By Steve Spann, Reference Department
Some institutions are so woven into the fabric of life that they are taken for granted. One such institution is the United States Postal Service (USPS). However, an examination of the history of the American colonies shows that reliable postage was an identifiable need, except not for the reason you might expect. After independence from England, the USPS was established, and it has been an integral part of our daily lives ever since.
The American colonies were mainly coastal settlements, separated by dense forests. The colonists were less interested in news from other colonies than they were for news from back home. However, the English government needed reliable delivery service between colonies in order to deliver official communications to and from the colonial governors.
There were informal and independently run postal routes for colonists in Boston as early as 1639. Then, in 1673, Governor Francis Lovelace of New York set up a monthly post between New York and Boston. The service was short-lived, but the post rider’s trail became known as the Old Boston Post Road and today it is part of U.S. Route 1.
Governor William Penn established Pennsylvania’s first Post Office in 1683. In the South, private messengers, usually slaves, connected the huge plantations; a hogshead (a barrel 43 inches high and 26 inches in diameter) of tobacco was the penalty for failing to relay mail to the next plantation. As plantations expanded inland from port regions, so did the communications network.
Centralized postal organization began in 1692, when the English sovereigns William and Mary granted a royal patent to Englishman Thomas Neale to operate a colonial postal system for 21 years. Neale, who never set foot in North America, appointed New Jersey colonial governor Andrew Hamilton as his deputy. Hamilton then appointed postmasters in every British colony.
On May 1, 1693, the Internal Colonial Postal Union began weekly service between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Williamsburg, Virginia. The ICPU established post offices, consulted with colonial assemblies about postal rates, and, perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, did not make any money. Mail to the North American colonies was left at places like taverns and inns, as there were no post office buildings to receive the correspondence and door to door delivery came much later.
Hamilton died in debt in 1699 and assigned his patent to an heir, who in turn sold the rights back to the English in 1707. The government then appointed Hamilton’s son John as deputy postmaster general of America. He served until 1721, when he was succeeded by John Lloyd of Charleston, South Carolina. (United, n.d.). In 1730, Alexander Spotswood, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia, became deputy postmaster general of America.
The appointment of Benjamin Franklin as postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 may have been Spotswood’s most notable achievement. Franklin, only 31 years old at the time, was a successful printer, publisher, and civic leader, who would go on to become one of the most accomplished and popular men of his time.
In 1753, Benjamin Franklin and William Hunter, postmaster of Williamsburg, were named by the English as joint Deputy Postmaster General of the American colonies. (United, n.d.). Franklin moved quickly, as you might expect he would, making a 1,600-mile inspection of post offices. He also organized a weekly mail wagon between Philadelphia and Boston. Franklin’s postal riders traveled day and night by horseback in relays, using lanterns to light their way. The service cut mail delivery time between the cities in half, making the colonial post both efficient for colonists and profitable for the Crown.
The colonial posts in North America registered their first profit in 1760. When Franklin left office, post roads operated from Maine to Florida and from New York to Canada.
In 1774, as tension grew between the colonists and England, the Crown dismissed Franklin from his position because of his revolutionary activities.
William Goddard formed a partnership with Benjamin Franklin to publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. Savvy publishers like Goddard and Franklin used private carriers to get their news past the suspicious eyes of the Crown post, which would have confiscated and destroyed any mail or news it deemed unsuitable for the Crown. Goddard and Franklin were using the Chronicle to report on controversial topics. The Chronicle was subsequently driven out of business when the Crown post refused to accept it in the mails. Goddard responded by creating a new postal system, that is the basis for our current USPS system. The new system was based upon some values that we now take for granted, but that were revolutionary at the time. The values included open communication, freedom from governmental interference, and the free exchange of ideas. The plan also included the creation of the position of Postmaster.
