8th Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

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By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We give our 2 cents on the events of 1920. Let us know what you think in the comments.

In last year’s edition of our Year in Review, we said that 2019 was at times a slog. We miss 2019. 2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the world, infected (as of writing) more than 73 million people, and killed 1.6 million – with almost 14,000 deaths in Canada. Not since the Spanish Flu of 1918 – which we wrote about in 2018 – has an infectious disease like COVID impacted so many people around the planet. Millions of people lost their jobs; businesses were shuttered; PPE was in short supply; and, arguably, worst of all, countless people believed, and continue to believe, that it is all a hoax. Thankfully, a vaccine is slowly being distributed there is hope that by the end of 2021 COVID will not be the killer that it is.

But COVID wasn’t the only newsmaker of 2020. There was Brexit in January; the devastating Australian bushfires; murder hornets; celebrity deaths (Kobe Bryant, Eddie van Halen, Alex Trebek, Ruth Bader Ginsburg); the Black Lives Matter movement; Donald Trump’s impeachment; a series of shootings in Nova Scotia; and the US Presidential Election.

If 2019 was a slog, 2020 was a nightmare.

But in order to truly close out the year, we’re back with our Eighth Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket. For first time readers, we took the most important events of 1920 and pitted them against each other in a March Madness-style bracket. This edition has some amazing inventions, some interesting firsts, and social advancements broken down in four brackets: How Did I Not Think of That Bracket, Legends BracketDr. Graham Special Pre-Memorial Bracket, and, of course, the Potpourri Bracket. Given the slog that has been 2020, we’ve tried to keep this year’s version of the bracket light and fun. Having gotten through the year, we feel like we all deserve a break from bad news.

We should also note that we implemented a no repeat winner rule, which explains why there is no aviation in this year’s bracket. You can find all past winners at the end of the article. As always, we would love to hear what you think of our selections. If you think a different event should have won, please let us know in the comments.

To everyone out there, please stay safe and healthy, practice social distancing, and wear a mask.

Round One

How Did I Not Think of That Bracket

(1) Pop-up Toaster Patent


(4) Silica Gel Patent


Aaron: Where would millennials be without their avocado toast? Employed, probably. But that’s because they have the luxury of the pop-up toaster. Toasting bread occurred before 1920; holding a slice over a source of heat was hardly new. In fact, the first electric toaster appeared in 1893. The first patent for a pop-up toaster – which ejects the toast after toasting it – belongs to Charles P. Strite. On June 22, 1920, he submitted his patent, and in 1921 received US Patent no. US1394450A. In his filing, Strite outlined that his invention would “provide an automatic electric bread toaster in which the heating current will be automatically cut off after the bread has been toasted for a predetermined length of time.” Subsequent designs would improve on Strite’s invention, allowing the bread to be toasted on both sides simultaneously and then ejected once complete.

“Do not eat”: are there more tantalizing words in the English language? That message emblazons every package of silica gel, and, let’s be honest, how many of us wanted to eat one of those things just because? Just me? I didn’t do it, obviously. But those silica packages are quite useful in shipping to keep goods from moisture damage, amongst other uses. Silica gels have been around in one form or another since the 17th century, but the modern, synthetic version is thanks to Walter A. Patrick, who was a chemistry professor at Johns Hopkins University. On February 28, 1920, Patrick filed his patent for a synthetic silica gel. In 1926, it received patent no. US1577186A.

It’s hard to imagine a North American home without a pop-up toaster. I know that I use mine pretty much every morning to heat up frozen waffles for my 4-year old. Being a sleep-deprived adult, I need the pop-up function or else my daughter would be eating burnt waffles because, like us all, I push down the plunger and walk away, completing other morning routines while I wait for the eventual POP of the toaster.

