Discussions on Feminism in La Democracia

What sort of views on feminism were expressed by the Puerto Rican press in the early 20th century? This is an important question to ask considering that the first wave of feminism took place from the late 19th century to the early 1900s, as women advocated for more opportunities and their right to vote. Scholar Isabel Picó de Hernández mentions in her chapter “The History of Women’s Struggle for Equality in Puerto Rico”, found in the book The Puerto Rican Woman, that there was a lack of a feminist movement and consciousness during most of the nineteenth century on the island (Acosta 25). She attributes this to the fact that many women in Puerto Rico during that time did not have access to a proper education and spent most of their time at home performing domestic duties. These circumstances made it difficult for women on the island to establish a solid feminist movement, similar to the ones found in the United States and Europe during the nineteenth century (Acosta 2). Discussions around women’s emancipation by Puerto Rican intellectual elites did not begin until the late 19th century. However, as the island’s economic situation changed due to the United States occupation of Puerto Rico in 1898, more women began participating in the labor force which allowed for the establishment of a feminist movement in the first decades of the 20th century (Acosta 3). This is reflected in the Puerto Rican newspaper La Democracia (1890-1948).

La Democracia was founded by Luis Muñoz Rivera in Ponce, a town that at the time was a major center for nationalist and intellectual discourse. In the front page of a July 14, 1891 issue of La Democracia, Luis Muñoz Rivera states some of the goals of the newspaper, which include giving the newspaper a “modern character, one that is compatible with the intellectual progress of the country” and providing its audiences coverage on a variety of topics.

Snippet from La Democracia- July 14, 1891
Snippet from La Democracia- July 14, 1891

The topic of feminism and women’s rights was explicitly discussed throughout the newspaper, but mostly by male intellectuals and writers. Some of these male writers supported feminism, while many wrote against it believing it would promote indecency and take away from women’s maternal roles (Findlay 82).

In a May 6, 1907 issue of La Democracia one can find a section titled “Sobre el Feminismo.” It was written by Mariano Abril y Ostalo, a writer and politician who would eventually become the director of La Democracia. In the article, Abril opens up by stating “It is truly alarming how the feminist movement is operating in many nations. Because it is not a movement that tends to elevate and dignify the women, rather the contrary.”

Snippet from La Democracia- May 6, 1907

He continues later on asserting “Men have opened up for women all avenues of knowledge, all the doors of universities and academies. And nevertheless, women have not distinguished themselves in anything, they have not invented anything. We have female engineers, doctors, lawyers and they have not opened a tunnel… Progress is man’s work.” Clearly, the article shows disdain for feminism and demeans women in an ignorant manner.

Snippet from La Democracia- May 6, 1907

The article however did not go unnoticed and was criticized by Nemesio R. Cannales in La Democracia twelve days later. Nemesio R. Cannales was a lawyer and a major literary figure in Puerto Rico that advocated for women’s rights in the early part of the 20th century. The piece he wrote for La Democracia was also titled “Sobre el Feminismo.” In it, Cannales references Abril and his article declaring “Our friend Abril softens himself and cries before the boldness of the modern woman, the female doctor, the female police officer, the female lawyer, the female voter and he dies of rage and pain thinking that the adorable type of woman that is the married woman, the doll, the object, the seamstress and mender is quickly disappearing.”

Snippet from La Democracia- May 18, 1907

He goes to attack Abril’s statement of that women “have not invented anything” and declares that this does not show “a lack of intelligence”, but a lack of an “environment for the expansion and development of their abilities. And, even with that, the cleverest man is a complete a solemn dunce next to the most awkward among them.” Hence, with this article one sees a different point of view towards the feminist movement.

Snippet from La Democracia- May 18, 1907

Eight days after the publication of Cannales’ article, La Democracia ran a piece that commented on both men’s point of view. While the author disagrees with both men saying that La Democracia does “not accept the reactionary form of the first (Abril), nor the liberal form of the second (Cannales)”, he tends to be more critical of Cannales. Moreover, he explains that Cannales’ school of thought is both radical and dangerous, and comes to agree with a few of Abril’s ideas.

Snippet from La Democracia- May 29, 1907
Snippet from La Democracia- May 29, 1907

These articles demonstrate how La Democracia tried to bring forth different perspectives, both conservative and liberal, on important topics, such as feminism. However, one needs to keep in mind that these works are written by men with no input by women. Were there Puerto Rican female writers contributing to La Democracia and writing about their own feminist ideas? According to her biography by Norma Valle-Ferrer, Luisa Capetillo, a major figure and leading force in the Puerto Rican feminist movement, did work as a correspondent for La Democracia. However, it is difficult to find her name mentioned in the newspaper in Chronicling America. Many of the sections of La Democracia are published without indicating who the author is and therefore, it is possible that her contributions to the newspaper do not include her name. This deserves a more thorough investigation.

However, her work for the feminist periodical, La Mujer is mentioned in La Democracia and in the newspaper La Correspondencia.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 8, 1910

There are more writings on feminism and women’s rights throughout the Puerto Rican press during the beginnings of the 20th century. This post provides a glimpse with a few examples from La Democracia. Additionally, it is important to note the female writers and activists that lead the feminist discourse on the island during this time, including not only Luisa Capetillo, but also María Luisa de Angelis and Ana Roqué de Duprey. Their works and essays can be found in other published works. María Luisa de Angelis for example wrote Mujeres puertorriqueñas: que se han distinguido en el cultivo de las ciencias, las letras y las artes desde el siglo XVII hasta nuestros días in 1908, a book in which she challenges underrepresentation and focuses of the achievements of Puerto Rican women in academic circles. Ana Roqué de Duprey founded several innovative and revolutionary publications, including La Evolución, Álbum Puertorriqueño, Heraldo de la Mujer and La Mujer del Siglo XX. It is interesting to look at their works and see their contributions to the Puerto Rican feminist movement.

