Wright Philosophy: If You Say A Lie Long Enough, Eventually Everyone Will Believe You

Pop Quiz: In honor of Black History Month, who was the first African American Baseball player in the Major Leagues?  Answer: Jackie Robinson.  Which famous Abolitionist orator and writer taught himself to read and write after he escaped from slavery? Answer: Fredrick Douglas. Who was the first person to achieve controlled, sustained, heavier than air flight? Answer: Wilber Wright.

Ok, well that last question didn’t have anything to do with Black History Month, but that’s ok. I’m not so sure that last answer was Wright anyway.

I’m serious. Here is a list of a few things I am reasonably sure of:

  1. Neil Armstrong was the first Human Being who walked on the moon. (Assurance Factor: 100%)
  2. Julius Ceasar was assisanated by a group of conspitors on March 15, 44 B.C. (Assurance Factor 100%)
  3. Of my 3 children, it is my son who consistantly forgets to flush the toilet after he drops a duce.  (Assurance Factor: 94.5%)

Here are a few things I used to be reasonably sure of, but upon further review…not so much:

  1. JFK was killed by a conspiracy of at least 2 gunmen, one of whom was on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas. (Previous Assurance Factor: 95%. Current Assurance Factor: 22.3%)
  2. The NBA secretly conspired to keep Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks from winning an NBA title by any means necessary. (Previous Assurance Factor: 89.4%. Current Assurance Factor: 0%)
  3. The Wright Brothers were the first Human Beings to achieve sustained, controlled heavier than air flight in 1903. (Previous Assurance Factor: 99.6%.  Current Assurance Factor: 33.8%)

I have been doing a little digging and have come to learn something fascinating: All of our history books might be very, very wrong. Someone else might have beat the Wright Brothers by as much as 2 years!

This is a big deal for me. This would almost be on the level as discovering that Shakespeare didn’t really write all of those plays around the turn of the seventeenth century.

First of all, everyone knows the official story in the history books: in 1903 the Wright brothers achieved heavier than air flight that lasted for a few seconds and traveled a few hundred feet. Whoopti Doo, I know, but keep in mind that a few years before, we were still trying to get off the ground in contraptions like this:

So, this was kinda a big deal.

The beautiful thing that the Wright Brothers had going for them was that one of the witnesses they asked to verify their attempt in 1903 was techno-savvy enough to haul a camera out to the beach with him. Now, this was a relatively new invention to carry around outside in the middle of winter, so kudos to the Wrights for recognizing how powerful this image would become in the psyche of the American conscious.

It’s clean. It’s crystal clear. It is visual proof. There is a human being laying on his belly on a craft that is obviously off the ground.

The Wright Brothers flew in 1903. No one can argue with that.

But they might not have been the first.

That honor possibly goes to Gustave Alvin Weisskoph. Unfortunately, that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as Orville and Wilber though.

Besides, Weisskoph sounds more like a sneeze.

This is probably why Gustave changed his name after he immigrated to America in the late nineteenth century and just started calling himself “Whitehead” instead.

Gustave didn’t have much money. He didn’t own a bicycle shop, or receive financing from wealthy donors. He worked in a coal mine to support his inventions and quirky engineering habits. His neighbors didn’t like him much because he kept blowing things up in his little shed in the middle of the night. But he liked to tinker around with steam engines and attach them to ship-like hulls that he envisioned would sail through the air like a ship at sea.

And in 1901, Gustave Whitehead believed he actually flew and a lot of people claim they saw him too.

Gustave didn’t name his invention anything as grand as “The Wright Flyer” or “The Spirit of St. Louis.” No, in typical German efficiency, he simply called it “Airplane No 21

Not to be confused with Airplane No 1-20 that evidently didn’t turn out so good.

Here is Gustave’s Airplane No 21.

