Historical thinking essay

Open Posted By: nikiedward Date: 14/08/2020 Academic Level: High School Paper Type: Report Writing

Please write this essay by following the prompt. No need to make penetrating analysis but just true thoughts and feelings probably generated from a student.

Category: Accounting & Finance Subjects: Finance Deadline: 24 Hours Budget: $60 - $90 Pages: 2-3 Pages (Short Assignment)

Attachment 1



See the Difference with LearningCurve!


LearningCurve is a winning solution for everyone: students come to class better prepared and instructors have more flexibility to go beyond the basic facts and concepts in class. LearningCurve’s game-like quizzes are bookspecific and link back to the textbook in LaunchPad so that students can brush up on the reading when they get stumped by a question. The reporting features help instructors track overall class trends and spot topics that are giving students trouble so that they can adjust lectures and class activities.


LearningCurve is easy to assign, easy to customize, and easy to complete. See the difference LearningCurve makes in teaching and learning history.



The American Promise A History of the United States



The American Promise

A History of the United States

Seventh Edition

Volume 2 From 1865

James L. Roark Emory University

Michael P. Johnson Johns Hopkins University

Patricia Cline Cohen University of California, Santa Barbara

Sarah Stage


Arizona State University

Susan M. Hartmann The Ohio State University

Boston | New York


FOR BEDFORD/ST. MARTIN’S Vice President, Editorial, Macmillan Learning Humanities: Edwin Hill Publisher for History: Michael Rosenberg Senior Executive Editor for History: William J. Lombardo Director of Development for History: Jane Knetzger Developmental Editor: Robin Soule Associate Editor: Tess Fletcher Assistant Editor: Mary Posman Editorial Assistant: Lexi DeConti Senior Production Editor: Rosemary Jaffe Media Producer: Michelle Camisa Media Editor: Jennifer Jovin Production Manager: Joe Ford History Marketing Manager: Melissa Famiglietti Copy Editor: Lisa Wehrle Indexer: Mary White Cartography: Mapping Specialists, Ltd. Photo Editor: Cecilia Varas Photo Researcher: Naomi Kornhauser Permissions Editor: Eve Lehmann Senior Art Director: Anna Palchik Text Design: Cenveo Publisher Services Cover Design: William Boardman Cover Photo: Women at Work on the C-47 Douglas Cargo Transport, Douglas

Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California, October 1942. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction number LC-DIG- fsac-1a35359.

Composition: Cenveo Publisher Services Printing and Binding: LSC Communications

Copyright © 2017, 2015, 2012, 2009 by Bedford/St. Martin’s.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except as may be expressly permitted by the applicable copyright statutes or in writing by the Publisher.

Manufactured in the United States of America.

1 0 9 8 7 6

f e d c b a

For information, write: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617-399-4000)


ISBN 978-1-319-06198-2 (Combined Edition) ISBN 978-1-319-06199-9 (Volume 1) ISBN 978-1-319-07010-6 (Loose-leaf Edition, Volume 1) ISBN 978-1-319-06200-2 (Volume 2) ISBN 978-1-319-07012-0 (Loose-leaf Edition, Volume 2)

Acknowledgments Acknowledgments and copyrights appear on the same page as the text and art selections they cover; these acknowledgments and copyrights constitute an extension of the copyright page.


Preface Why This Book This Way

What is the best way to engage and teach students in their history survey course? From the beginning, The American Promise has been shaped by our firsthand knowledge that the survey course is one of the most difficult to teach and, for many, also the most difficult to take. From the outset we have met this challenge by providing a story students enjoy for its readability, clear chronology, and lively voices of ordinary Americans, and by providing a full-featured text that instructors prize for its full narrative with political backbone and the overall support for teaching. We continue to feature these qualities in the Value Edition of The American Promise in which we provide the core of the high-quality material included in the Seventh Edition — the full narrative and select images, maps, and pedagogical tools — in a two-color, trade-sized format at a low price.

We know that many students today are on a budget and that instructors want greater flexibility and more digital options in their choice of course materials. We are proud to offer a low-cost text that presents the engaging and readable narrative with a rich abundance of digital tools. Free when packaged with the print text, LaunchPad makes meeting the challenges of the survey course a great deal easier by providing an intuitive, interactive e-Book and course space with a wealth of primary sources. Ready to assign as is with key assessment resources built into each chapter, LaunchPad can also be edited and customized as instructors’ imaginations and innovations dictate. LaunchPad grants students and teachers access to a wealth of online tools and resources built specifically for our text to enhance reading comprehension and promote in-depth study. LaunchPad is loaded with the full-color e-Book with all of the features, maps, and illustrations of the full-sized edition, plus LearningCurve, an adaptive learning tool; the popular Reading the American Past primary documents collection; additional primary sources; special skills-based assessment activities; videos; chapter summative quizzes; and more.


What Makes The American Promise Special Our experience as teachers and our frustrations with available textbooks inspired us to create a book that we could use effectively with our own students. Our knowledge of classroom realities has informed every aspect of each edition and version of The American Promise. We began with a clear chronological, political framework, as we have found that students need both the structure a political narrative provides and the insights gained from examining social and cultural experience. To write a comprehensive, balanced account of American history, we focus on the public arena — the place where politics intersects social and cultural developments — to show how Americans confronted the major issues of their day and created far-reaching historical change.

The unique approach of our narrative is reflected in our title, The American Promise. We emphasize human agency and demonstrate our conviction that the essence of America has been its promise. For millions, the nation has held out the promise of a better life, unfettered worship, equality before the law, representative government, democratic politics, and other freedoms seldom found elsewhere. But none of these promises has come with guarantees. Throughout the narrative we demonstrate how much of American history is a continuing struggle over the definition and realization of the nation’s promise.

To engage students in this American story and to portray fully the diversity of the American experience, we stitch into our narrative the voices of hundreds of contemporaries. In LaunchPad, the Value Edition is augmented with the comprehensive edition’s four-color art and map program with visual and map activities that prompt students to think critically about what they see. To help students of all levels understand American history, LaunchPad offers the best in primary sources and pedagogical aids. To help instructors teach important skills and evaluate student learning, we provide a rich assortment of assignments and assessments in the LaunchPad format. While this edition rests solidly on our original goals and premises, it breaks new ground in addressing the specific needs of today’s courses.

A New Skills Focus for the Special Features Those using LaunchPad will have access to The American Promise’s acclaimed feature program. The program has been revised to include more useful, skills-oriented assignments. The features offer primary sources, visuals, essays, and discussion questions, as well as short-answer and


multiple-choice questions that test students’ critical reading skills. Making Historical Arguments (formerly Historical Question) now offers active, skills-based activities that demonstrate to students how historians make and support historical arguments. Analyzing Historical Evidence (formerly Documenting the American Promise) then gives students the opportunity to practice the skills introduced in Making Historical Arguments through analysis of text and visual sources. Experiencing the American Promise (formerly Seeking the American Promise) offers essays that illuminate the stories of individuals who sought their dream in America, helping students evaluate to what extent individuals make history. Finally, an enhanced Beyond America’s Borders continues to offer students a global perspective on the narrative’s themes with essays that connect U.S. history to developments around the globe.

Collectively these features provide a range of new topics and content that includes increased attention to white servant women and slave men in the seventeenth-century Chesapeake; a new focus on the weak opposition to the African slave trade in the eighteenth century; a nuanced look at urban workers’ standard of living in the Gilded Age; a spotlight on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of New Deal programs to rebuild the navy during the 1930s; an exploration of the federal government’s influence on the economy in the post–World War II years; a study of the impact of the Voting Rights Act; an in-depth look at the use of air power in Vietnam; an investigation of the loss of American manufacturing jobs in the twenty- first century; and much more.

Evaluation of Primary Sources Primary sources form the heart of historical study and we are pleased to offer LaunchPad users the new Analyzing Historical Evidence feature, which asks students to use historical thinking skills to consider a range of documents. Each feature juxtaposes two to four primary documents to reveal varying perspectives on a topic or issue and to provide students with opportunities to build and practice their skills of historical interpretation. Because students are so attuned to visuals and instructors deeply value their usefulness as primary sources, we have included both text and visual sources in this new feature. Images, including artifacts of daily life in Chaco Canyon, paintings of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, a 1920s mouthwash advertisement, political cartoons, and more, show students how to mine visual documents for evidence about the past.

In Analyzing Historical Evidence, feature introductions and


document headnotes contextualize the sources, and short-answer questions at the end of the feature promote critical thinking about primary sources. New topics have been added that are rich with human drama and include “Enslavement by Marriage” and “The Nation’s First Formal Declaration of War.” These features are available both in print and online and are easily assigned in LaunchPad, along with multiple-choice quizzes that measure student comprehension.

In addition, more than 150 documents in the accompanying collection Reading the American Past are available free to users who package the reader with the main print text, and they are automatically included in the LaunchPad e-Book. Multiple-choice questions are also available for assignment to measure comprehension and hold students accountable for their reading.

LaunchPad for The American Promise also comes with a collection of more than 135 additional primary sources that instructors can choose to assign. These sources include letters, memoirs, court records, government documents, and more, and they include items by or about such people as John Smith, William Penn, Anne Hutchinson, Jonathan Edwards, Mary Jemison, Black Hawk, Rebecca Neugin, John C. Calhoun, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Elizabeth Lease, William Jennings Bryan, Rose Pastor Stokes, Theodore Roosevelt, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Paul Robeson, Ronald Reagan, and more.

To give students ample opportunity to practice thinking critically about primary source images, LaunchPad includes four visual activity captions per chapter. One set of questions in these activities prompts analysis of the image, while a second set of questions helps students connect the images to main points in the narrative.

Distinctive Essay Features Practice Historical Thinking Skills To demonstrate and engage students in various methods of historical thinking, LaunchPad’s Making Historical Arguments feature essays, which occur in every chapter, pose and interpret specific questions of continuing interest. We pair perennial favorites such as “Was the New United States a Christian Country?,” “How Often Were Slaves Whipped?,” “Was There a Sexual Revolution in the 1920s?,” and “Why Did the Allies Win World War II?,” with brand-new entries including “How Did Seventeenth-Century Colonists View Nature?” and “What Did


African Americans Want from World War I, and What Did They Get?” Short-answer questions at the end of the features prompt students to

consider things such as evidence, beliefs and values, and cause and effect as they relate to the historical question at hand. These features are available both in print and online and can be easily assigned in LaunchPad, along with multiple-choice quizzes that measure student comprehension.

Helping Students Understand the Narrative Every instructor knows it can be a challenge to get students to complete assigned readings, and then to fully understand what is important once they do the reading. The American Promise addresses these problems head-on with a suite of tools in LaunchPad that instructors can choose from.

To help students come to class prepared, instructors who adopt LaunchPad for The American Promise can assign the LearningCurve formative assessment activities. This online learning tool is popular with students because it helps them rehearse content at their own pace in a nonthreatening, game-like environment. LearningCurve is also popular with instructors because the reporting features allow them to track overall class trends and spot topics that are giving their students trouble so they can adjust their lectures and class activities.

Encouraging active reading is another means for making content memorable and highlighting what is truly important. To help students read actively and understand the central idea of the chapter, instructors who use LaunchPad can also assign Guided Reading Exercises. These excercises appear at the start of each chapter, prompting students to collect information to be used to answer a broad analytic question central to the chapter as a whole.

To further encourage students to read and fully assimilate the text as well as measure how well they do this, instructors can assign the multiple- choice summative quizzes in LaunchPad, where they are automatically graded. These secure tests not only encourage students to study the book, they can be assigned at specific intervals as higher-stakes testing and thus provide another means for analyzing class performance.

Another big challenge for survey instructors is meeting the needs of a range of students, particularly the students who need the most support. In addition to the formative assessment of LearningCurve, which adapts to the needs of students at any level, The American Promise offers a number of print and digital tools for the underprepared. Each chapter opener


includes Content Learning Objectives to prepare students to read the chapter with purpose. Once into the heart of the chapter, students are reminded to think about main ideas through Review Questions placed at the end of every major section. Some students have trouble connecting events and ideas, particularly with special boxed features. To address this, we have added a set of Questions for Analysis to the end of each feature in LaunchPad to help students understand the significance of the featured topic, its context, and how it might be viewed from different angles.

With this edition we also bring back two popular sets of end-of-chapter questions that help widen students’ focus as they consider what they have read. Making Connections questions ask students to think about broad developments within the chapter, while Linking to the Past questions cross-reference developments in earlier chapters, encouraging students to make comparisons, see causality, and understand change over longer periods of time.

Helping Instructors Teach with Digital Resources With requests for clear and transparent learning outcomes coming from all quarters and with students who bring increasingly diverse levels of skills to class, even veteran teachers can find preparing for today’s courses a trying matter. With LaunchPad we have reconceived the textbook as a suite of tools in multiple formats that allows each format to do what it does best to capture students’ interest and help instructors create meaningful lessons.

But one of the best benefits is that instructors using LaunchPad will find they have a number of assessment tools that allow them to see what it is their students do and don’t know and measure student achievement all in one convenient space. For example, LaunchPad comes with LearningCurve, an adaptive learning tool that garners more than a 90 percent student satisfaction rate and helps students master book content. When LearningCurve is assigned, the grade book results show instructors where the entire class or individual students may be struggling, and this information in turn allows instructors to adjust lectures and course activities accordingly — a benefit not only for traditional classes but invaluable for hybrid, online, and newer “flipped” classes as well. In addition, not only can instructors assign all of the questions that appear in the print book and view the responses in the grade book, they have the option to assign automatically graded multiple-choice questions for all of the book features.


With LaunchPad for The American Promise we make the tough job of teaching simpler by providing everything instructors need in one convenient space so they can set and achieve the learning outcomes they desire. To learn more about the benefits of LearningCurve and LaunchPad, see the “Versions and Supplements” section on page xiv.

Acknowledgments We gratefully acknowledge all of the helpful suggestions from those who have read and taught from previous editions of The American Promise, and we hope that our many classroom collaborators will be pleased to see their influence in the seventh edition. In particular, we wish to thank the talented scholars and teachers who gave generously of their time and knowledge to review the previous edition in preparation for its revision: LeNie Adolphson, Sauk Valley Community College; Daniel Anderson, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Ian Baldwin, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Veronica Bale, MiraCosta College; Karen Cook Bell, Bowie State University; Dustin Black, El Camino College; Nawana Britenriker, Pikes Peak Community College; Elizabeth Broen, South Florida State College; Robert Browning, University of Texas, San Antonio; Robert Bush, Front Range Community College; Brian David Collins, El Centro College; Alexandra Cornelius, Florida International University; Sondra Cosgrove, College of Southern Nevada; Rodney E. Dillon, Jr., Palm Beach State College; Wayne Drews, Georgia Institute of Technology; Edward J. Dudlo, Brookhaven College; E. J. Fabyan, Vincennes University; Randy Finley, Georgia Perimeter College; Cecilia Gowdy-Wygant, Front Range Community College; Elizabeth Green, University of South Alabama; William Grose, Wytheville Community College; Steven Heise, Holyoke Community College; Jeff Janowick, Lansing Community College; Juneann Klees, Bay College; Leonard V. Larsen, Des Moines Area Community College; Charles Levine, Mesa Community College; Kerima Lewis, Bridgewater State University; Mary Linehan, University of Texas at Tyler; Annie Liss, South Texas College; Patricia Loughlin, University of Central Oklahoma; Veronica McComb, Lenoir-Rhyne University; Walter Miszczenko, College of Western Idaho; Rick Murray, Los Angeles Valley College; Richard Owens, West Liberty University; Stacey Pendleton, University of Colorado Denver; Michael J. Pfeifer, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Robert Lynn Rainard, Tidewater Community College; Chris Rasmussen, Fairleigh Dickinson University; George D. Salaita, Eastern Tennessee University; Robert Sawvel, University of Northern Colorado; Benjamin G. Scharff,


West Virginia University; Mark Simon, Queens College of the City of New York; Christopher Sleeper, MiraCosta College; Janet P. Smith, East Tennessee State University; John Howard Smith, Texas A&M University– Commerce; William Z. Tannenbaum, Missouri Southern State University; Ramon C. Veloso, Palomar College; Kenneth A. Watras, Paradise Valley Community College; and Eric Weinberg, Viterbo University.

A project as complex as this requires the talents of many individuals. First, we would like to acknowledge our families for their support, forbearance, and toleration of our textbook responsibilities. Naomi Kornhauser contributed her vast knowledge, tireless energy, and diligent research to make possible the useful and attractive illustration program. We would also like to thank the many people at Bedford/St. Martin’s and Macmillan Learning who have been crucial to this project. Thanks are due to Robin Soule, developmental editor; Edwin Hill, vice president; Michael Rosenberg, publisher; William J. Lombardo, senior executive editor for history; and Jane Knetzger, director of development for history for their support and guidance. Thanks are also due to Heidi Hood, senior editor; Jennifer Jovin, media editor; Tess Fletcher, associate editor; Mary Posman, assistant editor; and Lexi DeConti, editorial assistant. For their imaginative and tireless efforts to promote the book, we want to thank executive marketing manager Melissa Famiglietti, and marketing assistant Morgan Ratner. With great skill and professionalism, senior production editor Rosemary Jaffe pulled together the many pieces related to copyediting, design, and composition. Production manager Joe Ford oversaw the manufacturing of the book. Designer Jerilyn Bockorick, copy editor Lisa Wehrle, and proofreaders Roberta Sobotka and Linda McLatchie attended to the myriad details that help make the book shine. Mary White provided an outstanding index. The covers for the book’s many versions were researched and designed by William Boardman. Media producer Michelle Camisa oversaw the timely and complex production of digital components of The American Promise.


Versions and Supplements

Adopters of The American Promise, Value Edition and their students have access to abundant print and digital resources and tools, the acclaimed Bedford Series in History and Culture volumes, and much more. The LaunchPad course space for The American Promise provides access to the narrative as well as a wealth of primary sources and other features, along with assignment and assessment opportunities. See below for more information, visit the book’s catalog site at macmillanlearning.com, or contact your local Bedford/St. Martin’s sales representative.

Get the Right Version for Your Class The American Promise franchise offers a variety of versions to best suit your course needs. The comprehensive The American Promise features a full-color art program and a robust set of features. Understanding the American Promise, with a more modest feature program, enhances the full narrative with a question-driven approach and innovative active learning pedagogy. The American Promise: A Concise History also provides the full narrative, with a streamlined art and feature program, at a lower price. The American Promise, Value Edition offers a trade-sized two-color option with the full narrative and selected art and maps at a steeper discount. The Value Edition is also offered at the lowest price point in loose-leaf, and all versions are available as low-priced PDF e-Books. For the best value of all, package a new print book with LaunchPad at no additional charge to get the best each format offers — a print version for easy portability with a LaunchPad interactive e-Book and course space with LearningCurve and loads of additional assignment and assessment options.

Combined Volume (Chapters 1–31): available in the comprehensive, Understanding, Concise, Value, loose-leaf, and e-Book formats and in LaunchPad Volume 1, To 1877 (Chapters 1–16): available in the comprehensive,


Understanding, Concise, Value, loose-leaf, and e-Book formats and in LaunchPad Volume 2, From 1865 (chapters 16–31): available in the comprehensive, Understanding, Concise, Value, loose-leaf, and e- Book formats and in LaunchPad

As noted below, any of these volumes can be packaged with additional titles for a discount. To get ISBNs for discount packages, visit macmillanlearning.com or contact your Bedford/St. Martin’s representative.

Assign LaunchPad — an Assessment- Ready Interactive e-Book and Course Space

Available for discount purchase on its own or for packaging with new books at no additional charge, LaunchPad is a breakthrough solution for history courses. Intuitive and easy-to-use for students and instructors alike, LaunchPad is ready to use as is, and can be edited, customized with your own material, and assigned quickly. LaunchPad for The American Promise includes Bedford/St. Martin’s high-quality content all in one place, including the full interactive e-Book with all of the full-color maps and images and features of the comprehensive edition and the companion reader Reading the American Past, plus LearningCurve formative quizzing, guided reading activities designed to help students read actively for key concepts, autograded quizzes for each primary source, and chapter summative quizzes.

Through a wealth of formative and summative assessments, including the adaptive learning program of LearningCurve (see the full description ahead), students gain confidence and get into their reading before class. These features, plus additional primary-source documents, video sources and tools for making video assignments, map activities, flashcards, and customizable test banks, make LaunchPad an invaluable asset for any instructor. For more information, visit launchpadworks.com or to arrange a demo, contact us at [email protected]

Assign LearningCurve So Your Students Come to Class Prepared


Students using LaunchPad receive access to LearningCurve for The American Promise. Assigning LearningCurve in place of reading quizzes is easy for instructors, and the reporting features help instructors track overall class trends and spot topics that are giving students trouble so they can adjust their lectures and class activities. This online learning tool is popular with students because it was designed to help them comprehend content at their own pace in a nonthreatening, game-like environment. The feedback for wrong answers provides instructional coaching and sends students back to the book for review. Students answer as many questions as necessary to reach a target score, with repeated chances to revisit material they haven’t mastered. When LearningCurve is assigned, students come to class better prepared.

Take Advantage of Instructor Resources Bedford/St. Martin’s has developed a rich array of teaching resources for this book and for this course. They range from lecture and presentation materials and assessment tools to course management options. Most can be found in LaunchPad or can be downloaded or ordered from the Instructor Resources tab of the book’s catalog site at macmillanlearning.com. Bedford Coursepack for Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace by D2L, or Moodle. We can help you integrate our rich content into your course management system. Registered instructors can download coursepacks that include our popular free resources and book-specific content for The American Promise. Instructor’s Resource Manual. The instructor’s manual offers both experienced and first-time instructors tools for presenting textbook materials in engaging ways. It includes chapter content learning objectives, annotated chapter outlines, and strategies for teaching with the textbook, plus suggestions on how to get the most out of LearningCurve, and a survival guide for first-time teaching assistants. Guide to Changing Editions. Designed to facilitate an instructor’s transition from the previous edition of The American Promise, Value Edition to this new edition, this guide presents an overview of major changes as well as of changes in each chapter. Online Test Bank. The test bank includes a mix of fresh, carefully crafted multiple-choice, matching, short-answer, and essay questions for each chapter. Many of the multiple-choice questions feature a map, an image, or a primary-source excerpt as the prompt. All questions appear in easy-to-


use test bank software that allows instructors to add, edit, resequence, filter by question type or learning objective, and print questions and answers. Instructors can also export questions into a variety of course management systems. The Bedford Lecture Kit: Lecture Outlines, Maps, and Images. Look good and save time with The Bedford Lecture Kit. These presentation materials include fully customizable multimedia presentations built around chapter outlines that are embedded with maps, figures, and images from the textbook and are supplemented by more detailed instructor notes on key points and concepts. America in Motion: Video Clips for U.S. History. Set history in motion with America in Motion, an instructor DVD containing dozens of short digital movie files of events in twentieth-century American history. From the wreckage of the battleship Maine to FDR’s fireside chats to Ronald Reagan speaking before the Brandenburg Gate, America in Motion engages students with dynamic scenes from key events and challenges them to think critically. All files are classroom-ready, edited for brevity, and easily integrated with presentation slides or other software for electronic lectures or assignments. An accompanying guide provides each clip’s historical context, ideas for use, and suggested questions.

Print, Digital, and Custom Options for More Choice and Value For information on free packages and discounts up to 50 percent, visit macmillanlearning.com or contact your local Bedford/St. Martin’s sales representative. Reading the American Past, Fifth Edition. Edited by Michael P. Johnson, one of the authors of The American Promise, and designed to complement the textbook, Reading the American Past provides a broad selection of more than 150 primary-source documents, as well as editorial apparatus to help students understand the sources. Available free when packaged with the print text and included in the LaunchPad e-Book. Also available on its own as a downloadable PDF e-Book. NEW Bedford Custom Tutorials for History. Designed to customize textbooks with resources relevant to individual courses, this collection of brief units, each sixteen pages long and loaded with examples, guides students through basic skills such as using historical evidence effectively,


working with primary sources, taking effective notes, avoiding plagiarism and citing sources, and more. Up to two tutorials can be added to a Bedford/St. Martin’s history survey title at no additional charge, freeing you to spend your class time focusing on content and interpretation. For more information, visit macmillanlearning.com/historytutorials. NEW Bedford Digital Collections for U.S. History. This source collection provides a flexible and affordable online repository of discovery-oriented primary-source projects ready to assign. Each curated project — written by a historian about a favorite topic — poses a historical question and guides students step by step through analysis of primary sources. Examples include “What Caused the Civil War?”; “The California Gold Rush: A Trans-Pacific Phenomenon”; and “War Stories: Black Soldiers and the Long Civil Rights Movement.” For more information, visit macmillanlearning.com/bdc/ushistory/catalog. Available free when packaged. NEW Bedford Digital Collections Custom Print Modules. Choose one or two document projects from the collection (see above) and add them in print to a Bedford/St. Martin’s title, or select several to be bound together in a custom reader created specifically for your course. Either way, the modules are affordably priced. For more information visit macmillanlearning.com/custombdc/ushistory or contact your Bedford/St. Martin’s representative. The Bedford Series in History and Culture. More than 100 titles in this highly praised series combine first-rate scholarship, historical narrative, and important primary documents for undergraduate courses. Each book is brief, inexpensive, and focused on a specific topic or period. Revisions of several best-selling titles, such as The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents by Theda Perdue; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, edited by David Blight; and The Triangle Fire: A Brief History with Documents by Jo Ann Argersinger, are now available. For a complete list of titles, visit macmillanlearning.com. Package discounts are available. Rand McNally Atlas of American History. This collection of more than eighty full-color maps illustrates key events and eras from early exploration, settlement, expansion, and immigration to U.S. involvement in wars abroad and on U.S. soil. Introductory pages for each section include a brief overview, timelines, graphs, and photos to quickly establish a historical context. Free when packaged. The Bedford Glossary for U.S. History. This handy supplement for the


survey course gives students historically contextualized definitions for hundreds of terms — from abolitionism to zoot suit — that they will encounter in lectures, reading, and exams. Free when packaged. Trade Books. Titles published by sister companies Hill and Wang; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Henry Holt and Company; St. Martin’s Press; Picador; and Palgrave Macmillan are available at a 50 percent discount when packaged with Bedford/St. Martin’s textbooks. For more information, visit macmillanlearning.com/tradeup. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History. This portable and affordable reference tool by Mary Lynn Rampolla provides reading, writing, and research advice useful to students in all history courses. Concise yet comprehensive advice on approaching typical history assignments, developing critical reading skills, writing effective history papers, conducting research, using and documenting sources, and avoiding plagiarism — enhanced with practical tips and examples throughout — have made this slim reference a best seller. Package discounts are available. A Student’s Guide to History. This complete guide to success in any history course provides the practical help students need to be successful. In addition to introducing students to the nature of the discipline, author Jules Benjamin teaches a wide range of skills from preparing for exams to approaching common writing assignments, and explains the research and documentation process with plentiful examples. Package discounts are available. Going to the Source: The Bedford Reader in American History. Developed by Victoria Bissell Brown and Timothy J. Shannon, this reader combines a rich diversity of primary and secondary sources with in-depth instructions for how to use each type of source. Mirroring the chronology of the U.S. history survey, each of the main chapters familiarizes students with a single type of source — from personal letters to political cartoons — while focusing on an intriguing historical episode such as the Cherokee Removal or the 1894 Pullman Strike. The reader’s wide variety of chapter topics and sources provoke students’ interest as it teaches them the skills they need to successfully interrogate historical sources. Package discounts are available. America Firsthand. With its distinctive focus on first-person accounts from ordinary people, this primary documents reader by Anthony Marcus, John M. Giggie, and David Burner offers a remarkable range of perspectives on America’s history from those who lived it. Popular Points


of View sections expose students to different perspectives on a specific event or topic. Package discounts are available.


Brief Contents

Preface Versions and Supplements Contents Maps and Figures

16 Reconstruction, 1863–1877

17 The Contested West, 1865–1900

18 Railroads, Business, and Politics in the Gilded Age, 1865– 1900

19 The City and Its Workers, 1870–1900

20 Dissent, Depression, and War, 1890–1900

21 Progressivism from the Grass Roots to the White House, 1890–1916

22 World War I: The Progressive Crusade at Home and Abroad, 1914–1920

23 From New Era to Great Depression, 1920–1932

24 The New Deal Experiment, 1932–1939

25 The United States and the Second World War, 1939–1945

26 Cold War Politics in the Truman Years, 1945–1953

27 The Politics and Culture of Abundance, 1952–1960


28 Reform, Rebellion, and Reaction, 1960–1974

29 Vietnam and the End of the Cold War Consensus, 1961–1975

30 America Moves to the Right, 1969–1989

31 The Promises and Challenges of Globalization, Since 1989

Appendix Glossary Index U.S. Political/Geographic and World Maps Visual Activity About the Authors








Reconstruction 1863–1877

OPENING VIGNETTE: James T. Rapier emerges in the early 1870s as Alabama’s most prominent black leader

Wartime Reconstruction “To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds” • Land and Labor • The African American Quest for Autonomy

Presidential Reconstruction Johnson’s Program of Reconciliation • White Southern Resistance and Black Codes • Expansion of Federal Authority and Black Rights

Congressional Reconstruction The Fourteenth Amendment and Escalating Violence • Radical Reconstruction and Military Rule • Impeaching a President • The Fifteenth Amendment and Women’s Demands

The Struggle in the South Freedmen, Yankees, and Yeomen • Republican Rule • White Landlords, Black Sharecroppers

Reconstruction Collapses Grant’s Troubled Presidency • Northern Resolve Withers • White Supremacy Triumphs • An Election and a Compromise


Conclusion: “A Revolution but Half Accomplished” CHAPTER REVIEW


The Contested West 1865–1900

OPENING VIGNETTE: Frederick Jackson Turner delivers his “frontier thesis”

Conquest and Empire in the West Indian Removal and the Reservation System • The Decimation of the Great Bison Herds • Indian Wars and the Collapse of Comanchería • The Fight for the Black Hills

Forced Assimilation and Indian Resistance Indian Schools and the War on Indian Culture • The Dawes Act and Indian Land Allotment • Indian Resistance and Survival

Mining the West Life on the Comstock Lode • The Diverse Peoples of the West

Land Fever Moving West: Homesteaders and Speculators • Tenants, Sharecroppers, and Migrants • Commercial Farming and Industrial Cowboys • Territorial Government

Conclusion: The West in the Gilded Age CHAPTER REVIEW


Railroads, Business, and Politics in the Gilded Age 1865–1900

OPENING VIGNETTE: Mark Twain and the Gilded Age

Railroads and the Rise of New Industries Railroads: America’s First Big Business • Andrew Carnegie, Steel, and Vertical Integration • John D. Rockefeller, Standard Oil, and the Trust • New Inventions: The Telephone and the Telegraph

From Competition to Consolidation


J. P. Morgan and Finance Capitalism • Social Darwinism, Laissez-Faire, and the Supreme Court

Politics and Culture Political Participation and Party Loyalty • Sectionalism and the New South • Gender, Race, and Politics • Women’s Activism

Presidential Politics Corruption and Party Strife • Garfield’s Assassination and Civil Service Reform • Reform and Scandal: The Campaign of 1884

Economic Issues and Party Realignment The Tariff and the Politics of Protection • Railroads, Trusts, and the Federal Government • The Fight for Free Silver • Panic and Depression

Conclusion: Business Dominates an Era CHAPTER REVIEW


The City and Its Workers 1870–1900

OPENING VIGNETTE: Workers build the Brooklyn Bridge

The Rise of the City The Urban Explosion: A Global Migration • Racism and the Cry for Immigration Restriction • The Social Geography of the City

At Work in Industrial America America’s Diverse Workers • The Family Economy: Women and Children • White-Collar Workers: Managers, “Typewriters,” and Salesclerks

Workers Organize The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 • The Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor • Haymarket and the Specter of Labor Radicalism

At Home and at Play Domesticity and “Domestics” • Cheap Amusements

City Growth and City Government Building Cities of Stone and Steel • City Government and the “Bosses” • White City or City of Sin?

Conclusion: Who Built the Cities?




Dissent, Depression, and War 1890–1900

OPENING VIGNETTE: Frances Willard participates in the creation of the Populist Party in 1892

The Farmers Unite The Farmers’ Alliance • The Populist Movement

The Labor Wars The Homestead Lockout • The Cripple Creek Miners’ Strike of 1894 • Eugene V. Debs and the Pullman Strike

Women’s Activism Frances Willard and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and the Movement for Woman Suffrage

Depression Politics Coxey’s Army • The People’s Party and the Election of 1896

The United States and the World Markets and Missionaries • The Monroe Doctrine and the Open Door Policy • “A Splendid Little War” • The Debate over American Imperialism

Conclusion: Rallying around the Flag CHAPTER REVIEW


Progressivism from the Grass Roots to the White House 1890–1916

OPENING VIGNETTE: Jane Addams founds Hull House

Grassroots Progressivism Civilizing the City • Progressives and the Working Class

Progressivism: Theory and Practice Reform Darwinism and Social Engineering • Progressive Government: City


and State

Progressivism Finds a President: Theodore Roosevelt The Square Deal • Roosevelt the Reformer • Roosevelt and Conservation • The Big Stick • The Troubled Presidency of William Howard Taft

Woodrow Wilson and Progressivism at High Tide Progressive Insurgency and the Election of 1912 • Wilson’s Reforms: Tariff, Banking, and the Trusts • Wilson, Reluctant Progressive

The Limits of Progressive Reform Radical Alternatives • Progressivism for White Men Only

Conclusion: The Transformation of the Liberal State CHAPTER REVIEW


World War I: The Progressive Crusade at Home and Abroad 1914–1920

OPENING VIGNETTE: Doughboy George “Brownie” Browne sees combat on the front lines in France

Woodrow Wilson and the World Taming the Americas • The European Crisis • The Ordeal of American Neutrality • The United States Enters the War

“Over There” The Call to Arms • The War in France

The Crusade for Democracy at Home The Progressive Stake in the War • Women, War, and the Battle for Suffrage • Rally around the Flag — or Else

A Compromised Peace Wilson’s Fourteen Points • The Paris Peace Conference • The Fight for the Treaty

Democracy at Risk Economic Hardship and Labor Upheaval • The Red Scare • The Great Migrations of African Americans and Mexicans • Postwar Politics and the Election of 1920

Conclusion: Troubled Crusade




From New Era to Great Depression 1920–1932

OPENING VIGNETTE: Henry Ford puts America on wheels

The New Era A Business Government • Promoting Prosperity and Peace Abroad • Automobiles, Mass Production, and Assembly-Line Progress • Consumer Culture

The Roaring Twenties Prohibition • The New Woman • The New Negro • Entertainment for the Masses • The Lost Generation

Resistance to Change Rejecting the Undesirables • The Rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan • The Scopes Trial • Al Smith and the Election of 1928

The Great Crash Herbert Hoover: The Great Engineer • The Distorted Economy • The Crash of 1929 • Hoover and the Limits of Individualism

Life in the Depression The Human Toll • Denial and Escape • Working-Class Militancy

Conclusion: Dazzle and Despair CHAPTER REVIEW


The New Deal Experiment 1932–1939

OPENING VIGNETTE: “Migrant Mother” Florence Owens struggles to survive in the Great Depression

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Patrician in Government The Making of a Politician • The Election of 1932

Launching the New Deal


The New Dealers • Banking and Finance Reform • Relief and Conservation Programs • Agricultural Initiatives • Industrial Recovery

Challenges to the New Deal Resistance to Business Reform • Casualties in the Countryside • Politics on the Fringes

Toward a Welfare State Relief for the Unemployed • Empowering Labor • Social Security and Tax Reform • Neglected Americans and the New Deal

The New Deal from Victory to Deadlock The Election of 1936 • Court Packing • Reaction and Recession • The Last of the New Deal Reforms

Conclusion: Achievements and Limitations of the New Deal CHAPTER REVIEW


The United States and the Second World War 1939–1945

OPENING VIGNETTE: Colonel Paul Tibbets drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan

Peacetime Dilemmas Roosevelt and Reluctant Isolation • The Good Neighbor Policy • The Price of Noninvolvement

The Onset of War Nazi Aggression and War in Europe • From Neutrality to the Arsenal of Democracy • Japan Attacks America

Mobilizing for War Home-Front Security • Building a Citizen Army • Conversion to a War Economy

Fighting Back Turning the Tide in the Pacific • The Campaign in Europe

The Wartime Home Front Women and Families, Guns and Butter • The Double V Campaign • Wartime Politics and the 1944 Election • Reaction to the Holocaust


Toward Unconditional Surrender From Bombing Raids to Berlin • The Defeat of Japan • Atomic Warfare

Conclusion: Allied Victory and America’s Emergence as a Superpower CHAPTER REVIEW


Cold War Politics in the Truman Years 1945–1953

OPENING VIGNETTE: Helen Gahagan Douglas, congresswoman and loyal Truman ally, supports the Marshall Plan, the creation of NATO, and the war in Korea

From the Grand Alliance to Containment The Cold War Begins • The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan • Building a National Security State • Superpower Rivalry around the Globe

Truman and the Fair Deal at Home Reconverting to a Peacetime Economy • Blacks and Mexican Americans Push for Their Civil Rights • The Fair Deal Flounders • The Domestic Chill: McCarthyism

The Cold War Becomes Hot: Korea Korea and the Military Implementation of Containment • From Containment to Rollback to Containment • Korea, Communism, and the 1952 Election • An Armistice and the War’s Costs

Conclusion: The Cold War’s Costs and Consequences CHAPTER REVIEW


The Politics and Culture of Abundance 1952–1960

OPENING VIGNETTE: Vice President Richard Nixon debates Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev

Eisenhower and the Politics of the “Middle Way” Modern Republicanism • Termination and Relocation of Native Americans •


The 1956 Election and the Second Term

Liberation Rhetoric and the Practice of Containment The “New Look” in Foreign Policy • Applying Containment to Vietnam • Interventions in Latin America and the Middle East • The Nuclear Arms Race

New Work and Living Patterns in an Economy of Abundance Technology Transforms Agriculture and Industry • Burgeoning Suburbs and Declining Cities • The Rise of the Sun Belt • The Democratization of Higher Education

The Culture of Abundance Consumption Rules the Day • The Revival of Domesticity and Religion • Television Transforms Culture and Politics • Countercurrents

The Emergence of a Civil Rights Movement African Americans Challenge the Supreme Court and the President • Montgomery and Mass Protest

Conclusion: Peace and Prosperity Mask Unmet Challenges CHAPTER REVIEW


Reform, Rebellion, and Reaction 1960–1974

OPENING VIGNETTE: Fannie Lou Hamer leads grassroots struggles of African Americans for voting rights and political empowerment

Liberalism at High Tide The Unrealized Promise of Kennedy’s New Frontier • Johnson Fulfills the Kennedy Promise • Policymaking for a Great Society • Assessing the Great Society • The Judicial Revolution

The Second Reconstruction The Flowering of the Black Freedom Struggle • The Response in Washington • Black Power and Urban Rebellions

A Multitude of Movements Native American Protest • Latino Struggles for Justice • Student Rebellion, the New Left, and the Counterculture • Gay Men and Lesbians Organize

The New Wave of Feminism A Multifaceted Movement Emerges • Feminist Gains Spark a



Liberal Reform in the Nixon Administration Extending the Welfare State and Regulating the Economy • Responding to Environmental Concerns • Expanding Social Justice

Conclusion: Achievements and Limitations of Liberalism CHAPTER REVIEW


Vietnam and the End of the Cold War Consensus 1961–1975

OPENING VIGNETTE: Lieutenant Frederick Downs Jr. is wounded in Vietnam and returns home to a country divided over the war

New Frontiers in Foreign Policy Meeting the “Hour of Maximum Danger” • New Approaches to the Third World • The Arms Race and the Nuclear Brink • A Growing War in Vietnam

Lyndon Johnson’s War against Communism An All-Out Commitment in Vietnam • Preventing Another Castro in Latin America • The Americanized War • Those Who Served

A Nation Polarized The Widening War at Home • The Tet Offensive and Johnson’s Move toward Peace • The Tumultuous Election of 1968

Nixon, Détente, and the Search for Peace in Vietnam Moving toward Détente with the Soviet Union and China • Shoring Up U.S. Interests around the World • Vietnam Becomes Nixon’s War • The Peace Accords • The Legacy of Defeat

Conclusion: An Unwinnable War CHAPTER REVIEW


America Moves to the Right 1969–1989

OPENING VIGNETTE: Phyllis Schlafly promotes conservatism


Nixon, Conservatism, and Constitutional Crisis Emergence of a Grassroots Movement • Nixon Courts the Right • The Election of 1972 • Watergate • The Ford Presidency and the 1976 Election

The “Outsider” Presidency of Jimmy Carter Retreat from Liberalism • Energy and Environmental Reform • Promoting Human Rights Abroad • The Cold War Intensifies

Ronald Reagan and the Conservative Ascendancy Appealing to the New Right and Beyond • Unleashing Free Enterprise • Winners and Losers in a Flourishing Economy

Continuing Struggles over Rights Battles in the Courts and Congress • Feminism on the Defensive • The Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement

Ronald Reagan Confronts an “Evil Empire” Militarization and Interventions Abroad • The Iran-Contra Scandal • A Thaw in Soviet-American Relations

Conclusion: Reversing the Course of Government CHAPTER REVIEW


The Promises and Challenges of Globalization Since 1989

OPENING VIGNETTE: Colin Powell adjusts to a post–Cold War world

Domestic Stalemate and Global Upheaval: The Presidency of George H. W. Bush

Gridlock in Government • The Cold War Ends • Going to War in Central America and the Persian Gulf • The 1992 Election

The Clinton Administration’s Search for the Middle Ground Clinton’s Reforms • Accommodating the Right • Impeaching the President • The Booming Economy of the 1990s

The United States in a Globalizing World Defining America’s Place in a New World Order • Debates over Globalization • The Internationalization of the United States

President George W. Bush: Conservatism at Home and Radical


Initiatives Abroad The Disputed Election of 2000 • The Domestic Policies of a “Compassionate Conservative” • The Globalization of Terrorism • Unilateralism, Preemption, and the Iraq War

The Obama Presidency: Reform and Backlash Governing during Economic Crisis and Political Polarization • Redefining the War on Terror

Conclusion: Defining the Government’s Role at Home and Abroad CHAPTER REVIEW


The Declaration of Independence The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union The Constitution of the United States Amendments to the Constitution with Annotations (including the six unratified amendments)







Maps and Figures


MAP 16.1 A Southern Plantation in 1860 and 1881

MAP 16.2 The Election of 1868

MAP 16.3 The Reconstruction of the South

MAP 16.4 The Election of 1876


MAP 17.1 The Loss of Indian Lands, 1850–1890

MAP 17.2 Western Mining, 1848–1890

MAP 17.3 Federal Land Grants to Railroads and the Development of the West, 1850–1900


MAP 18.1 Railroad Expansion, 1870–1890

MAP 18.2 The Election of 1884


MAP 19.1 Economic Regions of the World, 1890

MAP 19.2 The Impact of Immigration, to 1910

MAP 19.3 The Great Railroad Strike of 1877


MAP 20.1 The Election of 1892

MAP 20.2 The Election of 1896

MAP 20.3 The Spanish-American War, 1898


MAP 20.4 U.S. Overseas Expansion through 1900


MAP 21.1 National Parks and Forests

MAP 21.2 The Panama Canal, 1914

MAP 21.3 The Election of 1912


MAP 22.1 U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1895–1941

MAP 22.2 European Alliances after the Outbreak of World War I

MAP 22.3 The American Expeditionary Force, 1918

MAP 22.4 Women’s Voting Rights before the Nineteenth Amendment

MAP 22.5 Europe after World War I

MAP 22.6 The Election of 1920


MAP 23.1 Auto Manufacturing

MAP 23.2 The Shift from Rural to Urban Population, 1920–1930

MAP 23.3 The Election of 1928

FIGURE 23.1 Manufacturing and Agricultural Income, 1920–1940


MAP 24.1 The Election of 1932

MAP 24.2 Electoral Shift, 1928–1932

MAP 24.3 The Tennessee Valley Authority


MAP 25.1 Axis Aggression through 1941

MAP 25.2 Japanese Aggression through 1941

MAP 25.3 Western Relocation Authority Centers

MAP 25.4 The European Theater of World War II, 1942–1945

MAP 25.5 The Pacific Theater of World War II, 1941–1945



MAP 26.1 The Division of Europe after World War II

MAP 26.2 The Election of 1948

MAP 26.3 The Korean War, 1950–1953


MAP 27.1 The Interstate Highway System, 1930 and 1970

MAP 27.2 The Rise of the Sun Belt, 1940–1980


MAP 28.1 The Election of 1960

MAP 28.2 The Rise of the African American Vote, 1940–1976

MAP 28.3 Urban Uprisings, 1965–1968


MAP 29.1 U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1954–1994

MAP 29.2 The Vietnam War, 1964–1975

MAP 29.3 The Election of 1968


MAP 30.1 The Election of 1976

MAP 30.2 Worldwide Oil Reserves, 1980

MAP 30.3 The Middle East, 1948–1989


MAP 31.1 Events in Eastern Europe, 1989–2002

MAP 31.2 Events in the Middle East, 1989–2011

MAP 31.3 The Election of 2000

MAP 31.4 The Election of 2012


16 Reconstruction 1863–1877


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Identify the challenges facing reconstruction efforts.

◆ Describe President Johnson’s reconstruction plan and the ways in which it aligned and differed from Lincoln’s.

◆ Recount the significance of the Fourteenth Amendment and why President Johnson advised southern states to reject it. Explain the terms of radical reconstruction and how Johnson’s interventions led some in Congress to seek his impeachment.

◆ Describe the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment, and explain why some women’s rights advocates were dissatisfied with it.

◆ Describe how congressional reconstruction altered life in the South. Explain why the North abandoned reconstruction, including the role of Grant’s troubled presidency and the election of 1877 in this abandonment.

IN 1856, JOHN RAPIER, A FREE BLACK BARBER IN FLORENCE, ALABAMA, urged his four freeborn sons to flee the increasingly repressive and dangerous South. James T. Rapier chose Canada, where he went to live with his uncle in a largely black community and studied Greek and Latin in a log schoolhouse. In a letter to his father, he vowed, “I


will endeavor to do my part in solving the problems [of African Americans] in my native land.”

The Union victory in the Civil War gave James Rapier the opportunity to redeem his pledge. In 1865, after more than eight years of exile, the twenty-seven-year-old Rapier returned to Alabama, where he presided over the first political gathering of former slaves in the state. He soon discovered, however, that Alabama’s whites found it agonizingly difficult to accept defeat and black freedom. They responded to the revolutionary changes under the banner “White Man — Right or Wrong — Still the White Man!”

During the elections of 1868, when Rapier and other Alabama blacks vigorously supported the Republican ticket, the recently organized Ku Klux Klan went on a bloody rampage. A mob of 150 outraged whites scoured Rapier’s neighborhood seeking four black politicians they claimed were trying to “Africanize Alabama.” They caught and hanged three, but the “nigger carpetbagger from Canada” escaped. After briefly considering fleeing the state, Rapier decided to stay and fight.

In 1872, Rapier won election to the House of Representatives, where he joined six other black congressmen in Washington, D.C. Defeated for reelection in 1874 in a campaign marked by ballot-box stuffing, Rapier turned to cotton farming. But persistent black poverty and unrelenting racial violence convinced him that blacks could never achieve equality and prosperity in the South. He purchased land in Kansas and urged Alabama’s blacks to escape with him. In 1883, however, before he could leave Alabama, Rapier died of tuberculosis at the age of forty-five.

Union general Carl Schurz had foreseen many of the troubles Rapier encountered in the postwar South. In 1865, Schurz concluded that the Civil War was “a revolution but half accomplished.” Northern victory had freed the slaves, he observed, but it had not changed former slaveholders’ minds about blacks’ unfitness for freedom. Left to themselves, whites would “introduce some new system of forced labor, not perhaps exactly slavery in its old form but something similar to it.” To defend their freedom, Schurz concluded, blacks would need federal protection, land of their own, and voting rights. Until whites “cut loose from the past, it will be a dangerous experiment to put Southern society upon its own legs.”

As Schurz understood, the end of the war did not mean peace. Indeed, the nation entered one of its most turbulent eras — Reconstruction. Answers to the era’s central questions — about the


defeated South’s status within the Union and the meaning of freedom for ex-slaves — came not only from Washington, D.C., where the federal government played an active role, but also from the state legislatures and county seats of the South, where blacks eagerly participated in politics. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution strengthened the claim of African Americans to equal rights. The struggle also took place on the South’s farms and plantations, where former slaves sought to become free workers while former slaveholders clung to the Old South. A small band of white women joined in the struggle for racial equality, and soon their crusade broadened to include gender equality. Their attempts to secure voting rights for women were thwarted, however, just as were the efforts of blacks and their allies to secure racial equality. In the contest to determine the consequences of Confederate defeat and emancipation, white Southerners prevailed.

James T. Rapier In 1874, when Representative James T. Rapier spoke before Congress on behalf of a civil rights bill, he described the humiliation of being denied service at inns all along his route from Montgomery to Washington. Elsewhere in the world, he said, class and religion were invoked to defend discrimination. But in America, “our distinction is color.” Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.



Wartime Reconstruction Reconstruction did not wait for the end of war. As the odds of a northern victory increased, thinking about reunification quickened. Immediately, a question arose: Who had authority to devise a plan for reconstructing the Union? President Abraham Lincoln firmly believed that reconstruction was a matter of executive responsibility. Congress just as firmly asserted its jurisdiction. Fueling the argument were significant differences about the terms of reconstruction.

In their eagerness to formulate a plan for political reunification, neither Lincoln nor Congress gave much attention to the South’s land and labor problems. But as the war rapidly eroded slavery and traditional plantation agriculture, Yankee military commanders in the Union-occupied areas of the Confederacy had no choice but to oversee the emergence of a new labor system. Freedmen’s aspirations played little role in the plans that emerged.

“To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds” As early as 1863, Lincoln began contemplating how “to bind up the nation’s wounds” and achieve “a lasting peace.” While deep compassion for the enemy guided his thinking about peace, his plan for reconstruction aimed primarily at shortening the war and ending slavery.

Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in December 1863 set out his terms. He offered a full pardon, restoring property (except slaves) and political rights, to most rebels willing to renounce secession and to accept emancipation. When 10 percent of a state’s voting population had taken an oath of allegiance, the state could organize a new government and be readmitted into the Union. Lincoln’s plan did not require ex-rebels to extend social or political rights to ex-slaves, nor did it anticipate a program of long-term federal assistance to freedmen. Clearly, the president looked forward to the rapid, forgiving restoration of the broken Union.

Lincoln’s easy terms enraged abolitionists such as Wendell Phillips of Boston, who charged that the president “makes the negro’s freedom a mere


sham.” He “is willing that the negro should be free but seeks nothing else for him.” Comparing Lincoln to the Union’s most passive general, Phillips declared, “What McClellan was on the battlefield — ‘Do as little hurt as possible!’ — Lincoln is in civil affairs — ‘Make as little change as possible!’” Phillips and other northern Radicals called instead for a thorough overhaul of southern society. Their ideas proved to be too drastic for most Republicans during the war years, but Congress agreed that Lincoln’s plan was inadequate.

In July 1864, Congress put forward a plan of its own. Congressman Henry Winter Davis of Maryland and Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio jointly sponsored a bill that demanded that at least half of the voters in a conquered rebel state take the oath of allegiance before reconstruction could begin. The Wade-Davis bill also banned almost all ex-Confederates from participating in the drafting of new state constitutions. Finally, the bill guaranteed the equality of freedmen before the law. Congress’s reconstruction would be neither as quick nor as forgiving as Lincoln’s. When Lincoln refused to sign the bill and let it die, Wade and Davis charged the president with usurpation of power.

Undeterred, Lincoln continued to nurture the formation of loyal state governments under his own plan. Four states — Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia — fulfilled the president’s requirements, but Congress refused to seat representatives from the “Lincoln states.” Lincoln admitted that a government based on only 10 percent was not ideal, but he argued, “We shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.” Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner responded, “The eggs of crocodiles can produce only crocodiles.” In his last public address in April 1865, Lincoln defended his plan but for the first time expressed publicly his endorsement of suffrage for southern blacks, at least “the very intelligent, and … those who serve our cause as soldiers.” The announcement demonstrated that Lincoln’s thinking about reconstruction was still evolving. Four days later, he was dead.

Land and Labor Of all the problems raised by the North’s victory in the war, none proved more critical than the South’s transition from slavery to free labor. As federal armies invaded and occupied the Confederacy, hundreds of thousands of slaves became free workers. In addition, Union armies controlled vast territories in the South where legal title to land had become unclear. The Confiscation Acts passed during the war punished “traitors” by taking away their property. The question of what to do with federally


occupied land and how to organize labor on it engaged ex-slaves, ex- slaveholders, Union military commanders, and federal government officials long before the war ended.

In the Mississippi valley, occupying federal troops announced a new labor code. It required landholders to give up whipping, sign contracts with ex-slaves, pay wages, and provide food, housing, and medical care. The code required black laborers to enter into contracts, work diligently, and remain subordinate and obedient. Military leaders clearly had no intention of promoting a social or economic revolution. Instead, they sought to restore traditional plantation agriculture with wage labor. The effort resulted in a hybrid system that one contemporary called “compulsory free labor,” something that satisfied no one.

Planters complained because the new system fell short of slavery. Blacks could not be “transformed by proclamation,” a Louisiana sugar planter declared. Without the right to whip, he argued, the new labor system did not have a chance. Either Union soldiers must “compel the negroes to work,” or the planters themselves must “be authorized and sustained in using force.”

African Americans found the new regime too reminiscent of slavery to be called free labor. Its chief deficiency, they believed, was the failure to provide them with land of their own. Freedmen believed they had a moral right to land because they and their ancestors had worked it without compensation for centuries. “What’s the use of being free if you don’t own land enough to be buried in?” one man asked. Several wartime developments led freedmen to believe that the federal government planned to undergird black freedom with landownership.

In January 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman set aside part of the coast south of Charleston for black settlement. By June 1865, some 40,000 freedmen sat on 400,000 acres of “Sherman land.” In addition, in March 1865, Congress passed a bill establishing the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. The Freedmen’s Bureau, as it was called, distributed food and clothing to destitute Southerners and eased the transition of blacks from slaves to free persons. Congress also authorized the agency to divide abandoned and confiscated land into 40-acre plots, to rent them to freedmen, and eventually to sell them “with such title as the United States can convey.” By June 1865, the Bureau had situated nearly 10,000 black families on a half million acres abandoned by fleeing planters. Other ex-slaves eagerly anticipated farms of their own.

Despite the flurry of activity, wartime reconstruction failed to produce agreement about whether the president or Congress had the authority to


devise policy or what proper policy should be.

The African American Quest for Autonomy Ex-slaves never had any doubt about what they wanted from freedom. They had only to contemplate what they had been denied as slaves. Slaves had to remain on their plantations; freedom allowed blacks to see what was on the other side of the hill. Slaves had to be at work in the fields by dawn; freedom permitted blacks to sleep through a sunrise. Freedmen also tested the etiquette of racial subordination. “Lizzie’s maid passed me today when I was coming from church without speaking to me,” huffed one plantation mistress.

To whites, emancipation looked like pure anarchy. Blacks, they said, had reverted to their natural condition: lazy, irresponsible, and wild. Actually, former slaves were experimenting with freedom, but they could not long afford to roam the countryside, neglect work, and casually provoke whites. Soon, most were back at work in whites’ kitchens and fields.

But they continued to dream of land and independence. “The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land,” one former slave declared in 1865, “and turn it and till it by our own labor.” Another group of former slaves in South Carolina declared that they wanted land, “not a Master or owner[,] Neither a driver with his Whip.”

Slavery had deliberately kept blacks illiterate, and freedmen emerged from bondage eager to learn to read and write. “I wishes the Childern all in School,” one black veteran asserted. “It is beter for them then to be their Surveing a mistes [mistress].” Freemen looked on schools as “first proof of their independence.”

The restoration of broken families was another persistent black aspiration. Thousands of freedmen took to the roads in 1865 to look for kin who had been sold away or to free those who were being held illegally as slaves. A black soldier from Missouri wrote his daughters that he was coming for them. “I will have you if it cost me my life,” he declared. “Your Miss Kitty said that I tried to steal you,” he told them. “But I’ll let her know that god never intended for a man to steal his own flesh and blood.” And he swore that “if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers, she [will] meet her enemy.”

Independent worship was another continuing aspiration. African Americans greeted freedom with a mass exodus from white churches, where they had been required to worship when slaves. Some joined the


newly established southern branches of all-black northern churches, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Others formed black versions of the major southern denominations, Baptists and Methodists.

REVIEW To what extent did Lincoln’s wartime plan for reconstruction reflect the concerns of newly freed slaves?


Presidential Reconstruction Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, just hours after John Wilkes Booth shot him at a Washington, D.C., theater. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase immediately administered the oath of office to Vice President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. Congress had adjourned in March and would not reconvene until December. Throughout the summer and fall, Johnson drew up and executed a plan of reconstruction without congressional advice.

Congress returned to the capital in December to find that, as far as the president and former Confederates were concerned, reconstruction was completed. Most Republicans, however, thought Johnson’s plan made far too few demands of ex-rebels and made a mockery of the sacrifice of Union soldiers. They claimed that Johnson’s leniency had acted as midwife to the rebirth of the Old South, that he had achieved political reunification at the cost of black freedom. Republicans in Congress then proceeded to dismantle Johnson’s program and substitute a program of their own.

Johnson’s Program of Reconciliation Born in 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andrew Johnson was the son of illiterate parents. Self-educated and ambitious, Johnson moved to Tennessee, where he worked as a tailor, accumulated a fortune in land, acquired five slaves, and built a career in politics championing the South’s common white people and assailing its “illegitimate, swaggering, bastard, scrub aristocracy.” The only senator from a Confederate state to remain loyal to the Union, Johnson held the planter class responsible for secession. Less than two weeks before he became president, he announced what he would do to planters if he ever had the chance: “I would arrest them — I would try them — I would convict them and I would hang them.”