The silica gel is also extremely useful, especially in terms of keeping moisture away from goods being shipped around the world. One little bag of silica gel ensures that moisture does not allow for mould growth, or in the case of electronics, sensitive materials to be water-damaged. Without these little packets, the logistics of shipping goods all over the world would become much more complicated and, I’m sure, limit what we could possibly send.

 I was going to pick the upset silica gel; in fact, I had even written my rationale. After sleeping on it, though, I changed my mind. I think that the pop-up toaster is the more important of the two. Before the pop-up design, one would have to pay close attention to the browning of the toast to ensure that the bread didn’t burn. Ejecting the bread based on a pre-determined length of time, which controlled the browning and crispness of the toast, was a game changer. Plus, as I mentioned before, I have to believe that almost every home has at least one pop-up toaster. This is not to say that the silica gel isn’t important, especially for its use in shipping. But since humans have been transporting goods all around the world for thousands of years with creating preservation methods without the modern silica gel, I think I have to go with the toaster.

Sean: I have a toasted PB&J sandwich at least 4 times a week as part of a balanced dinner – it’s the side dish to my Cheerios – so I have to agree and go with the toaster. The only real question here is can you pause toast?

Pop-up Toaster Patent Wins (100-60)

(2) Jungle Gym Patent


(3) Drapery Hook Patent

Aaron: There is one common feature at almost every schoolyard in North America: the jungle gym. These simple structures have provided countless hours of fun for school-aged children during recesses and afterschool play – and, just as likely, as many broken bones. On July 22, 1920, Sebastian Hinton filed his patent for the first jungle gym. Hinton’s motivation was for children to get exercise by climbing which, as he stated in his filing, “has in it conspicuous features of advantage,” because “all the muscles of the whole body are used.” The “jungle gym”, as it is known, got its name because Hinton believed that climbing was innate in humans due to the “monkey instinct” that is most prevalent in children. Hinton received his patent, US1471465A, in October 1923.

The hanging of drapery is a common feature in human society. I think it’s a safe bet to assume that anyone reading this either has drapery hanging in their home or knows someone who does. Who invented the hanging drapes? I have no idea. But on March 23, 1920, James William McGhee, a Kentucky-born inventor, received US patent US1334661A for his drapery hook. The objective of the patent was to “make an improved drapery hook,” and McGhee claimed to have made a “novel feature” for the basic hook. How novel was his improvement is subject to interpretation. Others had created drapery hooks in the past and since. In fact, in 1929, McGhee launched an infringement lawsuit against US patent US1475306. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, however, ruled that hook designs were not patentable.

For this match up I have to support the jungle gym – mostly because I think that patenting a hook seems silly. Jungle gyms are so prevalent and millions of children have played on them; I think their impact is unbeatable. This may be because I never broke any bones while playing on them as a child, despite the idiotic “tricks” my friends and I attempted. What about you, Sean? Did you ever break anything while playing on a jungle gym?

Sean: Just my pride, good sir. 

Speaking of losing one’s pride, you could not be more wrong on this one. Jungle gyms are fun, but for thousands of years kids have found a way to play with things. Ask any parent about buying an expensive toy and the kid being way more interested in playing with the box. The imagination that a child brings makes items like jungle gyms, while fun and beneficial, not as necessary as the humble drapery hook. 

I would estimate that three-quarters of homes have drapery hooks. Everyone has windows and coverings like venetian blinds are nice enough, but nothing offers the class and sophistication of beautiful drapery. And when we want to let in the natural light, we need a hook to gentle caress the drape so as to not wrinkle or damage the fabric. One wonders if there is any household object as taken for granted as the drapery hook. I for one, hope no other device suffers such a cruel fate.

Aaron: I’m glad that your pride recovered, but clearly your mind did not from all the falls off the jungle gym. Yes, a box will entertain a child for hours while the toy that was packaged in it sits idly by. But the reason for the jungle gym, which you are overlooking, is the need for kids to get exercise – and more importantly, to tire themselves out. I can fashion a drapery hook out of just about anything; I can’t do the same for a well-made jungle gym.

