Excerpt for 1914 --- A Tale of Two Nations: Canada, U.S. and World War I - Part one by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Part One of

A Tale of Two Nations:

Canada, U.S. and World War I

Melina Druga

Editor: John Druga

Cover art: Troops marching down Yonge Street, Toronto

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Melina Druga/Sun Up Press

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.



Royal Couple Slain by Assassin”

War Call Comes”

Europe’s War Cloud Darkens”

Canada Will Back Britain”

About the Author

Other Books by Melina Druga


Photo Credit


World War I, like most wars, was started by politicians and fought by ordinary men who generally had no stake in the conflict. They fought because of patriotic fervor or a sense of adventure, and millions lost their lives as a consequence.

Between 1914 and 1918, nearly 5 million Americans and Canadians served in the war. While today the two neighboring nations share a sense of common heritage, language, history and cooperation, in the 1910s there was a lingering sense of animosity.

The Canada of 1914 was much different from the Canada of today. It was less than 50 years old, founded primarily by English and French decedents, and had been the refuge of Loyalists during and after the American Revolution. It was a dominion of the British Empire, autonomous when it came to everything but foreign affairs. Its population during the 1911 census was 7.2 million, not much larger than the population of Greater Toronto 100 years later.

The United States had a population 13 times larger, at 92.2 million strong, and played a greater role on the world stage. Many in the U.S. felt Canada should be part of the union, as a natural extension of Manifest Destiny, and countless Canadians feared annexation. Immediately following the American Civil War, the Fenian Brotherhood, Irishmen who had served in the Union Army, conducted raids into Southern Canada in the hopes of agitating Great Britain. A few years later, Canada had an interest in purchasing Alaska, but negotiations favored the Americans. The final blow was the attempt to establish a trade reciprocity agreement between the U.S. and Canada. The agreement was rejected by Congress on multiple occasions, and during in the 1911 election, by the Canadian electorate.

On the eve of the Great War, newspapers in both the U.S. and Canada were filled with news of the upcoming conflict; the great European powers were at each other’s throats, figuratively and perhaps soon literally. How each nation viewed the war, however, betrayed its interests and shaped public opinion.

A Tale of Two Nations is the story of North American countries that found themselves embroiled in an European war – one by circumstance and one by choice. It discusses two pivotal events from each year of the Great War – one from an American perspective and one from a Canadian one – and reveals how newspapers at the time handled wartime coverage.

A Tale of Two Nations does not look at the First World War with the benefit of hindsight and analysis. Instead, it uses contemporary newspaper reports that often were inaccurate, incomplete or even chaotic. Wartime censorship and bias also played a role.

It is as much the story of journalism as it is the story of World War I. In the early 20th century, the newspaper was king. Many towns and cities had multiple papers, and it was common for larger papers to print multiple editions. Most articles had no bylines, and publications filled their pages with as much news as possible, with some news briefs being as short as a sentence or two.

In Part one, 1914, the war begins. Canada is proud to contribute to the war effort while the United States declares its neutrality.

“Royal Couple Slain by Assassin”

Imagine you have access to a time machine. You travel to various locations in June 1914 and stop at newsstands to see what locals are discussing. Newspapers in Canada and the U.S. are full of ads hoping to snag the tired city slicker looking for adventure. You could travel from New York City to Niagara Falls for $10, and Montrealers could trek to the Atlantic shore for as little as $12. Retailers also hope to take advantage of pleasure seekers. Summer sales promote the advantages of buying new swimsuits and light dresses.

There’s riveting news, as well, interspersed among the usual crime reports, society pages and car accident stories. Manitoba is in the midst of a political crisis, the American Southwest is obsessed with Pancho Villa’s exploits during the Mexican Revolution, and plague has been diagnosed in New Orleans, causing concern in the city and surrounding areas.

When people in North America rose on the morning of June 27, nobody knew it would be the last day of peace, the final day before the lives of millions globally would be shattered first by world war and then by the Spanish Flu pandemic.

That day the New York Times reported on the formal grand opening of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal in Germany, which was larger than the Panama Canal and better able to respond to shipping demands. The official reason was an increase in commerce, but military operations, the paper said, necessitated the expansion as dreadnoughts had grown in size.

“In 1912 there were 1,400 passages of German warships through the canal,” the Times said. “The vessels included nine battleships. These figures show the value of the canal to the German Navy in times of peace.”