Soon after Franklin had been removed from office, Goddard set up the Constitutional Post for intercolonial mail service. Colonies paid subscriptions and net revenues were used to improve mail service. Goddard presented a plan for the new postage system to Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act until after the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Spring of 1775. By 1775, when the Continental Congress met at Philadelphia, Goddard’s post was flourishing, and 30 Post Offices operated between Williamsburg and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
However, after the colonists won victories in those battles, Goddard’s “Constitutional Post” was adopted on July 26, 1775, by the Second Continental Congress. Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin Postmaster General of the United Colonies. Goddard was disappointed at being passed over for the position of Postmaster, but Franklin named him Riding Surveyor.
This independent postal service was significant because it kept the colonial population informed about events during the American Revolution and allowed for communication by and between patriots from different colonies. The revolutionary post became so popular among colonists that it forced the Crown post out of business. The Crown post folded on Christmas day, 1775.
The colonies became the United States on July 4, 1776, and as the states began to create their new government in the late 1780s, postal issues were among the issues that were debated and not resolved. In June 1788, the ninth state ratified the Constitution, which gave Congress the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” in Article I, Section 8. A year later, the Act of September 22, 1789, continued the Post Office and made the Postmaster General subject to the direction of the President. Four days later, President Washington appointed Samuel Osgood as the first Postmaster General under the Constitution. A population of almost four million was served by 75 Post Offices and about 2,400 miles of post roads.
The Post Office received two one-year extensions by the Acts of August 4, 1790, and March 3, 1791.
The 1792 Postal Act
Congressional debate considered issues of a free press, personal privacy, and national growth. Finally, the Postal Act of February 20, 1792, defined the Post Office Department. Under the act, newspapers would be allowed in the mails at low rates, in order to promote the spread of information across the several states.
To ensure privacy, postal officials were forbidden to open any letters unless they were undeliverable. Finally, Congress assumed responsibility for the creation of postal routes, ensuring that mail routes would not only serve existing settlements but also promote expansion into new territories.
The Act let newspaper editors exchange their newspapers by mail without any fee, so that each could more easily print the other’s news. The idea was to promote the free exchange of information. By 1825, newspapers circulated in-state or within 100 miles of publication were charged a fee of 1 cent for delivery, while the charge was for 1-1/2 cents if delivery went outside that range. Today newspapers and magazines still enjoy such special rates.
Later legislation enlarged the duties of the Post Office, strengthened and unified its organization, and provided rules for its development. The Act of May 8, 1794, continued the Post Office indefinitely.
The Post Office moved from Philadelphia in 1800 when Washington, D.C., became the seat of government. Two horse-drawn wagons carried all postal records, furniture, and supplies. Read the rest of this entry
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Originally posted September 14, 2018
Can you believe we’re living in The Future? For decades, the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away. Folks imagined that, by now, we’d have robot teachers and colonies on Mars, and the end of all disease. Companies would add the number “2000” after model numbers to connote cutting-edge technology from the bright, distant horizon. Marty McFly’s 2015 was a land of flying cars, expanding pizza, and self-tying shoes. (And fax machines. Fax machines were everywhere.)
Some of those visions for the future were spot on; others now seem charmingly out-of-date; and we’re still waiting for many of the rest to be invented. But isn’t it fantastic how often we hear about inventions that were inspired by Science Fiction? If “[science] is magic that works,” as Kurt Vonnegut says in Cat’s Cradle, then Science Fiction is the root of much of that magic. Imagination becomes ideas, which in turn become experiments. Experiments lead to discoveries, then inventions, and ultimately to the commonplace wonders we take for granted: such as the submarine (Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), the cell phone (the direct descendent of the “communicator” from the original Star Trek series), and even nuclear power (H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free). 
Wait. A fiction writer born in the 1800s gave the world the idea for nuclear power? It’s true! Decades after its publication, a scientist named Leo Szilard “read [The World Set Free] and was immediately inspired to create what Wells had dreamed up” – for better or for worse.  And when a teenaged Robert H. Goddard read Wells’ The War of the Worlds, it set him on a path of “research [that] culminated with the Apollo program, and man’s landing on the moon.”  So there’s an undeniable link between the Science Fiction genre and humanity’s incredible achievements. Keep that in mind the next time your friends give you a hard time for being a sci-fi geek!
