July 31, 1914: Lightning on the Horizon

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 31, 1914 (3:30 p.m. edition)

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 31, 1914 (3:30 p.m. edition)

While World War I officially began on July 28, 1914, it took American media until July 31st to catch up to what was going on–likely in part because that was the day Imperial Russia announced its vast army was mobilizing in preparation for war.

Also, dispatches from foreign correspondents were still relayed by telegraph in some places, so transcription and copyediting naturally took some time. What’s interesting when surveying lesser-known papers like the Honolulu Star-Bulletin above is how much work they put in to their front pages announcing the beginning of hostilities. If anything, they were much more visually interesting (at least to a modern-day eye) than the staid and text-heavy New York Times or Washington Post (though these papers, in their defense, were often using the words of their own foreign correspondents, not press services).

The Star-Bulletin must have had a pretty hard-working staff, as the right side of the page above looks upon close inspection a lot like a live-blog, using reports aggregated from the “Associated Press Service by Federal Wireless”:

Detail from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/31/1914

Detail from the front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/31/1914

Another of the many small city papers that used eye-catching graphics to bring home the gravity of developments in Europe was Missoula, Montana’s Daily Missoulian, which published this striking and (to me) oddly modern graphic meant to illustrate the relative sizes of the armies of the initial aggressors:

Graphic from Missoula, MT Daily Missoulian, 7/31/1914

Graphic from Missoula, MT Daily Missoulian, 7/31/1914

Much closer to the action, old line English papers like the Daily Telegraph soldiered on without much obvious drama, though the Telegraph’s coverage was comprehensive. This map published in the July 31st, 1914 Telegraph illustrated known Austrian and Serbian troop movements:

Map from the London (UK) Daily Telegraph, pubbed 7/31/1914

Map from the London (UK) Daily Telegraph, pubbed 7/31/1914

Though the media worldwide had paid close attention to the June 28, 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, it seems like July 31st was the moment everyone realized the size and gravity of what was happening on the Continent. They saw the lightning, and even as far away as Honolulu, Hawaii, they were waiting on the thunder.

#daily-missoulian, #honolulu-star-bulletin, #london-daily-telegraph, #media-history, #news-coverage, #newspapers, #the-great-war, #world-war-i