Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XXXIII
(Afternoon, June 23, 1915)
---- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
"Good afternoon, Mr. Schwab, sir," began the young reporter.
"I'm from the 'Bethlehem Globe Times' and I'd like to ask you a few
questions, if I may, sir."
"Go ahead, son," answered the stocky, full-fleshed man in the
expensive suit. The tone of the reply drew the attention of the others
who stood near.
"Greek officials in Philadelphia are saying that they've got a valid
contract for a bunch of big ship cannons, but that you've gone and sold
their guns off to someone else. Is that true?"
"I've got nothing to say to you, boy." The man's face flushed
red with rage. "Go away, now. Get yourself gone, or I'll do it for
you, see if I don't!"
This was Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and the man was Charles Michael Schwab,
founder, president and savior of Bethlehem Steel. The reporter got himself
gone and didn't even look back, wondering as he went if he'd even have
a job on the morrow, and thinking just what he was going to tell that
so-and-so in Philly who'd gotten him into this mess.
---- Boston Globe
"German Liner Fleet!"
"Yesterday's grand entrance of the German passenger liner fleet
in the harbor yesterday would have pleased even the late Phineas Taylor
Barnum with its showmanship. Four large liners, including two that dwarfed
Kronprinzessin Cecilie that has graced the pier since shortly after the
start of the European war, steamed into the harbor with whistles that
could be heard throughout Beacon Hill. Kronprinzessin Cecilie has been
the center of a hurricane of activity for the last few weeks, but that
was but a pale foreshadowing ...."
---- Boston, Imperator, Grand Salon
The two men appeared to be relaxing in great comfort in plush, ornate
chairs at about right angles to each other. The elegant and fragrant floral
arrangement gracing the mahogany table not quite between them could not
compete with the flowery phrases blooming from their lips. Within easy
reach were small polished stands which held steaming cups of coffee that
it had been the honor of one favored servant to pour. The linen-wrapped,
elaborately chased silver coffee urn remained on its wheeled service cart
nearby, should it pleasure the Great One or his guest to take more.
The placid scene was one of two men of importance, taking their ease with
each other, and all was as false as the words they uttered. To those keen
enough to discern, turbulent undercurrents of tension roiled just beneath
the politely smooth surface. Just as heat emanating from desert sands
warps light into mirages of oases, however, so did face belie what was
truly transpiring here.
"Of course, of course," said the Ottoman Chancellory official,
smiling urbanely, "these things happen all the time in this place."
Innocence was no excuse, and they both knew it. "Sultan Hadi",
Hadi rumbled back something equally content free, along the lines of
the many such travails the official must himself face in this land of
infidels. His eyes scrutinized the other's gestures and carriage for clues
as to what really the other thought. The official - no novice himself
- radiated nothing but benign tranquility as he raised cup to lip, hiding
easily his tentative conclusion that there was no reason why His Excellency
should extend his hand.
The official emitted a tiny exclamation of surprise. In this context,
it was practically a bellow. His eyebrows arched and he peered into the
porcelain cup, regarding the sweet and viscous fluid with an expression
of wonderment. "Pleasing the master brings joy to the servant,"
"A dumb servant is a burden to his master," Hadi agreed, ritually
paraphrasing the Koran. (Sura An-Nahl [16:76-76] )
The official nodded, recovering from his startlement, and replied absently
in kind. Not since he had boarded ship four years ago, had he tasted finer
coffee. That served in Chancellery was perhaps as good, but never had
he had its like outside those walls. This was a thing of great import!
One of the other's servants had indeed served the coffee, but which had
prepared it? Such a one would be of prodigious value. Perhaps something
... but wait! Had not the cart bearing the service set been pushed into
the room by one wearing the garb of servitude to the vessel?
He covered his cogitations by draining his cup with a refined - but robust
- slurp, drawing a refill by one of those standing at a distance, though
alert to the needs of their master and his guest. He eased back and laced
his hands over his middle as the decanting took place. Had this one stooped
to putting his very own into the service of this vessel?
"The coffee is superb," he murmured, his mind churning with
the implications of such a loss of face. It cast shadows that could darken
other doorsteps. A tiny frown almost began to form at the edge of his
mouth as he reached to pick up the freshly filled cup. Why had those in
New York spoken so ....
"You are most kind, but I wish there were better to serve you. Still,
what they first offered me was far worse. Undrinkable! It took almost
half the voyage for them to ...."
