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1909 Seventy-five Years Ago

July 2024
2min read

On August 27 of this year, the ship George Washington arrived in New York City. On board was Sigmund Freud, who had come to deliver five lectures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary. He was to get his travel expenses and three thousand marks ($714.60). Jung and Ferenczi sailed with him, and on the voyage the three men analyzed each other’s dreams—the first example, according to Freud’s biographer Ernest Jones, of group analysis.

Freud had told friends that all he really wanted to see of America was Niagara Falls, but once he arrived he did the sights of New York: Central Park, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Columbia University, and Coney Island. Jones joined the party to dine at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden and to go to the first movie Freud had ever seen. Jones does not name it but calls it “primitive” with “plenty of wild chasing.” Freud was “quietly amused” by it.

The first lecture at Clark was on September 7. Jung had suggested that Freud speak on the interpretation of dreams, but Freud thought that the practical Americans might find such a subject too remote. He decided instead to give a general outline of psychoanalytic theory and composed each lecture during a half-hour walk. He spoke in German without notes.

William James attended the lectures, and Freud has left a moving account of their meeting: “Another event of this time which made a lasting impression on me was a meeting with William James the philosopher. I shall never forget one little scene that occurred as we were on a walk together. He stopped suddenly, handed me a bag he was carrying and asked me to walk on, saying that he would catch me up as soon as he had got through an attack of angina pectoris which was just coming on. He died of that disease a year later; and I have always wished that I might be as fearless as he was in the face of approaching death.”

Thirty years later, he was.

AUGUST 2:The Philadelphia mint issued the first of the Lincoln pennies, which the Treasury Department had ordered in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the President’s birth. The head appearing on the coin was taken from a photograph; the designer was Victor D. Brenner, a twenty-seven-year-old Russian who had come to America as a child, sold matches on the street, and studied art in New York City at Cooper Union. He then studied in Paris and, on his return to the United States, opened a studio. He had always admired Lincoln; when he heard that a new image for the penny was being contemplated, he obtained a photograph, went to work, and sent his winning design to Washington.

The New York Times thought the whole idea was a mistake and preferred the old Indian Head. An editorial complained that “Lincoln does not need the immortality of a copper cent, and the precedent would assuredly be bad in the case of some of his successors. The red Indian in his warbonnet, the sole survival of aboriginal North America, was of value as a cultural memorial, if for nothing else. … It is another ill-considered freak of Mr. [Theodore] Roosevelt’s will, of a piece with his effort last year to remove the motto In God We Trust’ from the silver dollar. Congress defeated that project, and by a freak of its own, it has for the first time inscribed this motto upon the coin of the lowest denomination.”

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