A peace that was not to last.

While traveling through Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie were shot and killed by Slavic nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The shooting had been the second attempt on their lives that day. Earlier, an explosive had been lobbed at their car, but was deflected. It exploded beneath another vehicle, injuring the occupants.

The couple was on their way to visit the wounded in the hospital when Princip struck. Duchess Sophie initially was frightened to be traveling again in an open car. Bosnia’s Governor Potiorek persuaded her otherwise.

“It’s all over,” he told the couple. “We have not more than one murderer in the city.”

Franz Joseph Made Saddest Monarch of Europe by Successive Tragedies”

Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph was swamped with grief upon learning of his nephew and heir apparent’s death.

“His (Franz Joseph’s) reign has been a succession of defeats, disappointments, domestic troubles, deaths, assassinations, intrigues, and disgrace,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “He was beaten in battle after battle, flung out of kingdom after kingdom, tricked successfully by Frenchman, ItaMan [sic] and German.

“He never won a great battle; he failed repeatedly at diplomacy; he fired on his own capital; he was forced to ruthlessly suppress half his subjects; he was forced to beg for alms from Russia and to yield to the Magyars.”

The reason for all this sadness was clear, according the Tribune anyway. The emperor and his deceased nephew were members of the Hapsburg family, and the Hapsburgs were cursed and had been since 1848 by words spoken “with all the hatred and vindictiveness of a woman whose heart was torn by grief.”

The idea of a curse sounds ridiculous to modern readers, but then again, considering the elderly emperor did ultimately lose the war and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire crumbled, perhaps there is some validly to it.

Wife Blamed for His Act”

It wasn’t immediately clear that the assassination would lead to war, although civil unrest and riots erupted in the Balkans after the couple’s death. Franz Ferdinand wasn’t well liked. It began when he married Sophie, a lady in waiting, someone considered to be of lower social class. He loved her and insisted on marrying her, despite the objections of many. The marriage was allowed under the condition that he never elevate his wife or children to the position of imperial rank once he became emperor.

Everything might had been forgiven if Sophie had been liked, but she wasn’t. She was described as an ambitious woman who was not content with staying in the background as a demure consort.

“The manner in which she pushed herself forward, her lack of tact and of distinction, her constant quarrels and fights for precedence,” the Chicago Tribune said, “her fits of anger at what she considered to be an act of deference to her rank, had the consequence of embittering all the imperial family against her, and, incidentally against her husband, who became wholly alienated from his imperial relatives.”

The archduke had been given power over the years he was never intended to have because of Franz Joseph’s illnesses. This made the archduke involve himself in politics and become a “disturbing factor” on the world stage.

Sophie’s influence was blamed for both her husband’s politics and the couple’s death. “Her death under such shocking circumstances serves once more as warning to those women who aspire to imperial and royal honors to which they have not been born,” the Tribune said.

Reports to Capital Ominous”

American diplomats in several European capitals were instructed to notify Washington immediately of any developments in the “European situation.” In the days following the assassination, reports spoke of an impending war.

By July, European negotiations to avoid war were failing, and soon the following dispatch appeared in North American newspapers:

“The royal government not having replied in a satisfactory manner to the note remitted to it by the Austro-Hungarian minister in Belgrade on July 23, 1914, the imperial and royal government finds itself compelled to proceed itself to safeguard its rights and interests and to have recourse for this purpose to force arms.

“Austria-Hungary considers itself therefore from this moment in a state of war with Servia [sic].”

In Canada, there was hope the war would not spread to Britain and its empire. “Diplomats in London,” the Winnipeg Tribune reported, “while they confess the situation is most grave, believe there is hope of averting a conflict.”

These hopes hinged on Austria-Hungary holding what the paper called “conversations” with Russia. Russia was treaty bound to come to Serbia’s aid, and war with Serbia meant war with Russia. The Germans, meanwhile, were bound to come to Austria-Hungary’s aid in conflicts.

While Canadian papers fretted about the war, American publications were reporting on President Woodrow Wilson’s upcoming vacation to his summer home. “The President has been bearing up well under the hot weather of the last few weeks,” the Associated Press said, “but he is anxious to get Mrs. Wilson away from Washington.”

Once summer break was over, Wilson planned to help Democratic candidates with their election campaigns.

