatory structure, the union, with its economic and political advantages over colonial status, would ultimately benefit the non-white population.

After disenfranchising a majority of the population, the delegates had to settle one of the more divisive issues they faced: where to put the capital. A compromise was reached making Pretoria the administrative capital, Cape Town the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein the judicial capital. With the new nation’s political structure in place, the South Africa Act was approved by the four colonies in June 1909 and passed by the British parliament in September. On May 31, 1910, the country’s first Prime Minister Louis Botha inaugurated the new union.

Mexican President Porfirio Diaz

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, a decade-long revolution was getting underway in Mexico. President Porfirio Diaz had been in power for the better part of 30 years and had established a strong centralized government. A soldier in his youth, Diaz systematically eliminated local and regional leadership, ensuring that nearly all public employees in Mexico answered directly to him. Known for exerting tight control over the country’s judicial system, he employed a strategy where he fostered distrust between various social, economic, and ethnic groups in the country in an effort to maintain control. He did oversee a period of economic expansion in the country, but the benefits of that growth was concentrated among a select group of wealthy people.  

By 1910, economic growth had slowed and Mexicans were increasingly dissatisfied with their government. This was particularly true of agricultural workers who faced extreme poverty as wages were stagnant or, in a lot of cases, decreasing. In 1908, Diaz announced his retirement only to backtrack after plans for an election had been formalized. He did allow Francisco Madero, a wealthy democratic reformer, to run against him in an election, which Diaz unsurprisingly won. What Diaz didn’t expect was Madero to lead a military revolution in 1910, which proved disastrous for Diaz as his central government could not survive. Diaz would resign and flee the country in May 1911, but the Revolution would continue until 1920.

This is a particularly difficult match up to assess. Neither is an inherently positive story, but both were incredibly influential to their country’s history. I am going to lean towards the Mexican Revolution in this one if only because the country has been comparably stable since the 1920s. By no means did the revolution eliminate corruption, but when compared to South Africa, it has led to greater stability. South Africa, on the other hand, has undergone much needed reforms that have, in a lot ways, eliminated the structures that were established in 1910. So in an almost no-win situation, I am going with the Revolution.

Aaron: I must disagree. The history of South Africa until 1910 was marred by conflict, which includes Canada’s participation in the aforementioned South African War. Britain and the Dutch colonists in South Africa had fought for control of the territory, and the Union of South Africa, at least in part, settled some of the major discord. That is not to say the situation was resolved, but at least bloodshed had ceased. The Mexican Revolution, on the other hand, was marked by violence. For this matter I have to go with South Africa.

Sean: I suppose that depends on your definition of bloodshed. For the millions of South Africans who were suppressed by this system, they required another massive uprising – even if not as violent as what happened in Mexico – before realizing anything close to equality. The fundamental discrimination within the 1910 South African system is enough for me to put Mexico through to the next round.

Mexican Revolution Begins Wins (54-52)

(2) First Conviction Based on Finger Print Analysis


(3) Montreal Canadiens Play First Game

Aaron: Any fan of hockey knows about the Montreal Canadiens. Founded in 1909, the Montreal Canadiens – le Club de hockey Canadien – is the oldest professional hockey franchise in the world, and also the most successful. Having won 24 Stanley Cups during its prestigious history, no hockey club is as successful as the Canadiens.

In December 1909, the National Hockey Association was founded and a team made up of francophone players, named the Canadiens, was created. On January 5, 1910, the Canadiens played their first game before a sellout crowd of 3,000 people at the Montreal Jubilee Arena. They defeated the Cobalt Silver Kings 7-6 in overtime – Didier Pitre scored the game winning goal. However, the National Hockey Association ceased operations only a few days later, basically erasing the victory.

Over the next 100+ years, the Canadiens established themselves as one of the most dominant clubs in NHL history, amassing millions of fans from across North America. According to Forbes, the Canadiens are the 3rd most profitable franchise, only behind the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively.

For anyone that has ever watched a crime show, you know that fingerprints left behind at the scene of a crime are often the cause of an arrest and conviction. But fingerprint evidence isn’t merely a crime show gimmick – my university roommate was in forensic sciences and he often decried the inaccuracies on shows like CSI, while simultaneously spending hours watching it – indeed, it is a useful tool for law enforcement around the world. And this technique got its start in 1910.

On the morning of 19 September 1910, a Chicago man named Clarence Hiller awoke to find a burglar in his home. He confronted the unknown intruder and a scuffle ensued. Three gun shots erupted; neighbours emerged to see what had happened; Hiller lay dying. The assailant, Thomas Jennings, didn’t get too far from the scene of the crime – he was found not too long after. But the most important thing he left behind was his fingerprint on a freshly painted banister that he used to enter the Hiller home. Police photographed the print, and even cut the railing containing the fingerprint. During the ensuing court case, Jennings was convicted of the murder of Clarence Hiller, thanks in large part to the fingerprint evidence he left behind. This case is considered the first conviction based on fingerprint evidence in the United States. In 1911, the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the conviction, basically stating that fingerprint evidence was sufficient basis for a verdict of death by hanging.