***Versión en español se encuentra aquí: Discusiones sobre el feminismo en La Democracia***


Acosta Belén, Edna, and Elia Hidalgo Christensen. 1979. The puerto rican woman. New York: Praeger.

Angelis, María Luisa de. Mujeres puertorriqueñas : Que se han distinguido en el cultivo de las ciencias, las letras y las artes desde el siglo XVII hasta nuestros días. 2. ed. ed. Puerto Rico: Tip. de Real Hermanos, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112070227613.

Findlay, Eileen. 1999. Imposing decency: The politics of sexuality and race in puerto rico, 1870-1920. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

“La Democracia.” News about Chronicling America RSS. Accessed June 28, 2018. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/essays/1195/.

Latino Rebels. “Ana Roqué: The Feminist Flower.” Latino Rebels. September 30, 2015. Accessed June 29, 2018. http://www.latinorebels.com/2015/09/21/the-feminist-flower/

Valle Ferrer, Norma. 2006. Luisa capetillo, pioneer puerto rican feminist. New York: Peter Lang.


A Glimpse into 20th Century “Modas” in Puerto Rico

Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 21, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 21, 1910

La Correspondencia (1890-1943), was founded by Ramón B. López and it quickly gained popularity among the people on the island as it is considered to be the first daily newspaper that was most accessible to the public. It circulated throughout Puerto Rico, with approximately 5,000 copies printed per day. Eventually, it would gain the nickname of “el periodico de las cocineras”, which translates to “the housewife’s newspaper”. The historical newspaper is an excellent resource in understanding certain aspects of Puerto Rican life during the late nineteenth century to close to the middle of the twentieth century, such as dress and clothing. One could ask, what did people wear on the island during that time? What were the fashion trends and influences? What can the pages from La Correspondencia reveal about Puerto Rican apparel? It is important to consider dress and clothing as they are significant parts of material culture and can work to symbolically represent a population’s culture and social environment (Root 198).

In La Correspondencia from around 1909 to 1910, one can find a frequent feature titled “Las Modas de La Correspondenica”. The newspaper feature showcased different clothing and dress styles through illustrations and text. Interestingly, the feature seemed to only show clothing designs for women and young children, but not for men. For example, on the fifth page of an issue from August 14, 1910, illustrations of female figures are shown sporting a blouse, a bathing suit and a dress.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910

An additional illustration of a skirt is shown, but without a model wearing it. The illustrations are quite detailed as they attempt to give the reading audience a full view and understanding of the garments. Perhaps illustrations were the preferred media in which to display the clothing designs since photographs tended to be more costly to run. The blouse on the far left is depicted with fine detailed embroidery designs and shading. Interestingly, in addition to the front view of the blouse, beside it the viewer can see an illustration of what the backside of the shirt would look like.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910

The figures that wear some of the clothing items are rendered in the same style as 19th century European illustrations. In the article “Puerto Rican Women’s Dress at a Time of Social and Cultural Transition”, found in the book The Latin American Fashion Reader, both scholars Dilia Lopez-Gydosh and Marsha A. Dickson mention that from the seventeenth century and onward, Puerto Rican women would gather their information on fashion and trends from European sources and fashion plates. Hence, one can infer that the illustrations featured in the newspaper come from European sources. The article further exclaims that Puerto Rican women’s fashion was not only influenced by Western trends, but also by the island’s hot and tropical climate.

Each illustration is accompanied by descriptive text that works to convince readers of the clothing design’s beauty and urges them to make a purchase. It is interesting to note that the garments themselves aren’t for sale, but rather the pattern so that the reader can make their own outfit. In the text below the skirt illustration, it explains the simplicity of the design model, how easy its dressmaking can be and how the pattern is cut in seven different sizes. It also describes how the skirt is appropriate for hot days, since it can be made with white linen.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910

To purchase the patterns, the reader would need to fill out “Las Modas de La Correspondencia” coupon, which was typically located on the same page as the illustrations. The coupon also asks for one’s name, address, the pattern numbers located near the illustrations and the desired sizes. The coupon’s wording also states that each pattern costs 10 cents.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- August 14, 1910

Lopez-Gydosh and Dickson also mention in their article how the economic changes caused by Puerto Rico becoming a United States territory in 1898 had some influence over dress and style on the island. Puerto Rico thus began trading more with the United States than with other European countries (Root 206). As a result, several department stores, such as Gonzalez Padin, opened up in Puerto Rico and offered products and clothing that one could find in New York. Several Gonzalez Padin advertisements are found in La Correspondencia newspaper. Take for example one found in a March 28, 1910 issue that highlights some new items from the spring season.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910

Part of the advertisement text expresses “We invite our flatterers and the public in general to visit us so that you can appreciate the novelties personally bought by our representative in New York.”

Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910

Furthermore, another section of the advertisement expresses that “In our clothing department one will find whatever one desires and we guarantee that our prices are lower than those of any store in the United States.”

Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910

Fashion illustrations are also displayed within the ad that are similar to the ones from “Las Modas de la Correspondencia” feature and focus primarily on women and children’s fashion. That is not to say that there weren’t any advertisements for men’s fashion within La Correspondencia.  In a July 8, 1909 issue one can find a Stein-Bloch advertisement showing an illustration of a man wearing a suit, right above one for women’s dresses and corsets. The text for the Stein-Bloch ad does contain some English in the subheading stating, “The first American clothes to cature London.” One can imagine that “cature” is a typo for “capture.” The rest of the text, however, is in Spanish and expresses the different suits, hats, ties and shirts that men can purchase. The ad is also associated with P. Schira and Co., which had stores located in the towns of San Juan, Guayama and Mayaguez.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910
Snippet from La Correspondencia- March 28, 1910

Our goal is to provide you with a glimpse of some styles and trends of Puerto Rican clothing featured in the newspaper of La Correspondencia. As seen through the clothing advertisements found within the newspaper, it is evident that Puerto Rican apparel was highly influenced by European and United States trends in the early 20th century. This particular newspaper is a great tool in revealing aspects of Puerto Rican clothing, something that is relevant to the culture and everyday life of that time period.

***Versión en español se encuentra aquí: Un vistazo a las modas del siglo XX en Puerto Rico***


“La Correspondencia De Puerto Rico.” News about Chronicling America RSS. 2016. Accessed June 15, 2018. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/essays/1194/.

Root, Regina A. The Latin American fashion reader. n.p.: Oxford, UK; New York: Berg, 2005,. 2005.

Blood Upon the Sand: The Armenian Genocide in World War I

Today we bring you a guest post by R. Boyd Murphree, Project Manager, Florida Family and Community History, Digital Services and Shared Collections, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries. He can be contacted at bmurphree@ufl.edu and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.

On April 29, 1915, sandwiched between advertisements for “Groves Tasteless Chill Tonic” and “Chamberlain’s Tablets” near the bottom of page two of the Thursday edition of the Pensacola Journal (column five), was a short report on the Turkish arrest of hundreds of Armenian residents of Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The obscure placement of the article must have made sense to the editors given other dramatic stories reported that day. America was at peace, but Europe and much of the world was in the ninth month of World War I. The small Pensacola paper dutifully relayed the developments in that week’s landing of Allied troops along the Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to wrest control of the Dardanelles from Turkish troops and seize Constantinople, a campaign designed to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war on the road to the defeat of that country and its ally, Germany.

What the Pensacola editors could not have known was that the arrest of the Armenians, which occurred on April 24, 1915, the day before the Allies landed at Gallipoli, marked the beginning of a campaign to exterminate Armenians living within Ottoman territory in what has become known as the Armenian Genocide. As this campaign unfolded and reports reached the United States of mass deportations, starvation, and massacres of Armenians, Florida newspapers, like the national press, reported these horrors and American efforts to provide relief to the suffering Armenians and other oppressed Christian peoples within the Ottoman Empire. Although these events occurred a century ago, the issues they raised—ethnic cleansing, war crimes, the challenge of providing relief to refuges, and the persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East—are just as relevant today as they were during World War I.

Turkish Authorities Arrested Armenians
From The Pensacola journal-April 29, 1915

Centuries before the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, the Armenians existed as one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The Ottoman Turks gained control of the major portion of ancient and medieval Armenian lands with their conquest of the Byzantine Empire. While most of the Armenian territory was located in the northeastern area of the Ottoman Empire between the Black Sea and the Tigris River, the Russians eventually occupied Armenian land in the Caucasus, and most of that area makes up the current nation of Armenia, a former republic of the Soviet Union. There were also large concentrations of Armenians in Constantinople and other major cities within the empire.

As with other Christian and religious minorities in the multiethnic Ottoman Empire, the Armenians experienced periods of violent repression and a subordinate social and economic status within the Muslim ruled empire. By the nineteenth century, the Armenians achieved substantial economic improvement through their work in business and crafts. As Armenian demands for political and religious rights within the realm increased, Ottoman Muslim anxiety and resentment grew. The Ottoman government feared that the real goal of the Armenians was to establish a breakaway Armenian state free from Turkish rule. The 1890s presented a foretaste of the murderous anti-Armenian violence of 1915 as the Ottoman government encouraged Turkish and Kurdish attacks on Armenian communities resulting in the deaths of at least 37,000 Armenians and maybe as many as 100,000 to 300,000. As they would in 1915, Florida newspapers reported Turkish and allied Muslim attacks on Armenians with headlines such as “Riot in Constantinople,” “Armenians Slaughtered,” and “Armenian Martyrs” combined with accounts of American church relief efforts: “Armenian Relief,” and “To Aid the Armenians.”

There is not a straight line, however, between the atrocities of the 1890s and the genocide that occurred in 1915. Several developments created the circumstances for even greater slaughter: the continued economic and military decline of the Ottoman Empire, long known as the “Sick Man of Europe”; the rise to power of a nationalist reform movement popularly known as the “Young Turks”; the loss of Ottoman territory, especially in the Balkans, after a series of losing wars; the Young Turks’ promotion of Turkification of the empire at the expense of ethnic and religious minorities; and Ottoman entry into World War I on the side of Germany against Britain, France, and Russia.

