By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham
We ask ourselves this question every year: how has another year passed and we get to write this 100 Years Later Year in Review? And, more importantly, why do the good people at ActiveHistory.ca continue to allow us to do it? This annual tradition is something that we look forward to completing every year, especially the consumption of Rainbow Chips Ahoy (brain food). Much like in past editions of this bracket (you can find links to the previous years at the bottom of this post) we have some intriguing events and inventions to discuss.
For those who are finding this bracket for the first time, we use historical hindsight to analyze what was the most important event of 1923 – without the passage of time how can we truly determine what was the most important? The events have been divided into four brackets: the Entertainment Bracket, the International Bracket, the Still Relevant Technology Bracket, and everyone’s favourite the Potpourri Bracket.
So be sure to have your Spotify or Apple Music Replay handy – which came out in November, something that causes Sean much anger – and we hope you enjoy this year’s bracket. As always, thank you for taking the time to read it.
(2) The Walt Disney Company Founded
(3) Warner Bros. Founded
Aaron: In the early 1920s, as films continued to develop, a young animator named Walt Disney and his partner Ub Iwerks developed a short film called Alice’s Wonderland (no relation to the 1865 novel) produced by the Laugh-O-Gram Studio. Before the film could be released, however, Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt. In search of a studio to release his film, Disney moved to Los Angeles to join his brother Roy. It was in LA that Walt sold the film to Margaret J. Winkler, who also paid him $1,500 to create a series of Alice Comedies. In order to complete the contract, Walt and Roy founded the Disney Brothers Studio on October 16, 1923 (renamed the Walt Disney Studio in 1926). Since its founding, The Walt Disney Company has become synonymous with entertainment around the world, producing some of the most memorable, and popular, films and television series. It is likely that everyone reading this year’s installment has seen at least one film or tv series produced by Disney, or has visited one of the theme parks, or perhaps have sailed the seas on one of Disney’s cruise ships. What is evident is that 100 years later The Walt Disney company is ubiquitous.
In 1889, three brothers Harry, Albert, and Sam Warner (these are their Anglicized names) emigrated to the United States from Poland, which was then part of the Russian Empire. In 1892, they welcomed another brother, Jack, who was born in London, Ontario. As the twentieth century dawned, the four brothers started to show films in Pennsylvania and Ohio before founding an entertainment company in 1904. After moving to Los Angeles, the Warner Brothers established their first studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. On April 4, 1923, the brothers formally incorporated as Warner Bros. Pictures, Incorporated. After 100 years, Warner Bros. has also produced some of the most memorable movies, tv series, and characters. The reader, I’m sure, is having flashbacks to watching Looney Tunes – which was created in 1929 to compete against Walt Disney and the Mickey Mouse cartoons – or perhaps Animaniacs, depending on your age. Much like its competitor, Warner Bros. remains a powerful name in entertainment around the world.
Between these two entertainment heavyweights I feel that Disney has the advantage, though it isn’t by much. As mentioned, both studios have been responsible for extremely famous and popular movies and tv series, and both are to thank for iconic characters. What puts Disney over the top, in my mind, is its dominance in the streaming service which Warner, as of this writing, has not entered. Disney+ offers an incredible array of Disney products at the fingertips of many generations: the original films of the 1920s, to the animated classics of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Disney renaissance of the 1990s and early 2000s, not to mention countless other original programs. It is for its continued presence in entertainment that Disney should move forward.
Sean: Not so fast, Dr. Boyes, a certain Mr. Tony Soprano would like a word. After him, President Selina Meyers has some choice words coming for you. Then Larry David will take you outside and show you what it’s like. Sure, they were produced by HBO, but as of the 2022 merger that’s all part of the same parent company now. That’s the thing about Warner Brothers, they’ve been so big and so powerful, often without the public knowing exactly what they were doing, that it might tip the scales over Disney. Most people know who Walt was, but does that company have the same far-reaching history and legacy as Warner Brothers? I’m not so sure.
Aaron: Have you ever taken a ride on the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean?
Sean: I yield my time.
