Year in Review (100 Years Later): Underrated 1911 Edition

By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We offer our two cents on the events of 1911. Let us know what you think in the comments.

This is the 9th time we have convened to do one of these 100 Years Later brackets and it’s always a lot of fun to go through the list of events and consider what could be a contender to win. Most years it has been hard to determine if there any favourites, but as we looked through 1911 it was a bit of a different story. While all the events are interesting and influential in their own way, it felt that there was a power group within the list and we were curious to see how it would play out in the bracket.

We have divided the events into 4 brackets. For 1911, we have the Power to the People Bracket, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Bracket, Is This a Good Thing? Bracket, and, of course, Potpourri Bracket. 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.

Power to the People Bracket

(1) Direct Election of United States Senators


(4) United Kingdom Passes Parliament Act

Image depicting the 1856 caning of Charles Sumner

Sean: In 1897 George Frisbie Hoar, a Massachusetts senator who had been an elected official for nearly 50 years, said that the United States Senate “was created that the deliberate will, the sober second thought of the people might find expression. It was intended that it should resist the hasty, intemperate, passionate desire of the people.” Referred to by many Americans (usually senators) as ‘the world’s most deliberative body,’ the United States has seen a variety of political strategies employed, from punching your opponent, to hitting him with a cane, to reading stories to your children watching at home. Clearly, the chamber’s self-anointed status is well earned.

For 125 years, though, senators were not accountable to the people of the state which they represented. Instead, state legislatures elected senators in a form of indirect democracy. Over time, the problems with this system became increasingly evident. Some states were deadlocked in their legislatures, leaving unfilled vacancies, while other states saw political machines control the legislature, leading to accusations that senators were mere puppets as the Senate was a millionaire’s club serving private interests. Changing the process required a constitutional amendment, and it was unlikely that senators would vote in favour of something that would challenge their power.

In response, state legislatures threatened to invoke Article V of the Constitution, which says that if two-thirds of the states apply for a convention to consider an amendment, one must be called. As that threshold was approaching in 1911, the House of Representatives passed Joint Resolution 39 proposing an amendment for the direct election of senators. The resolution included a ‘race rider’ which barred federal intervention in cases of racial discrimination among voters, which was removed by the Senate before it approved the resolution. It took the House over a year to approve the amendment and it was not until April 1913 that two-thirds of the states ratified the proposal, officially added the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

At the same time across the Atlantic Ocean, British Parliament was in the process of passing the Parliament Act. The push towards the act began in earnest in 1909 when the House of Lords vetoed a tax on the unearned increment on land whose value increased as a result of nearby development. Given that members of the House of Lords had a tendency to be wealthy landowners, one can see why they may not have been thrilled with such a policy. There was a major problem with this strategy, however, as the veto held up all national finances and created a struggle between the two houses that led to two national elections in 1910. 

With the Liberals winning a clear mandate in the second of these elections, they were in a position to pass the Parliament Act, but again the House of Lords indicated it would exercise its veto. In response, the Liberals threatened to mass create Liberal peers. With their own positions potentially compromised, the House of Lords passed the Act. When it received royal assent in 1911, the Parliament Act allowed for future bills to receive royal assent without going through the House of Lords, provided they had been passed by the House of Commons three times without being altered and two years had been since the bill’s introduction. It also meant that financial measures could be presented one month after they passed the House of Commons and reduced the maximum period the Commons could remain in session from seven years down to five. Like the 17th Amendment, it may not have resolved the entirety of the country’s democratic issues, but it was seen as a major step forward towards the democratization of Great Britain.

This is a tough one as both provided a greater opportunity for citizens to directly choose their representation at the national level while leaving large systemic issues unresolved. Ultimately, though, I think I have to lean towards the Parliament Act. The peerage system has never really made sense to me and having people completely removed from any accountability from those they claim to represent can be quite problematic. At least with the appointment of senators there was a pretense of indirect democracy, so that’s something. And besides, electing senators hasn’t exactly led to significant changes within the chamber as it still doesn’t exactly reflect the nation it claims to represent.

Aaron: I have to agree, but for slightly different reasons. The idea of direct elections to the Senate – which is not in practice in the United Kingdom nor here in Canada – is powerful and I wholeheartedly support it. The problem with the direct election of US Senators, and a problem that I have with the United States writ large, is that the reality falls far short of the lofty idea. Americans directly elected their representatives in the House and the president, so having the direct election of Senators would complete the trifecta. However, directly electing Senators, as Sean pointed out, hasn’t really solved any sectional disputes or brought the nation together. As for the Parliament Act, I wholeheartedly support the power to the people[‘s representatives] in that the un-elected House of Lords – and what an antiquated title that is in 2020! – cannot veto spending bills passed by the House of Commons. The Parliament Act, therefore, gave more power to the people. 

United Kingdom Passes Parliament Act (66-42)

(2) Alsace and Lorraine Become Autonomous State


(3) First International Women’s Day

Aaron: In the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, France and Germany fought for control of the coveted region of Alsace-Lorraine (now simply Alsace). This region in the east of France borders Germany and Switzerland on the upper Rhine. Historically, both French and German peoples have lived in the region, which explains why France and Germany clashed several times for this coveted land. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), France was forced to cede much of the provinces to the newly formed German Empire as part of the peace treaty, a humiliating loss for France. Following the war, the inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine had to decide whether they would remain in their home provinces, and thus fall under the rule of the German Empire, or emigrate to France.