Another cool thing about the sci-fi genre is that it often combines elements of many other genres, as well. There’s sci-fi horror, sci-fi thriller, sci-fi mystery, sci-fi romance… You get it. So, without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a great list of Science Fiction authors (many of them you’ll find on our genre bookmarks in the library), titles of some of their works, and sometimes the additional genres that come into play. (For example, when you see “humor,” think of it as “sci-fi + humor,” and so on.)
- Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (humor)
- A. American – Survivalist series (pulpy but fun)
- Charlie Jane Anders – All the Birds in the Sky
- Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist (manga)
- Catherine Asaro – Quantum Rose
- Isaac Asimov – Foundation series; Galactic Empire series; Robot series
- Gertrude Barrows Bennett – Citadel of Fear (under pseudonym “Francis Stevens”)
- Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination (cyberpunk); The Demolished Man
- Leigh Brackett – The Long Tomorrow
- Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles; The Veldt (short story)
- Octavia E. Butler – Xenogenesis series
- Pat Cadigan – Synners (cyberpunk)
- Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game series (YA)
- Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World (published in 1666!)
- Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
- C. L. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
- Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (there are four books in the series); Childhood’s End
- Ernest Cline – Ready Player One; Armada
- Peter Clines – 14 (mystery, horror, paranormal); The Fold (thriller)
- Michael Crichton – Sphere (psychological thriller); Jurassic Park; Prey
- Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (police procedural)
- William Gibson – Neuromancer (cyberpunk); The Difference Engine (written with Bruce Sterling) (steampunk); Virtual Light (dark humor, detective)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Herland
- Joe Haldeman – The Forever War series; The Accidental Time Machine
- Frank Herbert – Dune saga
- Hugh Howey – Silo series (post-apocalyptic)
- Kameron Hurley – The Stars Are Legion
- Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Ape and Essence
- P. D. James – Children of Men
- Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain
- Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
- Ursula K. Le Guin – Hainish Cycle; The Eye of the Heron; The Left Hand of Darkness
- Madeleine L’Engle – Kairos cycle (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time) (children’s, “science fantasy”)
- Cixin Liu – Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (hard science fiction)
- Katherine MacLean – Pictures Don’t Lie (stories)
- Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
- George R. R. Martin – Tuf Voyaging; the Wildcards universe
- Robert Masello – The Einstein Prophecy (historical fiction, mystery, thriller)
- Julian May – Pliocene Exile series (high fantasy)
- Anne McCaffrey – The Ship Who Sang
- Seanan McGuire – Parasitology Trilogy series (sociological, under pseudonym “Mira Grant”)
- Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
- Judith Merril – The Tomorrow People
- Elizabeth Moon – The Speed of Dark
- Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space series; Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds series
- Alice Norton – The Time Traders (under pseudonym “Andre Norton”)
- Christopher Nuttall – The Oncoming Storm (military, space opera); The Royal Sorceress (steampunk, alternate history)
- Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death
- Malka Older – Infomocracy
- George Orwell – 1984 (speculative, “social science fiction”)
- Frederik Pohl – The Coming of the Quantum Cats; the Heechee saga (space opera)
- Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy (literary)
- Joanna Russ – The Female Man (experimental and not what you think)
- Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
- Carl Sagan – Contact
- John Scalzi – Redshirts; Old Man’s War series
- Alice Bradley Sheldon – Her Smoke Rose up Forever (stories, under pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.”)
- Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
- Dan Simmons – Ilium series (fantasy); Hyperion Cantos series (fantasy)
- Neal Stephenson – Cryptonomicon (historical fiction); Snow Crash (cyberpunk)
- Karin Tidbek – Amatka
- Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth (adventure)
- Thea von Harbou – Metropolis
- Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse Five; The Sirens of Titan (all conceptual/unconventional)
- Sabrina Vourvoulias – Ink
- David Weber – Honor Harrington series (military); The Apocalypse Troll
- Andy Weir – The Martian; Artemis
- H. G. Wells – The Time Machine; The Island of Doctor Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds
- Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries series (described as a fun read!)
- Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog (historical fiction, rom-com, humor, time travel)
That’s enough to get you started, right? Remember, if we don’t have a book at the Williamson County Public Library, we’ll try to locate it with Inter-Library Loan. Enjoy – and be inspired!
I sourced most of the woman authors and their works from this excellent list: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/50-sci-fi-must-reads-by-women
By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
Originally posted November 20, 2015
Did you know that Williamson County Public Library patrons can access Ancestry.com for free while in the library? Neither did I – and I am guessing that many other people in Williamson County don’t know either. Like many people in the United States, I have a multicultural background, but have never been absolutely certain what my ethnicity truly is. I have long been interested in tracing my roots and wondered when my ancestors first arrived on this continent, but without access to the proper resources, I never really looked into it. My surname suggests that I am Scottish and I have always celebrated that part of my lineage without really knowing the percentage or who first emigrated from the land of bagpipes and single malt whisky. Also, I have been told that my maternal side is of German or Austrian descent, but no one is really sure.
Census Records, Birth and Death Certificates and Marriage Records
When I first started searching Ancestry.com for information on my grandparents, the most readily available data that I found was census records. The search tab at the top left side of the home page provides users with a number of search options, but the easiest way to get started is to simply click the green “Begin Searching” button in the middle of the page. Though I was too young to remember meeting him, I know my paternal great grandfather’s full name and where he lived. By searching his name and town of residence, I was able to locate his father’s name via a combination of census, birth and death records. I repeated this process several times, and through the historical mist, I was able to find that my fifth great grandfather was born in Scotland in 1681 and arrived in what would become the United States in 1766. My family name has apparently been in this country for a very long time and the reveal of this information somewhat diminished my feelings of a connection with the Scottish homeland. I am not going to stop enjoying single malt Scotch whisky or listening to the pipes, but maybe I shouldn’t have gotten married in a kilt…either way, I had another side of my family to research.
The maternal side of my lineage has always been somewhat of a mystery. No one in the family seems to know where the names come from. The names of my maternal grandparents both suggest German, Austrian, Slovak or Hungarian lineage. I searched my grandfather’s name and with very little effort, found out that his father was Hungarian. The 1920 U.S. Census records show that he was born in Hungary and his native tongue was Slavish. While his mother was born in Pennsylvania, her parents were born in Hungary as well, with the same linguistic details. I am 3rd generation Hungarian and never knew it! Maybe that’s why I like stuffed cabbage and lekvar pierogis so much? I don’t know. Regardless, I was excited to know that I had found a relatively recent connection to my European past. And because in many cases, Ancestry.com provides users with an actual scanned copy of the documents, I was able to see that this area in Pennsylvania was a true ethnic community. The birthplaces of the majority of the people (or the birthplaces of their parents) listed on the census record were Eastern European; Austria, Hungary, and Russia. How could my mother and her siblings have grown up not knowing that their grandparents were from Hungary? The reason is probably because so many European migrants of that time wished to disassociate themselves from their past and start a new life in America. They were struggling to make a new start while making a living in a brand new country, most often doing very difficult factory work. Maintaining and passing on a cultural identity was probably not on their list of important things to do.
When I was younger, I remember being told to be careful what you look for, you might find something you didn’t want to know. I grew up knowing most of my great aunts and uncles on my mother’s side of the family. There was only one uncle that I never met, who was killed in WW II…or so I thought he was the only one. Upon examining some census data that listed the household members at my great grandparents’ residence, I read a name listed that I had never heard before. A female child that was unknown to me. This mystery aunt was 2 years older than my oldest great aunt, of whom I grew up visiting on a regular basis. Who was this person? Was she the black sheep of the family that was shunned and disowned? Was she a convicted criminal that the family was keeping hidden? Maybe she was busted for making bathtub gin during Prohibition. I hoped so. That would be so cool. I was both eager and afraid to find out. I had to know who this person was and I could only hope that there was some guarded, veiled story to go along with this ghost on the census form. With anxious trepidation, I called my aunt and asked if she knew the identity of this missing relative. Without hesitation, she said, “That was grandma’s sister who died.” Mystery solved, though, too abruptly for my apprehensive curiosity. But what happened to her and why was she never mentioned? I was told that she died from a common complication after childbirth simply because she didn’t have access to the necessary medication and treatment. Wow. It had happened so long ago that she was never mentioned in my time. No romantic tales of rebellion, crime or calamity, but a somber reminder of harder times, to say the least.
