April 25, 2011

New blood

 If you ever saw A Dispatch from Reuter’s, you will remember Edward G. Robinson as Paul Julius Reuter suddenly getting his big idea – you can almost see a light bulb above his head.

The idea was to send stock exchange info from Aachen to Berlin via homing pigeon and it worked perfectly.   The newly-invented and evolving telegraph system from Berlin to Paris worked wonders, except for the Berlin-Aachen link.  The birds filled in the gap.

The movie version exaggerates a bit, but it really did happen – and in April – when Reuter was working for Agence France-Press in Aachen and it was an early indication of his ability to be first in the purveying of accurate information.  And accurate information was every bit as important in the 1850s as it is now. He was an early adopter of the telegraph and when he started his own news service in Britain, he was very quickly successful.

Carl and Margarethe Schurz

Paul Julius Reuter began life in 1816 in the Kassel region of Germany  as Israel Bere Josafat, son of a rabbi.  He was among the many bright young men who left the country after the Revolution of 1848 for the less repressive atmosphere of Britain.  There, he changed his name and went into business, eventually becoming the Baron de Reuter.

There were, incidentally,  revolutions of 1848 in just about every European country – only the UK and the Ottoman Empire escaped the ferment – but it was most intense in Germany, where liberals fought for the unification of the princely states.  But the attempt failed and many fled; the United States was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the emigration.  Thousands of Germans went to Texas and Cincinnati got 30,000 new inhabitants in its Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Among the many liberals and freethinkers who also fled to London was Carl Schurz, who soon moved on to the US. Schurz was an ambitious fellow who became a journalist, reformer, general in the Union Army, Secretary of the Interior and the first German-born American to be elected to the Senate. His wife Margarethe and her sister started the kindergarten movement in the US.

Edward G. Robinson

Carl Schurz did a lot of wonderful things for the country, but is now remembered mostly for having been the man who said, ‘My country, right or wrong –  if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.’  Ironically, he meant his adopted country, not his birthplace, and even more ironically, he is rarely quoted in full.

And, believe it or not, the part of Carl Schurz in Cheyenne Autumn, a John Wayne movie which tells a bit about Schurz’s efforts to help Native Americans, is played by… Edward G. Robinson.

Robinson, btw, was born Emmanuel Goldenberg in Bucharest, Romania.  His family emigrated to New York City in 1903.



  1. Top notch reporting thank you, very much enjoyed.


    Comment by avery — April 25, 2011 @ 9:10 am | Reply

  2. Photo of Schurz couple shows a strange looking posture, yet, I can imagine it might have been a faddish pose of the time and place. Still – strange.


    Comment by Carol — April 25, 2011 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  3. You sure unearth some earth shaking information! I can’t believe I’m sitting here, typing this, and then i just click onto a little word and you will instantly read this letter. Certainly a far cry from Reuter’s Pigeons.


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — April 26, 2011 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

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