The Trend in Europe (San Francisco Journal, Feb. 24-May 29 1924)

This is the fruit of an afternoon in the San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library a few weeks ago. I’m grateful to the cheerful and helpful staff there.

Updated 2010-03-29: the 1929 letter from Bob to Frances referring to their work together for the Journal.

For a few weeks in the spring of 1924, Bob published an occasional column on European events in the San Francisco Journal. Under the title “The Trend in Europe”, the columns are reviews of events or developments, under various themes. Bob was 26. During this period he was finishing his MA thesis on Napoleonic history and starting to turn his attention to the topic of his doctoral dissertation: European public opinion during the First World War and the Peace Conference. It was natural therefore that he should be following the world press and formulating definite opinions on the course of current events. The topics for the columns ranged from coverage of the trial of Ludendorff and Hitler for the Beer Hall Putsch (transcribed below) to diplomatic events to new economic institutions that foreshadowed Bob’s later work on federative polity.

The first column appeared on Feb. 24, 1924. The series was sponsored by managing editor J.P. McSorley. When McSorley was on vacation, Bob was left wondering why the columns weren’t appearing, so evidently they were not handled by other staff (see diary entries below). After the June 21 issue, the Journal was merged into the San Francisco Bulletin, and the columns ended; but none had appeared for three weeks before that, so it’s possible that the arrangement had already been terminated.

The columns were in some sense a collaboration with his wife-to-be, Frances Williams, but the nature of her involvement isn’t clear. In Bob’s diary (see below) he sometimes refers to the articles as “ours”, but he doesn’t explicitly connect them to Frances, except in one instance:

Write my article till 10:00 P.M. … The article is the best one yet – naval problems – more literary than others, but less sound. Fran will hardly be able to write.1

Much about this entry is doubtful. This is the only time in the diaries that he refers to Frances as “Fran”. In one case in 1921 he uses “Fran” for his brother Francis, but he was just starting high school at this point. Assuming Bob meant Frances Williams, perhaps the implication is that her role was to apply the “literary” finish to the articles, and his draft was so good that he had left her nothing to do; or perhaps she did more substantial revisions to the argument, and its “unsoundness” would make it difficult for her to do so. (Unfortunately I didn’t transcribe the column in question). Frances included a clipping of the Mar. 13 column among a collection of clippings she sent to her mother, but if a letter accompanied them it hasn’t survived.2 A few years later, in discussing the reviews of their book on marriage and the press interviews that would face her when she came to New York, Bob wrote to Frances:

Undoubtedly you will sometime find it convenient to refer in vague terms to the newspaper work you did in the west without using your name – Not only what you did without me at the Convention, but what we did together for the Journal. Then you can make a funny remark about the journal dying.3

(The “Convention” is the Democratic Convention in San Francisco in 1920, to which Frances a press ticket by the Lewiston [Idaho] Tribune during her first year at Stanford.)4

Other diary entries indicate that Bob and Frances studied together and discussed his research, and certainly after their marriage they talked and collaborated constantly. This pattern formed early. Later in that summer of 1924, a month before their wedding, Bob noted in his diary: “Frances & I go out to Felt Lake. A perfect day. We plan the analysis of public opinion on the way back home.”5

It was during the period of the Journal columns that Bob’s hopes for marriage with Lib Spillman were finally dashed, and his relationship with Frances became more serious, culminating in their engagement in June. In a letter to her mother in April Frances wrote a long description of a date with Bob: they attended a late dinner at the Russian Arts Club in San Francisco (following the Russian Easter services), and stayed out all night:

We walked up Powell street to the top of the high hill, by the Fairmont, and sat on a stone wall and watched the day break over the bay. About five we went down to Market, and found the Journal office, on Third street. We went up to the editorial rooms, which were open, although no one was there. I sat down at a typewriter and typed the rest of a “Trend in Europe” article that we had started, and we left it on the Editor’s desk. …

We stopped in Paly for breakfast, and had ham and eggs and oatmeal. That took the last cent of the ten dollar check from the Journal that we had planned to spend, so we walked out from Paly.6

That seems to imply that the ten-dollar check was joint property; and the phrase “we had started” suggests that her involvement was more than just typing up Bob’s draft.