Phone and Street Directories
My searches also produced a large number of scanned city phone directories dating back to the 1920s. When searching for a name on Ancestry.com, users are given categories on the left of the page. One of those choices is “Schools, Directories and Church Histories.” Though it was never mentioned in any family stories, I now know that the likely reason my maternal grandparents met is because their families lived on the same street. These old phone directories most often show not only telephone numbers and addresses, but also the name of individuals who were living at that address, i.e. another relative or a boarder. This is a great tool in locating exactly where a relative may have lived. And if nothing else, it is intriguing to see telephone numbers such as “WAlbridge 1154 and BLackstone 2311.”
My paternal grandfather and many of my maternal great uncles were in World War Two. I was able to locate the muster rolls that listed my grandfather’s name and the ship he was on. (Yeah, I never heard the term “muster roll” either. It is the register of the officers and men in a military unit or on a ship. Thanks, Wikipedia.) I also found out that my maternal great uncle was killed at Pearl Harbor and I located a detailed photograph of the monument that lists his name. Additionally in the military records, I was able to find the scanned copies of WW I and WWII draft registration cards for both of my great grandfathers. The documents are hand written and include the signatures of the men. To locate documents such as these, simply type in the name of the person that you are searching and after clicking “Search”, you will see all of the results for that name. To the left of the page, there is a listing of categories, such as “Census and Voter Lists” and “Birth, Marriage and Death.” The third category is “Military.” This option will produce information on draft registration, enlistment, casualties, and gravesites, just to name a few. There is also a great deal of information on Civil War soldiers and the American Revolution.
This is just a sample of the information available at Ancestry.com and a bit of my personal experience in looking for my roots. It was great fun for me searching through my relative’s collective pasts and getting just a glimpse of their lives well before I was a twinkle in someone’s eye. Whenever you are ready to do your own searching, come to the second floor of the Williamson County Public Library and log on to a computer or visit one of the staff in the Special Collections department and they will help you with your queries. Access to Ancestry.com is only available to patrons while they are physically in the library. On the library’s website, move the mouse over Special Collections on the left of the page and click on Digital Genealogy. From there, click on Access Ancestry Library while visiting the library. The Williamson County Public Library also offers free classes on Introduction to Ancestry.com once a month.
But be advised, you may find something you didn’t expect…
By Lisa Lombard, Reference Department
Originally posted on July 17, 2015
You read it correctly; July is National Ice-Cream Month! In addition to celebrating the Fourth of July, we have a month long celebration of ice-cream! Does that not sound awesome? Who does not love an excuse to eat ice-cream (or anything you normally would not have)? On those days when you don’t want to leave the house, want an extra special treat for a birthday party, the Fourth of July, a bar-b-q, or any other type of party homemade ice-cream will be a crowd pleaser! The two following recipes are for vanilla ice-cream, to keep it simple especially if this is your first time making homemade ice-cream. The first recipe you will need an electric ice-cream maker and the second recipe is one sure to get family and friends involved (or a good arm workout for yourself!) and does not require any type of electricity, just good ole fashioned elbow grease! Happy ice-cream making and enjoy the scrumptious summertime treat!
Recipe #1 (This is a Paula Dean Recipe from the FoodNetwork)
Total Time: 3 hr 10 min Prep: 10 min Inactive: 3 hr
Yield: approximately 1 gallon
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Whole milk
- With an electric mixer, cream eggs and sugar. Add evaporated milk, condensed milk, and vanilla. Beat well.
- Pour into an electric ice cream churn. Add whole milk to fill line. Insert dasher.
- Pack cooler 1/3 full with ice. Add a layer of rock salt. Repeat layering with ice and salt until full. Note: be careful not to overfill, spilling salt into the churn.
- When machine starts to labor or shut off, remove the dasher and drain water. Fill with more ice and salt.