In 1901 there were only two accepted methods for confirming an eye witness account of an event. You could hire a fancy-pants photographer to set up a camera outside and hope he snapped it at the right moment or you could drag some cheap artist with you who would just kinda sketch out what he saw. Both views were accepted in the newspapers of the day as proof and since Gustave didn’t have much money, he had to go with the cheaper Plan B.

Besides, things like “legacy” and “fame” didn’t mean as much to Gustave. He just liked to fly. And dozens of people swore to their dying day that they saw him do it…2 years before the Wright Brothers took off.

A reporter for the Bridgeport Sunday Herald testified that on August 18, 1901, almost 2 ½ years BEFORE the Wright Brothers flew in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Gustave Whitehead flew ½ a mile and included a change of direction to avoid a cluster of chestnut trees and a safe landing.

A variety of photographs still exist that have been verified as dating to 1901 that show Gustave with his “Airplane No. 21” as an aerodynamically correct monoplane that is capable of flight.

In 1901 the periodical “Scientific American” published  an illustrated article about Whitehead’s machine and in 1906-’08 a reporter published a series of articles all claiming that Whitehead had indeed flown in 1901. (Orville Wright published an article in 1945 in which he quotes this same reporter, but evidently this guy had changed his mind and supported Orville’s claim that they had flown first. So, either this guy lied between 1906-’08 when he was publishing multiple articles directly crediting Whitehead with sustained flight, or he was lying in 1945 when he backed up Orville Wright…or he was simply suffering from dementia and was just confused)

In 1937, Stella Randolph published a book called “The Lost Flight of Gustave Whitehead”, but no one really cared. What did women know of anything in 1937? Besides, some man called Walt Disney had just released a cartoon called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and that was way cooler to talk about than some chick obsessed with some poor immigrant’s attempt at flight.

American’s had their hereos and “Wright” was a whole lot easier to spell. So Stella Randolph’s book went largely unnoticed.

Of an estimated 30 people who had been interviewed with sworn affidavits concerning Whitehead’s flight, 20 confirmed that they had actually seen him fly in 1901, 8 claimed that they had heard he had flown in 1901 and only 2 felt that he didn’t really fly.

What is almost as fascinating as the possibility that someone beat the Wright brothers by almost 2 ½ years is the cover-up since 1903 to keep this story quiet. The motives for this conspiracy are wrapped up in a little pride, a whole lot of greed and some good ‘ol fashioned American racism tossed in on the side.

You see, around the turn of the century there were a lot of people trying to figure out how to fly. Some had some good ideas. Most were pretty loony, but everyone knew that there would be a lot of money flying around (nice punn) if anyone could just figure it out.

Well, almost everybody. Someone forgot to tell poor Gustave, or if they did he didn’t seem to care.

However, there was one man who happened to be the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in 1903 that cared a great deal. Samuel Langley received about $50,000 from Congress to design an airplane, but he failed and his design crashed into the Potomac and a whole lot of the government’s money sunk to the bottom of the river.

Now, it’s not that the government is so frugile that they hate wasting money. They do that quite easily all the time, but most polititians don’t enjoy looking like fools and when a government agency becomes the laughing stock of the entire country. This becomes rather embarrassing for a lot of powerful people.

But history is not always written by the victors…just those who can get it in print first and tell the most tourists what they are looking at. So, while the Wright Brothers spent 3 years keeping quiet about their achievement waiting for approval to patent their invention (by the U.S. Patent Office…a government run agency, by the way) and Gustave Whitehead continued to shovel coal 50 hours a week, the Smithsonian seized the lull by claiming that Langley had actually flown first. In 1914, 11 years after the Wright Brothers historic flight, the Smithsonian sponsored a test of Langley’s original designed craft to prove that it could have flown. However, they modified the original design with state of the art improvements to kinda give it a boost in the air. When it flew, the Smithsonian declared it valid proof and proclaimed Langley a hero as the “Father of Flight.”

They even went on to name an Air Force Base after him.