The Walt Disney Company Founded Wins (70-63)
(2) Phonofilm Introduced
(3) Hollywood Sign Unveiled
Sean: In 2023, the Hollywood sign is a globally recognizable symbol of the American film industry, sitting high above the studios it has come to represent. Originally intended as an advertisement for the Hollywoodland real estate development, it has been a visual symbol for the past century. While it’s history has some less celebrated moments – including a 1932 suicide and falling into disrepair in the 1960s – its place in the imagination of American popular culture is secured. Featured in countless advertisements, teevee shows, and movies, since its introduction the sign has represented the draw to the west coast for generations of Americans from across the country. With the allure of fame and fortune along California beaches celebrated in a seemingly endless list of classic songs.
By the early 1920s, millions of people around the world had added ‘heading to the picture show as a regular part of their entertainment budget. To that point, however, the films shown would be completely devoid of sound, with dialogue being shown in text boxes and the score being played over phonograph or, if you were lucky, by a live orchestra. Lee de Forest had spent years trying to change that, however, and in 1923 he successfully demonstrated his new invention synchronizing the audio and video. A complete game-changer in the entertainment business, the ‘talkies’ wouldn’t appear in theatres for a few years yet, but by demonstrating the possibility of synching sound and image in 1923, De Forest unleashed the technology that would allow Hollywood to become a multi-billion dollar industry.
The Hollywood sign is fun and all, but I don’t think this matchup is even close. The talkies fundamentally changed entertainment – without them who knows if the Hollywood sign would still be there. In what, in my most humble of opinions is the biggest mismatch we’ve ever had, the Phonofilm runs away with this one.
Aaron: I couldn’t agree more, Dr. Graham. The Hollywood sign is famous because of the film studios that produce the talkies, not the other way around.
Phonofilm Introduced Wins (121-12)
(1) Interpol Founded
(4) Pan-American Treaty
Aaron: If you have ever watched a movie produced in the United States that involves a crime of international proportions, odds are you have heard of Interpol. As can be easily understood, the idea of coordinating policing amongst numerous countries before the 20th century was almost impossible – indeed, jurisdictional authority remains complicated amongst national police services! But the idea really began to be considered after the end of the First World War. In September 1923, representatives from Austria, Germany, Belgium, Poland, China, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yugolsavia agreed to create the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC). After the German annexation of Austria in 1938, the ICPC came under the control of Nazi Germany, which prompted several states to leave the organization. Following the Second World War, however, the ICPC was revived as the International Criminal Police Organization with its headquarters in Paris. Today, Interpol is headquartered in Lyon, France, with seven regional offices. It boasts 196 member states and remains active in international policing.
Peaceful relations amongst the nations of the Americas today is evident, but, of course, this was not always the case. Previously, disputes among colonies and the metropole (think of the various Wars of Independence in both North and South America) or independent states (think the Mexican-American War or the various conflicts in South America) were resolved by war; today, more often than not, disputes are resolved by diplomats and a desire for peace. One step toward peaceful relations amongst the nations of the Americas was the signing of the Treaty to avoid or prevent conflicts between American States, otherwise known as the Pan-American Treaty. Signed at Santiago, Chile, on May 3, 1923, by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, the United States, and Venezuela, the Treaty contained 10 articles that outlined how grievances between these nations could be solved peacefully. Most notably, it obliged all signatories to refrain from engaging in war against any other state in all disagreements.
The fact that the United States invaded Panama in 1989 is enough to disqualify the Pan-American Treaty because both countries engaged in armed conflict – you could argue it wasn’t a war, but soldiers were killed on both sides. Also, we have seen countless times in history countries disregarding treaties and declaring war on its fellow signatory. Interpol, meanwhile, is still around today and is an international player in policing. Its longevity is also noteworthy, boasting 196 members, when it is difficult for that many countries to agree on almost anything.
Sean: While I think I agree, I do feel like Interpol has been hurt by popular perception. Perhaps it’s just affirmation bias, but it seems like whenever Interpol is depicted in movies, they get the Frank Drebin treatment. That being said, the disregarding of the treaty makes it moot. It actually reminds me of my favourite political cartoon.
Interpol Founded Wins (49-41)
(2) Declaration of the Rights of the Child
(3) Republic of Turkey Established
Sean: On July 24, 1923 in Lausanne, France, a peace treaty was signed resolving the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and, essentially, most of the rest of Europe. The first effort towards partitioning the lands of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, the Treaty of Sèvres, was rejected by the Turkish National Movement. With the Greco-Turkish War raging, another opportunity for peace was presented with the signing of the Armistice of Mudanya in October 1922, with the Treaty coming 10 months later. While it established the Republic of Turkey, it also provided protections for the country’s Greek Orthodox Christian and Muslim minorities. With the treaty ratified, the Turkish assembly elected Mustafa Kemal as president.