The official smiled and nodded again, but the clink of cup to saucer
betrayed the shock of vast astonishment.
His posture straightened slightly. He swallowed, he could not help it,
so close to the precipice had he come. It had been Imperator's own staff
who had prepared what lurked within his cup. Who WAS this man?!
He had trained Germans to make him real coffee! GERMANS!
---- New York Herald
"German Warships Gone"
"The HAPAG pier was strangely quiet following the departure of the
warcruiser Augsburg. For nine days the pier had been the center of national
and international attention. Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers, thousands
of auction customers, tens of thousands of marchers, and hundreds of thousands
of curiosity seekers have all crowded the area at one time or another
these last few days. Now, only the soldiers remain, stolidly guarding
the empty pier, and sources indicate that even they will soon be removed."
---- New York, HAPAG Pier
It was a hastily convened "officers call." Colonel Anton gestured
with the message slip that he had just received.
"We've orders to secure at 1700. Trucks are being rounded up right
There were nods and small smiles. They were tired and past tired of this
post. It had gone from interesting, to terrifying, to aggravating, to
downright ugly, and now to completely pointless.
"Word is that the big German battlecruisers that were standing offshore
won't be docking here, after all. They're gone. No one knows where, yet."
"Sir, what if they come back?"
"Good question. My guess is that we'd get orders back down here.
But I'm not going to hold my breath over it. Any one else?"
There were none.
---- New York Times
"British Wounded Overflow Hospital"
"Over one thousand more British wounded were admitted yesterday,
crowding the New York Naval Station hospital to far beyond its capacity,
sources told .... Spokesmen for the hospital stated that all patients
were receiving appropriate care ....
"... many of whom are Australians presented no serious problems
.... '... very well behaved for soldiers or sailors who had just experienced
the mortal rigors of combat ....'
"It's a tribute to our professional staff and to the community,"
declared Dr. O'Brien. "But without our many dedicated, take-charge
---- New York base hospital
"Cods wallop, Shane, I'd rather wrestle a crocodile," Dedmundee
exclaimed, as the pair gazed into the fast quieting ward.
Though Dedmundee was senior to Theargus, his arrival with the over 600
newcomers off Florida had swamped the hospital and led them to put certain
issues off overnight. The two Aussie captains had sorted out matters over
breakfast and then informed all involved, including Dr. O'Brien and Captain
Eberle of the change.
"Settled the lads down, though. 'Give her that," Theargus remarked.
"Nothing airy fairy there."
"Got a few roos loose in 'er top paddock, if you ask me."
"Here, I'll introduce you. You bein' senior now an 'all."
"Beg yours. I'll admire 'er from a distance, thank you very much."
"No getting away from it, mate. She'll be over here any tic of the
"I'd rather walk into the Alice naked at noon."
"Done that, too, 'eh mate?"
---- "Ocean Emblem" (Newspaper printed in Toms River, New Jersey)
"Devils' Dawn Chorus!"
"Church Congregations Soar"
"Piercing and eerie howls have been heard emanating from the barrens
during the last few dawns, according to the reports of numerous and prominent
residents, and confirmed yesterday by reporters from the Emblem. The sounds
precisely coincide with the recent outbreak of Devil sightings, claimed
"... reportedly frightened Mrs. Wijn and gave her an attack of the
"The other women at the tea party related that the Devils screamed
at all of them in high pitched, demonic voices, obviously cursing them,
because more Devils had then appeared out of nowhere to ...."
"Observers report that attendance at all local churches appears
to have markedly increased Sunday. In several instances, worshipers completely
filled the aisles and even spilled out the doors. Local fire chiefs have
urged caution and called for additional services to be held, noting that
fire codes generally place limits on ....
"Devout, God-fearing Christians have no reason to fear," avowed
---- Augsburg, speed 12 knots, course 090
"Sir, the plot places the American dreadnoughts even with the Three
"Very well," Captain Speck replied. He had expected that, but
His light cruiser was just emerging from the channel mouth, having slowed
their passage to avoid crowding the American dreadnought force that had
sortied ahead of him. This morning, he had feared the intervention of
some American official, one that might immure him at the pier, much as
had been done to Strassburg a few days ago. With Admiral Hanzik no longer
off shore with battlecruisers and prisoners, he would have been at the
mercy of British pressure, British warships and British mischief. The
Germans had been given ample reason to fear all three. Once underway,
he had almost relaxed, as turning him around would have been much harder
than just preventing his departure. Now, as he eyed the powerful American
force looming ahead, he felt some of his apprehension begin to return.