The Wright Brothers were furious and in protest packed up their original 1903 flyer and shipped it to a museum in England. If the greatest collection of American treasures wouldn’t recognize them as the first in flight, than they couldn’t have their plane.

During this time there were numerous lawsuits flying around over who was first in flight and since the Wright Brothers had wisely spent those first precious few years after 1903 quietly waiting for patents, by the time they were granted, they were able to effectively campaign for their rights in court case after court case, receiving funds not only for their invention but also for back money that was due to them for those who infringed on their design.

Meanwhile, Gustave just kept shoveling coal. He didn’t have money for a patent or a lawyer anyway. In 1927, Gustave Whitehead died of a heart attack. He missed the crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh by just a few weeks. However, “Aviation Mania” was sweeping the world and everybody wanted to be the “First” at something since there were so many things to be the first at. The first to fly, the first to cross the Atlantic, the first to cross the Atlantic backwards…well, maybe not that one, but everybody was doing something for the first time and Americans loved to collect trophies of our accomplishments.

The only embarrassing thing was that the Wright Flyer was still over in Jolly ‘Ol England, and that didn’t seem right to most folks.

So, there arose a large public outcry to bring the Wright Flyer home.

The only thing that politicians hate more than being embarrassed publically is when the public has an outcry and since the Smithsonian is a government agency, things were moving toward an impass.

The Smithsonian asked Orville to ask for his plane back so they could set it up in the growing aviation wing.

“Are you still claiming that Langley flew first?” Orville asked.

“Well, yes,” they replied.

“Then forget it,” was Orville’s answer.

“Please,” they begged. “Lindbergh gave us his plane!”

“No,” he said stubbornly.

Then came World War II and it wasn’t the best time to try to get a precious piece of history out of England while Hitler and the Germans were dropping bombs all over London. But when the bombs stopped falling, Americans still wanted that plane back.

Finally, the Smithsonian agreed to remove the plaque to Langley in exchange for the Wright Flyer.

Now the Wright family employed a curious tactic. They were in a position to really squeeze the Smithsonian for all kinds of concessions such as:

1) The Wright Flyer would always be displayed in a prominent location. (What history teacher would take his class to see a plane if it’s shoved in the basement somewhere next to the mop closet)

2) The Wright Flyer would always have a proper label declaring their plane was the first heavier than air machine to achieve sustained, controlled flight. (That wording was very important to the Wright Family because their whole patent was based on the control of the airplane)

And 3) If the Smithsonian EVER credited any other machine or inventor as achieving sustained, controlled flight prior to 1903, the Smithsonian would be forced to give the Wright Flyer back to the heirs of the Wright estate.

And that contract is legally binding to this day.

So, the Smithsonian took a moment to consider their options. They could refuse and suffer the wrath of a bunch of angry politicians who had to answer to a torqued off public, or they could agree to the relatively mild concessions the Wright family demanded. Really, it boiled down to a little Quid Pro Quo: You want our family plane, and we want to get the credit for flying it.

Besides, in 1948…who really wanted to hear that some German Kraut might have been the first person to fly?

Americans had their lily white heros. The names were easy to remember, so school children and teachers were happy. The Smithsonian had the Wright Flyer hanging attractivly next to The Spirit of St. Louis so the Government was happy, and the Smithsonian agreed to never ever ever admit that anyone achieved sustained, controlled flight prior to 1903 (Not even the Egyptians) so the Wright Family was happy.

And since Gustave Whitehead had died 20 years before, no one even knew about him.

Except for possibly the Wright Brother’s themselves. Never mind the testimony that exists claiming that the Wright brothers actually visited Whitehead’s shop in 1901 and 1902 and had several discussions with him. I doubt they just wanted to exchange New England clam chowder recipes. Among the witnesses were two men named Anton Pruckner, and Cecil Steeves. In a recorded interview in 1937, Steeves said he remembered a visit by the Wright’s. “They came from Ohio and under the guise of offering to help finance Whitehead’s invention, but actually received inside information about his work…after they had gone away, Mr. Whitehead turned to me and said, “Now that I have given them the secrets of my invention they will probably never do anything in the way of financing me.”