Sean: If you fashion a drapery hook “out of just about anything” it may not match your colour scheme and you’ll be banished from every cocktail party on the cape. My heavens, no, I will not allow it.

Aaron: I’m willing to take that chance. I’m not willing to allow my daughter to have too much pent up energy at the end of the school day and refuse to sleep at night.

Sean: Why do I care about that? The interior designs of millions of homes is at stake and you’re selfishly thinking about your sleep schedule. Scandalous!

Aaron: Yes, yes I am.

Jungle Gyms Patent Wins (68-66 OT)

Legends Bracket

(1) First Women Members of American College of Physicians


(4) First Women to Serve on Juries in United Kingdom

Aaron: In 1915, the American College of Physicians was created with the goal of enhancing “the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine.” Of course, like most other organizations of the time, membership to the College was restricted to men – although women had graduated from medical school and practiced medicine before the creation of the College. In February 1920, Dr. Anna Weld (1866-1956) and Dr. Leila Andrews (1874-1954) became the first two women to be admitted into the American College of Physicians, signalling yet another advancement of women toward gender equality.

In another moment of women fighting for gender equality, in 1919 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, which states that “A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation, or for admission to any incorporated society (whether incorporated by Royal Charter or otherwise).” Amongst other things, women in the UK now had the right to sit on juries. The first set of women jurors in the UK were sworn in on July 29, 1920, in the case against William Henry Ayton, who was accused stealing. Prosecutor R.E. Dummett began his opening statement, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” the first time such a statement was made in a British court. For the first time, women had played a central role in determining a person’s guilt, rather than simply in a post-verdict fact-finding role.

For this match up, I like the first women on a British jury. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was an important legal moment in British history as it finally allowed women the right to actively participate in legal proceedings. Some British women won the right to vote in 1918, and it made logical sense (at least from 100-years hindsight) to recognize that women have just as much of a responsibility to society as men by having women sit on juries. This by no means undermines the accomplishment of Dr. Weld and Dr. Andrews. Since women were already practicing medicine in the United States, however, my vote goes to the juries.

Sean: The question who sits on juries is quite fascinating. Who constitutes one’s peers? There are plenty of studies that demonstrate that economic, ethnic, and gender biases in jury selection hurts defendants at trial and ensuring a greater representation from the community leads to fairer trials and more just outcomes. As a result, I have to agree and side with Dr. Boyes on this one. Juries without women were not juries of one’s peers, so rectifying this was a necessary step for the British criminal justice system.

Mildly related question: do you know if Dr. Weld or Dr. Andrews are taking patients? It’s so hard to find a family doctor today.

Aaron: I’m going to say no, on account of them both suffering from the unfortunate medical condition of being deceased.

First Women to Serve on Juries in United Kingdom Wins (70-59)

(2) Marcus Garvey Founds UNIA


(3) American Civil Liberties Union Founded

Aaron: In 1914, Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, with the goal of advancement for people of African ancestry all over the world. In 1917, Garvey immigrated to the United States, where the Universal Negro Improvement Association played a prominent role in African-American communities. On August 2, 1920, the first international meeting of the Association was held in New York City at Madison Square Garden. More than 200,000 people attended. During the meeting Garvey outlined his famous “Back to Africa” plan, which encouraged people of African ancestry to return to their homelands in Africa. According to Garvey, African-Americans could never achieve racial equality in the United States since they would always be a minority and white Americans would not allow black Americans to integrate. Also at the meeting, its leaders launched “The Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.” For the next several years, people around the world looked into Garvey’s dream of returning to Africa. In 1927, Garvey was deported from the United States back to his native Jamaica; after that, the Association lost much of its acclaim and momentum. Despite this, the Association is long remembered as an active proponent of black rights around the world.