A Democrat all his life, Johnson occupied the White House only because the Republican Party in 1864 had needed a vice presidential candidate who would appeal to loyal, Union-supporting Democrats.


Johnson vigorously defended states’ rights (but not secession) and opposed Republican efforts to expand the power of the federal government. A steadfast supporter of slavery, Johnson had owned slaves until 1862, when Tennessee rebels, angry at his Unionism, confiscated them. When he grudgingly accepted emancipation, it was more because he hated planters than sympathized with slaves. “Damn the negroes,” he said. “I am fighting those traitorous aristocrats, their masters.” The new president harbored unshakable racist convictions. Africans, Johnson said, were “inferior to the white man in point of intellect — better calculated in physical structure to undergo drudgery and hardship.”

Like Lincoln, Johnson stressed the rapid restoration of civil government in the South. Like Lincoln, he promised to pardon most, but not all, ex-rebels. Johnson recognized the state governments created by Lincoln but set out his own requirements for restoring the other rebel states to the Union. All that the citizens of a state had to do was to renounce the right of secession, deny that the debts of the Confederacy were legal and binding, and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, which became part of the Constitution in December 1865.

Johnson also returned all confiscated and abandoned land to pardoned ex-Confederates, even if it was in the hands of freedmen. Reformers were shocked. Instead of punishing planters as he had promised, Johnson canceled the promising beginnings made by General Sherman and the Freedmen’s Bureau to settle blacks on land of their own. As one freedman observed, “Things was hurt by Mr. Lincoln getting killed.”

White Southern Resistance and Black Codes In the summer of 1865, delegates across the South gathered to draw up the new state constitutions required by Johnson’s plan of reconstruction. They refused to accept even the president’s mild requirements. Refusing to renounce secession, the South Carolina and Georgia conventions merely “repudiated” their secession ordinances, preserving in principle their right to secede. South Carolina and Mississippi refused to disown their Confederate war debts. Mississippi rejected the Thirteenth Amendment, and Alabama rejected it in part. Despite this defiance, Johnson did nothing. White Southerners began to think that by standing up for themselves they could shape the terms of reconstruction.

New state governments across the South adopted a series of laws known as black codes, which made a travesty of black freedom. The codes sought to keep ex-slaves subordinate to whites by subjecting them to every


sort of discrimination. Several states made it illegal for blacks to own a gun. Mississippi made insulting gestures and language by blacks a criminal offense. The codes barred blacks from jury duty. Not a single southern state granted any black the right to vote.

At the core of the black codes, however, lay the matter of labor. Legislators sought to hustle freedmen back to the plantations. Whites were almost universally opposed to black landownership. Whitelaw Reid, a northern visitor to the South, found that the “man who should sell small tracts to them would be in actual personal danger.” South Carolina attempted to limit blacks to either farmwork or domestic service by requiring them to pay annual taxes of $10 to $100 to work in any other occupation. Mississippi declared that blacks who did not possess written evidence of employment could be declared vagrants and be subject to involuntary plantation labor. Under so-called apprenticeship laws, courts bound thousands of black children — orphans and others whose parents they deemed unable to support them — to work for planter “guardians.”

Johnson refused to intervene. A staunch defender of states’ rights, he believed that citizens of every state should be free to write their own constitutions and laws. Moreover, Johnson was as eager as other white Southerners to restore white supremacy. “White men alone must manage the South,” he declared.

Johnson also recognized that his do-nothing response offered him political advantage. A conservative Tennessee Democrat at the head of a northern Republican Party, he had begun to look southward for political allies. Despite tough talk about punishing traitors, he personally pardoned fourteen thousand wealthy or high-ranking ex-Confederates. By pardoning powerful whites, by accepting state governments even when they failed to satisfy his minimal demands, and by acquiescing in the black codes, he won useful southern friends.

In the fall elections of 1865, white Southerners dramatically expressed their mood. To represent them in Congress, they chose former Confederates. Of the eighty senators and representatives they sent to Washington, fifteen had served in the Confederate army, ten of them as generals. Another sixteen had served in civil and judicial posts in the Confederacy. Nine others had served in the Confederate Congress. One — Alexander Stephens — had been vice president of the Confederacy. As one Georgian remarked, “It looked as though Richmond had moved to Washington.”

Expansion of Federal Authority and Black Rights 54

Southerners had blundered monumentally. They had assumed that what Andrew Johnson was willing to accept, Republicans would accept as well. But southern intransigence compelled even moderates to conclude that ex- rebels were a “generation of vipers,” still untrustworthy and dangerous. The black codes became a symbol of southern intentions to “restore all of slavery but its name.” “We tell the white men of Mississippi,” the Chicago Tribune roared, “that the men of the North will convert the State of Mississippi into a frog pond before they will allow such laws to disgrace one foot of the soil in which the bones of our soldiers sleep and over which the flag of freedom waves.”

The moderate majority of the Republican Party wanted only assurance that slavery and treason were dead. They did not champion black equality, the confiscation of plantations, or black voting, as did the Radical minority within the party. But southern obstinacy had succeeded in forging unity (at least temporarily) among Republican factions. In December 1865, Republicans refused to seat the southern representatives elected in the fall elections. Rather than accept Johnson’s claim that the “work of restoration” was done, Congress challenged his executive power.

Republican senator Lyman Trumbull declared that the president’s policy meant that an ex-slave would “be tyrannized over, abused, and virtually reenslaved without some legislation by the nation for his protection.” Early in 1866, the moderates produced two bills that strengthened the federal shield. The first, the Freedmen’s Bureau bill, prolonged the life of the agency established by the previous Congress. Arguing that the Constitution never contemplated a “system for the support of indigent persons,” President Andrew Johnson vetoed the bill. Congress failed by a narrow margin to override the president’s veto.

The moderates designed their second measure, what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1866, to nullify the black codes by affirming African Americans’ rights to “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.” The act boldly required the end of racial discrimination in state laws and represented an extraordinary expansion of black rights and federal authority. The president argued that the civil rights bill amounted to “unconstitutional invasion of states’ rights” and vetoed it. In essence, he denied that the federal government possessed the authority to protect the civil rights of African Americans.

In April 1866, an incensed Republican Party again pushed the civil rights bill through Congress and overrode the presidential veto. In July, it passed another Freedmen’s Bureau bill and overrode Johnson’s veto. For


the first time in American history, Congress had overridden presidential vetoes of major legislation. As a worried South Carolinian observed, Johnson had succeeded in uniting the Republicans and probably touched off “a fight this fall such as has never been seen.”

REVIEW When the southern states passed the black codes, how did the U.S. Congress respond?


Congressional Reconstruction By the summer of 1866, President Andrew Johnson and Congress had dropped their gloves and stood toe-to-toe in a bare-knuckle contest unprecedented in American history. Johnson made it clear that he would not budge on either constitutional issues or policy. Moderate Republicans responded by amending the Constitution. But the obstinacy of Johnson and white Southerners pushed Republican moderates ever closer to the Radicals and to acceptance of additional federal intervention in the South. To end presidential interference, Congress voted to impeach the president for the first time since the nation was formed. Soon after, Congress also debated whether to make voting rights color-blind, while women sought to make voting sex-blind as well.

The Fourteenth Amendment and Escalating Violence In June 1866, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and two years later the states ratified it. The most important provisions of this complex amendment made all native-born or naturalized persons American citizens and prohibited states from abridging the “privileges and immunities” of citizens, depriving them of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” and denying them “equal protection of the laws.” By making blacks national citizens, the amendment provided a national guarantee of equality before the law. In essence, it protected blacks against violation by southern state governments.


Reconstruction Cartoon This 1865 cartoon pokes fun at two Richmond ladies as they pass by a Union officer on their way to receive free government rations. One says sourly to the other, “Don’t you think that Yankee must feel like shrinking into his boots before such high-toned Southern ladies as we?” The New York Public Library/Art Resource, NY.

The Fourteenth Amendment also dealt with voting rights. It gave Congress the right to reduce the congressional representation of states that withheld suffrage from some of its adult male population. In other words, white Southerners could either allow black men to vote or see their representation in Washington slashed. Whatever happened, Republicans stood to benefit from the Fourteenth Amendment. If southern whites granted voting rights to freedmen, Republicans would gain valuable black votes. If whites refused, the number of southern Democrats in Congress would plunge.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s suffrage provisions ignored the small band of women who had emerged from the war demanding “the ballot for the two disenfranchised classes, negroes and women.” Founding the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton lobbied for “a government by the people, and the whole people; for the people and the whole people.” They felt betrayed when their old antislavery allies refused to work for their goals. “It was the Negro’s hour,” Frederick Douglass explained. Senator Charles Sumner suggested that woman suffrage could be “the great question of the future.”


The Fourteenth Amendment provided for punishment of any state that excluded voters on the basis of race but not on the basis of sex. The amendment also introduced the word male into the Constitution when it referred to a citizen’s right to vote. Stanton predicted that “if that word ‘male’ be inserted, it will take us a century at least to get it out.”

Tennessee approved the Fourteenth Amendment in July, and Congress promptly welcomed the state’s representatives and senators back. Had President Johnson counseled other southern states to ratify this relatively mild amendment, they might have listened. Instead, Johnson advised Southerners to reject the Fourteenth Amendment and to rely on him to trounce the Republicans in the fall congressional elections.

Johnson had decided to make the Fourteenth Amendment the overriding issue of the 1866 elections and to gather its white opponents into a new conservative party, the National Union Party. The president’s strategy suffered a setback when whites in several southern cities went on rampages against blacks. Mobs killed thirty-four blacks in New Orleans and forty-six blacks in Memphis. The slaughter shocked Northerners and renewed skepticism about Johnson’s claim that southern whites could be trusted. “Who doubts that the Freedmen’s Bureau ought to be abolished forthwith,” a New Yorker observed sarcastically, “and the blacks remitted to the paternal care of their old masters, who ‘understand the nigger, you know, a great deal better than the Yankees can.’”

The 1866 elections resulted in an overwhelming Republican victory. Johnson had bet that Northerners would not support federal protection of black rights and that a racist backlash would blast the Republican Party. But the war was still fresh in northern minds, and as one Republican explained, southern whites “with all their intelligence were traitors, the blacks with all their ignorance were loyal.”

Radical Reconstruction and Military Rule When Johnson continued to urge Southerners to reject the Fourteenth Amendment, every southern state except Tennessee voted it down. “The last one of the sinful ten,” thundered Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio, “has flung back into our teeth the magnanimous offer of a generous nation.” After the South rejected the moderates’ program, the Radicals seized the initiative.

Each act of defiance by southern whites had boosted the standing of the Radicals within the Republican Party. Except for freedmen themselves, no one did more to make freedom the “mighty moral question of the age.”


Radicals such as Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner and Pennsylvania representative Thaddeus Stevens united in demanding civil and political equality. Southern states were “like clay in the hands of the potter,” Stevens declared in January 1867, and he called on Congress to begin reconstruction all over again.

In March 1867, Congress overturned the Johnson state governments and initiated military rule of the South. The Military Reconstruction Act (and three subsequent acts) divided the ten unreconstructed Confederate states into five military districts. Congress placed a Union general in charge of each district and instructed him to “suppress insurrection, disorder, and violence” and to begin political reform. After the military had completed voter registration, which would include black men, voters in each state would elect delegates to conventions that would draw up new state constitutions. Each constitution would guarantee black suffrage. When the voters of each state had approved the constitution and the state legislature had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, the state could submit its work to Congress. If Congress approved, the state’s senators and representatives could be seated, and political reunification would be accomplished.

Radicals proclaimed the provision for black suffrage “a prodigious triumph,” for it extended far beyond the limited suffrage provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. When combined with the disfranchisement of thousands of ex-rebels, it promised to cripple any neo-Confederate resurgence and guarantee Republican state governments in the South.

Despite its bold suffrage provision, the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867 disappointed those who also advocated the confiscation of southern plantations and their redistribution to ex-slaves. Thaddeus Stevens agreed with the freedman who said, “Give us our own land and we take care of ourselves, but without land, the old masters can hire us or starve us, as they please.” But most Republicans believed they had provided blacks with what they needed: equal legal rights and the ballot. Besides, confiscation was too radical, even for some Radicals. Confiscating private property, declared the New York Times, “strikes at the root of all property rights in both sections. It concerns Massachusetts quite as much as Mississippi.” If blacks were to get land, they would have to gain it themselves.

Declaring that he would rather sever his right arm than sign such a formula for “anarchy and chaos,” Andrew Johnson vetoed the Military Reconstruction Act, but Congress overrode his veto. With the passage of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, congressional reconstruction was


virtually completed. Congress left whites owning most of the South’s land but, in a departure that justified the term radical reconstruction, had given black men the ballot.

Impeaching a President Despite his defeats, Andrew Johnson had no intention of yielding control of reconstruction. In a dozen ways, he sabotaged Congress’s will and encouraged southern whites to resist. He issued a flood of pardons, waged war against the Freedmen’s Bureau, and replaced Union generals eager to enforce Congress’s Reconstruction Acts with conservative officers eager to block them. Johnson claimed that he was merely defending the “violated Constitution.” At bottom, however, the president subverted congressional reconstruction to protect southern whites from what he considered the horrors of “Negro domination.”

Radicals argued that Johnson’s abuse of constitutional powers and his failure to fulfill constitutional obligations to enforce the law were impeachable offenses. According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives can impeach and the Senate can try any federal official for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” But moderates interpreted the Constitution to mean violation of criminal statutes. As long as Johnson refrained from breaking the law, impeachment (the process of formal charges of wrongdoing against the president or other federal official) remained stalled.

Then in August 1867, Johnson suspended Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office. As required by the Tenure of Office Act, which demanded the approval of the Senate for the removal of any government official who had been appointed with Senate approval, the president requested the Senate to consent to Stanton’s dismissal. When the Senate balked, Johnson removed Stanton anyway. “Is the President crazy, or only drunk?” asked a dumbfounded Republican moderate. “I’m afraid his doings will make us all favor impeachment.”

News of Johnson’s open defiance of the law convinced every Republican in the House to vote for a resolution impeaching the president. Supreme Court chief justice Salmon Chase presided over the Senate trial, which lasted from March until May 1868. When the vote came, thirty-five senators voted guilty and nineteen not guilty. The impeachment forces fell one vote short of the two-thirds needed to convict.

After his trial, Johnson called a truce, and for the remaining ten months of his term, congressional reconstruction proceeded unhindered by


presidential interference. Without interference from Johnson, Congress revisited the suffrage issue.

The Fifteenth Amendment and Women’s Demands In February 1869, Republicans passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited states from depriving any citizen of the right to vote because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 already required black suffrage in the South; the Fifteenth Amendment extended black voting nationwide.

Some Republicans, however, found the final wording of the Fifteenth Amendment “lame and halting.” Rather than absolutely guaranteeing the right to vote, the amendment merely prohibited exclusion on grounds of race. The distinction would prove to be significant. In time, white Southerners would devise tests of literacy and property and other apparently nonracial measures that would effectively disfranchise blacks yet not violate the Fifteenth Amendment. But an amendment that fully guaranteed the right to vote courted defeat outside the South. Rising antiforeign sentiment — against the Chinese in California and European immigrants in the Northeast — caused states to resist giving up total control of suffrage requirements. In March 1870, after three-fourths of the states had ratified it, the Fifteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution.

Woman suffrage advocates, however, were sorely disappointed with the Fifteenth Amendment’s failure to extend voting rights to women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony condemned the Republicans’ “negro first” strategy and pointed out that women remained “the only class of citizens wholly unrepresented in the government.” Increasingly, activist women concluded that woman “must not put her trust in man.” The Fifteenth Amendment severed the early feminist movement from its abolitionist roots. Over the next several decades, feminists established an independent suffrage crusade that drew millions of women into political life.

Republicans took enough satisfaction in the Fifteenth Amendment to conclude that black suffrage was the “last great point that remained to be settled of the issues of the war” and promptly scratched the “Negro question” from the agenda of national politics. Even that steadfast crusader for equality Wendell Phillips concluded that the black man now held “sufficient shield in his own hands…. Whatever he suffers will be largely


now, and in future, his own fault.” Northerners had no idea of the violent struggles that lay ahead.

REVIEW Why did Congress impeach President Andrew Johnson?


The Struggle in the South Northerners believed they had discharged their responsibilities with the Reconstruction Acts and the amendments to the Constitution, but Southerners knew that the battle had just begun. Black suffrage had destroyed traditional southern politics and established the foundation for the rise of the Republican Party. Gathering outsiders and outcasts, southern Republicans won elections, wrote new state constitutions, and formed new state governments.

Challenging the established class for political control was dangerous business. Equally dangerous were the confrontations that took place on southern farms and plantations, where blacks sought to give fuller meaning to their newly won legal and political equality. Ex-masters had their own ideas about the labor system that should replace slavery, and freedom remained contested territory. Southerners fought pitched battles with one another to determine the contours of their new world.

Freedmen, Yankees, and Yeomen African Americans made up the majority of southern Republicans. After gaining voting rights in 1867, nearly all eligible black men registered to vote as Republicans, grateful to the party that had freed them and granted them the franchise. “It is the hardest thing in the world to keep a negro away from the polls,” observed an Alabama white man. Southern blacks did not all have identical political priorities, but they united in their desire for education and equal treatment before the law.

Northern whites who made the South their home after the war were a second element of the South’s Republican Party. Conservative white Southerners called them carpetbaggers, opportunists who stuffed all their belongings in a single carpet-sided suitcase and headed south to “fatten on our misfortunes.” But most Northerners who moved south were young men who looked upon the South as they did the West — as a promising place to make a living. Northerners in the southern Republican Party supported programs that encouraged vigorous economic development along the lines of the northern free-labor model.


Southern whites made up the third element of the South’s Republican Party. Approximately one out of four white Southerners voted Republican. The other three condemned the one who did as a traitor to his region and his race and called him a scalawag, a term for runty horses and low-down, good-for-nothing rascals. Yeoman farmers accounted for the majority of southern white Republicans. Some were Unionists who emerged from the war with bitter memories of Confederate persecution. Others were small farmers who wanted to end state governments’ favoritism toward plantation owners. Yeomen supported initiatives for public schools and for expanding economic opportunity in the South.

The South’s Republican Party, then, was made up of freedmen, Yankees, and yeomen — an improbable coalition. The mix of races, regions, and classes inevitably meant friction as each group maneuvered to define the party. But Reconstruction represented an extraordinary moment in American politics: Blacks and whites joined together in the Republican Party to pursue political change. Formally, of course, only men participated in politics — casting ballots and holding offices — but white and black women also played a part in the political struggle by joining in parades and rallies, attending stump speeches, and even campaigning.

Most whites in the South condemned southern Republicans as illegitimate and felt justified in doing whatever they could to stamp them out. Violence against blacks — the “white terror” — took brutal institutional form in 1866 with the formation in Tennessee of the Ku Klux Klan, a social club of Confederate veterans that quickly developed into a paramilitary organization supporting Democrats. The Klan went on a rampage of whipping, hanging, shooting, burning, and throat-cutting to defeat Republicans and restore white supremacy. Rapid demobilization of the Union army after the war left only twenty thousand troops to patrol the entire South. Without effective military protection, southern Republicans had to take care of themselves.

Republican Rule In the fall of 1867, southern states held elections for delegates to state constitutional conventions, as required by the Reconstruction Acts. About 40 percent of the white electorate stayed home because they had been disfranchised or because they had decided to boycott politics. Republicans won three-fourths of the seats. About 15 percent of the Republican delegates to the conventions were Northerners who had moved south, 25 percent were African Americans, and 60 percent were white Southerners. As a British visitor observed, the delegate elections reflected “the mighty


revolution that had taken place in America.” The conventions brought together serious, purposeful men who

hammered out the legal framework for a new order. The reconstruction constitutions introduced two broad categories of changes in the South: those that reduced aristocratic privilege and increased democratic equality and those that expanded the state’s responsibility for the general welfare. In the first category, the constitutions adopted universal male suffrage, abolished property qualifications for holding office, and made more offices elective and fewer appointed. In the second category, they enacted prison reform; made the state responsible for caring for orphans, the insane, and the deaf and mute; and exempted debtors’ homes from seizure.

To Democrats, however, these progressive constitutions looked like wild revolution. They were blind to the fact that no constitution confiscated and redistributed land, as virtually every former slave wished, or disfranchised ex-rebels wholesale, as most southern Unionists advocated. And Democrats were convinced that the new constitutions initiated “Negro domination.” In fact, although 80 percent of Republican voters were black men, only 6 percent of Southerners in Congress during Reconstruction were black. The sixteen black men in Congress included exceptional men, such as Representative James T. Rapier of Alabama (see pages 401–3). No state legislature experienced “Negro rule,” despite black majorities in the populations of some states.

Southern voters ratified the new constitutions and swept Republicans into power. When the former Confederate states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress readmitted them. Southern Republicans then turned to a staggering array of problems. Wartime destruction littered the landscape. Making matters worse, racial harassment and reactionary violence dogged Southerners who sought reform. Democrats mocked Republican officeholders as ignorant field hands who had only “agricultural degrees” and “brick yard diplomas,” but Republicans began a serious effort to rebuild and reform the region.

Activity focused on three areas — education, civil rights, and economic development. Every state inaugurated a system of public education. Before the Civil War, whites had deliberately kept slaves illiterate, and planter-dominated governments rarely spent tax money to educate the children of yeomen. By 1875, half of Mississippi’s and South Carolina’s eligible children were attending school. Although schools were underfunded, literacy rates rose sharply. Public schools were racially segregated, but education remained for many blacks a tangible, deeply satisfying benefit of freedom and Republican rule.


State legislatures also attacked racial discrimination and defended civil rights. Republicans especially resisted efforts to segregate blacks from whites in public transportation. Mississippi levied fines and jail terms for owners of railroads and steamboats that pushed blacks into “smoking cars” or to lower decks. But passing color-blind laws was one thing; enforcing them was another. A Mississippian complained: “Education amounts to nothing, good behavior counts for nothing, even money cannot buy for a colored man or woman decent treatment and the comforts that white people claim and can obtain.” Despite the laws, segregation — later called Jim Crow — developed at white insistence. Determined to underscore the social inferiority of blacks, whites saw to it that separation by race became a feature of southern life long before the end of the Reconstruction era.

Republican governments also launched ambitious programs of economic development. They envisioned a South of diversified agriculture, roaring factories, and booming towns. State legislatures chartered scores of banks and industrial companies, appropriated funds to fix ruined levees and drain swamps, and went on a railroad-building binge. These efforts fell far short of solving the South’s economic troubles, however. Republican spending to stimulate economic growth also meant rising taxes and enormous debt that siphoned funds from schools and other programs.

The southern Republicans’ record, then, was mixed. To their credit, the biracial party adopted an ambitious agenda to change the South. But money was scarce, the Democrats continued their harassment, and factionalism threatened the Republican Party from within. Moreover, corruption infected Republican governments. Nonetheless, the Republican Party made headway in its efforts to purge the South of aristocratic privilege and racist oppression. Republican governments had less success in overthrowing the long-established white oppression of black farm laborers in the rural South.

White Landlords, Black Sharecroppers Ex-slaves who wished to escape slave labor and ex-masters who wanted to reinstitute old ways clashed repeatedly. Except for having to pay subsistence wages, planters had not been required to offer many concessions to emancipation. They continued to believe that African Americans would not work without coercion. A Tennessee man declared two years after the war ended that blacks were “a trifling set of lazy devils who will never make a living without Masters.” Whites moved quickly to restore as much of slavery as they could get away with.


Ex-slaves resisted every effort to turn back the clock. They argued that if any class could be described as “lazy,” it was the planters, who, as one former slave noted, “lived in idleness all their lives on stolen labor.” Freedmen believed that land of their own would anchor their economic independence and end planters’ interference in their personal lives. They could then, for example, make their own decisions about whether women and children would labor in the fields. Indeed, within months after the war, perhaps one-third of black women abandoned field labor to work on chores in their own cabins just as poor white women did. Black women also negotiated about work ex-mistresses wanted done in the big house. Hundreds of thousands of black children enrolled in school. But without their own land, ex-slaves had little choice but to work on plantations.

Black Woman in Cotton Fields, Thomasville, Georgia Few images of everyday black women during the Reconstruction era survive. This 1895 photograph poignantly depicts the post–Civil War labor struggle, when white landlords wanted emancipated slaves to continue working in the fields. Freedom allowed some women to escape field labor, but not this Georgian. Her headdress protected her from the fierce heat, and her bare feet reveal the hardships of her life. Courtesy, Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection tho096.


Although forced to return to the planters’ fields, they resisted efforts to restore slavelike conditions. Instead of working for wages, a South Carolinian observed, “the negroes all seem disposed to rent land,” which increased their independence from whites. Out of this tug-of-war between white landlords and black laborers emerged a new system of southern agriculture.

Sharecropping was a compromise that offered something to both ex- masters and ex-slaves but satisfied neither. Under the new system, planters divided their cotton plantations into small farms that freedmen rented, paying with a share of each year’s crop, usually half. Sharecropping gave blacks more freedom than the system of wages and labor gangs and released them from day-to-day supervision by whites. Black families abandoned the old slave quarters and built separate cabins for themselves on the patches of land they rented (Map 16.1). Still, most black families remained dependent on white landlords, who had the power to evict them at the end of each growing season. For planters, sharecropping offered a way to resume agricultural production, but it did not allow them to restore the old slave plantation.

MAP 16.1 A Southern Plantation in 1860 and 1881 These maps of the Barrow plantation in Georgia illustrate some of the ways in which ex-slaves expressed their freedom. Freedmen and freedwomen deserted the clustered living quarters behind the master’s house, scattered over the plantation, built family cabins, and farmed rented land. The former Barrow slaves also worked together to build a school and a church.


Sharecropping introduced the country merchant into the agricultural equation. Landlords supplied sharecroppers with land, mules, seeds, and tools, but blacks also needed credit to obtain essential food and clothing before they harvested their crops. Under an arrangement called a crop lien, a merchant would advance goods to a sharecropper in exchange for a lien, or legal claim, on the farmer’s future crop. Some merchants charged exorbitant rates of interest, as much as 60 percent, on the goods they sold. At the end of the growing season, after the landlord had taken half of the farmer’s crop for rent, the merchant took most of the rest. Sometimes, the farmer did not earn enough to repay the debt to the merchant, so he would have to borrow more from the merchant and begin the cycle again.

An experiment at first, sharecropping soon dominated the cotton South. Lien merchants forced tenants to plant cotton, which was easy to sell, instead of food crops. The result was excessive production of cotton and falling cotton prices, developments that cost thousands of small white farmers their land and pushed them into the great army of sharecroppers. The new sharecropping system of agriculture took shape just as the political power of Republicans in the South began to buckle under Democratic pressure.

REVIEW How did politics and economic concerns shape reconstruction in the South?


Reconstruction Collapses By 1870, after a decade of war and reconstruction, Northerners wanted to put “the southern problem” behind them. Practical business-minded men came to dominate the Republican Party, replacing the band of reformers and idealists who had been prominent in the 1860s. Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Andrew Johnson as president in 1869 and quickly became an issue himself, proving that brilliance on the battlefield does not necessarily translate into accomplishment in the White House. As northern commitment to defend black freedom eroded, southern commitment to white supremacy intensified. Without northern protection, southern Republicans were no match for the Democrats’ economic coercion, political fraud, and bloody violence. One by one, Republican state governments fell in the South. The election of 1876 both confirmed and completed the collapse of reconstruction.

Grant’s Troubled Presidency In 1868, the Republican Party’s presidential nomination went to Ulysses S. Grant, the North’s favorite general. His Democratic opponent, Horatio Seymour of New York, ran on a platform that blasted reconstruction as “a flagrant usurpation of power … unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void.” The Republicans answered by “waving the bloody shirt” — that is, they reminded voters that the Democrats were “the party of rebellion.” Despite a reign of terror in the South, costing hundreds of Republicans their lives, Grant gained a narrow 309,000-vote margin in the popular vote and a substantial victory (214 votes to 80) in the electoral college (Map 16.2).

Grant was not as good a president as he was a general. The talents he had demonstrated on the battlefield — decisiveness, clarity, and resolution — were less obvious in the White House. Grant sought both justice for blacks and sectional reconciliation. But he surrounded himself with fumbling kinfolk and old friends from his army days and made a string of dubious appointments that led to a series of damaging scandals. Charges of corruption tainted his vice president, Schuyler Colfax, and brought down two of his cabinet officers. Though never personally implicated in any


scandal, Grant was aggravatingly naive and blind to the rot that filled his administration. Republican congressman James A. Garfield declared: “His imperturbability is amazing. I am in doubt whether to call it greatness or stupidity.”

MAP 16.2 The Election of 1868

In 1872, anti-Grant Republicans bolted and launched the Liberal Party. To clean up the graft and corruption, Liberals proposed ending the spoils system, by which victorious parties rewarded loyal workers with public office, and replacing it with a nonpartisan civil service commission that would oversee competitive examinations for appointment to office (as discussed in chapter 18). Liberals also demanded that the federal government remove its troops from the South and restore “home rule” (southern white control). Democrats liked the Liberals’ southern policy and endorsed the Liberal presidential candidate, Horace Greeley, the longtime editor of the New York Tribune. The nation, however, still felt enormous affection for the man who had saved the Union and reelected Grant with 56 percent of the popular vote.

Northern Resolve Withers Although Grant genuinely wanted to see blacks’ civil and political rights protected, he understood that most Northerners had grown weary of reconstruction and were increasingly willing to let southern whites manage their own affairs. Citizens wanted to shift their attention to other issues, especially after the nation slipped into a devastating economic depression in 1873. More than eighteen thousand businesses collapsed, leaving more


than a million workers on the streets. Northern businessmen wanted to invest in the South but believed that recurrent federal intrusion was itself a major cause of instability in the region. Republican leaders began to question the wisdom of their party’s alliance with the South’s lower classes — its small farmers and sharecroppers. One member of Grant’s administration proposed allying with the “thinking and influential native southerners … the intelligent, well-to-do, and controlling class.”

Congress, too, wanted to leave reconstruction behind, but southern Republicans made that difficult. When the South’s Republicans begged for federal protection from increasing Klan violence, Congress enacted three laws in 1870 and 1871 that were intended to break the back of white terrorism. The severest of the three, the Ku Klux Klan Act (1871), made interference with voting rights a felony. Federal marshals arrested thousands of Klansmen and came close to destroying the Klan, but they did not end all terrorism against blacks. Congress also passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which boldly outlawed racial discrimination in transportation, public accommodations, and juries. But federal authorities never enforced the law aggressively, and segregation remained the rule throughout the South.

By the early 1870s, the Republican Party had lost its leading champions of African American rights to death or defeat at the polls. Other Republicans concluded that the quest for black equality was mistaken or hopelessly naive. In May 1872, Congress restored the right of officeholding to all but three hundred ex-rebels. Many Republicans had come to believe that traditional white leaders offered the best hope for honesty, order, and prosperity in the South.

Underlying the North’s abandonment of reconstruction was unyielding racial prejudice. Northerners had learned to accept black freedom during the war, but deep-seated prejudice prevented many from accepting black equality. Even the actions they took on behalf of blacks often served partisan political advantage. Northerners generally supported Indiana senator Thomas A. Hendricks’s harsh declaration that “this is a white man’s Government, made by the white man for the white man.”

The U.S. Supreme Court also did its part to undermine reconstruction. The Court issued a series of decisions that significantly weakened the federal government’s ability to protect black Southerners. In the Slaughterhouse cases (1873), the Court distinguished between national and state citizenship and ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment protected only those rights that stemmed from the federal government, such as voting in federal elections and interstate travel. Since the Court decided that most


rights derived from the states, it sharply curtailed the federal government’s authority to defend black citizens. Even more devastating, the United States v. Cruikshank ruling (1876) said that the reconstruction amendments gave Congress the power to legislate against discrimination only by states, not by individuals. The “suppression of ordinary crime,” such as assault, remained a state responsibility. The Supreme Court did not declare reconstruction unconstitutional but eroded its legal foundation.

The mood of the North found political expression in the election of 1874, when for the first time in eighteen years the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. As one Republican observed, the people had grown tired of the “negro question, with all its complications, and the reconstruction of Southern States, with all its interminable embroilments.” Reconstruction had come apart. Rather than defend reconstruction from its southern enemies, Northerners steadily backed away from the challenge. By the early 1870s, southern Republicans faced the forces of reaction largely on their own.

White Supremacy Triumphs Reconstruction was a massive humiliation to most white Southerners. Republican rule meant intolerable insults: Black militiamen patrolled town streets, black laborers negotiated contracts with former masters, black maids stood up to former mistresses, black voters cast ballots, and black legislators such as James T. Rapier enacted laws. Whites fought back by extolling the “great Confederate cause,” or Lost Cause. They celebrated their soldiers, “the noblest band of men who ever fought,” and by making an idol of Robert E. Lee, the embodiment of the southern gentleman.

But the most important way white Southerners responded to reconstruction was their assault on Republican governments in the South. These Republican governments attracted more hatred than did any other political regimes in American history. The northern retreat from reconstruction permitted southern Democrats to set things right. Taking the name Redeemers, Democrats in the South promised to replace “bayonet rule” (a few federal troops continued to be stationed in the South) with “home rule.” They promised that honest, thrifty Democrats would supplant corrupt tax-and-spend Republicans. Above all, Redeemers swore to save southern civilization from a descent into “African barbarism.” As one man put it, “We must render this either a white man’s government, or convert the land into a Negro man’s cemetery.”

Southern Democrats adopted a multipronged strategy to overthrow


Republican governments. First, they sought to polarize the parties around race. They went about gathering all the South’s white voters into the Democratic Party, leaving the Republicans to depend on blacks, who made up a minority of the population in almost every southern state. To dislodge whites from the Republican Party, Democrats fanned the flames of racism. A South Carolina Democrat crowed that his party appealed to the “proud Caucasian race, whose sovereignty on earth God has proclaimed.” Ostracism also proved effective. Local newspapers published the names of whites who kept company with blacks. So complete was the ostracism that one of its victims said, “No white man can live in the South in the future and act with any other than the Democratic party unless he is willing and prepared to live a life of social isolation.”

Democrats also exploited the severe economic plight of small white farmers by blaming it on Republican financial policy. Government spending soared during Reconstruction, and small farmers saw their tax burden skyrocket. “This is tax time,” a South Carolinian reported. “We are nearly all on our head about them. They are so high & so little money to pay with” that farmers were “selling every egg and chicken they can get.” In 1871, Mississippi reported that one-seventh of the state’s land — 3.3 million acres — had been forfeited for nonpayment of taxes. The small farmers’ economic distress had a racial dimension. Because few freedmen succeeded in acquiring land, they rarely paid taxes. In Georgia in 1874, blacks made up 45 percent of the population but paid only 2 percent of the taxes. From the perspective of a small white farmer, Republican rule meant that he was paying more taxes and paying them to aid blacks.

If racial pride, social isolation, and financial hardship proved insufficient to drive yeomen from the Republican Party, Democrats turned to terrorism. “Night riders” targeted white Republicans as well as blacks for murder and assassination. Whether white or black, a “dead Radical is very harmless,” South Carolina Democratic leader Martin Gary told his followers.

But the primary victims of white violence were black Republicans. Violence escalated to an unprecedented ferocity on Easter Sunday in 1873 in tiny Colfax, Louisiana. The black majority in the area had made Colfax a Republican stronghold until 1872, when Democrats turned to intimidation and fraud to win the local election. Republicans refused to accept the result and occupied the courthouse in the middle of the town. After three weeks, 165 white men attacked. They overran the Republicans’ defenses and set the courthouse on fire. When the blacks tried to surrender, the whites murdered them. At least 81 black men were slaughtered that


day. Although the federal government indicted the attackers, the Supreme Court ruled that it did not have the right to prosecute. And since local whites would not prosecute neighbors who killed blacks, the defendants in the Colfax massacre went free.

Even before adopting the all-out white supremacist tactics of the 1870s, Democrats had taken control of the governments of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The new campaign brought fresh gains. The Redeemers retook Georgia in 1871, Texas in 1873, and Arkansas and Alabama in 1874. As the state election approached in Mississippi in 1876, Governor Adelbert Ames appealed to Washington for federal troops to control the violence, only to hear from the attorney general that the “whole public are tired of these annual autumnal outbreaks in the South.” Abandoned, Mississippi Republicans succumbed to the Democratic onslaught in the fall elections. By 1876, only three Republican state governments survived in the South (Map 16.3).

MAP 16.3 The Reconstruction of the South Myth has it that Republican rule of the former Confederacy was not only harsh but long. In most states, however, conservative southern whites stormed back into power in months or just a few years. By the election of 1876, Republican governments could be found in only three states, and they soon fell.

An Election and a Compromise The year 1876 witnessed one of the most tumultuous elections in American history. The election took place in November, but not until


March 2 of the following year did the nation know who would be inaugurated president on March 4. Sixteen years after Lincoln’s election, Americans feared that a presidential election would again precipitate civil war.

The Democrats nominated New York’s governor, Samuel J. Tilden, who immediately targeted the corruption of the Grant administration and the “despotism” of Republican reconstruction. The Republicans put forward Rutherford B. Hayes, governor of Ohio. Privately, Hayes considered “bayonet rule” a mistake but concluded that waving the bloody shirt remained the Republicans’ best political strategy.

On election day, Tilden tallied 4,288,590 votes to Hayes’s 4,036,298. But in the all-important electoral college, Tilden fell one vote short of the majority required for victory. The electoral votes of three states — South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, the only remaining Republican governments in the South — remained in doubt because both Republicans and Democrats in those states claimed victory. To win, Tilden needed only one of the nineteen contested votes. Hayes had to have all of them.

Congress had to decide who had actually won the elections in the three southern states and thus who would be president. The Constitution provided no guidance for this situation. Moreover, Democrats controlled the House, and Republicans controlled the Senate. Congress created a special electoral commission to arbitrate the disputed returns. All of the commissioners voted their party affiliation, giving every state to the Republican Hayes and putting him over the top in electoral votes (Map 16.4).

MAP 16.4 The Election of 1876


Some outraged Democrats vowed to resist Hayes’s victory. Rumors flew of an impending coup and renewed civil war. But the impasse was broken when negotiations behind the scenes resulted in an informal understanding known as the Compromise of 1877. In exchange for a Democratic promise not to block Hayes’s inauguration and to deal fairly with the freedmen, Hayes vowed to refrain from using the army to uphold the remaining Republican regimes in the South and to provide the South with substantial federal subsidies for railroads.

Stubborn Tilden supporters bemoaned the “stolen election” and damned “His Fraudulency,” Rutherford B. Hayes. Old-guard Radicals such as William Lloyd Garrison denounced Hayes’s bargain as a “policy of compromise, of credulity, of weakness, of subserviency, of surrender.” But the nation as a whole celebrated, for the country had weathered a grave crisis. The last three Republican state governments in the South fell quickly once Hayes abandoned them and withdrew the U.S. Army. Reconstruction came to an end.

REVIEW Why did northern support for Reconstruction collapse?


Conclusion: “A Revolution but Half Accomplished” In 1865, when General Carl Schurz visited the South, he discovered “a revolution but half accomplished.” White Southerners resisted the passage from slavery to free labor, from white racial despotism to equal justice, and from white political monopoly to biracial democracy. The old elite wanted to get “things back as near to slavery as possible,” Schurz reported, while African Americans such as James T. Rapier and some whites were eager to exploit the revolutionary implications of defeat and emancipation.

Although the northern-dominated Republican Congress refused to provide for blacks’ economic welfare, it employed constitutional amendments to require ex-Confederates to accept legal equality and share political power with black men. Congress was not willing to extend such power to women, however. Conservative southern whites fought ferociously to recover their power and privilege. When Democrats regained control of politics, whites used both state power and private violence to wipe out many of the gains of Reconstruction, leading one observer to conclude that the North had won the war but the South had won the peace.

The Redeemer counterrevolution, however, did not mean a return to slavery. Northern victory in the Civil War ensured that ex-slaves no longer faced the auction block and could send their children to school, worship in their own churches, and work independently on their own rented farms. Sharecropping, with all its hardships, provided more autonomy and economic welfare than bondage had. It was limited freedom, to be sure, but it was not slavery.

The Civil War and emancipation set in motion the most profound upheaval in the nation’s history. War destroyed the largest slave society in the New World and gave birth to a modern nation-state. The world of masters and slaves gave way to that of landlords and sharecroppers. Washington increased its role in national affairs, and the victorious North set the nation’s compass toward the expansion of industrial capitalism and the final conquest of the West.


Despite massive changes, however, the Civil War remained only a “half accomplished” revolution. By not fulfilling the promises the nation seemed to hold out to black Americans at war’s end, Reconstruction represents a tragedy of enormous proportions. The failure to protect blacks and guarantee their rights had enduring consequences. It was the failure of the first reconstruction that made the modern civil rights movement necessary.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Freedmen’s Bureau (p. 405) black codes (p. 407) Civil Rights Act of 1866 (p. 409) Fourteenth Amendment (p. 409) Military Reconstruction Act (p. 411) Fifteenth Amendment (p. 413) carpetbagger (p. 414) scalawag (p. 414) Ku Klux Klan (p. 415) sharecropping (p. 417) Redeemers (p. 421) Compromise of 1877 (p. 424)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. To what extent did Lincoln’s wartime plan for reconstruction

reflect the concerns of newly freed slaves? (pp. 403–6) 2. When the southern states passed the black codes, how did the

U.S. Congress respond? (pp. 406–9) 3. Why did Congress impeach President Andrew Johnson? (pp.

409–13) 4. How did politics and economic concerns shape reconstruction

in the South? (pp. 414–18)


5. Why did northern support for reconstruction collapse? (pp. 419–24)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Why and how did the federal government retreat from

defending African Americans’ civil rights in the 1870s? 2. Why was distributing plantation land to former slaves such a

controversial policy? Why did Congress reject redistribution as a general policy?

3. After emancipation, how did ex-slaves exercise their new freedoms, and how did white Southerners attempt to limit them?

4. How did the identification of the Republican Party with reconstruction policy affect the party’s political fortunes in the 1870s?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. In what ways did the attitudes and actions of President Johnson

increase northern resolve to reconstruct the South and the South’s resolve to resist reconstruction?

2. White women, abolitionists, and blacks all had hopes for a brighter future that were in some ways dashed during the turmoil of reconstruction. What specific goals of these groups slipped away? What political allies abandoned their causes, and why?


1863 • Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction pardons most rebels.

1864 • Lincoln refuses to sign Wade-Davis bill. 1865 • Freedmen’s Bureau established.

• Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes president.

• First black codes enacted.


• Thirteenth Amendment becomes part of Constitution. 1866 • Congress approves Fourteenth Amendment.

• Civil Rights Act passes. • American Equal Rights Association founded. • Ku Klux Klan founded.

1867 • Military Reconstruction Act passes. • Tenure of Office Act passes.

1868 • Impeachment trial of President Johnson held. • Ulysses S. Grant elected president.

1869 • Congress approves Fifteenth Amendment. 1871 • Ku Klux Klan Act passes. 1872 • Liberal Party formed.

• President Grant reelected. 1873 • Economic depression sets in.

• Slaughterhouse cases decided. • Colfax massacre kills more than eighty blacks.

1874 • Democrats win majority in House of Representatives. 1875 • Civil Rights Act passes. 1876 • United States v. Cruikshank decided. 1877 • Rutherford B. Hayes becomes president; Reconstruction

era ends.


17 The Contested West 1865–1900


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Explain federal policies toward Native Americans during the last

decades of the nineteenth century. Describe how Native Americans resisted these policies and how the government quashed these acts of resistance.

◆ Recount how the late-nineteenth-century frenzy for gold and silver in the West transformed the region and explain how the development of the western mining industry mirrored the processes of industrialization in other parts of the country.

◆ Identify who worked and settled in the West and why they were drawn there.

◆ Describe the ways in which farming became increasingly commercialized and ranching became increasingly industrialized.

TO CELEBRATE THE 400TH ANNIVERSARY OF COLUMBUS’S VOYAGE to the New World, Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, creating a magical White City on the shores of Lake Michigan. Among the organizations vying to hold meetings at the fair was the American Historical Association, whose members gathered on a warm July evening to hear Frederick Jackson Turner deliver his


landmark essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Turner began by noting that the 1890 census no longer discerned a clear frontier line. His tone was elegiac: “The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of settlement westward,” he observed, “explained American development.”

Of course, west has always been a comparative term in American history. Until the gold rush focused attention on California, the West for settlers lay beyond the Appalachians. But by the second half of the nineteenth century, the West stretched from Canada to Mexico, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

Turner, who originally studied the old frontier east of the Mississippi, viewed the West as a process as much as a place. The availability of land provided a “safety valve,” releasing social tensions and providing opportunities for social mobility that worked to Americanize Americans. Turner’s West demanded strength and nerve, fostered invention and adaptation, and produced self- confident, individualistic Americans. His frontier thesis underscored the exceptionalism of America’s history, highlighting its difference from the rest of the world. His “frontier thesis” would earn him a professorship at Harvard and a permanent place in American history.

Yet the historians who applauded Turner in Chicago had short memories. That afternoon, many had crossed the midway to attend Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West extravaganza — a cowboys-and- Indians shoot-’em-up. The historians cheering in the stands that hot afternoon no doubt dismissed Buffalo Bill’s history as amateur, but he made a point that Turner’s thesis ignored: The West was neither free nor open. It was the story of a fierce and violent contest for land and resources.

In the decades following the Civil War, the United States pursued empire in the American West in Indian wars that lasted until 1890. Pushed off their land and onto reservations, Native Americans resisted as they faced waves of miners and settlers as well as the degradation of the environment by railroads, mines, barbed wire, and mechanized agriculture. The pastoral agrarianism Turner celebrated in his frontier thesis clashed with the urban, industrial West emerging on the Comstock Lode in Nevada and in the commercial farms of California.

Buffalo Bill’s mythic West, with its heroic cowboys and noble savages, also obscured the complex reality of the West as a fiercely contested terrain. Competing groups of Anglos, Hispanics, former


slaves, Chinese, and a host of others arrived seeking the promise of land and riches, while the Indians struggled to preserve their cultural identities. Turner’s rugged white “frontiersman” masked racial diversity and failed to acknowledge the role of women in community building.

Yet in the waning decade of the nineteenth century, as history blurred with nostalgia, Turner’s evocation of the frontier as a crucible for American identity hit a nerve in a population facing rapid changes. A major depression started even before the Columbian Exposition opened its doors. Americans worried about the economy, immigration, and urban industrialism found in Turner’s message a new cause for concern. Would America continue to be America now that the frontier was closed? Were the problems confronting the United States at the turn of the twentieth century — the exploitation of land and labor, the consolidation of capital, and vicious ethnic and racial rivalries — destined to play out under western skies?


Conquest and Empire in the West While the European powers expanded their authority and wealth through imperialism and colonialism in far-flung empires abroad, the United States focused its attention on its own western lands. From the U.S. Army attack on the remainder of the Comanche empire to the conquest of the Black Hills, whites pushed Indians aside as they moved West. As posited by Frederick Jackson Turner, American exceptionalism stressed how the history of the United States differed from that of European nations, citing America’s western frontier as a cause. Yet expansion in the trans- Mississippi West involved the conquest, displacement, and rule over native peoples — a process best understood in the global context of imperialism and colonialism.

The U.S. government, through trickery and conquest, pushed tribes off their lands (Map 17.1) and onto designated Indian territories or reservations. The Indian wars depleted the Native American population and handed most Indian land to white settlers. The decimation of the bison herds pushed the Plains Indians onto reservations, where they lived as wards of the state. Thus did the United States, committed to an imperialist, expansionist ideology, colonize the West.

Indian Removal and the Reservation System Manifest destiny — the belief that the United States had a “God-given” right to aggressively spread the values of white civilization and expand the nation from ocean to ocean — dictated U.S. policy toward Indians and other nations. In the name of manifest destiny, Americans forced the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes of the South (the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole peoples) to Oklahoma in the 1830s; colonized Texas and won its independence from Mexico in 1836; conquered California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Utah and Colorado in the Mexican-American War of 1846–1848; invaded Oregon in the mid-1840s; and paid Mexico for land in Arizona and New Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase of 1854.

By midcentury, western lands no longer seemed inexhaustible. Hordes


of settlers crossed the Great Plains on their way to the goldfields of California or the rich farmland of Washington and Oregon. In their path stood a solid wall of Indian land. To solve this “Indian problem,” the U.S. government took Indian lands with the promise to pay annuities in return and put the Indians on lands reserved for their use — reservations. In 1851, some ten thousand Plains Indians came together at Fort Laramie in Wyoming to negotiate a treaty that ceded a wide swath of their land to allow passage to the West. In return, the government promised that the remaining Indian land would remain inviolate.

MAP 17.1 The Loss of Indian Lands, 1850–1890 By 1890, western Indians were isolated on small, scattered reservations. Native Americans had struggled to retain their land in major battles, from the Great Sioux Uprising in Minnesota in 1862 to the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.

The Indians who “touched the pen” to the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie hoped to preserve their land and culture in the face of the white onslaught. Settlers and miners cut down trees, polluted streams, and killed off the bison. Whites brought alcohol, guns, and something even more deadly — disease. Between 1780 and 1870, the population of the Plains tribes declined by half. “If I could see this thing, if I knew where it came from, I would go there and fight it,” a Cheyenne warrior anguished. Disease shifted the power from Woodland agrarian tribes, whose proximity to


whites meant they died at high rates, to the Lakota (Western) Sioux, who fled the contagion by pursuing an equestrian nomadic existence that displaced weaker tribes in the western plains.

In the Southwest, the Navajo people, in a removal similar to that of the Cherokee in the 1830s, endured a forced march called the “Long Walk” from their homeland to the desolate Bosque Redondo Reservation in New Mexico in 1864. “This ground we were brought on, it is not productive,” complained the Navajo leader Barboncito. “All the stock we brought here have nearly all died.”

Poverty and starvation stalked the reservations. Confined by armed force, the Indians eked out an existence on stingy government rations. Styled as stepping-stones to “civilization,” Indian reservations closely resembled colonial societies where native populations, ruled by outside bureaucrats, saw their culture assaulted, their religious practices outlawed, their children sent away to school, and their way of life attacked in the name of progress.

To Americans raised on theories of racial superiority, the Indians constituted, in the words of one Colorado militia major, “an obstacle to civilization … [and] should be exterminated.” This attitude pervaded the military. As a result, the massacre of Native American men, women, and children became commonplace in the West. In November 1864 at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory, Colonel John M. Chivington and his Colorado militia descended on a village of Cheyenne, mostly women and children. Their leader, Black Kettle, raised a white flag and an American flag to signal surrender, but the charging cavalry ignored his signal and butchered 270 Indians. Chivington watched as his men scalped and mutilated their victims and later justified the killing of Indian children with the terse remark, “Nits make lice.” The city of Denver treated Chivington and his men as heroes, but a congressional inquiry eventually castigated the soldiers for their “fiendish malignity” and condemned the “savage cruelty” of the massacre. Four years later, Black Kettle, who had survived Sand Creek, died in another massacre when George Armstrong Custer slaughtered more than one hundred people on the banks of the Washita River in Oklahoma.

The Decimation of the Great Bison Herds After the Civil War, the accelerating pace of industrial expansion brought about the near extinction of the American bison (buffalo). By 1850, the dynamic ecology of the Great Plains, with its droughts, fires, and


blizzards, along with the demands of Indian buffalo-robe traders as well as whites and their cattle, had driven the bison herds onto the far western plains.

In the 1870s, industrial demand for heavy leather belting used in machinery and the development of larger, more accurate rifles combined to hasten the slaughter of the bison. The nation’s transcontinental railroad systems cut the range in two and divided the dwindling herds. For the Sioux and other nomadic tribes of the plains, the buffalo constituted a way of life — a source of food, fuel, and shelter and a central part of religion and ritual. Railroad owners, however, considered bison a nuisance — at best a cheap source of meat for their workers and a target for sport.

Although the army took credit for the conquest of the Plains Indians, the decimation of the great bison herds was largely responsible for the Indians’ fate. With their food supply gone, Indians had to choose between starvation and the reservation. “A cold wind blew across the prairie when the last buffalo fell,” the great Sioux leader Sitting Bull lamented, “a death wind for my people.”

On the southern plains in 1867, more than five thousand warring Comanches, Kiowas, and Southern Arapahos gathered at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas to negotiate the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, hoping to preserve limited land and hunting by moving the tribe to a reservation. Three years after the treaty became law, hide hunters poured into the region; within a decade, they had nearly exterminated the southern bison herds. Luther Standing Bear recounted the sight and stench: “I saw the bodies of hundreds of dead buffalo lying about, just wasting, and the odor was terrible…. They were letting our food lie on the plains to rot.” Once an estimated 40 million bison roamed the West; by 1895, fewer than 1,000 remained. With the buffalo gone, the Indians faced starvation and reluctantly moved onto the reservations.

Indian Wars and the Collapse of Comanchería The Indian wars in the West marked the last resistance of a Native American population devastated by disease and demoralized by the federal government’s reservation policy. The Dakota Sioux in Minnesota went to war in 1862. For years, under the leadership of Chief Little Crow, the Dakota — also known as the Santee — had pursued a policy of accommodation, ceding land in return for the promise of annuities. But with his people on the verge of starvation (the local Indian agent told the hungry Dakota, “Go and eat grass”), Little Crow led his angry warriors in


a desperate campaign against the intruders, killing more than 1,000 settlers. American troops quelled the Great Sioux Uprising (also called the Santee Uprising) and marched 1,700 Sioux to Fort Snelling, where 400 Indians were put on trial for murder and 38 died in the largest mass execution in American history.

Further west, the great Indian empire of Comanchería had once stretched from the Canadian plains to Mexico. By 1865, after two decades of what one historian has labeled “ethnic cleansing,” fewer than five thousand Comanches remained in west Texas and Oklahoma. Through decades of dealings with the Spanish and French, the Comanche had built a complex empire based on trade in horses, hides, guns, and captives. Expert riders, the Comanche waged war in the saddle, giving the U.S. Cavalry reason to hate and fear them.

After the Civil War, President Ulysses S. Grant faced the prospect of protracted Indian war. Reluctant to spend more money and sacrifice more lives, Grant adopted a “peace policy” designed to segregate and control the Indians while opening up land to white settlers. This policy won the support of both friends of the Indians and those who coveted the Indians’ land. The army herded the Indians onto reservations (see Map 17.1), where the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs hired agents who, in the words of Paiute Sarah Winnemucca, did “nothing but fill their pockets.” In 1871, Congress determined to no longer deal with Indians as sovereign nations but to eliminate treaties and treat Indians as wards of the state. Grant’s peace policy in the West gave way to all-out warfare as the U.S. Army dispatched 3,000 soldiers to wipe out the remains of Comanchería. Raiding parties of Comanche virtually obliterated white settlements in west Texas. To defeat the Indians, the army adopted the practice of burning and destroying everything in its path, using the tactics that General William Tecumseh Sherman had perfected in his march through Georgia during the Civil War. At the decisive battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1874, only three Comanche warriors died in battle, but U.S. soldiers took the Indians’ camp; burned more than 200 tepees, hundreds of robes and blankets, and thousands of pounds of winter supplies; and shot more than 1,000 horses. Coupled with the decimation of the bison, the army’s scorched-earth policy led to the final collapse of the Comanche people. The surviving Indians of Comanchería, now numbering fewer than 1,500, reluctantly retreated to the reservation at Fort Sill.

The Fight for the Black Hills On the northern plains, the fever for gold fueled the conflict between


Indians and Euro-Americans. In 1866, the Cheyenne united with the Sioux in Wyoming to protect their hunting grounds in the Powder River valley, which were threatened by the construction of the Bozeman Trail connecting Fort Laramie with the goldfields in Montana. Captain William Fetterman, who had boasted that with eighty men he could ride through the Sioux nation, died along with all of his troops at the hands of the Sioux. The Indians’ impressive victories led to the second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, in which the United States agreed to abandon the Bozeman Trail and guaranteed the Indians control of the Black Hills, land sacred to the Lakota Sioux.

The government’s fork-tongued promises induced some of the tribes to accept the treaty. The great Sioux chief Red Cloud led many of his people onto the reservation. Red Cloud soon regretted his decision. “Think of it!” he told a visitor to the Pine Ridge Reservation. “I, who used to own … country so extensive that I could not ride through it in a week … must tell Washington when I am hungry. I must beg for that which I own.” On a visit to Washington, D.C., in 1870, Red Cloud told the secretary of the interior, “We are melting like snow on the hillside, while you are grown like spring grass…. When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him.” As leadership of the Sioux passed to a new generation, younger chiefs, among them Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, refused to sign the treaty and called for armed resistance. Crazy Horse later declared that he wanted no part of the “piecemeal penning” of his people.

In 1874, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills led the government to break its promise to Red Cloud. Miners began pouring into the Dakotas, and the Northern Pacific Railroad made plans to lay track. At first, the government offered to purchase the Black Hills. But the Lakota Sioux refused to sell. The army responded by issuing an ultimatum ordering all Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne bands onto the Pine Ridge Reservation and threatening to hunt down those who refused.

In the summer of 1876, the army launched a three-pronged attack led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, General George Crook, and Colonel John Gibbon. Crazy Horse stopped Crook at the Battle of the Rosebud. Custer, leading the second prong of the army’s offensive, divided his troops and ordered an attack. On June 25, he spotted signs of the Indians’ camp. Crying “Hurrah boys, we’ve got them,” he led 265 men of the Seventh Cavalry into the largest gathering of Indians ever assembled on the Great Plains (more than 8,000), camped along the banks of the Greasy Grass River. Indian warriors led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse


set upon Custer and his men and quickly annihilated them. “It took us about as long as a hungry man to eat his dinner,” the Cheyenne chief Two Moons recalled.

