AMH 1A Writing Assignment


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U.S. A N A R R A T I V E H I S T O R Y

Seventh Edit ion

V O L U M E 2 : F R O M 1 8 6 5

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The Way You Once Had to Teach History . . .

McGraw-Hill provides INSIGHT® to help you achieve your course goals. How would your teaching experience change if you could access this information at a glance, either on your computer or tablet device?

1. How are my students performing?

2. How is this particular student performing?

3. How is my section performing?

4. How eff ective are my assignments?

5. How eff ective is this particular assignment?

McGraw-Hill’s Connect Insight® is a fi rst-of- its-kind analytics tool that distills clear answers to these fi ve questions and delivers them to instructors in at-a-glance snapshots.

Connect Insight’s® elegant navigation makes it intuitive and easy-to-use, allowing you to focus on what is important: helping your students succeed.


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U.S.: A Narrative History off ers thirty interactive maps that support geographical as well as historical thinking. These maps appear in both the eBook and Connect History exercises.

For some interactive maps, students click on the boxes in the map legend to see changing boundaries, visualize migration routes, or analyze war battles and election results.

With others, students manipulate a slider to help them better understand change over time.

Interactive maps give students a hands-on understanding of geography.


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U.S.: A Narrative History is a 21st-century approach to teaching history. Students study smarter with SmartBook.

The fi rst and only adaptive reading experience, SmartBook is changing the way students read and learn.

• As the student engages with SmartBook, questions test his or her understanding. In response to the student’s answers, the reading experience actually adapts to what the student knows or doesn’t know.

• SmartBook highlights the content the student is struggling with, so he or she can focus on reviewing that information.

• By focusing on the content needed to close specifi c knowledge gaps, the student maximizes the effi ciency of his or her study time.

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Critical missions promote critical thinking. What would your students do if they were senators voting on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson?

Or if they were advisers to Harry Truman, helping him decide whether to drop the atomic bomb?

Critical Missions make students feel like active participants in history by immersing them in a series of transformative moments from our past.

As advisers to key historical fi gures, they read and analyze primary sources, interpret maps and timelines, and write recommendations.

As a follow-up activity in each Critical Mission, students learn to think like historians by conducting a retrospective analysis from a contemporary perspective.

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U.S. A N A R R A T I V E H I S T O R Y

Seventh Edit ion James West Davidson

Christine Leigh Heyrman University of Delaware

Brian DeLay University of California, Berkeley

Mark H. Lytle Bard College

Michael B. Stoff University of Texas, Austin

V O L U M E 2 : F R O M 1 8 6 5

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U.S.: A Narrative History AUTHORS

James West Davidson Brian DeLay Christine Leigh Heyrman Mark H. Lytle Michael B. Stoff







BUYER Laura M. Fuller DESIGN Matt Backhaus


COMPOSITOR Laserwords Private Limited TYPEFACE 10/12 UniMath PRINTER R. R. Donnelley

U.S.: A Narrative History, Seventh Edition Published by McGraw-Hill Education, 2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121. Copyright © 2015 by McGraw-Hill Edu- cation. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Previous editions © 2012, 2009. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of McGraw-Hill Education, including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.

Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 DOW/DOW 1 0 9 8 7 6 5 4

ISBN 978-0-07-778042-5 (complete); MHID 0-07-778042-6 (complete)

ISBN 978-0-07-351330-0 (volume 1); MHID 0-07-351330-X (volume 1)

ISBN 978-0-07-778036-4 (volume 2); MHID 0-07-778036-1 (volume 2)

Cover image credits: Miss Ting; Idaho farm; woman weaving; “Our City” lithograph of St. Louis, Janicke and Co. 1859; “Pocahantas Saving the Life of Capt. John Smith,”(detail); “Heart of the Klondike”(detail): The Library of Congress; Caesar Chavez (detail): © Arthur Schatz/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; Hopewell Hand: © Heritage Images/Corbis; Freedman’s School: © Bettmann/Corbis; “Mandan Dog Sled,” Karl Bodmer: © Free Library, Phila- delphia/Bridgeman Images; “Tragic Prelude” (detail): © Kansas State Historical Society; “Mrs. Chandler” (detail): Courtesy, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Uncle Sam with Banjo: HistoryPicks; View from Space: © NASA/ JSC; Buffalo Hunt: Courtesy, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

All credits appearing on page or at the end of the book are considered to be an extension of the copyright page.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014943610

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17 Reconstructing the Union  1865–1877 332

18 The New South and the Trans-Mississippi West  1870–1890 351

19 The New Industrial Order  1870–1900 374

20 The Rise of an Urban Order  1870–1900 395

21 The Political System under Strain at Home and Abroad  1877–1900 417

22 The Progressive Era  1890–1920 442

23 The United States and the Collapse of the Old World Order  1901–1920 465

24 The New Era  1920–1929 488

25 The Great Depression and the New Deal  1929–1939 510

26 America’s Rise to Globalism  1927–1945 540

27 Cold War America  1945–1954 568

28 The Suburban Era  1945–1963 588

29 Civil Rights and Uncivil Liberties  1947–1969 611

30 The Vietnam Era  1963–1975 631

31 The Conservative Challenge  1976–1992 656

32 The United States in a Global Community  1989–Present 681

SOME HIGHLIGHTS: DUELING DOCUMENTS is a new feature appearing in half the chapters. Each box showcases two pri- mary sources with contrasting points of view.

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX, alternating with Dueling Documents, showcases historical images and arti- facts, asking students to focus on visual evidence and examine material culture. New items in this edition include “A White Man’s View of Custer’s Defeat,” exhibiting a popular lithograph on the subject and discussing its iconography; “Youth in a Jar,” analyzing an advertisement for beauty cream; stills from the 1951 Civil Defense film, “Duck and Cover,” starring Bert the Turtle in atomic attack.

GEOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS have been added to many map captions to reinforce geographic liter- acy and to connect the maps to the chapter’s rel- evant themes.

CHAPTER 18, THE NEW SOUTH AND THE TRANS- MISSISSIPPI WEST discusses the costs of Jim Crow segregation to white as well as black south- erners; plus a discussion of the Navajo “Long Walk” or forced deportation from Arizona to east- ern New Mexico.

CHAPTER 20, THE RISE OF AN URBAN ORDER, con- tains a new opening narrative, “The Dogs of Hell,” evoking the famous Chicago fire of 1871.

CHAPTER 22, THE PROGRESSIVE ERA, includes new material on Margaret Sanger, birth control, and its relationship to a wave of forced steriliza- tions, as well as a new discussion of Progressiv- ism in western states. CHAPTER 24, THE NEW ERA, discusses the emer- gence of “Companionate Marriage,” in which companionship and sexual intimacy helped invest marriage with greater equality.

CHAPTER 28, THE SUBURBAN ERA, examines the “Cola Wars” between Coke and Pepsi, as an example of the role of advertising in a consumer economy.

CHAPTER 30, THE VIETNAM ERA, now ends with the fall of Saigon. Material on OPEC, the Middle East, and Kissinger-Ford diplomacy has been moved to Chapter 31. The restructuring makes both chapters more coherent and balanced in length.

CHAPTER 31, THE CONSERVATIVE CHALLENGE, pro- files Saturday Night Fever (the most popular box- office movie of the decade) to examine the era’s culture wars.

CHAPTER 32, THE UNITED STATES IN A GLOBAL COMMUNITY, expands to cover the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act, growing concern with income inequality, global warming and climate change; and the debate over hydraulic fracturing.


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x | C O N T E N T S |

Racism and the Failure of Reconstruction 347



AN AMERICAN STORY: “Come West” 351

The Southern Burden 352 Tenancy and Sharecropping 353


AN AMERICAN STORY: A Secret Sale at Davis Bend 332

Presidential Reconstruction 334 Lincoln’s 10 Percent Plan 334

Reconstruction under Andrew Johnson 334

The Failure of Johnson’s Program 335

Johnson’s Break with Congress 336

The Fourteenth Amendment 336

The Election of 1866 337

Congressional Reconstruction 337 Post-Emancipation Societies in the Americas 338

The Land Issue 338

Impeachment 338

Reconstruction in the South 339 Black and White Republicans 339

Reforms under the New State Governments 339

Economic Issues and Corruption 340

Black Aspirations 340 Experiencing Freedom 340

The Black Family 340

The Schoolhouse and the Church 341

New Working Conditions 341

Planters and a New Way of Life 343

The Abandonment of Reconstruction 343 The Grant Administration 343

Growing Northern Disillusionment 345

The Triumph of White Supremacy 346

The Disputed Election of 1876 346

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX Dressed to Kill 347


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| C O N T E N T S | xi

Transportation and Communication 377

Finance Capital 378

The Corporation 378

An International Pool of Labor 378

Railroads: America’s First Big Business 379 A Managerial Revolution 380

Competition and Consolidation 381

The Challenge of Finance 381

The Growth of Big Business 381 Strategies of Growth 382

Carnegie Integrates Steel 382

Rockefeller and the Great Standard Oil Trust 383

The Mergers of J. Pierpont Morgan 384

Corporate Defenders 384

Corporate Critics 384

The Costs of Doing Business 385

The Workers’ World 386 Industrial Work  387

Children, Women, and African Americans 388

The American Dream of Success 389

The Systems of Labor 389 Early Unions 389

The Knights of Labor 389

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX Digital Detecting 390

The American Federation of Labor 391

The Limits of Industrial Systems 391

Management Strikes Again 392


Southern Industry 354

The Sources of Southern Poverty 355

Life in the New South 356 Rural Life 356

The Church 356

Segregation 357

Western Frontiers 357 Western Landscapes 358

Indian Peoples and the Western Environment 358

Whites and the Western Environment: Competing Visions 359

The War for the West 360 Contact and Conflict 361

Custer’s Last Stand—and the Indians’ 361

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX A White Man’s View of Custer’s Defeat 363

Killing with Kindness 363

Borderlands 364

Ethno-Racial Identity in the New West 365

Boom and Bust in the West 366 Mining Sets a Pattern 366

The Transcontinental Railroad 366

Cattle Kingdom 367

The Final Frontier 368 Farming on the Plains 368

A Plains Existence 368

The Urban Frontier 369

The West and the World Economy 370

Packaging and Exporting the “Wild West” 370



AN AMERICAN STORY: Scampering through America 374

The Development of Industrial Systems 375 Natural Resources and Industrial Technology 376

Systematic Invention 376

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City Life 404 The Immigrant in the City 404

Urban Middle-Class Life 406

Victorianism and the Pursuit of Virtue 406


Challenges to Convention 408

The Decline of “Manliness” 409

City Culture 409 Public Education in an Urban Industrial World 409

Higher Learning and the Rise of the Professional 410

Higher Education for Women 411

A Culture of Consumption 412

Leisure 413

Arts and Entertainment 413



AN AMERICAN STORY: “The World United at Chicago” 417

The Politics of Paralysis 419 Political Stalemate 419

The Parties 419

The Issues 420

The White House from Hayes to Harrison 421

Ferment in the States and Cities 422


AN AMERICAN STORY: “The Dogs of Hell” 395

A New Urban Age 397 The Urban Explosion 397

The Great Global Migration 397

Holding the City Together 398

Bridges and Skyscrapers 399

Slum and Tenement 400

Running and Reforming the City 401 Boss Rule 401

Rewards, Accomplishments, and Costs 402

Nativism, Revivals, and the Social Gospel 403

The Social Settlement Movement 403

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| C O N T E N T S | xiii

Controlling the Masses 450 Stemming the Immigrant Tide 450

The Curse of Demon Rum 450

Prostitution 451

“For Whites Only” 451

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX Mementos of Murder 452

The Politics of Municipal and State Reform 453 The Reformation of the Cities 453

Progressivism in the States 454

Progressivism Goes to Washington 455 TR 455

A Square Deal 456

Bad Food and Pristine Wilds 457

The Troubled Taft 459

The Election of 1912 459

Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Morality 460 Early Career 460

The Reforms of the New Freedom 461

Labor and Social Reform 462



Progressive Diplomacy 467 Big Stick in the Caribbean 467

The Revolt of the Farmers 422 The Harvest of Discontent 422

The Origins of the Farmers’ Alliance 423

The Alliance Peaks 423

The Election of 1892 424

The New Realignment 425 The Depression of 1893 425


The Rumblings of Unrest 426

The Battle of the Standards 427

Campaign and Election 428

The Rise of Jim Crow Politics 429

The African American Response 429

McKinley in the White House 430

Visions of Empire 431 Imperialism, European-Style and American 431

The Shapers of American Imperialism 432

Dreams of a Commercial Empire 434

The Imperial Moment 435 Mounting Tensions 435

The Imperial War 436

Peace and the Debate over Empire 437

From Colonial War to Colonial Rule 438

An Open Door in China 439


22 THE PROGRESSIVE ERA  1890–1920 AN AMERICAN STORY: Burned Alive in the City 442

The Roots of Progressive Reform 444 Progressive Beliefs 444

The Pragmatic Approach 444

The Progressive Method 445

The Search for the Good Society 446 Poverty in a New Light 446

Expanding the “Woman’s Sphere” 446

Social Welfare 447

Woman Suffrage 448

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xiv | C O N T E N T S |


Yesterday Meets Today in the New Era 488

The Roaring Economy 490 Technology, Consumer Spending, and the Boom in Construction 490

The Automobile 490

The Future of Energy 491

The Business of America 492

Welfare Capitalism 492

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX Youth in a Jar 493

The Consumer Culture 493

A Mass Society 494 A “New Woman” 494

Mass Media 496

The Cult of Celebrity 497

“Ain’t We Got Fun?” 497

The Art of Alienation 498

A “New Negro” 498

Defenders of the Faith 499 Nativism and Immigration Restriction 500

The “Noble Experiment” 500

KKK 501

Fundamentalism versus Darwinism 502

Republicans Ascendant 503 The Politics of “Normalcy” 503

A “Diplomatist of the Highest Rank” 468

Dollar Diplomacy 468

Woodrow Wilson and Moral Diplomacy 468 Missionary Diplomacy 469

Intervention in Mexico 470

The Road to War 470 The Guns of August 470

Neutral but Not Impartial 471

The Diplomacy of Neutrality 472

Peace, Preparedness, and the Election of 1916 473

Wilson’s Final Peace Offensive 473

War and Society 474 The Slaughter of Stalemate 474

“You’re in the Army Now”  475

Mobilizing the Economy 476

War Work 476

Great Migrations 477

Propaganda and Civil Liberties 477

Over There 478

DUELING DOCUMENTS The Limits of Free Speech 479

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 480

The Lost Peace 481 The Treaty of Versailles 483

The Battle for the Treaty 483

Red Scare 484


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| C O N T E N T S | xv

DUELING DOCUMENTS Two Views of the “Forgotten Man” 521

Saving the Banks 522

Relief for the Unemployed 522

Planning for Industrial Recovery 524

Planning for Agriculture 525

A Second New Deal (1935–1936) 526 Dissent from the Deal 526

The Second Hundred Days 527

The Election of 1936 528

The New Deal and the American People 529 The New Deal and Western Water 529

The Limited Reach of the New Deal 530

Tribal Rights 531

A New Deal for Women 531

The Rise of Organized Labor 532

“Art for the Millions” 533

The End of the New Deal (1937–1940) 534 Packing the Courts 534

The Demise of the Deal 535

The Legacy of the New Deal 537




The United States in a Troubled World 542 Pacific Interests 542

Becoming a Good Neighbor 542

The Diplomacy of Isolationism 543

Inching toward War 544

Hitler’s Invasion 545

Retreat from Isolationism 545

Disaster in the Pacific 546

A Global War 546 Strategies for War 547

Gloomy Prospects 547

A Grand Alliance 548

The Naval War in the Pacific 548

The Policies of Mellon and Hoover 503

Crises at Home and Abroad 504

The Election of 1928 505

The Great Bull Market 506 The Rampaging Bull 506

The Great Crash 506

Causes of the Great Depression 507



AN AMERICAN STORY: Letters from the Edge 510

The Human Impact of the Great Depression 512 Hard Times 512

The Golden Age of Radio and Film 513

“Dirty Thirties”: An Ecological Disaster 514

Mexican Americans and Repatriation 515

African Americans in the Depression 515

The Tragedy of Herbert Hoover 516 The Failure of Relief 516

The Hoover Depression Program 517

Stirrings of Discontent 518

The Bonus Army 519

The Election of 1932 519

The Early New Deal (1933–1935) 520 The Democratic Roosevelts 520

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xvi | C O N T E N T S |

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX Duck and Cover 574

The Atomic Shield versus the Iron Curtain 575

Postwar Prosperity 576 Hidden Costs of a Consuming Nation 576

Postwar Adjustments 576

The New Deal at Bay 577

The Election of 1948 578

The Fair Deal 579

The Cold War at Home 579 The Shocks of 1949 579

The Loyalty Crusade 580

HUAC and Hollywood 581

The Ambitions of Senator McCarthy 581

From Cold War to Hot War and Back 582 Police Action 583

The Chinese Intervene 583

Truman versus MacArthur 583

The Global Implications of the Cold War 584

The Election of 1952 584

The Fall of McCarthy 585


28 THE SUBURBAN ERA  1945–1963

AN AMERICAN STORY: Dynamic Obsolescence (The Wonderful World of Harley Earl) 588

The Rise of the Suburbs 590 A Boom in Babies and in Housing 590

Turning Points in Europe 549

Those Who Fought 550

Minorities at War 550

Women at War 551

War Production 551 Mobilizing for War 551

Science Goes to War 552

War Work and Prosperity 553

Organized Labor 554

Women Workers 554

Mobility 554

A Question of Rights 555 Italians and Asian Americans 555

DUELING DOCUMENTS “Who Do You Want to Win This War?”—Justifying Internment 556

Minorities and War Work 558

Urban Unrest 558

The New Deal in Retreat 559

Winning the War and the Peace 560 The Fall of the Third Reich 560

Two Roads to Tokyo 561

Big Three Diplomacy 561

The Road to Yalta 561

The Fallen Leader 563

The Holocaust 564

A Lasting Peace 564

Atom Diplomacy 565


27 COLD WAR AMERICA  1945–1954

AN AMERICAN STORY: Glad to Be Home? 568

The Rise of the Cold War 570 American Suspicions 570

Communist Expansion 570

A Policy of Containment 571

The Truman Doctrine 572

The Marshall Plan 572

NATO 572

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| C O N T E N T S | xvii

The Hard-Nosed Idealists of Camelot 605

The (Somewhat) New Frontier at Home 606

Kennedy’s Cold War 606

Cold War Frustrations 606

Confronting Khrushchev 607

The Missiles of October 608



AN AMERICAN STORY: Two Roads to Integration 611

The Civil Rights Movement 613 The Changing South and African Americans 613

The NAACP and Civil Rights 613

The Brown Decision 614

Latino Civil Rights 614

A New Civil Rights Strategy 615

Little Rock and the White Backlash 616

A Movement Becomes a Crusade 616 Riding to Freedom 616

Civil Rights at High Tide 617

The Fire Next Time 619

Black Power 619

Violence in the Streets 620

Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society 621 The Origins of the Great Society 621

The Election of 1964 622

The Great Society 622

The Reforms of the Warren Court 624

Youth Movements 624 Activists on the New Left 625

Vatican II and American Catholics 625

The Rise of the Counterculture 625

The Rock Revolution 626

DUELING DOCUMENTS Student Voices for a New America 627

The West Coast Scene 628


Suburbs and Cities Transformed 591

Environmental Blues 592

The Culture of Suburbia 593 American Civil Religion 593

“Homemaking” Women in the Workaday World 594

The Flickering Gray Screen 595

The Politics of Calm 595 The Eisenhower Presidency 595

The Conglomerate World 596

Cracks in the Consensus 597 Critics of Mass Culture 597

Juvenile Delinquency, Rock and Roll, and Rebellion 598

Nationalism in an Age of Superpowers 599 To the Brink? 599

Brinkmanship in Asia 600

The Superpowers 601

Nationalism Unleashed 601

The Response to Sputnik 602

DUELING DOCUMENTS The Kitchen Debate 603

Thaws and Freezes 604

The Cold War on a New Frontier 604 The Election of 1960 605

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xviii | C O N T E N T S |

Value Politics: The Consumer and Environmental Movements 648 Technology and Unbridled Growth 648

Political Action 648

The Legacy of Identity and Value Politics 649

The End of the War 650

Pragmatic Conservatism 650 Nixon’s New Federalism 651

Stagflation 651

Social Policies and the Court 651

Triumph and Revenge 652

Break-In 652

To the Oval Office 652

Resignation 653



AN AMERICAN STORY: The New American Commons 656

The Conservative Rebellion 658 Tax Revolt 658

The Diverse Evangelical World 658

The Catholic Conscience 658

Moving Religion into Politics 659

The Media as Battleground 659

Saturday Night Fever 660

The Presidency in Transition: Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter 660 War Powers Resolution 660

Influence of Kissinger 660

Energy and the Middle East 661

30 THE VIETNAM ERA  1963–1975

AN AMERICAN STORY: Who Is the Enemy? 631

The Road to Vietnam 633 Lyndon Johnson’s War 633

Rolling Thunder 634

Social Consequences of the War 635 The Soldiers’ War 635

The War at Home 636

The Unraveling 637 Tet Offensive 637

The Shocks of 1968 638

Revolutionary Clashes Worldwide 639

Whose Silent Majority? 639

The Nixon Era 640 Vietnamization—and Cambodia 640

Fighting a No-Win War 641

The Move toward Détente 641

The New Identity Politics 642 HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX A Farmworkers’ Boycott Poster 643

Latino Activism 643

The Choices of American Indians 645

Asian Americans 645

Gay Rights 646

Feminism 646

Equal Rights and Abortion 647

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| C O N T E N T S | xix

The Clinton Presidency 686 The New World Disorder 686

Yugoslavian Turmoil 686

Middle East Peace 687

Recovery without Reform at Home 687

The Conservative Revolution Reborn 688

Women’s Issues 688

Scandal 688

The Politics of Surplus 689

Hanging by a Chad: The Election of 2000 689

The United States in a Networked World 690 The Internet Revolution 690

American Workers in a Two-Tiered Economy 690

African Americans and the Persistence of the Racial Divide 691

African Americans in a Full-Employment Economy 691

Global Pressures in a Multicultural America 692

Terrorism in a Global Age 692 A Conservative Agenda at Home 693

Unilateralism in Foreign Affairs 694

The Roots of Terror 694

The War on Terror: First Phase 695

The War in Iraq 695

A Messy Aftermath 696

The Second Term 696

Disasters Domestic and Foreign 697

Collapse 697

Obama and a Divided Nation 698 First-Term Reforms 699

Short, Medium, Long 700

Environmental Uncertainties 701

DUELING DOCUMENTS Cold War over Global Warming 702


Limits across the Globe 661

Jimmy Carter: Restoring the Faith 661

The Search for Direction 663

Energy and the Environment 663

The Sagging Economy 664

Foreign Policy: Principled or Pragmatic? 664

The Middle East: Hope and Hostages 664

A President Held Hostage 665

Prime Time with Ronald Reagan 666 The Great Communicator 666

The Reagan Agenda 667

A Halfway Revolution 668

Winners and Losers in the Labor Market 668

Standing Tall in a Chaotic World 670 The Military Buildup 670

Disaster in the Middle East 670

Frustrations in Central America 670

The Iran-Contra Connection 671

Cover Blown 672

From Cold War to Glasnost 672

An End to the Cold War 673 HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX The Berlin Wall 674

A Post–Cold War Foreign Policy 674

The Gulf War 675

Domestic Doldrums 675

The Conservative Court 676

Disillusionment and Anger 677

The Election of 1992 677



AN AMERICAN STORY: Of Grocery Chains and Migration Chains 681

The New Immigration 683 The New Look of America—Asian Americans 684

The New Look of America—Latinos 684

Illegal Immigration 685

Links with the Home Country 685

Religious Diversity 685

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xx | F E A T U R E S |

Primary sources help students think critically about history. DUELING DOCUMENTS Two primary source documents offer contrasting perspectives on key events for analysis and discussion. Introductions and Critical Thinking questions frame the documents.

T HE K ITCHEN D EBATE On July 24, 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met at an exhibi- tion in Moscow, showcasing American technology and culture. For Nixon the consumer goods on display offered proof of the superiority of the American free-enterprise system. Khrushchev argued forcefully, though defensively, that the Soviet Union could provide equally well for its housewives. While the event appeared to be spontaneous, Nixon had been looking for an opportunity to stand up to the pugnacious Rus- sian leader. In this primary newspaper account, the dueling is within a single document.

Dueling D O C U M E N T S

D O C U M E N T 1 Khrushchev-Nixon Debate

Nixon: “There are some instances where you may be ahead of us, for example in the development of the thrust of your rockets for the investigation of outer space, there may be some instances in which we are ahead of you—in color television, for instance.”

Khrushchev: “No, we are up with you on this, too. We have bested you in one technique and also in the other.”

Nixon: “You see, you never concede anything.”

Khrushchev: “I do not give up.”

Nixon: “Wait till you see the picture. Let’s have for more communication and exchange in this very area that we speak of. We should hear you more on our televisions. You should hear us more on yours.”

Khrushchev: “That’s a good idea. Let’s do it like this. You appear before our people. We will appear before your people. People will see and appreciate this.”

Nixon: “There is not a day in the United States when we cannot read what you say. When Kozlov was speaking in California about peace, you were talking here in somewhat dif- ferent terms. This was reported extensively in the American press. Never make a statement here if you don’t want it to be read in the United States. I can promise you every word you say will be translated into English.”

Khrushchev: “I doubt it. I want you to give your word that this speech of mine will be heard by the American people.”

Nixon: [shaking hands on it] “By the same token, everything I say will be translated and heard all over the Soviet Union?”

Khrushchev: “That’s agreed.”

Nixon: “You must not be afraid of ideas.”

Khrushchev: “We are telling you not to be afraid of ideas. We have no reason to be afraid. We have already broken free from such a situation.”

Nixon: “Well, then, let’s have more exchange of them. We are all agreed on that. All right? All right?”. . .

Khrushchev: [after Nixon called attention to a built-in panel-controlled washing machine.] “We have such things.”

Nixon: “This is the newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installation in the houses.” He added that Americans were interested in making life easier for their women.

Mr. Khrushchev remarked that in the Soviet Union, they did not have “the capitalist atti- tude toward women.”

Nixon: “I think that this attitude toward women is universal. What we want to do is make eas- ier the life of our housewives.” He explained that the house could be built for $14,000 and that most veterans had bought houses for between $10,000 and $15,000. . . .

“Let me give you an example you can appre- ciate. Our steelworkers, as you know, are on strike. But any steelworker could buy this house. They earn $3 an hour. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a con- tract running 25 to 30 years.”

Khrushchev: “We have steel workers and we have peasants who also can afford to spend $14,000 for a house.” He said American houses were built to last only 20 years, so builders could sell new houses at the end of that period. “We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.”

Mr. Nixon said he thought American houses would last more than 20 years, but even so, after 20 years many Americans went a new home or a new kitchen, which would be obsolete then. The American system is designed to take advantage of new inven- tions and new techniques, he said.

Khrushchev: “This theory does not hold water.” He said some things never got out of date—furniture and furnishings, perhaps, but not houses. He said he did not think houses. He said he did not think that what Americans had written about their houses was all strictly accurate.

Nixon: [pointing to television screen.] “We can see here what is happening in other parts of the home.”

Khrushchev: “This is probably always out of order.”

Nixon: “Da [yes.]”

Khrushchev: “Don’t you have a machine that puts food into the mouth and pushes it down? Many things you’ve shown us are interesting but they are not needed in life. They have no useful purpose. They are merely gadgets. We have a saying, if you have bedbugs you have to catch one and pour boiling water into the ear.”

Nixon: “We have another saying. This is that the way to kill a fly is to make it drink whisky. But we have a better use for whisky. [Aside] I like to have this battle of wits with the Chairman. He knows his business.”

Source: “The Kitchen Debate.” Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev, July 24, 1959, Moscow, U.S.S.R.

THINKING CRITICALLY How does Khrushchev counter Nixon’s explanation of “planned obsoles- cence”? What is Khrushchev’s attitude about high-tech American consumer goods? Why was Nixon so insistent that his ideas be broadcast in the Soviet Union? In what way could women be offended by the two lead- ers’ comments?

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— Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), “The School Days of an Indian Girl," Atlantic Monthly (1900)

“I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit . . . my long hair was shingled like a coward’s! In my anguish I moaned for my mother, but no one came to comfort me. Not a soul reasoned quietly with me, as my own mother used to do; for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.”

witness An Indian Girl Is Shorn at Boarding School

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WITNESS Vivid quotes from diaries, letters, and other texts provide a sense of how individuals experienced historical events.

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| F E A T U R E S | xxi

HISTORIAN’S TOOLBOX These feature boxes, which alternate with Dueling Documents, showcase historical images and artifacts, asking students to focus on visual evidence and examine material culture. Introductions and Critical Thinking questions frame the images.

OPINION Ideal for class discussion or writing, these questions ask students to offer opinions on debated issues.

Is torture justified

against potential

enemies, when the

United States is

under threat from



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Historian’s T O O L B O X

Artwork can often serve as a lens that reveals the values of political movements. César Chávez and the United Farm Work- ers (UFW) used this poster to arouse pub- lic support in a 1968 national boycott on California lettuce and grapes. Boycotts have often been seen as ineffective or even un-American, because they involve collec- tive action. For the UFW three potential

benefits offset the risks. First, lettuce and grapes were highly perishable, so any delay in selling them could cause growers large losses. Second, the boycott gave Ameri- can consumers distant from farm fields an effective way to support UFW efforts to organize California’s farmworkers. Finally, the campaign promoted a new sense of pride and solidarity among Latinos.

THINKING CRITICALLY Why might a national boycott be a risky strategy? What sense does this poster give you of the labor that farmworkers perform? What are the links between this poster and the “new identity politics” described in the text?

A Farmworkers’ Boycott Poster Si se puede is translated here as “It can be done.” Can you think of a different translation that a more recent political campaign used to recruit Latino voters?

Why is lettuce called a “stoop crop?”

United Farmworkers’ Eagle. Use Google to discover why the eagle was chosen as an emblem for the farmworkers and how it was designed.

What elements of the group suggest the UFW considers itself not only a union movement but also a community organization?

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xxii | L I S T O F M A P S |

17.1 The Southern States during Reconstruction

17.2 A Georgia Plantation after the War

17.3 Election of 1876

18.1 Tenant Farmers, 1900

18.2 Spending on Education in the South before and after Disenfranchisement

18.3 Natural Environment of the West

18.4 The Indian Frontier

18.5 The Mining and Cattle Frontiers

19.1 Railroads, 1870–1890

20.1 Growth of New Orleans to 1900

21.1 Election of 1896

21.2 Imperialist Expansion, 1900

21.3 The Spanish-American War

21.4 The United States in the Pacific

22.1 Dates of Women’s Suffrage

22.2 Election of 1912

23.1 Panama Canal—Old and New Transoceanic Routes

23.2 American Interventions in the Caribbean, 1898–1930

23.3 The War in Europe, 1914–1917

23.4 Election of 1916

23.5 The Final German Offensive and Allied Counterattack, 1918

23.6 Spread of Influenza Pandemic Second Stage, Autumn 1918

23.7 Europe and Middle East after World War I

24.1 Areas of Population Growth, 1920–1930

24.2 The Great Flood of 1927

24.3 Election of 1928

25.1 Election of 1932

25.2 Unemployment Relief, 1934

25.3 The Tennessee Valley Authority

26.1 The U-boat War

26.2 World War II in Europe and North Africa

26.3 D-Day, 1944

26.4 World War II in the Pacific and Asia

27.1 Cold War Europe

27.2 Election of 1948

27.3 The Korean War

28.1 Average Annual Regional Migration, 1947–1960

28.2 Asian Trouble Spots

28.3 Election of 1960

28.4 The World of the Superpowers

29.1 Civil Rights Patterns of Protest and Unrest

30.1 The War in Vietnam

30.2 Election of 1968

31.1 Oil and Conflict in the Middle East, 1948–1988

31.2 Election of 1980

31.3 Central American Conflicts, 1974–1990

31.4 War with Iraq, Operation Desert Storm

31.5 Election of 1992

32.1 Election 2000

32.2 The War on Terrorism: Afghanistan and Iraq

32.3 Environmental Stresses on the Gulf of Mexico

A map of the United States appears on the inside front cover, while a world map appears on the inside back cover.

List ofMAPS

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| L I S T O F C O N N E C T H I S T O R Y P R I M A R Y S O U R C E D O C U M E N T S | xxiii

The following primary source documents, carefully selected by the authors to coordinate with this program, are available in Connect History at Documents include an explanatory headnote and are followed by discussion questions.

Choose from many of these documents—or hundreds of others—to customize your print text by visiting McGraw-Hill’s Create at

Chapter 17

33. An Anguished Ex-Slave Writes the Wife He’d Thought Long Dead

34. The Mississippi Plan in Action

Chapter 18

35. Chief Joseph Speaks

36. Frederick Jackson Turner’s New Frontier

37. Henry Grady’s “New South”

Chapter 19

38. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act

39. “The Story of a Sweat Shop Girl”

Chapter 20

40. George Washington Plunkitt Defends “Honest Graft”

41. The Chinese Exclusion Act

Chapter 21

42. Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise”

43. George Hoar’s Case Against Imperialism

Chapter 22

44. Alice Paul Suffers for Suffrage

45. John Muir’s First Summer in the Sierras

Chapter 23

46. Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine

47. Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points Speech

Chapter 24

48. A Mexican Laborer Sings of the Sorrows of the New Era

49. Calvin Coolidge on the Business of America

Chapter 25

50. Franklin Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address

51. Mary McLeod Bethune Touts a “Century of Progress” for African-American Women

Chapter 26

52. Einstein Letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt

53. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedom’s Speech

54. D-Day Survivors

Chapter 27

55. Truman Doctrine Speech (excerpt)

56. Richard Gerstell on Nuclear Civil Defense

57. Speech of Joseph McCarthy, Wheeling, West Virginia, February 9, 1950

Chapter 28

58. John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

59. A Young Boy Remembers the Nuclear Threat

60. 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Chapter 29

61. Letter from Jackie Robinson

62. Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

63. The Beats

Chapter 30

64. John F. Kennedy: American Opinion on the War 1963

65. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

66. Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority Speech

Chapter 31

67. Excerpt from Plan B Committee on the Present Danger (CPD)

68. Soviet Deputy Chief describes the Soviets National Security Fears

69. Ronald Regan and the Evil Empire Speech

Chapter 32

70. A Korean Growing Up in America from the Age of Three

71. Barack Obama Keynote Address to the Democratic National Convention, July 2004

72. The Tea Party


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Reviewers of U.S.: A Narrative History Mary Adams, City College of San Francisco

Chris Bell, Edmonds Community College

James Blain, McNeese State University

Roger Bowerman, Glendale Community College

Jeffrey Brown, New Mexico State University

Ann Chirhart, Indiana State University

Bradley Clampitt, East Central University

Patty Colman, Moorpark College

Michael Colomaio, Alfred State University

Clarissa Confer, California University of Pennsylvania

Cara Converse, Moorpark College

William Cooley, Walsh University

Aaron Cowen, Slippery Rock University

David Cullen, Collins College, Plano

David Dalton, College of the Ozarks

Brandon Franke, Blinn College

Christos Frentzos, Austin Peay State University

Tabetha Garman, North East State University

George Gastil, Grossmont College

Frank Gilbert, Southeastern Oklahoma State


Jim Good, Lone Star College, North Harris

Patricia Gower, University of the Incarnate Word

Charles Grear, Prairie View A&M

Devethia Guillory, Prairie View A&M

Debbie Hargis, Odessa College

Tom Heiting, Odessa College

Jennifer Helgren, University of the Pacific

Jay Hester, Sierra College

Justin Horton, Thomas Nelson Community College

Carol Keller, San Antonio College

Dennis Kortheuer, California State University, Long


Pat Ledbetter, Texas College

Mary Lewis, Jacksonville College

Tammi Littrel, Chadron State College

Philbert Martin, San Jacinto College, South

Bob McConaughy, Austin Community College

James Mills, University of Texas, Brownsville

Russell Mitchell, Tarrant County College, Southeast

Michael Namorato, University of Mississippi

Bret Nelson, San Jacinto College, North

Alison Ollinger-Riefstahl, Mercyhurst Northeast College

Stephen Patnodes, Farmingdale State University

Edward Richey, University of North Texas

Joaquin Riveya-Martinez, Texas State University, San Marcos

Stephen Rockenbach, Virginia State University

Norman Rodriguez, John Wood Community College

Todd Romero, University of Houston

Michele Rotunda, Rutgers University, Newark

Steven Short, Collin College

Richard Sorrel, Brookdale Community College

Maureen Melvin Sowa, Bristol Community College

Jodi Steeley, Merced Community College

Rita Thomas, Northern Kentucky University

Richard Trimble, Ocean County College

Ruth Truss, University of Montevallo

Salli Vargis, Georgia Perimeter College

William Wantland, Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Chad Wooley, Tarrant County College

We would like to express our deep appreciation to the following individuals who contributed to the development of our U.S. history programs:

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Digiposium Attendees

Shelly Bailess, Liberty University

Patrice Carter, Wharton County Junior College

Tonia Compton, Columbia College of Missouri

Yvonne Davis Frear, San Jacinto College

Jane England, North Central Texas College

Traci Hodgson, Chemeketa Community College

Joy Ingram, Pellissippi State Community College

Alan Lehmann, Blinn College

Sandy Norman, Florida Atlantic University

Andrea Oliver, Tallahassee Community College

Richard Verrone, Texas Tech University

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xxvi | A B O U T T H E A U T H O R S |

About the Authors James West Davidson received his Ph.D. from Yale University. A historian who has pursued a full-time writing career, he is the author of numerous books, among them After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection (with Mark H. Lytle), The Logic of Millennial Thought: Eighteenth-Century New England, and Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure (with John Rugge). He is co-editor with Michael Stoff of the Oxford New Narratives in American History, in which his own most recent book appears: ‘They Say’: Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race.

Brian DeLay received his Ph.D. from Harvard and is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a frequent guest speaker at teacher workshops across the country and has won several prizes for his book War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War.

Christ ine Leigh Heyrman is the Robert W. and Shirley P. Grimble Professor of American History at the University of Delaware. She received a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University and is the author of Commerce and Culture: The Maritime Communities of Colonial Massachusetts, 1690–1750. Her book Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt was awarded the Bancroft Prize. She is currently writing a book about evangelical views of Islam in the early nineteenth century.

Mark H. Lytle, a Ph.D. from Yale University, is Professor of History and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Bard College. He has served two years as Mary Ball Washington Professor of American History at University College, Dublin, in Ireland. His publications include The Origins of the Iranian-American Alliance, 1941–1953, After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection (with James West Davidson), America’s Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era from Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon, and most recently, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement. He is also co-editor of a joint issue of the journals Diplomatic History and Environmental History dedicated to the field of environmental diplomacy.

Michael B. Stoff is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin. The recipient of a Ph.D. from Yale University, he has been honored many times for his teaching, most recently with election to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He is the author of Oil, War, and American Security: The Search for a National Policy on Foreign Oil, 1941–1947, co-editor (with Jonathan Fanton and R. Hall Williams) of The Manhattan Project: A Documentary Introduction to the Atomic Age, and series co-editor (with James West Davidson) of the Oxford New Narratives in American History. He is currently working on a narrative of the bombing of Nagasaki.

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U.S. A N A R R A T I V E H I S T O R Y

Seventh Edit ion

V O L U M E 2 : F R O M 1 8 6 5

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“Men stood speechless, hag- gard . . . gazing at the desolation,” reported one jour- nalist in Richmond at war’s end. Many residents must have felt that way, though newly freed African Americans were jubilant.

17 1865–1877

>> An American Story

a secret sale at davis bend

J oseph Davis had had enough. Well on in years and financially ruined by the war, he decided to sell his Mississippi plantations Hurricane and Brierfield to Benjamin Montgomery and his sons in November 1866. Such a sale was common enough after the war, but this trans- action was bound to attract attention, since Joseph Davis was the elder brother of Jefferson Davis. Indeed, before the war the ex–Confederate president had operated Brierfield as

his own plantation, even though his brother retained legal title to it. But the sale was unusual for another reason—so unusual that the parties involved agreed to keep it secret. The plantation’s new owners were black, and Mississippi law prohibited African Americans from owning land.

Reconstructing the Union

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Though a slave, Benjamin Mont- gomery had been the business man- ager of the two Davis plantations before the war. He had also oper- ated a store on Hurricane Plantation with his own line of credit in New Orleans. In 1863 Montgomery fled to the North, but when the war was over, he returned to Davis Bend, where the federal government had confiscated the Davis plantations and was leasing plots of the land to black farmers. Montgomery quickly emerged as the leader of the African American community at the Bend.

Then, in 1866, President Andrew Johnson pardoned Joseph Davis and restored his lands. Davis was now over 80 years old and lacked the will and stamina to rebuild, yet unlike many ex-slaveholders, he felt bound by obligations to his former slaves. Convinced that with encouragement African Americans could succeed in freedom, he sold his land secretly to Benjamin Montgomery. Only when the law prohibiting African Ameri- cans from owning land was over- turned in 1867 did Davis publicly confirm the sale to his former slave.

For his part, Montgomery under- took to create a model society at Davis Bend based on mutual cooperation. He rented land to black farmers, hired

others to work his own fields, sold supplies on credit, and ginned and marketed the crops. The work was hard indeed: Davis Bend’s farmers faced the destruction caused by the war, several disastrous floods, insects, droughts, and declining cotton prices. Yet before long, cotton production exceeded that of the prewar years. The Montgomerys even- tually acquired 5,500 acres, which made them reputedly the third-largest planters in the state, and they won national and international awards for the quality of their cotton. Their success demon- strated what African Americans, given a fair chance, might accomplish.

The experiences of Benjamin Montgomery were not those of most black southerners, who did not own land or have a powerful white benefactor. Yet all African Ameri- cans shared Montgomery’s dream of economic independence. As one black veteran noted: “Every colored man will be a slave, and feel him- self a slave until he can raise him own bale of cotton and put him own mark upon it and say this is mine!” Blacks could not gain effective free- dom simply through a proclamation

of emancipation. They needed eco- nomic power, including their own land that no one could unfairly take away. And political power too, if the legacy of slavery was to be overturned.

How would the Republic be re- united, now that slavery had been abolished? War, in its blunt way, had roughed out the contours of a solution, but only in broad terms. The North, with its industrial might, would be the driving force in the nation’s econ- omy and retain the dominant political voice. But would African Americans receive effective power? How would North and South readjust their eco- nomic and political relations? These questions lay at the heart of the prob-

lem of Reconstruction. <<

What ’s to CCoomme 334 Presidential Reconstruction

337 Congressional Reconstruction

339 Reconstruction in the South

340 Black Aspirations

343 The Abandonment of Reconstruction

̂̂ African American soldiers greeting loved ones after being mustered out of the army in Arkansas. The war’s end brought both joy and uncertainty about what was to come.

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political power to the hard- core Unionists. Lincoln vetoed this approach, but as the war drew to a close, he appeared ready to make concessions to the Radicals, such as plac- ing the defeated South tem- porarily under military rule. Then Booth’s bullet found its mark, and Lincoln’s final approach to Reconstruction would never be known.

Reconstruction under Andrew Johnson  >> In the wake of defeat, the immediate reaction among white southerners was one of shock, despair, and hopeless- ness. Some former Confeder- ates were openly antagonistic. A North Carolina innkeeper remarked bitterly that Yankees had stolen his slaves, burned his house, and killed all his sons, leaving him only one privilege: “To hate ’em. I got up at half-past four in the morning, and sit up till twelve at night, to hate ’em.” Most Confed- erate soldiers were less defiant, having had their fill of war. Even among hostile civilians the feeling was wide- spread that the South must accept northern terms. A South Carolina paper admitted that “the conqueror has the right to make the terms, and we must submit.”

This psychological moment was critical. To prevent a resurgence of resistance, the president needed to lay out in unmistakable terms what white southerners had to do to regain their old status in the Union. Per- haps even a clear and firm policy would not have been enough. But with Lincoln’s death, the executive power came to rest in far less capable hands.

Andrew Johnson, the new president, had been born in North Carolina and eventually moved to Tennes- see, where he worked as a tailor. Barely able to read and write when he married, he rose to political power by portraying himself as the champion of the people against the wealthy planter class. “Some day I will

>> The mood of white southern- ers at the end of the war was mixed. Many, like the veteran caricatured here by northern car- toonist Thomas Nast, remained hostile. Others, like Texas captain Samuel Foster, came to believe that the institution of slavery “had been abused, and perhaps for that abuse this terrible war . . . was brought upon us as a punishment.”


Throughout the war Abraham Lincoln had considered Reconstruction his responsibility. Elected with less than 40 percent of the popular vote in 1860, he was acutely aware that once the states of the Confederacy were restored to the Union, the Republicans would be weakened unless they ceased to be a sectional party. By a generous peace, Lincoln hoped to attract for- mer Whigs in the South, who supported many of the Republicans’ economic policies, and build up a south- ern wing of the party.

Lincoln’s 10 Percent Plan >>  Lincoln outlined his program in a Proclamation of Amnesty and Recon-

struction, issued in Decem- ber 1863. When a minimum of 10 percent of the quali- fied voters from 1860 took a loyalty oath to the Union, they could organize a state government. The new state constitution had to abolish

slavery and provide for black education, but Lincoln did not insist that high-ranking Confederate leaders be barred from public life.

Lincoln indicated that he would be generous in granting pardons to Confederate leaders and did not rule out compensation for slave property. Moreover, while he privately advocated limited black suffrage in the disloyal southern states, he did not demand social or political equality for black Americans. In Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee he recognized pro-Union governments that allowed only white men to vote.

The Radical Republicans found Lincoln’s approach much too lenient. Strongly antislavery, Radical mem- bers of Congress had led the struggle to make emanci- pation a war aim. Now they led the fight to guarantee the rights of former slaves, or freedpeople. The Radi- cals believed that it was the duty of Congress, not the president, to set the terms under which states would regain their rights in the Union. Though the Radicals often disagreed on other matters, they were united in a determination to readmit southern states only after slavery had been ended, black rights protected, and the power of the planter class destroyed.

Under the direction of Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Representative Henry Winter Davis of Mary- land, Congress formulated a much stricter plan of Reconstruction. The Wade-Davis bill required half the white adult males to take an oath of allegiance before drafting a new state constitution, and it restricted

amnesty general pardon granted by a government, usually for political crimes.

loyalty oath oath of fidelity to the state or to an organization.

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show the stuck-up aristocrats who is running the country,” he vowed as he began his political career. Although he accepted emancipation as one conse- quence of the war, Johnson lacked any concern for the welfare of African Americans. “Damn the negroes,” he said during the war, “I am fighting these traitorous aristocrats, their masters.” After serving in Congress and as military governor of Tennessee following its occupation by Union forces, Johnson, a Democrat, was tapped by Lincoln in 1864 as his running mate on the rechristened “Union” ticket.

The Radicals expected Johnson to uphold their views on Reconstruction, and on assuming the presi- dency he spoke of prosecuting Confederate leaders and breaking up planters’ estates. Unlike most Republicans, however, Johnson strongly supported states’ rights, and his political shortcomings sparked conflicts almost immediately. Scarred by his humble origins, he became tactless and inflexible when challenged or criticized, alienating even those who sought to work with him.

Johnson moved to return the southern states to the Union quickly. He prescribed a loyalty oath that most white southerners would have to take to regain their civil and political rights and to have their property, except for slaves, restored. High Confederate officials and those with property worth over $20,000 had to apply for individual pardons. Once a state drafted a new constitution and elected state officers and mem- bers of Congress, Johnson promised to revoke martial law and recognize the new state government. Suffrage was limited to white citizens who had taken the loyalty oath. This plan was similar to Lincoln’s, though more lenient. Only informally did Johnson stipulate that the

southern states were to renounce their ordinances of secession, repudiate the Confederate debt, and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, which had been passed by Congress in January 1865 and was in the process of being ratified by the states. (It became part of the Constitution in December.)

The Failure of Johnson’s Program >>  The southern delegates who met to construct new govern- ments were in no mood to follow Johnson’s recom- mendations. Several states merely repealed instead of repudiating their ordinances of secession, rejected the Thirteenth Amendment, or refused to repudiate the Confederate debt.

Nor did the new governments allow African Amer- icans any political rights or provide in any effective way for black education. In addition, each state passed a series of laws, often modeled on its old slave code, that applied only to African Americans. These “ black codes ” did give African Americans some rights that had not been granted to slaves. They legalized mar- riages from slavery and allowed black southerners to hold and sell property and to sue and be sued in state courts. Yet their primary intent was to keep African Americans as propertyless agricultural laborers with inferior legal rights. The new freedpeople could not serve on juries, testify against whites, or work as they

pleased. Mississippi prohib- ited them from buying or renting farmland, and most states ominously provided that black people who were vagrants could be arrested and hired out to landown- ers. Many northerners were incensed by the restrictive black codes, which violated their conception of freedom.

Southern voters under Johnson’s plan also defiantly elected prominent Confed- erate military and politi- cal leaders to office. At this point, Johnson could have called for new elections or admitted that a different program of Reconstruction was needed. Instead, he caved in. For all his harsh rhetoric, he shrank from  the prospect

̂̂ Andrew Johnson was a staunch Unionist, but his contentious personality and inflexibility masked a deep-seated insecurity, which was rooted in his humble background. As a young man, he worked and lived in this rude tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee.

black codes laws passed by southern states in 1865 and 1866, modeled on the slave codes in effect before the Civil War. The codes did grant African Americans some rights not enjoyed by slaves, but their primary purpose was to keep African Americans as propertyless agricultural laborers.

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clothing, and medical care to war refugees (including white southerners) and took charge of settling freed- people on abandoned lands. The new bill gave the bureau the added responsibilities of supervising special courts to resolve disputes involving freedpeople and establishing schools for black southerners. Although this bill passed with virtually unanimous Republican support, Johnson vetoed it.

Johnson also vetoed a civil rights bill designed to overturn the more flagrant provisions of the black codes. The law made African Americans citizens of the United States and granted them the right to own property, make contracts, and have access to courts as parties and witnesses. (The law did not go so far as to grant freedpeople the right to vote.) For most Republicans Johnson’s action was the last straw, and in April 1866 Congress overrode his veto. Congress then approved a slightly revised Freedmen’s Bureau bill in July and promptly overrode the president’s veto. Johnson’s refusal to compromise drove the moderates into the arms of the Radicals.

The Fourteenth Amendment >>  To prevent unrepentant Confederates from taking over the recon- structed state governments and denying African Americans basic freedoms, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction proposed an amendment to the Con- stitution, which passed both houses of Congress with the necessary two-thirds vote in June 1866.

The amendment guaranteed repayment of the national war debt and prohibited repayment of the Confederate debt. To counteract the president’s wholesale pardons, it disqualified prominent Confed- erates from holding office. Because moderates balked at giving the vote to African Americans, the amend-

ment merely gave Congress the right to reduce the representation of any state that did not

have impartial male suffrage. The practical effect of this provision, which Radicals labeled a “swindle,” was to allow north- ern states to retain white suffrage, since unlike southern states they had few African Americans in their populations and thus would not be penalized.

The amendment’s most impor- tant provision, Section 1, defined an American citizen as anyone born in the United States or naturalized, thereby automatically making African Ameri-

cans citizens. Section 1 also prohibited states from abridging “the privileges or

immunities” of citizens, depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without

due process of law,” or denying “any person  .  .  . equal protection of the laws.” The framers of the amendment probably

of social upheaval, and as the lines of ex-Confederates waiting to see him lengthened, he began issuing spe- cial pardons almost as fast as they could be printed. Publicly Johnson put on a bold face, announcing that Reconstruction had been successfully completed. But many members of Congress were deeply alarmed, and the stage was set for a serious confrontation.

Johnson’s Break with Congress  >>   The new Congress was by no means of one mind. A small number of Democrats and a few conservative Repub- licans backed the president’s program of immediate and unconditional restoration. At the other end of the spectrum, a larger group of Radical Republicans, led by Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Benjamin Wade, and others, was bent on remaking southern society in the image of the North. Reconstruction must “revo- lutionize Southern institutions, habits, and manners,” insisted Representative Stevens, “or all our blood and treasure have been spent in vain.”

As a minority the Radicals needed the aid of the moderate Republicans, the largest bloc in Congress. Led by William Pitt Fessenden and Lyman Trumbull, the moderates had no desire to foster social revolu- tion or promote racial equality in the South. But they wanted to keep Confederate leaders from reassum- ing power, and they were convinced that the former slaves needed federal protection. Otherwise, Trumbull declared, the freedpeople would “be tyrannized over, abused, and virtually reenslaved.”

The central issue dividing Johnson and the Radi- cals was the place of African Americans in Ameri- can society. Johnson accused his opponents of seeking “to Africanize the southern half of our country,” while the Radicals championed civil and political rights for African Americans. The only way to maintain loyal governments and develop a republican party in the South, Radicals argued, was to give black men the ballot. Moderates agreed that the new southern govern- ments were too harsh toward African Americans, but they feared that too great an emphasis on black civil rights would alienate northern voters.

In December 1865, when southern representatives to Congress appeared in Washington, a majority in Congress voted to exclude them. Congress also appointed a joint committee, chaired by Senator Fessenden, to look into Reconstruction.

The growing split with the president became clearer when Congress passed a bill extending the life of the Freed- men’s Bureau. Created in March 1865, the bureau provided emergency food,

̂̂ Thaddeus Stevens, Radical leader in the House.

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Resorting to the tactic of “waving the bloody shirt , ” they appealed to voters by reviving bitter memo- ries of the war. In a clas- sic example of such rhetoric, Governor Oliver Morton of Indiana proclaimed that “every bounty jumper, every deserter, every sneak who ran away from the draft calls himself a Democrat. Every ‘Son of Liberty’ who con- spired to murder, burn, rob arsenals and release rebel prisoners calls himself a Democrat. In short, the Demo- cratic party may be described as a common sewer.”

Voters soundly repudiated Johnson, as the Repub- licans won more than a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. The Radicals had reached the height of their power, propelled by genuine alarm among northerners that Johnson’s policies would lose the fruits of the Union’s victory. Johnson was a presi- dent virtually without a party.


With a clear mandate in hand congressional Repub- licans passed their own program of Reconstruction, beginning with the first Reconstruction Act in March 1867. Like all later pieces of Reconstruction legislation, it was repassed over Johnson’s veto.

Placing the 10 unreconstructed states under mili- tary commanders, the act provided that in enrolling voters, officials were to include black adult males but not former Confederates, who were barred from hold- ing office under the Fourteenth Amendment. Delegates to the state conventions were to frame constitu- tions that provided for black suffrage and disqualified prominent ex-Confederates from office. The first state legislatures to meet under the new constitution were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. Once these steps were completed and Congress approved the new state constitution, a state could send representa- tives to Congress.

White southerners found these requirements so insulting that officials took no steps to register voters. Congress then enacted a second Reconstruction Act,

✔ R E V I E W What were Lincoln’s and Andrew Johnson’s approaches to Reconstruction, and why did Congress reject Johnson’s approach?

intended to prohibit laws that applied to one race only, such as the black codes, or that made certain acts fel- onies when committed by black but not white people, or that decreed different penalties for the same crime when committed by white and black lawbreakers. The framers probably did not intend to prevent segrega- tion (the legal separation of the races) in schools and public places.

Johnson denounced the amendment and urged southern states not to ratify it. Ironically, of the seceded states only the president’s own state ratified the amendment, and Congress readmitted Tennessee with no further restrictions. The telegram sent to Con- gress by a longtime foe of Johnson officially announc- ing Tennessee’s approval ended: “Give my respects to the dead dog in the White House.”

The Election of 1866 >>  When Congress blocked his policies, Johnson undertook a speaking tour of the East and Midwest in the fall of 1866 to drum up pop- ular support. But the president found it difficult to convince northern audiences that white southerners were fully repentant. Only months earlier white mobs in Memphis and New Orleans had attacked black resi- dents and killed nearly 100 in two major race riots. “The negroes now know, to their sorrow, that it is best not to arouse the fury of the white man,” boasted one Memphis newspaper. When the president encountered hostile audiences during his northern campaign, he made matters only worse by trading insults and pro- claiming that the Radicals were traitors.

Not to be outdone, the Radicals vilified Johnson as a traitor aiming to turn the country over to former rebels.

^̂ In 1866 white mobs in Memphis and New Orleans attacked African Americans in two major riots. Here rioters set fire to a schoolhouse used by freedpeople.

bloody shirt political cam- paign tactic of “waving the bloody shirt,” used by Republicans against Democrats; it invoked the deaths and casualties from the Civil War as a reason to vote for Republicans as the party of the Union, rather than the Democrats, who had often opposed the war.

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TEXAS 1870 1873






ARK. 1868 1874

LA. 1868 1877

MISS. 1870 1876

ALA. 1868 1874

1866 1869


FLA. 1868 1877

GA. 1870 1872

S.C. 1868 1877

N.C. 1868 1870

VA. 1870 1869

W. VA.






Former Confederate States

Military district boundaries

Date of readmission to the Union

Date of “redemption”




The Land Issue >>  While the political process of Reconstruction proceeded, Congress debated whether land should be given to former slaves to foster economic independence. At a meeting with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton near the end of the war, African Ameri- can leaders declared: “The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land, and till it by our own labor.” The Second Confiscation Act of 1862 had authorized the government to seize and sell the property of supporters of the rebellion. In June 1866, however, President John- son ruled that confiscation laws applied only to wartime.

After more than a year of debate, Congress rejected all proposals to give land to former slaves. Given Amer- icans’ strong belief in self-reliance, little sympathy existed for the idea that government should support any group. In addition, land redistribution represented an attack on property rights, another cherished American value. “A division of rich men’s lands amongst the landless,” argued the Nation, a Radical journal, “would give a shock to our whole social and political system from which it would hardly recover without the loss of liberty.” By 1867 land reform was dead.

Impeachment >>  Throughout 1867 Congress rou- tinely overrode Johnson’s vetoes, but the president undercut congressional Reconstruction in other ways. He interpreted the new laws narrowly and removed military commanders who vigorously enforced them. Congress responded by restricting his power to issue orders to military commanders in the South. It also passed the Tenure of Office Act, which forbade John- son to remove any member of the cabinet without the Senate’s consent. The intention of this law was to pre- vent him from firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, the only remaining Radical in the cabinet.

also in March, ordering the local military command- ers to put the machin- ery of Reconstruction into motion. Johnson’s efforts to limit the power of mili- tary commanders produced a third act, passed in July, that upheld their superi- ority in all matters. When the first election was held in Alabama to ratify the new state constitution, whites boycotted it in suf- ficient numbers to prevent a majority of voters from participating. Undaunted, Congress passed the fourth Reconstruction Act (March 1868), which required rat- ification of the constitu- tion by only a majority of those voting rather than those who were registered.

By June 1868 Congress had readmitted the repre- sentatives of seven states. Texas, Virginia, and Missis- sippi did not complete the process until 1869. Georgia finally followed in 1870.

Post-Emancipation Societies in the Americas >>  With the exception of Haiti’s revolu- tion (1791–1804), the United States was the only soci- ety in the Americas in which the destruction of slavery was accomplished by violence. But the United States, uniquely among these societies, enfranchised for- mer slaves almost immediately after the emancipa- tion. Thus, in the United States, former masters and slaves battled for control of the state in ways that did not occur in other post-emancipation societies. In most of the Caribbean, property requirements for voting left the planters in political control. Jamaica, for example, with a population of 500,000 in the 1860s, had only 3,000 voters.

Moreover, in reaction to political efforts to mobi- lize disenfranchised black peasants, Jamaican planters dissolved the assembly and reverted to being a Crown colony governed from London. Of the sugar islands, all but Barbados adopted the same policy, thereby blocking the potential for any future black peasant democracy. Nor did any of these societies have the counterparts of the Radical Republicans, a group of outsiders with political power that promoted the fun- damental transformation of the post-emancipation South. These comparisons highlight the radicalism of Reconstruction in the United States, which alone saw an effort to forge an interracial democracy.

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clergy), and of the third who were farmers, nearly all owned land. In their political and social values, Afri- can American leaders were more conservative than the rural black population, and they showed little interest in land reform.

Black citizens were a majority of the voters only in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Thus in most of the South the Republican Party had to secure white votes to stay in power. Opponents scornfully labeled white southerners who allied with the Repub- lican Party scalawags , yet an estimated quarter of white southerners at one time voted Republican. They were primarily Union- ists from the upland counties and hill areas and largely yeoman farmers. Such voters were attracted by Republican promises to rebuild the South, restore prosperity, create public schools, and open isolated areas to the market with railroads.

The other group of white Republicans in the South were known as carpetbaggers . Originally from the North, they allegedly had arrived with all their worldly possessions stuffed in a carpetbag, ready to loot and plunder the defeated South. Some did, certainly, but northerners moved south for a variety of rea- sons. Though carpetbag- gers made up only a small percentage of Republican voters, they controlled almost a third of the offices in the South. More than half of all southern Republican governors and nearly half of Republican members of Congress were originally northerners.

The Republican Party in the South had difficulty maintaining unity. Scalawags were especially sus- ceptible to the race issue and social pressure. “Even my own kinspeople have turned the cold shoulder to me because I hold office under a Republican admin- istration,” testified a Mississippi white Republican. As black southerners pressed for greater recognition, white southerners increasingly defected to the Demo- crats. Carpetbaggers, in contrast, were less sensitive to race, although most felt that their black allies should be content with minor offices. The animosity between scalawags and carpetbaggers, which grew out of their rivalry for party honors, was particularly intense. Reforms under the New State Governments >>   The new southern state con- stitutions enacted several significant reforms. They devised fairer systems of legislative representation and made many previously appointive offices elective. The Radical state governments also assumed some

When Johnson tried to dismiss Stanton in February 1868, the House of Representatives angrily approved articles of impeachment. The articles focused on the violation of the Tenure of Office Act, but the charge with the most substance was that Johnson had acted to systematically obstruct Reconstruction legislation. In the trial before the Senate, his lawyers argued that a president could be impeached only for an indictable crime, which Johnson clearly had not committed. The Radicals countered that impeachment applied to polit- ical offenses, not merely criminal acts. In May 1868 the Senate voted 35 to 19 to convict, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed. The seven Republicans who joined the Democrats in voting for acquittal were uneasy about using impeachment as a political weapon.


As the power of the Radicals in Congress waned, the fate of Reconstruction increasingly hinged on devel- opments in the southern states themselves. Power in these states rested with the new Republican parties, representing a coalition of black and white southerners and transplanted northerners.

Black and White Republicans  >>   Once African Americans received the right to vote, black men constituted as much as 80 percent of the Repub- lican voters in the South. They steadfastly opposed the Democratic Party with its appeal to white supremacy. But during Reconstruction, African Americans never held office in proportion to their voting strength. No African American was ever elected governor. And only in South Carolina, where more than 60 percent of the population was black, did they control even one house of the legislature. Between 15 and 20 percent of the state officers and 6 percent of members of Congress (2 senators and 15 representatives) were black. Only in South Carolina did black officeholders approach their proportion of the population.

Those who held office came from the top levels of African American society. Among state and federal officeholders, perhaps 80 percent were literate, and over a quarter had been free before the war, both marks of distinction in the black community. Their occupations also set them apart: many were professionals (mostly

✔ R E V I E W What was Congress’s approach to Reconstruction, and why did it not include a provision for giving land to former slaves?

scalawags white southern- ers who supported the Republican Party.

carpetbaggers northern white Republicans who came to live in the South after the Civil War. Most were veterans of the Union army; many were teachers, Freedmen’s Bureau agents or investors in cotton plantations.

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BLACK ASPIRATIONS Emancipation came to slaves in different ways and at different times. Betty Jones’s grandmother was told about the Emancipation Proclamation by another slave while they were hoeing corn. Mary Anderson received the news from her master near the end of the war when Sherman’s army invaded North Carolina. Whatever the timing, freedom meant a host of precious blessings to people who had been in bondage all their lives.

Experiencing Freedom  >>   The first impulse was to think of freedom as a contrast to slavery. Emancipation immediately released slaves from the most oppressive aspects of bondage—the whippings, the breakup of families, the sexual exploitation. Free- dom also meant movement, the right to travel without a pass or white permission. Above all, freedom meant that African Americans’ labor would be for their own benefit. One Arkansas freedman, who earned his first dollar working on a railroad, recalled that when he was paid, “I felt like the richest man in the world.”

Freedom included finding a new place to work. Changing jobs was one concrete way to break the psy- chological ties of slavery. Even planters with reputations for kindness sometimes saw most of their former hands depart. The cook who left a South Carolina family, despite the offer of higher wages than her new job’s, explained: “I must go. If I stays here I’ll never know I’m free.”

Symbolically, freedom meant having a full name. African Americans now adopted last names, most commonly the name of the first master in the fam-

ily’s oral history as far back as it could be recalled. Most, however, retained their first name, espe- cially if the name had been given to them by their parents (as most often had been the case). What- ever the name, black Americans insisted on making the decision themselves.

The Black Family  >>   African Americans also sought to strengthen the family in free- dom. Since slave marriages had not been recognized as legal, thou- sands of former slaves insisted on

responsibility for social welfare and established the first statewide systems of public schools in the South.

All the new constitutions proclaimed the principle of equality and granted black adult males the right to vote. On social relations they were much more cautious. No state outlawed segregation, and South Carolina and Louisiana were the only ones that required integration in public schools (a mandate that was almost univer- sally ignored). Sensitive to status, mulattoes pushed for prohibition of social discrimination, but white Repub- licans refused to adopt such a radical policy.

Economic Issues and Corruption >>  With the southern economy in ruins at the end of the war, prob- lems of economic reconstruction were severe. The new Republican governments encouraged industrial devel- opment by providing subsidies, loans, and even tem- porary exemptions from taxes. These governments also largely rebuilt the southern railroad system, offering lavish aid to railroad corporations. In the two decades after 1860, the region doubled its manufacturing estab- lishments, yet the South steadily slipped further behind the booming industrial economy of the North.

The expansion of government services offered temptations for corruption. Southern officials regularly received bribes and kickbacks for awarding railroad charters, franchises, and other contracts. The railroad grants and new social services such as schools also left state governments in debt, even though taxes rose in the 1870s to four times the rate in 1860.

Corruption, however, was not only a south- ern problem but a national one. During these years, the Democratic Tweed Ring in New York City alone stole more money than all the southern Radical gov- ernments combined. Moreover, corruption was hardly limited to southern Republicans: many Democrats and white business leaders participated. Louisiana governor Henry Warmoth, a carpetbagger, told a congressio- nal committee: “Everybody is demoralizing down here. Corruption is the fashion.”

Corruption in Radical govern- ments existed, but southern Dem- ocrats exaggerated its extent for partisan purposes. They opposed honest Radical regimes just as bit- terly as notoriously corrupt ones. In the eyes of most white south- erners, the real crime of the Radi- cal governments was that they allowed black citizens to hold some offices and tried to protect the civil rights of black Americans. Race was white conservatives’ greatest weapon. And it would prove the most effective means to undermine Republican power in the South.

̂̂ During the decades before the Civil War, many slave families were split when individual slaves were sold to new masters. This Tennessee news- paper advertisement shows one way that freed- people sought to deal with the consequences.

✔ R E V I E W What roles did African Americans, southern whites, and northern whites play in the Reconstruction governments of the South?

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sent south by northern missionary societies. “I feel that it is a precious privilege,” Esther Douglass wrote, “to be allowed to do something for these poor people.” Many saw themselves as peacetime soldiers, strug- gling to make emancipation a reality. Indeed, hostile white southerners sometimes destroyed black schools and threatened and even murdered white teachers. Then there were the everyday challenges: low pay, run-down buildings, few books, classes of 100 or more children. By 1869 most teachers in these Freedmen’s Bureau schools were black, trained by the bureau.

Most slaves had attended white churches or services supervised by whites. Once free, African Americans quickly established their own congregations led by black preachers. Mostly Methodist and Baptist, black churches were the only major organizations in the African American community controlled by blacks themselves. A white missionary reported that “the Ebony preacher who promises perfect independence from White control and direction carried the col- ored heart at once.” Just as in slavery, religion offered African Americans a place of refuge in a hostile white world and provided them with hope, comfort, and a means of self-identification.

New Working Conditions  >>   As a largely propertyless class, blacks in the postwar South had no choice but to work for white landowners. Except for

being married again by proper authorities, even though this was not required by law. Those who had been forcibly separated in slavery and later remarried confronted the dilemma of which spouse to take. Laura Spicer, whose husband had been sold away in slavery, wrote him after the war seek- ing to resume their marriage. In a series of wrenching letters, he explained that he had thought her dead, had remarried, and had a new family. “You know it never was our wishes to be separated from each other, and it never was our fault. I had rather anything to had happened to me most than ever have been parted from you and the children,” he wrote. “As I am, I do not know which I love best, you or Anna.” Declining to return, he closed, “Laura, truly, I have got another wife, and I am very sorry.”

As in white families, black husbands deemed themselves the head of the fam- ily and acted legally for their wives. They often insisted that their wives would not work in the fields as they had in slav- ery. “The [black] women say they never mean to do any more outdoor work,” one planter reported, “that white men sup- port their wives and they mean that their husbands shall support them.” In negotiating contracts, a father also demanded the right to control his children and their labor. All these changes were designed to insulate the black family from white control.

The Schoolhouse and the Church >>  In free- dom, the schoolhouse and the black church became essential institutions in the black community. “My Lord, Ma’am, what a great thing learning is!” a South Carolina freedman told a northern teacher. “White folks can do what they likes, for they know so much more than we.” At first, northern churches and missionar- ies, working with the Freedmen’s Bureau, set up black schools in the South. Tuition at these schools repre- sented 10 percent or more of a laborer’s monthly wages, yet these schools were full. Eventually, states estab- lished public school systems, which by 1867 enrolled 40 percent of African American children.

Black adults, who often attended night classes, had good reasons for seeking literacy. They wanted to be able to read the Bible, to defend their newly gained civil and political rights, and to protect them- selves from being cheated. Both races saw that edu- cation would undermine the servility that slavery had fostered.

The teachers in the Freedmen’s Bureau schools were primarily northern middle-class white women

̂̂ After living for years in a society in which teaching slaves to read and write was usually illegal, freedpeople viewed literacy as a key to securing their newfound free- dom. Blacks were not merely “anxious to learn,” a school official in Virginia reported, they were “crazy to learn.”

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freedom than being a wage laborer. “I am not work- ing for wages,” one black farmer declared in defend- ing his right to leave the plantation at will, “but am part owner of the crop and as [such,] I have all the rights that you or any other man has.” Although black per-capita agricultural income increased 40 percent in freedom, sharecropping was a harshly exploit- ative system in which black families often sank into perpetual debt.

The task of supervising the transition from slav- ery to freedom on southern plantations fell to the Freedmen’s Bureau, a unique experiment in social policy supported by the federal government. Assigned the task of protecting freedpeople’s economic rights, approximately 550 local agents regulated working conditions in southern agriculture after the war. The racial attitudes of Bureau agents varied widely, as did their commitment and competence.

Most agents required written contracts between white planters and black laborers, specifying wages

paying wages, whites wanted to retain the old sys- tem of labor, including close supervision, gang labor, and physical punishment. Determined to remove all emblems of servitude, African Americans refused to work under these conditions, and they demanded time off to devote to their own interests. Because of shorter hours and the withdrawal of children and women from the fields, blacks’ output declined by an estimated 35 percent in freedom. They also refused to live in the old slave quarters located near the master’s house and instead erected cabins on distant parts of the plan- tation. Wages initially were $5 or $6 a month plus provisions and a cabin; by 1867, they had risen to an average of $10 a month.

These changes eventually led to the rise of share- cropping. Under this arrangement African American families farmed discrete plots of land and then at the end of the year divided the crop, normally on an equal  basis, with the white landowner. Sharecrop- ping had higher status and offered greater personal

MAP 17.2 : GEORGIA PLANTATION AFTER THE WAR After emancipation, sharecropping became the dominant form of agricultural labor in the South. Black families no longer lived in the old slave quarters but dispersed to separate plots of land that they farmed themselves. At the end of the year, each sharecropper turned over part of the crop to the white landowner. What accounts for the difference between where slave families lived before the war and where the families of freedpeople lived by 1881?

Slave quarters

Houses of former Barrow slaves

Houses of other tenant farmers

Other buildings

Wright’s Branch

Branch Creek

Little Riv er

Little Riv er Gin House

Master’s House

Slave Quarters


Sabrina Dalton


Lizzie Dalton

Frank Maxey

Joe Bug

Jim Reid Nancy Pope

Cane PopeGub Barrow

Lem Bryant Willis Bryant

Tom Wright Granny

Lewis Watson Reuben Barrow

Ben Thomas Tom Thomas

Omy Barrow Peter Barrow

Milly Barrow Handy Barrow Old Isaac

Calvin ParkerTom Tang

Beckton Barrow

Lem Douglas

Landlord’s House

Church School

Gin House


righ t’s Branch

Branch Cre


1860 1881

S y ll

’s F or


S y ll

’s F or



Oglethorpe County



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On Christmas Day 1875 a white acquaintance approached Charles Caldwell in Clinton, Missis- sippi, and invited him to have a drink. A former slave, Caldwell was a state senator and the leader of the Republican Party in Hinds County. But the black leader’s fearlessness made him a marked man. Only two months earlier, Caldwell had fled the county to escape an armed white mob. Despite threats against him, he had returned home to vote in the November state election. Now, as Caldwell and his “friend” raised their glasses in a holiday toast, a gunshot exploded through the window and Caldwell collapsed, mortally wounded. He was taken outside, where his assassins riddled his body with bullets. He died alone in the street.

Charles Caldwell shared the fate of a number of black Republican leaders in the South during Reconstruction. Resorting to violence and terror, white southerners challenged the commitment of the federal government to sustaining Reconstruction. After Andrew Johnson was acquitted in May 1868 at his impeachment trial, the crusading idealism of the Republican Party began to wane. Ulysses S. Grant was hardly the cause of this change, but he certainly came to symbolize it.

The Grant Administration >>   In 1868 Grant was elected president—and Republicans were shocked. Their candidate, a great war hero, had won by a margin of only 300,000 votes. Furthermore, with an estimated 450,000 black Republican votes cast in the South, a majority of whites had voted Democratic. The election helped convince Republican leaders that an amendment securing black suffrage throughout the nation was necessary.

and the conditions of employment. Although agents sometimes intervened to protect freedpeople from unfair treatment, they also provided important help to planters. They insisted that black laborers not leave at harvesttime, they arrested those who violated their contracts or refused to sign new ones at the beginning of the year, and they preached the need to be orderly and respectful. Because of such attitudes, freedpeo- ple increasingly complained that Bureau agents were mere tools of the planter class. One observer reported: “Doing justice seems to mean seeing that the blacks don’t break contracts and compelling them to submit cheerfully.”

The primary means of enforcing working conditions were the Freedmen’s Courts, which Congress created in 1866 in order to avoid the discrimination African Americans received in state courts. These new courts functioned as military tribunals, and often the agent was the entire court. The sympathy black laborers received varied from state to state. But since Congress was opposed to creating any permanent welfare agency, it shut down the Freedmen’s Bureau, and by 1872 it had gone out of business. Despite its mixed record, it was the most effective agency in protecting blacks’ civil and political rights. Its disbanding signaled the beginning of the northern retreat from Reconstruction.

Planters and a New Way of Life >>  Plant- ers and other white southerners faced emancipation with dread. “All the traditions and habits of both races had been suddenly overthrown,” a Tennessee planter recalled, “and neither knew just what to do, or how to accommodate themselves to the new situation.” Slav- ery had been a complex institution that welded black and white southerners together in intimate relation- ships. The old ideal of a paternalistic planter, which required blacks to act subservient and grateful, gave way to an emphasis on strictly economic relationships. Only with time did planters develop new norms to judge black behavior.

After the war, however, planters increasingly embraced the ideology of segregation. Since emancipa- tion significantly reduced the social distance between the races, white southerners sought psychological sep- aration and kept dealings with African Americans to a minimum. By the time Reconstruction ended, white planters had developed a new way of life based on the institutions of sharecropping and segregation, and undergirded by a militant white supremacy.

While most planters kept their land, they did not regain the economic prosperity of the prewar years. Cotton prices began a long decline, and southern per-capita income suf- fered as a result. By 1880 the value of south- ern farms had slid 33 percent below the level of 1860.

✔ R E V I E W In what ways were the church and the school central to African American hopes after the Civil War?

If the North won the war, how well did it win the peace?


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disenfranchisement denial of a citizen’s right to vote.

and Susan B. Anthony, had pressed for first the Four- teenth and then the Fifteenth Amendment to recog- nize that women had a civic right to vote. But even most Radicals were unwilling to back women’s suffrage, contending that black rights had to be ensured first. As a result, the Fifteenth Amendment divided the femi- nist movement. Although disappointed that women were not included in its provisions, Lucy Stone and the American Woman Suffrage Association urged ratifi- cation. Stanton and Anthony, however, denounced the amendment and organized the National Woman Suf- frage Association to work for passage of a new amend- ment giving women the ballot. The division hampered the women’s rights movement for decades to come.

When Ulysses S. Grant was a general, his quiet manner and well-known resolution served him well. As president he proved much less certain of his goals

In February 1869 Congress sent the Fifteenth Amendment to the states for ratification. It forbade any state to deny the right to vote on grounds of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It did not forbid literacy and property requirements, as some Radicals wanted, because the moderates feared that only a conservative version of the amendment could be ratified. As a result, when the amendment was ratified

in March 1870, loopholes remained that eventually allowed southern states to disenfranchise African Americans.

Advocates of women’s suffrage were bitterly dis- appointed when Congress refused to outlaw voting discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race. The Women’s Loyal League, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

̂̂ The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, secured the right of African American males to vote as free citizens. In New York, black citizens paraded in support of Ulysses S. Grant for president ( center ). But citizenship was only one component of what African Americans insisted were central aspects of their freedom. What other features of a free life does the poster champion?

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As the agony of the war became more dis- tant, the Panic of 1873, which precipitated a severe four-year depression, diverted public attention to economic issues. Battered by the panic and the cor- ruption issue, the Republicans lost a shocking 77 seats in Congress in the 1874 elections, and along with them control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1861.

“The truth is our people are tired out with the worn out cry of ‘Southern outrages’!!” one Republican concluded. “Hard times and heavy taxes make them wish the ‘ever lasting nigger’ were in hell or Africa.” More and more, Republicans spoke about cutting loose the unpopular southern governments.

and therefore less effective at corralling politicians than at maneuvering troops.

A series of scandals wracked his administration, so much so that “Grantism” soon became a code word in American politics for corruption, cronyism, and venality. Although Grant did not profit personally, he remained loyal to his friends and displayed little zeal to root out wrongdoing. Nor was Congress immune from the lowered tone of public life. In such a climate ruthless state machines, led by men who favored the status quo, came to dominate the party.

As corruption in both the North and the South worsened, reformers became more interested in clean- ing up government than in protecting black rights. Congress in 1872 passed an amnesty act, allow- ing many more ex-Confederates to serve in south- ern governments. That same year, liberal Republicans broke with the Republican Party and nominated for president Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune. A one-time Radical, Greeley had become disillusioned with Reconstruction and urged a resto- ration of home rule in the South as well as adoption of civil service reform. Democrats decided to back the Liberal Republican ticket. The Republicans renomi- nated Grant, who, despite the defection of a number of prominent Radicals, won an easy victory.

Growing Northern Disillusionment >>  Dur- ing Grant’s second term Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, the last major piece of Reconstruc- tion legislation. This law prohibited racial discrimina- tion in public accommodations, transportation, places of amusement, and juries. At the same time, Con- gress rejected a ban on segregation in public schools, which was almost universally practiced in the North as well as the South. The federal government made little attempt to enforce the law, however, and in 1883 the Supreme Court struck down its provisions, except the one relating to juries.

Despite passage of the Civil Rights Act, many northerners were growing disillusioned with Recon- struction. They were repelled by the corruption of the southern governments, they were tired of the vio- lence and disorder that accompanied elections in the South, and they had little faith in black Americans. William Dodge, a wealthy New York capitalist and an influential Republican, wrote in 1875 that the South could never develop its resources “till confidence in her state governments can be restored, and this will never be done by federal bayonets.” It had been a mistake, he went on, to make black southerners feel “that the United States government was their special friend, rather than those . . . among whom they must live and for whom they must work. We have tried this long enough,” he concluded. “Now let the South alone.”