Most of us don’t think much about our civil rights. And that is not an indictment against any of us. In fact, I would argue it is somewhat of a good thing, since it means that most of us do not fear having our civil rights abused. This is because people before us had to fight for protecting civil rights. After the end of the First World War, and following the Communist Revolution in the Soviet Union, American leaders believed that the US was full of radicals who wanted to undermine American institutions and invoke a communist revolution. Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up and deporting these “radicals” and thousands of people were arrested without warrants or constitutional considerations. In January 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Since its founding, the ACLU boasts more than a million members and has helped individuals and organizations in lawsuits on issues such as the death penalty, same-sex marriage, LGBTQ2+ rights, reproductive rights, ending discrimination, and others.

Although the ACLU is still around today, I think that the first international meeting of the UNIA is the more important event. The 1910s and 1920s is filled with examples of advancements and positive gains in society – many of which we have written about in the past – and the UNIA stands out for its attempts to bring to light the advancement of people of African descent. In the 1920s, Jim Crow laws in the South and rampant racism all over the country ensured that black Americans could not become full and equal members of white society. The UNIA, under Garvey’s leadership, actively fought against the racism for the betterment of black people all over the world. Although unsuccessful with the “Back to Africa” plan, the UNIA was highly influential and retains its lasting legacy in the march toward civil rights.

Sean: No question that UNIA was incredibly influential and Garvey’s voice carried considerable weight, but the ACLU is still out fighting social injustice today. It is arguably the most important activist groups in the United States, including in the fight for racial justice. In the past we have tended to go with longevity as a factor in these discussions, and I wonder if that principle should apply here as well. 

Aaron: I still feel like the UNIA should get more recognition than it does, but following the rules also makes sense, and longevity has been a determining factor in the past. For that reason – call it a technicality – I concede the point. 

American Civil Liberties Union Founded Wins (88-84)

Dr. Graham Special Pre-Memorial Bracket

(1) Commercial Radio


(4) New York Times Publishes Article Claiming Space Travel Impossible

Sean: For the first 20 years of the 20th century, there was an arms-race in the world of wireless communications. From Guglielmo Marconi to Reginald Fessenden, a number of inventors pushed the boundaries of what was possible with the technology. The pace accelerated during the First World War, as both sides used radio communication on the front lines. Following the War, the race was on to establish a commercially viable radio station. And while there are some conflicting reports on the date of the first commercial broadcast, there is no doubt that 1920 was a major turning point in the industry, with stations like XWA Montreal and later KDKA Pittsburgh establishing themselves as the early power brokers in North American radio.

On January 12, 1920, the New York Times reported on a paper published by physicist and engineer Robert Goddard claiming that rockets could be launched to space. At the time, this was a controversial claim and the following day, the Times eagerly derided Goddard for his fantastical claims. The article dismissing Goddard noted that there was no air in space and, as a result, rockets would be unable to push themselves through space. Newton’s Third Law means that rocket engines don’t need air to push against, but that had not been established, leaving the Times to lambast the professor at Clark College:

“That professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution [from which Goddard held a grant to research rocket flight], does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” 

Obviously, this didn’t age well and on July 17, 1969 the ‘paper of record’ retracted the story the day after the launch of a crewed mission to the moon. The less-than-heartfelt retraction read:

“Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century, and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.”

Between the two here, I have to go with the explosion of radio radio broadcasting. The Times story is a fun anecdote, but radio was a major force in the 1920s and beyond, fundamentally changing the way people consumed news and entertainment. With such an overwhelmingly greater influence in the years that followed, I have to go with radio.

Aaron: You and your biases, Dr. Graham. If it’s not anything planes related, it’s radio with you…or baseball. And I’m a little surprised that you didn’t select the Times article considering that a rocket is basically a plane in space (I will await critiques from our aeronautical friends). Radio broadcasts were occurring all around the world by 1920; the idea of spaceflight that wasn’t based on science fiction but actual science was truly novel. By critiquing Goddard’s rocket proposal, the Times was, erroneously, telling its readers that reaching the moon was still science fiction and not based on reality. That the Times would even publish an editorial to this degree is amazing since space flights were still 30 years off. For that reason I have to respectfully disagree.

