The year was 1915 and in Europe, World War I was underway. By now the war had settled into the trenches and it was difficult to make advances on either side. In 1914, the French had used non-lethal tear gas grenades in an attempt to stop German troops that were moving through Belgium. But in 1915, gas warfare took a more sinister turn as the Germans used chlorine gas against allied troops at the Second Battle of Ypres.
The U.S. was still neutral in the conflict, but the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat killed 128 Americans, compelling President Woodrow Wilson to address the situation with Germany.Â Although the incident did not draw America into World War I at that time, it did help sway American opinion and move the U.S. one step closer to entering the conflict.
In the Ottoman Empire, under the control of the â€œYoung Turksâ€ since 1913, Armenian scholars, political leaders, and clergy were rounded up on 24 April 1915 and a large-scale genocide of the Armenian population began. It would eventually claim an estimated 1.5 million lives.
In Mexico, the revolution that had begun in 1910 with the overthrow of the government of Porfirio Diaz continued, and in 1915, Venustiano Carranza declared himself president of Mexico. Francisco â€œPanchoâ€ Villa continued to fight and in April was defeated by Carranzaâ€™s forces led by General Alvaro Obregon. When United States president, Woodrow Wilson, recognized Carranzaâ€™s government, Pancho Villa began attacks on Americans in Mexico and even staged a night-time raid on a New Mexico town. Wilson responded by sending 12,000 troops into Mexico after him. Led by General Pershing, the troops on horseback never found Villa and were punished by the harsh desert conditions. The Mexican Revolution prompted 900,000 Mexicans to immigrate to the United States to escape the war.
In Chicago, Illinois, on July 24, a picnic for the employees of Western Electric turned to tragedy when the S.S. Eastland, which was to ferry the group to Michigan City, Indiana, rolled over in the Chicago River killing more than 800 of the 2,500 passengers aboard.
In New York, Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary” was found making a living in the only way she knew how–as a cook–at Sloane Hospital for Women in Manhattan under the name of Mary Brown. Mallon had been detected as the source of a small typhus outbreak in 1906 and was put in quarantine until 1910 when she was released under the promise that she would no longer work as a cook. The 1915 transgression landed her back in quarantine where she would live out her life.
One of Americaâ€™s favorite dolls, Raggedy Ann, was born in 1915, the creation of cartoonist Johnny Gruelle.