Life, in the United States anyway, was continuing as if the assassination had never happened.

“War Call Comes”

As President Wilson was preparing for his vacation, American and Canadian tourists in Europe were altering their travel plans.

In Paris, thousands of Americans flocked to the U.S. consulate. They weren’t panicked, but they wanted to know how long they could stay in the City of Lights without jeopardizing their return home. Americans were calling the U.S. consulate and embassy to ask not only this but if it was safe to travel into Austria and Germany. Phone calls increased from an average of 60 a day to 700.

Diplomats could not give specific answers and only could advise that if war spread into France, the chances of getting home were slim.

Many, however, refused to let anything spoil their fun. Large numbers of Americans were traveling overseas despite rumors of war, and as a London hotel manager said, “Our American guests are not easily induced to give up their plans.”

One tourist agency manager told The New York Times, “There has been no noticeable let up in the rush to France, German and Switzerland. We are also selling many tickets to Austria today, despite the printed dispatches from Vienna that the railways have been taken over by the military and traffic for the general public is suspended. Many travelers, mostly Americans, are willing to take the chance of getting into Austria and out again.”

The English were postponing their trips, the manager said, but Americans refused.

Canadian tourists were not as reckless as the Americans. They cancelled trips while Canadian Pacific Railroad, which also operated ships, found that most of its passengers were now military men seeking transport to England.

By July 31, the U.S. government had begun warning tourists not to travel abroad or else they risked being marooned in Europe until the war’s end.

If Armageddon Comes”

It didn’t take long for American tourists to begin purchasing passports at the embassies and consulates. Most tourists didn't have one, viewing them as unnecessary, but with “war drums beating along the Danube” they gladly paid the $2.

“Nine out of ten are now busily figuring what steamers will safely carry them home,” the New York Times said. “They know it is the business of warships not only to destroy an enemy’s warships, but also to capture or sink passenger ships. They are occupied, therefore, with trying to figure out on what route the peril is the least.”

Nevertheless, the “spectacle” of a nation preparing for war thrilled tourists who were waiting on travel news in Berlin. And Berlin hotels appreciated the business.

While American newspapers reported on the tourists’ calmness and disregard for current events, Canadian reports told a different story.

“The American tourists who are endeavoring to return home are in a panicky condition,” the Winnipeg Tribune said.

Tourists in Antwerp were so desperate to gain passage on a streamer traveling to the United States that they left their luggage behind, the Tribune said.

It wasn’t just tourists who feared becoming trapped on the Continent. Around 18,000 Canadian men working in the shipping industry were in Europe. “No means has yet been devised to bring them home again,” the Tribune said.

Lives and Money Offered in Defense of Native Land”

Tourists and merchant marines weren’t the only ones who had the potential to be stuck abroad. Foreign nationals in the U.S. and Canada were itching to get back to Europe and fight for their birth nations.

The Austrian-Hungarian consulate in Winnipeg telegraphed 12,000 Austrians living in the city and told them to mobilize as reservists. The empire also was expected to call the 280,000 Ruthenians [an ethnic group that includes Eastern Slavs like Lithuanians and Belarussians] living in Western Canada. The Winnipeg Tribune reported leaders of this group had nothing to gain from mobilization and were happy to remain in Canada.

In Chicago, 1,500 “warlike” Serbs rallied at a meeting, calling “Down with Austria” and wearing badges reading “To hell with Austria.”

“Are you cowards, you men who hear me,” one of the speakers said, “or will you come across the sea with me and give up your lives for the country of your forefathers?”

All the men responded with an enthusiastic “yes.”

In Vancouver and Victoria, Germans were being called home to serve the Fatherland. Local German newspapers, however, were urging nationalized Germans to stay in Canada and fight for their adopted country.

Similarly, Swiss citizens were ordered home by the consulate to join the mobilizing Swiss Army.

Neutrality Puzzle”

By August, the efforts of foreign nations to recall their citizens had attracted the attention of the U.S. government, which was concerned that ads placed in several major newspapers had violated neutrality laws.

Enlistment was forbidden under the laws and so was the departure of war vessels from the U.S. that were hostile to U.S.-friendly countries. Foreigners were permitted to leave on their own accord. It was when their movements were directed by other nations, or they were provided help with their expenses, that the government feared the laws were violated.

