The Year Was 1915

R.M.S. Lusitania, hit by torpedos off Kinsale Head, IrelandThe 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. 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 “Young Turks” 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 “Pancho” Villa continued to fight and in April was defeated by Carranza’s forces led by General Alvaro Obregon. When United States president, Woodrow Wilson, recognized Carranza’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.

Major hurricanes in the U.S. struck Galveston, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

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 America’s favorite dolls, Raggedy Ann, was born in 1915, the creation of cartoonist Johnny Gruelle.

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4 thoughts on “The Year Was 1915

  1. This, the year my father was born into the world, was a momentous time in history to arrive. I never knew him, nor had an inkling of the world’s condition when he enjoined the universal brotherhood of men. Upon reading this article I have learned a thing or two about what must have indirectly shaped his life and thereby his decisions when, upon becoming a man, he decided upon the course of his life’s ventures. What stroke of events prompted him to make the military his choice; his dogged pursuit of excellence in training in the armored forces; what sent him to his death pursuing Hitler’s hordes across the world’s battle-strewn world in the 1940’s….. all, perhaps, explained by these many cited circumstances of a world destined to be plagued by would-be military men who sought to gain world dominance and subjection of the masses. I think I now understand my father more perfectly than ever before. Thank you for this wonderful review of the year 1915.

  2. Has anyone ever heard of anyone such as Typhoid Mary that was the cause of an outbreak of any other disease?

  3. Response to #2 question: Yes, in fact Public Television recently aired a program about the lady. The program hinted that the proof of her being the cause of the disease was in doubt. Check with your public television station for more information.

  4. Imagine my pleasure to receive this just in time for my mother’s 92nd Birthday Dec. 5, 2007! My mother, Louise Wilson Anderson, started me on my journey into genealogy and we have worked on it together off and on for about 25 years. Mama was a “hunt and peck” typist so in the early 80’s Mama talked me into typing all the information she had gathered about her family line from her Grandma Dowell’s trunk and her aunts and cousins. It is remarkable all she was able to accomplish through guesses, letters, and court house visits. When she completed it, she mailed them all a copy. Of course, she was also blessed to be the repositor of many family papers from her own mother as well as my father’s family. Having those tangible items helped to keep us on track. After all, when you have lived with someone whose husband was in the Civil War (mama’s Grandmother Dowell lived in her family’s household until her death in 1923) and who kept his original discharge papers, you feel an obligation to maintain the tradition of documenting your heritage. Happy 92nd Birthday Mama!

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