The Franco-Prussian war culminated in the creation of the German Empire, the brainchild of Otto von Bismarck, by uniting the various German states under a single Kaiser, with Prussia the dominant state. Under this new Empire, and unlike other states, Alsace-Lorraine was directly administered by the Kaiser and the German government in Berlin. In 1911, however, it was granted some form of autonomy with a constitution, flag, and even an anthem. When war broke out again in August 1914, a key aim for France was to reclaim the lost territory of Alsace-Lorriane. After four years of brutal fighting and millions of deaths of both French and German soldiers, France finally reclaimed Alsace-Lorraine – only to lose it once again in 1940.

While the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were marked with extreme violence and upheaval, it was also a period of significant advances in women’s rights around the world. Industrialization had brought millions of women into factories, but they were subjected to long hours, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and less pay than their male counterparts. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights – something that women around the world could unite behind. The following year in 1909, the Socialist Party of America observed the first National Women’s Day on February 28 in the United States, and was celebrated on the last day of February until 1913. In 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, Clara Zetkin tabled the idea of an international women’s day to be held on the same day around the world. On March 19, 1911, the first observed International Women’s Day was held in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, in which over one million men and women participated. In 1913, International Women’s Day was moved to March 8, where it remains a fixture on the calendar. Today, the focus is on gender equality, celebrating women’s achievements, and working to end discrimination against women. 

It seems very clear to me that the winner of this match is the first International Women’s Day. A day to recognize the achievements of women was, and remains, sorely needed in the world, especially since inequality persists. International Women’s Day allows people around the world to unite for the common cause of celebrating the women in our lives and pledge to make the world a more equitable place. The limited autonomy of Alsace-Lorraine was very quickly eradicated when war broke out in 1914, and millions of people died all because of old animosities between France and Germany. 

Sean: This is a completely fair assessment on your part, Dr. Boyes, but let me counter in this one, albeit minor way. The region’s frequent transfers back and forth is representative of the imperial conflicts and rivalries that existed through the late 19th and early 20th century, ultimately coming to a head with the First World War. And since we put our ‘No-War-Related-Things-Can-Win-Because-The-Canada’s-First-World-War-Series-Covers-These-Things-So-Well’ policy in place back in 2014, perhaps this could be a way to include some reference to the war among our winners.


First International Women’s Day wins (80-62)

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Bracket

(1) Italo-Turkish War


(4) Mona Lisa Stolen

Aaron: The 1910s was a terrible decade in terms of war. The most famous, of course, is the First World War (1914-1918) in which the major powers of Europe sacrificed millions of lives for basically no real gain. One of the important combatants of that horrific conflict was the Ottoman Empire, a state that dated back to the 13th century and extended across Turkey, the Balkans, the Middle East, and northern Africa. However, by the 1910s the Ottoman Empire was dying a slow death. It’s influence had waned considerably and numerous states, hoping to capitalize on its death, began attacking the old Empire.

Such was the case in 1911 during the Italo-Turkish War. Italy had hoped to gain colonies in North Africa – it wanted to join in with Britain, France, and Germany which had already established colonies in Africa earlier in the 19th century – and figured that the Ottoman Empire was too weak to resist an armed conflict. On September 29, 1911, Italy declared war and quickly invaded Libya. Despite its weakened position, the Ottomans resisted the initial Italian offensive and the war soon turned into a costly stalemate. In 1912, were able to successfully launch a campaign which forced the Ottomans to seek peace.

Compared with the First World War, the Italo-Turkish was a minor affair. Its impact, however, was immense. Seeing that the Ottoman Empire was near death, the Balkan States declared war on Turkey on October 8, 1912 – ten days later the weakened Turkey concluded a peace with Italy on October 18. The balance of power had greatly changed in the Balkans, which was seen during the First World War, and a renewed sense of nationalism in the Balkan states led, albeit somewhat indirectly, to the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914.

Perhaps the most famous painting in the world is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. The portrait of Lisa Gheradini is an oil on white panel and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506, and possibly as late as 1517. Since 1797, it has been on permanent display at the Louvre, where it is the most visited painting on the planet. It is a classic example of the Italian Renaissance and has undergone immense scholarship by a variety of historians and artists trying to discover any secrets believed to be hidden within the painting.

Because of its fame, it is no surprise that the Mona Lisa was once stolen from the Louvre. On August 2, 1911, the Mona Lisa was first noticed as missing. Initially, police believed that the painting was still located within the Louvre, but after searching the museum high and low the painting could still not be found. The real culprit was Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian handyman who was hired to construct protective glass cases for some other famous paintings at the Louvre. He hid in a broom closet over night and simply removed the painting from the wall. After hiding it in his smock, he was going to walk out the door to freedom, accomplishing likely the easiest crime in the Mona Lisa’s history. After 24-hours, news of the heist was adorned across newspapers around the world.

Empty spot on the wall from which the Mona Lisa had been stolen.








After a two-year investigation that was wrought with error and ineptitude – the police even interviewed Peruggia TWICE, deciding that he could not be the man responsible – there was finally a break. An art dealer in Italy received a letter signed by “Leonardo” offering to sell the Mona Lisa. Police were alerted and Peruggia was arrested. He believed that the Mona Lisa should have been returned to Italy and thought he would be heralded as a hero for bringing home the masterpiece. Instead, he spent six months in prison. Peruggia’s theft did bring international fame to the Mona Lisa and likely increased its notoriety, contributing to its current status of the world’s most famous painting.

