This year we are seeing many celebrations of events that happened 50 years ago, such as Woodstock and the Moon Landing (but no celebrations of the Manson murders or the Altamont concert). This year is also the one hundredth anniversary — a centennial — of the year 1919, and I have yet to hear of any celebration of that remarkable year and I don’t expect to hear any. But 1919 was a very important year, setting some trends that are still alive today.
To understand all that was happening, we must first reflect on the context for that year.
World War I tore up much of Europe and had countries from all over the world involved, thus the appellation “World War”. Four empires that had existed for centuries — German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian — collapsed as a result of the War. Many new countries were formed that are currently in the news, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria. There was also a large scale epidemic that killed more than four times the number that died in the War. America went through many changes, some of which were not directly attributable to the war.
First let’s look at the major aspects of the chart, not only the World transits that affect everyone but also the transits to the US chart. The most prominent aspect, which colored much that went on in the world, was the opposition of Saturn and Uranus. As you can guess from the nature of these two planets, that opposition is very combustible. The two planets, one that was the limit of the known solar system for millennia, and the other the first planet discovered with the aid of a scientific instrument, a discovery that captured the new world people were moving towards, one ruled more and more by science, have distinctly contradictory natures. Saturn represents limits and conservatism (among other things) while Uranus represents the new and revolutionary, so those two planets can be seen as representing the old established ideas versus the new more modern things that are coming into focus — conservatism against change. With those two principles in opposition, one can see a very major conflict. The United States was especially affected by this aspect, because Uranus was on the Moon of the United States, and thus Saturn was opposite the Moon. The people (represented by the Moon) would be an instrument of this conflict. Other aspects involving the US chart were Neptune on the North Node and Pluto on Jupiter, which is one of the core planets of the US and thus very important to the self-image of that country. All of these aspects are slow moving ones that involve the four outer planets Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
The cinema was becoming increasingly popular by 1919, and so actors finally took the business side of the movies into their own hands. In what I call an “Astrological Cliche” we have the tight conjunction all year of transiting Neptune and US natal North Node of the Moon. Neptune is associated with illusion, things that aren’t actually real, and as a result it is connected with artists and especially movies, which by their vary nature are not real. The North Node has many meanings; the one I like is that of groups or associations. The famous event of 1919 involving Neptune was the formation of United Artists (read Node-Neptune), a group for production of movies started by some of the most well known people in that field at the time: D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. The idea originally was to involved those making movies to control things, instead of allowing business owners to control things. United Artists still exists 100 years later, though it has gone through many owners and purposes.
Starting in 1918 and continuing until 1920 was the largest pandemic of the modern world, a large outbreak of influenza known a the “Spanish flu” though Spain did not have anything to do with its origins. The month with the most deaths was October of 1918, but there were more deaths after that month than before. Unlike most influenza which kills mostly infants and the elderly, this flu struck down mostly those in the middle. And aspirin — which had only been sold for twenty years — was recommended for treating this flu, which made the death toll worse. Research has found the homeopathic doctors saved more lives than allopathic doctors because of the problems with aspirin.
During this whole period the Versailles peace conference was happening to settle World War I which had ended in November of 1918. The conference started in January of 1919 and lasted for exactly a year, though parts went on for several more years. Sections of the German and Ottoman Empires were awarded to the victors, Britain and France, so those counties got possession of among other things, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. The League of Nations was formed, an idea of American President Woodrow Wilson, even though the US did not join. Large reparations were demanded of Germany. The harsh treatment of Germany that resulted did much to upset the German populace and helped lead to World War II.
As we can see from the above graphical ephemeris, the opposition of Saturn and Uranus started in late 1918 — far left of the graph — and ended in early 1920 — far right of the graph.
The Summer of 1919 is known as Red Summer (the term from a NAACP leader) because so much blood was shed in various “race riots” which happened around the country. But it also showed that the black people living in the United States were no longer willing to take hostility — resulting in violence — from the white population, and they fought back. Remember the context: The Supreme Court decision of Plessy v Ferguson which had happened at the end of the previous century had allowed Separate but Equal laws to take place around the United States, resulting in wide spread sanctioned segregation of the races. After that was the Great Migration in which a half million black citizens from the South moved north seeking work in industry. The end of World War I allowed many black soldiers to return to the United States and they began looking for work. The result of all these were attacks by white mobs in dozens of cities and hundreds of deaths. As the Ku Klux Klan put it in flyers posted in black neighborhoods: “The war is over, negroes. Stay in your place. If you don’t, we’ll put you there.”
In order to get Americans, who did not want to go to war (Wilson ran the second time on the slogan “He kept us out of war”) to be willing to fight, extreme nationalism/patriotism was promoted by ardent propaganda. Sauerkraut was renamed liberty cabbage and hamburger was called liberty steak. One result of this was the fear among many of anyone different. A. Mitchell Palmer was the Quaker Attorney General under President Wilson, and he (called the “fighting Quaker”) imprisoned and deported many people whom he considered Communists or anarchists. The Russian Revolution had occurred in 1917, and many government officials (such as the new democracy of Germany as well as in America) were mortally afraid of a Communist Revolution in their own back yards. There were many foreign born radicals in the United States as well as anarchists. So Palmer instituted what was called the “Palmer Raids” (also known as the First Red Scare) wherein Palmer organized a round up and deportation of those suspect of left-wings feelings.