Nope, never mind that testimony.

I just find it curious: Why would the Wright brothers  find it necessary to state in a contract that the Smithsonian would never cite any credit for sustained flight to any machine or man prior to 1903?  I find it odd don’t you…unless Orville knew that there was in fact a machine that had flown a few years before his brother did.

But tourists only believe what they read on plaques, and tourists are the ones who will go home to write the history books.

What has not been examined impartially has not been well examined. Skepticism is therefore the first step toward the truth.” Dennis Diderot, philosopher (1713-1784)


My Son Just Tied My Daughter To A Ceiling Fan

So, my wife and I are teaming up to co-author a book idea. Somehow, I got roped into writing a baby manual. Can you believe it? Me, parenting advice? Or, perhaps it’s a marriage guide for disillusioned couples struggling to keep their identity in the middle of a family. I don’t really know. I just write what my wife tells me to write. To sum up a possible tag line: Maintaining a sense of worth while raising children.

Or, to put it another way: “God, I was supposed to change the world, now all I’m changing is this dirty diaper.”

Which is currently our working title, so don’t steal it.

I always thought my first book would be some epic volume I of High Fantasy, not parenting and relationship advice from a male perspective but my wife wants me to add my own unique flare to her otherwise matronly and sensitive approach.

So here I sit, outlining 10 chapters or so. I have a rough sketch, so bare with me, but I’m thinking something like: Finding My Soul Mate With Big Knockers And Long Black/Blonde/Auburn/Red Hair, 2) You Know The Honeymoon Is Over When She Farts In Your Bed and  3) My Son Just Tied My Daughter To A Ceiling Fan.  

My wife just told me ‘no.’ Evidently those will not be the chapter headings of our book.

She said it will be something more like: 1) Finding “the one,” 2) Not so Happily Ever After” and 3) Raising Boys Vs Girls.

I am making light of this, but I am seriously excited as well. I think we will make a dynamic book that will not only be entertaining, but will have some very insightful things to say. As always, I will keep you apprised of our progress.

Check out her blog as well: Heater Graham

Tony Soprano of Jewish Antiquity, Part I: Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer!

There are two types of blogs I do not enjoy reading: 1. Unreasonably LONG posts and 2. Chapter selections from a work in progress.

There are two types of blogs I thoroughly enjoy reading: 1. Funny and entertaining blogs and 2. Thought provoking or educational posts where I learn something.

Incidentally, I’m also a fan of history, science and politics. For those of you who have followed me, you know that I try to weave my two favorite types of blogs into the three categories I’m most interested in.

The problem is that I have a post I want to share with you that I feel like meets my requirements of the latter, but violates my code of the former.  (In other words, I have a funny, entertaining piece I stumbled on I want to share with everyone, but it is longer AND it is an excerpt of one style of writing I use in my stores)  So, if you will bear with me I think I’ll go out on a limb this Saturday. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Afterall…it is the weekend. So relax, pour another cup of coffee and settle in.

I will break up today’s post into two parts and will play a little game with all of you. You see, I’m not sure if you will enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it so, here is what I propose: I will post Part I. If you like it and would like to see Part II, I will post it tomorrow morning.  However, I will need at least 5 people requesting that I post Part II in the comments, or at least 5 people “Liking” this post. If I can get that, I will follow up with the rest of Herod’s story.  If not, I will shrug and post something else more along my style on Monday. 

It is a narrative piece of fiction I wrote about Herod the Great. He was the king of the Jews during the last part of the 1st century B.C. He was a fascinating character in Jewish history. If you have any religious background at all, the name “King Herod” shows up quite a bit in the Gospel narratives.