Sean: If this was the moon landing, sure. And yes, space planes are great, although I’m not going to be anywhere near the front of the line for passenger travel to space. But this isn’t about that! This about hackneed journalism and a terrible story published in the paper of record. The radio show actually happened, so, you know, let’s promote fact or a rejection of fact. 

Aaron: But we live in a world of alternative facts…at least until January 20, 2021.


Sassy Red Wine GIF by Married At First Sight Australia - Find & Share on GIPHY


Commercial Radio Wins (56-50)

(2) Babe Ruth Debuts with New York Yankees


(3) Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade

Sean: Last year we covered the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox so you might be wondering why it’s making another appearance. The trade itself would not have been nearly as important if Ruth wasn’t good in New York – it would have been forgotten. But Ruth was awesome! In his first season in the Bronx, Ruth gave up pitching (he threw 4 innings in 1920, down from 133.1 the year before) and his offensive numbers went through the roof. His batting average and on-base percentage went up over 50 points each and his OPS was a ridiculous 1.379. Oh, and he also broke the home run record with 54, 25 more than he hit the year before. But don’t worry, that record didn’t last long as the next year he crushed 59 dingers. In putting on such a spectacular display, Ruth set in motion the Yankee dynasty of the 1920s and ensured that Red Sox fans would lament the move for decades to come.

A couple months after baseball season, Gimbels Department Store decided to do something special for Thanksgiving Day in Philadelphia. That Thursday morning store employees gathered and dressed in clown costumes, making their way down Market Street to proclaim the opening of ‘Toyland.’ Thanksgiving was, and is, the start of the holiday shopping season for many retailers, so Gimbels wanted to capture the city’s attention as a way to kick off the festivities. Holiday shopping was so important to the store’s bottom line that in the 1930s Frederic A. Gimbel was part of a lobbying effort to have Thanksgiving moved up a week to lengthen the shopping season. In the years that followed, marching bands from across the region would travel to the city to participate and floats would soon follow. Today, Thanksgiving Day parades are common in cities across the country, most notably the Macy’s Parade in New York, but it all started with Gimbels in the City of Brotherly Love in 1920.

This one is tough for me. I love Thanksgiving. It is one of my favourite days of the years. But I never watch the parade. In general, I don’t understand parades. Who are we all waving at? (Sidenote – why do we wave at the end of video meetings? I’ve never walked out of an in-person meeting waving at the rest of the group). Baseball, though, I understand. And it’s not just because it’s baseball, as Ruth with the Yankees has a much larger cultural impact. Things like Damn Yankees were made in the second half of the 20th century calling back to the glory days of Ruth’s Yankees in the 1920s. For that broad influence, I’m leaning towards Ruth.

Aaron: How do you do it? I seem to ask this every year and yet every year I am amazed: radio followed by baseball! It’s like you’re not even trying to hide your cheating.

And you’re also wrong. The Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade is far more important than Babe Ruth’s debut. When it was created in 1920, the Parade was the first of its kind in the United States. And although Gimbels is no longer affiliated with it, the Parade still occurs every November in Philadelphia. It also doesn’t matter that it is overshadowed by the Macy’s Parade in New York. 

Sean: Tell Chris Kirkpatrick that being overshadowed doesn’t matter.

Aaron: Every year millions of people look forward to the Parade, which means it is still relevant. Babe Ruth, on the other hand, I think is most likely forgotten amongst the younger generations – unless they have watched The Sandlot (and every must watch The Sandlot!) – and will be lost to history within a matter of years.


