Re: The More Things Change . . .
- From: Don Kirkman <donsno2@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 11:00:25 -0700
It seems to me I heard somewhere that sattalla@xxxxxxxxx wrote in
The title "Border Blues" certainly fits current events, but the
situation that probably inspired the Texas composer was very different.
Coincidently, I was reading a little about early 20th-century
U.S.-Mexican relations recently.
Mexico had been in turmoil for years as one person after another vied
for power. Some of the major figures were Orozco, Madera, Zapata,
Villa, Huerta, and Carranza. I can only guess what specific event, if
any, may have prompted "The Border Blues." One possibility may have
been Pancho Villa's raids across the border and Pershing's subsequent
invasion of Mexico to round up Villa's followers. The U.S. invasion
angered Mexican President Carraranza, who planned to deal with Pancho
Villa himself, and it looked increasingly as though the U.S. and Mexico
would go to war. By June 1916, Woodrow Wilson sent the National Guard
to the Texas border--perhaps the most likely inspiration for "The
By early 1917, the Germans were planning unrestricted submarine warfare
but still hoping to keep the U.S. neutral. (More than 100 Americans
had already died when German U-boats sank the British Lusitania in
1915. Although officially neutral, the U.S. already had anti-German
feelings as a result.) Should the U.S. enter WWI, Germany apparently
hoped to persuade Mexico to align itself with Germany by suggesting
that Mexico could regain the territory it had lost to the U.S.
There's more to it (such as a possible Japanese invasion of the U.S.
through Mexico, from a base to be provided by the Mexicans), but this
information already takes us beyond 1916 and "The Border Blues." It's
no surprise that the U.S. soon entered WWI.
ISTM you've nailed for the US-Mexico situation. The "possible Japanese
invasion," though, relates to anti-Asian agitation primarily in
California, beginning with anti-Chinese legislation following the
completion of the transcontinental railroad and the petering out of
mining in the west. A generation later a heavy Japanese immigration
began, and by 1906 the US and Japan were in danger of open warfare.
California papers and labor organizations, among others, used their
resources to try to outlaw Japanese immigration (they succeeded in
1924). Japan's surprise victory over Russia in 1905* led to false
reports in California newspapers that Japan was planning to attack the
US; a book about one purported "plan" in fact had earlier been a popular
fantasy (or "dream" as it was called in Japan) novel in Japan. So fears
of Japan easily combined with the doings in Mexico.
* The treaty brokered by Teddy Roosevelt, In which Japan gained access
to Korea, parts of Manchuria, and half of Sakhalin--with half a century
or more of fallout to follow.
Anyway, without intending any precise parallels, I thought some
ragtimers might be amused by seeing the wheel spin round again. :-)
Don Kirkman wrote:
The topic took ninety years to become news again, but I stumbled over a
1916 rag with a contemporary title:
The entire sheet music is in this great archive, and IIRC someone was
kind enough to provide the URL earlier in this group. The main page
showing the contents of the entire collection is at
The collection is a marvelous place to just browse; not only lots of
printable old sheet music, including some regional collections, but a
window into the state of the US popular mind of the early 19th century.
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