The story of Armenia and its long suffering people
From The Pensacola journal-April 6, 1919

The decline of the Ottoman Empire can be traced to the eighteenth century, but the nineteenth century brought the acceleration of that process as Russia, Britain, and France sliced off portions of the empire for themselves. As Ottoman fortunes seemed to reach their nadir in the first decade of the twentieth century, The Young Turks, a loose coalition of reform minded military officers and government officials, overthrew the old sultan, Abdälhamid II, replaced him with his younger brother, and produced a constitution. Much of the empire greeted this revolution with enthusiasm, including Armenians, other minorities, and women—many women began to walk the streets unveiled. The Young Turks, however, soon realized that they had promised more than the wretched state of the empire’s economy and institutions could deliver. They grew frustrated with popular criticism, especially from the Armenians and other Christian minorities, of their failing reform agenda. On top of these developments, the Young Turk government lost most of its remaining European provinces in the Balkan Wars and had to turn Libya over to Italy after a war with that country in 1911–1912. The new government answered criticism with repression and sought to consolidate support among the majority Turkish population by undertaking a policy of Turkification that promoted Turkish language and culture over the language and culture of the empire’s non-Turkish population, including the Armenians and the Arabs. Faced with these problems, the Young Turks turned to Germany, the greatest economic and military power in Europe, to reform and strengthen the Turkish army and develop the Ottoman economy through railroad building. Three months after the outbreak of World War I, the Young Turks led the Ottoman Empire into the conflict on the side of Germany in late October 1914.

Abdul Hamid Heir to Thron map of seat of war
From The Pensacola journal-April 27, 1909

The war did not go well. The Young Turks’ ambitions for conquest were unrealistic given Turkey’s weak economy and military: the soldiers were tough fighters but grossly undersupplied and, with a few exceptions, poorly led. By the spring of 1915, the Young Turks faced disaster. Their winter invasion of the Russian controlled Caucasus was a calamity that resulted in horrendous casualties and loss of territory. A Turkish army also failed to take the British controlled Suez Canal and had to retreat back through the Sinai with heavy losses. In February, British and French naval forces began a campaign to force a passage through the fortified Dardanelles with the objective of capturing Constantinople and knocking Turkey out of the war. After weeks of heavy bombardments and the loss of several warships, the Allies decided they would need to land substantial ground forces to seize the high ground above the straits, which would allow their vessels to pass through to Constantinople.

In the midst of these disasters, the Young Turks feared the Armenians, who looked forward to an Allied victory, and other minorities would launch an uprising from within the empire. The Young Turks decided on a policy of removing Armenians in the areas most threatened by the Allies: Constantinople and the eastern provinces close to Russia. As Allied troops landed at Gallipoli on the morning of April 25, 1915, the Turks rounded up leading Armenians in Constantinople in a campaign of repression that soon tuned into genocidal mass murder.

Within a couple of weeks, Florida newspapers began to report accounts of the atrocities. The early massacres were in Armenian villages around Lake Van in eastern Anatolia. On May 17, the Ocala Evening Star ran the headline “Awful Story From Armenia” and “Another Massacre In The Shadows of Mount Ararat,” a reference to the Biblical site of Noah’s Ark’s landfall that was sure to arouse the sympathy of American Christians. Another report in the Daytona Daily News cited “6,000 Armenians Massacred” in the same area. By October 1915, a picture of the tremendous scale of the killings emerged in reports from American missionaries returning from Turkey with the stark headline: “Armenians Are Being Exterminated.”

In an article entitled “Armenians’ Woes,” syndicated columnist Frederic J. Haskin gave a detailed account of the Armenians’ plight as the Turks removed them from their villages on forced marches into the Mesopotamian desert. “A million Armenians are today being driven into the desert by the Turks, there to meet almost certain death. A whole race of people is being turned out of its homes, and forced to make a 600-mile march into a strange and inhospitable land.” In another syndicated column, the Southern Missionary News Bureau (SMNB) called the Turkish policy of extermination the “Blackest Page in Modern History” and noted the deaths of 800,000 Armenians in a campaign that continued into 1916—many Armenian historians and other scholars argue that the terror went on through 1923. According to the SMNB, an eyewitness related the “‘mutilated bodies of women, girls, and little children made everyone shudder. . . . At the Euphrates the bandsmen and gendarmes threw into the river all the remaining children under fifteen years of age. Those that could swim were shot down as they struggled in the water. The fields and hillsides were dotted with swollen and blackened corpses that filled and fouled the air with their stench.’” Besides death through shootings, starvation, exhaustion, and disease, Turkish forces raped countless Armenian women and sold girls into slavery.

Exterminating a Race Turkey's Foul Task
From The Palatka News and Advertiser-February 15, 1916

American missionaries’ concern for the Armenians was rooted in missionary activity in Anatolia during the 1890s, when missionaries witnessed the first series of largescale Turkish attacks on Armenians. Protestant churches and missionary societies led the popular relief response to the Armenian genocide during World War I. The official American governmental response began with a formal protest to the Ottoman government to end the slaughter (The Young Turks brushed aside the American protest and bristled at what they saw as American interference in their internal affairs.) This response was based on the advice of the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau Sr., who received detailed reports of the massacres, which he then related to American and international missionary groups. Morgenthau’s sympathies were clear. He later entitled a chapter of his memoir about his time in Turkey as “The Murder of a Nation.” Over twenty years later, his son, Henry Morgenthau Jr., served as Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin Roosevelt and urged the president to rescue Jews facing annihilation under the Nazis during World War II.