The Sandlot GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


The Sandlot GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Babe Ruth Debuts with New York Yankees Wins (47-45)

Potpourri Bracket

(2) First NFL Game


(3) First Indoor Curling Facility Opens in United States

Sean: Full disclosure: this fall, TSN made the NFL Red Zone available to all subscribers and, with nowhere to go in the midst of the pandemic, it’s been on pretty much wall to wall in my house each Sunday. Back in 1920, the Red Zone channel wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting as only 10 teams played in the first season of the American Professional Football Association. This included the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears), Rochester Jeffersons, and Hammond Pros. The class of the league were the Akron Pros, who went undefeated on route to the league championship. Through the 1920s, professional football was not that popular. College football remained the pinnacle of the sport as many regarded the pros as seedy – the idea of playing for money turned off a lot of fans who believed that players should play for the love of the game. The league pressed on, though, increasing the number of teams and expanding its geographic footprint. Changing its name to the National Football League in 1922, the league has grown to become the most popular professional sports league in North America, regularly drawing the highest ratings of any prime time programming. There have even been calls to make the Monday after the Superbowl a national holiday. The NFL is by no means perfect – its record on player safety and racial equality is suspect, at best – but that has yet to translate into decreased revenues for the league. Forbes recently valued the Dallas Cowboys at $5 billion – a number that would have been unimaginable when the Dayton Triangles hosted the Columbus Panhandles in the league’s first game on October 3, 1920

On Saturday February 24, 2018, John Shuster and the American men’s curling team did the impossible: they won the Olympic gold medal. After knocking off the heavily favoured Canadians in the semi-final the day before, Shuster made a double-takeout to score 5 in the 8th end against the Swedes, arguably the best team in the world. The path to that remarkable moment started 98 years earlier, when the first indoor curling club in the United States opened in Brookline, MA. The advent of artificial ice was a major change in all ice sports, but in particular curling, where ice conditions are essential to the game. By taking the sport from frozen streams and ponds, it became more accessible across the country and extended the season. Still a niche sport in the United States, new curling facilities are springing up in places you would never expect. There’s even a World Curling Tour event in Arizona! That growth was all made possible by that first club in Massachusetts.

This one hurts my soul, but I have to say NFL here. Curling is indisputably the best sport ever played, but the cultural significance of curling does not compete with the behemoth of professional football. And since both of these are American-centric, there is no doubt that curling is the sporting mouse being crushed by the sporting elephant that is the NFL. 

Aaron: Finally! A non-baseball sports reference. I am all for NFL football. I curled once and it was fun (Hi Rachel!), but nothing beats sitting down for 10 hours of NFL football on a Sunday – especially when it’s -10 celsius and you’re nice and warm and comfortable at home. The only thing better is when the NFL plays in London, and then it’s 13 hours of football! 

First NFL Game Wins (71-56)

(1) Mandate for Palestine


(4) RCMP Established

Sean: On April 25, 1920, Great Britain was granted a Mandate for Palestine. Approved by the League of Nations two years later, the mandate gave the British a dual obligation towards both Arab and Jewish populations in the region. Palestine had been part of Ottoman Syria before the British occupation during the First World War, throughout which the British had made contradictory agreements related to the region. These included the Husayn-McMahon Correspondence, in which the British agreed to recognize Arab independence after the war, and the Balfour Declaration, in which the British committed to a national home for the Jewish people. WIth the Mandate in place, the British set Palestine’s borders based on its international agreements. Within these borders two different social systems developed under a singular political structure, leading to a series of violent confrontations throughout the 1920s and 1930s. A major Arab revolt in 1936, which was concurrent to increased Jewish migration following Hiter’s rise to power in Germany, led to a Royal Commission and ultimately a White Paper in 1939. With increasing violence in Palestine and disapproval of the mandate at home, Great Britain terminated the Mandate in 1947.