Drafted by Eglantyne Jebb in 1923, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child lay out 5 essential rights for all children around the world. The list is somehow both fundamental and basic while also being aspirational. From the right to necessities like food and water to bigger ideas like spiritual development, Jebb craft a succinct document that would be fully adopted by the League of Nations the following year. At a time when child labour laws were, when even enacted, lax by today’s standards (which still have significant gaps), the push towards protecting children while also codifying a communal environment in which children can grow and thrive was a significant step.
This one is really tough as the political and cultural makeup of Turkey has so drastically changed from Kemal’s tenure. At the same time, however, events around the world this year have shown that we haven’t exactly adhered to the Declaration of the Rights of the Child either. With that being said, I may lean towards both the universality of the Declaration as well as its aspirational message. The rights outlined are not always protected, but it laid the framework for protecting a group that cannot always protect themselves.
Aaron: Last year we crowned the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire as the winner of the Enrico Palazzo Memorial Championship because of the power vacuum that it left in that part of the world. The election of Mustafa Kemal as president is certainly more important than an aspirational declaration, especially since, as you pointed out, not every child enjoys the same protections around the world. Meanwhile, Turkey establishing itself as a republic and a significant player in the middle east to this day is less aspirational and more tangible
Sean: I look forward to your children reading this and learning that their father doesn’t support their rights.
I see what you’re saying – I just wonder if the establishment of the republic is as important as the dissolution from last year. That creates the framework from which Kemal emerges, but is the act of making the republic as significant or more a procedural step following the treaty. Perhaps a better question for a political scientist, but I concede your point.
Republic of Turkey Established Wins (88-86)
(1) Chinese Immigration Act
(4) Halibut Treaty
Aaron: Until the 20th century, Canadian foreign affairs were handled by the British Government, including the signing of international treaties. Canadian representatives may have been involved in negotiating international treaties, but the final signature to bring a treaty into law was of a British representative. That norm began to change with the Halibut Treaty between Canada and the United States. The completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in the United States opened up direct access from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Lakes, which in turn enabled the fish market of the Pacific to reach the East coast much easier. During the First World War, Canada and the United States cooperated in shipping fish to the East, which caused an increase in the value of halibut. Following the War, both nations agreed on a closed season for halibut to protect fish stocks. Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, insisted that a Canadian sign the treaty on behalf of Canada, despite the longstanding tradition of the British ambassador to Canada having that responsibility. Although Britain initially pushed back, it ultimately relented and Ernest Lapointe signed the Treaty on behalf of Canada on March 23, 1923, in Washington, DC. This act was part of a wider push for more autonomy amongst the British Dominions, which culminated in the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
The history of Chinese immigration to Canada is long and troubled. On two occasions the Government of Canada enacted laws which attempted to curtail Chinese immigration into Canada. In 1885, Parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act, which placed a “head tax” of $50 (over $1,000 in 2023) on all persons entering Canada from China. The act was based on The Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration. With the racist attitudes held toward Chinese immigrants in Canada, the 1885 law was seen as not discouraging enough. Thus, on July 1, 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, entered into force. The new law banned Chinese immigrants to Canada except for diplomats, foreign students, merchants, and under “special circumstances”. The Act remained in place until it was repealed in 1947, as Canada was a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It was not until 2006 when former Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in the House of Commons for the 1923 law.
The negotiation of the Halibut Treaty by Canadians and signed by a Canadian rather than the British ambassador was a big deal. This seemingly small act helped propel Canada and the other Dominions toward greater autonomy with the Statute of Westminster. The Chinese Immigration Law was, thankfully, repealed and the Canadian government apologized for the overtly racist policy. As for its long term impact, I think the Halibut Treaty wins.
Sean: I must disagree, Dr. Boyes. Earlier this year I had the absolute pleasure to speak with Angie Wong about The Asianadian magazine and we talked about the building of Asian Canadian communities across the country and how those local histories are fundamental to the bigger national history. From a political perspective, you can also question the treaty’s significance given what comes later with the 1926 Balfour Declaration and, as you mentioned, the Statute of Westminster, the treaty becomes one in a series of similar administrative changes to Canada’s governance.