“Custer’s Last Stand,” or the Battle of the Little Big Horn, soon became part of national mythology. But it proved to be the last stand for the Sioux. The nomadic bands that had massed at the Little Big Horn scattered, and the army hunted them down. “Wherever we went,” wrote the Oglala holy man Black Elk, “the soldiers came to kill us.” In 1877, Crazy Horse was captured and killed. Four years later, Sitting Bull surrendered. The government took the Black Hills and confined the Lakota to the reservation. The Sioux never accepted the loss of the Black Hills. In 1923, they filed suit, demanding the return of the land illegally taken from them. After a protracted court battle lasting nearly sixty years, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the government had illegally violated the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Declaring “a more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history,” the Court awarded the tribes $122.5 million. The Sioux refused the settlement and continue to press for the return of the Black Hills.

REVIEW How did the slaughter of the bison contribute to the Plains Indians’ removal to reservations?


Forced Assimilation and Indian Resistance Imperialistic attitudes of whites toward Indians continued to evolve in the late nineteenth century. To “civilize” the Indians, the U.S. government sought to force assimilation on their children. Reservations became increasingly unpopular among whites who coveted Indian land and among friends of the Indians appalled by the conditions on the reservations. A new policy of allotment gained favor. It promised to put Indians on parcels of land, forcing them into farming, and then to redistribute the remaining land to settlers. In the face of this ongoing assault on their way of life, Indians actively resisted, contested, and adapted to colonial rule.

Indian Schools and the War on Indian Culture Indian schools constituted the cultural battleground of the Indian wars in the West, their avowed purpose being, in the words of one of their fervent supporters, “To kill the Indian … and save the man.” In 1877, Congress appropriated funds for Indian education, reasoning, in the words of one congressman, that it was less expensive to educate Indians than to kill them. That education effort focused on Native American boys and girls, from toddlers to teenagers. Virginia’s Hampton Institute, created in 1868 to school newly freed slaves, accepted its first Indian students in 1878. Although many Indian schools operated on the reservations, authorities much preferred boarding facilities that isolated students from the “contamination” of tribal values.

Many Native American parents resisted sending their children away. When all else failed, the military kidnapped the children and sent them off to school. An agent at the Mescalero Apache Agency in Arizona Territory reported in 1886 that “it became necessary to visit the camps unexpectedly with a detachment of police, and seize such children as were proper and take them away to school, willing or unwilling.” The parents put up a struggle. “Some hurried their children off to the mountains or hid them away in camp, and the police had to chase and capture them like so many


wild rabbits,” the agent observed. “This unusual proceeding created quite an outcry. The men were sullen and muttering, the women loud in their lamentations and the children almost out of their wits with fright.”

Once at school, the children were stripped and scrubbed, their clothing and belongings confiscated, and their hair hacked off and doused with kerosene to kill lice. Issued stiff new uniforms, shoes, and what Luther Standing Bear recalled as the “torture” of woolen long underwear, the children often lost not only their possessions but also their names. Children were asked to stand at the blackboard, take a pointer, and select a proper English name, recalled Standing Bear, who immediately became Luther.

The Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, founded in 1879, became the model for later institutions. To encourage assimilation, Carlisle pioneered the “outing system” — sending students to live with white families during summer vacations. The policy reflected the school’s slogan: “To civilize the Indian, get him into civilization. To keep him civilized, let him stay.” The curriculum featured agricultural and manual arts for boys and domestic skills for girls, training designed to eliminate Indians’ dependence on government support.

Merrill Gates, a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners, summed up the goal of Indian education: “To get the Indian out of the blanket and into trousers, — and trousers with a pocket in them, and with a pocket that aches to be filled with dollars!” Gates’s faith in the “civilizing” power of the dollar reflected the unabashed materialism of the age. But the cultural annihilation that Gates cheerfully predicted did not prove so easy.

Despite whites’ efforts, Indians continued being Indians. Even in the “iron routine” of the “civilizing machine” at boarding school, Zitkala-Sa recounted how Indians retained their tribal loyalties and Indian identities. Luther Standing Bear, whose father enrolled him at Carlisle to learn white ways, confessed, “Though my hair had been cut and I wore civilian clothes, I never forsook the blanket.” Students continued to speak tribal languages and attend tribal dances even though the punishment was whipping with a leather belt. The schools themselves ultimately subverted their goal by creating generations of Indians who shared a common language, English, and would later create a pan-Indian reform movement in the Progressive Era.

The Dawes Act and Indian Land Allotment In the 1880s, the practice of rounding up and herding Indians onto reservations lost momentum in favor of allotment — a new policy


designed to encourage assimilation through farming and the ownership of private property. Americans vowing to avenge Custer’s defeat urged the government to get tough with the Indians. Reservations, they argued, took up too much good land that white settlers coveted and forced Americans to support “lazy” reservation Indians. At the same time, people sympathetic to the Indians were appalled at the desperate poverty on the reservations and feared for the Indians’ survival. Helen Hunt Jackson, in her classic work A Century of Dishonor (1881), convinced many readers that the Indians had been treated unfairly. “Our Indian policy,” the New York Times concluded, “is usually spoliation behind the mask of benevolence.”

The Indian Rights Association, a group of mainly white easterners formed in 1882, campaigned for the dismantling of the reservations, now viewed as obstacles to progress. To “cease to treat the Indian as a red man and treat him as a man” meant putting an end to tribal communalism and fostering individualism. “Selfishness,” declared Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts, “is at the bottom of civilization.” Dawes called for “allotment in severalty” — the institution of private property.

In 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Allotment Act, which divided up reservations and allotted parcels of land to individual Indians as private property. Each unmarried Indian man and woman as well as married men and children (married women were excluded) became eligible to receive 160 acres of land from reservation property. Indians who took allotments earned U.S. citizenship. This fostering of individualism through land distribution ultimately dealt a crippling blow to traditional tribal culture.

To protect Indians from land speculators, the government held most of the allotted land in trust — Indians could not sell it for twenty-five years. Since Indian land far surpassed the acreage needed for allotments, the government reserved the right to sell the “surplus” to white settlers. Many Indians sold their allotments and moved to urban areas, where they lost touch with tribal ways.

The Dawes Act effectively reduced Indian land from 138 million acres to a scant 48 million. The legislation, in the words of one critic, worked “to despoil the Indians of their lands and to make them vagabonds on the face of the earth.” By 1890, the United States controlled 97.5 percent of the territory formerly occupied by Native Americans.

Indian Resistance and Survival Faced with the extinction of their entire way of life, different groups of Indians responded in different ways. In the 1870s, Comanche and Kiowa


raiding parties frustrated the U.S. Army by brazenly using the reservations as a seasonal supply base during the winter months. When spring came, they resumed their nomadic hunting as long as there were buffalo to hunt.

Some tribes, including the Crow and Shoshoni, chose to fight alongside the army against their old enemies, the Sioux. The Crow chief Plenty Coups explained why he allied with the United States: “Not because we loved the white man … or because we hated the Sioux … but because we plainly saw that this course was the only one which might save our beautiful country for us.” The Crow and Shoshoni got to stay in their homelands and avoided the fate of other tribes shipped to reservations far away.

Indians who refused to stay on reservations risked being hunted down. The Nez Percé war is perhaps the most harrowing example of the army’s policy. In 1863, the government dictated a treaty drastically reducing Nez Percé land. Most of the chiefs refused to sign the treaty and did not move to the reservation. When the army cracked down in 1877, some eight hundred Nez Percé people, many of them women and children, fled across the mountains of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, heading for the safety of Canada. After a 1,300-mile trek, 50 miles from freedom, they stopped in the Bear Paw Mountains to rest in the snow. The army caught up with them and attacked. Fewer than three hundred of the Indians eluded the army and made it to Canada. Yellow Wolf recalled the plight of those trapped: “Children crying with cold. No fire. There could be no light. Everywhere the crying, the death wail.” After a five-day siege, the Nez Percé leader, Chief Joseph, surrendered. His speech, reported by a white soldier, would become famous. “I am tired of fighting,” he said as he surrendered his rifle. “Our chiefs are killed. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death…. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”


Chief Joseph Chief Joseph came to symbolize the heroic resistance of the Nez Percé. General Nelson Miles promised the Nez Percé that they could return to their homeland if they surrendered. But instead the Nez Percé were shipped off to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In 1879, Chief Joseph traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak for his people. “Let me be a free man,” he pleaded, “free to think and talk and act for myself — and I will obey every law.” National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution (INV 01008900).

In the Southwest, the Apaches resorted to armed resistance. They roamed the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, perfecting a hit-and-run guerrilla warfare that terrorized white settlers and bedeviled the army in the 1870s and 1880s. General George Crook


combined a policy of dogged pursuit with judicious diplomacy. Crook relied on Indian scouts to track the raiding parties, recruiting nearly two hundred Apaches, Navajos, and Paiutes. By 1882, Crook had succeeded in persuading most of the Apaches to settle on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona Territory. A desolate piece of desert inhabited by scorpions and rattlesnakes, San Carlos, in the words of one Apache, was “the worst place in all the great territory stolen from the Apaches.”

Geronimo, a respected shaman (medicine man) of the Chiricahua Apache, refused to stay at San Carlos and repeatedly led raiding parties in the early 1880s. His warriors attacked ranches to obtain ammunition and horses. Among Geronimo’s band was Lozen, a woman who rode with the warriors, armed with a rifle and a cartridge belt. Lozen’s brother, a great chief, described her as being as “strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy.” In the spring of 1885, Geronimo and his followers, including Lozen, went on a ten-month offensive, moving from the Apache sanctuary in the Sierra Madre to raid and burn ranches and towns on both sides of the Mexican border. General Crook caught up with Geronimo in the fall and persuaded him to return to San Carlos, only to have him slip away on the way back to the reservation. Chagrined, Crook resigned his post. General Nelson Miles, Crook’s replacement, adopted a policy of hunt and destroy.

Geronimo’s band of thirty-three Apaches, including women and children, eluded Miles’s troops for more than five months. The pursuit left Miles’s cavalry ragged. Over time, Lieutenant Leonard Wood had discarded his horse and was reduced to wearing nothing “but a pair of canton flannel drawers, and an old blouse, a pair of moccasins and a hat without a crown.” Eventually, Miles’s scouts cornered Geronimo in 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, where he agreed to march north and negotiate a settlement. “We have not slept for six months,” he admitted, “and we are worn out.” Although fewer than three dozen Apaches had been considered “hostile,” when General Miles induced them to surrender, the government rounded up nearly five hundred Apaches and sent them as prisoners to the South. By 1889, more than a quarter of them had died, some as a result of illnesses contracted in the damp lowland climate of Florida and Alabama and some by suicide. Their plight roused public opinion, and in 1892 they were moved to Fort Sill in Oklahoma and later to New Mexico.

Geronimo lived to become something of a celebrity. He appeared at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 and rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905. In a newspaper interview, he confessed, “I want to go to my old home before I die…. Want to go back to the mountains


again. I asked the Great White Father to allow me to go back, but he said no.” None of the Apaches were permitted to return to Arizona; when Geronimo died in 1909, he was buried in Oklahoma.

On the plains, many tribes turned to a nonviolent form of resistance — a compelling new religion called the Ghost Dance. The Paiute shaman Wovoka, drawing on a cult that had developed in the 1870s, combined elements of Christianity and traditional Indian religion to found the Ghost Dance religion in 1889. Wovoka claimed that he had received a vision in which the Great Spirit spoke through him to all Indians, prophesying that if they would unite in the Ghost Dance ritual, whites would be destroyed in an apocalypse and the buffalo would return. His religion, born of despair and with a message of hope, spread like wildfire over the plains. The Ghost Dance was performed in Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, and Indian Territory by tribes as diverse as the Sioux, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Shoshoni. Dancers often went into hypnotic trances, dancing until they dropped from exhaustion.

The Ghost Dance was nonviolent, but it frightened whites, especially when the Sioux taught that wearing a white ghost shirt made Indians immune to soldiers’ bullets. Soon whites began to fear an uprising. “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy,” wrote the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Frantic, he pleaded for reinforcements. “We are at the mercy of these dancers. We need protection, and we need it now.” President Benjamin Harrison dispatched several thousand federal troops to Sioux country to handle any outbreak.

In December 1890, when Sitting Bull attempted to join the Ghost Dance, he was killed by Indian police as they tried to arrest him at his cabin on the Standing Rock Reservation. His people, fleeing the scene, joined with a larger group of Miniconjou Sioux, who were apprehended by the Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s old regiment, near Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. As the Indians laid down their arms, a soldier attempted to take a rifle from a deaf Miniconjou man and the gun went off. The soldiers opened fire. In the ensuing melee, more than two hundred Indian men, women, and children were mowed down in minutes by the army’s brutally efficient Hotchkiss rapid-fire guns. Settler Jules Sandoz surveyed the scene the day after the massacre at Wounded Knee. “Here in ten minutes an entire community was as the buffalo that bleached on the plains,” he wrote. “There was something loose in the world that hated joy and happiness as it hated brightness and color, reducing everything to drab


agony and gray.” It had taken Euro-Americans 250 years to wrest control of the eastern

half of the United States from the Indians. It took them only 40 years to take the western half. The subjugation of the American Indians marked the first chapter in a national mission of empire that would anticipate overseas imperialistic adventures in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific islands.

REVIEW In what ways did different Indian groups defy and resist colonial rule?


Mining the West Mining stood at the center of the quest by the United States for empire in the West. The California gold rush of 1849 touched off the frenzy. The four decades following witnessed equally frenetic rushes for gold and other metals, most notably on the Comstock Lode in Nevada and later in New Mexico, Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah (Map 17.2). At first glance, the mining West may seem much different from the East, but by the 1870s the term urban industrialism described Virginia City, Nevada, as accurately as it did Pittsburgh or Cleveland. A close look at life on the Comstock Lode indicates some of the patterns and paradoxes of western mining. The diversity of peoples drawn to the West by the promise of mining riches and land made the region the most cosmopolitan in the nation, as well as the most contested. And although mining was often a tale of boom and bust, it was also a story of community building.


MAP 17.2 Western Mining, 1848–1890 Rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, and iron larded the mountains of the West. Miners from all over the world flocked to the region. Few struck it rich, but many stayed on as paid workers in the increasingly mechanized corporate mines.

Life on the Comstock Lode By 1859, refugees from California’s played-out goldfields flocked to the Washoe basin in Nevada. While searching for gold, Washoe miners stumbled on the richest vein of silver ore on the continent — the legendary Comstock Lode, named for prospector Henry Comstock.

To exploit even potentially valuable silver claims required capital and expensive technology well beyond the means of the prospector. An active


San Francisco stock market sprang up to finance operations on the Comstock. Shrewd businessmen soon recognized that the easiest way to get rich was to sell their claims or to form mining companies and sell shares of stock. The most unscrupulous mined the wallets of gullible investors by selling shares in bogus mines. Speculation, misrepresentation, and outright thievery ran rampant. In twenty years, more than $300 million poured from the earth in Nevada alone, most of it going to speculators in San Francisco.

The promise of gold and silver drew thousands to the mines of the West. As Mark Twain observed in Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise, “All the peoples of the earth had representative adventures in the Silverland.” Irish, Chinese, Germans, English, Scots, Welsh, Canadians, Mexicans, Italians, Scandinavians, French, Swiss, Chileans, and other South and Central Americans came to share in the bonanza. With them came a sprinkling of Russians, Poles, Greeks, Japanese, Spaniards, Hungarians, Portuguese, Turks, Pacific Islanders, and Moroccans, as well as other North Americans, African Americans, and American Indians. This polyglot population, typical of mining boomtowns, made Virginia City in the 1870s more cosmopolitan than New York or Boston. In the part of Utah Territory that eventually became Nevada, as many as 30 percent of the people came from outside the United States, compared to 25 percent in New York and 21 percent in Massachusetts.

Mining on the Comstock This photo of a miner at work shows the dangers faced on the


Comstock Lode. Without a hard hat or miner’s light, he is working with timbers to shore up the mine shaft. After the discovery of the “Big Bonanza” in 1873, eight years after this picture was taken, silver mines honeycombed the hills of Nevada. National Archives, photo no. 77-KS-1-15.

Irish immigrants formed the largest ethnic group in the mining district. In Virginia City, fully one-third of the population claimed at least one parent from Ireland. Irish women constituted the largest group of women on the Comstock. As servants, boardinghouse owners, and washerwomen, they made up a significant part of the workforce. In contrast, the Chinese community, numbering 642 in 1870, remained overwhelmingly male. Virulent anti-Chinese sentiment barred the men from work in the mines, but despite this, the mining community came to depend on Chinese labor.

The discovery of precious metals on the Comstock spelled disaster for the Indians. No sooner had the miners struck pay dirt than they demanded that army troops “hunt Indians” and establish forts to protect transportation to and from the diggings. This sudden and dramatic intrusion left Nevada’s native tribes — the Northern Paiute and Bannock Shoshoni — exiles in their own land. At first they resisted, but over time they adapted and preserved their culture and identity despite the havoc wreaked by western mining and settlement.

In 1873, Comstock miners uncovered a new vein of ore, a veritable cavern of gold and silver. This “Big Bonanza” speeded the transition from small-scale industry to corporate oligopoly, creating a radically new social and economic environment. The Comstock became a laboratory for new mining technology. Huge stamping mills pulverized rock with pistonlike hammers driven by steam engines. Enormous Cornish pumps sucked water from the mine shafts, and huge ventilators circulated air in the underground chambers. No backwoods mining camp, Virginia City was an industrial center with more than 1,200 stamping mills working on average a ton of ore every day. Almost 400 men worked in milling, nearly 300 labored in manufacturing industries, and roughly 3,000 toiled in the mines. The Gould and Curry mine covered sixty acres. Most of the miners who came to the Comstock ended up as laborers for the big companies.

New technology eliminated some of the dangers of mining but often created new ones. In the hard-rock mines of the West, accidents in the 1870s disabled one out of every thirty miners and killed one in eighty. Ross Moudy, who worked as a miner in Cripple Creek, Colorado, recalled


how a stockholder visiting the mine nearly fell to his death. The terrified visitor told the miner next to him that “instead of being paid $3 a day, they ought to have all the gold they could take out.” On the Comstock Lode, because of the difficulty of obtaining skilled labor, the richness of the ore, and the need for a stable workforce, labor unions formed early and held considerable bargaining power. Comstock miners commanded $4 a day, the highest wage in the mining West.

The mining towns of the “Wild West” are often portrayed as lawless outposts, filled with saloons and rough gambling dens and populated almost exclusively by men. The truth is more complex, as Virginia City’s development attests. An established urban community built to serve an industrial giant, Virginia City in its first decade boasted churches, schools, theaters, an opera house, and hundreds of families. By 1870, women composed 30 percent of the population, and 75 percent of the women listed their occupation in the census as housekeeper. Mary McNair Mathews, a widow from Buffalo, New York, who lived on the Comstock in the 1870s, worked as a teacher, nurse, seamstress, laundress, and lodging-house operator. She later published a book on her adventures.

By 1875, Virginia City boasted a population of 25,000 people, making it one of the largest cities between St. Louis and San Francisco. The city, dubbed the “Queen of the Comstock,” hosted American presidents as well as legions of lesser dignitaries. Virginia City represented, in the words of a recent chronicler, “the distilled essence of America’s newly established course — urban, industrial, acquisitive, and materialistic, on the move, ‘a living polyglot’ of cultures that collided and converged.”

The Diverse Peoples of the West The West of the late nineteenth century was a polyglot place, as much so as the big cities of the East. The sheer number of peoples who mingled in the West produced a complex blend of racism and prejudice. One historian has noted, not entirely facetiously, that there were at least eight oppressed “races” in the West — Indians, Latinos, Chinese, Japanese, blacks, Mormons, strikers, and radicals.

African Americans who ventured out to the territories faced hostile settlers determined to keep the West “for whites only.” In response, they formed all-black communities such as Nicodemus, Kansas. That settlement, founded by thirty black Kentuckians in 1877, grew to a community of seven hundred by 1880. Isolated and often separated by great distances, small black settlements grew up throughout the West, in


Nevada, Utah, and the Pacific Northwest, as well as in Kansas. Black soldiers who served in the West during the Indian wars often stayed on as settlers. Called buffalo soldiers because Native Americans thought their hair resembled that of the bison, these black troops numbered up to 25,000. In the face of discrimination, poor treatment, and harsh conditions, the buffalo soldiers served with distinction and boasted the lowest desertion rate in the army.

Hispanic peoples had lived in Texas and the Southwest since Juan de Oñate led pioneer settlers up the Rio Grande in 1598. Hispanics had occupied the Pacific coast since San Diego was founded in 1769. Overnight, they were reduced to a “minority” after the United States annexed Texas in 1845 and took land stretching to California after the Mexican-American War ended in 1848. At first, the Hispanic owners of large ranchos in California, New Mexico, and Texas greeted conquest as an economic opportunity. But racial prejudice soon ended their optimism. Californios (Mexican residents of California), who had been granted American citizenship by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), faced discrimination by Anglos who sought to keep them out of California’s mines and commerce. Whites illegally squatted on rancho land while protracted litigation over Spanish and Mexican land grants forced the Californios into court. Although the U.S. Supreme Court eventually validated most of their claims, it took so long — seventeen years on average — that many Californios sold their property to pay taxes and legal bills.

Swindles, trickery, and intimidation dispossessed scores of Californios. Many ended up segregated in urban barrios (neighborhoods) in their own homeland. Their percentage of California’s population declined from 82 percent in 1850 to 19 percent in 1880 as Anglos migrated to the state. In New Mexico and Texas, Mexicans remained a majority of the population but became increasingly impoverished as Anglos dominated business and took the best jobs. Skirmishes between Hispanics and whites in northern New Mexico over the fencing of the open range lasted for decades. Groups of Hispanics with names such as Las Manos Negras (the Black Hands) cut fences and burned barns. In Texas, violence along the Rio Grande pitted Tejanos (Mexican residents of Texas) against the Texas Rangers, who saw their role as “keeping Mexicans in their place.”

Mormons, too, faced prejudice and hostility. The followers of Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, fled west to Utah Territory in 1844 to avoid religious persecution. They believed they had a divine right to the land, and their messianic


militancy made others distrust them. The Mormon practice of polygamy (church leader Brigham Young had twenty-three wives) also came under attack. To counter the criticism of polygamy, the Utah territorial legislature gave women the right to vote in 1870, the first universal woman suffrage act in the nation. (Wyoming had granted suffrage to white women in 1869.) Although women’s rights advocates argued that the newly enfranchised women would “do away with the horrible institution of polygamy,” it remained in force. Not until 1890 did the church hierarchy yield to pressure and renounce polygamy. The fierce controversy over polygamy postponed statehood for Utah until 1896.

The Chinese suffered the most brutal treatment of all the newcomers at the hands of employers and other laborers. Drawn by the promise of gold, more than 20,000 Chinese had joined the rush to California by 1852. Miners determined to keep “California for Americans” succeeded in passing prohibitive foreign license laws to keep the Chinese out of the mines. But Chinese immigration continued. In the 1860s, when white workers moved on to find riches in the bonanza mines of Nevada, Chinese laborers took jobs abandoned by the whites. Railroad magnate Charles Crocker hired Chinese gangs to work on the Central Pacific, reasoning that “the race that built the Great Wall” could lay tracks across the treacherous Sierra Nevada. Some 10,000 Chinese, representing 90 percent of Crocker’s workforce, completed America’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

By 1870, more than 63,000 Chinese immigrants lived in America, 77 percent of them in California. A 1790 federal statute that limited naturalization to “white persons” was modified after the Civil War to extend naturalization to blacks (“persons of African descent”). But the Chinese and other Asians continued to be denied access to citizenship. As perpetual aliens, they constituted a reserve army of transnational laborers that many saw as a threat to American labor.

In 1876, the Workingmen’s Party formed to fight for Chinese exclusion. Racial and cultural animosities stood at the heart of anti- Chinese agitation. Denis Kearney, the fiery San Francisco leader of the movement, made clear this racist bent when he urged legislation to “expel every one of the moon-eyed lepers.” Nor was California alone in its anti- immigrant nativism. As the country confronted growing ethnic and racial diversity with the rising tide of global immigration in the decades following the Civil War, many questioned the principle of racial equality at the same time they argued against the assimilation of “nonwhite” groups. In this climate, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, effectively barring Chinese immigration and setting a precedent for


further immigration restrictions. The Chinese Exclusion Act led to a sharp drop in the Chinese

population — from 105,465 in 1880 to 89,863 in 1900 — because Chinese immigrants, overwhelmingly male, did not have families to sustain their population. Eventually, Japanese immigrants, including women as well as men, replaced the Chinese, particularly in agriculture. As “nonwhite” immigrants, they could not become naturalized citizens, but their children born in the United States claimed the rights of citizenship. Japanese parents, seeking to own land, purchased it in their children’s names. Although anti-Asian prejudice remained strong in California and elsewhere in the West, Asian immigrants formed an important part of the economic fabric of the western United States.

REVIEW What role did mining play in shaping the society and economy of the American West?


Land Fever In the three decades following 1870, more land was settled than in all the previous history of the country. Americans by the hundreds of thousands packed up and moved west, goaded if not by the hope of striking gold, then by the promise of owning land to farm or ranch. The agrarian West shared with the mining West a persistent restlessness, an equally pervasive addiction to speculation, and a penchant for exploiting natural resources and labor.

Two factors stimulated the land rush in the trans-Mississippi West. The Homestead Act of 1862 promised 160 acres free to any citizen or prospective citizen, male or female, who settled on the land for five years. Even more important, transcontinental railroads opened up new areas and actively recruited settlers. After the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, homesteaders abandoned the covered wagon, and by the 1880s rampant railroad overbuilding meant that settlers could choose from four competing rail lines and make the trip west in a matter of days.

Although the country was rich in land and resources, not all who wanted to own land achieved their goal. During the transition from the family farm to large commercial farming, small farms and ranches gave way to vast spreads worked by migrant labor or paid farmworkers and cowhands. Just as industry corporatized and consolidated in the East, the period from 1870 to 1900 witnessed corporate consolidation in mining, ranching, and agriculture.

Moving West: Homesteaders and Speculators A Missouri homesteader remembered packing as her family pulled up stakes and headed west to Oklahoma in 1890. “We were going to God’s Country,” she wrote. “You had to work hard on that rocky country in Missouri. I was glad to be leaving it…. We were going to a new land and get rich.”

Settlers who headed west in search of “God’s Country” faced hardship, loneliness, and deprivation. To carve a farm from the raw prairie of Iowa,


the plains of Nebraska, or the forests of the Pacific Northwest took more than fortitude and backbreaking toil. It took luck. Blizzards, tornadoes, grasshoppers, hailstorms, drought, prairie fires, accidental death, and disease were only a few of the catastrophes that could befall even the best farmer. Homesteaders on free land still needed as much as $1,000 for a house, a team of farm animals, a well, fencing, and seed. Poor farmers called “sodbusters” did without even these basics, living in houses made from sod (blocks of grass-covered earth) or dugouts carved into hillsides and using muscle instead of machinery.

Norwegian Immigrant and Sod House Norwegian immigrant Beret Olesdater sits in front of her sod house in Lac qui Parle, Minnesota, in 1896. On the plains, where trees were scarce, settlers carved dugouts into a hillside or built huts like the one here, carved from blocks of sod. Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis.

“Father made a dugout and covered it with willows and grass,” one Kansas girl recounted. When it rained, the dugout flooded, and “we carried the water out in buckets, then waded around in the mud until it dried.” Rain wasn’t the only problem. “Sometimes the bull snakes would get in the roof and now and then one would lose his hold and fall down on the bed…. Mother would grab the hoe … and after the fight was over Mr. Bull Snake was dragged outside.”

For women on the frontier, obtaining simple daily necessities such as water and fuel meant backbreaking labor. Out on the plains, where water was scarce, women often had to trudge to the nearest creek or spring. “A yoke was made to place across [Mother’s] shoulders, so as to carry at each


end a bucket of water,” one daughter recollected, “and then water was brought a half mile from spring to house.” Gathering fuel was another heavy chore. Without ready sources of coal or firewood, the most prevalent fuel was “chips” — chunks of dried cattle and buffalo dung, found in abundance on the plains.

Despite the hardships, some homesteaders succeeded in building comfortable lives. The dugout made way for the sod hut — a more substantial dwelling; the log cabin yielded to a white clapboard home with a porch and a rocking chair. For others, the promise of the West failed to materialize. Already by the 1870s, much of the best land had been taken. Too often, homesteaders found that only the least desirable tracts were left — poor land, far from markets, transportation, and society. “There is plenty of land for sale in California,” one migrant complained in 1870, but “the majority of the available lands are held by speculators, at prices far beyond the reach of a poor man.” The railroads, flush from land grants provided by the state and federal governments, owned huge swaths of land in the West and actively recruited buyers. Altogether, the land grants totaled approximately 180 million acres — an area almost one-tenth the size of the United States (Map 17.3). The vast majority of farmland sold for a profit.

As land grew scarce on the prairie in the 1870s, farmers began to push farther west, moving into western Kansas, Nebraska, and eastern Colorado — the region called the Great American Desert by settlers who had passed over it on their way to California and Oregon. Many agricultural experts warned that the semiarid land (where less than twenty inches of rain fell annually) would not support a farm on the 160 acres allotted to homesteaders. But their words of caution were drowned out by the extravagant claims of western promoters, many employed by the railroads to sell off land grants. “Rain follows the plow” became the slogan of western boosters, who insisted that cultivation would alter the climate of the region and bring more rainfall. Instead, drought followed the plow. Droughts were a cyclical fact of life on the Great Plains. Plowed up, the dry topsoil blew away in the wind. A period of relatively good rainfall in the early 1880s encouraged farming; then a protracted drought in the late 1880s and early 1890s forced thousands of starving farmers to leave, some in wagons carrying the slogan “In God we trusted, in Kansas we busted.”

Fever for fertile land set off a series of spectacular land runs in Oklahoma. When two million acres of land in former Indian Territory opened for settlement in 1889, thousands of homesteaders massed on the border. At the opening pistol shot, “with a shout and a yell the swift riders


shot out, then followed the light buggies or wagons,” a reporter wrote. “Above all, a great cloud of dust hover[ed] like smoke over a battlefield.” By nightfall, Oklahoma boasted two tent cities with more than ten thousand residents. In the last frenzied land rush on Oklahoma’s Cherokee strip in 1893, several settlers were killed in the stampede, and nervous men guarded their claims with rifles. As public land grew scarce, the hunger for land grew fiercer for both farmers and ranchers.

Barbed wire, invented in 1874, revolutionized the cattle business and sounded the death knell for the open range. As the largest ranches in Texas began to fence, nasty fights broke out between big ranchers and “fence cutters,” who resented the end of the open range. One old-timer observed, “Those persons, Mexicans and Americans, without land but who had cattle were put out of business by fencing.” Fencing forced small-time ranchers who owned land but could not afford to buy barbed wire or sink wells to sell out for the best price they could get. The displaced ranchers, many of them Mexicans, ended up as wageworkers on the huge spreads owned by Anglos or by European syndicates.

On the range, the cowboy gave way to the cattle king and, like the miner, became a wage laborer. Many cowboys were African Americans (as many as five thousand in Texas alone). Writers of western literature chose to ignore the presence of black cowboys like Deadwood Dick (Nat Love), who was portrayed as a white man in the dime novels of the era.


MAP 17.3 Federal Land Grants to Railroads and the Development of the West, 1850–1900 Railroads received more than 180 million acres, an area as large as Texas. Built well ahead of demand, the western railroads courted settlers, often onto land not fit for farming.

By 1886, cattle overcrowded the range. Severe blizzards during the winter of 1886–87 decimated the herds. “A whole generation of cowmen,” wrote one chronicler, “went dead broke.” Fencing worsened the situation. During blizzards, cattle stayed alive by keeping on the move. But when they ran up against barbed wire fences, they froze to death. In the aftermath of the “Great Die Up,” new labor-intensive forms of cattle ranching replaced the open-range model.

Tenants, Sharecroppers, and Migrants In the post–Civil War period, as agriculture became a big business tied by the railroads to national and global markets, an increasing number of laborers worked land that they would never own. In the southern United States, farmers labored under particularly heavy burdens. The Civil War wiped out much of the region’s capital, which had been invested in slaves, and crippled the plantation economy. “The colored folks stayed with the old boss man and farmed and worked on the plantations,” a black Alabama sharecropper observed bitterly. “They were still slaves, but they were free slaves.” Some freedpeople did manage to pull together enough resources to go west. In 1879, more than fifteen thousand black Exodusters, as the black settlers were known, moved from Mississippi and Louisiana to take up land in Kansas.

California’s Mexican cowboys, or vaqueros, commanded decent wages throughout the Southwest. But by 1880, as the coming of the railroads ended the long cattle drives and as large feedlots began to replace the open range, the value of their skills declined. Many vaqueros ended up as migrant laborers, often on land their families had once owned. Similarly, in Texas, Tejanos found themselves displaced. After the heyday of cattle ranching ended in the late 1880s, cotton production rose in the southeastern regions of the state. Ranchers turned their pastures into sharecroppers’ plots and hired displaced cowboys, most of them Mexicans, as seasonal laborers for as little as seventy-five cents a day, thereby creating a growing army of agricultural wageworkers.

Land monopoly and large-scale farming fostered tenancy and


migratory labor on the West Coast. By the 1870s, less than 1 percent of California’s population owned half the state’s available agricultural land. The rigid economics of large-scale commercial agriculture and the seasonal nature of the crops spawned a ragged army of migratory agricultural laborers. Derisively labeled “blanket men” or “bindle stiffs,” these transients worked the fields in the growing season and wintered in the flophouses of San Francisco. After passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Mexicans, Filipinos, and Japanese immigrants filled the demand for migratory workers.

Commercial Farming and Industrial Cowboys In the late nineteenth century, the population of the United States remained overwhelmingly rural. The 1870 census showed that nearly 80 percent of the nation’s people lived on farms and in villages of fewer than 8,000 inhabitants. By 1900, the figure had dropped to 60 percent. At the same time, the number of farms rose. Rapid growth in the West increased the number of farms from 2 million in 1860 to more than 5.7 million in 1900.

New technology and farming techniques revolutionized American farm life. Mechanized farm machinery halved the time and labor cost of production and made it possible to cultivate vast tracts of land. Meanwhile, urbanization provided farmers with expanding markets for their produce, and railroads carried crops to markets thousands of miles away. Even before the start of the twentieth century, American agriculture had entered the era of what would come to be called agribusiness — farming as a big business — with the advent of huge commercial farms.

As farming moved onto the prairies and plains, mechanization took command. Steel plows, reapers, mowers, harrows, seed drills, combines, and threshers replaced human muscle. Horse-drawn implements gave way to steam-powered machinery. By 1880, a single combine could do the work of twenty men, vastly increasing the acreage a farmer could cultivate. Mechanization spurred the growth of bonanza wheat farms, some more than 100,000 acres, in California and the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. This agricultural revolution meant that Americans raised more than four times the corn, five times the hay, and seven times the wheat and oats they had before the Civil War.

Like cotton farmers in the South, western grain and livestock farmers increasingly depended on foreign markets for their livelihood. A fall in global market prices meant that a farmer’s entire harvest went to pay off debts. In the depression that followed the panic of 1893, many heavily


mortgaged farmers lost their land to creditors. As a Texas cotton farmer complained, “By the time the World Gets their Liveing out of the Farmer as we have to Feed the World, we the Farmer has nothing Left but a Bear Hard Liveing.” Commercial farming, along with mining, represented another way in which the West developed its own brand of industrialism. The far West’s industrial economy sprang initially from California gold and the vast territory that came under American control following the Mexican-American War. In the ensuing rush on land and resources, environmental factors interacted with economic and social forces to produce enterprises as vast in scale and scope as anything found in the East.

Two German immigrants, Henry Miller and Charles Lux, pioneered the West’s mix of agriculture and industrialism. Beginning as meat wholesalers, Miller and Lux quickly expanded their business to encompass cattle, land, and land reclamation projects such as dams and irrigation systems. With a labor force of migrant workers, a highly coordinated corporate system, and large sums of investment capital, the firm of Miller & Lux became one of America’s industrial behemoths. Eventually, these “industrial cowboys” grazed a herd of 100,000 cattle on 1.25 million acres of company land in California, Oregon, and Nevada and employed more than 1,200 migrant laborers on their corporate ranches. Miller & Lux dealt with the labor problem by offering free meals to migratory workers, thus keeping wages low while winning goodwill among an army of unemployed who competed for the work. When the company’s Chinese cooks rebelled at washing all the dishes, the migrant laborers were forced to eat off dirty plates. By the 1890s, more than 800 migrants a year followed what came to be known as the “Dirty Plate Route” on Miller & Lux ranches throughout California.

Since the days of Thomas Jefferson, agrarian life had been linked with the highest ideals of a democratic society. Agrarianism had been transformed. The farmer was no longer a self-sufficient yeoman but often a businessman or a wage laborer tied to a global market. And even as farm production soared, industrialization outstripped it. More and more farmers left the fields for urban factories or found work in the “factories in the fields” of the new industrialized agribusinesses. Now that the future seemed to lie not with small farmers but with industrial enterprises, was democracy itself at risk? This question would ignite a farmers’ revolt in the 1880s and dominate political debate in the 1890s.

Territorial Government


The federal government practiced a policy of benign neglect when it came to territorial government. A governor, a secretary, a few judges, an attorney, and a marshal held jurisdiction. In Nevada Territory, that meant a handful of officials governed an area the size of New England. Originally a part of the larger Utah Territory, Nevada, propelled by mining interests, moved on the fast track to statehood, entering the Union in 1864.

More typical were the territories extant in 1870 — New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Dakota, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. These areas remained territories for inordinately long periods ranging from twenty-three to sixty-two years. While awaiting statehood, they were subject to territorial governors, who won their posts due to party loyalty and who were largely underpaid, uninformed, often unqualified, and largely ignored by Washington. Wages rarely arrived on schedule, leading one cynic to observe, “Only the rich, or those having ‘no visible means of support,’ can afford to accept office.” John C. Frémont, governor of Arizona Territory, complained he could not inspect the Grand Canyon because he was too poor to own a horse.

Western governors with fewer scruples accepted money from local interests — mine owners and big ranchers or lumber companies. Nearly all territorial appointees tried to maintain business connections in the East or take advantage of speculative opportunities in the West. Corruption ran rampant. Yet the distance from the nation’s capital meant that few charges of corrupt dealings were investigated. Gun-toting westerners served as another deterrent. One judge sent to New Mexico Territory in 1871 to investigate fraud “stayed three days, made up his mind that it would be dangerous to do any investigating, … and returned to his home without action.”

Underfunded and overlooked victims of cronyism and prey to special interests, territorial governments mirrored the self-serving political and economic values of the era.

REVIEW How did the fight for land and resources unfold in the West?


Conclusion: The West in the Gilded Age In 1871, author Mark Twain published Roughing It, a chronicle of his days spent in mining towns in California and Nevada. There he found the same corrupt politics, vulgar display, and mania for speculation that he later skewered in The Gilded Age (1873), his biting satire of greed and corruption in the nation’s capital. Far from being an antidote to the tawdry values of the East — an innocent idyll out of place and time — the American West, with its get-rich-quick ethos, addiction to gambling and speculation, and virulent racism, helped set the tone for the Gilded Age.

Twain’s view countered that of Frederick Jackson Turner and perhaps better suited a West that witnessed the reckless overbuilding of railroads; the consolidation of business in mining and ranching; the rise of commercial farming; corruption and a penchant for government handouts; racial animosity; the exploitation of labor and natural resources, which led to the decimation of the great bison herds, the pollution of rivers with mining wastes, and the overgrazing of the plains; and the beginnings of an imperial policy that would provide a template for U.S. adventures abroad. Turner, intent on promoting what was unique about the frontier, failed to note that the same issues that came to dominate debate east of the Mississippi — the growing power of big business, the exploitation of land and labor, corruption in politics, and ethnic and racial tensions exacerbated by colonial expansion and unparalleled immigration — took center stage in the West at the end of the nineteenth century.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S reservations (p. 432) Comanchería (p. 433) Black Hills (p. 434) Battle of the Little Big Horn (p. 435) Carlisle Indian School (p. 436) Dawes Allotment Act (p. 437) Ghost Dance (p. 439) Wounded Knee (p. 440) Comstock Lode (p. 440) Chinese Exclusion Act (p. 445) Homestead Act of 1862 (p. 446) first transcontinental railroad (p. 446)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. How did the slaughter of the bison contribute to the Plains

Indians’ removal to reservations? (pp. 430–35) 2. In what ways did different Indian groups defy and resist

colonial rule? (pp. 435–40) 3. What role did mining play in shaping the society and economy

of the American West? (pp. 440–46) 4. How did the fight for land and resources unfold in the West?

(pp. 446–52)


M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Westward migration brought settlers into conflict with Native

Americans. What was the U.S. government’s policy toward Indians in the West, and how did it evolve over time?

2. How did innovations in business and technology transform mining and agriculture in the West?

3. In competition for work and land in the American West, why did Anglo-American settlers usually have the upper hand over settlers from other countries? How did legal developments contribute to this circumstance?

4. What role did railroads play in western settlement, industrialization, and agriculture? How did railroads affect Indian populations in the West?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. In what ways were the goals of migrants to the West similar to

those of the Northerners who moved to the South after the Civil War? How did they differ? (See chapter 16.)

2. How did the racism of the West compare with the racist attitudes against African Americans in the Reconstruction South? (See chapter 16.)


1851 • First Treaty of Fort Laramie negotiated. 1862 • Homestead Act passes.

• Great Sioux Uprising (Santee Uprising) kills 1,000 settlers.

1864 • Sand Creek massacre kills several hundred Indians. 1867 • Treaty of Medicine Lodge negotiated. 1868 • Washita massacre led by Custer.

• Second Treaty of Fort Laramie negotiated. 1869 • First transcontinental railroad completed. 1870s • Hunters begin to decimate bison herds. 1873 • “Big Bonanza” discovered on Comstock Lode.


1874 • Gold discovered in Black Hills.

1876 • Battle of the Little Big Horn destroys Custer’s army. 1877 • Chief Joseph surrenders. 1879 • Carlisle Indian School opens.

• Exodusters move to Kansas. 1881 • Sitting Bull surrenders. 1882 • Chinese Exclusion Act passes. 1886 • Geronimo surrenders. 1886– 1887

• Severe blizzards decimate cattle.

1887 • Dawes Allotment Act passes. 1889 • Ghost Dance spreads.

• Two million acres in Oklahoma opened for settlement.

1890 • Sitting Bull killed. • Massacre at Wounded Knee kills several hundred

Indians. 1893 • Last land rush occurs in Oklahoma Territory.

• Frederick Jackson Turner presents “frontier thesis.”


18 Railroads, Business, and Politics in the Gilded Age 1865–1900


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Describe the ways in which industries were transformed in the late

nineteenth century, including the railroad, steel, and oil industries.

◆ Explain the factors that led to business mergers and the rise of corporations and explain the role of finance capitalism. Describe the ideas of social Darwinism and the gospel of wealth.

◆ Describe how regional sectionalism, race, and gender affected political culture in the late nineteenth century.

◆ Describe the issues and personalities that drove national party politics during the Gilded Age and explain why the Republican Party divided into factions.

◆ Identify the key economic issues of the Gilded Age and how those issues led to party realignment in the 1890s.


ONE NIGHT OVER DINNER, MARK TWAIN AND CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER teased their wives about the sentimental novels they read. When the two women challenged them to write something better, they set to work. Warner supplied the melodrama while Twain “hurled in the facts.” The result, The Gilded Age (1873), was a runaway best seller, a savage satire of the “get-rich-quick” era that would forever carry the book’s title.

Twain left no one unscathed in the novel — political hacks, Washington lobbyists, Wall Street financiers, small-town boosters, and the “great putty-hearted public.” Underneath the glitter of the Gilded Age lurked vulgarity, crass materialism, and political corruption. In Twain’s satire, Congress is for sale to the highest bidder:

Why the matter is simple enough. A Congressional appropriation costs money…. A majority of the House Committee, say $10,000 apiece — $40,000; a majority of the Senate Committee, the same each — say $40,000; a little extra to one or two chairmen of one or two such committees, say $10,000 each — $20,000; and there’s $100,000 of the money gone, to begin with. Then, seven male lobbyists, at $3,000 each — $21,000; one female lobbyist, $3,000; a high moral Congressman or Senator here and there — the high moral ones cost more, because they give tone to a measure — say ten of these at $3,000 each, is $30,000; then a lot of small fry country members who won’t vote for anything whatever without pay — say twenty at $500 apiece, is $10,000 altogether; lot of jimcracks for Congressmen’s wives and children … well, those things cost in a lump, say $10,000 … and then comes your printed documents…. Well, never mind the details, the total in clean numbers foots up $118,254.42 thus far!

The Gilded Age seemed to tarnish many who lived under its reign. No one knew that better than Twain, who, even as he attacked it as an “era of incredible rottenness,” fell prey to its enticements. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, he grew up in a rough Mississippi River town, where he became a riverboat pilot. Taking the pen name Mark Twain, he wrote and played to packed houses as an itinerant humorist. But his work was judged too vulgar for the genteel tastes of the time. Boston banned his masterpiece, The Adventures of


Huckleberry Finn, when it appeared in 1884. Huck Finn’s creator eventually stormed the citadels of polite society and hobnobbed with the wealthy. Succumbing to the money fever of his age, he plunged into a scheme in the hope of making millions. By the 1890s, he faced bankruptcy. Twain’s tale was common in an age when the promise of wealth led as many to ruin as to riches. Wall Street panics in both 1873 and 1893 plunged the country into depression.

The rush to build railroads and other industries and the corrupt interplay of business and politics formed the key themes in the Gilded Age. The runaway growth of the railroads and the surge in new inventions and technologies like electricity, the telephone, and the telegraph encouraged the rise of big business and led to an age of industrial capitalism.

Such rapid growth had alarming social and political implications. Economic issues increasingly shaped party politics. Social Darwinism, with its insistence on the “survival of the fittest,” supported the power of the wealthy, while the poor and middle classes championed antimonopoly measures to restore competition, currency reform to ease debt, and civil service to end corruption. As always, race, class, and gender influenced politics and policy.

The hopes and fears of the Gilded Age were most evident in the public’s attitude toward the business moguls of the day. Men like Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller sparked the popular imagination as the heroes and villains of industrialization. And as concern grew over the power of big business and the growing chasm between rich and poor, many Americans, women as well as men, looked to the government for solutions.


Railroads and the Rise of New Industries In the years following the Civil War, the American economy underwent a transformation. Where once wealth had been measured in tangible assets — property, livestock, buildings — the economy now ran on money and the new devices of business — paper currency, securities, and anonymous corporate entities. Wall Street, the heart of the country’s financial system, increasingly affected Main Street. Driving the transition was the building of a transcontinental railroad system, which radically altered the scale and scope of American industry. Old industries like iron transformed into modern industries such as the behemoth U.S. Steel. Discovery and invention stimulated new industries, from oil refining to electric light and power. The overbuilding of the railroad in the decades after the Civil War played a key role in transforming the American economy, as business came to rely on huge government subsidies, “friends” in Congress, and complicated financial transactions.

Jay Gould in railroads, Andrew Carnegie in steel, and John D. Rockefeller in oil pioneered new strategies to seize markets and consolidate power. With keen senses of self-interest, these tycoons set the tone in the get-rich-quick era of freewheeling capitalism that came to be called the Gilded Age.

Railroads: America’s First Big Business The military conquest of America’s inland empire and the dispossession of Native Americans (see chapter 17) was fed by an elaborate new railroad system in the West built on speculation and government giveaways. Between 1870 and 1880, the amount of track in the country doubled, and it nearly doubled again in the following decade. By 1900, the nation boasted more than 193,000 miles of railroad track — more than in all of Europe and Russia combined (Map 18.1). The railroads had become America’s first big business. Credit fueled the railroad boom. Privately owned but publicly financed, and subsidized by enormous land grants from the federal government and the states, the railroads epitomized the insidious nexus of business and politics in the Gilded Age.


MAP 18.1 Railroad Expansion, 1870–1890 Railroad mileage nearly quadrupled between 1870 and 1890, with the greatest growth occurring in the trans-Mississippi West. The western lines were completed in the 1880s. Fueled by speculation and built ahead of demand, the western railroads made fortunes for individual speculators. But they rarely paid for themselves and speeded the demise of Native Americans.

To understand how the railroads came to dominate American life, there is no better place to start than with the career of Jay Gould, the era’s most notorious speculator. Jason “Jay” Gould bought his first railroad before he turned twenty-five. It was only sixty-two miles long, in bad repair, and on the brink of failure, but within two years he sold it at a profit of $130,000.

The secretive Gould operated in the stock market like a shark, looking for vulnerable railroads, buying enough stock to take control, and threatening to undercut his competitors until they bought him out at a high profit. The railroads that fell into his hands often went bankrupt. Gould’s genius lay not in providing transportation, but in cleverly buying and selling railroad stock on Wall Street. Gould soon realized that a corporate failure could still mean financial success. His strategy of expansion and consolidation encouraged overbuilding even as it stimulated a new national market.

The first transcontinental railway had been completed in 1869 at


Promontory Summit, Utah. In the 1880s, Gould moved to put together a second transcontinental railroad. To defend their interests, his competitors had little choice but to adopt his strategy of expansion. The railroads built ahead of demand, regardless of the social and environmental costs. Soon more railroads trailed into the West — by 1893, Kansas alone had at least six competing lines.

The railroad moguls put up little of their own money to build the roads and instead relied on the largesse of government and the sale of railroad bonds and stock. Bondholders were creditors who required repayment at a specific time. Stockholders bought a share in the company and received dividends if the company prospered. Thus, railroad moguls received money from these sales of financial interests but did not need to pay out until later. If the railroad failed, a receiver was appointed to determine how many pennies on the dollar shareholders would receive. The owners, astutely using the market, came out ahead. Novelist Charles Dudley Warner described how wrecking a railroad could yield profits:

[They fasten upon] some railway that is prosperous, … and has a surplus. They contrive to buy … a controlling interest in it…. Then they absorb its surplus; they let it run down so that it pays no dividends, and by-and-by cannot even pay its interest; then they squeeze the bondholders, who may be glad to accept anything that is offered out of the wreck, and perhaps they throw the property into the hands of a receiver, or consolidate it with some other road at a value far greater than it cost them in stealing it. Having one way or another sucked it dry, they look around for another road.

With help from railroad growth and speculation, the New York Stock Exchange expanded. The volume of stock increased sixfold between 1869 and 1901. The line between investment and speculation blurred, causing many Americans to question whether the manipulation of speculators fueled the boom and bust cycles that led to panic and depression in 1873 and again twenty years later. The dramatic growth of the railroads created the country’s first big business. Before the Civil War, even the largest textile mill in New England employed no more than 800 workers. By contrast, the Pennsylvania Railroad by the 1870s boasted a payroll of more than 55,000 workers. Capitalized at more than $400 million, the Pennsylvania Railroad constituted the largest private enterprise in the world.

The big business of railroads bestowed enormous riches on a handful of tycoons. Both Gould and his competitor “Commodore” Cornelius


Vanderbilt amassed fortunes estimated at $100 million. Such staggering wealth eclipsed the power and influence of upper-class Americans from previous generations and created an abyss between the nation’s rich and poor. In its wake, it left a legacy of lavish spending for an elite crop of ultrarich heirs.

The Republican Party, firmly entrenched in Washington after the Civil War, worked closely with business interests, subsidizing the transcontinental railroad system. Significant amounts of money changed hands to move bills through Congress. Along with “friends,” often on the railroads’ payrolls, lobbyists worked to craft legislation favorable to railroad interests. Friends of the railroads in state legislatures and Congress lavished the new western roads with land grants of a staggering 100 million acres (mostly owned by the Indians) and $64 million in tax incentives and direct aid. States and local communities joined the railroad boom, betting that only those towns and villages along the tracks would grow and flourish. A revolution in communication accompanied and supported the growth of the railroads. The telegraph, developed by Samuel F. B. Morse, marched across the continent alongside the railroad. By transmitting coded messages along electrical wire, the telegraph formed the “nervous system” of the new industrial order. Telegraph service quickly replaced Pony Express mail carriers in the West and transformed business by providing instantaneous communication. Again Jay Gould took the lead. In 1879, through stock manipulation, he seized control of Western Union, the company that monopolized the telegraph industry.

The railroads soon fell on hard times. Already by the 1870s, lack of planning led to overbuilding. Across the nation, railroads competed fiercely for business. Manufacturers in areas served by competing railroads could get substantially reduced shipping rates in return for promises of steady business. Because railroad owners lost money through this kind of competition, they tried to set up agreements, or “pools,” to divide up territory and set rates. But these informal gentlemen’s agreements invariably failed because men like Gould, intent on undercutting all competitors, refused to play by the rules.

The public’s alarm at the control wielded by the new railroad magnates and the tactics they employed came to light in the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872. Crédit Mobilier, a fiscal enterprise set up by partners including Thomas Durant, an executive of the Union Pacific Railroad, would provide sole bids on construction work. Using money procured from investors and government bonds, the work was then subcontracted out, leaving profits in the hands of the financiers. With profits booming, senators clambered to


profit as well. Charles Dana’s New York Sun described the Crédit Mobilier moneymaking scheme as “The King of Frauds” and attempted to document the way the railroads controlled their friends in government with lavish gifts of stock. Although the press never got the financial dealings straight, the scandal and resulting investigation implicated the Union Pacific Railroad, the vice president, and numerous congressmen. The real revelation was how little the key players knew about how railroads were built or operated. The promoters knew little about building the roads; the investors had an even shakier grasp on what they were investing in; and the politicians who subsidized the roads, instead of overseeing them, remained vague on specifics and failed to provide governmental oversight. All that was clear was that the Union Pacific had sold stock below market prices to its friends. In the end, no one was punished and no money returned.

The Crédit Mobilier scandal increased public suspicion of the corrupt relationship between business and government and led to a strong antipathy toward speculators and a movement to end monopoly.

Andrew Carnegie, Steel, and Vertical Integration If Jay Gould was the man Americans loved to hate, Andrew Carnegie became one of America’s heroes. Unlike Gould, Carnegie turned his back on speculation and worked to build something enduring — Carnegie Steel, the biggest steel business in the world during the Gilded Age.

The growth of the steel industry proceeded directly from railroad building. The first railroads ran on iron rails, which cracked and broke with alarming frequency. Steel, both stronger and more flexible than iron, remained too expensive for use in rails until Englishman Henry Bessemer developed a way to make steel more cheaply. Andrew Carnegie, among the first to champion the new “King Steel,” came to dominate the emerging industry.

Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant, landed in New York in 1848 at the age of twelve. He rose from a job cleaning bobbins in a textile factory to become one of the richest men in America. Before he died, he gave away more than $300 million, most notably to public libraries. His generosity, combined with his own rise from poverty, burnished his public image.

While Carnegie was a teenager, his skill as a telegraph operator caught the attention of Tom Scott, superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Scott hired Carnegie, soon promoted him, and lent him the money for his first foray into Wall Street investment. As a result of this crony capitalism,


Carnegie became a millionaire before his thirtieth birthday. At that point, Carnegie turned away from speculation. “My preference was always manufacturing,” he wrote. “I wished to make something tangible.” By applying the lessons of cost accounting and efficiency that he had learned with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Carnegie turned steel into the nation’s first manufacturing big business.

In 1872, Andrew Carnegie built the world’s largest, most up-to-date steel mill in Braddock, Pennsylvania. At that time, steelmakers produced about 70 tons a week. Within two decades, Carnegie’s blast furnaces poured out an incredible 10,000 tons a week. His formula for success was simple: “Cut the prices, scoop the market, run the mills full; watch the costs and profits will take care of themselves.” Carnegie pioneered a system of business organization called vertical integration in which all aspects of the business were under Carnegie’s control — from the mining of iron ore, to its transport on the Great Lakes, to the production of steel. As one observer noted, “There was never a price, profit, or royalty paid to any outsider.”

The great productivity Carnegie encouraged came at a high price. He deliberately pitted his managers against one another, firing the losers and rewarding the winners with a share in the company. Workers achieved the output Carnegie demanded by enduring low wages, dangerous working conditions, and twelve-hour days six days a week. One worker, observing the contradiction between Carnegie’s generous endowment of public libraries and his labor policy, observed, “After working twelve hours, how can a man go to a library?”

By 1900, Andrew Carnegie had become the best-known manufacturer in the nation, and the age of iron had yielded to an age of steel. Steel from Carnegie’s mills supported the elevated trains in New York and Chicago, formed the skeleton of the Washington Monument, supported the first steel bridge to span the Mississippi, and girded America’s first skyscrapers. As a captain of industry, Carnegie’s only rival was the titan of the oil industry, John D. Rockefeller.

John D. Rockefeller, Standard Oil, and the Trust In the days before the automobile and gasoline, crude oil was refined into lubricating oil for machinery and kerosene for lamps, the major source of lighting in the nineteenth century. The amount of capital needed to buy or build an oil refinery in the 1860s and 1870s remained relatively low — roughly what it cost to lay one mile of railroad track. As a result, the new


petroleum industry experienced riotous competition. Ultimately, John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company succeeded in controlling nine- tenths of the oil-refining business.

Rockefeller grew up the son of a shrewd Yankee who peddled quack cures for cancer. Under his father’s rough tutelage, Rockefeller learned how to drive a hard bargain. In 1865, at the age of twenty-five, he controlled the largest oil refinery in Cleveland. Like a growing number of business owners, Rockefeller abandoned partnership or single proprietorship to embrace the corporation as the business structure best suited to maximize profit and minimize personal liability. In 1870, he incorporated his oil business, founding the Standard Oil Company.

