“The light has gone out of my life,” among other things.

It was a Thursday. February the 14th, 1884 to be precise. A young, 25 year old future-US president –  Theodore Roosevelt held his wife Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt in his arms as she passed away from undiagnosed Bright’s disease, just 36 hours after the birth of their daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth. Theodore was 25 years old, and had just said his final goodbye that morning to his 48 year old mother Martha, as she succumbed to Typhoid.

It was valentine’s day and his diary for that day read as follows

Theodore Roosevelt's diary on Valentine's day.

It’s heartbreaking to read the words, “The light has gone out of my life” from a man who, during his presidency, participated in a boxing match that left him blind in one eye. Yes, Theodore Roosevelt lived a rigorous lifestyle, to say the least. Following are a few things about the former president of the United States that you might not have known (this prez’ lifestyle is astonishingly similar to Ernest Hemingway’s, which we covered previously).

His mother and wife died on the same day.

I have no envy for men who live a life of ease – Teddy Roosevelt.

On Valentine’s Day in 1884, Roosevelt’s mother passed away from typhoid fever. One floor above in the same house, his first wife, Alice, died less than 12 hours later from Bright’s disease and complications from giving birth to the couple’s first child just two days before. “The light has gone out of my life,” Roosevelt wrote in his diary that night.

A boxing accident left him virtually blind in one eye.

Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far – Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt before a boxing match.
Theodore Roosevelt before a boxing match.

Roosevelt boxed for Harvard University’s intramural lightweight championship and continued to spar recreationally during his political career. During his days in the White House, he regularly put up his dukes against former professional boxers and other sparring partners until a punch from a young naval artillery officer smashed a blood vessel and left him nearly blind in his left eye.

Roosevelt was a rigorous New York City police commissioner.

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing – Theodore Roosevelt

After his appointment in 1895, Roosevelt attempted to reform one of America’s most corrupt police departments at the time. The future president regularly took midnight rambles to make sure officers were walking their beats. His decision to enforce an unpopular law that banned the sale of alcohol in saloons on Sundays made him a very unpopular figure in New York, but he persisted in the crusade even after receiving two letter bombs in the mail.

Yes, the two Roosevelts were related.

Uncle Theodore presented the bride at Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s wedding. Eleanor Roosevelt was Theodore’s niece. Who would’ve thought, right?

He volunteered to lead an infantry unit in World War I.

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing – Theodore Roosevelt

At the outbreak of World War I, the ex-president (7 years after the end of his presidency in 1916) was eager to return to the front lines. Roosevelt vehemently lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to send him to France at the head of a 200,000-man expeditionary force. Roosevelt, however, did not get called to fight in the war that eventually claimed his son Quentin, who was killed in action when his plane was shot down over France in 1918.

And if all this wasn’t enough to make him the coolest US Prez, then here’s a last one:

He won the Nobel Peace Prize.

To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. – Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt captured the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in mediating the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War (war fought between Russia and Japan over control of Manchuria, and Korea). Roosevelt was the first American to bag the award.

The Real-Life Story Behind “The Monuments Men”

During World War II, the Nazis executed the greatest art heist in history. It was left to a special Allied military unit to get Europe’s priceless cultural treasures back.

Decades before territorial ambitions and Aryan supremacy absorbed Adolf Hitler, a much different passion consumed the future German dictator—art. But after Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts rejected a teenaged Hitler for his “unfitness for painting,” his singular dream of becoming an artist was crushed. The hand that had gingerly painted watercolors would eventually be raised in a Nazi salute and rule Germany with an iron fist.

Hitler’s interest in art, however, never waned, and after launching World War II, he led the Nazis in the systematic looting of famous works of art that formed the cultural soul of Western civilization. It wasn’t enough for the Nazis to rob millions of people of their futures, they wanted to strip them of their past as well. Hitler’s forces plundered priceless paintings, sculptures, drawings, religious relics and cultural artifacts from Europe’s churches, universities and private collections, particularly those belonging to Jewish families. They heisted musical instruments, entire libraries, hundreds of ancient Torah scrolls, thousands of church bells and even the stained glass right out of Strasbourg Cathedral.

In the greatest theft in art history, Nazi leaders used the inventories of Europe’s elite museums as a veritable “shopping list” for items to add to their personal collections. They pilfered works by a palette of the world’s greatest masters such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso and da Vinci. Hermann Goering, like Hitler an art enthusiast, visited the Jeu de Paume in Paris 20 times to browse its works. He seized hundreds of items for his own collection and needed to attach two railroad cars to his personal train to haul away his loot. In Berlin, Hitler leafed through photo albums filled with pictures of stolen artworks, and just as if he was flipping through a mail-order catalog, he selected those pieces he wanted for the world’s greatest art museum that he intended to build in his hometown of Linz, Austria—the Fuhrermuseum.

