Looking Back to 1915

I was doing some online research and happened to follow a link to the Wikipedia entry for the major events of 1915.

What follows is a selectively edited version of that list of events.

In some ways, the mix of events seems strangely familiar. In many other ways, however, it is very clear that the world was a much more volatile and dangerous place a century ago than it is today. Any yet, in the midst of all of that carnage and calamity, inequity and pettiness, there were some truly profound achievements, as well as many more mundane accomplishments, all contributing to ongoing human progress.

It seems worthwhile to remember that broader truth in a week in which the cover of Time magazine had the tagline “World War ISIS.” I would describe it as the headline but it is in the lower right-hand corner of the cover, below a long shadow being cast by the Eiffel Tower.

Indeed, some long-dead leaders blundered us into catastrophes without having the foresight, wisdom, or imagination to comprehend them, while others contrived to exaggerate and to exploit crises as an expedient mechanism to secure and to extend their personal power. Real statesmen in times of crisis were just as rare then as they are now.



January 1–The Battle of Broken Hill, a train ambush near Broken Hill, New South Wales, in Australia, is carried out by two men (claiming to be in support of the Ottoman Empire) who are killed together with 4 civilians.

Harry Houdini performs a straitjacket escape performance.

January 5-–Joseph E. Carberry sets an altitude record of 11,690 feet (3,560 m), carrying Capt. Benjamin Delahauf Foulois as a passenger in a fixed-wing aircraft.

January 12–The United States House of Representatives rejects a proposal to give women the right to vote.

A Fool There Was premières in the United States starring Theda Bara as a femme fatale; she quickly becomes one of early cinema’s most sensational stars.

January 13–-An earthquake in AvezzanoItaly, registering 6.8 on the Richter scale kills more than 30,000.

January 19Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.

–WWI: German Zeppelins bomb the coastal towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in England for the first time, killing more than 20.

January 21-–Kiwanis is founded in Detroit, as The Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order Brothers.

January 25–First United States coast-to-coast long-distance telephone call, facilitated by a newly invented vacuum tube amplifier, ceremonially inaugurated by Alexander Graham Bell in New York City and his former assistant Thomas A. Watson, in San Francisco, California.

–Emory College is rechartered as Emory University, and plans to move its main campus from Oxford, Georgia to Atlanta.

January 26-–The Rocky Mountain National Park is established by an act of the United States Congress.

January 28-–An act of the United States Congress designates the United States Coast Guard, begun in 1790, as a military branch.

January 31 – WWI: Germany‘s first large-scale use of poison gas as a weapon occurs when 18,000 artillery shells containing liquid xylyl bromide tear gas are fired on the Imperial Russian Army on the Rawka River west of Warsaw during the Battle of Bolimów; however, freezing temperatures prevent it being effective.[4]



February–-While working as a cook at New York’s Sloane Hospital for Women under an assumed name, “Typhoid Mary” (an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever) infects 25 people, and is placed in quarantine for life on March 27.

February 4–-Maritz Rebellion of disaffected Boers against the government of the Union of South Africa ends with surrender of remaining rebels.

February 8-–The controversial film, The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith, premieres in Los Angeles. It will be the highest-grossing film for around 25 years.

February 18-–WWI: Germany regards waters around the British Isles to be a war zone from this date, as part of its U-boat campaign.



March–-The 1915 Palestine locust infestation breaks out in Palestine; it continues until October.

March 3–-The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA, is founded in the United States.

March 14–-Constantinople AgreementBritainFrance and the Russian Empire agree to give Constantinople and the Bosphorus to Russia in case of victory (the treaty is later nullified by the Bolshevik Revolution).

March 18–- A British attack on the Dardanelles fails.

March 19–-Pluto is photographed for the first time but is not classified as a planet.

March 25–-The U.S. submarine F-4 sinks off Hawaii; 21 are killed.

March 26–-The Vancouver Millionaires win the Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators three games to zero.



April 5–-Boxer Jess Willard, the latest “Great White Hope”, defeats Jack Johnson with a 26th round knockout in sweltering heat at Havana, Cuba. Willard becomes very popular among white Americans for “bringing back the championship to the white race.”

April 11–-Charlie Chaplin‘s film The Tramp released.

April 22-– Start of Second Battle of Ypres. First large scale use of poison gas on the Western Front by the Germans.

April 24–-Beginning of the Armenian Genocide with the deportation of Armenian notables from Istanbul.

April 25–-Start of the Gallipoli Campaign (lasting until January 1916): Landing at Anzac Cove by Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and landing at Cape Helles by British and French troops to begin the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire.