As the largest refiner in Cleveland, Rockefeller demanded illegal rebates from the railroads in exchange for his steady business. The secret rebates enabled Rockefeller to drive out his competitors through predatory pricing. The railroads needed Rockefeller’s business so badly that they gave him a share of the rates that his competitors paid. A Pennsylvania Railroad official later confessed that Rockefeller extracted such huge rebates that the railroad, which could not risk losing his business, sometimes ended up paying him to transport Standard’s oil. Rebates enabled Rockefeller to undercut his competitors and pressure competing refiners to sell out or face ruin.

To gain legal standing for Standard Oil’s secret deals, Rockefeller in 1882 pioneered a new form of corporate structure — the trust. The trust differed markedly from Carnegie’s vertical approach in steel. Rockefeller used horizontal integration to control not the entire process, but only an aspect of oil production — refining. Several trustees held stock in various refinery companies “in trust” for Standard’s stockholders. This elaborate stock swap allowed the trustees to coordinate policy among the refineries by gobbling up all the small, competing refineries. Often buyers did not know they were actually selling out to Standard. By the end of the century, Rockefeller enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the oil-refining business. The Standard Oil trust, valued at more than $70 million, paved the way for trusts in sugar, whiskey, matches, and many other products.

When the federal government responded to public pressure to outlaw the trust in 1890, Standard Oil changed tactics and reorganized as a holding company. Instead of stockholders in competing companies acting through trustees to set prices and determine territories, the holding company simply brought competing companies under one central administration. Now one business, not an assortment of individual refineries, Standard Oil controlled competition without violating antitrust


laws that forbade competing companies from forming “combinations in restraint of trade.” By the 1890s, Standard Oil ruled more than 90 percent of the oil business, employed 100,000 people, and was the biggest, richest, most feared, and most admired business organization in the world.

“What a Funny Little Government” The power wielded by John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company is satirized here by cartoonist Horace Taylor. Rockefeller is pictured holding the White House and the Treasury Department in the palm of his hand, while in the background the U.S. Capitol has been converted into an oil refinery. © Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA/Bridgeman Images.

John D. Rockefeller enjoyed enormous success in business, but he was not well liked by the public. Editor and journalist Ida M. Tarbell’s “History of the Standard Oil Company,” which ran in serial form in McClure’s Magazine (1902–1905), largely shaped the public’s harsh view of Rockefeller. Her history chronicled the illegal methods Rockefeller had used to take over the oil industry. By the time Tarbell finished her story, Rockefeller slept with a loaded revolver by his bed. Standard Oil and the man who created it had become the symbol of heartless monopoly.

New Inventions: The Telephone and the


Telegraph The second half of the nineteenth century was an age of invention. Men like Thomas Alva Edison and Alexander Graham Bell became folk heroes. But no matter how dramatic the inventors or the inventions, the new electric and telephone industries pioneered by Edison and Bell soon eclipsed their inventors and fell under the control of bankers and industrialists.

Alexander Graham Bell came to America from Scotland at the age of twenty-four with a passion to find a way to teach the deaf to speak (his wife and mother were deaf). Instead, he developed a way to transmit voice over wire — the telephone. Bell’s invention astounded the world when he demonstrated it at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. In 1880, Bell’s company, American Bell, pioneered “long lines” (long- distance telephone service), creating American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) as a subsidiary. In 1900, AT&T developed a complicated structure that enabled Americans to communicate not only locally but also across the country. And unlike a telegraph message, the telephone connected both parties immediately and privately. Bell’s invention proved a boon to business, contributing to speed and efficiency. The number of telephones soared, reaching 310,000 in 1895 and more than 1.5 million in 1900.

Even more than Alexander Graham Bell, inventor Thomas Alva Edison embodied the old-fashioned virtues of Yankee ingenuity and rugged individualism that Americans most admired. A self-educated dynamo, he worked twenty hours a day in his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, vowing to turn out “a minor invention every ten days and a big thing every six months or so.” He almost made good on his promise. At the height of his career, he averaged a patent every eleven days and invented such “big things” as the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the filament for the incandescent lightbulb.

Edison, in competition with George W. Westinghouse, pioneered the use of electricity as an energy source. By the late nineteenth century, electricity had become a part of American urban life. It powered trolley cars and lighted factories, homes, and office buildings. Indeed, electricity became so prevalent in urban life that it symbolized the city, whose bright lights contrasted with rural America, left largely in the dark.

The day of the inventor quietly yielded to the heyday of the corporation. In 1892, the electric industry consolidated. Reflecting a nationwide trend in business, Edison General Electric dropped the name of


its inventor, becoming simply General Electric (GE). For years, an embittered Edison refused to set foot inside a GE building. GE, a prime example of the trend toward business consolidation, soon dominated the market.

REVIEW When, why, and how did the transcontinental railroad system develop, and what was its impact on American business?


From Competition to Consolidation Even as Rockefeller and Carnegie built their empires, the era of the “robber barons,” as they were dubbed by their detractors, was drawing to a close. Increasingly, businesses replaced partnerships and sole proprietorships with the anonymous corporate structure that would come to dominate the twentieth century. At the same time, mergers led to the creation of huge new corporations.

Banks and financiers played key roles in this consolidation, so much so that the decades at the turn of the twentieth century can be characterized as a period of finance capitalism — investment sponsored by banks and bankers. When the depression that followed the panic of 1893 bankrupted many businesses, bankers stepped in to bring order and to reorganize major industries. During these years, a new social philosophy developed that helped to justify consolidation and to inhibit state or federal regulation of business. A conservative Supreme Court further frustrated attempts to control business by consistently declaring unconstitutional legislation designed to regulate railroads or to outlaw trusts and monopolies.

J. P. Morgan and Finance Capitalism John Pierpont Morgan, the preeminent finance capitalist of the late nineteenth century, loathed competition and sought whenever possible to eliminate it by substituting consolidation and central control. Morgan’s passion for order made him the architect of business mergers. At the turn of the twentieth century, he dominated American banking, exerting an influence so powerful that his critics charged he controlled a vast “money trust” even more insidious than Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

Morgan acted as a power broker in the reorganization of the railroads and the creation of industrial giants such as General Electric. When the railroads collapsed, Morgan took over and eliminated competition by creating what he called “a community of interest.” By the time he finished “Morganizing” the railroads, a handful of directors controlled two-thirds of the nation’s track. Morgan’s directors were bankers, not railroad men, and they saw the roads as little more than “a set of books.” Their conservative


approach aimed at short-term profit and discouraged the technological and organizational innovation necessary to run the railroads effectively.

In 1898, Morgan moved into the steel industry, directly challenging Andrew Carnegie. The pugnacious Carnegie cabled his partners in the summer of 1900: “Action essential: crisis has arrived … have no fear as to the result; victory certain.” The press trumpeted news of the impending fight between the feisty Scot and the haughty Wall Street banker. But for all his belligerence, the sixty-six-year-old Carnegie yearned to retire to Scotland. Morgan, who disdained haggling, agreed to pay Carnegie’s asking price, $480 million (the equivalent of about $10 billion in today’s currency). According to legend, when Carnegie later teased Morgan, saying that he should have asked $100 million more, Morgan replied, “You would have got it if you had.”

Morgan’s acquisition of Carnegie Steel signaled the passing of the old entrepreneurial order personified by Andrew Carnegie and the arrival of a new anonymous corporate world. Morgan quickly moved to pull together Carnegie’s chief competitors to form a huge new corporation, United States Steel, known today as USX. Created in 1901 and capitalized at $1.4 billion, U.S. Steel was the largest corporation in the world.

Even more than Carnegie or Rockefeller, Morgan left his stamp on the twentieth century and formed the model for corporate consolidation that economists and social scientists justified with a new social theory later called social Darwinism.

Social Darwinism, Laissez-Faire, and the Supreme Court John D. Rockefeller Jr., the son of the founder of Standard Oil, once remarked to his Baptist Bible class that the Standard Oil Company, like the American Beauty rose, resulted from “pruning the early buds that grew up around it.” The elimination of competition, he declared, was “merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.” The comparison of the business world to the natural world resembled the theory of evolution formulated by the British naturalist Charles Darwin. In his monumental work On the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin theorized that in the struggle for survival, adaptation to the environment triggered among species a natural selection process that led to evolution. Herbert Spencer in Britain and William Graham Sumner in the United States developed the theory of social Darwinism. The social Darwinists insisted that societal progress came about as a result of relentless competition in which the


strong survived and the weak died out. In social terms, the idea of the “survival of the fittest,” coined by

Spencer, had profound significance, as Sumner, a professor of political economy at Yale University, made clear in his book What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883). “The drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things,” Sumner insisted. Conversely, “millionaires are the product of natural selection,” and although “they get high wages and live in luxury,” Sumner claimed, “the bargain is a good one for society.” Social Darwinists equated wealth and power with “fitness” and believed that any efforts by the rich to aid the poor would only tamper with the laws of nature and slow down evolution. Social Darwinism acted to curb social reform while glorifying great wealth. In an age when Rockefeller and Carnegie amassed hundreds of millions of dollars (billions in today’s currency) and the average worker earned $500 a year, social Darwinism justified economic inequality.

Carnegie softened some of the harshness of social Darwinism in his essay “The Gospel of Wealth,” published in 1889. The millionaire, Carnegie wrote, acted as a “mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they could or would do for themselves.” Carnegie preached philanthropy and urged the rich to “live unostentatious lives” and “administer surplus wealth for the good of the people.” His gospel of wealth earned much praise but won few converts. Most millionaires followed the lead of Morgan, who contributed to charity but hoarded private treasures in his marble library.

With its emphasis on the free play of competition and the survival of the fittest, social Darwinism encouraged the economic theory of laissez- faire (French for “let it alone”). Business leaders argued that government should not meddle in economic affairs, except to protect private property (or support high tariffs and government subsidies). A conservative Supreme Court agreed. During the 1880s and 1890s, the Court increasingly reinterpreted the Constitution, judging corporations to be “persons” in order to protect business from taxation, regulation, labor organization, and antitrust legislation.

Only in the arena of politics did Americans tackle the social issues raised by corporate capitalism.

REVIEW Why did the ideas of social Darwinism appeal to many Americans in the late nineteenth century?



Politics and Culture For many Americans, politics provided a source of identity, a means of livelihood, and a ready form of entertainment. No wonder voter turnout averaged a hefty 77 percent (compared to roughly 57.5 percent in the 2012 presidential election). A variety of factors contributed to the complicated interplay of politics and culture. Patronage provided an economic incentive for voter participation, but ethnicity, religion, sectional loyalty, race, and gender all influenced the political life of the period.

Political Participation and Party Loyalty Political parties in power doled out federal, state, and local government jobs to their loyal supporters. With hundreds of thousands of jobs to be filled, the choice of party affiliation could mean the difference between a paycheck and an empty pocket. Money greased the wheels of this system of patronage, dubbed the spoils system from the adage “To the victor go the spoils.” With their livelihoods tied to their party identity, government employees had a powerful incentive to vote in great numbers.

Political affiliation provided a sense of group identity for many voters proud of their loyalty to the Democrats or the Republicans. Democrats, who traced the party’s roots back to Thomas Jefferson, called theirs “the party of the fathers.” The Republican Party, founded in the 1850s, still claimed strong loyalties in the North as a result of its alignment with the Union during the Civil War. Republicans proved particularly adept at evoking Civil War loyalty, using a tactic called “waving the bloody shirt.”

Religion and ethnicity also played a significant role in politics. In the North, Protestants from the old-line denominations, particularly Presbyterians and Methodists, flocked to the Republican Party, which championed a series of moral reforms, including local laws requiring businesses to close on Sunday in observance of the Sabbath. In the cities, the Democratic Party courted immigrants and working-class Catholic and Jewish voters and charged, rightly, that Republican moral crusades often masked attacks on immigrant culture.


Sectionalism and the New South After the end of Reconstruction, most white voters in the former Confederate states remained loyal Democrats, creating the so-called solid South that lasted for the next seventy years. Labeling the Republican Party the agent of “Negro rule,” Democrats urged white southerners to “vote the way you shot.” Yet the South proved far from solid for the Democrats on the state and local levels, leading to shifting political alliances and to third- party movements that challenged Democratic attempts to define politics along race lines and maintain the Democrats as the white man’s party.

The South’s economy, devastated by the war, foundered at the same time the North experienced an unprecedented industrial boom. Soon an influential group of southerners called for a New South modeled on the industrial North. Henry Grady, the ebullient young editor of the Atlanta Constitution, used his paper’s influence to exhort the South to use its natural advantages — cheap labor and abundant natural resources — to go head-to-head in competition with northern industry. And even as southern Democrats took back control of state governments, they embraced northern promoters who promised prosperity and profits.

The railroads came first, opening up the region for industrial development. Southern railroad mileage grew fourfold from 1865 to 1890. The number of cotton spindles also soared as textile mill owners abandoned New England in search of the cheap labor and proximity to raw materials promised in the South. By 1900, the South had become the nation’s leading producer of cloth, and more than 100,000 southerners, many of them women and children, worked in the region’s textile mills.

The New South prided itself most on its iron and steel industry, which grew up in the area surrounding Birmingham, Alabama. During this period, the smokestack replaced the white-pillared plantation as the symbol of the New South. Andrew Carnegie toured the region in 1889 and observed, “The South is Pennsylvania’s most formidable industrial enemy.” But southern industry remained controlled by northern investors, who had no intention of letting the South beat the North at its own game. Elaborate mechanisms rigged the price of southern steel, inflating it, as one northern insider confessed, “for the purpose of protecting the Pittsburgh mills and in turn the Pittsburgh steel users.” Similarly, in the lumber and mining industries, investors in the North and abroad, not southerners, reaped the lion’s share of the profits.

In only one industry did the South truly dominate — tobacco. Capitalizing on the invention of a machine for rolling cigarettes, the


American Tobacco Company, founded by the Duke family of North Carolina, eventually dominated the industry. As cigarettes replaced chewing tobacco in popularity at the turn of the twentieth century, a booming market developed for Duke’s “ready mades.” Soon the company sold 400,000 cigarettes a day.

In practical terms, the industrialized New South proved an illusion. Much of the South remained agricultural, caught in the grip of the insidious crop lien system (see “White Landlords, Black Sharecroppers” in chapter 16). White southern farmers, desperate to get out of debt, sometimes joined African Americans to pursue mutual political goals. Between 1865 and 1900, voters in every southern state experimented with political alliances that crossed the color line and threatened the status quo.

Gender, Race, and Politics Gender — society’s notion of what constitutes acceptable masculine or feminine behavior — influenced politics throughout the nineteenth century. From the early days of the Republic, citizenship had been defined in male terms. Citizenship and its prerogatives (voting and officeholding) served as a badge of manliness and rested on its corollary, patriarchy — the power and authority men exerted over their wives and families. With the advent of universal (white) male suffrage in the early nineteenth century, gender eclipsed class as the defining feature of citizenship; men’s dominance over women provided the common thread that knit all white men together politically. The concept of separate spheres dictated political participation for men only. Once the public sphere of political participation became equated with manhood, women found themselves increasingly restricted to the private sphere of the home.

Women were not alone in their limited access to the public sphere. Blacks continued to face discrimination well after Reconstruction, especially in the New South. Segregation, commonly practiced through Jim Crow laws (as discussed in “Progressivism for White Men Only” in chapter 21), prevented ex-slaves from riding in the same train cars as whites, from eating in the same restaurants, or from using the same toilet facilities.

Amid the turmoil of the post-Reconstruction South, some groups struck cross-racial alliances. In Virginia, the “Readjusters,” a coalition of blacks and whites determined to “readjust” (lower) the state debt and spend more money on public education, captured state offices from 1879 to 1883. Groups like the Readjusters believed universal political rights


could be extended to black males while maintaining racial segregation in the private sphere. Democrats fought back by arguing that black voting would lead to racial mixing, and many whites returned to the Democratic fold to protect “white womanhood.”

The notion that black men threatened white southern womanhood reached its most vicious form in the practice of lynching — the killing and mutilation of black men by white mobs. By 1892, the practice had become so prevalent that a courageous black editor, Ida B. Wells, launched an antilynching movement. That year, a white mob lynched a friend of Wells’s whose grocery store competed too successfully with a white- owned store. Wells shrewdly concluded that lynching served “as an excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized.” She began to collect data on lynching and discovered that in the decade between 1882 and 1892, lynching rose in the South by an overwhelming 200 percent, with more than 241 black people killed. The vast increase in lynching testified to the retreat of the federal government following Reconstruction and to white southerners’ determination to maintain supremacy through terrorism and intimidation.

Wells articulated lynching as a problem of gender as well as race. She insisted that the myth of black attacks on white southern women masked the reality that mob violence had more to do with economics and the shifting social structure of the South than with rape. She demonstrated in a sophisticated way how the southern patriarchal system, having lost its control over blacks with the end of slavery, used its control over white women to circumscribe the liberty of black men.

Wells’s outspoken stance immediately resulted in reprisal. While she was traveling in the North, vandals ransacked her office in Tennessee and destroyed her printing equipment. Yet the warning that she would be killed on sight if she ever returned to Memphis only stiffened her resolve. As she wrote in her autobiography, Crusade for Justice (1928), “Having lost my paper, had a price put on my life and been made an exile …, I felt that I owed it to myself and to my race to tell the whole truth now that I was where I could do so freely.”


Ida B. Wells Ida B. Wells began her antilynching campaign in 1892 after a friend’s murder led her to examine lynching in the South. Through lectures and pamphlets, she brought the horror of lynching to national and international audiences and became a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Lynching did not end during Wells’s lifetime, but her forceful voice brought the issue to national and international prominence. At Wells’s funeral in 1931, black leader W. E. B. Du Bois eulogized Wells as the woman who “began the awakening of the conscience of the nation.” Wells’s determined campaign against lynching provided just one example of women’s political activism during the Gilded Age. The suffrage and temperance movements, along with the growing popularity of women’s clubs, dramatized how women refused to be relegated to a separate sphere that kept them out of politics.

Women’s Activism In 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), the first independent women’s rights organization in the United States, to fight for the vote for women. But women found ways to act politically long before they voted


and cleverly used their moral authority as wives and mothers to move from the domestic sphere into the realm of politics.

The extraordinary activity of women’s clubs in the period following the Civil War provides just one example. Women’s clubs proliferated beginning in the 1860s. Newspaper reporter Jane Cunningham Croly (pen name Jennie June) founded the Sorosis Club in New York City in 1868, after the New York Press Club denied entry to women journalists wishing to attend a banquet honoring the British author Charles Dickens. In 1890, Croly brought state and local clubs together under the umbrella of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). Not wishing to alienate southern women, the GFWC barred black women’s clubs from joining, despite vehement objections. Women’s clubs soon abandoned literary pursuits to devote themselves to “civic usefulness,” endorsing an end to child labor, supporting the eight-hour workday, and helping pass pure food and drug legislation.

The temperance movement (the movement to end drunkenness) attracted by far the largest number of organized women in the late nineteenth century. By the late 1860s and the 1870s, the liquor business was flourishing, with about one saloon for every fifty males over the age of fifteen. During the winter of 1873–74, temperance women adopted a radical new tactic. Armed with Bibles and singing hymns, they marched on taverns and saloons and refused to leave until the proprietors signed a pledge to quit selling liquor. Known as the Woman’s Crusade, the movement spread like a prairie fire through small towns in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois and soon moved east into New York, New England, and Pennsylvania. Before it was over, more than 100,000 women had marched in more than 450 cities and towns.

The women’s tactics may have been new, but the temperance movement dated back to the 1820s. Originally, the movement was led by Protestant men who organized clubs to pledge voluntary abstinence from liquor. By the 1850s, temperance advocates won significant victories when states, starting with Maine, passed laws to prohibit the sale of liquor. The Woman’s Crusade dramatically brought the issue of temperance back into the national spotlight and, in 1874, led to the formation of a new organization, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Composed entirely of women, the WCTU advocated total abstinence from alcohol.

Temperance provided women with a respectable outlet for their increasing resentment of women’s inferior status and their growing recognition of women’s capabilities. In its first five years, the WCTU


relied on education and moral suasion, but when Frances Willard became president in 1879, she politicized the organization (see chapter 20). When the women of the WCTU joined with the Prohibition Party (formed in 1869 by a group of evangelical clergymen), one wag observed, “Politics is a man’s game, an’ women, childhern, and prohyibitionists do well to keep out iv it.” By sharing power with women, the prohibitionist men violated the old political rules and risked attacks on their honor and manhood.

Even though women found ways to affect the political process, especially in third parties, it remained true that politics, particularly presidential politics, remained an exclusively male prerogative.

REVIEW How did race and gender influence politics?


Presidential Politics The presidents of the Gilded Age, from Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881) to William McKinley (1897–1901), are largely forgotten men, primarily because so little was expected of them. The dominant creed of laissez- faire, coupled with the dictates of social Darwinism, warned the presidents and the government to leave business alone (except when they were working in its interests). Still, presidents in the Gilded Age grappled with corruption and party strife, and they struggled toward the creation of new political ethics designed to replace patronage with a civil service system that promised to award jobs on the basis of merit, not party loyalty.

Corruption and Party Strife The political corruption and party factionalism that characterized the administration of Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877) (see “Grant’s Troubled Presidency” in chapter 16) continued to trouble the nation in the 1880s. The spoils system remained the driving force in party politics at all levels of government. Pro-business Republicans generally held a firm grip on the White House, while Democrats had better luck in Congress. Both parties relied on patronage to cement party loyalty.

A small but determined group of reformers championed a new ethics that would preclude politicians from getting rich from public office. The selection of U.S. senators particularly concerned them. Under the Constitution, senators were selected by state legislatures, not directly elected by the voters. Powerful business interests often contrived to control state legislatures and through them U.S. senators. As journalist Henry Demarest Lloyd quipped, Standard Oil “had done everything to the Pennsylvania legislature except to refine it.” In this climate, a constitutional amendment calling for the direct election of senators faced stiff opposition from entrenched interests.

Republican president Rutherford B. Hayes tried to steer a middle course between spoilsmen and reformers. Hayes proved a hardworking, well-informed executive who wanted peace, prosperity, and an end to party strife. Yet the Republican Party remained divided into factions led by


strong party bosses who boasted that they could make or break any president.

Foremost among the Republican Senate bosses stood Roscoe Conkling of New York. He and his followers, who fiercely supported the patronage system, were known as “Stalwarts.” Conkling’s rival, Senator James G. Blaine of Maine, led the “Half Breeds,” who were less openly corrupt yet still tainted by their involvement in the Crédit Mobilier scandal. A third group, called the “Mugwumps,” consisted of reformers from Massachusetts and New York who deplored the spoils system and advocated civil service reform.

President Hayes’s middle course pleased no one, and he soon managed to alienate all factions of his party. Few were surprised when he announced that he would not seek reelection in 1880. To avoid choosing among its factions, the Republican Party in 1880 nominated a dark-horse candidate, Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio. To foster party unity, they picked Stalwart Chester A. Arthur as the vice presidential candidate. The Democrats made an attempt to overcome sectionalism by selecting former Union general Winfield Scott Hancock. Hancock garnered only lukewarm support, receiving just 155 electoral votes to Garfield’s 214, although the popular vote was less lopsided.

Civil Service Exams


In this 1890 photograph, prospective police officers in Chicago take the written civil service exam. With the rise of a written exam, issues of class and status meant that many men, particularly immigrants and their sons, needed education and not simply connections to make the grade. © Chicago History Museum, USA/Bridgeman Images.

Garfield’s Assassination and Civil Service Reform “My God,” Garfield swore after only a few months in office, “what is there in this place that a man should ever want to get into it?” Garfield, like Hayes, faced the difficult task of remaining independent while pacifying the party bosses and placating the reformers. On July 2, 1881, less than four months after taking office, Garfield was shot and died two months later. His assailant, Charles Julius Guiteau, though clearly insane, turned out to be a disappointed office seeker, motivated by political partisanship. He told the police officer who arrested him, “I did it; I will go to jail for it: Arthur is president, and I am a Stalwart.”

The press almost universally condemned Republican factionalism for creating the political climate that produced Guiteau. Attacks on the spoils system increased, and both parties claimed credit for passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883, which established a permanent Civil Service Commission consisting of three members appointed by the president. Some fourteen thousand jobs came under a merit system that required examinations for office and made it impossible to remove jobholders for political reasons. The new law also prohibited federal jobholders from contributing to political campaigns, thus drying up the major source of the party bosses’ revenue. Businesses soon stepped in as the nation’s chief political contributors. Ironically, civil service reform gave business an even greater influence in political life.

Reform and Scandal: The Campaign of 1884 James G. Blaine assumed leadership of the Republican Party and at long last captured the presidential nomination in 1884. A magnetic Irish American, Blaine inspired such devotion that his supporters called themselves Blainiacs. But Mugwump reformers bolted the party and embraced the Democrats’ presidential nominee, Governor Grover Cleveland of New York. The burly, beer-drinking Cleveland distinguished himself from a generation of politicians by the simple motto “A public


office is a public trust.” First as mayor of Buffalo and later as governor of New York, he built a reputation for honesty, economy, and administrative efficiency. The Democrats, who had not won the presidency since 1856, had high hopes for his candidacy, especially after the Mugwumps threw their support to Cleveland, announcing, “The paramount issue this year is moral rather than political.”

They soon regretted their words. In July, Cleveland’s hometown paper, the Buffalo Telegraph, dropped the bombshell that the candidate had fathered an illegitimate child in an affair with a local widow. Cleveland, a bachelor, stoically accepted responsibility for the child. Crushed by the scandal, the Mugwumps lost much of their enthusiasm. At public rallies, Blaine’s partisans taunted Cleveland, chanting, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?”

Blaine set a new campaign style by launching a whirlwind national tour. On a last-minute stop in New York City, the exhausted candidate committed a misstep that may have cost him the election. He overlooked a remark by a supporter, a local clergyman who cast a slur on Catholic voters by styling the Democrats as the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.” Linking drinking (rum) and Catholicism (Romanism) offended Irish Catholic voters, whom Blaine had counted on to desert the Democratic Party and support him because of his Irish background.

MAP 18.2 The Election of 1884

With less than a week to go until the election, Blaine had no chance to recover from the negative publicity. He lost New York State by fewer than 1,200 votes and with it the election. In the final tally, Cleveland defeated Blaine by a scant 23,005 votes nationwide but won with 219 electoral votes to Blaine’s 182 (Map 18.2), ending twenty-four years of Republican


control of the presidency. Cleveland’s followers had the last word. To the chorus of “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” they retorted, “Going to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”

REVIEW How did the question of civil service reform contribute to divisions within the Republican Party?


Economic Issues and Party Realignment Four years later, in the election of 1888, fickle voters turned Cleveland out, electing Republican Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of President William Henry Harrison. Then, in the only instance in American history when a president once defeated at the polls returned to office, the voters brought Cleveland back in the election of 1892. What factors account for such a surprising turnaround? The 1880s witnessed a remarkable political realignment as a set of economic concerns replaced appeals to Civil War sectional loyalties. The tariff, federal regulation of the railroads and trusts, and the campaign for free silver restructured American politics. Then a Wall Street panic in 1893 set off a major depression that further fed political unrest.

The Tariff and the Politics of Protection The tariff became a potent political issue in the 1880s. The concept of a protective tariff to raise the price of imported goods and stimulate American industry dated back to the founding days of the Republic. Republicans turned the tariff to political ends in 1861 by enacting a measure that both raised revenues for the Civil War and rewarded their industrial supporters, who wanted protection from foreign competition. After the war, the pro-business Republicans continued to raise the tariff. Manufactured goods such as steel and textiles, and some agricultural products, including sugar and wool, benefited from protection. Most farm products, notably wheat and cotton, did not. By the 1880s, the tariff produced more than $2.1 billion in revenue. Not only did the high tariff pay off the nation’s Civil War debt and fund pensions for Union soldiers, but it also created a huge surplus that sat idly in the Treasury’s vaults while the government argued about how (or even whether) to spend it.

To many Americans, particularly southern and midwestern farmers who sold their crops in a world market but had to buy goods priced artificially high because of the protective tariff, the answer was simple: Reduce the tariff. But the Republican Party seized on the tariff question to forge a new national coalition. “Fold up the bloody shirt and lay it away,”


Blaine advised a colleague in 1880. “It’s of no use to us. You want to shift the main issue to protection.” By encouraging an alliance among industrialists, labor, and western producers of raw materials — groups seen to benefit from the tariff — Blaine hoped to solidify the North, Midwest, and West against the solidly Democratic South. Although the tactic failed for Blaine in the presidential election of 1884, it worked for the Republicans four years later.

Cleveland, who had straddled the tariff issue in the election of 1884, startled the nation in 1887 by calling for tariff reform. The president attacked the tariff as a tax levied on American consumers by powerful industries. And he pointed out that high tariffs impeded the expansion of American markets abroad at a time when American industries needed to expand. The Republicans countered by arguing that “tariff tinkering” would only unsettle prosperous industries, drive down wages, and shrink the farmers’ home market. Republican Benjamin Harrison, who supported the high tariff, ousted Cleveland from the White House in 1888, carrying all the western and northern states except Connecticut and New Jersey.

Back in power, the Republicans brazenly passed the highest tariff in the nation’s history in 1890. The new tariff, sponsored by Republican representative William McKinley of Ohio, stirred up a hornet’s nest of protest across the United States. The American people had elected Harrison to preserve protection but not to enact a higher tariff. Democrats condemned the McKinley tariff and labeled the Republican Congress that passed it the “Billion Dollar Congress” for its carnival of spending, which depleted the nation’s surplus by enacting a series of pork barrel programs shamelessly designed to bring federal money to congressmen’s constituencies. In the congressional election of 1890, angry voters swept the hapless Republicans, including tariff sponsor McKinley, out of office. Two years later, Harrison himself was defeated, and Grover Cleveland returned to the White House. Such were the changes in the political winds whipped up by the tariff issue.

Controversy over the tariff masked deeper divisions in American society. Conflict between workers and farmers on the one side and bankers and corporate giants on the other erupted throughout the 1880s and came to a head in the 1890s. Both sides in the tariff debate spoke to concerns over class conflict when they insisted that their respective plans, whether McKinley’s high tariff or Cleveland’s tariff reform, would bring prosperity and harmony. For their part, many working people shared the sentiment voiced by one labor leader that the tariff was “only a scheme devised by the old parties to throw dust in the eyes of laboring men.”


Railroads, Trusts, and the Federal Government American voters may have divided on the tariff, but increasingly they agreed on the need for federal regulation of the railroads and federal legislation to curb the power of the “trusts” (a term loosely applied to all large business combinations). As early as the 1870s, angry farmers in the Midwest who suffered from the unfair shipping practices of the railroads organized to fight for railroad regulation. The Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange, founded in 1867 as a social and educational organization for farmers, soon became an independent political movement. By electing Grangers to state office, farmers made it possible for several midwestern states to pass laws in the 1870s and 1880s regulating the railroads. At first, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of state regulation (Munn v. Illinois, 1877). But in 1886, the Court reversed itself, ruling that because railroads crossed state boundaries, they fell outside state jurisdiction (Wabash v. Illinois). With more than three-fourths of railroads crossing state lines, the Supreme Court’s decision effectively quashed the states’ attempts at railroad regulation.

Anger at the Wabash decision finally led to the first federal law regulating the railroads, the Interstate Commerce Act, passed in 1887 during Cleveland’s first administration. The act established the nation’s first federal regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), to oversee the railroad industry. Railroad lobbyists worked furiously behind the scenes to make the new agency palatable to business leaders, many of whom felt a federal agency would be more lenient than state regulators. In its early years, the ICC was never strong enough to pose a serious threat to the railroads. For example, it could not end rebates to big shippers. In its early decades, the ICC proved more important as a precedent than effective as a watchdog.

Concern over the growing power of the trusts led Congress to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. The act outlawed pools and trusts, ruling that businesses could no longer enter into agreements to restrict competition. It did nothing to restrict huge holding companies such as Standard Oil, however, and proved to be a weak sword against the trusts. In the following decade, the government successfully struck down only six trusts but used the law four times against labor by outlawing unions as a “conspiracy in restraint of trade.” In 1895, the conservative Supreme Court dealt the antitrust law a crippling blow in United States v. E. C. Knight Company. In its decision, the Court ruled that “manufacture” did not constitute “trade.” This semantic quibble drastically narrowed the law, in this case allowing the American Sugar Refining Company, which had


bought out a number of other sugar companies (including E. C. Knight) and controlled 98 percent of the production of sugar, to continue its virtual monopoly. Yet the Court insisted the law could be used against labor unions.

Both the ICC and the Sherman Antitrust Act testified to the nation’s concern about corporate abuses of power and to a growing willingness to use federal measures to intervene on behalf of the public interest. As corporate capitalism became more and more powerful, public pressure toward government intervention grew. Yet not until the twentieth century would more active presidents sharpen and use these weapons effectively against the large corporations.

The Fight for Free Silver While the tariff and regulation of the trusts gained many backers, the silver issue stirred passions like no other issue of the day. On one side stood those who believed that gold constituted the only honest money. Many who supported the gold standard were eastern creditors who did not wish to be paid in devalued dollars. On the opposite side stood a coalition of western silver barons and poor farmers from the West and South who called for free silver. Farmers from the West and South hoped to increase the money supply with silver dollars and create inflation, which would give them some debt relief by enabling them to pay off their creditors with cheaper dollars. The mining interests, who had seen the silver bonanza in the West drive down the price of the precious metal, wanted the government to buy silver and mint silver dollars.

During the depression following the panic of 1873, critics of hard money organized the Greenback Labor Party, an alliance of farmers and urban wage laborers. The Greenbackers favored issuing paper currency not tied to the gold supply, citing the precedent of the greenbacks issued during the Civil War. The government had the right to define what constituted legal tender, the Greenbackers reasoned: “Paper is equally money, when … issued according to law.” They proposed that the nation’s currency be based on its wealth — land, labor, and capital — and not simply on its reserves of gold. The Greenback Labor Party captured more than a million votes and elected fourteen members to Congress in 1878. Although conservatives considered the Greenbackers dangerous cranks, their views eventually prevailed in the 1930s, when the country abandoned the gold standard.

After the Greenback Labor Party collapsed, proponents of free silver


came to dominate the monetary debate in the 1890s. Advocates of free silver pointed out that until 1873 the country had enjoyed a system of bimetallism — the minting of both silver and gold into coins. In that year, at the behest of those who favored gold, the Republican Congress had voted to stop buying and minting silver, an act silver supporters denounced as the “crime of ’73.” By sharply contracting the money supply at a time when the nation’s economy was burgeoning, the Republicans had enriched bankers and investors at the expense of cotton and wheat farmers and industrial wageworkers. In 1878 and again in 1890, with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, Congress took steps to ease the tight money policy and appease advocates of silver by passing legislation requiring the government to buy silver and issue silver certificates. Though good for the mining interests, the laws did little to promote the inflation desired by farmers. Soon monetary reformers began to call for “the free and unlimited coinage of silver,” a plan whereby nearly all the silver mined in the West would be minted into coins circulated at the rate of sixteen ounces of silver — equal in value to one ounce of gold.

By the 1890s, the silver issue crossed party lines. The Democrats hoped to use it to achieve a union between western and southern voters. Unfortunately for them, Democratic president Grover Cleveland supported the gold standard as vehemently as any Republican. After a panic on Wall Street in the spring of 1893, Cleveland called a special session of Congress and bullied the legislature into repealing the Silver Purchase Act because he believed it threatened economic confidence. Repeal proved disastrous for Cleveland. It did nothing to bring prosperity and dangerously divided the country. Angry farmers warned Cleveland not to travel west of the Mississippi River if he valued his life.

Panic and Depression President Cleveland had scarcely begun his second term in 1893 when the country plunged into the worst depression it had yet seen. In the face of economic disaster, Cleveland clung to the economic orthodoxy of the gold standard. In the winter of 1894–95, the president walked the floor of the White House, sleepless over the prospect that the United States might go bankrupt. Individuals and investors, rushing to trade in their banknotes for gold, strained the country’s monetary system. The Treasury’s gold reserves dipped so low that unless they could be buttressed, the unthinkable might happen: The U.S. Treasury might not be able to meet its obligations.

At this juncture, J. P. Morgan stepped in. A group of bankers pledged


to purchase millions in U.S. government bonds, paying in gold. Cleveland knew that such a scheme would unleash a thunder of protest, yet to save the gold standard, the president had no choice. But if President Cleveland’s action managed to salvage the gold standard, it did not save the country from hardship. In the winter of 1894–95, people faced unemployment, cold, and hunger. Cleveland, a firm believer in limited government, insisted that nothing could be done to help: “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.” Nor did it occur to Cleveland that his great faith in the gold standard prolonged the depression, favored creditors over debtors, and caused immense hardship for millions of Americans.

REVIEW What role did economic issues play in party realignment?


Conclusion: Business Dominates an Era The gold deal between J. P. Morgan and Grover Cleveland underscored a dangerous reality: The federal government was so weak that its solvency depended on a private banker. This lopsided power relationship signaled the dominance of business in the era Mark Twain satirically but accurately characterized as the Gilded Age. Birthed by the railroads, the new economy spawned greed, corruption, and vulgarity on a grand scale. Speculators like Jay Gould not only built but also wrecked railroads to turn paper profits; the get-rich-quick ethic of the gold rush infused the whole continent; and business boasted openly of buying politicians, who in turn lined their pockets at the public’s expense.

Nevertheless, the Gilded Age was not without its share of solid achievements. Where dusty roads and cattle trails once sprawled across the continent, steel rails now bound the country together, creating a national market that enabled America to make the leap into the industrial age. Factories and refineries poured out American steel and oil at unprecedented rates. Businessmen like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan developed new strategies to consolidate American industry. New inventions, including the telephone and electric light and power, transformed Americans’ everyday lives.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States had achieved industrial maturity. It boasted the largest, most innovative, most productive economy in the world. The rise of Gilded Age industry came at a cost, however. The rampant railway building changed the nature of politics in the United States, entwining the state and the corporations and making a mockery of a free market economy. And as one historian speculated, had railroad magnates waited to build western railroads to meet demand, their restraint might have resulted in less waste, less environmental degradation, and less human suffering for Native Americans and whites alike.

The effects of American industry worried many Americans and gave rise to the era’s political turmoil. Race and gender profoundly influenced American politics, leading to new political alliances. Fearless activist Ida B. Wells fought racism in its most brutal form — lynching. Women’s organizations championed causes, notably suffrage and temperance, and


challenged prevailing views of woman’s proper sphere. Reformers fought corruption by instituting civil service. And new issues — the tariff, the regulation of the trusts, and currency reform — restructured the nation’s politics.

The Gilded Age witnessed a nation transformed. Fueled by railroad building and expanding industry, cities grew exponentially, bulging at the seams with new inhabitants from around the globe and bristling with new bridges, subways, and skyscrapers. The frenzied growth of urban America brought wealth and opportunity, but also the exploitation of labor, racism toward newcomers, and social upheaval that lent a new urgency to calls for social reform.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Gilded Age (p. 458) trust (p. 463) finance capitalism (p. 465) social Darwinism (p. 467) gospel of wealth (p. 467) spoils system (p. 468) Jim Crow (p. 469) Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) (p. 471) civil service reform (p. 474) Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) (p. 477) Sherman Antitrust Act (p. 477) free silver (p. 478)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. When, why, and how did the transcontinental railroad system

develop, and what was its impact on American business? (pp. 458–65)

2. Why did the ideas of social Darwinism appeal to many Americans in the late nineteenth century? (pp. 465–67)

3. How did race and gender influence politics? (pp. 468–72) 4. How did the question of civil service reform contribute to

divisions within the Republican Party? (pp. 472–75)


5. What role did economic issues play in party realignment? (pp. 475–79)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. What were some of the key technology and business

innovations in the late nineteenth century? How did they aid the maturation of American industry?

2. By the 1870s, what new issues displaced slavery as the defining question of American politics, and how did they shape new regional, economic, and racial alliances and rivalries?

3. How did the activism of women denied the vote contribute to Gilded Age electoral politics? Be sure to cite specific examples of political action.

4. Citing specific policies and court decisions, discuss how government helped augment the power of big business in the late nineteenth century.

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. In what ways did the military conquest of the trans-Mississippi

West, with its dislocation of Native Americans, play a significant role in the industrial boom of the Gilded Age? (See chapter 17.)

2. In what ways did the rampant get-rich-quick mentality of western miners and land speculators help set the tone for the Gilded Age? Is the West the herald of the Gilded Age, or must we look to New York and Washington? (See chapter 17.)


1869 • First transcontinental railroad completed. • National Woman Suffrage Association founded.

1870 • John D. Rockefeller incorporates Standard Oil Company. 1872 • Andrew Carnegie builds world’s largest steel plant. 1873 • Wall Street panic leads to major economic depression. 1874 • Woman’s Christian Temperance Union founded.


1876 • Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates telephone. 1877 • Rutherford B. Hayes sworn in as president.

• Munn v. Illinois decided. 1880 • James A. Garfield elected president. 1881 • Garfield assassinated; Vice President Chester A. Arthur

becomes president. 1882 • John D. Rockefeller develops the trust. 1883 • Pendleton Civil Service Act enacted. 1884 • Grover Cleveland elected president. 1886 • Wabash v. Illinois decided. 1887 • Interstate Commerce Act enacted. 1888 • Benjamin Harrison elected president. 1890 • McKinley tariff passes.

• General Federation of Women’s Clubs founded. • Sherman Antitrust Act enacted.

1892 • Ida B. Wells launches antilynching campaign. 1893 • Wall Street panic touches off national depression. 1895 • J. P. Morgan bails out U.S. Treasury. 1901 • U.S. Steel incorporated and capitalized at $1.4 billion.


19 The City and Its Workers 1870–1900


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Identify the factors that led to rapid urbanization during the late

nineteenth century. Describe how the social geography of the city changed and the reactions to those changes.

◆ Describe the diversity of American labor, including the role of women and children in the workforce.

◆ Understand why workers organized and how management responded to labor’s demands. Analyze the impact of the Great Strike of 1877, the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor, and the Haymarket bombing.

◆ Describe how notions of domesticity and everyday amusements reflected class divisions.

◆ Identify the nature of city government in the late nineteenth century and the growth of city amenities. Explain Americans’ ambivalence toward cities.



were bent above the hearths know how it got its spine,” boasted a steelworker surveying New York City. Where once wooden buildings stood rooted in the mire of unpaved streets, cities of stone and steel sprang up in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The labor of millions of workers, many of them immigrants, laid the foundations for urban America.

No symbol better represented the new urban landscape than the Brooklyn Bridge, opened in May 1883. The great bridge soared over the East River in a single mile-long span. Building the Brooklyn Bridge took fourteen years and cost the lives of twenty-seven men. To sink the foundation in the riverbed, laborers tunneled through the mud and worked in boxes that were open at the bottom and pressurized to keep the water out. Before long, workers experienced the malady they called “bends” because it left them doubled over in pain when they rose to the surface. (Scientists later learned that nitrogen bubbles trapped in the bloodstream caused the bends, which could be prevented by allowing for decompression.) The first death occurred when the foundation reached a depth of seventy-one feet. A German immigrant complained that he did not feel well. He collapsed and died on his way home. Eight days later, another man dropped dead, and the entire workforce went out on strike. Terrified workers demanded a higher wage for fewer hours of work.

A scrawny sixteen-year-old from Ireland, Frank Harris, remembered the fearful experience of going to work on the bridge a few days after landing in America:

The six of us were working naked to the waist in the small iron chamber with the temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit: In five minutes the sweat was pouring from us, and all the while we were standing in icy water that was only kept from rising by the terrific pressure. No wonder the headaches were blinding.

By his fifth day, Harris quit. Many immigrant workers walked off the job, often as many as a hundred a week. But a ready supply of immigrants meant that new workers took up the digging, where they could earn in a day more than they made in a week in Ireland or Italy.

Begun in 1869, the bridge was the dream of builder John Roebling, who died in a freak accident almost as soon as construction began. Washington Roebling took over as chief engineer after his father’s death, routinely working twelve- to fourteen-hour days, six days a


week. Soon he too fell victim to the bends. He directed the completion of the bridge through a telescope from his bedroom window in Brooklyn Heights. His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, acted as site superintendent and general engineer of the project.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Brooklyn Bridge stood as a symbol of many things: the industrial might of the United States; the labor of the nation’s immigrants; the ingenuity and genius of its engineers and inventors; the rise of iron and steel; and, most of all, the ascendancy of urban America. Poised on the brink of the twentieth century, the nation was shifting from a rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial nation. The gap between rich and poor widened. In the burgeoning cities, tensions erupted into conflict as workers squared off to organize into labor unions and to demand safer working conditions, shorter hours, and better pay, sometimes with violent and bloody results. The explosive growth of the cities fostered political corruption as unscrupulous bosses and entrepreneurs cashed in on the building boom. Immigrants, political bosses, middle-class managers, poor laborers, and the very rich populated the nation’s cities, crowding the streets, laboring in the stores and factories, and taking their leisure at the new ballparks, amusement parks, dance halls, and municipal parks. As the new century dawned, the city and its workers moved to center stage in American life.


The Rise of the City “We cannot all live in cities, yet nearly all seem determined to do so,” New York editor Horace Greeley complained. The last three decades of the nineteenth century witnessed an urban explosion. Cities and towns grew more than twice as rapidly as the total population. By 1900, the United States boasted three cities with more than a million inhabitants — New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Patterns of global migration contributed to the rise of the city. In the port cities of the East Coast, more than fourteen million people arrived, many from southern and eastern Europe, and huddled together in dense urban ghettos. The word slum entered the American vocabulary along with a growing concern over the rising tide of newcomers. In the city, the widening gap between rich and poor became not just financial but physical. Changes in the city landscape brought about by advances in transportation and technology accentuated the great divide in wealth at the same time they put physical distance between rich and poor.

The Urban Explosion: A Global Migration The United States grew up in the country and moved to the city, or so it seemed by the end of the nineteenth century. Between 1870 and 1900, eleven million people moved into cities. Burgeoning industrial centers such as Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland acted as giant magnets, attracting workers from the countryside. But rural Americans were not the only ones migrating to cities. Millions of immigrants moved from their native countries to America. Worldwide in scope, the movement from rural areas to urban industrial centers attracted millions of immigrants to American shores.

By the 1870s, the world could be conceptualized as three interconnected geographic regions (Map 19.1). At the center stood an industrial core that encompassed the eastern United States and western Europe. Surrounding this industrial core lay a vast agricultural domain from the Canadian wheat fields to the hinterlands of northern China. Capitalist development in the late nineteenth century shattered traditional


patterns of economic activity in this rural periphery. As old patterns broke down, these rural areas exported, along with other raw materials, new recruits for the industrial labor force.

MAP 19.1 Economic Regions of the World, 1890 The global nature of the world economy at the turn of the twentieth century is indicated by three interconnected geographic regions. At the center stands the industrial core — western Europe and the northeastern United States. The second region — the agricultural periphery — supplied immigrant laborers to the industries in the core. Beyond these two regions lay a vast area tied economically to the industrial core by colonialism.

Beyond this second circle lay an even larger third world. Colonial ties between this part of the world and the industrial core strengthened in the late nineteenth century, but most of the people living there stayed put. They worked on plantations and railroads, and in mines and ports, as part of a huge export network managed by foreign powers that staked out spheres of influence and colonies in this vast region.

In the 1870s, railroad expansion and low steamship fares gave the world’s peoples a newfound mobility, enabling industrialists to draw on a global population for cheap labor. When Andrew Carnegie opened his first steel mill in 1872, his superintendent hired workers he called “buckwheats” — young American boys just off the farm. By the 1890s, however, Carnegie’s workforce was liberally sprinkled with other rural boys, Hungarians and Slavs who had migrated to the United States, willing


to work for low wages. Altogether, more than 25 million immigrants came to the United States

between 1850 and 1920. They came from all directions: east from Asia, south from Canada, north from Latin America, and west from Europe (Map 19.2). Part of a worldwide migration, emigrants traveled to South America and Australia as well as to the United States. Yet more than 70 percent of all European emigrants chose North America as their destination.

Historically, the largest number of immigrants to the United States came from the British Isles and from German-speaking lands. The vast majority of immigrants were white; Asians accounted for fewer than one million immigrants, and other people of color numbered even fewer. Yet ingrained racial prejudices increasingly influenced the country’s perception of immigration patterns. One of the classic formulations of the history of European immigration divided immigrants into two distinct waves that have been called the “old” and the “new” immigration. According to this theory, before 1880 the majority of immigrants came from northern and western Europe, with Germans, Irish, English, and Scandinavians making up approximately 85 percent of the newcomers. After 1880, the pattern shifted, with more and more ships carrying passengers from southern and eastern Europe. Italians, Hungarians, eastern European Jews, Turks, Armenians, Poles, Russians, and other Slavic peoples accounted for more than 80 percent of all immigrants by 1896. Implicit in the distinction was an invidious comparison between “old” pioneer settlers and “new” unskilled laborers. Yet this sweeping generalization spoke more to perception than to reality. In fact, many of the earlier immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia came not as settlers or farmers, but as wageworkers, and they were met with much the same disdain as the Italians and Slavs who followed them.


MAP 19.2 The Impact of Immigration, to 1910 Immigration flowed in all directions — south from Canada, north from Mexico and Latin America, east from Asia, and west from Europe.

During good financial times, the need for cheap, unskilled labor for America’s industries stimulated demand for immigrant workers. In 1873 and again in 1893, when the United States experienced economic depressions, immigration slowed, only to pick up again when prosperity returned. Steamship companies courted immigrants — a highly profitable, self-loading cargo. By the 1880s, the price of a ticket from Liverpool had dropped to less than $25. Would-be immigrants eager for information about the United States relied on letters from friends and relatives, advertisements, and word of mouth — sources that were not always dependable or truthful. As one Italian immigrant recalled, “News was colored, success magnified, comforts and advantages exaggerated beyond all proportions.” Even photographs proved deceptive: Workers dressed in their Sunday best looked more prosperous than they actually were to relatives in the old country, where only the very wealthy wore white collars or silk dresses. No wonder people left for the United States believing, as one Italian immigrant observed, “that if they were ever fortunate enough to reach America, they would fall into a pile of manure and get up brushing the diamonds out of their hair.”


Most of the newcomers stayed in the nation’s cities. By 1900, almost two-thirds of the country’s immigrant population resided in cities. Many of the immigrants were too poor to move on. (The average laborer immigrating to the United States carried only about $21.50.) Although the foreign-born rarely outnumbered the native-born population, taken together immigrants and their American-born children did constitute a majority in some areas, particularly in the nation’s largest cities: Philadelphia, 55 percent; Boston, 66 percent; Chicago, 75 percent; and New York City, an amazing 80 percent in 1900.

Not all the newcomers came to stay. Perhaps eight million European immigrants — most of them young men — worked for a year or a season and then returned to their homelands. Immigration officers called these immigrants, many of them Italians, “birds of passage” because they followed a regular pattern of migration to and from the United States. By 1900, almost 75 percent of the new immigrants were young, single men. Willing to accept conditions other workers regarded as intolerable, these young migrants showed little interest in labor unions. They organized only when the dream of returning home faded, as it did for millions who ultimately remained in the United States.

Women generally had less access to funds for travel and faced tighter family control. Because the traditional sexual division of labor relied on women’s unpaid domestic labor and care of the very young and the very old, women most often came to the United States as wives, mothers, or daughters, not as single wage laborers. Only among the Irish, where the great potato famine presented the grim choice of starve or leave, did women immigrants outnumber men by a small margin from 1871 to 1891.


Pushcart Peddlers in Little Italy This photo shows banana sellers working from a pushcart in a street in New York’s Little Italy. Italian immigrants constituted the majority of banana importers at the turn of the twentieth century. Library of Congress, 3c31516.

Jews from eastern Europe and Russia most often came with their families and came to stay. Fear of conscription into the Russian army motivated many young men to leave Russia. In addition, beginning in the 1880s, a wave of violent pogroms, or persecutions, in Russia and Poland prompted the departure of more than a million Jews in the next two decades. Mary Antin, a Jew leaving Poland for America, recalled her excitement: “So, at last I was going to America! Really going at last! The boundaries burst. The arch of heaven soared…. America! America!” Most of the Jewish immigrants settled in the port cities of the East, creating distinct ethnic enclaves, like Hester Street in the heart of New York City’s Lower East Side, which rang with the calls of pushcart peddlers and vendors hawking their wares, from pickles to feather beds.

Racism and the Cry for Immigration Restriction


Ethnic diversity and racism played a role in dividing skilled workers (those with a craft or specialized ability) from the globe-hopping proletariat of unskilled workers (those who supplied muscle or tended machines). Skilled workers, frequently members of older immigrant groups, criticized the newcomers. One Irish worker complained, “There should be a law … to keep all the Italians from comin’ in and takin’ the bread out of the mouths of honest people.”

The Irish worker’s resentment brings into focus the impact racism had on America’s immigrant laborers. Throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, members of the educated elite as well as the uneducated viewed ethnic and even religious differences as racial characteristics, referring to the Polish or the Jewish “race.” Americans judged immigrants of southern and eastern European “races” as inferior. Each wave of newcomers was deemed somehow inferior to the established residents. The Irish who criticized the Italians so harshly had themselves been stigmatized as a lesser “race” a generation earlier.

Immigrants not only brought their own religious and racial prejudices to the United States but also absorbed the popular prejudices of American culture. Social Darwinism, with its strongly racist overtones, decreed that whites stood at the top of the evolutionary ladder. But who was “white”? Skin color supposedly served as a marker for the “new” immigrants — “swarthy” Italians; dark-haired, olive-skinned Jews. But even blond, blue- eyed Poles were not considered “white.” The social construction of race is nowhere more apparent than in the testimony of an Irish dockworker, who boasted that he hired only “white men,” a category that he insisted excluded “Poles and Italians.” For the new immigrants, Americanization and assimilation would prove inextricably part of becoming “white.”

For African Americans, the cities of the North promised not just economic opportunity but an escape from institutionalized segregation and persecution. Throughout the South, Jim Crow laws — restrictions that segregated blacks — became common in the decades following Reconstruction. Intimidation and lynching terrorized blacks. “To die from the bite of frost is far more glorious than at the hands of a mob,” proclaimed the Defender, Chicago’s largest African American newspaper. In the 1890s, many blacks moved north, settling for the most part in the growing cities. Racism relegated them to poor jobs and substandard living conditions, but by 1900, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago had the largest black communities in the nation. Although the most significant African American migration out of the South would occur during and after World War I, the great exodus was already under way.


On the West Coast, Asian immigrants became scapegoats of the changing economy. Hard times in the 1870s made them a target for disgruntled workers, who dismissed them as “coolie” labor. Contract laborers recruited by employers, or later by prosperous members of their own race or ethnicity, represented the antithesis of free labor to the workers who competed with them. In the West, the issue became racialized, and while the Chinese were by no means the only contract laborers, the Sinophobia that produced the scapegoat of the “coolie” permeated the labor movement. Prohibited from owning land, the Chinese migrated to the cities. In 1870, San Francisco housed a Chinese population estimated at 12,022, and it continued to grow until passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (see “The Diverse Peoples of the West” in chapter 17). For the first time in the nation’s history, U.S. law excluded an immigrant group on the basis of race.

Some Chinese managed to come to America using a loophole in the exclusion law that allowed relatives to join their families. Meanwhile the number of Japanese immigrants rapidly grew until pressure to keep out all Asians led in 1910 to the creation of an immigration station at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, where immigrants were quarantined until judged fit to enter the United States.

On the East Coast, the volume of immigration from Europe in the last two decades of the century proved unprecedented. In 1888 alone, more than half a million Europeans landed in America, 75 percent of them in New York City. The Statue of Liberty, erected in 1886 as a gift from the people of France, stood sentinel in the harbor.

A young Jewish woman named Emma Lazarus penned the verse inscribed on Lady Liberty’s base:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Lazarus’s poem stood as both a promise and a warning. With increasing immigration, some Americans soon would question whether the country really wanted the “huddled masses” or the “wretched refuse” of the world.

The tide of immigrants to New York City soon swamped the immigration office in lower Manhattan. After the federal government took


over immigration in 1890, it built a facility on Ellis Island, in New York harbor, which opened in 1892. After fire gutted the wooden building, a new brick edifice replaced it in 1900. Able to process 5,000 immigrants a day, it was already inadequate by the time it opened. Its overcrowded halls became the gateway to the United States for millions.

To many Americans the new southern and eastern European immigrants appeared backward, uneducated, and outlandish in appearance — impossible to assimilate. “These people are not Americans,” editorialized the popular journal Public Opinion; “they are the very scum and offal of Europe.” Terence V. Powderly, head of the broadly inclusive Knights of Labor, complained that the newcomers “herded together like animals and lived like beasts.” Blue-blooded Yankees led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts formed an unlikely alliance with leaders of organized labor — who feared that immigrants would drive down wages — to press for immigration restrictions. In 1896, Congress approved a literacy test for immigrants, but President Grover Cleveland promptly vetoed it. “It is said,” the president reminded Congress, “that the quality of recent immigration is undesirable. The time is quite within recent memory when the same thing was said of immigrants who, with their descendants, are now numbered among our best citizens.”

The Social Geography of the City During the Gilded Age, the social geography of the city changed enormously. Cleveland, Ohio, provides a good example. In the 1870s, Cleveland was a small city in both population and area. Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller could, and often did, walk from his large brick house on Euclid Avenue to his office downtown. On his way, he passed the small homes of his clerks and other middle-class families. Behind these homes ran miles of alleys crowded with the dwellings of Cleveland’s working class. Farther out, on the shores of Lake Erie, close to the factories and foundries, clustered the shanties of the city’s poorest laborers.

