Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 4, 1976 · Page 85
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 85

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 4, 1976
Page 85
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Page 85 article text (OCR)

MllMK by Lowell Thomas - Signing off on radio: Lowell Thomas several weeks ago ended his newscast career g of nearly 46 years. His work took him around the globe and through two world S wars. Now at 84, he writes proudly, "America is the grandest country on Earth." W hen I was born--in the year 1892 --the United States of America consisted of 44 contiguous states and a number of territories stretching wondrously, abundantly from sea to sea and even north to Alaska. Its population, augmented by wave after wave of immigration, had soared to a mind-boggling 70 million. And its President, Civil War hero Benjamin Harrison, was forced to preside over the nation's first billion-dollar budget and then try to figure out what to do with the surplus left over in the Treasury. The year 1892°also saw the completion of the first American-made "gasoline buggy," the completion of the first telephone line from New York to Chicago, the founding of Ellis Island as "the Gateway to America," the founding of the University of Chicago where years later a group of scientists, including my Princeton classmate Arthur Compton, cracked the atom. It also was the year of the passage of legislation that set off the Oklahoma land rush, and the birth of a leather-lunged, bouncing baby boy they named Lowell Jackson to Harriet Wagner and her husband Harry G. Thomas at Woodington, Ohio--next door to Annie Oakley. For many, including me, it was quite a year, but only the beginning. The United States was just then turning the corner into an era of unparalleled progress, of seemingly endless horizons, of boundless curiosity that would one day take us to the moon and beyond. Already the "land of opportunity," the U.S. would become, too, the world's mightiest nation, the leader in scientific, technological and cultural achievements, an inspiration and a guide to developing nations, and the standard- bearer for peace and freedom throughout the globe. Mining camp life How did it all happen? How did we get where we are today? As one who was there in 1892, has lived the "American dream" for most of the past century and, on this our Bicentennial, is still alive--or imagines he is--let me tell you about it. Growing up as I did in a mining camp at Cripple Creek, Colo., the "Gay Nineties" were filled for me with freewheeling joy and adventure such as you read about now only in books. For most of the U.S., though, the Nineties. were indeed gay, due mainly to a nationwide business boom, aided and abetted by the Klondike .gold strike and the pro-business policies of William McKinley, who assumed the Presidency in 1897. Others who first came to the fore during this period were auto-builder Henry Ford, evangelist Billy Sunday, -and William Jennings Bryan of "Cross of Gold" fame, all of whom later became my personal friends, even though they were much older. A growing power The "Gay Nineties" further gave us our first subway system in Boston, the first practical use of X-rays at Yale University, and the introduction of Thomas Edison's Vitascope, the real moving pictures that were to play such an important part in my life in my Fox Movie- tone, Cinerama and TV days. Most important of all, the "Gay Nineties" set the stage for America's emergence as a world power, which came with a bang in the Spanish-American War, followed by our taking over the Philippines and Puerto Rico, annexation_of Hawaii, and the inauguration of an Open Door Policy with China. When McKinley was assassinated two years later, Teddy Roosevelt, whom . I first met in 1900, succeeded to the Presidency, and the mold was cast for all time. An avid internationalist, the great "TR" lived by a creed which he once expressed to a friend, saying: "Speak softly and carry a big stick, you'll go far." He thus quickly added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, claiming for the U.S. the right "in the Western Hemisphere to exercise an international police power." It was a right he exercised so often in the Caribbean that it came to be the cornerstone of a new U.S. policy that its critics called "Dollar Diplomacy." But it also paved the way for construction of the Panama Canal and, with other factors, led to a tremendous increase in U.S. trade and influence. Roosevelt's reputation and that of the U.S. became such that it was he who served as successful mediator in the Russo-Japanese War, calling both sides to a peace conference at Portsmouth, N. H., where they finally agreed to a cessation of hostilities in 1905. For that, he won a Nobel Peace Prize. When relations with Japan later cooled and there was talk of a possible war, he sent 16 American battleships on a "good will" voyage en masse to Yoke-

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