9th Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

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By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We offer our 2 cents on the events of 1921, but let us know what you think of the biggest events of the year.

It’s that time of year again where we get together and use the incredible power of hindsight to look back on the events of 100 years ago. In the past we have used this space to note the struggles of the current year and hope for better in the new year, but the past couple of years have demonstrated that, all we can really do, is live in the moment and appreciate each day as much as possible. And if looking back at 1921 has taught us anything, it’s that positive, life-changing developments can come seemingly out of nowhere. For as bad as things may appear, there are people out there fighting the good fight and working round the clock to address some of the world’s biggest challenges. This is true in 2021, but also comes through very clearly when looking back at 1921.

For anyone new to the Year in Review (100 Years Later) series, we find that typical year in review articles lack context. We need time to truly assess what was important in a given year. That was the motivation behind the first edition of this series (you can find links to all editions at the end of the post) and continues to motivate us as we venture deeper into the 20th century.

As always, we have divided the events into four brackets. This year they are the International Bracket, the Progress Bracket, the Doctors Bracket, and, as always, the Potpourri Bracket. The no repeat winner rule is also in effect, so if you think we’ve missed something, it may fall into that category, but do let us know your thoughts – good or bad.

International Bracket

(1) Cairo Conference


(4) China Communist Party Established

Sean: In the summer of 1921, a group of revolutionaries in China came together to form the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A lot of them had come out of the May Fourth Movement and had been inspired by the Russian Revolution. In the early days of the party, leaders, including Mao Zadong, began organizing labour unions across China. The CCP joined with the Nationalist Party in 1924, but its early growth was short-lived as the group was driven underground in 1927 when the Nationalists violently pushed them out of Shanghai. Support for the CCP grew across the countryside, to the point where after the Second World War the party controlled areas with a combined population over 100 million. A civil war erupted in 1946 and 3 years later, with the Nationalists having retreated to Taiwan, the Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China. In the years since, the CCP has seen many changes – most notably through the Cultural Revolution – but it remains the sole political party in the country.

Following the First World War, the British government sought to maintain its status as a global superpower, a position many government officials feared could be threatened by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution. As Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill led the British effort to reorganize the territories that were no longer part of the Ottoman Empire. He appointed T.E. Lawrence as a special advisor of Arab affairs, and the two attempted to simultaneously maintain peace in the region while also protecting British interests. In March, Britain’s experts on the Middle East met to determine how the formerly Turkish territory would be governed, ultimately deciding Prince Feisal would lead Iraq, the former Province of Mesopotamia, while his brother Prince Abdullah would lead what is now the Kingdom of Jordan. At the same time, Churchill wanted to preserve support for the Balfour Declaration, which called for a Jewish National Home in Palestine. The legacy of the plan, and Churchill’s influence on the region in general, is certainly complicated, but if nothing else his ability to earn support for his ideas among the British political class was on full display. 

Between these two, I have to yield to longevity and go with the Chinese Communist Party as being more significant. Churchill’s plans certainly influenced the direction of the Middle East, but the political, cultural, and military landscape of the region has continued to shift in the last 100 years – although it has been suggested that the plan presented by Churchill has contributed to this. China, on the other hand, is still ruled by the CCP. And while this version of the Party isn’t the same as 1921 – once Mao seized control the party certainly changed its direction – it still created the climate for what was to come.

Aaron: My vote – wait, do we vote? – is for the Cairo Conference. European meddling in the Middle East, along with other competing national and international interests, has made that region quite unstable. Churchill’s plan, which was clearly meant to enhance the UK’s standing in the region, only made things worse in an already troubled place. The fact that the Middle East is still experiencing the ramifications of this decision makes me believe that this should move on.

Sean: No, we don’t vote. Especially when talking about Chinese Communist Party.

Aaron: Well ok then. My vote doesn’t count. 