The cover of Le Petit Perisien announcing the recovery of the Mona Lisa













Although we have avoided writing about events related to the First World War – our reasons can be found here – the Italo-Turkish War is just removed enough to make it ok! Picking a winner of this match up is quite difficult. The Italo-Turkish War helped to spur a feeling of nationalism in the Balkan States, which in turn pushed Europe closer to war in 1912 until the powder keg finally exploded in 1914. However, the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 unwittingly helped make it the most famous painting in the world. Newspapers around the globe reported on its theft, pulling a 16th century painting out of relative obscurity and placing it on the international stage. Due to its popularity, the Louvre has had to increase security and protection of the Mona Lisa, and yet it remains the most visited painting every year. While the First World War basically eliminated all things related to the Italo-Turkish War, the legacy of the Mona Lisa remains, which is why I have to throw my weight behind the famous painting for this one.

Sean: Did they ever find the painting?

Aaron: Yes.

Sean: Did the people killed in the Italo-Turkish War come back to life?

Aaron: No.

Sean: So…

Mona Lisa Stolen Wins (76-71)

(2) Russian Prime Minister Assassinated


(3) Xinhai Revolution

Sean: In September 1911, Tsar Nicholas II traveled to Kiev for a ceremony unveiling a statue to Tsar Alexander II honouring the centenary of the liberation of Russian serfs. Another member of the government travelling party was Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who had been in the position since 1906. Stolypin had previously served as a governor and Minister of the Interior and, from a policy perspective, was in a unique position. At the time, Russian workers were increasingly agitating for economic reform and increased rights and protests against the aristocracy started to appear across the country. For his part, Stolypin was aggressive in suppressing the protests, but at the same time he implemented reforms intended to help farmers and other agricultural workers.

Unfortunately for Stolypin, this served to annoy both revolutionaries and some within the government. This led to threats against his life, including during the trip to Kiev. During a performance of The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Dmitri Bogrov, a young leftist who had worked as an agent of the secret police, waited in a restroom stall and during the second intermission shot Stolypin in the arm and chest. He died four days later. Bogrov was hanged six days after that.

Some have suggested that the assassination was actually arranged by the Tsar. The police were aware of the threat against Stolypin, yet allowed Bogrov into the theatre anyway. Additionally, after Stolypin’s death, Nicholas ordered the investigation stopped for reasons that were only known to him. Given his desire to maintain power after his poor handling of the the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, the theory that he would orchestrate the assassination of the prime minister is not without merit.

Today when most people think of a Chinese revolution, they would immediately go to the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Earlier in the century, though, the Xinhai Revolution fundamentally altered Chinese governance and set the stage for a century of change in one of the world’s oldest cultures. By 1911, the Qing (Manchu) dynasty was on its last legs, with 5-year old Emperor Puyo in power and a regency that was no longer able to guide the nation. Following a lengthy dispute over railway construction and discovery of a separate plot in Hankou, troops in Wuchang began to mutiny.

That act is widely viewed as the official start of the revolution as the mutineers easily captured the nearby mint and arsenal. This began a chain reaction of cities declaring against the Qing government. In an act of desperation, former viceroy Yuan Shikai was brought out of retirement and appointed premier in an effort to quell the revolution. He was unable to do so, however, and by the end of the year 14 provinces had declared against the dynasty and across the country garrisons had been massacred and regents forced out of local offices.

The revolutions established a provisional republican government at Nanjing with revolutionary Sun Yat-sen elected president following his return from abroad. It was not until February that Puyo abdicated the throne and there was still work to be done to unify the country, but for the most part the transition to a new government had been accomplished by the end of 1911.

A match between events that, while important, fail to fully resonate today given the incredible structural changes to the political institutions of both countries. But between the two, I’m going to lean towards the Xinhai Revolution. The Qing Dynasty had controlled China for over 250 years and an uprising against that power represented a more significant change to the country than Stolypin’s assassination. The case for the revolution in this match is made even stronger if Nicholas did orchestrate the assassination, as it suggests that Stolypin’s death didn’t really change that much with regards to Russian government policy.

Aaron: Once again I am going to agree with you, Sean. The assassination of one person can certainly alter the course of history, but in this case Stolypin’s death did not really upset the status quo in Russia. The Xinhai Revolution, on the other hand, toppled a dynasty and is one more bloody event in China’s troublesome twentieth century. 

Xinhai Revolution Wins (54-39)

Is This a Good Thing? Bracket

(1) George V Coronation


(4) First Indianapolis 500

Sean: When he was born in 1865, the boy who would become George V did not have a direct path to the British throne. When his older brother, Prince Albert Victor, died in 1892, however, he became an heir to the throne. Following his father’s death in 1910, George became King, but as is custom it would be some time before his official coronation. That day came on June 22, 1911, when George and his wife Queen Mary were crowned at Westminster Abbey. In what appears to have been a beautiful day, thousands of people came out to celebrate the occasion, of which some video exists.

A coronation within the British monarchy is intended to be a celebratory event, with plenty of pageantry involved. At the same time, though, it is also filled with strict customs, many of which have not changed for thousands of years. The event is intended to not only crown a new monarch, but also legitimize that person as the nation’s ruler while also instilling a sense of nationalism and pride in the citizenry.