Aaron: An excellent point by Angie and yourself about the importance of the Chinese communities in Canada and their fundamental role in shaping our shared past. For me, the fact that the law was repealed in 1947 when Canada signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shows that the importance of the Immigration Act of 1923 wasn’t as lasting as, say, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which is more remembered because of the head tax. Certainly the Halibut Treaty did not lead to the Statute of Westminster and the greater autonomy within the Empire, but little steps, like King’s demand that a Canadian sign the treaty, goes a long way to more autonomy.
Halibut Treaty Wins (55-51)
(2) First Edition of TIME Magazine
(3) Iconic Stadiums Open
Sean: On the 23rd of March 1923, people heading to newsstands had a new option for purchase. As they looked at the magazines, they would have been confronted by the face of former House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon on the cover of TIME magazine. For 15 cents ($2.74 in 2023), readers could read the 32 pages covering national affairs, books, and, of course, the imaginary interviews with people like Jack Dempsey, Prince George, and Benito Mussolini (you can read the whole issue here). For the next 97 years, readers could purchase a new edition each week – it to twice monthly in 2020 – with issues like the Person of the Year, TIME 100, and the Red X covers being particularly notable. Despite the fundamental changes in the publishing business over the past 100 years, TIME has been steadfast and consistently viewed as one of the standard bearings for long-form print journalism.
On April 28, a very different type of debut took place as the public got its first look at Wembley Stadium in London, as the Bolton Wanderers took on West Ham United in the FA Cup Final. Known as the White Horse Final, thousands of fans showed up to see the Wanderers 2-0 victory as there were no tickets. Ten days earlier, the Boston Red Sox travelled to New York to play the dastardly Yankees in the first game at the newly built Yankee Stadium, with the famously former Red Sox Babe Ruth hitting a three-run home run to lift the Bronx Bombers to a 4-1 victory. On the other side of the country, construction was wrapping up at the Los Angeles Coliseum where, on October 6, the University of Southern California’s football team beat Pomona 23-7 in that stadium’s inaugural contest. In the century since these three venues opened, they’ve hosted Olympics, Super Bowls, concerts, and countless games. For some, playing great at these stadiums has been key to their sporting legacy, cementing their place as iconic venues.
For as much as I need my TIME magazine – never miss my TIME magazine, especially if there is a blurb about me – the model for magazine publishing has significantly changed over the past 15 years, to the point where the print edition is not nearly as influential as it once was. And while Yankee Stadium was mercifully bulldozed in 2010, the team, as brilliantly pointed out by Brian Tallet, spent $1 billion to build the same park 200 metres to the left. That, along with Wembley still being the home of English national soccer and the Coliseum being the host stadium for the 2028 Summer Olympics, shows the staying power of these venues. Each are iconic in their own way, and while the same can be said of TIME, the longevity of them in 21st century is certainly trending in favour of the built heritage.
Aaron: Yankee Stadium and Wembley Stadium are famous buildings, but they also no longer exist, at least not the 1923 versions of them. TIME, however, continues publication to this day and its readership is over 1,000,000 people, not to mention how many millions more access it online or second hand. The magazine remains one of the more trusted publications in English and its “Person of the Year” is a topic of conversation every year – and shockingly not every person is from the United States!
Sean: Who this year was Taylor Swift. I will concede if you can name 3 of her songs without looking them up.
Aaron: I yield the floor. I hear enough Taylor Swift from my wife and children.
Iconic Stadiums Open Wins (101-99)
Still Relevant Technology Bracket
(1) Saw a Woman in Half Trick Patented
(4) Dropped Ceiling Patent
One of the most famous tricks (“Illusions, Michael!”) amongst magicians, and certainly one of the most popular, is the sawing a person in half trick. This display of magic has been performed by countless magicians to a countless number of viewers. Although the origins of the trick remain somewhat murky, it is generally agreed that the first public display occurred in 1921. There are numerous variations of how it is performed, but in 1921 magician Horace Goldin filed a patent application for his variation which involved a box. On June 12, 1923, he was awarded U.S. Patent # 1,458,575. In essence, in Goldin’s variation an assistant – at the time it was usually a young woman – is seen climbing into a box who then proceeds to lie down. Her head, hands, and feet are seen protruding from the box, after which the magician then saws down the middle, appearing to sever the body in two. Although Goldin received the patent, which restricted other magicians from copying him, it forced him to publicly reveal how he performed the trick – which, as we are always told, a magician never reveals their secret.