Within two decades, the Cleveland that Rockefeller knew no longer existed. The coming of mass transit transformed the walking city. In its place emerged a central business district surrounded by concentric rings of residences organized by ethnicity and income. First the horsecar in the 1870s and then the electric streetcar in the 1880s made it possible for those who could afford the five-cent fare to work downtown and flee after work to the “cool green rim” of the city. Social segregation — the separation of rich and poor, and of ethnic and old-stock Americans — became one of the major social changes engendered by the rise of the industrial metropolis.


Race and ethnicity affected the way cities evolved. Newcomers to the nation’s cities faced hostility and, not surprisingly, sought out their kin and countryfolk as they struggled to get ahead. Distinct ethnic neighborhoods often formed around a synagogue or church. African Americans typically experienced the greatest residential segregation, but every large city had its distinct ethnic neighborhoods — Little Italy, Chinatown, Bohemia Flats, Germantown — where English was rarely spoken.

Poverty, crowding, dirt, and disease constituted the daily reality of New York City’s immigrant poor — a plight documented by photojournalist Jacob Riis in his best-selling book How the Other Half Lives (1890). By taking his camera into the hovels of the poor, Riis opened the nation’s eyes to the filthy, overcrowded conditions in the city’s slums.

However, Riis’s book, like his photographs, presented a world of black and white. There were many layers to the population Riis labeled “the other half” — distinctions deepened by ethnicity, religion, race, and gender. How the Other Half Lives must be read more as a reformer’s call to action than as an entirely accurate portrayal of the varied and complex lives of “the other half.” But it served its purpose. Tenement reform and city playgrounds grew out of Riis’s exposé.

While Riis’s audience shivered at his revelations about the “other half,” many middle-class Americans worried equally about the excesses of the wealthy. They feared the class antagonism fueled by the growing chasm between rich and poor and shared Riis’s view that “the real danger to society comes not only from the tenements, but from the ill-spent wealth which reared them.”

The excesses of the Gilded Age’s newly minted millionaires were nowhere more visible than in the lifestyle of the Vanderbilts. Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, the uncouth ferryman who built the New York Central Railroad, died in 1877. Today he still holds first place among the richest men in America (when adjusted for inflation). He left his son William $90 million. William doubled the sum, and his two sons proceeded to spend it on Fifth Avenue mansions and “cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island, that sought to rival the palaces of Europe. Alva Vanderbilt, looked down on by the old-money matrons of New York, launched herself into New York society in 1883 with a costume party so opulent that her detractors had to cave in and accept her invitation. Alice Vanderbilt, her sister, topped all the guests by appearing as that miraculous new invention, the electric light, resplendent in a white satin evening dress studded with diamonds. The New York World speculated that Alva’s party cost more than a quarter of a million dollars, more than $5 million in


today’s dollars. Such ostentatious displays of wealth became especially alarming when

they were coupled with disdain for the well-being of ordinary people. When a reporter in 1882 asked William Vanderbilt whether he considered the public good when running his railroads, he shot back, “The public be damned.” The fear that America had become a plutocracy — a society ruled by the rich — gained credence from the fact that the wealthiest 1 percent of the population owned more than half the real and personal property in the country. As the new century dawned, reformers would form a progressive movement to address the problems of urban industrialism and the substandard living and working conditions it produced.

REVIEW Why did American cities experience explosive growth in the late nineteenth century?


At Work in Industrial America The number of industrial wageworkers in the United States exploded in the second half of the nineteenth century, more than tripling from 5.3 million in 1860 to 17.4 million in 1900. These workers toiled in a variety of settings. Many skilled workers and artisans still earned a living in small workshops. But with the rise of corporate capitalism, large factories, mills, and mines increasingly dotted the landscape. Sweatshops and the contracting out of piecework, including finishing garments by hand, provided work experiences different from those of factory operatives and industrial workers. Pick-and-shovel labor constituted the lowest-paid labor, while managers, as well as women “typewriters” and salesclerks, formed a new white-collar segment of America’s workforce. Children also worked in growing numbers in mills and mines across the country.

America’s Diverse Workers Common laborers formed the backbone of the American labor force. They built the railroads and subways, tunneled under New York’s East River to anchor the Brooklyn Bridge, and helped lay the foundation of industrial America. These “human machines” generally came from the most recent immigrant groups. Initially, the Irish wielded the picks and shovels that built American cities, but by the turn of the century, as the Irish bettered their lot, Slavs and Italians took up their tools.

At the opposite end of labor’s hierarchy stood skilled craftsmen like iron puddler James J. Davis, a Welsh immigrant who worked in the Pennsylvania mills. Using brains along with brawn, puddlers earned good wages — Davis drew up to $7 a day at a time when streetcar fare was 3 cents — when there was work. But most industry and manufacturing work in the nineteenth century remained seasonal; few workers could count on year-round pay. In addition, two major depressions twenty years apart, beginning in 1873 and 1893, brought unemployment and hardship. With no social safety net, even the best worker could not guarantee security for his family. “The fear of ending in the poor-house is one of the terrors that dog a man through life,” Davis confessed.


Employers attempted to replace people with machines, breaking down skilled work into ever-smaller tasks that could be performed by unskilled factory operatives. New England’s textile mills provide a classic example. Mary, a weaver at the mills in Fall River, Massachusetts, went to work in the 1880s at the age of twelve. Mechanization of the looms had reduced the job of the weaver to watching for breaks in the thread. “At first the noise is fierce, and you have to breathe the cotton all the time, but you get used to it,” Mary told a reporter from the Independent magazine. “When the bobbin flies out and a girl gets hurt, you can’t hear her shout — not if she just screams, you can’t. She’s got to wait, ’till you see her…. Lots of us is deaf.”

During the 1880s, the number of foreign-born mill workers almost doubled. At Fall River, Mary and her Scots-Irish family resented the new immigrants. “The Polaks learn weavin’ quick,” she remarked, using a common derogatory term to identify a rival group. “They just as soon live on nothin’ and work like that. But it won’t do ’em much good for all they’ll make out of it.” Employers encouraged racial and ethnic antagonism because it inhibited labor organization.

Mechanization transformed the garment industry as well. The introduction of the foot-pedaled sewing machine in the 1850s and the use of mechanical cloth-cutting knives drove out independent tailors, who were replaced by pieceworkers. Sadie Frowne, a sixteen-year-old Polish Jew, worked in a Brooklyn sweatshop in the 1890s. Frowne sewed for eleven hours a day in a 20-by-14-foot room containing fourteen machines. “The machines go like mad all day, because the faster you work the more money you get,” she recalled. She earned about $4.50 a week and, by rigid economy, tried to save $2. Young and single, Frowne typified the woman wage earner in the late nineteenth century. In 1890, the average workingwoman was twenty-two and had been working since the age of fifteen, laboring twelve hours a day six days a week and earning less than $6 a week.

The Family Economy: Women and Children In 1900, the typical male worker in manufacturing earned $500 a year, about $12,000 in today’s dollars. Many working-class families, whether native-born or immigrant, lived in or near poverty, their economic survival dependent on the contributions of all family members, regardless of sex or age. “Father,” asked one young immigrant girl, “does everybody in America live like this? Go to work early, come home late, eat and go to sleep? And the next day again work, eat, and sleep?” Most workers did.


The family economy meant that everyone contributed to maintain even the most meager household.

In the cities, boys as young as six years old plied their trades as bootblacks and newsboys. Often working under an adult contractor, these children earned as little as fifty cents a day. Many of them were homeless — orphaned or cast off by their families. “We wuz six, and we ain’t got no father,” a child of twelve told reporter Jacob Riis. “Some of us had to go.”

Child labor increased each decade after 1870. The percentage of children under fifteen engaged in paid labor did not drop until after World War I. The 1900 census estimated that 1,750,178 children ages ten to fifteen were employed, an increase of more than a million over thirty years. Children in this age range constituted more than 18 percent of the industrial labor force.

Women working for wages in nonagricultural occupations more than doubled in number between 1870 and 1900. Yet white married women, even among the working class, rarely worked for wages outside the home. In 1890, only 3 percent were employed. Black women, married and unmarried, worked out of the home for wages in much greater numbers. The 1890 census showed that 25 percent of married African American women were employed, often as domestics in the houses of white families.

White-Collar Workers: Managers, “Typewriters,” and Salesclerks In the late nineteenth century, a managerial revolution created a new class of white-collar workers who worked in offices and stores. As skilled workers saw their crafts replaced by mechanization, some moved into management positions. “The middle class is becoming a salaried class,” a writer for the Independent magazine observed, “and is rapidly losing the economic and moral independence of former days.” As large business organizations consolidated, corporate development separated management from ownership, and the job of directing the firm became the province of salaried executives and managers, the majority of whom were white men drawn from the 8 percent of Americans who held high school diplomas.

Until late in the century, when engineering schools began to supply recruits, many skilled workers moved from the shop floor to positions of considerable responsibility. Captain William “Billy” Jones, son of a Welsh immigrant, grew up in the heat of the blast furnaces, where he worked as an apprentice at the age of ten. Jones, by all accounts the best steelman in the business, took as his motto “Good wages and good workmen.” In


1872, Andrew Carnegie hired Jones as general superintendent of his new Pittsburgh steelworks. Although Carnegie constantly tried to force down workers’ pay, Jones resisted, and he succeeded in shortening the shift from twelve to eight hours by convincing Carnegie that shorter hours reduced absenteeism and accidents. Jones demanded and received “a hell of a big salary” — $25,000, the same as the president of the United States.

The new white-collar workforce also included women “typewriters” and salesclerks. In the decades after the Civil War, as businesses became larger and more far-flung, the need for more elaborate and exact records, as well as the greater volume of correspondence, led to the hiring of more office workers. The adding machine, the cash register, and the typewriter came into general use in the 1880s. Employers seeking literate workers soon turned to nimble-fingered women. Educated men had many other career choices, but for middle-class white women, secretarial work constituted one of the very few areas where they could put their literacy to use for wages.

Sylvie Thygeson was typical of the young women who went to work as secretaries. Thygeson grew up in an Illinois prairie town and went to work as a country schoolteacher after graduating high school in 1884. Realizing that teaching school did not pay a living wage, she mastered typing and stenography and found work as a secretary to help support her family. According to her account, she made “a fabulous sum of money” (possibly $25 a month). Nevertheless, she gave up her job after a few years when she met and married her husband.

But by the 1890s, secretarial work was the overwhelming choice of native-born, single white women, who constituted more than 90 percent of the female clerical force. Not only considered more genteel than factory work or domestic labor, office work also meant more money for shorter hours. In 1883, Boston’s clerical workers on average made more than $6 a week, compared with less than $5 for women working in manufacturing.

As a new consumer culture came to dominate American urban life in the late nineteenth century, department stores offered another employment opportunity for women in the cities. Boasting ornate facades, large plate- glass display windows, and marble and brass fixtures, stores such as Macy’s in New York, Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia, and Marshall Field in Chicago stood as monuments to the material promise of the era. Within these palaces of consumption, cash girls, stock clerks, and wrappers earned as little as $3 a week, while at the top of the scale, buyers like Belle Cushman of the fancy goods department at Macy’s earned $25 a week, an unusually high salary for a woman in the 1870s. Salesclerks counted


themselves a cut above factory workers. Their work was neither dirty nor dangerous, and even when they earned less than factory workers, they felt a sense of superiority.

Office Machine Sales Booth Mechanization of office work involved far more than the typewriter. Shown here is the Edison Company sales booth at a trade show in Madison Square Garden featuring “business phonographs” to play advertising messages, “numbering machines” to stamp consecutive numbers on office invoices, and “Daus’ Tip Top,” a device that made copies of handwritten or typed documents. Women clerks (on the right) used the machines to entice male customers to mechanize their own offices. © Museum of the City of New York, USA/Bridgeman Images.

REVIEW How did business expansion and consolidation change workers’ occupations in the late nineteenth century?


Workers Organize By the late nineteenth century, industrial workers were losing ground in the workplace. In the fierce competition to reduce prices and cut costs, industrialists invested heavily in new machinery that replaced skilled workers with unskilled labor. The erosion of skills and the redefinition of labor as mere “machine tending” left the worker with a growing sense of individual helplessness that spurred collective action. The 1870s and 1880s witnessed the emergence of two labor unions — the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor. In 1877, in the midst of a depression, labor flexed its muscle in the Great Railroad Strike. But unionism would suffer a major setback after the mysterious Haymarket bombing in 1886.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 Economic depression following the panic of 1873 threw as many as three million people out of work. Those who were lucky enough to keep their jobs watched as pay cuts eroded wages until they could no longer feed their families. In the summer of 1877, the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad announced a 10 percent wage cut at the same time it declared a 10 percent dividend to its stockholders. Angry brakemen in West Virginia, whose wages had already fallen from $70 to $30 a month, walked out on strike. One B&O worker described the hardship that drove him to take such desperate action: “We eat our hard bread and tainted meat two days old on the sooty cars up the road, and when we come home, find our wives complaining that they cannot even buy hominy and molasses for food.”

The West Virginia brakemen’s strike touched off the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a nationwide uprising that spread rapidly to Pittsburgh and Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco (Map 19.3). Within a few days, nearly 100,000 railroad workers had walked off the job. An estimated 500,000 sympathetic railway workers soon joined the strikers. In Reading, Pennsylvania, militiamen refused to fire on the strikers, saying, “We may be militiamen, but we are workmen first.” Rail traffic ground to a halt; the nation lay paralyzed.

Violence erupted as the strike spread. In Pittsburgh, militia brought in


from Philadelphia fired on the crowds, killing more than twenty people. Angry workers retaliated by reducing an area two miles long beside the tracks to rubble. Before the day ended, the militia shot twenty workers and the railroad sustained more than $2 million in property damage.

Within eight days, the governors of nine states, acting at the prompting of the railroad owners and managers, defined the strike as an “insurrection” and called for federal troops. President Rutherford B. Hayes, after hesitating briefly, called out the army. By the time the troops arrived, the violence had run its course. Federal troops did not shoot a single striker in 1877. But they struck a blow against labor by acting as strikebreakers — opening rail traffic, protecting nonstriking “scab” train crews, and maintaining peace along the line. In three weeks, the strike was over.

Middle-class Americans initially sympathized with the conditions that led to the strike. But they quickly condemned the strikers for the violence and property damage that occurred. The New York Times editorialized about the “dangerous classes,” and the Independent magazine offered the following advice on how to deal with “rioters”: “If the club of a policeman, knocking out the brains of the rioter, will answer then well and good; but if it does not promptly meet the exigency, then bullets and bayonets … constitutes the one remedy and one duty of the hour.”

MAP 19.3 The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 Starting in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the strike spread as far north as Albany, New York, and as far west as San Francisco, bringing rail traffic to a standstill. Called the Great Uprising, the


strike heralded the beginning of a new era of working-class protest and trade union organization.

“The strikes have been put down by force,” President Hayes noted in his diary on August 5. “But now for the real remedy. Can’t something be done by education of the strikers, by judicious control of the capitalists, by wise general policy to end or diminish the evil? The railroad strikers, as a rule, are good men, sober, intelligent, and industrious.” While Hayes acknowledged the workers’ grievances, most businessmen condemned the idea of labor unions as agents of class warfare. For their part, workers quickly recognized that they held little power individually and flocked to join unions. As labor leader Samuel Gompers noted, the nation’s first national strike dramatized the frustration and unity of the workers and served as an alarm bell to labor “that sounded a ringing message of hope to us all.”

The Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor The Knights of Labor, the first mass organization of America’s working class, proved the chief beneficiary of labor’s newfound consciousness. The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor had been founded in 1869 as a secret society of workers who envisioned a “universal brotherhood” of all workers, from common laborers to master craftsmen. Secrecy and ritual served to bind Knights together at the same time that they discouraged company spies and protected members from reprisals.

Although the Knights played no active role in the 1877 railroad strike, membership swelled as a result of the growing interest in labor organizing that followed the strike. In 1878, the Knights abandoned secrecy and launched an ambitious campaign to organize workers.

The Knights attempted to bridge the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, ideology, race, and occupation. Leonora Barry served as general investigator for women’s work from 1886 to 1890, helping the Knights recruit teachers, waitresses, housewives, and domestics along with factory and sweatshop workers. Women composed perhaps 20 percent of the membership. The Knights also recruited more than 95,000 black workers. That the Knights of Labor often fell short of its goals to unify the working class proved less surprising than the scope of its efforts.

Under the direction of Grand Master Workman Terence V. Powderly, the Knights became the dominant force in labor during the 1880s. The


organization advocated a kind of workers’ democracy that embraced reforms including public ownership of the railroads, an income tax, equal pay for women workers, and the abolition of child labor. The Knights called for one big union to create a cooperative commonwealth that would supplant the wage system and remove class distinctions. Only the “parasitic” members of society — gamblers, stockbrokers, lawyers, bankers, and liquor dealers — were denied membership.

The Knights of Labor was not without rivals. Many skilled workers belonged to craft unions organized by trade. Among the largest and richest of these unions stood the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, founded in 1876 and counting twenty thousand skilled workers as members. Trade unionists spurned the broad reform goals of the Knights and focused on workplace issues. Samuel Gompers founded the Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1881 and reorganized it in 1886 into the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which coordinated the activities of craft unions throughout the United States. His plan was simple: Organize skilled workers such as machinists and locomotive engineers — those with the most bargaining power — and use strikes to gain immediate objectives such as higher pay and better working conditions. Gompers at first drew few converts. The AFL had only 138,000 members in 1886, compared with 730,000 for the Knights of Labor. But events soon brought down the Knights, and Gompers’s brand of unionism came to prevail.

Haymarket and the Specter of Labor Radicalism While the AFL and the Knights of Labor competed for members, more radical labor groups, including socialists and anarchists, believed that reform was futile and called instead for social revolution. Both the socialists and the anarchists, sensitive to criticism that they preferred revolution in theory to improvements here and now, rallied around the popular issue of the eight-hour day.

Since the 1840s, labor had sought to end the twelve-hour workday, which was standard in industry and manufacturing. By the mid-1880s, it seemed clear to many workers that labor shared too little in the new prosperity of the decade, and pressure mounted for the eight-hour day. Labor championed the popular issue and launched major rallies in cities across the nation. Supporters of the movement set May 1, 1886, as the date for a nationwide general strike in support of the eight-hour workday.

All factions of the labor movement came together in Chicago on May


Day. A group of labor radicals led by anarchist Albert Parsons, a Mayflower descendant, and August Spies, a German socialist, spearheaded the eight-hour movement in Chicago. Chicago’s Knights of Labor rallied to the cause even though Powderly and the union’s national leadership, worried about the increasing activism of the rank and file, refused to endorse the movement for shorter hours. Gompers was also on hand to lead the city’s trade unionists, although he privately urged the AFL assemblies not to participate in the general strike.

The cautious labor leaders in their frock coats and starched shirts stood in sharp contrast to the dispossessed workers out on strike across town at Chicago’s huge McCormick reaper works. There strikers watched helplessly as the company brought in strikebreakers to take their jobs and marched the “scabs” to work under the protection of the Chicago police and security guards supplied by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Cyrus McCormick Jr., son of the inventor of the mechanical reaper, viewed labor organization as a threat to his power as well as to his profits; he was determined to smash the union.

During the May Day rally, 45,000 workers paraded peacefully down Michigan Avenue in support of the eight-hour day. Many sang what had become the movement’s anthem:

We want to feel the sunshine; We want to smell the flowers, We’re sure that God has willed it, And we mean to have eight hours. Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, Eight hours for what we will!

Trouble came two days later, when strikers attacked strikebreakers outside the McCormick works and police opened fire, killing or wounding six men. Angry radicals urged workers to “arm yourselves and appear in full force” at a rally in Haymarket Square.

On the evening of May 4, the turnout at Haymarket was disappointing. No more than two or three thousand gathered in the drizzle to hear Spies, Parsons, and the other speakers. Mayor Carter Harrison, known as a friend of labor, mingled conspicuously in the crowd, pronounced the meeting peaceable, and went home to bed. Sometime later, police captain John “Blackjack” Bonfield marched his men into the crowd, by now fewer than three hundred people, and demanded that it disperse. Suddenly, someone threw a bomb into the police ranks. After a moment of stunned silence, the police drew their revolvers. “Fire and kill all you can,” shouted a police


lieutenant. When the melee ended, seven policemen and an unknown number of others lay dead. An additional sixty policemen and thirty or forty civilians suffered injuries.

News of the “Haymarket riot” provoked a nationwide convulsion of fear, followed by blind rage directed at anarchists, labor unions, strikers, immigrants, and the working class in general. Eight men, including Parsons and Spies, went on trial in Chicago. “Convict these men,” thundered the state’s attorney, Julius S. Grinnell, “make examples of them, hang them, and you save our institutions.” Although the state could not link any of the defendants to the Haymarket bombing, the jury nevertheless found them all guilty. Four men were hanged, one committed suicide, and three received prison sentences.

The bomb blast at Haymarket had lasting repercussions. To commemorate the death of the Haymarket martyrs, labor made May 1 an annual international celebration of the worker. But the Haymarket bomb, in the eyes of one observer, proved “a godsend to all enemies of the labor movement.” It effectively scotched the eight-hour-day movement and dealt a blow to the Knights of Labor. With the labor movement everywhere under attack, many skilled workers turned to the AFL. Gompers’s narrow economic strategy made sense at the time and enabled one segment of the workforce — the skilled — to organize effectively and achieve tangible gains.

REVIEW Why did membership in the Knights of Labor rise in the late 1870s and decline in the 1890s?


At Home and at Play The growth of urban industrialism not only dramatically altered the workplace but also transformed home and family life, and it gave rise to new forms of commercialized leisure. Industrialization redefined the very concepts of work and home. Increasingly, men went out to work for wages, while most white married women stayed home, either working in the home without pay — cleaning, cooking, and rearing children — or supervising paid domestic servants who did the housework.

Domesticity and “Domestics” The separation of the workplace and the home that marked the shift to industrial society led to a new ideology, one that sentimentalized the home and women’s role in it. The cultural idea that dictated a woman’s place was in the home, where she would create a haven for her family, began to develop in the early 1800s. It has been called the cult of domesticity, a phrase used to prescribe an ideal of middle-class, white womanhood that dominated the period from 1820 to the end of the nineteenth century.

The cult of domesticity and the elaboration of the middle-class home led to a major change in patterns of hiring household help. The live-in servant, or domestic, became a fixture in the North, replacing the hired girl of the previous century. In American cities by 1870, 15 to 30 percent of all households included live-in domestic servants, more than 90 percent of them women. Earlier in the mid-nineteenth century, native-born women increasingly took up other work and left domestic service to immigrants. In the East, the maid was so often Irish that “Bridget” became a generic term for female domestics. The South continued to rely on poorly paid black female “help.”

Servants by all accounts resented the long hours and lack of privacy. “She is liable to be rung up at all hours,” one study of domestics reported. “Her very meals are not secure from interruption, and even her sleep is not sacred.” Domestic service became the occupation of last resort, a “hard and lonely life” in the words of one female servant.

For women of the white middle class, domestics were a boon, freeing


them from household drudgery and giving them more time to spend with their children, to pursue club work, or to work for reforms. Thus, while domestic service supported the cult of domesticity, it created for those women who could afford it opportunities that expanded their horizons outside the home. They became involved in women’s clubs as well as the temperance and suffrage movements.

Cheap Amusements Growing class divisions manifested themselves in patterns of leisure as well as in work and home life. The poor and working class took their leisure, when they had any, not in the crowded tenements that housed their families but increasingly in the cities’ new dance halls, music houses, ballparks, and amusement arcades, which by the 1890s formed a familiar part of the urban landscape.

Young workingwomen no longer met prospective husbands only through their families. Fleeing crowded tenements, the young sought each other’s company in dance halls and other commercial retreats. Young workingwomen counted on being “treated” by men, a transaction that often implied sexual payback. Their behavior sometimes blurred the line between respectability and promiscuity. The dance halls became a favorite target of reformers who feared they lured teenage girls into prostitution.

For men, baseball became a national pastime in the 1870s — then, as now, one force in urban life capable of uniting a city across class lines. Cincinnati mounted the first entirely paid team, the Red Stockings, in 1869. Soon professional teams proliferated in cities across the nation, and Mark Twain hailed baseball as “the very symbol, the outward and visible expression, of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century.”

The increasing commercialization of entertainment in the late- nineteenth-century city was best seen at Coney Island. A two-mile stretch of sand nine miles from Manhattan by trolley or steamship, Coney Island in the 1890s was transformed into the site of some of the largest and most elaborate amusement parks in the country. Promoter George Tilyou built Steeplechase Park in 1897, advertising “10 hours of fun for 10 cents.” With its mechanical thrills and fun-house laughs, the amusement park encouraged behavior that one schoolteacher aptly described as “everyone with the brakes off.” By 1900, as many as a million New Yorkers flocked to Coney Island on any given weekend, making the amusement park the unofficial capital of a new mass culture.


REVIEW How did urban industrialism shape home life and the world of leisure?


City Growth and City Government Private enterprise, not city planners, built the cities of the United States. With a few notable exceptions, cities simply mushroomed, formed by the dictates of profit and the exigencies of local politics. With the rise of the city came the need for public facilities, transportation, and services that would tax the imaginations of America’s architects and engineers and set the scene for the rough-and-tumble of big-city government, politics, and bossism.

Building Cities of Stone and Steel Skyscrapers and mighty bridges dominated the imagination and the urban landscape. Less imposing but no less significant were the paved streets, the parks and public libraries, and the subways and sewers. In the late nineteenth century, Americans rushed to embrace new technology of all kinds, making their cities the most modern in the world.

Structural steel made enormous advances in building possible. A decade after the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, engineers used the new technology to construct the Williamsburg Bridge. More prosaic and utilitarian than its neighbor, the new bridge was never as acclaimed, but it was longer by four feet and completed in half the time. It became the model for future building as the age of steel supplanted the age of stone and iron.

Chicago, not New York, gave birth to the modern skyscraper. Rising from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871, which destroyed three square miles and left eighteen thousand people homeless, Chicago offered a generation of skilled architects and engineers the chance to experiment. Commercial architecture became an art form at the hands of a skilled group of architects who together constituted the “Chicago school.” Employing the dictum “Form follows function,” they built startlingly modern structures.

Across the United States, municipal governments undertook public works on a scale never before seen. They paved streets, built sewers and water mains, replaced gas lamps with electric lights, ran trolley tracks on


the old horsecar lines, and dug underground to build subways, tearing down the unsightly elevated tracks that had clogged city streets. Boston completed the nation’s first subway system in 1897, and New York and Philadelphia soon followed.

Cities became more beautiful with the creation of urban public parks to complement the new buildings that quickly filled city lots. Much of the credit for America’s greatest parks goes to one man — landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. New York City’s Central Park, completed in 1873, became the first landscaped public park in the United States. Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, directed the planting of more than five million trees, shrubs, and vines to transform the eight hundred acres between 59th and 110th streets into an oasis for urban dwellers. “We want a place,” he wrote, where people “may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets.”

American cities did not overlook the mind in their efforts at improvement. They created a comprehensive free public school system that educated everyone from the children of the middle class to the sons and daughters of immigrant workers. Yet the exploding urban population strained the system and led to crowded and inadequate facilities. In 1899, more than 544,000 pupils attended school in New York’s five boroughs. Municipalities across the United States provided free secondary school education for all who wished to attend, even though only 8 percent of Americans completed high school.

To educate those who couldn’t go to school, American cities created the most extensive free public library system in the world. In 1895, the Boston Public Library opened its bronze doors in its new Copley Square location under the inscription “Free to All.” Designed in the style of a Renaissance palazzo, with more than 700,000 books on the shelves ready to be checked out, the library earned the description “a palace of the people.”

Despite the Boston Public Library’s legend “Free to All,” the poor did not share equally in the advantages of city life. The parks, the libraries, and even the subways and sewers benefited some city dwellers more than others. Few library cards were held by Boston’s laborers, who worked six days a week and found the library closed on Sunday. And in the 1890s, there was nothing central about New York’s Central Park. It was a four- mile walk from the tenements of Hester Street to the park’s entrance at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Then, as now, the comfortable, not the indigent, reaped a disproportionate share of the benefits in the nation’s big cities.


Any story of the American city, it seems, must be a tale of two cities — or, given the cities’ great diversity, a tale of many cities within each metropolis. At the turn of the twentieth century, a central paradox emerged: The enduring monuments of America’s cities — the bridges, skyscrapers, parks, and libraries — stood as the undeniable achievements of the same system of municipal government that reformers dismissed as boss-ridden, criminal, and corrupt.

City Government and the “Bosses” The physical growth of the cities required the expansion of public services and the creation of entirely new facilities: streets, subways, elevated trains, bridges, docks, sewers, and public utilities. There was work to be done and money to be made. The professional politician — the colorful big-city boss — became a phenomenon of urban growth and bossism a national phenomenon. Though corrupt and often criminal, the boss saw to the building of the city and provided needed social services for the new residents in return for their political support. Yet not even the big-city boss could be said to rule the unruly city. The governing of America’s cities resembled more a tug-of-war than boss rule.

The most notorious of all the city bosses was William Marcy “Boss” Tweed of New York. At midcentury, Boss Tweed’s Democratic Party “machine” held sway. A machine was really no more than a political party organized at the grassroots level. Its purpose was to win elections and reward its followers, often with jobs on the city’s payroll. New York’s citywide Democratic machine, Tammany Hall, commanded an army of party functionaries. They formed a shadow government more powerful than the city’s elected officials.

As chairman of the Tammany general committee, Tweed kept the Democratic Party together and ran the city through the use of bribery and graft. “As long as I count the votes,” he shamelessly boasted, “what are you going to do about it?” The excesses of the Tweed ring soon led to a clamor for reform and cries of “Throw the rascals out.” Tweed’s rule ended in 1871. Eventually, he was tried and convicted, and later died in jail. New York was not the only city to experience bossism and corruption. The British visitor James Bryce concluded in 1888, “There is no denying that the government of cities is the one conspicuous failure of the United States.” More than 80 percent of the nation’s thirty largest cities experienced some form of boss rule in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. However, infighting among powerful ward bosses often meant that no single boss enjoyed exclusive power in the big cities.


Urban reformers and proponents of good government (derisively called “goo goos” by their rivals) challenged machine rule and sometimes succeeded in electing reform mayors. But the reformers rarely managed to stay in office for long. Their detractors called them “mornin’ glories,” observing that they “looked lovely in the mornin’ and withered up in a short time.” The bosses enjoyed continued success largely because the urban political machine helped the cities’ immigrants and poor, who remained the bosses’ staunchest allies. “What tells in holding your district,” a Tammany ward boss observed, “is to go right down among the poor and help them in the different ways they need help. It’s philanthropy, but it’s politics, too — mighty good politics.”

The big-city boss, through the skillful orchestration of rewards, exerted powerful leverage and lined up support for his party from a broad range of constituents, from the urban poor to wealthy industrialists. In 1902, when journalist Lincoln Steffens began “The Shame of the Cities,” a series of articles exposing city corruption, he found that business leaders who fastidiously refused to mingle socially with the bosses nevertheless struck deals with them. “He is a self-righteous fraud, this big businessman,” Steffens concluded. “I found him buying boodlers [bribers] in St. Louis, defending grafters in Minneapolis, originating corruption in Pittsburgh, sharing with bosses in Philadelphia, deploring reform in Chicago, and beating good government with corruption funds in New York.”

For all the color and flamboyance of the big-city boss, he was simply one of many actors in the drama of municipal government. Old-stock aristocrats, new professionals, saloonkeepers, pushcart peddlers, and politicians all fought for their interests in the hurly-burly of city government. They didn’t much like each other, and they sometimes fought savagely. But they learned to live with one another. Compromise and accommodation — not boss rule — best characterized big-city government by the turn of the twentieth century, although the cities’ reputation for corruption left an indelible mark on the consciousness of the American public.

White City or City of Sin? Americans have always been of two minds about the city. They like to boast of its skyscrapers and bridges, its culture and sophistication, and they pride themselves on its bigness and bustle. At the same time, they fear it as the city of sin, the home of immigrant slums, the center of vice and crime. Nowhere did the divided view of the American city take form more graphically than in Chicago in 1893. In that year, Chicago hosted the


World’s Columbian Exposition, the grandest world’s fair in the nation’s history. The fairground, only five miles down the shore of Lake Michigan from downtown Chicago, offered a lesson in what Americans on the eve of the twentieth century imagined a city might be. Christened the “White City,” it seemed light-years away from Chicago, with its stockyards, slums, and bustling terminals. Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Daniel Burnham supervised the transformation of a swampy wasteland into a pristine paradise of lagoons, fountains, wooded islands, gardens, and imposing white buildings.

“Sell the cookstove if necessary and come,” novelist Hamlin Garland wrote to his parents on the farm. And come they did, in spite of the panic and depression that broke out only weeks after the fair opened in May 1893. In six months, fairgoers purchased more than 27 million tickets, turning a profit of nearly a half million dollars for promoters. Visitors from home and abroad strolled the elaborate grounds and visited the exhibits — everything from a model of the Brooklyn Bridge carved in soap to the latest goods and inventions. Half carnival, half culture, the great fair offered something for everyone. On the Midway Plaisance, crowds thrilled to the massive wheel built by Mr. Ferris and watched agog as Little Egypt danced the hootchy-kootchy.

In October, the fair closed its doors in the midst of the worst depression the country had yet seen. During that winter, Chicago’s unemployed and homeless took over the grounds, vandalized the buildings, and frightened the city’s comfortable citizens out of their wits. When reporters asked Daniel Burnham, its chief architect, what should be done with the moldering remains of the White City, he responded, “It should be torched.” And it was. In July 1894, in a clash between federal troops and striking railway workers, incendiaries set fires that leveled the fairgrounds.


Chicago’s White City This painting by H. D. Nichols captures the monumental architecture of the White City built for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. In the foreground, the central Court of Honor features a Frederick MacMonnies fountain, with Christopher Columbus at the prow of his ship. In the distance is Daniel Chester French’s sixty-foot gilded statue Republic. The awe-inspiring exposition drew millions of visitors from America and abroad. © Chicago History Museum, USA/Bridgeman Images.

In the end, the White City remained what it had always been, a dreamscape. Buildings that looked like marble were actually constructed of staff, a plaster substance that began to crumble even before fire destroyed the fairgrounds. Perhaps it was not so strange, after all, that the legacy of the White City could be found on Coney Island, where two new amusement parks, Luna and Dreamland, sought to combine, albeit in a more tawdry form, the beauty of the White City and the thrill of the Midway Plaisance. More enduring than the White City itself was what it represented: the emergent industrial might of the United States, at home and abroad, with its inventions, manufactured goods, and growing consumer culture.


REVIEW How did municipal governments respond to the challenges of urban expansion?


Conclusion: Who Built the Cities? As great a role as industrialists, financiers, and engineers played in building the nation’s cities common workers — most of them immigrants — provided the muscle. The unprecedented growth of urban, industrial America resulted from the labor of millions of men, women, and children who toiled in workshops and factories, in sweatshops and mines, and on railroads and construction sites across America.

America’s cities in the late nineteenth century teemed with life. Townhouses and tenements jostled for space with skyscrapers and great department stores, while parks, ball fields, amusement arcades, and public libraries provided the city masses with recreation and entertainment. Municipal governments, straining to build the new cities, experienced the rough-and-tumble of machine politics as bosses and their constituents looked to profit from city growth.

For America’s workers, urban industrialism along with the rise of big business and corporate consolidation drastically changed the workplace. Industrialists replaced skilled workers with new machines that could be operated by cheaper unskilled labor. And during hard times, employers did not hesitate to cut workers’ already meager wages. As the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 demonstrated, when labor united, it could bring the nation to attention. Organization held out the best hope for the workers; first the Knights of Labor and later the AFL won converts among the nation’s working class.

The rise of urban industrialism challenged the American promise, which for decades had been dominated by Jeffersonian agrarian ideals. Could such a promise exist in the changing world of cities, tenements, immigrants, and huge corporations? In the great depression that came in the 1890s, mounting anger and frustration would lead farmers and workers to join forces and create a grassroots movement to fight for change under the banner of a new People’s Party.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S global migration (p. 485) Ellis Island (p. 492) sweatshop (p. 495) family economy (p. 495) “typewriters” (p. 496) Great Railroad Strike (p. 498) Knights of Labor (p. 499) American Federation of Labor (AFL) (p. 500) Haymarket bombing (p. 502) cult of domesticity (p. 502) bossism (p. 505) World’s Columbian Exposition (p. 506)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. Why did American cities experience explosive growth in the

late nineteenth century? (pp. 485–94) 2. How did business expansion and consolidation change workers’

occupations in the late nineteenth century? (pp. 494–97) 3. Why did membership in the Knights of Labor rise in the late

1870s and decline in the 1890s? (pp. 498–502) 4. How did urban industrialism shape home life and the world of

leisure? (pp. 502–3)


5. How did municipal governments respond to the challenges of urban expansion? (pp. 503–8)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Americans expressed both wonder and concern at the nation’s

mushrooming cities. Why did cities provoke such divergent responses?

2. Why did patterns of immigration to the United States in the late nineteenth century change? How did Americans respond to the immigrants?

3. How did urban industrialization affect Americans’ lives outside of work?

4. When workers began to embrace organization in the late 1870s, what did they hope to accomplish? Were they successful? Why or why not?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. Compare the lives of migrant workers and industrial cowboys in

the West to workers in the nation’s cities. What are the major similarities? (See chapter 17.)

2. You have already looked at the development of America’s industries in the nineteenth century from the vantage point of moguls such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. How does your view of industrialism change when the focus is shifted to the nation’s workers? (See chapter 18.)


1869 • Knights of Labor founded. • Cincinnati mounts first paid baseball team.

1871 • Boss Tweed’s rule in New York City ends. • Chicago’s Great Fire breaks out.

1873 • Panic on Wall Street touches off depression. 1877 • Great Railroad Strike paralyzes nation. 1880s • Immigration from southern and eastern Europe rises.


1882 • Chinese Exclusion Act enacted.

1883 • Brooklyn Bridge opens.

1886 • American Federation of Labor founded. • Haymarket bombing occurs in Chicago.

1890 • Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives. 1890s • African American migration from the South begins. 1892 • Ellis Island opens. 1893 • World’s Columbian Exposition opens in Chicago.

• Panic on Wall Street touches off major economic depression.

1895 • Boston Public Library opens in Copley Square. 1896 • President Grover Cleveland vetoes immigrant literacy

test. 1897 • Steeplechase Park opens on Coney Island.

• Nation’s first subway system opens in Boston.


20 Dissent, Depression, and War 1890–1900


After studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Identify the economic and social ills American farmers and laborers

faced at the turn of the century and how Farmers’ Alliances and the Populist movement aimed to address some of these problems.

◆ Explain the factors that led to the labor wars of the 1890s.

◆ Characterize the political activism of American women during the last decades of the nineteenth century.

◆ Describe the political climate during the depression of 1893 and identify the defining issues of the election of 1896.

◆ Explain American expansionism in the late nineteenth century, how the United States emerged as a world power, and the resulting debate over American imperialism.

FRANCES WILLARD TRAVELED TO ST. LOUIS IN FEBRUARY 1892 WITH high hopes. Political change was in the air, and Willard was there to help fashion a new reform party. As head of the Woman’s Christian


Temperance Union (WCTU), an organization with members in every state and territory in the nation, Willard wielded considerable clout. At her invitation, twenty-eight of the country’s leading reformers met in Chicago to draft a set of principles to bring to St. Louis. No American woman before her had played such a central role in a political movement. At the height of her power, Willard took her place among the leaders onstage in St. Louis.

Exposition Music Hall presented a colorful spectacle. “The banners of the different states rose above the delegates throughout the hall, fluttering like the flags over an army encamped,” wrote one reporter. The fiery orator Ignatius Donnelly attacked the money kings of Wall Street. Terence V. Powderly, head of the Knights of Labor, called on workers to join hands with farmers against the “nonproducing classes.” And Frances Willard took the podium, urging the crowd to outlaw liquor and give women the vote.

Delegates hammered out a series of demands, breathtaking in their scope. They tackled the tough questions of the day — the regulation of business, the need for banking and currency reform, the right of labor to organize and bargain collectively, and the role of the federal government in regulating business, curbing monopoly, and giving the people greater voice. But the new party was determined to stick to economic issues and resisted endorsing either temperance or woman suffrage. As a member of the platform committee, Willard fought for both and complained of the “crooked methods … employed to scuttle these planks.”

The convention ended its work amid a chorus of cheers. According to one eyewitness, “Hats, paper, handkerchiefs, etc., were thrown into the air; … cheer after cheer thundered and reverberated through the vast hall reaching the outside of the building where thousands who had been waiting the outcome joined in the applause till for blocks in every direction the exultation made the din indescribable.”

What was all the shouting about? The crowd, fed up with the Democrats and the Republicans, celebrated the birth of a new political party, officially named the People’s Party. The St. Louis gathering marked an early milestone in one of the most turbulent decades in U.S. history. An agrarian revolt, labor strikes, a severe depression, and a war shook the 1890s. As the decade opened, Americans flocked to organizations including the Farmers’ Alliance, the American Federation of Labor, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the National Woman’s Suffrage Association. Their political alliance gave birth to the People’s (or Populist) Party.


In a decade of unrest and uncertainty, the Populists countered laissez- faire economics by insisting that the federal government play a more active role to ensure economic fairness in industrial America.

This challenge to the status quo culminated in 1896 in one of the most hotly contested presidential elections in the nation’s history. At the close of the tumultuous decade, the Spanish-American War brought the country together, with Americans rallying to support the troops. American imperialism and overseas expansion raised questions about the nation’s role on the world stage as the United States stood poised to enter the twentieth century.


The Farmers Unite Hard times in the 1880s and 1890s created a groundswell of agrarian revolt. A bitter farmer wrote from Minnesota, “I settled on this Land in good Faith Built House and Barn. Broken up Part of the Land. Spent years of hard Labor in grubbing fencing and Improving.” About to lose his farm to foreclosure, he lamented, “Are they going to drive us out like trespassers … and give us away to the Corporations?”

Farm prices fell decade after decade, even as American farmers’ share of the world market grew. In parts of Kansas, corn sold for as little as ten cents a bushel, and angry farmers burned their crops for fuel rather than sell them on the market. At the same time, consumer prices soared. In Kansas alone, almost half the farms had fallen into the hands of the banks by 1894 through foreclosure. Farmers soon banded together into Farmers’ Alliances that gave birth to a broad political movement.

The Farmers’ Alliance At the heart of the farmers’ problems stood a banking system dominated by eastern commercial banks committed to the gold standard, a railroad rate system both capricious and unfair, and rampant speculation that drove up the price of land. In the West, farmers rankled under a system that allowed railroads to charge them exorbitant freight rates while granting rebates to large shippers (see “Railroads, Trusts, and the Federal Government” in chapter 18). The practice of charging higher rates for short hauls than for long hauls meant that grain elevators could ship their wheat from Chicago to New York and across the Atlantic for less than a Dakota farmer paid to send his crop to mills in Minneapolis. In the South, lack of currency and credit drove farmers to the stopgap credit system of the crop lien. To pay for seed and supplies, farmers pledged their crops as collateral to local creditors (furnishing merchants). Determined to do something, farmers banded together to fight for change.

Farm protest was not new. In the 1870s, farmers had supported the Grange and the Greenback Labor Party. As the farmers’ situation grew more desperate, they organized, forming regional alliances. The first


Farmers’ Alliance came together in Lampasas County, Texas, to fight “landsharks and horse thieves.” In frontier farmhouses in Texas, in log cabins in the backwoods of Arkansas, and in the rural parishes of Louisiana, separate groups of farmers formed similar alliances for self- help.

As the movement grew in the 1880s, farmers’ groups consolidated into two regional alliances: the Northwestern Farmers’ Alliance, active in Kansas, Nebraska, and other midwestern Granger states; and the more radical Southern Farmers’ Alliance. Traveling lecturers preached the Alliance message. Worn-out men and careworn women did not need to be convinced that something was wrong. By 1890, the Southern Farmers’ Alliance alone counted more than three million members.

Radical in its inclusiveness, the Southern Alliance reached out to African Americans, women, and industrial workers. Through cooperation with the Colored Farmers’ Alliance, an African American group founded in Texas in the 1880s, blacks and whites attempted to make common cause. As Georgia’s Tom Watson, a Southern Alliance stalwart, pointed out, “The colored tenant is in the same boat as the white tenant, … and … the accident of color can make no difference in the interests of farmers, croppers, and laborers.” The Alliance reached out to industrial workers as well as farmers. During a major strike against Jay Gould’s Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1886, the Alliance vocally sided with the workers and rushed food and supplies to the strikers. Women as well as men rallied to the Alliance banner. “I am going to work for prohibition, the Alliance, and for Jesus as long as I live,” swore one woman.

At the heart of the Alliance movement stood a series of farmers’ cooperatives. By “bulking” their cotton — that is, selling it together — farmers could negotiate a better price. And by setting up trade stores and exchanges, they sought to escape the grasp of the merchant/creditor. Through the cooperatives, the Farmers’ Alliance promised to change the way farmers lived. “We are going to get out of debt and be free and independent people once more,” exulted one Georgia farmer. But the Alliance faced insurmountable difficulties in running successful cooperatives. Opposition by merchants, bankers, wholesalers, and manufacturers made it impossible for the cooperatives to get credit. As the cooperative movement died, the Farmers’ Alliance moved into politics.

The Populist Movement In the earliest days of the Alliance movement, a leader of the Southern


Farmers’ Alliance insisted, “The Alliance is a strictly white man’s nonpolitical, secret business association.” But by 1892, it was none of those things. Advocates of a third party carried the day at the convention of laborers, farmers, and common folk in 1892 in St. Louis, where the Farmers’ Alliance gave birth to the People’s Party (Populist Party) and launched the Populist movement. The same spirit of religious revival that animated the Farmers’ Alliance infused the People’s Party. Convinced that the money and banking systems worked to the advantage of the wealthy few, Populists demanded economic democracy. To help farmers get the credit they needed at reasonable rates, southern farmers hit on the ingenious idea of a subtreasury — a plan that would allow farmers to store their nonperishable crops until prices rose and to receive commodity credit from the federal government to obtain needed supplies. To the western farmer, the Populists promised land reform, championing a plan to claim excessive land granted to railroads or sold to foreign investors. The Populists’ boldest proposal called for government ownership of the railroads and the telegraph system to put an end to discriminatory rates.

Mary Elizabeth Lease This photograph of Mary Elizabeth Lease, taken in 1895 at the height of her activities as a Populist leader in Kansas, reflects her reputation as a hell-raiser who supposedly exhorted Kansas farmers to “raise less corn and more hell.” In the eyes of her detractors, she was “a lantern-jawed, google-eyed nightmare.” Kansas State Historical Society.


The Populists solidly supported free silver, in the hope of increasing the nation’s tight money supply. To empower the common people, the Populist platform called for the direct election of senators and for other electoral reforms, including the secret ballot and the right to initiate legislation, to recall elected officials, and to submit issues to the people by means of a referendum. In support of labor, the Populists supported the eight-hour workday.

The sweeping array of reforms enacted in the Populist platform changed the agenda of politics for decades to come. More than just a response to hard times, Populism presented an alternative vision of American economic democracy.

REVIEW Why did American farmers organize alliances in the late nineteenth century?


The Labor Wars While farmers united to fight for change, industrial laborers fought their own battles in a series of bloody strikes historians have called the “labor wars.” Industrial workers took a stand in the 1890s. At issue was the right of workers to organize and to speak through unions, to bargain collectively, and to fight for better working conditions, higher wages, shorter hours, and greater worker control in the face of increased mechanization. Three major conflicts — the lockout of steelworkers in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1892; the miners’ strike in Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1894; and the Pullman boycott that same year — raised fundamental questions about the rights of labor and the sanctity of private property.

The Homestead Lockout In 1892, steelworkers in Pennsylvania squared off against Andrew Carnegie in a decisive struggle over the right to organize in the Homestead steel mills. Carnegie resolved to crush the Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers, one of the largest and richest craft unions in the American Federation of Labor (AFL). When the Amalgamated attempted to renew its contract at Carnegie’s Homestead mill, its leaders were told that since “the vast majority of our employees are Non union, the Firm has decided that the minority must give place to the majority.” While it was true that only 800 skilled workers belonged to the elite Amalgamated, the union had long enjoyed the support of the plant’s 3,000 non-union workers. Slavs, who did much of the unskilled work, made common cause with the Welsh, Scottish, and Irish skilled workers who belonged to the union.

Carnegie, who often praised labor unions, preferred not to be directly involved in the union busting, so that spring he sailed to Scotland and left Henry Clay Frick, the toughest antilabor man in the industry, in charge. By summer, a strike looked inevitable. Frick prepared by erecting a fifteen- foot fence around the Homestead plant and topping it with barbed wire. Workers aptly dubbed it “Fort Frick.” Frick then hired 316 mercenaries from the Pinkerton National Detective Agency at the rate of $5 per day,


more than double the wage of the average Homestead worker. On June 28, the Homestead lockout began when Frick locked the

doors of the mills and prepared to bring in strikebreakers. Hugh O’Donnell, the young Irishman who led the union, vowed to prevent “scabs” from entering the plant. On July 6 at 4 a.m., a lookout spotted two barges moving up the Monongahela River in the fog. Frick was attempting to smuggle his Pinkertons into Homestead.

Workers sounded the alarm, and within minutes a crowd of more than a thousand, hastily armed with rifles, hoes, and fence posts, rushed to the riverbank. When the scabs attempted to come ashore, gunfire broke out, and more than a dozen Pinkertons and some thirty strikers fell, killed or wounded. The Pinkertons retreated to the barges. For twelve hours, the workers, joined by their family members, threw everything they had at the barges, from fireworks to dynamite. Finally, the Pinkertons hoisted a white flag and arranged with O’Donnell to surrender. With three workers dead and scores wounded, the crowd, numbering perhaps ten thousand, was in no mood for conciliation. As the hated “Pinks” came up the hill, they were forced to run a gantlet of screaming, cursing men, women, and children. When a young guard dropped to his knees, weeping for mercy, a woman used her umbrella to poke out his eye. One Pinkerton had been killed in the siege on the barges. In the grim rout that followed their surrender, not one avoided injury. The workers took control of the plant and elected a council to run the community. At first, public opinion favored their cause. A congressman castigated Carnegie for “skulking in his castle in Scotland.” Populists, meeting in St. Louis, condemned the use of “hireling armies.”

The action of the Homestead workers struck at the heart of the capitalist system, pitting the workers’ right to their jobs against the rights of private property. The workers’ insistence that “we are not destroying the property of the company — merely protecting our rights” did not prove as compelling to the courts and the state as the property rights of the owners. Four days after the confrontation, Pennsylvania’s governor, who sympathized with the workers, nonetheless yielded to pressure from Frick and ordered eight thousand National Guard troops into Homestead to protect Carnegie’s property. The workers, thinking they had nothing to fear from the militia, welcomed the troops with a brass band. But the troops’ occupation not only protected Carnegie’s property but also enabled Frick to reopen the mills and bring in strikebreakers. “We have been deceived,” one worker complained bitterly. “We have stood idly by and let the town be occupied by soldiers who come here, not as our protectors, but


as the protectors of non-union men…. If we undertake to resist the seizure of our jobs, we will be shot down like dogs.”

Then, in a misguided effort to ignite a general uprising, Alexander Berkman, a Russian immigrant and anarchist, attempted to assassinate Frick. Berkman bungled his attempt. Shot twice and stabbed with a dagger, Frick survived and showed considerable courage, allowing a doctor to remove the bullets but refusing to leave his desk until the day’s work was completed. “I do not think that I shall die,” Frick remarked coolly, “but whether I do or not, the Company will pursue the same policy and it will win.”

After the assassination attempt, public opinion turned against the workers. Berkman was quickly tried and sentenced to prison. Although the Amalgamated and the AFL denounced his action, the incident linked anarchism and unionism. O’Donnell later wrote, “The bullet from Berkman’s pistol, failing in its foul intent, went straight through the heart of the Homestead strike.” The Homestead mill reopened in November, and the men returned to work, except for the union leaders, now blacklisted in every steel mill in the country. With the owners firmly in charge, the company slashed wages, reinstated the twelve-hour day, and eliminated five hundred jobs.

The workers at Homestead had been taught a lesson. They would never again, in the words of the National Guard commander, “believe the works are theirs quite as much as Carnegie’s.” Another forty-five years would pass before steelworkers, unskilled as well as skilled, successfully unionized. In the meantime, Carnegie’s production tripled, even in the midst of a depression. “Ashamed to tell you profits these days,” Carnegie wrote a friend in 1899. And no wonder: Carnegie’s profits had grown from $4 million in 1892 to $40 million in 1900.

The Cripple Creek Miners’ Strike of 1894 Less than a year after the Homestead lockout, a panic on Wall Street in the spring of 1893 touched off a bitter economic depression. In the West, silver mines fell on hard times, leading to the Cripple Creek miners’ strike of 1894. When mine owners moved to lengthen the workday from eight to ten hours, the newly formed Western Federation of Miners (WFM) vowed to hold the line in Cripple Creek, Colorado. In February 1894, the WFM threatened to strike all mines running more than eight-hour shifts. The mine owners divided: Some quickly settled with the WFM; others continued to demand ten hours, provoking a strike.


The striking miners received help from many quarters. Working miners paid $15 a month to a strike fund, and miners in neighboring districts sent substantial contributions. The miners enjoyed the support and assistance of local businesses and grocers, who provided credit to the strikers. With these advantages, the Cripple Creek strikers could afford to hold out for their demands.

Even more significant, Governor Davis H. Waite, a Populist elected in 1892, had strong ties to the miners and refused to use the power of the state against the strikers. Governor Waite asked the strikers to lay down their arms and demanded that the mine owners disperse their hired deputies. The miners agreed to arbitration and selected Waite as their sole arbitrator. By May, the recalcitrant mine owners capitulated, and the union won an eight-hour day.

Governor Waite’s intervention demonstrated the pivotal power of the state in the nation’s labor wars. Having a Populist in power made a difference. A decade later, in 1904, with Waite out of office, mine owners relied on state troops to take back control of the mines, defeating the WFM and blacklisting all of its members. In retrospect, the Cripple Creek miners’ strike of 1894 proved the exception to the rule of state intervention on the side of private property.

Eugene V. Debs and the Pullman Strike The economic depression that began in 1893 swelled the ranks of the unemployed to three million, almost half of the working population. “A fearful crisis is upon us,” wrote a labor publication. Nowhere were workers more demoralized than in the model town of Pullman, on the outskirts of Chicago.

In the wake of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, George M. Pullman, the builder of Pullman railroad cars, moved his plant and workers nine miles south of Chicago and built a model town. The town of Pullman boasted parks, fountains, playgrounds, an auditorium, a library, a hotel, shops, and markets, along with 1,800 units of housing. Noticeably absent was a saloon.

The housing in Pullman was clearly superior to that in neighboring areas, but workers paid a high price to live there. Pullman’s rents ran 10 to 20 percent higher than housing costs in nearby communities. In addition, George Pullman refused to “sell an acre under any circumstances.” As long as he controlled the town absolutely, he held the powerful whip of eviction over his employees and could quickly get rid of “troublemakers.”


Although observers at first praised the beauty and orderliness of the town, critics by the 1890s compared Pullman’s model town to a “gilded cage” for workers.

The depression brought hard times to Pullman. Workers saw their wages slashed five times between May and December 1893, with cuts totaling at least 28 percent. At the same time, Pullman refused to lower the rents in his model town, insisting that “the renting of the dwellings and the employment of workmen at Pullman are in no way tied together.” When workers went to the bank to cash their paychecks, they found that the rent had been taken out. One worker discovered only forty-seven cents in his pay envelope for two weeks’ work. When the bank teller asked him whether he wanted to apply it to his back rent, he retorted, “If Mr. Pullman needs that forty-seven cents worse than I do, let him have it.” At the same time, Pullman continued to pay his stockholders an 8 percent dividend, and the company accumulated a $25 million surplus.

At the heart of the labor problems at Pullman lay not only economic inequity but also the company’s attempt to control the work process, substituting piecework for day wages and undermining skilled craftsworkers. During the spring of 1894, Pullman’s desperate workers, seeking help, flocked to the ranks of the American Railway Union (ARU), led by the charismatic Eugene V. Debs. The ARU, unlike the skilled craft unions of the AFL, pledged to organize all railway workers — from engineers to engine wipers.

George Pullman responded to union organization at his plant by firing three of the union’s leaders the day after they protested wage cuts. Angry men and women walked off the job in disgust. What began as a spontaneous protest in May 1894 quickly blossomed into a strike that involved more than 90 percent of Pullman’s 3,300 workers. Pullman countered by shutting down the plant. In June, the Pullman strikers appealed to the ARU to come to their aid. Debs pleaded with the workers to find another solution. But when George Pullman refused arbitration, the ARU membership voted to boycott all Pullman cars. Beginning on June 29, switchmen across the United States refused to handle any train that carried Pullman cars.

The conflict escalated quickly. The General Managers Association (GMA), an organization of managers from twenty-four different railroads, acted in concert to quash the Pullman boycott. They recruited strikebreakers and fired all the protesting switchmen. Their tactics set off a chain reaction. Entire train crews walked off the job in a show of solidarity with the Pullman workers. By July 2, rail lines from New York to


California lay paralyzed. Even the GMA was forced to concede that the railroads had been “fought to a standstill.”

The boycott remained surprisingly peaceful. In contrast to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, no major riots broke out, and no serious property damage occurred. Debs fired off telegrams to all parts of the country advising his followers to avoid violence and respect law and order. But the nation’s newspapers, fed press releases by the GMA, distorted the issues and misrepresented the strike. Across the country, papers ran headlines like “Wild Riot in Chicago” and “Mob Is in Control.”

