Research Notes: Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines

Do you remember the days of card catalogs? Or the days when, if your library did not have the book you wanted, you had to wait weeks—maybe months—for interlibrary loan? (And that was if your library was lucky enough to be a part of a consortium. Many were not.) Even during my college years, I made regular trips to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., because that was the only place I knew I could find what I needed. Since I could not check out the books, I spent a small fortune (and many, many hours) photocopying. I still have their distinctive blue copy card in my wallet.

The point is that “kids these days” are lucky. Do I sound old now? Sorry, not sorry—look at the wealth of sources on the internet! With the hard work of university librarians around the world, plus the search engine know-how of Google and others, you can find rare, out-of-print, and out-of-copyright books in their full-text glory.

Today, I (virtually) paged through an original 1900 copy of Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines to bring you some of the original images that you cannot find anywhere else. For example, you may know that almost every village in the Philippines—no matter how remote or small—had a band of some sort, whether woodwind, brass, or bamboo. In fact, these musicians learned American ragtime songs so quickly and so enthusiastically that many Filipinos thought “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” was the American national anthem. You may know this, but can you visualize it? You don’t have to anymore. Here is an image in color:

Filipino street band 1900 full color image from Harper's Magazine in Gilded Age American colony
Full color image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Smaller bands than the one pictured above played at some of the hottest restaurants in Manila, like the Paris on the famous Escolta thoroughfare. I have seen the Paris’s advertisements in commercial directories, but I had never seen a photo of the interior of it (or really many buildings at all) since flash photography was brand new. Harper’s had a budget, though, so they spared no expense to bring you this image of American expatriate chic:

American expatriates navy officers at Paris restaurant in Manila Philippines in Gilded Age colony
Image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Not every soldier or sailor ate as well as the officers at the Paris. The soldiers on “the Rock” of Corregidor Island, which guards the mouth of Manila Bay, had a more natural setting for their hotel and restaurant:

Corregidor Island hotel in mouth of Manila Bay Philippines during war between Philippines and United States during American colonial period
Image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Another interesting image is of a “flying mess” (or meal in the field). Notice the Chinese laborers in the bottom right hand corner. Despite banning any further Chinese immigration to the Philippines with the renewal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1902, the US government and military regularly employed Chinese laborers who were already in the islands.

American Army soldiers field mess during war between Philippines and United States in Gilded Age
Full color image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

But enough politics. It’s almost the weekend, so this relaxing image might be the most appropriate:

Filipina girls women in hammock posing for American photographer during colonial Gilded Age
Image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Want to learn how to find such cool sources yourself? Next weekend, on April 22nd at 1pm, I will give my research workshop, The History Games: Using Real Events to Write the Best Fiction in Any Genre, at the Hingham Public Library, in Hingham, Massachusetts. The hour-long workshop is free, but the library asks that you register because space is limited. Follow the previous library link, if interested. Hope to see you there!

(Featured banner image of card catalog from the 2011 Library of Congress Open House was taken by Ted Eytan and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)

Sugar Sun series glossary term #24: quartermaster

Quartermaster is a military word, and therefore it may be as unfamiliar to you (or more so) than the other phrases in this glossary. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term comes from the Middle Dutch word quartiermeester, the naval officer responsible for organizing the watches. This duty was expanded to include all provisioning—from rations to ammunition, from rifles to haversacks, and from ships to horses.

Today, military logistics is more important than ever. The US Armed Forces recruits men and women with engineering and business degrees to keep the soldiers, sailors, aviators, and marines “marching on their stomachs.” But during the Philippine-American War, it seems that anybody could get a job in the quartermaster depot. Why were they so desperate?

After the Civil War, the United States Army had shrunk to a size smaller than today’s New York City Police Department. Think about that for a minute. Yes, there were small military interventions in Mexico, Korea, and Samoa, in addition to a series of conflicts known as the Indian Wars, designed to consolidate Federal control over the rest of North America. But at the time Americans feared they would lose their liberty to a large standing army, so the military remained small despite it all.

When the Spanish-American War began, Congress found itself in a bind. At first they relied upon volunteer units from each of the states, but those enlistments were only a year long. When the Cuban conflict turned into a protracted war in the Philippines, Congress doubled the size of the regular Army once, then twice. For the first time, the US sent a large force to Asia—up to 69,000 at a time—to fight its first overseas war of occupation.

This huge force needed to be fed and armed. If you could read and write, you might be able to swing a job “in the rear with the gear,” rather than wading through rivers and rice paddies under fire. And, if you had an entrepreneurial spirit, a golden opportunity beckoned: crates and crates of goods came in, and who was to say if a few hundred pounds here or there was “lost”?*

One of these “entrepreneurs” was Captain Frederick J. Barrows, who was found to have been embezzling $100,000 a month—the equivalent of $2.9 million in today’s terms—in flour, bacon, and other staples. He then sold the goods to local hotels, bakeries, and restaurants.

Barrows got away with this scheme for almost a year. In sum, he and his accomplices probably made (and spent) about $24 million in 2015 dollars. Even now, that goes a looooong way. As the article says, Barrows used his ill-gotten gains to lead “a scandalously immoral life…entertaining officers,” which means he was throwing big parties with lots of prostitutes. It’s good to be the quartermaster.

But, be careful: if you steal while you’re in the Army, and steal from the Army, you get punished according to Army regulations—in this case, five years imprisonment in Bilibid Prison in Manila, which might have been worse than Leavenworth. The Spanish built Bilibid but never imprisoned their own citizens inside, which is never a good combination. Don’t let the quaint postcard below fool you.

Bilibid Postcard Colorized

So you see, the scandal I used in Hotel Oriente was a real one. But my hero, Moss North, managed to avoid the dragnet. How? Read the book and find out. It’s available free on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase at only $0.99.

Hotel Oriente Banner

* In the “history repeats itself” column, the US sent plastic-wrapped crates of cash—$12 billion dollars worth—to Baghdad in 2004, and about half of that seemed to disappear. It was called “the largest theft of funds in national history.” But don’t worry—the Department of Defense finally accounted for the funds in 2011, which to some was 7 years too late.

Sugar Sun series glossary term #8: Insurrecto

Though the conflict began over events in Cuba, America fought its first battle of the Spanish-American War in Manila. Historians debate what President McKinley’s intentions were—did he want to take the Philippines in its entirety, just keep Manila, or defeat Spain and leave? But, as they say, “appetite comes with eating.” Once the Americans had Manila, they wanted all the islands. Only problem? The Philippine revolutionaries who helped defeat the Spanish did not want the Americans to stay—and they controlled most of the rest of the country.

Filipino Army outpost outside Manila. Library of Congress photo in the public domain. Digitized by Scott Slaten.

Instead of calling what followed a war—assuming two equal adversaries—the Americans called it the Philippine Insurrection—with only one legitimate authority. (The Spanish sold the islands to the Americans for $20 million in December 1898, which was the basis of their legal claim. On what authority the Spanish sold the Philippines, that is another question.) So instead of calling the Filipinos revolutionaries, patriots, or nationalists, they called them insurgents, bandits, and ladrones. (The last two are the same thing, the latter in Spanish.) The favorite American term, though, was insurrecto (insurrectionist).

Now the conflict is called the Philippine-American War, and it officially lasted from 1899 to 1902, though hostilities did not fully end until 1913. Despite the name change, Filipinos after 1899 are rarely called revolutionaries, even in the more balanced American textbooks. In my books, I use the term insurrecto whenever Americans are speaking because that term is true to the period. It is not a political statement (as you could probably tell by the tone of my posts). (Featured image is of captured General Vicente Lukbán, center, who led the revolution on the islands of Samar and Leyte. He is seated with 1st Lt. Alphonse Strebler, 39th Philippine Scouts, and 2nd Lt. Ray Hoover, 35th Philippine Scouts. Image in the public domain from the Library of Congress, scanned by Scott Slaten.)