For those of you reading in an office – we promise we won’t tell! – look up. Odds are you’re staring at a dropped ceiling at your place of work. The dropped ceiling has become so widespread in commercial construction that it is hard to imagine a time before it. The patent for the dropped ceiling was filed by Eric E. Hall in 1919 and awarded on May 28, 1923, as U.S. Patent #1,470,728. Hall’s patent application stated that it, as a whole “has better, simpler and cheaper construction than any with which I am acquainted.” The dropped ceiling is a secondary ceiling hung below the primary, which is done for aesthetical, acoustical, and cost reasons. Much like the zipper, which was patented in 1913 and was a former winner of the Enrico Palazzo Memorial Championship, the dropped ceiling may not seem like such an important invention, but considering that it is almost everywhere, especially in modern construction, its impact cannot be understated.
Magic is awesome, but since Goldin revealed that sawing a woman in half is but a trick (“Illusion, Michael!”) with his patent, I believe the dropped ceiling patent has it beat. As noted, dropped ceilings are everywhere, including in my home where my wife and I installed one in our kids’ playroom. The ease with which they are installed, coupled with the ability to access the joists and pipes and electrical, made using a dropped ceiling a no-brainer. And I think the same can be said for this matchup.
Sean: So not only have we learned that you don’t believe in your children’s fundamental rights, you also put them in a room with a dropped ceiling!?! This is shocking. Did you also put in harsh fluorescent lights and give them a building pass to unlock the bedroom door? Sure, the dropped ceiling is the correct answer in this matchup, but it’s just so depressing to think about how ubiquitous they really are.
Aaron: No harsh fluorescent lights in this home! That is so 1990s.
Dropped Ceiling Patented Wins (39-31)
(2) First In-Air Refueling
(3) Traffic Light Patented
Sean: As the calendar turned from 1922 to 1923, the record for the longest continual flight time was over 35 hours. Set by Lts John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly, the two noted that they could have gone longer had their not run out of fuel. Fast forward to the following summer where a DH-4B piloted by Lts Virgil Hine and Frank W. Seifert was refueled by another DH-4B flying directly below. This incredible feat of engineer set the stage for in-air refueling to become a common practice, thus allowing for, theoretically, a plane to perpetually remain in flight. Used almost exclusively for military purposes, in-air refueling hasn’t had a significant direct influence on civil aviation, but it remains a critical tool for air forces around the world.
If you’re reading this in a location where there is another person, take a quick break and ask them for directions. Doesn’t matter to what – just some directions. I’m willing to wager that they absolutely refer to ‘the lights’ at some point in the explanation. A left at the lights or a right at the third set of lights – they are so common that they serve as easy points of reference. This system, however, was not always in place. In November 1923, the United States patent office granted Garrett Morgan’s application for an improved traffic signal. Originally a T-shape, the design incorporated an intermediate signal that would provide time to clear the intersection – today represented by the yellow light. Additionally, the design allowed for adjustments based on traffic density and flow. Morgan sold the patent to General Motors for $40,000 (about $700,000 today) and the traffic signal went on to fame and fortune as one of the most common devices we encounter on a daily basis.
My esteemed colleague notes the ubiquity of drop ceilings, but that is taken 100x when considering traffic lights. I walk home from work every afternoon, intentionally taking quiet residential streets. Even with that I have to cross through 11 traffic lights. There are over 13,000 intersections with lights in New York City. That level of ubiquity is in the zipper neighbourhood and has to taken seriously when considering the most important event of the year. That being said, planes are cool. Planes couldn’t fly that far in the 1920s, so rather than landing to refuel, they came up with a way to add fuel WHILE STILL FLYING. I can’t stress enough, that human beings can’t fly and within 20 years of getting off the ground with regularity, we figured out a way to not have to come down. That’s bonkos and easily gets my vote.
Aaron: Traffic light patent. Only to drive my esteemed colleague bonkos.
Sean: While I’m being driven bonkos, are the traffic lights at least syncronized?
Sean: As someone without a car, I want that to be made illegal. Similarly, you know where they don’t have traffic lights, in the sky.
Aaron: Because there aren’t enough planes. One estimate has it at 39,000 in the world. There are 25,000 traffic lights in Canada alone. So to summarize, you’re a dope.