In Washington, Attorney General Richard B. Olney, a lawyer with strong ties to the railroads, was determined to put down the strike. In his way stood the governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, who, observing that the boycott remained peaceful, refused to call out troops. To get around Altgeld, Olney convinced President Grover Cleveland that federal troops had to intervene to protect the rails. To further cripple the boycott, two conservative Chicago judges issued an injunction so sweeping that it prohibited Debs from speaking in public. By issuing the injunction, the court made the boycott a crime punishable by a jail sentence for contempt of court, a civil process that did not require a jury trial. Even the conservative Chicago Tribune judged the injunction “a menace to liberty … a weapon ever ready for the capitalist.” Furious, Debs risked jail by refusing to honor it.

Olney’s strategy worked. President Grover Cleveland called out the army. On July 5, nearly 8,000 troops marched into Chicago. Violence immediately erupted. In one day, troops killed 25 workers and wounded more than 60. In the face of bullets and bayonets, the strikers held firm. “Troops cannot move trains,” Debs reminded his followers, a fact that was borne out as the railroads remained paralyzed despite the military intervention. But if the army could not put down the boycott, the injunction did. Debs was arrested and imprisoned for contempt of court. With its leader in jail, its headquarters raided and ransacked, and its members demoralized, the ARU collapsed along with the boycott. Pullman reopened his factory, hiring new workers to replace many of the strikers and leaving 1,600 without jobs.

In the aftermath of the strike, a special commission investigated the events at Pullman, taking testimony from 107 witnesses, from the lowliest workers to George M. Pullman himself. Stubborn and self-righteous, Pullman spoke for the business orthodoxy of his era, steadfastly affirming the right of business to safeguard its interests through confederacies such as the GMA and at the same time denying labor’s right to organize. “If we


were to receive these men as representatives of the union,” he stated, “they could probably force us to pay any wages which they saw fit.”

From his jail cell, Eugene Debs reviewed the events of the Pullman strike. With the courts and the government ready to side with industrialists in defense of private property, strikes seemed futile, and unions remained helpless. Workers would have to take control of the state itself. Debs went into jail a trade unionist and came out six months later a socialist. At first, he turned to the Populist Party, but after its demise he formed the Socialist Party in 1900 and ran for president five times.

REVIEW What led to the labor wars of the 1890s?


Women’s Activism “Do everything,” Frances Willard urged her followers in 1881. The new president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) meant what she said. The WCTU followed a trajectory that was common for women in the late nineteenth century. As women organized to deal with issues that touched their homes and families, they moved into politics, lending new urgency to the cause of woman suffrage. Urban industrialism dislocated women’s lives no less than men’s. Like men, women sought political change and organized to promote issues central to their lives, campaigning for temperance and woman suffrage.

Frances Willard and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union A visionary leader, Frances Willard spoke for a group left almost entirely out of the U.S. electoral process. In 1890, only one state, Wyoming, allowed women to vote in national elections. But lack of the franchise did not mean that women were apolitical. The WCTU demonstrated the breadth of women’s political activity in the late nineteenth century.

Women supported the temperance movement because they felt particularly vulnerable to the effects of drunkenness. Dependent on men’s wages, married women and their children suffered when money went for drink. The drunken, abusive husband epitomized the evils of a nation in which women remained second-class citizens. The WCTU, composed entirely of women, viewed all women’s interests as essentially the same and therefore did not hesitate to use the singular woman to emphasize gender solidarity. Although mostly white and middle-class, WCTU members resolved to speak for their entire sex.

When Willard became president in 1879, she radically changed the direction of the organization. Social action replaced prayer as women’s answer to the threat of drunkenness. Viewing alcoholism as a disease rather than a sin and poverty as a cause rather than a result of drink, the WCTU became involved in labor issues, joining with the Knights of Labor to press for better working conditions for women workers. Describing


workers in a textile mill, a WCTU member wrote in the organization’s Union Signal magazine, “It is dreadful to see these girls, stripped almost to the skin … and running like racehorses from the beginning to the end of the day.” She concluded, “The hard slavish work is drawing the girls into the saloon.”

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Postcard The WCTU distributed postcards like this to attack the liquor trade. Such cards are typical in their portrayal of saloon backers as traitors to the nation. Notice the man trampling on the American flag as he casts his ballot — a sly allusion to the need for woman suffrage. The History Center on Main Street, Mansfield, PA.

Willard capitalized on the cult of domesticity as a shrewd political tactic. Using “home protection” as her watchword, she argued as early as 1884 that women needed the vote to protect home and family. By the 1890s, the WCTU’s grassroots network of local unions included 200,000 dues-paying members and had spread to all but the most isolated rural areas of the country.

Willard worked to create a broad reform coalition in the 1890s, embracing the Knights of Labor, the People’s Party, and the Prohibition Party. Until her death in 1898, she led, if not a women’s rights movement, then the first organized mass movement of women united around a women’s issue. By 1900, thanks largely to the WCTU, women could claim


a generation of experience in political action — speaking, lobbying, organizing, drafting legislation, and running private charitable institutions. As Willard observed, “All this work has tended more toward the liberation of women than it has toward the extinction of the saloon.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and the Movement for Woman Suffrage Unlike the WCTU, the organized movement for woman suffrage remained small and relatively weak in the late nineteenth century. In 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her ally, Susan B. Anthony, launched the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), demanding the vote for women (see “Women’s Activism” in chapter 18). A more conservative group, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), formed the same year. Composed of men as well as women, the AWSA believed that women should stick with the Republican Party and make suffrage the Sixteenth Amendment. Their optimism proved misplaced.

By 1890, the split had healed, and the newly united National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) launched campaigns on the state level to gain the vote for women. Twenty years had made a great change. Woman suffrage, though not yet generally supported, was no longer considered a crackpot idea, thanks in part to the WCTU’s support of the “home protection” ballot. The NAWSA honored Elizabeth Cady Stanton by electing her its first president, but Susan B. Anthony, who took the helm in 1892, emerged as the leading figure in the new united organization.

Stanton and Anthony, both in their seventies, were coming to the end of their public careers. Since the days of the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention, they had worked for reforms for their sex, including property rights, custody rights, and the right to education and gainful employment. But the prize of woman suffrage still eluded them. Suffragists won victories in Colorado in 1893 and Idaho in 1896. One more state joined the suffrage column in 1896 when Utah entered the Union. But women suffered a bitter defeat in a California referendum on woman suffrage that same year. Never losing faith, Anthony remarked in her last public appearance, in 1906, “Failure is impossible.”

REVIEW How did women’s temperance activism contribute to the cause of woman suffrage?



Depression Politics The depression that began in the spring of 1893 and lasted for more than four years put nearly half of the labor force out of work, a higher percentage than during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The human cost of the depression was staggering. “I Take my pen in hand to let you know that we are Starving to death,” a Kansas farm woman wrote to the governor in 1894. “Last cent gone,” wrote a young widow in her diary. “Children went to work without their breakfasts.” Following the harsh dictates of social Darwinism and laissez-faire, the majority of America’s elected officials believed that it was inappropriate for the government to intervene. But the scope of the depression made it impossible for churches and local agencies to supply sufficient relief, and increasingly Americans called on the federal government to take action. Armies of the unemployed marched on Washington to demand relief, and the Populist Party experienced a surge of support as the election of 1896 approached.

Coxey’s Army Masses of unemployed Americans marched to Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1894 to call attention to their plight and to urge Congress to enact a public works program to end unemployment. Jacob S. Coxey of Massilon, Ohio, led the most publicized contingent. Convinced that men could be put to work building badly needed roads for the nation, Coxey proposed a scheme to finance public works through non-interestbearing bonds. “What I am after,” he maintained, “is to try to put this country in a condition so that no man who wants work shall be obliged to remain idle.” His plan won support from the AFL and the Populists.


Coxey’s Army A contingent of Coxey’s army stops to rest on its way to Washington, D.C. A “petition in boots,” Coxey’s followers were well dressed. Music was an important component of the march, including the anthem “Marching with Coxey.” Band members are pictured on the right with their instruments. Despite their peaceful pose, the marchers stirred the fears of many Americans, who predicted an uprising of the unemployed. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Connection, AL01139.

Starting out from Ohio with one hundred men, Coxey’s army, as it was dubbed, swelled as it marched east through the spring snows of the Alleghenies. In Pennsylvania, Coxey recruited several hundred from the ranks of those left unemployed by the Homestead lockout.

On May 1, Coxey’s army arrived in Washington. When Coxey defiantly marched his men onto the Capitol grounds, police set upon the demonstrators with nightsticks, cracking skulls and arresting Coxey and his lieutenants. Coxey went to jail for twenty days and was fined $5 for “walking on the grass.” But other armies of the unemployed, totaling possibly as many as five thousand people, were still on their way. The more daring contingents commandeered entire trains, stirring fears of revolution. Journalists who covered the march did little to quiet the nation’s fears. They delighted in military terminology, describing themselves as “war correspondents.” To boost newspaper sales, they gave to the episode a tone of urgency and heightened the sense of a nation


imperiled. By August, the leaderless, tattered armies dissolved. Although the “On

to Washington” movement proved ineffective in forcing federal relief legislation, Coxey’s army dramatized the plight of the unemployed and acted, in the words of one participant, as a “living, moving object lesson.” Like the Populists, Coxey’s army called into question the underlying values of the new industrial order and demonstrated how ordinary citizens turned to means outside the regular party system to influence politics in the 1890s.

The People’s Party and the Election of 1896 Even before the depression of 1893, the Populists had railed against the status quo. “We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin,” Ignatius Donnelly had declared in his keynote address at the creation of the People’s Party in St. Louis in 1892. “The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few…. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes — tramps and millionaires.”

The fiery rhetoric frightened many who saw in the People’s Party a call not to reform but to revolution. Throughout the country, the press denounced the Populists as “cranks, lunatics, and idiots.” When one self- righteous editor dismissed them as “calamity howlers,” Populist governor Lorenzo Lewelling of Kansas shot back, “If that is so I want to continue to howl until those conditions are improved.”

The People’s Party captured more than a million votes in the presidential election of 1892, a respectable showing for a new party (Map 20.1). But increasingly, sectional and racial animosities threatened its unity. Realizing that race prejudice obscured the common economic interests of black and white farmers, Populist Tom Watson of Georgia openly courted African Americans, appearing on platforms with black speakers and promising “to wipe out the color line.” When angry Georgia whites threatened to lynch a black Populist preacher, Watson rallied two thousand gun-toting Populists to the man’s defense. Although many Populists remained racist in their attitudes toward African Americans, the spectacle of white Georgians riding through the night to protect a black man from lynching was symbolic of the enormous changes the Populist Party promised in the South.


MAP 20.1 The Election of 1892

As the presidential election of 1896 approached, the depression intensified cries for reform not only from the Populists but also throughout the electorate. Depression worsened the tight money problem caused by the deflationary pressures of the gold standard. Once again, proponents of free silver stirred rebellion in the ranks of both the Democratic and the Republican parties. When the Republicans nominated Ohio governor William McKinley on a platform pledging the preservation of the gold standard, western advocates of free silver representing miners and farmers walked out of the convention. Open rebellion also split the Democratic Party as vast segments in the West and South repudiated President Grover Cleveland because of his support for gold. In South Carolina, Benjamin Tillman won his race for Congress by promising, “Send me to Washington and I’ll stick my pitchfork into [Cleveland’s] old ribs!”

The spirit of revolt animated the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1896. William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, the thirty-six-year-old “boy orator from the Platte,” whipped the convention into a frenzy calling passionately for free silver with a ringing exhortation: “Do not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” Pandemonium broke loose as delegates stampeded to nominate Bryan, the youngest candidate ever to run for the presidency.

The juggernaut of free silver rolled out of Chicago and on to St. Louis, where the People’s Party met a week after the Democrats adjourned. Many western Populists urged the party to ally with the Democrats and endorse Bryan. A major obstacle in the path of fusion, however, was Bryan’s running mate, Arthur M. Sewall. A Maine railway director and bank


president, Sewall, who had been placed on the ticket to appease conservative Democrats, embodied everything the Populists detested. Moreover, die-hard southern Populists wanted no part of fusion. Southern Democrats had resorted to fraud and violence to steal elections from the Populists in southern states, and support for a Democratic ticket proved hard to swallow.

Populists struggled to work out a compromise. To show that they remained true to their principles, delegates first voted to support all the planks of the 1892 platform, added to it a call for public works projects for the unemployed, and only narrowly defeated a plank for woman suffrage. To deal with the problem of fusion, the convention selected the vice presidential candidate first. The nomination of Tom Watson undercut opposition to Bryan’s candidacy. And although Bryan quickly sent a telegram to protest that he would not drop Sewall as his running mate, mysteriously his message never reached the convention floor. Fusion triumphed. Bryan won nomination by a lopsided vote. The Populists did not know it, but their cheers for Bryan signaled the death knell for the People’s Party.

MAP 20.2 The Election of 1896

Few contests in the nation’s history have been as fiercely fought as the presidential election of 1896. On one side stood Republican William McKinley, backed by the wealthy industrialist and party boss Mark Hanna. Hanna played on the business community’s fears of Populism to raise a Republican war chest more than double the amount of any previous campaign. On the other side, William Jennings Bryan, with few assets beyond his silver tongue, struggled to make up in energy and eloquence what his party lacked in campaign funds. He crisscrossed the country in a


whirlwind tour, by his own reckoning visiting twenty-seven states and speaking to more than five million Americans.

On election day, four out of five voters went to the polls in an unprecedented turnout. The silver states of the Rocky Mountains lined up solidly for Bryan. The Northeast went for McKinley. The Midwest tipped the balance. In the end, the election hinged on between 100 and 1,000 votes in several key states, including Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. Although McKinley won twenty-three states to Bryan’s twenty-two, the electoral vote showed a lopsided 271 to 176 in McKinley’s favor (Map 20.2).

The biggest losers in 1896 turned out to be the Populists. On the national level, they polled fewer than 300,000 votes, a million less than in 1894. In the clamor to support Bryan, Populists in the South, determined to beat McKinley at any cost, swallowed their differences and drifted back to the Democratic Party.

REVIEW Why was the People’s Party unable to translate national support into victory in the 1896 election?


The United States and the World Throughout much of the second half of the nineteenth century, U.S. interest in foreign policy took a backseat to territorial expansion in the American West. The United States fought the Indian wars while European nations carved empires in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States pursued a foreign policy consisting of two currents — isolationism and expansionism. Although the determination to remain detached from European politics had been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy since the nation’s founding, Americans simultaneously believed in manifest destiny — the “obvious” right to expand the nation from ocean to ocean. With its own inland empire secured, the United States looked outward. Determined to protect its sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere and to expand its trading in Asia, the nation turned away from isolationism and toward a more active role on the world stage that led to intervention in China’s Boxer uprising and war with Spain.

Markets and Missionaries The depression of the 1890s provided a powerful impetus to American commercial expansion. As markets weakened at home, American businesses looked abroad for profits. As the depression deepened, one diplomat warned that Americans “must turn [their] eyes abroad, or they will soon look inward upon discontent.”

Exports constituted a small but significant percentage of the profits of American business in the 1890s. And where American interests led, businessmen expected the government’s power and influence to follow to protect their investments. Companies like Standard Oil actively sought to use the U.S. government as their agent, often putting foreign service employees on the payroll. “Our ambassadors and ministers and consuls,” wrote John D. Rockefeller appreciatively, “have aided to push our way into new markets and to the utmost corners of the world.”

America’s foreign policy often appeared little more than a sidelight to business development. In Hawai’i (first called the Sandwich Islands),


American sugar interests fomented a rebellion in 1893, toppling the increasingly independent Queen Lili’uokalani. They pushed Congress to annex the islands to avoid the high McKinley tariff on sugar. When President Cleveland learned that Hawai’ians opposed annexation, he withdrew the proposal from Congress. But expansionists still coveted the islands and looked for an opportunity to push through annexation.

Business interests alone did not account for the new expansionism that seized the nation during the 1890s. As Alfred Thayer Mahan, leader of a growing group of American expansionists, confessed, “Even when material interests are the original exciting cause, it is the sentiment to which they give rise, the moral tone which emotion takes that constitutes the greater force.” Much of that moral tone was set by American missionaries intent on spreading the gospel of Christianity to the “heathen.” No area on the globe constituted a greater challenge than China.

An 1858 agreement, the Tianjin (Tientsin) treaty, admitted foreign missionaries to China. Although Christians converted only 100,000 in a population of 400 million, the Chinese nevertheless resented the interference of missionaries in village life. Opposition to foreign missionaries took the form of antiforeign secret societies, most notably the Boxers, whose Chinese name translated to “Righteous Harmonious Fist.” In 1899, the Boxers hunted down and killed Chinese Christians and missionaries in northwestern Shandong Province. With the tacit support of China’s Dowager Empress, the Boxers, shouting “Uphold the Ch’ing Dynasty, Exterminate the Foreigners,” marched on the cities. Their rampage eventually led to the massacre of some 30,000 Chinese converts and 250 foreign nuns, priests, and missionaries.

As the Boxers spread terror throughout northern China, some 800 Americans and Europeans sought refuge in the foreign diplomatic buildings in Peking (today’s Beijing). Along with missionaries from the countryside came thousands of their Chinese converts. Unable to escape and cut off from outside aid and communication, the Americans and Europeans in Beijing mounted a defense to face the Boxer onslaught. One American described the scene as 20,000 Boxers stormed the walls in June 1900:

Their yells were deafening, while the roar of gongs, drums, and horns sounded like thunder…. They waved their swords and stamped on the ground with their feet. They wore red turbans, sashes, and garters over blue cloth…. They were now only twenty


yards from our gate. Three or four volleys from the Lebel rifles of our marines left more than fifty dead on the ground.

For two months the little group held out under siege, eating mule and horse meat and losing 76 men in battle. Sarah Conger, wife of the U.S. ambassador, wrote wearily, “[The siege] was exciting at first, but night after night of this firing, horn-blowing, and yelling, and the whizzing of bullets has hardened us to it.”

In August 1900, 2,500 U.S. troops joined an international force sent to rescue the foreigners and put down the uprising in the Chinese capital. The European powers imposed the humiliating Boxer Protocol in 1901, giving themselves the right to maintain military forces in Beijing and requiring the Chinese government to pay an exorbitant indemnity of $333 million.

In the aftermath of the Boxer uprising, missionaries voiced no concern at the paradox of bringing Christianity to China at gunpoint. “It is worth any cost in money, worth any cost in bloodshed,” argued one bishop, “if we can make millions of Chinese true and intelligent Christians.” Merchants and missionaries alike shared such moralistic reasoning. Indeed, they worked hand in hand; trade and Christianity marched into Asia together. “Missionaries,” admitted the American clergyman Charles Denby, “are the pioneers of trade and commerce…. The missionary, inspired by holy zeal, goes everywhere and by degrees foreign commerce and trade follow.”

The Monroe Doctrine and the Open Door Policy The emergence of the United States as a world power pitted the nation against other colonial powers, particularly Germany and Japan, which posed a threat to the twin pillars of America’s expansionist foreign policy. The first, the Monroe Doctrine, came to be interpreted as establishing the Western Hemisphere as an American “sphere of influence” and warned European powers to stay away or risk war. The second, the Open Door, dealt with maintaining market access to China.

American diplomacy actively worked to buttress the Monroe Doctrine, with its assertion of American hegemony (domination) in the Western Hemisphere. In the 1880s, Republican secretary of state James G. Blaine promoted hemispheric peace and trade through Pan-American cooperation but, at the same time, used American troops to intervene in Latin American border disputes. In 1895, President Cleveland risked war with Great Britain to enforce the Monroe Doctrine when a conflict developed between Venezuela and British Guiana. After American saber rattling, the


British backed down and accepted U.S. mediation in the area despite their territorial claims in Guiana.

In Central America, American business triumphed in a bloodless takeover that saw French and British interests routed. The United Fruit Company of Boston virtually dominated the Central American nations of Costa Rica and Guatemala, while an importer from New Orleans turned Honduras into a “banana republic” (a country run by U.S. business interests). Thus, by 1895, the United States, through business as well as diplomacy, had successfully achieved hegemony in Latin America and the Caribbean, forcing even the British to concur that “the infinite resources [of the United States] combined with its isolated position render it master of the situation and practically invulnerable as against any or all other powers.”

At the same time that American foreign policy warned European powers to stay out of the Western Hemisphere, the United States competed for trade in the Eastern Hemisphere. As American interests in China grew, the United States became more aggressive in defending its presence in Asia and the Pacific. In 1889, it risked war with Germany to guarantee the U.S. Navy access to Pago Pago in the Samoan Islands, a port for refueling on the way to Asia. Germany, seeking dominance over the islands, sent warships to the region. But before fighting broke out, a typhoon destroyed the German and American ships. The potential combatants later divided the islands amicably in the 1899 Treaty of Berlin.

In the 1890s, China, weakened by years of internal warfare, was partitioned into spheres of influence by Britain, Japan, Germany, France, and Russia. Concerned about the integrity of China and no less about American trade, Secretary of State John Hay in 1899–1900 wrote a series of notes calling for an “open door” policy that would ensure trade access to all and maintain Chinese sovereignty. The notes were greeted by the major powers with polite evasion. Nevertheless, Hay skillfully managed to maneuver them into doing his bidding, and in 1900 he boldly announced the Open Door as international policy. The United States, by insisting on the Open Door policy, managed to secure access to Chinese markets, expanding its economic power while avoiding the problems of maintaining a far-flung colonial empire on the Asian mainland. But as the Spanish- American War soon demonstrated, Americans found it hard to resist the temptations of overseas empire.

“A Splendid Little War”


The Spanish-American War began as a humanitarian effort to free Cuba from Spain’s colonial grasp and ended with the United States itself acquiring territory overseas and fighting a dirty guerrilla war with Filipino nationalists who, like the Cubans, sought independence. Behind the contradiction stood the twin pillars of American foreign policy: The Monroe Doctrine made Spain’s presence in Cuba unacceptable; and U.S. determination to keep open the door to Asia made the Philippines attractive. Precedent for the nation’s imperial adventures also came from the recent Indian wars in the American West, which provided a template for the subjugation of native peoples in the name of civilization.

Looking back on the Spanish-American War of 1898, Secretary of State John Hay judged it “a splendid little war; begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that fortune which loves the brave.” At the close of a decade marred by bitter depression, social unrest, and political upheaval, the war offered Americans a chance to wave the flag and march in unison. War fever proved as infectious as the tune of a John Philip Sousa march. Few argued the merits of the conflict until it was over and the time came to divide the spoils.

The war began with moral outrage over the treatment of Cuban revolutionaries, who had launched a fight for independence against the Spanish colonial regime in 1895. In an attempt to isolate the guerrillas, the Spanish general Valeriano Weyler herded Cubans into crowded and unsanitary concentration camps, where thousands died of hunger, disease, and exposure. Starvation soon spread to the cities. By 1898, fully a quarter of the island’s population had perished in the Cuban revolution.

As the Cuban rebellion dragged on, pressure for American intervention mounted. American newspapers fueled public outrage at Spain. A fierce circulation war raged in New York City between William Randolph Hearst’s Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s World. Their competition provoked what came to be called yellow journalism, named for the colored ink used in a popular comic strip. The Cuban war provided a wealth of dramatic copy. Newspapers fed the American people a daily diet of “Butcher” Weyler and Spanish atrocities. Hearst sent artist Frederic Remington to document the horror, and when Remington wired home, “There is no trouble here. There will be no war,” Hearst shot back, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

American interests in Cuba were, in the words of the U.S. minister to Spain, more than “merely theoretical or sentimental.” American business had more than $50 million invested in Cuban sugar, and American trade


with Cuba, a brisk $100 million a year before the rebellion, had dropped to near zero. Nevertheless, the business community balked, wary of a war with Spain. When industrialist Mark Hanna, the Republican kingmaker and senator from Ohio, urged restraint, a hotheaded Theodore Roosevelt exploded, “We will have this war for the freedom of Cuba, Senator Hanna, in spite of the timidity of commercial interests.”

To expansionists like Roosevelt, more than Cuban independence was at stake. As assistant secretary of the navy, Roosevelt took the helm in the absence of his boss and, in the summer of 1897, audaciously ordered the U.S. fleet to be ready to steam to Manila in the Philippines. In the event of conflict with Spain, Roosevelt put the navy in a position to capture the islands and gain a stepping-stone to China.

President McKinley moved slowly toward intervention. In a show of American force, he dispatched the battleship Maine to Cuba. On the night of February 15, 1898, a mysterious explosion destroyed the Maine, killing 267 crew members. The source of the explosion remained unclear, but inflammatory stories in the press enraged Americans. Rallying to the cry “Remember the Maine,” Congress declared war on Spain. In a surge of patriotism, more than a million men rushed to enlist. War brought with it a unity of purpose and national harmony that ended a decade of political dissent and strife. “In April, everywhere over this good fair land, flags were flying,” wrote Kansas editor William Allen White. “At the stations, crowds gathered to hurrah for the soldiers, and to throw hats into the air, and to unfurl flags.”

Five days after McKinley signed the war resolution, a U.S. Navy squadron destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay (Map 20.3). The stunning victory caught most Americans by surprise. Few had ever heard of the Philippines. Even McKinley confessed that he could not locate the archipelago on the map. Nevertheless, he dispatched U.S. troops to secure the islands.

The war in Cuba ended almost as quickly as it began. The first troops landed on June 22, and after a handful of battles the Spanish forces surrendered on July 17. The war lasted just long enough to elevate Theodore Roosevelt to the status of bona fide war hero. Roosevelt resigned his navy post and formed the Rough Riders, a regiment composed of a sprinkling of Ivy League polo players and a number of western cowboys Roosevelt befriended during his stint as a cattle rancher in the Dakotas. The Rough Riders’ charge up Kettle Hill and Roosevelt’s role in the decisive battle of San Juan Hill made front-page news. Overnight, Roosevelt became the most famous man in America. By the time he sailed


home from Cuba, a coalition of independent Republicans was already plotting his political future.

MAP 20.3 The Spanish-American War, 1898 The Spanish-American War was fought in two theaters, the Philippine Islands and Cuba. Five days after President William McKinley called for a declaration of war, Admiral George Dewey captured Manila. The war lasted only eight months. Troops landed in Cuba in mid-June and by mid-July had destroyed the Spanish fleet.

The Debate over American Imperialism After a few brief campaigns in Cuba and Puerto Rico brought the Spanish- American War to an end, the American people woke up in possession of an empire that stretched halfway around the globe. As part of the spoils of war, the United States acquired Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. And Republicans quickly moved to annex Hawai’i in July 1898.

Contemptuous of the Cubans, whom General William Shafter declared “no more fit for self-government than gun-powder is for hell,” the U.S. government imposed a Cuban constitution and refused to give up military control of the island until the Cubans accepted the so-called Platt Amendment — a series of provisions that granted the United States the right to intervene to protect Cuba’s “independence,” as well as the power


to oversee Cuban debt so that European creditors would not find an excuse for intervention. For good measure, the United States gave itself a ninety- nine-year lease on a naval base at Guantánamo. In return, McKinley promised to implement an extensive sanitation program to clean up the island, making it more attractive to American investors.

In the formal Treaty of Paris (1898), Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States along with the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico and Guam (Map 20.4). Empire did not come cheap. When Spain initially balked at these terms, the United States agreed to pay an indemnity of $20 million for the islands. Nor was the cost measured in money alone. Filipino revolutionaries under Emilio Aguinaldo, who had greeted U.S. troops as liberators, bitterly fought the new masters. It would take seven years and 4,000 American dead — almost ten times the number killed in Cuba — not to mention an estimated 20,000 Filipino casualties, to defeat Aguinaldo and secure American control of the Philippines.

At home, a vocal minority, mostly Democrats and former Populists, resisted the country’s foray into overseas empire, judging it unwise, immoral, and unconstitutional. William Jennings Bryan, who enlisted in the army but never saw action, concluded that American expansionism only distracted the nation from problems at home. Pointing to the central paradox of the war, Representative Bourke Cockran of New York admonished, “We who have been the destroyers of oppression are asked now to become its agents.” But the expansionists won the day. As Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota assured his colleagues, “We come as ministering angels, not as despots.” Fresh from its conquest of Native Americans in the West, the nation largely embraced the heady mixture of racism and missionary zeal that fueled American adventurism abroad. The Washington Post trumpeted, “The taste of empire is in the mouth of the people,” thrilled at the prospect of “an imperial policy, the Republic renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”


MAP 20.4 U.S. Overseas Expansion through 1900 The United States extended its interests abroad with a series of territorial acquisitions. Although Cuba was granted independence, the Platt Amendment kept the new nation firmly under U.S. control. In the wake of the Spanish-American War, the United States woke up to find that it held an empire extending halfway around the globe.

REVIEW Why did the United States largely abandon its isolationist foreign policy in the 1890s?


Conclusion: Rallying around the Flag A decade of domestic strife ended amid the blare of martial music and the waving of flags. The Spanish-American War drowned out the calls for social reform that had fueled the Populist politics of the 1890s. During that decade, angry farmers facing hard times looked to the Farmers’ Alliances to fight for their vision of economic democracy, workers staged bloody battles across the country to assert their rights, and women like Frances Willard preached temperance and suffrage. Together they formed a new People’s Party to fight for change.

The bitter depression that began in 1893 led to increased labor strife. The Pullman boycott brutally dramatized the power of property and the conservatism of the laissez-faire state. But workers’ willingness to confront capitalism on the streets of Chicago, Homestead, Cripple Creek, and a host of other sites across America eloquently testified to labor’s growing determination, unity, and strength.

As the depression deepened, the sight of Coxey’s army of unemployed marching on Washington to demand federal intervention in the economy signaled a growing shift in the public mind against the stand-pat politics of laissez-faire. The call for the government to take action to better the lives of workers, farmers, and the dispossessed manifested itself in the fiercely fought presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan in 1896. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the decade ended on a harmonious note with patriotic Americans rallying around the flag. But even though Americans basked in patriotism and contemplated empire, old grievances had not been laid to rest. The People’s Party had been beaten, but the Populist spirit lived on in the demands for greater government involvement in the economy, expanded opportunities for direct democracy, and a more equitable balance of profits and power between the people and the big corporations. A new generation of progressive reformers championed the unfinished reform agenda in the first decades of the twentieth century.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Farmers’ Alliance (p. 513) People’s Party (Populist Party) (p. 514) Homestead lockout (p. 516) Cripple Creek miners’ strike of 1894 (p. 517) Pullman boycott (p. 518) National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) (p. 521) Coxey’s army (p. 523) Boxer uprising (p. 527) Monroe Doctrine (p. 527) Open Door policy (p. 528) Spanish-American War (p. 528) yellow journalism (p. 529)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. Why did American farmers organize alliances in the late

nineteenth century? (pp. 513–15) 2. What led to the labor wars of the 1890s? (pp. 515–19) 3. How did women’s temperance activism contribute to the cause

of woman suffrage? (pp. 519–21) 4. Why was the People’s Party unable to translate national support

into victory in the 1896 election? (pp. 522–25)


5. Why did the United States largely abandon its isolationist foreign policy in the 1890s? (pp. 525–33)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Why did so many farmers and urban workers look to the

government to help advance their visions of economic justice? 2. What circumstances gave rise to labor protests in the 1890s?

How did they differ from those triggering earlier strikes? 3. How did women’s activism in the late nineteenth century help

advance the cause of woman suffrage?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. How did the conquest of Native Americans in the West

foreshadow U.S. expansion abroad? In what ways did the assumptions of racial superiority evident in U.S. Indian policy affect the treatment of Cubans and Filipinos? (See chapter 17.)

2. Why in the midst of burgeoning growth did the United States experience a major depression in the 1890s? Draw on your knowledge of the development of U.S. industries such as the railroads. (See chapter 18.)


1884 • Frances Willard calls for woman suffrage. 1890 • National American Woman Suffrage Association

formed. • Wyoming only state allowing women to vote in national

elections. • Southern Farmers’ Alliance numbers three million

members. 1892 • People’s (Populist) Party founded.

• Homestead lockout ends in violence. 1893 • Stock market crash touches off economic depression.

• President Grover Cleveland nixes attempt to annex Hawai’i.


1894 • Miners strike in Cripple Creek, Colorado. • Coxey’s army marches to Washington, D.C.

• Pullman boycott crushed. 1895 • Cleveland enforces Monroe Doctrine in border dispute

between British Guiana and Venezuela. 1896 • Democrats and Populists support William Jennings

Bryan for president. • William McKinley elected president.

1898 • USS Maine explodes in Havana harbor. • Congress declares war on Spain. • Admiral George Dewey destroys Spanish fleet in

Manila Bay. • U.S. troops defeat Spanish forces in Cuba. • Treaty of Paris ends war with Spain. • United States annexes Hawai’i.

1899– 1900

• Secretary of State John Hay enunciates Open Door policy.

• Boxer uprising takes place in China. 1901 • Boxer Protocol imposed on Chinese government.


21 Progressivism from the Grass Roots to the White House 1890–1916


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Explain how and why grassroots progressivism arose near the start of

the twentieth century and why proponents like Jane Addams and Hull House served as spearheads for reform.

◆ Identify how President Theodore Roosevelt put his progressive activism to work with big business, conservation, and international affairs and how successor William Howard Taft stalled the progressive reforms Roosevelt had begun.

◆ Explain why progressives led an insurgent campaign during the election of 1912 and the factors that led to Woodrow Wilson’s victory.

◆ Describe how Wilson sought to enact his “New Freedom” once in office, and explain how he became a reluctant progressive.

◆ Understand the limits of progressive reform, and identify the organizations that offered more radical visions of America’s future.


IN THE SUMMER OF 1889, JANE ADDAMS LEASED TWO FLOORS OF A dilapidated mansion on Chicago’s West Side. Her immigrant neighbors must have wondered why this well-dressed woman, who surely could afford better housing, chose to live on South Halsted Street. Yet the house, built by Charles Hull, precisely suited Addams’s needs.

For Addams, personal action marked the first step in her search for solutions to the social problems created by urban industrialism. She wanted to help her immigrant neighbors, and she wanted to offer meaningful work to educated women like herself. Addams’s emphasis on the reciprocal relationship between the social classes made Hull House different from other philanthropic enterprises. She wished to do things with, not just for, Chicago’s poor.

In the next decade, Hull House expanded from two rented floors in the old brick mansion to some thirteen buildings housing a remarkable variety of activities. Addams provided public baths, opened a restaurant for working women too tired to cook after their long shifts, and sponsored a nursery and kindergarten. Hull House offered classes, lectures, art exhibits, musical instruction, and college extension courses. It boasted a gymnasium, a theater, a manual training workshop, a labor museum, and the first public playground in Chicago.

From the first, Hull House attracted an extraordinary set of reformers who pioneered the scientific investigation of urban ills. Armed with statistics, they launched campaigns to improve housing, end child labor, fund playgrounds, and lobby for laws to protect workers.

Addams quickly learned that it was impossible to deal with urban problems without becoming involved in politics. Piles of decaying garbage overflowed South Halsted Street’s wooden trash bins, breeding flies and disease. To rectify the problem, Addams got herself appointed garbage inspector. Out on the streets at six in the morning, she rode atop the garbage wagon to make sure it made its rounds. Eventually, her struggle to aid the urban poor led her on to the state capitol and to Washington, D.C.

Under Addams’s leadership, Hull House became a “spearhead for reform,” part of a broader movement that contemporaries called progressivism. The transition from personal action to political activism that Addams personified became one of the hallmarks of this reform period, which lasted from the 1890s to World War I.


Classical liberalism, which opposed the tyranny of centralized government, did not address the enormous power of Gilded Age business giants. As the gap between rich and poor widened in the 1890s, progressive reformers demonstrated a willingness to use the government to counterbalance the power of private interests and, in doing so, redefined liberalism in the twentieth century.

Faith in activism united an otherwise diverse group of progressive reformers. A sense of Christian mission inspired some. Others, fearing social upheaval, sought to remove some of the worst evils of urban industrialism — tenements, child labor, and harsh working conditions. A belief in technical expertise and scientific management infused progressivism and made the cult of efficiency part of the movement.

Progressives shared a growing concern about the power of wealthy individuals and a distrust of the trusts, but they were not immune to the prejudices of their era. Although they called for greater democracy, many progressives sought to restrict the rights of African Americans, Asians, and even the women who formed the backbone of the movement.

Uplift and efficiency, social justice and social control, direct democracy and discrimination all came together in the Progressive Era at every level of politics and in the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. While in office, Roosevelt advocated conservation, pushed through antitrust reforms, and championed the nation as a world power. Roosevelt’s successor, William Taft, failed to follow in Roosevelt’s footsteps, and the resulting split in the Republican Party paved the way for Wilson’s victory in 1912. A reluctant progressive, Wilson eventually presided over reforms in banking, business, and labor.


Grassroots Progressivism Much of progressive reform began at the grassroots level and percolated upward into local, state, and eventually national politics as reformers attacked the social problems fostered by urban industrialism. Although progressivism flourished in many different settings across the country, urban problems inspired the progressives’ greatest efforts. In their zeal to “civilize the city,” reformers founded settlement houses, professed a new Christian social gospel, and campaigned against vice and crime in the name of “social purity.” Allying with the working class, women progressives sought to better the lot of sweatshop garment workers and to end child labor. These local reform efforts often ended up being debated in state legislatures and in the U.S. Congress.

Civilizing the City Progressives attacked the problems of the city on many fronts. Settlement houses, which began in England, spread in the United States. By 1893, the needs of poor urban neighborhoods that had motivated Jane Addams led Lillian Wald to recruit several other nurses to move to New York City’s Lower East Side “to live in the neighborhood as nurses, identify ourselves with it socially, and … contribute to it our citizenship.” Wald’s Henry Street settlement pioneered public health nursing.

Women, particularly college-educated women like Addams and Wald, formed the backbone of the settlement house movement. Settlement houses gave college-educated women eager to use their knowledge a place to put their talents to work in the service of society and to champion progressive reform. Such reformers believed that only by living among the poor could they help bridge the growing class divide. Settlements like Hull House grew in number from six in 1891 to more than four hundred in 1911. In the process, settlement house women created a new profession — social work.

For their part, churches confronted urban social problems by enunciating a new social gospel, one that saw its mission as not simply to reform individuals but to reform society. The social gospel offered a


powerful corrective to social Darwinism and the gospel of wealth, which fostered the belief that riches somehow signaled divine favor. Charles M. Sheldon’s popular book In His Steps (1898) called on men and women to Christianize capitalism by asking the question “What would Jesus do?”

Ministers also played an active role in the social purity movement, the campaign to attack vice. To end the “social evil,” as reformers delicately referred to prostitution, the social purity movement brought together ministers who wished to stamp out sin, doctors concerned about the spread of venereal disease, and women reformers. Advanced progressives linked prostitution to poverty and championed higher wages for women working in industrial or other jobs.

Attacks on alcohol went hand in hand with the push for social purity. The Anti-Saloon League, formed in 1895 under the leadership of Protestant clergy, added to the efforts of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in campaigning to end the sale of liquor. Reformers pointed to links between drinking, prostitution, wife and child abuse, unemployment, and industrial accidents. The powerful liquor lobby fought back, spending liberally in election campaigns, fueling the charge that liquor corrupted the political process.

An element of nativism (dislike of foreigners) ran through the movement for prohibition, as it did in a number of progressive reforms. The Irish, the Italians, and the Germans were among the groups stigmatized by temperance reformers for their drinking. Progressives campaigned to enforce the Sunday closing of taverns, stores, and other commercial establishments and pushed for state legislation to outlaw the sale of liquor. By 1912, seven states were “dry.”

Progressives’ efforts to civilize the city demonstrated their willingness to take action; their belief that environment, not heredity alone, determined human behavior; and their optimism that conditions could be corrected through government action without radically altering America’s economy or institutions. All of these attitudes characterized the progressive movement.

Progressives and the Working Class Day-to-day contact with their neighbors made settlement house workers particularly sympathetic to labor. When Mary Kenney O’Sullivan complained that her bookbinders’ union met in a dirty, noisy saloon, Jane Addams invited them to meet at Hull House. And during the Pullman strike in 1894, Hull House residents organized strike relief. “Hull-House


has been so unionized,” grumbled one Chicago businessman, “that it has lost its usefulness and become a detriment and harm to the community.” But to the working class, the support of middle-class reformers marked a significant gain.

Attempts to forge a cross-class alliance became institutionalized in 1903 with the creation of the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL). The WTUL brought together women workers and middle-class “allies.” Its goal was to organize working women into unions under the auspices of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Although the alliance between working women, primarily immigrants and daughters of immigrants, and their middle-class allies was not without tension, the WTUL helped working women achieve significant gains.

The WTUL’s most notable success came in 1909 in the “uprising of the twenty thousand,” when hundreds of women employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City went on strike to protest low wages, dangerous working conditions, and management’s refusal to recognize their union, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. In support, an estimated twenty thousand garment workers, most of them teenage girls and many of them Jewish and Italian immigrants, stayed out on strike through the winter, picketing in the bitter cold. Police and hired thugs harassed the picketing strikers, beating them up and arresting more than six hundred of them for “street walking” (prostitution). When WTUL allies, including J. P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, joined the picket line, the harassment quickly stopped. By the time the strike ended in February 1910, the workers had won important demands in many shops. The solidarity shown by the women workers proved to be the strike’s greatest achievement. As Clara Lemlich, one of the strike’s leaders, exclaimed, “They used to say that you couldn’t even organize women. They wouldn’t come to union meetings. They were ‘temporary’ workers. Well we showed them!”


Garment Workers on Strike These two young women, both of them probably immigrants, walked the picket line during the successful “uprising of the twenty thousand” garment workers in 1909. The women’s hats and dresses display their needlework skills and their respectability. The glowering men in the background suggest the conventional middle- class opposition to the working women’s strike. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-04505.

But for all its success, the uprising of the twenty thousand failed fundamentally to change conditions for women workers, as the tragic Triangle fire dramatized in 1911. A little over a year after the shirtwaist makers’ strike ended, fire alarms sounded at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. The ramshackle building, full of lint and combustible cloth, burned to rubble in half an hour. A WTUL member described the scene below on the street: “Two young girls whom I knew to be working in the vicinity came rushing toward me, tears were running from their eyes and they were white and shaking as they caught me by the arm. ‘Oh,’ shrieked one of them, ‘they are jumping. Jumping from ten stories up! They are going through the air like bundles of clothes.’”


The terrified Triangle workers had little choice but to jump. Flames blocked one exit, and the other door had been locked to prevent workers from pilfering. The flimsy, rusted fire escape collapsed under the weight of fleeing workers, killing dozens. Trapped, 54 workers on the top floors jumped to their deaths. Of 500 workers, 146 died and scores of others were injured. The owners of the Triangle firm went to trial for negligence, but they avoided conviction when authorities determined that a careless smoker had started the fire. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company reopened in another firetrap within a matter of weeks.

Outrage and a sense of futility overwhelmed Rose Schneiderman, a leading WTUL organizer, who made a bitter speech at the memorial service for the dead Triangle workers. “I would be a traitor to those poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship,” she told her audience. “We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting…. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves … by a strong working class movement.” The Triangle fire severely tested the bonds of the cross-class alliance. Schneiderman and other WTUL leaders determined that organizing and striking were no longer enough, particularly when the AFL paid so little attention to women workers. Increasingly, the WTUL turned its efforts to lobbying for protective legislation — laws that would limit hours and regulate women’s working conditions.

The National Consumers League (NCL) also fostered cross-class alliance and advocated for protective legislation. When Florence Kelley took over the leadership of the NCL in 1899, she urged middle-class women to boycott stores and exert pressure for decent wages and working conditions for women employees. Frustrated by the reluctance of the private sector to reform, the NCL promoted protective legislation to better the working conditions for women.

Advocates of protective legislation had won a major victory in 1908 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Muller v. Oregon, reversed its previous rulings and upheld an Oregon law that limited to ten the number of hours women could work in a day. A mass of sociological evidence put together by Florence Kelley of the NCL and Josephine Goldmark of the WTUL convinced the Court that long hours endangered women and therefore the entire human race. The Court’s ruling set a precedent, but one that separated the well-being of women workers from that of men by arguing that women’s reproductive role justified special treatment. Later generations of women fighting for equality would question the effectiveness of this strategy and argue that it ultimately closed good jobs


to women. The WTUL, however, greeted protective legislation as a first step in the attempt to ensure the safety of all workers.

Reform also fueled the fight for woman suffrage. For women like Jane Addams, involvement in social reform led inevitably to support for woman suffrage. These new suffragists emphasized the reforms that could be accomplished if women had the vote. Addams insisted that in an urban, industrial society, a good housekeeper could not be sure the food she fed her family, or the water and milk they drank, were pure unless she could vote.

REVIEW What types of people were drawn to the progressive movement, and why?


Progressivism: Theory and Practice Progressivism emphasized action and experimentation. Dismissing the view that humans should leave progress to the dictates of natural selection, a new group of reform Darwinists argued that evolution could be advanced more rapidly if men and women used their intellects to improve society. In their zeal for action, progressives often showed an unchecked admiration for speed and efficiency that promoted scientific management and a new cult to improve productivity. These varied strands of progressive theory found practical application in state and local politics, where reformers challenged traditional laissez-faire government.

Reform Darwinism and Social Engineering The active, interventionist approach of the progressives directly challenged social Darwinism, with its insistence on survival of the fittest. A new group of sociologists argued that progress could be advanced more rapidly if people used their intellects to alter their environment. The best statement of this reform Darwinism came from sociologist Lester Frank Ward in his book Dynamic Sociology (1883). Ward insisted the “blind natural forces in society must give way to human foresight.” This theory condemned the laissez-faire approach, insisting that the liberal state should play a more active role in solving social problems.

Efficiency and expertise became progressives’ watchwords. In Drift and Mastery (1914), journalist and critic Walter Lippmann called for skilled “technocrats” to use scientific techniques to control social change. Unlike the Populists, who advocated a greater voice for the masses, progressives, for all their interest in social justice, insisted that experts be put in charge. At its extreme, the application of expertise and social engineering took the form of scientific management.

Frederick Winslow Taylor pioneered “systematized shop management” in 1911. Obsessed with making humans and machines produce more and faster, he meticulously timed workers with a stopwatch and attempted to break down their work into its simplest components, one repetitious action after another. He won many converts among corporate managers, but


workers hated the monotony of systematized shop management and argued that it led to speedup — pushing workers to produce more in less time and for less pay. Nevertheless, many progressives applauded the increased productivity and efficiency of Taylor’s system.

Progressive Government: City and State Progressivism burst forth at every level of government in 1900, but nowhere more forcefully than in Cleveland with the election of Democrat Thomas Loftin Johnson as mayor. A self-made millionaire by age forty, Johnson moved to Cleveland in 1899, where he began his career in politics. During his mayoral campaign, he pledged to reduce the streetcar fare from five cents to three cents. His election touched off a seven-year war between Johnson and the streetcar moguls. To get his three-cent fare, Johnson had Cleveland buy the streetcar system, a tactic of municipal ownership progressives called “gas and water socialism.” Reelected four times, Johnson fought for fair taxation and championed greater democracy through the use of the initiative and referendum to let voters introduce legislation, and the recall to get rid of elected officials and judges. Under Johnson’s administration, Cleveland became, in the words of journalist Lincoln Steffens, the “best governed city in America.”

In Wisconsin, Republican Robert M. La Follette converted to the progressive cause early in the 1900s. La Follette capitalized on the grassroots movement for reform to launch his long political career as governor (1901–1905) and U.S. senator (1906–1925). La Follette brought scientists and professors into his administration and used the university, just down the street from the statehouse in Madison, as a resource. As governor, La Follette lowered railroad rates, raised railroad taxes, improved education, preached conservation, established factory regulation and workers’ compensation, instituted the first direct primary in the country, and inaugurated the first state income tax. Under his leadership, Wisconsin earned the title “laboratory of democracy.” A fiery orator, “Fighting Bob” La Follette united his supporters around issues that transcended party loyalties. Democrats and Republicans like Tom Johnson and Robert La Follette crossed party lines to work for reform.

West of the Rockies, progressivism arrived somewhat later and found a champion in Republican Hiram Johnson, who served as governor of California from 1911 to 1917 and later as U.S. senator. The Southern Pacific Railroad had dominated California politics since the 1870s. As governor, Johnson promised to “kick the Southern Pacific out of politics” and “return the government to the people,” winning support from


progressive voters. During Johnson’s governorship, California adopted the direct primary; supported initiative, referendum, and recall; strengthened the state’s railroad commission; and enacted an employer’s liability law.

REVIEW How did progressives justify their demand for more activist government?


Progressivism Finds a President: Theodore Roosevelt On September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Eight days later, McKinley died. When news of the assassination reached Republican boss Mark Hanna, he is said to have growled, “Now that damned cowboy is president.” He was speaking of Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, the colorful hero of San Juan Hill, who had indeed cattle ranched in the Dakotas in the 1880s.

Roosevelt immediately reassured the shocked nation that he intended “to continue absolutely unbroken” the policies of McKinley. But Roosevelt was as different from McKinley as the nineteenth century from the twentieth. An activist and a moralist, imbued with the progressive spirit, Roosevelt would turn the Executive Mansion, which he insisted on calling the White House, into a “bully pulpit.” Under his leadership, he achieved major reforms, advocated conservation and antitrust lawsuits, and championed the nation’s emergence as a world power. In the process, Roosevelt would work to shift the nation’s center of power from Wall Street to Washington.

After serving nearly two full terms as president, Roosevelt left office at the height of his powers. Any man would have found it difficult to follow in his footsteps, but his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, proved poorly suited to the task. Taft’s presidency was marked by vigorous trust-busting but would end with a progressive stalemate and a bitter break with Roosevelt that ultimately caused a schism in the Republican Party.

The Square Deal At age forty-two, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest man ever to move into the White House. A patrician by birth and an activist by temperament, Roosevelt brought to the job enormous talent and energy. Early in his career, he had determined that the path to power did not lie in


the good government leagues formed by his well-bred New York friends. “If it is the muckers that govern,” he wrote, “then I want to see if I cannot hold my own with them.” He served his political apprenticeship under a Republican ward boss in a grubby meeting hall above a saloon on Morton Street. Roosevelt’s rise in politics was swift and sure. He went from the New York assembly at the age of twenty-three to the presidency with time out as a cowboy in the Dakotas, police commissioner of New York City, assistant secretary of the navy, and a colonel of the Rough Riders. Elected governor of New York in 1898, he alienated the Republican boss, who finagled to get him “kicked upstairs” as a candidate for the vice presidency in 1900. The party bosses reasoned Roosevelt could do little harm as vice president. But one bullet proved the error of their logic.

Once president, Roosevelt would harness his explosive energy to strengthen the power of the federal government, putting business on notice that it could no longer count on a laissez-faire government to give it free rein. In Roosevelt’s eyes, self-interested capitalists like John D. Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil trust monopolized the refinery business, constituted “the most dangerous members of the criminal class — the criminals of great wealth.” The “absolutely vital question” facing the country, Roosevelt wrote to a friend in 1901, was “whether or not the government has the power to control the trusts.” The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 had been badly weakened by a conservative Supreme Court and by attorneys general more willing to use it against labor unions than against monopolies. To determine whether the law had any teeth left, Roosevelt, in one of his first acts as president, ordered his attorney general to begin a secret antitrust investigation of the Northern Securities Company, a behemoth that monopolized railroad traffic in the Northwest.

Just five months after Roosevelt took office, Wall Street rocked with the news that the government had filed an antitrust suit against Northern Securities. As one newspaper editor sarcastically observed, “Wall Street is paralyzed at the thought that a President of the United States would sink so low as to try to enforce the law.” Roosevelt’s thunderbolt put Wall Street on notice that the new president expected to be treated as an equal and was willing to use government as a weapon to curb business excesses. Roosevelt later recounted how J. P. Morgan had come to him, one Harvard man to another, to suggest that “if we have done anything wrong, send your man to my man and they can fix it up.” Roosevelt’s attorney general responded, “We don’t want to fix it up, we want to stop it.” Roosevelt chortled over the exchange, noting, “This is a most illuminating illustration of the Wall Street point of view. Mr. Morgan could not help regarding me as a big rival operator.” And indeed he was. Perhaps sensing the new


mood, the Supreme Court, in a significant turnaround, upheld the Sherman Act and called for the dissolution of Northern Securities in 1904.

“Hurrah for Teddy the Trustbuster,” cheered the papers. Roosevelt went on to use the Sherman Act against forty-three trusts, including such giants as American Tobacco, Du Pont, and Standard Oil. Always the moralist, he insisted on a “rule of reason.” He would punish “bad” trusts (those that broke the law) and leave “good” ones alone. In practice, he preferred regulation to antitrust suits. In 1903, he pressured Congress to pass the Elkins Act, outlawing railroad rebates. And he created the new cabinet-level Department of Commerce and Labor with the subsidiary Bureau of Corporations to act as a corporate watchdog.

In his handling of the anthracite coal strike in 1902, Roosevelt again demonstrated his willingness to assert the authority of the presidency, this time to mediate between labor and management. In May, 147,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania went on strike. The United Mine Workers (UMW) demanded a reduction in the workday from twelve to ten hours, an equitable system of weighing each miner’s output, and a 10 percent wage increase, along with recognition of the union. When asked about the appalling conditions in the mines that led to the strike, George Baer, the mine operators’ spokesman, scoffed, “The miners don’t suffer, why they can’t even speak English.”

Realist author Stephen Crane had already investigated mining life for “In the Depths of a Coal Mine.” There he found a vicious circle. Children worked as “breaker boys” separating out pieces of slate from streams of coal speeding by on conveyor belts. Paid 55 cents a day, the boys moved up to become miners, but “having survived gas, the floods, the ‘squeezes’ of falling rocks, the cars shooting through little tunnels, the precarious elevators,” they had little to look forward to: “When old and decrepit, he finally returns to the breaker where he started as a child.”

The strike dragged on through the summer and into the fall. Hoarding and profiteering more than doubled the price of coal. As winter approached, coal shortages touched off near riots in the nation’s big cities. At this juncture, Roosevelt stepped in. Instead of sending in troops, he determined to mediate. His unprecedented intervention served notice that government counted itself an independent force in business and labor disputes. At the same time, it gave unionism a boost by granting the UMW a place at the table.

At the meeting, Baer and the mine owners refused to talk with the union representative — a move that angered the attorney general and insulted the president. Beside himself with rage over the “woodenheaded


obstinacy and stupidity” of management, Roosevelt threatened to seize the mines and run them with federal troops. This quickly brought management to the table. In the end, the miners won a reduction in hours and a wage increase, but the owners succeeded in preventing formal recognition of the UMW.

Taken together, Roosevelt’s actions in the Northern Securities case and the anthracite coal strike marked a dramatic departure from the presidential passivity of the Gilded Age. Roosevelt’s actions demonstrated conclusively that government intended to act as a countervailing force to the power of the big corporations. Pleased with his role in the anthracite strike, Roosevelt announced that all he had tried to do was give labor and capital a “square deal.”

Breaker Boys Coal mines employed thousands of young boys to pick out rocks and other impurities from mined coal. The breaker boys here at a Pennsylvania coal company keep their eyes on the endless conveyor belt of coal for twelve hours a day, while supervisors stand behind them ready to kick them or whack them with a rod to keep them on task. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-01127.

The phrase “Square Deal” became Roosevelt’s campaign slogan in the 1904 election. Roosevelt easily defeated the Democrats, who abandoned


their former candidate, William Jennings Bryan, to support Judge Alton B. Parker, a “safe” choice they hoped would lure business votes away from Roosevelt. In the months before the election, the president prudently toned down his criticism of big business. Roosevelt swept into office with the largest popular majority — 57.9 percent — any candidate had polled up to that time.

Roosevelt the Reformer “Tomorrow I shall come into my office in my own right,” Roosevelt is said to have remarked on the eve of his election. “Then watch out for me!” Roosevelt’s stunning victory gave him a mandate for reform. He would need all the popularity and political savvy he could muster, however, to guide his reform measures through Congress. The Senate remained controlled by a staunchly conservative Republican “Old Guard,” with many senators on the payrolls of the corporations Roosevelt sought to curb. The New York Times suggested that “a millionaire could buy a Senate seat, just as he would buy an opera box, a yacht, or any other luxury.”

Roosevelt’s pet project remained railroad regulation. The Elkins Act prohibiting rebates had not worked. Roosevelt determined that the only solution lay in giving the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) real power to set rates and prevent discriminatory practices. But the right to determine the price of goods or services was an age-old prerogative of private enterprise, and one that business had no intention of yielding to government.

The Hepburn Act of 1906 marked the crowning legislative achievement of Roosevelt’s presidency. It gave the ICC the power to set rates subject to court review. Committed progressives like La Follette judged the law a defeat for reform. Die-hard conservatives branded it a “piece of populism.” Both sides exaggerated. The law left the courts too much power and failed to provide adequate means for the ICC to determine rates, but its passage proved a landmark in federal control of private industry. For the first time, a government commission had the power to investigate private business records and to set rates.

Always an apt reader of the public temper, Roosevelt witnessed a growing appetite for reform. Revelations of corporate and political wrongdoing as well as social injustice filled the papers and boosted the sales of popular magazines. Roosevelt counted many of the new investigative journalists among his friends. But he warned them against


going too far, citing the allegorical character in Pilgrim’s Progress who was too busy raking muck to notice higher things. Roosevelt’s criticism gave the American vocabulary a new word, muckraker, which journalists soon appropriated as a title of honor.

Muckraking, as Roosevelt well knew, provided enormous help in securing progressive legislation. In the spring of 1906, publicity generated by the muckrakers about poisons in patent medicines goaded the Senate, with Roosevelt’s backing, into passing a pure food and drug bill. Opponents in the House of Representatives hoped to keep the legislation locked up in committee. There it would have died, were it not for the publication of Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle (1906), with its sensational account of filthy conditions in meatpacking plants. Roosevelt, who read the book over breakfast, was sickened. He immediately invited Sinclair to the White House. Sinclair wanted socialism; Roosevelt wanted food inspection. But thanks to the publicity generated by The Jungle, a massive public outcry led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act in 1906.