̂̂ Grant swings from a trapeze while supporting a number of asso- ciates accused of corruption. Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson ( top center ) was accused of accepting bribes for awarding Navy contracts; Secretary of War William W. Belknap ( top right ) was forced to resign for selling Indian post traderships; and the president’s private secretary, Orville Babcock ( bottom right ), was implicated in the Whiskey Ring scandal. Although not person- ally involved in the scandals, Grant was reluctant to dismiss from office supporters accused of wrongdoing.

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the night for a host of activities, including torchlight political parades and meetings of such organizations as the Union League. Part of the Klan’s mission was to recoup this contested ground and to limit the ability of African Americans to use the night as they pleased. When indirect threats of violence were not enough (galloping through black neighborhoods rattling fences with lances), beatings and executions were undertaken— again, facilitated by the dark of night.

What became known as the Mississippi Plan was inaugurated in 1875, when Democrats decided to use as much violence as necessary to carry the state elec- tion. Local papers trumpeted, “Carry the election peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.” Recogniz- ing that northern public opinion had grown sick of repeated federal intervention in southern elections, the Grant administration rejected the request of Repub- lican governor Adelbert Ames for troops to stop the violence. Bolstered by terrorism, the Democrats swept the election in Mississippi. Violence and intimidation prevented as many as 60,000 black and white Repub- licans from voting, converting the normal Republican majority into a Democratic majority of 30,000. Missis- sippi had been “redeemed.”

The Disputed Election of 1876 >>  The 1876 presidential election was crucial to the final overthrow of Reconstruction. The Republicans nominated Ohio gov- ernor Rutherford B. Hayes to oppose Samuel, governor New York. Once again violence prevented an estimated quarter of a million Republican votes from being cast in the South. Tilden had a clear majority of 250,000 in the popular vote, but the outcome in the Electoral College was in doubt because both parties claimed South Caro-

lina, Florida, and Louisiana, the only recon- structed states still in Republican hands.

To arbitrate the disputed returns, Con- gress established a 15-member electoral commission. By a straight party vote of 8 to 7, the commission awarded the disputed elec- toral votes—and the presidency—to Hayes.

When angry Democrats threatened a filibuster to prevent the electoral votes from being counted, key Republicans met with southern Democrats and reached an informal understanding, later known as the Compromise of 1877. Hayes’s supporters agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South and not oppose the new Democratic state governments. For their part, south- ern Democrats dropped their opposition to Hayes’s election and pledged to respect African Americans’ rights.

Without federal support, the last Republican southern governments col- lapsed, and Democrats took control of

The Triumph of White Supremacy  >> Meanwhile, southern Democrats set out to overthrow the remaining Radical governments. Already, white Republicans in the South felt heavy pressure to des- ert their party. To poor white southerners who lacked social standing, the Democratic appeal to racial soli- darity offered special comfort. The large landowners and other wealthy groups that led southern Democrats objected less to black southerners voting, since they were confident that if outside influences were removed, they could control the black vote.

Democrats also resorted to economic pressure to undermine Republican power. In heavily black coun- ties, newspapers published the names of black resi- dents who cast Republican ballots and urged planters to discharge them. But terror and violence provided the most effective means to overthrow the radi- cal regimes. A number of paramilitary organizations broke up Republican meetings, terrorized white and black Republicans, assassinated Republican leaders, and prevented black citizens from voting. The most notorious of these organizations was the Ku Klux Klan, which along with similar groups functioned as an unofficial arm of the Democratic Party.

In the war for supremacy, contesting control of the night was paramount to both southern whites and blacks. Before emancipation masters regulated the nighttime hours, with a system of passes and patrols that chased slaves who went hunting or tried to sneak a visit to a family member at a neighboring plantation. For slaves the night provided precious free time: to read, to meet for worship, school, or dancing. During Reconstruction African Americans actively took back

Contesting the Night witness

—Ruth Watkins, Reconstruction in Marshall County (1912)

“The negro processions, sometimes a mile long, would parade through and around the town of Holly Springs. They wore red sashes and enormous red and blue badges. They would carry flaming torches, and transparen- cies . . . of different sizes, sometimes being from ten to twelve feet long. . . . Generally the homes of the [white] people were closed at the times of these processions, and not a white face was in sight anywhere.”

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Historian’s T O O L B O X

T he costumes of Ku Klux Klan night riders— pointed hoods and white sheets—have become a staple of history books. But why use such outlandish disguises? To hide the identity of members, according to some accounts, or to terrorize freedpeople into thinking they were being manaced by Confederate ghosts. Historian Elaine F. Parsons has suggested that KKK per- formances took their cues from American popular culture the costumes of Mardi Gras and similar carnivals, as well as minstrel shows. In behaving like carnival revelers, KKK members may have hoped

to fool northern authorities into view- ing the night rides as humorous pranks, not a threat to Radical rule. For southern white Democrats the theatrical night rides helped overturn the social order of Recon- struction, just as carousers at carnivals disrupted the night. The ritual garb pro- vided seemingly innocent cover for what was truly a campaign of terror and intimi- dation that often turned deadly.

THINKING CRITICALLY In what ways do these disguises affect the people who wear them? Assess how

the combination of horror and jest might have worked in terms of the different groups perceiving the Klan’s activities: white northerners, white southerners, and African A merican southerners. In terms of popular culture, do modern horror films sometimes combine both terror and humor?

D ressed to K ill

Why wear a hooded mask? Might there be more than one reason?

Klan members drawn for Harper’s Weekly magazine. These three Klansmen were arrested

in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, for attempted murder.


Racism and the Failure of Reconstruc- tion  >>   Reconstruction failed for a multitude of reasons. The reforming impulse behind the Republican Party of the 1850s had been battered and worn down by the war. The new materialism of industrial America inspired a jaded cynicism in many Americans. In the South, African American voters and leaders inevitably lacked a certain amount of education and experience;

the remaining states of the Confederacy. By 1877 the entire South was in the hands of the Redeem- ers , as they called them- selves. Reconstruction and Republican rule had come to an end.

Redeemers southerners who came to power in southern state governments from 1875 to 1877, claim- ing to have “redeemed” the South from Recon- struction. The Redeemers looked to undo many of the changes wrought by the Civil War.

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With the overthrow of Reconstruction, the white South had won back some of the power it had lost in 1865—but not all. In the longer term, the politi- cal equations of power had been changed. Even under Redeemer governments, African Americans did not return to the social position they had occupied before the war. They were no longer slaves, and black south- erners who walked dusty roads in search of family members, sent their children to school, or worshiped in their own black churches knew what a momentous change this was. Even under the exploitative share- cropping system, black income rose significantly in freedom. Then, too, the guarantees of “equal protec- tion” and “due process of law” had been written into the Constitution and would be available for later gen- erations to use in championing once again the Radi- cals’ goal of racial equality.

But this was a struggle left to future reformers. For the time being, the clear trend was away from change or hope—especially for former slaves like Benjamin Montgomery and his sons, the owners of the old Davis plantations in Mississippi. In the 1870s bad crops, lower cotton prices, and falling land values undermined the Montgomerys’ financial position, and in 1875 Jefferson Davis sued to have the sale of Brierfield invalidated. Following the overthrow of Mississippi’s Radical government, a white con- servative majority of the court awarded Brierfield to Davis in 1878. The Montgomerys lost Hur- ricane as well.

The waning days of Reconstruction were times filled with such ironies: of governments “redeemed” by violence, of Fourteenth Amend- ment rights being used by conservative courts to protect not black people but giant corpo- rations, of reformers taking up other causes. Increasingly, the industrial North focused on an economic task: integrating both the South and the West into the Union. In the case of both regions, northern factories sought to use southern and western raw materi- als to produce goods and to find national markets for those products. Indeed, during the coming decades European nations also scrambled to acquire natural resources and markets. In the onrushing age of imperialism, Western nations would seek

to dominate newly acquired colonies in Africa and Asia, with the same disregard for their “subject peo- ples” that was seen with African Americans, Latinos, and Indians in the United States.

Disowned by its northern supporters and unmourned by public opinion, Reconstruction was over.

elsewhere, Republicans were divided over policies and options.

Yet beyond these obstacles, the sad fact remains that the ideals of Reconstruction were most clearly defeated by a deep-seated racism that permeated American life. Racism stimulated white southern resistance, undercut northern support for black rights, and eventually made northerners willing to write off Reconstruction, and with it the welfare of African Americans. Although Congress could pass a consti- tutional amendment abolishing slavery, it could not overturn at a stroke the social habits of two centuries.

MAP 17.3 : ELECTION OF 1876

Rutherfor d B. Hayes

(Republica n)

185 (50)

4,034,311 (48)

93,895 (1)Sam

uel J. Tilde n

(Democrat )

184 (50)

4,288,546 (51)

Minor par ties

Nonvoting territories

Candidate (Party)

Electoral V ote (%)

Popular Vo te (%)

75 5


46 35

29 9 3

8115 22




12 10




8 8







5 10





6 10

✔ R E V I E W What factors in the North and the South led the federal government to abandon Reconstruction in the South?

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CHAPTER SUMMARY Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson and the Republican-dominated Congress each developed a program of Reconstruction to quickly restore the Confederate States to the Union. " Lincoln’s 10 percent plan required that 10 percent of

qualified voters from 1860 swear an oath of loyalty to begin organizing a state government.

" Following Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson changed Lincoln’s terms and lessened Reconstruc- tion’s requirements.

" The more radical Congress repudiated Johnson’s state governments and eventually enacted its own program of Reconstruction, which included the principle of black suffrage.

► Congress passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and also extended the life of the Freedmen’s Bureau, a unique experiment in social welfare.

► Congress rejected land reform, however, which would have provided the freedpeople with a greater economic stake.

► The effort to remove Johnson from office through impeachment failed.

" The Radical governments in the South, led by black and white southerners and transplanted northerners, compiled a mixed record on matters such as racial equality, education, economic issues, and corruption.

" Reconstruction was a time of both joy and frustra- tion for former slaves.

► Former slaves took steps to reunite their families and establish black-controlled churches.

► They evidenced a widespread desire for land and education.

► Black resistance to the old system of labor led to the adoption of sharecropping.

► The Freedmen’s Bureau fostered these new working arrangements and also the beginnings of black education in the South.

" Northern public opinion became disillusioned with Reconstruction during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

" Southern whites used violence, economic coer- cion, and racism to overthrow the Republican state governments.

" In 1877 Republican leaders agreed to end Recon- struction in exchange for Rutherford B. Hayes’s election as president.

" Racism played a key role in the eventual failure of Reconstruction.

Additional Reading Historians’ views of Reconstruction have dramatically changed over the past half century. Modern stud- ies offer a more sympathetic assessment of Recon- struction and the experience of African Americans. Indicative of this trend is Eric Foner, Reconstruction (1988), and his briefer treatment (with photographic essays by Joshua Brown) Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction (2005). Michael Les Benedict treats the clash between Andrew Johnson and Congress in The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1973). Political affairs in the South during Reconstruction are examined in Dan T. Carter, When the War Was Over (1985); and Thomas Holt, Black over White (1977), an imaginative study of black political leadership in South Carolina. Hans Trefousse, Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitar- ian (1997), provides a sympathetic reassessment of the influential Radical Republican. Mark W. Summers, A Dangerous Stir (2009), deftly examines the ways in which fear and paranoia shaped Reconstruction.

Leon Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long (1979), sensitively analyzes the transition of enslaved African Americans to freedom. Heather Andrea Williams, Self-Taught: African American Education in Slav- ery and Freedom (2005), illustrates the black drive for literacy and education. James L. Roark, Masters without Slaves (1977), discusses former slavehold- ers’ adjustment to the end of slavery. The dialectic of black-white relations is charted from the antebellum years through Reconstruction and beyond in Steven Hahn, A Nation under Our Feet: Black Politi- cal Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (2003). Two excellent stud- ies of changing labor relations in southern agriculture are Julie Saville, The Work of Reconstruction (1995); and John C. Rodrigue, Reconstruction in the Cane Fields (2001). For contrasting views of the Freed- men’s Bureau, see George R. Bentley, A History of the Freedmen’s Bureau (1955)—favorable—and Donald Nieman, To Set the Law in Motion (1979)— critical. William Gillette, Retreat from Reconstruc- tion, 1869–1879 (1980), focuses on national politics and the end of Reconstruction; while Michael Perman, The Road to Redemption (1984), looks at developments in the South. Heather Cox Richardson explores the post- war context in the North in The Death of Recon- struction (2004) and considers Reconstruction in the West in West from Appomattox (2008).

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Significant Events 1864 Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee establish gov-- ernments under Lincoln’s Reconstruction plan

1865 Freedmen’s Bureau established; Johnson becomes president; presidential Reconstruction completed; Thirteenth Amendment ratified1866

Civil rights bill passed over Johnson’s veto;

Memphis and New Orleans riots; Ku Klux

Klan organized

1867 Congressional

Reconstruction enacted; Tenure of Office Act


1870 Fifteenth

Amendment ratified

1876 Disputed Hayes-

Tilden election

1867–1868 Constitutional conventions in the South; blacks vote in southern elections

1868 Johnson impeached but acquitted; Fourteenth Amendment ratified; Grant elected president

1877 Compromise of 1877; Hayes declared winner of electoral vote; last Republican governments in South fall

1875 Civil Rights Act; Mississippi Plan

1865–1866 Black codes enacted

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African-American migrants, known as Exodusters, hold a religious service in 1879 on the Topeka, Kansas fairgrounds. The Exodusters often traveled with few resources; main- taining their faith gave them strength in their search for a better place to live in the West.


>> An American Story

“come west”

T he news spread across the South during the late 1870s. Perhaps a man came around with a handbill, telling of cheap land; or a letter might arrive from friends or relatives and be read aloud at church. The news spread in different ways, but in the end, the talk always spelled KANSAS.

Few black farmers had been to Kansas themselves. More than a few knew that the abolitionist John Brown had made his home there before coming east to raid Harpers

18 The New South and the Trans- Mississippi West

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Ferry. Black folks, it seemed, might be able to live more freely in Kansas: “They do not kill Negroes here for voting,” wrote one black settler to a friend.

St. Louis learned of these rum- blings in the first raw days of March 1879, as steamers from downriver began unloading freedpeople in large numbers. By the end of 1879 crowds overwhelmed the wharves and temporary shelters. The city’s black churches banded together to house the “refugees,” feed them, and help them continue toward Kansas. The “Exodusters,” as they became known, pressed westward, many of the black emigrants settling in growing towns such as Topeka and Kansas City

The thousands of Exodusters who poured into Kansas were part

of a human flood westward. It had many sources: played-out farms of New England and the South, crowded cities, much of Europe. Special trains brought the set- tlers to the plains, all eager to start anew. But the optimism of boom- ers black and white could not mask the strains in the rapidly expanding nation, especially in the South and the lands west of the Mississippi— the trans-Mississippi West. As largely agricultural regions, they struggled to find their place in the new age of industry emerging from Reconstruction.

In the South, despite a strong push to industrialize, white suprem- acy undercut economic growth. Sharecropping and farm tenancy mushroomed, and a system of racial

violence and caste replaced slav- ery. For its part, the booming West began to realize some of the dreams of democratic antebellum reformers: for free land, for a transcontinental railroad, for colleges to educate its people. Yet the West, too, built a society based on racial violence and hierarchy that challenged hopes for a more democratic future.

By the end of the nineteenth century both the South and the West had assumed their place as suppliers of raw materials, providers of foodstuffs, and consumers of fin- ished goods. A nation of “regional nations” hardly equal in stature was thus drawn together in the last third of the nineteenth century, despite the growing frustrations of inhabit-

ants old and new. <<

in Cincinnati. Despite its own rich resources, Grady fumed, the “South didn’t furnish a thing on earth for that funeral but the corpse and the hole in the ground!” The irony of the story was the tragedy of the South: the region had human and natural resources aplenty but, alas, few factories to manufacture the goods it needed.

In the 1880s Grady campaigned to bring about a “New South” based on bustling industry, cities, and commerce. The business class and its values would dis- place the old planter class as southerners raced “to out- Yankee the Yankee.” Like modern alchemists, they would


It was just such regional inequities that infuriated Henry Grady, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution. He liked to tell the story of the poor cotton farmer buried in a pine coffin in the pine woods of Georgia. Only the coffin had been made not in Georgia but

What ’s to CCoomme 352 The Southern Burden

356 Life in the New South

357 Western Frontiers

360 The War for the West

366 Boom and Bust in the West

368 The Final Frontier

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plantations, the South’s best lands remained in the hands of the largest plantation owners. Few freedpeople or poor white southerners had money to acquire prop- erty. Like Lewis, most rented land—perhaps a plot of 15 to 20 acres—as tenants in hopes of buying someday. Since cotton was king and money scarce, rents were generally set in pounds of cotton rather than dollars. Usually the rent came to between one-quarter and one-half the value of the crop.

Among the most common and exploitative forms of farm tenancy was sharecropping. Unlike renters, who leased land and controlled what they raised, share- croppers simply worked a parcel of land in exchange for a share of the crop, usually a third after debt was deducted. It was rarely enough to make ends meet. Like other forms of tenancy, sharecropping left farmers in perpetual debt.

This system might not have proved so ruinous if the South had possessed a fairer system of credit. Before selling crops in the fall, farmers without cash had to borrow money in the spring to buy seeds, tools, and other necessities. Most often the only source of sup- plies was the local store, where prices for goods bought on credit could be as much as 60 percent higher. As security for the merchant’s credit, the only asset most renters and sharecroppers could offer was a mortgage, or lien , on their crops. The lien gave the shopkeeper first claim on the crop until the debt was paid off.

Year after year tenants and croppers borrowed against their harvests to use the land they farmed. Most landlords insisted that sharecroppers grow prof-

itable crops such as cotton rather than things they could eat. They also required that raw cotton be ginned, baled, and mar- keted through their mills—at a rate they controlled. Sharecropping, crop liens, and monopolies on ginning and marketing added up to inequality, crushing pov- erty, and debt peonage for the South’s small farmers.

The slide of sharecroppers and tenants into debt peonage occurred elsewhere in the cotton-growing world. In India, Egypt, and Brazil agricultural laborers gave up subsistence farming to raise cotton as a cash crop during the American Civil War, when the North pre- vented southern

transform resources into riches. The region encompassed a third of the nation’s farmlands, vast tracts of lum- ber, and rich deposits of coal, iron, oil, and fertilizers. To overcome the destruction of the Civil War and the loss of slaveholding wealth, apostles of the New South campaigned to catch up with the industrial North.

For all the hopeful talk of industry, the economy of the postwar South remained agricultural, tied to crops such as tobacco, rice, sugar, and especially cotton. By using fertilizers, planters were able to introduce cotton into areas once considered marginal.

Yet from 1880 to 1900 world demand for cotton grew slowly, and prices fell. As farms in other parts of the country became larger, more efficient, and tended by fewer workers per acre, southern farms shrank. This reflected the breakup of large plantations, but it also resulted from a high birthrate. Across the country, the number of children born per mother was drop- ping, but in the South, large families remained com- mon. More children meant more farmhands. Thus each year, fewer acres of land were available for each person to cultivate.

Tenancy and Sharecropping >>  To freedpeople across the South, the end of slavery brought hopes of economic independence. After the war a hopeful John Solomon Lewis rented land to grow cotton in Tensas Parish, Louisiana. A depression in the 1870s dashed his dreams. “I was in debt,” Lewis explained, “and the man I rented land from said every year I must rent again to pay the other year, and so I rents and rents and each year I gets deeper and deeper in debt.”

Lewis was impoverished like most small farm- ers in the cotton South. Despite the breakup of some

lien legal claim against property used to obtain a loan, which must be paid when the property is sold.

debt peonage paying off a debt through labor when the debtor lacks sufficient cash or other assets.

subsistence farming farming in which individuals and families produce most of what they need to live on.

MAP 18.1: TENANT FARMERS, 1900 Tenant farming dominated southern agriculture after the Civil War. But note that by 1900 it also accounted for much of the farm labor in the trans-Mississippi West, where low crop prices, high costs, and severe environmental conditions forced inde- pendent farmers into tenancy. Where are the heaviest concentrations of tenants? Why?



Under 10%

Tenant farmers as a percentage of all farmers




Over 60%

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cotton from being exported to textile manufacturers in Europe. But when prices fell as American cotton farming revived after the war, growers borrowed to make ends meet, as in the U.S. South. In Egypt interest rates soared sometimes to 60 percent. The pressures on cotton grow- ers led them to revolt in the mid-1870s. In India growers attacked prominent moneylenders. In Brazil protesters destroyed land records and refused to pay taxes.

Southern Industry >>   The crusade for a New South did bring change. From 1869 to 1909, indus- trial production grew faster in the South than it did nationally. A boom in railroad building after 1879

furnished the region with good transportation. In two areas, cotton textiles and tobacco, southern advances were striking. With cotton fiber and cheap labor close at hand, 400 cotton mills were humming by 1900, when they employed almost 100,000 workers.

Most new textile workers were white southern- ers escaping competition from black farm laborers or fleeing the hardscrabble life of the mountains. Entire families worked in the mills. Older men had the most trouble adjusting. They lacked the experience, tem- perament, and dexterity to tend spindles and looms in cramped mills. Only over time, as farm folk adapted to the tedious rhythm of factories, did southerners become competitive with workers from other regions of the United States and western Europe.

The tobacco industry also thrived in the New South. Before the Civil War, American tastes had run to cigars, snuff, and chewing tobacco. In 1876 James Bonsack invented a machine to roll cigarettes. That was just the device Washington Duke and his son James needed to boost the fortunes of their grow- ing tobacco business. Cigarettes suited the new urban market in the North. Unlike chewing tobacco and snuff, they were, in the words of one observer, “clean, quick, and potent.” Between 1860 and 1900, Americans spent more money on tobacco than on clothes or shoes.

In the postwar era the South possessed over 60 percent of the nation’s timber resources. With soaring demand from towns and cities, lumber and turpentine became the South’s chief industries and employers. The environmental costs were high. In the South as elsewhere, overcutting and other logging practices stripped hillsides bare. As spring rains eroded soil and unleashed floods, forests lost their capacity for self-renewal. With them went the golden eagles, per- egrine falcons, and other native species.

The iron and steel industry most disappointed pro- moters of the New South. The availability of coke as a

fuel made Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, major centers for foundries. By the 1890s the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railway Company (TCI)

̂̂ This girl had been working in a cotton mill in Whitnel, North Carolina, for about a year, sometimes on the night shift. She made 48 cents a day. When asked how old she was, she hesitated, then said, “I don’t remember.” But she added, confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but do just the same.”

<< The booming timber industry often left the South poorer due to the harsh methods of extracting lumber. Here logs that have been floated down Lost Creek, Tennessee, are loaded onto a train. Getting the logs out was a messy affair: skidding them down rude paths to a creek and leaving behind open fields piled with rotting branches and leaves or needles, where once a forest stood. Rains eroded the newly bare hill- sides, polluting streams. Downriver, tanneries, pulp mills and sawmills emptied waste and sew- age into the water, making many streams into little more than open sewers.

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of Birmingham was turning out iron pipe for gas, water, and sewer lines vital to cities. Unfortunately, Birmingham’s iron deposits were ill- suited to produce the kinds of steel in demand. In 1907 TCI was sold to the giant U.S. Steel Corporation, controlled by northern interests.

The pattern of lost opportu- nity was repeated in other southern industries. Under the campaign for a New South, all industries grew dramatically in employment and value, but not enough to end pov- erty. The South remained largely rural, agricultural, and poor.

The Sources of Southern Poverty  >>   Why did poverty persist in the New South? Three factors peculiar to the South best explain the region’s poverty. First, the South began to industrial- ize later than the Northeast, so northerners had a head start on learning new manufacturing tech- niques. It was difficult to catch up, because the South commanded only a small technological community to guide its industrial development. Northern engineers and mechanics seldom followed northern capital into the region. Few experts were available to adapt modern tech- nology to southern conditions or to teach southerners how to do it themselves.

Education might have over- come the problem by upgrading the region’s workforce were it not for a second factor: school budgets. No region spent less on schooling than the South. Southern leaders, drawn from the ranks of the upper class, cared little about educating poor whites and openly resisted educating black southern- ers. Education, they contended, “spoiled” otherwise contented workers by leading them to demand higher wages and better conditions.

Lack of education aggravated the third and cen- tral source of southern poverty: the isolation of its labor force. In 1900 agriculture still dominated the southern economy. It required unskilled, low-paid sharecroppers and wage laborers. Southerners feared outsiders, whether capitalists, industrialists, or experts in technology, who might spread discontent

✔ R E V I E W What factors explain the failure of the campaign for a “New South”?

MAP 18.2: SPENDING ON EDUCATION IN THE SOUTH BEFORE AND AFTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT With disenfranchisement and segregation, education was separate, but hardly equal, for blacks and whites. In these states, after blacks were disenfranchised, spending on white students rose while spending on black students decreased. [ Source: Data from Robert A. Margo, Disen- franchisement, School Finance, and the Economics of Segregated Schools in the U.S. South, 1890–1910 (New York: Garland Press, 1985), table I-1.] Why were differences between expenditures on black and white students smaller in 1890 than in 1910?




$4.75 $8.35






$ $ $ $ 1890 1910

White White BlackBlack

Gap Gap

Dollars spent per pupil








$2.75 $2.60






$4.50 $5.25








North Carolina


among workers. So southern states discouraged social services and opportunities that might have attracted human and financial resources, keeping their workforce secluded and uneducated. Despite what some southerners believed, the South remained poor because it received too little, not too much, outside investment.

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cockfighting. Gambling between bird owners and among spectators only heightened the thrills. Such sport and the hard-drinking, sometimes brutal culture that accompanied it offended churchgoing southerners. They condemned as sinful “the beer garden, the base- ball, the low theater, the dog fight and cock fight and the ring for the pugilist and brute.”

Many southern customs involved no such disorderly behavior. Work-sharing festivals such as house rais- ings, log rollings, and quiltings gave isolated farm folk the chance to break their daily routine, to socialize, and to work for a common good. These events, too, were generally segregated along gender lines. Men did the heavy chores and competed in contests of physi- cal prowess. Women shared more domestic tasks such as quilting. These community gatherings also offered young southerners an opportunity for courtship. In one courting game, the young man who found a rare red ear of corn “could kiss the lady of his choice”— although in the school, church, or home under adult supervision, such behavior was discouraged.

For rural folk a trip to town brought special excitement and a bit of danger. Saturdays, court days, and holidays provided an occasion to mingle. For men the saloon, the blacksmith shop, or the storefront was a place to do business and to let off steam. Few men went to town without participat- ing in social drinking. When they turned to roam the streets, the threat of brawling and violence drove most women away.

The Church >>  At the center of southern life stood the church as a great stabilizer and custodian of social


Many a southern man, noted a son of the region, loved “to toss down a pint of raw whiskey in a gulp, to fiddle and dance all night, to bite off the nose or gouge out the eye of a favorite enemy, to fight harder and love harder than the next man, to be known far and wide as a hell of a fellow.” Life in the New South was a con- stant struggle to balance this masculinized love of sport and leisure with the pull of a feminized Christian piety.

Divided in its soul the South was also divided by race. After the Civil War, 90 percent of African Americans continued to live in the rural South. With- out slavery, however, white southerners lost the system of social control that had defined race relations. Over time they substituted a new system of racial separation that eased but never eliminated white fear of black Americans.

Rural Life >>  Pleasure, piety, race, and gender— all divided southern life in town and country alike. Southern males loved hunting. For rural people a suc- cessful hunt could add meat and fish to a scanty diet. Hunting also offered welcome relief from heavy farm- work, and for many boys a path to manhood. See- ing his father and brothers return with wild turkeys, young Edward McIlhenny longed “for the time when I would be old enough to hunt this bird.”

The thrill of illicit pleasure drew many south- ern men to events of violence and chance, including

For Baptists in the South, the ceremony of adult baptism included immersion, often in a nearby river. The ritual symbolized the waters of newfound faith washing away sins. Virginia’s James River was the site of this occasion.

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In 1896 the Supreme Court again upheld the pol- icy of segregation. Plessy v. Ferguson validated a Louisiana law requiring segregated railroad facilities. Racial separation did not constitute discrimination, the Court argued, so long as accommodations for both races were equal. In reality, of course, such separate facilities were seldom equal and always stigmatized African Americans.

By the turn of the century segregation was firmly in place, stifling economic competition between the races and reducing African Americans to second-class citizenship. Many kinds of employment, such as work in the textile mills, went largely to whites. Skilled and professional black workers generally served black cli- ents only. Blacks could enter some white residences only as servants and hired help, and then only by the back door. They were barred from juries and usually received far stiffer penalties than whites for the same crimes. Any African American who crossed the color line risked violence. Some were tarred and feathered, others whipped and beaten, and many lynched. Of the 187 lynchings averaged each year of the 1890s, some 80 percent occurred in the South, where the victims were usually black.

The cost of Jim Crow to southerners black and white was incalculable. The race question trumped all other issues and produced a one-party region, where fear of black political participation hamstrung any opposition to all-white Redeemer Democrats. Supporting a two-tiered system of public services drained money from southern treasuries that might have been used for other public purposes. All suf- fered under the rule of racial separation, whether they realized it or not.

order. “When one joined the Methodist church,” a southern woman recalled, “he was expected to give up all such things as cards, dancing, theatres, in fact all so called worldly amusements.” Many devout southern- ers pursued these ideals, although such restraint asked more of people, especially men, than many were willing to show except perhaps on Sunday.

By 1870 southern churches were segregated by race. Indeed, the black church was the only institu- tion controlled by African Americans after slavery and thus a principal source of leadership and identity in addition to comfort. Within churches both black and white, congregations were segregated by gender, too. Churches were female domains. Considered guard- ians of virtue, women made up a majority of mem- bers, attended church more often than men did, and ran many church activities.

Church was a place to socialize as well as wor- ship. Church picnics and all-day sings brought peo- ple together for hours of eating, talk, services, and hymn singing. Weekly rituals could not match the fervor of a weeklong camp meeting. In the late sum- mer or early fall, town and countryside alike emptied as folks set up tents in shady groves and listened to two or three ministers preach day and night, in the largest event of the year. The camp meeting refired evangelical faith while celebrating traditional values of home and family.

Segregation  >>   After Reconstruction, white northerners and southerners achieved sectional har- mony by sacrificing the rights of black citizens. During the 1880s, “Redeemer” governments (pages 343–347) moved to formalize a new system of segregation , or racial separation. Redeem- ers were white Demo- crats who came to power in southern states vowing to end the Republican rule that had been established during Reconstruction.

The pressure to reach a new racial accommoda- tion in the South increased as more African Americans moved into southern towns and cities, competing for jobs with poor whites and sharing public space, especially on railroads and trolley cars. One way to preserve the social and economic superiority of white southerners, poor as well as rich, was to separate blacks as an inferior caste. Within 20 years every southern state had enacted segregation as law. The earliest laws legalized segregation in trains and other public conveyances. Soon a web of “Jim Crow” stat- utes separated the races in almost all public places except streets and stores. (The term “Jim Crow,” to denote a policy of segregation, originated in a song of the same name sung in minstrel shows of the day.)

✔ R E V I E W How did segregation work as an instrument of social control?


The black Exodusters flooding into the treeless plains of Kansas in the 1870s and 1880s were only part of the vast migration west. Looking beyond the Mississippi in the 1840s and 1850s, “overlanders” moved over land (as opposed to sailing around the southern tip of South America), setting their sights on California and Oregon in search of opportunity and “free” land.

Those without money or power found opportu- nity elusive. They also found Indians and “Hispanos”

segregation system, imposed through law and custom, of separating people by race.

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Western Landscapes >>  The varied landscapes of the West begin with the region between the 98th meridian and the West Coast—the Great Plains. It receives less than 20 inches of rain a year, making it a treeless expanse of prairie grass and dunes that the first Anglo settlers called “the Great American Desert.”

The Great Plains are only part of the trans- Mississippi West. Beyond the plains the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains stretch from Alaska to New Mexico. Beyond the mountains lies the Great Basin of Utah, Nevada, and eastern California, where tem- peratures climb above 100 degrees. Near the coast the towering Sierra Nevada and the Cascades rise, rich in minerals and lumber, and then slope into the temper- ate shores of the Pacific.

Already in the 1840s, the Great Plains and moun- tain frontier comprised a complex web of cultures and environments. The horse, for example, had been introduced into North America by Spanish coloniz- ers. By the eighteenth century, horses were graz- ing on prairie grass across the Great Plains. By the nineteenth century the Comanche, Cheyenne, Apache, and other tribes had become master riders and hunters who could shoot their arrows with deadly accuracy at a full gallop. The new mobility of the Plains Indians far extended the area in which they could hunt buf- falo. Their lives shifted from settled, village-centered agriculture to a nomadic existence.

Indian Peoples and the Western Environ- ment >>   Some whites embraced the myth of the Indian as “noble savage” who lived in perfect harmony with the natural world. To be sure, Plains Indians were inventive in using scarce resources. Cottonwood bark fed horses in winter, while the buffalo supplied not only meat but also bones for tools, fat for cosmet- ics, and sinews for thread. Yet Indians could not help but alter the world around them, not always for the better. Plains Indians hunted buffalo by stampeding herds over cliffs, which often led to waste. They irri- gated crops and set fires to improve vegetation. By the mid-nineteenth century some tribes had become so enmeshed in the white fur trade that they overtrapped their own hunting grounds.

Ecological diversity produced a stunning variety of tribes and Indian peoples who nonetheless shared experiences and values. Most tribes were small kinship groups of 300 to 500 people in which the well-being of all outweighed the needs of each member. Although some tribes were materially better off than others, the gap between rich and poor within tribes was seldom large. Such small material differences often promoted

(settlers of Spanish descent), who hardly considered the land free for use by Anglos. And they discovered the West was not one frontier but many, all mov- ing in different directions. Before the Civil War the frontier for easterners had moved westward beyond the Mississippi to the timberlands of Missouri, but skipped over the Great Plains, as the overlanders settled in California and Oregon. A mining frontier pushed east from the Pacific coast, following diggers into the Sierra Nevada. For Texans the frontier moved from south to north as cattle ranchers sought new grazing land, as had the ancestors of the Hispanic rancheros of the Southwest. For American Indians the frontier was constantly shifting and disrupting their ways of life.

̂̂ Luring settlers west became big business for railroad companies in the late nineteenth century. They stood to profit three times over: from the sale of lands they owned; from the passenger traffic gener- ated by settlement; and from the goods and commodities shipped to and from settlers. The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad distrib- uted this circular, which promised cheap land in Iowa and Nebraska with loans at low interest rates. What other inducements did the company offer to coax buyers to come west and purchase land?

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on a human head.” In his expansive view, land was nothing sacred, only property to be employed. Indi- ans were merely obstacles.

By 1868 a generous Congress had granted western settlers their two greatest wishes: free land under the Homestead Act of 1862, and a transcontinental rail- road. As the new governor of Colorado, Gilpin crowed about the West’s near limitless possibilities for growth. Scarce water and rainfall did not daunt him for he believed in the widely accepted theory that “rain fol- lows the plow.” Early climatologist Cyrus Thomas and amateur scientist Charles Dana Wilbur popular- ized the notion that plowing dry land released mois- ture into the air, thereby increasing cloud cover and rainfall. Settlers and speculators in the United States justified their actions as transforming “desert into a farm or garden,” as did wheat growers cultivating marginal land in southern Australia. An unusually wet cycle from 1878 to 1886 helped to sustain the myth in the states. The fact that such human activity actu- ally did increase precipitation locally (by drawing rain from nearby areas) undermined skeptics who rightly argued that plowing produced no change in climate over large regions.

Unlike the visionary Gilpin, John Wesley Pow- ell knew something about water and farming. In 1869 and 1871 Powell had led scientific expeditions down the Green and Colorado Rivers through the Grand Canyon. He returned to warn Congress that developing the West required more scientific planning. Much of the region had not yet been mapped nor its resources identified.

In 1880 Powell became director of the recently formed U.S. Geological Survey. He, too, had a vision of the West, but one based on the limits of its envi- ronment. The key was water, not land. Unlike the water-drenched East, water in the parched West should be treated as community rather than private property. The practice would benefit many rather than a privileged few owners at the headwaters. Powell suggested that the federal government estab- lish political boundaries defined by large water- sheds and regulate the distribution of the scarce resource. But his scientific realism could not over- come the popular vision of the West as the American Eden. Powerful interests ensured that development occurred with the same laissez-faire credo that ruled the East.

communal decision making. The Cheyenne, for exam- ple, employed a council of 44 to advise the chief.

Indians also shared a reverence for nature, what- ever their actual impact on the natural world. They believed human beings were part of an interconnected world of animals, plants, and other natural elements. All had souls of their own but were bound together, as if by contract, to live in balance through the ceremo- nial life of the tribe and the customs related to specific plants and animals. The Taos of New Mexico believed that each spring the pregnant earth issued new life. To avoid disturbing “mother” earth, they walked in bare feet or soft moccasins and removed the hard shoes from their horses.

Whites and the Western Environment: Competing Visions >>  As discoveries of gold and silver lured white settlers into Indian territory, many adopted the decidedly un-Indian outlook of Missouri politician William Gilpin. Only a lack of vision prevented the opening of the West for exploi- tation, Gilpin told an Independence, Missouri, audi- ence in 1849. What was most needed: cheap lands for farms and a railroad linking the two coasts “like ears

̂̂ The cultures of western Indians were remarkably varied, rang- ing from the nomadic Plains tribes to the settled peoples of the northwest coast who lived off the sea. This Sioux woman gathers firewood; the photograph was taken by Edward Curtis, who spent many years recording the faces and lives of the native peoples of the West.

✔ R E V I E W How did Indian conceptions of the environment compare and contrast with white conceptions?

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where many Indian nations had been forced to migrate. To open more land, federal officials introduced in 1851 a policy of “concentration.” Tribes were pressured into signing treaties limiting the boundaries of their hunting grounds to “reservations”—the Sioux to the Dakotas, the Crow to Montana, the Cheyenne to the foothills of Colorado—where they would be taught to farm. Some, like the Navajo, were ripped from their homelands in present-day Arizona and New Mexico and forced


Beginning in 1848 a series of gold and silver discover- ies signaled the first serious interest by white settlers in the arid and semiarid lands beyond the Mississippi,

MAP 18.3 : NATURAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE WEST With the exception of the Pacific Northwest few areas west of the 20-inch rainfall line receive enough annual precipitation to support agricul- ture without irrigation. Consequently, water has been the key to development west of the 98th meridian, an area that encompasses more than half the country. Which two western states have the largest proportion of land that receives enough annual rainfall to support agriculture without irrigation?





Margin of semiarid zone (20” of rainfall)

Tall grass

Short grass

Mesquite grass

Sage brush

Creosote brush






Gulf of Mexico

M issouri R

iver Jam es R


Ill in

oi s


Mississippi R.

La ke S


La ke

M ic

hi ga


Platte Ri

ve r

Arkansas R iver

Canadian River

Red River

O hi

o Riv


Yel lows

tone R

ive r

Snake Ri ver

W ill

am et

te R


Columbia R.

Co lo

ra do

R iv


Gila R iver

Pecos River

Rio G rande

G reen R


Sa cr

an en

to R


San Joaquin R. San Juan R.

Great Salt Lake














Po w

de r R










TS .







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on the “Long Walk” some 450 miles to eastern New Mexico. Nearly one in three died there in an infamous 40-square-mile stretch of scorching desert called the Bosco Redondo.

Such treaties often claimed that their provi- sions would last “as long as waters run,” but time after time land-hungry pioneers broke the promises of their government by squatting on Indian lands and demanding federal protection. The government, in turn, forced more-restrictive agreements on the west- ern tribes. This cycle of agreements made and broken was repeated, until a full-scale war for the West raged between whites and Indians.

Contact and Conflict >>  The policy of con- centration began in the Pacific Northwest and pro- duced some of the earliest clashes between whites and Indians. In an oft-repeated pattern, white encroach- ment led to Indian resistance and war and war to Indian defeat.

By 1862 the lands of the Santee Sioux had been whittled down to a strip 10 miles wide and 150 miles long along the Minnesota River in present-day South Dakota. Lashing out in frustration, the tribe attacked several undefended white settlements along the Min- nesota frontier. In response, General John Pope arrived in St. Paul declaring his intention to wipe out the Sioux. When Pope’s forces captured 1,800 Sioux, white Minnesotans were outraged that President Lincoln ordered only 38 hanged.

The campaign under General Pope was the opening of a guerrilla war that continued off and on for some 30 years. The conflict gained momentum in Novem- ber 1864 when a force of Colorado volunteers under Colonel John Chivington fell upon a band of friendly Cheyenne gathered at Sand Creek under army protec- tion. Chief Black Kettle raised an American flag to signal friendship, but Chivington would have none of it. “Kill and scalp all, big and little,” he told his men.

The troops massacred well over 100, including children holding white flags of truce and mothers with babies in their arms. In 1865 virtually all Plains Indians joined in the First Sioux War to drive whites from their lands.

War was only one way in which contact with whites undermined tribal cultures. Liquor and disease killed more Indians than combat. On the Great Plains the railroad disrupted the migratory patterns of the buf- falo and thus the patterns of the hunt. Tourist parties came west to bag the buffalo from railside. As hides became popular back east, commercial companies hired hunters who could kill more than 100 bison an hour. Military commanders promoted the butchery as a way of weakening Indian resistance. In three short years, from 1872 to 1874, approximately 9 million members of the herd were slaughtered. Reduced rainfall, com- petitive domesticated animals, and new diseases, aided by Indian hunters themselves nearly wiped the plains clean of bison by 1883. In other areas mines, crops, grazing herds, and fences disturbed traditional hunting and farming lands of many tribes.

Custer’s Last Stand—and the Indians’ >> The Sioux War ended in 1868 with the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie. It established two large Indian reservations, one in Oklahoma and the other in the Dakota Badlands. Only six years later, however, Colo- nel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into Paha Sapa, the sacred Black Hills of the Sioux. He marched in search of the Sioux and in violation of the treaty of 1868. Custer, a Civil War veteran, already had a reputation as a “squaw killer” for his cruel war- fare against Indians in western Kansas. To open the Black Hills to whites, his expedition spread rumors of gold “from the grass roots down.” Prospectors poured into Indian country. Federal authorities tried to force yet another treaty to gain control of the Black Hills. When negotiations failed, President Grant ordered all “hostiles” in the area driven onto the reservations.

In the summer of 1876 several army columns, including Custer’s Seventh Cavalry of about 600 troops, marched into Indian country. Custer, eager for glory, arrived at the Little Big Horn River a day earlier than the other columns. Hearing of an Indian village nearby, he attacked, only to discover that he had stum- bled onto an encampment of more than 7,000 Sioux and Cheyenne, allied for the first time. From a deep ravine Sioux leader Crazy Horse charged Custer, killing him and 267 soldiers.

As he led the attack, Crazy Horse yelled “It is a good day to die!”—the traditional war cry. Even in the midst of victory he spoke truly. Although Custer had been

defeated, railroads stood ready to extend their lines, prospectors to make fortunes, settlers

Could whites and Indians have lived together

peaceably in the trans-Mississippi American West?


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MAP 18.4 : THE INDIAN FRONTIER As conflict erupted between Indian and white cultures in the West, the government sought increasingly to concentrate tribes on reservations. Resistance to the reservation concept helped unite the Sioux and the Cheyenne, traditionally enemies, in the Dakotas during the 1870s. Along the Little Big Horn River the impetuous Custer underestimated the strength of his Indian opponents and attacked before the supporting troops of Reno and Benteen were in a position to aid him. Based on the dates of land cessions, which Indian groups held out against white expansion the longest?





















































Gulf of Mexico

Columbia R.

Co lo

rad o R


Red R.

Arkansas R.

M is

si ss

ip pi

R .

Platte R.

Minnesota R.

Great Salt Lake

Missouri R.

Rio G rande

Snake R.

La ke S


La ke

M ic

hi ga






Bear Paw Mountain, 1877

Little Big Horn, 1876

Rosebud, 1876

Fetterman’s Defeat, 1866

Wounded Knee massacre, 1890

Sand Creek massacre, 1864

Red River War, 1874-75

Canyon de Chelly, 1864

Skeleton Canyon (Geronimo surrenders), 1886

Modoc War, 1872-73

Santee Uprising, 1862





























0 400 mi

0 400 800 km


Selected Indian nations

Indian reservations, 1890

Ceded 1870–1890

Ceded 1850–1870

Indian lands ceded before 1850


R en

o C

re ek

Little Big Horn R.











Custer killed

0 1 mi

0 1 2 km


Union forces

Indian forces

Little Big Horn River valley

to lay down roots, and soldiers to protect them. By late summer the Sioux were forced to split into small bands in order to evade the army. While Sitting Bull barely escaped to Canada, Crazy Horse and 800 with him surrendered in 1876 after a winter of suffering and starvation.

The battles did not end the war between whites and Indians, but never again would it reach such propor- tions. Even the peaceful Nez Percé of Idaho found no security once whites began to hunger for their land. In 1877, rather than see his people herded into a small reservation, Chief Joseph led almost 600 Nez Percé

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toward Canada, pursued by the U.S. Army. In 75 days they traveled more than 1,300 miles. Every time the army closed to attack, Chief Joseph’s warriors drove them off. But before they could reach the border, the Nez Percé were trapped and forced to surrender. The government then shipped the defeated tribe to the

bleak Indian Country of Oklahoma. There disease and starvation finished the destruction the army had begun.

Killing with Kindness  >>   By 1887 reform- ers recognized that the policy of concentrating Indi- ans on reservations had failed to manage Indian-white

Historian’s T O O L B O X

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” commented one cynical editor in the western. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Historians recognize that the evi- dence they examine often deals in legend. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Battle of Little Big Horn had already slipped into the realm of myth, as can be seen in Otto Becker’s chromolithograph Custer’s Last Fight, based loosely on an earlier paint- ing created by Casilly Adams in the 1880s. In 1896 the Anheuser-Busch Brewing

Association turned it into this advertising poster and plastered it in saloons across the country. But Becker was not content to copy Adams’s painting. He added a number of his own details, borrowed from other art- works of the day. The naked figures twisting in torment (lower right) imitate an illustra- tion of hell by Gustave Doré. Even more interesting, the two shield-bearing African Zulu warriors (see the detail) seem to refer to another battle against native peoples. In 1879, three years after Custer’s defeat, the

Zulu slaughtered British forces at the Battle of Isandhlwana in present-day South Africa. Becker’s additions are apparently based on engravings of that battle from The Illus- trated London News.

THINKING CRITICALLY Historian Frederick Jackson Turner in 1890 called the conquest of Indian peoples by whites the triumph of “civilization” over “savagery.” Does Becker’s lithograph make that point graphically? Or the opposite?

A White Man’s View of Custer’s Defeat These two warriors carry shields and spears unlike any Sioux Indian’s. In fact, the figures are African Zulu warriors. Why include them here?

Custer dressed in yellow buckskin stands at the center of action, saber raised. What message does this figure transmit to the viewer?

Two mysterious figures have their backs to us. The one kneeling has an Indian braid but white man’s clothing. The other is dressed in buckskin and wears a hat. Who might they be, and what are they doing?

These figures seem out of place. No one else is naked.

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moreover, had no experience with farming, managing money, or other white ways. Perhaps worst of all, res- ervation lands not allocated to Indians were opened to non-Indian homesteaders.

Against such a dismal future, some Indians sought protection in the past. In 1890 a religious revival spread when word came from the Nevada desert that a humble Paiute named Wovoka had received revelations from the Great Spirit. Wovoka preached that if his followers adopted his mystical rituals and lived together in love and harmony, the Indian dead would rise, whites would be driven from the land, and game would be thick again. As the rituals spread, alarmed settlers called the shuffling and chanting the “Ghost Dance.” The army moved to stamp out Ghost Dancing for fear of another uprising. At Wounded Knee in South Dakota the cav- alry fell upon one band and with devastating artillery fire killed some 300 Sioux men, women, and children. Twenty-five soldiers lay dead as well.

Wounded Knee was a final act of violence against an independent Indian way of life. After 1890 the battle was over assimilation, not extinction. The system of markets, rail networks, and extractive industries was linking the Far West with the rest of the nation. Free- roaming bison were replaced by herded cattle and sheep, nomadic tribes by prairie sodbusters, and sacred hunt- ing grounds by gold fields. Reformers relied on educa- tion, citizenship, and allotments to move Indians into white society. Most Indians were equally determined to preserve their tribal ways and separateness as a people.

Borderlands >>  The coming of the railroad in the 1880s and 1890s brought wrenching changes to the Southwest but with an ethnic twist characteristic of the region. As new markets and industries sprang up, new settlers poured in from the East but also from the South, across the Mexican border. Indians such as

relations well. With a mix of good intentions and unbridled greed, Congress adopted the Dawes Act in 1887. It ended the policy of concentrating Indians on reservations. Instead, the new law looked to draw Indians into white society as farmers and small prop- erty owners. Less high-mindedly, it also worked to draw Indian lands into the marketplace. Lands held by tribes would now be parceled out to individuals: 160 acres to the head of a family and 80 acres to single adults or orphans.

In practice, the Dawes Act was more destructive than any blow struck by the army. It undermined the communal structure at the core of tribal life. And as John Wesley Powell had warned, small homestead farms in the West could not support a family—white or Indian—unless they were irrigated. Most Indians,

<< The all-male Carlisle Indian School Band was formed in 1881, two years after the Indian boarding school was founded in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. School authori- ties saw music as yet another way to “civilize” their charges. Their instruments were originally donated by Mrs. Walter Baker of Boston in response to a request from the school’s superintendent. “If you will give me a set of brass band instru- ments,” he told her, “I will give them to the ‘tom tom’ boys and they can toot on them and this will stop the ‘tom tom.’” Mrs. Baker also donated pianos for the girls.

— Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), “The School Days of an Indian Girl," Atlantic Monthly (1900)

“I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit . . . my long hair was shingled like a coward’s! In my anguish I moaned for my mother, but no one came to comfort me. Not a soul reasoned quietly with me, as my own mother used to do; for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.”

witness An Indian Girl Is Shorn at Boarding School

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work in the old villages, men traveled from job to job in mining, in farming, and on the railroads. The resulting “regional communities” of village and migrant workers allowed Hispanic residents to preserve the communal culture of the village, incorporating those aspects of Anglo culture—like the sewing machine—that suited their needs. At the same time, the regional community also sustained migrant workers with a base of opera- tions and a haven to which they could return in protest against harsh working conditions.

Ethno-Racial Identity in the New West >>   The New West met the Old South in the diamond- shaped Blackland Prairie of central Texas. Before the Civil War, King Cotton had thrived in its rich soil. Afterward, Texas became the leading cotton-producing state in the country. Having embraced the slave system of the Old South, Texas also adopted the New South’s system of crop liens and segregation, with its racial separation, restrictions on black voting, and biracial labor force of African Americans and poor whites.

Yet Texas was also part of the borderlands of the American West, where the Anglo culture of European Americans met the Latino culture of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Many Mexicanos had lived in Texas since before the 1840s, when it had been part of Mexico. In the late nineteenth and early twenti- eth centuries, as political violence impeded economic growth, more Mexicans crossed the Rio Grande in search of work. Between 1890 and 1910, the Spanish- speaking population of the Southwest nearly doubled.

In central Texas the presence of this large and growing force of Mexicano laborers complicated racial matters. The black-and-white poles of European and African Americans that defined identity in the New South as it had in the Old were now replaced by a new

racial triad of black, white, and brown who negotiated identity and status among three ethno- racial poles.

Unlike African Americans, Texans of Mexican descent some- times found themselves swinging between the white world of privi- lege and the black world of dis- advantage. And whites could lose status, as had the many Texans who sank into landlessness and poverty on the eve of the First World War. White landowners disdained them as “white trash” and a “white scourge.” By the 1920s a multiracial labor force of landless wage earners worked on giant ranches and large farms across the Southwest. In Texas

the Navajo and the Apache thus faced the hostility of Anglos and Hispanos, those settlers of Spanish descent already in the region.

Like Indians, Hispanos discovered that they had either to embrace or to resist the flood of new Anglos. The elite, or Ricos, often aligned themselves with Anglos against their countryfolk to protect their sta- tus and property. Others, including Juan José Herrera, resisted the newcomers. When Anglo cattle ranch- ers began forcing Hispanos off their lands near Las Vegas, Herrera assembled a band of masked night rid- ers known as Las Gorras Blancas (the White Caps). In 1889 and 1890 as many as 700 White Caps burned Anglo fences, haystacks, and occasionally barns and houses, and attacked railroads that refused to raise the low wages of Hispano workers.

With the railroads came more white settlers as well as Mexican laborers from south of the border. Just as the southern economy depended on African American labor, the Southwest grew on the backs of Mexicans. Mexican immigrants worked mostly as contract and seasonal laborers for railroads and large farms. Many of them settled in the growing cities along the rail lines: El Paso, Albuquerque, Tucson, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. They lived in segregated barrios, Spanish towns, where their cultural traditions persisted. But by the late nine- teenth century, most Hispanics, whether in barrios or on farms and ranches, had been excluded from power.

To focus on cities alone would distort the experience of most southwesterners of Spanish descent, who lived in small villages like those in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. There a pattern of adaptation and resistance to Anglo penetration developed. As the market economy advanced, Hispanic villagers turned to migratory labor to adapt. While women continued to

̂̂ Western cities attracted ethnically diverse populations. This market in San Antonio, Texas, known as Military Plaza, served the city’s large Latino population in 1887.

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the labor force was triracial, but in California it also included Asian Americans and, elsewhere, American Indians as well. Thus racial identity in the New West would be more complicated and, for Mexicans and Mexican Americans, more fluid.

societies siphoned riches into the pockets of storeowners and other suppliers. Once the quick profits were gone, a period of consol- idation often brought more order to towns and larger scale to regional businesses.

In the mine fields, order and scale meant corporations. They alone had the capital for hydraulic water jets to blast ore loose and other heavy equipment to extract silver and gold from deeper veins. In their quest for quick profits such operations often led to environmental disaster even as they spawned riches for owners, managers, and towns- folk. Floods, mud slides, and dirty streams

threatened the livelihood of farmers in the valleys below. In corporate mining operations, paid laborers

replaced the independent prospectors of earlier days. As miners sought better wages and working conditions and shorter hours, management fought back. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, troops crushed a strike in 1892, killing seven miners. The miners, in turn, created the West- ern Federation of Miners. In the decade after 1893 the union attracted some 50,000 members and gained a reputation for militancy. Across the West, the rowdy mining frontier of small-scale prospectors was inte- grated into the industrial system of wage labor, large- scale resource extraction, and high-finance capital.

The Transcontinental Railroad  >>   As William Gilpin predicted in 1849, the development of the West awaited the railroads. Before the Central and Union Pacific Railroads were joined in 1869, travel was slow and dusty. Vast distances and sparse population gave entrepreneurs little chance to follow the eastern practice of building local railroads from city to city.

Vision and greed overcame distance and population density. In 1862 Congress granted the Central Pacific Railroad the right to build the western link of the transcontinental railroad eastward from Sacramento. To the Union Pacific Corporation fell responsibility for the section from Omaha westward. Generous loans and gifts of federal and state lands made the venture wildly profitable. For every mile of track completed, the rail companies received between 200 and 400 square miles of land—eventually totaling some 45 million acres. Fraudulent stock practices, corrupt accounting, and wholesale bribery (involving a vice president of the United States and at least two members of Congress) swelled profits even more.

<< A line of Chinese men stands outside a refresh- ment stand. The Chinese worked on rail lines and also prospected for gold and silver in the West. Their long queues, or braided ponytails, dangle from the heads. This distinctive hairstyle was intro- duced by the Manchus in China in the early seven- teenth century as a symbol of their dominance.

✔ R E V I E W Through what means did American Indians lose their independence and land?


Opportunity in the West lay in land and resources, but wealth also accumulated in the towns. Each time a spec- ulative fever hit a region, new communities sprouted to serve those who rushed in. The western boom began in mining—with the California gold rush of 1849 and the rise of San Francisco. In the decades that followed, new hordes threw up towns in Park City, Utah, and other promising sites. All too often, busts followed booms, transforming boom towns into ghost towns.

Mining Sets a Pattern >>  The gold and silver strikes of the 1840s and 1850s set a pattern followed by other booms. Stories of easy riches attracted single prospectors from all over the world with their shovels and wash pans. Almost all were male and nearly half foreign-born. Muddy mining camps sprang up, where a prospector could register a claim, get provisions, bathe, and buy a drink or a companion. Outfitting these boom

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cattle could be shipped to market. The rail companies recognized the strategic position they held. Just by threatening to bypass a town, a railroad could extract concessions on rights of way, taxes, and loans. If a key to profiting from the gold rush was supplying min- ers, one way to prosper from the West was to control transportation.

Cattle Kingdom >>  Westerners recognized that railroads were keys to the cattle kingdom. Cow towns such as Abilene, Denver, and Cheyenne flourished from the business of the growing cattle kingdom. By 1860 some 5 million longhorns were wandering the grassy plains of Texas. Ranchers allowed their herds to roam the unbroken or “open” range freely, identified only by a distinctive brand.

General Grenville Dodge, an army engineer on leave to the Union Pacific, recruited his immense labor force from Irish and other European immigrants. Charles Crocker of the Central Pacific relied on some 10,000 Chinese laborers. With wheelbarrows, picks, shovels, and baskets they inched eastward, building giant trestles and chipping away at the Sierras’ loom- ing granite walls until the lines were finally linked with a golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869.

As the railroads pushed west in the 1860s, they helped to spawn cities such as Denver and later awak- ened sleepy communities such as Los Angeles. Rail- roads opened the Great Plains to cattle drives that in the 1870s brought great herds to “cow towns” such as Sedalia, Missouri, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, where

MAP 18.5 : THE MINING AND CATTLE FRONTIERS In the vast spaces of the West, railroads, cattle trails, and gold mining usually preceded the arrival of enough settlers to establish towns and cities. The railroads forged a crucial link between the region’s natural resources and urban markets in the East and in Europe, but by transect- ing the plains they also disrupted the migratory patterns of the buffalo herds, undermining Plains Indian cultures while opening the land to cattle grazing and farming. Which state was at the southern end of every major cattle route?


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Railroads in 1890

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In 1866, as rail lines swept west, Texas ranchers began driving their herds north to railheads for ship- ment to market. These “long drives” lasted two to three months and might cover more than 1,000 miles. When early routes to Sedalia, Missouri, proved unfriendly, ranchers scouted alternatives. The Chisholm Trail led from San Antonio to Abilene and Ellsworth in Kansas. More westerly routes ran to Dodge City and even Denver and Cheyenne.

Since cattle grazed on the open range, early ranches were primitive, little more than a house for the rancher and his family, a bunkhouse for the hired hands, and about 30 to 40 acres per animal. Women were scarce in the cattle kingdom. Most were ranchers’ wives, who cooked, nursed the sick, and helped run things. Some women ranched themselves. When Helen Wiser Stewart of Nevada learned that her husband had been murdered, she took over the ranch—buying and sell- ing cattle, managing the hands, and tending to family and crops.

Ranchers came to expect profits of 25 to 40 percent a year. As in all booms, however, forces were at work bringing the inevitable bust. High profits soon swelled the size of the herds and led to overproduction and lower prices. Increased competition from cattle pro- ducers in Canada and Argentina caused beef prices to fall still further. And in the end, nature imposed its own limits—blizzards, droughts, floods sometimes pushed losses as high as 90 percent.

By the 1890s the open range and the long drives had largely vanished. What prevailed were the larger cattle corporations such as the King Ranch of Texas, which grew to be larger than the state of Rhode Island. Only these corporations had enough capital to acquire and fence vast grazing lands, hire ranchers to man- age herds, and pay for feed during winter months. As for the cowboys, most became wage laborers employed by the ranching corporations. Like the mining industry, the cattle business was succumbing to the eastern pat- tern of economic concentration and labor specialization.

They read railroad and steamship advertisements and heard stories from friends about millions of free acres in the plains west of the 98th meridian. Hardier strains of wheat such as the “Turkey Red” (imported from Russia), improved machinery, and new farming methods made it possible to raise crops in what once had been the “Great American Desert.” The number of farms in the United States jumped from around 2 million on the eve of the Civil War to almost 6 million in 1900.

Farming on the Plains  >>   Farmers looking to plow the plains faced a daunting task. Under the Homestead Act, government land could be bought for $1.25 an acre or claimed free if a homesteader worked it for five years. But the best parcels—near a railroad line, with access to eastern markets—were owned by the railroads or speculators and sold for around $25 an acre. Furthermore, successful farming on the plains demanded expensive machinery. Steel-tipped plows and harrows (which left a blanket of dust to keep

moisture from evaporating too quickly) permitted dry farming in arid climates. Threshers, combines, and harvesters brought in the crop, while steam tractors pulled the heavy equipment.

With little rain, many farmers had to install wind- mills and pumping equipment to draw water from deep underground. The threat of cattle trampling the fields forced farmers to erect fences. Lacking wood, they found the answer in barbed wire, first marketed in 1874. When all was said and done, the average farmer spent what was for the poor a small fortune. Bigger operators invested 10 or 20 times as much.

Land and weather favored big farmers. Tracts of 160 acres granted under the Homestead Act might be enough for eastern farms, but in the drier West more land was needed to produce the same harvest. Farms of more than 1,000 acres, known as “bonanza farms,” were most common in the wheatlands of the northern plains. A steam tractor working a bonanza farm could plow, harrow, and seed up to 50 acres a day—20 times more than a single person could do without machinery. Against such competition, small-scale farmers could scarcely survive. As in the South, many workers in the West became tenants on land owned by others.

A Plains Existence >>  For poor farm families life on the plains meant sod houses or dugouts carved from hillsides for protection against the wind. Tough, root-bound sod was cut into bricks a foot wide and three feet long and laid edgewise to create walls; sod bricks covered rafters for a roof. The average house was seldom more than 18 by 24 feet and in severe

✔ R E V I E W How did the pattern of labor and management introduced in mining function in other businesses such as cattle ranching?

THE FINAL FRONTIER In the 1860s they had come in a trickle; in the 1870s they became a torrent. They were farmers from the East and Midwest, black freedpeople from the rural South, and peasant-born immigrants from Europe. What bound them together was a craving for land.

dry farming farming system to conserve water in semiarid regions receiving less than 15 to 20 inches of rain a year.

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weather had to accommodate animals as well as peo- ple. The thick walls kept the house warm in winter and cool in summer, but a heavy, soaking rain or snow could bring the roof down or drip mud and water into the living area.

The heaviest burdens fell to women. With stores and supplies scarce, they spent days at a time over hot tubs preparing tallow wax for candles or soaking ashes to make lye to mix with rendered pork rinds to make soap. Buttons had to be fashioned from old wooden spoons. Without doctors, women learned how to care for the hurt and sick, treating anything from frostbite to snakebite to burns and rheumatism.

Nature imposed its own hardships. Blizzards piled snow to the rooftops and halted travel. Weeks could pass before farm families saw an outsider. In the sum- mers, searing winds blasted the plains for weeks. From Missouri to Oregon nothing spelled disaster like locusts. They descended without warning in swarms 100 miles long. Beating against houses like hailstones, they stripped all vegetation, including the bark of trees. An entire year’s labor might be destroyed in a day.

In the face of such hardships many westerners found comfort in religion. Indians turned to traditional

spiritualism, Hispanics to the Catholic Church, to cope with nature and hardship. Though Catholics and Jews came west, evangelical Protestants dominated the Anglo frontier in the mining towns and in other western communities. Worship offered an emotional outlet, intellectual stimulation, a means of preserving old values and sustaining hope. In the West as in the rural South, circuit riders compensated for the short- age of preachers, while huge camp meetings offered the chance to socialize. Both also brought contact with the outside world beyond the prairie a little closer. In many communities it was the churches that first instilled order into public life, addressing local problems such as the need for schools or charity for the poor.

The Urban Frontier >>  Not all westerners lived in such isolation. By 1890 the percentage of those liv- ing in cities of 10,000 or more was greater than in any other section of the country except the Northeast.

Some western cities—San Antonio, El Paso, Los Angeles—were old Spanish towns whose growth had been reignited by the westward march of Anglo migrants, the northward push of Mexican immi- grants, and the spread of railroads. Other cities, such

̂̂ Even out on the plains in sod huts, farmers cherished the culture they could bring from distant places. This family proudly displays the pump organ they imported from the East.

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as Portland near the Columbia River in Oregon, blos- somed because they stood astride commercial routes. Still others, such as Wichita, Kansas, arose to serve the cattle and mining booms. As technology freed people from the need to produce their own food and clothing, westerners turned to the business of supplying goods and services, enterprises that required the labor of densely populated cities.

Denver was typical. Founded in 1859 the city prof- ited from the discovery of gold in nearby Cherry Creek. The completion of the Denver Pacific and Kansas Pacific Railroads sparked a second growth spurt in the 1870s. By the 1890s, with a population of over 100,000, it ranked behind only Los Angeles and Omaha among western cities. Like much of the urban West, Den- ver grew outward rather than upward, breaking the pattern set by the cramped cities of the East. In the West, such urban sprawl produced cities with sharply divided districts for business, government, and indus- try. Workers lived in one section of town, managers, owners, and wealthier citizens in another.

The West and the World Economy >>   In its cities or on its open ranges, deep in its mine shafts or on the sun-soaked fields of its bonanza farms, the West was being linked to the world economy. Long- horn cattle that grazed on Texas prairies fed city dwellers in the eastern United States and in Europe as well. Wood from the forests of the Pacific North- west found its way into the hulls of British schooners and the furniture that adorned the parlors of Paris. Wheat grown on the Great Plains competed with grain from South America and Australia. Gold and silver mined in the Rockies were minted into coins around the world.

The ceaseless search for western resources depended ultimately on money. As raw materials flowed out of the region capital flowed in, most of it from the East and from Europe. Foreign invest- ment varied from industry to industry but generally came in two forms: direct stock purchases and loans to western corporations and individuals. The great open-range cattle boom of the 1870s and 1880s, for example, brought an estimated $45 million into the western livestock industry from Great Britain alone. By 1887 Congress had become so alarmed at foreign ownership of western land that it enacted the Alien Land Law, which prohibited the purchase of any land in western territories by foreign corporations or by individuals who did not intend to become citizens. Capital-hungry westerners paid little attention. A decade later there had been virtually no forfeitures of land under the law.

Westerners were becoming part of a vast net- work of production and trade that spanned the globe.

Between 1865 and 1915 world population increased by more than 50 percent, and demand mush- roomed. Better and cheaper transportation, fed by a new industrial order, allowed westerners to supply raw materials and agricultural goods to places they knew only as exotic names on a map. Still, global reach came at a price. Decisions made elsewhere—in London and Paris, in Tokyo and Buenos Aires—now determined the prices that westerners charged and the profits they made.

Packaging and Exporting the “Wild West” >>  No one linked the West to the wider world and shaped perceptions of the region more than William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody. In 1883, trading on his fame as an army scout and buffalo hunter, Cody packaged the West in his “Wild West, Rocky Mountain, and Prairie Exhibition.” Rope-twirling cowboys, war-painted Indians, and Annie Oakley, celebrated as much for her beauty as for her aim with a gun, entertained audiences across the continent. For many Americans, Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West” was the West, where six-shooters administered jus- tice, where Indians lived in tepees and made war on whites, where romance and adventure obscured the realities of conquest, exploitation, and corpo- rate control. Cowboys and Indians had been com- mercialized and packaged, to be marketed across the globe—Cody took his troupe to London, Paris, and even Outer Mongolia.

✔ R E V I E W What problems did the environment of the West present for farmers and ranchers?

Examining the returns from 1890, the superintendent of the census noted that landed settlements in the continental United States now stretched so far that “there can hardly be said to be a frontier line.” One after another, territories became states: Nebraska in 1867; Colorado in 1876; North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington in 1889; Wyo- ming in 1890; Utah in 1896; Oklahoma in 1907; and New Mexico and Arizona in 1912. A new West was emerging as a frontierless mosaic of ethnicities, races, cultures, and climates with the shared identity of a single region, much as the wider world was seeing its frontiers disappear.

That sense of a regional identity was heightened for both westerners and southerners because so many of them felt isolated from the mainstream of indus- trial America. Ironically, it was not their isolation from northern industry but their links to it that marginalized

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them. The campaign for a New South to out- Yankee the industrial Yankee could not overcome the low wages and high fertility rates of an older South. The promoters of the West had greater success in adapting large-scale industry and investment to mining, cattle ranching, and farming. But they, too, confronted the limits of their region, whose resources were not endless and whose rainfall was fickle.

What beggared the South and conquered the West was a vast new industrial order that was reshaping the entire Western world. It first took hold in Great Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, then spread to Europe and abroad. In the United States the new machine age engulfed the North and the East after the Civil War, nourished industrial cities from Pittsburgh to Chicago, and pulled millions of immi- grants from Europe, Latin America, and Asia to work in its factories. By the turn of the twentieth century the new industrial order enriched the United States beyond imagining and linked American factories to the world at large as never before.

Southerners and westerners were being linked to the world economy as well. Cotton picked by share- croppers in the Mississippi delta might end up in the petticoats of royalty. Longhorn cattle that grazed on

the prairies of Texas fed the cities of Europe. And racialism—the widely accepted practice of categoriz- ing people according to race—justified exploitation elsewhere in the world: on coolie laborers who died by the thousands clearing the jungles of southern Asia for British tea companies or black miners in the Dutch- owned diamond mines of South Africa—just as it was used to thwart southern black sharecroppers or to drive Indians from their land.

The small cotton growers in India, Egypt, and Brazil who faced plummeting prices were just as baf- fled by market economics as cotton farmers in the American South who found themselves deep in debt to merchants. One British official, traveling into a remote cotton-growing region of India, reported that growers found “some difficulty in realizing . . . that, by means of the Electric Telegraph, the throbbings of the pulse of the Home markets communicate themselves instantly to Hingunghat and other trade centres throughout the country.” It was the “pulse of Home markets” world- wide that controlled the fortunes of those in the cotton fields of India and the United States. A global indus- trial system increasingly determined interest rates, prices, and wages in ways that affected ordinary folk everywhere.

<< Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show provided Americans with mythical stereotypes of the “vanishing frontier,” making the West seem a savage land in need of taming but also an Eden of boundless opportunity and adventure. The reach of such fantasies was truly global, and Buffalo Bill’s show traveled widely in Europe, as this poster shows. The photo captures the troupe aboard ship, bound for England.

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CHAPTER SUMMARY In the years after the Civil War, both the South and the West became more closely linked to the industrial Northeast. " Despite differences in geography and history, the

South and the West shared many features. ► Both became sources of agricultural goods and

raw materials that fed urban and industrial growth in the northeastern and north central states.

► Both were racially divided societies in which whites often used violence to assert their dominance.

► Both looked beyond their regions for the human and financial resources needed to boost their economies.

" Southerners embraced the philosophy of the “New South,” that industrialization would bring prosperity.

" The South nonetheless remained wedded to agri- culture, especially cotton, and to a system of labor that exploited poor whites and blacks.

► Important in the South were the crop-lien sys- tem, which shackled poor southerners to the land through debt, and Jim Crow segregation, which kept blacks and whites apart.

" White westerners, too, exploited people of other races and ethnicities through settlement, conquest, and capture.

" By 1890 the emergence of the Ghost Dance and the closing of the frontier signaled that Indians must adapt to life within the boundaries set by white culture despite their efforts at resistance.

" Hispanos were increasingly subjected to similar exploitation but resisted and adapted more effec- tively to the intrusions of white culture and market economy.

" In a pattern that became typical for western min- ing, ranching, and agriculture, small operators first grabbed quick profits and then were followed by large corporations that increased both the scale and the wealth of these industries.

Additional Reading The themes of change and continuity have char- acterized interpretations of southern history after Reconstruction. For years C. Vann Woodward’s classic The Origins of the New South (1951) dom- inated thinking about the region with its powerful argument for a changing South. Edward Ayers, The

Promise of the New South (1992), offers a fresh, comprehensive synthesis that sees both change and continuity. Gavin Wright, Old South, New South (1986), destroys the myth of the southern colonial economy. Ted Ownby, Subduing Satan (1990), pro- vides a valuable discussion of southern social life, especially the role of religion. On the issue of race relations, see Steven Hahn, Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slav- ery to the Great Migration (2003).

The contours of western history were first mapped by Frederick Jackson Turner in his famous address “The Significance of the Frontier in American His- tory” (1893) but have been substantially reshaped by Richard White, “It’s Your Own Misfortune and None of My Own”: A New History of the American West (1992); Patricia Limerick, A Legacy of Con- quest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (1987); and Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire (1985). Each describes the history of the West less as a traditional saga of frontier triumphs than as an analysis of how the region and its resources have been exploited by various peoples and cultures. Heather Cox Richardson’s West From Appomattox: The Recon- struction of America after the Civil War (2007) ties the North, South, and West together in this sweep- ing history. For a superbly researched study of the Great Plains as a contested zone among environment, animals, and people, see Elliott West’s engaging The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (1998). On John Wesley Powell and his seminal role in the West, see Donald Worster, A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell (2001) . Sarah Deutsch, No Separate Refuge: Culture, Class, and Gender on an Anglo-Hispanic Frontier in the American Southwest, 1880–1940 (1987), develops the concept of regional community in New Mexico and Colorado; and Robert M. Utley covers The Indian Frontier of the American West 1846–1890 (1984). On the growing literature of ethno- racial identity in the West, see Neil Foley, White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (1997); and David Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (1995). S. C. Gwyne’s Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History (2011) tells the story of a mixed-race Comanche chief and the Indian nation that dominated the southern plains. For an excellent account of the African Ameri- can experience in shaping the West, see Quintard Taylor , In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528–1990 (1998).

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Significant Events 1849–1859 Gold and silver strikes open western mining frontier

1866 Drive to Sedalia, Missouri, launches cattle boom

1869 Completion of first

transcontinental railroad; Powell explores the

Grand Canyon

1876 Battle of Little

Big Horn

1883 Civil Rights cases

1889 Oklahoma opened to


1892 Union violence at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Wyoming

range wars

1872–1874 The great buffalo slaughter

1879 Height of Exoduster migration to Kansas

1887 Dawes Act

1890 Ghost Dance Indian religious revival; Wounded Knee

1896 Plessy v. Ferguson upholds separate but equal doctrine

1862 Homestead Act;

Minnesota Sioux uprising begins Plains Indian wars

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The Englishman Sir Henry Bes- semer invented a method of cheaply manufacturing large quantities of steel from iron. His egg-shaped converter spews the fire that pro- duced the glowing steel ingots, at left.

>> An American Story

scampering through america

I t was so dark that Robert Ferguson could not see his own feet. Inching along the railroad tracks, he suddenly pitched forward as the ground vanished beneath him and found himself wedged between two railroad ties, his legs dangling in the air. Ferguson, a Scot visiting America in 1866, had been in Memphis only two days earlier, ready to take the “Great Southern Mail Route” east some 850 miles to Washington.

Things had gone badly from the start. A broken river bridge not 50 miles outside Memphis had forced him to take a ferry across the river and then a bumpy 10-mile ride on a mule- drawn truck to where the track was supposed to resume—and didn’t. Disheartened, he and his


The New Industrial Order 19

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fellow travelers returned to Mem- phis aboard a train, only to have it derail just outside the city.

When a few passengers decided to hike the remaining distance, Fer- guson tagged along. It was then that he fell between the tracks. At dawn he discovered to his horror that the tracks led onto a flimsy, high river bridge. It was then that he had fallen between the tracks and crawled to safety on the other side.

Less than 20 years later rail pas- sengers traveled in relative luxury. T. S. Hudson, another British tourist, launched a self-proclaimed “Scam- per through America” in 1882. It took him just 60 days to travel from England to San Francisco and back. He crossed the continental United States on a ticket booked by a single agent in Boston. Such speed and centralization would have been unthinkable in 1866, when, in any

case, the transcontinental railroad was still three years from completion.

Hudson’s trains had Pullman Palace cars with posh sleeping quar- ters, full meals, and air brakes that smoothed stops. Bridges appeared where none had been before, includ- ing a “magnificent” steel-and-stone span held up by three giant arches across the Mississippi at St. Louis. Hudson also found himself in the midst of a communications revolu- tion. Traveling across the plains, he was struck by the number of tele- phone poles along the route.

What made America in the 1880s so different from the 1860s was a new industrial order. The pro- cess of industrialization had begun at least three decades before the Civil War when small factories pro- duced light consumer goods such as clothing, shoes, and furniture. Man- ufacturers catered to local markets

made up mostly of farmers and mer- chants. After the 1850s the indus- trial economy matured, with larger factories, more machines, greater efficiency, and national markets.

The transformation brought pain along with the progress. Virgin forests vanished from the Pacific Northwest, the hillsides of Pennsylvania and West Virginia were pockmarked with open-pit mines, and the rivers of the Northeast grew toxic with industrial wastes. In 1882, the year Hudson scampered by rail across America, an average of 675 people were killed on the job every week. Like most Americans, workers scrambled— sometimes literally—to adjust. Change came nonetheless. Industri- alization swept from Great Britain to the European continent to America. Almost overnight, the republic of merchants and small farmers turned

into an industrial powerhouse. <<

What ’s to CCoomme 375 The Development of Industrial Systems

379 Railroads: America’s First Big Business

381 The Growth of Big Business

386 The Workers’ World

389 The Systems of Labor


SYSTEMS The new industrial order can best be understood as a web of complex industrial systems. Look, for example, at the bridge across the Mississippi that Hudson so

admired. When James B. Eads constructed its soaring arches in 1874, he needed steel, most likely made from iron ore mined in northern Michigan. Giant steam shovels scooped up the ore and loaded whole freight cars in a few strokes.

A transportation system—railroads, boats, and other carriers—moved the ore to Pittsburgh, where giant mills furnished the labor and machinery to fin- ish the steel. The capital to create such factories came itself from a system of finance, linking investment

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banks and stock markets to entrepreneurs in need of money. Only with a national network of indus- trial systems could the Eads bridge be built and a new age of industry arise. Natural Resources and Industrial Technology >>  The earliest European settlers had marveled at the “merchantable commodi- ties” of America, from the glittering silver mines of the Spanish Empire to the continent’s hard- wood forests. What set the new industrial econ- omy apart from that older America was the scale and efficiency of using resources. New technologies made it possible to employ natural riches in ways undreamed of only decades earlier.

Iron, for example, had been forged into steel swords as far back as the Middle Ages. In the 1850s inventors in England and America discovered a cheaper way—called the Bessemer process—to convert large quantities of iron into steel. Steel was lighter than iron, could support 20 times as much weight, and lasted 20 years instead of 3. Steel tracks soon carried most rail traffic; steel girders replaced the old cast-iron frames in buildings; steel cables sup- ported new suspension bridges.

Industrial technology made some natural resources more valuable. New distilling methods transformed a thick, smelly liquid called petroleum into kerosene for lighting lamps, oil for lubricating machinery, and paraf- fin for making candles. Beginning in 1859, new drilling techniques began to tap vast pools of petroleum below ground. About the same time, Frenchman Étienne Lenoir constructed the first practical internal combustion engine. After 1900 new vehicles such as gasoline-powered car- riages turned the oil business into a major industry.

The environmental price of industrial technol- ogy soon became evident. Coal mining, logging, and the industrial wastes of factories were only the most obvious sources of environmental degradation. Sometimes even the cure came at a cost. When engineers tried to cleanse the polluted Chicago River by reversing its flow, they succeeded only in shifting pollution to rivers downstate. Systematic Invention  >>   Industrial technol- ogy rested on invention. For sheer inventiveness, the 40 years following the Civil War have rarely been matched in American history. Between 1790 and 1860, 36,000 patents were registered with the government. Over the next three decades the U.S. Patent Office

granted more than half a million.

One fact helps to account for the growth. The process of invention became system- atized. Small-scale inven- tors were replaced by orderly

patent legal document issued by the government giving the holder exclusive rights to use, make, and sell a process, product, or device for a speci- fied period of time.

— Charles Philips Trevelyan, April 15, 1898, Letters from North America and the Pacific


—Charles Philips Trevelyan, Letters from North America and the Pacific (April 15, 1898)

“I spent the day seeing the [steel] works where the Bessemer rails are turned out. . . . All nations are jumbled up here, the poor living in tenement dens or wooden shanties thrown up or dumped down (better expression) with very little reference to roads or situation. . . . It is a most chaotic city, and as yet there is no public spirit or public consciousness to make the conditions healthy. . . . It is industrial greatness with all the worst industrial abuses on the grandest scale.”

An Englishman Visits Pittsburgh in 1898

STEEL PRODUCTION, 1880 AND 1914 While steel production jumped in western industrial nations from 1880 to 1914, it skyrocketed in the United States because of rich resources, cheap labor, and aggressive management.

