History 427: History of the Information Age

HIST 427: The Beginnings of Daily Journalism, The “Hello Girls,” and AT&T’s Reputation of Aggression

We are roughly one-third of the way through the Spring 2019 semester, and boy, where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday when paper shortages plagued American revolutionaries, and that it took nearly six days to reach New York from Northern Virginia. Now, (well, a little before this week’s readings take place) it takes less than half a day!

I have been a discussion leader for this past week in History of the Information Age, which means that I have had not only the pleasure of reading, but also, participating in the selection of our assigned articles, as well as coming up with discussion questions.

Tuesday’s Discussion: Daily Journalism with a Grain of Salt

On Tuesday, we discussed an article from 1919 entitled “The Beginnings of Daily Journalism in New York.” Both the style and content of this article made its centenarian status undeniable. In the article, author Francis Whiting Halsey describes the rise in the profession of journalism in the United States, embedding his assertions in word-of-mouth, narrative-driven rendering of American history. Halsey’s prose is truly a product of his time. While reading “The Beginnings,” it felt as though the monopoly man, (formally known as “Rich Uncle Pennybags”) was right there with me.

While Halsey’s personal status as an editor and author during the late nineteenth-century gives his work some credibility, his lack of footnotes or any semblance of citations would make most modern historians dubious. The real value of “The Beginnings” is found in the way it serves as both a secondary and primary source, as Halsey’s writing gives us insight into both the formation of journalism as an industry and profession, as well as the infrastructural and social changes necessary to create such a profession.

We ended Tuesday’s class with a group activity in which each class table selected and analyzed either a piece of yellow journalism or an example of an early political cartoon. Our table chose to analyze a political cartoon from Puck Magazine titled “Nasty Little Printer’s Devils.” Our quick analysis of this cartoon can be found here in our mock newspaper article.

Thursday’s Discussion: Social-Military and Economic Perspectives

For Thursday’s class, we selected two articles of wildly different perspectives. The first of these articles is Jill Frahm’s “The Hello Girls: Women Telephone Operators with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I,” which focusses on the role of women and variation within women’s job opportunities in the early twentieth century and the second is David Gable’s “Competition in a Network Industry: The Telephone Industry, 1894-1910.” Interestingly, one of my table’s group members selected a photo of the Hello Girls for last week’s photography timeline project.

Our discussions for Thursday’s class will focus on AT&T’s hiring standards for women telephone operators, the role of education during wartime for women, and the role of the telephone operating profession as a driving force of social change. It is important to note that while this time period was a turning point in women’s rights and opportunities, not all groups of working women were the same. Somewhat similar to the contemporary period, roles available to women carried minimum requirements in terms of age, language is spoken, marital status, language ability, and more.

Concerning the “Competition in a Network Industry” article, the importance of this article is the fact the way in which the article proves that firms such as AT&T did indeed benefit from predatory pricing and that it was these predatory behaviors, not superior products, that allowed AT&T to grow into the superpower that it is today. During Thursday’s class, we will focus on the issues of monopoly and regulation, and compare and contrast these issues between the early twentieth century and the contemporary period.

Looking Ahead: Silent Film Project

Lastly, I would like to make a note of the next major (bigger than usual?) project in History of the Information Age. Our table group will be working on creating a short, three to five-minute silent film. We hope to create a time capsule style film, in which we recreate significant scenes from UMW history using editions of the school yearbook from Simpson Library, beginning in the early twentieth century and ending in the 1990s. I am particularly excited about the notion of this project because I always enjoy both looking at old photos from UMW and learning about our history!

Sources Cited

(Citations for all blog posts are also available here.)

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. “Rates of Travel from New York City, 1800.” http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/138/a/

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. “Rates of Travel from New York City, 1857.” http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/138/c/

Frahm, Jill. “The Hello Girls: Women Telephone Operators with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 3, no. 3 (2004): 271-93. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144374

Gabel, David. “Competition in a Network Industry: The Telephone Industry, 1894-1910.” The Journal of Economic History 54, no. 3 (1994): 543-72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2123868

Halsey, Francis Whiting. “The Beginnings of Daily Journalism in New York.” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association 17 (1919): 87-99. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42890074

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.