You're right Nik, I've got a screwy installation. I just started a new game as a test and I was able to build a factory on the first August turn of 1914. That explains a lot and actually makes me feel a whole let better about some other strange things that have been happening.
Two things I have to do. First apologize to the publishers for criticising them harshly and wholly undeservedly - I am indeed very sorry for that. Second, reinstall.