FranceUnited States


2.0 .50

Great Britain








4 3.5

Production (millions of tons)



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“invention factories”—forerunners of expensive research labs. No one did more to bring system, order, and prof- itability to invention than Thomas Alva Edison. After developing a more efficient stock ticker, he set himself up as an independent inventor. For the next five years, Edison patented a new invention almost every five months.

Edison was determined to bring system and order to the process of invention. Only then could breakthroughs come in a steady and profitable stream. He moved 15 of his workers to Menlo Park, New Jersey, where in 1876 he created an “invention factory.” Like a manufac- turer, Edison subdivided the work among gifted inven- tors, engineers, toolmakers, and others. This orderly bureaucracy soon evolved into the Edison Electric Light Company. It was soon delivering not only lightbulbs but a unified electrical power system—central stations to gen- erate electric current, wired to users, all powering millions of small bulbs in homes and businesses—to its customers.

George Eastman revolutionized photography by making the consumer a part of his inventive system. In 1888 Eastman marketed the “Kodak” camera at the affordable price of $25. The small black box weighed two pounds and contained a strip of celluloid film that replaced hundreds of pounds of photography equip- ment. After 100 snaps of the shutter, the owner simply sent the camera back to the factory and waited for the developed photos, along with a reloaded camera, to return by mail, all for $10.

What united these innova- tions was the notion of ratio- nalizing inventions—of making a systematic business out of them. By 1913 Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, U.S. Rubber Company, and other firms had set up research laboratories. And by the middle of the century, research labs had spread beyond business to the federal govern- ment, universities, trade asso- ciations, and labor unions. Transportation and Com– munication  >>   Abundant resources and new inventions remained worthless to indus- try until they could be moved to processing plants, factories, and offices. With more than 3.5 mil- lion square miles of land in the United States, distance alone was daunting. Where 100 miles of railroad track would do for shipping goods in Germany and England, 1,000 miles was neces- sary in America.

An efficient internal transportation network tied the country into an emerging international system. By the 1870s railroads crisscrossed the country, and steam-powered ships (introduced before the Civil War) were pushing barges down rivers and carrying passengers and freight across the oceans. Between 1870 and 1900 the value of American exports tripled. Even- tually the rail and water transportation systems fused. By 1900 railroad companies owned nearly all of the country’s domestic steamship lines.

A thriving industrial nation also required effective communication. Information was a precious commod- ity, as essential as resources or technology to indus- try. In 1844 Samuel Morse succeeded in tapping out the first message over an electrical wire between cities. Communication using Morse’s code of dots and dashes became virtually instantaneous. So useful to railroads was the telegraph that they allowed poles and wires to be set along their rights-of-way in exchange for free telegraphic service. By the turn of the century a mil- lion miles of telegraph wire handled some 63 million messages a year, not to mention those flashing across underwater cables to China, Japan, Africa, and South America.

A second innovation in communication, the tele- phone, vastly improved on the telegraph. Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish immigrant, was teaching the deaf when he began experimenting with ways to

^̂ In 1901 Spindletop Hill, just south of Beaumont, Texas, yielded a gusher that began the modern oil industry. Known as “black gold,” oil became one of the most profitable businesses in the world, but drilling for it was dangerous, especially for workers at the wellhead. Wells could ignite, producing a deadly blast and then a fire that might last for days, as the photo shows.

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This meant that more funds could be lent to compa- nies seeking to start up or expand.

Savings and investment grew more attractive with the development of a complex network of financial institutions. Commercial and savings banks, invest- ment houses, and insurance companies gave savers

new opportunities to chan- nel money to industry. The New York Stock Exchange, in existence since 1792, linked eager investors with money-hungry firms.

The Corporation >>   For those business lead- ers with the skill to knit the industrial pieces together, large profits awaited. This was the era of the notori- ous “robber baron.” And to be sure, sheer ruthlessness went a long way in the fortune-building game. “Law? Who cares about law!” railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt once boasted. “Hain’t I got the power?”

To survive over the long term, business leaders could not depend on ruthlessness alone. They needed ingenuity, an eye for detail, and the gift of foresight. The growing scale of enterprise and need for capital, for example, led them to adapt an old device, the cor- poration, to new needs.

The corporation had several advantages over tra- ditional forms of ownership: the single owner and the partnership. A corporation could raise large sums quickly by selling “stock certificates,” or shares in its busi- ness. It could also outlive its owners (or stockholders), because it required no legal reorganization if one died. It limited liability, since owners were no longer person- ally responsible for corporate debts. And it separated owners from day-to-day management of the company. Professional managers could now operate complex busi- nesses. So clear were these benefits that before the turn of the century, corporations were making two-thirds of all manufactured products in the United States.

An International Pool of Labor >>  No new industrial order could have been created without an abundant pool of labor. In 1860 it took about 4.3 million workers to run all the factories, mills, and shops in the United States. By 1900 there were approximately 20 million industrial workers in America.

In part, the United States relied on a vast global network to fill its need for workers. In Europe as well as Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, sea- sonal migrations provided a rich source of workers for many nations, including the United States. Mechani- zation, poverty, oppression, and ambition pushed many

transmit speech electrically. In 1876 he transmitted his famous first words to his young assistant: “Mr. Watson, come here! I want you.” No longer did messages require a telegraph office, unwieldy dots and dashes, and cou- riers to deliver the translated messages. Communica- tion could be instantaneous and direct. Before the turn of the century the Bell-organized American Telephone and Telegraph Company combined more than 100 local companies to furnish business and government with long-distance service. The telephone patent proved to be the most valuable ever granted.

Finance Capital >>  As industry grew, so did the demand for investment capital—the money spent on land, buildings, and machinery. The need for capital was great especially because so many new industrial systems were being put into place at once. Each often required enormous start-up costs. Industrial processes involving so many expensive systems could not take shape until someone raised the money to finance them.

For the first three-quarters of the nineteenth cen- tury, investment capital had come mostly from the savings of firms. In the last half of the century, “capital deepening”—a process essential for industrialization— took place. Simply put, as national wealth increased, people began to save and invest more of their money.

<< A young Alexander Graham Bell with an early version of his “speaking telegraph.”

^̂ Telegraph key.

stock exchange market at which shares of ownership in corporations are bought and sold.

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daughter of Greek parents, in a New England tex- tile mill filled with relatives. Labor contractors also served as a funnel to industry. Tough and savvy immi- grants themselves, they met newcomers at the docks and train stations  with contracts. Among Italians they were known as padrones; among Mexicans, as engan- chistas. By 1900 they controlled two-thirds of the labor in New York.

A massive migration of rural Americans—some 11 million between 1865 and 1920—provided a home- grown source of labor. Driven from the farm by machines or bad times or just following dreams of a new life, they moved first to small, then to larger cities. Most lacked the skills for high-paying work. But they spoke English, and many could read and write. In iron and steel cities as well as in coal-mining towns, the better industrial jobs and supervisory positions went to them. Others found work in retail stores or offices and slowly entered the new urban middle class of white-collar workers.

Most African Americans continued to work the fields of the South. About 300,000 moved to northern cities between 1870 and 1910. Like the new immigrants, they were trying to escape discrimination and follow opportunity. One by one they brought their fami- lies. Discrimination still dogged them, but they found employment. Usually they worked in low-paying jobs as day laborers or laundresses and domestic servants. Black entrepreneurship also thrived as black-owned businesses served growing black communities.

Mexicans, too, came in search of jobs, mainly in agriculture but also in industry. They helped to build the transcontinental railroad. After the turn of the century, a small number turned farther north for jobs in the tanneries, meatpacking plants, foundries, and rail yards of Chicago and other midwestern industrial cities.


BIG BUSINESS In 1882, the year T. S. Hudson scampered across America, clocks in New York and Boston were 11 minutes 45 seconds apart. Stations often had several clocks showing the time on different rail lines, along with one displaying “local mean time.” In 1883, with- out consulting anyone, the railroad companies divided

of these rural laborers from farms into industrial cities and to other continents once steamships cut travel time across the Atlantic to about a week by the 1880s.

Between 1870 and 1890 more than 8 million immi- grants arrived in the United States, another 14 million by 1914. Some came from Asia and Latin America, but most came from Europe and settled in industrial cities. Like migratory laborers elsewhere, they hoped to find work, fatten their purses, and go home. According to one estimate, between 25 and 60 percent of all immi- grants returned to their homelands from the United States during these years.

Immigrants relied on well-defined migration chains of friends and family. A brother might find work with other Slavs in the mines of Pennsylvania; or the

OCCUPATIONAL DISTRIBUTION, 1880 AND 1920 Between 1880 and 1920, management and industrial work— employing white- and blue-collar workers—grew at the expense of farmwork.  







Transport, service 9%

Management, clerical









Transport, service


Management, clerical



✔ R E V I E W What factors led to the development of industrial systems?

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MAP 19.1: RAILROADS, 1870–1890 By 1890 the railroad network stretched from one end of the country to the other, with more miles of track than in all of Europe combined. New York City and Chicago, linked by the New York Central trunk line, became the new commercial axis. What was the western terminus of the New York Central Railroad?

Major railroads in 1870

Major railroads added 1870–1890

Transcontinental railroad

Salt Lake City




San Francisco


St. Paul

Omaha Chicago


Detroit Cleveland



New York City

Philadelphia Pittsburgh

Washington, D.C.



Atlanta Memphis


New Orleans



Santa Fe Phoenix

El Paso

Los Angeles


Kansas City

St Louis




Gulf of Mexico

Pacific Time Zone

Mountain Time Zone Central Time Zone



Eastern Time Zone

L. M

ic hi

ga n

H uron


L. E rie

L. Ontario

N ew

Y ork

Central R.R .


Buffalo Albany

New York City


1880s the Pennsylvania Railroad had nearly 50,000 people on its payroll. From paying workers to setting schedules and rates to determining costs and profits, everything required a level of coordination unknown in earlier businesses.

The so-called trunk lines devised new systems of management. Scores of early companies had serviced local networks of cities and communities, often with fewer than 50 miles of track. During the 1850s longer trunk lines emerged east of the Mississippi to con- nect the shorter branches, or “feeder” lines. By the outbreak of the Civil War, with four great trunk lines under a single management, railroads linked the east- ern seaboard with the Great Lakes and western rivers.

The operations of large lines spawned a new man- agerial elite, beneath owners but with wide authority over daily operations. Daniel McCallum, superinten- dent of the New York and Erie in the 1850s, laid the foundation for this system by drawing up the first table of organization for an American company. A tree trunk with roots represented the president and board

the country into four time zones an hour apart to clean up this inefficient mess. Congress did not get around to making the division official until 1916.

At the center of the new industrial systems lay the railroads, moving people and freight, spreading communications, reinventing time, tying the nation together. Railroads also stimulated economic growth, simply because they required so many resources to build—coal, wood, glass, rubber, brass, and, by the 1880s, 75 percent of all U.S. steel. By lowering trans- portation costs railroads allowed manufacturers to reduce prices, attract more buyers, and increase busi- ness. Perhaps most important, as America’s first big business they created techniques of modern manage- ment, soon adopted by other companies.

A Managerial Revolution >>  To the men who ran them, railroads provided a challenge in organiza- tion and finance. In the 1850s one of the largest indus- trial enterprises in America, the Pepperell textile mills of Maine, employed about 800 workers. By the early

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there. Large investment banks developed financial networks to track down money at home and abroad. By 1898 a third of the assets of American life insurance companies had gone into railroads, while Europeans owned nearly a third of all American railroad securities.

Because investment bankers played such large roles in funding railroads, they found themselves advising companies about their business affairs. If a company fell into bankruptcy, bankers sometimes served as the “receivers” who oversaw the property until financial health returned. By absorbing smaller lines into larger ones, eliminating rebates, and stabilizing rates, the bankers helped to reduce competition and impose order and centralization on railroads and other corporations. In the process, they often gained control of the com- panies they advised.

By 1900 the new industrial systems had trans- formed American railroads. Some 200,000 miles of track were in operation, 80 percent of it owned by only six groups of railroads. Time zones allowed for coordi- nated schedules; standardized track permitted easy cross-country freighting. Soon passengers were trav- eling 16 billion miles a year. To that traffic could be added farm goods, raw materials, and factory-finished products. Everything moved with new regularity that allowed businesses to plan and prosper.


In 1865, near the end of the Civil War, 26-year-old John D. Rockefeller sat blank-faced in the office of his Cleveland oil refinery, about to conclude the biggest deal of his life. Rockefeller’s business was thriving, but he had fallen out with his partner over how quickly to expand. Rockefeller was eager to grow fast; his partner was not. They dissolved their partnership and agreed to bid for the company. Bidding opened at $500, rock- eted to $72,500, and abruptly stopped. “The business is yours,” said the partner. The men shook hands, and a thin smile crept across Rockefeller’s angular face.

Twenty years later, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company controlled 90 percent of the nation’s refin- ing capacity and an empire that stretched well beyond Cleveland. Trains swept Standard executives to New York, Philadelphia, and other eastern cities. It was a fitting form of transportation for Rockefeller’s

✔ R E V I E W How did the railroads contribute to the rise of big business?

of directors; five branches constituted the main oper- ating divisions; leaves stood for the local agents, train crews, and others. Information moved up and down the trunk so that managers could get reports to and from the separate parts.

These managerial techniques soon spread to other industries. Local superintendents were responsible for daily activities. Central offices served as corporate nerve centers, housing divisions for purchases, pro- duction, transportation, sales, and accounting. A new class of middle managers ran them and imposed new order on business operations. Executives, managers, and workers were being taught to operate in increas- ingly precise and coordinated ways.

Competition and Consolidation  >>   While managers made operations more systematic, the fierce struggle among railroad companies to dominate the industry was anything but precise and rational. In the 1870s and 1880s the pain of railroad competition began to tell.

The most savage and costly competition came over the prices charged for shipping goods. Managers low- ered prices, or “rates,” for freight that was shipped in bulk, on long hauls, or on return routes, since the cars were empty any way. They used “rebates”—secret discounts to preferred customers—to drop prices below the posted rates of competitors and then recouped the losses by overcharging small shippers like farmers. When the economy plunged or a weak line sought to improve its position, rate or price wars broke out. By 1880, 65 lines had declared bankruptcy.

Consolidation worked better than competition. During the 1870s railroads created regional fed- erations to pool traffic, set prices, and divide profits among members. Without the force of law, however, these regional federations failed. Members broke ranks by cutting prices in hopes of quick gain. In the end, rate wars died down only when weaker lines failed or stronger ones bought up competitors.

The Challenge of Finance >>   Earlier in the nineteenth century many railroads relied on state gov- ernments for financial backing. They also looked to counties, cities, and towns for bonds and other forms of aid. People took stock in exchange for land or labor, particularly those living near the ends of rail lines who stood to gain most from construction. In the 1850s and 1860s western promoters went to Washington for federal assistance. Congress loaned $65 million to six western railroads and granted some 131 million acres of land.

Federal aid helped to build only part of the nation’s railroads. Most of the money came from private inves- tors. The New York Stock Exchange expanded rapidly as railroad corporations began to trade their stocks

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Vertical growth generally moved producers of con- sumer goods closer to the marketplace in search of high-volume sales. The Singer Sewing Machine Com- pany and the McCormick Harvesting Machine Com- pany created their own retail sales arms. Manufacturers began furnishing ordinary consumers with technical information, credit, and repair services. Advertising expenditures grew, to some $90 million by 1900, in an effort to identify markets, shape buying habits, and increase sales.

Carnegie Integrates Steel >>  Industrialization encouraged vertical integration in heavy industry but more often in the opposite direction, toward reliable sources of raw materials. These firms made products for big users such as railroads and factory builders. Their markets were easily identified and changed little. For them, success lay in securing limited raw materials and in holding down costs.

Andrew Carnegie led the way in steel. A Scottish immigrant, he worked his way up from bobbin boy to expert telegrapher to superintendent of the Penn- sylvania Railroad’s western division at the age of 24.

company, because railroads were the key to his oil empire. They pioneered the big business systems on which he was building. And they carried his oil prod- ucts for discounted rates, giving him the edge to squeeze out rivals.

Strategies of Growth  >>   First a bedeviling business riddle had to be solved: how to grow and still control the ravages of competition? In Michigan in the 1860s, salt producers found themselves fighting for their existence. The presence of too many salt makers had begun an endless round of price-cutting that was driving everyone out of business. Seeing salvation in combination, they drew together in the nation’s first pool. In 1869 they formed the Michigan Salt Associa- tion. They voluntarily agreed to allocate production, divide markets, and set prices—at double the previous rate.

Salt processing and other industries that spe- cialized in consumer goods had low start-up costs, so  they were often plagued by competition. Horizontal combination —joining to- gether loosely with rivals that offered the same goods or services—had saved Michigan salt producers. By the 1880s there was a whis- key pool, a cordage pool,

and countless rail and other pools. Such informal pools ultimately proved to be unenforceable and therefore unsatisfactory. (After 1890 they were also considered illegal restraints on trade.) But other forms of hori- zontal growth, such as formal mergers, spread in the wake of an economic panic in the 1890s.

Some makers of consumer products worried less about direct competition and concentrated on boosting efficiency and sales. They adopted a vertical-growth strategy in which one company gained control of two or more stages of a business. Take Gustavus Swift, a New England butcher, for example. Swift moved to Chicago in the mid-1870s, aware of the demand for fresh beef in the East. He acquired new refrigerated railcars to ship meat from western slaughterhouses and a network of ice-cooled warehouses in eastern cities to store it. By 1885 he had created the first national meatpacking enterprise, Swift and Company.

Swift moved upward, closer to consumers, by putting together a fleet of wagons to distribute his beef to retailers. He moved down toward raw materials, extending and coordinating the purchase of cattle at the Chicago stockyards. By the 1890s Swift and Com- pany was a fully integrated, vertically organized cor- poration operating on a nationwide scale.

̂̂ Andrew Carnegie around 1868. A decade later, a world tour he took tempered his attitude toward the social Darwinist view that evolution had produced the superiority of Western technology and ideas. “Go and see for yourself how greatly we are bound by prejudices, how checkered and uncertain are many of our own advances,” he told friends. “No nation has all that is best.”

consumer goods products such as food and clothing that fill the needs and wants of individuals.

horizontal combination strat- egy of business growth (sometimes referred to as “horizontal integration”) that attempts to stifle competi- tion by combining more than one firm involved in the same level of production, transpor- tation, or distribution into a single firm.

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trust—that promised greater control than even Carn- egie’s integrated system. At first Rockefeller, who specialized in refining petroleum, grew horizontally by buying out or joining other refiners. To cut costs he also expanded vertically, with oil pipelines, ware- houses, and barrel factories. By 1870, when he and five partners formed the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, his high-quality, low-cost products set a competitive standard.

Because the oil-refining business was a jungle of competitive firms, Rockefeller proceeded to twist arms. He bribed rivals, spied on them, created phony com- panies, and slashed prices. His decisive edge came from the railroads. Desperate for business, they granted Standard Oil not only rebates on shipping rates but also “drawbacks,” a fee from the railroad for any product shipped by a rival oil company. Within a decade Standard dominated American refining with a vertically integrated empire that stretched from drill- ing to selling.

Throughout the 1870s Rockefeller kept his empire stitched together through informal pools and other business combinations. But they were weak and afforded him too little control. He could try to expand further, except that corporations were restricted by state law. In Rockefeller’s home state of Ohio, for example, corporations could not own plants in other states or own stock in out-of-state companies.

In 1879 Samuel C. T. Dodd, chief counsel of Stan- dard Oil, came up with a new device, the “trust.” The stockholders of a corporation surrendered their shares “in trust” to a central board of directors with the power to control all property. In exchange, stockhold- ers received certificates of trust that paid hefty divi- dends. Since it did not literally own other companies,

A string of wise investments paid off handsomely. Among other things, he owned a locomotive factory and an iron factory that became the nucleus of his steel empire.

In 1872, on a trip to England, Carnegie chanced to see the Bessemer process in action. Awestruck and dreaming of the profits to be made from cheap steel, he rushed home to build the biggest steel mill in the world. It opened in 1875, in the midst of a severe depression. Over the next 25 years, Carnegie added mills at Homestead and elsewhere in Pennsylvania and moved from railroad-building to city-building.

Carnegie succeeded, in part, by taking advantage of the boom-and-bust business cycle. He jumped in during hard times, building and buying when equip- ment and businesses were cheap. But he also found skilled managers who employed the administrative techniques of the railroads. And Carnegie knew how to compete: he scrapped machinery, workers, even a new mill to keep costs down and undersell competi- tors. The final key to Carnegie’s success was expan- sion. His empire spread horizontally by purchasing rival steel mills and constructing new ones. It spread vertically, buying up sources of supply, transportation, and eventually sales. Controlling such an integrated system, Carnegie could ensure a steady flow of mate- rials from mine to mill and market, as well as profits at every stage. In 1900 his company turned out more steel than Great Britain and netted $40 million.

Rockefeller and the Great Standard Oil Trust >>   John D. Rockefeller accomplished in oil what Carnegie achieved in steel. And he went fur- ther, developing an innovative business structure—the

̂̂ Carnegie steel furnaces, Braddock, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Monongahela River were opened in 1875 as part of the J. Edgar Thomson Steel Works. Named for the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the mill was capable of producing as much as 255 tons of steel rails a day, many of which went into the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad line.

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sprouted almost overnight. By 1904 in each of 50 indus- tries one firm came to account for 60 percent or more of the total output.

Corporate Defenders >>  As Andrew Carnegie’s empire grew, so did his social conscience. Preach- ing a “gospel of wealth,” he urged the rich to act as agents for the poor, “doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.” “The man who dies rich  .  .  .  dies disgraced,” he warned. He devoted more and more of his time to philanthropy by creat- ing foundations and endowing libraries and universities with some $350 million in contributions.

Defenders of the new corporate order were less troubled than Carnegie about the rough-and- tumble world of big business. They justified the system by stressing the opportunity created for individuals by economic growth. Through frugality, acquisitiveness, and discipline—the sources of cherished American individualism—they believed anyone could rise like Andrew Carnegie.

When most ordinary workers failed to fol- low in Carnegie’s footsteps, defenders blamed the individual. Failures were lazy, ignorant, or mor- ally depraved, they said. British philosopher Her- bert Spencer added the weight of science by applying Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution to society. He maintained that in society, as in biology, only the “fittest” survived. The competitive social jungle doomed the unfit to poverty and rewarded the fit with property and privilege.

Spencer’s American apostle, William Graham Sumner, argued that competition was natural and had to proceed without any interference, including govern- ment regulation. Millionaires were simply the “product of natural selection.” Such “social Darwinism” found strong support among turn-of-the-century business leaders. The philosophy certified their success even as they worked to destroy the very competitiveness it celebrated.

Corporate Critics  >>   Meanwhile, a group of radical critics mounted a powerful attack on corporate capitalism. Henry George, a journalist and self-taught economist, proposed a way to redistribute wealth in Progress and Poverty (1879). George attacked large landowners as the source of inequality. They bought property while it was cheap and then held it until the forces of society—labor, technology, and speculation on nearby sites—had increased its value. George pro- posed to do away with all taxes except a single tax on these “unearned” profits to end monopoly landholding. “Single-tax” clubs sprang up throughout the country, and George nearly won the race for mayor of New York City in 1886.

the trust violated no state law, many of which sought to limit the power of big businesses by preventing one corporation from owning stock in another.

In 1882 the Standard Oil Company of Ohio formed the country’s first great trust. It brought Rockefeller what he sought so fiercely: centralized management of the oil industry. Other busi- nesses soon created trusts

of their own—in meatpacking, wire-making, and farm machinery, for example. Just as quickly, trusts became notorious for crushing rivals and controlling prices.

The Mergers of J. Pierpont Morgan >>  The trust was only a stepping-stone to an even more effective means of avoiding competition, manag- ing people, and controlling business: the corporate merger. The merging of two corporations—one buy- ing out another—remained impossible until 1889, when New Jersey began to permit corporations to own other companies through what became known as the “hold- ing company” (a company that held stock in other companies). Many industries converted their trusts into holding companies, including Standard Oil, which moved to New Jersey in 1899.

Two years later came the biggest corporate merger of the era. It was the creation of a financial wizard named J. Pierpont Morgan. His orderly mind detested the chaotic competition that threatened his profits. “I like a little competition,” Morgan used to say, “but I like combination more.” After the Civil War he had taken over his father’s powerful investment bank. For the next 50 years the House of Morgan played a part in consolidating almost every major industry in the country.

Morgan’s greatest triumph came in steel. In 1901 a colossal steel war loomed between Andrew Carnegie and other steelmakers. Morgan convinced Carnegie to put a price tag on his company. When a messenger brought the scrawled reply back—over $400 million—Morgan merely nodded and said, “I accept this price.” He then bought Carnegie’s eight largest competitors and announced the formation of the United States Steel Corporation. The mammoth holding company produced nearly two-thirds of all American steel. Its value of $1.4 billion exceeded the national debt and made it the country’s first bil- lion-dollar corporation.

What Morgan helped to create in steel was rapidly coming to pass in other industries. A wave of mergers swept through American business after the depression of 1893. As the economy plunged, cutthroat competition bled businesses until they were eager to sell out. Giants

trust business arrangement in which owners of shares in a business turn over their shares “in trust” to a board with power to control those businesses for the benefit of the trust.

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members bent on gaining greater support revolted and in 1901 founded the more successful Socialist Party of America. Workers were beginning to organize their own responses to industrialism.

By the mid-1880s, in response to the growing criticism of big business, several states in the South and West had enacted laws limiting the size of cor- porations. But state laws proved all too easy to evade when New Jersey and Delaware eased their rules to cover the whole nation.

In 1890 the public clamor against trusts finally forced Congress to act. The Sherman Antitrust Act relied on the only constitutional authority Congress had over business: its right to regulate interstate com- merce. The act outlawed “every contract, combina- tion in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce.” The United States stood practically alone among industrialized nations in regulating the size of business combinations.

Its language was purposefully vague, but the Sherman Antitrust Act did give the government the power to break up trusts and other big businesses. So high was the regard for the rights of private property, however, that few in Congress expected the govern- ment to exercise that power or the courts to uphold it. They were right. In 1895 the Supreme Court dealt the law a major blow by severely limiting its scope. United States v. E. C. Knight Co. held that businesses involved in manufacturing (as opposed to “trade or commerce”) lay outside the authority of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Not until after the turn of the century would the law be used to bust a trust.

The Costs of Doing Business >>  The heated debates between the critics and the defenders of industrial capitalism made clear that the changes in American society were two-edged. Big businesses helped to rationalize the economy, to increase national wealth, and to tie the country together. Yet they also concentrated power, corrupted politics, and made the gap between rich and poor more apparent than ever.

More to the point, the practices of big business subjected the economy to enormous disruptions. The banking system could not always keep pace with the demand for capital, and businesses failed to distribute enough of their profits to sustain the purchasing power of workers. The supply of goods periodically out- stripped demand, and then the wrenching cycle of boom and bust set in. Three severe depressions—1873–1879, 1882–1885, and 1893–1897—rocked the economy in the last third of the nineteenth century. With hard times came fierce competition and ruthless cost cutting.

Some of the costs were unclear at the time. Although anyone could see the environmental impact of industrialization, the long-term effects were less

The journalist Edward Bellamy tapped the same popular resentment against the inequalities of corpo- rate capitalism. In his utopian novel, Looking Back- ward (1888), a fictional Bostonian falls asleep in 1887 and awakens Rip Van Winkle–like in the year 2000. The competitive, caste-ridden society of the nine- teenth century is gone. In its place is an orderly utopia, managed by a benevolent government trust. “Fra- ternal cooperation” and shared abundance reign. Like George’s ideas, Bellamy’s philosophy inspired a host of clubs around the nation. His followers demanded redistribution of wealth, civil service reform, and nationalization of railroads and utilities.

Less popular but equally hostile to capitalism was the Socialist Labor Party, formed in 1877. Under Dan- iel De Leon, a West Indian immigrant, it stressed class conflict and called for a revolution to give work- ers control over production. De Leon refused to com- promise his radical beliefs, and the socialists ended up attracting more intellectuals than workers. Some immigrants found its class consciousness appealing, but most rejected its radicalism and rigidity. A few party

̂̂ This drawing is from a 1905 edition of Collier’s magazine, famous for exposing corporate abuses. Here it mocks John D. Rockefeller, head of the Standard Oil Company, as the new god of the industrial age by parodying the Protestant doxology of thanks: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise him all creatures here below!”

socialism philosophy of social and economic organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods are owned collectively or by government.

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Who deserves more credit for making the

United States an industrial powerhouse,

industrialists or workers?



temperatures even slightly, warmer air would absorb more of the most potent heat trapper of all—water vapor—raising temperatures still higher. A new and dramatic cycle of climate change might spread across the planet. With the age of industry in its infancy, few paid attention to the implications for what would later be called “global warming.”


At seven in the morning Sadie Frowne sat at her sew- ing machine in a Brooklyn garment factory. Her boss, a man she barely knew, dropped a pile of unfinished skirts next to her. She pushed one under her needle and began to rock her foot on the pedal that pow- ered her machine. Sometimes Sadie pushed the skirts too quickly, and the needle pierced her finger. “The

machines go like mad all day because the faster you work the more money you get,” she explained of the world of industrial work in 1902. The cramped sweatshops, the vast steel mills,

the dank tunnels of the coal fields—all demanded workers and required them to work in new ways. Farmers or peasants who had once timed them- selves by the movement of the sun now lived by

✔ R E V I E W What strategies and structures did businesses use to grow and at what costs?

apparent. In the nineteenth century most people, scientists included, assumed that nature would maintain its own balance, largely unaffected by human action. And for the handful of observers interested in climate change only the most basic calculations were possible.

It took a Brit and a Swede consumed with dis- covering the cause of the prehistoric Ice Age to work out the climatic ramifications of new smokestack industries. In 1859 British scientist John Tyndall took up the question of precisely what in the atmo- sphere prevented the Earth from freezing. By testing the “coal gas” (gas emitted by burning coal) from a jet in his laboratory, he found that methane and carbon dioxide captured heat. Historically such gases had come from volcanic eruptions and other natu- ral occurrences, but growing amounts were now being thrown aloft by industry.

In Sweden, Svante Arrhenius carried the idea a step further in 1896. If heat-trapping gases raised global

BOOM-AND-BUST BUSINESS CYCLE, 1865–1900 Between 1865 and 1900, industrializa- tion produced great economic growth but also wild swings of prosperity and depression. During booms, productiv- ity soared and near-full employment existed. But the rising number of indus- trial workers meant high unemployment during deep busts.



0 %



Level of Business Activity

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the 40 different steps that had gone into making a pair of shoes by hand could be performed by a novice or “green hand” with a few days of instruction at a simple machine.

With machines also came danger. Tending furnaces in a steel mill or plucking tobacco from cigarette- rolling machines was tedious. If a worker became bored or tired, disaster could strike. Each year from 1880 to 1900, industrial mishaps killed an average of 35,000 wage earners and injured more than 500,000. Work- ers and their families could expect no payment from employers or government for death or injury. The law operated under the presumption that such accidents were the worker’s fault.

Higher productivity and profits were the aims, and for Frederick W. Taylor, efficiency was the way to achieve them. During the 1870s and 1880s Taylor undertook careful time-and-motion stud- ies of workers’ movements in the steel industry. He set up standard procedures and offered pay incentives for beating his production quotas. On one occasion he designed 15 ore shovels, each for a separate task. One hundred forty men were soon doing the work of 600. By the early twentieth century “Taylorism” was a full-blown philosophy, complete with its own pro- fessional society. “Management engineers” prescribed routines from which workers could not vary.

For all the high ideals of Taylorism, ordinary laborers refused to perform as cogs in a vast industrial machine. In a variety of ways they worked to main- tain control. Many European immigrants continued to observe the numerous saints’ days and other religious

holidays of their homelands, regard- less of factory rules. When the pressure of six-day weeks became too stifling, workers took an unauthorized “blue Monday” off. Or they slowed down to reduce the grueling pace. Or they sim- ply walked off the job. Come spring and warm weather, factories reported turn- over rates of 100 percent or more.

For some, seizing control of work was more than a matter of survival or self-respect. Many workers regarded themselves as citizens of a demo- cratic republic. They expected to earn a “competence”—enough money to support and educate their families and enough time to stay abreast of current

the clock and labored by the twilight of gaslit facto- ries. Instead of being self-employed, they were under the thumb of a supervisor and were paid by the piece or hour. Not the seasons but the relentless cycle of machines set their pace. Increasingly, workers bore the brunt of depressions, faced periodic unemployment, and toiled under dangerous conditions as they strug- gled like their managers to bring the new industrial processes under control.

Industrial Work >>  In 1881 the Pittsburgh Bes- semer Steel Company opened its new mill in Home- stead, Pennsylvania. Nearly 400 men and boys went to work in its 60 acres of sheds. They kept the mill going around the clock by working in two 12-hour shifts. In the furnace room, some men fainted from the heat, while the vibration and screeching of machinery deafened others. There were no breaks, even for lunch.

Few industrial laborers worked under such condi- tions, but the Homestead mill reflected common char- acteristics of industrial work: the use of machines for mass production; the division of labor into intricately organized, often repetitive tasks; and the dictatorship of the clock. At the turn of the century, two-thirds of all industrial work came from large-scale mills.

Under such conditions labor paid dearly for industrial progress. By 1900 most of those earning wages in industry worked 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. They held jobs that required more machines and fewer skills. Repetition of small chores replaced fine craftwork. In the 1880s, for example, almost all

<< This photograph from 1902 of the lock- and-drill assembly line at the National Cash Register Company suggests something of the growing scale of factory enterprise—and also of the dangers that workers in these manufacturing shops faced.

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observed, “Absolute necessity compels the father . . . to take the child into the mine to assist him in winning bread for the family.” On average, children worked 60 hours a week and carried home paychecks a third the size of those of adult males.

Women had always labored on family farms, but by 1870 one out of every four nonagricultural workers was female. In general they earned one-half of what men did. Nearly all were single and young, anywhere from their mid-teens to their mid-20s. Most lived in boardinghouses or at home with their parents. Usually they contributed their wages to the family kitty. Once married, they often took on a life of full-time house- work and child rearing.

Only 5 percent of married women held jobs out- side the home in 1900. Married black women—in need of income because of the low wages paid to their husbands—were four times more likely than married

affairs. Few but highly skilled workers could realize such democratic dreams. More and more, labor was being managed as another part of an integrated sys- tem of industry.

Children, Women, and African Americans >>  The needs of industry for work- ers were so great that groups traditionally left out of the industrial ambit-children, women, African Americans—found themselves drawn into it. In the mines of Pennsylvania nimble—fingered eight-year- olds snatched bits of slate from amid the chunks of coal. In Illinois glass factories “dog boys” dashed with trays of red-hot bottles to the cooling ovens. By 1900 the industrial labor force included some 1.7 million children, more than double the number 30 years ear- lier. Parents often had no choice. As one union leader

̂̂ Clerks’ jobs, traditionally held by men, came to be filled by women as growing industrial networks created more managerial jobs for men. Here a factory floor full of neatly dressed female clerks bang away at their “Type-Writers,” patented first in 1868.

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For ordinary workers to begin to control industrializa- tion they had to combine, just as businesses did. They needed to join together horizontally—organizing not just locally but on a national scale as well. They needed to integrate vertically by coordinating action across a wide range of jobs and skills, as Andrew Carnegie coordinated the production of steel. Unions were the workers’ systematic response to industrialization.

Early Unions >>   In the United States, unions began forming before the Civil War. Skilled craft- workers—carpenters, iron molders, cigar makers— united to counter the growing power of management. Railroad “brotherhoods” also furnished insurance for those hurt or killed on the accident-plagued lines. Largely local and exclusively male, these early craft unions remained weak and unconnected to each other as well as to the growing mass of unskilled workers.

After the war a group of craft unions, brother- hoods, and reformers united skilled and unskilled workers in a nationwide organization. The National Labor Union (NLU) hailed the virtues of a sim- pler America, when workers controlled their work- day, earned a decent living, and had time to be good informed citizens. NLU leaders attacked the wage system as unfair and enslaving and urged workers to manage their own factories. By the early 1870s NLU ranks swelled to more than 600,000.

Among other things, the NLU pressed for the eight-hour workday, the most popular labor demand of the era. Workers saw it as a way not merely of lim- iting their time on the job but of limiting the power of employers over their lives. “Eight hours for work; eight hours for rest; eight hours for what we will!” proclaimed a banner at one labor rally. Despite the popularity of the issue, the NLU wilted during the depression of 1873.

The Knights of Labor >>  More successful was a national union born in secrecy. In 1869 Uriah Stephens and nine Philadelphia garment cutters founded the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor. They draped themselves in ritual and regalia to deepen their sense of solidarity and met in secret to evade hostile

white women to hold jobs outside the home. Indus- trialization inevitably pushed women into new jobs. Mainly they worked in industries considered extensions of housework: food processing, textiles and clothing, cigar making, and domestic service.

New methods of management and marketing opened positions for white-collar women as “typewriters,” “telephone girls,” bookkeepers, and secretaries. On rare occasions women entered the professions, though law and medical schools were reluctant to admit them. Such discrimination drove ambitious, educated women into nursing, teaching, and library work, all consid- ered forms of female nurturance. Their growing pres- ence soon “feminized” these professions, pushing men upward into managerial slots or out entirely.

Even more than white women, all African Americans faced discrimination in the workplace. They were paid less than whites and given menial jobs. Their greatest opportunities in industry often came as strikebreakers to replace white workers. Once a strike ended, however, black workers were replaced themselves—and hated by the white regulars all the more. The service trades fur- nished the largest single source of jobs. Craftworkers and a sprinkling of black professionals could usually be found in cities. After the turn of the century, black- owned businesses thrived in the growing black neigh- borhoods of the North and the South.

The American Dream of Success >>  What- ever their separate experiences, working-class Americans did improve their overall lot. Though the gap between the very rich and the very poor widened, most wage earners made some gains. Between 1860 and 1890 real daily wages—pay in terms of buying power—climbed some 50 percent as prices gradually fell. And after 1890 the number of hours on the job began a slow decline.

Yet most unskilled and semiskilled workers in fac- tories continued to receive low pay. In 1890 an unskilled laborer could expect about $1.50 for a 10-hour day; a skilled one, perhaps twice that amount. It took about $600 a year to make ends meet, but most manufac- turing workers made under $500 a year. Native-born white Americans tended to earn more than immi- grants, those who spoke English more than those who did not, men more than women, and all others more than African Americans and Asians.

Few workers repeated the rags-to-riches rise of Andrew Carnegie. But some did rise, despite periodic unemployment and ruthless wage cuts. About one- quarter of the manual laborers in one study entered the lower middle class in their own lifetimes. More often such unskilled workers climbed in financial status within their own class. And most workers, seeing some improvement, believed in the American dream of suc- cess, even if they did not fully share in it.

✔ R E V I E W How did industrialization change the working day for people employed in factories?

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races. By 1886 membership had leapt to more than 700,000, including nearly 30,000 African Americans and 3,000 women.

Like the NLU, the Knights of Labor looked to abol- ish the wage system and in its place create a cooperative economy of worker-owned businesses. The Knights set up more than 140 cooperative workshops, where work- ers shared decisions and profits, and sponsored some 200 political candidates. To tame the new industrial order, they supported the eight-hour workday and the regu- lation of trusts. Underlying this program was a moral

owners. The Knights remained small and fraternal for a decade. Their strongly Protestant tone repelled Catholics, who made up almost half the workforce in many industries.

In 1879 the Knights elected Terence V. Pow- derly as their Grand Master Workman. Handsome, dynamic, Irish, and Catholic, Powderly threw off the Knights’ secrecy, dropped their rituals, and opened their ranks. He called for “one big union” to embrace the “toiling millions”—skilled and unskilled, men and women, natives and immigrants, all religions, all

Historian’s T O O L B O X

Photographs can be both revealing and deceptive, but technology can help his- torians detect what the camera lens actually captured. This print (upper left) of a photo by Lewis Hine, a turn-of-the- century photographer, shows eight-year- old Phoebe Thomas returning to her house in Eastport, Maine. The scene seems to be nothing more than a little girl making her way home up a set of stairs. Hine tells us that the young Syrian worked all day in a cannery, shearing the heads off sardines with a butcher’s knife. When the Library

of Congress scanned the image nearly a century later, a portion of the photo could be digitally enlarged to reveal much more than meets the unaided eye. What appears to be an ordinary homecoming is, in fact, something much worse, as Hine’s notes reveal. Phoebe was “running home from the factory all alone, her hand and arm bathed with blood, crying at the top of her voice. She had cut the end of her thumb nearly off, cutting sardines in the factory, and was sent home alone, her mother being busy.”

THINKING CRITICALLY How does the close-up of Phoebe Thomas change the nature of the photograph? What would we make of the photograph without Hine’s explanatory notes? Google “Lewis Hine” to learn what he photo- graphed and why.

Credit: Library of Congress Digital Photo ID: nclc 00966.

Digital Detecting Eastport, Maine: what adjectives

would you use to describe the scene?

What strikes you about this digitally enlarged portion of the photo?

At first the view looks somewhat rural, but at least three elements in the photograph suggest otherwise. What are they?

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Twenty-five labor groups joined, representing some 150,000 workers. Stressing gradual, concrete gains, he made the AFL the most powerful union in the country. By 1901 it had more than a million members, almost a third of all skilled workers in America.

Gompers was less interested in vertical integration: combining skilled and unskilled workers. For most of his career he preserved the privileges of craftsmen and accepted their prejudices against women, blacks, and immigrants. Only two locals—the Cigar Makers’ Union and the Typographers’ Union—enrolled women. Most affiliates restricted black membership through high entrance fees and other discriminatory practices.

Despite the success of the AFL the laboring classes did not organize themselves as systematically as the barons of industry. At the turn of the century, union membership included less than 10 percent of industrial workers. Separated by different languages and nation- alities, divided by issues of race and gender, workers resisted unionization during the nineteenth century. In fact, a strong strain of individualism often made them regard all collective action as un-American.

The Limits of Industrial Systems  >>   As managers sought to increase their control over the workplace, workers often found themselves at the mercy of the new industrial order. Even in boom times, one in three workers was out of a job at least three or four months a year.

In hard times, when a worker’s pay dropped and frustration mounted, when a mother worked all night and fell asleep during the day while caring for her

vision of society. If only people renounced greed, laziness, and dishonesty, Powderly argued, corruption and class division would disappear. Democracy would flourish. To reform citizens, the Knights promoted the prohibition of child and convict labor and the abolition of liquor.

It was one thing to proclaim a moral vision for his union, quite another to coordinate the activities of so many members. Locals resorted to strikes and violence, actions Powderly condemned. In the mid-1880s such stoppages wrung concessions from the western rail- roads, but the organization soon became associated with unsuccessful strikes and violent extremists. By 1890 the Knights of Labor teetered near extinction.

The American Federation of Labor >>  The Knights’ position as the premier union in the nation was taken by the rival American Federation of Labor (AFL). The AFL reflected the practicality of its leader, Samuel Gompers. Born in a London tenement, the son of a Jewish cigar maker, he had emigrated in 1863 with his family to New York’s Lower East Side. Unlike the visionary Powderly, Gompers accepted capitalism and the wage system. What he wanted was “pure and sim- ple unionism”—higher wages, fewer hours, improved safety, more benefits.

Gompers chose to organize highly skilled craft- workers because they were difficult to replace. He then bargained with employers, using strikes and boycotts only as last resorts. With the Cigar Mak- ers’ Union as his base, Gompers helped create the first national federation of craft unions in 1881. In 1886 it was reorganized as the American Federation of Labor.

̂̂ In this painting by Robert Koehler, The Strike (1886), labor confronts management in a strike that may soon turn bloody. One worker reaches for a stone as an anxious mother and her daughter look on.

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children, when food prices suddenly jumped—violence might erupt. “A mob of 1,000 people, with women in the lead, marched through the Jewish quarter of Williams- burg last evening and wrecked half a dozen butcher shops,” reported the New York Times in 1902.

In the late nineteenth century a wave of labor activism swept the nation. More often than mob vio- lence, it was strikes and boycotts that challenged the authority of employers and gave evidence of working- class identity and discontent. Most strikes broke out spontaneously, organized by informal leaders in a factory. Thousands of rallies and organized strikes were staged as well, often on behalf of the eight- hour workday, in good times and bad, by union and nonunion workers alike.

In 1877 the country’s first nationwide strike opened an era of confrontation between labor and manage- ment. When the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad cut wages by 20 percent, a crew in Martinsburg, West Virginia, seized the local depot and blocked the line. Two-thirds of the nation’s track shut down in sym- pathy. When companies hired strikebreakers, striking workers torched rail yards, smashed engines and cars, and tore up track. Local police, state militia, and fed- eral troops finally crushed the strike after 12 bloody days. In its wake, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 left 100 people dead and $10 million worth of railroad property in rubble. “This may be the beginning of a great civil war . . . between labor and capital,” warned one newspaper.

In 1886 tension between labor and capital exploded in the “Great Upheaval”—a series of strikes, boycotts, and rallies. One of the most violent episodes occurred at Haymarket Square in Chicago. A group of anar- chists was protesting the recent killing of workers by police at the McCormick Harvesting Company. As rain drenched the small crowd, police moved in and ordered everyone out of the square. Suddenly a bomb exploded. One officer was killed, and 6 others were mortally wounded. When police opened fire, the crowd fired back. Nearly 70 more police officers were injured, and at least 4 civilians died.

Conservatives charged that radicals were respon- sible for the “Haymarket Massacre.” Ordinary citizens who had supported labor grew fearful of its power to spark violence and disorder. Though the bomb thrower was never identified, eight anarchists were found guilty of conspiracy to murder. Seven were sentenced to death. Cities enlarged their police forces, and states built more National Guard armories on the borders of working-class neighborhoods.

Management Strikes Again >>  The strikes, rallies, and boycotts of 1886 were followed by a sec- ond surge of labor activism in 1892. In the silver mines of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at the Carnegie steel mill

in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in the coal mines near Tracy City, Tennessee, strikes flared. Often state and federal troops joined company guards and Pinkerton detectives to crush these actions.

The broadest confrontation between labor and management took place two years later. A terrible depression had shaken the economy for almost a year when George Pullman, owner of the Palace Car factory and inventor of the plush railroad car, laid off work- ers and cut wages (but kept rents high on company- owned housing). He refused to discuss any grievances. In 1894 workers struck and managed to convince the new American Railway Union (ARU) to support them by boycotting all trains that used Pullman cars. Quickly the strike spread to 27 states and territories. Anxious railroad owners appealed to President Grover Cleveland for federal help. On the slim pretext that the strike obstructed mail delivery (strikers had actu- ally been willing to handle mail trains without Pull- man cars), Cleveland secured a court order halting the strike. He then called several thousand special deputies into Chicago to enforce it. In the rioting that followed, 12 people died and scores were arrested. But the strike was quashed.

In all labor disputes the central issue was the power to shape the new industrial systems. Employers always enjoyed the advantage. They hired and fired workers, set the terms of employment, and ruled the workplace. They fought unions with “yellow dog” contracts that forced workers to refuse to join. Blacklists circulated the names of labor agitators. Lockouts kept protesting workers from plants, and labor spies infiltrated their organizations. With a growing pool of labor, employers could replace strikers and break strikes.

Management could also count on local, state, and federal authorities to send troops to break strikes. In

addition, businesses used a powerful new legal weapon, the injunction. These court orders prohibited certain actions, including strikes, by barring workers from

interfering with their employer’s business. It was just such an order that had brought federal deputies into the Pullman strike and put Eugene Debs, head of the railway union, behind bars.

In a matter of only 30 or 40 years, the new indus- trial order transformed the landscape of America. It left its mark elsewhere in the world, too. British rail- road tracks covered some 20,000 miles by the 1870s,

✔ R E V I E W Through what means, organized and unorganized, did workers respond to industrialization?

injunction court order requir- ing individuals or groups to participate in or refrain from a certain action.

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while Germany and France built even larger systems. Japan began constructing its network in the 1870s. Other nonindustrial countries followed, especially those rich in raw materials and agricultural commodi- ties. In India the British built the fourth-longest rail- way system in the world. None outstripped the United States. By 1915 its rail network was longer than the next seven largest systems combined.

With remarkable speed, networks of communication and transportation spread across the globe. Underwa- ter telegraph cables were laid from the United States to Europe in 1866, to Australia in 1871 and 1872, to Latin America in 1872 and 1873, and to West Africa by 1886. The completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 (the same year a golden spike connected the last link in the transcontinental railroad) hastened the switch from sail-power to steam-driven ships, by slicing thou- sands of miles from the journey between Europe and Asia. Wheat from the United States and India, wool from Australia, and beef from Argentina poured into Europe, while Europe sent textiles, railroad equipment, coal, and machinery to Asia and the Americas.

As these networks tied together national econo- mies, swings in the business cycle produced global consequences. When an Austrian bank failed in 1873, depression soon reached the United States. In the mid-1880s and again in the mid-1890s, recessions drove prices down and unemployment up all across the industrialized world.

Industrial workers bore the brunt of the burden, but in Europe they had greater success in union- izing, especially after anticombination laws forbid- ding strikes were abolished in the decades following 1850. By 1900 British unions had signed up 2 million workers, twice the number of members in either the United States or Germany. As strikes became more common and labor unions more powerful, industri- alizing nations passed social legislation that included the first social security systems and health insurance. Neither would come to the United States until the Great Depression of the 1930s.

CHAPTER SUMMARY In the last third of the nineteenth century, a new industrial order reshaped the United States. " New systems—of resource development, technology,

invention, transportation, communications, finance, corporate management, and labor—boosted indus- trial growth and productivity.

" Businesses grew big, expanding vertically and horizontally to curb costs and competition and to increase control and efficiency.

" Industrialization came at a price. ► Workers found their power, job satisfaction, and

free time reduced as their numbers in factories mushroomed.

► The environment was degraded. ► A vicious cycle of boom and bust afflicted the

economy. " Workers both resisted and accommodated the new

industrial order. ► Some resisted through informal mechanisms such

as slowdowns, absenteeism, and quitting and through spontaneous and formal ones, including radical unions like the Knights of Labor.

► Other workers were more accommodating, accepting low-paying jobs and layoffs and cre- ating “pure-and-simple” unions, such as the American Federation of Labor, that accepted the prevailing system of private ownership and wage labor while bargaining for better wages and working conditions.

" The benefits of industrialization were equally undeniable.

► Life improved materially for many Americans. ► The real wages of even industrial workers climbed. " The United States rocketed from fourth place among

industrial nations in 1860 to first by 1890.

Additional Reading For a useful introduction, see Edward C. Kirkland, Industry Comes of Age: Business, Labor, and Pub- lic Policy, 1860–1897 (1967). Mechanization and its impact are the focus of Siegfried Giedion’s clas- sic Mechanization Takes Command (1948). The best overview of American labor is American Social His- tory Project, Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture, & Society, Volume Two: From the Gilded Age to the Present (1992). Herbert Gutman, Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America: Essays in American Working-Class History (1976), explores the development of working-class communities in the nineteenth century; while David Montgomery assesses the impact of industrialization on American labor in The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865–1925 (1987). Leon Fink, Workingmen’s Democracy: The Knights of Labor and American Politics (1983), examines early efforts of the Knights of Labor to chal- lenge corporate capitalism. Alice Kessler-Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (1982), surveys female wage earn- ers and their effect on American culture, family life,

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and values. Kevin Kenny, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (1998), is a superb study not only of the mysterious Mollys and their tragic end but of immi- gration, working-class violence, and the history of the Irish in America. Ron Chernow’s Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (1998); and Jean Strouse’s definitive Morgan: American Financier (1999) help to debunk the image of business leaders as “robber barons,” without minimizing their ruthlessness. David Nasaw’s Andrew Carnegie (2006) gives us the most human portrait of the legendary steel baron; for the rise of big railroads, consult T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (2009). Business historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr.’s Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of American-Industrial Enterprise (1962) and The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (1977) are seminal accounts of business organization that profile the emergence of a new class of managers. For a comparative view of the rise of big business in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany, see his Scale and Scope (1988). Richard White’s Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (2012) makes a powerful case for the profligacy of the transcontinental railroad lines in a revisionist retelling of the epic story.

Significant Events 1859 First oil well drilled near Titusville, Pennsylvania

1870 John D. Rockefeller incorporates Standard Oil Company of Ohio

1873 Carnegie Steel Company

founded; Panic of 1873

1876 Alexander Graham Bell

invents the telephone

1882 Rockefeller’s Standard Oil

Company becomes nation’s first trust

1874 Massachusetts enacts first 10-hour workday law for women

1877 Railroad wage cuts lead to violent strikes; Thomas Edison invents phonograph

1869 Knights of Labor created

1886 American Federation of Labor organized; Haymarket Square bombing

1893 Panic of 1893

1894 Pullman strike

1901 U.S. Steel Corporation becomes nation’s first billion-dollar company

1892 Homestead Steel strike

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>> An American Story

“the dogs of hell”

“T he dogs of hell were upon the housetops .  .  . bounding from one to another,” gasped Horace White, a Chicago reporter, as he described the fire consuming his city on a hot October day in 1871. Whipped by dry prairie winds, tornadoes of flame were whirling through Chicago, at times faster than fleeing residents. The flaming twisters, called “fire devils” by

the locals, leapt from building to building, block to block, spinning and spewing fiery debris that fed the inferno. The heat was so intense that stone walls collapsed with a force that shook the earth. A burning ember set the roof of the Waterworks ablaze, leaving the city without enough water to fight the fire. Even the Chicago River burst into flame as industrial grease and oil floating on its surface ignited.

A stiff wind out of the southwest sent swirling bands of flame into the air, spreading the blaze that became the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. But the city would be rebuilt with remarkable speed, for it was located at the center of a new urban- industrial complex.


The Rise of an Urban Order


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The Great Chicago Fire was the worst disaster in the city’s history. When the flames finally burned themselves out more than a day later, a smoldering scar of cinders and rubble four miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide cut through the city. The fire destroyed the business district and left a third of the city’s 300,000 residents homeless. As many as 300 people died. Could the city—any city— recover from such a calamity?

Unitarian minister Robert Collyer had the answer. “We have not lost, first, our geography,” he told his congregation with little doubt that geography was destiny. “Nature called the lakes, the forests, the prairies together in convention long before we were born, and they decided that on this spot a great city would be built.” Linking eastern railroads and the Great Lakes with the West, Chicago’s prime location at the crossroads of continental commerce had not moved one inch.

More than geography favored recovery. An astounding assortment of assets survived the fire. The city’s stockyards and packinghouses, the center of a meat industry that made Chicago “Hog Butcher of the World,” lay untouched. Along the wharves on the Chicago River,

lumberyards and mills miraculously survived. To the west, two-thirds of the city’s grain elevators still stood, their giant silos holding corn, wheat, and other grains for process- ing and shipment. And the rails that connected Chicago to the rest of the country remained largely intact.

Opportunity beckoned, and peo- ple poured into the city. Chicago grew vertically, attracting a whole school of young architects whose soaring structures created a new cityscape. It grew horizontally, with new rail and telephone lines spreading onto empty prairie. As its lines of commerce and industry radiated outward, the city transformed the ecosystems around it. Wheat to feed Chicago’s millions replaced sheltering prairie grasses. Stands of white pine in Wisconsin vanished, only to reappear in the fur- niture and frames of Chicago houses or as fence rails shipped to farms on the Great Plains. By 1900 Chicago was the fastest-growing city in the world with a population that topped a million and a half people.

Chicago was not the only American city to flourish. In 1898 New York’s five boroughs merged into one giant metropolis. Like Chicago, it was knitted together by a series of bridges and rail lines that allowed it and other industrial cities

to function with new precision and efficiency on a scale never before dreamed of. The industrial city reshaped the environment, remade the urban landscape, and gave rise to a new kind of politician drawn from the ranks of ordinary people, many of them immigrants or their children. They came from the streets and saloons, the slums and tene- ments, the firehouses and funeral homes. Many of their families had only recently arrived in America. While the Irish of Tammany Hall ran New York City, Germans governed St. Louis, Scandinavians Minneapolis, and Jews San Francisco.

In an earlier age, political lead- ership had been drawn from the ranks of the wealthy and native- born. America had been an agrarian republic where personal relation- ships were grounded in small com- munities. By the late nineteenth century, the country was in the midst of an urban explosion. Indus- trial cities of unparalleled size and diversity were remaking American life. They lured people from all over the globe, created tensions between natives and newcomers, refash- ioned the social order in a fluid urban world. A new urban age was dawning. The golden door of oppor- tunity opened onto the city. <<

What ’s to CCoomme 397 A New Urban Age

401 Running and Reforming the City

404 City Life

409 City Culture

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populations gave emigrants a powerful push out, while machinery cut the need for farmworkers.

Surplus farmworkers became part of a vast inter- national labor force, pulled by industry to cities in Europe and America. The prospect of factory work for better pay and fewer hours especially lured the young. In the United States young farm women spearheaded the urban migration. Mechanization and the rise of commercial agriculture made them less valuable in the fields; mass-produced goods from mail-order houses made them less useful at home.

Asia sent comparatively fewer newcomers to the United States, Canada, and other industrial- izing nations hungry for workers. Still, Asian immi- grants followed migration patterns similar to those of the workers leaving Europe and for similar reasons. Between 1850 and 1882 rising taxes and rents on land and declining markets drove some 370,000 Chinese across the Pacific to the United States. Nearly 400,000 Japanese arrived between 1885 and 1924.

Immigration from Europe dwarfed all others as new regions of the continent contributed growing num- bers. Earlier in the century, European immigrants had come from northern and western Europe. In the 1880s, however, “new” immigrants from southern and east- ern Europe began to arrive. Some, like Russian and Polish Jews, were fleeing religious and political perse- cution. Others left to evade famine and diseases such as cholera, which swept across southern Italy in 1887. But most came for the same reasons that motivated migrants from the country- side: a job, more money, a fresh start.

A NEW URBAN AGE The modern city was the product of industrializa- tion. Cities contained the great investment banks, the smoky mills and dingy sweatshops, the railroad yards, tenements, mansions and new department stores. Opportunity—to work and play—drew people from as near as the countryside and as far away as Italy, Russia, Armenia, and China. By the end of the nineteenth century America had entered a new urban age, with tens of millions of “urbanites,” an urban landscape, and a growing urban culture. The Urban Explosion >>  During the 50 years after the Civil War the population of the United States tripled—from 31 million to 92 million. Yet the number of Americans living in cities increased nearly sevenfold. By 1910 nearly half the nation lived in cities large and small.

Cities grew in every region of the country. In the Northeast and upper Midwest, early industrializa- tion created more cities than in the West and the South, although a few big cities sprouted there as well. Atlanta, Nashville, and later Dallas and Houston boomed under the influence of railroads. By 1900 Los Angeles with its 100,000 residents was second only to San Francisco on the West Coast.

Large urban centers dominated whole regions, tying the country together in a vast urban network. New York, the nation’s banker, printer, and chief market- place, ruled the East. Smaller cities operated within narrower spheres of influence and often specialized. Milwaukee was famous for beer, Tulsa for oil, and Hershey, Pennsylvania, for chocolate.

Cities shaped the natural environment hundreds of miles beyond their limits. Chicago, gate- way to the West, became a powerful agent of ecological change. As its lines of com- merce and industry radiated outward, the city transformed the rich ecosystems of the West. Wheat to feed Chicago’s millions replaced sheltering prairie grasses. Great stands of white pine in Wisconsin vanished, only to reappear in the furniture and frames of Chicago houses, or as fence rails shipped to prairie farms. The Great Global Migration  >>   Between 1820 and 1920 some 60 million people across the globe left farms and vil- lages for cities. Beginning in the 1870s new oceangoing, steam-powered ships extended the reach of migrating laborers across con- tinents and created a labor exchange that spanned the globe. In Europe mushrooming

^̂ Chin Shee was 21 years old and bound for San Francisco at the time this boarding pass was issued in Hong Kong in 1911.

“new” immigrants called “new” because they differed from earlier arrivals from northern and western Europe; these newcomers came from eastern and southern Europe and were largely non-Protestant: Catholics, Jews, and Russian Orthodox Christians.

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Ambitious, hardy, and resource- ful, immigrants found themselves tested every step of the way to America. It took one to two weeks to cross the Atlantic. Immigrants spent most of the time below decks in cramped, filthy compartments called “steerage.” Most landed at New York’s Castle Garden or the newer facil- ity on nearby Ellis Island, opened in 1892. If arriving from Asia, they landed at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. They had to pass a medical examination, have their names recorded by customs officials, and pay an entry tax. At any point, they could be detained or shipped home.

Most newcomers were young, between the ages of 15 and 40. Few spoke English or had skills or much education. Unlike earlier arrivals, who were mostly Protestant, these new immigrants worshiped in Catholic, Greek, or Russian Orthodox churches and Jewish synagogues. Almost two-thirds were men. A large number came to make money to buy land or start businesses back home. Some changed their minds and sent for relatives, but those returning home were common enough to be labeled “birds of passage.” Still, by 1900 some 30 million immigrants had arrived. They made up nearly 15 percent of the population.

Holding the City Together >>  In colo- nial days Benjamin Franklin could walk from one end of Boston to the other in an hour. Only Franklin’s adopted home, Philadelphia, spilled into suburbs. Over the years these colonial “walking cities” developed ringed patterns of settlement. Merchants, professionals, and the upper classes lived near their shops and offices in the city center. As one walked out- ward, the income and status of the residents declined. Cities of the late nineteenth century still exhibited this ringed pattern, except that industrialization had reversed the order and increased urban sprawl. The wealthy now lived at the outskirts of the city and the poor and working poor at the industrial center.

IMMIGRATION, 1860–1920 Between 1860 and 1920 immigration increased dramatically as the sources of immigrants shifted from northern Europe to southeastern Europe. Despite fears to the contrary, the proportion of new- comers as a percentage of population increases did not show nearly the same jump.

Thousands of Immigrants


Northern Europeans: Includes immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries.










Southeastern Europeans: Includes immigrants from Poland, Russia, Italy, and other Baltic and eastern European countries.


Overall population increase per 10-year period (millions)

Total immigration (millions)







































Did massive immigration from eastern and

southern Europe help or hinder the United States

in the late nineteenth century?


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the elevated railways, or “els,” were dirty, ugly, and noisy.

Electricity rescued city travelers. In 1888 Frank Julian Sprague, a naval engineer who had once worked for Thomas Edison, installed the first elec- tric trolley line in Richmond, Virginia. Electrified streetcars were soon speeding along at 12 miles an hour, twice as fast as horses. By 1902 electricity drove nearly all city railways. Sprague’s breakthroughs also meant that “subways” could be built without having to worry about tunnels filled with a steam engine’s smoke and soot. Between 1895 and 1897 Bos- ton built the first underground electric line. New York fol- lowed in 1904 with a subway that ran from the southern tip of Manhattan north to Harlem.

The rich had long been able to keep homes outside city limits, traveling in private carriages. New systems of mass transit freed the middle class and even the poor to live miles from work. For a nickel or two, anyone could ride from central shopping and business dis- tricts to the suburban fringes and back. A network of mov- ing vehicles held the segmented

and sprawling city together and widened its reach out to “streetcar suburbs.”

Bridges and Skyscrapers  >>   Since cities often grew along rivers and harbors, their separate parts sometimes had to be joined over water. The principles of building large river bridges had already been worked out by the railroads. It remained for a German immigrant, John Roebling, and his son, Washington, to make the bridge a symbol of urban growth.

Their creation—the legendary Brooklyn Bridge linking Manhattan with Brooklyn—took 13 years to complete, cost $15 million and 20 lives, and killed designer John. When it opened in 1883 it stretched more than a mile across the East River, with pas- sage broad enough for a footpath, two double car- riage lanes, and two railroad lines. Its arches were cut like giant cathedral windows, and its supporting cables hung, said an awestruck observer, “like divine

For all their differences, the circles of settlement held together as a part of an interdependent whole. One reason was an evolving system of urban transpor- tation. By the mid-nineteenth century, horse-drawn railways were conveying some 35 million people a year in New York. Their problems were legendary: so slow, a person could walk faster; so crowded (according to Mark Twain), you “had to hang on by your eyelashes and your toenails”; so dirty, tons of horse manure were left daily in the streets.

Civic leaders came to understand that the mod- ern city could not survive, much less grow, without improved transportation. San Francisco installed trol- ley cars pulled by steam-driven cables. The innovation worked so well in hilly San Francisco that Chicago, Seattle, and other cities installed cable systems in the 1880s. Some cities experimented with elevated trestles, to carry steam locomotives or cable lines high above crowded streets. But none of the breakthroughs quite did the trick. Cables remained slow and unreliable;

MAP 20.1: GROWTH OF NEW ORLEANS TO 1900 Streetcars helped cities spread beyond business districts while still functioning as organic wholes. By 1900 streetcar lines in New Orleans reached all the way to Audubon Park and Tulane University, bringing these once-distant points within the reach of city dwellers and creating “streetcar suburbs.”

To Gulf of Mexico

Mississippi Rive r

0 1 Kilometer

0 1 Mile

Business center

Vieux Carré (Old Quarter)

Streetcar lines by 1900

Built up by 1878

Built up by 1841

Built up by 1900



Audubon Park

State Experimental


Tulane University

Up pe

r P ro

te ct

io n

Le ve

e Jackson Square

City Hall

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The installation of new sewage and water purifi- cation systems helped. The modern flush toilet came into use only after the turn of the century. Until then people relied on water closets and communal privies, some of which catered to as many as 800. All too often cities dumped waste into old private vaults or rivers used for drinking water.

Slum housing was often more dangerous than the water. The tubercle bacillus flourished in musty, windowless tenements. In 1879 New York enacted a

messages from above.” Soon other suspension bridges were spanning the railroad yards in St. Louis and the bay at Galveston, Texas.

Even as late as 1880 church steeples towered over squat factories and office buildings. But growing congestion and the increasing value of land challenged architects to search for ways to make buildings taller. Thin air became valuable real estate. In place of thick, heavy walls of brick that restricted factory floor space, builders used cast-iron columns. The new “ cloudscrapers” were strong, durable, and fire- resistant, ideal for warehouses and also for office buildings and department stores.

Steel, with greater flexibility and strength than iron, turned cloudscrapers into skyscrapers. William LeBaron Jenney first used steel in his 10-story Home Life Insurance Building (1885) in Chicago. By the end of the century steel frames and girders raised buildings to 30 stories or more. New York City’s tri- angular Flatiron Building used the new technology to project an angular, yet remarkably delicate elegance. In Chicago, Daniel Burnham’s Reliance Build- ing (1890) made such heavy use of new plate glass windows that contemporaries called it “a glass tower fifteen stories high.”

It was no accident that many of the new sky- scrapers arose in Chicago. The city had burned nearly to the ground in 1871. The “Chicago school” of architects helped to rebuild it. The young maver- ick Louis H. Sullivan promised a new urban profile in which the skyscraper would be “every inch a proud and soaring thing.” In the Wainwright Building (1890) in St. Louis and the Carson, Pirie, and Scott department store (1889–1904) in Chicago, Sullivan produced towering structures that symbolized the modern industrial city.

Slum and Tenement >>   Far below the sky- scrapers lay the slums and tenements of the inner

city. In cramped rooms and sunless hallways, along narrow alleys and in flooded basements, lived the city poor. They often worked there, too. In “sweaters’

shops” as many as 18 people labored and slept in foul two-room flats.

Slum dwellers often lived on poor diets that left them vulnerable to epidemics. Cholera, typhoid, and an outbreak of yellow fever in Memphis in the 1870s killed tens of thousands. Tuberculosis was deadlier still. Slum children—all city children—were most vul- nerable to such diseases. Almost a quarter of the chil- dren born in American cities in 1890 never lived to see their first birthday.

̂̂ Designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burham and completed in 1902, the Fuller Building quickly became known as the “Flatiron Building” for its uniquely triangular shape. With a steel frame, it soared to a height of 22 stories, making it one of the tallest structures in New York City. “I found myself agape,” wrote science fiction novelist H. G. Wells when he saw the building, “admiring a sky-scraper, the prow of the Flat-iron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.”

tenement building often in disrepair and usually five or six stories in height, in which cheap apartments were rented to tenants.

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THE CITY Every new arrival to the city brought dreams and altogether too many needs. Schools and houses had to be built, streets paved, garbage collected, sewers dug, fires fought, utility lines laid. Running the city became a full-time job, and a new breed of full-time politician rose to the task. So, too, did a new breed of reformer, deter- mined to help the needy cope with the ravages of urban life.

The need for change was clear. Many city charters dating from the eighteenth century included a paralyzing system of checks and balances. Mayors vetoed city councils; coun- cils ignored mayors. Jealous state legislatures allowed cities only the most limited and unpopular taxes, such as those on property. At the same time, city governments were often decentralized— fragmented, scattered, at odds with one another. Each branch was a tiny kingdom with its own regulations and taxing authority. As immigrants and rural newcomers flocked to factories and tene- ments, the structures of urban government strained to adapt.

Boss Rule >>  Why must there be a boss,” journal- ist Lincoln Steffens asked Boss Richard Croker of New York, “when we’ve got a mayor—and a city council?” “That’s why,” Croker broke in. “It’s because we’ve got a mayor and a council and judges—and—a hundred other men to deal with.” The boss was right. He and his political system furnished cities with the central- ization, authority, and services they sorely needed.

Bosses ruled through the political machine . Often, as with New York City’s Tammany Hall, machines dated back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They began as fraternal and charitable organiza- tions. Over the years they became centers of politi- cal power. In New York the machine was Democratic; in Philadelphia, Republican. Machines could even be found in rural areas such as Duval County, Texas, where the Spanish-speaking Anglo boss Archie Parr

new housing law requiring a window in all bedrooms of new tenements. Architect James E. Ware won a competition with a creative design that contained an indentation on both sides of the building. When two tenements abutted, the indentations formed a nar- row shaft for air and light. From above, the build- ings looked like giant dumbbells and packed up to 16 families on a floor.

Originally hailed as an innovation, Ware’s dumb- bell tenement spread over such cities as Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Boston “like a scab,” said an unhappy reformer. The airshafts became giant silos for trash, which blocked what little light had entered and, worse still, carried fires from one story to the next. When the New York housing commission met in 1900, it con- cluded that conditions were worse than when reformers had started 33 years earlier.

✔ R E V I E W How did industrial cities grow and at what costs?

political machine hierar- chical political organiza- tion developed in the nineteenth century that controlled the activities of a political party and was usually headed by a politi- cal boss.

̂̂ Tenement house yard, photographed by Jacob Riis.

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into the river or used hired thugs to scare unpersuaded voters away from the polls.

Rewards, Accomplishments, and Costs >>   Why did bosses go to such lengths? Some simply loved the game of politics. More often bosses loved money. Their ability to get it was limited only by their ingenu- ity or the occasional success of an outraged reformer. The record for brassiness must go to Boss William Tweed. During his reign in the 1860s and 1870s, Tweed swindled New York City out of a fortune. His mas- terpiece of graft was a chunky three-story courthouse in lower Manhattan originally budgeted at $250,000. When Tweed was through, the city had spent more than $13 million, over 60 percent of which lined the pockets of Tweed and his cronies. Tweed died in prison, but with such profits to be made, it was small wonder that bosses nearly matched the emperors of Rome as builders.

In their fashion, bosses played a vital role in the industrial city. Rising from the bottom ranks, they guided immigrants into American life and helped some of the underprivileged up from poverty. They changed the urban landscape with a massive construction program. They modernized city government by uniting it and mak- ing it perform. Choosing the aldermen, municipal judges,

molded a powerful alliance with Mexican American landowners.

In an age of enterprise, the boss operated his political machine like a corporation. His office might be a saloon, a funeral home, or, like the office of New York’s George Washington Plunkitt, a shoeshine stand. His managers were party activists, connected in a corporate-like chain of command. Local com- mitteemen reported to district captains, captains to district leaders, district leaders to the boss or bosses who directed the machine.

The goods and services of the machine were basics: a Christmas turkey, a load of coal for the winter, jobs for the unemployed, English-language classes for recent immigrants. Bosses sponsored fun, too: sports teams, glee clubs, balls, and barbecues. In return, citi- zens expressed their gratitude at the ballot box.

Sometimes the votes of the grateful were not enough. Bosses marshaled the “graveyard vote” by drawing names from tombstones to pad lists of registered vot- ers. They hired “repeaters” to vote under the phony names. When reformers introduced the Australian (secret) ballot in the 1880s to prevent fraud, bosses pulled the “Tasmanian dodge” by premarking election tickets. Failing that, they dumped whole ballot boxes

̂̂ Hester Street, New York City. In such crowded urban areas, city bosses thrived where municipal services were stretched thin.

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mayors, and administrative officials, bosses exerted new control to provide the contracts and franchises to run cities. Such accomplishments fostered the notion that government could be called on to help the needy. The welfare state, still decades away, had some roots here.

The toll was often outrageous. Inflated taxes, extorted revenue, unpunished vice and crime were only the obvious costs. A woman whose family enjoyed a boss’s Christmas turkey might be widowed by an accident to her husband in a sweatshop kept open by timely bribes to the local political club. Filthy build- ings might claim her children’s lives as corrupt inspec- tors ignored serious violations. Buying votes and selling favors, bosses turned democracy into a petty business—as much a “business,” said Plunkitt, “as the grocery or dry-goods or the drug business.”

Nativism, Revivals, and the Social Gospel >>   Urban blight and the condition of the poor inspired social as well as political activism, especially within churches. Not all of it was constructive. The popular Congregationalist minister Josiah Strong concluded that the city was “a menace to society.” Along with anxious economists and social workers, he blamed everything from corruption to unemployment on immigrant city dwellers and urged restricting their entry.

In the 1880s and 1890s two depressions sharpened such anxieties. Nativism, a defensive and fearful nation- alism, peaked as want ignited prejudice. Organizations such as the new Immigration Restriction League attacked Catholics and foreigners. Already the victims of racial prejudice, the Chinese were easy targets. In 1882 Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act banning the entry of Chinese laborers, stranding a mostly male Chinese popu- lation in the United States. It was the first time race was employed to exclude people from entry and represented a fateful step in the drive to restrict immigration.

To bridge the gap between the middle class and the poor, some clergy took their missions to the slums. Beginning in 1870 Dwight Lyman Moody, a 300-pound former shoe salesman, won armies of lowly converts with revivals in Boston, Chicago, and other cities. Evangelists helped to found American branches of the British-born Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and Salvation Army.

A small group of ministers rejected the traditional notion that weak character explained sin and that soci- ety would be perfected only as individual sinners were converted. They spread a new “Social Gospel” that

>> The Sawdust Trail, painted by George Bellows in 1916, depicts one of the revival meetings of William Ashley (“Billy”) Sunday in Philadelphia. Sunday, a hard-drinking professional baseball player turned evangelist, began his religious revivals in the 1890s and drew thousands. Here, Sunday leans down from the platform to shake the hand of an admirer. In the foreground, a swooning woman, overcome with a sense of her sins, is carried away.

focused on improving the conditions of society to save individuals. In Applied Christianity (1886) the influen- tial Washington Gladden preached that the church must be responsible for correcting social injustices, including dangerous working conditions and unfair labor prac- tices. Houses of worship, such as William Rainford’s St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City, became centers of social activity, with boys’ clubs, gymnasiums, libraries, glee clubs, and industrial training programs.

The Social Settlement Movement  >>   Church-sponsored programs sometimes repelled the immigrant poor, especially when they saw them as thinly disguised missionary efforts. Immigrants and other slum dwellers were more receptive to a bold experiment called the settlement house . Situated in the worst slums, often in renovated old houses, these early com- munity centers were run by middle-class women and men to help the poor and foreign-born. At the turn of the century there were more than 100 of them, the most famous being Jane Addams’s Hull House in Chicago. In 1898 the Catholic Church sponsored its first settle- ment house in New York City, and in 1900 Bronson House opened its doors to the Latino community in Los Angeles.

settlement house social reform effort that used neighborhood centers in which settlement house workers lived and worked among the poor, often in slum neighborhoods.

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avenues, where many-roomed mansions housed the tiny 1  percent of city dwellers considered wealthy. In between tenement and mansion lived the broad middle of urban society, which made up nearly a third of the population and owned about half of the nation’s wealth. With more money and leisure time, the middle class was increasing its power and influence. The Immigrant in the City >>  When they put into port, the first thing immigrants were likely to see was a city. Perhaps it was Boston or New York City or Galveston, Texas, where an overflow of Jewish immi- grants was directed beginning in 1907. Most immi- grants, exhausted physically and financially, settled in cities.

Cities developed a well-defined mosaic of eth- nic communities, since immigrants usually clustered together on the basis of their villages or provinces. But these neighborhoods were in constant flux. As many as half the residents moved every 10 years, often because of better-paying jobs or more members of their family working.

Ethnic communities served as havens from the strangeness of American society and springboards to a new life. From the moment they stepped off the boat, newcomers felt pressed to learn English, don

High purposes inspired settlement workers, who actu- ally lived in the settlement houses. They left comfortable middle-class homes and dedicated themselves (like the “early Christians,” said one) to service and sacrifice. They aimed to teach immigrants American ways and to create a community spirit of “right living through social relations.” Immigrants were also encouraged to preserve their heritages through festivals, parades, and museums. Like political bosses, settlement reformers furnished help, from day nurseries to English-language and cooking classes to playgrounds and libraries. Armed with statistics and personal experiences, they also lob- bied for social legislation to improve housing, women’s working conditions, and public schools.

✔ R E V I E W In what ways did boss rule represent “reform” of city government, and at whose expense did such reform come?

̂̂ By the 1800s a flood of southern and eastern European immigrants were streaming into the new receiving center of Ellis Island in New York Harbor, while the relatively few Asian immigrants who arrived (most were barred from entry by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) came through Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. The rapid rise in immigration ignited nativist fears that immigrants were taking over the country. In the 1870s cartoon pictured here, Irish and Chinese immigrants in their native dress literally gobble up Uncle Sam.

CITY LIFE City life reflected the stratified nature of American society in the late nineteenth century. Every city had its slums and tenements but also its fashionable

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over when to leave home—were made on the basis of collective rather than individual needs. Though immi- grant boys were more likely to work outside the home than girls, daughters often went to work at an early age so sons could continue their education. It was cus- tomary for one daughter to remain unmarried so she could care for younger siblings or aged parents.

The Chinese were an exception to the pattern. The ban on the immigration of Chinese laborers in the 1880s had frozen the gender ratio of Chinese commu- nities into a curious imbalance. Like other immigrants most Chinese newcomers had been single men. In the wake of the ban, those in the United States could not bring over their wives and families. Nor by law in 13 states could they marry white Americans. With few women, Chinese communities suffered from high rates of prostitution, large numbers of gangs and secret societies, and low birth totals. When the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed birth records in 1906, resourceful Chinese immigrants created “paper sons” (and less often “paper daughters”) by forging birth certificates and claiming their China-born children as American citizens.

American clothes, and drop their “greenhorn” ways. Yet in their neighborhoods they also found comrades who spoke their language, theaters that performed their plays and music, restaurants that served their food. Foreign-language newspapers reported events from both the Old World and the New in a tongue that first-generation immigrants could understand. Meanwhile, immigrant aid societies furnished assis- tance with housing and jobs and sponsored baseball teams, insurance programs, and English-language classes.

Houses of worship were always at the center of immigrant life. They often catered to the prac- tices of individual towns or provinces. Occasionally they changed their ways under the cultural pres- sures of American life. Where the Irish dominated the American Catholic Church, other immigrants formed new churches with priests from their homelands. East- ern European Jews began to break the old law against men sitting next to their wives and daughters in syna- gogues. The Orthodox churches of Armenians, Syrians, Romanians, and Serbians gradually lost their national identifications.

Where immigrants came from often influenced their choice of jobs. Because Chinese men did not scorn washing or ironing, more than 7,500 of them could be found in San Francisco laundries by 1880. Sewing ladies’ garments seemed unmanly to many native-born Americans but not to Russian and Italian tailors. Slavs, who valued steady income over education, often pulled their children from school, sent them to work, and worked themselves in the mines for better pay than in factories.

On the whole, immigrants mar- ried later and had more children than did the native-born. Greeks and eastern European Jews prearranged marriages according to tradition. They imported “picture brides,” betrothed by mail with a photo- graph. After marriage men ruled the household, but women managed it. Although child-rearing prac- tices varied, immigrants resisted the relative permissiveness of American parents. Youngsters were expected to contribute like little adults to the welfare of the family.