The Northwest Mounted Police were established in 1873 to patrol the increasingly western colonial settlements. There was already a federal police force in place – in 1868 the Dominion Police was created to guard government buildings and enforce federal statutes. In 1920, the 2 forces merged to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the 100 years since, the RCMP has assumed an important role in the collective imagination of Canada while also being riddled with internal problems. The contrast of having the red coats lead the changing of the guard to reputable allegations of misconduct, the RCMP in 2020 seems to be at a major crossroads. As it grapples with its contemporary problems, it remains identifiably Canadian internationally, as the figure of Dudley Do-Right who always gets his man is cemented in Canada’s national identity. 

Between these two I’m going to have to lean towards the Mandate for Palestine. In the years following the First World War, there were plenty of international agreements and treaties signed in the hopes of maintaining the peace. Of course, peace was not achieved as colonial powers continued to battle over their empires. In Palestine, the British oversaw decades of protests, riots, and revolts before the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was passed in 1947. Despite not having the longevity as the RCMP, the police force was an amalgamation that traces its lineage to 1873, so how important was 1920 in its history?

Aaron: I have to agree with you, Sean. The Mandate for Palestinee has proven to be an extremely important event, especially considering the current political state in the Middle East. As a Canadian I want to pick the RCMP, but I also agree with your assessment that since it’s an amalgamation it’s not as important as Palestine.

Round Two

How Did I Not Think of That Bracket

(1) Pop-up Toaster Patent


(2) Jungle Gym Patent 

Aaron: I have to decide here: do I feed my child or get my child exercise? Waffles or climbing?

This one to me is easy. The pop-up toaster is more of a game changer than the jungle gym in that it, I believe, it has had more of an impact on the world. While we stop using jungle gyms after grade 6, we use pop-up toasters for a lifetime. As my esteemed colleague said to me while we were preparing this bracket, “Who wants to wait for toast? We went to the moon with all of the time we saved not waiting for toast!”

Sean: Sounds like a brilliant individual! I would like to meet them.

Pop-up Toaster Wins (111-61)

Legends Bracket

(3) American Civil Liberties Union Founded


(4) First Women to Serve on Juries in United Kingdom Wins

Sean: The ACLU has been uncompromising in its pursuit of free speech and justice. Sometimes that has meant supporting cases where people with abhorrent views have had their First Amendment right violated. At other times, it has meant arguing and winning cases against racial discrimination. Women on juries was a major step forward and improved the justice system, but the unrelenting protection of rights by the ACLU gets my vote in this match.  

Aaron: This bracket has been very American centric, and for that reason I am pulling for an upset with the first women on juries in Britain. As we said earlier, having a jury of your peers is an essential component of British common law, and women were and are equal peers of society. They should have been serving on juries well before this; finally it occurred in 1920. As a matter of a “first”, I want it to have the edge.

Sean: There is no question of that, but I’m thinking of this in terms of scale. The volume of cases and advocacy the ACLU has championed over the past 100 years is remarkable and, sure, it is American centric, but given that country’s colonial impulses, the ideals the ACLU has fought to protect have spread beyond America’s borders.

American Civil Liberties Union Founded Wins (43-38)

Dr. Graham Special Pre-Memorial Bracket

(1) Commercial Radio


(2) Babe Ruth Debuts with New York Yankees

Sean: A baseball broadcast and the most significant trade in baseball history!?!?! Christmas has come early!

Despite the entirety of my professional ‘career’ being the result of studying early radio, I actually think that the Babe Ruth trade is more significant between the two. Radio was well on its way to becoming a cultural force and while the first broadcast is nice, if it hadn’t been on that day, it still would have happened. The Babe Ruth trade, on the other hand, single handedly changed the fortunes of Major League Baseball as it shaped the next century for two of its highest profile teams. Plus, who knows if Babe Ruth becomes the cultural icon he did if he stays in Boston. As a Yankee, though, he made the front page whenever he came to a city. He was a celebrity in an era before celebrities. Heck, he’s got a candy bar named after him! This hurts my heart, but methinks Babe Ruth has the edge here.  