If you know anything about Jewish history in general during the 1st century B.C. and 1st century A.D. the name “King Herod” also shows up quite a bit. Sometimes this can be confusing because during this hundred year period there were a number of guys who liked to call themselves “Herod” and if you are not careful, you could be reading about the demise of one only to hear of another popping up soon after.

This is a small narrative about the Herod who started it all. Think of him like the Tony Soprano of Jewish antiquity. He was THE “Don” of the family and all of the dysfunction and insanity that surrounded his descendants after he died has a direct link to him. He is vilified in the Gospels, which is understandable because the Jews never trusted him. However, woven into the tapestry of his tragic life is a character who, though flawed, was an effective leader for his people in a time when many of the smaller principalities were simply swallowed up in the maw that was theRoman Empire. He not only secured quasi-independence for his people in the face of the powerful Roman might, but he also stimulated an economy for his people that, for a time, rivaled anything in the eastern half of the empire.

He was Herod the Great, and this is a part of his story:

Herod the Great was king over the Jews who never quite forgave him for the first great folly of his life; he was not born a Jew. It was not that his birth was ignoble, it was just not Jewish enough for them. Jews were, after all, a stubborn lot and it was difficult for them to accept a king who was not born a Jew. The great king David was a Jew. His son Solomon was a Jew. The Messiah, when he came, would be a Jew, but Herod’s father was from Idumea, and that didn’t have quite the same ring to it. Worse still, Herod’s mother was an Arabian.

“So,” Herod tried to argue with the people. “My father was mostly a Jew.”

“It does not count,” they informed him. “A Jew is born from the mother. Your mother was Arabian.”

Jewish though he was not, Herod was very smart. At least, he knew hot to pick the right friends and as everyone knew, the best friends to have were Romans. More importantly, Herod knew when to ditch his friends for even better friends. He learned this trick from his father, Antipater, who also knew how to pick the right kind of friends. Antipater of Idumea had two very good friends. One was a Prince Hyrcanus who was a Jew. The other was Gaius Julius Caesar who was not Jewish at all, but very Roman.

The Jewish Prince had been fighting with his brother for quite a long time over who would be king over this tiny strip of land that hugged the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. The religious leaders of the Jews couldn’t decide either, so each prominant religious order picked the brother they thought would eventually win. The Pharisees chose Prince Hyrcanus, Antipater’s friend and the Sadducees chose Prince Aristobulus. Of course, neither prince had a drop of Roman blood. Fortunately for Aristobulus, a very great Roman just happened to be in the area at this time. The problem was that Romans rarely cared what happened to other people who were not Roman. So Aristobulus figured the best way to get this Roman’s attention would be to send another Roman, not quite as great but still important, a very large pile of silver if he would be his friend.

Romans liked silver, so Aristobulus had a new friend named Marcus Aemilius Scaurus who just happened to know Pompey the Great.

Aristobulus was cleaver. He knew that anyone who had the name “Great” legally attached to the end of his name would not really notice a pile of silver. On the other hand, an 1,800 pound grape vine that was made out of pure gold; few human beings could over look that, whether they were Roman, Jewish or anyone else. So he sent Pompey his golden trophy and Aristobulus had another very great friend.

Although Aristobulus was good at making new friends, he was not very good at keeping them. He did not understand one important thing about Romans; they were very proud. They might fight other Romans, and often they did, but they never took sides against each other in favor of someone who was not a Roman. Poor Aristobulus was never told this little secret. So when he went to Pompey with a very sad story about how Marcus Aemiilius Scaurus had actually extorted the very large pile of silver from him, the great Roman decided to take a closer look at this little strip of land that was causing so much trouble.

This was not what Aristobulus had in mind at all. This was not what the Sadducees had in mind either when they supported his claim for the throne. Actually, it was not what anyone had in mind, but it did work out rather well for Aristobulus’ brother, Hycanus. Pompey decided that although his new golden vine looked really good in the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus back in Rome, Aristobulus didn’t seem to have anything else to give him. Besides, Hyrcanus had a much more convincing story to tell. So, Pompey made a new friend in Prince Hyrcanus and had brother Aristobulus promptly arrested. This was very good news for Antipater of Idumea because if you recall, Hyrcanus was also his friend.