In these “family economies” of working-class immigrants, key decisions—over whether and whom to marry, over work and education,

̂̂ The first Chinese telephone operator in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest com- munity of Chinese outside Asia, is pictured here handling calls from local subscribers. The first switchboard was installed in 1894. Chinese operators had to memorize the names of their users because residents often asked to be connected by name, believing it was impo- lite to ask by number. This was no easy task. Some subscribers had the same name, so operators also had to learn the occupation and the address of each person on their service. And they had to master the five Chinese dialects spoken by residents.

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households with nurturing mothers would launch chil- dren on the right course. “A clean, fresh, and well- ordered house,” stipulated a domestic adviser in 1883, “exercises over its inmates a moral, no less than physical influence, and has a direct tendency to make members of the family sober, peaceable, and consider- ate of the feelings and happiness of each other.”

A woman was judged by the state of her home. The typical homemaker prepared elaborate meals, cleaned, laundered, and sewed. Each task took time. Baking a loaf of bread required nearly 24 hours, and in 1890 four of five loaves were still made at home. Perhaps 25 percent of urban households had live-in servants to help with the work. They were on call about 100 hours a week, were off but one evening and part of Sunday, and averaged $2 to $5 a week in salary.

By the 1890s a wealth of new consumer products eased the burdens of housework. Brand names trum- peted a new age of commercially prepared food— Campbell’s soup, Quaker oats, Pillsbury flour, Jell-O, and Cracker Jacks, to name a few. New appliances, such as “self-working” washers, offered mechanical assistance, but shredded shirts and aching arms testi- fied to how far short mechanization still fell.

Toward the end of the century, Saturday became less of a workday and more of a family day. Sunday mornings remained a time for church, still an impor- tant center of family life. Afternoons had a secular fla- vor. There were shopping trips (city stores often stayed open) and visits to lakes, zoos, and amusement parks (usually built at the end of trolley lines to attract more riders). Outside institutions—fraternal organizations, uplift groups, athletic teams, and church groups—were becoming part of middle-class urban family life.

Victorianism and the Pursuit of Virtue >>   Middle-class life reflected a rigid social code called Victorianism, named for Britain’s long-reigning Queen Victoria. It emerged in the 1830s and 1840s as part of an effort to tame the turbulent urban-industrial soci- ety developing in Europe.

Victorianism dictated that personal conduct be based on orderly behavior and disciplined moralism. It stressed sobriety, industriousness, self-control, and sexual modesty and taught that demeanor, particularly proper manners, was the backbone of society. Accord- ing to its sexual precepts, women were “pure vessels,” devoid of carnal desire. Their job was to control the “lower natures” of their husbands by withholding sex except for procreation.

The values of the Victorians migrated across the Atlantic. In the United States, even women’s fash- ions mirrored them. Strenuously laced corsets (“an instrument of torture,” according to one woman) pushed breasts up, stomachs in, and rear ends out. The resulting wasplike figure accentuated the breasts and

Caught between past and present, pressed to adopt American ways, immigrants nonetheless clung to tra- dition and assimilated slowly. Their children adjusted more quickly. They soon spoke English like natives, married whomever they pleased, and worked their way out of old neighborhoods. Yet the process was not easy. Children often faced heartrending clashes with parents and rejection from peers.

Urban Middle-Class Life >>  Life for the urban middle class revolved around home and family. By the turn of the century just over a third of middle-class urbanites owned their homes. Often two or three sto- ries, made of brick or brownstone, these houses were a measure of social standing. The plush furniture, heavy drapes, antiques, and curios all signaled the status and refinement of their owners.

Such homes, usually on their own lots, also served as havens to protect and nourish the family. Seventeenth-century notions of children as inherently sinful had given way to modern theories about the shaping influence of environment. Calm and orderly

̂̂ Newly developed “electroplating,” which deposited a thin layer of silver or gold over less expensive material, allowed manufactur- ers to sell to middle-class consumers wares previously reserved for the wealthy. Pictured here are a silver- and gold-plated card receiver and a calling card, once part of the courtly culture of elites and by the 1880s found in more and more middle-class homes. This “downward mobility” of manners and material culture allowed the middle class to ape the conventions of their social superiors, in this case by using calling cards to reinforce social networks and to serve as social barriers should personal contact be unwanted.

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C ITY S CENES In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, city scenes of daily life were the subject of countless renderings, from pen-and-ink drawings to lithographs and paintings to photographs beginning in the mid- nineteenth century. Each brought a different perspective to the bustling life of industrial cities, and all reflected the point of view of the artist creating them. Two street scenes appear below, both from turn-of-the- century New York but in very different forms. Both offer panoramic views of busy New York streets. The first is a photograph taken in 1900 of an Easter Day parade on Fifth Avenue. The second is a crowded New York intersection, titled simply New York and painted in 1911 by the realist painter George Bellows.

Dueling D O C U M E N T S

THINKING CRITICALLY How many different types of urban transport can you see in each image? (Note, for example, an early automo- bile driving toward the camera on the left side of Fifth Avenue in the photograph.) What can these various forms of transportation tell us about the speed and nature of technological change? Which rendering captures the vibrancy of the city best? Why? What is each artist—photographer and painter—trying to say about city life? How, if at all, does each medium shape the message?

D O C U M E N T 1

Source: National Archives, Easter Morning (1900).

D O C U M E N T 2

Source: George Bellows, New York 1911 (1911).

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their advice. Three-quarters of the women surveyed toward the turn of the century reported that they enjoyed sex. The growing variety of contraceptives— including spermicidal douches, sheaths made of ani- mal intestines, rubber condoms, and forerunners of the diaphragm—testified to the desire for pregnancy-free intercourse. Abortion, too, was available. According to one estimate, a third of all pregnancies were aborted, usually with the aid of a midwife. (By the 1880s abor- tion had been made illegal in most states following the first antiabortion statute in England in 1803.) Despite Victorian marriage manuals, middle-class Americans became more conscious of sexuality as an emotional dimension of a satisfying union.

Challenges to Convention >>  A few bold men and women challenged conventions of gender and propriety. Victoria Woodhull, publisher of Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, divorced her husband, ran for president in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party ticket, and pressed the case for sexual freedom. “I am a free lover!” she shouted to a riotous audience in New York. “I have the inalienable, constitutional, and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please!” Woodhull made a strong public case for sex- ual freedom. In private, however, she adhered to strict monogamy and romantic love.

The same cosmopolitan conditions that provided protection for Woodhull’s unorthodox beliefs also made possible the growth of self-conscious commu- nities of homosexual men and women. Earlier in the century, Americans had idealized romantic friend- ships among members of the same sex, without nec- essarily attributing to them sexual overtones. But for friendships with an explicitly sexual dimension, the anonymity of large cities provided new meeting grounds. Single factory workers and clerks, living in furnished rooms rather than with their families in small towns and on farms, were freer to seek oth- ers who shared their sexual orientation. Homosex- ual men and women began forming social networks: on the streets where they regularly met, at specific restaurants and clubs, which, to avoid controversy, sometimes passed themselves off as athletic associa- tions or chess clubs.

Only toward the end of the century did physicians begin to notice homosexual behavior, usually to con- demn it as a disease or an inherited infirmity. Not until the turn of the century did the term homosexual even come into existence. Certainly homosexual love was not new. But for the first time in the United States, the conditions of urban life allowed gays and lesbians to define themselves in terms of a larger, self-conscious community, even if they were stoutly condemned by the prevailing standards of morality.

hips, promoting the image of women as child bearers. Ankle-length skirts were draped over bustles, hoops, and petticoats to make hips look even larger and sug- gest fertility. Such elegant dress set off middle- and upper-class women from those below, whose plain clothes signaled lives of drudgery and want.

When working-class Americans failed to fol- low Victorian cues, reformers helped them to pursue virtue. In 1879 Frances Willard, fearing the ill effects of alcohol on the family, became the second president of the newly formed Woman’s Christian Temper- ance Union (WCTU; 1874). Under her leadership the WCTU worked relentlessly to stamp out alcohol and promote sexual purity and other middle-class virtues. By the turn of the century it was the largest women’s organization in the country, with 500,000 members.

Initially the WCTU focused on temperance —the movement, begun in the 1820s, to stamp out the sale

of alcoholic beverages and to end drunkenness. For these women the campaign seemed a way not merely to reform society but to pro-

tect their homes and families from abuse at the hands of drunken husbands and fathers. And in attacking the saloon, Willard also sought to spread democracy by storming these all-male bastions, where political bosses conducted so much political business and where women were barred from entry. Soon, under the slo- gan “Do Everything,” the WCTU was also promoting “woman” suffrage, prison reform, better working con- ditions, and an end to prostitution. Just as important, it offered talented, committed women an opportunity to move out of their homes and churches and into the public arena of lobbying and politics.

Anthony Comstock crusaded with equal vigor against what he saw as moral pollution, ranging from pornography and gambling to the use of nude art models. In 1873 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the so-called Comstock Law, a statute banning from the mails all materials “designed to incite lust.” Two days later Comstock went to work as a special agent for the post office. In his 41-year career he claimed to have made more than 3,000 arrests and destroyed 160 tons of vice-ridden books and photographs.

Victorian crusaders like Comstock were not simply missionaries of a stuffy morality. They were apostles of a middle-class creed of social control, responding to an increasing incidence of alcoholism, venereal disease, gambling debts, prostitution, and unwanted pregnan- cies. No doubt they overreacted in warning that the road to ruin lay behind the door of every saloon, gambling parlor, or bedroom. Yet the new urban environment did reflect the disorder of a rapidly industrializing society.

The insistence with which moralists warned against “impropriety” suggests that many people did not heed

temperance movement reform movement, begun in the 1820s, to temper or restrain the sale and use of alcohol.

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through backbreaking workouts. He commanded desk- bound, “civilized” white men to follow his lead, even to reinvigorate their intellects with the “barbarian virtues” of physical strength he saw in darker-hued “primitives.” Gender and race were thus being blended into a heady brew of white supremacy.

A frenzy of fitness spread across the nation. Bicycling, rowing, boxing, and what one historian called a college “cult of sports” promised to return middle- and upper- class men to “vigorous and unsullied manhood.” Prus- sian bodybuilder Eugen Sandow ignited a weightlifting craze when he toured the country in the 1890s with feats of strength and poses he dubbed “muscle display perfor- mances.” In a show of manly courage, a young Roosevelt lit out for the Dakota Badlands, writer Richard Harding Davis for Cuba in the middle of the Spanish-American War, and explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson for the North Pole in 1898. Exploration and adventure became exercises in undaunted manliness.

CITY CULTURE “We cannot all live in cities,” the reformer Horace Greeley lamented just after the Civil War, “yet nearly all seemed determined to do so.” Economic opportu- nity drew people to the teeming industrial city. But so, too, did a vibrant urban culture.

By the 1890s cities had begun to clean up downtown business districts, pave streets, widen thoroughfares, erect fountains and buildings of marble. This “city beautiful” movement aimed also to elevate public tastes and, like Victorian culture itself, refine the behavior of urbanites. Civic leaders pressed for public educa- tion and built museums, libraries, and parks to uplift unruly city masses. Public parks followed the model of New York’s Central Park. When it opened in 1858 Central Park was meant to serve as a pastoral retreat from the turbulent industrial city. Its rustic paths, leafy glades, and tranquil lakes, said designer Frederick Law Olmsted, would have “a distinctly harmonizing and refining influence” on even the rudest fellow. Public Education in an Urban Industrial World >>  Those at the bottom and in the middle of city life found in public education one key to success. Although the campaign for public education began in the Jacksonian era, it did not make much headway until after the Civil War, when industrial cities began

The Decline of “Manliness” >>  The corrupt- ing influence of city life on manhood troubled some onlookers as much as political or moral corruption distressed reformers. The components of traditional “manliness”—physical vigor, honor and integrity, courage and independence—seemed under assault by life in the industrial city. White middle- and upper- class men who found themselves working at desks and living in cushy comfort appeared particularly at risk. As early as the 1850s Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (father of the famous Supreme Court justice) lamented that “such a set of stiff-jointed, soft-muscled, paste- complexioned youth as we can boast in our Atlantic cities never before sprang from the loins of Anglo- Saxon lineage.”

The dangers of this decline in “Anglo-Saxon” manli- ness courted catastrophe according to anxious observers. Soft, listless white men lacked vitality but also the manly discipline and character that came from living what Theodore Roosevelt called “The Strenuous Life” of action and struggle. Debased by the seamy pursuit of business, Roosevelt warned, such “weaklings” left the nation “[trembling] on the brink of doom,” its future imperiled by laziness, timidity, and dishonesty. The “virile qualities” essential for achievement and leader- ship would vanish. Roos- evelt, frail and asthmatic as a boy, turned himself into a strapping man

̂̂ Strongman and bodybuilder Eugen Sandow

✔ R E V I E W How did class and ethnicity determine life for city dwellers?

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opportunities to exercise shrank. Students learned by memorization, sitting in silent study with hands clasped or standing erect while they repeated phrases and sums. Few schools encouraged creative thinking. In an age of industrialization, massive immigration, and rapid change, schools taught conformity and values as much as facts and figures. Teachers acted as drillmasters, shaping their charges for the sake of society. “Teachers and books are better security than handcuffs and policemen,” wrote a New Jersey college professor in 1879.

As Reconstruction faded, so did the impressive start made in black education. Most of the first generation of former slaves had been illiterate. So eager were they to learn that by the end of the century more than half of all African Americans over 14 could read. But discrimi- nation soon took its toll. For nearly 100 years after the Civil War, the doctrine of “separate but equal,” upheld by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), kept black and white students apart but scarcely equal. By 1882 public schools in a half-dozen southern states were segregated by law, the rest by practice. Under- funded and ill-equipped, black schools served dirt- poor families whose every member had to work.

Like African Americans, immigrants saw education as a way of getting ahead. Some educators saw it as a means of Americanizing newcomers. They assumed that immigrant and native-born children would learn the same lessons in the same language and turn out the same way. Only toward the end of the 1800s, as immigration mounted, did eastern cities begin to offer night classes that taught English, along with civics lessons, for foreigners. When public education proved inadequate, immigrants established their own schools. Catholics, for example, started an elaborate expansion of their parochial schools in 1884.

By the 1880s educational reforms were help- ing schools respond to the needs of an urban society. Opened first in St. Louis in 1873, American versions of innovative German “kindergartens” put four- to six- year-olds in orderly classrooms while parents went off to work. Normal schools multiplied to provide teachers with more professional training. And in the new indus-

trial age, science and man- ual training supplemented more conventional subjects in order to supply industry with educated workers.

Higher Learning and the Rise of the Professional >>  Colleges served the urban indus- trial society, too, not by controlling mass habits but by providing leaders and managers. Early in the nine- teenth century, most Americans had regarded higher learning as unmanly and irrelevant. The few who sought it often preferred the superior universities of Europe to those in the United States.

to mushroom. As late as 1870 half the children in the country received no formal education, and one Ameri- can in five 14-year-olds could not read.

Between 1870 and 1900 an educational awakening occurred. As more and more businesses required workers who could read, write, and tally numbers, attendance in public schools more than doubled. The length of the school term rose from 132 to 144 days. Illiteracy fell by half. By the turn of the century, nearly all the states outside the South had enacted mandatory education laws. Almost three of every four school-age children were enrolled. Even so, the average American adult still attended school for only about five years, and less than 10 percent of those eligible continued beyond the eighth grade.

The average school day started early, but by noon most girls were released under the assumption that they needed less formal education. Curricula stressed the fun- damentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Courses in manual training, science, and physical education were added as the demand for technical knowledge grew and

̂̂ Educational reformers in the 1870s pushed elementary drawing as a required subject. Their goal was not to turn out gifted artists but to train students in the practical skills needed in an industrial society. Winslow Homer’s portrait of a teacher by her blackboard shows the geometric shapes behind practical design.

normal schools schools that trained teachers, usually for two years and mostly for teaching in the elementary grades.

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and universities nearly doubled between 1870 and 1910, though less than 5 percent of college-age Americans enrolled in them.

A practical impulse inspired the founding of several black colleges. In the late nineteenth century, few institutions mixed races. Church groups and pri- vate foundations, such as the Peabody and Slater funds (sup- ported by white donors from the North), underwrote black colleges after Reconstruction. By 1900 a total of 700 black students were enrolled. About 2,000 had gradu- ated. Through hard work and persistence, some even received degrees from institutions reserved for whites.

In keeping with the new emphasis on practical learning, professional schools multiplied to provide training beyond a college degree. American universities

adopted the German model, requiring young scholars to perform research as part of their education. The number of law and medical schools more than doubled between 1870 and 1900; medical students almost tri- pled. Ten percent of them were women, though their numbers shrank as the medical profession became more organized and exclusive.

Professionals of all kinds—in law, medicine, engi- neering, business, academics—swelled the ranks of the middle class. Slowly they were becoming a new force in

As American society grew more organized, mecha- nized, and complex, the need for professional, technical, and literary skills brought greater respect for college education. The Morrill Act of 1862 generated a dozen new state colleges and universities, eight mechani- cal and agricultural colleges, and six black colleges. Private charity added more. Railroad barons such as Johns Hopkins and Leland Stanford used parts of their fortunes to found colleges named after them ( Hopkins in 1873, Stanford in 1890). The number of colleges

̂̂ Dentistry students at Howard University, 1900.

̂̂ American impressionist Mary Cassatt painted this mural of women picking apples (in entirely unsuitable clothing) for the Women’s Build- ing at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Titled Young Women Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge or Science, it stood the story of Eve and her famous apple on its head. According to the Bible, the fruit was the source of forbidden knowledge: when it was eaten by Eve, who shared it with Adam, the result was humankind’s original sin. But Cassatt’s mural suggested that the place of women in society was changing. No longer bound by cultural conventions against the dangers of educated women, a new generation of well-schooled females was to be celebrated for its achievements in science, the arts, and the professions.

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urban America, replacing the ministers and gentlemen freeholders of an earlier day as community leaders.

Higher Education for Women >>   Before the Civil War women could attend only three private colleges. After the war they had new ones all their own, including Smith (1871), Wellesley (1875), and Bryn Mawr (1885). Such all-women schools, with their mostly female fac- ulties and administrators, deepened an emerging sense of membership in a special community of women. Many land-grant colleges, chartered to serve all people, also admitted women. By 1910 some 40 percent of college students were women, almost double the 1870 figure. Only one college in five refused to accept women.

Potent myths of gender continued to plague women in college. As Dr. Edward Clarke of the Harvard Medical School told thousands of students in Sex in Education (1873), the rigors of a college educa- tion could lead the “weaker sex” to physical or mental collapse, infertility, and early death. Women’s col- leges therefore included a program of physical activ- ity to keep students healthy. Many offered an array of courses in “domestic science”—cooking, sewing, and other such skills—to counter the claim that higher education would be of no value to women.

College students, together with office workers and female athletes, became role models for ambitious young women. These “new women,” impatient with custom, cast off Victorian restrictions. Fewer of them married, and more—perhaps 25 percent—were self-supporting. They shed their corsets and bustles and donned lighter,

more comfortable clothing, such as “shirtwaist” blouses (styled after men’s shirts) and lower-heeled shoes. And they showed that women could move beyond the domes- tic sphere of home and family. A Culture of Consumption >>  The city spawned a new material culture built on consumption. As stan- dards of living rose, American industries began provid- ing “ready-made” clothing to replace garments that had once been made at home. Similarly, food and fur- niture were mass-produced in greater quantities. The city became a giant market for these goods, the place where new patterns of mass consumption took hold. Radiating outward to rural areas, this urban consumer culture helped to level American society. Increasingly, city businesses sold the same goods to farmer and clerk, rich and poor, native-born and immigrant.

Well-made, inexpensive merchandise in stan- dard sizes and shapes found outlets in new palaces of consumption known as “department stores,” so called because they displayed their goods in separate sections or departments. Unlike the small exclusive shops of Europe, department stores were palatial, public, and filled with inviting displays of furniture, housewares, and clothing.

The French writer Émile Zola claimed that depart- ment stores “democratized luxury.” Anyone could enter free of charge, handle the most elegant and expen- sive goods, and buy whatever was affordable. When consumers found goods too pricey, department stores pioneered layaway plans with deferred payments. The department store also educated people by showing them

̂̂ “Wheelman clubs” formed in many cities, to take advantage of the popularity of bicycling as a leisure-time activity. This illustration of cyclists returning from a ride along Manhattan’s Riverside Drive in 1897 indicates that women eagerly undertook the sport, though debates raged over its suitability for them. In 1893 the New York Times pronounced the use of “bicycles by the weaker sex” a question that had been “decisively settled in the affirmative.”

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what “proper” families owned and the correct names for such things as women’s wear and parlor furniture.

“Chain stores” (a term coined in America) spread the culture of consumption without frills. They catered to the working class, who could not afford depart- ment stores, and operated on a cash-and-carry basis. Owners kept their costs down by buying in volume to fill the small stores in growing neighborhood chains. Founded in 1859, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (later to become A&P supermarkets) was the first of the chain stores. By 1876 its 76 branch stores had added groceries to the original line of teas.

Far from department and chain stores, rural Americans joined the community of consumers by mail. In 1872 Aaron Montgomery Ward sent his first price sheet to farmers from a livery stable loft in Chicago. Ward avoided the intermediaries and promised savings of 40 percent on fans, needles, trunks, harnesses, and scores of other goods available to city dwellers. By 1884 his catalog boasted 10,000 items, each illustrated by a lavish woodcut. Similarly, Richard W. Sears and Alvah C. Roe- buck built a $500 million mail-order business by 1907. Schoolrooms that had no encyclopedia used a Montgom- ery Ward or Sears catalog instead. When asked the source of the Ten Commandments, one farm boy replied that they came from Sears, Roebuck. Countrywide mass con- sumption was producing a mass material culture.

Leisure >>  As mechanization gradually reduced the number of hours on the job, factory workers found them- selves with more free time. So did the middle class, with free weekends, evenings, and vacations. A new, stricter division between work and play developed in the more disciplined society of industrial America. City dwellers turned this new leisure time into a consumer item that often reflected differences in class, gender, and ethnicity.

Sports, for example, had been a traditional form of recreation for the rich. They continued to play polo, golf, and the newly imported English game of tennis. Croquet appealed to the middle class more than did polo, golf, and tennis. It required less skill and special equipment. Perhaps as important, it could be enjoyed in mixed company, like the new craze of bicycling. Bicy- cles evolved from unstable contraptions with large front wheels into “safety” bikes with equal-sized wheels, a dropped middle bar, pneumatic tires, and coaster brakes. On Sunday afternoons city parks became crowded with cyclists, at least those wealthy enough to pay the $100 price tag on such bicycles. Women rode the new safety bikes, too, although social convention prohibited them from riding alone. But cycling broke down conventions too. It required looser garments, freeing women from corsets. And lady cyclists demonstrated that they were hardly too fragile for physical exertion.

Organized spectator sports attracted crowds from every walk of life. Baseball overshadowed all others. For city dwellers with dull work, cramped quarters,

and isolated lives, baseball offered the chance to join thousands of others for an exciting outdoor spec- tacle. The first professional teams appeared in 1869, and slowly the game evolved. Umpires began to call balls and strikes, the overhand replaced the underhand pitch, and fielders put on gloves. Teams from eight cit- ies formed the National League of Professional Base- ball Clubs in 1876, followed by the American League in 1901. League players were distinctly working class. At first, teams featured some black players. When African Americans were barred in the 1880s, black profession- als formed their own team, the Cuban Giants of Long Island, New York, looking to play anyone they could and taking the name “Cuban” (rather than “Negro”) in hopes of being able to play white teams, too.

Horse racing, bicycle tournaments, and other sports of speed and violence helped to break the monotony, frustration, and routine of the industrial city. Perhaps the most violent sport of all, bare-knuckled prizefight- ing, was illegal in some states, but in others, it gave young men from the streets the chance to stand out from the crowd, win some cash, and prove their mas- culinity. In 1869, without pads or helmets, Rutgers beat Princeton in the first intercollegiate football match. College football soon attracted crowds of 50,000 or more.

Arts and Entertainment >>  Other forms of city entertainment also divided along lines of class. For the wealthy and middle class there were symphonies, operas, and theater. Highbrow productions of Shake- spearean plays catered to the aspirations of American upper classes for culture and European refinement. Popular melodramas gave middle-class audiences the chance to ignore the ambiguities of modern life, boo- ing villains and cheering heroes. By 1900 people were bringing their entertainment home, snapping up some 3 million new phonograph recordings a year.

Workingmen found a haven from the drudgery of factory, mill, and mine in the saloon. It was an all-male preserve—a workingman’s club—where one could drink and talk free from Victorian finger-wagging. Young workingwomen found escape alone or with dates at vaudeville shows, dance halls, and the new amusement parks with their mechanical “thrill rides.” In the all-black gaming houses and honky-tonks of St. Louis and New Orleans, the syncopated rhythms of African American composer Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899) and other ragtime tunes heralded the coming of jazz.

As much as any form of entertainment, the trav- eling circus embodied the changes of the new urban, industrial world. Moving outward from their city bases, circuses rode the new rail system across the country (after the first transcontinental tour in 1869) and, with the advent of steamships, crisscrossed the globe. The mammoth New York–based Barnum & Bailey Circus carried dozens of gilded show wagons, scores of animals, tons of equipment, and hundreds

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of performers, work hands, and animal tenders to the faraway capitals of Europe and Asia. At home the shows drew patrons from every class, ethnicity, and race, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands. Circus workers erected huge “big top” tents with the factory-like precision of modern industry. And, like the city itself, circuses both supported and subverted social conventions. When owners reassured customers that their scantily clad dancers came from respect- able families or their muscular lady acrobats prized the Victorian values of motherhood and domesticity, they winked slyly because they knew that the very appear- ance of these women, let alone their talents, defied the Victorian ideal of dainty and demure femininity.

Industrialization ignited the growth of cities not just in the United States but all over the world. Great Britain, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, became the world’s first country with over half its people living in towns and cities by 1851. Fifty years later London’s population had more than doubled, from 2.7 million to 6.6 million. By 1914, on the eve of the First World War, eight of every ten Britons lived in cities, as did six of ten Germans and nearly five of ten French.

Just as European immigrants poured into cities across the United States, newcomers from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East flowed into South America, Australia, and the Caribbean. Before 1900 two of every three emigrat- ing Italians booked passage not for the United States but for Brazil or Argentina. Chinese immigrants harvested sugar cane in Cuba, built railroads and opened restau- rants in Peru, and launched businesses in Trinidad. By 1920 São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, was exploding

✔ R E V I E W How did city culture shape national culture?

̂̂ This lithograph is from an 1894 poster for the Barnum & Bailey Circus. It depicts a menagerie tent in which exotic animals are displayed side by side with “Strange and Savage Tribes,” thus collapsing the boundaries between animals and human beings. Much smaller than the big top, menagerie tents allowed Euro-American patrons to examine animals and humans up close. The Barnum show presented its first “ethnological congress” of “native” peoples in 1886, as the United States began its drive for empire abroad. The human specimens were meant to give Americans a glimpse of foreign cultures and to be instructive. “Even the best informed and most intellectual had something to learn,” boasted a circus route book.

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with Asian immigrants, and Brazil boasted the world’s largest Japanese population outside Japan.

The hubbub, the overcrowding, and the corruption of cities like Boss Plunkitt’s Manhattan were reflected elsewhere in the world. Before the arrival of mass tran- sit, British urban workers were forced to live within walking distance of factories, in dingy row houses beset by the overflow from privies and garbage in the streets. A deadly cholera epidemic in 1848 spurred a cam- paign to install iron pipes and drains to provide run- ning water and sewers throughout major cities. About the same time, Paris underwent a radical renovation in which workers tore down the city’s medieval fortress walls, widened major streets into boulevards, and set aside land for green parks. Borrowing innovations from the United States, Europeans adopted horse-drawn streetcars and, later, electric trolleys. With an intracity transportation network in place, the old “walking cit- ies” of Europe, like those in the United States, added suburbs, partially easing the crush of earlier crowding.

The world over, industrial cities transformed both the urban landscape and the daily lives of city dwell- ers. Critics damned the city’s crime and corruption; defenders celebrated its vibrancy and diversity. No matter how they felt, Americans had to search for ways to make that new industrial order work.

CHAPTER SUMMARY The modern city was the product of industrialization, lying at the center of the new integrated systems of transportation, communications, manufacturing, mar- keting, and finance. " Fed by a great global migration of laborers, cities

began to grow and to assume their modern shape of ringed residential patterns around central business districts and strict divisions among different classes, races, and ethnic groups.

" The challenge for the political system was to find within its democratic traditions a way to bring order out of the seeming chaos of unchecked urban growth.

" The urban boss and the urban political machine met the needs of cities for centralized authority but at a terrible cost in corruption, while social settlement houses, the Salvation Army, and the Social Gospel churches represented only a start at coping with the problems of poverty and urban blight.

" As cities grew, the middle-class code of behavior— called Victorianism by historians—spread, teaching the values of sobriety, hard work, self-control, and modesty. Such traits served the needs of the new industrial society for efficiency and order and the middle-class need for protection against the tur- bulence of city life.

" Yet for all the emphasis on skills, discipline, and order, the vibrancy of city culture remained attrac- tive. It drew millions in search of education, enter- tainment, and opportunity, and it radiated outward to almost every corner of the country.

Additional Reading The best treatment of the rise of cities is Howard B. Chudacoff, The Evolution of American Urban Society (rev. ed., 1981). John Stilgoe, Borderland: The Origins of the American Suburb, 1820–1929 (1988), chronicles the growth of suburban America. William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1991), looks at Chicago as part of the ecological landscape. In Boss Cox’s Cincinnati: Urban Politics in the Progressive Era (1968), Zane Miller reassesses the urban political machine; and Paul Boyer explores efforts at controlling city life in Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820–1920 (1978). John F. Kasson, Rudeness & Civil- ity: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (1990); and Lawrence Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (1988), investigate the emerging urban culture. To understand traveling circuses as conduits for cultural exchanges, see Janet M. Davis’s The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top (2002).

Marcus Lee Hanson’s classic The Atlantic Migra- tion, 1607–1860 (1940) began the shift in immigration history away from the national and toward a global perspective. For richly detailed comparative examina- tions of the immigrant experience, see Roger Daniels, Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life (1990); and Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multi- cultural America (1993). Susan A. Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Gen- eration (1990), probes the lives and labor of immigrant women, with particular attention to the shaping effect of Old World Jewish culture. Virginia Yans-McLaughlin, ed., Immigration Reconsidered: History, Sociology, and Politics (1990), places American immigration in its international context. In New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865–1905 (2006), Rebecca Edwards revises the traditional portrait of the “Gilded Age,” the period extending roughly from 1860 to 1900, by empha- sizing the anxieties and optimism of ordinary people, many of them city dwellers, in what she regards as the birth of modern America. Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America (2002) explores the contradictions of Victorian thinking about contraception, abortion, pornography, and free speech.

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Significant Events 1870 Elevated railroad begins operation in New York City

1873 Comstock Law enacted

1874 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union


1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

1885 Home Life Insurance Building, world’s first skyscraper, Chicago

1876 Central Park completed in New York City; Johns Hopkins University opens nation’s first graduate school

1883 Brooklyn Bridge opens

1872 William “Boss” Tweed

convicted of defrauding city of New York

1888 Nation’s first electric trolley line, Richmond, Virginia

1892 Ellis Island opens as receiving station for immigrants

1897 Nation’s first subway station, Boston

1894 Immigration Restriction

League organized

1889 Hull House opens in


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The exotic build- ings of the Chicago World’s Columbian Expo- sition of 1893, with their domes, minarets, and foreign flags, show how conscious Americans were becoming of the wider world. A woman takes a camel ride ( right ) while many for- eigners wander through the plaza.

21 1877–1900

>> An American Story

“the world united at chicago”

O n May 1, 1893, an eager crowd of nearly half a million people jostled into a dra- matic plaza fronted on either side by gleaming white buildings. Named the Court of Honor, the plaza was the center of a strange, ornamental city that was at once both awesome and entirely imaginary.

At one end stood a building called the Court of Honor, whose magnificent white dome exceeded the height of even the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Unlike the marble-built

The Political System under Strain at Home and Abroad

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Capitol, however, the Court was all surface: a stucco shell plas- tered onto a steel frame and then sprayed with white oil paint to make it glisten. Beyond it stretched thor- oughfares encompassing over 200 colonnaded buildings, piers, islands, and watercourses. Located five miles south of Chicago’s center, this city of the imagination proclaimed itself the “World’s Columbian Exposition” to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to America.

President Grover Cleveland opened the world’s fair in a way that symbolized the nation’s industrial transformation. He pressed a teleg- rapher’s key. Instantly, electric cur- rent put 7,000 feet of shafting into motion—unfurling flags, setting foun- tains pumping, and lighting 10,000 electric bulbs. The lights played over an array of exhibition buildings soon known as the “White City.”

One visitor dismissed the displays within as “the contents of a great dry goods store mixed up with the con- tents of museums.” In a sense he was right. Visitors paraded by an unend- ing stream of typewriters, watches, agricultural machinery, cedar canoes, and refrigerators, to say nothing of a map of the United States fashioned entirely out of pickles. But this riot of mechanical marvels, gewgaws, and bric-a-brac was symbolic, too, of the

nation’s industrial transformation. The fair resembled nothing so much as a living, breathing version of the new mail-order catalogs whose pages were now introducing the goods of the city to the hinterlands.

The connections made by the fair were international as well. This was the World’s Columbian Exposi- tion, with exhibits from 36 nations. Germany’s famous manufacturer of armaments, Krupp, had its own separate building. It housed a 120-ton rifled gun 46 feet long and capable of launching a 1-ton shell 20 miles. At the fair’s amusement park, visitors encountered exotic cultures—and not just temples, huts, and totems, but exhibits in the flesh. The Arabian village fea- tured Saharan camels, veiled ladies, and elders in turbans. Nearby, Irish peasants boiled potatoes over turf fires and Samoan men threw axes.

Like all such fairs the Colum- bian Exposition created a fantasy. Beyond its boundaries the real world was showing signs of strain. Early in 1893 the Philadelphia and Read- ing Railroad had gone bankrupt, setting off a financial panic. By the end of the year nearly 500 banks and 15,000 businesses had failed. Although tourists continued to mar- vel at the fair’s wonders, crowds of worried and unemployed workers

also gathered in Chicago. On Labor Day, Governor John Altgeld of Illi- nois told one such assemblage that the government was powerless to soften the “suffering and distress” of this latest economic downturn.

In truth the political system was ill-equipped to cope with the eco- nomic and social revolutions reshap- ing America. The executive branch remained weak, while Congress and the courts found themselves easily swayed by the financial interests of the industrial class. The crises of the 1890s forced the political order to begin to address such inequities.

The political system also had to take into account develop- ments abroad. Industrialization sent American businesses around the world searching for raw mate- rials and new markets. As that search intensified, many influential Americans argued that like European nations, the United States needed to acquire territory overseas. By the end of the century the nation’s political system had taken its first steps toward modernization at home and abroad. They included a major political realignment and a growing overseas empire. Both changes and the tensions that accompanied them launched the United States into the twentieth century and an era of

prosperity and power. <<

What ’s to CCoomme 419 The Politics of Paralysis

422 The Revolt of the Farmers

425 The New Realignment

431 Visions of Empire

435 The Imperial Moment

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in a few western states, and beginning in the 1880s, the South erected barriers that eventually disenfranchised many African American voters.

Party loyalty rarely wavered. In every election 16 states could be counted on to vote Republican and 14 Democratic. In only six states—the most important being New York and Ohio—were results ever in doubt.

The Parties  >>   What inspired such loyalty? Republicans and Democrats did have similarities but also had differences. Both parties supported business and condemned radicalism; neither offered embat- tled workers and farmers much help. But Democrats believed in states’ rights and limited government, while Republicans favored federal activism to foster economic growth. The stronghold of Democrats was the South, where they continually reminded voters that they had led the states of the Old Confederacy,


During the 1880s and 1890s, as the American politi- cal system came under strain, Moisei Ostrogorski was traveling across the United States. Like other foreign visitors, the Russian political scientist had come to see the new democratic experiment in action. His ver- dict was as blunt as it was common: “the constituted authorities are unequal to their duty.” It seemed that the experiment had fallen victim to greed, indifference, and political mediocrity.

In fact there were deeper problems: a great gulf between rich and poor; a wrenching cycle of boom and bust; the unmet needs of African Americans, women, Indians, and other “others.” These prob- lems had scarcely been addressed let alone resolved. Politics was the traditional medium of resolution, but it was grinding into a dangerous stalemate.

Political Stalemate >>   From 1877 to 1897 American politics rested on a delicate balance of power that left neither Repub- licans nor Democrats in control. Repub- licans inhabited the White House for 12 years; Democrats, for 8. Margins of vic- tory in presidential elections were paper thin. No president could count on having a major- ity of his party in both houses of Congress for his entire term. Usually Republicans con- trolled the Senate, Democrats the House of Representatives.

With elections so tight both parties worked hard to bring out the vote. Brass bands, parades, cheering crowds of flag-wavers were “the order of the day and night from end to end of the country,” reported a British visi- tor. When Election Day arrived, stores closed and businesses shut down. At political clubs and corner saloons men lined up to get vot- ing orders (along with free drinks) from ward bosses. Fields went untended as farmers took their families to town, cast their ballots, and bet on the outcome.

An average of nearly 80 percent of eligible voters turned out for presidential elections between 1860 and 1900, a figure higher than at any time since. In that era, however, the electorate made up a smaller percentage of the population. About one American in five actually voted in presidential elections from 1876 to 1892. Virtually all were white males. Women could vote in national elections only

THE VOTING PUBLIC Between 1860 and 1910 the population and the number of eligible voters increased nearly threefold. As reforms of the early twentieth century reduced the power of polit- ical machines and parties, the percentage of voter participation actually declined.

1009080706050403020100 Number of people (millions)



1868 1870





1888 1890





1908 1910


Total Population

Eligible votersVoter participation


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“redeemed” them from Republican Reconstruction, and championed white supremacy. Republicans dom- inated the North with strong support from industry and business. They, too, invoked memories of the Civil War to secure voters, black as well as white. “Not every Democrat was a rebel,” they chanted, “but every rebel was a Democrat.”

Ethnicity and religion also cemented voter loyalty. Republicans drew on old-stock Protestants, who feared new immigrants and put their faith in promoting pious behavior. In the Republican Party they found support for immigration restriction, prohibition, and English-only schools. The Democratic Party attracted urban political machines, their immigrant voters, and the working poor. Often Catholic, they saw salvation in following religious rituals, not in dictating the conduct of all society. Year after year these cultural loyalties of region, religion, and ethnicity shaped political allegiances.

Outside the two-party system impassioned reform- ers often fashioned political instruments of their own. Some formed groups that aligned themselves behind issues rather than parties. Opponents of alcohol created the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (1874) and the Anti-Saloon League (1893). Champions of wom- en’s rights joined the National American Woman Suf- frage Association (1890), a reunion of two branches of the women’s suffrage movement that had split in 1869.

Third political parties might also crystallize around a single concern or a particular group. Those who sought inflation of the currency formed the Greenback Party (1874). Angry farmers in the West and South created the Populist, or People’s, Party (1892). All drew supporters from both conventional parties, but as single-interest groups they mobilized minorities, not majorities.

The Issues >>   In the halls of Congress atten- tion focused on well-worn issues: veterans’ benefits, appointments, tariffs, and money. The presidency had been weakened by the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the scandals of Ulysses S. Grant, and the contested victory of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. Thus Congress enjoyed the initiative in making policy.

Some divisive issues were the bitter legacy of the Civil War. Republicans and Democrats waved sym- bolic “bloody shirts,” each tarring the other with responsibility for the war. The politics of the Civil War also surfaced in the lobbying efforts of veterans. The Grand Army of the Repub- lic, an organization of more than 400,000 Union soldiers, petitioned Congress for pensions to make up for poor wartime pay and to support the widows and orphans of fallen comrades. By the turn of the cen- tury Union army veterans and their fam- ilies were receiving $157 million annually. It was one of the largest public assistance

programs in American history and laid the founda- tion for the modern welfare state.

More important than public welfare was the campaign for a new method of staffing federal offices. From barely 53,000 employees at the end of the Civil War, the federal government had mushroomed to 166,000 by the early 1890s, with far more jobs requir- ing special skills. But dismantling the reigning “spoils system” proved difficult for politicians who rewarded faithful supporters with government jobs regardless of their qualifications. American politics rested on this patronage. Without it, politicians—from presidents to lowly ward captains—feared that they could attract neither workers nor money.

It took the assassination of President James Garfield by a frustrated office seeker in 1881 to move Congress to action. Enacted in 1883 the Civil Service Act, or Pendleton Act, created a bipartisan civil ser- vice commission to administer competitive examina- tions for some federal jobs. Later presidents expanded the jobs covered. By 1896 almost half of all federal workers came under civil service jurisdiction.

The protective tariff also aroused Congress. As promoters of economic growth, Republicans usually championed this tax on manufactured imports. Demo- crats, with their strength in the agrarian South, gener- ally sought tariff reduction to encourage foreign trade, reduce prices on manufactured goods, and cut the federal surplus. In 1890, when Republicans controlled the House, Congress passed the McKinley Tariff. It raised schedules to an all-time high. The McKinley Tariff also contained a novel twist called “reciprocity” designed to promote freer trade. The president could lower rates if certain countries did the same.

Just as divisive was the issue of currency. Until the mid-1800s money was coined from both gold and sil- ver. The need for more money during the Civil War had led Congress to issue “greenbacks”—currency printed on paper with a green back. For the next decade and a half, Americans argued over whether to print more paper

Does government work more effectively when one

party controls both the presidency and the Congress?


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against Democrat Grover Cleveland, the former gov- ernor of New York. Despite superb talents as a leader and vote-getter, Blaine was haunted by old charges of illegal favoritism for the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad. For his part, “Grover the Good” had built a reputation for honesty by fighting corruption and the spoils system in New York. So hard a worker was the portly Cleveland, sighed a reporter, that he “remains within doors constantly, eats and works, eats and works, and works and eats.” The bachelor Cleveland spent enough time away from his desk to father an illegitimate child. The campaign rang with Republican taunts of “Ma, ma, where’s my pa?”

In the last week of the tight race, the Irish vote in New York swung to the Democrats when a local Protestant minister labeled them the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion” (alcohol, Catholicism, and the Civil War). New York went to Cleveland, and with it, the election. Democrats crowed with delight over where to find the bachelor “pa”: “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”

Cleveland was the first Democrat elected to the White House since James Buchanan in 1856, and he was more active than many of his predecessors. He pleased reformers by expanding the civil service. His devotion to gold, economy, and efficiency earned him praise from business. He supported the growth of federal power by endorsing the Interstate Commerce Act (1887), new agricultural research, and federal arbitration of labor disputes. Still, his activism remained limited. He vetoed two of every three bills brought to him, more than twice the number vetoed by all his predecessors. Toward the end of his term, embarrassed by the large federal sur- plus, Cleveland finally reasserted himself by attack- ing the tariff, but the Republican-controlled Senate blocked his attempt to lower it.

money (not backed by gold or silver) or take it out of circulation. Farmers and other debtors favored green- backs as a way of inflating prices, which would have the effect of reducing the real cost of their debts. For the opposite reasons, bankers and creditors stood for “sound money” backed by gold. Fear of inflation led Congress first to cut the number of greenbacks and then in 1879 to make all remaining paper money convertible into gold.

A more heated battle was developing over silver- backed money. By the early 1870s so little silver was being used that Congress stopped coining it. A silver mining boom in Nevada soon revived demands for more silver money. In 1878 the Bland-Allison Act inaugu- rated a limited form of silver coinage. But pressure for unlimited coinage of silver—coining all silver presented at U.S. mints—mounted as silver production quadru- pled between 1870 and 1890. In 1890 pressure for silver peaked in the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. It obli- gated the government to buy 4.5 million ounces of sil- ver every month. Paper tender called “treasury notes,” redeemable in either gold or silver, would pay for it. The compromise satisfied both sides only temporarily.

The White House from Hayes to Harrison >>  From the 1870s through the 1890s a string of nearly anonymous presidents presided over the country. Not all were mere caretakers. Some tried to revive the office, but Congress continued to rein in the executive.

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was the first of the “Ohio dynasty,” which included three presidents from 1876 to 1900. Once elected, Hayes moved quickly to end Reconstruction and tried unsuccessfully to woo southern Democrats with promises of economic support. His pur- suit of civil service reform ended only in splitting his party between “Stalwarts” (who favored the spoils sys- tems) and “Half-Breeds” (who opposed it). Hayes left office after a single term, relieved to be “out of a scrape.”

In 1880 Republican James Garfield, another Ohioan, succeeded Hayes by a handful of votes. He spent his first hundred days in the White House besieged by office hunters and failing to placate the rival sections of his party. After Garfield’s assassina- tion only six months into his term, Chester A. Arthur, the “spoilsman’s spoilsman,” became president.

To everyone’s surprise the dapper Arthur turned out to be an honest president who broke with machine poli- ticians. He worked to lower the tariff, warmly endorsed the new Civil Service, or Pendleton, Act, and reduced the federal surplus by beginning construction of a mod- ern navy. Such evenhanded administration left him little chance for renomination by divided party leaders.

The election of 1884 was one of the dirtiest ever waged. Senator James Blaine, the beloved “Plumed Knight” from Maine and leader of the Half-Breeds, ran

>> A Chinese laborer, holding his queue of long hair, proudly displays patches in support of the 1888 Democratic presiden- tial candidate, Grover Cleveland, and his running mate, Allen B. Thurman. Cleveland and Thurman lost to Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton, a wealthy New York banker. After his victory, Harrison, a pious Presbyterian, grabbed the hand of Senator Matthew Quay and crowed, “Providence has given us the victory.” “Providence hadn’t a damn thing to do with it,” Quay said later, irked that Harrison seemed to have no idea how many Republicans “were compelled to approach the gates of the peniten- tiary to make him President.”

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the new industrial order mounted closer to home, in state and city governments. Experimental and often effective, state programs at least began to grapple with the problems of corporate power, discriminatory rail- road rates, political corruption, and urban disorder.

Starting in 1869 with Massachusetts, states estab- lished commissions to investigate and regulate indus- try, especially railroads, America’s first big business. By the turn of the century almost two-thirds of the states had them. The first commissions gathered and publicized information on shipping rates and business practices and furnished advice about public policy but had little power.

In the Midwest, on the Great Plains, and in the Far West, merchants and farmers pressed state govern- ments to reduce railroad rates and stop the rebates given to large shippers. On the West Coast and in the Midwest, state legislatures empowered commissions to end rebates and monitor rates. In 1870 Illinois became the first of several states to define railroads as public highways subject to public regulation, including setting maximum rates.

In 1888 Republicans nominated a sturdy defender of tariffs, Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of President

William Henry Harrison. Cleveland won a plurality of the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. The “human iceberg” (as Harri- son’s colleagues called him) worked hard, rarely del- egated management, and turned the White House into

a well-run office. He helped to shape the Sherman Sil- ver Purchase Act (1890), kept abreast of the McKinley Tariff (1890), and accepted the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) to limit the size of big businesses.

By the end of Harrison’s term in 1892 Congress had completed its most productive session of the era, including the first billion-dollar peacetime budget. To Democratic jeers of a “Billion Dollar Congress,” Republican House Speaker Thomas Reed shot back, “This is a billion-dollar country!”

Ferment in the States and Cities >>  Despite growing expenditures and more legislation, most peo- ple expected little from the federal government. Few newspapers even bothered to send correspondents to Washington. Public pressure to curb the excesses of

plurality in elections, a can- didate who receives a plu- rality wins more votes than any other candidate but less than half of all votes cast. Receiving more than half of the votes cast is called a majority.

̂̂ Mary Shelley’s novel of a man-made creature who turns against its creator strikes the theme for this antirailroad cartoon titled “The American Frankenstein” (1874). “Agriculture, commerce, and manufacture are all in my power,” bellows the mechanical monster with the head of a locomotive.

✔ R E V I E W What factors led to the paralysis of politics in the late nineteenth century?


In 1890 the politics of stalemate cracked as the patience of farmers across the South and the western plains finally gave out. Beginning in the 1880s a sharp depression drove down agricultural prices, pushed up surpluses, and forced thousands from their land. Farmers also suffered from a great deal more, includ- ing heavy mortgages, widespread poverty, and railroad rates that discriminated against them. In 1890 their

resentment boiled over. An agrarian revolt—called Populism —swept across the political landscape and broke the stalemate of the previous 20 years.

The Harvest of Discontent  >>   The revolt of the farmers stirred first on the southern frontier, spreading eastward from Texas through the rest of the Old Confederacy, then west across the plains. Farmers blamed their troubles on obvious inequalities: man- ufacturers protected by the tariff, railroads charg- ing sky-high rates, bankers who held their mounting

Populism political outlook that supports the rights and powers of the common people in opposition to the interests of the privileged elite.

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charges of intermediaries. By the early 1870s they also were lobbying midwestern legislatures to adopt “Granger laws” regulating rates charged by railroads, grain elevator operators, and other intermediaries.

Eight “Granger cases” came before the Supreme Court in the 1870s to test the new regulatory mea- sures. The most important of them, Munn v. Illinois (1877), upheld the right of Illinois to regulate private property (in this case, giant elevators used for stor- ing grain) “devoted to a public use.” Later decisions allowed state regulation of railroads but only within state lines. Congress responded in 1887 by creating the Interstate Commerce Commission, a federal agency to regulate commerce across state boundaries. In practice, it had little power, but it was a key step toward estab- lishing the public right to regulate private corporations.

Slumping prices in the 1870s and 1880s bred new farm organizations. Slowly they blended into what the press called the “Alliance Movement.” The South- ern Alliance, formed in Texas in 1875, spread rap- idly after Dr. Charles W. Macune took command in 1886. A doctor and lawyer as well as a farmer, Macune planned to expand the state’s network of local chap- ters, or sub-alliances, into a national network of state Alliance exchanges. Like the Grangers the exchanges pooled their resources in cooperatively owned enter- prises for buying and selling, milling and storing, banking and manufacturing.

Soon the Southern Alliance was publicizing its activities in local newspapers, publishing a journal, and sending lecturers across the country. For a brief period, between 1886 and 1892, the Alliance coopera- tives multiplied throughout the South, grew to more than a million members, and challenged accepted ways of doing business. Macune claimed that his new Texas Exchange saved members 40 percent on plows and 30 percent on wagons. But most Alliance cooperatives were managed by farmers without the time or experi- ence to succeed. Usually opposed by irate local mer- chants, the ventures eventually failed.

Although the Southern Alliance admitted no African Americans, it encouraged them to organize. A small group of black and white Texans founded the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Cooperative Union in 1886. By 1891 a quarter of a million black farmers had joined. Its operations were largely secret, since public action often brought swift retaliation from white supremacists. When the Colored Farm- ers’ Alliance organized a strike of black cotton pickers near Memphis in 1891, white mobs hunted down and lynched 15 strikers. The murders went unpunished, and the Colored Alliance began to founder.

The Alliance Peaks >>  The key to success for what soon became known as the National Farm- ers’ Alliance lay not in organization but leadership.

debts, and expensive intermediaries such as grain ele- vator operators and millers who stored and processed farm commodities. All seemed to profit at the expense of farmers.

The true picture was more complex. The tariff protected industrial goods but also supported some farm commodities. Railroad rates, however high, actually fell from 1865 to 1890. And although mort- gages were heavy, most were short, no more than four years. Farmers often refinanced them, using the money to buy more land and machinery, which only increased their debt. Millers and operators of grain elevators earned handsome profits; yet every year more of them came under state regulation.

In hard times, when debts mounted and children went hungry, complexity mattered little. And in the South many poor farmers seemed condemned to hard times forever. A credit crunch lay at the root of the problem, since most southern farmers had to borrow money to plant and harvest their crops. The inequi- ties of sharecropping and the crop-lien system forced them deeper into debt. When crop prices fell, farmers borrowed still more, stretching the financial resources of the South beyond their meager limits. Within a few years after the Civil War, Massachusetts’s banks had five times as much money as all the banks of the Old Confederacy.

Beginning in the 1870s, nearly 100,000 debt-ridden farmers a year picked up stakes across the Deep South and fled to Texas to escape the system, only to find it waiting for them. Others stood and fought, as one pamphlet exhorted in 1889, “not with glittering mus- ket, flaming sword and deadly cannon, but with the silent, potent and all-powerful ballot.”

The Origins of the Farmers’ Alliance >>   Before farmers could vote together, they had to get together. Life on the farm was harsh, drab, and iso- lated. Such conditions shocked Oliver Hudson Kelley as he traveled across the South after the Civil War. In 1867 the young government clerk founded the Patrons of Husbandry to brighten the lives of farmers and broaden their horizons. Local chapters, called granges, brought a dozen or so farmers and their families together to pray, sing, and learn new farming tech- niques. The Grangers sponsored fairs, picnics, dances, lectures—anything to break the bleakness of farm life. After a slow start the Patrons of Husbandry grew quickly. By 1875 there were 800,000 members in 20,000 locales, most in the Midwest, South, and Southwest.

At first the Grangers swore off politics. But in a pattern often repeated, socializing led to a recogni- tion of common problems and recognition to economic and then political solutions. By pooling their money for supplies and equipment to store and market their crops, for example, Grangers sought to avoid the high

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make government more responsive to the public. The most innovative feature came from Charles Macune. His “subtreasury system” would have required the federal government to furnish warehouses for har- vested crops and low-interest loans to tide farmers over until prices rose. Under such a system farmers would no longer have had to sell in a glutted mar- ket, as they did under the crop-lien system. And they could expand the money supply simply by borrowing at harvest time.

In the off-year elections of 1890 the old parties faced hostile farmers across the nation. In the South, the Alliance worked within the Democratic Party and elected 4 governors, won 8 legislatures, and sent 44 members of the House and 3 senators to Washington. Newly created farmer parties elected 5 representatives and 2 senators in Kansas and South Dakota and took over both houses of the Nebraska legislature.

In February 1892, as the presidential election year opened, a convention of 900 labor, feminist, farm, and other reform delegates (100 of them black) met in St. Louis. They founded the People’s, or Populist, Party and called for another convention to nominate a presi- dential ticket. Initially southern Populists held back, clinging to their strategy of working within the Demo- cratic Party. But when newly elected Democrats failed to support Alliance programs, southern leaders such as Tom Watson of Georgia abandoned the Democrats and began recruiting black and white farmers for the Populists. Although a wealthy farmer, Watson sym- pathized with the poor of both races.

The national convention of Populists met in Omaha, Nebraska, on Independence Day, 1892. Their impassioned platform promised to return government “to the hands of ‘the plain people.’” Planks advo- cated the subtreasury plan, unlimited coinage of silver and an increase in the money supply, direct election of senators, an income tax, and government owner- ship of railroads, telegraph, and telephone. To attract wage earners the party endorsed the eight-hour workday, restriction of immigration, and a ban on the use of Pinkerton detectives in labor disputes—for the Pinkertons had engaged in a savage gun battle with strikers that year at Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Plant. Delegates rallied behind the old green- backer and Union general James B. Weaver, care- fully balancing their presidential nomination with a one-legged Confederate veteran as his running mate.

The Election of 1892 >>  The Populists enliv- ened the otherwise dull campaign, as Democrat Grover Cleveland and Republican incumbent Benjamin Harrison refought the election of 1888. This time, however, Cleve- land won, and for the first time since the Civil War, Democrats gained control of both houses of Congress. The Populists, too, enjoyed success. Weaver polled over

Alliance lecturers fanned out across the South and the Great Plains, organizing sub-alliances and teaching new members about finance and cooperative busi- nesses. Women were often as active as men, sometimes more active. In the summer of 1890 alone, Alliance organizer Mary Elizabeth Lease, the “Kansas Pytho- ness” known for her biting attacks on big business, gave 160 speeches.

In 1890 members of the Alliance met in Ocala, Florida, and issued the “Ocala Demands.” The mani- festo reflected their deep distrust of “the money power”—large corporations and banks whose financial power gave them the ability to manipulate the “free” market. The Ocala Demands called on government to correct such abuses by reducing tariffs, abolishing national banks, regulating railroads, and coining silver money freely. The platform also demanded a federal income tax and the popular election of senators, to

̂̂ This illustration by artist W. W. Denslow, titled “You Ought to Be Ashamed of Yourself,” is from The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, pub- lished in 1900 by L. Frank Baum. It was the first of 14 best-selling books on the mythical land. Although Baum claimed only to be tell- ing children’s stories, some readers have found a symbolic resem- blance to the Populist politics of the day. The “yellow brick road” is the gold standard, they say, leading to a place of false promises (the Emerald City of Oz) under the spell of a bellowing politician (the Wizard), who is exposed by the Scarecrow (farmers), the Tin Man (laborers), and the Lion (the Populists).

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But in 1893 the cost of interdependence came due. A major downturn in one area affected the other sectors of the economy. And with no way to control swings in the business cycle, depression came on a scale as large as that of the booming prosperity. Out of the crisis emerged a new realignment that left the Repub- lican Party in control of national politics for decades to come.

The Depression of 1893  >>   The depression of 1893, the deepest the nation had yet experienced, lasted until 1897. Railroad baron and descendant of two presidents Charles Francis Adams Jr. called it a “convulsion,” but the country experienced it as crush- ing idleness. By the end of 1894 nearly one worker in five was out of a job.

The federal government had no program to deal with unemployment. “While the people should patriotically and cheerfully support their Government,” President Cleveland declared, “its functions do not include the support of the people.” The states offered little more. Relief, like poverty, was considered a private matter.

a million votes, the first third-party candidate to do so. Populists elected 3 governors, 5 senators, 10 representa- tives, and nearly 1,500 members of state legislatures.

Despite these victories the election revealed dan- gerous weaknesses in the People’s Party. No doubt a campaign of intimidation and repression hurt the People’s Party in the South, where white conservatives had been appalled by Tom Watson’s open courtship of black southerners. In the North, Populists failed to win over labor and most city dwellers. Both were more concerned with family budgets than with the problems of farmers and the downtrodden.

The darker side of Populism also put off many Americans. Its rhetoric was often violent and laced with anti-immigrant, nativist slurs; it spoke ominously of conspiracies and stridently in favor of immigration restriction. In fact the Alliance lost members, an omen of defeats to come. But for the present the People’s Party had demonstrated two conflicting truths: how far from the needs of many ordinary Americans the two parties had drifted, and how difficult it would be to break their power.

✔ R E V I E W How did the National Farmers’ Alliance and the People’s Party attempt to resolve the problems faced by farmers?


On May 1, 1893, President Cleveland was in Chicago to throw the switch that set ablaze 10,000 electric bulbs and opened the World’s Columbian Exposition. Four days later a wave of bankruptcies destroyed major firms across the country, and stock prices sank to all- time lows, setting off the depression of 1893.

At first Chicago staved off the worst, thanks to the business generated by the exposition. But when its doors closed in October, thousands of laborers found themselves out of work. Chicago’s mayor estimated the number of unemployed in the city to be near 200,000. He had some firsthand experience on which to base his calculations. Every night desperate men slept on the floors and stairways of City Hall and every police sta- tion in the city put up 60 to 100 additional homeless.

The sharp contrast between the exposition’s White City and the nation’s economic misery demonstrated the inability of the political system to smooth out the economy’s cycle of boom and bust. The new industrial order had brought prosperity by increasing production, opening markets, and tying Americans closer together.

̂̂ The political and social turbulence of the era is reflected in this cartoon of a businessman being tossed and buffeted by agrarian Populists and “silverites” as well as Republicans and Democrats.

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W HAT S HOULD THE G OVERNMENT D O? In 1887 President Grover Cleveland vetoed the “Texas Seed Bill,” legislation designed to aid drought-stricken Texas farmers through the natural disaster (Document 1). Four years later, Nebraska farmer W. M. Taylor made a desperate plea for help in the face of natural and man-made disasters (Document 2).

Dueling D O C U M E N T S

D O C U M E N T 1 President Grover Cleveland: Government Should Not Help Individuals

It is represented that a long-continued and extensive drought has existed in cer- tain portions of the State of Texas, result- ing in a failure of crops and consequent distress and destitution. Though there has been some difference in statements concerning the extent of the people’s needs in the localities thus affected, there seems to be no doubt that there has existed a condition calling for relief; and I am willing to believe that, notwithstand- ing the aid already furnished, a donation of seed grain to the farmers located in this region, to enable them to put in new crops, would serve to avert a continuance or return of an unfortunate blight.

And yet I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan as proposed by this bill, to indulge a benevolent and chari- table sentiment through the appropriation of public funds for that purpose.

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think be steadfestly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the govern- ment, the government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and

weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

It is within my personal knowledge that individual aid has, to some extent, already been extended to the sufferers mentioned in this bill. The failure of the proposed appropriation of $10,000 additional to meet their remaining wants, will not necessarily result in continued distress if the emergency is fully made known to the people of the country.

It is here suggested that the Commis- sioner of Agriculture is annually directed to expend a large sum of money for the purchase, propagation, and distribution of seeds and other things of this description, two-thirds of which are, upon the request of senators, representatives, and delegates

The burden fell on local charities, benevolent societies, churches, labor unions, and ward bosses.

Others were less charitable. As the popular preacher Henry Ward Beecher told his congregation what most Americans believed: “No man in this land suffers from poverty unless it be more than his fault—unless it be his sin.” But the scale of hardship was so great, its targets so random, that anyone could be thrown out of work—an industrious neighbor, a factory foreman with 20 years on the job, a bank president. Older attitudes about personal responsibility for poverty began to give way to new ideas about its social origins and the obli- gation of public agencies to help.

The Rumblings of Unrest  >>   Even before the depression, rumblings of unrest had begun to roll across the country. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 ignited nearly two decades of labor strife. After 1893 discontent mounted as wages were cut, employees laid off, and factories closed. During the first year of the depression, 1,400 strikes sent more than half a million workers from their jobs.

Uneasy business executives and politicians saw radicalism and the possibility of revolution in every strike. But the depression of 1893 unleashed another force: simple discontent. In the spring of 1894 gov- ernment inaction came under fire. On Easter Sun- day “General” Jacob Coxey, a 39-year-old Populist and factory owner, launched the “Tramps’ March on Washington” from Massillon, Ohio. His “Common- weal Army of Christ”—some 500 men, women, and children—descended on Washington to offer “a peti- tion with boots on” for a federal program of public works. Cleveland’s staff tightened security around the White House as other “armies” of unemployed mobi- lized. On May 1, Coxey’s troops, armed with “clubs of peace,” massed at the foot of the Capitol. When Coxey entered the Capitol grounds, 100 mounted police routed the demonstrators and arrested the gen- eral for trespassing on the grass. Nothing came of the protest, other than to signal a growing demand for federal action.

Federal help was not to be found. President Cleve- land had barely moved into the White House when

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D O C U M E N T 2 W. M. Taylor: Farmers’ Problems Are Beyond Their Control

This season is without a parallel in this part of the country. The hot winds burned up the entire crop, leaving thousands of families wholly destitute, many of whom might have been able to run through this crisis had it not been for the galling yoke put on them by the money loaners and sharks—not by charging 7 percent per annum, which is the lawful rate of inter- est of even 10 per cent but the unlawful and inhuman country destroying rate of 3 per cent a month, some going still far- ther and charging 50 per cent per annum. We are cursed, many of us financially, beyond redemption, not by the hot winds so much as by the swindling game of the bankers and money loaners, who have taken the money and now are after the property, leaving the farmer moneyless

and homeless. . . . I have borrowed for example $1,000. I pay $25 besides to the commission man. I give my note and sec- ond mortgage of 3 per cent of the $1,000 which is $30 more. Then I pay 7 per cent on the $1,000 to the actual loaner. Then besides all this I pay for appraising the land, abstract, recording, etc., so when I have secured my loan I am out the first year $150. Yet I am told by the agent who loans me the money, he can’t stand to loan at such low rates. This is on the farm, but now come the chattel loan. I must have $50 to save myself. I get the money; my note is made payable in thirty or sixty days for $35, secured by chattel of two horses, harness and wagon about five times the value of the note. The time comes to pay, I ask for a few days. No I

can’t wait; must have the money. If I can’t get the money. I have the extreme plea- sure of seeing my property taken end sold by this iron handed money loaner while my family and I suffer.

Source: W. M. Taylor to editor, Farmer’s Alliance (Lincoln), January 10, 1891, Nebraska Historical Society, reprinted in Robert D. Marcus and David Burner, eds., America Firsthand, Vol. II (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), p. 90.

THINKING CRITICALLY How does President Cleveland justify his veto of the “Texas Seed Bill”? What, in his view, is the role of the federal government in times of disaster? What problems does the farmer face? How would President Cleveland have responded to the farmer’s letter?

in Congress, supplied to them for distribu- tion among their constituents.

The appropriation of the current year for this purpose is $100,000, and it will probably be no less in the appro- priation for the ensuing year. I under- stand that a large quantity of grain is furnished for such distribution, and it is supposed that this free apportionment

among their neighbors is a privilege which may be waived by our senators and representatives.

If sufficient of them should request the Commissioner of Agriculture to send their shares of the grain thus allowed them, to the suffering farmers of Texas, they might be enabled to sow their crops; the constituents, for whom in theory this

grain is intended could well bear the tem- porary deprivation, and the donors would experience the satisfaction attending deeds of charity.

Source: President Grover Cleveland Vetoes Disaster Relief Legislation, February 16, 1887, reprinted in J. F. Watts and Fred Israel, eds., Presidential Documents: The Speeches, Proclamations, and Policies That Have Shaped the Nation from Washington to Clinton (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 164–165.

the depression struck. The country blamed him; he blamed silver. In his view the Sherman Silver Pur- chase Act of 1890 had shaken business confidence by forcing the government to use its shrinking reserves of gold to purchase (though not coin) silver. Repeal of the act, Cleveland believed, was the way to build gold reserves and restore confidence. After bitter debate, Congress complied. But this economic tinkering only strengthened the resolve of “silverites” in the Demo- cratic Party to overwhelm Cleveland’s conservative “gold” wing.

Worse for the president, repeal of silver pur- chases brought no economic revival. In the short run, abandoning silver hurt the economy by contract- ing the money supply just when expansion might have stimulated it by providing needed credit. As panic and unemployment spread across the country, Cleveland’s popularity wilted. Democrats were bur- ied in the congressional elections of 1894. Dropping moralistic reforms and stressing national activism, Republicans won control of both the House and the Senate.

With the Democrats confined to the South, the politics of stalemate was over. All that remained for the Republican Party was to capture the White House in 1896.

The Battle of the Standards >>  The campaign of 1896 quickly became a “battle of the standards.” Both major parties obsessed over whether gold alone or gold and silver should become the monetary stan- dard. Most Republicans saw gold as the stable base for building business confidence and economic prosperity. They adopted a platform calling for “sound money” supported by gold. Their candidate, Governor William McKinley of Ohio, cautiously supported the gold plank and firmly believed in high tariffs to protect American industry.

Silverites campaigned for “free and independent” coinage of silver, in which the Treasury freely minted all the silver presented to it, independent of other nations. The supply of money would increase, prices would rise, and the economy would revive—or so their theory said. The free silver movement was more than

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crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” The next day the convention nominated him for the presidency.

Populists were in a quandary. They expected the Democrats to stick with Cleveland and gold, sending unhappy silverites headlong into their camp. Instead, the Democrats stole their thun- der by endorsing silver and nominating Bryan. “If we fuse [with the Democrats] we are sunk,” complained one Populist. “If we don’t fuse, all the silver men we have will leave us for the more power- ful Democrats.” At a bitter convention fusionists nominated Bryan for president. The best antifusionists could do was drop the Democrats’ vice presidential candi- date in favor of the fiery agrarian rebel from Georgia, Tom Watson.

Campaign and Election >>  Bryan knew he faced an uphill battle. Mount- ing an aggressive campaign that would be imitated in the future, he traveled 18,000 miles by train, gave as many as 30 speeches a day, and reached perhaps

3 million people in 27 states. The nomination of the People’s Party actually did more harm than good by labeling Bryan a Populist (which he was not) and a radical (which he definitely was not). Devoted to the “plain people,” the Great Commoner spoke for rural America and Jeffersonian values: small farmers, small towns, small government.

McKinley knew he could not compete with Bry- an’s barnstorming. He contented himself with sedate speeches from his front porch in Canton, Ohio. The folksy appearance of the campaign belied its real- ity. From the beginning, campaign strategist Marcus Alonzo Hanna, a talented Ohio industrialist, relied on modern techniques of organization and marketing. He advertised McKinley, said Theodore Roosevelt, “as if he were patent medicine.” The well-financed campaign brought to Canton tens of thousands, who cheered the candidate’s promises of a “full dinner pail.” Hanna also saturated the country with millions of leaflets, along with 1,400 speakers attacking free trade and free silver. McKinley won in a walk, amassing the first majority of the popular vote since Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.

The election proved to be one of the most criti- cal in the Republic’s history. 1 Over the previous three decades, political life had been characterized by vibrant

a monetary theory. It was a symbolic protest of region and class—of the agricultural South and West against the commercial Northeast, of debt-ridden farm folk against industrialists and financiers, of have-nots against haves. Silverites pressed their case like preach- ers exhorting their flocks, nowhere more effectively than in William Harvey’s best-selling pamphlet, Coin’s Financial School (1894). It reached tens of thousands of readers with the common sense of Coin, its young hero, fighting for silver.

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska was ready to fight as well. Just 36 years old, Bryan looked “like a young divine”—“tall, slender, handsome,” with a rich melodic voice that reached the back rows of the largest halls (no small asset in the days before electric amplification). He had served two terms in Congress and worked as a journalist. He favored low tariffs, opposed Cleveland, and came out belatedly for free silver. Systematically, he coordinated a quiet fight for his nomination.

Silverites controlled the convention from the start. They paraded with silver banners, wore silver buttons, and wrote a plank into the anti-Cleveland platform calling for free and unlimited coinage of the metal. The high point came when Bryan stepped to the lectern and offered himself to “a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity.” The crowd was in a near frenzy as he reached the dramatic climax and spread his arms in mock crucifixion: “You shall not

̂̂ William Jennings Bryan made the first of his three presidential bids in 1896, when he ran on both the Democratic and Populist tickets. Passionate in his convictions and devoted to the “plain people,” the “Great Commoner” is depicted in this hostile car- toon as a Populist snake devouring the Democratic Party.

1Five elections, in addition to the contest of 1896, are often cited as critical shifts in voter allegiance and party alignments: the Fed- eralist defeat of 1800, Andrew Jackson’s rise in 1828, Lincoln’s Republican triumph of 1860, Al Smith’s Democratic loss in 1928, and—perhaps—Ronald Reagan’s conservative tide of 1980.

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William McKinle y


271 (61)

7,108,480 (52)

William Jenning s Bryan


176 (39)

6,511,495 (48)

Nonvoting territ ories

Candidate (Party ) Electora

l Vote (%) Po pular Vote (%)

64 4


46 36

32 10 3

8126 23



12 1

12 11

9 13











3 9 12









8 3

11 11


As the century drew to a close, long- standing racialism—categorizing people on the basis of race—deepened. The arrival of “new” immi- grants from eastern and southern Europe and the acquisition of new overseas colonies encouraged prejudices that stridently rationalized white supremacy, segregation and other forms of racial control (page 357). In the South racism was enlisted in a political purpose: preventing an alliance of poor blacks and whites that might topple white conservative Democrats. So the white supremacy campaign was coupled with another, a drive to deprive poor southern- ers of their right to vote. Ostensibly directed at African Americans, these campaigns also had a broader target in the world of politics: rebellion from below, whether black or white.

Mississippi, where Democrats had led the move to “redeem” their state from Republi- can Reconstruction, in 1890 took the lead in disenfranchising African Americans. A new state constitution required voters to pay a poll tax and pass a literacy test, require- ments that eliminated the great majority of black voters. Conservative Democrats

favored the plan, because it also reduced the voting of poor whites, who were most likely to join opposition parties. Before the new constitution went into effect, Mississippi contained more than 250,000 eligible vot- ers. By 1892, after its adoption, there were fewer than 77,000. Between 1895 and 1908, disenfranchisement campaigns won out in every southern state, barring many poor whites from the polls as well.

The disenfranchisement campaign had one final consequence: splitting rebellious whites from blacks, as the fate of Tom Watson demonstrated. Only a dozen years after his biracial campaign of 1892, Watson was promoting black disenfranchisement in Georgia. Like other southern Populists, Watson returned to the Democratic Party still hoping to help poor whites. But he turned against black southerners. Only by playing a powerful race card could he hope to win election. “What does civilization owe the negro?” he asked bit- terly. “Nothing! Nothing!! NOTHING!!! ” In 1920, after a decade of baiting blacks (as well as Catholics and Jews), the Georgia firebrand was elected to the Senate. Watson, who began with such high racial ideals, gained power only by abandoning them.

The African American Response >>   To mount a successful crusade for disenfranchisement, white conservatives inflamed racial passions. They staged “White Supremacy Jubilees” and peppered newspaper editorials with complaints of “bump- tious” and “impudent” African Americans. The number of black lynchings by whites peaked during

campaigns, slim party margins, high voter turnout, and low-profile presidents. The election of 1896 signaled a new era of dwindling party loyalties and voter turnout, stronger presidents, and Republican rule. McKinley’s victory broke the political stalemate and forged a pow- erful coalition that dominated politics for the next 30 years. It rested on the industrial cities of the North- east and Midwest and combined old support from busi- nesses, farmers, and Union Army veterans with broader backing from industrial wage earners. The Democrats controlled little but the South. And the Populists vir- tually vanished, but not before leaving a compound legacy: as a catalyst for political realignment, a cry for federal action, and a prelude to a new age of reform.

The Rise of Jim Crow Politics >>   In 1892, despite the stumping of Populists like Tom Watson, African Americans cast their ballots for Republicans, when they were permitted to vote freely. But increas- ingly, their voting rights were being curtailed across the South.

MAP 21.1 : ELECTION OF 1896 The critical election of 1896 established the Republicans as the majority party, ending two decades of political gridlock with a new political realignment. Republican victor William McKinley domi- nated the large industrial cities and states, as the returns of the Electoral College show.

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instead the need for accepting the prevailing frame- work for race relations and working within it. “I love the South,” he reassured an audience of white and black southerners in Atlanta in 1895. He conceded that white prejudice existed throughout the region but nonetheless counseled African Americans to work for their economic betterment through manual labor. Every laborer who learned a trade, every farmer who tilled the land could increase his or her savings. Those earnings amounted to “a little green ballot” that “no one will throw out or refuse to count.” Toward that end, Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881. It stressed vocational skills for farming, manual trades, and industrial work.

Many white Americans hailed what one black critic called Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise,” for it struck the note of patient humility they were eager to hear. For African Americans, it made the best of a bad situation. Washington, an astute politician, dis- covered that philanthropists across the nation hoped to make Tuskegee an example of their generosity. He was the honored guest of Andrew Carnegie at his imposing Skibo Castle. California railroad magnate Collis Hun- tington became his friend, as did other business exec- utives eager to discuss “public and social questions.”

Throughout, Washington preached accommoda- tion to the racial caste system. He accepted segre- gation (as long as separate facilities were equal) and qualifications on voting (if they applied to white citi- zens as well). Above all, Washington sought economic self-improvement for common black folk in fields and factories. In 1900 he organized the National Negro Business League to help establish black businessmen as the leaders of their people. The rapid growth of local chapters (320 by 1907) extended his influence across the country.

In the “Solid South” (as well as an openly racialized North), it was Washington’s restrained approach that articulated an agenda for most African Americans. The ferment of the early 1890s among black Populists and white was replaced by an all-white Democratic Party that dominated the region for decades to come but remained in the minority on the national level.

McKinley in the White House >>  In William McKinley, Republicans found a skillful chief with a national agenda and personal charm. He cultivated news reporters, openly walked the streets of Washington, and courted the public with handshakes and flowers plucked from his lapel. Firmly but delicately, he curbed the power of state bosses. When necessary, he prodded Congress to action. In all these ways, he foreshadowed “modern” presidents, who would act as party leaders rather than as executive caretakers.

Fortune at first smiled on McKinley. When he entered the White House, the economy had already

the 1890s, averaging over a hundred a year for the decade. Most took place in the South.

Under such circumstances African Americans worked out their own responses to the climate of intolerance. Ida B. Wells, a black woman born into slavery, turned her talents into a nationwide campaign against lynch- ing when a friend and two of his partners in the Peo- ple’s Grocery were brutally murdered after a fight with a white competitor in 1892. She spent much of her time educating Americans about the use of lynching and other forms of mob violence as devices for terrorizing African Americans in the absence of slavery. Though her lobbying failed to produce a federal antilynching law, Wells did help organize black women, eventually into the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. It supported wide-ranging reforms, including education, housing, health care, and, of course, antilynching.

Wells’s campaign focused on mob violence, but another former slave, Booker T. Washington, stressed

̂̂ This black-and-white photo of the charismatic African American activist and educator Booker T. Washington highlights his piercing gray eyes nearly luminous against what one observer described as his “reddish” complexion. Born into slavery, Washington sits here with his legs casually crossed, a literate, well-to-do free man in a suit and tie. (Note the reading material in his lap.) “He wasn’t dark and he wasn’t light,” wrote the composer Zenobia Powell Perry. “I’ll never forget those eyes.” In many ways Washington served as a bridge between white and black worlds and his “in between” complexion may have advanced that role.

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Millions of Dollars

1870 1875 1880 1885 1890 1895 1900 1905 1910




Imports exceed ExportsImports

exceed Exports



entered the race in the late nineteenth century. Spain and Portugal still clung to the remnants of their colo- nial empires. Meanwhile, England, France, and Rus- sia accelerated their drive to control foreign peoples and lands. The late nineteenth century became the new age of imperialism because weapons technology and new networks of communication, transportation, and com- merce brought the pros- pect of effective, truly global empires within reach.

The speed and efficiency with which Europeans took over in the Niger and Congo basins of Africa in the 1880s prompted many Americans to argue for this European-style imperialism of conquest and possession. Germany, Japan, and Belgium were eagerly joining the hunt for colonies. But other Americans preferred a more indirect imperialism: one that exported products, ideas, and influence. To them, this American-style imperi- alism seemed somehow purer, for they could portray themselves as bearers of long-cherished values: democ- racy, free-enterprise capitalism, and Christianity.

begun its recovery. Factory orders were slowly increas- ing, and unemployment dropped. Farm prices climbed. New discoveries of gold in Alaska and South Africa expanded the supply of money without causing “gold bugs” to panic that it was being destabilized by silver.

Freed from the burdens of the economic crisis, McKinley called a special session of Congress to revise the tariff. In 1897 the Dingley Tariff raised protec- tive rates still higher but followed the strategy of reci- procity by allowing U.S. tariffs to come down if other nations lowered theirs. McKinley also sought a solution for resolving railroad strikes before they turned vio- lent. The Erdman Act of 1898 set up machinery for government mediation. McKinley even began laying plans for stronger regulation of trusts.

The same expansiveness that had pushed an indus- trial nation across the continent and shipped grain and cotton abroad was also drawing the country into a race for empire and a war with Spain. Regulation—and an age of reform—would have to await the next century. ✔ R E V I E W How did the election of 1896 resolve the “Politics of Stalemate” of the late nineteenth century?


The war with Spain was only the affair of the moment that turned American atten- tion abroad. Underlying the conflict were larger forces linking the United States to the world economy and international events. By the 1890s, southern farmers were exporting half their cotton crop to factories worldwide. Western wheat farmers earned some 30 to 40 percent of their income from foreign mar- kets. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Com- pany shipped about two-thirds of its refined products overseas, and Cyrus McCormick supplied Russian farmers with the reaper.

More than commerce turned American eyes overseas. Since the 1840s, expansionists had spoken of a divine destiny to overspread the North American continent. Some Americans still cast covetous glances at Canada to the north and Mexico and Cuba to the south. And they dreamed of empire in more-distant lands.

Imperialism, European-Style and Ameri- can >>  The scramble for empire was well under way by the time the Americans, Japanese, and Germans

imperialism acquisition of control over the govern- ment and the economy of another nation, usually by conquest.

BALANCE OF U.S. IMPORTS AND EXPORTS, 1870–1910 After the depression of 1893 both imports and exports rose sharply, suggesting one reason why the age of imperialism was so closely linked with the emerging global industrial economy.

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was present at the end of the nineteenth century, the small farmer or steelworker was little concerned with how the United States advanced its goals abroad. An elite group—Christian missionaries, intellectu- als, business leaders, and commercial farmers—joined navy careerists to shape American imperialism. In doing so, they lobbied the White House and Congress, where foreign policy was made, and the State and War Departments, where it was carried out.