This concern came with some past experience. During the Crimean War, British Minister Sir John Fiennes Twisleton Crampton had tried to recruit Americans. Interested men were directed from consulates in three U.S. cities to Halifax where they enlisted in the British Army. Once the U.S. government discovered Crampton’s actions, he was forced to resign his position as the top British diplomat in the U.S.

“Europe’s War Cloud Darkens”

On Aug. 1, France declared that war was mere hours away. A last ditch effort was made to negotiate a way out of a global conflict. Britain and France hoped Germany and Austria-Hungary would agree to a deal that would be beneficial to both them and Russia.

The Russian foreign minister and the German ambassador met in Paris for the negotiations.

German Count Friedrich von Pourtales asked if Russia would demobilize under the condition that Austria would not keep any Serbian land. Russian Foreign Minister Sergius Sazonoff replied this was not enough and that Russia could not allow the extermination of Serbia by Austria.

When asked what would make Russia demobilize, Sazonoff was adamant that Austria was the aggressor, having committed an act of war, and that only Austria would answer this question.

The negotiations went no further.

The following evening, Germany declared war on Russia.

An editorial in the Winnipeg Tribune blamed the war on radicalism and resentment. The assassination of the archduke and his wife was the flame that ignited the resentment and had the militarist powers of the world poised for war.

“The student who did the deed at Sarajevo, Bosnia,” the editorial said, “on June 25th last, probably considered in the enthusiasm of youth, that he was actuated by the loftiest spirit of racial loyalty and patriotism. He was inspired, it is evidently believed in Austria, by leaders of the Pan-Servian movement in Belgrade, Servia, and hence this peremptory demand of Austria for an apology and the punishment of these Servian agitators.”

End of the World”

An editorial published in the religion section of the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 2 posed an interesting question: Is this the end of the world as prophesied by St. John?

“Is a universal conflagration in Europe – a conflict between a triple alliance [Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy] and the triple entente [the United Kingdom, France and Russia] – to be the fulfillment of the prophesy of St. John?” the editorial began.

“Or–” it went on to say, “is it merely one of the great international conflicts, one of the historical events of tremendous economic and social importance, which Mme. Thebes, the famous seeress [sic] of Paris, declared would come to pass in 1914?”

The editorial also quoted several passages from the book of Revelation before speaking again of Mme. Thebes, who appeared to be a female Nostradamus. She predicted, among other events, the Paris Bazaar Fire of 1897, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the Balkan Wars.

Thebes was quoted as having said, “France will be drawn into war. An era of love, peace, great hopes and great labors will date from the end of 1914. But first the waves must be tinted with blood, and water and fire must combat in subterranean forces. Signs will appear in the sky. French troops will rush for the frontier. The German emperor will come to Paris, but not as a king!”

The Tribune also reported that the author Leo Tolstoy had predicted a European war in 1910. The author said he had a vision on more than one occasion of a beautiful, naked woman named Commercialism. She held three torches. The first torch was the flame of war. The second torch was bigotry and hypocrisy while the third torch was the law. By 1915, Tolstoy said, all of Europe would be in flames.

Russo-German War”

The first shots of the conflict reported in Canadian and American newspapers referred to the impending world war as the Russo-German war. Shots were fired outside the town of Prostken in East Prussia. The Russians fired first on the Germans who returned fire. There were no causalities.

Meanwhile, Britain announced it had built a new dreadnaught, the Queen Mary, for $10.1 million. This would be the nation’s 18th dreadnaught-class ship. Each had the capacity of traveling more than 28 knots an hour and each carried 10 1.35 caliber guns.

Should Britain join the Triple Entente, the battleship would be put into service, possibly in a blockade of Germany and Austria-Hungary. This was deemed essential war work as Germany annually imported $1.5 billion more in food and agricultural products than it exported.

“The British navy strangled Napoleon,” the Chicago Tribune said. “Will it strangle Germany?”

Latest Figures in Armies”

“If the entire strength of the nations involved were placed in the field – or if a fair proportion of them were called out – they would make the armies of past conflicts seem small by comparison,” the Winnipeg Tribune said Aug. 3.

Serbia had a war strength of 240,000 men, and its ally Russia 5 million more. Globally, 34 million men were available to fight.

Great Britain had the largest navy available with 569 battleships and submarines.

German had the largest available reserve of aircraft, 350 airplanes and seaplanes, more than the number of Britain’s available pilots.