Chinese Communist Party Established Wins (61-47)

(2) Anglo-Irish Treaty


(3) Panamanian Independence

Aaron: The Anglo-Irish Treaty – officially the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland – was the peace treaty that ended the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). Under the terms of the Treaty, the Irish Free State was created and granted Dominion status, like that of Canada. Other important terms of the Treaty included: the withdrawal of Crown forces from most of Ireland; the King of Great Britain would be the Head of State; Northern Ireland was given the option of withdrawing from the Irish Free State (which it did); and a limited number of Ports would be retained by the Royal Navy. Although the Treaty concluded what was essentially more than 300 years of conflict between the Irish and the British, it caused the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), which was waged between pro- and anti-Treaty factions; the pro-Treaty side eventually won. It is important to note, however, that this Treaty did not create the Ireland that we know today (the Republic of Ireland), although it was the first step toward complete Irish independence from the United Kingdom.

Panama officially declared its independence from Colombia in 1903 with support from the United States. The US was in the midst of constructing the Panama Canal and was eager to support an independent Panama – the US and Panama signed the Hay-Bunau Treaty in 1903, which established the Panama Canal Zone. Before independence, Panama was controlled by Colombia, which itself was embroiled in significant political troubles. In 1914, the United States and Colombia signed the Thomson-Urrutia Treaty, which recognized Panama’s independence from Colombia. Under the terms of the Treaty, the US was to pay Colombia $25 million in return for Colombia’s recognition of an independent Panama. Although ratified by Colombia in 1914, it was not until 1921 when the US Senate approved the Treaty.

In this instance we have two examples of countries gaining independence. What sticks out to me, however, is the longevity of the Irish struggle to gain independence from the UK. By 1603, England had established dominance over Ireland, and only in 1921 was the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed. Three-hundred and eighteen years is a LONG time to be seeking independence. Also, the history of the UK-Irish tension is well known, more so, I would argue, than the Panamanian struggle for independence. Plus, the United States dithering on a treaty must be taken into consideration here.

Sean: I think I agree with you on this one. Given the incursions on Panamanian independence over the last 100 years, I would argue that the Anglo-Irish situation is the winner. Not that Irish independence has been fully respected, but between the two it strikes me as the more significant development of the two.

Anglo-Irish Treaty Wins 65-30

Progress Bracket

(1) Agnes Macphail Elected


(4) First Fax Transmitted

Aaron: On December 6, 1921, Agnes Macphail made history as the first woman elected to the House of Commons of Canada, as a member of the Progressive Party, representing Grey Southeast (the riding has since been abolished). Born on March 24, 1890, in Proton Township, Ontario, Macphail was a teacher and a journalist, and was a strong voice in the progressive movement in Canada. She was successfully re-elected to the House in 1925, 1926, and 1930. In the early 1930s, Macphail became a member of the newly formed Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which was the predecessor to today’s New Democratic Party. She lost her bid for re-election in 1940, but her political career did not end there. In 1943, she was elected to the Ontario Legislature as a member of the CCF for the suburban Toronto riding of York East. Along with Rae Luckock, Macphail was one of the first women to be sworn in as a Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario. A fierce advocate for progressive ideas in Canada, Macphail left an indelible mark on Canadian politics. She died at the age of 63 in 1954.

On August 4, 1921, the first facsimile (fax) was sent wirelessly from the United States to France. The origins of the fax machine date back to the 1840s, with further enhancements and improvements following for decades to come. The ability to transmit information – and for the first time things like signatures and photographs – revolutionized how we as a species is able to communicate. While faxes had been sent in Europe and North America, it wasn’t until 1921 when the first fax was sent across the Atlantic Ocean. The ability to wirelessly transmit information from part of the world to another shows just how truly “small” the world is.

Here in Canada my vote DOES count. And in this case I am voting for Agnes Macphail. In an era where more and more women were gaining the right to vote, to have the first woman elected to the House of Commons is truly special. In the most recent Canadian federal election (September 2021), a record number 103 women were elected to the House of Commons (30.5% of the seats), and this all started with Macphail in 1921.