- Cover with a towel and let harden.
Recipe #2 (This recipe was found at the blog, 2 little hooligans)
Ingredients and supplies:
- 2 TBL sugar
- 1 cup half & half (or light cream)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup coarse salt or table salt
- gallon-sized Ziploc bag
- pint-sized Ziploc bag
- Mix the sugar, half & half and vanilla extract together. Pour into a pint-sized Ziploc baggie. Make sure it seals tightly.
- Now take the gallon-sized Ziploc bag and fill it up halfway with ice and pour the salt over the ice. Now place the cream filled bag into the ice filled bag and seal.
- Make sure it is sealed tightly and start shaking. Shake for about 5 minutes (or 8 minutes if you use heavy cream).
- Open the gallon-sized bag and check to see if the ice cream is hard, if not keep shaking. Once the ice cream is finished, quickly run the closed pint-sized baggie under cold water to quickly clean the salt off the baggie. You are now ready to dig in and enjoy!
There you have it, two ways to make homemade ice-cream in celebration of National Ice-Cream month! Do not forget to keep some fun and tasty toppings on hand for those who want to jazz up their classic vanilla ice-cream, enjoy!
By Shannon Owens, Reference Department
June 28, 1914…a date which will live in infamy? Well, something like that, at any rate. For those left in the dark, June 28th signifies the anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke and heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Most casual observers believe this incident was the cause of The Great War (WWI.) It should go without saying that this grossly oversimplifies the situation. The late 1800s saw a shift in the fairly equal balance of powers that had previously dominated the political landscape of Europe. Several causes led to this, but suffice to say, the continent was braced for a fight. By 1914, Europe was simply a ticking time bomb, ready to explode. Many thought war was inevitable (this begs the chicken vs the egg question: did war break out simply because enough important people didn’t see another recourse? Depressing to consider.) At any rate, a Serbian national shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, on a state visit in Sarajevo…and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is less often mused over is how unlikely it was that this situation would come to fruition in the first place. Heck, Franz Ferdinand wasn’t even supposed to be the heir to the great Habsburg line in the first place. His cousin, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, was the son of Emperor Franz Josef. However, he died suddenly, in a sordid fog of mystery, that wouldn’t be out of place in a 21st century soap opera. Rudolf was not a man known for fidelity, the number of affairs he conducted were countless. Cue the Mayerling Incident. In 1887, he bought Mayerling and turned it into a hunting lodge of sorts. The following year, Crown Prince Rudolf (then 30 years old) met Baroness Marie Vetsera, a young woman of 17. Simply put, the baroness was utterly besotted, she worshiped him fully. For his part, it’s hard to imagine that he returned the young girl’s ardor, but he probably cared for her. At the very least, he was a vain man, and likely loved to be the center of a lovely young woman’s world. On the morning of January 30th, 1889, a valet broke his way into a Mayerling bedroom after hearing two pistol shots. Once inside, he found a gruesome scene. The prince’s skull had been partially blown away, his body slumped on the bed next to the body of his young mistress.
The official report stated that Rudolf had shot his mistress then proceeded to kill himself (he had also been declared “mentally unbalanced”.) This is likely the truth. Other conspiracies have been suggested over the years but none really stick. Crown Prince Rudolf (despite his womanizing and carousing) was a more liberal figure than his father and other European heads of state at that time. He was resolutely against unnecessary military conflict and intervention. He was constantly at odds with his overbearing father and may very well have been a deeply unhappy man.
With Rudolf’s death, Archduke Karl Ludwig (the emperor’ eldest surviving brother) became the heir presumptive. After Karl Ludwig’s death, his son, Franz Ferdinand, became the heir presumptive. Had Crown Prince Rudolf lived (and if his father abdicated in the tradition of his father before him) Austria would have had a leader with a far more pacifist outlook than his father. He may very well have been against the military alliance with Germany that was instrumental in the outbreak of World War I. Unfortunately, that was not the way history played out. The Great War was one of the most brutal wars of all time, resulting in the deaths of roughly 40 million souls.