The members of the Triple Alliance had a population totaling 149.9 million while the Triple Entente had a population of 272.5 million. The Triple Entente also outnumbered the Triple Alliance in terms of geographic territory, army men and reservists, battleships and aircraft.

To Add One Billion Dollars”

While Europeans and resident foreigners were fearful war was imminent, American economists saw it as an opportunity. “War in Europe means prosperity in the United States,” a federal agent said.

War would be a boon for merchants and manufacturers, both of which would benefit from double the exports, and ships would easily enter European ports while flying a neutral flag.

Unlike elsewhere in the world, the New York Stock Exchange was thriving. Most of the other stock exchanges in North America and Europe had suspended operations, but on July 29 alone 800,000 shares were aggregated globally. Of those, 25,000 shares were aggregated at the Berlin Stock Exchange. The next day 1.3 million shares were sold.

“Canadian Pacific,” the Chicago Tribune said, “the source of great weakness recently, and a prime Berlin favorite, was taken in large amounts at almost uninterrupted advances. The German capital also bought extensively of other American shares, while Paris and London continue to unload here.”

The Tribune cautioned, however, that war would bring higher food prices as war would destroy European crops and would force American farms to compensate. While U.S. farmers would benefit, the average person would find his pocketbook strained by the increased costs. A short war would be good for business, but it would be followed by a depression, economists said.

“America has everything to lose and nothing to gain if continental Europe is plunged into a prolonged war,” the Tribune said.

America has Billions to Meet Emergency”

To protect America’s interests, the Wilson administration issued $500 million in emergency currency. “Europe mobilizes armies; we mobilize bank reserves,” one government official told AP.

Billions of dollars in currency were added by an act of Congress that modified the bank laws. Before the modification, banks could issue up to $500 million; modification removed the restriction. Problem was, the currency had not been printed yet and was not in circulation.

With war on the horizon, the government also restricted money orders.

“It is the intention of the department,” Postmaster-General Burleson told the Associated Press, “to so restrict the service that money cannot be transferred to Europe for speculative reasons.”

War in Europe was seen as an event that needed to be exploited.

“Our country has the greatest opening in its history for expanding its foreign trade and its home industries,” was the opinion of The Los Angeles Times.

The Times listed the U.S. industries that would benefit from a war in Europe. They were agriculture, food canneries, fabric mills, oil, and munitions. Increasing production in these industries would bring the U.S. $300 million annually in trade, the newspaper said.

“Get busy! Do things!” the Times urged.

War Will Aid Exposition”

American tourists spent $125 million annually abroad in the years before the war. Where were these tourists to go now that Europe was torn by bloodshed? To the Pacific Coast, according to the Times, and recreation and exhibit halls there would gain financially from war.

Frank Wiggins, secretary for the LA Chamber of Commerce, told the Times, “What the majority of travelers are doing, will be done by those forced to stay in America on account of the troubles abroad.”

“Canada Will Back Britain”

“If Great Britain is drawn into war, Canada will back her up to the full extent,” the Winnipeg Tribune said July 31.

The minister of the Canadian militia, Col. Sam Hughes, had held an emergency meeting. It was decided that if called, Canada would produce a first contingent consisting of 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers within two to three weeks. The small permanent force was ordered to begin preparations for mobilization, and a garrison was recalled back to its barracks in Halifax as a precaution.

The militia council was confident that within a month 100,000 men could be recruited. Active militia totaled 50,000 and with the reserve the military would reach 250,000 men.

On Aug. 1, AP reported Canada had cabled Britain’s government and made a formal offer of military assistance. The offer included artillery, cavalry and infantry in the numbers quoted by the militia.

Canada also was trying to prevent Austro-Hungarian reservists from leaving the country.

Canada’s Duty”

The Canadian Press was clear on the nation’s duty should Great Britain declare war.

“Canada’s place is at the side of the Mother Land,” the Calgary Albertan said. The Calgary Herald, the Hamilton Times, the Montreal Mail and others echoed this sentiment.

The Hamilton Herald and Toronto Mail reminded readers that when Britain is at war so is Canada. Therefore, any soldier that might ultimately be sent to the front is fighting on behalf of the defense of Canada.