Growing tall on their starboard bow were four sets of those most peculiar
cagemasts that the Americans affected for their dreadnoughts. Deployed
in some unfathomable formation or formations, was a screen force of perhaps
a score of those American warships that were larger than torpedo boats
but smaller than light cruisers. "Destroyers," the Americans
called them, and the Germans had tested and probed them over the last
several days and had been left quite impressed. They were as fast or faster
than the German light cruisers, handy at the helm, and appeared to be
good sea boats for their size. Kommodore von Hoban had even managed to
get a contingent from Strassburg aboard one of them for an inspection
More significant, perhaps, were the dozens of civilian sightseer sails
scattered all about. They presented a welcome, if incongruous, addition
to the tableau. Surely, the Americans would have cleared the area if they
had intended, or even suspected, hostilities.
Speck looked aft, and judged that they were finally clear enough of the
channel mouth to avoid any possibility of giving offense.
"Come right to 280. Ahead Flank," he ordered. "Make turns
for 22 knots."
"Aye, aye, sir." The helmsman's tone was disciplined, but the
undertone of relief was not missed by Speck. It echoed his own.
---- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Let me see if I've got this straight," the editor drawled.
"Bethlehem Steel done sold those cannons to the Brits?"
"That's right, chief," said Crawford. "Late last year,
actually. Got top dollar, too, if I remember right. No story there, though.
"Now, it's starting to come back," the editor muttered, scratching
thoughtfully under his chin. "Nobody cared, right?"
"Pretty much," Crawford agreed. "Once it was clear that
the Brits had the Atlantic closed off, there was no way those guns were
getting to Germany."
"Chief, I'm no lawyer," Crawford conceded, "but those
guns, and the turrets and stuff that was with them, well it's practically
a warship. Like a kit, or something."
"And selling warships to countries at war is against the law."
"Hmmm, and Schwab did that? How? No way to hide gun barrels big
as them. They'd stand out like sore thumbs on any pier, day or night."
"I think he finagled them out through Canada. By rail. Bethlehem
Steel probably fills five trains a day out there and nobody checks a'
one of 'em. Just loaded them up on rail cars, shipped them north across
the border, and from there on ships to England."
"I'll be roweled! Nobody? Nobody checks them?"
"Anyone wanta' bet he's not shipping tons of other stuff just like
it out the same way?"
The reporters' eyes widened and the editor found no takers. Not even
Fast Freddie wanted any part of that one.
---- Point Pleasant Beacon
"Jersey Devil Back?"
"Terror Strikes Deep!"
"Dozens of sightings of the Jersey Devil have been reported south
and inland of Toms River. In at least three instances, several 'Devils'
were spotted at one time and by multiple persons of standing in the community.
There have been some reports of panic, families refusing to send their
children off to school, children not even being allowed outside to play,
being kept inside instead. Housewives are said not to be going to the
market, fearing to go out of doors entirely without their menfolk there
to protect them.
"Meanwhile, several large parties of armed citizens are said to
be gathering, with their leaders swearing to 'rid the county of the Devil
scourge once and for all.' Despite repeated pleas for calm by Mayor ....
"Confirmed deeds laid at the Devil's feet include breaking into
outbuildings, feed theft, and killing chickens. Other claims include ...."
---- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Chief, just got off the phone with some buddies - called from down
in DC. The 'Evening Star' is going to press right now and they've got
the Salamis missing guns story splashed all over the top of the front
The air in the newsroom, profaned often enough already that afternoon,
suffered the utterance of several more expletives into it.
"How'd they get wise to it?"
"Nothing fancy, boss, they got it all right from the horse's mouth.
Straight from the Greek embassy. The ambassador himself had gone running
right to William Jennings Bryan himself to complain. And got nowhere,
of course. The guns are gone, alright. Long gone."
The national scoop was lost, but the other Philly papers might be slow
picking up the story printed in the Washington 'Evening Star.' The DC
papers had been smarting, the editor realized, from all the stories coming
out of Philly and New York stealing the limelight. The pressure on their
editors would have been huge to come up with some national story. So,
with the Greek embassy ready to be attributed as the source and the ambassador
himself willing to get quoted, it was no surprise that the 'Star' had
just gone and run with it on the fly.
"So, why'd they call YOU? Let me guess, they just like to hear the
sound of your voice at long distance rates."