Aaron: I agree on this one. I’m a baseball fan – not to the same degree as Sean – and I know who Babe Ruth is and about the curse that loomed over the Red Sox after the trade. I didn’t know about the first worldwide broadcast. The name recognition alone – the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat – I think the Ruth trade wins.

Babe Ruth Debuts for New York Yankees Wins (67-64)

Potpourri Bracket

(1) Mandate for Palestine


(2) First NFL Game

Aaron: My brain is telling me that the Palestine Mandate should win, but my heart is urging me to pick football. I love football (not soccer; in North America the game with the ball and the huge nets and no scoring is soccer) and the first NFL game is important for what it has become: the largest professional sports league in North America. But my brain wins. The Palestine Mandate literally reshaped the map and its impact is still very much felt 100 years later. Geopolitics are shaped by Palestine; wars are not fought over which NFL team is best – unless you count the old Oakland Raiders – San Francisco 49ers bar fights as wars.

Sean: Don’t Google that one – there is a lot of footage of those bar fights.

Mandate for Palestine Wins (78-59)


Babe Ruth Debuts for New York Yankees


Toaster Patent

Sean: The one constant through all the years, Aaron, has been baseball. The world has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This trade, this game — it’s a part of our past, Aaron. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.

Plus, the Red Sox didn’t win a World Series for 84 years. A drought they thought was because of this trade. The great memories we have of Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner can all be traced to that trade.  


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Babe Ruth was nothing more than a fat old man with little legs. Plus, here’s something I just learned, he wasn’t really a sultan.

Sean: So toaster?

Aaron: Think about it – Ruth’s career really took off after 1920 and the trade. Sure, playing in New York had something to do with it, but perhaps the toaster did too. He loved hot dogs and maybe the key to his success was toasted hot dog buns, which were much easier after the pop-up toaster.

Sean: Maybe that Wall Street Journal editorial should have been directed at you.

Toaster Patent Wins (88-86)

Mandate for Palestine


American Civil Liberties Union Founded

Aaron: This is a tough match up, as it should be in the semi-finals. There are no easy games any more. This is why we practice those long hours; this is why we play the game.

And once again longevity wins out. The ACLU remains a powerful institution in the United States 100 years later, while the Palestinian Mandate ended in 1948. This matchup required 3 OTs, and in the end the ACLU simply had more in the tank.


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American Civil Liberties Union Founded Wins (144-140 3OT)

Enrico Palazzo Memorial Championship Game

Toaster Patent


American Civil Liberties Union Founded

Sean: There is no doubt that this is a tough matchup – it actually reminds me a little of the Great Zipper Debate of 2013™.

Aaron: There was a debate? The zipper was the CLEAR winner in 2013!

Sean: Clear feels a little strong, but, honestly, who can really remember much from the before times?

The similarity to 2013, in my mind, lies in the universality of the toaster compared to the geographic specificity of the ACLU’s work. The toaster is used around the world, but the ACLU only has an official presence in the United States. That being said, I think the work of the ACLU may be somewhat universal. The right of free speech and equality should be available to all, so even if the ACLU is only in a position to advocate in the United States, could we not say that championing these values goes beyond borders?


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The universality of the toaster is what, in my mind, makes it the more important event of 1920. It is used every single day by millions – perhaps a billion? – people, which makes its use unquestionable. Think of the BILLIONS of seconds wasted if we had to wait for our bread to toast without the auto eject function. We wouldn’t have made it to the moon. 

Sean: Fine, but you have yet to answer the key question: can you pause toast?

Aaron: Without the toaster we wouldn’t have that question to answer.

Sean: You should have been a philosopher.

Toaster Patent Wins (101-95)

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Past Winners

1910: Binder Clip Patented

1911: First International Women’s Day

1912: Titanic Sinks on Maidan Voyage

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

Winners at War: Women’s Suffrage in the Kingdom of Denmark

Aaron Boyes has a PhD in History from the University of Ottawa

Sean Graham is the host of the History Slam Podcast

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