While fingerprint evidence has been challenged in many other courts around the world for many reasons, this first conviction is truly significant. The new method of solving crimes has greatly improved the work of police forces and brought convictions to those that committed heinous crimes. But, of course, it is not without faults. Fingerprinting is not an exact science and mistakes are made, which has led to convictions of innocent people, too.

Despite its shortcomings, fingerprinting use quite useful and the Jennings’ case in 1910 is significant; more so in this case than the Canadiens playing their first game. Fans of the Habs are going to cry foul – I promise this has nothing to do with me being a Leafs fan; however, I do get some pleasure in eliminating the Canadiens from the bracket! The history of the Montreal Canadiens is rich and impressive, and it all began in January 1910. But I think that even hockey fans will agree that the first conviction on fingerprint evidence is the more important event.

Sean: I don’t know about that, and I’m not a hockey fan. In fact, my entire goal in these brackets has been to eliminate all things pucks related. But with this one, there is some doubt on fingerprint analysis. While a great step in criminal justice investigations, it can be a very flawed process, especially when done by hand, that has led to wrongful convictions. The process has been improved with technology, but it is not foolproof. The Montreal Canadiens, on the other hand, are the greatest franchise in NHL history, and it’s not even close. From the number of Stanley Cups to the unparallelled list of Hall of Famers to the greatest arena in the sport’s history, the Habs have a cultural relevance that goes well beyond the ice – some have argued that the Richard Riot was a major trigger point of the Quiet Revolution. Plus, as far as we know, they’ve never falsely imprisoned anyone – unless you count the Maple Leaves pride in their head-to-head matchups. 

Aaron: Well, Sean, the Toronto Maple LEAFS may not have the same number of Stanley Cup wins as the Montreal Canadiens, but they can at least boast the MOST number of fans in the NHL – and I don’t want to hear anything about “population”, ok?

Sean: These fans?

Aaron: And, for the umpteenth time, Maple Leaves is dumb. It’s the Maple Leafs and it’s grammatically correct!

Sean: In Bizzaro World.


Wait, what were we talking about? You mention the Leafs and I lose all focus.

First Conviction Based on Finger Print Analysis Wins (44-41)

Round 2

Things That Move Bracket

(1) Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy


(2) Raymonde de Laroche Becomes First Woman to Earn a Pilot’s Licence

Sean: Planes. The answer is always planes. As with the first round, I cannot (and will not) argue against the RCN. I will, however, point out that without people like de Laroche, your vacation to Las Vegas would not have been possible, unless you wanted to do an Oregon Trail style trip and succumb to dysentery.


Planes. Always planes. I should never have allowed a plane to win the bracket in 1919. Now you are so emboldened that you think de Laroche should defeat the Royal Canadian Navy. As I mentioned before, de Laroche’s accomplishments are significant and important, but not as important as Canada getting its own navy. We now have a maritime force to protect us from nautical threats, and in 1910 that was not a hypothetical. Canada could no longer rely on the Royal Navy to protect our borders, especially since Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on the planet. 

As for the Oregon Trail…you can go play it for free:


What were we talking about?

Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy Wins (77-72)

Pre-Netflix and Chill Bracket

(1) Guglielmo Marconi Successfully Transmits Wireless Signal Between Nova Scotia and Italy


(4) First Electric Bulletin Press Installed at New York Times

Sean: Is there really any debate in this match? A moment which fundamentally changed communications going up against a failing newspaper – seems pretty clear to me. Of course ‘the paper of record’ has a remarkable history and journalism (real journalism) has taken on a greater importance in recent years, but advances in communication fundamentally shaped life in the 20th century. From the escapism provided by live sports coverage in the midst of the Great Depression to the incredibly influential reporting of the Vietnam War to live images of the Berlin Wall coming down, wireless communication was, and remains, a total game changer. Think about the current situation in which we find ourselves. Pre-Marconi, it would have taken hours, if not days, for information about an outbreak in Asia to find its way to North America. Today, we can track the situation in real time. That speed of communication can be traced back, in part, to that fateful day in 1910. As a result, I’m strongly in favour of it moving on.

Aaron: The Electric Bulletin Press should move on as it revolutionized the reporting of news making it immediately available. The New York Times is a distinguished newspaper for a reason, and it makes sense that such an important introduction to news reporting would emerge from the Times. The scrolling news bulletins are everywhere now, too: at the bottom of #fakenews CNN, at the bottom of sports news channels, and on buildings around the world. I think your recent events bias is impacting your judgement here, Sean. 

Sean: Yeah, those scrolling bulletins are really coming in handy on Sportscentre now. What – the 2007 NHL All-Stars Skills Competition is going to be re-aired, in its entirety, next Thursday. That is information I need.

Aaron: The 2007 NHL Skills Competition??? Woohoo! The Electric Bulletin wins again!