Traffic Light Patented Wins (59-58 OT)
(1) The Walt Disney Company Founded
(2) Phonofilm Introduced
Sean: This is a great comparison – the device that allowed for the explosion of the film industry with a company that, arguably, has used it the best. What I think might put Disney over the top between the two is the company’s expansion over its century. From the original film studio to theme parks around the world to seemingly unrelated businesses like ESPN (which is now fully in business with gambling), The Walt Disney Company is far bigger than Walt and his brother Roy probably ever imagined. And while Walt was always fond of saying that it all started with a mouse, the phonogram deserves a lot of credit, too. Just not as much.
Aaron: Without the phonofilm, Walt and Roy would have had to be content making silent films their entire career. But that’s what technology does: it improves things and allows others to use it. The Walt Disney Company is so much more than just a film studio, as Sean pointed out. I’m still baffled that Disney has a cruise line, but that’s the sheer size of the company.
The Walt Disney Company Founded Wins (100-90)
(1) Interpol Founded
(3) Republic of Turkey Established
Aaron: While I argued for the Turkish Republic in the last round, I can’t do it again here. I think that Interpol and the role it plays on the international stage is more important than the first elections in Turkey. Indeed, Interpol doesn’t always have the best reputation and it is not presented in the best light from an American perspective – then again, what from Europe is ever seen as a good thing to Americans? Ted Lasso the exception to the rule – but the cooperation amongst international police is important, especially in 2023 when we are all so interconnected thanks to the internet and faster planes (you’re welcome, Sean).
Interpol Founded Wins (74-68)
(3) Iconic Stadiums Open
(4) Halibut Treaty
Sean: This happened at Wembley. This happened at Yankee Stadium. This happened at the Coliseum. And these are just a fraction of the incredible cultural moments that were hosted in these iconic venues. And those are only sports (or sports-ish). Live Aid in 1985 was at Wembley, so major cultural touchstones are related to these places, so their collective opening in 1923 has to take it here.
Aaron: Sporting-ish events and rock concerts at stadiums are more important than a country signing its first international treaty in its own right?
Sean: It’s not like we’re great at signing things – remember that we signed in the wrong place on the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War. But, yeah, the stadiums are more important. The evolution of Canada’s political/administrative independence was a slow process. If it hadn’t been the Halibut Treaty, it would have been a different agreement. It’s not like the United Kingdom was eager to maintain the same structure following the First World War.
Aaron: Alright I’ll concede, even though my patriotism doesn’t like it. Besides, we are trying to find the most important event of 1923 worldwide, not just in Canada, all tucked away down there.
Iconic Stadiums Open Wins (1985-1867)
Still Relevant Technology Bracket
(3) Traffic Light Patented
(4) Dropped Ceiling Patented
Aaron: In terms is ubiquity, both of these patents fit the definition. As for which had the greater impact? I still think traffic lights. Automobile traffic would have to be regulated somehow or else anarchy on the road would ensue. The traffic light patent, with the well-known red, yellow, green lights is so enmeshed into our car-crazy culture it’s hard to imagine a world without them. The dropped ceiling, on the other hand, is a secondary installment and is not entirely necessary, though its usefulness is not understated.
Sean: I agree – immediately removing all drop ceilings is not a safety hazard.. Based on our love affairs with cars, immediately removing all traffic lights would be. Of course in both cases, there are better options (literally any other ceiling v. traffic circles), but perhaps that’s a debate best left for the 2123 bracket.
Aaron: I will write to the Mayor and demand that more traffic lights are installed on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway for you, Sean.
Sean: As long as they are always red where cars enter the road, I love it!!
Traffic Light Patented Wins (120-88)
The Walt Disney Company Founded
Iconic Stadiums Open
Aaron: This is an excellent semi-final! One, a massive entertainment studio, the others massive concrete stadiums that entertained millions of people. The Walt Disney Company entertained people in the comfort of movie houses and then in the comfort of their own homes, while these stadiums brought out the best in sports competition, which for anyone who has been to a live sporting event there truly is nothing like it. In the end, however, the power of time gives the edge to Disney. The iconic stadiums have been replaced; Disney keeps churning out content and making billions of dollars every year. I would also argue that more people have enjoyed Disney products than people who visited these stadiums, especially since translation allows movies and tv shows to reach even wider audiences, while a person had to physically get to New York or London or Los Angeles.