Informed by Ambassador Morgenthau on the fate of the Armenians, American missionary societies spread the news of the massacres to churches and communities across the country. Also important was the work of the National Armenian Relief Committee, which had formed in the 1890s. The committee organized a national “Armenian Relief Day” in 1916 to raise funds for Armenian refugees. October 1915 saw the creation of the Armenian and Syrian Relief Committee—the Turks had also attacked Syrian Christians within the empire. By September 1917, the American Red Cross estimated that American aid could prevent the deaths of over two million people in refugee camps across western Asia, and that life could be sustained on a minimum level for only ten cents a person per day. The relief campaign reached small communities such as Apalachicola, Florida, where residents organized an Armenian and Syrian relief drive that saw cars “draped in Greek [another oppressed Ottoman minority] and Armenian colors” stopping at homes and businesses to collect relief money. By the end of November 1918, with the war ended, President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to increase relief aid to Armenian and other refugees of the Ottoman Empire. The U. S. government estimated that there were some 4,000,000 refugees and as many as 400,000 orphans in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter. Through the American Committee for Relief in the Near East, the United States hoped to raise $30,000,000 in relief funds. Florida was asked to raise $200,000 for this effort.

The Armenian Relief campaign
From The Pensacola journal-January 12, 1919

As the postwar relief campaign continued, the budding movie industry in Hollywood produced a film to highlight the terrible suffering of the Armenians. The movie, “Auction of Souls” (aka “Ravished Armenia), was based on the experiences of Aurora Mardiganian, a young Armenian women who survived the genocide. Ms. Mardiganian, who was not an actress, starred in the silent film that depicts Armenian life in Turkey before the war, the deportations and murders, and the sexual enslavement of Armenian women. The film was controversial for its scenes depicting the Turkish flogging and crucifixion of young women, and some states tried to ban its distribution. “Auction of Souls” reached Florida theaters in late 1919: versions of the film are available on YouTube.

Auction of Souls Movie
From The Lakeland evening telegram-December 29, 1919

The Armenian Genocide of World War I resulted in the deaths of some 1.5 million Armenians, which was about half of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the war. While the atrocity received widespread press coverage during the war, the world hardly remembered the episode by the time World War II began in 1939. Depending on the world’s forgetfulness, Adolf Hitler is reported to have said when speaking about his plans to launch a war to destroy Poland: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” The resulting deaths in World War II of six million Europeans Jews in what became the world’s most infamous genocide might have been avoided or alleviated sooner had the world adopted the now famous motto of “Never forget” in 1915 rather than in 1945.

Citations and Additional Sources:

Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation. “Auction of Souls” or “Memorial of Truth” (http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_6.php).

Mayerson, Deborah. On the Path to Genocide: Armenia and Rwanda Re-Examined. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014.

Morgenthau, Henry. Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1918 (https://archive.org/details/ambassadormorge02morggoog/page/n11).

Rogan, Eugene. The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East. New York: Basic Books, 2015.

Introducing the Boletín


We are happy to announce the addition of a new title to Chronicling America! There are now a little over 16,000 pages of Boletín mercantil de Puerto Rico  available for January 1871 through December 1898.

The Boletín mercantil de Puerto Rico was first published in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 2, 1839 under the title Boletín Instructivo y Mercantil de Puerto Rico. It was one of two main communication methods (the other being La Gaceta) for the Spanish Government on the island. According to scholar Antonio S. Pedreira, it is “a newspaper of transcendental significance in the history of newspapers in Puerto Rico”. The Boletín brings to the forefront, from a conservative stance, the daily life of the Spaniards and their descendants in Puerto Rico and serves as an important resource to study the conservative pro-Spanish political currents in the colony.

It reported on interests of merchants, on-goings of the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador), daily government happenings, major political events, and international news.


parte mercantil
Shipping of goods, December 1, 1871


Boletín’s unwavering support for Spain, December 30, 1887


boletin denounced.jpg
Boletín denounced by El Clamor, a paper in favor of autonomy, for it’s alignment with the Spanish government, December 30, 1887


Reports from around the world, December 1, 1871


The Boletin also includes articles that provide a glimpse into social/cultural life during the time.

For example, it published several poems, sonnets, dramas, short stories and literary reviews.

Memories of a solder by Jose Perez Moris, June 22, 1898


Literary section, July 15, 1898


It also published announcements of theater performances, identification of actors/actresses, singers, musicians, and orchestras.

Theatre of “Modern Magic”, March 18, 1877


Sewing machine ad, December 10, 1873


And several announcements for books, textbooks, school supplies

libros baratos
Cheap books available from the Boletin press, November, 28, 1894


Stay tuned! More of this title to come in the upcoming months.


***Versión en español se encuentra aquí: Introduciendo el Boletín***


The Hinge of Fate: The Attempted Assassination of FDR in Miami

Today we bring you a guest post by R. Boyd Murphree, Project Manager, Florida Family and Community History, Digital Services and Shared Collections, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries. He can be contacted at bmurphree@ufl.edu and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.

In his 1962 alternative history novel, The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick portrays the United States as a defeated country occupied by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the victorious powers of World War II. A crucial part of his premise is that President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt was assassinated on February 15, 1933, while on a visit to Miami. Instead of missing Roosevelt, the would-be assassin, Giuseppe Zangara, killed him, leaving the United States without Roosevelt’s leadership during the Great Depression and World War II. As one of Dick’s characters relates in her telling of an alternative history within an alternative history: “Roosevelt isn’t assassinated in Miami; he goes on and is reelected in 1936, so he’s President until 1940, until during the war. Don’t you see? He’s still President when Germany attacks England and France and Poland. And he sees all that. He makes America strong.”