Sean: The question surrounding this is how significant the first of something is, particularly in terms of pushing a movement forward. Is Agnes Macphail’s election important because of Agnes Macphail or is her election representative of a larger movement towards women’s representation in government? I’m not sure the same question exists for the fax machine, as it is the technology itself that matters, not the first one per se. What say you, Dr. Boyes? 

Aaron: Can it not be both? Macphail’s election is significant on its own, as she was the first woman to be elected to the House. And her legacy, breaking that barrier to women, is what solidifies her place on this list. Also, the fax technology already existed; in this case we’re talking about the first transatlantic. So for that reason I believe Macphail wins.

Sean: It can indeed be both, but the question may need to be resolved as we head to the next round.

Agnes Macphail Elected Wins (55-50)

(2) First Pressurized flight


(3) First Successful use of Aircraft for Crop Dusting

SeanYet again we’ve managed to include major developments in aviation in the bracket!

The First World War brought with it many technological innovations that, despite being developed for warfare, were used extensively in civilian life in the 1920s. One of the best examples of this comes in the world of aviation, where large-scale, commercial passenger aviation started to inch its way towards feasibility. A critical step in that process came on June 8, 1921 when Harold Harris became the first person to pilot a pressurized aircraft when he flew over the Alps. It was an Airco USD-9A  – a light bomber that was designed and used towards the end of the war – that had been heavily modified as an experimental pressurized cockpit was added. The ability to pressurize an aircraft in flight meant that planes could fly at higher altitudes that would otherwise be unsafe, as the lack of oxygen can lead to hypoxia. Flying at higher altitudes is more efficient, as the thin air creates less drag on the aircraft. It would take some time before a cabin could be fully pressurized, but the ability to fly at higher altitudes without supplemental oxygen was an absolute game-changer in aviation. 

Dayton, Ohio is widely known as the Birthplace of Aviation, as it is where Orville and Wilbur Wright built their first aircraft. What is slightly lesser known, however, is that Dayton was also the site of the first aerial crop dusting. With advances in aviation making longer flights possible, the United States Department of Agriculture started to experiment with the idea of spreading pesticides from the air, in particular using lead arsenate to kill caterpillars. Using a modified Curtiss JN-6 ‘Super Jenny’, John A. Macready took to the air from McCook Field in what everyone involved declared was a major success. It took a couple years before aerial crop dusting was commercially viable, but the increased efficiency made possible by using airplanes led to its adoption across the United States in the interwar years. Despite its popularity, environmental concerns grew following the Second World War – who would have thought having lead arsenate fall from the sky in large quantities would lead to trouble – and by the 1970s countries had started to ban the practice.

The ability to pressurize the cabin is one of the biggest developments in aviation. It allows the plane to fly higher, which means they can fly faster and use less fuel. Even in the rare occasion where the cabin is de-pressuraized, that extra altitude provides another layer of safety by providing flight crews more time to respond to aircraft failures. And while the improved safety cannot be entirely connected to pressurized flight, it certainly helped. Crop dusting, on the other hand, has been connected to significant environmental and human damage. It increased crop yields, but at a significant cost. 

Aaron: You’re the plane guy. I defer to you.

First Pressurized Flight Wins (81-43)

Potpourri Bracket

(1) First Broadcast of a Baseball Game


(4) First Performance of Sawing Woman in Half Magic Trick

Sean: On Friday August 5, 1921, the Pittsburgh Pirates used a three-run 8th inning and 6 strong relief innings from Jimmy Zinn to top the Philadelphia Phillies 8-5 at Forbes Field. So what’s the big deal about a seemingly random game in the middle of the baseball season? Well, Harold Arlin was behind the microphone, providing live play-by-play to listeners of KDKA, which was the most powerful radio station in the United States at the time. This first live broadcast of a baseball game was deemed a success and later that year KDKA and WJZ of Newark, New Jersey broadcast World Series games. Within the decade, baseball on the radio was commonplace in cities with Major League teams and in the 100 years since baseball on the radio has increasingly been viewed with a sense of romance – the idea of a simpler time, sitting out on a warm summer day listening to a game unfold through the theatre of the mind without a care in the world. In a lot of markets, the baseball team’s radio broadcasters are more famous than the players and there is a section of the Baseball Hall of Fame devoted specifically to those who call the games. 