Sean: That’s totally fair, but the collective experience of going to a game or concert in a stadium is special. As we experienced over the past three years, being alone can fundamentally change the way we interact with and consume entertainment products. The joy, sadness, and spontaneous community built among 60,000 people watching something together can be beautiful. Hell, I was almost in tears at this curtain call of Titanique thinking about how much we had lost that collective experience.
Aaron: Well there’s this for collective experience. Plus, about a million other Disney shows/movies/rides/experiences.
Sean: It really is something when a billion dollar company can bring people together in a visceral way. And theme parks are (slightly) less likely to bring people together in this way.
The Walt Disney Company Wins (175-150)
Traffic Light Patented
Sean: This one is a very interesting contest as, you could argue, that both serve a similar purpose. At their core, they exist to protect members of the public. One does that through intense and exhaustive legal investigations that span borders and require a level of dedication, intelligence, and professionalism that is difficult to find. The other one changes colours on a pre-set rhythm. To that end, I have to go with Interpol. The record isn’t perfect, by any means, but the human resources and international cooperation required is staggering and, as previously noted, to get countries working together is no easy task. For both what it accomplishes and what it represents, I have to lean towards Interpol here.
Aaron: You mentioned our car obsessed culture, Sean, and for that reason I think the traffic light patent has the stronger case. Because we can’t seem to produce, buy, sell, and drive enough cars we need to be able to regulate the flow of traffic, and the traffic lights, although annoying when you encounter a string of reds because the pattern is off or the city you’re driving in is terrible or you’re driving with me because I have horrible luck…sorry, long tangent..enable traffic to move in a predictable manner. Stop signs and roundabouts are useful, but not everyone knows how they work which causes snarls and accidents and even more frustrations. Every country has its own national police force which don’t always cooperate with Interpol – once again American movies have taught me this – while traffic lights, however they are positioned, horizontal or vertical, are present around the world. Also, are you sure you’re not just bitter that the Queen Elizabeth Drive is once again open to automobile traffic?
Sean: I’m sure I’m very bitter about that. So much so that I have decided to move out of the neighbourhood. That being said, I guess the universality of traffic lights compared to Interpol must reign supreme here.
Traffic Light Patented Wins (104-92)
Enrico Palazzo Memorial Championship
The Walt Disney Company Founded
Traffic Light Patented
Aaron: And here we are: the Championship round of our 11th Year of the Annual (?) 100 Years Later bracket.
Sean: Thinking back to when we started, we were just dumb grad students. Now we’ve evolved to become dumb adults.
But thinking back on that first edition, the zipper winning was based on the idea that everyone uses a zipper everyday. If we apply that same philosophy this year, it’s got to be the humble traffic light. They are everywhere. Even tiny towns that talk about having two roads note that they have 1 traffic light. For as hard as it may be to believe, it is possible to avoid Disney for at least a day. The company has produced hundreds of great films and its teevee product is global, but it doesn’t have to be a daily thing. Traffic lights, on the other hand, are really only avoidable by staying in (potentially watching Disney). But for that reason, thinking traffic light patent has the edge.
Aaron: Our logic was sound in that first edition, despite the heckling we’ve received over the years (mainly from my wife who hates that the zipper won). The trouble is, children don’t use traffic lights but they sure do enjoy Disney! At least once every day a Disney program or a program licensed by Disney is on a television in my house, and I’m certain that is the same for millions of households in North America and around the world. Disney is available to all audiences, from babies to people over 100 with a strong wifi connection. Because Disney has its reach to all age groups, I think it wins.
Sean: So the school bus ignores traffic lights? Parents with kids in the car don’t have to stop at red lights? This is remarkable news that fundamentally changes my thoughts about starting a family.
Aaron: Children don’t drive, which means that the traffic light is only a secondary thought to them. Children do watch Disney, which makes it a primary concern in their lives.
Sean: Run a red at Bank and Walkely next time you’re driving with your kids and see how quickly the light becomes a primary concern.
Aaron: My kid will be watching the iPad with Disney+ while that happens…
The Walt Disney Company Founded Wins (47-45)
1910: Binder Clip Patented
1913: Zipper Patent
1917: Russian Revolution
1918: Spanish Flu Pandemic
Winners at War: Women’s Suffrage in the Kingdom of Denmark
1920: Toaster Patent
1921: Discovery of Insulin
1922: Ottoman Empire Collapses
Aaron Boyes has a PhD from the University of Ottawa
Sean Graham is host of What’s Old is News and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca