Mexican president talks

To give you fair warning: this blog will be spending the next few days in the world of July 5 1929, as that day’s edition of the Toronto Daily Star was a rich source of material. To start off, here’s a photograph of the President of Mexico that appeared on the front page of that day’s paper:

Emilio Portes Gil (1890-1978) was the president of Mexico at the time of this photograph, and was a comparatively youthful 38 years old. But what this photo caption does not tell you is that he was effectively a puppet president.

Some background: in the 1920s, the Mexican constitution did not allow anyone to run for president for consecutive terms. However, there was nothing stopping anyone from becoming president, taking a break for a term, and then taking over again. So two men, Alvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles, decided to support each other and basically take turns as president. This would have worked out well for both of them, except that Obregón was assassinated in 1928 shortly after becoming president again.

This left Calles in a bit of a pickle. He couldn’t be president again, because he had just been president. So he tried the next best thing: he ensured that the man who was appointed president in Obregón’s place would do whatever he wanted. Three men took turns in this role of puppet president between 1928 and 1934; Portes Gil, pictured here, was the first. In the meantime, Callas wielded power behind the scenes, and was given the nickname of “el Jefe Máximo”, or “the Maximum Leader”.

After handing over power in 1930 to the next puppet president, Portes Gil served as Minister of the Interior and was Mexico’s first representative at the League of Nations. He retired from politics in 1936, and then did nothing worthy of mentioning in his Wikipedia article until he passed away over forty years later.


Lost gun, belt, whistle

The April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this short article about an unfortunate police officer who had a bad day.

Because Officer Drohan had a reasonably unusual name, I looked him up in the Toronto city directories to see what happened to him. It turned out that he got his job back: the 1930 and 1931 directories list him as working at Police Station Number 4.

However, he didn’t remain a police officer for all that long. The 1933 directory lists him with no occupation, and the 1935 directory lists him as working as a driver for Imperial Oil, as does the 1938 directory. Sadly, further misfortune may have afflicted him: the 1943 and 1945 directories list him with no occupation again, and he is not in the 1946 directory.


Buy now and save $2,000

Here’s an ad from the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for houses for sale in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood of Toronto:

Needless to say, these houses would cost considerably more than $10,750 today!

I poked about on Google Street View, and the photo shown here appears to be pretty much an exact match for what 93 Lawrence Crescent looks like today. The other addresses listed here might have used the same layout but, if so, I couldn’t spot it.

H. H. Davis & Co., which was selling the houses, appears to have been a Depression casualty. The 1929 directory lists the company at 36 Toronto Street and Henry H. Davis living at 439 Grace Street; the 1930 directory has no record of either. Someone else is living at 439 Grace, which suggests that Mr. Davis moved out of town.


All England is watching

Here’s another photo from the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, this time of a British peer who apparently had eloped with another man’s wife:

Wikipedia and a site called The Peerage provided details on the people mentioned in this photo:

  • Harold James Selbourne Woodhouse, the 2nd Baron Terrington (1877-1940), married his first wife, Vera Bousher, in 1918. They were apparently divorced in 1926, so he was unmarried when he eloped with Mrs. Humphrey. The two were married in 1927. He was a solicitor and a company director, and was imprisoned for “fraudulent conversion” between 1928 and 1931.
  • Rena De Vere Humphrey Shapland Swiny (1898-1965) had been married twice before eloping with Lord Terrington. She married again in 1938; presumably, she and His Lordship had divorced before then, though this isn’t listed on the website. This page has photographs of her, though it seems to have her year of death wrong.
  • Vera Woodhouse (1889-1973) lost in her first attempt at becoming a member of Parliament in 1922, won in 1923, and then lost again in 1924. The Liberal Party nominated her again in 1925 but she withdrew due to “problems in her personal life”, which I assume were marriage-related. In 1949, she married again and moved to South Africa, returning to Britain the year that she passed away.

An episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus includes a character named Humphrey De Vere; presumably, one of the Pythons found Mrs. De Vere Humphrey’s name and switched it around.


A London beauty

Here’s another picture from the photo page of the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Strictly speaking, it would probably have been more accurate to refer to the former Viola Bankes as a Dorset beauty, as her family were landed gentry from that area. The family estate was known as Kingston Lacy, and Ms. Bankes (who used her maiden name when writing) wrote a collection of reminiscences about growing up there.

A comment on the page for the collection of reminiscences claims that when Ms. Bankes’ father became terminally ill, she was told that he was going to Africa; she and her siblings were not told about his death. The comment also claims that her mother never spoke to her again when she married a “middle-class doctor” (who, presumably, was Mr. Hall).

A search turned up this portrait of the couple on their wedding day and revealed that she passed away in 1989.



The photo page of the April 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included this photo of a former governor of Wyoming who was about to have a statue made of her:

Nellie Tayloe Ross (1876-1977) was married to William B. Ross, who was elected the Governor of Wyoming in 1923. He passed away in 1924 due to complications from an appendectomy. She ran for the office of Governor herself in 1925 and won, becoming the first – and, to this date, only – female governor of that state. She ran for re-election in 1926 and lost, partly because she supported Prohibition and partly because she refused to campaign for herself.

She was appointed the director of the United States Mint in 1933, and held that position until 1953. She lived for half a century after this photo was taken of her, passing away in 1977 at the age of 101.


Claimed to be a copy

The April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star has continued to be a useful source of blog material. Here’s one more picture, of a painting that was deemed to be a copy:

I couldn’t find any record of whether the portrait of Elizabeth, Duchess of Sutherland, was copied, but I did look up all of the people mentioned in the photo caption.

  • Elizabeth Leveson-Gower (1765-1839) and her husband once owned 63% of the county of Sutherland in England. She participated in the Highland Clearances, which was the eviction of mixed-farming tenants to enable more modern farming methods. She was an accomplished painter in her own right.
  • George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (1888-1963) was the Duke of Sutherland at the time of this article. He was a minister in various Conservative governments in the 1920s and was the first chairman of the British Film Institute.
  • George Romney (1734-1802) was the most fashionable English portrait painter of his time. He is distantly related to American politicians George and Mitt Romney.
  • Lawrence P. Fisher was one of seven Fisher brothers who founded Fisher Body, the leading builder of automobile bodies in Detroit and eventually part of General Motors.

If you want a copy of the portrait of the Duchess of Sutherland for yourself, you can now buy it here. You can now also buy a face mask with her portrait on it.


New leader

Here is yet another photo from the picture page of the April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Margery Corbett Ashby (1882-1981) was involved in the women’s suffrage movement starting in 1901, when she and her sister Cicely founded the Younger Suffragists. While I could find no reference to the World League for Women’s Suffrage, Ms. Ashby became secretary of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1907 and was President of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance from 1923 to 1946.

She also was a candidate for Parliament for the Liberal Party, running for office in 1918, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1929, 1935, 1937, and 1944 (the last as an Independent Liberal candidate). She never won, but she polled respectably enough that her campaigns served as a platform for the suffragist cause.


Champion rider

The April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star continues to be a useful source of material! Here’s a photograph of a 12-year-old British girl who had been successful at show jumping:

Searches didn’t reveal much about Olive Ricks. I found a photograph of her with, presumably, all of her prizes, and a photograph of her having her competitor’s number adjusted. I also found out that she eventually became Olive Evans. But I don’t know what happened to her; I guess she stopped competing when she got older. I suppose that 204 prizes is enough, really.


Will write

The April 4 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photograph of an heir to the Mellon banking fortune, who was apparently about to embark on a career as a writer.

As it turned out, the life work of Paul Mellon (1907-1999) was horse racing. After serving with distinction as a cavalry officer and a member of the Morale Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services in the Second World War, Mr. Mellon founded Rokeby Stables, which won over 1000 stakes-level races and accumulated over $30 million in earnings. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame designated him an “Exemplar of Racing”; he is one of only five people to have been given this honour.

Mr. Mellon also devoted himself to art collecting and philanthropy. He eventually did write his autobiography, Reflections in a Silver Spoon, in 1992, so he didn’t avoid writing entirely.