Canadian newspapers in the 1910s were divided by party lines – Conservative and Liberal – and not all supported compulsory service. They felt that should war come, Canada’s first move should be to defend itself. “… it is clearly the duty of the Dominion government to mobilize in the vicinity of Halifax and Quebec a large enough force to beat off landing parties from small hostile squadrons,” the Toronto Globe said.

The Globe went on to say that Canada’s first duty was to prevent enemy invasion and should only come to the aid of Britain in Europe if Britain were on the verge of failure.

In Halifax, preparations were underway that had last occurred during the War of 1812. The port was placed under naval law, and a cruiser was placed outside the harbor to direct ships to a location where they could be searched. The eastern passage to the port was blocked by a sunken schooner. Ships trying to enter the eastern passage would be fired on by the navy.

Thousands Canadians Volunteer”

Germany planned to quickly conquer Paris by marching through Belgium. Germany formally requested passage, but Belgium refused. Germany would not take “no” for an answer and invaded Belgium on Aug. 4. The invasion through Belgium slowed the Germans enough that Paris was saved during the First Battle of Marne. In what is called the Rape of Belgium, 95 percent of the nation was occupied by Germany, and there were 267,000 casualties. The invasion would cause Belgium’s King Albert I to declare, “Belgium is a nation, not a road.”

In support of Belgium sovereignty, Britain declared war on Germany. Canadians had been expecting the official declaration and waited outside newspaper offices for the war bulletin. When the news was posted, the crowds began singing patriotic songs, waving flags and celebrating in the streets. They were firm in their belief that going to war against German was just.

Newspapers seemed to be more realistic than the general populous. “The time of trial for the British Empire has arrived,” the Ottawa Journal’s evening edition said. “This war is an unspeakable crime on the part of those who have forced it on.”

Parliament had yet to decide what form mobilization should take, but it was thought enlistment would total 20,000. This would force Parliament to address the issue in a bipartisan fashion, something Canada’s two parties had difficulty with in recent years.

Canadians flocked to enlist not only in the army but also in the medical corps. Veterans of the South African War, engineers and aviators also enlisted. Those too young for military service and the elderly were among the volunteers.

“There will hardly be any need for a compulsory mobilization of the Canadian militia for service, or of those who have seen active service, but who are not enrolled in any corps,” the Winnipeg Tribune said. “Offers are arriving in such numbers that it is almost impossible to acknowledge them. The voluntary offers so far received will number over twelve thousand men, horse and foot.”

In Toronto, the crowds of volunteers and reservists were so large they were described as a mass of humanity. The 2nd dragoons, headquartered in St. Catharines, and the 44th Lincoln and Welland regiment, headquartered in Niagara, were the first units mobilized. All Toronto regiments reported they were ready for duty if called.

In Halifax, militia members had been called to duty the day prior to the war declaration.

All throughout the country, notices began appearing in the newspapers listing the names of those who had enlisted or been mobilized.

Economists estimated war would cost Britain $5 billion dollars. The actual figure was double that, a debt that wasn’t paid off until 2015. Canada’s war debt would total $2 billion.

Let ’em Fight”

The European powers hoped the U.S., the largest world power without a stake in the conflict, would intervene and negotiate peace. On July 31, the Chicago Tribune reported the International Bureau of Peace made a request for Wilson to offer mediation. The bureau previously had asked Germany to settle its conflicts.

Although the United States had yet to declare officially its neutrality in late July, the government’s opinion was clear. “There is not the slightest intimation that the Washington government will offer its good offices to bring about peace between the warring countries of Europe,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

A formal declaration of neutrality did not seem necessary, the U.S. government reasoned, unless the war expanded or the nation’s merchant ships were threatened. Wilson said he hoped a peaceful solution could be found and that he would make no further comment because the U.S. did not interfere with European political affairs. AP called Wilson “strongly disinclined toward mediation in Europe.”

There also was concern over potential embarrassment to the nation’s commerce should the first- class shipping powers of Europe go to war. This was because the International Mercantile Marine had inquired whether it could fly the Stars and Stripes instead of the Union Jack. A flag switch violated law, and Wilson said he would take the matter to Congress should American commerce be “menaced.”

Neutrality His Policy”

Americans were warned in advance that a formal declaration of neutrality was legally binding and violations were a serious matter. What neutrality meant was published in great detail in U.S. newspapers.