Whether or not this will work in the 21st century remains to be seen – although the intense interest in recent royal weddings would indicate that people will care – but it should be noted that it is hard to tell how the public may react to a coronation ceremony since we haven’t had one since 1953. It’s mind-boggling to me that not only have I never seen a coronation, but neither have my parents.

From an event that I’ve never seen to another I’ve never seen, but for a very different reason, 1911 saw the first running of the Indianapolis 500. With the advancement of automobile technology and the popularity of motor vehicles, auto racing was increasing in popularity through the first decade of the 20th century. As a way to distinguish itself from other tracks, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the decision in 1911 to hold a single, large-scale event that would attract the best racing teams from the United States and Europe instead of holding a series of smaller events. And to appeal to fans, organizers picked a distance of 500 miles as they wanted an event that would last around 7 hours, an amount of time they felt would give spectators their money’s worth while also making it feel like a major event.

To ensure a quality field, organizers implemented a qualification system where all cars had to complete an officially-timed quarter-mile run at under 12 seconds. Of the 46 cars that entered, 40 met the threshold and were entered into the starting field. In that first running of the race, Ray Harroun, who had come out of retirement for the race, crossed the finish line first to claim the $27,500 prize. The victory was not without its share of controversy, but the result held a tradition that continues until today was born.

Between these two, definitely have to go with the Coronation. Sure, there are people who believe that the monarchy has no place in modern society and that it is merely an outdated sign of colonial power. And while that may be accurate, it’s still better than cars going round a circle for 3 hours, emitting tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere for the direct purpose of, well, I’m actually not entirely sure. And, yes, I will freely admit that I am ignorant when it comes to the finer points of auto racing, but I would contend that the global ramifications of a new King, regardless of what one believes about the validity of the monarchy, are greater than the inaugural edition of the Indianapolis 500.

Aaron: Much to the chagrin of our friends Patrick and Michael, the Indy 500 cannot in any good measure move on. If my father-in-law reads this, he, too, will be upset. But watching cars drive around in a circle, for what feels like an eternity even if it claims to only be 3 hours, will never catch my attention. Meanwhile, a new monarch, especially at a time when the European powers were going crazy and planning for war, certainly altered the course of the early twentieth century. 

George V Coronation Wins (101-33)

(2) Machu Picchu ‘Discovered’


(3) Crisco Unveiled

Aaron: Located on a 2,430 metre mountain ridge high above the Peruvian jungle is Machu Picchu. Built in the mid 15th century for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti, Machu Picchu is a well-preserved example of Incan architecture and culture. The Inca Empire, which lasted from 1438 to 1533, was extremely successful before the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors, especially since it lacked many technological advancements found in other “old world” civilizations, such as wheeled vehicles, draft animals, and iron/steel. Archaeologists believe that approximately 750 people lived at Machu Picchu, and through the examination of skeletal records the people were immigrants from diverse backgrounds. One of the iconic aspects of Machu Picchu is the tiered terraces that adorn the side of the mountain. This impressive feat of engineering ensured good drainage and, considering the amount of rainfall received each year, drainage was essential to prevent erosion. 

Most interesting, however, is the fact that Machu Picchu was not discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors! The Spanish explorers found hundreds of Indigenous settlements across South America, which were then plundered or destroyed. Although the Inca Empire collapsed due to the Spanish presence, Machu Picchu was, except for locals, lost to the world. That is, of course, until 1911. After attending a Pan-American Scientific Conference in Santiago, Chile, Yale University lecturer Hiram Bingham travelled through Peru and was inclined to find more Inca sites. Armed with some preliminary information, Bingham travelled down the Urubamba River and consulted with locals. On July 24, he was led to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Since then, major reconstruction efforts have been undertaken to restore, as much as possible, Machu Picchu to its former glory. In 1983, it was declared a United Nations World Heritage Site and remains the most visited site in Peru.

Like many people during this pandemic, isolation baking is an essential aspect of the weekly routine here at my house. In fact, Baking with Ellie has become the number one baking show on Instagram! [Editor’s note: Baking with Ellie is not a real baking show and Aaron is grossly exaggerating the consumption of his daughter’s baking prowess]. For many of the treats that are created and quickly consumed, shortening is a MUST. Any baker will tell you that if you want to attempt to make a nice and crumbly pastry, shortening is the way to go. Shortening is, for all you non-bakers out there (me included!), any fat that is solid at room temperature. With the process of hydrogenation, which was first used in the 1860s, lards soon came to include products such as margarine. In June 1911, the J.M. Smucker’s company introduced Crisco, the first shortening to be made entirely out of vegetable oil. Crisco is the hydrogenation of cottonseed oil, which allows it to remain solid at room temperature. Today, Crisco is the most popular brand of shortening in the United States. 

I’m going to pick the discovery of Machu Picchu as the winner of this match. The site’s historical and cultural importance cannot be understated. I have never personally been to Machu Picchu, but the images available on my own personal Google machine show it to be breathtaking. Situated above the clouds overlooking the beautiful mountains, it’s no wonder that it is such a popular tourist spot. Thanks to Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu was “discovered” and shared with the world. I asked a good friend of mine who has been to Machu Picchu to describe her experience; here is what she said: “After the climb, when you finally arrive at the top, a sense of clarity washes over you. You can begin to comprehend how magnificent nature truly is, listen to your own rapid heartbeat, breathe the purest air, and be thankful to be alive. The view from the top as you gaze downwards is lush, green, architecturally fascinating with the ruins. There is so much to explore and each height brings new views and perspectives to enjoy.”  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to eat some more crumbly pastries so expertly made by my three-and-a-half-year-old likely made using Crisco. She’ll be very upset to see that I picked Machu Picchu in this round.

