The Shot Heard (Almost) Round the World...

"There are different ways of making war, and this was one of them."

The Gaelic American, July 4, 1914, on the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand 

 

The Gaelic American, July 4, 1914.{'<br/>'}Image courtesy of Digital Library @ Villanova University, http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:334037
The Gaelic American, July 4, 1914.
Image courtesy of Digital Library @ Villanova University, http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:334037

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, his wife, on the 28th of June, 1914 made headlines all over the world, including across the ocean in the United States. The Washington Times screamed the news in large letters that ran the width of its front page. The next day, the New York Times filled most of its first two pages with accounts of the murders, complete with a profile of the doomed couple, photographs of their orphaned children and speculation about the consequences of the event for the already tense situation on the European Continent. Smaller papers followed suit: the Reading Eagle, for example, devoted the first three columns of its front page to the story.

But the editors of at least one paper, it seems, were less impressed. The Gaelic American, a New York-based weekly, buried the news of the assassination on page four (by contrast, "Cosy Corner Chat"—a collection of recipes, fashion advice and humorous maxims—merited its usual placement on page three). Only the first paragraph of the article, "The Double Crime at Serajevo," [sic] discussed the attack in any detail. Much of the rest was a rumination on the use and history of assassination as a weapon of war.

Published only weekly, the Gaelic American had missed the event in question by six days. By the time the paper went to press on July 4th, the assassination was no longer news to its readers. Still, the newspaper regularly covered "old news" on its front page, so its lack of interest in the murders likely had more to do with its stated devotion to "Irish Independence, Irish literature and the Interests of the Irish Race." Given the paper's agenda, the assassination of the Archduke was indeed only fourth-page news. It was far less important for example, than the ongoing controversy surrounding John Redmond, the Irish Nationalist politician. His conciliatory politics in the House of Commons routinely infuriated the editors of the Gaelic American. Instead of the assassination news, articles disparaging Redmond appeared throughout the first two pages of the July 4th issue.

Eventually, the war found its way onto the front pages of even the Gaelic American. On August 8th, 1914, the newspaper finally ran a front-page article about the simmering conflict that had dominated other papers all summer. The entry of the United Kingdom into the war on August 4th made the the situation highly relevant to Irish Nationalists, many of whom saw England's new military preoccupation as strategically useful to the Irish cause. After August 4th, the paper featured articles about the war more often and more prominently.

Irish politics still ruled the day, however. When the United Kingdom declared war, John Redmond had further incensed the Gaelic American by assuring the British parliament of Ireland's support (a few weeks later, he would go even further, suggesting that the Irish should fight the Germans alongside the British). While most newspapers trumpeted the British entry into the war with banners such as "England Declares War on Germany," the Gaelic American's coverage maintained its unrelenting focus on Irish affairs, announcing England's involvement with the headline, "Redmond's Open Betrayal of Ireland."

Ruth Martin

[RSM]

References

“Archduke Ignored Warning.” New York Times 29 June, 1914: 1.

“Bravery of Archduke.” New York Times 29 June, 1914: 1.

“Martial Law Proclaimed after Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and His Wife by a Student.” Reading Eagle [Reading, PA]  29 June, 1914: 1.

“Redmond’s Open Betrayal of Ireland.” Gaelic American. [New York, NY] 8 August, 1914: 1.

“Serb Student Assassinates Archduke and his Duchess.” Washington Times [Washington, DC] 28 June, 1914: 1.

“The Double Crime at Serajevo.” Gaelic American [New York, NY] 4 July, 1914: 4.

“Tragedy May Alter Politics of Europe.” New York Times, 29 June, 1914: 2.

Collins, Stephen. “John Redmond: Discarded Leader.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 98 (2009): 123-133.

McConnel, James. “John Redmond and Irish Catholic Loyalism,” English Historical Review 125 (2010): 83-111.

 

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Last Modified: Monday, July 7th, 2014