The city of Jerusalem was a holy city for the Jews. It was divided into two main sections. The lower city that held the markets and was controlled by the Pharisees, and the Temple mount where the Sadducees had barricaded themselves after Aristobulus’ arrest. Pompey the Great quickly broke through the barricades and his battering rams tore holes in the walls of theTemple allowing the Romans access to the sacred buildings. Many of the Sadducees committed suicide rather than watch the desecration of their most holy site.

The Jews were very stubborn about this particular Temple, a fact that was curious to a Roman like Pompey. The whole complex was so secret and guarded. No one had even been inside except for priests and only a High Priest was able to go into the most holy room of the Temple. It was all very confusing to Pompey, so he decided to see for himself what they might be hiding in there.

The great Roman and his soldiers trudged up the long staircase leading to the Temple, stomped their muddy boots through the sacred rooms, gawked at a number of golden vessels and treasure while priests cried something about blasphemy. The soldiers made sacrifices to their pagan gods who had protected them in battle on the Jewish alter, another act that seemed to make the Jews very upset.

“Whatever you do,” they begged the great Roman, “Please do not go into our most holy room.”

“Why is it holy?” he asked them.

“God is in there,” they answered.

“What else is in there?”

“Nothing,” they said.

Pompey laughed. He was not a fool. Any room that was the house of a God had to be filled with all kinds of beautiful trophies. Besides, he could see the very thick curtain that sealed off this holy room.

“Is God behind this curtain?” he asked.

“Yes. Please do not go in there.”

Pompey couldn’t resist and slipped his head inside to have a peek. Unable to believe his eyes, Pompey barged in to make sure it was not a trick of clever lighting. Indeed, his eyes were seeing correctly. The sacred room was empty. There was not a candlestick, or a stool or even a nice pot anywhere. It was just a big, dark, empty room.

“This is it?” he asked his friend Hyrcanus.

“That is it,” the Prince answered.

“Well, I am sorry I desecrated your empty room,” Pompey said. “How about I make you the High Priest and we’ll call it even?”

Prince Hyrcanus accepted and the Pharisees were very happy. The Sadducees as you recall were still peeved that brother Aristobulus had been arrested and did not accept this promotion. Besides, it had been made by a Pagan Roman who had just desecrated the Temple. In any event, Pompey went on his way. He had to get back to Rome and see what his friend, Gaius Julius Caesar, might be up to and the Jews became subject to Roman rule before he left.

However, as was often the case when two Romans became too great, in time civil war broke out and Pompey found himself running away from the greatest Roman of them all, Gaius Julius Caesar, who had grown very powerful indeed. Antipater of Idumea saw his chance. He quickly made a new friend by helping Caesar out of the really bad situation he had gotten himself into while being seduced by a young Egyptian queen named Cleopatra. Hyrcanus, who had made friends with Pompey, had to sit quietly and hoped no one remembered that little detail. Caesar, however, was not a man to forget details. So it was Antipater of Idumea who was appointed regent of the Jews by Caesar and granted Roman citizenship.

The problem with being a great man is that people tend to become really jealous. Julius Caesar had defeated Pompey the Great and thus had become “Dictator For Life”, but even the greatest men can be killed by dozens of very small knives. Typically, when great men are killed like that, another war is not far behind.

Caesar had been killed and his murderers ran to the east to hide from Caesar’s friends and family who were now hunting them intent on revenge. the murderers figured they would raise an army to protect themselves, but quickly realized that thousands of men eat quite a bit. They need thousands of expensive armor and weapons and most of them require some sort of pay to keep them fighting for you. Needless to say, they were in desperate need of money to fight Caesar’s nephew, Octavian and his second in command, Mark Antony. So, the murderers demanded 33,000 pounds of silver from both Antipater and his young son, Herod. That much money is never easy to collect, and Antipater of Idumea was killed trying to collect it, leaving young Herod to make the best friends he could all by himself.

