History Book: The Treaty of Versailles and the Stonewall Riots

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, June 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, a supermarket first as a customer buys a pack of gum in a whole new way. Plus, 50 years ago this week, a police raid on a gay bar sparks a five-day riot.

EICHER: But first, the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles as Germany and the Allies bring an end to World War I. Here’s Paul Butler.

SONG: [When The Boys Come Home — Frederick Wheeler]

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: The November 11th, 1918 armistice brought hostilities in the “Great War” to an end. But after, it took the Allied nations nearly six months before they could agree upon the terms of a peace treaty with Germany.

Beginning in January 1919, Allied delegates from around the world met in Paris. Five countries led the conference: France demanded the largest reparations, since it had borne the brunt of the German invasion. England didn’t suffer as much property damage, but it lost more than 700,000 men and also demanded stiff repayments.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had been largely responsible for the brokered truce. He looked to the future—hoping to create a league of nations out of the chaos. He opposed harsh punishment of Germany after the war.

Initially, many expected the open peace negotiations to only take a few weeks. But the conflicting demands of the “Big Five”—and many smaller nations—proved surprisingly difficult.

Eventually, the meetings moved behind closed doors between Britain, France, Italy, and the United States.

The Allies finally settled on terms in June 1919 and presented them to the German delegation. The treaty reduced the land area of Germany, returning it to former boundaries.

The treaty also limited the size of the German military. And Germany had to admit sole responsibility for the war—and make reparations of 20 billion gold marks, plus future payments.

At first the German delegation refused to sign the treaty. The Allies responded with an ultimatum—that they must accept the terms or face invasion. So on June 27th, 1919, representatives of the new German government and the Allied nations signed the Treaty of Versailles, bringing an end to World War I.

Next, 50 years ago this week. The birth of the “Gay Pride” or “Gay Liberation” movement.

Up until the 1960s, nearly every state still enforced strict sodomy laws. Those laws treated “unnatural acts” as a crime. But homosexual advocates, both the flamboyant and academic, were gaining traction and notoriety.

By and large, Americans were uncomfortable with the growing visibility. You can hear that in this 1967 CBS report with Mike Wallace:

WALLACE: We discovered that Americans consider homosexuality more harmful to society than adultery, abortion, or prostitution…

During this time, many homosexuals found refuge in large urban areas, like New York City. The Stonewall Inn was a popular destination in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The small brick building was a well known “gay bar” that the mob operated.

In the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, police conduct a surprise raid. When employees and customers refuse to cooperate, law enforcement begins using force. The commotion draws the attention of neighbors, who gather in the street and nearby park.

As police slowly release people from inside, many join the growing crowd. Soon the bar is surrounded and the police are trapped inside. An impromptu protest turns violent and someone tries setting the bar on fire. The riot continues off and on for the next five days.

The Stonewall uprising marks the start of the public movement for homosexual rights—not only in this country, but around the world. The first “gay pride” parades occur one year later to commemorate the riots.

SONG: [We’re Shopping — Pet Shop Boys]

And finally, on a lighter note, the first sale using the Universal Product Code or UPC symbol.

AUDIO: [Sound of UPC scanner]

On June 26th, 1974, IBM demonstrates its laser scanner and barcode reader at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The cart is full of products, but the first item scanned is a package of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

It takes some time, but the technology eventually takes off as national retailers implement the new scanners and manufacturers incorporate the symbols into their packaging design.

Some preachers decry the technology, as another step toward a global, cashless society—or even as the sign of the beast:

AUDIO: For the purposes of this study we will focus on the number 6-6-6, and its use in the Universal Product Code…

But according to the Smithsonian Institute, the inspiration for the barcode was simply the desire to speedup checkout, while increasing efficiency and minimizing mistakes. Forty-five years later, anyone waiting in line at the local big-box store might question if that stated goal will ever arrive.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Diana Davies, The New York Public Library) Gay Liberation Front march on Times Square in New York, N.Y., 1969.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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