Sean: I’ve always had a problem with the term ‘discovered’ when it comes to locations. You can still find people who talk about Columbus ‘discovering’ America, which is weird because the millions of people who already lived here had known about it for a long time. That’s like me taking credit for discovering McDonald’s (shhh, don’t tell anyone, I think this place has a chance to be huge). It’s a similar situation here where Bingham needed locals, who had knowledge, to ‘find’ the location. I don’t think that should count as a discovery. Crisco, on the other hand, has been a key pillar of diet since I was 2, so in this one there is no debate. 

Aaron: While I will agree with you on the term “discovered” is problematic, I believe that Bingham’s 1911 trek to Machu Picchu is more important for human history than Crisco. His expedition brought Machu Picchu into the world lexicon and enabled archeologists and other real doctors (unlike ourselves) to study the ruins and catalogue another human civilization.


Machu Picchu ‘Discovered’ Wins (48-46)

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Standard Oil Broken Up


(4) Chevrolet Starts Making Automobiles

Aaron: The United States is home to big business. Yes, China is quickly closing the gap, but the U.S. contains the most Fortune 500 Companies and has dominated that list for years. And, since the late-19th century, this has been the case. Big business boomed across the US in the 1880s and 1890s, with industries such as petroleum (oil), banking, manufacturing, and even farming. These new companies became so big and powerful in their respective industries that they began to gobble up smaller companies and dominate the market. And we all know what happens when one company dominates a market: they gain a monopoly and essentially kill all semblance of competition. In the 1880s, for example, as railroads were being consolidated into giant systems, US Senator John Sherman vocally opposed such practices, even saying “If we will not ensure a king as a political power we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.” In response, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act 1890, named after its principle author John Sherman. This was the first of three laws passed by Congress – the other two being the Clayton Antitrust Act 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act 1914 – designed to ensure competition for the benefit of all American consumers.

Also in the 1880s, Standard Oil Co. Inc. was one of those massive companies that was getting bigger and bigger and using its clout to undercut its competition, exactly the type of thing that the Sherman Antitrust Law attempted to stop. By the 1890s, Standard Oil essentially controlled the flow of refined oil in the United States. The State of Ohio successfully sued Standard Oil, which forced the oil giant to break up into various holding companies, one of which was in New Jersey. In 1899, Standard Oil was reborn as Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, a holding company that held stock in 41 smaller companies – it maintained its monopoly in the US oil industry by controlling, at one time, over 90% of production and 85% of final sales. In 1909, the US Justice Department sued Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey under the Sherman Antitrust law in the landmark case, Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States. In 1911, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Standard Oil did indeed violate the terms of the Sherman Antitrust Law, which resulted in the monopoly’s dismantling. One man benefited the most from this breakup, Standard Oil’s founder John D. Rockefeller, who maintained his stock in the smaller companies, eventually amassing a fortune worth, in today’s dollars, more than $400 BILLION. 

Out of this breakup emerged two new petroleum companies: Exxon and Mobil. Until 1999, these two companies operated apart from one another, thanks to the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911. Then, in 1999, Exxon and Mobil merged to become ExxonMobil, one of the largest oil companies in the world. Although legal, this merger undid some of the aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

What goes hand in hand with oil and gas production? That’s right, cars! With improvements to the internal combustion engine and technological breakthroughs during the 19th century, the mass production of automobiles became possible in the early 20th century. One of the most famous in North America is Henry Ford’s Model T, largely because of the use of the assembly line. But Ford was not the only car manufacturer in the game; another important producer was, and remains, General Motors. Based in Detroit, GM expanded its production of automobiles during the first decade of the 1900s under the guidance of its  CEO William Durant, until 1910 when Durant was removed by GM’s board of directors. The following year Durant teamed up with Swiss race car driver Louis Chevrolet and founded the Chevrolet Motor Company.

Chevrolet Logo 1911-14

Durant had hoped to use Louis Chevrolet’s fame as a race car driver to grow the new company, and the first Chevrolet factory was built in Flint, Michigan. In 1915, Durant and Louis Chevrolet had a disagreement over the vehicles’ design, which led to the latter selling his shares to the former. In 1916, the Chevrolet Motor Company was profitable enough and Durant wealthy enough that he was able to repurchase a share in General Motors; in 1917, Durant became the president of GM and Chevrolet was merged into GM as a separate division.Today, Chevy is major player in the industry, selling its vehicles around the world. Even with the 2008 recession, during which the auto industry required a massive government bailout, Chevy continues to produce new vehicles.