The Russian Revolution of November 1917 resulted in the Russian Civil War between the Red (Bolsheviks ) and the White Russians. There was an invasion of Russia by troops from a dozen countries (such as England, France, United States, Italy, and Japan) on the side of the White Russians in 1918. Though most troops, except for the Japanese, were withdrawn in 1920, this invasion extended the Russian Civil War and caused hard feelings between the West and the Soviet Union, which extended to the Cold War after World War II and even today.
On January 16, 1919 the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Congress, which would result in the prohibition of the sales of alcoholic beverages starting at the beginning of the next year, leading to the the folly of Prohibition for the next 13 years, and thus to a widespread lawlessness and an empowerment of criminals. During the Twenties much alcohol was consumed, but instead of a lot of beer and wine, much more potent distilled spirits were drunk, since those were easier to conceal. There was also corruption developed among those law officers charged with upholding Prohibition, as is always the case when laws differ from the wishes of people.
Another amendment was passed by both the House and the Senate in the United States, and that was the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote. This amendment was finally ratified by enough states in the middle of 1920. There had been an active suffragette movement before World War I in several countries of the world, such as Great Britain and the United States. Women were able to vote for President in the United States 1920 election.
Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany (who was related to Queen Victoria of England and Tsar Romanov of Russia), after his country was defeated in World War I, abdicated and moved to the Netherlands, which refused to extradite him for war crimes. The government of Germany was replaced by the beginnings of a democratic one, and the government of German was called the Weimar Republic from the city where its constitution was drafted. But there was much upset about the way the government was going, and a strong Communist movement in Germany developed. In 1919 there was a civil war between the Communist Spartacus League and the newly installed government. The government crushed the uprising and put some leaders of the Spartacus League to death, including one of its founders, Rosa Luxemburg.
An international Workers Union called the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW – Wobblies) had been formed in the middle of the last decade, and after the Russian Revolution and World War I, there developed much hostility between the established citizens and the Wobblies. This resulted in the Centralia (Washington) massacre. In Centralia on November 11, 1919 — exactly one year after the end of World War One — there was an armistice march including veterans from neighboring Chehalis. There had long been a conflict between the American Legion, prominent in Southern Washington state, and the radicals of the IWW, but with that march these conflicts flared into the open. There are conflicting stories of who fired the first shot, the American Legion or the Wobblies. As a result six were killed and more wounded and several Wobblies were convicted of murder in a later trial.
During the just ended war, there was an agreement between industries — especially the steel industry that made something that was extremely important for the war — that there would be no strikes and that the industries would treat the workers decently, unlike before the war. But after the war ended the agreement was no longer in effect. So by late 1919 the workers decided to strike the steel industry, in what is called the Great Strike of 1919. But it did not turn out well for the workers. The general public was afraid of “Bolsheviks” taking over the country; the atmosphere, as detailed above, was hyper-patriotic. The heads of the steel industry painted the strikers as possible bolsheviks and thus the strikers lost almost all public support.
The General Strike in Seattle started on February 6 and lasted for only six days, but army troops were called in on the second day of the strike by a nervous mayor. One hundred and one different AFL — American Federation of Labor — unions joined the strike to show solitary with the shipyard workers who were on strike. There was no violence, the general strike was entirely peaceful. Many other workers stayed home and the streetcars stopped running. But police raided some union halls, and there was worry about Bolshevik Revolution in Seattle. By the time the strike was over, newspapers were cheering the fact that Seattle had been saved from the Reds. But it was a momentous event in the history of labor solidarity, and the University of Washington has a web site dedicated to this event. In this chart above we see of course the Saturn opposite Uranus, but also a Mars trine Pluto — a transformative confrontation, but (trine) not violent — but also Neptune opposite Mercury, suggesting that the newspapers (Mercury) were somewhat deceptive about the nature of the strike,
Another scandal of note during the year was the fixing of the 1919 World Series by the Chicago White Sox, who came to be known as the Black Sox for their cheating. In this incident eight members of the Chicago team were accused of losing the World Series on purpose so they would get money from a gambling organization. There was a movie made about this incident in 1988 called Eight Men Out.
One other incident in 1919 deserves mention. President Woodrow Wilson had a stroke on October 2, after a grueling tour to promote his League of Nations. His second wife, Edith, was very protective of him and few knew that Wilson was quite ill. She even signed his name on some official papers, and in fact many call Edith Wilson the first woman President. While Wilson’s health did improve he remained paralyzed on one side which reduced his ability to campaign for his League, and any thoughts he had of a third term were dashed. He died in 1924.
So during the year of 1919 we see many variations of that basic conflict of humanity, the old order versus the new, as represented by the opposition of Saturn and Uranus, and that conflict played out in many different venues. But there was also a formation of a business for the making of movies, something at the time as becoming increasingly popular. The basic core of America was beginning to be transformed, as symbolized by the transit of Pluto across Jupiter, an important planet conjunct the US Sun.