1912 isn't just about the Titanic sinking

bdeloach@bcgov.netMarch 30, 2012 

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Much has been written about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It was easily the biggest story of 1912. However, there were several other important events that occurred that year. New Mexico and Arizona were the 47th and 48th states, respectively, admitted to the union. The Girl Scouts of America organization was founded in Savannah by Juliette Gordon Low.

One of the most interesting presidential elections in American history occurred when Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose), William Howard Taft (Republican), Woodrow Wilson (Democrat) and Eugene Debs (Socialist) competed in the November 1912 election. Read about it in "1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- the Election that Changed the Country," by James Chace.

Robert Falcon Scott led an expedition to the South Pole in hopes of becoming the first person to reach it. He arrived there in January 1912, only to find that Roald Amundsen had put up a flag. Scott and his party died trying to return to the base camp. Follow this tragic expedition in "The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition," by Susan Soloman.

To learn more about Antarctic expeditions and the people who were driven to reach this inhospitable land, read "Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13," by Richard Farr.

Several notable people were born in 1912. Barbara Tuchman (Jan. 30), author and historian, won a Pulitzer Prize for "The Guns of August" about the first month of World War I. Also notable are "The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914" and "The Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century."

Raoul Wallenberg (Aug. 4) used his position as a Swedish diplomat to offer diplomatic immunity and passports to thousands of Hungarian Jews in late 1944, thus saving their lives. His heroic deeds are told in "The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II," by Alex Kershaw, and "Lost Hero," by Danny Smith.

When we think of French cooking, we think of Julia Child (Aug. 15). She brought the art of cooking into American homes through her television program, "The French Chef." But did you know that she served in the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA? Read about this part of her life in "A Covert Affair: The Adventures of Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS," by Jennet Conant. Her connection to France came when her husband, who was in the foreign service, was posted there after WWII. Read "My Life in France," by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme. Her many contributions include "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vols. 1 & 2," "Baking with Julia" (on DVD) and "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom."

"Pappy" Boyington (Dec. 4) was one of the most famous fighter pilots and heroes in American history. Boyington shot down 28 Japanese planes during WWII. He led the Black Sheep Squadron in the South Pacific and later became a Japanese prisoner of war. This remarkable life is chronicled in "Black Sheep One: The Life of Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington," by Bruce Gamble, and "Black Sheep: The Life of Pappy Boyington," by John Wukovits.

The year 1912 saw several notable books published. "Pygmalion," by George Bernard Shaw, was to become a literary classic. "O Pioneers," by Willa Cather was a great description of life on the American prairie. "The Lost World," by Arthur Conan Doyle, was science-fiction at its best. "Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln," by Anthony Gross, celebrated the genius of the late president. John Muir, a celebrated naturalist, provided the public with a glimpse of a national park in "The Yosemite."

Bratton deLoach is a reference librarian at the Beaufort Branch of the Beaufort County Library System, at 311 Scott St., Beaufort.

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