The only Florida title available from 1933 in Chronicling America, the newspaper source for this blog, is the Key West Citizen. Although a small newspaper from a small town—the population was 12,831 in 1930—the Citizen covered Roosevelt’s February 1933 trip to Florida, Zangara’s attempt on FDR’s life, and the gunman’s trials and execution. This sequence of events began on February 4, 1933, when Roosevelt arrived in Jacksonville to launch a ten-day fishing trip along the state’s Atlantic coast with a stopover in the Bahamas.  The trip was designed to be his last vacation as president-elect—he was elected on November 8, 1932, and took office on March 4, 1933, a month after the beginning of his fishing excursion. Roosevelt arrived in Jacksonville by train and was driven through the city accompanied by recently inaugurated Florida governor David Sholtz before boarding the yacht Nourmahal, owned by tycoon Vincent Astor, a distant relative of FDR. Five days before the trip, another prominent politician entered office. Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. The target of dozens of assassination plots, Hitler’s time in office paralleled that of Roosevelt: both leaders came into power in early 1933 and died in April 1945.

FDR ended his vacation on the evening of February 15, when the Nourmahal docked in Miami. The president-elect was scheduled to make a brief speech a little after nine o’clock at Bayfront Park before boarding a train for New York. Three cars carried Roosevelt and his entourage to the park: FDR and Mayor Redmond Gautier of Miami sat in the back of the first vehicle, a convertible Buick, followed by a secret service car, and a car carrying a few of Roosevelt’s friends and associates. Roosevelt’s motorcade moved slowly through the city towards the park, which was located a few miles from the pier, and FDR waved to the large crowd that lined the streets—some 25,000 people. Once arrived at the park, Roosevelt’s car pulled up in front of the outdoor stage. FDR, disabled by polio, delivered his remarks from the Buick’s back seat. After his short speech, in which he joked about his fishing trip, dignitaries, who were seated on the stage, rose to greet Roosevelt, surrounding the Buick for a quick chat. Included in this party was Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago, who had travelled to Miami to discuss politics with the president-elect. As FDR and the dignitaries talked, Giuseppe Zangara, an alienated Italian immigrant, stood about twenty-five feet away—he later related that the crowd was too thick to get closer to Roosevelt—when he opened fire with a pistol in the direction of FDR’s car.

Zangara managed to get off five shots before he was subdued. Each of the bullets missed Roosevelt but struck five individuals, including Mayor Cermak. His wound and that of Mabel Gill, the wife of Florida Power and Light’s president, were the most serious. Mrs. Gill and three other victims, who received slight wounds, survived the shooting. Mayor Cermak did not. He died in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital over two weeks later on March 6, 1933, two days after FDR was inaugurated. The morning after the attack, Roosevelt visited Cermak. Doctors told FDR that the mayor’s wound was serious but not fatal—they expected Cermak to recover—and FDR tried to cheer up the Chicagoan before moving on to visit other victims. He then boarded a train and headed back home to New York to prepare for his inauguration.

The Key West Citizen-February 21, 1933

Who was Giuseppe Zangara and why did he try to kill Roosevelt? Standing only five feet tall with a mass of curly black hair and a thick Italian accent, Zangara, who was thirty-two-years old in 1933, was an unemployed bricklayer who had been living in the United States since 1923; he became a US citizen in 1929. A native of the region of Calabria in Italy, Zangara drifted in and out of jobs in his home country all the while suffering from a painful abdominal condition that was never successfully treated. After arriving in the United States, Zangara lived in New Jersey, where his experience as a stone cutter in Italy landed him work as a bricklayer. He did well in his work during the economic boom of the 1920s, but like millions of other Americans during the Great Depression he lost his job and travelled around the county in search of work. He ended up in Miami in 1932. In January 1933, Zangara learned that Roosevelt would be visiting Miami in February—FDR’s itinerary was published in newspapers—and decided he would assassinate the president-elect. Zangara’s motive for the attack seems to have been a combination of depression and resentment about his poor lot in life and the ongoing stomach pain that he endured every day. Although he claimed the attack was due to his hatred of capitalism and capitalists, he was not associated with any leftwing political movements. He may have had a death wish. If he killed Roosevelt, his name, although infamous, would live forever and he would no longer be in pain after his inevitable execution.

His appointment with Florida’s electric chair came soon enough. After his arrest, Zangara was questioned by the Secret Service, the county sheriff, and reporters. He expressed no remorse for the attack, except his sorrow that he had not killed Roosevelt. Court appointed psychiatrists deemed Zangara unstable but could not definitively state that he was insane. Zangara was determined to accept full responsibility for the attack and would not accept advice that he plead insanity. He was arraigned on four counts of attempted murder for trying to kill Roosevelt and bystanders William Sinnott, Russell Caldwell, and Margaret Kruis. The judge also empaneled a grand jury in the event that Cermak or Mrs. Gill died, in which case Zangara would be tried for murder. Florida governor Sholtz, the press, and the public clamored for a quick resolution of the case. On February 20, only five days after the shooting, Zangara was tried in a Miami courtroom. Questioned at length by the judge, Zangara again admitted that he had done the shooting, and wished that he had killed Roosevelt. Judge E. C. Collins then sentenced Zangara to eighty years in the state prison—twenty years for each of the four victims. According to the Key West Citizen, Zangara said to the judge, “Don’t be stingy—give me 100 years.”

