Lecture Guide Part I (first half of course for the Midterm Exam) The Brave New World: America and the Progressive Era

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Lecture Guide Part I (first half of course for the Midterm Exam)
The Brave New World: America and the Progressive Era

From 1850-1900, the US was transformed from a Third World nation into an industrializing world power with large cities. Some have called it the “incorporation of America.” Robber Baron and corporate abuses led to a reform movement to end laissez-faire and install the government regulation of business. This process began with the Progressive Era and its reform presidents: Theodore Roosevelt (Rep.) (191-1908), Wm. Taft (1908-12), and Woodrow Wilson (1912-20).

See the lecture handout for specific programs!
Teddy Roosevelt:

Trustbusting--Northern Securities Case, est. Bureau of Corporations

Railroad Regulation--Hepburn Act, Elkins Act, use the ICC

Consumerism--Pure Food & Drug Act, Meat Inspection Act,

Conservation—Used the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, Newlands Act, etc.


Workers’ Rights-10 hour day, workmen’s compensation, safety laws, try to abolish child labor

Urban Reform-City manager plan, commission government, zoning, etc.

The Postwar Malaise: Repression and Recession

In 1919, there was great optimism that the Treaty of Versailles would create a new world of peace and democracy. But there was anxiety also about the specter of Bolshevisim, the rising tide of Eastern European and radical immigrants (esp. Jews), national rivalries may lead to another war, bitter strikes following postwar layoffs and wage freezes, many unemployed veterans, etc. These tensions, the war, and what conservatives considered excessive reform led to a “Return to Normalcy” movement to return back to the “golden era” of the 1890 and an Isolationist foreign policy. It was a reaction to Progressive Reform. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s “Cycles in American History”—the “engine and the brake.”

The Red Scare- In 1919-1920, President Wilson’s Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer ordered Justice Department “Red Raids” (J. Edgar Hoover launched his career with these raids) in January 1920 against Socialists who opposed WWI. Local politicians joined in. The Seattle General Strike was crushed by the mayor. May Day (with its Marxist tinges) gave way to Labor Day in the US. Conservative politicians and newspapers portrayed violence as union and Red-provoked. There was a National Railroad Strike in 1821 that affected Las Vegas heavily. Xenophobia swept the nation. California banned Japanese from buying land and funded a program to send Filipinos back to Manila. In the early 1920s, the Nevada’s legislature established the US and Nevada Constitution requirement for graduation. In 1919, there were also race riots. Racial violence and tensions produce three leaders with different solution to the race problem: Marcus Garvey-Separation; Booker T. Washington-Education, and W.E.B. DuBois Immediate Equality. Ethnic whites also faced violence. The Sacco and Vanzetti trial and their subsequent execution sparked anti-American riots around the world. 29 states passed Red Flag laws. Schenck v. U.S. (1919). Congress passed Quota Acts in 1921 and 1924 that restricted the amount of non-Western European immigrants who could enter the US.

After WWI, the US farm boom ended as European farms rebounded. There was little federal aid from 1920 to 1933, and gradually corporate and big commercial farms took over many family farms in foreclosure.

Return to Normalcy”: Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover

Warren Harding (R) (1920-1923), Calvin Coolidge (R) (1923-28), Herbert Hoover (R) (1928-32).

Harding’s Scandals-Teapot Dome, Jesse Smith-Harry Daugherty, etc. Coolidge cleaned up the government after Harding died. Both supported high tariff protectionism (Fordney McCumber Tariff of 1922). Also passed are the Revenue Act of 1921 to reduce the income tax and other taxes as well as other policies of Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. The farm crisis was largely ignored—the McNary-Haugen bill to help farmers was twice vetoed. Coolidge and the courts pushed the “American Plan” for open shops. Union membership plummeted as strikes were crushed or portrayed as unpatriotic and un-American. As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover pushed trade association which were almost the equivalent of government-approved collusion and oligopoly.

The Age of Anxiety: Blacks, Ethnics, and Women

Urbanization, industrialization and corporate development seemed to vanquish the traditional pioneer hero (individualism) of the 19th Century. Americans needed heroes and 1920s sports provided some. Baseball’s Babe Ruth,

golf’s Bobby Jones, tennis’ Big Bill Tilden, and boxing’s Jack Johnson. What eventually became the NFL started in 1921. College football had Red Grange and the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. Charles Lindbergh was an American hero who flew his “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane across the Atlantic. The boy scouts developed as an organization and The Americanization of Edward Bok, a real life, rags-to-riches story, was a national bestseller.