  1. Feb. 24, p.6, col. 3-5 (no byline): Expert Commission, reparations, Labour government in England, Italy and Yugoslavia
  2. Feb. 27, p.6, col. 3-4: Excavations in Egypt; Russia and Rome Conference; MacDonald; fall of the franc
  3. Mar. 3, p.4, col. 3-4: Naval negotiations; Italian foreign policy
  4. Mar. 13, p.4, col.3-4: MacDonald; reparations; Rhineland; trial of Ludendorff and Hitler (see below)
  5. Mar. 20, p.4, col. 6-7: International loans; Baltic affairs; Rumania; Balkans
  6. Mar. 28, p.4, col. 3-4: Spring elections in Europe
  7. Apr. 3, p.4, col. 3-4: The New Turkey: nationalists, international relations, women (two full columns, the longest item in this list)
  8. Apr. 9, p.4, col. 6-7: Yugoslavia
  9. Apr. 11, p.4, col. 6-7: Autonomy and Federalism (foreshadows his interest in “federative polity”)
  10. Apr. 14, p.4, col. 6-7: Experts’ Report
  11. May 5, p.4, col. 6-7: Election in Germany; nationalists (including “Freedom Party” of Ludendorff and Hitler)
  12. May 11, p.4, col. 3-4: Labour government in England
  13. May 14, p.4, col. 6-7: Election in France
  14. May 29, p.4, col. 3-4: Socialism and Communism

RCB’s diary entries relating to the column

  • Feb. 16 (Sat.) Morning at work on newspaper article…
  • Feb. 17 (Sun.) Tennis with Thad, then work on my article; … Finish articles, & mail them.
  • Feb. 18 (Mon.) No, the Journal does not publish our letter, nor do the others reply! …
  • Feb. 21 (Thurs.) … Journal writes it will take our articles.
  • Feb. 22 (Fri.) Spend morning & evening in working up article; finally get it off after 10:00 P.M.
  • Feb. 24 (Sun.) … Article appears in Journal.
  • Feb. 26 (Mon.) … Find that Journal has doctored concoct our last article & published it!
  • Feb. 28 (Thurs.) Write my article till 10:00 P.M. … The article is the best one yet – naval problems – more literary than others, but less sound. Fran will hardly be able to write.
  • Mar. 3-22 no entries
  • Mar. 23 (Sun.) Leave about 9:00 A.M. [going to ranch]; I have no breakfast; take my article up to city with me, & Thad takes it to Journal office. …
  • Mar. 28. (Fri.) [At the ranch] I work on my article on Turkey all day. …
  • Apr. 4 (Fri.) Free all day and on date at night, but spent time working on article.
  • Apr. 5 (Sat.) Work till 4:00 P.M. on my Journal article on Jugoslavia. …
  • Apr. 29 (Tues.) … I wonder why McSorley didn’t publish our articles?7
  • May 2 (Fri.) Find out why McSorley didn’t print articles – he is on vacation. …
  • May 9 (Fri.) … I write my article on French election in two hours.
  • May 10-June 18 no entries

March 13 column (excerpt)

The first half of the column deals with recent good news concerning the reparations issue and the Rhineland; the second half, transcribed below, covers the trial of Ludendorff and Hitler for treason after the Beer Hall Putsch of Nov. 8-9, 1923.

The trial of Ludendorff

The eyes of Germany are turned for the moment toward Munich, where Ludendorff and Hitler are on trial for treason. The trial is primarily a domestic affair, bearing only indirectly on international politics. But the forces visible in Munich are a small and persistent cloud in the rapidly clearing international sky. The best that good sense and good will can ever do toward reconciling the real national interests of France, Germany and England will still leave a powerful element in Germany working for a restoration of the monarchy and a war of revenge. This element was born of defeat and revolution, but it has been nursed to great strength by the harsh policy of the Entente. Its power is now difficult to estimate.