A job that young Herod proved to be very, very good at.

UPDATE #1 So, here it is on Monday and only 2 people ‘like’ this…and no one commented. Oh well. Tell you what, I will post something elese tonight but if as the week goes on other people end up ‘liking’ it, I will post the last part. Same rules apply…I’m looking for 3 more peole to either comment and request more, or simply ‘like’ it. If not…I can take a hint.  *smile*

How A Pudgy Little Quaker From Iowa Saved The World!

Have you ever saved someone’s life?

To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t. (Though there is a family rumor that I rescued my cousin from drowning when I was 12 years old. I was quite the hero at the next family reunion, even though all I really recall is reaching out and grabbing his arm when he was floating down a river)

I’ve done a few good things in my life that from a Heavenly perspective may have saved a life, but only God knows exactly how many that may be.

And He rarely tells.

The truth is we really have no way of knowing the net value of our lives. That goes for the evil we are capable of as well, by the way.

Take for instance Herbert. He was born in Iowa in 1874. He was a Quaker by religion and the son of a blacksmith, yet this man probably saved the lives of more people than any human being I can think of. (Except maybe Jesus Christ.. his tally is quite high too)

Herbert was 23 years old when he moved to China with his newlywed wife just in time for the Boxer Rebellion to break out, trapping them under heavy artillery fire. While his wife worked in hospitals, caring for the victims of the war, Herbert helped build barricades to protect the civilians and risked his own life to save some Chinese children. Fortunately, he had studied to become an engineer and was the right man at the right place at the right time.

Herbert had a knack for that. Most people of destiny do.

World War I broke out on June 28, 1914 and Herbert led a committee to rescue 120,000 Americans stranded on the continent of Europe. It is impossible to guess how many of those people would have died without his administrative abilities.

World War I was a devastating experience for most of Europe and Asia. Over 20 million people died with countless more who would die in the years that followed. Europe was devastated and people were starving to death. Herbert was head of the American Relief Administration and organized shipments of food from America to the mainland. I am not exaggerating when I say that millions of Europeans would have died without this relief.

He was a stanch capitalist in a time of dramatic political upheaval in Russia. The Bolsheviks had overthrown the Tsars in Russia. The Communist leaders murdered the Tsar, his wife, four daughters and son, and the ensuing revolution saw the death of nearly ten million Russians.

Communism was beginning to sweep across Europe.

But in the Mother Country, things were falling apart. The Civil Wars nearly shattered the economy of Russia and when the Bolshevik’s sized power, Lenin found himself leading a country gripped in famine. Food was running out and Lenin seized much of the grain the peasants had grown. Some say he did this as a reaction to economic sabotage from some more wealthy peasants, but it doesn’t really matter why he did it when children begin to starve to death because of it.

The Communists were able to size power in a large part due to a crop failure in 1892. The Tsar was unable to control this economic disaster and nearly 400,000 Russians died. Tsar Nicolas paid for this failure with his own life, and the lives of his entire family.

Lenin’s famine of 1921 saw the death of over 5 million Russians.

In the middle of this disaster, Herbert once again rushes to help. He organizes the American Relief Administration, and several other international bodies at first to just save the lives of children, but Lenin refuses to grant him access to the country. Officially, Lenin feared the Americans would smuggle weapons with the food and start a rebellion. Unofficially, it does not help Communist propaganda when the “Evil American Capitalist Pigs” are feeding your own children out of a surplus of food.

Ultimately, even Lenin realizes if he refuses much longer, the same desperate masses that dispelled the last monarch in Russia could turn on his regime as well. If this happened, Russia could have collapsed into chaos for decades.

Remember this in a minute.

