Strange Times 77: Gigantic Sea Devil Caught

Before we move on to our regularly scheduled programming, I wanted to say that those of you who enjoy history, or baseball, or this newsletter’s ongoing account of the Black Sox scandal should all check out my Kickstarter for Deadball: Year III, the latest expansion to my baseball game, which concludes this week.

Today brings stories of murdered sea monsters and pragmatic hoteliers. Raise your harpoon for…

March 18, 1921

  • Clara Hamon, who pled self-defense when accused of murdering Oklahoma oil man Jake Hamon, is declared not guilty after just 40 minutes’ deliberation by the jury.

  • Unable to secure a continuance, the Illinois States Attorney drops the case against the eight White Sox players accused of fixing the 1919 World Series, planning to reindict at a later time.

  • Taking advantage of the fog, 60,000 Red Army soldiers storm the island forces of Kronstadt, overwhelming the anti-Soviet rebels there.

  • After 30 moves, Capablanca has a slight advantage in the second game of the chess championship, as he retains one of his bishops to Dr. Lasker’s none.

  • Caruso plans to leave for his native Italy in early May. Because the tenor appears, “entirely convalescent and out of danger of a relapse,” his five attending physicians plan to discontinue their daily bulletins on his health.

  • The Weather: Fair and colder today; Saturday fair, rising temperature; fresh northwest winds

It seems silly to put something like this in the newspaper, but the fact is, that’s a big godammned fish.

PALM BEACH, Fla., March 17.—A black sea devil catfish of the ray species was captured off the bathing beach today. The boatmen landed the sea devil by a fluke, which brought it into shallow water and enabled them to handle the sea monster, none of which has ever before been landed here.

About twenty shots were fired into the sea devil and several harpoons thrown into it before the fishermen were able to run a rope through her mouth and fin to tie her. The fish weighed about a ton and measured fifteen feet across.

I thought this piece was interesting not only because it reminds us of the ceaseless inconveniences faced by women who either do or do not choose to change their name upon marriage—even in 2019, there’s no perfect solution—but also because it’s the least-hysterical article about feminism I’ve encountered in the 1921 Times. Compare it to this article, which was printed in the same column as the one below, and you’ll see what I mean.

The wave of feminism spreading over the country and the world has presented a problem to the hotel men. Now that women are figuring more and more in political and professional life they are no longer willing to be overshadowed by their husbands’ names and various hotels have found themselves flooded with demands that their own names, or the names by which they are known, be given the same attention in the hotel directory as that of the husband. So insistent have these demands become that Ray Carruthers, managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria, offers a solution to the system, which he has been forced to install and perfect to handle the reservations and business and social calls of the women leaders in public life.

“Not a few women, and especially those who have built up a name in literature, law, art, or the stage, are best known by their maiden names and object strenuously to being hidden under the joint names of their husbands,” said Mr. Carruthers. “Every one would know that Mary Pickford is the wife of Douglas Fairbanks, doubtless, and Mrs. Mary Roberts Rinehart could be found by her publishers or personal acquaintances very readily, but the many women writers, politicians, lawyers, physicians and those in other professions who gained their fame before marriage are often inconvenienced greatly by mail, telephone calls and personal calls miscarrying through failure of the hotel employees to know that Lina Cavalieri is Mrs. Lucien Muratore, for instance.”

Mr. Carruthers has instructed his room clerks to ask that in registering at the hotel desk the names be carried as: “Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Smith (Miss Rita Carrington),” or “J.B. Smith and wife (Miss Rita Carrington),” or “Harriette Crawford and husband, John R. Jones,” which allows his mail, telephone and information clerks to list the two names absolutely separately in their alphabetical order, and insure against inconvenience in many ways.

“The suggestion was made to me by a young woman magazine writer living at the Waldorf-Astoria,” said Mr. Carruthers, “after she had experienced some difficulty in losing business calls owing to the fact that she was registered under her husband’s name and had only told the clerks of the possibility of receiving calls under her own name. Of course, to some the new practice may seem odd, but if they register both names themselves we have them before the room clerks and telephone operators and are protected as well as they.

“The new system is working admirably, to the complete satisfaction of the hotel system and the professional women. It applies as well to all women who wish to have their names appear.”