Bavarian Political Groups

The tangle of Bavarian politics will not bear any simple interpretation. Four separate and conflicting tendencies seem to be indistinguishably mingled. They can be enumerated in order of their general popularity as follows:

  1. Opposition to socialism and communism. This is a consequence of the brief Soviet regime of the spring of 1919.
  2. Particularism or federalism. Bavaria held a specially privileged position in the old empire by virtue of a secret treaty with Prussia. The new German constitution, which centralizes authority in Berlin, has always been opposed by Bavarians. In January of this year the Bavarian government sent a memorandum to the Reichstag urging the recasting of the constitution in a federal sense.
  3. Nationalism, which is associated with the anti-semitic movement as it is everywhere in German, and which accepts the ultimate restoration of the monarchy and war of revenge as a matter of course. In Bavaria this group is divided between the “blue whites,” who would place the Wittlesbach dynasty at the head of Germany, and the “red-black-whites,” who support the Hohenzollerns.
  4. Separatism. This idea involves complete separation from Germany and union with Catholic Austria in a new South-German state. No responsible leader openly avows this program. But the French secretly favor it, and Cardinal Faulhaber, with his Catholic group, are charge with working for it in the dark.

These four tendencies, variously combined and shading into each other, offered a magnificent field for intrigue. They produced in the fall of 1923 a monstrous project—the plan for the “March on Berlin”—in imitation of Mussolini’s march on Rome. French money was used to support Hitler’s Fascisti, who were preparing this coup de force. The French may have hoped to bring about a premature uprising or civil war which would break up the Reich.

The Outbreak of November 9

The emuete [sic] of November 9 resulted from an unstable union of these groups for the space of a few hours. Kahr and Lossow, controlling the Bavarian government and Reichswehr in defiance of the Reich, had agreed in principle with Hitler and Ludendorff upon the “March on Berlin,” but had repeatedly postponed action. At 8:30 on the night of November 8, Hitler and Ludendorff, followed by armed supporters, met Kahr, Lossow and Seisser in the Burgerbrau beer hall, and demanded that the revolution should take place forthwith. The five men retired to an adjoining room for discussion, reappeared and shook hands in the presence of the crowd. “Very well, you will march with us then,” said Ludendorff to Von Kahr, and went to take command of the nationalist forces, expecting to have the Reichswehr placed at his disposal also. The Berlin Deutscher Tageblatt, nationalist organ, had its headline set up announcing the fall of the Ebert government; the conspirators had decided upon who would ride first through the Brandenberg gate. But during the night Von Kahr, who may have been acting in bad faith all along, but who later claimed that his consent in the beer hall conference had been forced at the point of a revolver, telephoned to Prince Rupprecht. Following the telephone conversation he arranged to crush the movement which he had agreed to lead. The collapse of the emuete followed as a matter of course.

The Hungarian Royalist Plot

Two days before the uprising in Munich Deputy Ulain of the Hungarian National Assembly arranged to meet Hitler to discuss a plan for using Bavarian troops to overthrow the Hungarian government. Ulain was arrested at the frontier, and never met Hitler. The latest news from Hungary is that he has been lightly punished for his attempt. The incident illustrates the fact that the outbreak in Munich cannot be considered an isolated episode. Restoration movements and royalist emuetes must be reckoned with for a generation in all lands to which the treaties of 1919 have brought misery and humiliation.

  1. Diary, 1924-02-28.↩︎

  2. Doc. 236: an envelope postmarked 1924-03-19 containing several clippings.↩︎

  3. Doc. 367, 1929-10-14.↩︎

  4. Doc. 193: William Irvin Williams to FWB, 1920-06-17.↩︎

  5. Diary, 1924-08-17.↩︎

  6. Doc. 111 (1929-04-29), pp.2-3, describing the night of Saturday, Apr. 26.↩︎

  7. Bob wrote “find out why”, then crossed out “find” and wrote in “wonder”. He must have written the entries from here to May 2 in one sitting and anticipated the later entry.↩︎


1 response to "The Trend in Europe (San Francisco Journal, Feb. 24-May 29 1924)"

  • Jan Binkley wrote:

    I have long suspected that Frances wrote much of what was published under their names, with his name appearing first, and I'm not a bit surprised that she may have been a major contributor to much of what appeared under his name alone. It was a fairly typical pattern between couples in their generation, and in my own. The man frequently had the public role, making the editorial contacts, and both of them took the wife's contribution for granted -- they were both seen as working for the success of the family. Actually, it's not too far from the model of the farmer and his wife, but the farmer doesn't get famous.