The success of imperial ventures depended on a strong navy, whether to project American might

While Americans tried to justify imperial control in the name of such values, social, economic, and politi- cal forces were drawing them rapidly into the imperial race. The growth of industrial networks linked them to international markets as never before. With economic systems more tightly knit and political systems more responsive to industrialists and financiers, a rush for markets and distant lands was perhaps unavoidable.

The Shapers of American Imperialism >>   Although the climate for expansion and imperialism

MAP 21.2 : IMPERIALIST EXPANSION, 1900 Often resource-poor countries such as Great Britain sought colonies for their raw materials—for example, South African diamonds and tin from Southeast Asia. While China appears to be undivided, the major powers were busy establishing spheres of influence there. How did the political map of Africa change between 1878 (see inset) and 1900? Which colonial powers lost and gained the most territory on that continent? What geographic factors explain the location of U.S. possessions abroad?


Tea Silk



Rubber Tin


Gold Wool


Copper Meat

















United States



























. A FR

























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̂̂ Missionaries often viewed the Chinese as uncivilized “heathen,” whose souls needed saving and whose culture needed civilizing. This cartoon, published around 1900, pokes fun at the common stereotype by suggesting what the Chinese must think of the American “heathen.” “Contributions Received Here to Save the Foreign Devils,” reads the sign of the Chinese “preacher,” who laments the uncivilized behavior of corrupt American city governments, feuding backwoodsmen, rioting laborers, and mobs tormenting Chinese and black Americans.

Mahan’s logic was so persuasive and the profits to be reaped by American factories so great that in the 1880s Congress launched a program to rebuild the old wood-and-sail navy with steam vessels made of steel. By 1900 the U.S. Navy ranked third in the world. With a modern navy the country had the means to become an imperial power.

Protestant missionaries provided a spiritual rationale that complemented Mahan’s navalism. Because mission- aries often encountered people whose cultural differences made them unreceptive to the Christian message, many believed that the natives first had to become Western in culture before becoming Christian in belief. They intro- duced Western goods, education, and systems of gov- ernment administration—any “civilizing medium,” as one minister remarked. Yet most American missionaries were not territorial imperialists. They eagerly took up what they called the “White Man’s Burden” of intro- ducing civilization to the “colored” races of the world but opposed direct military or political intervention.

From scholars, academics, and scientists came racial theories to justify European and American

abroad or to guard the sea lanes of commerce. But by 1880 the once-proud Civil War fleet of more than 600 warships was rotting from neglect. The U.S. Navy ranked twelfth in the world, behind Denmark and Chile. The United States had a coastal fleet but no functional fleet to protect its interests overseas. Discontented navy officers combined with trade- hungry business leaders to lobby Congress for a modern navy.

Alfred Thayer Mahan, a navy captain and later admiral, formulated their ideas into a widely accepted theory of navalism . In The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890), Mahan argued that great nations were seafaring powers that relied on foreign trade for wealth and might. The only way to protect foreign markets, Mahan reasoned, was with large cruisers and battleships. These ships, operating far from American shores, would need coaling stations and other facilities to resupply them throughout the world.

navalism theories of war- fare and trade that rely on a nation’s navy as a princi- pal instrument of policy.

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to markets in the Far East. In pursuit of these goals Seward made two acquisitions in 1867: Midway Island in the Pacific, and Alaska. Midway was unimportant by itself; its value lay in being a way station to Asia not far from Hawai’i, where missionary planters were already establishing an American presence. Critics called Alaska “Seward’s Folly,” but he paid only about 2 cents an acre for a mineral-rich territory twice the size of Texas.

Seward’s conviction that the future of the United States lay in the Pacific and Asia flourished only in the 1890s, when Mahan provided the naval theory nec- essary to make the leap and the vanishing American frontier supplied an economic rationale for extend- ing Manifest Destiny beyond continental borders of the nation. But in the 1880s Secretary of State James G. Blaine began to look for ways to expand American trade and influence southward into Central and South America, where Great Britain had interests of its own to protect.

Blaine launched a campaign to cancel the Clayton- Bulwer Treaty (1850), which shared rights with Great Britain to any canal built in Central America. In 1901 Great Britain finally ceded its interest in building a canal across the Central American isthmus in return for a U.S. promise to leave such a canal open to ships of all nations. Blaine also tried to shift Central American imports from British to U.S. goods by proposing that a “customs union” be created to reduce trade barriers in the Americas. His efforts resulted only in a weak Pan-American Union to foster peaceful understanding in the region.

If American expansionists wanted to extend trade across the Pacific to China, Hawai’i was the cru- cial link. It afforded a fine naval base and a refuel- ing station along the route to Asia. In 1893 American

sugar planters overthrew the recently enthroned Queen Liliuokalani, a Hawaiian nation- alist eager to rid the island of Ameri-

can influence. Their success was ensured when a contingent of U.S.

marines arrived ashore on the pretext of protecting American lives. Eager to avoid the McKinley Tariff’s

new tax on sugar imported into the United States, planters lobbied for

the annexation of Hawai’i, but President Cleveland refused. He was no foe of expansion but was, as his secretary of state noted, “unalterably opposed to stealing territory, or of annexing people against

expansion. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Spe- cies (1859) had popularized the notion that among animal species, the fittest survived through a pro- cess of natural selection. Social Darwinists argued that the same laws of survival governed the social order. When applied aggressively, social Darwinism was used to justify theories of white supremacy as well as the slaughter and enslavement of nonwhite native peo- ples who resisted conquest. When combined with the somewhat more humane “White Man’s Burden” of Christian missionaries, American imperialism included uplifting natives by spreading Western ideas, religion, and government.

Perhaps more compelling than either racial or reli- gious motives for American expansion was the need for trade. The business cycle of boom and bust reminded Americans of the unpredictability of their economy. In hard times people sought salvation wherever they could, and one obvious road to redemption lay in mar- kets abroad. With American companies outgrowing the home market, explained the National Association of Manufacturers, “expansion of our foreign trade is [the] only promise of relief.”

Dreams of a Commercial Empire  >> No one did more to initiate the idea of a “New Empire” of commerce for the United States than William Henry Seward, secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Seward believed that “empire has . . . made its way constantly westward . . . until the tides of the renewed and decaying civi- lizations of the world meet on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.” The United States must thus be prepared to win supremacy in the Far East—not by planting colonies or sending troops but by pursuing commerce. Equal access to foreign markets, often called the “open door,” guided American policy in Asia and made Seward’s strategy truly revolutionary.

While he pursued ties to Japan, Korea, and China, Seward promoted a transcontinen- tal railroad at home and a canal across the Central American isthmus. Link by link, he was trying to con- nect eastern factories to western ports in the United States and, from there,

̂̂ When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, few people would have thought of it as a weapon of conquest. But when Americans and Europeans brought the machine to less technologically advanced societies, native peoples were awestruck by the sounds it made and sometimes cowed by those who controlled it. These white men, it appeared, had the power to conjure up the voices of invisible speakers and sum- mon music from the air.

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Cabot Lodge urged a more forceful policy. In 1896 they succeeded in writing an imperial wish list into the Republican national platform: annexation of Hawai’i, the construction of a Nicaraguan canal, purchase of the Virgin Islands, and more naval expansion. They also called for recognition of Cuban independence, a step that, if taken, would likely provoke war with Spain. When William McKinley entered the White House, however, his Republican supporters found only a moderate expansionist. Cautiously, privately, he lobbied Spain to stop cracking down on the rebels and destroying American property.

In 1897 Spain promised to remove the much-despised Weyler, end the reconcentration policy, and offer Cuba greater autonomy. The shift encouraged McKinley to resist pressure at home for more hostile action. But leaders of the Spanish army in Cuba had no desire to compromise. Although Weyler was removed the mili- tary renewed efforts to crush the rebels and stirred pro-army riots in the streets of Havana. Early in 1898 McKinley dispatched the battleship Maine to show that the United States meant to protect its interests and its citizens.

Then in February 1898 the State Department received a stolen copy of a letter to Cuba sent by the Spanish minister in Washington, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme. So did William Randolph Hearst, a pioneer of sensational- ist, or “yellow,” journalism who was eager for war with Spain. “ WORST INSULT TO THE UNITED STATES IN ITS HISTORY, ” screamed the headline of Hearst’s New York Journal. What had de Lôme actually written? After referring to McKinley as a mere “would-be politician,” the letter admitted that Spain had no intention of changing its policy of crush- ing the rebels. Red-faced Spanish officials immediately recalled de Lôme, but most Americans now believed that Spain had deceived the United States.

On February 15, 1898, as the Maine lay at anchor in Havana Harbor, explosions ripped through the hull. Within minutes the ship sank to the bottom, kill- ing some 260 American sailors. Much later an offi- cial investigation concluded that the explosion was the result of spontaneous combustion in a coal bun- ker aboard ship. Most Americans at the time, inflamed by hysterical news accounts, concluded that Spanish agents had sabotaged the ship.

Pressures for war proved too great to resist, and on April 11, McKinley asked Congress to autho- rize “forceful intervention” in Cuba. Nine days later Congress recognized Cuban independence, insisted on the withdrawal of Spanish forces, and gave the president authority to use military force. In a flush

their consent, and the people of Hawai’i do not favor annexation.” The idea of incorporating the nonwhite population also troubled Cleveland. For a time, mat- ters stood at a stalemate.

✔ R E V I E W What social, economic, and cultural factors drew the United States into the race for empire?

yellow journalism brand of newspaper reporting that stresses excitement and shock over even- handedness and dull fact.


In 1895, after almost 15 years of planning from exile in the United States, José Martí returned to Cuba to renew the struggle for independence from Spain. With cries of Cuba libre (“free Cuba”), Martí and his rebels cut railroad lines, destroyed sugar mills, and set fire to cane fields. Within a year rebel forces controlled more than half the island. But even as they fought the Spanish, the rebels worried about the United States. Their island, just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, had long been a target of American expansionists and business interests. “I have lived in the bowels of the monster,” Martí said in reference to the United States, “and I know it.”

The Spanish overlords struck back at Martí and his followers with brutal violence. Governor-General Valeriano Weyler herded a half-million Cubans from their homes into fortified camps where filth, disease, and starvation killed perhaps 200,000. Outside these “reconcentration” camps, Weyler chased the rebels across the countryside, polluting drinking water, kill- ing farm animals, burning crops. By 1898 U.S. soldiers were fighting Spaniards in Cuba and the Philippines in what Secretary of State John Hay called “the splen- did little war.” Neither the Cubans nor the Filipinos emerged from the conflict as free as they hoped.

Mounting Tensions  >>   President Cleve- land had little sympathy for the Cuban revolt. He doubted that the mostly black population was capa- ble of self-government and feared that independence from Spain might lead to chaos on the island. Already the revolution had caused widespread destruction of American-owned property. The president settled on a policy that favored neither the Spanish nor the reb- els: opposing the rebellion, but pressing Spain to grant Cuba some freedoms.

In the Republican Party, expansionists such as Theodore Roosevelt and Massachusetts senator Henry

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̂̂ The grisly depiction of the explosion that sank the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, complete with a panel titled “Recovering the Dead Bodies” ( upper right ). Illustrations such as this one helped jingoists turn the event into a battle cry, “Remember the Maine.”

of idealism, Congress also adopted the Teller Amend- ment, renouncing any aim to annex Cuba.

Certainly both idealism and moral outrage led many Americans down the path to war. But in the end, the “splendid little war” came as a result of less lofty ambitions: empire, trade, glory.

The Imperial War >>  For the 5,462 men who died there was little splendid about the Spanish- American War. Only 379 gave their lives in battle. The rest succumbed to accidents, disease, and the misman- agement of an unprepared army. Troops were issued winter woolens rather than tropical uniforms and sometimes fed on rations that were diseased, rotten, or poisoned. Some soldiers found themselves fighting with weapons from the Civil War.

The navy fared better. Decisions in the 1880s to modernize the fleet paid handsome dividends. Naval battles largely determined the outcome of the war. As soon as war was declared, Admiral George Dewey ordered his Asiatic battle squadron from China to the Philippines. Just before dawn on May 1, he opened fire

on the Spanish ships in Manila Bay. Five hours later the entire Spanish squadron lay at the bottom of the bay. Dewey had no plans to follow up his stunning victory with an invasion. His fleet carried no marines with which to take Manila. So ill prepared was Pres- ident McKinley for war, let alone victory, that only after learning of Dewey’s success did he order 11,000 American troops to the Philippines.

Halfway around the globe, another Spanish fleet had slipped into Santiago harbor in Cuba just before the arrival of the U.S. Navy. The navy blockaded the island, expecting the Spanish to flee under the cover of darkness. Instead, in broad daylight on July 3, the Spanish fleet made a desperate dash for the open seas. So startled were the Americans that several of their ships nearly collided as they rushed to attack their exposed foes. All seven Spanish ships were sunk. With Cuba now cut off from Spain, the war was virtually won.

Without a fleet for cover or any way to escape, the Spanish garrison surrendered on July 17. In the Philippines, a similar brief battle preceded the

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South China


Luzon Strait

Philippine Sea


Sulu Sea

Celebes Sea



Taiwan (Japanese)





Hong Kong (Br.)



Gulf of Mexico

C a r i b b e a n S e a


ai ts

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Flo rid















Philippine Arena Caribbean Arena


Manila Bay

B a

t a a


Manila surrenders August 13, 1898

Spanish fleet destroyed

May 1, 1898



Caribbean Sea

Las Guásimas June 24

El Caney July 1

Spanish fleet destroyed

July 3

San Juan July 1 Kettle Hill

July 1


Santiago de Cuba CERVERA, M

ay 19

(from Spain)



USS Maine sunk February 1898


Baham as (Br.)

Puerto Rico (ceded to U.S.)

Jamaica (Br.)


Santiago de Cuba

San Juan


Key West


0 400 mi

0 400 800 km

0 5 mi

0 5 10 km

0 400 mi

0 400 800 km

U.S. forces

U.S. blockade

U.S. victories

Spanish forces


American taking of Manila on August 13. The “splen- did little war” had ended in less than four months.

Peace and the Debate over Empire >>  Con- quering Cuba and the Philippines proved easier than deciding what to do with them. The Teller Amend- ment had renounced any American claim to Cuba. But clearly the United States had not freed the island to see chaos reign or American business and military interests excluded. And what of the Philippines—and Spanish Puerto Rico, which American forces had taken without a struggle? Powerful public and congressio- nal sentiment pushed McKinley to claim empire as the fruits of victory.

Even the president favored such a course. The battle in the Pacific highlighted the need for naval bases and coaling stations. “To maintain our flag in the Philippines, we must raise our flag in Hawaii,” the New York Sun insisted. On July 7 McKinley signed a joint congressional resolution annexing Hawai’i, as planters had wanted for nearly a decade.

The Philippines presented a more difficult prob- lem. Filipinos had greeted the American forces as liberators, not new colonizers. The popular leader of

the rebel forces fighting Spain, Emilio Aguinaldo, had returned to the islands on an American ship. To the rebels’ dismay, McKinley insisted that the islands were under American authority until the peace treaty set- tled matters.

Many influential Americans—former president Grover Cleveland, steel baron Andrew Carnegie, novel- ist Mark Twain—opposed annexation of the Philippines. Yet even these anti-imperialists favored expansion, if only in the form of trade. Business leaders especially believed that the country could enjoy the economic benefits of the Philippines without the costs of main- taining it as a colony. Annexation would mire the United States too deeply in the quicksands of Asian politics, they argued. More important, a large, costly fleet would be necessary to defend the islands. To the imperialists that was precisely the point: a large fleet was crucial to the interests of a powerful commercial nation.

Racist ideas shaped both sides of the argu- ment. Imperialists believed that the racial inferior- ity of nonwhites made occupation of the Philippines necessary, and they were ready to assume the “white man’s burden” and govern. Gradually, they argued, Filipinos would be taught the virtues of Western

MAP 21.3 : THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR Had the Spanish-American war depended largely on ground forces, the ill-prepared U.S. Army might have fared poorly. But the key to success, in both Cuba and the Philippines, was naval warfare, in which the recently modernized American fleet had a critical edge. Proximity to Cuba also gave the United States an advantage in delivering troops and supplies and in maintaining a naval blockade that isolated Spanish forces. What role did the U.S. Navy play in winning the Spanish-American War?

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civilization, Christianity, 2 democracy, and self-rule. Anti- imperialists, however, feared racial intermix- ing and the possibility that Asian workers would flood the American labor market. They also maintained that dark-skinned people would never develop the capac- ity for self- government. An American government in the Philippines could be sustained only at the point of bayonets—yet the U.S. Constitution made no provision for governing people without representation or equal rights. Such a precedent, the anti-imperialists warned, might one day threaten American liberties at home.

Still, when the Senate debated the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish-American War in 1898, the impe- rialists had the support of the president, most of Con- gress, and the majority of public opinion. Even such an anti-imperialist as William Jennings Bryan, defeated by McKinley in 1896, supported the treaty. In it Spain surrendered title to Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and in return for $20 mil- lion turned over the Philippines as well.

From Colonial War to Colonial Rule >>   Managing an empire turned out to be even more devilish than acquiring one. As the Senate debated annexation of the Philippines in Washington in 1899, rebels clashed with an American patrol outside Manila, igniting a guerrilla war. The few Americans who paid attention called it the “Filipino insurrection,” but to those who fought, it was the Philippine- American

War. When it ended more than three years later, nearly 5,000 Americans, 25,000 rebels, and perhaps as many as 200,000 civilians lay dead.

After a series of conventional battles ended in their defeat, Filipino insurrectos quickly learned to take advantage of the mountainous, jungle terrain of the Philippine archipelago. From his hideaway in the mountains of Bayombong, Aguinaldo ordered his men to employ guerrilla (literally “little war” in Spanish) tactics. Hit-and-run ambushes by lightly armed reb- els were perfectly suited to the dense landscape. As insurrectos melted into tropical forests and friendly villages, Americans could barely distinguish between enemies and friends. It was the first instance of jungle warfare the United States had ever encountered.

Jungle warfare aggravated racial antagonisms and spurred savage fighting on both sides. Rebel resistance to foreign occupation was accompanied by reports of insurrectos treating American prisoners in “fiend- ish fashion,” burying some alive, dismembering oth- ers, and slaughtering even Filipinos who opposed them. For their part American soldiers dismissed Filipinos as nearly subhuman. “The only good Filipino is a dead one,” declared one U.S. soldier, echoing the infamous anti-Indian cry of the American West.

To combat the insurgents, General Arthur MacArthur imposed a brutal campaign of “pacification” late in 1899. Filipinos were herded into concentration camps for their protection, and food and crops were seized or torched to starve the rebels into surrender. The strategy was embarrassingly reminiscent of “Butcher” Weyler in Cuba. Only after the capture of Agui- naldo and the last gasps of rebel resistance did the war finally come to a close in 1902. It marked the end of the westward march of American empire that began with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Despite the bitter guerrilla war, the United States ruled its new island territory with relative benevolence. Under William Howard Taft, the first civilian governor, the Americans built schools, roads, sewers, and facto- ries and inaugurated new farming techniques. The aim, said Taft, was to prepare the Philippines for indepen- dence, and to prove it, he granted great authority to local officials. These advances—social, economic, and political—benefited the Filipino elite and thus earned their support. Finally, on July 4, 1946, the Philippines were granted independence.

The United States played a similar role in Puerto Rico. As in the Philippines, executive authority resided in a governor appointed by the U.S. president. Under the Foraker Act of 1900 Puerto Ricans received a voice in their government as well as a nonvoting representa- tive in the U.S. House of Representatives and certain tariff advantages. All the same, many Puerto Ricans chafed at the idea of such second-class citizenship. Some favored eventual admission to the United States

2In point of fact, most Filipinos were already Catholic after many years under Spanish rule.

̂̂ The American decision to occupy the Philippines rather than give it independence compelled Filipino nationalists like these to fight U.S. troops, as they had already been fighting the Spanish since 1896. Sporadic, bloody guerrilla fighting continued until 1902, and other incidents persisted until 1906.

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as a state while others advocated independence, a division of opinion that persists even today.

An Open Door in China >>   Interest in Asia drove the United States to annex the Philippines; and annexation of the Philippines established the United States as a Pacific power with an eye on Asia. As ever, the possibility of markets in China—whether for Chris- tian souls or consumer goods—proved an irresistible lure.

Both the British, who dominated China’s export trade, and the Americans, who wanted to, worried that China might soon be carved up by other powers. Japan had defeated China in 1895, encouraging Russia, Germany, and France to join in demanding trade conces- sions. Each nation sought to establish an Asian sphere of influence in which its com- mercial and military interests

reigned. Such spheres often ended in commercial and other restrictions against rival powers. Since Britain and the United States wanted the benefits of trade rather than actual colonies, they tried to limit foreign demands while leaving China open to all commerce.

In 1899, at the urging of the British, Secretary of State John Hay circulated the first of two “open door” notes among the imperial powers. He did not ask them to relinquish their spheres of influence in China, only to keep them open to free trade with other nations. Japan and most of the European powers agreed in broad outline with Hay’s policy, out of fear that the Americans might tip the delicate balance by sid- ing with a rival. Hay seized on the tepid response and brashly announced that the open door in China was international policy.

Unrest soon threatened to close the door. Chinese nationalists, known to Westerners as Boxers for their clenched-fist symbol, formed secret societies to drive

sphere of influence geo- graphic region beyond its border over which a nation exerts political or economic control.

MAP 21.4 : THE UNITED STATES IN THE PACIFIC In the late nineteenth century Germany and the United States emerged as Pacific naval powers and contestants for influence and trade in China. The island groups of the Central and Southwest Pacific were of little economic value but had great strategic worth as bases and coaling stations along the route to Asia. In what year did the United States gain more Pacific possessions than in any other? Which islands were its earliest acquisitions?



Visaya Is.



Philippine Sea

Coral Sea

South China


Celebes Sea

Salu Sea

East China






(German) (German)


PHILIPPINES (Ceded by Spain,


PALAU (German)







WAKE I. (1898)

JOHNSTON I. (1898)

PALMYRA I. (1898)

JARVIS I. (1857)


HOWLAND I. (1857)

BAKER I. (1859)


FIJI IS. (Br.)






MARIANA IS. (German)


GUAM (Ceded by Spain,



MIDWAY IS. (Annexed 1898)

HAWAIIAN IS. (Annexed 1898)

Hong Kong (Br.)



0 1000 mi

0 1000 2000 km

U.S. possessions, 1900

Area of Philippine- American War, 1899–1902

U.S. forces, 1898

Niihau Kauai

Oahu Molokai

Maui Kaho’olawe


Lanai Honolulu


0 100 mi

0 100 200 km


Pago Pago




Ofu Olusega Manua Is. (1904)





0 50 mi

0 50 100 km

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out the fon kwei, or “foreign devils.” Encouraged by the Chinese empress, Boxers murdered hundreds of Christian missionaries and their followers and besieged foreign diplomats and citizens at the British Embassy in Beijing. European nations quickly dispatched troops to quell the uprising and free the diplomats, while President McKinley sent 2,500 Americans to join the march to the capital city. Along the way, the angry foreign armies plundered the countryside and killed civilians before reaching Beijing and breaking the siege.

Hay feared that once in control of Beijing the conquerors might never leave, so he sent a second open-door note in 1900, this time asking foreign pow- ers to respect China’s territorial and administrative integrity. They endorsed the proposal in principle only. In fact the open-door notes together amounted to lit- tle more than an announcement of American desires to maintain stability and trade in Asia. Yet they reflected a fundamental purpose to which the United States dedicated itself across the globe: to open closed mar- kets and to keep open those markets that other empires had yet to close. The new American empire would have its share of colonies, but in Asia as elsewhere it would be built primarily on trade.

“Send forth the best ye breed— / Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need.”

European critics, like those in the United States, rejected imperialism on the grounds that it delivered few economic benefits, compromised the moral stand- ing of the colonizers, and distracted the public from undertaking much-needed reforms at home. Just as Populists in the United States called on “toilers” to band together and on government to play a more active role in managing the excesses of the new industrial order, radicals in Europe such as the German-born Karl Marx exhorted “workers of the world” to unite and “throw off your chains” by abandoning capitalism and embracing socialism.

✔ R E V I E W Why did imperialists launch their quest for empire, and why did anti-imperialists oppose them?

In the end, the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposi- tion of 1893 proved an apt reflection of the world at home and abroad. Though the exposition showed off its exhibits within gleaming white buildings, at the same time the political system cracked under the strain of a depression. As the exposition gath- ered exhibits from all over the globe, the scramble for resources and markets culminated in an age of imperialism. National greatness walked hand in hand with empire in the gleaming plaster buildings of the White City. Employing the gendered language of the day, one German historian proclaimed: “Every virile people has established colonial power.” The United States joined the rush somewhat late, trailing behind the French, British, Germans, and Dutch in part because it was still extracting raw materials from its own “colonial” regions in the defeated South and the booming West.

As in the United States, European imperialists sometimes justified their rule over nonwhite peoples in Darwinian fashion. “The path of progress is strewn with the wreck . . . of inferior races,” proclaimed one English professor in 1900. British poet Rudyard Kipling even suggested that Europeans were making a noble sacrifice on behalf of their colonial subjects. “Take up the White Man’s Burden,” he exhorted his fellow Britons in 1899.

CHAPTER SUMMARY The last third of the nineteenth century witnessed the culmination of years of political stalemate at home and the realization of dreams of empire abroad. " Republicans and Democrats ground politics into

near gridlock over the well-worn issues of regional conflict, tariff, and monetary reform.

" Discontented Americans often fashioned political instruments of their own, whether for woman suf- frage, temperance, monetary change, antilynching and civil rights, or farm issues.

" The political deadlock came finally to an end in the turbulent 1890s, when depression-spawned labor strife and a revolt of farmers produced the People’s, or Populist, Party and a political realignment that left the Republicans in control of national politics.

" By the 1890s, too, the tradition of Manifest Des- tiny combined powerfully with the needs of the new industrial order for raw materials and markets and the closing of the American frontier to produce a powerful drive toward empire, which rested on these two principles of American foreign policy:

► The old Monroe Doctrine (1823), which warned European powers to stay out of the Americas.

► The newer open-door notes of Secretary of State John Hay (1899–1900), which stressed the importance of equal commercial access to the markets of Asia.

" Most Americans favored an overseas empire for the United States but disagreed over whether it should be territorial or commercial.

" In the end America’s overseas empire was both ter- ritorial and commercial. A victory in the Spanish- American War (1898) capped an era of territorial and commercial expansion by furnishing colonial possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific and at the same time providing more stepping-stones to the markets of Asia.

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Additional Reading Heather Richardson, West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (2007), is a good overview. Republican Party politics from Lincoln to the election of George W. Bush is covered in Lewis L. Gould’s Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans (2003). John Hicks’s classic The Populist Revolt (1931) emphasizes poverty as the driving force behind Populism; while Lawrence Goodwyn portrays Populists as crusaders for radical democratic change in Democratic Promise: The Populist Movement in America (1976). Also useful is Robert C. McMath Jr., American Populism: A Social History, 1877–1898 (1993); and Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (2007). Michael Kazin stresses William Jennings Bryan’s reli- gious moorings and liberal instincts in A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan (2006). Charles Hoffman, The Depression of the Nineties: An Eco- nomic History (1970), provides a lucid profile of the crisis. Theda Skocpol’s Protecting Soldiers and Moth- ers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (1994), stresses the nineteenth-century origins of the welfare state and the interplay between the state and nongovernmental political groups.

On the spread of segregation, see C. Vann Wood- ward’s classic The Strange Career of Jim Crow (4th ed., 2002). Woodward focuses on changes in the law, while John Cell, The Highest Stage of White Supremacy (1982), points to the role of the city. Con- trasting approaches to race relations can be seen in Louis Harlan’s two-volume Booker T. Washington (1972 and 1983); and David Levering Lewis’s W.E.B. DuBois: Biography of a Race (1993). James West Davidson uses Ida B. Wells to provide a cultural portrait of the first generation of freed African Americans in “ They Say”: Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race (2007).

For broad interpretive views of American for- eign policy, see Michael Hunt, Ideology and American Foreign Policy (1984); John Dobson, America’s Ascent: The United States Becomes a Great Power, 1880–1914 (1978); and Walter LaFeber, The American Age (1989). A. G. Hopkins, ed., Global History: Inter- actions between the Universal and the Local (2006), provides useful cultural perspectives. For regional approaches, see LaFeber’s Inevitable Revolutions (3rd ed., 1993) on Central America; and Hunt’s The Making of a Special Relationship (1983) on China. On the role of missionaries, see Jane Hunter’s The Gospel of Gen- tility: American Women Missionaries in Turn-of- the-Century China (1984). Ivan Musicant, Empire by Default (1998), covers the Spanish-American War and its consequences. For the Philippines, see Stanley Kar- now’s In Our Image (1989); and Brian McAlister Linn’s thorough study of The Philippine War (2000).

Significant Events 1867 Patrons of Husbandry (“Grange”) founded; Alaska acquired

1874 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union formed

1877 Munn v. Illinois

1887 Interstate Commerce Commission created

1892 Populist Party formed;

Grover Cleveland elected president

1894 Coxey’s army marches on


1899 First open-door notes

1900 Boxer Rebellion

1881 Garfield assassinated; Booker T. Washington founds Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute

1890 Sherman Antitrust Act; Ocala Demands

1893 Panic of 1893

1898 Sinking of the USS Maine; war with Spain; Dewey captures the Philippines; Hawai’i annexed

1899–1902 Philippine-American War

1869 Massachusetts

establishes first state regulatory commission

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Women in Cleve- land, Ohio, orga- nize to turn out the vote in 1912. They lost this particular fight: the Nineteenth Amendment, accomplishing their goal nation- ally, was not rati- fied until 1920.

>> An American Story

burned alive in the city

Q uitting time, March 25, 1911. The fire started in the lofts as the workers were leaving their sewing machines at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. In minutes the top stories of the Asch building were ablaze. Terrified seam- stresses groped through the black smoke, only to find exits locked or clogged with bodies. All but one of the few working fire escapes collapsed.

When the fire trucks arrived, firefighters discovered that their ladders could not reach the top stories. “Spectators saw again and again pitiable companionships formed in the instant of death—girls who placed their arms around each other as they leaped,” read one news story. Their bodies hit the sidewalk with a sickening thud or were spiked on the iron guard rails. One hundred forty-six people died, most of them young immigrant women.


The Progressive Era


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As many as 80,000 New Yorkers marched up Fifth Avenue in the rain. At the Metropolitan Opera House, union leader Rose Schneiderman told a rally: “This is not the first time that girls have been burned alive in the city.” Over the next four years the recommendations of a special state commission produced 56 state laws regulating fire safety, hours, machinery, and home-based work. They amounted to the most far- reaching labor code in the country.

The Triangle fire shocked the nation and underscored a growing crisis: modern industrial society had created profound strains, widespread misery, and deep class divisions. Corporations grew to unimagined size, bought and sold legislators, dic- tated the terms of their own profit. Men, women, and children worked around the clock in dangerous fac- tories for barely living wages. In cit- ies across America, tenement-bred disease took innocent lives, crimi- nals threatened people and property, saloons tied the working poor to dis- honest political bosses. Even among the middle class, mild but persistent inflation was shrinking their wallets. “It was a world of greed,” concluded one worker; “the human being didn’t mean anything.”

Human beings did mean some- thing to followers of an influential drive for reform sweeping the country. Pro- gressivism had emerged in the mid- 1890s and lasted through World War I. The campaign sprang from many impulses, mixing a liberal concern

for the poor and working class with conservative efforts to stabilize busi- ness and avoid class warfare. Above all, progressives wanted to soften the harsh impact of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration.

Progressivism began in the cit- ies, where those forces converged. It was organized by an angry, idealistic middle class and percolated up from neighborhoods to city halls, state cap- itals, and, finally, Washington, D.C. Though usually pursued through poli- tics, the goals of progressives were broadly social—to create a “good society” where people could live decently, harmoniously, and prosper- ously, along middle-class guidelines.

Unlike earlier reformers, progres- sives saw government as a protector,

not an oppressor. Only government possessed the resources for the broad-based reforms they sought. Progressivism spawned the mod- ern activist state, with its capacity to regulate the economy and man- age society. And because American society had become so interdepen- dent, progressivism became the first nationwide reform campaign. No political party monopolized it. It flowered in the presidencies of Republican Theodore Roosevelt and Democrat Woodrow Wilson. In 1912 it even spawned its own party, the Progressive, or “Bull Moose,” Party. By then progressivism had filtered well beyond politics into every realm

of American life. <<

What ’s to CCoomme 444 The Roots of Progressive Reform

446 The Search for the Good Society

450 Controlling the Masses

̂̂ In 1911 the fiery deaths of 146 people at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company shocked the nation. Firefighters arrived within minutes, but their ladders could not reach the top stories. Trapped by locked doors, those who failed to escape perished within or leaped to their deaths on the streets below. Following the horrifying episode, New York enacted the most ambitious labor code in the country.

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Progressives claimed that their

reforms protected “good people”

from “bad interests.” Did they?



American system as sound, in need of only adjustment. Many drew on Darwinian theories of evolution to but- tress this gradual approach to change. With its notion of slowly changing species, evolution undermined the acceptance of fixed principles that guided social thought in the so-called Gilded Age, the period roughly from 1860 to 1900. Progressives saw an evolving landscape of shifting values. They denied the commonly held doc- trine of inborn sinfulness and instead saw people as having a greater potential for good than evil.

Progressives still had to explain the existence of evil and wrongdoing. Most agreed that human beings were “largely, if not wholly, products of society or envi- ronment.” People went wrong, wrote one progressive, because of “what happens to them.” If what happened to “bad people” could be changed, the human potential for good could be released.

With an eye to results, progressives asked not “Is it true?” but “Does it work?” Philosopher Charles Peirce called this new way of thinking “ pragmatism. ” Wil-

liam James, a Harvard psy- chologist, became its most famous popularizer. For James, pragmatism meant “looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts.”

The Pragmatic Approach >>  Pragmatism led educators, social scientists, and lawyers to adopt new approaches to reform. John Dewey, the master educator


REFORM Families turned from their homes; an army of unem- ployed on the roads; hunger, strikes, and bloody violence across the country—the wrenching depres- sion of 1893 forced Americans to take stock of their new industrial order. They saw a society increasingly divided by class, race, and ethnicity. They also found common complaints that cut across those same lines. If streetcar companies raised fares while service deterio- rated, if food processors doctored their canned goods with harmful additives, if politicians skimmed money from the public till, everyone suffered.

The result was not a coherent progressive move- ment but a set of loosely connected reforms: efficient government and honest politics; greater regulation of business and a more orderly economy; social jus- tice for the urban poor and social welfare to protect children, women, workers, and consumers. Some pro- gressives looked to purify society by outlawing alcohol and drugs, stamping out prostitution and slums, and restricting the flood of new immigrants. All tried to make business and government more responsive to the democratic will of the people.

Paternalistic by nature, progressives often imposed their solutions no matter what the poor or oppressed saw as their own best inter- ests. Progressives acted partly out of nostal- gia. They wanted to redeem such traditional American values as democracy, individual opportunity, and public service. And finally progressives sought to save the nation from a second civil war born of class conflict.

If their ends were traditional, their means were modern. They used the systems and methods of the new industrial order— the latest techniques of organization, man- agement, and science—to fight its excesses.

Progressive Beliefs  >>   Progressives were moderate modernizers. They accepted the

453 The Politics of Municipal and State Reform

455 Progressivism Goes to Washington

460 Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Morality

pragmatism philosophical movement that stressed the visible, real-world results of ideas.

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of the Progressive Era, believed that environment shaped the patterns of human thought. Instead of demand- ing mindless memorization of abstract and unconnected facts, Dewey tried to “make each one of our schools an embryonic community life.” At his School of Pedagogy, founded in 1896, he let students unbolt their desks from the floor, move about, and learn by doing in cooperation with others so that they could train for real life.

Psychologist John B. Watson believed that human behavior could be shaped at will. Give him control of an infant’s world from birth, Watson boasted, “and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any specialist I might select, doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant, chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief.” Behaviorism swept the social sciences and, later, advertising, where Watson himself eventually landed.

Lawyers and legal theorists applied their own blend of pragmatism and behaviorism. Justice Oliver Wen- dell Holmes Jr., appointed to the Supreme Court in 1902, rejected the idea that the traditions of law were constant and universal. Law was a living organism to be interpreted according to experience and the needs of a changing society.

This environmental view of the law, known as “ sociological jurisprudence, ” found a skilled prac- titioner in Louis Brandeis. Shaken by the brutal suppression of the Home- stead steel strike of 1892, Brandeis quit his corporate practice and proclaimed himself the “people’s law- yer.” The law must “guide by the light of reason,” he wrote, which meant bringing everyday life to bear in any court case. When laundry owner Curt Muller challenged an Oregon law limiting his laundresses to a 10-hour workday, Brandeis defended the statute before the Supreme Court in 1908. His famous brief contained 102 pages describing the damaging effects of long hours on workingwomen and only 15 pages of legal precedents. In Muller v. Oregon, the Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s right to limit the working hours of laborers and thus legitimized the “Brandeis Brief.”

The Progressive Method >>   Seeing the nation torn by conflict, progressives tried to restore a sense of community through the ideal of a single public inter- est. Christian ethics were their guide, applied after using the latest scientific methods to gather and ana- lyze data about a social problem. The modern corpo- ration furnished an appealing model for organization. Like corporate executives, progressives relied on careful

management, coordinated systems, and specialized bureaucracies to carry out reforms.

Between 1902 and 1912 a new breed of journal- ists provided the necessary evidence and fired pub- lic indignation. They investigated wrongdoers, named them in print, and described their misdeeds in vivid detail. Most exposés began as articles in mass- circulation magazines such as McClure’s. The maga- zine stirred controversy (and boosted circulation) when publisher Samuel McClure sent reporter Lincoln Stef- fens to uncover the crooked ties between business and politics. McClure’s published “Tweed Days in St. Louis,” the first of a series of investigative articles, in October 1902. Soon a full-blown literature of exposure was covering every ill from unsafe food to child labor.

A disgusted Theodore Roosevelt thought the new reporters had gone too far and called them “muck- rakers,” after the man who raked up filth in the seventeenth-century classic Pilgrim’s Progress. But by documenting dishonesty and blight, muckrakers not only aroused people but also educated them. No broad reform movement of American institutions would have taken place without them.

To move beyond exposure to solutions, progressives stressed volunteerism and collective action. They drew on the organizational impulse that seemed everywhere to be bringing people together in new interest groups. Between 1890 and 1920 nearly 400 organizations were founded, many to combat the ills of industrial soci- ety. Some, like the National Consumers League, grew out of efforts to promote general causes—in this case, protecting consumers and workers from exploitation. Others, such as the National Tuberculosis Association, aimed at a specific problem.

When voluntary action failed, progressives looked to government to protect the public welfare. They mistrusted legislators, who might be controlled by corporate interests or political machines and were in any case too numerous to monitor. So they strength- ened the executive branch by increasing the power of individual mayors, governors, and presidents. Then they watched those executives carefully.

Progressives also drew on the expertise of the newly professionalized middle class. Doctors, engineers, psy- chiatrists, and city planners mounted campaigns to stamp out venereal disease and dysentery, to reform prisons and asylums, and to beautify cities. At local, state, and federal levels, new agencies and commissions staffed by experts began to investigate and regulate lobbyists, insurance and railroad companies, public health, even government itself.

behaviorism school of psychology, founded by John Watson, that mea- sures human behavior, believes it can be shaped, and discounts emotion as subjective.

sociological jurisprudence legal theory that empha- sizes the importance not merely of precedent but of contemporary social con- text in interpreting the law.

✔ R E V I E W What ills did progressives see in society, what solutions did they propose, and what ideas shaped those solutions?

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John Sloan and George Bellows chose slums, tene- ments, and dirty streets as subjects. Poverty began to look less ominous and more heartrending.

A new profession—social work—proceeded from this new view of poverty. Social work developed out of the old settlement house movement (page 403). Like the physicians from whom they drew inspiration, social workers studied hard data to diagnose the problems of their “clients” and worked with them to solve their problems. A social worker’s “differential casework” attempted to treat individuals case by case, each according to the way environment shaped the client.

Expanding the “Woman’s Sphere” >>  Pro- gressive social reform attracted a great many women seeking what Jane Addams called “the larger life” of public affairs. In the late nineteenth century, women found that protecting their traditional sphere of home and family forced them to move beyond it. Bringing up children, making meals, keeping house, and caring for the sick now involved community decisions about schools, the food supply, public health, and countless other matters.

Many middle- and upper-middle-class women received their first taste of public life from women’s organizations, including mothers’ clubs, temperance societies, and church groups. By the turn of the century some 500 women’s clubs boasted over 160,000 members.


SOCIETY If progressivism ended in politics, it began with social reform: the need to reach out, to do some- thing to bring the “good society” a step closer. Ellen Richards had just such ends in mind in 1890 when she opened the New England Kitchen in downtown Boston. Richards, a chemist and home economist, designed the kitchen to sell cheap, wholesome food to the working poor. For a few pennies, customers could choose from a nutritious menu, every dish of which had been tested in Richards’s laboratory at the Massa- chusetts Institute of Technology.

The New England Kitchen promoted social as well as nutritional reform. Women freed from the drudgery of cooking could seek gainful employment. And as a “household experiment station” and center for dietary information, the kitchen tried to educate the poor and Ameri- canize immigrants by showing them how the middle class prepared meals.

In the end the New England Kitchen served more as an inexpensive eatery for middle-class workingwomen and students than as a resource for the poor or an agency of Americanization. Still, Ellen Richards’s experiment reflected a pattern typical of progressive social reform: the mix of professionalism with uplift; socially conscious women entering the public arena; the hope of creating a better world aligned with middle-class values.

Poverty in a New Light >>  During the 1890s crime reporter and photographer Jacob Riis introduced middle-class audiences to urban poverty. Writing in vivid detail in How the Other Half Lives (1890), he brought readers into the teeming tenement. Accom- panying his text were shocking photos of poverty- stricken Americans—Riis’s “other half.” He used them to tell a moralistic story, as the earlier English novelist Charles Dickens had used his melodramatic tales to attack the abuses of industrialism. People began to see poverty in a new, more sympathetic light—the fault less of the individual than of social conditions.

A haunting naturalism in fiction and paint- ing followed Riis’s gritty photographic essays. In Mc Teague (1899) and Sister Carrie (1900), novelists Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser spun dark tales of city dwellers struggling to keep body and soul intact. The “Ashcan school” painted urban life in all its grimy realism. Photographer Alfred Stieglitz and painters

̂̂ Jacob Riis, the Danish-born crime reporter and photographer, stalked the streets of New York, meticulously recording the squalor in which many slum- dwellers lived. Here, one photograph exposes a cramped tenement room “not thirteen feet either way,” housing “twelve men and women” for a night’s lodging at “5 cents a spot.” The first edition of How the Other Half Lives used only engravings made from photographs; later editions added the detail and poignancy of the actual photos.

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Social Welfare >>   In the “bigger family of the city,” as one woman reformer called it, settlement house workers found that they alone could not care for the welfare of the poor. If industrial America, with its sooty factories and overcrowded slums, was to be transformed into the good society, individual acts of charity would have to be supplemented by government. Laws had to be passed and agencies created to promote social wel- fare, including improved housing, workplaces, parks, and playgrounds, the abolition of child labor, and the enact- ment of eight-hour-day laws for workingwomen.

By 1910 the more than 400 settlement houses across the nation had organized into a loose affiliation ready to help fashion government policy. With greater expe- rience than men in the field, women led the way. Julia Lathrop, a Vassar College graduate, spent 20 years at Jane Addams’s Hull House before becoming the first head of the new federal Children’s Bureau in 1912. By then two-thirds of the states had adopted some child

Through the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, they funded libraries and hospitals and supported schools, settlement houses, compulsory education, and child labor laws. Eventually they reached out- side the home and family to endorse such controversial causes as woman suffrage and unionization. To that list the National Association of Colored Women added the special concerns of African Americans, none more urgent than the fight against lynching.

The dawn of the century saw the rise of a new gen- eration of women. Longer lived, better educated, and less often married than their mothers, they were also willing to pursue professional careers for fulfillment. Usually they turned to professions that involved the traditional female role of nurturer—nursing, library work, teaching, and settlement house work.

Custom and prejudice still restricted women. The faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, refused to allow Ellen Richards to pursue a doctorate. Instead, they hired her to run the gender- segregated “Woman’s Laboratory” for training pub- lic school teachers. At the turn of the century only about 1,500 female lawyers practiced in the United States, and in 1910 women made up barely 6 percent of licensed physicians.

Despite the often bitter opposition of families, some feminists tried to destroy the boundaries of the woman’s sphere. In Women and Economics (1898), Charlotte Perkins Gilman condemned the conven- tions of womanhood—femininity, marriage, maternity, domesticity—as enslaving and obsolete. She argued for a radically restructured society with large apartment houses, communal arrangements for child rearing and housekeeping, and cooperative kitchens to free women from economic dependence on men.

Margaret Sanger sought to free women from chronic pregnancy. Sanger, a visiting nurse on the Lower East Side of New York, had seen too many poor women overburdened with children, pregnant year after year and sometimes dying through self-induced abortions. The consequences were crippling. “Women cannot be on equal footing with men until they have complete control over their reproductive functions,” she argued. She became a crusader for what she called “birth con- trol.” By distributing information on contraception, she hoped to free women from unwanted pregnancies and illegal “back-alley” abortions that claimed lives. In 1916 Sanger founded the first family planning and birth control clinic in the country. Nine days later, she was arrested and afterward convicted of distributing contraceptive information, then considered a crime.

Single or married, militant or moderate, profes- sional or lay, white or black, more and more middle- class urban women thus became “social housekeepers.” From their own homes they turned to the homes of their neighbors and from there to all of society.

̂̂ Middle-class women found a productive vehicle for social and political action in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The clubs also gave many women the opportunity to organize and lead and served as a launchpad for female reformers such as Jane Addams, Julia Ward Howe, and Julia Lathrop. “When I want any- thing in Boston remedied,” said reformer Edward Everett Hale, “I go down to the New England Women’s Club.” Here a group of women proudly displays the banner of the Washington, D.C., branch.

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Before 1871

Dates of Women’s Suffrage

Presidential suffrage only, 1919 (Arkansas only in primaries)

No women’s suffage, 1919


OKLA. 1915


S.D. 1918

N.D.MONT. 1914




















AK. TERR. 1913

VT. N.H.


COLO. 1893


UTAH 1870

ARIZ. 1912

NEV. 1914

ID. 1896 WYO.


ORE. 1912

WASH. 1910

CALIF. 1911

KAN. 1912


N.Y. 1917


witness Jane Addams Finds a Child Sick of Candy “Our very first Christmas at Hull-House, when we as yet knew nothing of child labor, a number of little girls refused the candy which was offered them as part of the Christmas good cheer, saying simply that they ‘worked in a candy factory and could not bear the sight of it.’ We discovered that for six weeks they had worked from seven in the morning until nine at night, and they were exhausted as well as satiated.”

— Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910)


Woman Suffrage  >>   Ever since the conference for women’s rights held at Seneca Falls in 1848, women reform- ers had pressed for the right to vote on the grounds of simple justice and equal opportunity. They adopted the slogan “woman suffrage” to emphasize the soli- darity of women. Progressives embraced woman suffrage by stressing what they saw as the practical results of protect- ing the home and increasing the voting power of native-born whites. The “purer sensibilities” of women—an ideal held by conservatives and progressives alike—also would help cleanse the political process of selfishness and corruption.

The suffrage movement benefited, too, from new leadership. In 1900 Car- rie Chapman Catt became president of the National American Woman Suf- frage Association, founded by Susan B.

labor legislation, although loopholes exempted countless youngsters from coverage. Under Lathrop’s leader- ship, Congress passed the Keating- Owen Act (1916), forbidding goods manufactured by children to cross state lines. 1

Florence Kelley, who had also worked at Hull House, spearheaded a similar campaign in Illinois to pro- tect women workers by limiting their workday to eight hours. As general secretary of the National Consumers’ League, she also organized boycotts of companies that treated employees inhumanely. Eventually, most states enacted laws restricting the number of hours women could work. 1 The Supreme Court struck down the law in 1918 as an improper regulation of local labor; nonetheless, it focused greater atten- tion on the abuses of child labor.

MAP 22.1 : WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE Western states were the first to grant women the right to vote. Sparsely populated and more egalitarian than the rest of the nation, the West was used to women participating fully in settle- ment and work. Other sections of the country, notably the Midwest, granted women partial suffrage, which included voting for school boards and taxes. Suffragists encountered the most intractable resistance in the South, where rigid codes of social conduct elevated women symbolically but shackled them practically.

Which state was the first to allow for women’s suffrage?

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wooden clamps, and fed them by force through tubes placed down their throats and noses. Rather than per- mit the protesters to die as martyrs, Parliament passed the Cat and Mouse Act, a statute of doubtful legality that allowed officials to release starving prisoners, then rearrest them once they returned to health.

Among the British suffragists was a small American with large, determined eyes. In 1907, barely out of her teens, Alice Paul had gone to England to join the suffrage crusade. When asked why she had enlisted, she recalled her Quaker upbringing. “One of their principles  .  .  .  is equality of the sexes,” she explained. Paul marched arm in arm with British suffragists through the streets of London and more than once was imprisoned and refused to eat.

Three years later, in 1913, Paul organized 5,000 women to parade in protest at President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Wilson himself was skeptical of women voting and favored a state-by-state approach to the issue. Half a million people watched as a near-riot ensued. Paul and other suffragists were hauled to jail, stripped naked, and thrown into cells with prostitutes.

In 1914 Paul broke with the more moderate National American Woman Suffrage Association and formed the

Anthony in 1890. Politically astute and a skilled orga- nizer, Catt mapped a grassroots strategy of education and persuasion from state to state. She called it “the winning plan.” As Map 22.1 shows, victories came first in the West, where women and men had already forged a more equal partnership to overcome the hardships of frontier life. By 1914, 10 western states (and Kansas) had granted women the vote in state elections, as Illi- nois had in presidential elections.

The slow pace of progress drove some suffrag- ists to militancy. The shift in tactics had its origins abroad. In England the campaign for woman suffrage had peaked after 1900, when Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters turned to violence to make their point that women should be given the right to vote. They and their followers chained themselves to the visitors’ gallery in the House of Commons and slashed paintings in museums. They smashed the windows of depart- ment stores, broke up political meetings, even burned the houses of members of Parliament.

British authorities arrested the suffragists and threw them in jail, Emmeline Pankhurst included. When the women went on hunger strikes in prison, wardens tied them down, held their mouths open with

̂̂ “The Awakening,” a 1915 cartoon, offers a graphic and emotion-laden map of woman suffrage. Here, a torch-bearing woman in classical dress carries the franchise to the eastern states, where desperate women eagerly reach out.

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Europe especially chilled native-born Americans, including progressive reformers anxious over the changing ethnic makeup of the country. In northern cities, progressives often succeeded in reducing the voting power of these new immigrants by increasing residency requirements.

The now-discredited science of “eugenics” lent respectability to the idea that the newcomers were biologically inferior. Eugenicists believed that heredity determined everything and advocated selective breed- ing for human improvement. By 1914 magazine articles discussed eugenics more than slums, tenements, and living standards combined. In The Passing of the Great Race (1916), amateur zoologist Madison Grant helped to popularize the notion that the “lesser breeds” threatened to “mongrelize” America. So powerful was the pull of eugenics that it captured the support of some progressives, including birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, who saw contraception as a way of reducing birthrates among those deemed physically and mentally “unfit.” It also helped to promote the passage of forced sterilization laws in 30 states.

Most progressives believed in the shaping power of environment and so favored either assimilating immigrants into American society or restricting their entry into the country. Jane Addams, for one, stressed the “gifts” immigrants brought: folk rituals, dances, music, and handicrafts. With characteristic paternal- ism, she and other reformers hoped to “Americanize” the foreign-born (the term had been newly coined) by teaching them middle-class ways. Education was one key. Progressive educator Peter Roberts, for example, developed a lesson plan for the Young Men’s Christian Association that taught immigrants how to dress, tip, buy groceries, and vote.

Less tolerant citizens (often native-born and white) sought to restrict immigration as a way of reas- serting control and achieving social harmony. Usually not progressives themselves, they employed progressive methods of organization, investigation, education, and legislation. Active since the 1890s, the Immigration Restriction League pressed Congress in 1907 to require a literacy test for admission into the United States. Presidents Taft and Wilson vetoed it, but Congress overrode Wilson’s second veto in 1917 as war fever raised fears of foreigners to a new peak.

The Curse of Demon Rum >>  Tied closely to concern over immigrants, many of whom came from drinking cultures, was an attack on saloons. Part of a broader crusade to clean up cities, the antisaloon campaign drew strength from the century-old drive to lessen the consumption of alcohol. Women made up a disproportionate number of alcohol reformers. In some ways the temperance movement reflected their growing campaign to storm male domains, in this

Congressional Union, dedicated to enacting national woman suffrage through a constitutional amendment. She soon allied her organization with western women voters in the militant National Woman’s Party in 1917. On October 20, 1917, Paul was arrested for pro- testing in favor of a constitutional amendment at the gates of the White House. She received a seven-month sentence. Guards dragged her off to a cell block in the Washington jail, where she and others refused to eat. Prison officials declared her insane, but a public outcry over her treatment soon led to her release.

Such repression only widened public support for woman suffrage in the United States and elsewhere. So did the contributions of women to the First World War at home and abroad (see Chapter 23). In the wake of the war, Great Britain granted women (over age 30) the right to vote in 1918, Germany and Austria in 1919, and the United States in 1920 through the Nine- teenth Amendment. Overnight the number of eligible voters in the country doubled.


“Observe immigrants,” wrote one American in 1912. “You are struck by the fact that from ten to twenty percent are hirsute, low-browed, big-faced persons of obviously low mentality.” The writer was neither an uneducated fanatic nor a stern opponent of change. He was Professor Edward A. Ross, a progressive who prided himself on his scientific study of sociology.

Faced with the chaos of urban life, more than a few progressives feared they were losing control of their coun- try. Saloons and dance halls lured youngsters and impov- erished laborers; prostitutes walked the streets; vulgar amusements pandered to the uneducated. And worse— strange Old World cultures clashed with “all-American” customs, and races jostled uneasily. The city challenged middle-class reformers to convert this riot of diversity into a more uniform society. To maintain control they sometimes moved beyond education and regulation and sought restrictive laws to control the new masses.

Stemming the Immigrant Tide >>  A rising tide of new immigrants with darker complexions and non-Protestant religions from southern and eastern

✔ R E V I E W Why were women so deeply involved in the “search for the good society,” and what were some of their chief accomplishments?

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case the saloon, and to contain male violence, particularly the wife and child abuse associated with drinking.

Reformers considered a national ban on drinking unre- alistic and intrusive. Instead, they concentrated on pro- hibiting the sale of alco- hol at local and state levels. Led by the Anti-Saloon League (1893), a mas- sive publicity campaign bombarded citizens with pamphlets and adver- tisements. Doctors cited scientific evidence link- ing alcohol to cirrho- sis, heart disease, and insanity. Social work- ers connected drink to the deterioration of the family; employ- ers, to accidents on the job and lost efficiency; and political reform- ers to corrupt politi- cal machines that were often housed in saloons.

By 1917 three out of four Americans lived in dry counties. Nearly two-thirds of the states had adopted laws outlawing the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Not all progres- sives were prohibitionists, but by curtailing the liquor business those who were breathed a sigh of relief at having taken some of the profit out of human pain and corruption.

Prostitution >>  No urban vice worried reformers more than prostitution. In their eyes it was a “social evil” that threatened young city women. The Chi- cago Vice Commission of 1910 estimated that 5,000 full-time and 10,000 occasional prostitutes plied their trade in the city. Other cities, small and large, reported similar findings.

An unlikely group of reformers united to fight the vice: feminists who wanted husbands to be as chaste as their wives, social hygienists worried about the spread of venereal disease, immigration restric- tionists who regarded the growth of prostitution as yet another sign of corrupt newcomers. Progres- sives condemned prostitution but saw the problem in economic and environmental terms. “Poverty causes prostitution,” concluded the Illinois Vice Commission in 1916.

Some reformers saw more-active agents at work. Rumors spread of a vast and profitable “white slave trade.” Men armed with hypoder- mic needles and drinks filled with

“knockout drops” were said to be drugging and kidnapping

young women. Although the average female was hardly in danger of villainous abduction, every city had locked pens where women were held captive and forced into prostitution. By conservative esti- mates they constituted some 10 percent of all prostitutes.

As real abuses blended with sensation- alism, Congress passed the Mann Act (1910), prohibiting the inter- state transport of women for immoral purposes. By

1918 reformers suc- ceeded in banning previously tolerated

“red-light” districts in most cities. As with the liquor trade, progressives went after those who made money from misery.

“For Whites Only” >>  Most progressives paid little attention to the suffering of African Americans. The 1890s had been a low point for black citizens, most of whom still lived in the rural South. Across the region, the lynching of African Americans increased, as did restrictions on black voting and the use of seg- regated facilities. Signs decreeing “For Whites Only” appeared on drinking fountains and restrooms and in other public places.

A few progressives condemned racial discrimi- nation, but most ignored it—or used it to political advantage. Throughout the South, white progressives and old-guard politicians used the rhetoric of reform to support white supremacy. Such “reformers” won office by promising to disenfranchise African Ameri- cans to break the power of corrupt political machines that marshaled the black vote in the South, much as northern machines did with immigrant voters.

̂̂ The “Inebriate’s Express,” loaded with drunken riders, is heading straight for hell. This detail from a chromolithograph, published around 1900, was typical of Victorian-era responses to the problems posed by alcohol. To the all-seeing eye of the omnipotent God, faith, hope, charity, and the Bible are sufficient to cure the problems of drinking.

red-light district area in cit- ies reserved for prostitutes. The term, first employed in the United States, resulted from the use of red lights to show that prostitutes were open for business.

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Historian’s T O O L B O X

Not all historians need be professionals. Even amateurs can help us see the past in a new light. James Allen described him- self as a “picker,” rummaging through other people’s junk for things he might sell. Postcards hadn’t much interested him until he came on one that bore the photograph of a lynching. “It wasn’t the corpse that bewildered me but the canine- thin faces of the pack,” he recalled. Col- lected and later published by Allen, such postcards memorializing lynchings were

one segment of a larger industry that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For a penny in post- age the cards might be of hotels or city streets or even just photos of individuals taken by photographers, which could be sent to friends and relatives as souvenirs. But the cards Allen came across over the years were of a different order: grisly mementos of a ritualized murder. The one above—of the lynching and burning of an African American named Jesse William

Stanley in 1915—appears not to have been mailed.

THINKING CRITICALLY Why might people have their photographs taken for postcards at a lynching and then send the cards to parents and other relatives? What does that tell us about the racial environment in which such events occurred?

Source: James Allen, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (2000).

Mementos of Murder

Jesse William Stanley

Could this be “Joe”?

Katy Electric Studio Temple Texas H. Lippe Prop.

Men face the camera without making any effort to mask their faces

Young boys present

No stamp or postmark

indicating that the card was sent. Did

“Joe” keep it?

“This is the Barbecue we had last night[.] My

picture is to the left with a cross over it[.] your

son, Joe.”

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filth and stench drove Addams and her fellow workers to city hall in protest—700 times in one summer—but to no avail. In Chicago, as elsewhere, a corrupt band of city bosses made garbage collection a plum to be awarded to the company that paid the most for it.

In desperation Addams submitted a bid for gar- bage removal in the ward. When it was thrown out on a technicality, she won an appointment as gar- bage inspector. For almost a year she dogged collection carts, but boss politics kept things dirty. So Addams ran candidates in 1896 and 1898 against the local ward boss. They lost, but Addams kept up the fight for honest government and social reform—at city hall, in the Illinois legislature, and finally in Washington. Pol- itics turned out to be the only way to clean things up.

The Reformation of the Cities  >>   In the smokestack cities of the Midwest, where the frustrations of industrial and agricultural America fed each other, the urban battleground furnished the middle class with the first test of political reform. A series of colorful and independent mayors demonstrated that cities could be run cleanly and humanely without changing the struc- ture of government. Other cities across the country experimented with new forms of governing.

In Detroit, shoe magnate Hazen Pingree turned the mayor’s office into an agency of reform when elected in 1889. By the end of his fourth term, Detroit had new parks and public baths, fairer taxes, ownership of the local light plant, and a work-relief program for victims of the depression of 1893. In 1901 Cleveland mayor Tom Johnson launched a similar reform cam- paign. Before he was through, municipal franchises had been limited to a fraction of their previous 99-year terms, and the city ran the utility company. By 1915 nearly two out of every three cities had copied some form of this “gas and water socialism” to control the runaway prices of utility companies.

Tragedy sometimes dramatized the need to alter the very structure of government. On a hot September night in 1900 a tidal wave from the Gulf of Mexico smashed the port city of Galveston, Texas. The city sank into confusion. Business leaders stepped in with a new charter that replaced the mayor and city council with a powerful commission. Each of five commissioners controlled a municipal department, and together they ran the city. Nearly 400 cities had adopted the plan by 1920. Expert commissioners enhanced efficiency and helped to check party rule in municipal government.

In still other cities, elected officials appointed an outside expert or “city manager” to run things, the first in Staunton, Virginia, in 1908. Within a decade 45 cities had them. At lower levels, experts took charge of services: engineers oversaw utilities; accountants, finances; doctors and nurses, public health; specially trained firefighters and police, the safety of citizens.

In the face of such discrimination African Ameri- cans fought back. After the turn of the century some black critics rejected the accommodation of Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise.” Washington’s cautious approach counseled African Americans to accept segregation and work their way up the economic ladder by learning a vocational trade such as carpentry or mechanics (pages 429-430). W. E. B. Du Bois, a professor at Atlanta University, leveled the most sting- ing attack in The Souls of Black Folk (1903). He saw no benefit for African Americans in sacrificing intellec- tual growth for narrow vocational training. Nor was he willing to abide the humiliating stigma that came from the discriminatory caste system of the South. A bet- ter future would come only if black citizens struggled politically to achieve suffrage and equal rights.

Instead of exhorting African Americans to pull themselves up slowly from the bottom, Du Bois called on the “talented tenth,” a cultured black vanguard, to blaze a trail of protest against segregation, disenfran- chisement, and discrimination. In 1905 he founded the Niagara movement for political and economic equal- ity. Four years later, in 1909, a coalition of blacks and white reformers transformed the Niagara movement into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) after an ugly race riot rocked Springfield, the capital of Illinois, in 1908.

As with other progressive organizations, its mem- bership was largely limited to the middle class. It worked to extend the principles of tolerance and equal opportunity in a color-blind fashion by mounting legal challenges to segregation and bigotry and pressing for protective legislation. By 1919 the NAACP had some 90,000 members in 300 branches across the country. Accommodation was giving way to new combative organizations and new forms of protest.


STATE REFORM Reform the system. In the end, so many urban prob- lems came back to overhauling government. Jane Addams learned as much outside the doors of her beloved Hull House in Chicago. For months during the early 1890s, garbage had piled up in the streets. The

✔ R E V I E W Which “masses” did progressives want to control, why did they want to control them, and what instruments did they employ?

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nation’s first to grant women the right to vote. To protect their health, the Oregon legislature also limited the number of hours women could work in a reform typical of progressive paternalism. The middle class of heavily urban California supported progressive Hiram Johnson’s drive to oust political machines from cities and the statehouse. Colorado Governor John Shafroth fought the local political machine and pressed a balky legislature to regulate railroad rates, insure commercial bank deposits, and create a public service commission. Like other progressives, he also supported the direct primary.

Almost every state established regulatory commis- sions with the power to hold public hearings, exam- ine company books, and question officials. Some could set maximum prices and rates. Yet it was not always easy to define, let alone serve, the “public good.” All too often commissioners found themselves referee- ing battles within industries rather than between what progressives called “the bad interests” and “the good people.” Regulators also had to rely on the advice of experts drawn from the business community itself. Many commissions thus became captured by the industries they regulated.

Social welfare received special attention from the states. The lack of workers’ compensation for injury, illness, or death on the job had long drawn fire from reformers and labor leaders. American courts still oper- ated on the common-law assumption that employees accepted the risks of work. Workers or their families could collect damages only if they proved employer negligence. Most accident victims received nothing. In 1902 Maryland finally adopted the first workers’ com- pensation act. By 1916 most states required insurance for factory accidents, and over half had employer lia- bility laws. Thirteen states also provided pensions for widows with dependent children.

Often such working-class reforms found advo- cates among women’s associations, especially those concerned with mothers, children, and workingwomen. The Federation of Women’s Clubs opened a crusade for mothers’ pensions (a forerunner of Aid to Mothers with Dependent Children). When in 1912 the National Consumers’ League and other women’s groups suc- ceeded in establishing the Children’s Bureau, it was the first federal welfare agency and the only female-run national bureau in the world. At a time when women lacked the vote, they nonetheless sowed the seeds of the welfare state.

Progressivism in the States  >>   “Whenever we try to do anything, we run up against the char- ter,” complained one reform-minded mayor. Char- ters granted by state governments defined the powers of cities. The rural interests that generally dominated state legislatures rarely gave cities adequate authority to levy taxes, set voting requirements, draw up bud- gets, or legislate reforms. State legislatures, too, found themselves under the influence of business interests, party machines, and county courthouse rings. Reform- ers therefore tried to place their candidates where they could do some good: in the governors’ mansions.

State progressivism, like urban reform, enjoyed its earliest success in the Midwest, under the leadership of Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. La Follette first won election to Congress in 1885 by toeing the Republi- can line of high tariffs and the gold standard. When a Republican boss offered him a bribe in a railroad case, La Follette pledged to break “the power of this cor- rupt influence.” In 1900 he won the governorship of Wisconsin as an uncommonly independent Republican.

Over the next six years “Battle Bob” La Follette made Wisconsin, in the words of Theodore Roo- sevelt, “the laboratory of democracy.” La Follette’s “ Wisconsin idea ” produced the most comprehensive set of state reforms in American history. There were new laws regulating railroads, controlling corruption, and expanding the civil service. His direct primary weak-

ened the hold of party bosses by transferring nomi- nations from the party to the voters. La Follette’s Wisconsin created the first state income tax, the first state commission to oversee factory safety and sani- tation, and the first Legislative Reference Bureau— at the University of Wisconsin. University-trained experts poured into state government.

Other states copied the Wisconsin idea or hatched their own. All but three had direct primary laws by 1916. To cut the power of party organizations and make office holders directly responsible to the public, progressives worked for three additional reforms: ini- tiative (voter introduction of legislation), referendum (voter enactment or repeal of laws), and recall (voter- initiated removal of elected officials). In 1913 the Sev- enteenth Amendment to the Constitution permitted the direct election of senators. Previously they had been chosen by state legislatures, where political machines and corporate lobbyists controlled the selections.

In the West, with its scanty population and strong women, progressivism thrived. Western states were the

Wisconsin idea series of progressive reforms at the state level promoted by Robert La Follette during his governorship of Wisconsin (1901–1906). They included primary elections, corporate property taxes, regulation of railroads and public utilities, and supervision of public resources in the public interest.

✔ R E V I E W What reforms did cities and states enact, and how did those reforms address the problems they faced?

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study, and pursued a life so strenuous that few could keep up. He learned to ride and shoot, roped cattle in the Dakota Badlands, mastered judo, and later in life climbed the Matterhorn, hunted African game, and explored the Amazon.

In 1880, driven by an urge to lead and serve, Roos- evelt won election to the New York State Assembly. In rapid succession he became a civil service commissioner in Washington, New York City police commissioner, assistant secretary of the navy, and the Rough Rider hero of the Spanish-American War. At the age of 40 he won election as reform governor of New York and two years later as vice president.

As president Roosevelt brought to the Executive Mansion (he renamed it the “White House”) a pas- sion for order, a commitment to the public, and a sense of presidential possibilities. Most presidents believed that the Constitution set limits on their power. Roo- sevelt thought that the president could do anything not expressly forbidden in the document. Recognizing the value of publicity, he gave reporters the first press room in the White House and a chief executive worthy of near-constant coverage. He was the first president to ride in an automobile, fly in an airplane, and dive in a submarine—and everyone knew it.

To dramatize racial injustice Roosevelt invited black educator Booker T. Washington to lunch at the White House in 1901. White southern journalists called such race mingling treason, but for Roosevelt the gesture served both principle and politics. His lunch with Washington was part of a “black and tan” strategy to build a bira- cial coalition among southern Republicans. He denounced lynching and appointed black southerners to important federal offices in Mississippi and South Carolina.

Sensing the limits of political feasibility, Roosevelt went no further. Perhaps his own racial narrowness stopped him, too. In 1906, when Atlanta exploded in a race riot that left 12 people dead, he said nothing. Later that year he discharged “without honor” three entire


WASHINGTON On September 6, 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, Leon Czolgosz stood nervously in line. He was waiting to meet President William McKin- ley. Unemployed and bent on murder, Czolgosz shuffled toward McKinley. As the president reached out, Czol- gosz fired two bullets into his chest. McKinley slumped into a chair. Eight days later the president was dead. The mantle of power passed to Theodore Roosevelt. At 42 he was the youngest president ever to hold the office. Roosevelt’s succession was a political accident. Party leaders had seen the weak office of vice president as a way of removing him from power, but the tragedy in Buffalo foiled their plans. Surely progressivism would have come to Washington without him, and while there, he was never its most daring advocate. In many ways he was quite conservative. He saw reform as a

way to avoid radical change. TR >>  TR, as so many

Americans called him, was the scion of seven generations of wealthy,

aristocratic New Yorkers.

A sickly boy, he built his body through rig- orous exercise, sharpened his mind through constant

<< Bullnecked and barrel- chested, Theodore Roosevelt was “pure act,” said one admirer. Critics, less enthused with his perpetual motion, charged him with having the attention span of a golden retriever.

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left the American Sugar Refining Company in control of 98 percent of the nation’s sugar factories.

In his first State of the Union message, Roosevelt told Congress that he did not oppose trusts. As he saw it, large corporations were not only inevitable but also more productive than smaller operations. He wanted to regulate them to make them fairer and more efficient. Only then would the economic order be humanized, its victims protected, and class violence avoided. Like individuals, trusts had to be held to strict standards of morality. Conduct, not size, was the yardstick TR used to measure “good” and “bad” trusts.

With a progressive’s faith in the power of publicity and a regulator’s need for the facts, Roosevelt moved immediately to strengthen the federal power of inves- tigation. He called for the creation of a Department of Labor and Commerce with a Bureau of Corporations that could force companies to hand over their records. Congressional conservatives shuddered at the pros- pect of putting corporate books on display. Finally, after Roosevelt charged that John D. Rockefeller was orchestrating the opposition, Congress enacted the legislation and provided the Justice Department with additional staff to prosecute antitrust cases.

In 1902, to demonstrate the power of government, Roosevelt had his attorney general file an antitrust suit against the Northern Securities Company. The mam- moth holding company virtually monopolized rail- roads in the Northwest, setting its high freight rates and ignoring local protests. Here was a symbol of the “bad” trust. A trust-conscious nation cheered as the Supreme Court ordered the company to dissolve in 1904. Ultimately the Roosevelt administration brought suit against 44 giants.

Despite his reputation for trust-busting, Roosevelt always preferred continuous regulation. The problems of the railroads, for example, were newly underscored by a recent round of mergers and acquisitions that contributed to higher freight rates. In 1903 Roosevelt

pressed Congress to passed the Elkins Act, which gave the ineffective Interstate Commerce Commission

(ICC) power to end rebates. Even the railroads cheered because the act saved them from the costly practice of granting special reductions to large shippers.

By the election of 1904 the president’s initiatives had won him broad popular support. He trounced his two rivals, Democrat Alton B. Parker, a jurist from New York, and Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party. No longer was he a “political accident,” Roosevelt boasted.

Conservatives in his own party opposed Roos- evelt’s meddling in the private sector. But progressives demanded still more regulation of the railroads. In 1906 the president finally reached a compromise typi- cal of his restrained approach to reform. The Hepburn

companies of African American troops because some of the soldiers were unjustly charged with having “shot up” Brownsville, Texas. All lost their pensions, includ- ing six winners of the Medal of Honor. The act stained Roosevelt’s record. Congress acknowledged the wrong in 1972 by granting the soldiers honorable discharges.

A Square Deal >>  Roosevelt could not long fol- low the cautious course McKinley had charted. He had more energetic plans in mind for the country. He accepted growth—whether of business, labor, or agriculture—as natural. In his pluralistic system, big labor would counterbalance big capital, big farm orga- nizations would offset big food processors, and so on. Standing astride them all, mediating when needed, was a big government that could ensure fairness. Later, as he campaigned for a second term in 1904, Roosevelt named his program the “Square Deal.”

In a startling display of presidential initiative, Roo- sevelt in 1902 intervened in a strike that idled 140,000 miners and paralyzed the anthracite (hard) coal indus- try. As winter approached, public resentment with the operators mounted when they refused even to recognize the miners’ union, let alone negotiate. Roosevelt sum- moned both sides to the White House. John A. Mitch- ell, the young president of the United Mine Workers, agreed to arbitration, but mine owners balked. Roos- evelt leaked word to Wall Street that the army would take over the mines if management did not yield.

Seldom had a recent president acted so decisively, and never on behalf of strikers. In late October 1902 the owners settled by granting miners a 10 percent wage hike and a nine-hour day in return for increases in coal prices and no recognition of the union. Roos- evelt was equally prepared to intervene on the side of management, as he did when he sent federal troops to end strikes in Arizona in 1903 and Colorado in 1904. His aim was to establish a vigorous presidency ready to deal squarely with both sides.

Roosevelt especially needed to face the issue of economic concentration. Financial power had become

consolidated in giant trusts following a wave of mergers at the end of the century. Government investigations revealed rampant corporate abuses: rebates, collusion, “watered” stock, payoffs to government officials. The conservative courts showed

little willingness to break up the giants or blunt their power. In United States v. E. C. Knight (1895), the Supreme Court had crippled the Sherman Antitrust Act by ruling that the law applied only to commerce that crossed state lines and not to manufacturing even when products were sold in another state. The decision

“watered” stock stock issued in excess of the assets of a company. The term derived from the practice of some ranchers who made their cattle drink large amounts of water before weighing them for sale.

interstate commerce trade in goods that crosses state lines.

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Railway Act allowed the ICC to set maximum rates and to regulate sleeping-car companies, ferries, bridges, and terminals. Progressives did not gain the provision for disclosure of company value or service costs they sought, but the Hepburn Act drew Roosevelt nearer to his goal of continuous regulation of business.

Bad Food and Pristine Wilds >>  Extending the umbrella of federal protection to consumers, Roosevelt belatedly threw his weight behind two campaigns for healthy foods and drugs. Several pure food and drug bills had already died at the hands of lobbyists, despite a presidential endorsement. The appearance of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in 1906 spurred Congress to act. The novel contained a brief but dramatic description of the slaughter of cattle infected with tuberculosis, of meat covered with rat dung, and of men falling into cooking vats. Readers paid scant attention to the workers, the true target of Sinclair’s sympathy, but their stomachs turned at what they might be eating for breakfast. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 sailed through Con- gress, and the Meat Inspection Act soon followed.

Roosevelt came late to the consumer cause, but on conservation he led the nation. An outdoors enthusi- ast, he galvanized public concern over the reckless use of natural resources. His chief forester, Gifford Pin- chot, persuaded him that planned management under federal guidance was needed to protect the natural domain. Cutting trees must be synchronized with tree plantings, oil pumped from the ground under con- trolled conditions, and so on.

In the western states water was the problem. Eco- nomic growth, even survival, depended on it. As uneven local and state water policies sparked controversy, violence, and waste, many progressives campaigned for a federal program to replace the chaotic web of rules. The Reclamation Act of 1902 set aside proceeds from the sale of public lands for irrigation projects. Its pas- sage signaled a progressive step toward the conserva- tionist goal of rational resource development.

Conservation often came into conflict with the more radical vision of preservationists. As early as 1864

̂̂ Beef Industry of the 1900s, Chicago.

̂̂ Long a target of reformers, patent medicines made wild cura- tive claims, ranging from restoring hair and cleaning the blood to ridding an invalid of worms, as with this “Tonic Vermifuge” advertised in 1889. The Pure Food and Drug Act finally placed patent medicines under federal regulation.

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̂̂ The Sierra Club, founded by naturalist John Muir (center, with beard), believed in the importance of preserving wilderness in its natu- ral state. “In God’s wildness,” Muir wrote in 1890, “lies the hope of the world—the great fresh unlighted, unredeemed wilderness.” In front of this giant redwood tree, Theodore Roosevelt stands to the left of Muir, who persuaded the president to double the number of national parks.

naturalist George Perkins Marsh sounded an alarm. In Man and Nature; or Physical Geography as Modi- fied by Human Action, Marsh warned that human action enhanced by technology could damage the planet. Already, he wrote, the agricultural and industrial revo- lutions had begun to erode land, deforest timberland, dry up watersheds, and endanger plants and animals.

Another naturalist, the wilderness philosopher John Muir, took Marsh a step further. As a boy, the Scottish-born Muir had emigrated to the United States with his family. Trained as an engineer, he nearly lost his sight when a sharp file punctured his right eye. His sight miraculously returned, and he vowed to be “true to myself” by following his passion: the study of the wild world. Study turned to activism in 1892 when Muir cofounded the Sierra Club. He hoped to maintain

such natural wonders as the Hetch Hetchy valley in his beloved Yosemite National Park in a state of “forever wild” to benefit future generations. Many conserva- tionists saw these valleys only as sites for dams and reservoirs to manage and control water. “When we try to pick out anything by itself,” Muir wrote, “we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Controversy flared after 1900, when San Francisco announced plans to create a city reservoir by flood- ing the Hetch Hetchy valley. For 13 years Muir waged a publicity campaign against the reservoir. Pinchot enthusiastically backed San Francisco’s claim. Roo- sevelt, torn by his friendship with Muir, did so less loudly. Not until 1913 did President Woodrow Wil- son finally decide the issue in favor of San Francisco. Conservation had won over preservation.

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across the Atlantic, where TR was stalking big game in Africa.

Despite his failures Taft was no conservative pawn. For the next two years he pushed Congress to enact a progressive program regulating safety standards for mines and railroads, creating a federal children’s bureau, and setting an eight-hour workday for fed- eral employees. Taft’s support of a graduated income tax—sometimes heated, sometimes lukewarm—was finally decisive. Early in 1913 it became the Sixteenth Amendment. Historians view it as one of the most important reforms of the century, for it eventually generated the revenue for many new social programs.

The Election of 1912 >>  In June 1910 Roosevelt came home, laden with hunting trophies and exuber- ant as ever. He found Taft unhappy and progressive Republicans threatening to defect. Party loyalty kept Roosevelt quiet through most of 1911, but in Octo- ber, Taft pricked him personally on the sensitive mat- ter of busting trusts. Like TR, Taft accepted trusts as natural, but demanded, more impartially, that all trusts—“good” and “bad” ones—be prevented from

Over the protests of cattle and timber interests, Roosevelt added nearly 200 million acres to govern- ment forest reserves, placed coal and mineral lands, oil reserves, and water-power sites in the public domain, and enlarged the national park system. When Congress balked, Roosevelt appropriated another 17 million acres of forest before the legislators could pass a bill limit- ing him. Roosevelt also set in motion national con- gresses and commissions on conservation and mobilized governors across the country. Like a good progressive, he sent hundreds of experts to work applying science, education, and technology to environmental problems.

The Troubled Taft >>  On March 4, 1909, as snow swirled outside the White House, William How- ard Taft readied himself for his inauguration. Over breakfast with Roosevelt, he basked in the glow of recent Republican victories. As Roosevelt’s handpicked successor, Taft had beaten Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the “Great Commoner’s” third and last bid for the presidency. Republicans had retained control of Congress as well as a host of northern legislatures. Reform was at high tide, and Taft was eager to con- tinue the Roosevelt program.

“Will,” as Roosevelt liked to call him, was a distinguished jurist and public servant, the first American governor-general of the Philippines, and Roosevelt’s secretary of war. Taft had great administrative skill and personal charm but dis- liked political maneuvering. He preferred concili- ation to confrontation.

Trouble began early when progressives in the House moved to curb the near-dictatorial power of conservative Speaker Joseph Cannon. Taft waffled, first supporting then abandoning them to preserve the tariff reductions he was seeking. When progressives later broke Cannon’s power without Taft’s help, they scorned the presi- dent. And Taft’s compromise was wasted. Senate protectionists peppered the tariff bill with so many amendments that rates jumped nearly to their old levels.