"Salamis, chief. They ain't got squat on Salamis herself. No pix,
"No, I'm not buying it, not if they've already gone to press."
There were 20 or more hours before the next 'Star' deadline - plenty of
time to get any photos they might want. The speaker winced at having been
taken for a fool, and proving them right. "So, what did they really
"Got me, chief," he admitted, jaw muscles bulging from growing
embarrassment and anger. The others shuffled their feet in shared shame,
having also missed the obvious.
"Well, you clowns had better just go back and find out, then. For
now, we'll go with what we've got, and we can slot in whatever 'The Star'
's printing, no problem at all."
The others nodded and backed away, muttering amongst themselves.
"Chief!" Another staffer barged in, waving newsprint. "You
just gotta' see what's coming in from Jersey! All the local rags. Every
one of 'em! Read 'em and you'll swear the 'Jersey Devil' is plumb overrunning
the whole damn State."
"You know gahdam well I don't swear. My sainted muther would kill
me. Now gimee' those!"
---- Washington, The Evening Star
"GREEK GUNS GONE?"
"Ambassador Cries Foul!"
"... that he had met personally with The Honorable William Jennings
Bryan to register his government's strongest protest and to demand redress.
Secretary Bryan 'did not dispute the facts,' but promised only that he
'would look into the matter.' 'This is most serious,' the ambassador asserted.
'My nation is surrounded by countries at war, and our Salamis is to be
the bulwark for safeguarding the sanctity of our shores and the rights
of our merchantmen. This is very disappointing. With so much of the world
already at war, it is imperative that Neutrals work together to halt the
further spread ...'
"... of the Royal Hellenic Navy. The historic entrance of the dreadnought
Salamis into Philadelphia harbor was witnessed by an unprecedented crowd
of over .... "
---- Philadelphia Inquirer
It was a discordant sound and it stopped the reporters dead in their
tracks. Their gruff, cigar-chewing editor was chuckling, laughing, or
making equally unlikely sounds of merriment.
"Listen to this, boys," he said, with a Jersey paper in his
hand. "These women were having a tea party or something out on a
porch, and some of these 'Devils' show up. Uninvited, I guess. The women
scream, the 'Devils' scream - wonder who screamed louder? Anyway, one
Dutch housewife faints, Mrs. Wijn, and then wakes up screaming if only
they had 'green boys,' that the 'green boys would kill them all,' or something."
The reporters just exchanged nervous glances.
"C'mon, boys, don't you see? There may have been 'Devils' there,
but there were daggone sure no 'green boys' there."
The others just stood there.
"Freddie, you play with numbers," the editor snapped, "look
at it. Say you got a fence. A two rail fence. Got a flock of crows on
it. Five on the first rail, twenty-two on the other. Got that?"
The slight reporter nodded. "Sure, boss."
"Okay, you go and shoot one, maybe two, on the first rail. How many
crows you got left?"
"Uh, twenty-five, -six," answered Freddie. "Depends on
how many you shot, right?"
"Hell, no, it doesn't. All you've got's an empty fence. You think
the others are just gonna' wait around for you to shoot 'em? Sheesh, crows
ain't stupid, you know and whatever these 'Devils' are, no one's gotten
one of them yet, either.
"But, alright, enough of that. What'cha got?"
"It's Schwab, sir. That's what the 'Star' was fishing for. No one
down there's been able to get a line on him."
"Have we? No, forget that. Go on."
"Not much, but at least we've got SOMEthing and they know it. They've
got zero, and now we know that, too."
"My doin', boss," began Freddie. "This morning, right
after the Greeks called me. I called one of our stringers out in Bethlehem.
He's on the staff of the 'Globe Times' out there. Anyway, he's how I found
out Schwab was really in town, after all, no matter what his office was
telling the Greeks. He's the chairman of some big civic committee and
on the board of the local hospital, and both of 'em had meetings and he
never misses 'em. Never."
"Alright, but what's that got to do with the 'Star' calling here?"
"I'm getting there, boss. I swear it! So when he tells me that Schwab's
really there an' all, I told him there was a big story in it and to go
see what he could find out. Well, he knew where Schwab 'd be, so he went
and braced him. Got bounced, hard, and now he's worried they'll run him
out of town onna' rail or something!"
"How do you know that?"
"Called me back. Blamed me for everything; called me some names
I never even heard before!" Freddie's voice had acquired an injured
tone. "Collect, too," he added, particularly aggrieved. "That's
just not right, boss." What had hurt Freddie most, it seemed, was
that the insults had come only after the other had reversed the charges.