First Electric Bulletin Press Installed at New York Times Wins (87-84)

Well Intentioned Inventions Bracket

(1) Binder Clip Patented


2) Marie Curie Discovers Process to Isolate Pure Radium

Aaron: I can’t believe that I am going to go against my argument for Marie Curie thanks to The Simpsons, but the binder clip, in my mind, is a no-brainer here. Curie’s discovery of Radium is impressive for the feat itself, as well as for advancing our understanding of the world. However, due to its toxicity, radium currently has little to no commercial uses. Meanwhile, the binder clip is ubiquitous. I don’t know about you, Sean, but I don’t think I have ever purchased a binder clip in my life, and yet one is seemingly always within arms reach when I need one. 

Sean: Aaron Boyes, the man who argues against 2-time Nobel winners. 

Aaron: Should I add that to my CV?

Sean: It should be the first line!!

Binder Clip Patented Wins (88-80)

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Mexican Revolution Begins


(2) First Conviction Based on Finger Print Analysis

Sean: I remember an episode of Law & Order – the original one, that was actually good, with Jack McCoy and Lenny Briscoe, wow, do I miss that show – where the story centred on fingerprint analysis gone wrong. For some reason, that has always made me distrust the process, so for that reason alone I will side with the Revolution here. 

As an interesting side note, I wonder what will happen to all the technology we have for fingerprints post pandemic. From self-serve kiosks at airports to entry to Disney World, fingerprint scanners are pretty common, but once we emerge into a post-Covid world, I legitimately wonder what will happen with those. Mexico, on the other hand, will definitely still be here, so that is yet another point in favour of the Revolution moving on.

Aaron: There is no doubt that fingerprint analysis is not a 100% foolproof process; errors can be made and they can have dire consequences. However, as a method of assisting detectives find the culprits of crimes, it is still a useful tool and one that is very much used around the world. Leaving fingerprints at a crime scene is No-No #1 in the bad guy handbook, everyone knows this. While Mexico will survive, some of the persistent issues that plagued that country in the 1910s remain today. 

Moreover, what are you a prognosticator now? Your PhD in HISTORY wasn’t cutting it, eh?


First Conviction Based on Fingerprint Analysis Wins (70-65)

Final Four

Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy


First Conviction Based on Fingerprint Analysis

Sean: Remember that time when you were in Victoria and a bunch of Russian submarines appeared in the harbour, sinking ships, taking hostages, and just generally causing chaos?

Aaron: No.

Sean: Exactly

Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy Wins (99-56)

First Electric Bulletin Press Installed at New York Times


Binder Clip Patented

Aaron: After Sean mentioned that SportsCentre’s bottom ticker was useless, I turned on TSN and found out he was right. But when I opened my desk drawer looking for a pencil, I found a binder clip instead. Where that binder clip came from is unbeknownst to me. Maybe my 3-and-a-half-year-old put it there? And if she did, then she learned at a young age that Binder Clips are eternal. 

Sean: She definitely gets that from her mother, a well-known devotee of the binder clip. Every time I see her that’s all she talks about: binder clip advancements, new colours, what’s coming up at the trade show. I’m surprised your entire house hasn’t been overrun by binder clips knowing how much she loves them.

Aaron: It’s become worse during the pandemic. She is ordering more clips online. I keep asking her when she will stop and all she says is, “When I feel like it!”

[Editor’s note: Aaron’s lovely wife was not consulted during the writing of this Bracket]

Binder Clips Patented Wins (157-42)

Enrico Palazzo Championship Game

Establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy


Binder Clip Patented


When the simple binder clip can be worked into a television comedy, I believe that it has become something more and demonstrates its versatility. Its uses are literally endless: clipping paper together, clipping to your skin, … ok so that might be it, but still it’s an impressive invention!

Sean: It truly is a cultural icon like no other. 

Aaron: Jokes aside, the Royal Canadian Navy is a truly significant part of Canada’s defence and I do not mean to belittle its actions during its 100-year history. However, for the global impact, the binder clip patent, I feel, has done more as it can be found in offices literally around the world. 

Sean: I agree. While we do like to focus on Canadian issues here, the universal usage of the binder clip puts it ahead in this one for me.

Aaron: Can we somehow binder clip this bracket together?


Binder Clip Patented Wins (44-43)

Past Winners:

1911: Coming April 29

1912: Coming May 6

1913: Zipper Patent

1914: First Successful Non-Direct Blood Transfusion

1915: Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark

1916: Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn

1917: Russian Revolution

1918: Spanish Flu Pandemic

1919: First Nonstop Transatlantic Flight

Aaron Boyes is a historical researcher with a PhD from the University of Ottawa.

Sean Graham is an editor with and host of the History Slam Podcast.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Blog posts published before October  28, 2018 are licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.

2 thoughts on “Annual Year in Review (100 Years Later): Physical Distancing/Bored At Home Edition

  1. Megan Reilly-Boyes

    Please note, I wholeheartedly disagree with result of this bracket.

    Also… how dare you?!


    Aaron’s Wife

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