Last week I toured the new Haus der Geschichtes Österreich (House of Austrian History), a museum that recently opened in a wing of the former Hapsburg Palace. The museum’s focus is on Austria from 1918 forward, when the Empire was dissolved.
One might be surprised at what there is still to learn.
The story begins with Emperor Karl I declaring “renounced participation” in state affairs on 11 November 1918. You might note that he did not abdicate. The family had tried to reclaim the monarchy a couple of times in the ensuing years, but without success.
Dr. Sigmund Freud kept journal notes of the events surrounding the birth of the republic. What I found more interesting than the notes was that the U.S. Library of Congress holds the manuscript, given that he and his family fled to London shortly after the Anschluss. I wonder how that came to be.
On the morning of 12 November 1918 the good people of the former empire tentatively began life in the first Austrian Republic.
In an effort to undo as much as possible as it related to the empire (and to inspire enthusiasm for the republic), even many street names were changed.
And of course, men returning from the front were given priority for the jobs they had left to the women.
At least the Social Democrats cared about the women with their demands of universal suffrage.
Yes, you read that correctly. The men of Switzerland, one of the oldest democracies in the world, kept saying Non! to the idea of women voting in national elections until 1971. Out in the Appenzell Ausserrhoden Canton, women could not vote in local elections until 1989. It took a military coup in Portugal to change the rules; and over in the diminutive alpine principality the (male) rulers quite possibly became embarrassed enough to change their voting laws just 35 years ago.
After two hours of reading I had only reached the late 1920s (!). Honestly, the museum exceeded my expectations, and I am inspired to return to learn more about my adopted country’s transition into its first republic. As I was preparing to leave a small gallery devoted to “Austrians around the World,” and a feature dated 1927 Palm Beach Florida, though caught my attention. From this piece and my own subsequent research I put together this little timeline:
1927 Marjorie Merriweather Post (the cereal heiress) hired Joseph Urban, an Austrian art deco wunderkind who immigrated to NYC in 1911 to design the lavish Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Urban had designed several buildings in NYC and is considered the “Father of Art Deco” in America.
1973 Marjorie Post bequeathed the estate to the U.S. government in the hope it would become a “Winter White House.” The upkeep was too high, however, and the government returned the property to the Post estate in 1980. In the same year Donald Trump became a “name” in NYC.
1985 Donald Trump purchased Mar-A-Lago, eventually turning a large portion of the estate into a country club that was the first such club in Florida to welcome Jewish, Black, and gay members.
2017 Mar-A-Lago was referred to in the media as the, “Winter White House” following a visit between President Donald Trump and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Now you know, too.