The Year Was 1908

grand canyon.jpgThe year was 1908 and it was an Olympic year. The Games of the IV Olympiad were held in London, England, with twenty-two nations sending thirty-seven women and 1,971 men to compete in 110 events. Perhaps the most memorable event of the games was when Italian marathon runner, Dorando Pietri, became disoriented and collapsed several times at the end of the race. Officials eventually helped him across the finish line, and although he was later disqualified, his determination earned him a place in history.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, became the site of the first long-distance radio message in 1908, thanks to the efforts of Captain Gustave Ferrie. His efforts became invaluable a few years later when World War I broke out.

People were beginning to look upward in New York City too. Owned by the Singer (sewing machine) Company, the Singer Building was completed in May 1908. Until the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower was completed in 1909, it was the tallest building in the world at 612 feet.

In Arizona, the view was downward as President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the Grand Canyon a National Monument, so that it would be kept “for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.” Remarkably, much of the Colorado River’s course remained unexplored into the twentieth century, due mostly to the rough terrain.

Disaster struck in Italy on 28 December 1908, when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in the Messina Strait between Sicily and Calabria. The quake was followed by a tsunami that decimated coastal areas. The death toll is estimated at around 200,000 and many residents of the affected areas were forced to relocate; many immigrated to America. 

The following year, the S.S. Florida left Naples with 850 emigrants on their way to a new life in America. Disaster struck again when the Florida struck the Republic, killing three passengers. The ship eventually made it to New York and the passenger list is among the new records added to Ancestry. On the last page of this set of records, is the list of detainees held at Ellis Island. Sadly, after all that these people had to endure, two of them were actually deported for health reasons. 

On a brighter note, for those of us who consider ourselves Chicago Cubs fans, the year 1908 still lives on as a beacon of hope. It was the last time the Cubs won the World Series. There’s always next year.

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One thought on “The Year Was 1908

  1. My father, Ralph Paul Zurschmit, was born on January 19, 1908,
    near Akron, Ohio. His father, Christian, came to this country from Switzerland in October 1880, when he was 2 years old. Ralph grew up on the family farm. He quit school at a very young age in order to help on the farm. He was quite good in math and had beautiful,artistic handwriting. He passed away at age 60.

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