"It fits, chief," added another. "The 'Star' sent a couple
of their own stringers on in and they got bounced. Bounced hard, and by
none other than Michael J. Lynch, the chief of police himself. All they'd
asked was where to find Schwab and the cops started piling out of the
woodwork. They got told not to come back, real serious like, and they
---- Boston Globe
"Pier Party Announced"
" ...will be put under tent for the occasion. Never before in our
fair city, have five major passenger liners shared a sailing time and
been as determined to celebrate it but not to announce it. Mr. Ballin,
the owner and operator of HAPAG Lines, stated that his instructions had
been not to make public the exact time of departure, 'because of the dangers
from British warships known to be patrolling in their blockade' off the
east Coast of the United States. Ballin stated that last August's narrow
escape of Kronprinzessin Cecilie was evidence that the British Royal Navy
preyed on passenger liners. He then pointed to the partially repaired
and hastily painted over blast marks on Imperator ..."
"... of the British Chancellery. 'Not at all,' he said. 'I say,
I might go myself. I've heard they throw a wonderful party. Stately waltzes
and invading States seem to be their forte, eh what?' "
It may be almost impossible to fully understand the stature of Charles
Michael Schwab in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1915. In the late 1800s,
Schwab had risen through the ranks of Carnegie's steel business and helped
arrange the merger with J. P. Morgan's own steel business that formed
US Steel in 1901. Carnegie was being challenged in the industry by Morgan
and, at age 65, decided to retire and enjoy his huge fortune, even though
he felt he could best Morgan. Schwab became the first US Steel president
but, after a falling out with Morgan, left to take over and incorporate
an existing business called Bethlehem Steel in 1904.
The firm had been in existence for years and was the dominant employer
of the area, but the steel industry was becoming more competitive as technology
advanced and society, in general, demanded new and better products. Schwab's
decision to incorporate it and head it up personally saved it as a company,
as his other choice (as head of the Morgan holding company US Shipbuilding
of which Bethlehem Steel was a part) had been to disband it and sell off
its assets individually. Still, in 1907, Bethlehem Steel almost failed
-- experiencing the business equivalent of a "near-death experience"
-- due to competitive pressures, but Schwab's gamble on a new item made
in a new process, the Grey wide-flanged beam, saved the company. Those
beams (then called "H" beams, but later called "I"
beams) made possible much larger and taller structures, including the
great skyscrapers that would be built in the years to follow.
In June 1915, Bethlehem (actually, "South Bethlehem" is what
they had called it) was preparing for their "Semi-Centennial"
celebrations that would be held that October. Schwab, of course, was the
chairman of the "General Committee" in overall charge. Schwab
had, in fact, been instrumental in having Bethlehem, South Bethlehem,
West Bethlehem, and Northampton Heights combine into one city that called
itself "Bethlehem." Schwab was on the Board of the area's major
hospital (St. Luke's). Schwab had cajoled the founder of a local Bach
choir back from California and that choir, heavily Schwab endowed, is
world famous to this day. Schwab was a member of the Bethlehem City Planning
Commission. Books and other pronouncements of the day not infrequently
contained tributes to Schwab.
Schwab was also famous for his generosity:
"Public gifts bestowed by Mr. Schwab include a magnificent Roman
Catholic Church at Loretto, Pa.; a church at Braddock, Pa.; a convent
house at Cresson, Pa.; an Industrial School at Homestead, Pa.; a School
at Weatherly, Pa.; an Auditorium to Pennsylvania State College; a Summer
Sanatorium for Children, Staten Island; numerous gifts to Lehigh University,
and the largest individual contribution to the new million dollar hill?to?hill
bridge connecting Bethlehem, West Bethlehem, and South Bethlehem. ...
chief guarantor of the famous Bach Choir which annually holds festivals
at Lehigh University. Citizens of the community point with pride to the
accomplishments of Mr. Schwab. He has given the city a band second to
none in the state, and is one of the guarantors of the famous symphony
Schwab could also be implacable, however, as had been recently and publicly
demonstrated when in 1910 he had crushed a 108 day union-lead strike.
Organized labor did not return to Bethlehem Steel until 1941, two years
after Schwab's death.
Many of the institutions around Bethlehem were headed, endowed, or otherwise
supported by Bethlehem Steel, its executives, and its workers. For example,
Bethlehem's mayor was Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem Steel Vice President.
Here are some sources: