What Happened Last Twosday? Exploring 2-22-22 in Primary Sources

2-22-22: That’s a fun string of numbers, and it represents a once-in-a-lifetime date! February 2, 2022, when written in month-day-year notation, is 2-22-22, a string of twos that has led some people to call the day Twosday. (Conveniently, 2-22-22 even landed on a Tuesday this time around.) This date only occurs once every century, and that realization sent me poking into the online collections of the Library of Congress to see what I could discover about what was happening last Twosday–100 years ago, on February 22, 1922.

More discussion on bonus bill, The Union Daily Times, Feb. 22, 1922

As I began my investigation, I thought of three online collections that are organized by date:

I searched the historic newspapers in Chronicling America on February 22, 1922, limited to front pages, which yielded slightly more than 100 results. By browsing the visual display of headlines in those results, I was able to find a few significant events that I could learn more about by searching other Library collections.

Many of the most vivid headlines addressed the tragic explosion and crash of the U.S. Army airship Roma, which killed more than thirty people on February 21, 1922. “Mechanics Say Gas Bag of Roma Rotten” is how the Capital Journal of Salem, Oregon, chose to head the story. But a bill to pay bonuses to U.S. soldiers after World War I was also prominent across several papers, and that topic seemed more likely to be well represented in the Congressional Record. The article “More Discussion on Bonus Bill” noted that the treasury secretary opposed the bill, but suggested that if it passed, it should be funded via a sales tax. Students may explore other articles to learn about additional solutions proposed to raise the funds.

Browsing in the Congressional Record to February 22, 1922, I clicked on the House tab and searched the PDF for “bonus” and confirmed that the soldiers’ bonus was discussed that day. Oddly enough, though, my favorite Congressional speech on the soldiers’ bill turned up when I was browsing another topic entirely! I decided to browse for “Washington” to see how, if at all, the House of Representatives marked the first president’s birthday, and discovered a speech from the House floor by Rep. Hamilton Fish III in which he weighed in on the bonus question with George Washington’s thoughts on what the nation owes soldiers, reading from Washington’s letters. Sometimes the best discoveries are unintentional! You can read an excerpt in the image below, or open the full account of the proceedings and scroll to page 2908 for the complete remarks.

Image 540 of Associated Press, Washington, D.C., Bureau News Dispatches: 1922, Feb. 16-28

Detail from the Congressional Record – House, February 22, 1922, page 2908

This scene which was reported shortly after Fish began his speech makes for surprisingly entertaining reading:

Mr. CLARKE of New York: Mr. Speaker, I wish to say that I do not think it is proper to inject the discussion of the bonus question into the proceedings on a day set aside to honoring the life and works of George Washington. I shall have to object.”

The Speaker called for an objection, but hearing none, the discussion of the bonus continued. Reading the actual words spoken, as recorded at the time, adds a richness to understanding the discussion.

The Associated Press News Dispatches collection, by contrast, offers news reports of national and world events from 1915-1930. These were intended to inform news reports, not provide a full transcription of an event. The dispatch featured above summarizes Senator Joseph France’s response to the proposed bonus quoting a few key phrases and noting that “Senator France illustrated his address with numerous large maps which were hung on the Senate walls.” In brief, he expressed concerns about potential economic strain.

My dive into this topic left me with multiple directions to continue my research: I could pursue the ultimate fate of the bonus bill, look into the ways in which ex-soldiers were treated after World War I, or even find out more about the career of Rep. Hamilton Fish III, a war veteran who was a frequent advocate of veterans’ causes.

My search was inspired by an eye-catching date, but the research approach I took can also be applied to learn more about a specific event, or to shed light on the subjects of public debate during a particular period in history. Students might follow a similar process of discovery on other dates or topics of interest. Let us know in the comments what your students discover!

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