Defense of American values was a national preoccupation in the face of change and diversity. The Ku Klux Klan had a revival. It opposed racial equality, unlimited immigration, Jews, Blacks, Catholics, and Mormons. The Americanization (of immigrants) was a popular movement, especially in public schools during the 1920s. But immigrants fought back. Inner city immigrants built more parochial schools, as Protestants tried to push Americanization initiatives in public schools. Popular evangelicals like Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson embraced traditional piety and Prohibition as panaceas. The 1925 Scopes Trial against Darwinistic science was part of the movement against modernism and liberalism. Moralists tried to censor books in libraries across the nation. Local vice societies even got books like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn taken off the shelves and instead encouraged kids to read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mystery novels. Will Hays was appointed Hollywood’s censor, and the Catholic bishops organized the Legion of Decency to rate movies. But Hollywood still reinforced the new morality where possible and the new role for women—the flapper-immortalized by Betty Davis and Barbara Stanwyck.

The “New Woman”--In the 1920s women became somewhat liberated. There were miniskirts, new sexy dances, and increased sales of birth control devices. WWI had taken women out of the home and put them into the workplace. This disrupted traditional family roles. More women went to college in the 1920s. Women got the vote by 1920 but the 1st ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) for women failed.

The Klan opposed it. The Klan also openly attacked Catholics, Jews (Leo Frank was hanged in Atlanta in 1915), blacks and even the Mafia. The Klan tried to enforce Prohibition—even in Chicago until Al Capone’s men killed a few prominent ministers. Jews, Catholics and blacks even worked together in some cities to beat up Klansmen in the North. African Americans respond with “solutions” offered by Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois.

A Lost Generation: Revolt of the Intellectuals

This movement began long before 1920, and is known as “The Revolt against Formalism.” It consisted of, among other things, John Dewey’s Pragmatism, the Muckrakers’ exposes, Ashcan Art, Isadora Duncan’s dance, Jazz (Eubie Blake, Louis Armstrong,etc.), William james’ psychology, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ sociological jurisprudence, Albert Einstein’ relativity physics, Eugene O’Neill’s situation ethics plays, etc.

World War I ended 100 years of relative peace. WWI was a barbarous war made worse by the Industrial Revolution, which created efficient weapons for killing millions. Philosophers and writers felt it was the end of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment and Victorian Eras when Europeans thought the world was getting better. It was “the Hell of Christ.” The 1920s produced a spate of cynical books, including Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt, Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, the poetry of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, etc. Even before WWI, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and others wrote cynical works. However, the 1920s also produced the Harlem Renaissance, encouraged by The NAACP’s magazine, Crisis, which was edited by DuBois. This publication showcased new talented black writers like Alain Locke and explored many important race issues. This period saw the emergence of the so-called “black bourgeoisie.” And the Cotton Club popularized a new type of music, jazz.

American universities also led the attack against tradition. New research questioned the prevailing cultural assumption that God loved EuroAmericans more than other peoples and that democracy and capitalism were naturally the best political and economic systems. Anthropologists (like Edward Sapir) led the assault, especially Franz Boas (his theory of cultural relativism) and his major students: Melville Herskovitz, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict. They were joined by social scientists like Otto Klineberg who studied army intelligence tests and concluded that culture (nurture) more than nature (inheritance-genes), determined high scores. All of this research questioned the assumption that WASPS were inherently superior to everyone else. Urban anthropologists (like Ernest W. Burgess, Ralph Linton, and Albion Small) studied local neighborhoods in Chicago and New York and reached a similar conclusion: that one’s environment more than their innate inferiority accounted for the problems blacks, Irish Catholics, and others had adjusting to American society.

Other research also questioned the assumed superiority of American culture. This included Ralph and Helen Lynds’ study of Muncie Indiana and Charles Beard and Vernon Parrington’s study of the evils of capitalism and the Robber Baron’s crushing of American democracy as well as the government favoritism shown rich businessmen like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. In response, businessmen pressured regents and trustees to fire radical faculty. The professors formed the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which successfully pushed for tenure to make these politically-motivated firings harder.

1920s Reform Politics- Progressive Party ran Wis. Sen. Robert LaFollette (the Wisconsin Idea—recall, referendum, etc.) for President in 1924.There were various Farm-Labor parties in the Midwest that push for more liberal grace periods for mortgages, farm subsidies, and the min. wage, etc. for city workers. For the most part, American Socialists and esp. Communists did not join these groups but retained their own identities.