Late in 1909 the rift between Taft and progressives reached the breaking point in a dispute over conservation. Taft had appointed Richard Ballinger secretary of the interior over the objections of Roos- evelt’s old friend and mentor, Chief For- ester Pinchot. When Ballinger opened a million acres of public lands for sale, Pinchot charged that shady dealings led Ballinger to transfer Alaskan public coal lands to a syndicate that included J. P. Morgan. Early in 1910 Taft fired Pinchot for insubordination. Angry pro- gressives saw the Ballinger-Pinchot controversy as another betrayal by Taft. They began to look longingly MAP 22.2 : THE ELECTION OF 1912

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restraining trade. In four years as president, Taft had brought nearly twice the antitrust suits Roosevelt had in seven years.

In October 1911 the Justice Department charged U.S. Steel with having violated the Sherman Anti- trust Act by acquiring the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. Roosevelt regarded the action as a personal rebuke, since he himself had allowed U.S. Steel to pro- ceed with the acquisition. Taft, complained TR, “was playing small, mean, and foolish politics.”

Already, in a speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1910, Roosevelt had sharpened his differences with Taft by outlining a program of sweeping national reform. His “New Nationalism” recognized the value of consolidation in the economy—whether big busi- ness or big labor—but insisted on protecting the interests of individuals through big government. The New Nationalism went further, stressing planning and efficiency under a powerful executive as “steward of the public welfare.” It promised taxes on incomes and inheritances and greater regulation of industry. And it embraced social justice, specifically workers’ compen- sation for accidents, minimum wages and maximum hours, child labor laws, and “equal suffrage”—a nod to women and loyal black Republicans. Roosevelt, a cau- tious reformer as president, grew daring as he cam- paigned for the White House.

“My hat is in the ring!” Roosevelt announced in February 1912. The enormously popular Roosevelt won most of the primaries; but by the time Republicans met in Chicago in June 1912, Taft had used presiden- tial patronage and promises to secure the nomination. A frustrated Roosevelt bolted and took progressive Republicans with him. Two months later, amid cho- ruses of “Onward Christian Soldiers,” delegates to the newly formed Progressive Party nominated Roosevelt for the presidency. “I’m feeling like a bull moose!” he bellowed. Progressives suddenly had a symbol for their new party.

The Democrats met in Baltimore, jubilant over the prospect of a divided Republican Party. Delegates chose as their candidate Woodrow Wilson, the pro- gressive governor of New Jersey. Wilson wisely con- centrated his fire on Roosevelt. He countered the New Nationalism with his “New Freedom,” which rejected the economic consolidation that Roosevelt embraced. Bigness was a sin, crowding out competition, promot- ing inefficiency, and reducing opportunity. Only by strictly limiting the size of businesses could the free market be preserved. And only by keeping government small could individual freedom be preserved. “Liberty,” Wilson cautioned,“ has never come from government,” only from the “limitation of governmental power.”

Increasingly, voters found Taft beside the point. In an age of reform, even the Socialists looked good. Bet- ter led, financed, and organized than ever, the Socialist

Party had increased its membership to nearly 135,000 by 1912. The party also had an appealing candidate in Eugene V. Debs, a homegrown Indiana radical. He had won 400,000 votes for president in 1904. Now, in 1912, he summoned voters to make “the working class the ruling class.”

On Election Day voters gave progressivism a resounding endorsement. Wilson won 6.3 million votes; Roosevelt, 4.1 million; Taft, just 3.6 million. Debs received almost a million votes. Together the two pro- gressive candidates amassed a three-to-one margin. But the Republican split had broken the party’s hold on national politics. For the first time since 1896, a Democrat would sit in the White House—and with his party in control of Congress.


OF MORALITY Soon after the election Woodrow Wilson made a proud if startling confession to the chairman of the Dem- ocratic National Committee: “God ordained that I should be the next President of the United States.” To the White House Wilson brought a sense of destiny and a passion for reform. All his life he believed he was meant to accomplish great things, and he did. Under him, progressivism peaked.

Early Career >>  From the moment of his birth in 1856 Woodrow Wilson felt he could not escape des- tiny. It was all around him. In his family’s Presby- terian faith, in the sermons of his minister father, in dinnertime talk ran the unbending belief in a world predetermined by God and ruled by saved souls, an “elect.” Wilson ached to be one of them and behaved as though he were.

Like most southerners, he loved the Democratic Party, hated the tariff, and accepted racial separa- tion. (Under his presidency, segregation returned to Washington for the first time since Reconstruction.) An early career in law bored him, so he turned to his- tory and political science and became a professor. His studies persuaded him that a modern president must act as a “prime minister,” directing and uniting his party, molding legislation and public opinion, exerting

✔ R E V I E W How did President Roosevelt’s reform agenda reflect his promise of a “Square Deal” for Americans?

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continuous leadership. In 1910, after a stormy tenure as head of Princeton University, Wilson was helped by Democratic Party bosses to win the governorship of New Jersey. In 1912 they helped him again, this time to the presidency of the country.

The Reforms of the New Freedom >>  As governor Wilson led New Jersey on the path of pro- gressive reform. As president he was a model of pro- gressive leadership. More than Roosevelt he shaped policy and legislation. He went to Congress to let members know he intended to work personally with them. He kept party discipline tight and mobilized public opinion when Congress refused to act.

Lowering the high tariff was Wilson’s first order of business. Progressives had long attacked the tariff as another example of the power of trusts. By protecting American manufacturers, Wilson argued, such barriers weakened the competition he cherished. When the Sen- ate threatened to raise rates, the new president appealed directly to the public. “Industrious” and “insidious” lobbyists were blocking reform, he cried to reporters.

The Underwood-Simmons Tariff of 1913 marked the first downward revision in 19 years and the biggest since before the Civil War. To compensate for lost rev- enue, Congress enacted a graduated income tax under the newly adopted Sixteenth Amendment. It applied solely to corporations and the tiny fraction of Americans who earned more than $4,000 a year. It nonetheless began a momentous shift in government revenue from its nineteenth-century base—public lands, alcohol taxes, and customs duties—to its twentieth-century base: personal and corporate incomes.

Wilson turned next to the perennial problems of money and banking. Early in 1913 a congressional com- mittee revealed that a few powerful banks controlled the nation’s credit system. They could choke Wilson’s free market by raising interest rates or tightening the sup- ply of money. As a banking reform bill moved through Congress in 1913, opinion was divided among conser- vatives, who wanted centralized and private control, rural Democrats, who wanted regional banks under local bankers, and Populists and progressives—including Bryan and La Follette—who wanted government control.

̂̂ Woodrow Wilson came to the White House with promises to reform government. In this 1913 cartoon titled “A New Captain in the Dis- trict,” the newly elected president strides through corrupt Washington, ready to police such abuses as easy land grants and pork barreling, the much-criticized congressional practice of voting for projects that benefit home districts and constituents.

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Wilson split their differences in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The new Federal Reserve System contained 12 regional banks scattered across the country. But it also created a central Federal Reserve Board in Wash- ington, appointed by the president, to supervise the system. The board could regulate credit and the money supply by setting the interest rate it charged member banks, by buying or selling government bonds, and by issuing paper currency called Federal Reserve notes.

When Wilson finally took on the trusts, he inched toward the New Nationalism of Theodore Roosevelt. The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 created a bipartisan executive agency to oversee business activity. The end—to enforce orderly competition—was dis- tinctly Wilsonian, but the means—an executive com- mission to regulate commerce—were pure Roosevelt.

Roosevelt would have stopped there, but Wilson made good on his campaign pledge to attack trusts. The Clayton Antitrust Act (1914) barred some of the worst corporate practices: price discrimination, hold- ing companies, and interlocking directorates (direc- tors of one corporate board sitting on others). Despite Wilson’s bias against size, the advantages of large- scale production and distribution were inescap- able. In practice his administration chose to regulate rather than break up bigness. The Justice Department filed fewer antitrust suits than it had under the Taft administration.

Labor and Social Reform >>  For all of Wilson’s impressive accomplishments, voters seemed uninspired by the New Freedom. Off-year election losses in 1914 pushed Wilson toward the social reforms of the New Nationalism he had once criticized as paternalistic and unconstitutional. He signaled the change early in 1916 when he nominated his close adviser Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court. The progressive Brandeis had fought for the social reforms lacking from Wilson’s agenda. His appointment also broke the tradition of anti-Semitism that had previously kept Jews such as Brandeis off the Court.

In other ways, Wilson showed a new willingness to intervene more actively in the economy. He pressed for laws improving the working conditions of merchant seamen and setting an eight-hour day for workers on interstate railroads. He supported the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act (page 448). Farmers benefited from legislation providing them with low-interest loans.

And just before the election of 1916 Wilson intervened to avert a nationwide strike of rail workers.

Woodrow Wilson’s administration capped a decade and a half of heady reform. Seeing chaos in the modern industrial city, progressive reformers worked to reduce the damage of poverty and the hazards of industrial work, control rising immigration, and spread a middle-class ideal of morality. In city halls and state legislatures, they tried to break the power of corporate interests and entrenched political machines. In Wash- ington, they enlarged government and broadened its mission from caretaker to promoter of public welfare.

The United States was not alone in these efforts. The machine age triggered a wave of progressive reform across the industrialized world. Movements for social justice and social welfare sprang up first in Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution began. There, reformers publicized the plight of women and chil- dren in factories and mines as early as the 1820s. The resulting Factory Act of 1833 outlawed child labor in textile mills for those under the age of nine. The Mines Act of 1842 made it illegal to employ all women as well as children younger than ten in work underground. In 1884 Toynbee Hall, the world’s first social settlement house, opened in London’s East End to minister to the needs of the poor. It became the model for Jane Addams’s Hull House in Chicago.

In political reforms the world sometimes lagged behind the United States, particularly on the issue of woman suffrage. Except in Scandinavia, most Euro- pean women did not receive the vote until after World War I. Despite the democratic revolutions that swept across Latin America in the nineteenth century, national women’s suffrage was opposed by the Catho- lic Church and did not come to Ecuador until 1929 and El Salvador until 1939. Asia was slower still, often because colonial rulers denied or limited suffrage or because patriarchal Asian societies looked on women as subordinate to men. Only in 1950, for example, after India achieved independence, did women receive the right to vote.

✔ R E V I E W Compare and contrast Theodore Roosevelt’s approach to reform with that of Woodrow Wilson.

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CHAPTER SUMMARY Progressivism embraced a broad-based set of reforms and became the first truly national reform movement in American history. " Progressive reform sprang from many impulses: ► Desires to curb the advancing power of big busi-

ness and to end political corruption. ► Efforts to bring order and efficiency to economic

and political life. ► Attempts by new interest groups to make busi-

ness and government more responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens.

► Moralistic urges to rid society of industries such as the liquor trade and prostitution, to bridge the gap between immigrants and native-born Americans, and to soften the consequences of industrialization through social justice and social welfare.

" Led by members of the urban middle class, progres- sives were moderate modernizers, embracing such traditional American values as democracy, Judeo- Christian ethics, individualism, and the spirit of public service while employing new techniques of management and planning, coordinated systems, and bureaucracies of experts.

" Progressive women extended their traditional sphere of home and family to become “social housekeep- ers” and crusaders for women’s rights, especially the right to vote.

" Progressivism animated politics, first at the local and state levels, then in the presidencies of Theo- dore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

" In the end, the weaknesses of progressivism—its fuzzy conception of the public interest, its exclusion of minorities, and the ease with which its regula- tory mechanisms were “captured” by those being regulated—were matched by its accomplishments in establishing the modern, activist state.

Additional Reading The long debate over progressivism is traced in Arthur S. Link and Richard L. McCormick, Progressiv- ism (1983). Benchmarks include George Mowry, The California Progressives (1951); and Richard Hof- stadter, The Age of Reform (1955), both of which see progressives as a small elite seeking to recap- ture its fading status. Gabriel Kolko’s controversial Triumph of Conservatism (1963) asserts that busi- ness “captured” reform to control competition and stave off stricter federal regulation. Michael McGerr’s A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement (2003) sees progressivism as a daring middle-class movement to transform soci- ety. David Traxel sees both reforming progressives and the First World War as spawning a Crusader Nation (2006). Finally, Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation (2009), places progressivism in the context of an enduring search for regeneration in the decades after the Civil War.

The social history of progressivism is the focus of Steven J. Diner’s A Very Different Age (1998). Eric Rauchway’s Murdering McKinley: The Mak- ing of Theodore Roosevelt’s America (2003) pres- ents a fresh account of the era; while James Chace recounts its turning point in 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and Debs and the Election That Changed the Country (2004).

John M. Blum, The Republican Roosevelt (1954), remains the most incisive rendering of TR; and Lewis L. Gould, The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1991), is the best single-volume study of the White House years. In The Wilderness Warrior: Theo- dore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (2009), Douglas Brinkley puts TR in the thick of the conserva- tion movement and examines his environmental legacy. Unsurpassed in detail and depth is Arthur Link, Wood- row Wilson, 5 vols. (1947–1965). Robert Crunden, Ministers of Reform (1982), emphasizes the cultural aspects of progressivism; and Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor (1992), offers a feminist perspective on Margaret Sanger. Melvyn Urofsky’s Louis D. Brandeis (2009) is admiring and authoritative. In Triangle: The Fire That Changed America (2004), David Von Drehle offers the fullest account yet of that calamity.

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Significant Events 1893 Illinois legislature enacts eight-hour workday law for women

1901 President McKinley assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt becomes president1902

Northern Securities Company dissolved under

Sherman Antitrust Act; anthracite coal miners strike in Pennsylvania

1906 Hepburn Act strengthens

Interstate Commerce Commission; Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug

Act passed

1909 W. E. B. Du Bois

Ballinger-Pinchot controversy; NAACP founded

1912 Woodrow Wilson elected


1914 Clayton Antitrust Act passed;

Federal Trade Commission created

1920 Nineteenth Amendment grants women the right

to vote

1903 Elkins Act ends railroad rebates; Wisconsin first state to enact direct primary

1908 William Howard Taft elected president

1913 Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments; Federal Reserve Act passed

1917 Congress enacts literacy test for new immigrants

1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire

1895 United States v. E. C.


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The ironically titled “Paths to Glory,” was painted by C. R. W. Nevinson, a British artist and volunteer ambulance driver in World War I. He experienced firsthand the pockmarked, muck-filled hell of trench warfare.

>> An American Story

“a path between the seas”

I n 1898, as eager young Americans signed up to kill Spaniards in Cuba, the USS Oregon left San Francisco Bay on a roundabout route toward its battle station in the Caribbean. It first headed south through the Pacific, passing Central America and leaving it thou- sands of miles behind. Then in the narrow Strait of Magellan at South America’s tip, the ship encountered a gale so ferocious that the shore disappeared from sight. But the

Oregon passed into the Atlantic and steamed north. Finally, after 68 days and 13,000 miles


The United States and the Collapse of the Old World Order


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5,200 miles

13,000 m iles



San Francisco

New York




Caribbean Sea

Gulf of Panama

Gatún Lake

Madden Lake



0 10 mi

0 10 20 km

Canal Zone

Land above 1,000 feet

Canal Railroad Locks

MAP 23.1: PANAMA CANAL—OLD AND NEW TRANSOCEANIC ROUTES Tropical forests cover three-fourths of Panama, including the Canal Zone. Vegetation is denser at high elevations but tightly packed even below 1,000 feet. The terrain is rugged, but the distance saved by the canal (nearly 8,000 miles) convinced Roosevelt and other American leaders that the ordeal of construc- tion and the loss of lives were worthwhile in the long run.


at sea, it reached Cuba and helped win the Battle of Santiago Bay and the Spanish-American War.

The daring voyage electrified the nation but worried its leaders. Since the defeat of Mexico in 1848, the United States had stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific without enough navy to go around. As an emerging power, the country needed a “path between the seas,” a canal across the narrow isthmus of Colombia’s Panamanian province in Central America, to defend itself and to promote its growing trade.

“I took the isthmus,” President Theodore Roosevelt later told a cheering crowd. In a way he did. In 1903 he reached an agreement with Colombia to lease the needed strip

of land. Hoping for more money and greater control over the canal, the Colombian senate refused to ratify the pact.

Privately TR talked of seizing Panama. But when he learned of a budding independence movement there, he welcomed a revolt. On schedule and without bloodshed, the Panamanians rebelled late in 1903. The next day a U.S. cruiser dropped anchor offshore to prevent Colombia from landing troops. The United States quickly recognized the new Republic of Panama and concluded a treaty for a renewable lease on a canal zone 10 miles wide. Panama received $10 million plus an annual rent of $250,000, the same terms offered to Colombia.

Critics called it “a rough- riding assault upon another republic.”

The Panama Canal embodied Roosevelt’s mus- cular policy of respect through military strength. TR modernized the army and tripled its size, enlarged the navy, created a general staff for plan- ning and mobilization, and established the Army War College. As a pivot point between the two hemi- spheres, his canal allowed the United States to flex its strength across the globe.

These expanding hori- zons came about largely as an outgrowth of American commercial and indus- trial expansion, just as the imperialist empires of Great Britain, France, Ger-

many, Russia, and Japan reflected the spread of their own industrial and commercial might. The Ameri- cans, steeped in democratic ideals, frequently seemed uncomfortable with the naked ambitions of Euro- pean empire-builders. Roosevelt’s embrace of the canal, however, showed how far some Americans would go to shape the world in their interests.

Expansionist diplomats at home and abroad assured each other that global order could be maintained by balancing power through a set of carefully crafted alliances. That system of alliances did not hold. In 1914, the year the Panama Canal opened, the old world order shat-

tered in a terrible war.  <<

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Root. Before granting Cuba independence in 1902, the United States reorganized its finances and wrote into the Cuban constitution the Platt Amendment. It gave American authorities the right to intervene if Cuban independence or internal order were threatened. Claiming that power, U.S. troops occupied the island twice between 1906 and 1923.


As the Panama Canal was being built, progressive diplomacy was taking shape. Like progressive politics, it stressed moralism and order as it stretched executive power to new limits in an attempt to mold and remake the international environment. At the core of this mission lay a belief in the superiority of Anglo- American institutions and the need to spread them across the world. Every Western leader assumed that northern Europeans were racially superior, too, with a responsibility to uplift the “lesser peoples” of the tropi- cal zones.

Economic expansion underlay the commitment to a civilizing mission. The depression of 1893 encouraged American manufacturers and farmers to look over- seas for markets, and that expansion con- tinued after 1900. Every administration committed itself to opening doors of trade and keeping them open. Big Stick in the Caribbean  >>   Theodore Roosevelt liked to invoke the old African proverb “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” In the Caribbean, however, he moved both loudly and mightily. The Panama Canal gave the United States a commanding position in the Western Hemisphere. Its importance required the country to “police the surrounding prem- ises,” explained Secretary of State Elihu

What ’s to CCoomme 467 Progressive Diplomacy

468 Woodrow Wilson and Moral Diplomacy

470 The Road to War 474 War and Society

481 The Lost Peace

^̂ Sailors from the Japanese torpedo boat, Sazanami, board a Russian torpedo boat during a heated sea battle off Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. Japan’s victory, the first of an Asian over a European power, signaled Japan’s new status as a great world power, as well as the country’s success in “modernizing” along Western lines.

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In looking to enforce a favorable environment for trade in the Caribbean, Roosevelt worried about European intentions. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 had declared against further European colonization of the Western Hemisphere, but in the early twentieth century the rising debts of Latin Americans to Euro- peans invited intrusion. “If we intend to say hands off to the power of Europe, then sooner or later we must keep order ourselves,” Roosevelt warned.

Going well beyond Monroe’s concept of resisting foreign penetration, Roosevelt asserted American com- mand of the Caribbean. In 1904, when the Dominican Republic defaulted on its debts, he added the “Roos- evelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine by claiming the right to intervene directly if Latin Americans failed to meet their obligations to Europeans. Under its sweeping and self-proclaimed power, the United States assumed responsibility for several Caribbean states, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Panama.

A “Diplomatist of the Highest Rank” >>   In the Far East Roosevelt exercised ingenuity rather than force, since he considered Asia beyond the Amer- ican sphere of influence. Like President McKinley, TR committed himself only to maintaining an “open door” of equal access to trade in China and to protecting the Philippines, “our heel of Achilles.”

The key lay in offsetting Russian and Japanese ambitions in the region. When Japan attacked Russian holdings in the Chinese province of Manchuria in 1904, Roosevelt offered to mediate. Both sides met at the U.S. Naval Base near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and, under Roosevelt’s guidance, produced the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905. It recognized the Japanese victory (the first by an Asian power over a European country) and ceded territory on the Asian mainland to Japan. Japan promised to leave Manchuria as part of China and keep trade open to all foreign nations. Both the balance of power in Asia and the open door in China had been preserved. Roosevelt’s diplomacy earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

Some Japanese nationalists resented the peace treaty for curbing Japan’s ambitions in Asia. Their anger surfaced in a protest lodged, of all places, against the San Francisco school board. In 1906 rising Japanese immigration led San Francisco school authorities to place the city’s 93 Asian students in a separate school. Roosevelt, fuming at the “infernal fools in California,” summoned the mayor of San Francisco to the White House. In exchange for an end to the segregation order, Roosevelt offered to arrange a mutual restriction of immigration between Japan and the United States. In 1907 all sides accepted his “gentlemen’s agreement.”

The San Francisco school crisis sparked wild rumors that Japan was bent on taking Hawai’i, the Philippines, or the Panama Canal. In case Japan or

any other nation thought of upsetting the Pacific bal- ance, Roosevelt sent 16 gleaming white battleships on a world tour in 1907. The show of force heralded a new age of American naval might but had an unintended consequence that haunted Americans for decades: it spurred Japanese admirals to expand their own navy.

Watching Roosevelt in his second term, an amazed London Morning Post dubbed him a “diplomatist of the highest rank.” Abroad as at home, his brand of progres- sivism was grounded in an enthusiastic nationalism that mixed force with finesse to achieve balance and order.

Dollar Diplomacy >>  Instead of force or finesse, William Howard Taft relied on private investment to promote economic stability, keep peace, and tie debt- ridden nations to the United States. His “dollar diplo- macy” simply amounted to “substituting dollars for bullets,” Taft explained. He and Philander Knox, his prickly secretary of state, treated the restless nations of Latin America like ailing corporations, injecting capital and reorganizing management. By the time Taft left office in 1913, half of all American investments abroad were in Latin America.

Failure dogged Taft overseas as it did at home. In the Caribbean his dollar diplomacy was linked so closely with unpopular regimes, corporations, and banks that Woodrow Wilson scrapped it as soon as he entered the White House. In 1912 a revolution in Nicaragua led Taft to dispatch 2,000 marines to pro- tect American lives and property. Sporadic American intrusions lasted more than a dozen years.

Taft’s efforts to strengthen China with investments and trade only intensified rivalry with Japan and made China more suspicious of all foreigners, includ- ing Americans. In 1911 the southern Chinese provinces rebelled against foreign intrusion and overthrew the monarchy. Only persistent pressure from the White House kept dollar diplomacy in Asia alive.


MORAL DIPLOMACY The Lightfoot Club had been meeting in Reverend Wil- son’s hayloft for months when the question of whether the pen was mightier than the sword came up. Young

✔ R E V I E W How did Theodore Roosevelt’s policies in Latin America and Asia differ from William Howard Taft’s?

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PERSHING, 1916–1917

VILLA, 1916



C a r i b b e a n S e a

Gulf of Mexico





1903–1904, 1914, 1916–1924

1903–1912 1898–1902, 1906–1909, 1912, 1917–1933

1903, 1908, 1912, 1918–1920

1898, 1899, 1910, 1912–1925, 1926–1933


1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924–1925

U.S. sailors arrested, 1914

U.S. Navy seizes, 1914

U.S. naval action, 1932

Leased 1903–1999

Annexed 1898

Purchased from Denmark, 1917

U.S. naval action, 1901–1903

Seceded from Colombia, 1903





Guantánamo Bay

Bahía Honda

San Juan

Gulf of Fonseca



















U.S. territory, 1900

U.S. protectorate

Period of U.S. occupation

U.S. forces

Mexican forces

Naval base leased to U.S.1914

MAP 23.2: AMERICAN INTERVENTIONS IN THE CARIBBEAN, 1898–1930 In the first three decades of the twentieth century, armed and unarmed interventions by the United States virtually transformed the Caribbean into an American lake. In which nations did the United States intervene for the longest time?


burst their jackets if they cannot find free outlets in the markets of the world,” he cautioned in 1912. Wil- son’s genius lay in reconciling this commercial self- interest with a global idealism. In his eyes, exporting American democracy and capitalism would promote stability and progress throughout the world.

In Asia and the Pacific, Wilson moved to put “moral and public considerations” ahead of the “material interests of individuals.” He pulled American bankers out of a six-nation railroad project in China backed by President Taft. The scheme encouraged foreign inter- vention and undermined Chinese sovereignty, Wilson said. The United States became the first major power to recognize the new democratic Republic of China after a revolution in 1911 and in 1915 strongly opposed Japan’s “21 Demands” for territorial and commercial privileges in the country.

In the Caribbean and Latin America, Wilson dis- covered that interests closer to home could not be pursued through principles alone. In August 1914 he convinced Nicaragua, already occupied by American troops, to yield control of a naval base and grant the United States an alternative canal route. Upheavals in Haiti and the Dominican Republic brought in the U.S.

Tommy Wilson, who had organized the debating soci- ety, jumped at the chance to argue that written words were more powerful than armies. When the boys drew lots, Tommy ended up on the other side. “I can’t argue for something I don’t believe in,” he protested. Thomas Woodrow Wilson eventually dropped his first name, but he never gave up his boyhood conviction that morality, at least as he defined it, should guide conduct. To the diplomacy of order, force, and finance, Wilson added a missionary zeal for spreading capitalism, democracy, and the progressive values of harmony and cooperation.

Missionary Diplomacy >>  As president, Wood- row Wilson revived and enlarged Jefferson’s notion of the United States as a beacon of freedom. “We are chosen, and prominently chosen, to show the way to the nations of the world how they shall walk in the paths of liberty,” he said. Such paternalism only thinly masked Wilson’s assumption of Anglo-American superiority and his willingness to spread Western-style democ- racy, capitalism, and morality through force.

Wilson’s missionary diplomacy had a practical side. In the twentieth century foreign markets would serve as America’s new frontier. American industries “will

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A year later, when Wilson finally recognized the Carranza regime, Villa turned against the United States. In January 1916 he abducted 18 Ameri- cans from a train in Mexico and slaughtered them. In March he galloped into Columbus, New Mexico, killed 19 people, and left the town in flames. Wilson ordered 6,000 troops into Mexico to capture Villa. A reluctant Carranza agreed to the American invasion.

For nearly two years, General John “Black Jack” Pershing (nicknamed for the all-black unit he com- manded in the Spanish-American War) chased Villa on horseback, in automobiles, and with airplanes. There were bloody skirmishes with government troops but not a single one with Villa and his rebels. As the chase turned wilder and wilder, Carranza withdrew his consent for U.S. troops on Mexican soil. Early in 1917 Wilson pulled Pershing home. The “punitive expedi- tion,” as the president called it, poisoned Mexican- American relations for the next 30 years.

THE ROAD TO WAR In early 1917, around the time that Wilson recalled Pershing, the British liner Laconia was making its way home across the Atlantic. Passengers belowdecks talked almost casually of the war raging in Europe since 1914. “What do you think are our chances of being torpedoed?” asked Floyd Gibbons, an American reporter. Since Germany had stepped up its subma- rine attacks, the question was unavoidable. The answer came moments later when a torpedo hit the vessel. As warning whistles blasted, the passengers abandoned ship. From lifeboats they watched a second torpedo send the Laconia to a watery grave. After a miserable night spent bobbing in the waves, Gibbons was res- cued. But by 1917 other citizens of the neutral United States had already lost their lives at sea. Despite its best efforts, the country soon found itself at war.

The Guns of August >>   For a century pro- found strains had been pushing Europe toward war. Its population tripled, its middle and working classes swelled, and discontent with industrial society grew. Nationalism surged and with it, militarism and impe- rialism. Led by Kaiser Wilhelm II and eager for empire, Germany aligned itself with Turkey and Austria- Hungary. The established imperial powers of England

Marines. By the end of his administration, Ameri- can troops were still stationed there and also in Cuba. Missionary diplomacy, it turned out, could spread its gospel with steel as well as cash.

Intervention in Mexico >>   In Mexico a lin- gering crisis turned Wilson’s “moral diplomacy” into a mockery. A common border, 400 years of shared history, and millions of dollars in investments made what happened in Mexico of urgent importance to the United States. In 1910 a revolution plunged Mexico into turmoil. Just as Wilson was entering the White House in 1913, the ruthless general Victoriano Huerta emerged as head of the government. Wealthy land- owners and foreign investors endorsed Huerta, who was likely to protect their holdings. Soon a bloody civil war was raging.

Unlike most European leaders, Wilson refused to recognize Huerta and his “government of butchers.” (Huerta had murdered the popular leader Francisco Madero.) Instead, he backed rebel leader Venustiano Carranza. When a bankrupt Huerta resigned in 1914, Carranza formed a new constitutionalist govern- ment but refused to follow Wilson’s guidelines. Wilson threw his support to Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a wily, peasant-born general who had broken from Carranza. Together with Emiliano Zapata, another peasant leader, Villa kept rebellion flickering.

^̂ General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing led U.S. forces into Mexico to catch rebel leader Pancho Villa “dead or alive.” Villa (pictured here on horseback leading a band of his rebels) eluded the Americans for several months before they abandoned the expedition. Audacious and ruthless, he was worshiped by Mexican peasants, who extolled his exploits in folktales and ballads after his assassination in 1923 by Mexican political rivals.

✔ R E V I E W What was “missionary” about Woodrow Wilson’s diplomacy, and how successfully did he pursue it?

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POLAND (Rus. )

















TUN IS IA (Fr. )
















London Berlin Warsaw














Euphrates River

A driat ic Sea

Ba l ti

c Se


Central Powers

Allied nations

Neutral countries

German submarine war zone

Central Powers’ farthest advance

Caspian Sea


N o r t h S e a



Tig ris River

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

B l a c k S e a

Lusitania sunk, 1915


month of insincere demands for apologies, Austria- Hungary attacked Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1 and, two days later, on France.

The guns of August heralded the first global war. Like so many dominoes, nations fell into line. Brit- ain, Japan, Romania, and later Italy rushed to the side of “Allies” France and Russia; Bulgaria and Turkey to the “Central Powers” of Germany and Austria- Hungary. Armies fought from the deserts of North Africa to the plains of Flanders. Fleets battled off the coasts of Chile and Sumatra.

Neutral but Not Impartial >>  The outbreak of war in Europe shocked most Americans. Few knew Serbia as anything but a tiny splotch on a map. Fewer still were prepared to go to war in its defense. President Wilson issued a declaration of neutrality and approved a plan for evacuating Americans stranded in Belgium.

Wilson soon came to see the calamity as an oppor- tunity. In his mind a neutral America could lead

and France looked to contain Germany by supporting its foe, Russia. By the summer of 1914 Europe bris- tled with weapons, troops, and armor-plated navies. And these war machines were linked to one another through a web of diplomatic and military alliances—all of them committed to war, the moment someone or some nation set chaos in motion.

That moment came on June 28, 1914, in the streets of Sarajevo, the provincial capital of Bosnia in south- west Austria-Hungary. There, the heir to the Austro- Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife were gunned down. The young assassin who car- ried out the deed belonged to the Black Hand, a ter- rorist group that had vowed to reunite Bosnia with Serbia to create another Slavic nation on Austria- Hungary’s border.

Austria-Hungary mobilized to punish all of Serbia. In response, rival Russia called up its 6-million-man army to help the Serbs. Germany joined with Austria- Hungary; France, with Russia. On July 28, after a

MAP 23.3: THE WAR IN EUROPE, 1914–1917 When World War I erupted, few countries in Europe remained neutral. The armies of the Central Powers penetrated as far west as France and as far east as Russia. By 1917 the war in Europe had settled into a hideous standoff along a deadly line of trenches on the western front. In which nation did the western front remain for most of the war? In which nation did the eastern front remain until 1917?

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warring nations to “a peace without victory”—without territorial concessions or monetary reparations—and a new world order. Selfish nationalism would give way to cooperative internationalism; power politics, to collec- tive security in which nations joined together to ensure the safety of all and to isolate aggressors. Progressive faith in reason would triumph over irrational violence. Everything hinged on maintaining neutrality. Only if America remained “impartial in thought as well as action” could it lead the way to a higher peace.

In a country as ethnically diverse as the United States, true impartiality was impossible. Americans of German and Austrian descent naturally sympathized with the Central Powers, as did Irish Americans, on the grounds of England’s centuries-old domination of Ireland. The bonds of language, culture, and history tied most Americans to Great Britain. And gratitude for French aid during the American Revolution still lived.

Germany aroused different sentiments. Although some progressives admired German social reforms, Americans generally saw Germany as an iron mili- tary power bent on conquest. Americans read British propaganda of spike-helmeted “Huns” raping Bel- gian women, bayoneting their children, pillaging their towns. Some of the stories were true, some embellished, some manufactured, but all worked against Germany in the United States.

American economic ties to Britain and France also created a financial investment in Allied victory. The American economy boomed with the flood of war orders. Between 1914 and 1916 trade with the Allies rocketed from $800 million to $3 billion. The Allies eventually borrowed more than $2 billion from American banks to finance their purchases. In contrast, a British blockade reduced American war goods trade with the Central Powers to a trickle.

The Diplomacy of Neu- trality  >>   Wilson had admired Great Britain all his life. Try as he might he could not contain his British sym- pathies. Although he insisted that all warring powers respect the right of neutrals to trade with any nation, he hesitated to retaliate against Great Britain’s blockade of Germany.

Britain’s powerful navy was its key to victory over Germany, a land power. By the end of 1915 the United States had all but accepted the British blockade, while American supplies continued to flow to England. True neutrality was dead.

Early in 1915 Germany turned to a dreadful new weapon to even the odds at sea. It mounted a counter- blockade of Great Britain with two dozen submarines, or Unterseeboote, called U-boats. Before subma- rines, sea raiders usually gave crews and passengers the chance to escape. But if thin-skinned U-boats surfaced to obey these conventions, they risked being rammed or blown from the water. So subma- rines attacked without warning and spared no lives. Invoking international law and national honor, Wilson threatened to hold Germany to “strict accountabil- ity” for any American losses. Germany promised not to sink any American ships, but soon a new issue grabbed the headlines: the safety of American passengers on vessels of nations at war.

On the morning of May 7, 1915, the British pas- senger liner Lusitania appeared out of a fog bank off the coast of Ireland on its way from New York to Southampton. The commander of the German U-20 could hardly believe his eyes: the giant ship filled the viewfinder of his periscope. He fired a single torpedo. A tremendous roar followed as one of the Lusitania ’s main boilers exploded. The ship listed so badly that lifeboats could barely be launched before the vessel sank. Nearly 1,200 men, women, and children perished,

including 128 Americans. Wilson, though horrified,

did little more than send notes of protest to Germany. Sec- retary of State William Jen- nings Bryan, an advocate of what he called “real neutral- ity,” wanted equal protests lodged against both Ger- man submarines and British blockaders. He suspected that the Lusitania carried muni- tions and was thus a legitimate target. (Much later, evidence proved him right.) Relying on passengers for protection against attack, Bryan argued, was “like putting women and children in front of an army.” Rather than endorse Wilson’s policy, Bryan resigned.

Battling on two fronts in Europe, Germany wanted to keep the United States out of the war. But in February 1916 a desperate Germany declared

^̂ J. H. Cassel’s 1915 cartoon “Without Warning!” captures the horror of a submarine attack on the Lusitania. A bloody saber in the hand of a spike-helmeted German knifes through the ship from beneath the waves. Flag-waving Americans fall helplessly into the sea and drown.

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By the end of 1915 frustration with German sub- marines led Wilson to join the cause. He toured the country promoting preparedness and promising a “navy second to none.” In Washington he pressed Congress to double the army, increase the National Guard, and begin construction of the largest navy in the world. Preparedness had political power, too, as the Democrats discovered early in the presidential campaign of 1916.

As the Democratic National Convention opened in June, the keynote speaker began what he expected to be a dull description of Wilson’s recent diplomatic maneuvers—only to have the crowd roar back in each case, “What did we do?” The speaker knew the answer and shouted it back: “We didn’t go to war!” The next day Wilson was renominated by acclama- tion. “He Kept Us Out of War” became his campaign slogan.

The Republicans had already nominated Charles Evans Hughes, the former governor of New York. He endorsed “straight and honest” neutrality and peace. Despite his moderate stand, Democrats succeeded in painting him as a warmonger. By the time the polls closed, Wilson had squeaked out a victory, carried again to the presidency on a tide of prosperity, pro- gressive reform, and, most of all, promises of peace.

Wilson’s Final Peace Offensive  >>   Twice since 1915 Wilson had sent his trusted adviser Edward House to Europe to negotiate a peace among the war- ring powers, and twice House had failed. With the election over, Wilson opened his final peace offensive. When he asked the belligerents to state their terms for a cease-fire, neither side responded. Frustrated, fear- ful, and genuinely agonized, Wilson called for “a peace among equals” in January 1917.

As Wilson spoke, a fleet of U-boats was cruis- ing toward the British Isles. Weeks earlier German military leaders had persuaded the Kaiser to take one last gamble to starve the Allies into submis- sion. On January 31, 1917, the German ambassador in Washington announced that unrestricted submarine warfare would resume the next day.

Wilson’s dream of neutrality collapsed. He asked Congress for authority to arm merchant ships and severed relations with Germany. Then British authorities handed him a bombshell—an intercepted telegram from the German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to the Kaiser’s ambassador in Mexico. In the event of war the ambassador was instructed to offer Mexico guns, money, and its “lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona” to attack the United States. Wilson angrily released the Zimmer- mann telegram to the press. Soon after, he ordered gun crews aboard merchant ships and directed them to shoot U-boats on sight.

submarine warfare on all armed vessels, belligerent or neutral. A month later a U-boat commander mistook the French steamer Sussex for a mine layer and tor- pedoed the unarmed vessel. Several Americans were injured.

In mid-April Wilson issued an ultimatum. If Germany refused to stop sinking nonmilitary vessels, the United States would break off diplomatic relations. War would surely follow. Without enough U-boats to control the seas, Germany agreed to Wilson’s terms, all but abandoning its counterblockade. This Sussex pledge gave Wilson a major victory but carried a grave risk. If German submarines resumed unrestricted attacks, the United States would have to go to war.

Peace, Preparedness, and the Election of 1916 >>  While hundreds of young Yanks slipped across the border to enlist in the Canadian army, most Americans agreed that neutrality was the wis- est course. Pacifists condemned the war, but Repub- licans and corporate leaders argued that keeping the nation at peace required military strength. The army numbered only 80,000 men in 1914; the navy, just 37 battleships and a handful of new “dreadnoughts,” or supercruisers. Advocates of “preparedness” called for a navy larger than Great Britain’s, an army of millions of reservists, and universal military training.

Woodrow Wilson (Democrat) 277(52)

9,126,300 (49)

860,916 (5)

Hughes (Republican) 254(48)

8,546,789 (46)

Minor parties

Candidate (Party) Electoral Vote (%) Popular Vote (%)

6 4



57 45

38 14 3

812 7

1 24



13 12 12

9 14





18 29






5 12









3 13 4



MAP 23.4: ELECTION OF 1916

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Should the United States have

fought in World War I?



Men lived in them for years, prey to disease, lice, and a plague of rats.

War in the machine age gave the advantage to the defense. When soldiers bravely charged “over the top” of the trenches, they were shredded by machine guns that fired 600 rounds a minute. Poison gas choked them in their tracks. Giant howitzers lobbed shells on them from positions too distant to see. In the Battle of the Somme River in 1916, a million men were killed in just four months of fighting. Only late in the war did new armored “landships”—code-named “tanks”— return the advantage to the offense by surmounting the trench barriers with their caterpillar treads.

The momentum of events now propelled a reluctant Wilson toward war. On March 12, U-boats torpedoed the American merchant vessel Algonquin. On March 15 a revolution in Russia toppled Czar Nicholas II. A key ally was crumbling from within. By the end of the month U-boats had sunk nearly 600,000 tons of Allied and neutral shipping. For the first time reports came to Washington of cracking morale in the Allied ranks.

On April 2 Wilson trudged up the steps of the Capitol and delivered to Congress a stirring war mes- sage, calling “for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own gov- ernments, for the rights and liberties of small nations.” Six senators and 50 House members opposed the war resolution, including the first woman in Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Wyoming. Cultural, economic, and historical ties to the Allies, along with the German campaign of submarine warfare, had tipped the coun- try toward war. Wilson had not wanted it, but now the battlefield seemed the only path to a higher peace.

WAR AND SOCIETY In 1915 the German zeppelin LZ-38, hovering at 8,000 feet, dropped a load of bombs that killed seven Lon- doners. For the first time in history, civilians died in an air attack. Few aerial bombardments occurred dur- ing the First World War, but they signaled the grow- ing importance of the home front in modern combat. Governments not only fielded armies but also mobi- lized industry, controlled labor, even rationed food. In the United States, traditions of cooperation and volunteerism helped to organize the home front and the battlefront, often in ways that were peculiarly progressive.

The Slaughter of Stalemate  >> While the United States debated entry into the Great War, the Allies were close to losing it. Following the initial German assault in 1914, the war had settled into a grisly stalemate. A continuous, immovable front stretched south from Flanders to the border of Switzerland. Troops dug ditches, six to eight feet deep and four to five feet wide, to escape bullets, grenades, and artil- lery. Twenty-five thousand miles of these “trenches” slashed a muddy scar across Europe.

✔ R E V I E W What steps did Woodrow Wilson take to avoid World War I, and why did they fail?

^̂ Trench warfare, wrote one general, was “marked by uniform formations, the regulation of space and time by higher commands down to the smallest details . . . fixed distances between units and individuals.” The reality was something else again.

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nonetheless among the first Americans in the trenches and among the most decorated units in the U.S. Army.

Racial violence sometimes flared among the troops. The worst episode occurred in Houston in the summer of 1917. Harassed by white soldiers and by the city’s Jim Crow laws, seasoned black regulars rioted and killed 17 white civilians. Their whole bat- talion was disarmed and sent under arrest to New Mexico. Thirteen troopers were condemned to death and hanged within days, too quickly for appeals even to be filed.

Progressive reformers did not miss the opportunity to put the social sciences to work in the army. Most recruits had fewer than seven years of education, yet they had to be classified and assigned quickly to units. Psychologists saw the chance to use new intelligence tests to help the army and prove their own theo- ries about the value of “IQ” (intelligence quotient) in measuring brainpower. In fact, these new “scientific” IQ tests often measured little more than class origins. Questions such as “Who wrote ‘The Raven’?” exposed background rather than intelligence. The army stopped the testing program in January 1919, but schools across the country adopted it after the war, reinforcing many ethnic and racial prejudices.

By then Vladimir Lenin was speeding home to Russia, where food riots, coal shortages, and protests against the government had led to revolution. Lenin had been exiled to Switzerland during the early stages of the Russian Revolution but returned to lead his Bolshevik Party to power in November 1917. Soon the Russians negotiated a separate peace with Germany, which then transferred a million German soldiers to the western front for the coming spring offensive.

“You’re in the Army Now” >>   The Allies’ plight drove the army into a crash program to send a million soldiers to Europe by the spring of 1918. The United States had barely 180,000 men in uniform. To raise the force, Congress passed the Selective Service Act in May 1917. Feelings against the draft ran high, but progressives were more inclined to see military ser- vice as an opportunity to unite America and promote democracy. “Universal [military] training will jumble the boys of America all together,  .  .  . smashing all the petty class distinctions that now divide, and prompting a brand of real democracy,” said one of them.

On July 20, 1917, Secretary of War Newton Baker tied a blindfold over his eyes, reached into a huge glass bowl, and drew the first number in the new draft lot- tery. Some 24 million men were registered. Almost 3 million were drafted; another 2 million volunteered. Most were white, and all were young, between the ages of 21 and 31. Several thousand women served as military clerks, telephone operators, and nurses. In a nation of immigrants, nearly one draftee in five had been born in another coun- try. Training often aimed at educating and Americanizing these ethnic recruits. In special “development battalions,” drill sergeants barked out orders while volun- teers from the YMCA taught American history and English.

Mexican Americans and African Americans volunteered in dispropor- tionately high numbers. While Mexican Americans were integrated into regular Army units, African Americans remained segregated. They quickly filled the four all-black army and eight National Guard units already in existence. Abroad, where 200,000 black troops served in France, only about a fifth were permitted in com- bat. Southern Democrats in Congress had opposed training African Americans to arms, fearful of putting “arrogant, strut- ting representatives of black soldiery in every community.” Four regiments of the all-black Ninety-Third Division, brigaded with the French army, were

^̂ Movie idol Douglas Fairbanks, brandishing a megaphone, works a huge crowd during this rally in New York City to sell war bonds. When bond sales slacked, the Treasury created a publicity campaign to promote the idea that buying the bonds was a citizen’s patriotic duty.

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the first time in decades, labor unrest on the rail lines subsided and the trains ran on schedule.

The modern bureaucratic state received a big boost during the 18 months of American participation in the war. Speeding trends already under way, some

5,000 new federal agen- cies centralized authority and cooperated with busi- ness and labor. The number of federal employees more than doubled between 1916

and 1918 to over 850,000. The wartime bureaucracy was dismantled at the end of the war, but it set an important precedent for the future.

War Work  >>   The war benefited workingmen and women, though not as much as their employ- ers. Government contracts guaranteed high wages, an eight-hour day, and equal pay to men and women for comparable work. To encourage people to stay on the job, federal contracting agencies set up special classes to teach employers the new science of personnel manage- ment in order to supervise workers more efficiently and

humanely. American indus- try moved one step closer to the welfare capitalism of the 1920s, with its profit sharing, company unions, and personnel depart- ments to forestall worker discontent.

Personnel management was not always enough to guarantee industrial peace. In 1917 American workers called over 4,000 strikes, the most in American history. To keep factories running, President Wilson created the National War Labor Board (NWLB) early in 1918. The NWLB arbitrated more than 1,000 labor disputes during the war, helped to increase wages, and estab- lished overtime pay. In return for no-strike pledges, the board guaranteed the rights of unions to organize and bargain collectively. Membership in the American Federation of Labor almost doubled by 1919.

The wartime demand for workers brought nearly a million more women into the labor force. Most were young and single. Some took over jobs once held by men as railroad engineers, drill-press operators, and electric-lift truck drivers. The prewar trend toward higher-paying jobs intensified, though most women still earned less than the men they replaced. And some of the most spectacular gains in defense and govern- ment work evaporated after the war as male veterans returned and the country demobilized.

Women in war work nonetheless helped to energize several women’s causes and organizations. Radical suf- fragist Alice Paul and others who had protested against the war now argued for women’s rights, including the

Mobilizing the Economy >>   Armed, clothed, and drilled, the doughboys sailed off aboard “Atlantic ferries”—the ships that conveyed them to Europe. (Infantrymen were called “doughboys,” most likely because of the clay dough used by soldiers in the 1850s to clean brass belt buckles.) To equip, feed, and trans- port an army of nearly 5 million required a national effort.

At the Treasury Department, Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo fretted over how to finance the war, which cost, finally, $32 billion. At the time, the entire

national debt ran to only $2 billion. New taxes paid about a third of the war costs. The rest came from loans financed through “Liberty” and “Victory” bonds and war savings cer-

tificates. By 1920 the national debt had climbed to $20 billion.

With sweeping grants of authority provided by Congress, President Wilson constructed a mas- sive bureaucracy to mobilize the home front. What emerged was a managed economy similar to the

New Nationalism envisioned by Theodore Roosevelt. A War Industries Board (WIB) coordinated pro- duction through networks of industrial and trade associations . Rather than order firms to comply and risk lawsuits against the government, the WIB relied on persuasion through

publicity and “cost-plus” contracts that covered all production costs, plus a guaranteed profit. Antitrust suits, which might have prevented corporate coopera- tion, were simply put “to sleep,” recalled one official. Corporate profits tripled, and production soared.

The Food Administration encouraged farmers to grow more and citizens to eat less wastefully. Pub- licity campaigns promoted “wheatless” and “meat- less” days and exhorted families to plant “victory” vegetable gardens. Spurred by rising prices, farmers brought more marginal lands into cultivation as their real income jumped 25 percent.

A Fuel Administration met the army’s energy needs by increasing production and limiting domestic con- sumption. The U.S. Railroad Administration simply took over rail lines for the duration of the war. Gov- ernment coordination, together with a new system of permits, got freight moving and kept workers happy. Rail workers saw their wages grow by $300 million by the end of the war. Railroad unions won recognition, an eight-hour day, and a grievance procedure. For

national debt cumulative total of all previous annual federal deficits or budget shortfalls incurred each year and owed by the federal government.

managed economy economy directed by the government with power over prices, allo- cation of resources, and mar- keting of goods.

trade association organization of individuals and firms in a given industry that provides lobbying and other services to members.

bureaucratic state government run by administrative bureaus and staffed by nonelected officials.

welfare capitalism busi- ness practice of providing welfare—in the form of pen- sion and profit-sharing pro- grams, subsidized housing, personnel management, paid vacations, and other services and benefits—for workers.

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burned out of their homes and hundreds injured as they fought white mobs.

Propaganda and Civil Liberties  >>   “Once lead this people into war,” Presi- dent Wilson warned before American entry into the con- flict, “and they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tol- erance.” Americans succumbed to a ruthless hysteria during World War I, but they had help. Wilson knew how reluc- tant Americans had been to enter the war. In 1917 he cre- ated the Committee on Public Information (CPI) to cement their commitment to the war.

Under George Creel, a California journalist, the CPI launched a vigorous publicity campaign that produced col- orful war posters, 75 million pamphlets, and patriotic “war expositions” in two dozen cities across the country. An army

of 75,000 fast-talking “Four-Minute Men” invaded theaters, schools, and churches to keep patriotism at “white heat” with four minutes of war tirades. The CPI organized “Loyalty Leagues” in ethnic communi- ties and sponsored rallies, including a much-publicized immigrant “pilgrimage” to the birthplace of George Washington.

As war fever mounted, voluntary patriotism blos- somed into an orgy of “100 percent Americanism” that bred distrust of all aliens, radicals, pacifists, and dis- senters. German Americans became special targets. In Iowa the governor made it a crime to speak German in public. When a mob outside St. Louis lynched a natu- ralized German American who had tried to enlist in the navy, a jury found the leaders not guilty.

Congress gave hysteria more legal bite by passing the Espionage and the Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918. Both set harsh penalties for any actions that hindered the war effort or that could be viewed as even remotely unpatriotic. Following passage, 1,500 citi- zens were arrested for offenses that included denouncing the draft, criticizing the Red Cross, and complaining about wartime taxes.

Radical groups received especially severe treatment. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a mili- tant union centered in western states, saw the war as a

right to vote, on the basis of it. As women worked beside men in wartime factories and offices, in nursing stations at home or on the front, and in patriotic and other volunteer organizations, they could argue more convincingly for both economic and political equal- ity. One step in that direction came after the war with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 granting women the right to vote.

Great Migrations  >>   War work sparked massive migrations of laborers. As the fighting abroad choked off immigration and the draft depleted the workforce, fac- tory owners scoured the country for workers. Industrial cities, no matter how small, soon swelled with newcomers. Between 1917 and 1920 some 150,000 Mexicans crossed the border into Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Some Mexican Americans left segregated barrios of western cities for war plants in Chicago, Omaha, and other northern cities, pushed out by the cheaper labor from Mexico and seeking higher-paying jobs. But most worked on farms and ranches, freed from military service by the deferment granted to agricultural labor.

Northern labor agents fanned out across the rural South to recruit young African Americans, while black newspapers like the Chicago Defender summoned them up to the “Land of Hope.” During the war more than 400,000 moved to the booming industries of the North. Largely unskilled and semiskilled, they worked in the steel mills of Pennsylvania, the war plants of Massachusetts, the brickyards of New Jersey. Southern towns were decimated by the drain.

These migrations of African Americans—into the army as well as into the city—aggravated racial ten- sions. Lynching parties murdered 38 black south- erners in 1917 and 58 in 1918. In 1919, after the war ended, more than 70 were hanged, some still in uni- form. Housing shortages and job competition helped to ignite race riots across the North. In almost every city black citizens, stirred by war rhetoric of freedom and democracy, showed new militancy. During the bloody “red summer” of 1919, race wars broke out in Wash- ington, D.C., Omaha, Nebraska, New York City, and Chicago, where thousands of African Americans were

sedition words or actions that incite revolt against the law or duly constituted government.

̂̂ The constraints of war brought more women than ever into the job market. These women work on a production line manufacturing bullets. The novelty of the situation seems evident from the fashionable high-heeled high- button shoes that they wear—ill suited to the conditions in an armaments plant.

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MAP 23.5: THE FINAL GERMAN OFFENSIVE AND ALLIED COUNTERATTACK, 1918 On the morning of March 21, 1918, over 60 German divisions sliced through Allied lines. They then plunged within 50 miles of Paris before being stopped at the Marne River in July. The Allied counterattack was marked by notable American victories at Château-Thierry, Belleau Wood, Saint-Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Into which country did the Allied counteroffensive advance during 1918? Which Allied nation does the text indicate had the largest number of troops at the victory at Saint-Mihiel?

North Sea

Eng lis

h C ha

nn el

Somme R.

Seine R. Marne R.

Meus e R


M os

ell e R


Rhine R.






Belleau Wood

Château- Thierry

Meuse- Argonne

Saint- Mihiel









Rheims Verdun














Areas occupied by Central Powers Final German advance, 1918 Line of trench warfare, 1917

Allied counteroffensive, 1918

Allied victories

Armistice Line, November 11, 1918 0 50 mi

0 50 100 km


seas and free trade, disarmament, democratic self-rule, and an “association of nations” to guarantee collective security. It was nothing less than a new world order to end selfish nationalism, imperialism, and war.

Allied leaders were not impressed. “President Wilson and his Fourteen Points bore me,” French premier Georges Clemenceau said. “Even God Almighty has only ten!” Wilson’s idealistic platform was also designed to save the Allies embarrassment. Almost as soon as it came to power in 1917, the new Bolshevik government in Moscow began publishing secret treaties from the czar’s archives. They revealed that the Allies had gone to war for territory and colo- nies, not for high principles. Wilson’s Fourteen Points had given their cause a nobler purpose.

Wilson’s ideals also stirred German liberals. On October 6 Wilson received a telegram from Ber- lin requesting an immediate truce on the basis of the Fourteen Points. Within a month Turkey and Austria-Hungary surrendered. Early in November the Kaiser was overthrown and fled to neutral Holland. On

battle among capitalists and threatened to strike min- ing and lumber companies in protest. Federal agents raided IWW headquarters in Chicago and arrested 113 members. The crusade destroyed the union. Similarly, the Socialist Party opposed the “capital- ist” war. In response the postmaster general banned a dozen Socialist publications from the mail, though the party was a legal organization that had elected may- ors, municipal officials, and members of Congress. In 1918 government agents arrested Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate for president in 1912, for an anti- war speech. A jury found him guilty of sedition and sentenced him to 10 years in jail.

The Supreme Court endorsed such actions. In Schenck v. United States (1919) the Court unani- mously affirmed the conviction of a Socialist Party officer who had mailed pamphlets urging resistance to the draft. The pamphlets, wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, created “a clear and present danger” to a nation at war.

Over There >>  The first American doughboys landed in France in June 1917, but few saw battle. General John Pershing held back his raw troops until they received more training. He also separated them in a distinct American Expeditionary Force to preserve their identity and avoid Allied disagree- ments over strategy.

In the spring of 1918, as the Ger- mans pushed toward Paris, Persh- ing rushed 70,000 American troops to the front. American units helped block the Germans at the town of Château- Thierry and at Belleau Wood. Two more German attacks, one at Amiens and the other just east of the Marne River, ended in costly German retreats. In Septem- ber 1918, half a million American sol- diers and a smaller number of French troops overran the German stronghold at Saint-Mihiel in four days.

With their army in retreat and civilian morale low, Germany’s lead- ers sought an armistice . They hoped

to negotiate terms along the lines laid out by W o o d r o w Wilson in

a speech to Congress in January 1918. Wilson’s bright vision of peace had encompassed 14 points. The key pro- visions called for open diplomacy, free

armistice mutually agreed-on truce or temporary halt in the fighting of a war so that the combatants may discuss peace.

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T HE L IMITS OF F REE S PEECH When the Socialist Party printed and distributed 15,000 leaflets attacking the Conscription Act (1917), authorities charged the party’s Secretary General Charles Schenck with having violated the newly enacted Espionage Act by opposing conscription (drafting men into military service). In ruling against Schenck, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, outlined the limits of free speech in wartime.

Dueling D O C U M E N T S

D O C U M E N T 1 Flyer Distributed by Socialist Party

ASSERT YOUR RIGHTS! The Constitution of the United States is one of the greatest bulwarks of political liberty. It was born after a long, stubborn battle between kong long-rule and demo- crecy. . . . In this battle the people of the United States established the principle that freedom of the individual and per- sonal liberty are the most sacred things in life. Without them we become slaves. . . .

The Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States . . . embodies this sacred idea. The Social- ist Party says this idea is violated by the Conscription Act. When you conscript a man and compel him to go abroad to fight against his will, you violate the most sacred right of personal liberty, and sub- stitute for it what Daniel Webster called “despotism of the worst form.”

A conscript is little better than a convict. He is deprived of his liberty and of his right to think and act as a free man. A conscripted citizen is forced to sur- render his right as a citizen and become

a subject. He is forced into involuntary servitude. He is deprived of the protec- tion given him by the Constitution of the United States. He is deprived of all free- dom of conscience in being forced to kill against his will. . . .

In a democratic country each man must have the right to say whether he is willing to join the army. Only in countries where uncontrolled power rules can a despot force his subjects to fight. Such a man or men have no place in a demo- cratic republic. This is tyrannical power in its worst form. It gives control over the life and death of the individual to a few men. There is no man good enough to be given such power.

Conscription laws belong to a bygone age. Even the people of Germany, long suffering under the yoke of militarism, are beginning to demand the abolition of conscription. Do you think it has a place in the United States? Do you want to see unlimited power handed over to Wall Street’s chosen few in America? If

you do not, join the Socialist Party in its campaign for the repeal of the Conscrip- tion Act. Write to your congressman and tell him you want the law repealed. Do not submit to intimidation. You have a right to demand the repeal of any law. Exer- cise your rights of free speech, peaceful assemblage and petitioning the govern- ment for a redress of grievances. Come to the headquarters of the Socialist Party . . . and sign a petition for the repeal of the Conscription Act. Help us wipe out this stain upon the Constitution!

Help us re-establish democracy in America. Remember, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Down with autocracy! Long live the Constitution of the United States! Long live the Republic!

Source: Nancy Cornwell, Freedom of the Press: Rights and Liberties under the Law (Santa Barbara, CA, 2004), pp. 281–285.

D O C U M E N T 2 Justice Holmes on Free Speech in Wartime

We admit that, in many places and in ordi- nary times, the defendants, in saying all that was said in the circular, would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shout- ing fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. The question

in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proxim- ity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any

constitutional right. It seems to be admit- ted that, if an actual obstruction of the recruiting service were proved, liability for words that produced that effect might be enforced. The statute of 1917, in $4, punishes conspiracies to obstruct, as well as actual obstruction. If the act (speaking, or circulating a paper), its tendency, and the intent with which it is done are the same, we perceive no ground for saying that success alone warrants making the act a crime. Indeed, that case might be

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Soldiers and others living in close quarters were especially vulnerable. For reasons still unknown, so were young adults 20 to 34 years old, precisely the ages of most of those in the armed services. For every 50 people infected, 1 died. In the United States alone, the death toll rose to perhaps 600,000 more than the American battle deaths in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam combined.

November 11, 1918, German officers filed into Allied headquarters in a converted railroad car in France, and signed the armistice.

Of the 2 million Americans who served in France, some 116,500 died. By comparison, the war claimed 2.2 million Germans, 1.7 million Russians, 1.4 million French, 1.2 million Austro-Hungarians, and nearly a million Britons. The American con- tribution nonetheless proved crucial, provid- ing vital convoys at sea and fresh troops on land. The United States emerged from the war stronger than ever. Europe, on the other hand, looked forward—as one newspaper put it—to “Disaster . . . Exhaustion . . . Revolution.”

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918– 1919 >>  In the months before the armistice, a scourge more lethal than war had begun to engulf the globe. It started innocently enough at Fort Riley, Kansas, early in March 1918, when a young company cook reported to the infirmary on sick call. His head and muscles ached, his throat was sore, and he had a low-grade fever.

It was influenza, dangerous for infants and the old but ordinarily no problem for robust young men. By noon, however, 107 soldiers had reported similar symptoms. Within a week the number had jumped to over 500. Cases of the flu were being reported in virtually every state, even on the isolated island of Alcatraz in San Fran- cisco Bay. And robust young people were dying from it.

The first wave of flu produced few deaths in the United States. But as the virus mutated over the next year, its victims experienced more-distressing symptoms: vomiting, dizzi- ness, labored breathing. More and more of them died, literally drowning in their own bodily flu- ids from the pneumonia that accompanied the virus.

said to dispose of the present contention if the precedent covers all media conclu- dend. But, as the right to free speech was not referred to specially, we have thought fit to add a few words.

It was not argued that a conspiracy to obstruct the draft was not within the words of the [Conscription] Act of 1917. The words are “obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service,” and it might be

suggested that they refer only to making it hard to get volunteers. Recruiting here- tofore usually having been accomplished by getting volunteers, the word is apt to call up that method only in our minds. But recruiting is gaining fresh supplies for the forces, as well by draft as otherwise. It is put as an alternative to enlistment or voluntary enrollment in this act. Source: Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).

THINKING CRITICALLY What actions does the leaflet call for and on what grounds? According to Justice Holmes, what are the limits of free speech in peacetime and wartime? Why are they different? Do you think that there are ever instances in war when citizen protest is permissible under the Constitution?

^̂ A grim specter representing the influenza virus overtakes the angel of peace in this German cartoon from 1918. Deaths from the pandemic worldwide far exceeded deaths from the war.

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lethal outbreak of disease on an annual basis in human history. Global war had helped spread the disease, but improvements in transportation and two centu- ries of global migrations had also spawned pandemics. As automobiles and airplanes continued to shrink the globe, similar pandemics, though less deadly, would be repeated in years to come.

THE LOST PEACE As the USS George Washington approached the coast of France in mid-December 1918, the mist suddenly lifted in an omen of good hope. Woodrow Wilson had come to represent the United States at the Paris peace conference at Versailles, once the glittering palace of

Ironically, the United States was the country least affected by this worldwide epidemic, called a pandemic . American sol- diers seem to have car- ried the disease to Europe, where it jumped from one country to another in the spring and summer of 1918. French troops and civilians soon were suffering from it, then British and German. General Eric von Ludendorff counted the flu as one of the causes of the failure of the final German offensive in July 1918, which almost won the war for Germany.

With steamships and railroads carrying people all over the globe, virtually no place was safe. By the summer of 1918, the virus had leapt from North America and Europe to Asia and Japan; by fall, to Africa and South America. As far north as the Russian city of Archangel, officials were reporting 30 influenza deaths a day by October 1918.

Sixteen months after it appeared, the flu vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Conservative estimates placed the number of dead worldwide at 50 million, making the influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 the most

pandemic broad outbreak of disease spreading across national boundaries.

MAP 23.6: SPREAD OF INFLUENZA PANDEMIC: SECOND STAGE, AUTUMN 1918 After the milder outbreak in the spring of 1918, a more deadly form of influenza spread outward from the coast of France at the beginning of August. The worldwide transportation system quickly dispersed the disease, sending it first to the western coast of Africa (beginning at Freetown, Liberia) and the eastern coast of North America (at Boston). The disease reached virtually all continents, although Australia’s strict quarantine delayed entrance of the flu there until 1919. By far, the continent hardest hit was Asia, where anywhere from 12 to 20 million died in India alone. American mortality, though serious, totaled only about 600,000. Why might Asia have suffered so many deaths? What areas were relatively unaffected by the pandemic? Why might that have been?

Pacific 85,000

North America 603,000

South America 766,000–966,000

Africa 1.9–2.3 million

Europe 2.3 million

Asia 19–31 million

Estimated Deaths





Spread of disease 100,000 people

✔ R E V I E W How did progressivism shape the home front during World War I?

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MONTENEGRO (to Yugoslavia,
















Ba l t

i c S

e a



N o r t h S e a

B l a c k Sea

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

D ar

da ne

lle s


Dan ube








Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

Berlin Warsaw





Istanbul (Constantinople)



Demilitarized zones

1926 boundaries

Territory lost by Russia

Territory lost by Germany

Territory lost by BulgariaTerritory lost by Austro-Hungarian Empire


Europe after World War I

0 500 mi

0 500 km


Jerusalem Amman


Baghdad (French mandate)

(British mandate)

(British mandate)

(independent 1916; to Saudi Arabia, 1925)

(independent 1922)

Istanbul (Constantinople)








PALESTINE (British mandate)






CYPRUS (Great Britain)

0 250 mi

0 500 km

Ottoman Empire, 1914

International boundaries, 1923

League of Nations mandates, 1920

British protectorate, 1914

P e r s i a n G u l f

Mediterranean Sea

Suez Canal

B l a c k S e a

N ile



MAP 23.7: EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST AFTER WORLD WAR I The face of Europe and the Middle East changed after the First World War, as these two maps indicate. In Europe new countries were carved out of Russia, Germany, and the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, while “mandates” created by the Treaty of Versailles and destined for even- tual independence in the Middle East were formed from the old Turkish Empire. Which of the changes on this map reflect the influence of Wilson’s Fourteen Points?


president handpicked the Peace Commission of experts that accompanied him. It included economists, his- torians, geographers, and political scientists—but not a single member of the Republican-controlled Sen- ate. What promised to make peace negotiations eas- ier created a crippling liability in Washington, where Republicans were already casting hostile eyes on the mirrored halls of Versailles.

French king Louis XIV. A world of problems awaited. Europe had been shelled into ruin and scarred with the debris of war. More than 41 million people lay dead or maimed from the fighting. Throughout the Balkans and the old Turkish empire in the Middle East, ethnic rivalries, social chaos, and revolution loomed.

With the old world order in shambles, Wilson felt the need to take forceful action. To help him, the

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The Treaty of Versailles >>  Everywhere Wil- son went, cheers greeted him. In Paris 2 million people showered him with flowers. In Italy they hailed him as the “peacemaker from America.” And Wilson believed what he heard, unaware of how determined the victors were to punish the vanquished. David Lloyd George of England, Georges Clemenceau of France, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, and Wilson constituted the Big Four at the conference that included some 27 nations. War had united them; now peace-making threatened to divide them.

Wilson’s sweeping reforms had taken Allied lead- ers by surprise. Hungry for new colonies, eager to see Germany crushed and disarmed, they had already divided up the territories of the Central Powers in secret treaties. Germany offered to surrender on the basis of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, but the Allies refused to accept them. When Wilson threatened to negotiate peace on his own, Allied leaders finally agreed—but only for the moment.

Noticeably absent when the peace conference con- vened in January 1919 were the Russians. None of the Western democracies had recognized the Bolshe- vik regime in Moscow, out of fear that the communist revolution might spread. Instead, France and Britain were helping to finance a civil war to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Even Wilson had sent several thousand American troops to join the Allied occupation of some northern Russian ports and to Siberia. The Russians would neither forgive nor forget this intrusion.

Grueling negotiations forced Wilson to yield sev- eral of his Fourteen Points. Britain, with its powerful navy, refused even to discuss the issues of free trade and freedom of the seas. Wilson’s “open diplomacy” was conducted behind closed doors by the Big Four. The only mention of disarmament involved Germany, which was barred from rearming. Wilson’s call for “peace without victory” gave way to a “guilt clause” that saddled Germany with responsibility for the war. Worse still, the victors imposed on the vanquished a burdensome debt of $33 billion in reparations.

Wilson did achieve some successes. His pleas for national self-determination led to the creation of a dozen new states in Europe, including Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Austria. (Poland and newly created Czechoslovakia, however, contained millions of eth- nic Germans.) Former colonies gained new status as “mandates” of the victors, now obligated to prepare them for independence. The old German and Turk- ish Empires in the Middle East and Africa became the responsibility of France and England, while Japan took over German possessions in the Far East.

Wilson never lost sight of his main goal: a “general association of nations.” He had given so much ground because he believed this new world organization would correct any mistakes in the peace settlement. Members

promised to submit all war-provoking disagreements to arbitration and to isolate aggressors by cutting off commercial and military trade. Article X (Wilson called it “the heart of the covenant”) bound members to respect one another’s independence and territory and to join together against attack.

The Battle for the Treaty  >>   Wilson left immediately for home to address growing opposition in Congress. In the off-year elections of 1918, vot- ers unhappy with wartime controls, new taxes, and attacks on civil liberties had given both houses to the opposition Republicans. A slim Republican majority in the Senate put Wilson’s archrival, Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, in the chairman’s seat of the all- important Foreign Relations Committee.

Although most of the country favored the League of Nations, Lodge opposed it. For decades he had fought to preserve American freedom of action in foreign affairs. Now he worried that the League would force Americans to subject themselves to “the will of other nations,” including the congressional prerogative of bringing the nation into war. And he certainly did not want Dem- ocrats to win votes by taking credit for the treaty.

^̂ Two terms as president and a stroke in 1919 took their toll on Woodrow Wilson, as this photograph shows. When Wilson ran for president in 1912, his hair was dark and his face full of vigor. Here his hair is nearly white, his face puffy, and his jaw slack.

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Securing the signatures of enough senators to block any treaty, Lodge offered the Senate a “round robin” reso- lution against the League early in March 1919.

Wilson’s only hope of winning the necessary two- thirds majority lay in compromise, but he stubbornly resisted any changes. Despite his failing health Wilson instead took his case to the people in a month- long campaign across the nation in 1919. In Pueblo, Colorado, a crowd of 10,000 heard him speak of American soldiers killed in France and American boys whom the League one day would spare from death. Listeners wept openly.

That evening, utterly exhausted, Wilson collapsed in a spasm of pain. On October 2, four days after being rushed to the White House, he fell to the bathroom floor, knocked unconscious by a stroke. He recovered slowly but never fully. More and more the battle for the treaty consumed his fading energies.

Late in 1919 Lodge finally reported the treaty out of committee with 14 amendments to match Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The most important asserted that the United States assumed no obligation to aid League members unless Congress consented. Wilson refused to accept any of the amendments and asked Democrats

in the Senate to vote against the treaty. Whatever ill- will Lodge bore Wilson, his objections did not destroy the treaty, but only weakened it by protecting the congressional power to declare war.

When the amended treaty finally came before the Senate in March 1920, enough Democrats broke from the president to produce a majority in favor—but not the required two-thirds. The Treaty of Versailles was dead in America. Not until July 1921 did Congress enact a joint resolution ending the war. The United States, which had fought separately from the Allies, made a separate peace as well.

Red Scare >>  Peace abroad did not bring peace at home. On May Day 1919, six months after the war ended, mobs in a dozen cities broke up Social- ist parades, injured hundreds, and killed three people. Later that month, when a spectator at a Victory Loan rally in Washington refused to stand for the national anthem, a sailor shot him in the back. The stadium crowd applauded.

The spontaneous violence and extremism erupted because Americans believed they were under attack by homegrown and foreign-sponsored radicals. When a rapid end to wartime controls brought skyrocketing prices and when unemployment grew in the wake of millions of returning veterans, a wave of labor unrest swept the country. Even the Boston police went on strike for higher pay. In Seattle a general strike para- lyzed the city for five days in January 1919. Mayor Ole Hanson blamed radicals, while Congress ascribed the national ills to Bolshevik agents, inspired by the revolution in Russia.

The menace of radicalism was overblown. With Socialist Eugene Debs in prison, his dwindling party numbered only about 30,000. Radicals at first hoped that the success of the Russian Revolution would help reverse their fortunes in the United States. But most Americans found the prospect of “Bolshevik” agita- tors threatening, especially after March 1919, when the new Russian government formed the Comintern to spread revolution abroad. Furthermore, the Left itself splintered. In 1919 dissidents deserted the Socialists to form the more radical Communist Labor Party. About the same time, a group of mostly ethnic Slavs created a separate Communist Party. The two organizations together counted no more than 40,000 members.

On April 28 Mayor Hanson received a small brown parcel, evidently another present from an admirer of his tough patriotism. It was a homemade bomb. Within days 20 such packages were discovered, including ones sent to John D. Rockefeller, Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the postmaster general. On June 2, bombs exploded simultaneously in eight different cities. One of them demolished the front porch of A. Mitchell Palmer, attorney general of the

^̂ “ IF WE WERE IN THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS, ” warns this cartoon omi- nously, the United States would see more wounded and dead sol- diers coming home by the boatload. Uncle Sam watches silently as the remnants of the American army return, including a flag-draped coffin in the background, while “J[ohn] Bull” (symbol of Great Britain) shouts: “Send over a new army!”

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United States. The bomb thrower was blown to bits, but enough remained to identify him as an Italian anarchist from Philadelphia. Already edgy over Bol- shevism and labor militancy, many Americans assumed that an organized conspiracy was being mounted to overthrow the government.

Palmer, a Quaker and a progressive, hardened in the wake of the bombings. In November 1919 and again in January 1920, he launched raids in over 30 cities across the United States. Government agents invaded private homes, meeting halls, and pool parlors, taking sev- eral thousand alleged communists into custody without warrants and beating those who resisted. Prison- ers were marched through streets in chains, crammed into dilapidated jails, held without hearings. Over 200 aliens, most of whom had no criminal records, were deported to the Soviet Union.

Such abuses of civil liberties provoked a backlash. After the New York legislature expelled five Social- ists in 1919, responsible politicians—from former presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes to Ohio senator Warren Harding—denounced the action. The “deportation delirium” ended early in 1920. Palmer finally overreached himself by predicting a revolution- ary uprising for May 1, 1920. Nothing happened. Four months later, when a wagonload of bombs exploded on Wall Street, Palmer blamed a Bolshevik conspiracy. Despite 35 deaths and more than 200 injuries, Ameri- cans saw it as the work of a few demented radicals (which it probably was) and went about business as usual.

In early August 1914 the Panama Canal opened without fanfare, but no one could miss the signifi- cance: the new American empire now spanned the globe, stretching from the Caribbean to the Pacific and linked by a waterway between the seas. There were plans for a tremendous celebration in which the battleship Oregon, whose 1898 “race around the Horn” had inspired the idea of an American-owned canal, would lead a flotilla of ships through the locks. But the plans had to be scrapped, for in that fateful month of August, the old world order collapsed into a world war.

World War I was rightly named “the Great War” by Europeans, because it transformed the continent and left a bitter legacy that shaped the twentieth cen- tury. In Europe, France and Great Britain triumphed, only to find their economies enfeebled, their people dispirited and fearful, their empires near collapse. Two other empires—of vanquished Austria-Hungary and Turkey—were dismembered. Revolution toppled the once-mighty czars of Russia, bringing an end to the Russian Empire and the beginning of the Soviet Union that eventually fell under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Germany suffered defeat, humiliation, and a crushing burden of debt, which together paved the way for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Elsewhere, a victorious Japan left the Paris peace table shamed by what it regarded as paltry spoils of war and determined to rise to global greatness. Japan’s flickering democ- racy soon crumbled as a cult of militarism and emperor worship took hold. In the Middle East, in Africa, and on the Indian subcontinent, the unful- filled promises of a world made “safe for democ- racy” sparked a growing number of nationalist and

<< In September 1919 some 300,000 steelworkers struck for higher wages, recognition of their union, and a reduction in the 70-hour workweek. In Gary, Indi- ana, women in sympathy with the strike prepare to picket the plant.

✔ R E V I E W What were the results of the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles?

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anticolonial movements. The twentieth century, a century of global change and violence, was indeed forged in the crucible of the Great War.

CHAPTER SUMMARY The First World War marked the beginning of the end of the old world order of colonial imperialism, mili- tary alliances, and balances of power; it also marked a failed effort to establish a new world order based on the progressive ideals of international cooperation and collective security. " Progressive diplomacy—whether through Theo-

dore Roosevelt’s big stick diplomacy, William Taft’s dollar diplomacy, or Woodrow Wilson’s missionary diplomacy—stressed moralism and order, champi- oned “uplifting” nonwhites, and stretched presi- dential authority to its limits.

" With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Woodrow Wilson saw an opportunity for the United States to lead the world to a higher peace of inter- national cooperation by remaining neutral and bro- kering the peace settlement.

" However, American sympathy for the Allies, heavy American investments in the Allies, and the German campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare finally drew the country into the war in 1917.

" Progressive faith in government, planning, effi- ciency, and publicity produced a greatly expanded bureaucratic state that managed the war effort on the home front.

" The darker side of progressivism also flourished as the war transformed progressive impulses for assimilation and social control into campaigns for superpatriotism and conformity that helped to pro- duce a postwar Red Scare in 1919 and 1920.

" Meanwhile, changes already under way, including more women in the labor force and migrations of African Americans and Mexican Americans from rural to urban America, vastly accelerated with the expansion of opportunities for war work.

" When the war ended, Wilson’s hopes for “peace without victory” and a new world order, embodied in his Fourteen Points, were dashed when his Euro- pean allies imposed a harsh settlement on Germany and the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles.

Additional Reading The diverse vectors of progressive diplomacy, as prac- ticed by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, are the subject of Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power (1956); and Arthur Link, Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, and Peace (1968).

Why did the United States enter World War I? Early revisionist accounts emphasizing a financial conspiracy to bring the nation to war include Charles Beard, The Open Door to War (1934); and Charles C. Tansill, America Goes to War (1938). George Kennan, from the school of realism, is critical of Wilson’s moral motives in American Diplomacy, 1900–1950 (rev. ed., 1971). David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (1980), surveys mobilization and the home front, but see also Maurine W. Greenwald, Women, War, and Work (1980); Susan Zeiger, In Uncle Sam’s Service: Women Workers with the American Expeditionary Force, 1917–1919 (1999); and Kathleen Kennedy, Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion during World War I (1999). Isabel Wilkerson provides a riv- eting portrait of the Great Migration in The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) that upsets many stereotypes of those who journeyed north. Mark Ellis, Race, War, and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States Government during World War I (2001); and Mark Robert Schneider, “We Return Fighting”: The Civil Rights Movement in the Jazz Age (2001), look at the effects of the war on African American civil rights. Jennifer D. Keene, Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America (2001), looks at the impact of the war on soldiers and on the country. For African Americans on the battlefront, see Arthur E. Barbeau and Henri Florette, The Unknown Soldiers (1974). Robert Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson and World War I (1985), analyzes Wilson’s wartime diplomacy, the peace negotiations, and the fate of the Treaty of Versailles. For the influenza pandemic, see John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (2004). For a colorful, thorough, and thoughtful account of the Paris Peace Conference, see Margaret Macmillan and Richard Hol- brooke, Paris, 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (2001). Beverly Gage’s The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror (2009) takes a fresh look at the 1920 bombing within the context of class warfare and labor radical- ism following World War I.

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Significant Events 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine

1907 “Gentlemen’s agreement” with Japan; “Great White Fleet” embarks on world tour1910

Mexican Revolution begins

1915 Lusitania torpedoed; Wilson

endorses preparedness

1917 Russian Revolution breaks out; United

States enters World War I

1914 World War I begins; Panama Canal opens

1916 General John Pershing invades Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa; Wilson reelected

1905 Treaty of Portsmouth

ends Russo-Japanese War

1918 Wilson’s Fourteen Points; influenza pandemic; armistice declared

1919 Paris Peace Conference; Senate rejects Treaty of


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A young boy, a box of Cracker Jack candy in hand, examines the post- ers at a local film “palace” in this 1920 photograph. A feature film— The Mollycoddle, starring the swash- buckling Douglas Fairbanks—and the eighth episode of the serial The Moonriders were shown together several times a day. With cliff- hangers punctuat- ing every episode, serials kept audi- ences coming back to theaters week after week.

24 1920–1929

>> An American Story

yesterday meets today in the new era

J ust before Christmas 1918 the “Gospel Car” pulled into Los Angeles. Bold letters on the side announced: “J ESUS IS COMING — GET READY. ” Aimee Semple McPherson, the ravishing redheaded driver, had just completed a cross-country trip to seek her evangelical destiny. At first Sister Aimee found destiny elusive. Three years of wan- dering across California finally landed her in San Diego, a city with the state’s high-

est rates of illness and suicide. It was the perfect place to preach her healing message

The New Era

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| THE NEW ERA | 489

What ’s to CCoomme 490 The Roaring Economy

494 A Mass Society

499 Defenders of the Faith

503 Republicans Ascendant

506 The Great Bull Market

of the “Foursquare Gospel.” Sister Aimee’s revival attracted 30,000 people, who witnessed her first mir- acle: a paralytic walked.