If you’ve ever been to a magic show, you have seen a woman be sawed in half. It’s an absolute classic trick, where a magician’s assistant is split in half at the waist before being put back together. Some may argue that the trick has passed its best before date, however, as it is a 100-year-old trick. Percy Selbit is widely credited as the first magician to perform the trick, ‘sawing’ Jan Glenrose in two during a show in London’s Finsbury Park on January 17, 1921. Some historians have explored why the trick was so popular, with Noel Britten of the Magic Circle going so far as to suggest that societal tensions/uncertainty surrounding women’s suffrage may have contributed to the trick’s reception. Since then, though, magicians have adapted the trick and put their own spin on it, but the basic premise has always remained the same: someone gets cut in half and then put back together in front of a live audience.

In the past, we have gone with longevity as the key factor in some of these contests, so with that precedent having been set, I’m going to go with baseball on the radio here. This summer, I was driving from Ottawa to Toronto and was accompanied by the dulcet tones of Dan Shulman on the Blue Jays radio broadcast. There is something so melodically beautiful about baseball on the radio that makes it timeless. The sawing a woman in half magic trick, on the other hand, isn’t as commonly performed anymore as the secret is somewhat well known. As a result, baseball it is.

Aaron: What about Buck? And Pat? Sean!

Sean: I hate you.

First Broadcast of a Baseball Game Wins (102-51)

(2) White Castle Opens


(3) Wonder Bread Introduced 

Aaron: In September 1921, the first White Castle restaurant opened in Wichita, Kansas. Founded by Billy Ingram and Walt Anderson, White Castle restaurants became famous for their signature slider burger, which at the time was sold for 5 cents per burger. White Castle also became the first fast food chain, which are now ubiquitous throughout the world. Unlike other burger chains, White Castle has remained relatively small, with only 377 locations (as of 2019), all of which are located in the United States (although some franchises were opened in Asia and Mexico without success). Although not present in Canada, I believe that Canadians were introduced to the restaurant because of a certain 2004 film that contained the restaurant’s name in the title.

Ever heard the expression “Best thing since sliced bread”? Well, we’re about to talk about sliced bread. In May 1921, Wonder Bread was introduced in the United States. While Wonder was one of the first to offer pre-sliced bread, what makes it historically noteworthy is its brand recognition. Its iconic red, yellow, and blue dot logo – which was based on hundreds of hot air balloons – is immediately recognizable in grocery stores throughout North America. I would wager that if you told someone you were going to the store to buy Wonder, they would know that you’re going to buy sliced bread. It’s these kinds of scenarios that make the last impact of sliced bread so historically important. 

Now, if we were talking about the first sliced bread, I would have to go with Wonder; but since we’re not, I think that White Castle wins. How many of us go to fast food joints regularly? (Well, I don’t because, as Sean likes to always tell me, I don’t live in a city) White Castle is widely regarded as the first fast food restaurant and it started this phenomenon of easily accessible and affordable food. And if it’s good enough for Harold and Kumar then it’s good enough for me.

By the way, Sean: have you tried White Castle? I haven’t. Should this impact the bracket?

Sean: The vibrancy score for your neighbourhood on Realtor is 1/10. That’s only because they don’t allow for a score of 0, so no, you don’t live in a city. 

I haven’t been to a White Castle, but I have eaten Wonder Bread, so since all things are personal, I have to go with Wonder Bread. It’s just that much more pervasive.

Aaron: How dare you bring up my vibrancy score! Wonder is a name brand, and name brand recognition, while important, I personally don’t think has the historical importance. White Castle, on the other hand, showed that access to quick and affordable food was such a good idea that it has been replicated countless times.