I really like this matchup and think that both could move on. But since only one can, I have to throw my support behind the breakup of Standard Oil. I am, however, conflicted with this choice. If capitalism is going to work for everyone competition must exist; but, as we all know, capitalism doesn’t care about helping everyone. It cares only about making money – which is not inherently a bad thing. Monopolies, however, are a bad thing. It focuses too much wealth in the hands of too few much to the detriment of others. That’s why the Supreme Court’s ruling in Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States breaking up the oil giant is so important. It showed that the Sherman Antitrust Act actually had teeth and that Americans were opposed to monopolies. I highly suggest everyone reading this to look into the era of antirust in the United States as it is a fascinating era in American history and one that seems to be dead and gone in the U.S. of today. Meanwhile, Chevy as a new car company is important as it added more competition to the auto industry, but in terms of overall importance Chevy is not #1. I await the thoughts of my esteemed friend and writing partner Sean Graham. 

Sean: Clearly you’ve never had the pleasure of riding in a 1963 Chevy Stingray. For as much as it pains me, I think I have to agree with this one, but for a different reason. The symbolism of the Supreme Court decision was a sign to Americans that the economy was intended to work for them – even if that wasn’t actually the case. The symbolic value of that – and the hope it brought to workers – was important. The symbolic value of the Chevy, on the other hand, wasn’t as great as Ford held the title for auto production in the early part of the 20th century.

Aaron: Once again, the idea is strong and powerful but the execution fell far short.

Standard Oil Broken Up Wins (55-49)

(2) Carnegie Corporation Established


(3) Cy Young Wins 511th Game

Sean: In 1911, a 76-year-old Andrew Carnegie was increasingly considering his own mortality and thinking back to his 1876 Gospel of Wealth essay in which he wrote that “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” Carnegie had gained his extensive wealth through his domination of America’s steel industry, allowing him to amass a fortune worth in excess of $400 billion today. His business acumen came with controversy, however. The most notable of these may have been the 1892 Homestead Strike where the Carnegie Steel Company and the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers were locked in a labour dispute that lasted 142 days.

Philanthropy was not new to Carnegie as to that point in his life he had given away $150 million, a number that did not put a dent in his fortune. With an initial donation of $125 million, around $3 billion today, he established the Carnegie Corporation with the direct goal of promoting “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” WIth that mission statement, the Corporation implemented a program of scientific philanthropy. The goal was to push innovative approaches and cost-effective returns. It was not surprising that Carnegie approved a business-like approach to his philanthropic organization – the strategy had been remarkably effective in managing his steel operations. 

Along with Rockefeller, the Carnegie name today is largely associated with his philanthropic efforts. WIth a $3.3 billion endowment, the Corporation continues to operate along the same principles Carnegie laid down in 1911. In establishing the organization, Carnegie hoped that it would exist in perpetuity and given its current financial strength, it is sure to continue for a long time.

In September 1911, 44-year old Denton True ‘Cy’ Young took the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game between two teams long out of the pennant chase. Clearly towards the end of his career, Young had one gem left in him as he shut out the PIrates in a complete game 1-0 victory. Normally, a September game between two teams down in the standings doesn’t mean much, but this was win 511 for Cy Young. To put that number in some context, the next closest on the list of career pitching wins is Walter Johnson, who finished his 21-year career with 417. Some have argued that there won’t be another pitcher who reaches 300 wins given the way the game is played today, so Young’s record is one that is extremely unlikely to ever be broken.

Early in his career, Young was a fireballer, relying heavily on his fastball – his nickname ‘Cy’ was short for Cyclone, a reference to the speed of his pitches. As happens with all pitchers, his velocity started to fall as he aged, but his pinpoint control and increased reliance on breaking pitches allowed him to stay effective, and even dominant, well into his 30s. What makes his longevity even more remarkable is his workload, which multiple times included throwing over 40 complete games and over 400 innings in a single season. Last year, Justin Verlander led baseball with 223 innings pitched and across the entire MLB there were 44 complete games

Young would retire after the 1911 season, but his career was honoured by his 1937 induction into the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball’s decision to name its award for the season’s best pitcher the Cy Young Award. So even if baseball fans today don’t know the ins and outs of his career, Cy Young has remained a prominent part of the sport’s lexicon and his presence continues to be felt.

Sure, I’m majorly biased in this one, but I’m going to go with Cy Young. While the Carnegie Corporation continues to support deserving projects, I’m not sure it has the same cultural relevance as it once did, particularly in this age of questioning the value of large-scale endowments. Young’s legacy as a pitcher, on the other hand, hasn’t changed and his name remains a major part of the sport. Additionally, his 511 wins will not be challenged in my lifetime and, in a sport where numbers reign supreme, that matters. A lot. 

Aaron: Much like with any event that involves planes, Sean’s bias toward anything baseball is very evident here. There is no way that a baseball player winning a game – and I don’t care that it was his 511th game – can possibly defeat the creation of the Carnegie Foundation. Before preparing for this bracket I didn’t know that Cy Young’s name was Denton, and that Cy was a nickname! Meanwhile, I did know about the Carnegie Foundation and its positive impacts on learning. While doing research for my PhD, Andrew Carnegie factored in quite prominently – he believed that Canada and the United States should have eliminate the border and unite to form one grand English-speaking republic (clearly omitting Canada’s large Francophone population) – and his zeal for learning near the end of his life was evident. The Carnegie Foundation has been directly responsible for funding several prominent academic ventures, such as the United States National Research Council, the Carnegie Libraries – which has locations around the world, including 125 in Canada! -, and a little thing called the Children’s Television Workshop, better known today as Sesame Workshop – yes, that very studio that produces Sesame Street! More people have, therefore, been positively impacted by the Carnegie Foundation and its philanthropic ventures than a single baseball player winning his 511th game.