On New Year’s Day 1923, to the blare of trumpets, Sister Aimee unveiled the $1.5 million Angelus Temple, graced by a 75-foot rotat- ing electronic cross and a 5,000- seat auditorium. Her lively sermons, broadcast over her own radio sta- tion, carried the spirit of what people were calling the “New Era” of productivity and consumerism. While country preachers menaced their congregations with visions of eternal damnation, Sister Aimee, wrote a reporter, offered “flowers, music, golden trumpets, red robes, angels, incense, nonsense, and sex appeal.”

Modernizing the gospel was only one change ushered in by what people were calling the New Era. Writing in 1931 journalist Freder- ick Lewis Allen found the changes of the preceding decade so diz- zying that it hardly seemed pos- sible 1919 was “only yesterday,” as he titled his best-selling book. To demonstrate the transformation, Allen followed an average American couple, the fictitious “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” through the decade.

Among the most striking altera- tions was the revolution in women’s fashions and behavior. Mrs. Smith’s hemline jumped from her ankle to her knee. With Prohibition in full force, she and other women walked into illegal “speakeasy” saloons as readily as men. The Smiths danced to jazz and sprinkled their conversa- tions with references to “repressed sexual drives” and the best meth- ods of contraception. Perhaps the most striking change was these “average” Americans lived in a city. The census of 1920 showed that for the first time just over half the population were urbanites.

Yet the city-dwelling Smiths of Frederick Allen’s imagination were hardly average. Nearly as many Americans lived on isolated farms and in villages and clung to the small-town values of an earlier America. In tiny Hyden, Kentucky, along the Cumberland Plateau, Main Street remained unpaved. By 1930 there were only 10 automobiles in the whole county. God-fearing Bap- tists still repaired to the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River for an open- air baptism when they declared their new birth in Christ. They would have nothing to do with jazz or the showy miracles of Aimee McPherson.

As much as some Americans resisted the transforming forces of modern life, the New Era could not be walled out. New industrial technologies produced a host of consumer goods, while large cor- porations developed “modern” bureaucracies to make workers and production lines more productive and efficient. Whether Americans embraced the New Era or con- demned it, change came nonethe- less, in the form of a mass- produced consumer economy, a culture shaped by mass media, and a more

materialistic society. <<

̂̂ Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, billed as the “world’s most pulchritudinous evan- gelist,” in her robes.

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490 | T W E N T Y - F O U R | THE NEW ERA |

The Automobile >>  No industry boomed more than auto manufacturing. Although cars first appeared at the turn of the century, for many years they remained expensive toys. By 1920 there were 10 million in America. By 1929 the total jumped to 26 million, one for every 5 people (compared with one for every 43 in Britain). Automakers bought more rubber, plate glass, nickel, and lead than any other industry. By the end of the decade one American in four somehow earned a living from automobiles.

Henry Ford made it possible by pushing standard- ization and mass production to such ruthless extremes that the automobile became affordable. Trading on his fame as a race-car manufacturer, he founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903 with the dream of building a “motor car for the multitude.” He believed that the way to succeed was to reduce manufacturing costs by making all the cars alike, “just like one pin is like another pin.” In 1908 Ford perfected the Model T with a 20-horsepower engine and a body of steel. It was high enough to ride the worst roads, and it came in only one color: black.

Priced at $845, the Model T was cheap by industry standards but still too costly and too time-consuming to build. To hold down costs and increase efficiency, Ford engineers copied a practice of Chicago meatpack- ing houses, where beef carcasses were carried on mov- ing chains past meat dressers. In 1914 Ford introduced the moving assembly line. A conveyor belt, positioned waist high to eliminate bending or walking, propelled the chassis past stationary workers who put the cars together. The process cut assembly time in half. In 1925 new Model Ts were rolling off the lines every 10 seconds. At $290, almost anybody could buy one. By 1927 Ford had sold 15 million of his “tin lizzies.”

Ford was also a social prophet. Breaking with other manufacturers, he preached a “doctrine of high wages.” According to it, workers with extra money in their pockets would buy enough to sustain a booming prosperity. In 1915 Ford’s plants in Dearborn estab- lished the “Five-Dollar Day,” twice the wage rate in Detroit. He reduced working hours from 48 to 40 a week and cut the workweek to five days.

Yet many Ford workers were unhappy. Ford admitted that the repetitive operations on his assembly line made it almost impossible for a worker “to con- tinue long at the same job.” The Five-Dollar Day was designed, in part, to reduce turnover rates of 300 per- cent a year at Ford plants. Ford recouped his profits by speeding up the assembly line and enforcing strin- gent work practices. Ford workers could not sit or talk on the job, communicating only in the “Ford Whisper” without moving their lips. A “Sociological Depart- ment” spied on workers at home.

By making automobiles available to nearly every- one, the industry changed the face of America. The


In the 1920s the United States was in the midst of a production boom. Manufacturing rose 64 percent; output per work hour, 40 percent. The sale of elec- tricity doubled; fuel oil purchases more than doubled. Between 1922 and 1927 the economy grew by 7 percent a year—the largest peacetime rate ever. If anything roared in the “Roaring Twenties,” it was production and consumption.

Technology, Consumer Spending, and the Boom in Construction  >>   Technology was partly responsible for the upsurge. Steam turbines and shovels, electric motors, belt and bucket convey- ors, and countless other new machines became com- monplace at work sites. Machines replaced 200,000 workers each year, and a new phrase—“technological unemployment”—entered the vocabulary. Even so, demand kept the labor force growing at a rate faster than that of the population. And pay improved. Between 1919 and 1927, average annual income climbed nearly $150 for each American.

Consumer goods, the product of a maturing indus- trial economy, fueled rising demand. Cigarette lighters, wristwatches, radios, and other new products disap- peared from store shelves almost as quickly as they appeared. The improvement in productivity helped to keep prices down. Meanwhile, the purchasing power of wage earners jumped by 20 percent. But for all the prosperity, a dangerous imbalance was develop- ing. Most Americans saved little. Personal debt rose two and a half times faster than personal income, an unhealthy sign of consumers scrambling to spend.

Along with technology and consumer spending, new “boom industries” promoted economic growth. In a rebound after the war years, residential construction doubled as suburb populations soared. Beverly Hills on the edge of Los Angeles grew by 2,500 percent. New roads made suburban life possible and pumped millions of dollars into the economy. In 1919 Oregon, New Mex- ico, and Colorado hit on a novel idea for financing roads: a tax on gasoline. Within a decade every state had one.

Construction stimulated other businesses: steel, concrete, lumber, home mortgages, and insurance. It even helped change the nation’s eating habits. The limited storage space of small “kitchenettes” in new apartments boosted supermarket chains and the can- ning industry. And as shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables sped across new roads, interest in nutrition grew. Vitamins, publicized with new zeal, appeared on breakfast tables.

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spreading web of paved roads fueled urban sprawl, real estate booms in California and Florida, and a new roadside economy of restaurants, service stations, and motels. Thousands of “auto camps” opened to provide tourists with tents and crude toilets. Automobile travel broke down rural isolation and advanced common dia- lects and manners.

Across the country the automobile gave the young unprecedented freedom from parental control. After hearing 30 cases of “sex crimes” (19 had occurred in cars), an exasperated juvenile court judge labeled the automobile “a house of prostitution on wheels.” It was, of course, much more: a catalyst for economic growth, a transportation revolution, and a symbol of modernization.

The Future of Energy >>  The automobile also helped to ensure that the future of energy would be written in oil. It was never foreordained but the result

of several factors, some natural, others economic, and still others corporate-made.

One factor was abundance. Beginning with the great oil strike at Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, drillers tapped into huge pools of petroleum in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and other states in the South and the West. Following the mammoth discovery in southeast Texas in 1901 at Spindletop, crude or unrefined oil from the field dropped to 3 cents a barrel. Coal-driven railroad and steamship companies jumped at the chance to buy new energy at cut-rate costs.

Chemistry abetted abundance. Over the next 20 years, chemists found that “cracking,” or break- ing the string of carbon molecules in oil, more than doubled the gasoline squeezed from a barrel of unre- fined petroleum. In the early 1920s, engineers at Gen- eral Motors discovered that adding certain compounds, including tetraethyl lead, could raise the energy level of this “high-octane” gasoline.

̂̂ The East Coryell Company marketed ethyl alcohol gasoline as an alternative to hydrocarbon-based fuels. In Lincoln, Nebraska, this gas station touted the virtue of “corn alcohol gasoline” using an eye-catching pump with an ear of corn painted on each of its four sides.

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492 | T W E N T Y - F O U R | THE NEW ERA |

This expansion and consolidation meant that national wealth was being controlled not by affluent individuals but by corporations. The model of mod- ern business was the large corporation, in which those who actually managed the company had little to do

with those who owned it, the shareholders. A salaried bureaucracy of executives and plant managers formed an elite class. They learned the techniques of scientific management through new

schools of business as well as new professional societ- ies and consulting firms. They channeled earnings back into their companies to expand factories and carry on research. By the end of the decade half of all industrial income was concentrated in 100 corporations.

Welfare Capitalism >>  The new scientific man- agement also stressed good relations between manag- ers and employees. There was reason to, for a rash of postwar strikes had left business leaders suspicious of labor unions and determined to find ways to limit their influence.

Some tactics were more strong-armed than scien- tific. In 1921 the National Association of Manufactur- ers, the Chamber of Commerce, and other employer groups launched the “American Plan,” aimed at end- ing “closed shops,” factories where only union members could work. Employers made workers sign agreements disavowing union membership. Companies infiltrated unions with spies, locked union members out of facto- ries, and boycotted firms that hired union labor.

The benevolent side of the American Plan involved a social innovation called “welfare capitalism.” Companies such as General Electric and Bethlehem Steel pledged to care for their employees and give them incentives for working hard. They built clean, safe factories, installed cafeterias, hired trained dietitians, formed baseball teams and glee clubs. Several hundred firms encouraged perhaps a million workers to buy company stock and even more to enroll in company unions. Called “Kiss- Me Clubs” for their lack of power, they nonethe- less offered what few independent unions could match: health and safety insurance; a grievance procedure; and representation for minorities and women.

Most companies cared more for production than for contented employees. Welfare capitalism affected barely 5 percent of the workforce and often gave ben- efits only to skilled laborers, the hardest to replace. In the 1920s a family of four could live in “minimum health and decency” on $2,000 a year. The average annual industrial wage was $1,304. Thus working- class families often needed more than one wage earner just to get by. Over a million children aged 10 to 15 still worked full-time in 1920.

Among other additives was alcohol. Alcohol from fermented plants could also power engines. Peanut oil drove the first diesel engines. By 1925 Henry Ford was calling alcohol “the fuel of the future.” Hydro- carbons were bound to run out, leaving the United States dependent on foreign reserves and eventually the planet without its most precious source of fuel. But as long as plants grew, alcohol was endlessly renewable and thus to Ford the energy of tomorrow.

For a time in the 1920s other automobile man- ufacturers as well as engineers and chemists agreed, but in the end alcohol lost out. For one thing, alcohol provided 30 percent less energy than gasoline did. For another, alcohol was more expensive to produce when growing, harvesting, distilling, and transporting were taken into account. Also important, new oil discoveries on the eve of the Great Depression drove down crude oil prices to 2 cents a barrel by 1931. Finally, GM and its Ethyl Corporation, which stood to profit from leaded gasoline, waged a relentless campaign against alcohol as a fuel or an additive. Facing such obstacles, alcohol enthusiasts lost.

The long-term price paid for energy dependence on oil and leaded gasoline told over time. Half a century later long lines at gas stations and high prices at the pump testified to the power of foreign producers to vex American consumers and threaten national security by reducing the flow of oil into the country. Even earlier, minute flecks of lead in oil refineries were poisoning workers, while lead-laden emissions from automobiles contaminated soil and water until federal regulations began to phase out the metal from gasoline and other products in the 1970s. Smog thickened by emissions from gasoline-driven automobiles engulfed cities such as Los Angeles in a choking haze. Led by California, new regulations set limits on harmful auto emissions in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Business of America >>  “The chief busi- ness of the American people,” President Calvin Coolidge declared in 1925, “is business.” A genera- tion earlier, progressives had criticized business for its social irresponsibility. But the wartime contribu- tions of business managers and the return of prosper- ity in 1922 from a short-lived recession gained them renewed respect.

Encouraged by federal permissiveness, a wave of mergers swept the economy. Between 1919 and 1930 some 8,000 firms disappeared as large gobbled small. Oligopolies (where by a few firms dominated whole industries) grew in steel, meatpacking, cigarettes, and other businesses. National chains began to replace local “mom-and-pop” stores. By 1929 one bag of groceries in 10 came from the 15,000 red-and-gold markets of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, com- monly known as A&P.

scientific management system of factory production that stresses efficiency, pio- neered by American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor.

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The Consumer Culture  >>   During the late nineteenth century the economy had boomed, too, but much of its growth went into nonconsumer goods: steel factories and rails, telephone and electric networks. By World War I these industrial networks penetrated enough of the country to create mass markets. As a greater percentage of the nation’s industries turned out consumer goods, prosperity hinged increasingly

In 1927, 2,500 mill hands in the textile town of Gastonia, North Carolina, left their jobs in the most famous strike of the decade. Even strikebreakers walked out. Eventually, authorities broke the strike, foreshadowing a national trend. A year later there were only 629 strikes, a record low for the nation. Union membership sank from almost 5 million in 1921 to less than 3.5 million in 1929.

Historian’s T O O L B O X

Historians of popular culture find their sources in the materials of everyday life, including advertisements such as this one for Boncilla’s facial creams. It appeared in Beauty magazine in 1923. In the 1920s, as mass advertising reached new heights, promoters of products such as this “Pack o’ Beauty” shifted strategies from simply listing the advantages of their wares to meeting primary demands for health, love,

and in this case youth with splashy adver- tisements in full color. More and more they targeted women. All reflected the new emphasis on gaining personal content- ment not through hard work, achievement, or even religion but through consumption. How might modern psychology, then a new social science, have played a role in creating this ad?

THINKING CRITICALLY What other primary demands do advertis- ers seek to stimulate? Through what prod- ucts might these demands be satisfied then and now? Why were women a grow- ing target of advertisers in the 1920s?

Youth in a Jar

Mirror suggests that what you see is important but also that what others see in you is important, too.

Beauty and youth are both important and closely linked.

Older and younger middle-class women, implying wide reach of product. How might working- class women view this ad?

Source: Duke University Archive.

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For Americans from all backgrounds the New Era was witness to “a vast dissolution of ancient hab- its,” commented columnist Walter Lippmann. Mass marketing and mass distribution led not simply to a higher standard of living but to a life less regional and diverse. In place of moral standards set by local com- munities and churches came “modern” styles and atti- tudes, spread by the new mass media of movies, radio, and magazines. In the place of “ancient habits” came the forces of mass society: independent women, more- open sexuality, standardized culture, urban energy and impersonality, and growing alienation.

A “New Woman” >>  During the tumultuous 1890s a “New Woman” appeared, one more asser- tive, athletic, and independent than her Victorian peers. By the 1920s more-modern versions of this New Woman were being charged with leading what Frederick Lewis Allen called the “revolution in man- ners and morals.” The most flamboyant of them wore makeup, close-fitting felt hats, long-waisted dresses, and strings of beads. Cocktail in hand, footloose, and economically free, they called themselves “flappers.” They became a symbol of liberation to some, of dec- adence to others.

World War I served as a powerful social catalyst, continuing the prewar trend toward increasing the percentage of women in the workforce and chang- ing many attitudes. Before the war women could be arrested for smoking cigarettes openly, using profan- ity, and driving automobiles without men beside them. Wartime America ended many of these restrictions. With women bagging explosives and running locomo- tives, the old taboos often seemed silly.

on consumption. If consumers purchased more goods, production would rise and high-volume sales would bring down costs, lifting sales still higher, increasing employ- ment, and repeating the cycle again.

Consumption was the key, and increased consumption rested on two innovations: advertising to encourage people to buy and credit to help them pay. Around the turn of the century, advertisers began a critical shift from emphasizing products to stressing the desires of consumers for health, popularity, and social prestige. Albert Lasker, the owner of Chicago’s largest advertising firm, Lord and Thomas, created modern advertising in America. His eye-catching ads were hard- hitting, positive, and often preposterous. To expand the sales of Lucky Strike cigarettes, Lord and Thomas advertisements claimed that smoking made people slimmer and more courageous. “Lucky’s” became one of the most popular brands in America.

Advertisers encouraged Americans to borrow against tomorrow so that they could purchase what advertising convinced them they wanted today. Installment buying had once been confined to sewing machines and pianos. In the 1920s it grew into the tenth- biggest business in the country. In 1919 automaker Alfred Sloan created millions of new customers by establishing the General Motors Acceptance Corporation, the nation’s first consumer credit organization. By 1929 Americans were buying most of their cars, radios, and furniture on the installment plan. Consumer debt had jumped 250 percent to $7 billion, almost twice the federal budget.

A MASS SOCIETY In the evening after a day’s work in the fields—perhaps in front of an adobe house built by one of the west- ern sugar beet companies—Mexican American work- ers might gather to chat or sing a corrido or two. The corrido, or ballad, was a Mexican folk tradition. But the subjects changed over time to match the concerns of composers. One corrido during the 1920s told of a field laborer distressed over his family’s rejection of Mexican customs in favor of new American fashions (see “Witness” box). His wife, he sang, wore makeup and went about “painted like a piñata.” His children spoke English, not Spanish, and loved the latest dance crazes.


—Corrido (Mexican American ballad) in Paul S. Taylor, Mexican Labor in the United States (1932)

“The girls go about almost naked / And call la tienda ‘estor’ [‘store’] / They go around with dirt-streaked legs / But with those stockings of chiffon. / Even my old woman has changed on me— / She wears a bob-tailed dress of silk, / Goes about painted like a piñata / And goes at night to the dancing hall. . . . / My kids speak perfect English / And have no use for our Spanish / They call me ‘fader’ and don’t work / And are crazy about the Charleston.”

A Mexican Laborer Sings of the Sorrows of the New Era

✔ R E V I E W What factors produced unprecedented economic growth in the 1920s?

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female labor force grew by only 1 percent. As late as 1930 nearly 60 percent of all working women were Afri- can American or foreign-born and generally held low- paying jobs in domestic service or the garment industry.

The New Era did spawn new careers for women. The consumer culture capitalized on a preoccupation with appearance and led to the opening of some 40,000 beauty parlors staffed by hairdressers, manicurists, and cosmeticians. “Women’s fields” carved out by progres- sive reformers expanded opportunities in education, libraries, and social welfare. Women earned a higher percentage of doctoral degrees (from 10 percent in 1910 to 15.4 percent in 1930) and held more college teaching posts than ever (32 percent). But in most areas profes- sional men resisted the “feminization” of the workforce. The number of female doctors dropped by half during the decade. Medical schools imposed restrictive quotas, and 90 percent of all hospitals rejected female interns.

In 1924 two women—Nellie Ross in Wyoming and Miriam (“Ma”) Ferguson in Texas—were elected gov- ernors, the first female chief executives. For the most

Disseminating birth control information by mail had also been a crime before the war. By the armistice there was a birth con- trol clinic in Brooklyn, a National Birth Control League, and later an American Birth Control League led by Margaret Sanger. Sanger’s crusade began as an attempt to save poor women from the bur- dens of unwanted pregnan- cies and, less nobly, to cut births among those considered inferior, including many of the immigrants flooding the country. By the 1920s her message had found a receptive middle-class audience. Surveys showed that by the 1930s nearly 90 percent of college-educated couples practiced contraception.

Being able to a degree to con- trol pregnancy, women felt less guilt about enjoying sex. In 1909 Sigmund Freud had come to America to lec- ture on his theories of coping with the unconscious and overcoming harmful repressions. Some of Freud’s ideas, specifically his emphasis on childhood sexuality, shocked Americans, while most of his complex theories sailed over their heads. As popularized in the 1920s, Freudian psychology stamped sexuality as a key to health.

Sexuality and mutually satisfying sex became more important in the new model of marriage emerg- ing during the decade. No longer were married couples duty-bound to join for procreation alone and to keep to separate male and female spheres. As old conven- tions crumbled and women became more assertive, love replaced duty as the bond holding a couple together. Companionship—spending time with each other and sharing interests (including sex)—became the key to marital bliss. This new “companionate” mar- riage afforded women greater freedom and equality by breaking down gendered spheres and strengthening ties between husbands and wives. It also gave well-heeled Americans another way to feel superior. Without the money and leisure often needed for companionate marriages, the working class and working poor contin- ued to play more traditional married roles.

Such changes in the social climate were real enough, but the life of a “flapper” hardly mirrored the experi- ences of most American women. Over the decade the

<< Not all women conformed to the rambunctious image of the flapper. Pictured here is Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C., crowned in 1921 as the first Miss America. She represented the wholesome and athletic aspects of the New Woman.

̂̂ “Street selling was torture for me,” Margaret Sanger recalled of her efforts to promote The Birth Control Review. A heckler once shouted: “Have you ever heard God’s word to be fruitful and multi- ply?” Sanger shot back, “They’ve done that already.”

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music and baseball scores to local wireless operators. Six months later Westinghouse officials opened the first licensed broadcasting station in history, KDKA, to stimulate sales of their supplies. By 1922 the number of licensed stations had jumped to 430, and by the end of the decade nearly one home in three had a radio (“fur- niture that talks,” comedian Fred Allen called it).

At first radio was seen as a civilizing force. “The air is your theater, your college, your newspaper, your library,” exalted one ad in 1924. But with the grow- ing number of sets came commercial broadcasting, catering to common tastes. Almost the entire nation listened to Amos ‘n’ Andy, a comedy about African Americans created by two white vaudevillians in 1929. At night families gathered around the radio instead of the fireplace, listening to a concert, perhaps, rather than going out to hear music. Linked by nothing but airwaves, Americans were finding themselves part of a vast new community of listeners.

Print journalism also broadened its audience dur- ing the 1920s. In 1923 Yale classmates Henry R. Luce and Briton Hadden rewrote news stories in a snappy style, mixed them with photographs, and created the country’s first national weekly, Time magazine. Fifty-five giant newspaper chains distributed 230 newspapers with a combined circulation of 13 million

part, though, women continued to be marginalized in party politics while remaining widely involved in educational and welfare programs. Operating outside male-dominated political parties, women activists succeeded in winning passage of the Sheppard-Towner Federal Maternity and Infancy Act in 1921 to fight high rates of infant mortality with rural prenatal and baby care centers. It was the first federal welfare statute. Yet by the end of the decade the Sheppard- Towner Act had lapsed.

In the wake of their greatest success, the hard-won vote for women, feminists splintered. The National Woman Suffrage Association disbanded in 1920. In its place the new League of Women Voters campaigned to encourage informed voting. For the more militant Alice Paul and her allies, that was not enough. Their National Woman’s Party pressed for a constitutional Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Social workers and others familiar with the conditions under which women labored opposed it. Death and injury rates for women were nearly double those for men. To them the ERA meant losing the protection as well as the benefits women derived from mothers’ pensions and mater- nity insurance. Joined by most men and a majority of Congress, they fought the amendment to a standstill.

Mass Media >>  In balmy California, where movies could be made year-round, Hollywood helped give the New Woman notoriety as a temptress and trendsetter. When sexy actress Theda Bara appeared in The Blue Flame in 1920, crowds mobbed theaters. And just as Hollywood dictated standards of physical attractive- ness, it became the judge of taste and fashion in count- less other ways because motion pictures were a virtually universal medium. There was no need for literacy or fluency, no need even for sound, given the power of the pictures parading across the screen.

Motion pictures, invented in 1889, had first been shown in tiny neighborhood theaters called “nickel- odeons.” For only a nickel patrons watched a silent screen flicker with moving images as an accompanist played music on a tinny piano. Often children read the subtitles aloud to their immigrant parents, trans- lating into Italian, Yiddish, or German. After the first feature-length film, The Great Train Robbery (1903), productions became rich in spectacle, attracted middle-class audiences, and turned into America’s favorite form of entertainment. By 1926 more than 20,000 movie houses offered customers lavish the- aters with overstuffed seats, live music, and a cellu- loid dream world. At the end of the decade they were drawing over 100 million people a week, roughly the equivalent of the national population.

In the spring of 1920 Frank Conrad of the Westing- house Company in East Pittsburgh rigged up a research station in his barn and started transmitting phonograph

̂̂ Charles A. Lindbergh, with the Spirit of St. Louis in the background, May 31, 1927.

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machine so completely or conquered nature so coura- geously. To Americans ambivalent about mass society and anxious over being subordinated to bureaucracy and technology, here was a sign. Perhaps like Lindbergh they could control their New Era without surrendering their cherished individualism.

“Ain’t We Got Fun?” >>  “Ev’ry morning, ev’ry evening, ain’t we got fun?” ran the 1921 hit song. As the average hours on the job each week decreased from 47.2 in 1920 to 42 by 1930, spending on amusement and recreation shot up 300 percent. Spectator sports came of age. In 1921, 60,000 fans paid $1.8 million to see Jack Dempsey, the “Manassas Mauler,” knock out French champion Georges Carpentier. Millions more listened as radio took them ringside for the first time in sports history. Universities constructed huge stadi- ums for football, such as Ohio State’s 64,000-seater. By 1930 college football games were outdrawing major league baseball.

Baseball remained the national pastime but became a bigger business. An ugly World Series scandal in 1919 led owners to appoint Judge Kenesaw Mountain Lan- dis “czar” of the sport early in the decade. His strict rule reformed the game. In 1920 the son of immigrants revolutionized it. George Herman “Babe” Ruth hit 54 home runs and made the New York Yankees the first club to attract a million fans in one season. His leg- endary drinking and womanizing also made him base- ball’s bad boy. But under the guidance of the first modern sports agent, Christy Walsh, Ruth became the highest-paid player in the game and made a fortune

endorsing everything from automobiles to clothing.

At parties old diversions—charades, card tricks, recitations—faded in popu- larity as dancing took over. The ungainly camel walk, the sultry tango, and in 1924 the frantic Charleston were the urban standards. Country barns fea- tured a revival of square dancing with music from Detroit’s WBZ and spon- sored by Henry Ford. From turn-of- the-century brothels and gaming houses in New Orleans, Memphis, and St. Louis came a rhythmic, compelling music that swept into nightclubs and over the air- waves and soon stamped the age with its name: jazz.

Jazz was a remarkably complex blend of several older African American musical traditions, combining the soulfulness of the blues with the syncopated rhythms of ragtime music. The distinctive style of jazz bands came from a marvelous improvis- ing as the musicians embellished melodies

by 1927. Though they controlled less than 10 percent of all papers, the chains pioneered modern mass news techniques. Editors relied on central offices and syndi- cates to prepare editorials, sports, gossip, and Sunday features for a national readership.

The Cult of Celebrity >>   In a world where Americans were rapidly being reduced to anony- mous parts of a mass industrialized society, media offered them a chance to identify with achievements of individuals by creating a world of celebrities and heroes. Sports figures such as Babe Ruth, busi- ness executives like Henry Ford, and movie stars led by Latin heartthrob Rudolf Valentino found their exploits splashed across front pages and followed on radio by millions hungry for excitement and eager to project their own dreams onto others.

No celebrity attracted more attention than a shy, reed-thin youth named Charles Lindbergh. Early on May 20, 1927, “Lucky Lindy” streaked into the skies above Long Island aboard a silver-winged mono- plane called the Spirit of St. Louis and headed east. Thirty-three hours and 30 minutes later he landed just outside Paris, the first flier to cross the Atlantic alone. An ecstatic mob nearly tore his plane to pieces in search of souvenirs.

Lindbergh returned with his plane aboard the war- ship USS Memphis. In New York City alone nearly 4 million cheering fans greeted him. Lindbergh had “fired the imagination of mankind,” observed one newspaper. Never before had an individual mastered a

̂̂ This mural appeared in the Edison Hotel, which opened in midtown New York in 1931. The wall painting features the famous Cotton Club of Harlem, where white and black patrons heard the latest jazz acts. One of the Club’s most renowned perform- ers (center) was Cab Calloway, a bandleader and jazz singer who pioneered “scat”—a style of vocalizing that used syllables rather than words to deliver a vibrant, impro- vised complement to the instruments of the band. Duke Ellington, another of the era’s most prominent bandleaders and jazz composers, is pictured at the left.

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MAP 24.1 : AREAS OF POPULATION GROWTH In the 1920s the population of urban America grew by some 15 million people, at the time the greatest 10-year jump in American history. Cities grew largely by depopulating rural areas. In the most dramatic manifestation of the overall trend, more than a million African Americans migrated from the rural South to the urban North. Which areas of the nation showed the strongest population growth? Can you suggest reasons why?

New Orleans

Baltimore Cincinnati

Los Angeles

San Francisco


Philadelphia New York

Boston Buffalo

Pittsburgh Cleveland


St. Louis




Strong growth


Moderate growth


Largest cities

Black migration

Had Martin Luther King been

active during the 1920s, could

the modern civil rights movement

have begun decades earlier than

the 1950s?


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His next novel, Babbitt (1922), dissected small-town businessman George Follansbee Babbitt, a peppy real- tor from the fictional city of Zenith. Faintly absurd and supremely dull, Babbitt was the epitome of the average small-town citizen.

A “New Negro” >>  As World War I seared white intellectuals, it also galvanized black Americans. Wartime labor shortages spurred a migration of half

and played off one another. The style spread when the “Original Dixieland Jazz Band” (hardly original but possessed of the commercial advantage of being white) recorded a few numbers for the phonograph.

The music business, dominated by white pub- lishers, recording studios, and radio stations, seized on the new sound. The music swept the country. Black New Orleans stalwarts like Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band began touring, and in 1924 Paul Whiteman inaugurated respectable “white” jazz in a concert at Carnegie Hall. When self-appointed guardians of good taste denounced such music as “intellectual and spiritual debauchery,” Whiteman disagreed: “Jazz is the folk music of the machine age.”

The Art of Alienation >>  Before World War I a generation of young writers began rebelling against Victorian purity. The savagery of the war drove many of them even farther from faith in reason or progress.

Instead, they embraced a “nihilism” that denied all meaning in life. When the war ended they turned their resentment against American life, especially its small

towns, big businesses, conformity, and mate- rialism. Some led unconventional lives in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Oth- ers, called expatriates , left the country for the artistic freedom of London and Paris. Their alienation helped produce a liter- ary outpouring unmatched in American history.

At home Minnesota-born Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, sketched a scath- ing vision of midwestern small-town life in Main Street (1920). The book described “savorless people  .  .  .  saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing them- selves as the greatest race in the world.”

expatriate one who leaves the country of one’s birth or citizenship to live in another, often out of a sense of alienation.

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murderous, cowardly pack / Pressed to the wall, dying but fighting back!”

Often supported by white patrons, or “angels,” young black writers and artists found their subjects in the street life of cities, the folkways of the rural South, and the primitivism of preindustrial cultures. Poet Langston Hughes reminded his readers of the ancient heritage of African Americans in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and Zora Neale Hurston collected folktales, songs, and prayers of black southerners.

Though generally not a racial protest, the Har- lem Renaissance drew on the growing assertiveness of African Americans as well as on the alienation of white intellectuals. In 1925 Alain Locke, a black pro- fessor from Howard University, collected a sampling of their works in The New Negro. The title reflected not only an artistic movement but also a new racial consciousness.


As mass society pushed the country into a future of machines, organization, middle-class living, and cos- mopolitan diversity, not everyone approved. Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur Crafts, the authors of Intoxicating Drinks and Drugs in All Lands and Times, set forth a litany of modern sins that tempted young people in this “age of cities.” “Foul pictures, corrupt literature, leprous shows, gambling slot machines, saloons, and Sabbath breaking. . . . We are trying to raise saints in hell.”

The changing values of the New Era seemed espe- cially threatening to traditionalists like the Crafts. Their deeply held beliefs reflected the rural roots of so many Americans: an ethic that valued neighborliness, small communities, and sameness in race, religion, and ethnicity. Opponents of the new ways could be found among country folk and rural migrants to cities as well as an embattled Protestant elite. All were determined to defend the older faiths against the modern age of urban anonymity, moral fluidity, diverse races and ethnicities, and religious pluralism. In the 1920s a full- scale culture war erupted pitting these traditionalists against the forces of modern life.

a million African Americans from the rural South into the urban industrial North. Postwar unemploy- ment and racial violence quickly dashed black hopes for equality. Common folk in these urban enclaves found an outlet for their alienation in a charismatic nationalist from Jamaica named Marcus Garvey.

Garvey brought his organization, the Univer- sal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), to the United States in 1916 in hopes of restoring black pride by returning Africans to Africa and Africa to Afri- cans. “Up you mighty race,” he told his followers, “you can accomplish what you will.” When Garvey spoke at the first national UNIA convention in 1920, over 25,000 supporters jammed into Madison Square Gar- den in New York. Even his harshest critics admitted there were at least half a million members in more than 30 branches of his organization. It was the first mass movement of African Americans in history. But in 1925 Garvey was convicted of mail fraud for hav- ing oversold stock in his Black Star Line, the steam- ship company founded to return African Americans to Africa. His dream shattered.

As Garvey rose to prominence, a renaissance of black literature, painting, and sculpture was brew- ing in Harlem. The first inklings came in 1922 when Claude McKay, another Jamaican immigrant, pub- lished a book of poems titled White Shadows. In his most famous poem, “If We Must Die,” McKay mixed defiance and dignity: “Like men we’ll face the


✔ R E V I E W How did mass media and mass culture reshape American life in the 1920s?

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Latino population of Texas and New Mexico. In California it quadrupled. During World War I, labor shortages led authorities to relax immigration laws, and in the 1920s American farmers in search of cheap labor opened a cam- paign to attract Mexican farmworkers.

Pushed out by the new arrivals, tens of thousands of Mexican Americans moved north. By the end of the 1920s northern industrial cities had thriv- ing communities of Mexicans. In these neighborhoods, or barrios, Spanish- speaking newcomers settled into an immigrant life of family and festivals, churchgoing, hard work, and slow adap- tation. The census of 1930 listed nearly 1.5 million Mexicans living in the United States, not including an untold number who entered the country illegally.

Mexicans were just one target of the National Origins Act, first enacted in 1921. It capped all immigration at 350,000 and parceled out the slots by

admitting a quota of up to 3 percent of each nation- ality living in the United States as of the census of 1910. The system of quotas favored “races” commonly believed to be superior—“Nordics”—over those con- sidered inferior—“Alpines” and “Mediterraneans.” In 1924 a new National Origins Act reduced the total admitted to 150,000, reduced the percentage to 2, and pushed the base year back to 1890, before the bulk of southern and eastern Europeans arrived.

The National Origins Acts fixed the pattern of immigration for the next four decades. Immigra- tion from southern and eastern Europe was reduced to a trickle. The free flow of Europeans to America, a migration of classes and nationalities that had been unimpeded for 300 years, came to an end.

The “Noble Experiment” >>  For nearly a hun- dred years, reformers tried with sporadic success to reduce the consumption of alcohol. Their most ambitious cam- paign climaxed in January 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. Its ban on liquor was not total: private citizens could still drink. They simply could not manufacture, sell, transport, or import any “intoxi- cating beverage” containing more than 0.5 percent alco- hol. Despite being underfunded and understaffed, the effort reduced alcohol consumption by as much as half.

The consequences of so vast a social experiment were significant and often unexpected. Prohibition reversed the prewar trend toward beer and wine, since hard liquor brought greater profits to bootleggers or manu- facturers of illegal alcohol. Prohibition helped to line the pockets and boost the fame of gangsters, including

Nativism and Immigration Restriction >>   In 1921 two Italian aliens and admitted anarchists presented a dramatic challenge to those older faiths. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were sentenced to death for a shoe company robbery and murder in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Critics charged that they were innocent and convicted only of being foreign-born radicals. During the trial the presiding judge had scorned them in private as “anarchist bas- tards,” and in 1927 they were executed. For protest- ers around the world, the execution was a symbol of American bigotry and prejudice.

By then, nativism—a rabid hostility to foreigners— had produced the most restrictive immigration laws in American history. In the aftermath of World War I immigration was running close to one million a year, almost as high as prewar levels. Most immigrants came from eastern and southern Europe and from Mexico; the majority were Catholics and Jews. Alarmed native-born Protestants warned that if the flood continued, Ameri- cans might become “a hybrid race of people as worthless and futile as the good-for-nothing mongrels of Central America and Southeastern Europe.” Appreciating the potential for higher wages in a shrunken labor pool, the American Federation of Labor also supported restriction.

In the Southwest, Mexicans and Mexican Americans became a special target of concern. The Spanish had inhabited the region for nearly 400 years, producing a rich blend of European and Indian cultures. By 1900 about 300,000 Mexican Americans lived in the United States. In the following decade, Mexicans fleeing poverty and a revolution in 1910 almost doubled the

̂̂ Sacco and Vanzetti, dressed in suits and handcuffed for their court appearance.

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gentile [Protestant] Americans.” Unlike the hooded night riders of old, the reborn Klan was not confined to the South. By the 1920s its capital was Indianapo- lis, Indiana. More than half of its leadership and over a third of its members came from cities of more than 100,000 people.

The new Klan drew on the culture of small-town America. It was patriotic, gave to local charities, and boasted the kind of outfits and rituals adopted by many fraternal lodges. Klansmen wore white hooded sheets and satin robes. A typical gathering brought the whole family to a barbecue with fireworks and hymn singing, capped by the burning of a giant cross. Members came mostly from the middle and working classes: small businesspeople, clerical workers, inde- pendent professionals, farmers, and laborers with few skills. The Klan offered them status, security, and the promise of restoring an older America where white supremacy, chastity, and Protestantism reigned. When boycotts and whispering campaigns failed to cleanse communities of Jews, Mexicans, Japanese, or others who offended their social code, the Klan resorted to floggings, kidnappings, acid mutilations, and murder.

Using modern methods of promotion, two profes- sional fund-raisers, and an army of 1,000 salesmen, the Klan enrolled perhaps 3 million dues- paying members by the early 1920s. Moving into poli- tics, its candidates captured legislatures in Indiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Oregon. The organization was instrumental in electing six governors, three sena- tors, and thousands of local officials. In the end, like Aimee Semple McPherson, the Klan was undone by

“Scarface” Al Capone. It also inadvertently advanced women’s rights. While saloons had discriminated against “ladies” by hav- ing them enter through a separate door or barring any but prostitutes, “speakeasies”— taverns operating undercover—welcomed them and helped to level the social playing field for men and women.

For all its unhappy consequences, Pro- hibition enjoyed wide backing. The best science taught that alcohol was bad for health; the best social science, that it corroded family life and weakened society. Corporate executives and labor leaders supported Prohibition to promote a sober, efficient workforce. Many Catholics favored it because they saw the road to perdition lined with liquor bot- tles. Finally, the liquor industry hurt itself with a ter- rible record of corrupting legislatures and minors, who were targets of its campaign to recruit young drinkers in the competitive saloon business.

Prohibition can also be understood as cultural and class legislation. Support ran deepest in Protestant churches, especially the evangelical Baptists and Methodists. And there had always been a strong antiurban and anti-immigrant bias among reform- ers. As it turned out, the steepest decline in drink- ing occurred among these working-class ethnics. Traditionalists might celebrate the triumph of the “noble experiment,” but modern urbanites either ignored or resented it.

KKK >>  On Thanksgiving Day 1915, just outside Atlanta, 16 men trudged up a rocky trail to the crest of Stone Mountain. There, as night fell, they set ablaze a huge wooden cross and swore allegiance to the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The modern Klan, a throwback to the hooded order of Reconstruction days, reflected the insecurities of the New Era. Klansmen worried about the changes and conflicts in American society, which they attributed to the rising tide of immigrants, “uppity women,” and African Americans who refused to “recognize their place.” Whereas any white man could join the old Klan, the new one admitted only “native born, white,

>> As the Ku Klux Klan grew in influence after World War I, race riots erupted in over 25 cities beginning in 1919, including Chicago; Longview, Texas; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Omaha, Nebraska. More than 70 Afri- can Americans were lynched in the first year after the end of the war, and 11 were burned alive. Many blacks fought back, their experience in World War I having made them determined to resist repression. In June 1921 rioting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, left 21 African Ameri- cans as well as 11 whites dead. As the billowing smoke in this photograph indicates, white mobs burned down entire neighborhoods belonging to the black community. The National Guard was called out to reestablish order.

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called The Fundamentals. They advocated a return to what some conserva- tives considered the fun- damentals of Christian faith, among them the virgin birth, the resurrec- tion of Jesus, and a literal reading of Scripture. After 1920 a variety of conser- vative Protestants began referring to themselves as “Fundamentalists.”

The Fundamentalist move ment grew dramati- cally in the first two decades of the twentieth century, fed by fears of Protestant Modernism as well as of Catholic and Jewish immi- grants pouring into the country. Nothing disturbed Fundamentalists more than Darwinian theories of evo- lution that challenged the divine origins of human- kind. In 1925 what began

as an in-house fight among Protestants became a national brawl when the Tennessee legislature made it illegal to teach that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

In 1925, encouraged by the newly formed American Civil Liberties Union, skeptics in the town of Dayton, Tennessee, decided to test the law by putting a bespectacled biology teacher named John T. Scopes on trial for teaching evolution. Behind the scenes, Scopes’s sponsors were preoccupied as much with the commercial boost a sensational trial could give their town as with the defense of academic freedom.

When the Scopes trial opened in July, millions lis- tened over the radio to the first trial ever broadcast. Inside the courtroom Clarence Darrow, the renowned defense lawyer from Chicago and a professed agnostic, acted as co-counsel for Scopes. Serving as co-prosecutor was William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presi- dential candidate who had recently joined the anti- evolution crusade. It was urban Darrow against rural Bryan in what Bryan described as a “duel to the death” between Christianity and evolution.

The presiding judge ruled that scientists could not be used to defend evolution. He considered their tes- timony “hearsay” because they had not been present at the Creation. The defense virtually collapsed, until Darrow called Bryan to the stand as an “expert on the Bible.” Under withering examination, Bryan admitted

the personal excesses of its leaders that shattered its claim to righteous virtue. Its political power waned after 1925, when the grand dragon of the Indiana Klan was sentenced to life imprisonment for rape and second-degree murder.

Fundamentalism versus Darwinism  >>   Although Aimee Semple McPherson embraced the fashions of the New Era, many Protestants, especially in rural areas, felt threatened by the secular aspects of modern life. Beginning in the late nineteenth cen- tury, scientists and intellectuals spoke openly about the relativity of moral values, questioned the pos- sibility of biblical miracles, and depicted religios- ity as the result of hidden psychological needs and the Bible as mere literature. Darwinism, pragma- tism, and other scientific and philosophical theories left traditional religious teachings open to skepticism and scorn.

As early as the 1870s, liberal Protestants sought to make Christianity more relevant to contemporary life through a movement known as Modernism. One leader defined it as “the use of scientific, historical and social methods in understanding and applying evan- gelical Christianity to the needs of living persons.” Conservative Protestants disagreed with this updat- ing of orthodoxy. Between 1910 and 1915 two wealthy oilmen from Los Angeles subsidized the publica- tion of some 3 million copies of a series of pamphlets

̂̂ Clarence Darrow (left), the lawyer who defended John T. Scopes in the trial over the teaching of evolution, poses with William Jennings Bryan. Darrow cross-examined Bryan, a Fundamentalist, on the witness stand in order to prove that the Bible could not be taken as a scientific narrative of creation. Bryan, who had run for president three times, holds a fan in his hand: the courtroom was scorchingly hot.

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Harding died suddenly in August 1923, before most of the scandals came to light. Although he would be remembered as passive and weak-kneed, his tolerance and moderation had a calming influence on the strife- ridden nation in the aftermath of World War I. Slowly he had even begun to lead. In 1921 he created a Bureau of the Budget that brought modern accounting tech- niques to the management of federal revenues. Toward the end of his administration he cleared an early scan- dal from the Veterans’ Bureau and set an agenda for Congress that included expanding the merchant marine.

To his credit Calvin Coolidge handled Hard- ing’s sordid legacy with skill and dispatch. He cre- ated a special investigatory commission, prosecuted wrongdoers, and restored the confidence of the nation. Decisiveness, when he chose to exercise it, was one of Coolidge’s hallmarks. He believed in small-town democracy and minimalist government. “One of the most important accomplishments of my administra- tion has been minding my own business,” he boasted. Above all Coolidge worshiped wealth. “Civilization and profits,” he once said, “go hand in hand.”

The Policies of Mellon and Hoover  >>   Coolidge retained most of Harding’s cabinet, including his powerful treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon. The former head of aluminum giant Alcoa, Mellon believed that prosperity “trickled down” from rich to poor through investment, which raised production, employ- ment, and wages. In 1921 Mellon persuaded Congress to repeal the excess-profits tax on corporations; under Coolidge he convinced legislators to end all gift taxes, to halve estate and income taxes, and to reduce corpo- ration and consumption taxes even further. In 1922 he endorsed the protective Fordney-McCumber Tariff, raising rates on manufactured and farm goods.

Unlike Mellon, Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover (also a Harding holdover) was not a traditional conser- vative who sought only to create a healthy environment for business. Instead, he promoted a progressive brand of capitalism called “associationalism.” It aimed at aiding businesses directly by spreading a new gospel of efficiency and productivity through trade associations, groups of private companies organized industry by industry. The role of government, as Hoover saw it, was to encour- age voluntary cooperation among businesses. In his view government agencies should provide advice, statistics, and forums where business leaders could exchange ideas, set industry standards, and develop markets.

In these ways, Hoover hoped to eliminate waste, cut costs, and end the boom-and-bust business cycle of ruthless competition. Lower costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices and so would serve the public interest, as would the principles of welfare capitalism. These ideals Hoover promoted by prodding firms to sponsor company unions, pay

that the Earth might not have been made “in six days of 24-hours.” Even so, the Dayton jury took only eight minutes to find Scopes guilty and fine him $100.

By then the excesses of the Scopes trial had trans- formed it into more of a national joke than a con- frontation between darkness and light. But the debate over evolution raised a larger question that contin- ued to reverberate throughout the twentieth century. As scientific, religious, and cultural standards clashed, how much should religious beliefs and local standards influence public education?


“The change is amazing,” wrote a Washington reporter after the inauguration of Warren G. Harding in March 1921. Sentries disappeared from the gates of the White House, tourists again walked the halls, and report- ers freely questioned the president for the first time in years. The reign of “normalcy,” as Harding called it, had begun. “By ‘normalcy,’” he explained, “I mean normal procedure, the natural way, without excess.”

The Politics of “Normalcy” >>   “Normalcy” turned out to be anything but normality. After eight years of Democratic rule, Republicans gained control of the White House and both houses of Congress. Fifteen years of reform gave way to eight years of cautious governing. The presidency, strengthened by Wilson, fell into weak hands. The cabinet and the Congress set the course of the nation.

Harding and his successor, Calvin Coolidge, were content with delegating power, in Harding’s case to a cabinet of what he called “the best minds.” Harding appointed some men of quality: Charles Evans Hughes as secretary of state, Henry C. Wallace as secretary of agriculture, and Herbert Hoover as secretary of com- merce. He also made, as one critic put it, “unspeakably bad appointments”: his old crony Harry Daugherty as attorney general and New Mexico senator Albert Fall as interior secretary. Daugherty sold influence for cash and resigned in 1923. In 1929 Albert Fall became the first cabinet member to be convicted of a felony. In 1922 he had accepted bribes of more than $400,000 for secretly leasing naval oil reserves at Elk Hill, California, and Teapot Dome, Wyoming, to private oil companies.

✔ R E V I E W Along what fronts did traditionalists fight the culture war of the 1920s and with what weapons?

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New dietary habits meant that Americans were eat- ing 75 fewer pounds of food annually—foodstuffs that farmers were no longer producing. New synthetic fibers drove down demand for natural wool and cotton.

For the five years that Coolidge ran a “business- man’s government,” workers reaped few gains. Wages, purchasing power, and bargaining rights stagnated. Although welfare capitalism promised benefits to workers, only a handful of companies put it into prac- tice. Those that did often used it to weaken indepen- dent unions. As dangerous imbalances in the economy developed, Coolidge ignored them.

One sign of crisis no one could ignore: the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. After years of deforestation and months of heavy rain, the Mississippi River burst through its levees, rampaging from southern Missouri to Louisiana, an area roughly the size of New England. Floodwaters reached 100 feet in some places and did not recede for three months.

A network of private agencies was quickly knit together and placed under the control of Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover. An army of local citizens, many of them black and some conscripted at gunpoint, erected refugee camps to cope with the 700,000 people displaced by the flood. Relief efforts were hardly equal to the task. Nearly 250 people died, and 130,000 homes were destroyed. Property damage ran to $350 million ($5 billion in today’s dollars). Before the end of 1928 half the African American population of the Mississippi Delta’s Black Belt had fled the region. For the rest of the

workers decent wages, and protect them from factory hazards and unemployment. Meanwhile, the Com- merce Department worked to expand foreign markets and fight international cartels.

Both Hoover and Mellon, each in his own way, placed government in the service of business. As a result the impact of government on the economy grew. So did its size, by more than 40,000 employees between 1921 and 1930. Building on their wartime partnership, govern- ment and business dropped all pretense of a laissez-faire economy. Efficiency increased, production soared, and prosperity reigned. At the same time, however, Mellon’s tax policies helped to concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer individuals and corporations, while Hoover’s associationalism helped them to consolidate their power. By the end of the decade, 200 giant corporations con- trolled almost half the corporate assets in America.

Crises at Home and Abroad  >>  Some eco- nomic groups remained outside the magic circle of Republican prosperity. Ironically, they included those people who made up the biggest business in America: farmers. In 1920 agriculture still had an investment value greater than manufacturing, all utilities, and all railroads combined. Yet the farmers’ portion of the national income shrank by almost half during the 1920s. The government withdrew wartime price supports for wheat and ended its practice of feeding refugees with American surpluses. As postwar European agriculture revived, the demand for American exports dropped.

M is

si ss

ip p i

R .

Ohi o R


A rk an sas



Misso uri R.














0 200 mi

0 200 400 km

Approximate area affected by the Great Flood

Hardest hit areas, Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Secondary areas of damage, Hurricane Katrina




MAP 24.2 : THE GREAT FLOOD OF 1927 Hurricane Katrina (2005), the costliest storm in U.S. history, devastated parts of four states. By comparison the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 swamped parts of 11 states and covered some 27,000 square miles. It sparked a massive migration of tens of thousands of African Americans from the affected areas to northern cities, such as Chicago.

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The Election of 1928 >>  On August 2, 1927, in a small classroom in Rapid City, South Dakota, Calvin Coolidge handed a terse typewritten message to reporters: “I do not choose to run for President in nineteen twenty-eight.” Republicans honored the request and nominated Herbert Hoover. Hoover was not a politician but an administrator and had never once campaigned for public office. It didn’t matter. Republican prosperity made it difficult for any Demo- crat to win. Hoover, perhaps the most admired public official in America, made it impossible.

The Democratic Party continued to fracture between its rural supporters in the South and West and urban laborers in the Northeast. By 1928 the shift in popula- tion toward cities had given an edge to the party’s urban wing. Former New York governor Al Smith won the nomination on the first ballot, even though his handi- caps were evident. When the New York City–bred Smith spoke “poisonally” on the “rhadio,” his accent made voters across America wince. Though he pledged to enforce Prohibition, he campaigned against it and even took an occasional drink (which produced the false rumor that Smith was a hopeless alcoholic). Most damaging of all, he was Catholic, at a time when anti-Catholicism remained strong in many areas of the country.

decade, commerce throughout the central United States suffered. Still, federal legislation had been passed—for the first time—giving the government responsibility for controlling such disasters along the Mississippi.

If most Americans disregarded most crises at home, they paid almost no heed to economic unrest abroad. At the end of World War I, Europe’s victors had forced Germany to take on $33 billion in war costs or reparations, partly to repay their own war debts to the United States. When Germany defaulted in 1923, French forces occupied the Ruhr valley in Germany’s industrial heartland. Germany struck back by print- ing more money, a move that dramatized the crushing burden of its debt. Runaway inflation wiped out the savings of the German middle class, shook confidence in the new Weimar Republic, and soon threatened the economic structure of all Europe.

In 1924 American business leader Charles G. Dawes took a stab at the problem by persuading the victori- ous Europeans to scale down reparations. In return the United States promised to help stabilize the German economy. Encouraged by the State Department, Amer- ican bankers made large loans to Germany, with which the Germans paid their reparations. The European vic- tors then used those funds to repay their war debts to the United States. It amounted to taking money from one American pocket and placing it in another. In 1926 the United States also reduced European war debts. Canceling them would have made more sense, but few Americans were so forgiving.

Despite Europe’s debt problems a costly arms race continued among the great powers. Two grand diplomatic gestures reflected the twin desires for peace and economy. In 1921, following the lead of the United States, the world’s sea powers gathered at the Washington Naval Disarmament Confer- ence. They agreed to freeze battleship construc- tion for 10 years and set ratios on the tonnage of each navy. The Five-Power Agreement was the first disarmament treaty in modern his- tory. A more extravagant gesture came seven years later, in 1928, when the major nations of the world (except the Soviet Union) signed an agreement outlawing war, the Kellogg-Briand Pact. “Peace is proclaimed,” announced Sec- retary of State Frank Kellogg as he signed the document with a foot-long pen of gold.

What seemed so bold on paper proved to be ineffective in practice. The French, for example, resented the lower limits set on their battleships under the Five-Power Agreement and began building smaller warships such as submarines, cruisers, and destroyers. The arms race now concentrated on these vessels. And the Kellogg-Briand Pact remained a toothless proclama- tion with no means of enforcement. MAP 24.3 : ELECTION OF 1928

Herbert Hoover (Republican) 444

(84) 21,437,277


337,115 (1)

Alfred Smith (Democratic) 87


15,007,698 (41)Minor parties

Candidate (Party) Electoral Vote (%) Popular Vote (%)

Dots indicate the 12 largest cities in the nation.

6 4





38 14 3

812 8




13 12 12

9 14





18 29






5 12









3 13 4



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of the decade. Thus buyers had to come up with only half the price of a share. The rest came from credit furnished by brokers’ loans. As trading reached record heights in August 1929, the Federal Reserve Board tried to dampen speculation by raising the inter- est rates. Higher interest rates made borrowing more expensive and, authorities hoped, would rein in the galloping bull market. They were wrong. It was already too late.

The Great Crash >>  At the opening bell on Thursday, October 24, 1929, a torrent of orders to sell flooded the exchange, triggered by nervous speculators worried about a decline. Prices plunged as panic set in. By the end of “Black Thursday” nearly 13 million shares had been traded—a record. Losses stood at $3 billion, another record. Thirty- five of the largest brokerage houses on Wall Street issued a joint statement of reassurance: “The worst has passed.”

The worst had just begun. Prices rallied for the rest of the week, buoyed by a bankers’ buying pool. The following Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the bubble burst. Stockholders lost $10 billion in a single day. Within a month industrial stocks lost half of what they had been worth in September. And the downward slide contin- ued for almost four years. At their peak in 1929, stocks had been worth $87 billion. In 1933 they bottomed out at $18 billion.

The Great Crash did not cause the Great Depres- sion, but it did damage the economy and broke the unbounded optimism upon which the New Era rested.

In the election of 1928 nearly 60 percent of eligible voters turned out to give all but eight states to Hoover. The solidly Democratic South cracked for the first time. Still, the stirrings of a major political realign- ment were buried in the returns. The 12 largest cities in the country had gone to the Republicans in their victorious 1924 campaign. In 1928 the Democrats won them. The Democrats were becoming the party of the cities and of immigrants. Around this core they would build the most powerful vote-getting coalition of the twentieth century.


Strolling across the felt-padded floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Superintendent William Crawford greeted the New Year with swaggering confidence. The rampaging “bulls,” or buyers of stock, had routed the hibernating “bears,” those who sell. It was the great- est bull market in history, as eager purchasers drove prices to new highs. At the end of the last business day of 1928, Crawford declared flatly, “The millennium’s arrived.”

Veteran financial analyst Alexander Noyes had his doubts. Speculation—buying and selling on the expec- tation that rising prices will yield quick gains—had taken over the stock market. “Something has to give,” said Noyes in September 1929. Less than a month later, the Great Bull Market fell in a heap.

The Rampaging Bull >>  No one knows exactly what caused the wave of speculation that boosted the stock market to dizzying heights. Driven alternately by greed and fear, the market succumbed to greed in a decade that considered it a virtue. Money and credit to fuel the market became plentiful as the decade wore on. The money supply expanded by $6 billion, fed by nearly $900 million worth of gold from overseas. Cor- porate profits grew by 80 percent. At interest rates as high as 25 percent, more could be made from lend- ing money to brokers (who then made “brokers’ loans” to clients for stock purchases) than from construct- ing new factories. By 1929 brokers’ loans had almost tripled from two years earlier.

“Margin requirements,” the cash actually put down to purchase stock, hovered around 50 percent for most

✔ R E V I E W What public policies did Presidents Harding and Coolidge pursue during the 1920s?

̂̂ Anxious investors swarmed around the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street when stock prices began to crash in 1929.

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Although only about 500,000 people were actu- ally trading stocks by the end of the decade, their investments helped to sustain prosperity. Thousands of middle-class investors lost their savings and their futures. Commercial banks—some loaded with corpo- rate stocks, others financing brokers’ loans—reeled in the wake of the crash.

The Great Crash signaled the start of the greatest depression in the history of the modern world. In the United States, the gains of the 1920s were wiped out in a few years. In the first three years after the crash, national income fell by half, factory wages by almost half. By some estimates 85,000 businesses failed.

Although the Great Depression was less deep and less prolonged in other countries, the shock waves from the United States rippled around the globe, helping to topple already-fragile economies in Europe. American loans, investments, and purchases had propped up Europe since the end of World War I. When those resources dried up in the wake of the crash, European governments defaulted on war debts. More European banks failed; more businesses collapsed; unemployment surged to at least 30 million worldwide by 1932.

Europeans scrambled to protect themselves. Led by Great Britain in 1931, 41 nations abandoned the gold standard to give themselves more monetary flex- ibility. Foreign governments hoped to devalue their currencies by expanding their supplies of money. Con- ventional wisdom taught that exports would be cheaper

and foreign trade would increase. But several countries did so at once, while each country raised tariffs to protect itself from foreign com- petition. Devaluation failed, and the resulting trade barriers only deepened the crisis.

In the United States declining sales abroad sent crop prices to new lows. Farm income dropped by more than half. Spurred by defaults on farm mortgages, an epidemic of rural bank failures spread to the cities. Nervous depositors rushed to withdraw their cash. Even healthy banks could not bear the strain. In August 1930 every bank in Toledo, Ohio, but one closed its doors. Between 1929 and 1933, collapsing banks took more than $20 billion in assets with them. The economy was spiraling downward, and no one could stop it.

Causes of the Great Depression >>   What, then, caused the Great Depression in the United States? In the months before the crash, with national attention riveted on the booming stock market, hardly anyone paid attention to existing defects in the American economy. But by 1928 the booming construction and automo- bile industries began to lose vitality as demand sagged. In fact, increases in consumer spending for all goods and services slowed to a lethargic

1.5 percent for 1928–1929. Warehouses began to fill as sales fell and inventories climbed.

In one sense businesses had done too well. Corpo- rations had boosted their profits by keeping the cost of labor and raw materials low as well as by increasing productivity (producing more, using fewer workers). But businesses used their profits to expand facto- ries rather than to pay workers higher wages. With- out strong labor unions or government support, real wages never kept pace with productivity, which led to a paradox. As consumers, workers did not have enough money to buy the products they were making more efficiently and at lower cost.

People made up the difference between earnings and purchases by borrowing. Consumers bought “on time,” paying for merchandise a little each month. During the decade, consumer debt rose by 250 percent. Few could afford to keep spending at that rate. Nor could the distribution of wealth sustain prosperity. By 1929, 1 percent of the population owned 36 percent of all personal wealth. The wealthy had more money than they could possibly spend, and they saved too much. The working and middle classes had not nearly enough to keep the economy growing, spend though they might.

Another problem lay with the banking system. Mismanagement, greed, and the emergence of a new type of executive—half banker, half broker—led banks to divert more funds into speculative investments. The

DECLINING WORLD TRADE, 1929–1933 ̂̂ As the Great Depression deepened, world trade spiraled downward. Here the imports of 75 countries are tracked from 1929 to 1933. (The amounts are measured in millions of U.S. gold dollars.) The greatest annual decline occurred between 1930 and 1931 as production plummeted and nation after nation began to erect high tariff barriers to protect their domestic markets from cheaper imports. Over the four-year period, world import trade fell by almost two-thirds, only underscoring the growing interdependence of the global economy.

2,998 Million


July 1929





2,739 Oct




Jan 1929


Jan 1930

Jan 1931

Jan 1932

Jan 1933

3000 30002000 20001000 1000 (in millions of dollars)

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uniquely decentralized American banking system left no way to set things right if a bank failed. At the end of the decade, half of the 25,000 banks in America lay outside the Federal Reserve System. Its controls even over member banks were weak. During the decade, 6,000 banks had already failed.

A shaky corporate structure only made matters worse. No government agency at all monitored the stock exchanges, while big business operated largely unchecked. Insider stock trading, shady stock deals, and outright stock fraud ran rampant. Meanwhile, public policy encouraged corporate consolidation and control by filing fewer antitrust suits. High profits and the Mellon tax program under Coolidge helped to make many corporations wealthy enough to avoid borrowing. Thus changes in interest rates—over which the Federal Reserve exercised some control—had little influence on them. Strong profits and weak government regulation allowed huge corporations to rule the economy with a relatively free hand. And they ruled badly.

Unemployment began to increase as early as 1927, a sign of growing softness in the economy. By the fall of 1929 some 2 million people were out of work. Many of them were in textiles, coal mining, lumbering, and railroads. All were “sick” industries during the decade, suffering from overexpansion, reduced demand, and weak management.

Finally, plain economic ignorance contributed to the calamity. High tariffs protected American indus- tries but discouraged European businesses from selling to the world’s most profitable market. Only American loans and investments supported demand abroad. When the American economy collapsed, those vanished and with them went American foreign trade. Further- more, the Federal Reserve had been stimulating the economy both by expanding the money supply and by lowering interest rates. Those moves only fed the speculative fever by furnishing investors with more money at lower costs. A decision finally to raise inter- est rates in 1929 to stem speculation ended up speeding the slide by making it more expensive to borrow when borrowing might have slowed the decline.

The American mix of exuberance, hedonism, and anxiety was mirrored in other nations. As postwar peace unfolded, many of the world’s political systems seemed to sustain Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a world made safe for democracy. A Germany ruled by Hohenzollern monarchs transformed itself into the Weimar Repub- lic, whose constitution provided universal suffrage and a bill of rights. The new nations carved out of the old Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires attempted to

✔ R E V I E W What caused the Great Depression, and what role did the Great crash play in the stock market downturn?

create similarly democratic governments, while in Tur- key, Kemal Ataturk abolished the sultanate and estab- lished the Turkish Republic. In India, the Congress Party formed by Mohandas K. Gandhi pressed the British to grant them greater political representation.

The Great Crash and the Great Depression rocked these fragile beginnings. A fledgling democracy in depression-wracked Germany gave way to a totali- tarian state, while dire economic straits strengthened the hands of dictators in Italy and the Soviet Union. Japan, too, departed from its peaceful parliamentary path toward aggressive militarism, emperor wor- ship, and foreign expansion. No one—not the brokers of Wall Street, not the captains of industry, not the diplomats at the League of Nations—could predict the future in such an unstable world.

CHAPTER SUMMARY The New Era of the 1920s brought a booming economy and modern times to America, vastly accelerating the forces of change—bureaucracy, productivity, technology, advertising and consumerism, mass media, and subur- banization. Urban-rural tensions peaked with shifts in population that gave cities new power, but as the decade wore on, weaknesses in the economy and a new ethos of getting and spending proved to be the New Era’s undoing. " Technology, advertising and consumer spending,

and such boom industries as automobile manufac- turing and construction fueled the largest peacetime economic growth in American history to that date.

" Key features of modern life—mass society, mass culture, and mass consumption—took hold, fed by mass media in the form of radio, movies, and mass- circulation newspapers and magazines.

" Modern life unsettled old ways and eroded social con- ventions that had limited life, especially for women and children, leading to the emergence of a New Woman.

" Great migrations of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and of Latinos from Mexico to the United States reshaped the social landscape.

" Traditional culture, centered in rural America, hardened and defended itself against change through immigration restriction, Prohibition, Fundamental- ism, and a reborn Ku Klux Klan.

" A galloping bull market in stocks reflected the com- mitment of government to big business and eco- nomic growth.

" When the stock market crashed in 1929, weaknesses in the economy—overexpansion, declining purchasing power, uneven distribution of wealth, weak bank- ing and corporate structures, “sick” industries, and economic ignorance—finally brought the economy down, and with it the New Era came to a close.

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Additional Reading For years, Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (1931), shaped the stereotyped view of the decade as a frivolous interlude between World War I and the Great Depression. Wil- liam Leuchtenburg, The Perils of Prosperity, 1914– 1932 (1958), began an important reconsideration by stressing the serious conflict between urban and rural America and the emergence of modern mass society. Lynn Dumenil updates Leuchtenburg in her excellent The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (1995). Ann Douglas, Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s (1995), puts Man- hattan at the core of the cultural transformation. On immigration restriction, see Roger Daniels, Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882 (2004). On the Scopes trial, see Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (1997).

Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940 (1985), analyzes the role of advertising in shaping mass consumption, values, and culture; and Ellis Hawley, The Great War and the Search for a Modern Order (1979), emphasizes economic institutions. For women in the 1920s, see Kathleen M. Blee, Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s (1991); and Virginia Scharff, Taking the Wheel: Women and the Com- ing of the Motor Age (1991). In a penetrating and gendered discussion of Garveyism and of the Harlem Renaissance, Martin Summers profiles evolving notions of what it meant to be a black man in Manliness and Its Discontents: The Black Middle Class & the Transformation of Masculinity, 1900–1930 (2004).

The most thorough and readable examination of the stock market’s relation to the economy and pub- lic policy is still Robert Sobel, The Great Bull Mar- ket: Wall Street in the 1920s (1968). For the run-up to the crash, see Maury Klein, Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929 (2001). In Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (2010), Liaquat Ahamed finds the roots of the financial crisis in poli- cies pursued by four key bankers in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany. For an analy- sis of the Great Depression from the perspective of Keynesian economics, see John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash (rev. ed., 1988). For the argument of monetarists, who see the roots of the Depression in the shrinking money supply, see Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, Monetary History of the United States (1963); and Peter Temin, Did Mon- etary Forces Cause the Great Depression? (1976).

John M. Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Missis- sippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America (1997), is especially good on the fate of African Amer- icans and the failure of government and private aid organizations.

Significant Events

1916 Marcus Garvey

brings Universal Negro Improvement

Association to America

1914 Henry Ford introduces

moving assembly line

1919 Eighteenth Amendment

outlawing alcohol use ratified

1921 Congress enacts quotas

on immigration

1923 Harding dies; Calvin Coolidge becomes president; Harding

scandals break

1925 Scopes convicted

of teaching evolution in Tennessee

1928 Herbert Hoover

elected president; Kellogg-Briand Pact


1920 First commercial radio

broadcast; Warren Harding elected


1921–1922 Washington Naval

Disarmament Conference

1924 Dawes Plan enacted to stabilize German

inflation; Coolidge elected president

1927 Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic;

Sacco and Vanzetti executed

1929 Stock market crashes

1915 Modern Ku Klux Klan


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Homesteaders Jack and Edith Whinery lived with their five children in Pie Town, New Mexico, where the effects of the Great Depression lingered. This slide, taken by photog- rapher Russell Lee, is part of a larger series of color images captured by government photogra- phers at sites across the country. Does the use of color change our view of the past captured in the photograph?

>> An American Story

letters from the edge

W inner, South Dakota, November 10, 1933. “Dammit, I don’t WANT to write to you again tonight. It’s been a long, long day, and I’m tired.” All the days had been long since Lorena Hickok began her cross-country trek. Four months earlier Harry Hopkins, the new federal relief administrator, hired the journal- ist to report on the relief efforts of the New Deal. “Talk with the unemployed,”


The Great Depression and the New Deal


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he told her, “and when you talk to them, don’t ever for- get that but for the grace of God you, I, any of our friends might be in their shoes.”

In 1933 and 1934 Hickok found that Roosevelt’s relief program was falling short. Its half-billion-dollar subsidy to states, localities, and chari- ties was still leaving out too many Americans, like the sharecropper Hickok discov- ered near Raleigh, North Car- olina. He and his daughters had been living in a tobacco barn for two weeks on little more than weeds and table scraps. “Seems like we just keep goin’ lower and lower,” said the 16-year-old. To Hickok’s surprise, hope still flickered in her eyes. Hickok couldn’t explain it until she noticed a pin on the girl’s chest. It was a campaign button from the 1932 election—“a profile of the President.” Hope sprang from the man in the White House.

Before Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, the White House was

far removed from ordinary citizens. The only federal agency with which they had any contact was the post office. And these days it usually delivered bad news. But as Hickok traveled across the country in 1933, she detected a change. People were talking about government programs. Perhaps it was long-awaited contri- butions to relief or maybe reforms

in securities and banking or the new recovery programs for industry and agriculture. Just as likely it was Franklin Roos- evelt. People, she wrote, were “for the President.”

The message was clear: Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal had begun to restore national confidence. Though it never brought full recovery, the New Deal did improve economic condi- tions and provided relief to millions of Americans. It reformed the economic sys- tem and committed the fed- eral government to managing its ups and downs. In doing so it extended the progres-

sive drive to soften industrialization and translated decades of growing concern for the disadvantaged into a federal aid program. For the first time, Americans believed Washing- ton would help them through a ter- rible crisis. The liberal state came of age: active, interventionist, and

committed to social welfare. <<

^̂ In the shantytowns or “Hoovervilles” that sprang up dur- ing the Great Depression, housing was makeshift, with the homeless living in crude tin and wood shacks or tents. This young girl uses an abandoned tire as a makeshift seat.

What ’s to CCoomme 512 The Human Impact of the Great Depression

516 The Tragedy of Herbert Hoover

520 The Early New Deal (1933–1935)

526 A Second New Deal (1935–1936)

529 The New Deal and the American People

534 The End of the New Deal (1937–1940)

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was devastated. Most Americans survived by cooperat- ing with one another and scrimping to make ends meet. As one Depression victim recalled, “We lived lean.”

Hard Times >>  Hard times lasted for a decade. Even before the Great Crash many Americans were having trouble making a living. In 1929 a family of four required $2,000 a year for the barest necessities—more money than 60 percent of American families earned.

Unable to pay mortgages or rent, many families lived off the generosity of forgiving landlords. Some traded down to smaller quarters or simply lost their homes. By 1932 between 1 and 2 million Americans were homeless wanderers, among them an estimated 25,000 nomadic families. For the first time, emigration out of the country exceeded immigration into it because Americans could find no work at home. Despite official claims that no one died of hunger, the New York City Welfare Council reported 29 victims of starvation and 110 dead of malnourishment in 1932 alone.


DEPRESSION Long breadlines snaked around corners. Vacant-eyed apple-sellers stood shivering in the wind. A man with his hat in his hand came to the back door asking for food in exchange for work. Between 1929 and 1932 an average of 100,000 people lost their jobs every week until some 13 million Americans were jobless. At least one worker in four could find no work at all.

The Great Depression was a great leveler that reduced differences in the face of common want. The New York seamstress without enough piecework to pay her rent felt the same pinch of frustration and anger as the UC Berkeley student whose college education was cut short when the bank let her father go. Not everyone

^̂ The unemployed, New York City, 1930.

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^̂ Art Deco Radio, 1930. Art Deco, popularized in the 1920s, relied on the geometrical patterns of machines arranged in decorative designs.


Marriages and births, symbols of faith in the future, decreased. For the first time in three centuries the curve of population growth began to level, as many young couples postponed having children. Experts worried about an impending “baby crop shortage.” Strong fami- lies hung together and grew closer; weak ones languished or fell apart. Although divorce declined, desertion—the “poor man’s divorce”—mushroomed. Under the strain, rates of mental illness and suicide rose as well.

Many fathers, whose lives had been defined by work, suddenly had nothing to do. They grew listless and depressed. Most mothers stayed home and found their traditional roles as nurturer and household man- ager less disrupted than the breadwinning roles of their husbands. Between 1929 and 1933 living costs dropped 25 percent, but family incomes tumbled by 40 percent.

Homemakers watched household budgets with a closer eye than ever. They canned more food and sub- stituted less expensive fish for meat. When they earned extra money, they often did so within the confines of the “woman’s sphere” by taking in boarders, laundry, and sewing, opening beauty parlors in their kitchens, and selling baked goods.

For those women who worked outside the home, prejudice still relegated them to so-called women’s work. Over half the female labor force continued to work in domestic service or the garment trades, while others found traditional employment as schoolteach- ers, social workers, and secretaries. Only slowly did the female proportion of the workforce reach pre- Depression levels, until it rose finally to 25 percent by 1940, largely because women were willing to take almost any job.

Whether in the renewed importance of homemak- ing or the reemergence of home industries, the Great Depression sent ordinary Americans scurrying for the reassuring shelter of past practices and left many of them badly shaken. Shame, self-doubt, and pessi- mism became epidemic as people blamed themselves for their circumstances. “I would go stand on the relief line [and] bend my head low so nobody would recognize me,” recalled one man. The lasting legacy of humilia- tion and fear—that you had caused your own downfall; that the bottom would drop out again—was what one writer called an “invisible scar.” The Golden Age of Radio and Film >>  By the end of the decade almost 9 out of 10 fami- lies owned radios. People depended on radios for nearly everything—news, sports, and weather; music

and entertainment; advice on how to bake a cake or find God. Some programming

helped change national habits. When The Sporting News conducted a baseball poll in 1932, editors were surprised to discover that a “new crop of fans has been created by radio  .  .  .  the women.” Many women were at home during the

day when most games were played, and broadcasters went out of their way to edu-

cate these new listeners. Night games soon outran day games in attendance, in part because husbands began taking wives and daughters, whose interest was sparked by radio.

Radio entered a golden age of com- mercialism. Advertisers hawked their

products on variety programs like Major Bowes’s Amateur Hour and comedy shows with entertain- ers such as George Burns and Gracie Allen. Daytime melodramas (called “soap operas” because they were sponsored by soap companies) aimed at women with stories of the personal struggles of ordinary folk.

Radio continued to bind the country together. A teenager in Splendora, Texas, could listen to the same wisecracks from Jack Benny, the same music from Guy Lombardo, as kids in New York City and Los Ange- les. In 1938 Orson Welles broadcast H. G. Wells’s classic science fiction tale The War of the Worlds. Americans everywhere listened to breathless reports of an “invasion from Mars,” and many believed it. In Newark, New Jersey, cars jammed roads as families rushed to evacuate the city. The nation, bombarded with reports of impending war in Europe and accus- tomed to responding to radio advertising, was prepared to believe almost anything, even reports of invaders from Mars.

In Hollywood an efficient but autocratic studio system churned out a record number of feature films. Eight motion picture companies produced more than two-thirds of them. Color, first introduced to fea- ture films in Becky Sharp (1935), soon complemented sound, which had debuted in the 1927 version of The Jazz Singer. Neither alone could keep movie theaters full. As attendance dropped early in the Depression, big studios such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Uni- versal lured audiences back with films that shocked, titillated, and just plain entertained.

By the mid-1930s more than 60 percent of Americans were going to the movies at least once a week. They saw tamer films as the industry began regulating movie content in the face of growing criti- cism. In 1933 the Catholic Church created the Legion of Decency to monitor features. To avoid censorship and boycotts, studios stiffened their own regulations.

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“Dirty Thirties”: An Ecological Dis- aster  >>   Each year between 1932 and 1939 an average of nearly 50 dust storms, or “black bliz- zards,” turned 1,500 square miles between the Okla- homa panhandle and western Kansas into a gigantic “Dust Bowl,” whose baleful effects were felt as far north as the Dakotas and as far south as Texas. It was one of the worst ecological disasters in modern history. Nature played its part, scorching the earth and whip- ping the winds. But the “dirty thirties” were mostly made by human beings. The semiarid lands west of the 98th meridian were not suitable for agriculture or livestock. Sixty years of intensive farming and grazing had stripped the prairie of its natural vegetation and rendered it defenseless against the elements. When the dry winds came, one-third of the Great Plains simply vanished into the air.

Producers could not depict homosexuality, abortion, drug use, or sex. (Even the word “sex” was banned, as was all profanity.) Middle-class morality reigned on the screen, and most Depression movies, like most of popular culture, preserved traditional values.

In Europe the “mass aspects” of media could cut more than one way politically and culturally. While Hollywood produced films that affirmed popular faith in democratic government, a capitalist economy, and the success ethic, totalitarian Nazi Germany broad- cast the fiery rallies and speeches of Adolf Hitler, which seemed bent on encouraging racist fears and inflaming public hysteria. In Triumph of the Will (1935), German director Leni Riefehstahl used her cinematic gifts to combine myth, symbol, and doc- umentary into an image of Hitler as the Führer, a national savior with the power of a pagan god and the charisma of cult leader.

^̂ “Black blizzards” dwarfed the landscape and everything human in it. The drought that helped bring them about lasted from 1932 to 1936. In a single day in 1934, dust storms dumped 12 million tons of western dirt on Chicago. This automobile flees the approaching clouds on a road stretching across the Texas panhandle.

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“I don’t.” Thirty years later he founded the United Farm Workers of America, the first union of migratory workers in the country.

A deep ambivalence had always characterized American attitudes toward Mexicans and Mexican Americans like the Chávezes, but the Great Depres- sion turned most Anglo communities against them. Cities such as Los Angeles, fearing the burden of relief, found it cheaper to ship Mexicans home. Some migrants left voluntarily. Frustrated officials or angry neighbors drove out others. Beginning in 1931 the fed- eral government launched a series of deportations, or repatriations , of Mexi- cans back to Mexico. These deportations included the Mexicans’ American-born children, who by law were citizens of the United States.

During the decade the Latino population of the Southwest dropped by 500,000. In Chicago, the Mexican American community shrank by almost half. Staying in the United States often turned out to be as difficult as leaving. The average income of Mexican American families in the Rio Grande valley of Texas was $506 a year. Following the harvest made schooling particu- larly difficult: fewer than two Mexican American chil- dren in ten completed five years of school.

For Americans of Mexican descent, the Great Depression only deepened anxiety over identity. Were they Mexicans, as many Anglos regarded them, or were they Americans, as they regarded themselves? In the 1920s, such questions produced several organizations founded to assert the American identity of native- born and naturalized Mexican Americans and to pursue their civil rights. In 1929, on the eve of the Depression, many of these organizations were consolidated into the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). By the early 1940s, “Flying Squadrons” of LULAC organizers had founded 80 chapters nationwide, mak- ing it the largest Mexican American civil rights asso- ciation in the country.

LULAC permitted only those Latinos who were American citizens to join, excluding hundreds of thou- sands of ethnic Mexicans who nonetheless regarded the United States as their home. It pointedly conducted meetings in English. An assimilated middle class pro- vided its leadership and stressed desegregation of public schools, voter registration, and an end to dis- crimination in public facilities and on juries.

African Americans in the Depression >>   Hard times were nothing new to African Americans. “The Negro was born in depression,” opined one black man. “It only became official when it hit the white man.” Still, when the Depression struck, black

Some 3.5 million plains people abandoned their farms. Landowners and corporations forced off about half of them as large-scale commercial farming slowly spread into the heartland of America. Com- mercial farms were more common in California, where 10 percent of the farms grew more than 50 percent of the crops. As in industrial America, the strategy in agricultural America was to consolidate and mecha- nize. In most Dust Bowl counties people owned less than half the land they farmed. American agriculture was turning from a way of life into an industry. And as the economy contracted, owners cut costs by cutting workers.

Relief offices around the country reported a change in migrant families. Rather than black or brown, more and more were white and native-born, typically a young married couple with one child. Long-distance migrants from Oklahoma, Arizona, and Texas usu- ally set their sights on California. If they were like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), they drove west along Route 66 through Arizona and New Mexico, their belongings piled high atop rickety jalopies, heading for the West Coast and the promise of jobs picking fruit and har- vesting vegetables.