On March 6, Mayor Cermak died. His death meant that Zangara, who was still in jail in Miami, would be tried for murder. The grand jury indicted Zangara on the same day that Cermak died. His trial began on March 9 and concluded a day later. The judge, after hearing Zangara’s rambling account of his reason for trying to kill Roosevelt—Zangara repeated his previous statements that he committed the act because he hated capitalism—sentenced Zangara to be taken to the state prison at Raiford, where, after receiving the governor’s warrant, he would be electrocuted. In response to his sentence, Zangara yelled, “Well, I no scared of electric chair because I am thinking I am right to kill the president. Because it is capitalists, for the crooked government.” Governor Sholtz wasted no time issuing Zangara’s death warrant, signing the document on March 13. On March 20, Zangara was led to the death chamber and executed. During Zangara’s short stay at Raiford, the prison warden, Leonard F. Chapman, took up a lot of time with his death row’s most famous resident. Chapman wanted to know for sure if Zangara was sane and confirm his reason for trying to kill Roosevelt. He allowed Zangara to write a memoir, which the prisoner composed in Italian. The memoir reinforced what Zangara had said about his life, his reason for attacking Roosevelt, and his own wish to die. His memoir, which has been translated into English, is stored among Warden Chapman’s papers in the State Archives of Florida in Tallahassee.

While it is impossible to say what the history of the twentieth century would have been had FDR died that night in Miami, there is no doubt the federal response to the Great Depression would have been much less active—Vice President-elect John Nance Garner, the man who would have become president, was a conservative Texas Democrat rather than a liberal New Dealer. Without Roosevelt’s resolve to bring the United States out of its strict neutrality in foreign affairs, isolationism might have triumphed. It is unlikely that Congress would have passed the Lend-Lease Act, which was vital in aiding Britain and the Soviet Union against Germany. Without naval cooperation between the United States and Britain, it would have been much easier for Germany’s U-boats to win the Battle of the Atlantic by cutting off supplies to the British Isles. With Britain defeated and America far away and withdrawn, Hitler’s attempted conquest of Russia might have been successful. The United States would have faced the prospect of fighting Germany and its ally Japan without the crucial help of the British and the Russians: The Man in the High Castle’s horrendous vision of the outcome of World War II becomes more plausible.

In his classic six-volume history of the war, Winston Churchill titled the fourth volume, The Hinge of Fate, to capture the monumental importance of the year 1942: “I have called this volume The Hinge of Fate because in it we turn from almost unmitigated disaster to almost unbroken success. For the first six months of this story all went ill; for the last six months everything went well. And this agreeable change continued to the end of the struggle.” If Giuseppe Zangara’s bullets had struck and killed FDR the fate of the world might have turned in a very different and dark direction.

Citations and Additional Sources:

Churchill, Winston S. The Hinge of Fate, vol. 4 of 6 of The Second World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950.

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. Mariner Books edition, original edition, 1962. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

Florida Memory at https://www.floridamemory.com/.

Picchi, Blaise. The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara: The Man Who Would Assassinate FDR. Academy Chicago Publishers, 1998.

The Case of Isabel Gonzalez

Snippet from La Democracia- March 18, 1903
Snippet from La Democracia- March 18, 1903

The political status of Puerto Ricans has been questioned ever since the island was annexed by the United States in the late nineteenth century as a result of the Spanish-American War. Questions regarding the United States citizenship of Puerto Ricans were definitely brought forth during the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Williams (1904). The case involved Isabel Gonzalez, a twenty-year-old Puerto Rican who decided to leave the island for New York in 1902. Isabel, at the time, was pregnant and planned to reunite with her fiancée who had found a job on the mainland. Isabel also had some relatives residing in New York, including her brother, Luis Gonzalez, and her uncle, Domingo Collazo. Isabel didn’t think any issues would arise from her travels, since it was common for people from the island to travel freely to the United States. However, while on board the S.S Philadelphia, the United States Department of Treasury issued new immigration protocols, ones that would label Isabel as an immigrant alien. Even though Isabel believed herself to be a United States citizen, immigrant officials disallowed her from entering New York. The case was noteworthy and covered extensively by the Puerto Rican press. Newspapers, such as La Correspondencia (1890-1943), worked to question whether Isabel Gonzalez was indeed a United States citizen. Subsequently, her fate came to determine that of the whole Puerto Rican population.

Upon her arrival to the United States, Isabel was detained and transferred to Ellis Island. There, the newly appointed Immigrant Commissioner, William Williams established policies in which individuals traveling with less than ten dollars could be suspect to further investigation. While Isabel did have more than ten dollars on her person, Williams still labeled her with a public charge since she was traveling alone while pregnant. Deemed as “immoral” she was then prevented from entering the mainland until a relative or family member could claim her.

The ordeal turned out to be more complicated as her uncle, Domingo Collazo, and her brother, Luis Gonzalez tried to claim her and convince the officials at Ellis Island that Isabel was not entering the United States for “immoral” reasons. Even with their statements and assurances that they would take care of her, she was not allowed to leave. Thus, Collazo issued a habeas corpus petition for Isabel. The petition was passed through the U.S Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York.