Herbert soon realized that his efforts needed to be expanded to the adults, not just children. He actively pressured the U.S. Congress to buy the surplus grain from American farmers and ship them to help with the relief. Congress overwhelmingly approved. Not only that, but Herbert also called upon ordinary citizens of the United States to help with the relief and thousands of dollars of donations poured in from families, communities and churches.

It is estimated that about ten million people were fed during this massive mobilization of recourses.

Knowing of Herbert’s Capitalist position, one critic asked why he was helping the Communists.

“Twenty million people are starving to death. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!” was his answer.

Herbert Hoover goes on to become the President of the United States in 1928.

There is space on Mount Rushmore for a few more presidents. Personally, I nominate Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States to take one of those spots.

Some of you may know American History better than others and could find this nomination a bit odd considering his Administration. You see, all we ever hear about is his 1 term as President. Yes, he was voted out of office in 1932. 

What would cause such a good man to lose his rebid for the White House?

The Great Depression, mostly.

Hoover was a Capitalist, and a constitutional conservative. When the Stock Market crashed 8 months into his Administration (something that was really beyond his control, if the truth be told) Hoover believed the best course of action was LESS government interference, choosing to rely on private measures to solve the growing crisis.

So, in 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a message of a “New Deal,” the American people are ready for action. Hoover looses his job and Roosevelt will never give up power until his death in 1945. (Yes, he served as President for 13 consecutive years)

This is not a knock on President Roosevelt. This is just to inform you of a great man who is often lost in the shadow of his successor and the events that quickly followed him.

When I was a kid, all I knew about President Herbert Hoover was that he had a funny first name and a last name that reminded me of a vacuum cleaner.

When I went to college, all I learned about him was that he seemed to be personally responsible for the crash of the Stock Market and the Great Depression.  Usually, he is given half of a lecture and described as an inefficient buffoon who sat on his hands for three years while American’s stood in soup lines.

Of course, these same professors usually spent a week or more on President Roosevelt.

Hoover has been sidelined and forgotten in the annals of American Presidents while other names like Lincoln, Washington, and Kennedy scream for our attention.

Now, let’s play a little game called “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I can imagine Herbert Hoover feeling quite discouraged after the American people fired him and blamed him for the Great Depression. He might have even had nights where he wished he had never been born.

Really?  Can we count how many lives might have been lost if he had not been alive to save them? Set his inaction as President aside for a moment. That is another debate entirely. Not just children in China, or a hundred thousand Americans trapped in Europe as shells start flying, but just focus on Russia.

If he had ignored the plight of these people and shrugged his Capitalist shoulders at their misfortune, what might have happened? It would have been an easy justification for him to make to himself. One that many Americans would have agreed with. After all, Lenin was largely responsible for the disaster, why should Americans spend millions of dollars to save them? Besides, anything that is bad for Communism must be good for Capitalism and the free economies of the West, right?

He could have easily said, ‘Let them starve.’

He probably wouldn’t have become President, and as much as some of my old College Professors might have liked that, what might have happened soon after that?

Pretend Hoover is not there to feed 10 million Russians 1921. How many of those might have died? Remember, his focus was on the children.

Children who are fed have a habit of growing up and becoming adult men and women and it usually takes them about 20 years to do it. What if those adults were not alive to stand against another madman named Adolf Hitler when he invades Russia exactly 20 years later? How many of those children who ate the food Hoover helped provide grew to become soldiers and leaders of Russia in World War II?

Only God knows, and he will never tell.

As it was, the Germans assault on Russia brought them within sight of Moscow and a breath away from destroying our Eastern Ally. Had Germany accomplished this in 1941, the Americans and the British may never have been able to pull off D-Day, the liberation of France in 1944 or the destruction of Germany the following spring. Hitler might have won World War II and forced the last of the Allies into terms of surrender…

And yet, those Russian children were fed. Millions of them largely do to the efforts of a pudgy little Quaker from Iowa.