The year was 1899 and the Spanish-American War had just ended. However, peace would not last. The U.S. had purchased Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spain for $20 million. In the Philippines, the Filipino forces (former allies in the Spanish-American War) had begun to resent American forces. After finally becoming free of Spain, they did not want another occupation, and on 4 February the Philippine-American War began and would continue for three years at a terrible cost of lost Filipino lives.
In Africa, another war was beginning as the British and the Boers began the Second Boer War, where again the forces of imperialism and nationalism clashed in bloody conflict. For years, Uitlanders (foreigners) had been flocking to the Transvaal (South African Republic) following the discovery of gold in 1886. Threatened by the newcomers, the government restricted the vote to naturalized citizens and began taxing mining interests.
In New York City, another battle was being fought–this time against newspaper moguls who had raised the price of newspaper bundles by ten cents. This price hike hit hard for newsboys who hawked the papers on street corners. These boys, many of whom lived on the streets, counted on the profits made selling these newspapers to survive. They had to pay for the bundle of papers up front and with the price hike, more papers had to be sold to turn a profit. To make matters worse, following the end of the Spanish American War, readership was down and newsboys frequently found themselves taking a loss on unsold papers. In July of 1899, newsboys went on strike against The Evening World and The Evening Journal in New York. With no newspaper system of distribution to replace the newsboys, the owners compromised and agreed to buy back unsold papers, although the price remained at sixty cents a bundle. News of the success spread and similar strikes were eventually held in other cities. These strikes helped to bring attention to the plight of children forced into labor and eventually led to reform.
Between 12 and 14 February, a blizzard ravaged much of the U.S. from New England to Florida. The Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) from 15 February 1899 reported that freezing temperatures had devastated the Florida and Georgia citrus crops, and the record cold temperature of 6.8 degrees fahrenheit chilled Charleston. Cape May, New Jersey, snow levels measured forty-three inches after fifty-two hours of continuous snowfall. New York City recorded sixteen inches, while neighboring area measured the precipitation in feet. Even the port of New Orleans was iced over.
Advances in 1899 include the first distribution of aspirin by BayerÂ and the invention of the paperclip. Who could have imagined at the time that this simple but useful invention would, a century later, annoy millions as it popped up in Microsoft applications as â€œClippy?â€
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Image: Street in Harlem, New York City, after the blizzard of Feb. 13, 1899 from Library of Congress Photo Collection.