More than 350,000 Oklahomans migrated to California—so many that “Okie” came to mean any Dust Bowler, even though most of Oklahoma lay out- side the Dust Bowl. According to one government study, between 1935 and 1940 only a third of migrants from the Southwest to California had lived on farms before leaving. More than half resided in cities. Unlike the Joads, most ended up in one California city or another.

Wherever they landed, only one in two or three migrants actually found work. The labor surplus allowed growers to cut wages to less than a third the subsistence level. Families that did not work formed wretched enclaves called “little Oklahomas.” The worst were located in the fertile Imperial Valley. There, at the end of the decade, relief officials discovered a family of 10 living in a 1921 Ford.

Mexican Americans and Repatriation >>   The Chávez family lost their family farm in Arizona in 1934. César, barely six years old at the time, remem- bered only images of their departure: a “giant trac- tor” leveling the corral; the loss of his room and bed; a beat-up Chevy hauling the family west; his father promising to buy another farm. But the elder Chávez could never keep his promise. Instead, he and his fam- ily “followed the crops” in California. In eight years César went to 37 schools. When they found work, his family earned less than $10 a week. His father joined strikers in the Imperial Valley in the mid-1930s, only to have the strikes crushed. “Some people put this out of their minds,” said César Chávez years later.

repatriation act of return- ing people to their nation of origin. The term often refers to the act of return- ing soldiers or refugees to their birth country.

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women, one of whom later admitted that the boys had been framed. Appeals kept the case alive for almost a decade. In the end charges against four of the “Scotts- boro boys” were dropped. The other five received sub- stantial prison sentences.


The presidency of Herbert Hoover began with great promise but soon became a nightmare both personal and professional. “I have no fears for the future of our country,” he announced at his inauguration in March 1929. But within seven months a “depression” struck. (Hoover used the word instead of the tradi- tional “panic” to downplay the emergency.) Despite more effort than any of his predecessors to restore a damaged economy, he failed to turn the economic tide. For all of Hoover’s promise and innovative intelligence, he was a transitional figure, important as a break from the do-nothing policies of past depression presidents and a herald of more-active presidents to come.

The Failure of Relief >>  By the winter of 1931–1932 the picture was bleak: relief organizations with too little money and too few resources to make much headway against the Depression. Once-mighty private charity dwindled to 6 percent of all relief funds.

Ethnic charities tried to stave off disaster for their own. Over the years Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans turned to mutualistas, tradi- tional societies that provided members with social support, life insurance, and sickness benefits. In San Francisco, the Chinese Six Companies offered food and clothing to needy Chi- nese Americans. But as the head of the Federation of Jewish Charities warned, private efforts were failing. The government would be “compelled, by the cruel events ahead of us, to step into the situation and bring relief on a large scale.”

unemployment surged. By 1932 it reached 50 percent, twice the national level. By 1933 several cities reported between 25 and 40 percent of their black residents with no support except relief payments.

Migration out of the rural South, up 800,000 during the 1920s, dropped by 50 percent in the 1930s. As late as 1940 three of four African Americans still lived in rural areas; yet conditions there were just as bad as in cities. In 1934 one study estimated the average income for black cotton farmers at less than $200 a year.

Like many African Americans, George Baker refused to be victimized by the Depression. Baker had moved from Georgia to Harlem in 1915. He changed his name to M. J. Divine and founded a religious cult that prom- ised followers an afterlife of full equality. In the 1930s “Father Divine” preached economic cooperation and opened shelters, or “heavens,” for regenerate “angels,” black and white. In Detroit Elijah Poole began call- ing himself Elijah Muhammad and in 1931 established the Black Muslims, a blend of Islamic faith and black nationalism. He exhorted African Americans to celebrate their African heritage, to live lives of self-discipline and self-help, and to strive for a separate all-black nation.

The Depression inflamed racial prejudice. Lynch- ings tripled between 1932 and 1933. In 1932 the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the most celebrated racial case of the decade. A year earlier nine black teenagers had been accused of raping two white women on a train bound for Scottsboro, Alabama. Within weeks all-white juries had sentenced eight of them to death. The convictions rested on the testimony of the

̂̂ “Juke joints” like this one in Belle Glade, Florida, provided a temporary haven, and sometimes living quarters, for migratory workers who came to drink and dance to the songs played on a jukebox.

✔ R E V I E W What were the human costs of the Great Depression for Anglos, Latinos, and African Americans?

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clothing, and other necessities. In his honor, Finns coined a new word: to “hoover” meant to help.

When the Depression struck, Hoover was no passive president. Past presidents had feared that any inter- vention by government would upset the natural workings of the econ- omy and that their sole responsibil- ity was to keep the budget balanced. But Hoover understood the vicious cycle in which rising unemployment drove down consumer demand and appreciated the need for stimulat- ing investment. He set in motion an unprecedented program of govern- ment activism.

Despite all his work, Hoover’s pro- gram failed. At first, he rallied busi- ness leaders, who pledged to maintain employment, wages, and prices—only to back down as the economy sput- tered. He pushed a tax cut through Congress in 1930 in order to increase the purchasing power of consumers.

But when the cuts produced an unbalanced federal budget, Hoover reversed course. At bottom he firmly believed that capitalism would generate its own recov- ery and that a balanced federal budget was required in order to restore the confidence of business. So he agreed to tax increases in 1932, further undermining investment and consumption.

Equally disastrous, the president endorsed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff (1930) to protect the United States from cheap foreign goods. That bill brought a wave of retaliation from countries abroad, which choked world trade and reduced American sales over- seas. Even the $1 billion that Hoover spent on public works —more than the total spent by all his prede- cessors combined—did not approach the $10 billion needed to employ only half the jobless. Spending such huge sums seemed unthink- able when the entire fed- eral budget was only $3.2 billion.

Under pressure from Congress, Hoover took his boldest action to save the banks. Between 1930 and 1932 some 5,100 banks failed as panicky deposi- tors withdrew their funds. Without loans from sound banks for investment, the economy would never recover. Hoover agreed to permit the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in 1932, an agency that could lend money to banks. Mod- eled on a similar agency created during World War I, the RFC had a capital stock of $500 million and the

An estimated 30 million needy people nation- wide quickly depleted city treasuries, already pressed because nearly 30 percent of city taxpayers had fallen behind in paying what they owed. In Philadelphia relief payments to a family of four totaled $5.50 a week, the highest in the country. Some cities gave nothing to unmarried people or childless couples, no matter how impoverished they were.

Cities clamored for help from state capitals, but after a decade of extravagant spending and sloppy bookkeeping, many states were already in debt. As businesses and property values collapsed, tax bases shrank and with them state revenues. Until New York established its Temporary Emergency Relief Admin- istration (TERA) in 1931, no state had any agency to handle the unemployed.

The Hoover Depression Program >>  Begin- ning in 1930 President Hoover assumed leadership in combating the depression with more vigor and com- passion than any other executive before him had done. It was a mark of his character. Orphaned at nine, he became one of Stanford University’s first gradu- ates and, before the age of 40, the millionaire head of one of the most successful mine engineering firms in the world. As a good Quaker, he balanced private gain with public service, saving starving Belgian refu- gees in 1915 after war broke out in Europe. He worked 14 hours a day, paid his own salary, and convinced private organizations and businesses to donate food,

̂̂ Cities provided little or no aid to the needy, as the Depression had depleted their trea- suries and many residents could not afford to pay taxes. This section of tenements was located in Brockton, Massachusetts.

public works government- financed construction projects, such as highways and bridges, for use by the public.

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of Pennsylvania requested loans to furnish the desti- tute with 13 cents a day for a year, the RFC sent only enough for 3 cents a day.

Stirrings of Discontent >>  Despite unprece- dented action, Hoover could not stem rising discontent. “The word revolution is heard at every hand,” one writer warned in 1932. Some wondered if capitalism itself had gone bankrupt.

In 1932 anger erupted into violence. Wisconsin dairy farmers overturned tens of thousands of milk cans in a fruitless effort to increase prices. A 48-mile-long “Coal Caravan” of striking miners drove through southern Illinois in protest. Three thousand marchers stormed Henry Ford’s plant in Dearborn, only to have Ford police turn power water hoses and guns on them. When it was over, four marchers lay dead and more than 20 more wounded.

For all the stirrings of discontent, revolution was never a danger. In 1932 the Communist Party of the United States had 20,000 members—up from 6,500

power to borrow four times that amount. Within three months bank failures dropped from 70 a week to 1 every two weeks.

In spite of this success, Hoover drew criticism for rescuing banks and not people. From the start he rejected the idea of federal relief for the unemployed for fear that a “dole,” or giveaway program, would dam- age the initiative of recipients, perhaps even produce a permanent underclass. The bureaucracy that would be needed to police recipients would inevitably meddle in the private lives of citizens and bring a “train of corruption and waste,” Hoover said. He assumed that neighborliness and cooperation would be enough.

As unemployment worsened, Hoover softened his stand on federal relief. In 1932 he allowed Congress to pass the Emergency Relief and Construction Act. It authorized the RFC to lend up to $1.5 billion for “reproductive” public works that paid for themselves— like toll bridges and slum clearance. Another $300 mil- lion went to states as loans for the direct relief of the unemployed. It barely mattered. When the governor

^̂ In the early years of the Depression demonstrations by the unemployed, some organized by Communists and other radicals, broke out all over the country. On March 6, 1930, a Communist-led protest at Union Square in New York City turned into an ugly riot. In 1935 Communist parties, under orders from Moscow, allied with democratic and socialist groups against fascism, proclaiming in the United States that “Communism is twentieth-century Americanism.”

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lobby and refused to see their leaders. When the Senate blocked the bonus bill, most veterans left.

About 2,000 stayed to dramatize their plight, camping with their families and parading peaceably. Despite eviction orders, the protesters refused to leave. By the end of July, the president had had enough. He called in the U.S. Army under the command of Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur arrived with four troops of saber-brandishing cavalry, six tanks, and a column of infantry with fixed bayo- nets. By the time the smoke cleared the next morning, only 300 wounded veterans remained.

Though he had intended that the army only assist the police, Hoover accepted responsibility for the action. And the sight of unarmed and unemployed veterans under attack by American troops soured most Americans. In Albany, New York, Governor Frank- lin D. Roosevelt exploded at the president’s failure: “There is nothing inside the man but jelly.”

The Election of 1932  >>   In 1932 Republi- cans stuck with Hoover and endorsed his Depres- sion program. Democrats countered with Franklin D. Roosevelt, the charismatic New York governor. As a sign of change, Roosevelt broke precedent by fly- ing to Chicago and addressing the delegates in person. “I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people,” he told them.

Without a national following, Roosevelt zigged and zagged in an effort to appeal to the broadest possible bloc of voters. One minute he called for a balanced budget, the next for costly public works and aid to the unemployed. He promised to help business, then spoke of remembering the “forgotten man” and “dis- tributing wealth and products more equitably.” For his part, Hoover denounced Roosevelt’s New Deal as a “dangerous departure” from time-honored tradi- tions, one that would destroy American values and institutions and “build a bureaucracy such as we have never seen in our history.”

On Election Day, Roosevelt captured a thun- dering 58 percent of the popular vote and carried with him large Democratic majorities in the Con- gress. Just as telling as the margin of victory were its sources. Industrial workers in the North, poor farmers in the South and West, immigrants and big-city dwellers everywhere were being galva- nized into a broad new coalition. These people had experienced firsthand the savage effects of the boom-and-bust business cycle and wanted change. They turned to Roosevelt and the Democrats, who recognized that in a mod- ern industrial state it was not enough to rally round business and hope that capitalism would right itself. Over 30 years of nearly unbroken Republican rule came to an end.

only three years earlier but hardly enough to con- stitute a political force. Deeply suspicious of Marx- ist doctrine, most Americans were unsympathetic to their cries for collectivism and an end to capital- ism. Fewer than 1,000 African Americans joined the party in the early 1930s, despite its strong support for civil rights.

At first hostile to established politics, the Communists adopted a more cooperative strategy to contain Adolf Hitler when his Nazi Party won control of Germany in 1933. Two years later, the Soviet Union ordered Com- munist parties in Europe and the United States to join with liberal politicians in a “popular front” against Nazism. Thereafter party membership in the United States peaked in the mid-1930s at about 80,000.

The Bonus Army >>  Hoover sympathized with the discontented but as the “Bonus Army” learned in the summer of 1932, his compassion had limits. The army, a scruffy collection of World War I veterans, was hungry and looking to cash in the bonus certifi- cates they had received from Congress in 1924 as a reward for wartime service. By the time they reached Washington, D.C., in June 1932, their numbers had swelled to nearly 20,000, the largest protest in the city’s history. Hoover dismissed them as a special-interest

Franklin D. Roos evelt


472 (89)

22,829,501 (57)

1,160,615 (3)

Herbert Hoover


59 (11)

15,760,684 (40)

Minor parties

Candidate (Party ) Electoral

Vote (%) Pop ular Vote (%)

54 3


48 47

36 16 3

8118 26




11 13

8 12












4 11 12









22 4

333 11

MAP 25.1: ELECTION OF 1932

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Roosevelt fell ill with poliomyelitis. The disease para- lyzed him from the waist down.

Roosevelt emerged from the ordeal to win the gov- ernorship of New York in 1928. When the Depression

THE EARLY NEW DEAL (1933–1935) On March 4, 1933, as the clocks struck noon, Eleanor Roosevelt wondered if it were possible to “do anything to save America now.” She looked at her husband, who had just been sworn in as thirty-second president of the United States. Franklin faced the audience of over 100,000. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” the new president said. Heeding the nation’s call for “action, and action now,” he promised to exer- cise “broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency.” The crowd cheered. Eleanor was terrified: “One has the feeling of going it blindly because we’re in a tremendous stream, and none of us know where we’re going to land.”

The early New Deal unfolded in the spring of 1933 with a chaotic 100-day burst of legislation. It stressed recovery through planning and cooperation with busi- ness but also tried to aid the unemployed and reform the economic system. Above all, the early New Deal broke the cycle of despair. With Roosevelt in the White House, most Americans believed that they were in good hands, wherever they landed.

The Democratic Roosevelts  >>   From the moment they entered it in 1933, Franklin and Eleanor—the Democratic Roosevelts—transformed the White House. No more seven-course meals as Hoover had served in an effort to show that nothing was really wrong. Instead, visitors got fare fit for a boardinghouse. The gesture was symbolic, but it made the president’s point of ending business as usual.

Such belt-tightening was new to Franklin Roosevelt. Born of an old Dutch family in New York, he grew up rich and pampered. He idolized his Republican cousin Theodore Roosevelt and mim- icked his career, except as a Democrat. Like Theodore, Franklin graduated from Harvard University (in 1904), won a seat in the New York State legislature (in 1910), secured an appointment as assis- tant secretary of the navy (in 1913), and ran for the vice presidency (in 1920). Then disas- ter struck. On vacation in the summer of 1921,

̂̂ Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 and remained para- lyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Out of respect for his politically motivated wishes, photographers rarely showed him wearing heavy leg braces or sitting in a wheelchair. This photograph, snapped outside his New York City brownstone in September 1933 during his first year as president, is one of the few in which Roosevelt’s braces are visible (just below the cuffs of his trousers). Note the wooden ramp constructed especially to help hold him up.

✔ R E V I E W What were the shortcomings of Herbert Hoover’s Depression program?


—Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day” newspaper column (1939)

“Johnson City, Tennessee, May 31, 1939—I looked out of the window of the train this morning . . . and saw a little girl, slim and bent over, carrying two heavy pails of water across a field to an unpainted house. How far that water had to be carried, I do not know, but it is one

thing to carry it on a camping trip for fun during a summer’s holiday, and it is another

thing to carry it day in and day out as part of the routine of living.”

“My Day”: The First Lady in Tennessee

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T WO V IEWS OF THE “F ORGOTTEN M AN ” When President Franklin Roosevelt promised to help the “forgotten man” during the Great Depression, not everyone agreed that such poverty-stricken Americans needed it. Two views of forgotten men and women follow, one from an Indiana farmwoman critical of any form of assistance (Document 1), the other from a reporter stressing the necessity for more aid and the danger of failing to provide it (Document 2).

Dueling D O C U M E N T S

D O C U M E N T 1 Aid Rewards the “Shiftless”

D O C U M E N T 2 Aid Helps the Truly Needy

We have always had a shiftless, never-do- well class of people whose one and only aim in life is to live without work. I have been rubbing elbows with this class for nearly sixty years and have tried to help some of the most promising and have seen others try to help them, but it can’t be done. We cannot help those who will not try to help themselves and if they do try, a square deal is all they need, and by the way that is all this country needs or ever has needed a square deal for all and then, let each paddle their own canoe, or sink. . . .

The women and children around here have had to work at the fields to help save the crops and several women fainted while at work and at the same time we couldn’t go up or down the road without stumbling over some of the reliefers, moping around

One hears a good deal about “relief psy- chology” these days—that if it were all direct relief, with no work, thousands would never apply. No social worker out in the field would deny this. Through work the stigma has to some extent been removed from relief. Into every relief office in the country have come appli- cants, not for relief, but for jobs. More of them than you would perhaps believe have shaken their heads and turned away when informed that it was really relief. Without doubt there are many thousands of families on work relief in this country who would not have applied had they not been able to call it—to themselves

carrying dirt from one side of the road to the other and back again, or else asleep. I live alone on a farm and have not raised any crops for the last two years as there was no help to be had. I am feeding the stock and have been cutting the wood to keep my home fires burning. There are several reliefers around here now who have been kicked off relief, but they refuse to work unless they can get relief hours and wages, but they are so worth- less no one can efford to hire them.

As for the clearance of the real slums, it can’t be done as long as their inhabit- ants are allowed to reproduce their kind. I would like for you to see what a family of that class can do to a decent house in a short time. Such a family moved into an almost new, neet, four-room house near here last winter. They even out down

at any rate—a job.” But when one hears the testimony of clinical doctors, school nurses, teachers, and social workers that the “marginal families”—those who haven’t yet come on relief—are really worse off than those on relief, one won- ders how long these people could have held out after all. . . . This from a doctor in a mental hygiene clinic in Providence, R. I.: “most people we see are not on relief, but are starving. Many of these are white colar people and people in the skilled labor class who avoid relief, whose pride remains stronger than hunger. The result on the children is malnutrition and a neurotic condition produced by hearing

some of the shade trees for fuel, after they had burned everything they could pry loose. . . . I will not try to describe their filth for you would not believe me. They paid no rent while there and left between two suns [sic] owing everyone from whom they could get nickels worth of anything. They are just a fair sample of the class of people on whom so much of our hard earned tax money is being squandered and on whom so much sympathy is being wasted. . . .

Is it any wonder the taxpayers are dis- couraged by all this penalizing of thrift and industry to reward shiftlessness, or that the whole country is on the brink of checs?

Source: Minnie A. Hardin (Columbus, Ind.) to Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt, December 14, 1937, reprinted in Andrew Carroll, ed., Letters of a Nation: A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters (New York, 1997), pp. 196–199.

and being constantly part of parental fear. The child grows obsessed with the mate- rial problems of the home and mentally shoulders them, and the nervous system cracks.”

. . . a FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) investigator a few weeks ago sent this poem from a town in Ohio. It was written by an 18-year-old boy:

Prayer of Bitter Men

We are the men who ride the swaying freights, We are the men whom Life has beaten down, Leaving for Death nought but the final pain Of degradation, Men who stand in line An hour for a bowl of watered soup,

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Grudgingly given, savagaly received. We are the Ishmaels, outcasts of the earth, Who shrink before the sordidness of Life And before the fithness of Death. Will there not come a great, a Man, A radiant leader with a heavier sword To crush to earth the enemies who crush Those who seek food and freedom on the roads?

THINKING CRITICALLY What complaints does the woman in the first letter make to the First Lady, and why does she make them? What picture emerges from the field report including the poem of the young man appended to the end of the report? How do you account for the differ- ences between the two views?

On March 5, the day after his inauguration, Roo- sevelt ordered every bank in the country closed for four days. He shrewdly called it a “bank holiday.” On March 9, the president introduced emergency bank- ing legislation. The House passed the measure, sight unseen, and the Senate endorsed it later in the day. Roosevelt signed it that night.

Rather than nationalizing the banks as radicals wanted, the Emergency Banking Act followed the mod- est course of extending federal assistance to them. Sound banks would reopen immediately with government sup- port. Troubled banks would be handed over to federal “conservators,” who would guide them to solvency. In plain and simple language, Roosevelt explained what was happening in the first of his many informal “fireside chat” radio broadcasts. When banks reopened the next day, deposits exceeded withdrawals.

To guard against another stock market crash, financial reforms gave government greater authority to manage the currency and regulate stock transactions. In April 1933 Roosevelt dropped the gold standard and began experimenting with the value of the dollar to boost prices. Later that spring the Glass-Steagall Banking Act restricted speculation by banks and, more important, created federal insurance for bank depos- its of up to $2,500. Despite Roosevelt’s objections that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would pre- serve weak banks at the expense of strong ones, fewer banks failed for the rest of the decade than in the year with the fewest failures in the 1920s. The Securities Exchange Act (1934) established a new federal agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, to oversee the stock market.

Relief for the Unemployed >>  Saving the banks and financial markets meant little if human suffering continued. Mortgage relief for the millions who had lost their homes came eventually in 1934 in the Home Owners’ Loan Act. The need to alleviate starvation led Roosevelt to propose a bold new giveaway program. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)

struck, he created the first state relief agency in 1931, the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. Aid to the jobless “must be extended by Government, not as a matter of charity, but as a matter of social duty,” he explained. He considered himself a progressive but moved well beyond the cautious federal activism of most pro- gressives. He adopted no single ideology. He cared little about economic principles. What he wanted were results. Experimentation became a hallmark of the New Deal.

Eleanor Roosevelt redefined what it meant to be first lady. Never had a president’s wife been so visible, so much of a crusader, so cool under fire. She was the first First Lady to hold weekly press conferences. Her column, “My Day,” appeared in 135 newspapers, and her twice-weekly broadcasts made her a radio person- ality rivaling her husband. She became his eyes, ears, and legs, traveling 40,000 miles a year. Secret Service men code-named her “Rover.”

Eleanor believed she was only a spur to presiden- tial action. But she was active in her own right, as a teacher and social reformer before Franklin became president and afterward as a tireless advocate of the underdog. In the White House, she pressed him to hire more women and minorities but also supported anti- lynching and anti-poll-tax measures, when he would not, and experimental towns for the homeless. By 1939 more Americans approved of her than of her husband.

Saving the Banks >>  Before the election Roo- sevelt had gathered a group of economic advisers called the “Brains Trust.” Out of their recommen- dations came the early, or “first,” New Deal of gov- ernment planning, intervention, and experimentation. Although Brains Trusters disagreed over the means, they agreed over ends: economic recovery, relief for the unemployed, and sweeping reform to ward off future depressions. The first step was to save the banks. By the eve of the inauguration, governors in 38 states had temporarily closed their banks to stem the withdrawal of deposits. Without a sound credit structure, there could be no recovery.

We care not if their flag be white or red, Come, ruthless Savior, messenger of God, Lenn or Christ, we follow Thy bright sword.

Source: Report Summary, Lorena Hickok to Harry Hopkins, January 1, 1935, reprinted in Richard Lowitt and Maurine Beasley, eds., One Third of a Nation: Lorena Hickok Reports on the Great Depression (Urbana, IL, 1981), pp. 351–365.

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Another work-relief program established in 1933 proved even more creative. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was Roosevelt’s pet project. It combined his concern for conservation with compassion for youth. The CCC took unmarried 18- to 25-year-olds from relief rolls and sent them into the woods and fields to plant trees, build parks, and fight soil erosion. During its 10 years, the CCC provided 2.5 million young men with jobs (which prompted some critics of the all-male CCC to chant, “Where’s the she, she, she?”).

New Dealers intended relief programs to last only through the crisis. But the Tennessee Valley Author- ity (TVA)—a massive public-works project created in 1933—helped to relieve unemployment but also made a continuing contribution to regional planning. For a decade, planners had dreamed of transforming the flood-ridden basin of the Tennessee River, one

opened its door in May 1933. Sitting amid unpacked boxes, gulping coffee and chain-smoking, former social worker Harry Hopkins spent $5 million in his first two hours as head of the new agency. In its two- year existence FERA furnished more than $1 billion in grants to states, local areas, and private charities.

Hopkins persuaded Roosevelt to expand relief with an innovative shift from government giveaways to a work program to see workers through the winter of 1933–1934. Paying someone “to do something socially useful,” Hopkins explained, “preserves a man’s morale.” The Civil Works Administration (CWA) employed 4 million Americans. Alarmed at the high cost of the program, Roosevelt disbanded the CWA in the spring of 1934. It nonetheless furnished a new weapon against unemployment and an important precedent for future aid programs.






s mi grat

ion f rom


Gre at P

lains to t

he W est C








UTAH 23%




S.C. 17%










D.C. 14%

MD. 11%

CONN. 11% R.I. 11%

MASS. 16% N.H. 9%

DEL. 8%

VT. 8%

N.J. 15%


IND. 15%

OHIO 18%











IOWA 11%




MISS. 14%





Decreasing population 1929–1939

Population receiving unemployment relief


Over 25%

MAP 25.2: UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF, 1934 The percentage of those receiving unemployment relief differed markedly throughout the nation. The farm belt of the plains was especially hard-hit, with 41 percent of South Dakota’s citizens receiving federal benefits. In the East, the percentage dropped as low as 8 percent in some states. What factors might have contributed to South Dakota having the highest percentage of those receiving unemployment relief and Vermont being among the lowest?

| THE EARLY NEW DEAL (1933–1935) | 523

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Tennessee River watershed

TVA dam project

Power plant

Chemical plant



Asheville Columbia


Bowling Green


Muscle Shoals



Oak Ridge

Johnson City

Cli nch


Hol ston


Cu mb erland R.

Du ck R.

Elk R.

Ohio R.

Te nn

es se

e R.

Te nn

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0 50 mi

0 50 100 km

MAP 25.3: THE TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY The Tennessee River basin encompassed parts of seven states. Rivers honeycombed the area, which received some of the heaviest rainfall in the nation. A longtime dream of Senator George Norris, the Tennessee Valley Authority, created in 1933, constructed some 20 dams and improved 5 others over the next 20 years to control chronic flooding and erosion and to produce cheap hydroelectric power and fertilizers. Why involve the federal government in such a project?


The legislation created two new agencies. The Pub- lic Works Administration (PWA) was designed to boost industrial activity and consumer spending with a $3.3 billion public-works program. The companies put under contract and unemployed workers hired would help stimulate the economy through their pur- chases and leave a legacy of capital improvement. Har- old Ickes, the prickly interior secretary who headed the PWA, built the Triborough Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, the port city of Brownsville, Texas, and two aircraft carriers. But he worried so much about waste and corruption that he could never spend enough money quickly enough to jump-start the economy.

A second federal agency, the National Recovery Administration (NRA), aimed directly at controlling competition. Under NRA chief Hugh Johnson, rep- resentatives from government and business (and also from labor and consumer groups) drew up “codes of fair practices.” Industry by industry, the codes estab- lished minimum prices, minimum wages, and maxi- mum hours. No company could seek a competitive edge by cutting prices or wages below certain levels or by working a few employees mercilessly and firing the rest. The NRA also required business to accept key demands of labor, including union rights to organize and bargain with management (thus ensuring that if prices jumped, so, too, might wages). And each code promised improved working conditions and outlawed such practices as child labor and sweatshops.

No business was forced to comply because New Dealers feared that government coercion might be

ruled unconstitutional. The NRA relied on voluntary participation. A publicity campaign of parades, posters, and public pledges exhorted businesses to join the NRA and consumers to buy only NRA-sanctioned products. More than 2 million employers eventu- ally signed up. In store windows and on merchandise, shiny decals with blue-eagle crests alerted customers that “We Do Our Part.”

For all the hoopla, the NRA failed to bring recovery. Big busi- nesses shaped the codes to their advantage and frequently limited production to maintain or even raise prices. Not all businesses joined, and those that did often found the codes too complicated or costly to follow. Even NRA sup- port for labor tottered, After all, it had no means of enforcing its guarantee of union rights. Busi- ness survived under the NRA, but

of the poorest areas of the country, with a program of regional development and social engineering. The TVA constructed a series of dams along the seven- state basin to control flooding, improve navigation, and generate cheap electric power. In cooperation with state and local officials, it also launched social pro- grams to stamp out malaria, provide library bookmo- biles, and create recreational lakes.

Like many New Deal programs, the TVA produced a mixed legacy. It saved 3 million acres from erosion, multiplied the average income in the valley tenfold, and repaid its original investment in federal taxes. Its cheap electricity helped to bring down the rates of pri- vate utility companies. But the experiment in regional planning also pushed thousands of families from their land, failed to end poverty, and created an agency that became one of the worst polluters in the country.

Planning for Industrial Recovery >>  Plan- ning, not just for regions but for the whole economy, seemed to many New Dealers the key to recovery. Some held that if businesses planned and cooper- ated with one another, the ruthless competition that was driving down prices, wages, and employment could be controlled and the riddle of recovery solved. Business leaders had been urging such a course since 1931, and in his fashion Hoover had tried to do as much. In June 1933, under the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), Roosevelt put planning to work for industry.

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| THE EARLY NEW DEAL (1933–1935) | 525

production limits would reduce surpluses, demand for farm commodities would rise (as would prices), and agriculture would recover.

In practice, the Agricultural Adjustment Admin- istration (AAA) did help to increase prices. Unlike the code-ridden NRA, the AAA wisely confined coverage to seven basic commodities. As a way to push prices even higher, the new Commodity Credit Corporation gave loans to farmers who stored their crops rather than sold them—a revival of the Populists’ old sub- treasury plan (see page 424). Farm income rose from $5.5 billion in 1932 to $8.7 billion in 1935.

Not all the gains in farm income were the result of government actions or free from problems. In the mid-1930s dust storms, droughts, and floods helped reduce harvests and push up prices. The AAA, more- over, failed to distribute its benefits equally. Large landowners controlled decisions over which plots would be left fallow. In the South these decisions frequently meant cutting the acreage of tenants and sharecrop- pers or forcing them out. Even when they reduced the acreage that they themselves plowed, big farmers could increase yields through intensive cultivation.

In 1936 the Supreme Court voided the Agricultural Adjustment Act. In Butler v. U.S., the six-justice majority concluded that the government had no right to regulate agriculture, either by limiting production or by taxing processors. A hastily drawn replacement, the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act (1936), addressed the complaints. Farmers were now

without increasing production there was no incentive for the expansion and new investment needed to end hard times. The NRA was soon spawning little but evasion and criticism.

On May 27, 1935, the Supreme Court struck down the floundering NRA in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States. The justices unanimously ruled that the NRA had exceeded federal power over commerce among the states by regulating the Schechter broth- ers’ poultry business in a single state, New York. Pri- vately, Roosevelt was relieved to be rid of the NRA. But he and other New Dealers were plainly shaken by the grounds of the decision. Their broad view of the commerce clause to fight the Depression suffered a grave blow. Distress inside the adminstration only grew when Justice Benjamin Cardozo added a chilling afterthought: the NRA’s code-making represented “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power” to the executive branch. Without the ability to make rules and regulations, all the executive agencies of the New Deal might flounder.

Planning for Agriculture >>  Like planning for industry, New Deal planning for agriculture relied on private interests—the farmers—to act as the prin- cipal planners. Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, farmers limited their own production. The government, in turn, paid them for leaving their fields fallow, while a tax on millers, cotton ginners, and other processors financed the payments. In theory,

̂̂ “Look in her eyes” read the caption of the photograph on the left, snapped by photojournalist Dorothea Lange in 1936. Titled “Migrant Mother,” the photo became an icon of the era, depicting the anxiety and desperation of so many Americans as well as the perseverance of 32-year-old peapicker Florence Thompson. Her worry-worn face is framed by her children as they turn away from the camera and lean on their mother for support. Lange took at least six photographs of Thompson and her family for the Farm Security Administration. Other poses were less haunting, as can be seen from the photo on the right where the little girl smiles almost reflexively into the camera. FSA adminis- trators chose the more moving photograph to show the human costs of the Depression and to justify the cost of government programs to help the dispossessed.

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was an enemy of private property and a dictator in the making. In August 1934 they founded the American Liberty League. Despite spending $1 million in anti– New Deal advertising, the league won little support and only helped to convince the president that coop- eration with business was failing.

In California discontented voters took over the Dem- ocratic Party and turned sharply to the left by nomi- nating novelist Upton Sinclair, a Socialist, for governor. Running under the slogan “End Poverty in Califor- nia” (EPIC), Sinclair proposed to confiscate idle fac- tories and land and permit the unemployed to produce for their own use. Republicans mounted a no-holds- barred counterattack, including fake newsreels depicting Sinclair as a Bolshevik, atheist, and free-lover. Sinclair lost the election but won nearly 1 million votes.

Huey P. Long, the flamboyant senator from Louisiana, had ridden to power on a wave of rural discontent against banks, corporations, and political machines. As governor of Louisiana he pushed through reforms regulating utili- ties, building roads and schools, even distributing free schoolbooks. Opponents called him a “dictator”; most Louisianans simply called him the “Kingfish.” Break- ing with Roosevelt in 1933, Long pledged to bring about recovery by making “every man a king.” “Share Our Wealth” was a drastic but simple plan: the government would limit the size of all fortunes and confiscate the rest. Every family would then be guaranteed an annual income of $2,500 and an estate of $5,000, enough to buy a house, an automobile, and a radio (over which Long had already built a national following).

By 1935, one year after its founding, Long’s Share Our Wealth organization boasted 27,000 clubs with files containing nearly 8 million names. Demo- cratic National Committee members shuddered at polls showing that Long might capture up to 4 million votes in 1936, enough to put a Republican in the White House. But late in 1935, in the corridors of the Louisiana Capitol, Long was shot to death by a dis- gruntled constituent whose family had been wronged by the Long political machine.

Father Charles Coughlin was Long’s urban coun- terpart. Where Long explained the Depression as the result of bloated fortunes, Coughlin blamed the banks. In weekly broadcasts from the Shrine of the Little Flower in suburban Detroit, the “Radio Priest” told his working-class, largely Catholic audience of the inter- national bankers who had toppled the world economy by manipulating gold-backed currencies.

Coughlin promised to end the Depression with sim- ple strokes: nationalizing banks, inflating the currency with silver, spreading work. (None would have worked, because each would have dampened investment, the key to recovery.) Across the urban North, 30 to 40 million Americans—the largest audience in the world—huddled around their radios to listen. In 1934 Coughlin organized

subsidized for practicing “conservation”—taking soil- depleting crops off the land—and paid from general revenues instead of a special tax. A second Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1938 returned production quotas.

Other agencies tried to help impoverished farmers. The Farm Credit Administration refinanced about a fifth of all farm mortgages. In 1935 the Resettlement Administration gave marginal farmers a fresh start by moving them to better land. Beginning in 1937 the Farm Security Administration furnished low-interest loans to help tenants buy family farms. In no case, however, did the rural poor have enough political clout to obtain sufficient funds from Congress. Fewer than 5,000 families of a projected 500,000 were resettled, and less than 2 percent of tenant farmers received loans.

A SECOND NEW DEAL (1935–1936)

“Boys—this is our hour,” crowed the president’s clos- est adviser, Harry Hopkins, in the spring of 1935. A year earlier voters broke precedent by returning the party in power to Congress, giving the Democrats their largest majorities in decades. With the presidential election only a year away, time was short and Hopkins knew it: “We’ve got to get everything we want—a works program, social security, wages and hours, everything—now or never.”

Hopkins calculated correctly. In 1935 politics, swept along by a torrent of protest, led to a “second hun- dred days” of lawmaking and a “Second New Deal.” The emphasis shifted from planning and cooperation with business to greater regulation of business, broader relief, and bolder reform. A limited welfare state emerged in which the government was finally commit- ted, at least symbolically, to guaranteeing the material well-being of needy Americans.

Dissent from the Deal >>   In 1934 a mob of 6,000 stormed the Minneapolis city hall, demand- ing more relief and higher pay for government jobs. In San Francisco longshoremen walked off the job, setting off a citywide strike. By year’s end, 1.5 million work- ers had joined in 1,800 strikes throughout the country. Conditions were improving but not quickly enough, and across the country dissenters gathered strength.

From the right came the charges of a few wealthy business executives and conservatives that Roosevelt

✔ R E V I E W What measures did the early New Deal take to relieve the Depression, and how successful were they?

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| A SECOND NEW DEAL (1935–1936) | 527

4.5 million jobs for young people. But the lion’s share went to the new Works Progress Administration (WPA), where Harry Hopkins mounted the largest work-relief program in history. Before its end in 1943, the WPA employed at least 8.5 million people. Constrained from compet- ing with private industry and committed to spending 80 percent of his budget on wages, Hopkins showed remarkable ingenuity. WPA workers taught women to sew in West Virginia and psychiatric patients to draw in Cincinnati. They built the Griffith Observatory in California and near the peak of Mount Hood in Oregon erected the spectacular Timberline Lodge, log by log.

The ambitious Social Security Act, passed in 1935, sought to help those who could not help themselves: the aged poor, the infirm, dependent children. In this commitment to the destitute it laid the groundwork for the modern welfare state. But Social Security also acted as an economic stabilizer by furnishing pen- sions for retirees and insurance for those who lost their jobs. A payroll tax on both employer and employee underwrote pensions after age 65, while an employer- financed system of insurance made possible govern- ment payments to unemployed workers.

Social Security marked a historic reversal in Amer- ican political values. A new social contract between the government and the people replaced the gospel of

the National Union for Social Justice to pressure both parties. As the election of 1936 approached, the Union loomed on the political horizon.

A less ominous challenge came from Dr. Francis Townsend. The 67-year- old physician had recently retired in California from the public health service. Moved by the plight of elderly Ameri- cans without pension plans or medical insurance, Townsend set up Old Age Revolving Pensions, Limited, in 1934. He proposed to have the government pay $200 a month to those 60 years or older who quit their jobs and spent the money within 30 days. By 1936 Townsend clubs counted 3.5 million members, most of them small businesspeople and farmers at or beyond retirement age.

For all their differences, Sinclair, Long, Coughlin, Townsend, and other critics struck similar chords. Although the solutions they proposed were sim- plistic, the problems they addressed were serious: a maldistribution of goods and wealth, inadequacies in the money supply, the plight of the elderly. They attacked the growing control of cor- porations, banks, and government over individuals and communities. And they created mass political movements based on social as well as economic dissatisfaction. When Sin- clair supporters pledged to produce for their own use and Long’s followers swore to “share our wealth,” when Coughlinites damned the “monied interests” and elderly Townsendites bemoaned foul-ups in Washington, they were also trying to protect their freedom and their com- munities from the intrusion of big business and big government.

The Second Hundred Days >>  By the spring of 1935, the forces of discontent were pushing Roo- sevelt to more action. So was Congress. With Dem- ocrats accounting for more than two-thirds of both houses, they were prepared to outspend the president in extending the New Deal. A “second hundred days” produced a legislative barrage that moved the New Deal toward Roosevelt’s ultimate destination—“a little to the left of center,” where government could soften the impact of industrialism, protect the needy, and compensate for the boom-and-bust business cycle.

To help the many Americans who were still job- less, Roosevelt proposed the Emergency Relief Appro- priation Act of 1935, with a record $4.8 billion for relief and employment. Some of the money went to the new National Youth Administration (NYA) for more than

̂̂ Anti-Roosevelt cartoonists had a field day with the New Deal’s many agencies cre- ated to provide relief during the Depression. Here the president, attended by a willing congressional nursemaid, supplies an overabundance of patent medicines, which Dr. “FDR” cheerfully acknowledges may not work. How many bottles of the medicine can you decipher? Are any of the agencies still in existence today? Why is the largest bottle marked NRA?

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belated blessing.) The Wagner Act created a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to supervise the elec- tion of unions and ensure union rights to bargain. Most vital, the NLRB had the power to enforce these policies. By 1941 the number of unionized workers had doubled.

Roosevelt responded to the growing hostility of business by turning against the wealthy and powerful in 1935. The popularity of Long’s tirades against the rich and Coughlin’s against banks sharpened his points of attack. The Revenue Act of 1935 (called the “Wealth Tax Act”) threatened to “soak the rich.” By the time it worked its way through Congress, however, it levied only moderate taxes on high incomes and inheritances. The Banking Act of 1935 centralized authority over the money market in the Federal Reserve Board and reduced the power of banks. By controlling interest rates and the money supply, government increased its ability to compensate for swings in the economy. The Public Utilities Holding Company Act (1935) limited the size of utility empires. Long the target of progres- sive reformers, the giant holding companies produced nothing but higher profits for speculators and higher prices for consumers. Diluted like the wealth tax, the utility law was still a political victory for New Dealers.

The Election of 1936 >>   In June 1936 Roos- evelt traveled to Philadelphia to accept the Democratic nomination for a second term as president. “This gen- eration of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny,” he told a crowd of 100,000. Whatever destiny had in store for his generation, Roosevelt knew that the com- ing election would turn on a single issue: “It’s myself.”

Roosevelt ignored his Republican opponent, Gov- ernor Alfred Landon of Kansas. Despite a bulging campaign chest of $14 million, Landon lacked luster as well as issues. He favored the regulation of business, a balanced budget, and much of the New Deal. For his part Roosevelt turned the election into a contest between haves and have-nots. The forces of “orga- nized money are unanimous in their hate for me,” he told a roaring crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden, “and I welcome their hatred.”

The strategy deflated Republicans, discredited conservatives, and stole the thunder of the newly formed Union Party of Townsendites, Coughlinites, and old Long supporters. The election returns shocked even experienced observers. Roosevelt won the larg- est electoral victory ever—523 to 8—and a whopping 60.8 percent of the popular vote. The margin of victory came from those at the bottom of the economic ladder, grateful for help furnished by the New Deal.

A dramatic political realignment was now clearly in place, as important as the Republican rise to power in 1896. The Democrats reigned as the new major- ity party for the next 30 years. The “Roosevelt coali- tion” rested on three pillars: traditional Democratic

self-help and the older policies of laissez faire. At last government acknowledged a broad responsibility to protect the social rights of citizens. The welfare state, foreshadowed in the aid given veterans and their fam- ilies after the Civil War, was institutionalized, though its coverage was limited. To win the votes of southern congressmen hostile to African Americans, the legis- lation excluded farmworkers and domestic servants, doubtless among the neediest Americans but often black and disproportionately southern.

Roosevelt had hoped for social insurance that would cover Americans “from cradle to grave.” Congress whittled down his plan, but its labor legislation pushed the president well beyond his goal of providing pater- nalistic aid for workers, such as establishing pension plans and unemployment insurance. New York senator Robert Wagner, the son of a janitor, wanted workers to fight their own battles. In 1933 he had included union recognition in the NRA. When the Supreme Court killed the NRA in 1935, Wagner introduced what became the National Labor Relations Act. (So important had labor support become to Roosevelt that he gave the bill his

̂̂ Social Security poster, 1935.

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(begun under the Hoover Administration) to cities as far away as Los Angeles. The waters thus diverted irrigated 2.5 million acres, while the dam’s floodgates protected millions of people in southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. In its water management pro- grams, the New Deal further extended federal power, literally across the country.

The Hoover Dam was one of several multipurpose dams completed under the New Deal in the arid West. The aim was simple: to control whole river systems for regional use. Buchanan Dam on the lower Colorado River, the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams on the Columbia, and many smaller versions curbed floods, generated cheap electricity, and developed river basins from Texas to Washington State. Beginning in 1938, the All-American Canal channeled the Colorado River to irrigate the Imperial Valley in California.

The environmental price of such rewards soon became evident. The once-mighty Columbia River, its surging waters checked by dams, flowed sedately from human-made lake to lake, but without the salmon whose spawning runs were also checked. Blocked by the All-American Canal from its path to the sea, the Colorado River slowly turned salty, until by 1950 its waters were unfit for drinking or irrigation.

support in the South; citizens of the big cities, partic- ularly ethnics and African Americans; and labor, both organized and unorganized. The minority Republicans became the party of big business and small towns.


PEOPLE Before 1939 farmers in the Hill Country of Texas spent their evenings in the light of 25-watt kerosene lamps. Their wives washed eight loads of laundry a week, all by hand. Every day they hauled home 200 gallons—about 1,500 pounds—of water from nearby wells. Farms had no milking machines, no washers, no automatic pumps or water heaters, no refrigerators, and no radios.

The reason for this limited life was simple: the Hill Country had no elec- tricity. Thus no agency of the Roosevelt adminis- tration changed the way people lived more dramati- cally than the Rural Elec- trification Administration (REA), created in 1935. At the time less than 10 per- cent of American farms had electricity. Six years later 40 percent did, and by 1950, 90 percent. The New Deal did not always have such a marked impact, and its overall record was mixed. But time and again it changed the lives of ordi- nary people as government never had before.

The New Deal and Western Water >>   In September 1936 President Roosevelt pushed a but- ton in Washington, D.C., and sent electricity pulsing westward from the towering Hoover Dam in Colorado

UNEMPLOYMENT, 1925–1945 Unemployment mushroomed in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929. It did not drop to 1929 levels until American entry into the Second World War in 1941. The yellow bands indicate periods of declining unemployment. Note that unemployment begins to rise in 1945 as the military services begin to stand down, wartime industries begin the slow shift to peacetime production, and returning veterans begin to flood the labor force.





0 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945


Stock market crash 1929


Roosevelt recession 1937 10,390,000


U.S. enters World War ll 1941

World War II ends 1,040,000

World War ll 1939–1945

New Deal recovery

Franklin D. Roosevelt elected president




Pe rc

en ta

ge o

f N on

fa rm

W or

ke rs

U ne

m pl

oy ed

Unemployed totals for entire labor force

Significant events

Declining unemployment



✔ R E V I E W What were the differences between the “first” and “second” New Deals?

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Historians rank Franklin D.

Roosevelt, George Washington,

and Abraham Lincoln as the

three greatest presidents in

American history. Based only

on his responses to the Great

Depression, does Roosevelt

deserve the honor?



employment and housing continued to run high, and in 1935 Harlem exploded in the only race riot of the decade.

Discrimination persisted under the New Deal. Black newspapers reported hundreds of cases of NRA codes resulting in jobs lost to white workers or wages lower than white rates of pay. Disgusted editors renamed the agency “Negroes Ruined Again.” Federal efforts to promote grassroots democracy often gave control of New Deal programs to local governments, where dis- crimination went unchallenged. New Deal showplaces like the TVA’s model town of Norris, Tennessee, and the homestead village of Arthurdale, West Virginia, were closed to African Americans.

African Americans reaped some benefits from the New Deal. The WPA hired black workers for almost 20 percent of its jobs, even though African Americans made up less than 10 percent of the population. When it was discovered that the WPA was paying black workers less than whites, Roosevelt issued an executive order to halt the practice. Public Works administra- tor Ickes established the first quota system for hiring black Americans. By 1941 the percentage of African Americans working for the government exceeded their proportion of the population.

Civil rights never became a serious aspect of the New Deal, but for the nearly 1 million Mexican Amer- icans in the United States, Latino culture sometimes frustrated meager federal efforts to help. Mexican folk traditions of self-help inhibited some from seeking aid; others remained unfamiliar with claim procedures. Still others failed to meet residency requirements. Meanwhile, low voter turnout hampered their politi- cal influence, and discrimination limited economic advancement.

In the Southwest and California, the Civil- ian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress

The Limited Reach of the New Deal >>  In the spring of 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to permit the black contralto Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Eleanor Roosevelt quit the DAR in protest, and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes began looking for another site. On a nippy Easter Sun- day, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, Ander- son finally stepped to the microphone and sang to a crowd of 7,500. Lincoln himself would not have missed the irony.

In 1932 most African Americans cast their ballots as they had since Reconstruction—for Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln and emancipation. But disenchantment with decades of broken promises was spreading, and by 1934 African Americans were voting for Democrats. “Let Jesus lead you and Roosevelt feed you,” a black preacher told his congregation on the eve of the 1936 election. When the returns were counted, three of four black voters had cast their ballots for Roosevelt.

The New Deal accounted for this voting revo- lution. Sympathetic but never a champion, Roo- sevelt regarded African Americans as one of many groups whose interests he brokered. Even that was an improvement. Federal offices had been segregated since Woodrow Wilson’s day, and in the 1920s black leaders called Hoover “the man in the lily-White House.” Under Roosevelt racial integration slowly returned to government. Supporters of civil rights such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Harold Ickes brought economist Robert C. Weaver and other black advisers into the administration, forming a “Black Cabinet” to help design federal policy. Mary McLeod Bethune, a sharecropper’s daughter and founder of Bethune- Cookman College, ran a division of the National Youth Administration.

Outside of government the Urban League continued to lobby for economic advance- ment, and the NAACP pressed to make lynching a federal crime. (Though pub- licly against lynching and privately in favor of an antilynching bill, Roosevelt refused to make it “must” legisla- tion to avoid losing the white south- ern members of Congress he needed “to save America.”) In New York’s Harlem, the Reverend John H. Johnson orga- nized the Citizens’ League for Fair Play in 1933 to persuade white merchants to hire black clerks. After picketers blocked storefronts, hundreds of African Americans got jobs with Harlem retailers and utility companies. Racial tension over

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individual Indians, who were often forced by poverty to sell to whites. By the end of the 1930s, Indian land- holding had increased.

Indians split over Collier’s policies. The Pueb- los, with a strong communal spirit and already functioning communal societies, favored them. The tribes of Oklahoma and the Great Plains tended to oppose them. Individualism, the profit motive, and an unwillingness to share property with other tribe members fed resistance. So did age-old suspicion of all government programs. And some Indians such as the Navajos genuinely desired assimilation and saw tribal government as a step backward.

A New Deal for Women >>  As the tides of change washed across the country, a new deal for women was unfolding in Washington. The New Deal’s welfare agencies offered unprecedented opportunity for social workers, teachers, and other women who had spent their lives helping the downtrodden. They were already experts on social welfare. Several were friends with professional ties, and together they formed a net- work of activists in the New Deal promoting women’s interests and social reform. Women served on the con- sumers’ advisory board of the NRA, helped to admin- ister the relief program, and won appointments to the Social Security Board.

Women also became part of the Democratic Party machinery. Under the leadership of social worker Mary W. “Molly” Dewson, the Women’s Division of the Democratic National Committee played a critical role in the election of 1936. Thousands of women mounted

a “mouth-to-mouth” campaign, traveling from door to door to drum up support for Roosevelt and other Democrats. When the bal- lots were tallied, women formed an important part of the new Roosevelt coalition.

Federal appointments and party politics broke new ground for women, but in general the New Deal abided by existing social standards. Gender equality, like racial equality, was never high on its agenda. One-quarter of all NRA codes permitted women to

Administration furnished some jobs, though fewer and for less pay than average. On Capitol Hill, Den- nis Chávez of New Mexico, the only Mexican Amer- ican in the Senate, channeled what funds he could into Spanish-speaking communities. But like African Americans, most Latinos remained mired in poverty. The many Mexican Americans who worked the fields as migratory laborers lay outside the reach of most New Deal programs.

Tribal Rights >>  The New Deal renewed federal interest in Indians. Among the most disadvantaged Americans, Indian families on reservations rarely earned more than $100 a year. Their infant mortality rate was the highest in the country; their life expec- tancy, the shortest; their education level the lowest. Their rate of unemployment was three times the national average.

In the 1930s Indians had no stronger friend in Washington than John Collier. For years he had fought as a social worker among the Pueblos to restore tribal culture. As the new commissioner of Indian affairs, he reversed the decades-old policy of assimilation and promoted tribal life. Under the Indian Reorganiza- tion Act of 1934, elders were urged to celebrate festi- vals, artists to work in native styles, children to learn the old languages. A special Court of Indian Affairs removed Indians from state jurisdiction. Tribal gov- ernments ruled reservations. Perhaps most impor- tant, tribes regained control over Indian land. Since the Dawes Act of 1887, the land had been allotted to

<< John Collier (right) was the Roosevelt administration’s chief advocate for Indian affairs. Here he met with Hopi Chief Loma Haftowa and Chief Kol Chaf Towa in a ceremony held at the new Interior Department building.

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Though the New Deal left farmworkers out- side its coverage, its promise of support encouraged them to act on their own. In California, where large agribusinesses employed migrant laborers to pick crops, some 37 strikes involving over 50,000 work- ers swept the state after Roosevelt took office. The most famous strike broke out in the cotton fields of the San Joaquin Valley under the auspices of the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU). Most of the strikers were Mexican, supported more by a complex network of families, friends, and coworkers than by the weak CAWIU. The government finally stepped in to arbitrate a wage settlement. The strike ended but at a fraction of the pay the workers sought.

Such government support was not enough to embolden the cautious American Federation of Labor, the nation’s premier union. Historically bound to skilled labor and organized on the basis of craft, it ignored unskilled workers, who made up most of the industrial labor force, and virtually ignored women and black workers. The AFL also avoided major industries like rubber, automobiles, and steel, long hostile to unions and employing many workers with few skills.

In 1935 John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers and the heads of seven other AFL unions announced the formation of the Committee for Industrial Orga- nization (CIO). The AFL suspended the rogue unions

be paid less than men for comparable work, while WPA wages averaged $2 a day more for men. The New Deal gave relatively few jobs to women, and when it did, they were often in gender-segregated trades such as sewing. Government employment patterns for women fell below even those in the pri- vate sector.

Reflecting old conceptions of reform, New Deal- ers placed greater emphasis on aiding and protect- ing women than on employing them. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration built 17 camps for homeless women in 11 states. Social Security fur- nished subsidies to mothers with dependent children, and the WPA established emergency nursery schools (which also became the government’s first foray into early childhood education). But even federal pro- tection fell short. Social Security, for example, did not cover domestic servants, most of whom were women.

The Rise of Organized Labor >>  Although women and minorities discovered that the New Deal had limits to the changes it promoted, a power- ful union movement arose in the 1930s by taking full advantage of the new climate. At the outset of the Depression, barely 6 percent of the labor force belonged to unions. By the end of the decade, nearly a third were union members.

̂̂ During the wave of agricultural strikes in California in 1933, Mexican and Mexican American laborers who had been evicted from their homes settled in camps such as this one in Corcoran. The camp held well over 3,000 people, each family providing an old tent or burlap bags for habitation. Makeshift streets were named in honor of Mexican towns and heroes. By chance the field had been occupied previously by a Mexican circus, the Circo Azteca, which provided nightly entertainment.

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in December 1936. Singing the unionists’ anthem, “Solidarity Forever,” workers took over the plant while wives, friends, and fellow union members handed food and clothing through the windows. Local police tried to break up supply lines, only to be driven off by a hail of nuts, bolts, coffee mugs, and bottles.

In the wake of this “Battle of Running Bulls” (a reference to the retreating police), Michigan governor Frank Murphy finally called out the National Guard, not to arrest but to protect strikers. General Motors surrendered in February 1937. Less than a month later U.S. Steel capitulated without a strike. By the end of the year every automobile manufacturer except Henry Ford had negotiated with the UAW.

Bloody violence accompanied some drives. On Memorial Day 1937, 10 strikers lost their lives when Chicago police fired on them as they marched peace- fully toward the Republic Steel plant. And sit-down strikes often alienated an otherwise sympathetic middle class. (In 1939 the Supreme Court outlawed the tactic.) Yet a momentous transfer of power had taken place. Union membership swelled, and the unskilled now had a powerful voice in the form of the CIO. Women’s membership in unions tripled between 1930 and 1940, and African Americans also made gains. Independent

unions had become a sig- nificant part of industrial America.

“Art for the Mil- lions”  >>   No agency of the New Deal touched more Americans than Fed- eral One, the bureaucratic umbrella of the WPA’s arts program. For the first time, thousands of unemployed writers, musicians, paint- ers, actors, and photogra- phers went on the federal payroll. Public projects— from massive murals to tiny guidebooks—would make “art for the millions.”

A Federal Writers Project (FWP) produced about a thousand publica- tions. Its 81 state, territo- rial, and city guides were so popular that commercial publishers happily printed them. A Depression-bred interest in American history prompted the FWP to col- lect folklore, study ethnic

in 1936. The CIO, later rechristened the Congress of Industrial Organizations, turned to unskilled workers. CIO representatives concentrated on the mighty steel industry, which had clung to the “open,” or nonunion, shop since 1919.

In other industries the rank and file did not wait. Emboldened by the recent passage of the Wagner Act, a group of rubber workers in Akron, Ohio, simply sat down on the job in early 1936. Since the strikers occu- pied the plants, managers could not replace them with strikebreakers. Nor could the rubber companies call in the military or police without risk to their prop- erty. The leaders of the United Rubber Workers Union opposed the “sit-downs,” but when the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company laid off 70 workers, 1,400 rub- ber workers struck on their own. An 11-mile picket line sprang up outside. Eventually, Goodyear settled by recognizing the union and accepting its demands on wages and hours.

The biggest strikes erupted in the automobile industry. A series of spontaneous strikes at General

Motors plants in Atlanta, Kansas City, and Cleveland spread to Fisher Body

No. 2 in Flint, Michigan, late

̂̂ The wives of workers at a General Motors auto plant in Flint, Michigan, march past windows broken in a battle the day before. The windows were smashed not by the strikers inside the plant but by women who had established an “Emergency Brigade.” Rumors had spread that the men inside were being gassed. Women played a vital role in supporting the strikes, collecting and distributing food to strikers and their families, setting up a first-aid station, and furnishing day care. Women of the Emergency Brigade wore red tams and armbands with the initials “EB” as shown here.

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groups, and record the reminiscences of 200 former slaves. Meanwhile, the Federal Music Project (FMP) employed some 15,000 out-of-work musicians. For a token charge Americans could hear the music of Bach and Beethoven. In the Federal Art Project (FAP), artists taught sculpture, painting, and carving while watercolorists and drafters painstakingly prepared the Index of American Design with elaborate illustrations of American material culture, from skillets to cigar- store Indians.

The most notable contribution of the FAP came in the form of murals. Under the influence of Mexi- can muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Oro- zco, American artists covered the walls of thousands of airports, post offices, and other government buildings with wall paintings glorifying local life and work. (See, for example, the nearby mural.) The rare treatment of class conflict later opened the FAP to charges of communist infiltration, but most of the murals stressed the enduring qualities of American life: family, work, community.

The Federal Theater Project (FTP) reached the greatest number of people—some 30 million—and aroused the most controversy. As its head, Hallie Fla- nagan made government-supported theater vital, daring, and relevant. Living Newspapers drama- tized headlines of the day. Occasionally, frank depic- tions of class conflict riled congressional conservatives, and beginning in 1938, the House Un-American Activities Committee investigated the FTP as “a

branch of the Communistic organiza- tion.” A year later Congress slashed its budget and brought government- sponsored theater to an end.

The documentary impulse to record life permeated the arts in the 1930s. Novels such as Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, feature films such as John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, and such federally funded documentaries as Pare Lorentz’s The River stirred the social conscience of the country. Pho- tographers produced an unvarnished pictorial record of the Great Depression. Their raw and haunting photographs turned history into both propaganda and art. New Dealers had practical motives for promoting documentary realism: they wanted to blunt criticism of New Deal relief measures by documenting the distress.


(1937–1940) “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill- nourished,” the president lamented in his second inau- gural address on January 20, 1937 (the first January inauguration under a new constitutional amendment). Industrial output had doubled since 1932; farm income had almost quadrupled. But full recovery remained elusive. More than 7 million Americans were still out of work, and national income was only half again as large as it had been in 1933, when Roosevelt took office. At the height of his popularity, with bulging majorities in Congress, Roosevelt planned to expand the New Deal. Within a year, however, the New Deal was largely over, drowned in a sea of economic and political troubles— many of them Roosevelt’s own doing.

Packing the Courts  >>   As Roosevelt’s sec- ond term began, only the Supreme Court clouded the political horizon. A conservative majority spearheaded a new judicial activism. It rested on a narrow view of

̂̂ California’s multiethnic workforce is captured in this detail from one of the murals that adorn Coit Tower, built in 1933 on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill. Like other American muralists, John Langley Howard drew on the work of Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros to paint murals and frescoes with politi- cal themes. Here, Howard shows resolute workers rallying on May Day, an interna- tional labor holiday commemorating, among other things, the Haymarket Square Riot of 1886.

✔ R E V I E W How did the New Deal help minorities and workers?

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| THE END OF THE NEW DEAL (1937–1940) | 535

the constitutional powers of Congress and the presi- dent. As the New Deal broadened those powers, the Supreme Court let loose a torrent of nullifications.

In 1935 the Court wiped out the NRA on the grounds that manufacturing was not involved in inter- state commerce and thus lay beyond federal regulation. In 1936 it canceled the AAA, arguing that the Consti- tution did not permit the government to tax one group (processors) to pay another (farmers). In Moorehead v. Tipaldo (1936) the Court ruled that a New York minimum-wage law was invalid because it interfered with the right of workers to negotiate a contract. A frustrated Roosevelt complained that the Court had created a “‘no-man’s land,’ where no government— State or Federal” could act.

Roosevelt was the first president since James Monroe to serve four years without making a Supreme Court appointment. Among federal judges, Republi- cans outnumbered Democrats by more than two to one in 1933. Roosevelt intended to redress the balance with legislation that added new judges to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court. The federal courts were overburdened and too many judges “aged or infirm,” he declared in February 1937. In the interests of effi- ciency, he proposed to “vitalize” the judiciary with new members. When a 70-year-old federal court judge who had served at least 10 years failed to retire, the president could add another, up to 6 justices to the Supreme Court and 44 judges to the lower federal courts.

Roosevelt badly miscalculated. He regarded courts as political, not sacred, institutions and had ample precedent for altering even the Supreme Court. As recently as 1869, Congress had increased its size to nine. But in the midst of the Depression-spawned crisis, most Americans clung to the courts as sym- bols of stability. Few accepted Roosevelt’s efficiency argument, and no one on Capitol Hill—with its share of 70-year-olds—believed that seven decades of life necessarily made one too infirm to work. Worse still, the proposal ignited conservative-liberal antagonisms within the Democratic Party, where many conserva- tives abandoned him.

Suddenly the Court reversed itself. In April, N.L.R.B. v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corpora- tion upheld the Wagner Act by one vote. A month later the justices sustained the Social Security Act as a legitimate exercise of the commerce power. And when Justice Willis Van Devanter, the oldest and most con- servative justice, retired later that year, Roosevelt at last made his first appointment to the Supreme Court.

With Democrats deserting him, the president accepted a substitute measure that utterly ignored his proposal to appoint new judges. Roosevelt nonetheless claimed victory. After all, the Court shifted course. And

eventually he appointed nine Supreme Court justices. But victory came at a high price. The momentum of the 1936 election was squandered and the unity of the Democratic party destroyed. Opponents learned that Roosevelt could be beaten. A conservative coalition of Republicans and rural Democrats had come together around the first of several anti–New Deal causes.

The Demise of the Deal >>  As early as 1936 Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau began to plead for fiscal restraint. With productivity ris- ing and unemployment falling, it was time to reduce spending, balance the budget, and permit business to lead the recovery. “Strip off the bandages, throw away the crutches,” and let the economy “stand on its own feet,” he said.

Morgenthau was preaching to the converted. Although the president had been willing to run budget deficits in the crisis, he was never comfortable with them. Still, some experts believed he was on the right track. In a startling new theory, British economist John Maynard Keynes called on government not to balance the budget but to spend its way out of depression, even if it meant running in the red. When prosperity returned, Keynes argued, government could pay off its debts through taxes. This deliberate policy of “coun- tercyclical” action (spending in bad times, taxing in good) would compensate for swings in the economy.

FEDERAL BUDGET AND SURPLUS/ DEFICIT, 1920–1940 During the 1920s the federal government ran a modest surplus as spending dropped back sharply after World War I. Deficits grew steadily as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal spent boldly and as revenues from taxes and tariffs continued to sink. In 1937 federal spending cuts to balance the budget reduced the deficit but brought on a recession that was quickly followed by renewed federal spending and increasing deficits.

1920 1925 1930 1935 1940









Bil lio

ns of

Cu rre

nt Do

lla rs


Federal Budget



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Keynes’s theory was precisely the path chosen by several industrial nations that recovered more quickly than the United States. Germany for one built its rapid recuperation on spending. When Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi) Party came to power in 1933, they went on a spending spree, construct- ing huge highways called Autobahns, enormous gov- ernment buildings, and other public works. Later they spent lavishly and ran up deficits as they armed for war. Between 1933 and 1939 the German national debt almost quadrupled, while in the United States it rose by barely 50 percent. For Germans, the price in lost freedoms was incalculable, but by 1936, their depres- sion was over.

Not all nations relied on military spending. Many of them, such as Great Britain and France, had not shared in the economic boom of the 1920s, which meant their economies had a shorter distance to rise in order to reach pre-Depression levels. Yet spend- ing of one kind or another helped light the path to recovery in country after country. In Great Britain, for example, low interest rates plus government assistance to the needy ignited a housing boom, while government subsidies to the automobile industry and to companies

willing to build factories in depressed areas slowed the slide. By 1937 Britain had halved unemployment.

In the United States, Roosevelt ordered cuts in federal spending early in 1937. Within six months, the economy sputtered. At the end of the year, unemploy- ment stood at 10.5 million as the “Roosevelt recession” deepened. Finally, spenders convinced him to propose a $3.75-billion omnibus measure in April 1938. Fac- ing an election, Congress happily reversed spending cuts, quadrupled farm subsidies, and embarked on a new shipbuilding program. The economy revived but never recovered. Keynesian economics was vindicated, though it would take decades before becoming widely accepted.

With Roosevelt vulnerable, conservatives in Con- gress struck. They trimmed public housing programs and minimum-wage guarantees in the South. The president’s few successes came where he could act alone, principally in a renewed attack on big busi- ness. At his urging the Justice Department opened investigations of corporate concentration. Even Con- gress responded by creating the Temporary National Economic Committee to examine corporate abuses and recommend revisions in the antitrust laws. These were

For the Farmer

For the Worker

For the Middle Class

For the Needy

For Protection Against Future


Rural Electrification Administration (1936)

Farm Security Administration (1937)

Home Owners Loan Act (1934)

Federal Emergency Relief Act (1933)

Civilian Conservation Corps (1933)

Civil Works Administration (1933)

National Public Housing Act (1937)

Emergency Relief Appropriation Act (1935)

Agriculture Adjustment Act (1933)

National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)

National Labor Relations Act (1935)

Fair Labor Standards Act (1938)

Revenue (”Wealth Tax”) Act (1935)

Public Utilities Holding Company Act (1935)

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (1933)

Securities Exchange Act (1934)

Social Security Act (1935)

Relief Recovery Reform What the New Deal Did . . .

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| THE END OF THE NEW DEAL (1937–1940) | 537

small consolations. The president, wrote Interior Sec- retary Harold Ickes in August 1938, “is punch drunk from the punishment.”

Vainly Roosevelt fought back in the arena of cam- paign politics. In the off-year elections of 1938, he tried to purge Democrats who had deserted him. The five senators he targeted for defeat all won. Republi- cans posted gains in the House and Senate and won 13 governorships. Democrats still held majorities in both houses, but conservatives now had the votes to block new programs. The New Deal passed into history.

The Legacy of the New Deal >>  The New Deal lasted only five years, from 1933 to 1938, and it never spent enough to end the Depression. Though it pledged itself to the “forgotten” Americans, it failed the neediest among them: sharecroppers, tenant farm- ers, migrant workers. In many ways, it was quite con- servative. It left capitalism intact and overturned few cultural conventions. Even its reforms followed the old progressive formula of softening industrialism by strengthening the state.

Yet for all its conservatism and continuities, the New Deal left a legacy of change. Under it, government assumed a broader role in the economy. To regulation was now added the complicated task of maintaining economic stability—compensating for swings in the business cycle. In its securities and banking regula- tions, unemployment insurance, and requirements for wages and hours, the New Deal created stabilizers to avoid future breakdowns.

Franklin Roosevelt modernized the presidency. He turned the White House into the heart of gov- ernment. Americans looked to the president to set the public agenda, spread new ideas, initiate legislation, and assume responsibility for the nation. The power of Congress diminished, but the scope of government grew. In 1932 there were 605,000 federal employees; by 1939 there were nearly a million (and by 1945, after World War II, some 3.5 million). The many programs of the New Deal touched the lives of ordinary Ameri- cans as never before, made them more secure, bolstered the middle class, and formed the outlines of the new welfare state.

At a time when dictators and militarists came to power in Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia, the New Deal strengthened democracy in America. Roo- sevelt acted as a political broker, responding first to one group, then to another. And his “broker state” embraced groups previously spurned: unions, farm organizations, ethnic minorities, women. In short, during the 1930s the United States found a middle way avoiding the extremes of communism and fascism. The broker state also had limits. The unorganized, whether in city slums or in sharecroppers’ shacks, too often found themselves ignored.

Under the New Deal the Democratic Party domi- nated politics. In a quiet revolution African Americans came into the party’s fold, as did workers and farm- ers. Political attention shifted to bread-and-butter issues. In 1932 people had argued about Prohibition and European war debts. By 1935 they were debat- ing social security, labor relations, tax reform, pub- lic housing, and the TVA. Perhaps most important, Americans now assumed that in hard times govern- ment would come to their aid. With remarkable speed, the New Deal became a vital part of American life.

The Depression shook both the political and mate- rial pillars of democratic culture—even more turbu- lently around the world than at home. By 1939, on the eve of World War II, the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy were firmly under the control of dictators bent on expanding both their powers and their nations’ ter- ritory. The number of European democracies shrank from 27 to 10. Latin America was ruled by a variety of dictators and military juntas, little different from the new despots of Europe. China suffered not only from invasion by Japan’s militarists but also from the cor- rupt and ineffectual one-party dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek.

The New Deal attempted to combat the Depres- sion through the methods of parliamentary democ- racy, expanding government to humanize industrial society and generate prosperity. New Dealers from the president down nonetheless recognized that the federal government could not do everything. But “it bought us time to think,” commented Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939. Even as she spoke those words a measure of doubt crept into her voice. “Is it going to be worthwhile?” With war looming, only future generations could tell.

CHAPTER SUMMARY The Great Depression of the 1930s was the longest in the history of the nation; it forced virtually all Ameri- cans to live leaner lives, and it spawned Franklin Roo- sevelt’s New Deal. " The Great Depression acted as a great leveler that

reduced differences in income and status and left many Americans with an “invisible scar” of shame, self-doubt, and lost confidence.

✔ R E V I E W What did the New Deal accomplish, and what did it fail to accomplish?

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► Unemployment and suffering were especially acute among agricultural migrants, African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians.

► Rates of marriage and birth declined in all social classes, and many women found themselves working additional hours inside and outside the home to supplement family incomes.

► Popular culture rallied to reinforce basic tenets of American life: middle-class morality, family, capitalism, and democracy.

" President Herbert Hoover represented a transition from the old, do-nothing policies of the past to the interventionist policies of the future. In the end his program of voluntary cooperation and limited government activism failed, and in 1932 he lost the presidency to Franklin Roosevelt.

" Roosevelt’s New Deal attacked the Great Depression along three broad fronts: recovery for the economy, relief for the needy, and reforms to ward off future depressions.

" The New Deal failed to achieve full recovery but did result in lasting changes:

► The creation of economic stabilizers such as fed- eral insurance for bank deposits, unemployment assistance, and greater control over money and banking that were designed to compensate for swings in the economy.

► The establishment of a limited welfare state to provide minimum standards of well-being for all Americans.

► The revitalization of the Democratic Party and the formation of a powerful new political coali- tion of labor, urban ethnics, women, African Americans, and the South.

► The modernization of the presidency.

Additional Reading The best overall examination of the period encom- passing the Great Depression and the Second World War is David M. Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (1999). For a comparative look at responses to the Great Depression, see John A. Garraty, The Great Depression (1987); and Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933–1939 (2006). Robert Sobel, The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920s (1968), is a brief, evenhanded study of the stock market and Republican fiscal poli- cies in the 1920s. Caroline Bird, The Invisible Scar

(1966), remains one of the most sensitive treatment of the human impact of the Great Depression, but it should not be read without Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970); and Robert McElvaine, The Great Depression: America, 1929–1941 (1984), which are especially good on Depression culture and values. Joan Hoff Wilson, Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive (1975), traces Hoover’s progressive impulses before and during his presidency.

Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny (1990), is the best single-volume biography of Roosevelt; and William Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1940 (1963), is the best single-volume study of the New Deal. Both fall within the liberal tradition of New Deal scholarship and are admir- ingly critical of Roosevelt’s use of power. Jean Edward Smith’s FDR (2007) offers a positive, if critical, rein- terpretation of FDR with greater emphasis on his per- sonal life than found in earlier biographies. For sharp criticism of New Left historians, see Paul Conkin, The New Deal (1967). Stephen Lawson’s A Common- wealth of Hope: The New Deal Response to Crisis (2006) argues that the New Deal was less a makeshift reaction to the Great Depression and more a part of a longer tradition of planning and reform. Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (New York, 2007), provides a conservative critique of the New Deal that rests on stories of “for- gotten” men and women and argues that its policies actually prolonged the Great Depression.

Eleanor Roosevelt is analyzed in rich detail and from a frankly feminist viewpoint in Blanche Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt (1999). Susan Ware, Beyond Suffrage: Women and the New Deal (1981), locates a women’s political network within the New Deal; and Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks (1978), studies a similar network of blacks and whites. The culture and politics of working men and women dur- ing the Great Depression are the subject of Lisabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939 (1990). For a probing analysis of New Deal liberalism and its retreat from reform, see Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (1995).

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| THE END OF THE NEW DEAL (1937–1940) | 539

Significant Events 1928 Herbert Hoover elected president

1931 Repatriation of Mexicans; “Scottsboro boys” arrested; New York establishes first state welfare agency, Temporary Emergency Relief Administration 1933

Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated; “black

blizzards” begin to form Dust Bowl; Hundred Days

legislation enacted

1935 Second Hundred Days legislation; Schechter

Poultry Corp. v. United States invalidates National

Recovery Administration

1937 Roosevelt announces

court-packing plan; slashes federal spending, which initiates Roosevelt


1934 Indian Reorganization Act; Huey Long organizes Share Our Wealth Society; Father Charles Coughlin creates National Union for Social Justice

1936 Butler v. United States invalidates Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA); Congress of Industrial Organizations formed

1929 “Great Crash” of stock

market ushers in Great Depression

1938 Fair Labor Standards Act

1939 Marian Anderson gives

concert at Lincoln Memorial

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The vast war the- ater of the Pacific posed immense logistical problems for the United States. Here at Tarawa Atoll, troops unload thousands of tons of heavy equip- ment at a newly created port.

>> An American Story

“oh boy”

J ohn Garcia, a native Hawaiian, a worker at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in Honolulu, planned a lazy day for December 7, 1941. By the time his grandmother rushed in to wake him that morning at eight, he had already missed the worst of the news. “The Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor,” he recalled her yelling at him. John listened in disbelief. “I said, ‘They’re just practicing.’ ” “No,” his grandmother replied. It

was real. He catapulted his huge frame from the bed, ran to the front porch, hopped on his motorcycle, and sped to the harbor.


America’s Rise to Globalism 26

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about to blow. When ordered to put out its fires, he told the navy officer, “There ain’t no way I’m gonna go down there.” Instead, he spent the rest of the day pulling bodies from the water. Surveying the wreckage the next morning, he noted that the battleship Arizona “was a total washout.” So was the West Virginia. The Oklahoma had “turned turtle, totally upside down.” It took two weeks to get all the fires out.

The war that had been spread- ing around the world had, until December 7, spared the United States. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, panic spread up and down the West Coast. Crowds in Los Angeles turned trigger-happy. A police officer heard “sirens going off, aircraft guns firing.” “Here we are in the middle of the night,” he said, “there was no enemy in sight, but somebody thought they saw the enemy.” In January 1942 worried officials moved the Rose Bowl from Pasadena, California, to Durham, North Carolina. Though overheated, their fears were not entirely imagi- nary. Japanese submarines shelled Santa Barbara and Fort Stearns in Oregon. Balloons carrying incendi- ary devices caused several deaths.

Although the Japanese never mounted a serious threat to the

mainland, in a world with long-range bombers and submarines, no place seemed safe. This was global war, the first of its kind. Arrayed against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan were the Allies: Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and the Free French. Their armies fought from the Arctic to the southwestern Pacific, in the great cities of Europe and Asia and the small villages of North Africa and Indochina, in malarial jungles and scorching deserts, on six continents and across four oceans. Perhaps as many as 100 million people took up arms; some 40 to 50 million lost their lives.

Tragedy on such a scale taught that generation of Americans that they could no longer isolate them- selves from any part of the world, no matter how remote. Manchu- ria, Ethiopia, and Poland had once seemed far away, yet the road to war had led from those distant places to the United States. Retreat into iso- lation had not cured the worldwide depression or preserved the peace. As it waged a global war, the United States began to assume far wider responsibility for managing the world’s geopolitical and economic

systems. <<

What ’s to CCoomme 542 The United States in a Troubled World

546 A Global War

551 War Production

555 A Question of Rights

560 Winning the War and the Peace

̂̂ Explosives rock the West Virginia during Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

“It was a mess,” Garcia remem- bered. The USS Shaw was in flames. The battleship Pennsylva- nia, a bomb nesting one deck above the powder and ammunition, was

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China’s territorial integrity, set out in the “open door” policy of 1900 (page 439). With rival Chinese warlords fighting among themselves, Japan took the opportu- nity to capture overseas raw materials and markets. In 1931 Japanese agents staged an explosion on a rail line in Manchuria (meant to appear as though carried out by Chinese nationalists). That act provided an excuse for Japan to occupy the whole province. A year later Japan converted Manchuria into a puppet state called Manchukuo.

Here was a direct threat to the Versailles system. But neither the major powers in Europe nor the United States was willing to risk a war with Japan over China. President Hoover would allow Secretary of State Henry Stimson only to protest that the United States would refuse to recognize Japan’s takeover of Manchuria as legal. The policy of “nonrecognition” became known as the Stimson Doctrine, even though Stimson himself doubted its worth. He was right to be skeptical. Three weeks later Japan’s imperial navy shelled the port city of Shanghai, seeking to expand its influence in China.

Becoming a Good Neighbor >>  Growing ten- sions in Asia and Europe gave the United States an incentive to improve relations with nations closer to home. By the late 1920s the United States had inter- vened in Latin America so often that the Roosevelt Corollary (page 468) had become an embarrassment. Slowly, however, American administrations began to moderate those high-handed policies. In 1927, when Mexico confiscated American-owned properties, President Coolidge sent an ambassador, rather than the marines, to settle the dispute. In 1933, when crit- ics compared the American position in Nicaragua to Japan’s in Manchuria, Secretary Stimson ordered U.S. troops to withdraw. In such gestures lay the roots of a “Good Neighbor” policy.

Franklin Roosevelt pushed the good neighbor idea. At the seventh Pan-American Conference in 1933, his administration accepted a resolution deny- ing any country “the right to intervene in the inter- nal or external affairs of another.” The following year he negotiated a treaty with Cuba that renounced the American right to intervene under the Platt Amend- ment (page 467). Henceforth the United States would replace direct military presence with indirect (but still substantial) economic influence.

As the threat of war increased during the 1930s, Latin American nations proved more willing to coop- erate with the United States in matters of common defense. Roosevelt—the first American president to visit Argentina—opened the Pan-American Con- ference in 1936 by declaring that outside aggressors would “find a Hemisphere wholly prepared to consult together for our mutual safety and our mutual good.” Given that the peace settlement ending World War I


WORLD The outbreak of World War II had its roots in the after- math of World War I. Many of the victorious as well as the defeated nations resented the peace terms adopted at Versailles. Over the next two decades Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy, Poland, and Japan all sought to achieve on their own what Allied leaders had denied them during the negotiations. War debts imposed at Versailles shackled Germany’s economy. As that nation struggled to recover during the Great Depression, so did all of Europe. In central and eastern Europe rivalry among fascists, communists, and other political factions led to frequent violence and instability.

Fascists took the greatest advantage of this insta- bility. The philosophy and movement had its roots in Italy, where nationalists under Benito Mussolini gained power in the 1920s, preaching the idea of the nation as an organic community. Individuals meant little com- pared with the needs of the nation, fascists believed; and war kept the nation strong and served the collec- tive interest. Adolf Hitler and his Nazis (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party) went further when they assumed control of Germany in 1933. They embraced a totalitarian government, racism (especially anti-Semitism), a policy of territorial expansion to obtain Lebensraum (living space), and state control of an economy dedicated to making war. Japanese fas- cists erected a militarist state whose leaders were also bent on armed conquest. As political movements of the right, these extreme conservatives—whether fas- cist, national socialist, or militarist—violently opposed communism with its abolition of private property and its ideal of a classless, collectivist society. Fascists in all three nations moved a