April 26–-Treaty of London: Italy secretly agrees to leave the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary and join with the Triple Entente.



May 3–-Canadian soldier John McCrae writes the poem “In Flanders Fields“.

May 6–-Baseball player Babe Ruth hits his first career home run (off Jack Warhop), for the Boston Red Sox.

May 7–-WWI: Sinking of the RMS Lusitania: British ocean liner RMS Lusitania is sunk by Imperial German Navy U-boat U-20 off the south-west coast of Ireland, killing 1,198 civilians en route from New York City to Liverpool.

May 22–Lassen Peak, one of the Cascade Volcanoes in California, erupts, sending an ash plume 30,000 feet in the air and devastating the nearby area with pyroclastic flowsand lahars. It is the last volcano to erupt in the contiguous United States until the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

May 24–-Italy joins the Allies after they declare war on Austria-Hungary.



June 3–-Mexican Revolution: Troops of Obregón and Villa clash at León: Obregón loses his right arm in grenade attack but Villa is decisively defeated.

June 5-–Women’s suffrage is introduced in Denmark and Iceland.

June 9–-U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigns over a disagreement regarding his nation’s handling of the RMS Lusitania sinking.



July–-The Union of South Africa occupies German South-West Africa, now Namibia, with assistance from Canada, the United Kingdom, the Portuguese Republic and Portuguese Angola. South Africa will occupy South-West Africa until March 1990.

July 1–-In aerial warfare, German fighter pilot Kurt Wintgens becomes the first person to shoot down another plane in using a machine gun equipped with synchronization gear.

July 7–An extremely overloaded International Railway (New York–Ontario) trolleycar with 157 passengers crashes near Queenston, Ontario, resulting in 15 casualties.

Sinhalese militia captain Henry Pedris is executed in British Ceylon for inciting race riots, a charge later proved false; he becomes a hero of the Sri Lankan independence movement.

July 22–-“The Great Retreat” is ordered on Eastern front – Russian forces pull back out of Poland (then part of Russia), taking machinery and equipment with them.

July 24 – The steamer Eastland capsizes in central Chicago, with the loss of 844 lives.

July 28 – The American occupation of Haiti (1915–34) begins.



August 5August 23 – Hurricane Two of the 1915 Atlantic hurricane season over Galveston and New Orleans leaves 275 dead.

August 17–-Jewish American Leo Frank is lynched for the alleged murder of a 13-year-old girl in Atlanta.



September 6 – The prototype military tank is first tested by the British Army.

September 7 – Former cartoonist John B. Gruelle is given a patent for his Raggedy Ann doll.

September 25October 14 – WWI: Battle of Loos: British forces take the French town of Loos but with substantial casualties and are unable to press their advantage. This is the first time the British usepoison gas in World War I and also their first large-scale use of ‘New’ or Kitchener’s Army units.

September 30 – WWI: Serbian Army private Radoje Ljutovac became the first soldier in history to shoot down an enemy aircraft with ground-to-air fire.



October 12 – WWI: British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium.

October 21 United Daughters of the Confederacy holds its first annual meeting outside the South, in San Francisco. Historian General of the UDC, Mildred Rutherford address the gathering on the “Historical Sins of Omission & Commission” of Yankee historians.

October 25 – Lyda Conley, the first American Indian woman to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States as a lawyer, is admitted to practice there.

October – Franz Kafka‘s novella The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) is first published in Germany.



November 18 – Release of the U.S. silent film Inspiration, the first mainstream movie in which a leading actress (Audrey Munson) appears nude.

November 23 – The Triangle Film Corporation opens its new motion picture theater in Massillon, Ohio. This film company based in Culver City, Califrnia, became the prototype for the major Hollywood studios, even though it stopped making films in 1919.

November 24 – William J. Simmons revives the Civil War era Ku Klux Klan at Stone MountainGeorgia.

November 25 – Einstein‘s theory of general relativity is formulated.



December 10 – The 1 millionth Ford car rolls off the assembly line at the River Rouge Plant in Detroit.

December 18 – United States President Woodrow Wilson marries Mrs Edith B. Galt in Washington, D.C.

December 26 – The Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council decides to stage an Easter Rising in 1916.


Date unknown

In exchange for assistance against the Ottoman Empire, the British offer Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, their recognition of an independent Arab kingdom, although clear terms are never agreed.

Alfred Wegener publishes his theory of Pangaea.

The first stop sign appears in Detroit.


3 thoughts on “Looking Back to 1915

  1. “March 26–-The Vancouver Millionaires win the Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators three games to zero.” Take out the city names and “the Stanley Cup” and you have a plausible news headline for 2015….
    Thanks for this very interesting presentation!

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