Sean: Just like tacky year in review columns.


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White Castle Opens Wins (42-39)

Doctors Bracket

(1) Discovery of Insulin


(4) Marie Curie Tours America

Sean: In the early part of the 20th century, it was rare for someone diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to live more than a couple of years, so there was a strong push to discover an effective treatment, if not a full cure. At the University of Toronto, Frederick Banting was able to isolate the secretions from pancreatic islet cells, which he believed could be used as a treatment for diabetes. Head of the Physiology Department, J.J.R. Macleod, provided lab space for the experiments and also took a great personal interest. Charles Best joined the team as an assistant and specialized in the chemical testing of glucose levels. The progress was slow, but once the team had successfully extracted islets, James B. Collip got to work purifying the substance. With a supply of insulin, they undertook trials at Toronto General Hospital which proved successful and made headlines around the world as it brought hope to millions of people living with diabetes. Recognizing the significance of their discovery and feeling strongly that anyone who needed insulin should be able to afford it, Banting refused to put his name on the patent and Best and Collip sold it to the University of Toronto for $1. In 1923, Banting and Macleod won the Noble Prize for Physiology and Medicine, ultimately deciding to split their prize money with Best and Collip. The relationships weren’t always great – there were reports of physical confrontations – but together these four doctors were responsible for one of the biggest discoveries in modern medical history.

By 1921, Marie Curie had already won two Nobel Prizes, coined the term ‘radio-active’, and discovered radium and polonium. It has even been suggested that, at the time, she was the most famous woman in the world. Despite the accolades, she struggled to get some of the supplies she needed for her radiochemical research at the Institute of Radium. So in the spring of 1921, she travelled to the United States, where she had quite a full itinerary. She toured a radium refining plant in Pittsburgh, attended receptions at the Waldorf Astoria and Carnegie Hall, and visited an exhibit on her discovery of radium at the American Museum of Natural History. What the trip is best known for, however, is Curie’s visit to the White House, where President Warren G. Harding presented her with a gram of radium. The gift was both symbolic – the French government had taken Curie’s radium – and a recognition of the world’s most famous scientists. At a time where scientists are harassed by some, Curie’s American visit is a throw-back to an era where scientists and scientific discovery brought with it notoriety and fame.

Is this a real matchup? How are these two things going against each other? Who comes up with this stuff? 

Live look at Sean and Aaron: 

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Sean: Curie’s tour of the United States was certainly notable, but it cannot possibly compare to insulin. It has saved countless lives so on this one, I think it’s a pretty easy decision.

Aaron: As much as I would like to make an argument for black light, simply to argue with you, I cannot. Insulin wins.

Sean: That’s a surprisingly vibrant move on your part.

Discovery of Insulin Wins (111-31)

(2) Tuberculosis Vaccine


(3) Local Anesthetic Used 

Aaron: Tuberculosis (TB) is a terrible disease that infects and kills millions of people every year. Caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, it can spread from person to person through air particles and impacts mainly the lungs. The discovery of the TB vaccine was linked to advancements in research on smallpox vaccinations. In 1908, French physician Albert Calmette and veterinarian Camille Guérin began experimenting with the TB bacteria and in 1919 were able to isolate the bacteria and develop the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine. The vaccine was first used in humans in 1921. To this day, the BCG is the most commonly used vaccine against TB, especially in places around the world where TB remains a considerable concern.

*Warning: the next event involves a surgical procedure. If you are squeamish or unnerved by these types of events, please skip to the next section.