Sean: This is, by far, the most egregious miscalculation that anyone has ever made in the history of everything. And I am not, by nature, hyperbolic. In fact, I am the most not hyperbolic person in the history of humanity. Now, on to the larger point, the Corporation is holding $3.3 billion that is not being circulated into the economy. Sure, the interest on that investment has been used to some great effect, but think about it, that $3.3 billion could pay for Bert & Ernie’s wedding, plus everyone’s rent on Sesame Street for the rest of time.

Aaron: Could you imagine Sesame Street with a $3.3 billion budget?!? Oscar would live in a trash mansion rather than a trash can! And, if Bert and Ernie were in fact a same-sex couple – which a writer claims but the show disputes – their wedding would be the most extravagant wedding in the history of ever! This episode is brought to you by the letter $

Carnegie Corporation Established Wins (3,300,000,000-511)

Power to the People Bracket

(3) First International Women’s Day


(4) Parliament Act Passed

Sean: While we mildly extolled the virtues of the Parliament Act in the first round as a key moment of democratization, it should be noted that it did not completely resolve the nation’s problems with ensuring adequate representation in government. The Act, as was the case with all bills at this time, did not consider the possibility of women voting in national elections. The House of Commons made great claims of democratization and giving the people a voice, it completely omitted half the population from that process. So while the House of Commons was patting itself on the back for a piece of legislation that ignored women, we also had the first day recognizing women. As an additional bonus in favour of International Women’s Day in this matchup, the Parliament Act was only valid in the UK while International Women’s Day has become a significant date on the calendar around the world.

Aaron: I agree completely with this assessment. The Parliament Act was for the benefit of all Britons, which included women; but by excluding them from the legislative process, both in not allowing women to vote nor hold a seat in the House of Commons – House of Lords? Are you kidding me? House of Lords? – undermines the full spirit of democracy. International Women’s Day, on the other hand, lifts everyone up, not just women. It advocates for full equality, and it’s kinda hard to root against that.

First International Women’s Day Wins (88-44)

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Bracket

(3) Xinhai Revolution


(4) Mona Lisa Stolen

Sean: Unpopular opinion: I don’t get the Mona Lisa. Why is it considered so good? As has been well documented on the History Slam, I don’t understand art, particularly modern art, and its valuation. That said, I’m glad they found the painting. In terms of significance, though, the Revolution is the far more significant event. In the West, Chinese history is too often glossed over and the country is treated as a monolith that hadn’t changed in thousands of years until Mao in 1949, but that’s not the case and the 1911 revolution was a significant moment in the massive political, social, and economic changes that fundamentally shaped the region through the first half of the 20th century.

Aaron: I don’t get art either. However, my daughter scribbles on a piece of paper and I think it’s a masterpiece so my opinion on the matter is immediately worth nothing. On the Mona Lisa, though, I think I get it. Much of the allure of the Mona Lisa is the enigma – is she smiling? Is she not? Is there something painted behind her? Is there a hidden message? And if there is, who is the message for? Clearly this is a job for Professor Robert Langdon and not us. Because people flock to it, it’s important. It’s as simple as that. The Xinhai Revolution is overshadowed by the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) and the years of Mao. For that reason alone I have to go with the Mona Lisa.

 Sean: That we’ve spent years debating whether or not she is smiling tells me that the painting is too ambiguous for my taste. And here’s a breakthrough, I have just discovered the secret message in the painting behind her. In tiny letters, da Vinci wrote “You just paid too much for a painting, fool.”

Xinhai Revolution Wins (77-68)

Is This a Good Thing? Bracket

(1) George V Coronation


(2) Machu Picchu ‘Discovered’

Aaron: Although his reign began on May 6, 1910, following the death of his father, George V’s coronation did not occur until a full year later on June 22, 1911. To some (including me) this long interval seems somewhat strange, especially considering that upon the death of one monarch the person in waiting immediately becomes Queen/King. As my friend and much more learned colleague, Dr. Sean Graham, pointed out, planning a coronation takes time and you can’t celebrate while the people are still in mourning. 


Aaron: In any case, the death of Edward VII and the passing of the throne to George V occurred at a pretty terrible time in European history. We can only speculate how Edward VII would have handled the growing war clouds over Europe and the subsequent war the almost wiped out a generation of British subjects. On a different, yet somewhat related note, George V suddenly became the sovereign of many nations, including Canada. As such, the Mint had to make a whole new set of coins, and that ain’t cheap. I believe that Machu Picchu’s “discovery” is significant, but not as much as the coronation.

Sean: I’m with you on this one, Dr. Boyes. Plus, you bring up a good point about the coins – each time we publish this bracket we include an image of that year’s Canadian pennies, which are, of course, adorned with the King’s face. So on top of your succinct explanation, our personal use of the image requires us to vote in its favour.

George V Coronation Wins (89-79)

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Standard Oil Broken Up


(2) Carnegie Corporation Established

Aaron: When discussing both of these events we are dealing with billions of dollars, and anytime a sum of money starts with a B, you know it’s significant. In the grand scheme, however, I am going to pick the breakup of Standard Oil. Although I said that the reality fell far short of the idea, when you put it into perspective of the early 20th century, during an era of massive reforms to workers’ rights, labour codes, and unions, the Supreme Court upholding that Standard Oil was in violation of the Antitrust Act is noteworthy. The Carnegie Corporation has its place and has done some great work in the world, but I can’t see it advancing on an upset. 