The Long Weekend: Technology and Social Change in the 1920s

WWI propaganda inspired modern advertising, as “Madison Avenue” emerged in the 1920s. Popular slogans of the 1920s were for Ivory Soap, Camel cigarettes, RCA Victor. The first radio station is 1920. CBS and NBC were formed in the late 1920s to network various big city radio stations together. Congress established the Federal Radio Commission (today’s FCC) to regulate the airwaves. Radio and other new media prompted the rise of a mass society (the philosopher Ortega y Gasset wrote about it) and national culture. The movies moved from New York to Hollywood and big studios (D.W. Griffith) emerged. The automobile (Henry Ford Model T mass production assembly line) also became important—L.A.’s “Miracle Mile” for shopping, suburbanization, school buses ended the one-room schoolhouse, jeeps, tanks and cavalry ended the use of cavalry=horses in war. Oligopoly of GM, Ford and Chrysler emerges, as many small car companies were consolidated for more efficiency. GM successfully challenged Ford with Chevrolet thanks to many innovations pioneered by GM executive, Alfred Sloan. The automobile revolutionized American society. Los Angeles was the first city to build freeways rather than the traditional mass transit approach of NYC and other big cities.

Education in the 1920s was promoted by the spread of electricity and the school bus. The use of chain stores (e.g. Rexall Drugs) eliminated many mom and pop stores and reduces prices. Family employment dominated the 1920s, as most families need more than one income to survive. Migrant farm workers entered the US heavily. Mexican and African American workers were hurt badly by the 1929 crash.

The Reluctant Giant: American Foreign Policy, 1920-1932

The controversial provisions of the Treaty of Versailles planted some of the seeds for WWII. The Senate rejected ratification with several “Reservations” [Massacusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R)], and the US never joined the League of Nations that Wilson helped create with his 14 Points. Wilson was arrogant, and, unlike Harding, Coolidge and Hoover did not work well with Congress.

As part of Harding’s “Return to Normalcy”, the US drifted into an isolationist foreign policy and protectionism. Indeed, the Fordney-McCumber tariff was the highest tariff in US history up to that time and did little to help our Allies recover financially from WWI. In 1930, Hoover pushed and the even higher Hawley-Smoot Tariff. The US was the biggest producer in the world but cut trade with Europe. Harding’s Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes, pushed the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921 to encourage naval arms control. Hughes did conduct unofficial relations with the League of Nations. He approved the Four Power Treaty and the Nine Power Treaty. He collect war debts and did not end the Monroe Doctrine. However, he was active in improving US relations with Latin American nations after Teddy Roosevelt’s militaristic approach earlier.

Coolidge’s Secretary of State was Frank Kellogg (1923-29). He tried and failed to get the US to join the World Court. He negotiated the Kellogg Briand Peace Pact, which did little to guarantee France our help or to prevent future wars. Kellogg had a mixed record handling the Nicaraguan Revolution (1925-27) and Monroe Doctrine—US Marine interventions in the Caribbean. Dwight Morrow negotiated for Mexican nationalization of US-owned oil fields in Mexico.

Laissez-Faire under Storm: Hoover and the Crash of 1929

Symptoms of a recession included bank failures and falling auto sales, which caused a drop in steel production and worsened unemployment. October 29, 1929 was the big crash on Wall Street, although the market had been dropping for weeks before and continued to fall for weeks afterward. Hoover’s “Voluntarism” and optimism did little to help the situation. The Director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics was fired for reporting the real unemployment numbers. Hoover opposed the welfare state and established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to loan money to banks and corporations to jumpstart the economy, but the RFC was largely a failure. A desperate Hoover eventually approved creation of the Grain and Cotton Stabilization boards, but they were underfunded and did little to help. Hoover also created POUR—a group of prominent businessmen to distribute aid in a more efficient manner. But Hoover would not agree to welfare. Eventually, Hoovervilles sprang up around the nation. The Bonus Army protesters were driven out of Washington by force. The depression hurt education and reduced church attendance, etc.

New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt emerged as the Democratic Candidate in the 1932 election. His “Little New Deal” in New York was very appealing to voters. FDR put together a strong coalition of ethnic city voters and farmers to win the presidency from Hoover.
End the first part of the course (end Lecture Guide Part I). Everything up to now is for the Midterm Examination. Everything in lecture after now (contained in Lecture Guide Part II) is for the Final Examination.

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