In the waning years of his administration, Roosevelt allied with the more progressive elements of the Republican Party. In speech after speech, he attacked “malefactors of great wealth.” Styling himself a “radical,” he claimed credit for leading the “ultra conservative” party of McKinley to a position of “progressive conservatism and conservative radicalism.”

When an economic panic developed in the fall of 1907, business interests quickly blamed the president. Once again, J. P. Morgan stepped in to avert disaster, this time switching funds from one bank to another to prop up weak institutions. For his services, Morgan dispatched his lieutenants to Washington, where they told Roosevelt that the sale of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company would aid the economy “but little benefit” U.S. Steel. Willing to take the word of a gentleman, Roosevelt tacitly agreed not to institute antitrust proceedings against U.S. Steel over the acquisition. Roosevelt’s promise would give rise to the charge that he acted as a tool of the Morgan interests.


MAP 21.1 National Parks and Forests The national park system in the West began with Yellowstone in 1872. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia followed in the 1890s. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt added six parks — Crater Lake, Wind Cave, Petrified Forest, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, and Zion.

The charge of collusion between business and government underscored the extent to which corporate leaders like Morgan found federal regulation preferable to unbridled competition or harsher state measures. During the Progressive Era, enlightened business leaders cooperated with government in the hope of avoiding antitrust prosecution. Convinced that regulation and not trust-busting offered the best way to deal with big business, Roosevelt never acknowledged that his regulatory policies fostered an alliance between business and government that today is called corporate liberalism.

Roosevelt and Conservation In the area of conservation, Roosevelt proved indisputably ahead of his time. When he took office, some 43 million acres of forestland remained as government reserves. He more than quadrupled that number to 194 million acres. To conserve natural resources, he fought western cattle barons, lumber kings, mining interests, and powerful leaders in Congress,


including Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, who vowed to spend “not one cent for scenery.”

As the first president to have lived and worked in the West, Roosevelt came to the White House convinced of the need for better management of the nation’s rivers and forests as well as the preservation of wildlife and wilderness. During his presidency, he placed the nation’s conservation policy in the hands of scientifically trained experts like his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot preached conservation — the efficient use of natural resources. Willing to permit grazing, lumbering, and the development of hydroelectric power, conservationists fought private interests only when they felt business acted irresponsibly or threatened to monopolize water and electric power. Preservationists like John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, believed that the wilderness needed to be protected. Roosevelt, a fervent Darwinian naturalist and an (overly) enthusiastic game hunter, a conservationist who built big dams and a preservationist who saved the redwoods, aimed to have it both ways.

In 1907, Congress attempted to put the brakes on Roosevelt’s conservation program by passing a law limiting his power to create forest reserves in six western states. In the days leading up to the law’s enactment, Roosevelt feverishly created twenty-one new reserves and enlarged eleven more, saving 16 million acres from development. Once again, Roosevelt had outwitted his adversaries. “Opponents of the forest service turned handsprings in their wrath,” he wrote, “but the threats … were really only a tribute to the efficiency of our action.” Worried that private utilities were gobbling up waterpower sites and creating a monopoly of hydroelectric power, he connived with Pinchot to withdraw 2,565 power sites from private use by designating them “ranger stations.” Firm in his commitment to wild America, Roosevelt proved willing to stretch the law when it served his ends. His legacy is more than 234 million acres of American wilderness saved for posterity (Map 21.1).

The Big Stick Roosevelt’s activism extended to his foreign policy. A fierce proponent of America’s interests abroad, he relied on executive power to pursue a vigorous foreign policy, sometimes stretching the powers of the presidency beyond legal limits. In his relations with the European powers, he relied on military strength and diplomacy, a combination he aptly described with the aphorism “Speak softly but carry a big stick.”

A strong supporter of the Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt jealously


guarded the U.S. sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere. His proprietary attitude toward the Caribbean became evident in the case of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt had long been a supporter of a canal linking the Caribbean and the Pacific. By enabling ships to move quickly from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a canal would trim 8,000 miles from a coast-to- coast voyage and effectively double the U.S. Navy’s power. Having decided on a route across the Panamanian isthmus (a narrow strip of land connecting North and South America), then part of Colombia, Roosevelt in 1902 offered the Colombian government a one-time sum of $10 million and an annual rent of $250,000. When the government in Bogotá refused to accept the offer, Roosevelt became incensed at what he called the “homicidal corruptionists” in Colombia for trying to “blackmail” the United States. At the prompting of a group of New York investors, the Panamanians staged an uprising in 1903, and with unseemly haste the U.S. government recognized the new government within twenty-four hours. The Panamanians promptly accepted the $10 million, and the building got under way. The canal would take eleven years and $375 million to complete; it opened in 1914 (Map 21.2).

In the wake of the Panama affair, a confrontation with Germany over Venezuela, and yet another default on a European debt, this time in the Dominican Republic, Roosevelt grew concerned that financial instability in Latin America would lead European powers to interfere. In 1904, he announced the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, in which he declared the United States had a right to act as “an international police power” in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt stated the United States would not intervene in Latin America as long as nations there conducted their affairs with “decency,” but it would step in to stop “brutal wrongdoing.” The Roosevelt Corollary served notice to the European powers to keep out.

In Asia, Roosevelt inherited the Open Door policy initiated by Secretary of State John Hay in 1899, designed to ensure U.S. commercial entry into China. As European powers raced to secure Chinese trade and territory, Roosevelt was tempted to use force to gain economic or possibly territorial concessions. Realizing that Americans would not support an aggressive Asian policy, the president sensibly held back.

In his relations with Europe, Roosevelt sought to establish the United States as a rising force in world affairs. When tensions flared between France and Germany in Morocco in 1905, Roosevelt mediated at a conference in Algeciras, Spain, where he worked to maintain a balance of power that helped neutralize German ambitions. His skillful mediation


gained him a reputation as an astute player on the world stage and demonstrated the nation’s new presence in world affairs.

Roosevelt earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his role in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, which had broken out when the Japanese invaded Chinese Manchuria, threatening Russia’s sphere of influence in the area. Once again, Roosevelt sought to maintain a balance of power, in this case working to curb Japanese expansionism. Roosevelt admired the Japanese, judging them “the most dashing fighters in the world,” but he did not want Japan to become too strong in Asia.

MAP 21.2 The Panama Canal, 1914 The Panama Canal, completed in 1914, bisects the isthmus in a series of massive locks and dams. As Theodore Roosevelt had planned, the canal greatly strengthened the U.S. Navy by allowing ships to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a matter of days.

When good relations with Japan were jeopardized by discriminatory legislation in California calling for segregated public schools for Asians, Roosevelt smoothed over the incident and negotiated the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” in 1907, which allowed the Japanese to save face by voluntarily restricting immigration to the United States. To demonstrate America’s naval power and to counter Japan’s growing bellicosity, Roosevelt dispatched the Great White Fleet, sixteen of the navy’s most up- to-date battleships, on a “goodwill mission” around the world. U.S.


relations with Japan improved, and in the 1908 Root-Takahira agreement the two nations pledged to maintain the Open Door and support the status quo in the Pacific. Roosevelt’s show of American force constituted a classic example of his dictum “Speak softly but carry a big stick.”

The Troubled Presidency of William Howard Taft Roosevelt promised on the eve of his election in 1904 that he would not seek another term. So he retired from the presidency in 1909 at age fifty and removed himself from the political scene by going on safari in Africa. He turned the White House over to his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, a lawyer who had served as governor-general of the Philippines. Affectionately known as “Big Bill,” Taft had served as Roosevelt’s right-hand man in the cabinet. In the presidential election of 1908, Taft soundly defeated the perennial Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan.

A genial man with a talent for law, Taft had no experience in elective office, no feel for politics, and no nerve for controversy. His ambitious wife coveted the office and urged him to seek it. He would have been better off listening to his mother, who warned, “Roosevelt is a good fighter and enjoys it, but the malice of politics would make you miserable.” Sadly for Taft, his wife suffered a stroke in his first months in office, leaving him grieving and without his strongest ally.

Once in office, Taft proved a perfect tool in the hands of Republicans who yearned for a return to the days of a less active executive. A lawyer by training and instinct, Taft believed that it was up to the courts, not the president, to arbitrate social issues. Roosevelt had carried presidential power to a new level, often flouting the separation of powers and showing thinly veiled contempt for Congress and the courts. He believed that the president had the legal right to act as steward of the people, and to do anything necessary “unless the Constitution or the laws explicitly forbid him to do it.” Taft found such presidential activism difficult to condone. Although he pursued the trusts vigorously, he acted more like a judge than a steward. Wary of the progressive insurgents in Congress, Taft relied increasingly on conservatives in the Republican Party. As a progressive senator lamented, “Taft is a ponderous and amiable man completely surrounded by men who know exactly what they want.”

Taft’s troubles began on the eve of his inaugural, when he called a special session of Congress to deal with the tariff. Roosevelt had been too politically astute to tackle the troublesome tariff issue, even though he


knew that rates needed to be lowered. Ida Tarbell, who lent her meticulous research skills to the tariff debate, concluded, “At a time when wealth is rolling up as never before, a vast number of hard-working people … are really having a more difficult time making ends meet than they have ever had before.” Tarbell’s articles proved a revelation to many, who had never understood the relationship between the tariff and the price of a pair of shoes.

Taft struggled to transform growing public sentiment against the tariff into legislation. But Taft blundered into the fray. The Payne-Aldrich bill that emerged was amended in the Senate so that it actually raised the tariff, benefiting big business and the trusts at the expense of consumers. As if paralyzed, Taft neither fought for changes nor vetoed the measure. On a tour of the Midwest in 1909, he was greeted with jeers when he claimed, “I think the Payne bill is the best bill that the Republican Party ever passed.” In the eyes of a growing number of Americans, Taft’s praise of the tariff made him either a fool or a liar.

Taft’s legalism soon got him into hot water in the area of conservation. He undid Roosevelt’s work to preserve hydroelectric power sites when he learned that they had been improperly designated as ranger stations. And when Gifford Pinchot publicly denounced Taft’s secretary of the interior as a tool of western land-grabbers, Taft fired Pinchot, touching off a storm of controversy that damaged Taft and alienated Roosevelt. When Roosevelt returned from Africa, Pinchot was among the first to greet him with a half dozen letters from progressives complaining of Taft’s leadership.

In June 1910, Roosevelt returned to the United States, where he received a hero’s welcome and attracted a stream of visitors and reporters seeking his advice and opinions. Hurt, Taft kept his distance. By late summer, Roosevelt had taken sides with the progressive insurgents in his party. “Taft is utterly hopeless as a leader,” Roosevelt confided to his son as he set out on a speaking tour of the West. Reading the mood of the country, Roosevelt began to sound more and more like a candidate.

With the Republican Party divided, the Democrats swept the congressional elections of 1910. Branding the Payne-Aldrich tariff “the mother of trusts,” they captured a majority in the House of Representatives and won several key governorships. The revitalized Democratic Party could look to new leaders, among them the progressive governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson.

The new Democratic majority in the House, working with progressive Republicans in the Senate, achieved a number of key reforms, including


legislation to regulate railroad safety, to create the Children’s Bureau in the Department of Labor, and to establish an eight-hour day for federal workers and miners. Two significant constitutional amendments — the Sixteenth Amendment, which provided for a modest graduated income tax, and the Seventeenth Amendment, which called for the direct election of senators (formerly chosen by state legislatures) — went to the states, where they would win ratification in 1913. While Congress rode the high tide of progressive reform, Taft sat on the sidelines.

In foreign policy, Taft continued Roosevelt’s policy of extending U.S. influence abroad, but here, too, Taft had a difficult time following Roosevelt. Taft’s “dollar diplomacy” championed commercial goals rather than the strategic aims Roosevelt had pursued. Taft naively assumed he could substitute “dollars for bullets.” In the Caribbean, he provoked anti- American feeling by dispatching U.S. Marines to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in 1912 pursuant to the Roosevelt Corollary. In Asia, he openly avowed his intent to promote “active intervention to secure for … our capitalists opportunity for profitable investment.” Lacking Roosevelt’s understanding of power politics, Taft failed to recognize that an aggressive commercial policy could not exist without the willingness to use military might to back it up.

Taft faced the limits of dollar diplomacy when revolution broke out in Mexico in 1911. Under pressure to protect American investments, he mobilized troops along the border. In the end, however, with no popular support for a war with Mexico, he had to fall back on diplomatic pressure to salvage American interests.

Taft’s greatest dream was to encourage world peace through the use of a world court and arbitration. He unsuccessfully sponsored a series of arbitration treaties that Roosevelt, who prized national honor more than international law, vehemently opposed as weak and cowardly. By 1910, Roosevelt had become a vocal critic of Taft’s foreign policy.

The final breach between Taft and Roosevelt came in 1911, when Taft’s attorney general filed an antitrust suit against U.S. Steel. In its brief against the corporation, the government cited Roosevelt’s agreement with the Morgan interests in the 1907 acquisition of Tennessee Coal and Iron. The incident greatly embarrassed Roosevelt. Either he had been hoodwinked or he had colluded with Morgan. Neither idea pleased him. Thoroughly enraged, he lambasted Taft’s “archaic” antitrust policy and hinted that he might be persuaded to run for president again.


REVIEW How did Theodore Roosevelt advance the progressive agenda?


Woodrow Wilson and Progressivism at High Tide Disillusionment with Taft resulted in a split in the Republican Party and the creation of a new Progressive Party that rallied to Theodore Roosevelt. In the election of 1912, four candidates styled themselves “progressives,” but it was Democrat Woodrow Wilson, with a minority of the popular vote, who won the presidency. He would continue Roosevelt’s presidential power and help enact progressive legislation.

Progressive Insurgency and the Election of 1912 Convinced that Taft was inept, in February 1912, Roosevelt declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination, announcing, “My hat is in the ring.” Taft, with uncharacteristic strength, refused to step aside. Roosevelt took advantage of newly passed primary election laws and ran in thirteen states, winning 278 delegates to Taft’s 48. But at the Chicago convention, Taft’s bosses refused to seat the Roosevelt delegates. Fistfights broke out on the convention floor as Taft won nomination on the first ballot. Crying robbery, Roosevelt’s supporters bolted the party.

Seven weeks later, in the same Chicago auditorium, the hastily organized Progressive Party met to nominate Roosevelt. Full of reforming zeal, the delegates chose Roosevelt and Hiram Johnson to head the new party. Jane Addams seconded Roosevelt’s nomination. “I have been fighting for progressive principles for thirty years,” she told the enthusiastic crowd. “This is the first time there has been a chance to make them effective. This is the biggest day of my life.” The new party lustily approved the most ambitious platform since that of the Populists. Planks called for woman suffrage, presidential primaries, conservation of natural resources, an end to child labor, workers’ compensation, a living wage for both men and women workers, social security, health insurance, and a federal income tax.

Roosevelt arrived in Chicago to accept the nomination and announced that he felt “as fit as a bull moose,” giving the new party a nickname and a


mascot. With characteristic vigor, he launched his campaign with the exhortation, “We stand at Armageddon and do battle for the Lord!” But for all the excitement and the cheering, the new Progressive Party was doomed, and the candidate knew it. Privately he confessed to a friend, “I am under no illusion about it. It is a forlorn hope.” The people may have supported the party, but the politicians, even progressives such as La Follette, refused to support the new party. The Democrats, delighted at the split in the Republican ranks, nominated Woodrow Wilson, the governor of New Jersey. After only eighteen months in office, the former professor of political science and president of Princeton University found himself running for president of the United States.

Voters in 1912 could choose among four candidates who claimed to be progressives. Taft, Roosevelt, and Wilson each embraced the label, and even the Socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, styled himself a progressive. That the term progressive could stretch to cover these diverse candidates underscored major disagreements in progressive thinking about the relationship between business and government. Taft, in spite of his trust- busting, was generally viewed as the candidate of the Republican Old Guard. Debs urged voters to support the Socialist Party as the true spirit of the working class. The real contest for the presidency came down to a fight between Roosevelt and Wilson and the two political philosophies summed up in their respective campaign slogans: “The New Nationalism” and “The New Freedom.”

The New Nationalism expressed Roosevelt’s belief in federal planning and regulation. He accepted the inevitability of big business but demanded that government act as “a steward of the people” to regulate the giant corporations. Wilson, schooled in the Democratic principles of limited government and states’ rights, set a markedly different course with his New Freedom. Wilson promised to use antitrust legislation to get rid of big corporations and to give small businesses and farmers better opportunities in the marketplace.

The energy and enthusiasm of the Bull Moosers made the race seem closer than it was. In the end, the Republican vote split, while the Democrats remained united. No candidate claimed a majority in the race. Wilson captured a bare 42 percent of the popular vote. Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party won 27 percent, an unprecedented tally for a new party. Taft came in third with 23 percent. The Socialist Party, led by Debs, captured a surprising 6 percent (Map 21.3). The Republican Party moved in a conservative direction, while the Progressive Party essentially collapsed after Roosevelt’s defeat. It had always been, in the words of one


astute observer, “a house divided against itself and already mortgaged.”

MAP 21.3 The Election of 1912

Wilson’s Reforms: Tariff, Banking, and the Trusts Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, Woodrow Wilson became the first southerner elected president since 1844 and only the second Democrat to occupy the White House since Reconstruction. A believer in states’ rights, Wilson nevertheless promised legislation to break the hold of the trusts. This lean, ascetic scholar was, as one biographer conceded, a man whose “political convictions were never as fixed as his ambition.” Building on the base built by Roosevelt in strengthening presidential power, Wilson exerted leadership to achieve banking reform and worked through his party in Congress to accomplish the Democratic agenda. Before he was finished, Wilson lent his support to many of the Progressive Party’s social reforms.

With the Democrats thoroughly in control of Congress, Wilson immediately called for tariff reform. “The object of the tariff,” Wilson told Congress, “must be effective competition.” The Democratic House of Representatives hastily passed the Underwood tariff, which lowered rates by 15 percent. To compensate for lost revenue, the House approved a moderate federal income tax made possible by the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment a month earlier. In the Senate, lobbyists for industries quietly went to work to get the tariff raised, but Wilson rallied public opinion by attacking the “industrious and insidious lobby.” In the


harsh glare of publicity, the Senate passed the Underwood tariff. Wilson next turned his attention to banking. The panic of 1907 led the

government to turn once again to J. P. Morgan to avoid economic catastrophe. But by the time Wilson came to office, Morgan’s legendary power had come under close scrutiny. In 1913, a Senate committee investigated the “money trust,” calling Morgan himself to testify. The committee uncovered an alarming concentration of banking power. J. P. Morgan and Company and its affiliates held 341 directorships in 112 corporations, controlling assets of more than $22 million (billions in today’s dollars). The sensational findings led to reform.

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 marked the most significant piece of domestic legislation of Wilson’s presidency. It established a national banking system composed of twelve regional banks, privately controlled but regulated and supervised by the Federal Reserve Board, appointed by the president. It gave the United States its first efficient banking and currency system and, at the same time, provided for a greater degree of government control over banking. The new system made currency more elastic and credit adequate for the needs of business and agriculture.

Wilson, flush with success, tackled the trust issue next. When Congress reconvened in January 1914, he supported the introduction and passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act to outlaw “unfair competition” — practices such as price discrimination and interlocking directorates (directors from one corporation sitting on the board of another). In the midst of the successful fight for the Clayton Act, Wilson changed course and threw his support behind the creation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), precisely the kind of federal regulatory agency that Roosevelt had advocated in his New Nationalism. The FTC, created in 1914, had not only wide investigatory powers but also the authority to prosecute corporations for “unfair trade practices” and to enforce its judgments by issuing “cease and desist” orders. Despite his campaign promises, Wilson’s antitrust program worked to regulate rather than to break up big business.

Wilson, Reluctant Progressive By the fall of 1914, Wilson declared that the progressive movement had fulfilled its mission and that the country needed “a time of healing.” Progressives watched in dismay as Wilson repeatedly obstructed or obstinately refused to endorse further reforms. He failed to support labor’s demand for an end to court injunctions against labor unions. He twice


threatened to veto legislation providing farm credits for nonperishable crops. He refused to support child labor legislation or woman suffrage. Wilson used the rhetoric of the New Freedom to justify his actions, claiming that his administration would condone “special privileges to none.” But, in fact, his stance often reflected the interests of his small- business constituency.

In the face of Wilson’s obstinacy, reform might have ended in 1913 had not politics intruded. In the congressional elections of 1914, the Republican Party, no longer split by Roosevelt’s Bull Moose faction, won substantial gains. Democratic strategists recognized that Wilson needed to pick up support in the Midwest and the West by capturing votes from former Bull Moose progressives. Wilson responded belatedly by lending his support to reform in the months leading up to the election of 1916. In a sharp about-face, he cultivated union labor, farmers, and social reformers. To please labor, he appointed progressive Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. To woo farmers, he threw his support behind legislation to obtain rural credits. And he won praise from labor by supporting workers’ compensation and the Keating-Owen child labor law (1916), which outlawed the regular employment of children younger than sixteen. When a railroad strike threatened in the months before the election, Wilson ordered Congress to establish an eight-hour day on the railroads. He had moved a long way from his New Freedom of 1912, and, as Wilson noted, the Democrats had “come very near to carrying out the platform of the Progressive Party.” Wilson’s shift toward reform, along with his claim that he had kept the United States out of the war in Europe (as discussed in chapter 22), helped him win reelection in 1916.

REVIEW How and why did Woodrow Wilson’s reform program evolve during his first term?


The Limits of Progressive Reform While progressivism called for a more active role for the liberal state, at heart it was a movement that sought reforms designed to preserve American institutions and stem the tide of more radical change. Its basic conservatism can be seen by comparing it with the more radical movements of socialism, radical labor, and birth control — and by looking at the groups progressive reform left behind, including women, Asians, and African Americans.

Radical Alternatives The year 1900 marked the birth of the Social Democratic Party in America, later called simply the Socialist Party. Like the progressives, the socialists were middle-class and native-born. They had broken with the older, more militant Socialist Labor Party precisely because of its dogmatic approach and immigrant constituency. The new group of socialists proved eager to appeal to a broad mass of disaffected Americans.

The Socialist Party chose as its presidential standard-bearer Eugene V. Debs, whose experience in the Pullman strike of 1894 (see “Eugene V. Debs and the Pullman Strike” in chapter 20) convinced him that “there is no hope for the toiling masses of my countrymen, except by the pathways mapped out by Socialism.” Debs would run for president five times, in every election (except 1916) from 1900 to 1920. The socialism Debs advocated preached cooperation over competition and urged men and women to liberate themselves from “the barbarism of private ownership and wage slavery.” In the 1912 election, Debs indicted both old parties as dedicated to the preservation of capitalism and the continuation of the wage system. Styling the Socialist Party the “revolutionary party of the working class,” he urged voters to rally to his standard. Debs’s best showing came in 1912, when his 6 percent of the popular vote totaled more than 900,000 votes.

Further to the left and more radical than the socialists stood the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), nicknamed the Wobblies. In 1905, Debs, along with Western Federation of Miners leader William


Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood, created the IWW, “one big union” dedicated to organizing the most destitute segment of the workforce, the unskilled workers disdained by Samuel Gompers’s AFL: western miners, migrant farmworkers, lumbermen, and immigrant textile workers. Haywood, a craggy-faced miner with one eye (he had lost the other in a childhood accident), was a charismatic leader and a proletarian intellectual. Seeing workers on the lowest rung of the social ladder as the victims of violent repression, the IWW advocated direct action, sabotage, and the general strike — tactics designed to trigger a workers’ uprising and overthrow the capitalist state. The IWW claimed it had as many as 100,000 members. Although membership fluctuated greatly, the influence of the IWW extended far beyond its numbers (as discussed in chapter 22).

In contrast to political radicals like Debs and Haywood, Margaret Sanger promoted the birth control movement as a means of social change. Sanger, a nurse who had worked among the poor on New York’s Lower East Side, coined the term birth control in 1915 and launched a movement with broad social implications. Sanger and her followers saw birth control not only as a sexual and medical reform but also as a means to alter social and political power relationships and to alleviate human misery. By having fewer babies, the working class could constrict the size of the workforce and make possible higher wages and at the same time refuse to provide “cannon fodder” for the world’s armies.

The desire for family limitation was widespread, and in this sense birth control was nothing new. The birthrate in the United States had been falling consistently throughout the nineteenth century. The average number of children per family dropped from 7.0 in 1800 to 3.6 by 1900. But the open advocacy of contraception, the use of artificial means to prevent pregnancy, struck many people as both new and shocking. And it was illegal. Anthony Comstock, New York City’s commissioner of vice, promoted laws in the 1870s making it a felony not only to sell contraceptive devices like condoms and cervical caps but also to publish information on how to prevent pregnancy.

When Sanger used her militant feminist paper, the Woman Rebel, to promote birth control, the Post Office confiscated Sanger’s publication and brought charges of obscenity against her. Facing arrest, she fled to Europe, only to return in 1916 as something of a national celebrity. In her absence, birth control had become linked with free speech and had been taken up as a liberal cause. Under public pressure, the government dropped the charges against Sanger, who undertook a nationwide tour to publicize the birth control cause.


Sanger then took direct action, opening the nation’s first birth control clinic in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn in October 1916. Located in the heart of a Jewish and Italian immigrant neighborhood, the clinic attracted 464 clients. On the tenth day, police shut down the clinic and threw Sanger in jail. By then, she had become a national figure, and the cause she championed had gained legitimacy, if not legality. Sanger soon reopened her clinic. After World War I, the birth control movement would become much less radical. Altering her tactics to suit the conservative temper of the times, Sanger sought support from medical doctors. She even jumped aboard the popular fad of eugenics, a racist genetic theory that warned against allowing the “unfit” to reproduce. But in its infancy, birth control was part of a radical vision for reforming the world that made common cause with the socialists and the IWW in challenging the limits of progressive reform.

Progressivism for White Men Only The day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in March 1913, the largest mass march to that date in the nation’s history took place as more than five thousand demonstrators took to the streets in Washington to demand the vote for women. A rowdy crowd on hand to celebrate the Democrats’ triumph attacked the marchers. Men spat at the suffragists and threw lighted cigarettes and matches at their clothing. “If my wife were where you are,” a burly cop told one suffragist, “I’d break her head.” But for all the marching, Wilson pointedly ignored woman suffrage in his inaugural address the next day.

The march served as a reminder that the political gains of progressivism were not spread equally throughout the population. As the twentieth century dawned, women still could not vote in most states, although they had won major victories in the West. Increasingly, however, woman suffrage had become an international movement.

Alice Paul, a Quaker social worker who had visited England and participated in suffrage activism there, returned to the United States in 1910 in time to plan the mass march on the eve of Wilson’s inauguration and to lobby for a federal amendment to give women the vote. Paul’s dramatic tactics alienated many in the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1916, Paul founded the militant National Woman’s Party, which became the radical voice of the suffrage movement.

Women weren’t the only group left out in progressive reform.


Progressivism, as it was practiced in the West and South, was tainted with racism by seeking to limit the rights of Asians and African Americans. Anti-Asian bigotry in the West led to a renewal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1902. At first, California governor Hiram Johnson stood against the strong anti-Asian prejudice of his state. But in 1913, he caved in to popular pressure and signed the Alien Land Law, which barred Japanese immigrants from purchasing land in California.

South of the Mason-Dixon line, the progressives’ racism targeted African Americans. Progressives preached the disfranchisement of black voters as a “reform.” During the bitter electoral fights that had pitted Populists against Democrats in the 1890s, the party of white supremacy held its power by votes purchased or coerced from African Americans. Southern progressives proposed to reform the electoral system by eliminating black voters. Beginning in 1890 with Mississippi, southern states curtailed the African American vote through devices such as poll taxes (fees required for voting) and literacy tests.

The Progressive Era also witnessed the rise of Jim Crow laws to segregate public facilities. The new railroads precipitated segregation in the South where it had rarely existed before, at least on paper. Soon, separate railcars, separate waiting rooms, separate bathrooms, and separate dining facilities for blacks sprang up across the South. In courtrooms in Mississippi, blacks were required to swear on a separate Bible.

In the face of this growing repression, Booker T. Washington, the preeminent black leader of the day, urged caution and restraint. A former slave, Washington opened the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881 to teach vocational skills to African Americans. He emphasized education and economic progress for his race and urged African Americans to put aside issues of political and social equality. In an 1895 speech in Atlanta that came to be known as the Atlanta Compromise, he stated, “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Washington’s accommodationist policy appealed to whites and elevated “the wizard of Tuskegee” to the role of national spokesman for African Americans.


Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt Dine at the White House Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House in 1901, stirring up a hornet’s nest of controversy that continued into the election of 1904. The Republican campaign piece pictured shows Roosevelt and a light-skinned Washington sitting under a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Democrats’ campaign buttons pictured Washington with darker skin and implied that Roosevelt had “painted the White House black” and favored “race mingling.” David J. & Janice L. Frent Collection/Corbis.

The year after Washington proclaimed the Atlanta Compromise, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of racial segregation, affirming in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the constitutionality of the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Blacks could be segregated in separate schools, restrooms, and other facilities as long as the facilities were “equal” to those provided for whites. Of course, facilities for blacks rarely proved equal.

Woodrow Wilson brought to the White House southern attitudes toward race and racial segregation. He instituted segregation in the federal workforce, especially the Post Office, and approved segregated drinking fountains and restrooms in the nation’s capital. When critics attacked the policy, Wilson insisted that segregation was “in the interest of the Negro.”

In 1906, a major race riot in Atlanta called into question Booker T. Washington’s strategy of uplift and accommodation. For three days in


September, the streets of Atlanta ran red with blood as angry white mobs chased and cornered any blacks they happened upon. An estimated 250 African Americans died in the riots — members of Atlanta’s black middle class along with the poor and derelict. Professor William Crogman of Clark College noted the central irony of the riot: “Here we have worked and prayed and tried to make good men and women of our colored population,” he observed, “and at our very doorstep the whites kill these good men.” The riot caused many African Americans to question Washington’s strategy of gradualism and accommodation.

Foremost among Washington’s critics stood W. E. B. Du Bois, a Harvard graduate who urged African Americans to fight for civil rights and racial justice. In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Du Bois attacked the “Tuskegee Machine,” comparing Washington to a political boss who used his influence to silence his critics and reward his followers. Du Bois founded the Niagara movement in 1905, calling for universal male suffrage, civil rights, and leadership composed of a black intellectual elite. The Atlanta riot only bolstered his resolve. In 1909, the Niagara movement helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a coalition of blacks and whites that sought legal and political rights for African Americans through the courts. In the decades that followed, the NAACP came to represent the future for African Americans, while Booker T. Washington, who died in 1915, represented the past.

REVIEW How did race, class, and gender shape the limits of progressive reform?


Conclusion: The Transformation of the Liberal State Progressivism’s goal was to reform the existing system — by government intervention if necessary — but without uprooting any of the traditional American political, economic, or social institutions. As Theodore Roosevelt, the bellwether of the movement, insisted, “The only true conservative is the man who resolutely sets his face toward the future.” Roosevelt was such a man, and progressivism was such a movement. But although progressivism was never radical, progressives’ willingness to use the power of government to regulate business and achieve a measure of social justice redefined liberalism in the twentieth century, tying it to the expanded power of the state.

Progressivism contained many paradoxes. A diverse coalition of individuals and interests, the progressive movement began at the grass roots but left as its legacy a stronger presidency and unprecedented federal involvement in the economy and social welfare. A movement that believed in social justice, progressivism often promoted social control. And while progressives called for greater democracy, they fostered elitism with their worship of experts and efficiency, and they often failed to champion equality for women and minorities.

Whatever its inconsistencies and limitations, progressivism took action to deal with the problems posed by urban industrialism. Progressivism saw grassroots activists address social problems on the local and state levels and search for national solutions. By increasing the power of the presidency and expanding the power of the state, progressives worked to bring about greater social justice and to achieve a better balance between government and business. Jane Addams and Theodore Roosevelt could lay equal claim to the movement that redefined liberalism and launched the liberal state of the twentieth century. War on a global scale would provide progressivism with yet another challenge even before it had completed its ambitious agenda.



Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S progressivism (p. 538) settlement houses (p. 538) social gospel (p. 538) reform Darwinism (p. 542) muckraking (p. 547) Roosevelt Corollary (p. 550) The New Nationalism (p. 555) The New Freedom (p. 555) Socialist Party (p. 557) Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) (p. 557) birth control movement (p. 558) Plessy v. Ferguson (p. 560)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. What types of people were drawn to the progressive movement,

and why? (pp. 538–42) 2. How did progressives justify their demand for more activist

government? (pp. 542–43) 3. How did Theodore Roosevelt advance the progressive agenda?

(pp. 543–53) 4. How and why did Woodrow Wilson’s reform program evolve

during his first term? (pp. 554–57)


5. How did race, class, and gender shape the limits of progressive reform? (pp. 557–61)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Roosevelt’s foreign policy was summed up in the dictum

“Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Using two examples, describe how this policy worked.

2. Compare the legislative programs of Roosevelt and Wilson and the evolution of their policies over time.

3. What movements lay outside progressive reform? Why did progressivism coincide with the restriction of minority rights?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. In what ways did Populism and progressivism differ? In what

ways were they similar? (See chapter 20.) 2. During the Gilded Age, industrial capitalism concentrated

power in the hands of corporations. How did Roosevelt respond to this problem? How did his approach differ from that of the Gilded Age presidents? Was his strategy effective? (See chapter 18.)


1889 • Jane Addams opens Hull House. 1896 • Plessy v. Ferguson decided. 1900 • Socialist Party founded. 1901 • William McKinley assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt

becomes president. 1902 • Antitrust lawsuit filed against Northern Securities

Company. • Roosevelt mediates anthracite coal strike.

1903 • Women’s Trade Union League founded. • Panama Canal construction begins.

1904 • Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine announced.


1905 • Industrial Workers of the World founded. 1906 • Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act


• Atlanta race riot kills several hundred blacks. • Hepburn Act enacted.

1907 • Panic on Wall Street causes economic turndown. • “Gentlemen’s Agreement” made with Japan.

1908 • Muller v. Oregon decided. • William Howard Taft elected president.

1909 • Garment workers strike. • National Association for the Advancement of Colored

People formed. 1911 • Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire kills workers. 1912 • Roosevelt runs for president on Progressive Party ticket.

• Woodrow Wilson elected president. 1913 • Suffragists march in Washington, D.C.

• Federal Reserve Act enacted. 1914 • Federal Trade Commission created.

• Clayton Antitrust Act enacted. 1916 • Margaret Sanger opens first U.S. birth control clinic.


22 World War I: The Progressive Crusade at Home and Abroad 1914–1920


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Explain the origins of World War I, and why Woodrow Wilson

advocated U.S. neutrality. List the events that prompted the United States to enter the war.

◆ Describe how America geared up domestically and militarily to fight a foreign war.

◆ Recognize how the war transformed policy at home and understand how women’s rights activists used U.S. involvement to secure woman suffrage.

◆ Explain Wilson’s vision for a postwar world, and how that vision was compromised at Versailles. Chronicle the fate of the Paris peace treaty in the U.S. Senate, and explain why it faced so much opposition.

◆ Understand what threats democracy faced in the immediate postwar period.


GEORGE “BROWNIE” BROWNE WAS ONE OF TWO MILLION SOLDIERS who crossed the Atlantic during World War I to serve in the American Expeditionary Force in France. The twenty-three-year-old civil engineer from Waterbury, Connecticut, volunteered in July 1917, three months after the United States entered the war, serving with the 117th Engineers Regiment, 42nd Division. Two-thirds of the “doughboys” (American soldiers in Europe) saw action during the war, and few white troops saw more than Brownie did.

When the 42nd arrived at the front, veteran French troops taught Brownie’s regiment of engineers how to build and maintain trenches, barbed-wire entanglements, and artillery and machine-gun positions. Although Brownie came under German fire each day, he wrote Martha Johnson, his girlfriend back home, “the longer I’m here the more spirit I have to ‘stick it ou’ for the good of humanity and the U.S. which is the same thing.”

Training ended in the spring of 1918 when the Germans launched a massive offensive in the Champagne region. The German bombardment made the night “as light as daytime, and the ground … was a mass of flames and whistling steel from the bursting shells.” One doughboy from the 42nd remembered, “Dead bodies were all around me. Americans, French, Hun [Germans] in all phases and positions of death.” Another declared that soon “the odor was something fierce. We had to put on our gas masks to keep from getting sick.” Eight days of combat cost the 42nd nearly 6,500 dead, wounded, and missing, 20 percent of the division.

After only ten days’ rest, Brownie and his unit joined in the first major American offensive, an attack against German defenses at Saint-Mihiel. On September 12, 3,000 American artillery launched more than a million rounds against German positions. This time the engineers preceded the advancing infantry, cutting through or blasting any barbed wire that remained. The battle cost the 42nd another 1,200 casualties, but Brownie was not among them.

At the end of September, the 42nd shifted to the Meuse-Argonne region, where it participated in the most brutal American fighting of the war. And it was there that Brownie’s war ended. The Germans fired thousands of poison gas shells, and the gas, “so thick you could cut it with a knife,” felled Brownie. When the war ended on November 11, 1918, he was recovering from his respiratory wounds at a camp behind the lines. Discharged from the army in February 1919, Brownie returned home, where he and Martha married. Like the rest


of the country, they were eager to get on with their lives. President Woodrow Wilson had never expected to lead the United

States into the Great War, as the Europeans called it. When war erupted in 1914, he declared America’s absolute neutrality. But trade and principle entangled the United States in Europe’s troubles and gradually drew the nation into the conflict. Wilson claimed that America’s participation would serve grand purposes and uplift both the United States and the entire world.

At home, the war helped progressives finally achieve their goals of national prohibition and woman suffrage, but it also promoted a vicious attack on Americans’ civil liberties. Hyperpatriotism meant intolerance, repression, and vigilante violence. In 1919, Wilson sailed for Europe to secure a just peace. Unable to dictate terms to the victors, he accepted disappointing compromises. Upon his return to the United States, he met a crushing defeat that marked the end of Wilsonian internationalism abroad. Crackdowns on dissenters, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and unions also signaled the end of the Progressive Era at home.


Woodrow Wilson and the World Shortly after winning election to the presidency in 1912, Woodrow Wilson confided to a friend: “It would be an irony of fate if my administration had to deal with foreign affairs.” Indeed, Wilson had focused his life and career on domestic concerns; in his campaign for the presidency, Wilson had hardly mentioned the world abroad.

Wilson, however, could not avoid the world and the rising tide of militarism, nationalism, and violence that beat against American shores. Economic interests compelled the nation outward. Moreover, Wilson was drawn abroad by his own progressive political principles. He believed that the United States had a moral duty to champion national self- determination, peaceful free trade, and political democracy. “We have no selfish ends to serve,” he proclaimed. “We desire no conquest, no dominion…. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind.” Yet as president, Wilson was as ready as any American president to apply military solutions to problems of foreign policy. This readiness led Wilson and the United States into military conflict in Mexico and then in Europe.

Taming the Americas When he took office, Wilson sought to distinguish his foreign policy from that of his Republican predecessors. To Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt’s “big stick” and William Howard Taft’s “dollar diplomacy” appeared as crude flexing of military and economic muscle. To signal a new direction, Wilson appointed William Jennings Bryan, a pacifist, as secretary of state.

But Wilson and Bryan, like Roosevelt and Taft, also believed that the Monroe Doctrine gave the United States special rights and responsibilities in the Western Hemisphere. Issued in 1823 to warn Europeans not to attempt to colonize the Americas again, the doctrine had become a cloak for U.S. domination. Wilson thus authorized U.S. military intervention in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, paving the way for U.S. banks and corporations to take financial control. All the while, Wilson believed that U.S. actions were promoting order and democracy. “I am going to teach the South American Republics to elect good men!” he


declared (Map 22.1). Wilson’s most serious involvement in Latin America came in Mexico.

When General Victoriano Huerta seized power by violent means in 1913, most European nations promptly recognized Mexico’s new government, but Wilson refused, declaring that he would not support a “government of butchers.” In April 1914, Wilson sent 800 Marines to seize the port of Veracruz to prevent the unloading of a large shipment of arms for Huerta. Huerta fled to Spain, and the United States welcomed a more compliant government.

But a rebellion erupted among desperately poor farmers who believed that the new government, aided by U.S. business interests, had betrayed the revolution’s promise to help the common people. In January 1916, the rebel army, commanded by Francisco “Pancho” Villa, seized a train carrying gold to Texas from an American-owned mine in Mexico and killed the 17 American engineers aboard. In March, Villa’s men crossed the border for a predawn raid on Columbus, New Mexico, where they killed 18 Americans. Wilson promptly dispatched 12,000 troops, led by Major General John J. Pershing. But Villa avoided capture, and in January 1917 Wilson recalled Pershing so that he might prepare the army for the possibility of fighting in the Great War.

MAP 22.1 U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1895–1941 Victory against Spain in 1898 made Puerto Rico an American


possession and Cuba a protectorate. The United States later gained control of the Panama Canal Zone. The nation protected its expanding economic interests with military force by propping up friendly, though not necessarily democratic, governments.

The European Crisis Before 1914, Europe had enjoyed decades of peace, but just beneath the surface lay the potentially destructive forces of nationalism and imperialism. The consolidation of the German and Italian states into unified nations and the similar ambition of Russia to create a Pan-Slavic union initiated new rivalries throughout Europe. As the conviction spread that colonial possessions were a mark of national greatness, competition expanded onto the world stage. Most ominously, Germany’s efforts under Kaiser Wilhelm II to challenge Great Britain’s world supremacy by creating industrial muscle at home, an empire abroad, and a mighty navy threatened the balance of power and thus the peace.

European nations sought to avoid an explosion by developing a complex web of military and diplomatic alliances. By 1914, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (the Triple Alliance) stood opposed to Great Britain, France, and Russia (the Triple Entente, also known as “the Allies”). But in their effort to prevent war through a balance of power, Europeans had actually magnified the possibility of large-scale conflict (Map 22.2). Treaties, some of them secret, obligated members of the alliances to come to the aid of another member if attacked.

The fatal sequence began on June 28, 1914, in the city of Sarajevo, when a Bosnian Serb terrorist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. On July 18, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The elaborate alliance system meant that the war could not remain local. Russia announced that it would back the Serbs. Compelled by treaty to support Austria-Hungary, Germany on August 3 attacked Russia and France. In response, on August 4, Great Britain, upholding its pact with France, declared war on Germany. Within weeks, Europe was engulfed in war. The conflict became a world war when Japan, seeing an opportunity to rid itself of European competition in China, joined the cause against Germany.

The evenly matched alliances would fight a disastrous war lasting more than four years, at a cost of 8.5 million soldiers’ lives. A war that started with a solitary murder proved impossible to stop. Britain’s foreign secretary, Edward Grey, lamented: “The lamps are going out all over


Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

The Ordeal of American Neutrality Woodrow Wilson promptly announced that because the war engaged no vital American interest and involved no significant principle, the United States would remain neutral. Neutrality entitled the United States to trade safely with all nations at war, he declared. Unfettered trade, Wilson believed, was not only a right under international law but also a necessity because in 1913 the U.S. economy had slipped into a recession that wartime disruption of European trade could drastically worsen.

MAP 22.2 European Alliances after the Outbreak of World War I With Germany and Austria-Hungary wedged between their Entente rivals and all parties fully armed, Europe was poised for war when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914.


Although Wilson proclaimed neutrality, his sympathies, like those of many Americans, lay with Great Britain and France. Americans gratefully remembered crucial French assistance in the American Revolution and shared with the British a language, a culture, and a commitment to liberty. Germany, by contrast, was a monarchy with strong militaristic traditions. Still, Wilson insisted on neutrality, in part because he feared the conflict’s effects on the United States as a nation of immigrants. As he told the German ambassador, “We definitely have to be neutral, since otherwise our mixed populations would wage war on each other.”

Britain’s powerful fleet controlled the seas and quickly set up an economic blockade of Germany. The United States vigorously protested, but Britain refused to give up its naval advantage. The blockade actually had little economic impact on the United States. Between 1914 and the spring of 1917, while trade with Germany evaporated, war-related exports to Britain — food, clothing, steel, and munitions — escalated by some 400 percent, enough to pull the American economy out of its slump. Although the British blockade violated American neutrality, the Wilson administration gradually acquiesced, thus beginning the fateful process of alienation from Germany.

Germany retaliated with a submarine blockade of British ports. German Unterseebooten, or U-boats, threatened notions of “civilized” warfare. Unlike surface warships that could harmlessly stop freighters and prevent them from entering a war zone, submarines relied on sinking their quarry. And once they sank a ship, the tiny U-boats could not pick up survivors. Nevertheless, in February 1915, Germany announced that it intended to sink on sight enemy ships en route to the British Isles. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the British passenger liner Lusitania, killing 1,198 passengers, 128 of them U.S. citizens.

American newspapers featured drawings of drowning women and children, and some demanded war. Calmer voices pointed out that Germany had warned prospective passengers and that the Lusitania carried millions of rounds of ammunition and so was a legitimate target. Secretary of State Bryan resisted the hysteria and declared that a ship carrying war materiel “should not rely on passengers to protect her from attack — it would be like putting women and children in front of an army.” He counseled Wilson to warn American citizens that they traveled on ships of belligerent countries at their own risk.

Wilson sought a middle course that would retain his commitment to peace and neutrality without condoning German attacks on passenger ships. On May 10, 1915, he announced that any further destruction of


ships would be regarded as “deliberately unfriendly” and might lead the United States to break diplomatic relations with Germany. Wilson essentially demanded that Germany abandon unrestricted submarine warfare. Bryan resigned, predicting that the president had placed the United States on a collision course with Germany. Wilson replaced Bryan with Robert Lansing, who believed that Germany’s antidemocratic character and goal of “world dominance” meant that it “must not be permitted to win this war.”

After Germany apologized for the civilian deaths on the Lusitania, tensions subsided. And in 1916, Germany went further, promising no more submarine attacks without warning and without provisions for the safety of civilians. Wilson’s supporters celebrated the success of his middle-of-the- road strategy.

Wilson’s diplomacy proved helpful in his bid for reelection in 1916. In the contest against Republican Charles Evans Hughes, the Democratic Party ran Wilson under the slogan “He kept us out of war.” Wilson felt uneasy with the claim, protesting that “they talk of me as though I were a god. Any little German lieutenant can push us into the war at any time by some calculated outrage.” But the Democrats’ case for Wilson’s neutrality appealed to enough of those in favor of peace to eke out a majority. Wilson won, but only by the razor-thin margins of 600,000 popular and 23 electoral votes.

The United States Enters the War Step by step, the United States backed away from “absolute neutrality.” The consequence of protesting the German blockade of Great Britain but accepting the British blockade of Germany was that by 1916 the United States was supplying the Allies with 40 percent of their war materiel. When France and Britain ran short of money to pay for U.S. goods and asked for loans, Wilson argued that “loans by American bankers to any foreign government which is at war are inconsistent with the true spirit of neutrality.” But rather than jeopardize America’s wartime prosperity, Wilson allowed billions of dollars in loans that kept American goods flowing to Britain and France.

In January 1917, Germany decided that it could no longer afford to allow neutral shipping to reach Great Britain while Britain’s blockade gradually starved Germany. It announced that its navy would resume unrestricted submarine warfare and sink without warning any ship, enemy or neutral, found in the waters off Great Britain. Germany understood that


the decision would probably bring the United States into the war but gambled that its submarines would strangle the British economy and allow German armies to win a military victory in France before American troops arrived in Europe.

Resisting demands for war, Wilson continued to hope for a negotiated peace and only broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. Then, on February 25, 1917, British authorities informed Wilson of a secret telegram sent by the German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to the German minister in Mexico. It promised that in the event of war between Germany and the United States, Germany would see that Mexico regained its “lost provinces” of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona if Mexico would declare war against the United States. Wilson angrily responded to the Zimmermann telegram by asking Congress to approve a policy of “armed neutrality” that would allow merchant ships to fight back against attackers.

In March, German submarines sank five American vessels off Britain, killing 66 Americans. On April 2, the president asked Congress to issue a declaration of war. He accused Germany of “warfare against all mankind.” Still, he called for a “war without hate” and declared that America fought only to “vindicate the principles of peace and justice.” He promised a world made “safe for democracy.” On April 6, 1917, by majorities of 373 to 50 in the House and 82 to 6 in the Senate, Congress voted to declare war.

Wilson feared what war would do at home. He said despairingly, “Once lead this people into war, and they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance. To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will infect Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street.”

REVIEW Why did President Wilson fail to maintain U.S. neutrality during World War I?


“Over There” American soldiers joined the fighting just after the Russians withdrew from the war, leaving France as the primary battleground. Americans sailed for France eager to do their part in making the world safe for democracy. Some doughboys, including George Browne, maintained their idealism to the end. Although black soldiers eventually won respect under the French command, they faced discrimination under American commanders. The majority of American soldiers found little that was noble in rats, lice, and poison gas and — despite the progressives’ hopes — little to elevate the human soul in a landscape of utter destruction and death.

The Call to Arms When America entered the war, Britain and France were nearly exhausted after almost three years of conflict. Millions of soldiers had perished; food and morale were dangerously low. Another Allied power, Russia, was in turmoil. In March 1917, a revolution had forced Czar Nicholas II to abdicate, and a year later, in a separate peace with Germany, the Bolshevik revolutionary government withdrew Russia from the war. Peace with Russia allowed Germany to withdraw hundreds of thousands of its soldiers from the eastern front and to deploy them against the Allies on the western front in France.

On May 18, 1917, Wilson signed a sweeping Selective Service Act, authorizing a draft of all young men into the armed forces. Conscription transformed a tiny volunteer armed force of 80,000 men into a vast army and navy. Draft boards eventually inducted 2.8 million men into the armed services, in addition to the 2 million, including George Browne, who volunteered.

Among the 4.8 million men under arms, 370,000 were black Americans. During training, black recruits suffered the same prejudices that they encountered in civilian life. One base in Virginia that trained blacks as cargo handlers quartered black recruits in tents without floors or stoves and provided no changes of clothes, no blankets for the winter, and


no facilities for bathing. Only after several deaths from disease and exposure did the authorities move to make conditions even tolerable.

USS Recruit, ca. 1917 Shortly after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the government instituted a military draft. But efforts to sign up volunteers continued. This photograph shows the USS Recruit, a wooden battleship constructed in Manhattan by the navy as a recruiting tool. When the war ended, 2.8 million men had been drafted and another 2 million men volunteered. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-24411.

Training camps sought to transform raw white recruits into fighting men. Progressives in the government were also determined that the camps turn out soldiers with the highest moral and civic values. To provide recruits with “invisible armor,” YMCA workers and veterans of the settlement house and playground movements led them in games, singing, and college extension courses. The army asked soldiers to stop thinking about sex, explaining that a “man who is thinking below the belt is not efficient.” Wilson’s choice to command the army on the battlefields of France, Major General John “Black Jack” Pershing, was as morally upright as he was militarily uncompromising. Described by one observer as “lean, clean, keen,” he gave progressives perfect confidence.


The War in France At the front, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) discovered a desperate situation. The war had degenerated into a stalemate of armies dug into hundreds of miles of trenches that stretched across France. Huddling in the mud among the corpses and rats, soldiers were separated from the enemy by only a few hundred yards of “no-man’s-land.” When ordered “over the top,” troops raced desperately toward the enemy’s trenches, only to be entangled in barbed wire, enveloped in poison gas, and mowed down by machine guns. The three-day battle of the Somme in 1916 cost the French and British forces 600,000 dead and wounded and the Germans 500,000. The deadliest battle of the war allowed the Allies to advance their trenches only a few meaningless miles.

Still, U.S. troops saw almost no combat in 1917. Troops continued to train and used much of their free time to explore places that most of them could otherwise never hope to see. True to the crusader image, American officials allowed only uplifting tourism. The temptations of Paris were off- limits. French premier Georges Clemenceau’s offer to supply American troops with licensed prostitutes was declined with the half-serious remark that if Wilson found out he would stop the war.

Sightseeing ended abruptly in March 1918 when a million German soldiers punched a hole in the Allied lines. Pershing finally committed the AEF to combat. In May and June, at Cantigny and then at Château- Thierry, the eager but green Americans checked the German advance with a series of assaults (Map 22.3). Then they headed toward the forest stronghold of Belleau Wood, moving against streams of retreating Allied soldiers who cried defeat: “La guerre est finie!” (The war is over!). A French officer commanded the Americans to retreat with them, but the American commander replied sharply, “Retreat, hell. We just got here.” After charging through a wheat field against withering machine-gun fire, the Marines plunged into hand-to-hand combat. Victory came hard, but a German report praised the enemy’s spirit, noting that “the Americans’ nerves are not yet worn out.” Indeed, it was German morale that was on the verge of cracking.

In the summer of 1918, the Allies launched a massive counteroffensive that would end the war. A quarter of a million U.S. troops joined in the rout of German forces along the Marne River. In September, more than a million Americans took part in the assault that threw the Germans back from positions along the Meuse River. In four brutal days, the AEF sustained 45,000 casualties. In November, a revolt against the German government sent Kaiser Wilhelm II fleeing to Holland. On November 11,


1918, a delegation from the newly established German republic met with the French high command to sign an armistice that brought the fighting to an end.

MAP 22.3 The American Expeditionary Force, 1918 In the last year of the war, the AEF joined the French army on the western front to respond to the final German offensive and pursue the retreating enemy until surrender.

The adventure of the AEF was brief, bloody, and victorious. When Germany had resumed unrestricted U-boat warfare in 1917, it had been gambling that it could defeat Britain and France before the Americans could raise and train an army and ship it to France. The German military had miscalculated badly. By the end, 112,000 AEF soldiers perished from wounds and disease, while another 230,000 Americans, including George Browne, suffered casualties but survived. Only the Civil War, which lasted


much longer, had cost more American lives. European nations, however, suffered much greater losses: 2.2 million Germans, 1.9 million Russians, 1.4 million French, and 900,000 Britons. Where they had fought, the landscape was as blasted and barren as the moon.

REVIEW How did the AEF contribute to the defeat of Germany?


The Crusade for Democracy at Home Many progressives hoped that the war would improve the quality of American life as well as free Europe from tyranny and militarism. Mobilization helped propel the crusades for woman suffrage and prohibition to success. Progressives enthusiastically channeled industrial and agricultural production into the vast war effort. Labor shortages caused by workers entering the military provided new opportunities for women in the booming wartime economy. With labor at a premium, unionized workers gained higher pay and shorter hours. To instill loyalty in Americans whose ancestry was rooted in the belligerent nations, Wilson launched a campaign to foster patriotism. But fanning patriotism led to suppressing dissent. When the government launched a harsh assault on civil liberties, mobs gained license to attack those whom they considered disloyal. As Wilson feared, democracy took a beating at home when the nation undertook its crusade for democracy abroad.

The Progressive Stake in the War Progressives embraced the idea that the war could be an agent of national improvement. The Wilson administration, realizing that the federal government would have to assert greater control to mobilize the nation’s human and physical resources, created new agencies to manage the war effort. Bernard Baruch, a Wall Street stockbroker, headed the War Industries Board, charged with stimulating and directing industrial production. Baruch brought industrial management and labor together into a team that produced everything from boots to bullets and made U.S. troops the best-equipped soldiers in the world.

Herbert Hoover, a self-made millionaire engineer, headed the Food Administration. He led remarkably successful “Hooverizing” campaigns for “meatless” Mondays and “wheatless” Wednesdays and other ways of conserving resources. Guaranteed high prices, the American heartland not only supplied the needs of U.S. citizens and armed forces but also became the breadbasket of America’s allies.

Wartime agencies multiplied: The Railroad Administration directed


railroad traffic, the Fuel Administration coordinated the coal industry and other fuel suppliers, the Shipping Board organized the merchant marine, and the National War Labor Policies Board resolved labor disputes. Their successes gave most progressives reason to believe that, indeed, war and reform marched together. Still, skeptics like Wisconsin senator Robert La Follette declared that Wilson’s promises of permanent peace and democracy were a case of “the blind leading the blind.”

Industrial leaders found that wartime agencies enforced efficiency, which helped corporate profits triple. Some working people also had cause to celebrate. Mobilization meant high prices for farmers and plentiful jobs at high wages in the new war industries. Because increased industrial production required peaceful labor relations, the National War Labor Policies Board enacted the eight-hour day, a living minimum wage, and collective bargaining rights in some industries. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) saw its membership soar from 2.7 million to more than 5 million.

The war also provided a huge boost to the crusade to ban alcohol. By 1917, prohibitionists had convinced nineteen states to go dry. Liquor’s opponents now argued that banning alcohol would make the cause of democracy powerful and pure. At the same time, shutting down the distilleries would save millions of bushels of grain that could feed the United States and its allies. “Shall the many have food or the few drink?” the drys asked. Prohibition received an additional boost because many of the breweries had German names — Schlitz, Pabst, and Anheuser-Busch. In December 1917, Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment, which banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol. After swift ratification by the states, the prohibition amendment went into effect on January 1, 1920.

Women, War, and the Battle for Suffrage Women had made real strides during the Progressive Era, and war presented new opportunities. More than 25,000 women served in France. About half were nurses. The others drove ambulances; ran canteens for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and YMCA; worked with French civilians in devastated areas; and acted as telephone operators and war correspondents. Like men who joined the war effort, they believed that they were taking part in a great national venture. “I am more than willing to live as a soldier and know of the hardships I would have to undergo,” one canteen worker declared when applying to go overseas, “but I want to help my country…. I want … to do the real work.” And like men, women struggled against


disillusionment in France. One woman explained: “Over in America, we thought we knew something about the war … but when you get here the difference is [like the one between] studying the laws of electricity and being struck by lightning.”