In an issue of La Correspondencia from September 27, 1902, one can find a letter to the Senior Director of the paper from Isabel’s uncle, Domingo Collazo, under the title “Una carta de Nueva York”. A verdict was soon approaching at the circuit court level at the time when the letter was written. Some of the details of the case are related in the letter, such as the names of the judge involved in deciding the verdict, Judge Lacombe, and the lawyers defending Isabel Gonzalez, Charles E. Le Barbier and Orrel A. Parker. Both lawyers were praised by the newspaper as the letter’s subheading exclaims that “Puerto Ricans should give respect and recognition to the American lawyers Charles E. Le Barbier and Parker”.  Collazo, in his letter, mentions how he has had to “spend money from his own earnings” for the defense of his niece Isabel Gonzalez. Nonetheless, he believes that something must be done, even “at the expense of the tranquility and the pockets of those who do not care about the elections of the political parties of the island”. Collazo ends his letter with the quote “they want the cage but reject the birds” which relates to the way he feels the United States has treated Puerto Ricans. They want the territory but reject its inhabitants.

Snippet from La Correspondenica-1902
Snippet from La Correspondencia- September 27, 1902

At the circuit court level, Judge Lacombe concluded that Isabel Gonzalez was an immigrant alien and could therefore not enter the mainland freely. The facts of the verdict were published on the cover of another issue of La Correspondencia on October 18, 1902.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- 1902
Snippet from La Correspondencia- October 18, 1902

The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court and American lawyer, Fredric R. Coudert Jr., and Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Federico Degetau y Gonzalez got involved in the matter. Coudert Jr. had previously been one of the attorneys in another Supreme Court case, Downes v. Bidwell (1901), a case that argued whether the rights from the United States Constitution applied to United States territories. Degetau at the time was extremely active in Puerto Rican politics and advocated for statehood and United States citizenship for the island and its inhabitants. Hence, both figures adamantly fought for Isabel Gonzalez’s cause, even though each had their own approach towards the issue, a fact that scholar Sam Erman outlines well in his article “Meanings of Citizenship in the U.S Empire: Puerto Rico, Isabel Gonzalez, and the Supreme Court.”

Snippet from La Democracia
Snippet from La Democracia- July 11, 1904

A letter from Degetau to the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor was published in La Correspondencia on October 8, 1903. The letter’s heading declares “Finally, Sir Degetau publically protests the United States immigration laws applied to Puerto Ricans.” In the letter, Degetau expresses issues surrounding United States immigration laws and that deeming Puerto Ricans as alien immigrants went against the Treaty of Paris (1898), the United States Constitution and other United States laws. For example, Degetau evokes the United States March 3, 1903 Act, an act that discusses the regulations of immigrant aliens that come into the United States.  Section 2 of the Act lists the types of people excluded in the United States, while Section 33 articulates that the words “United States” encompasses not only the country, but also its territories and the waters surrounding it. Therefore, Degetau cannot understand why residents of the island, such as Isabel Gonzalez, would be deemed as immigrant aliens when in fact Puerto Rico is part of the United States.

Snippet from La Correspondencia-
Snippet from La Correspondencia- October 8, 1903

The Puerto Rican population were anxious to know the results of the case. This is evident on the front page of the December 19, 1903 edition of La Correspondenica where one can find a subheading stating “Soon we will know the opinion of the United States Supreme Court in regards to our political status. It is discussed with passion in these moments the case of Isabel Gonzalez, that presents the problem of whether ‘the flag follows the Constitution or not’”. In reality, the results of the case didn’t bring much more clarity to the situation. While the case was positive in the sense that it decided that Isabel Gonzalez, and hence all Puerto Ricans, were not immigrant aliens, it left unclear whether they truly were citizens of the United States.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- 1903
Snippet from La Correspondencia- December 19, 1903

It wasn’t until the Jones Act of 1917, thirteen years after the Isabel Gonzalez case, that Puerto Ricans were officially granted United States citizenship. However, it is important to note that those living on island do not have the same rights as those living in the mainland. One can moreover argue that the political situation in Puerto Rico still remains complicated with many unresolved issues. Therefore, the Isabel Gonzalez Supreme Court case has much relevance today as it is part of a long history of Puerto Ricans and their struggles in attaining their rights.

***Versión en español se encuentra aquí: El caso de Isabel Gonzalez***


Erman, Sam. 2010. Puerto rico and the promise of united states citizenship: Struggles around status in a new empire, 1898-1917. Doctor of Philosophy. University of Michigan.

Erman, Sam. 2008. Meanings of citizenship in the U.S. empire: Puerto rico, isabel gonzalez, and the supreme court, 1898 to 1905. Journal of American Ethnic History(4): 5, http://lp.hscl.ufl.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.27501851&site=eds-live

Smith, Rogers M. 2017. The unresolved constitutional issues of puerto rican citizenship. Centro Journal 29 (1) (Spring2017): 56-75

Even more issues of The Key West Citizen available on Chronicling America

We just posted about a new batch of The Key West Citizen, but even more pages were just uploaded to Chronicling America! This batch includes January-December 1941, October-December 1942, January-August 1943, March-December 1945, January-December 1946, January-December 1947, and January-July 1949. This batch really covers the lead up to World War II, the war itself, and the beginnings of the post-war era.

Two timely stories really caught our eye when we began to explore this new batch: coverage of Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into WWII in December 1941 and the dedication of Everglades National Park on December 6, 1947 by President Harry Truman.

Pearl Harbor
Digitized Copy of The Key West Citizen with a headline that reads "Congress Declares War on Japan."
The Key West Citizen-December 8, 1941

Everglades National Park