Medicine and medicinal science amaze me. I am truly fascinated by what we as a species are able to do when it comes to healing ourselves (unfortunately, many of these medical developments are directly related to humans trying to kill each other). Surgery has always existed, but not until the 18thand 19th centuries were significant advancements made to anesthetics. General anesthetics – which are required for major surgery – is a medically induced coma and is necessary to prevent significant pain; local anesthetics, on the other hand, are drugs that create the absence of pain in a specific part of the body and does not require a loss of consciousness. In February 1921, Evan O’Neill Kane performed a self-appendectomy using only local anesthetics. He performed the procedure on himself to experience it from the patient’s perspective and to see if local anesthetics were sufficient to avoid pain during the surgery. This was the first time someone had performed an appendectomy on themself.   

I’m team vaccine. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still hovering over us and the need for vaccination rates to increase, I am always going to be team vaccine. I am beyond impressed that Dr. Kane performed a self-appendectomy – I’m sure in the same situation I would welcome death – and I am not taking anything away from his accomplishment. That said, I think that the TB vaccine has had a wider influence, and that’s what we need to consider here. Being able to vaccinate people against TB in risk areas has undoubtedly saved thousands, if not millions of lives.

Sean: With a vibrancy score of 1, seems like you already have welcomed a certain level of death.

On the larger question, though, I am in total agreement. Vaccines are good – although I was pretty disappointed I didn’t get a sticker when I got mine in the summer – and have helped to eradicate diseases and reduce their harm. And while TB is still around, it has been significantly mitigated through vaccination.

Tuberculosis Vaccine Wins (80-55)

International Bracket

(2) Anglo-Irish Treaty


(4) Chinese Communist Party Established

Aaron: Once again I am picking the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This Treaty, while not healing all the wounds from the 300+ year animosity between the UK and Ireland, was a positive step forward. The Communist Party, meanwhile, has only existed for a hundred years. I’m playing the long game on this one.

Sean: And you don’t think the CCP will still be around in another 200 years? China, for all its many problems, is the world’s second biggest superpower and has grown to that level with the Communist Party in power. This is not to salute the CCP, but rather acknowledge that they have built a major global power over the last 100 years – often at the expense of their own people, but it’s presence in the global arena must be taken into account.

Aaron: I see your point. And, considering that China is a superpower and Ireland is not, I will defer to your judgement.

Chinese Communist Party Established Wins 400-72 (*Score not independently verified)

Progress Bracket

(1) Agnes Macphail Elected


(2) First Pressurized Flight

Sean: Before anyone gets mad, hear me out on this one. Not only do we have the question of the individual v. collective representation question when discussing Macphail’s election, it’s also a Canadian story. She was not the first woman elected to government in the world, nor even in North America, so the scale of the impact is lesser than pressurized aircraft. The global transportation system was made so much more efficient through this development that it’s impact is arguably greater when considering the overall scale.

Aaron: Why? Why must you every year? Anytime anything planes related goes up against anything non-plane related, you pick planes. 

Sean: Because I’m very vibrant! Which, of course, you wouldn’t understand. Plus, human beings don’t have wings and yet can not only survive at 35,000 feet in the air, but also eat a Salisbury steak while watching Little Giants. The real question is how do planes not win every year?

Aaron: Can you not see that Macphail’s election is more important. We’re talking about the first woman elected to the House of Commons in Canada’s history. We have had a plane-related event every year since we started writing these things in 2013. Electing a woman to the House is significant considering the era in which it occurred. We were only four years removed from women being allowed to vote in federal elections to having a woman WIN her seat. I must disagree with you on this one.

Sean: Every year you steal my joy.


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Agnes Macphail Elected Wins 77-76

Potpourri Bracket

(1) First Broadcast of a Baseball Game


(2) White Castle Opens

Aaron: Gather round, one and all, for this year’s instalment of: Aaron rejects anything to do with baseball or planes simply because Sean likes them.

Hello, everyone. I hope you are doing well. Unlike in years past, this instalment will be quite short. White Castle should win. Thank you, and good night.

Sean: The one constant through all the years, Aaron, has been baseball. These brackets have rolled by like an army of steamrollers. They’ve been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. The field, the game – it’s a part of our past, Aaron. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.

Aaron: Hamburgers. Fries. Shakes. You’re an idiot.