“American citizens while in this country cannot accept commissions from either combatant,” the guidelines in the Los Angeles Times read in part. “They may not enlist to fight abroad, nor may they equip any vessel of belligerents.”

Of course, many Americans did violate the law and enlisted in other nations. In Paris, so many Americans were interested in fighting for France that an American corps was under consideration.

One of the most famous of these volunteers was Eugene Bullard, a Georgian who was half African-American and half Native-American. He joined the French Foreign Legion and later the French Air Force, becoming history’s first black fighter pilot. He was awarded numerous medals including the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military honor, and flew 20 missions. When the United States joined the war in 1917, Bullard tried to join the U.S. Army, but it turned him down because of his race.

Other Americans fought for Canada or Britain.

Administration Changes Its View”

By Aug. 2, the administration was singing a different tune. A New York Times correspondent reported Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan had made informal inquiries, asking whether the U.S. as a disinterested country could be of any service. The European powers declined. The correspondent did not know how many nations had been contacted, but said the inquiries were prompted by the Hague Convention of 1907, where it was decided international disputes should be settled first by mediation.

After the great European powers were pulled into the conflict, the Wilson administration changed its priority to aiding Americans who were still overseas. Funds totaling $250,000 were appropriated to take care of the more than 150,000 tourists’ needs, and U.S. embassies were instructed to help tourists cash their traveler’s checks or receive credit.

“The present disturbances in Europe,” Wilson told Congress, “with the constant interruption of transportation facilities, the increase in living expenses, coupled with the difficulty in obtaining money from this country, have placed a large number of American citizens temporarily or permanently residents of Europe in a serious situation and have made it necessary for the United States to provide relief and transportation to the United States or to places of safety.

“The situation also has thrown on our diplomatic and consular officers an enormous burden in caring for the interests of Americans in the disturbed areas and makes it necessary to provide for greatly increased expenses.”

To the American public, Wilson urged calm. In his statement, he said:

“Of course, the European world is in a highly excited state of mind, but the excitement ought not to spread to the United States.

“So far as we are concerned, there is no cause for excitement.”


Thank you for reading A Tale of Two Nations, part one. I hope you found it informative.

If you enjoyed reading this book, please take a moment to let others know. Leave a review on your favorite bookseller’s website and on Goodreads. It would be greatly appreciated.


About the Author

Melina Druga is a freelance journalist, history enthusiast and author. Her focus is on the period 1890-1920 with a particular interest in WW1 and how the war changed the lives of ordinary people. In addition to her books, Melina blogs mostly about history on her website with the goal of educating those who know little or nothing about the topic.

Melina has a degree in English and learned journalistic practices and copy editing on the job. She has worked for newspapers, online publications and small-business clients, and her portfolio contains thousands of articles, blog posts and news briefs.

When not working, Melina can be found practicing yoga or indulging her inner news junkie. She lives in Ohio with her husband, daughter and cat.

Melina maintains a website and blog at She can be found on several social media sites, including Goodreads, but her favorite is Twitter. You can follow her @MelinaDruga.

Other Books by Melina Druga

Enterprising Women: Practical Advice for First Time Entrepreneurs

Enterprising Women: A Practical Guide to Starting Your First Business

A Tale of Two Nations [available as a complete edition or in five parts]

Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo Books, and other online booksellers.


The information in A Tale of Two Nations came exclusively from articles in the following newspapers.

The Chicago Tribune:

June 28, 1914; July 29, 1914; July 30, 1914; July 31, 1914; Aug. 1, 1914; Aug. 2, 1914

The Los Angeles Daily News:

July 28, 1914; July 29, 1914; July 30, 1914; July 31, 1914; Aug. 1, 1914; Aug. 2, 1914; Aug. 3, 1914; Aug. 4, 1914

The New York Times:

June 28, 1914; July 29, 1914; July 30, 1914; July 31, 1914; Aug. 1, 1914; Aug. 2, 1914

The Ottawa Journal:

Aug. 4, 1914; Aug. 5 1914

Vancouver Daily World:

Aug. 1, 1914; Aug. 2, 1914; Aug. 3, 1914; Aug. 4, 1914

The Winnipeg Tribune:

June 28, 1914; June 29, 1914; July 28, 1914; July 29, 1914; July 30, 1914; July 31, 1914; Aug. 3, 1914

Photo Credit

The North American:

June 29, 1914

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