The systematic theft and destruction of the world’s cultural treasures was one of the concerns raised by art historians and museum directors from the war’s earliest days. They lobbied the Allies to create an organization affiliated with the military to identify and protect European monuments and art in danger of becoming casualties of war, and in 1943 the Allies established the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section. Nearly 350 men and women from 13 countries joined the unit known as the “Monuments Men.” Mostly volunteers, they were hardly seasoned soldiers; instead, they were an unlikely platoon of museum curators, art scholars, architects, archivists, artists and historians with an average age of 40. Although most never expected to be called upon for duty when the war started, some of the Monuments Men were put right on the front lines. Two members lost their lives in combat.
When the guns fell silent in Europe in May 1945, the work of the Monuments Men was only beginning. Europe may have been liberated, but its cultural treasures were still missing in action. Within weeks, the full extent of the Nazi plunder crystallized. Across the continent, the Monuments Men discovered loot hidden deep inside salt mines, packed inside crates in abandoned buildings and even secreted away in hilltop castles. They found 1,500 repositories of stolen goods in southern Germany alone. When the Monuments Men entered the Altaussee Salt Mine in Austria, they discovered hidden inside its 137 tunnels more than 6,000 paintings as well as masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s “Madonna of Bruges” and the “Ghent Altarpiece.” It took six weeks for them to empty Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairy-tale structure that served as the model for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland, of all its hidden treasures that had been plundered from France.Initially, the Monuments Men were tasked with assisting combat troops in protecting churches, museums and cultural artifacts from damage in Allied attacks. It was a mission echoed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in the lead up to D-Day in 1944 ordered his commanders to safeguard “historical monuments and cultural centers which symbolize to the world all that we are fighting to preserve.” As the Allies advanced across Europe and the Third Reich crumbled, however, the Monuments Men increasingly focused on the rescue and recovery of the art and artifacts looted by the Nazis.

monument2

Like police detectives working a crime scene, the Monuments Men investigated the provenance of the pieces in order to return them to their proper owners. Their work continued through 1951, by which time they had rescued, preserved and returned five million pieces of art and other cultural artifacts to their rightful owners.

In spite of the painstaking work of the Monuments Men, their mission is still far from complete nearly 70 years after the fall of Nazi Germany. Hundreds of thousands of plundered documents and artworks—including pieces by Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rodin and Botticelli—remain at large. The Monuments Men Foundation is continuing the search for the lost treasures in addition to its work in keeping alive the legacy of an unlikely band of war heroes. –  This wonderful snippet of history was obtained from history.com.

When they realized women were using sacks to make clothes for their kids, flour mills started using flowered fabric.

In times gone by, amidst widespread poverty, the flour mills realised that some women were using sacks to make clothes for their children. In response, the flour mills started using flowered fabric.

Quite a few women in and around the United States welcomed the use of this flowered fabric. Households everywhere began reusing this cloth by tearing it from the seam, and stitching it up again to make dish rags, diapers, and quite a lot more.

As the flowered fabric movement, let’s call it that, began to gain momentum, the cloth bag manufacturers began printing a large variety of designs, patterns, and colours on the fabric. The previously dull bags of off-white were transformed into colourful sacs, with patterns ranging from plain old ducks swimming about, to a collage of banjos, sombreros, and palm trees.

Banjos, Sombreros, and palm trees.
Banjos, Sombreros, and palm trees.
Four mills added funny, and bright patterns to their bags to make it more appealing to children.
Four mills added funny, and bright patterns to their bags to make it more appealing to children.
Flower patterns on a flour mill bag.
Flower patterns on a flour mill bag.

The fabric that was used to make the flour bags then wasn’t plastic-ey or rough on the skin. It was thick, and warm, making it ideal for tough, yet colourful looking clothes (and kids).

The manufacturers even gave instructions on how to remove the ink.
The manufacturers even gave instructions on how to remove the ink.

Over time, the popularity of these cloth bags from the flour mills began growing so much, it was estimated that around 3.5 million women and children were accustomed to wearing clothes made out of the flour bags by then. The movement was fueled by both ingenuity and scarcity (mother of all inventions eh?) as it flourished during the world war II period.

A family of 7, with children wearing the colourful patterns seen on flour bags.
A family of 7, with children wearing the colourful patterns seen on flour bags.

People back then certainly knew how to reuse, recycle, and not be wasteful. What happened to us? The answer: a crisis of abundance. Industrial processes grew more efficient due to micro specialisations.

Instead of a single person making an entire watch, twenty people worked on different aspects of the same, and this made the whole process much more efficient. A decade after World War II, suddenly we had more than we needed. Stitching flour bags into clothes was replaced by going to the shopping mall and buying them. Time became more valuable than money.

Today, this tradition of reusing flour bags has mostly died out with the exception of the Amish, who continue to make clothes by reusing their flour bags.

The flour mills were kind enough to help families in the United States make colourful clothes for children during a time of uncertainty.

Be a darling and share this blog post, and blast links to getboocs.com on Facebook, Twitter, and email so that others who love reading about books, news, economics, and a bunch of other interesting things, can get to know about our blog, and book sharing website – getboocs.com.