White Castle Opens Wins 44-40

Doctor Bracket

(1) Discovery of Insulin


(2) Tuberculosis Vaccine

Sean: This might be the toughest matchup we see this year. Two remarkable medical advancements that have improved the lives of millions of people around the world. Trying to assess the two against each other is, therefore, challenging and risks the possibility of prioritizing one medical condition over the other. All that said, I will yield to the Nobel committee and go with insulin for no other reason than it won the prize. There is also something remarkably un-2021-like about their decision not to monetize its development. 

Aaron: I am still amazed that they decided to not monetize their discovery. For that, along with the other reasons previously said, I am in total agreement with you, Sean. 

Discovery of Insulin Wins 101-100 (2OT)


Chinese Communist Party Established


Discovery of Insulin

Aaron: A national political party versus a medication that has helped millions of people seems like a pretty easy choice.

Megan: Plus, Nick Jonas may not be with us if it were not for insulin.

Aaron and Sean: How did you get in here?

Megan: Shut up, I’m right. 

Discovery of Insulin Wins 110-59

Agnes Macphail Elected


White Castle Opens

Sean: The Royal Family owns a fast food place near Buckingham Palace. That wouldn’t have been possible without White Castle starting the trend. As you are a noted royalist, I’m sure you will agree with me that that on its own deserves a win in this matchup.

Aaron: But the Royal Family owns a competitor of White Castle so your point here is moot. 

Sean: I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.

Well, let’s think of scale here and if we put white castle into the context of the fast food industry, perhaps that has a broader significance. There are so many layers to the story – economic, health, labour, vibrancy – that the birth of the industry as a whole should probably be taken into account.

Aaron: But there are many layers to Macphail’s electoral win, too. Women were prohibited from participating in public life for so long, and yet so much changed so quickly. It was not a foregone conclusion that Macphail would win her seat; that she was elected by her peers to represent them in Ottawa was both a personal and societal victory. Macphail’s election proved that women could, and should, be representatives in the House of Commons, a trend that continues to this day. 

Agnes Macphail Elected Wins 93-91

Enrico Palazzo Pre-Memorial Championship Game

Discovery of Insulin


Agnes Macphail Elected

Aaron: Sean, I believe this might be the first all-Canadian final in the history of this bracket.

Sean: Given your hatred of the CFL, I suppose this is where you will stop watching.

Aaron: I will actually watch the Grey Cup game – as an old neighbour called it: doing my patriotic duty – so long as it is not on at the same time as the New England Patriots. 

Sean: You know the game happened on Sunday, right?


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Sean: While these are two Canadian achievements here, I may argue for insulin in this matchup because of the larger global scale. There are 420 million diabetics in the world right now, so that’s 420 million people whose lives have been irrevocably improved by having access to this life-saving drug. 

Aaron: Over the past nine years I feel like we have done a good job as evaluating the scale of impact when determining winners. This match up is another one of this: Agnes Macphail’s electoral win was a personal win, and a significant step forward in Canadian society, but the discovery of insulin is truly a global event. Millions of people around the world have benefitted from this discovery, which is why I agree that insulin should be the winner.

Sean: It’s really a win-win. Not sure there is a wrong choice.

Aaron: So it’s a win-win-win as we also win by completing another bracket.

Sean: That’s a vibrant way to put it.

Discovery of Insulin Wins (70-67)

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

1920: Toaster Patent

Aaron Boyes has a PhD from the University of Ottawa

Sean Graham is the host of the History Slam Podcast

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One thought on “9th Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

  1. veronicastrongboag

    hi Aaron and Sean, great piece as always for the New Year! but where is Canada and the Empire/Commonwealth’s first female cabinet minister, BC’s Mary Ellen Spear Smith appointed also in 1921? … this is special pleading as my new book, A Liberal-Labour Lady: the times and life of Mary Ellen Spear Smith came out in November with UBC Press … but she desires a nod if not a prize from you 🙂 Nikki Strong-Boag

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