Sean: Timeout – so in the matchup of multi-billionaires who exploited workers, you are siding with the one that took the case all the way to the Supreme Court over the one who gave a bunch of his money away? Bold choice. Neither Rockefeller nor Carnegie were beloved by their workers and both established philanthropic organizations bearing their names which are still powerful forces around the world, but in assessing the events on their own terms, I have to side with the one that tried to help the people instead of the one that tried to help ownership.

Aaron: I am nothing if not bold, Dr. Graham. And I didn’t side with the billionaires that enriched themselves; I sided with the Supreme Court decision that forced a billion-dollar company to break up, thereby indirectly making John D. Rockefeller the richest human that has ever existed. 

Standard Oil Broken Up (51-50 OT)

Final Four

First International Women’s Day


Xinhai Revolution

Sean: In all the discussion about the Revolution to this point, there is one important detail that we have completely omitted that has great relevance to modern life and that is that both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China in Taiwan consider themselves the legitimate successors to Xinhai Revolution. This conflict has led to the adoption of the One-China Policy by many countries around the world, although it has been implemented differently by various nations. Given China’s immense economic power, the diplomatic ramifications of the Xinhai Revolution can still be felt today as foreign powers attempt to achieve a delicate balance in their relationship with the world’s second largest economy.

How does that compare to International Women’s Day? It’s really hard to quantify because, one could argue, the majority of people don’t give the One China Policy significant thought throughout the year, whereas International Women’s Day is officially marked by countries around the world, making it arguably more significant than diplomatic relationships. This is tough…

(Nearly live look at Sean)

Aaron: This is why we do this, Sean, to make the difficult choices. I can see your dilemma, and it is warranted, but I am putting all my weight behind International Women’s Day.

Happy So Excited GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

As mentioned earlier, the work that has been done through International Women’s Day to promote equality for all is truly admirable and, as I see it, more impactful than a Revolution that was replaced by a civil war and another revolution. 

(Updated nearly live look at Sean)

Pretty Good Curb Your Enthusiasm GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

First International Women’s Day Wins (77-76 2OT)

George V Coronation


Standard Oil Broken Up

Aaron: I love this match up: we have a dynasty against a monopoly. In both cases we’re dealing with incredibly wealthy and powerful people, one a monarch and the other a massive corporation. While the British people love their monarchs, the American people supposedly oppose anything dynastic or anything that limits personal freedom. That’s why the breakup of Standard Oil is so important. The American Dream says that you can become whatever you want in the land of opportunity, all you have to do is work hard. Well, by the 20th century this had slightly changed. Americans were no longer enamoured with the idea of a one company controlling the majority of a specific trade – it stymied the possibility of others living out their American dream.

The fact that the US Justice Department sued an American company is, to today’s standards at least, completely incomprehensible. Yet the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Standard Oil’s monopoly was illegal and had to be broken up. In a sense, and to tie this back to one of the brackets, more power went to the people with the breakup of Standard Oil than George V inheriting the throne because of his birth.

Can I also point out how confused I am about how many Americans are fascinated if not in love with the British Royal Family. They know that the Thirteen American Colonies literally fought a war to be removed from the British Royal Family, right? If not, I’d start here.

Sean: But, but, but…this:

Without the monarchy we would have been deprived of this wonderful character who provides much needed levity to the show.


Sean: Fine, Standard Oil is more important between the two – this tentpole in the populist movement is often held up as seminal moment for the way businesses operated in the United States for the next 50 years – so I will concede, but, but, but, this:

Enrico Palazzo Pre-Memorial Championship Game

First International Women’s Day


Standard Oil Broken Up

Sean: I can think of no two people better suited to discuss the merits of International Women’s Day than the two of us.


Going into this match up, I think I assumed that the breakup of Standard Oil would win considering its profile. However, the more we discussed and debated the merits of its dissolution we talked ourselves out of it and instead focused on the merits of International Women’s Day. As I mentioned earlier, and the point that stuck in my head, Standard Oil eventually got around the antitrust laws through the merger of Exxon and Mobil in 1999, both of which were born in Standard Oil’s demise. It’s almost like a weird Frankenstein’s monster of two companies being stitched together from the corpse of another. I know that the 1999 merger is legal, and that ExxonMobil does not have a monopoly over the oil industry in the United States like Standard Oil once had, but to me it still seems strange that the US government would allow the merger when it forced its breakup in the first place. 

Sean: International Women’s Day, on the other hand, has become an increasingly prominent date on the calendar around the world. In the United States, the day was expanded to Women’s History Month by Jimmy Carter in 1980, in China women are given a half-day off work on March 8 to celebrate, and in Berlin March 8 is a public holiday. In 2018, Spanish women marked the occasion with the 24-hour strike to protest the gender wage gap. The diversity of celebrations and commemorations of the day not only highlight the achievements of women around the world, but also serve as an important reminder of the inequality that still exists and the work that we all need to do to combat it. For that, it is a worthy winner of the bracket.

Aaron: I agree with all of the reasons you listed, Sean. International Women’s Day deserves to win. March 8 is likely to remain a pivotal day on the calendar for the fight towards equality, and it all started in 1911. 






First International Women’s Day Wins (48-37)

Past Winners:

1910: Binder Clip Patented

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

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