Nora Saltonstall, daughter of a prominent Massachusetts family, was one of the American women who volunteered with the Red Cross and sailed for France. Attached to a mobile surgical hospital that followed closely behind the French armies, she became a driver, chauffeuring personnel, transporting the wounded, and hauling supplies. Soon she was driving on muddy, shell-pocked roads in the dark without lights. Her life, she said, consisted of “choked carburetors, broken springs, long hours on the road, food snatched when you can get it, and sleep.” She “hated the war,” but she told her mother, “I love my job.” She was proud of “doing something necessary here.”

At home, long-standing barriers against hiring women fell when millions of workingmen became soldiers and few new immigrant workers crossed the Atlantic. Tens of thousands of women found work in defense plants as welders, metalworkers, and heavy machine operators and with the railroads. A black woman, a domestic before the war, celebrated her job as a laborer in a railroad yard: “We … do not have to work as hard as at housework which requires us to be on duty from six o’clock in the morning until nine or ten at night, with might[y] little time off and at very poor wages.” Other women found white-collar work. Between 1910 and 1920, the number of women clerks doubled. Before the war ended, more than a million women had found work in war industries. One women’s rights advocate exaggerated when she declared: “At last … women are coming into the labor and festival of life on equal terms with men,” but women had made real economic strides.


MAP 22.4 Women’s Voting Rights before the Nineteenth Amendment The long campaign for women’s voting rights reversed the pioneer epic that moved from east to west. From its first successes in the new democratic West, suffrage rolled eastward toward the entrenched, male-dominated public life of the Northeast and South.

The most dramatic advance for women came in the political arena. Adopting a state-by-state approach before the war, suffragists had achieved some success (Map 22.4). More commonly, voting rights for women met strong hostility and defeat. After 1910, suffrage leaders added a federal campaign to amend the Constitution to the traditional state-by- state strategy for suffrage.

The radical wing of the suffragists, led by Alice Paul, picketed the White House, where the marchers unfurled banners that proclaimed “America Is Not a Democracy. Twenty Million Women Are Denied the Right to Vote.” They chained themselves to fences and went to jail, where many engaged in hunger strikes. “They seem bent on making their cause as obnoxious as possible,” Woodrow Wilson declared. His wife, Edith, detested the idea of “masculinized” voting women. But membership in the mainstream organization, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by Carrie Chapman Catt, soared to some two million. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the Republican and Progressive parties endorsed woman suffrage in 1916.

In 1918, Wilson finally gave his support to suffrage, calling the amendment “vital to the winning of the war.” He conceded that it would be wrong not to reward the wartime “partnership of suffering and sacrifice”


with a “partnership of privilege and right.” By linking their cause to the wartime emphasis on national unity, the advocates of woman suffrage finally triumphed. In 1919, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the vote, and by August 1920 the required two-thirds of the states had ratified it.

Rally around the Flag — or Else When Congress committed the nation to war, only a handful of peace advocates resisted the tide of patriotism. A group of professional women, led by settlement house leader Jane Addams and economics professor Emily Greene Balch, denounced what Addams described as “the pathetic belief in the regenerative results of war.” After America entered the conflict, advocates for peace were labeled cowards and traitors.

To suppress criticism of the war, Wilson stirred up patriotic fervor. In 1917, the president created the Committee on Public Information under the direction of George Creel, a journalist who became the nation’s cheerleader for war. Creel sent “Four-Minute Men,” a squad of 75,000 volunteers, around the country to give brief pep talks that celebrated successes on the battlefields and in the factories. Posters, pamphlets, and cartoons depicted brave American soldiers and sailors defending freedom and democracy against the evil “Huns,” the derogatory nickname applied to German soldiers.

America rallied around Creel’s campaign. The film industry cranked out pro-war melodramas and taught audiences to hiss at the German kaiser. Colleges and universities generated war propaganda in the guise of scholarship. When Professor James McKeen Cattell of Columbia University urged that America seek peace with Germany short of victory, university president Nicholas Murray Butler fired him on the grounds that “what had been folly is now treason.”

A firestorm of anti-German passion erupted. Across the nation, “100% American” campaigns enlisted ordinary people to sniff out disloyalty. German, the most widely taught foreign language in 1914, practically disappeared from the nation’s schools. Targeting German-born Americans, the Saturday Evening Post declared that it was time to rid the country of “the scum of the melting pot.” Anti-German action reached its extreme with the lynching of Robert Prager, a German-born baker with socialist leanings. Persuaded by the defense lawyer who praised what he called a “patriotic murder,” the jury at the trial of the killers took only twenty-five minutes to acquit.


As hysteria increased, the campaign reached absurd levels. Menus across the nation changed German toast to French toast and sauerkraut to liberty cabbage. In Milwaukee, vigilantes mounted a machine gun outside the Pabst Theater to prevent the staging of Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, a powerful protest against tyranny. The fiancée of one of the war’s leading critics, caught dancing on the dunes of Cape Cod, was held on suspicion of signaling to German submarines.

The Wilson administration’s zeal in suppressing dissent contrasted sharply with its war aims of defending democracy. In the name of self- defense, the Espionage Act (June 1917), the Trading with the Enemy Act (October 1917), and the Sedition Act (May 1918) gave the government sweeping powers to punish any opinion or activity it considered “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive.” When Postmaster General Albert Burleson blocked mailing privileges for dissenting publications, dozens of journals were forced to close down. Of the 1,500 individuals eventually charged with sedition, all but a dozen had merely spoken words the government found objectionable.

One of them was Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the Socialist Party, who was convicted under the Espionage Act and sentenced to ten years. In a speech on June 16, 1918, Debs declared that the United States was not fighting a noble war to make the world safe for democracy but had joined greedy European imperialists seeking to conquer the globe. The government claimed that Debs had crossed the line between legitimate dissent and criminal speech. From the Atlanta penitentiary, Debs argued that he was just telling the truth, like hundreds of his friends who were also in jail.

The president hoped that national commitment to the war would silence partisan politics, but his Republican rivals used the war as a weapon against the Democrats. The trick was to oppose Wilson’s conduct of the war but not the war itself. Republicans outshouted Wilson on the nation’s need to mobilize for war but then complained that Wilson’s War Industries Board was a tyrannical agency that crushed free enterprise. As the war progressed, Republicans gathered power against the Democrats, who had narrowly reelected Wilson in 1916.

In 1918, Republicans gained a narrow majority in both the House and the Senate. The end of Democratic control of Congress not only halted further domestic reform but also meant that the United States would advance toward military victory in Europe with political power divided between a Democratic president and a Republican Congress likely to challenge Wilson’s plans for international cooperation.


REVIEW How did progressive ideals fare during wartime?


A Compromised Peace Wilson decided to reaffirm his noble war ideals by announcing his peace aims before the end of hostilities. He hoped the victorious Allies would adopt his plan for international democracy, but he was sorely disappointed. America’s allies understood that Wilson’s principles jeopardized their own postwar plans for the acquisition of enemy territory, new colonial empires, and reparations. Wilson also faced strong opposition at home from those who feared that his enthusiasm for international cooperation would undermine American sovereignty.

Wilson’s Fourteen Points On January 8, 1918, ten months before the armistice in Europe, President Wilson revealed to Congress his Fourteen Points, his blueprint for a new democratic world order. The first five points affirmed basic liberal ideals: an end to secret treaties, freedom of the seas, removal of economic barriers to free trade, reduction of weapons of war, and recognition of the rights of colonized peoples. The next eight points supported the right to self- determination of European peoples who had been dominated by Germany or its allies. Wilson’s fourteenth point called for a “general association of nations” — a League of Nations — to provide “mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” A League of Nations reflected Wilson’s lifelong dream of a “parliament of man.” Only such an organization of “peace-loving nations,” he believed, could justify the war and secure a lasting peace.

The Paris Peace Conference From January 18 to June 28, 1919, the eyes of the world focused on Paris. Wilson, inspired by his mission, decided to head the U.S. delegation. He said he owed it to the American soldiers. “It is now my duty,” he announced, “to play my full part in making good what they gave their life’s blood to obtain.” A dubious British diplomat retorted that Wilson was drawn to Paris “as a debutante is entranced by the prospect of her first ball.” The decision to leave the country at a time when his political


opponents challenged his leadership was risky enough, but his stubborn refusal to include prominent Republicans in the delegation proved foolhardy and eventually cost him his dream of a new world order.

After four terrible years of war, the common people of Europe almost worshipped Wilson, believing that he would create a safer, more decent world. When the peace conference convened at Louis XIV’s magnificent palace at Versailles, however, Wilson encountered a different reception. To the Allied leaders, Wilson appeared a naive and impractical moralist. His desire to gather former enemies within a new international democratic order showed how little he understood hard European realities. Georges Clemenceau, premier of France, claimed that Wilson “believed you could do everything by formulas” and “empty theory.” Disparaging the Fourteen Points, he added, “God himself was content with ten commandments.”

The Allies wanted to fasten blame for the war on Germany, totally disarm it, and make it pay so dearly that it would never threaten its neighbors again. The French demanded retribution in the form of territory containing Germany’s richest mineral resources. The British made it clear that they were not about to give up the powerful weapon of naval blockade for the vague principle of freedom of the seas.

The Allies forced Wilson to make drastic compromises. In return for France’s moderating its territorial claims, he agreed to support Article 231 of the peace treaty, assigning war guilt to Germany. Though saved from permanently losing Rhineland territory to the French, Germany was outraged at being singled out as the instigator of the war and being saddled with more than $33 billion in damages. Many Germans felt that their nation had been betrayed. After agreeing to an armistice in the belief that peace terms would be based in Wilson’s generous Fourteen Points, they faced hardship and humiliation instead.

Wilson had better success in establishing the principle of self- determination. But from the beginning, Secretary of State Robert Lansing knew that the president’s concept of self-determination was “simply loaded with dynamite.” Lansing wondered, “What unit has he in mind? Does he mean a race, a territorial area, or a community?” Even Wilson was vague about what self-determination actually meant. “When I gave utterance to those words,” he admitted, “I said them without the knowledge that nationalities existed, which are coming to us day after day.” Lansing suspected that the notion “will raise hopes which can never be realized. It will, I fear, cost thousands of lives. In the end it is bound to be discredited, to be called the dream of an idealist who failed to realize the danger until it was too late.”


Yet partly on the basis of self-determination, the conference redrew the map of Europe and parts of the rest of the world. Portions of Austria- Hungary were ceded to Italy, Poland, and Romania, and the remainder was reassembled into Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia — independent republics whose boundaries were drawn with attention to concentrations of major ethnic groups. More arbitrarily, the Ottoman empire was carved up into small mandates (including Palestine) run by local leaders but under the control of France and Great Britain. The conference reserved the mandate system for those regions it deemed insufficiently “civilized” to have full independence. Thus, the reconstructed nations — each beset with ethnic and nationalist rivalries — faced the challenge of making a new democratic government work (Map 22.5). Many of today’s bitterest disputes — in the Balkans and Iraq, between Greece and Turkey, between Arabs and Jews — have roots in the decisions made in Paris in 1919.

MAP 22.5 Europe after World War I The post–World War I settlement redrew boundaries to create new nations based on ethnic groupings. Within defeated Germany and


Russia, this outcome left bitter peoples who resolved to recover the territory taken from them.

Wilson hoped that self-determination would also dictate the fate of Germany’s colonies in Asia and Africa. But the Allies, who had taken over the colonies during the war, went no further than allowing the League of Nations a mandate to administer them. Technically, the mandate system rejected imperialism, but in reality it allowed the Allies to maintain control. Thus, while denying Germany its colonies, the Allies retained and added to their own empires.

The cause of democratic equality suffered another setback when the peace conference rejected Japan’s call for a statement of racial equality in the treaty. Wilson’s belief in the superiority of whites, as well as his apprehension about how white Americans would respond to such a declaration, led him to oppose the clause. To soothe hurt feelings, Wilson agreed to grant Japan a mandate over the Shantung Peninsula in northern China, which had formerly been controlled by Germany. The gesture mollified Japan’s moderate leaders, but the military faction preparing to take over the country used bitterness toward racist Western colonialism to build support for expanding Japanese power throughout Asia.

Closest to Wilson’s heart was finding a new way to manage international relations. In Wilson’s view, war had discredited the old strategy of balance of power. Instead, he proposed a League of Nations that would provide collective security. The league would establish rules of international conduct and resolve conflicts between nations through rational and peaceful means. When the Allies agreed to the league, Wilson was overjoyed. He believed that the league would rectify the errors his colleagues had forced on him in Paris.

To some Europeans and Americans, the Versailles treaty came as a bitter disappointment. Wilson’s admirers were shocked that the president dealt in compromise like any other politician. But without Wilson’s presence, the treaty that was signed on June 28, 1919, surely would have been more vindictive. Wilson returned home in July 1919 consoled that, despite his frustrations, he had gained what he most wanted — a League of Nations. In Wilson’s judgment, “We have completed in the least time possible the greatest work that four men have ever done.”

The Fight for the Treaty The tumultuous reception Wilson received when he arrived home


persuaded him, probably correctly, that the American people supported the treaty. When the president submitted the treaty to the Senate in July 1919, he warned that failure to ratify it would “break the heart of the world.” By then, however, criticism of the treaty was mounting, especially from Americans convinced that their countries of ethnic origin — Ireland, Italy, and Germany — had not been given fair treatment. Others worried that the president’s concessions at Versailles had jeopardized the treaty’s capacity to provide a workable plan for rebuilding Europe and to guarantee world peace.

In the Senate, Republican “irreconcilables” condemned the treaty for entangling the United States in world affairs. A larger group of Republicans did not object to American participation in world politics but feared that membership in the League of Nations would jeopardize the nation’s ability to act independently. No Republican, in any case, was eager to hand Wilson and the Democrats a foreign policy victory with the 1920 presidential election little more than a year away.

At the center of Republican opposition was Wilson’s archenemy, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. Lodge was no isolationist, but he thought that much of the Fourteen Points was a “general bleat about virtue being better than vice.” Lodge expected the United States’ economic and military power to propel the nation into a major role in world affairs. But he insisted that membership in the League of Nations, which would require collective action to maintain peace, threatened the nation’s independence in foreign relations.

With Lodge as its chairman, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee produced several amendments, or “reservations,” that sought to limit the consequences of American membership in the league. For example, several reservations required approval of both the House and the Senate before the United States could participate in league-sponsored economic sanctions or military action.

It gradually became clear that ratification of the treaty depended on acceptance of the Lodge reservations. Democratic senators, who overwhelmingly supported the treaty, urged Wilson to accept Lodge’s terms, arguing that they left the essentials of the treaty intact. Wilson, however, insisted that the reservations cut “the very heart out of the treaty.”

Wilson decided to take his case directly to the people. On September 3, 1919, still exhausted from the peace conference, he set out by train on the most ambitious speaking tour ever undertaken by a president. On September 25 in Pueblo, Colorado, Wilson collapsed and had to return to


Washington. There, he suffered a massive stroke that partially paralyzed him. From his bedroom, Wilson sent messages instructing Democrats in the Senate to hold firm against any and all reservations. Wilson commanded enough loyalty to ensure a vote against the Lodge reservations. But when the treaty without reservations came before the Senate in March 1920, the combined opposition of the Republican irreconcilables and reservationists left Wilson six votes short of the two- thirds majority needed for passage.

The nations of Europe organized the League of Nations at Geneva, Switzerland. Although Woodrow Wilson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920 for his central role in creating the league, the United States never became a member. Whether American membership could have prevented the world war that would begin in Europe in 1939 is highly unlikely, but the United States’ failure to join certainly weakened the league from the start. In refusing to accept relatively minor compromises with Senate moderates, Wilson lost his treaty and American membership in the league.

REVIEW Why did the Senate fail to ratify the Versailles treaty?


Democracy at Risk The defeat of Wilson’s plan for international democracy proved the crowning blow to progressives who had hoped that the war could boost reform at home. When the war ended, Americans wanted to demobilize swiftly. In the process, servicemen, defense workers, and farmers lost their war-related jobs. The volatile combination — of unemployed veterans returning home, a stalled economy, and leftover wartime patriotism looking for a new cause — threatened to explode. Wartime anti-German passion was quickly succeeded by the Red scare, an antiradical campaign broad enough to ensnare unionists, socialists, dissenters, and African Americans and Mexicans who had committed no offense but to seek an escape from rural poverty as they moved north.

Economic Hardship and Labor Upheaval Americans demanded that the nation return to a peacetime economy. The government abruptly abandoned its wartime economic controls and canceled war contracts. In a matter of months, 3 million soldiers mustered out of the military and flooded the job market just as war production ceased. Unemployment soared. At the same time, consumers went on a postwar spending spree that drove inflation skyward. In 1919 alone, prices rose 75 percent over prewar levels.

Most of the gains workers had made during the war evaporated. Freed from government controls, business turned against the eight-hour day and attacked labor unions. With inflation eating up their paychecks, workers fought back. The year 1919 witnessed nearly 3,600 strikes involving 4 million workers. The most spectacular strike occurred in February 1919 in Seattle, where shipyard workers had been put out of work by demobilization. When a coalition of the radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, known as Wobblies) and the moderate American Federation of Labor (AFL) called a general strike, the largest work stoppage in American history shut down the city. Newspapers claimed that the walkout was “a Bolshevik effort to start a revolution.” The suppression of the Seattle general strike by city officials cost the AFL many of its wartime


gains and contributed to the destruction of the IWW soon afterward. A strike by Boston policemen in the fall of 1919 underscored postwar

hostility toward labor militancy. Although the police were paid less than pick-and-shovel laborers, they won little sympathy. Once the officers stopped walking their beats, looters sacked the city. Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge called in the National Guard to restore order and broke the Boston police strike. The public welcomed Coolidge’s anti- union assurance that “there is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

Labor strife climaxed in the grim steel strike of 1919. Faced with the industry’s plan to revert to seven-day weeks, twelve-hour days, and weekly wages of about $20, Samuel Gompers, head of the AFL, called for a strike. In September, 350,000 workers in fifteen states walked out. The steel industry hired 30,000 strikebreakers and convinced the public that the strikers were radicals bent on subverting democracy and capitalism. In January 1920, after 18 striking workers were killed, the strike collapsed. That devastating defeat initiated a sharp decline in the fortunes of the labor movement, a trend that would continue for almost twenty years.

The Red Scare Suppression of labor strikes was one response to the widespread fear of internal subversion that swept the nation in 1919. The Red scare (“Red” referred to the color of the Bolshevik flag) exceeded even the assault on civil liberties during the war. It had homegrown causes: the postwar recession, labor unrest, terrorist acts, and the difficulties of reintegrating millions of returning veterans. But unsettling events abroad also added to Americans’ anxieties.

Two epidemics swept the globe in 1918. One was Spanish influenza, which brought on a lethal accumulation of fluid in the lungs. A nurse near the front lines in France observed that victims “run a high temperature, so high that we can’t believe it’s true…. It is accompanied by vomiting and dysentery. When they die, as about half of them do, they turn a ghastly dark gray and are taken out at once and cremated.” Before the flu virus had run its course, 40 million people had died worldwide, including some 700,000 Americans.

The other epidemic was Russian bolshevism, which seemed to most Americans equally contagious and deadly. Bolshevism became even more menacing in March 1919, when the new Soviet leaders created the Comintern, a worldwide association of Communists sworn to revolution in


capitalist countries. A Communist revolution in the United States was extremely unlikely, but edgy Americans, faced with a flurry of terrorist acts, believed otherwise. Dozens of prominent individuals had received bombs through the mail. On September 16, 1920, a wagon filled with dynamite and iron exploded on Wall Street, killing 38 and maiming 143 others. Authorities never caught the terrorists, and the successful attack on America’s financial capital fed the nation’s anger and fear.

Even before the Wall Street bombing, the government had initiated a hunt for domestic revolutionaries. Led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who believed that “there could be no nice distinctions drawn between the theoretical ideals of the radicals and their actual violations of our national laws,” the campaign targeted men and women for their ideas, not their illegal acts. In January 1920, Palmer ordered a series of raids that netted 6,000 alleged subversives. Finding no revolutionary conspiracies, Palmer nevertheless ordered 500 noncitizen suspects deported.

His action came in the wake of a campaign against the most notorious radical alien, Russian-born Emma Goldman. Before the war, Goldman’s passionate support of labor strikes, women’s rights, and birth control had made her a symbol of radicalism. In 1919, after she spent time in prison for denouncing military conscription, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Justice Department’s Radical Division, ordered her deported. One observer remarked, “With Prohibition coming in and Emma Goldman goin’ out, ’twill be a dull country.”

Emergency Hospital Despite its name, the Spanish flu was first observed in 1918 in Kansas. Army camps, with their close troop quarters, proved perfect


incubators. This emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas, is filled with some of the flu’s early victims. Crowded troopships quickly spread the virus to Europe. Civilians were not immune. In October 1918 in Philadelphia, more than 4,500 people died in a single week. National Museum of Health and Medicine (NCP 001603).

The effort to rid the country of alien radicals was matched by efforts to crush troublesome citizens. Law enforcement officials and vigilante groups joined hands against so-called Reds. In November 1919 in the rugged lumber town of Centralia, Washington, a menacing crowd gathered in front of the IWW hall. Nervous Wobblies inside opened fire, killing three people. Three IWW members were arrested and later convicted of murder, but another, ex-soldier Wesley Everett, was carried off by the mob, which castrated him, hung him from a bridge, and then riddled his body with bullets. His death was officially ruled a suicide.

Public institutions joined the attack on civil liberties. Local libraries removed dissenting books. Schools fired unorthodox teachers. Police shut down radical newspapers. State legislatures refused to seat elected representatives who professed socialist ideas. And in 1919, Congress removed its lone socialist representative, Victor Berger, on the pretext that he was a threat to national safety.

That same year, the Supreme Court provided a formula for restricting free speech. In upholding the conviction of socialist Charles Schenck for publishing a pamphlet urging resistance to the draft during wartime (Schenck v. United States), the Court established a “clear and present danger” test. Such utterances as Schenck’s during a time of national peril, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, were equivalent to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

In 1920, the assault on civil liberties provoked the creation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which was dedicated to defending an individual’s constitutional rights. One of the ACLU’s founders, Roger Baldwin, declared, “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.” The ACLU championed the targets of Attorney General Palmer’s campaign — politically radical immigrants, trade unionists, socialists and Communists, and antiwar activists who still languished in jail.

The Red scare eventually collapsed because of its excesses. In particular, the antiradical campaign lost credibility after Palmer warned


that radicals were planning to celebrate the Bolshevik Revolution with a nationwide wave of violence on May 1, 1920. Officials called out state militias, mobilized bomb squads, and even placed machine-gun nests at major city intersections. When May 1 came and went without a single disturbance, the public mood turned from fear to scorn.

The Great Migrations of African Americans and Mexicans Before the Red scare lost steam, the government raised alarms about the loyalty of African Americans. A Justice Department investigation concluded that Reds were fomenting racial unrest among blacks. Although the report was wrong about Bolshevik influence, it was correct in noticing a new stirring among African Americans.

In 1900, nine of every ten blacks still lived in the South, where poverty, disfranchisement, segregation, and violence dominated their lives. A majority of black men worked as dirt-poor tenants or sharecroppers, while many black women worked in the homes of whites as domestics. Whites remained committed to keeping blacks down. “If we own a good farm or horse, or cow, or bird-dog, or yoke of oxen,” a black sharecropper in Mississippi observed in 1913, “we are harassed until we are bound to sell, give away, or run away, before we can have any peace in our lives.”

The First World War provided African Americans with the opportunity to escape the South’s cotton fields and kitchens. When war channeled almost 5 million American workers into military service and nearly ended European immigration, northern industrialists turned to black labor. Black men found work in northern steel mills, shipyards, munitions plants, railroad yards, automobile factories, and mines. From 1915 to 1920, a half million blacks (approximately 10 percent of the South’s black population) boarded trains bound for Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, and other industrial cities.

Thousands of migrants wrote home to tell family and friends about their experiences in the North. One man announced proudly that he had recently been promoted to “first assistant to the head carpenter.” He added, “I should have been here twenty years ago. I just begin to feel like a man…. My children are going to the same school with the whites and I don’t have to [h]umble to no one. I have registered — will vote the next election and there ain’t any ‘yes sir’ — it’s all yes and no and Sam and Bill.”

But the North was not the promised land. Black men stood on the


lowest rungs of the labor ladder. Jobs of any kind proved scarce for black women, and most worked as domestic servants as they did in the South. The existing black middle class sometimes shunned the less educated, less sophisticated rural southerners crowding into northern cities. Many whites, fearful of losing jobs and status, lashed out against the new migrants. Savage race riots ripped through two dozen northern cities. The worst occurred in July 1917 when a mob of whites invaded a section of East St. Louis, Illinois, and murdered 39 people. In 1918, the nation witnessed 96 lynchings of blacks, some of them decorated war veterans still in uniform.

Still, most black migrants stayed in the North and encouraged friends and family to follow. By 1940, more than one million blacks had left the South, profoundly changing their own lives and the course of the nation’s history. Black enclaves such as Harlem in New York and the South Side of Chicago, “cities within cities,” emerged in the North. These assertive communities provided a foundation for black protest and political organization in the years ahead.

At nearly the same time, another migration was under way in the American Southwest. Between 1910 and 1920, the Mexican-born population in the United States soared from 222,000 to 478,000. Mexican immigration resulted from developments on both sides of the border. When Mexicans revolted against dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1910, initiating a ten-year civil war, migrants flooded northward. In the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and later the disruption of World War I cut off the supply of cheap foreign labor and caused western employers in the expanding rail, mining, construction, and agricultural industries to look south to Mexico for workers.

Like immigrants from Europe and black migrants from the South, Mexicans in the American Southwest dreamed of a better life. And like the others, they found both opportunity and disappointment. Wages were better than in Mexico, but life in the fields, mines, and factories was hard, and living conditions — in boxcars, labor camps, or urban barrios — were dismal. Signs warning “No Mexicans Allowed” increased rather than declined. Mexicans were considered excellent prospects for manual labor but not for citizenship. By 1920, ethnic Mexicans made up about three- fourths of California’s farm laborers.


Mexican Women Arriving in El Paso, 1911 These Mexican women, carrying bundles and wearing traditional shawls, try to get their bearings upon arriving in El Paso, Texas — the Ellis Island for Mexican immigrants. They were part of the first modern wave of Mexican immigration to the United States. Women like them found work in the fields, canneries, and restaurants of the Southwest, as well as at home taking in sewing, laundry, and boarders. New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Among Mexican Americans, some of whom had lived in the Southwest for more than a century, los recién llegados (the recent arrivals) encountered mixed reactions. One Mexican American expressed this ambivalence: “We are all Mexicans anyway because the gueros [Anglos] treat us all alike.” But he also called for immigration quotas because the recent arrivals drove down wages and incited white prejudice that affected all ethnic Mexicans.

Despite friction, large-scale immigration into the Southwest meant a resurgence of the Mexican cultural presence, which became the basis for greater solidarity and political action for the ethnic Mexican population. In 1929 in Texas, Mexican Americans formed the League of United Latin


American Citizens.

Postwar Politics and the Election of 1920 A thousand miles away in Washington, D.C., President Woodrow Wilson, bedridden and paralyzed, ignored the mountain of domestic troubles — labor strikes, the Red scare, race riots, immigration backlash — and insisted that the 1920 election would be a “solemn referendum” on the League of Nations. Dutifully, the Democratic nominees for president, James M. Cox of Ohio, and for vice president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York, campaigned on Wilson’s international ideals. The Republican Party chose the handsome, gregarious Warren Gamaliel Harding, senator from Ohio.

Harding found the winning formula when he declared that “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums [questionable remedies] but normalcy.” But what was “normalcy”? Harding explained: “By ‘normalcy’ I don’t mean the old order but a regular steady order of things. I mean normal procedure, the natural way, without excess.” Eager to put wartime crusades and postwar strife behind them, voters responded by giving Harding the largest presidential victory ever: 60.5 percent of the popular vote and 404 out of 531 electoral votes (Map 22.6). Harding’s election lifted the national pall, signaling a new, more easygoing era.

MAP 22.6 The Election of 1920

REVIEW How did the Red scare contribute to the erosion of civil liberties after the war?



Conclusion: Troubled Crusade America’s experience in World War I was exceptional. For much of the world, the Great War produced great destruction — blackened fields, ruined factories, and millions of casualties. But in the United States, war and prosperity marched hand in hand. America emerged from the war with the strongest economy in the world and a position of international preeminence.

Still, the nation paid a heavy price both at home and abroad. American soldiers and sailors encountered unprecedented horrors — submarines, poison gas, machine guns — and more than 100,000 died. But rather than redeeming the sacrifice of George Browne and others as Woodrow Wilson promised, the peace that followed the armistice tarnished it.

At home, rather than permanently improving working conditions, advancing public health, and spreading educational opportunity, as progressives had hoped, the war threatened to undermine the achievements of the previous two decades. Moreover, rather than promoting democracy, the war bred fear, intolerance, and repression that led to a crackdown on dissent and a demand for conformity. Reformers could count only woman suffrage as a permanent victory.

Woodrow Wilson had promised more than anyone could deliver. Progressive hopes of extending democracy and liberal reform nationally and internationally were dashed. In 1920, a bruised and disillusioned society stumbled into a new decade. The era coming to an end had called on Americans to crusade and sacrifice. The new era promised peace, prosperity, and a good time.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Triple Alliance (p. 568) Triple Entente (p. 568) Lusitania (p. 570) Bolshevik (p. 572) American Expeditionary Force (AEF) (p. 573) Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition) (p. 576) Nineteenth Amendment (woman suffrage) (p. 578) Fourteen Points (p. 579) League of Nations (p. 579) Versailles treaty (p. 582) Red scare (p. 584) Schenck v. United States (p. 586)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. Why did President Wilson fail to maintain U.S. neutrality

during World War I? (pp. 566–71) 2. How did the AEF contribute to the defeat of Germany? (pp.

571–75) 3. How did progressive ideals fare during wartime? (pp. 575–79) 4. Why did the Senate fail to ratify the Versailles treaty? (pp.



5. How did the Red scare contribute to the erosion of civil liberties after the war? (pp. 583–89)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Why did the United States at first resist intervening in World

War I? Why did it later retreat from this policy and send troops?

2. How did World War I contribute to progressive-influenced domestic developments? Did they endure in peacetime?

3. After the war, what factors drove the conservative reaction in American politics, most vividly in the labor upheaval and Red scare that swept the nation? How did they shape the postwar political spectrum?

4. What drove African American and Mexican migration north? How did the war facilitate these changes? How was this migration significant?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. How did America’s experience in World War I compare with its

experience during the Spanish-American War, its previous war abroad? Discuss the decision to go to war in each case, the military aspects, and the outcome. (See chapter 20.)

2. How did the experience of America’s workers during World War I compare with their experience in the previous three decades? Consider the composition of the workforce, wages, conditions, and labor’s efforts to organize. (See chapters 20 and 21.)


1914 • U.S. Marines occupy Veracruz, Mexico. • Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated. • Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. • Germany attacks Russia and France. • Great Britain declares war on Germany.


1915 • German U-boat sinks Lusitania. 1916 • Pancho Villa attacks Americans in Mexico and New


• Wilson reelected. 1917 • Zimmermann telegram intercepted.

• United States declares war on Germany. • Committee on Public Information created. • Selective Service Act enacted. • Espionage Act and Trading with the Enemy Act enacted.

1918 • Wilson gives Fourteen Points speech. • Russia arranges separate peace with Germany. • Sedition Act enacted. • U.S. Marines see first major combat. • Armistice signed ending World War I.

1919 • Paris peace conference begins. • Treaty of Versailles signed. • Wave of labor strikes occurs.

1920 • American Civil Liberties Union founded. • Prohibition begins. • Palmer raids ordered. • Senate votes against ratification of Treaty of Versailles. • American women get the vote. • Warren G. Harding elected president.


23 From New Era to Great Depression 1920–1932


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Determine how business and industry contributed to a “New Era” and

the growth of mass consumer and popular culture in the 1920s.

◆ Describe the effectiveness of prohibition in the 1920s.

◆ Explain how the “new woman” and the “New Negro” challenged social norms. Explain how some artists and intellectuals rejected America’s mass culture.

◆ Evaluate ways in which social changes met with resistance, particularly in rural areas, and how this affected the presidential election of 1928.

◆ Describe the various factors that contributed to the Great Crash of 1929. Explain President Hoover’s response and why it proved to be inadequate.

◆ Describe how the Great Depression affected the lives of ordinary Americans.



American hero. When the decade began, he had already produced six million automobiles; by 1927, the figure reached fifteen million. In 1920, a Ford car cost $845; in 1928, the price was less than $300, within range of most of the country’s skilled workingmen. Henry Ford put America on wheels, and in the eyes of most Americans he was an honest man who made an honest car: basic, inexpensive, and reliable.

Born in 1863 on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford at sixteen fled rural life for Detroit, where he became a journeyman machinist. In 1893, he put together one of the first successful gasoline-driven carriages in the United States. His ambition, he said, was to “make something in quantity.” The product he chose reflected American restlessness. “Everybody wants to be someplace he ain’t,” Ford declared. “As soon as he gets there he wants to go right back.” In 1903, Ford gathered twelve workers in a 250-by-50-foot shed and created the Ford Motor Company.

Ford’s early cars were custom-made one at a time. By 1914, his cars were being built along a continuously moving assembly line. Workers bolted on parts brought to them by cranes and conveyor belts. In 1920, one car rolled off the Ford assembly line every minute; in 1925, one appeared every ten seconds. Ford made only one kind of car, the Model T, which became synonymous with mass production. Throughout the rapid expansion of the automotive industry, the Ford Motor Company remained the industry leader, peaking in 1925, when it outsold all its rivals combined (Map 23.1).

When Ford began his rise, progressive critics condemned the industrial giants of the nineteenth century as “robber barons” who lived in luxury while reducing their workers to wage slaves. Ford, however, identified with the common folk and saw himself as the benefactor of average Americans. But like the age in which he lived, Ford was more complex and more contradictory than this simple image suggests.

A man of genius whose compelling vision of modern mass production led the way in the 1920s, Ford was also cranky, tightfisted, and mean-spirited. He hated Jews and Catholics, bankers and doctors, and liquor and tobacco, and his money allowed him to act on his prejudices. His automobile plants made him a billionaire, but their regimented assembly lines reduced workers to near robots. On the cutting edge of modern technology, Ford nevertheless remained nostalgic about rural values. He sought to revive the past in Greenfield Village, where he relocated buildings from a bygone era, including his parents’ farmhouse. His museum contrasted sharply


with the roaring Ford assembly plant at River Rouge. Yet if Americans remained true to their agrarian past and managed to be modern and scientific at the same time, Ford insisted, all would be well.

MAP 23.1 Auto Manufacturing By the mid-1920s, the massive coal and steel industries of the Midwest had made that region the center of the new automobile industry. A major road-building program by the federal government carried the thousands of new cars produced each day to every corner of the country.

Tension between traditional values and modern conditions lay at the heart of the conflicted 1920s. For the first time, more Americans lived in urban than in rural areas, and cities seemed to harbor everything rural people opposed. While millions admired urban America’s sophisticated new style and consumer products, others condemned postwar society for its loose morals and vulgar materialism. The Ku Klux Klan and other champions of an older America resorted to violence as well as words when they chastised the era’s “new woman,” “New Negro,” and surging immigrant populations. Those who sought to dam the tide of change proposed prohibition, Protestantism, and patriotism.

The public, disillusioned with the outcome of World War I, turned away from the Christian moralism and idealism of the Progressive Era. In the 1920s, Ford and businessmen like him replaced political reformers such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as the models of progress. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce crowed, “The


American businessman is the most influential person in the nation.” The fortunes of the era rose, then in 1929 crashed, according to the values and practices of the business community. When prosperity collapsed, the nation entered the most serious economic depression of all time.


The New Era Once Woodrow Wilson left the White House, energy flowed away from government activism and civic reform and toward private economic endeavor. The rise of a freewheeling economy and a heightened sense of individualism caused Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover to declare that America had entered a “New Era,” one of many labels used to describe the complex 1920s. Some terms focus on the decade’s high- spirited energy and cultural change: Roaring Twenties, Jazz Age, Flaming Youth. Others echo the rising importance of money — Dollar Decade, Golden Twenties — or reflect the sinister side of gangster profiteering — Lawless Decade. Still others emphasize the lonely confusion of the Lost Generation and the stress and anxiety of the Aspirin Age.

America in the twenties was many things, but President Calvin Coolidge got at an essential truth when he declared: “The business of America is business.” Politicians and diplomats proclaimed business the heart of American civilization as they promoted its products at home and abroad. Average men and women bought into the idea that business and its wonderful goods were what made America great, as they snatched up the flood of new consumer items American factories sent forth. Nothing caught Americans’ fancy more powerfully than the automobile.

A Business Government Republicans controlled the White House from 1921 to 1933. The first of the three Republican presidents was Warren Gamaliel Harding, the Ohio senator who in his 1920 campaign called for a “return to normalcy,” by which he meant the end of public crusades and a return to private pursuits. Harding appointed a few men of real stature to his cabinet. Herbert Hoover, for example, the former head of the wartime Food Administration, became secretary of commerce. But wealth and friendship also counted: Andrew Mellon, one of the richest men in America, became secretary of the treasury, and Harding handed out jobs to his friends, members of his old “Ohio gang.” This curious combination of merit and cronyism made for a disjointed administration.


When Harding was elected in 1920 (see chapter 22, Map 22.6), the unemployment rate hit 20 percent, the highest ever up to that point. The bankruptcy rate of farmers increased tenfold. Harding pushed measures to regain national prosperity — high tariffs to protect American businesses, price supports for agriculture, and the dismantling of wartime government control over industry in favor of unregulated private business. “Never before, here or anywhere else,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said proudly, “has a government been so completely fused with business.”

Harding’s policies to boost American enterprise made him very popular, but ultimately his small-town congeniality and trusting ways did him in. Some of his friends in the Ohio gang were up to their necks in lawbreaking. Three of Harding’s appointees would go to jail. Interior Secretary Albert Fall was convicted of accepting bribes of more than $400,000 for leasing oil reserves on public land in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and “Teapot Dome” became a synonym for political corruption.

On August 2, 1923, when Harding died from a heart attack, Vice President Calvin Coolidge became president. Coolidge, who once said that “the man who builds a factory builds a temple, the man who works there worships there,” continued and extended Harding’s policies of promoting business and limiting government. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon reduced the government’s control over the economy and cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals. New rules for the Federal Trade Commission severely restricted its power to regulate business. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover hedged government authority by encouraging trade associations that ideally would keep business honest and efficient through voluntary cooperation.

Coolidge found an ally in the Supreme Court. For years, the Court had opposed federal regulation of hours, wages, and working conditions on the grounds that such legislation was the proper concern of the states. In the 1920s, the Court found ways to curtail a state’s ability to regulate business. It ruled against closed shops — businesses where only union members could be employed — while confirming the right of owners to form exclusive trade associations. In 1923, the Court declared unconstitutional the District of Columbia’s minimum-wage law for women, asserting that the law interfered with the freedom of employer and employee to make labor contracts. The Court and the president attacked government intrusion in the free market, even when the prohibition of government regulation threatened the welfare of workers.

The election of 1924 confirmed the defeat of the progressive principle


that the state should take a leading role in ensuring the general welfare. To oppose Coolidge, the Democrats nominated John W. Davis, a corporate lawyer whose conservative views differed little from Republican principles. Only the Progressive Party and its presidential nominee, Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, offered a genuine alternative. When La Follette championed labor unions, regulation of business, and protection of civil liberties, Republicans coined the slogan “Coolidge or Chaos.” Voters chose Coolidge in a landslide. Coolidge was right when he declared, “This is a business country, and it wants a business government.” What was true of the government’s relationship to business at home was also true abroad.

Promoting Prosperity and Peace Abroad After orchestrating the Senate’s successful effort to block U.S. membership in the League of Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge boasted, “We have torn Wilsonism up by the roots.” But repudiation of Wilsonian internationalism and rejection of collective security through the League of Nations did not mean that the United States retreated into isolationism. The United States emerged from World War I with its economy intact and enjoyed a decade of stunning growth. New York replaced London as the center of world finance, and the United States became the world’s chief creditor. Economic involvement in the world and the continuing chaos in Europe made withdrawal impossible.

One of the Republicans’ most ambitious foreign policy initiatives was the Washington Disarmament Conference, which convened in 1921 to establish a global balance of naval power. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes shaped the Five-Power Naval Treaty of 1922 committing Britain, France, Japan, Italy, and the United States to a proportional reduction of naval forces. The treaty led to the scrapping of more than two million tons of warships, by far the world’s greatest success in disarmament. By fostering international peace, Hughes also helped make the world a safer place for American trade.

A second major effort on behalf of world peace came in 1928, when Secretary of State Frank Kellogg joined French foreign minister Aristide Briand to produce the Kellogg-Briand pact. Nearly fifty nations signed the solemn pledge to renounce war and settle international disputes peacefully.

But Republican administrations preferred private-sector diplomacy to state action. With the blessing of the White House, a team of American financiers led by Charles Dawes swung into action when Germany


suspended its war reparation payments in 1923. Impoverished, Germany was staggering under the massive bill of $33 billion presented by the victorious Allies in the Versailles treaty. When Germany failed to meet its annual payment, France occupied Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley, creating the worst international crisis since the war. In 1924, the Dawes Plan halved Germany’s annual reparation payments, initiated fresh American loans to Germany, and caused the French to retreat from the Ruhr. Although the United States failed to join the League of Nations, it continued to exercise significant economic and diplomatic influence abroad. These Republican successes overseas helped fuel prosperity at home.

Automobiles, Mass Production, and Assembly- Line Progress The automobile industry emerged as the largest single manufacturing industry in the nation. Henry Ford shrewdly located his company in Detroit, knowing that key materials for his automobiles were manufactured in nearby states (see Map 23.1). Keystone of the American economy, the automobile industry not only employed hundreds of thousands of workers directly but also brought whole industries into being — filling stations, garages, fast-food restaurants, and “guest cottages” (motels). The need for tires, glass, steel, highways, oil, and refined gasoline for automobiles provided millions of related jobs. By 1929, one American in four found employment directly or indirectly in the automobile industry. “Give us our daily bread” was no longer addressed to the Almighty, one commentator quipped, but to Detroit.

Automobiles changed where people lived, what work they did, how they spent their leisure, even how they thought. Hundreds of small towns decayed because the automobile enabled rural people to bypass them in favor of more distant cities and towns. In cities, streetcars began to disappear as workers moved to the suburbs and commuted to work along crowded highways. Nothing shaped modern America more than the automobile, and efficient mass production made the automobile revolution possible.


Auto Assembly Line This photograph of an automobile assembly line in Detroit in 1923 makes clear that workers stayed in one place while work came to them. Efficiency increased, but so, too, did boredom. Library of Congress, 4a27966.

Mass production by the assembly-line technique became standard in almost every factory, from automobiles to meatpacking to cigarettes. To improve efficiency, corporations reduced assembly-line work to the simplest, most repetitive tasks. Changes on the assembly line and in management, along with technological advances, significantly boosted overall efficiency. Between 1922 and 1929, productivity in manufacturing increased 32 percent. Average wages, however, increased only 8 percent.

Industries also developed programs for workers that came to be called welfare capitalism. Some businesses improved safety and sanitation inside factories. They also instituted paid vacations and pension plans. Welfare capitalism encouraged loyalty to the company and discouraged traditional labor unions. One labor organizer in the steel industry bemoaned the success of welfare capitalism. “So many workmen here had been lulled to sleep by the company union, the welfare plans, the social organizations fostered by the employer,” he declared, “that they had come to look upon the employer as their protector, and had believed vigorous


trade union organization unnecessary for their welfare.”

Consumer Culture Mass production fueled corporate profits and national economic prosperity. During the 1920s, per capita income increased by a third, the cost of living stayed the same, and unemployment remained low. But the rewards of the economic boom were not evenly distributed. Americans who labored with their hands inched ahead, while white-collar workers enjoyed significantly more money and more leisure time to spend it. Mass production of a broad range of new products — automobiles, radios, refrigerators, electric irons, washing machines — produced a consumer goods revolution.

In this new era of abundance, more people than ever conceived of the American dream in terms of the things they could acquire. Middletown (1929), a study of the inhabitants of Muncie, Indiana, revealed that Muncie had become, above all, “a culture in which everything hinges on money.” Moreover, faced with technological and organizational change beyond their comprehension, many citizens had lost confidence in their ability to play an effective role in civic affairs. More and more they became passive consumers, deferring to the supposed expertise of leaders in politics and economics.

The rapidly expanding business of advertising stimulated the desire for new products and attacked the traditional values of thrift and saving. Advertising linked material goods to the fulfillment of every spiritual and emotional need. Americans increasingly defined and measured their social status, and indeed their personal worth, on the yardstick of material possessions. Happiness itself rode on owning a car and choosing the right cigarettes and toothpaste.

By the 1920s, the United States had achieved the physical capacity to satisfy Americans’ material wants. The economic problem shifted from production to consumption: Who would buy the goods flying off American assembly lines? One solution was to expand America’s markets in foreign countries, and government and business joined in that effort. Another solution to the problem of consumption was to expand the market at home.

Henry Ford realized early on that “mass production requires mass consumption.” He understood that automobile workers not only produced cars but would also buy them if they made enough money. “One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers,” Ford said. In 1914, he raised wages in his factories to $5 a day, more than twice the going rate.


High wages made for workers who were more loyal and more exploitable, and high wages returned as profits when workers bought Fords.

Many people’s incomes, however, were too puny to satisfy the growing desire for consumer goods. The solution was installment buying — a little money down, a payment each month — which allowed people to purchase expensive items they could not otherwise afford or to purchase items before saving the necessary money. As one newspaper announced, “The first responsibility of an American to his country is no longer that of a citizen, but of a consumer.” During the 1920s, America’s motto became spend, not save. Old values — “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” — seemed about as pertinent as a horse and buggy. American culture had shifted.

REVIEW How did the spread of the automobile transform the United States?


The Roaring Twenties A new ethic of personal freedom allowed many Americans to seek pleasure without guilt in a whirl of activity that earned the decade the name “Roaring Twenties.” Prohibition made lawbreakers of millions of otherwise decent folk. Flappers and “new women” challenged traditional gender boundaries. Other Americans enjoyed the Roaring Twenties through the words and images of vastly expanded mass communication, especially radio and movies. In America’s big cities, particularly New York, a burst of creativity produced the “New Negro,” who confounded and disturbed white Americans. The “Lost Generation” of writers, profoundly disillusioned with mainstream America’s cultural direction, fled the country.

Prohibition Republicans generally sought to curb the powers of government, but the twenties witnessed a great exception to this rule when the federal government implemented one of the last reforms of the Progressive Era: the Eighteenth Amendment, which banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol and took effect in January 1920 (see “The Progressive Stake in the War” in chapter 22). Drying up the rivers of liquor that Americans consumed, supporters of prohibition claimed, would eliminate crime, boost production, and lift the nation’s morality. Prohibition would destroy the saloon, which according to a leading “dry” was the “most fiendish, corrupt and hell-soaked institution that ever crawled out of the slime of the eternal pit.” Instead, prohibition initiated a fourteen-year orgy of lawbreaking unparalleled in the nation’s history.

The Treasury Department agents charged with enforcing prohibition faced a staggering task. Although they smashed more than 172,000 illegal stills in 1925 alone, loopholes in the law almost guaranteed failure. Sacramental wine was permitted, allowing fake clergy to party with bogus congregations. Farmers were allowed to ferment their own “fruit juices.” Doctors and dentists could prescribe liquor for medicinal purposes.

In 1929, a Treasury agent in Indiana reported intense local resistance to


enforcement of prohibition. “Conditions in most important cities very bad,” he declared. “Lax and corrupt public officials great handicap … prevalence of drinking among minor boys and the … middle or better classes of adults.” The “speakeasy,” an illegal nightclub, became a common feature of the urban landscape. Speakeasies’ dance floors led to the sexual integration of the formerly all-male drinking culture, changing American social life forever. Detroit, probably America’s wettest city, was home to more than 20,000 illegal drinking establishments, making the alcohol business the city’s second-largest industry, behind automobile manufacturing.

Eventually, serious criminals took over the liquor trade. During the first four years of prohibition, Chicago witnessed more than two hundred gang-related killings as rival mobs struggled for control of the lucrative liquor trade. The most notorious event came on St. Valentine’s Day 1929, when Alphonse “Big Al” Capone’s Italian-dominated mob machine- gunned seven members of a rival Irish gang. Capone’s bootlegging empire brought in $95 million a year, when a chicken dinner cost 5 cents. Federal authorities finally sent Capone to prison for income tax evasion. “I violate the Prohibition law — sure,” he told a reporter. “Who doesn’t? The only difference is, I take more chances than the man who drinks a cocktail before dinner.”

Americans overwhelmingly favored the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, the “noble experiment,” as Herbert Hoover called prohibition. In 1931, a panel of distinguished experts reported that the experiment had failed. The social and political costs of prohibition outweighed the benefits. Prohibition fueled criminal activity, corrupted the police, demoralized the judiciary, and caused ordinary citizens to disrespect the law. In 1933, the nation ended prohibition, making the Eighteenth Amendment the only constitutional amendment to be repealed.

The New Woman Of all the changes in American life in the 1920s, none sparked more heated debate than the alternatives offered to the traditional roles of women. Increasing numbers of women worked and went to college, defying older gender norms. Even mainstream magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post began publishing stories about young, college- educated women who drank gin cocktails, smoked cigarettes, and wore skimpy dresses and dangly necklaces. Before the Great War, the new woman dwelt in New York City’s bohemian Greenwich Village, but afterward the mass media brought her into middle-class America’s living


rooms. When the Nineteenth Amendment, ratified in 1920, granted women the

vote, feminists felt liberated and expected women to reshape the political landscape. A Kansas woman declared, “I went to bed last night a slave[;] I awoke this morning a free woman.” Women began pressuring Congress to pass laws that especially concerned women, including measures to protect women in factories and grant federal aid to schools. Black women lobbied particularly for federal courts to assume jurisdiction over the crime of lynching. But women’s only significant national legislative success came in 1921 when Congress enacted the Sheppard-Towner Act, which extended federal assistance to states seeking to reduce high infant mortality rates.

A number of factors helped thwart women’s political influence. Male domination of both political parties, the rarity of female candidates, and lack of experience in voting, especially among recent immigrants, kept many women away from the polls. In some places, male-run election machines actually disfranchised women, despite the Nineteenth Amendment. In the South, poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright terrorism continued to decimate the vote of African Americans, men and women alike.

Most important, rather than forming a solid voting bloc, feminists divided. Some argued for women’s right to special protection; others demanded equal protection. The radical National Woman’s Party fought for an Equal Rights Amendment that stated flatly: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States.” The more moderate League of Women Voters feared that the amendment’s wording threatened state laws that provided women special protection, such as preventing them from working on certain machines. Put before Congress in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment went down to defeat, and radical women were forced to work for the causes of birth control, legal equality for minorities, and the end of child labor through other means.

Economically, more women worked for pay — approximately one in four by 1930 — but they clustered in “women’s jobs.” The proportion of women working as secretaries, stenographers, and typists skyrocketed. Women almost monopolized the occupations of librarian, nurse, elementary school teacher, and telephone operator. Women also represented 40 percent of salesclerks by 1930. More female white-collar workers meant that fewer women were interested in protective legislation for women; new women wanted salaries and opportunities equal to men’s.


“The Girls’ Rebellion” The August 1924 cover of Redbook, a popular women’s magazine, portrays the kind of postadolescent girl who was making respectable families frantic. Flappers scandalized their middle-class parents by flouting the old moral code. This young woman sports the “badges of flapperhood,” including what one critic called an “intoxication of rouge.” Fictionalized, emotion-packed stories such as this brought the new woman into every woman’s home. Picture Research Consultants & Archives.

Increased earnings gave working women more buying power in the new consumer culture. A stereotype soon emerged of the flapper, so called because of the short-lived fad of wearing unbuckled galoshes. The flapper had short “bobbed” hair and wore lipstick and rouge. She spent freely on the latest styles — dresses with short skirts, drop waists, bare arms, and no petticoats — and she danced all night to wild jazz. As F. Scott Fitzgerald described her in his novel This Side of Paradise (1920), she was “lovely and expensive and about nineteen.”

The new woman both reflected and propelled the modern birth control movement. Margaret Sanger, the crusading pioneer for contraception during the Progressive Era (see “Radical Alternatives” in chapter 21), restated her principal conviction in 1920: “No woman can call herself free


until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” Shifting strategy in the twenties, Sanger courted the conservative American Medical Association and linked birth control with the eugenics movement, which advocated limiting reproduction among “undesirable” groups. Thus, she made contraception a respectable subject for discussion.

Flapper style and values spread from coast to coast through films, novels, magazines, and advertisements. New women challenged American convictions about separate spheres for women and men, the double standard of sexual conduct, and Victorian ideas of proper female appearance and behavior. Although only a minority of American women became flappers, all women, even those who remained at home, heard about girls gone wild and felt the great changes of the era.

The New Negro The 1920s witnessed the emergence not only of the “new woman” but also of the “New Negro.” African Americans who challenged the caste system that confined dark-skinned Americans to the lowest levels of society confronted whites who insisted that race relations would not change. As cheers for black soldiers faded after their return from World War I, African Americans faced grim days of economic hardship and race riots.

The prominent African American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) aggressively pursued the passage of a federal antilynching law to counter mob violence against blacks in the South. At the same time, however, many disillusioned poor urban blacks turned to the new leadership of the Jamaican-born visionary Marcus Garvey, who urged African Americans to rediscover the heritage of Africa, take pride in their own achievements, and maintain racial purity by avoiding miscegenation. In 1917, Garvey launched the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) to help African Americans gain economic and political independence entirely outside white society. In 1919, the UNIA created its own shipping company, the Black Star Line, to support the “Back to Africa” movement among black Americans. In 1927, the federal government pinned charges of illegal practices on Garvey and deported him to Jamaica. Nevertheless, the issues Garvey raised about racial pride, black identity, and the search for equality persisted, and his legacy remains at the center of black nationalist thought.

Still, most African Americans maintained hope in the American promise. In New York City, hope and talent came together. The city’s


black population jumped 115 percent (from 152,000 to 327,000) in the 1920s. In Harlem in uptown Manhattan, an extraordinary mix of black artists, sculptors, novelists, musicians, and poets set out to create a distinctive African American culture that drew on their identities as Americans and Africans. As scholar Alain Locke put it in 1925, they introduced to the world the “New Negro,” who rose from the ashes of slavery and segregation to proclaim African Americans’ creative genius.

The emergence of the New Negro came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. Building on the independence and pride displayed by black soldiers during the war, black artists sought to defeat the fresh onslaught of racial discrimination and violence with poems, paintings, and plays. “We younger Negro artists … intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame,” poet Langston Hughes said of the Harlem Renaissance. “If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too.”

The Harlem Renaissance produced dazzling talent. Black writer James Weldon Johnson, who in 1903 had written the Negro national anthem, “Lift Every Voice,” wrote God’s Trombones (1927), in which he expressed the wisdom and beauty of black folktales from the South. The poetry of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen celebrated the vitality of life in Harlem. Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) explored the complex passions of black people in a southern community. Black painters, led by Aaron Douglas, linked African art, which had recently inspired European modernist artists, to the concept of the New Negro.

Despite such vibrancy, Harlem for most whites remained a separate black ghetto known only for its lively nightlife. Fashionable whites crowded into Harlem’s segregated nightclubs, the most famous of which was the Cotton Club, where they believed they could hear “real” jazz, a relatively new musical form, in its “natural” surroundings. The vigor of the Harlem Renaissance left a powerful legacy for black Americans, but the creative burst did little in the short run to dissolve the prejudice of white society.

Entertainment for the Masses In the 1920s, popular culture, like consumer goods, was mass-produced and mass-consumed. The proliferation of movies, radios, music, and sports meant that Americans found plenty to do, and in doing the same things, they helped create a national culture.


Nothing offered escapist delights like the movies. Hollywood, California, discovered the successful formula of combining opulence, sex, and adventure. Admission was cheap, and by 1929 the movies were drawing more than 80 million people in a single week. Hollywood created “movie stars,” glamorous beings whose every move was tracked by fan magazines. Rudolph Valentino, described as “catnip to women,” and Clara Bow, the “It Girl” (everyone knew what it was), became household names. Most loved of all was the comic Charlie Chaplin, whose famous character, the wistful Little Tramp, showed an endearing inability to cope with the rules and complexities of modern life.

Americans also found heroes in sports. Baseball solidified its place as the national pastime in the 1920s. It remained essentially a game played by and for the working class. In George Herman “Babe” Ruth, baseball had the most cherished free spirit of the time. The rowdy escapades of the “Sultan of Swat” demonstrated that sports offered a way to break out of the ordinariness of everyday life. By “his sheer exuberance,” one sportswriter declared, Ruth “has lightened the cares of the world.”

The public also fell in love with a young boxer from the grim mining districts of Colorado. As a teenager, Jack Dempsey had made his living hanging around saloons betting he could beat anyone in the house. When he took the heavyweight crown just after World War I, he was revered as the people’s champ, a stand-in for the average American who felt increasingly confined by bureaucracy and machine-made culture. In Philadelphia in 1926, a crowd of 125,000 fans saw challenger Gene Tunney pummel and defeat the people’s champ.

Football, essentially a college sport, held greater sway with the upper classes. The most famous coach, Knute Rockne of Notre Dame, celebrated football for its life lessons of hard work and teamwork. Let the professors make learning as exciting as football, Rockne advised, and the problem of getting young people to learn would disappear. But in keeping with the times, football moved toward a more commercial spectacle. Harold “Red” Grange, “the Galloping Ghost,” led the way by going from stardom at the University of Illinois to the Chicago Bears in the new professional football league.

The decade’s hero worship reached its zenith in the celebration of Charles Lindbergh, a young pilot who set out on May 20, 1927, to become the first person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic. Newspapers tagged Lindbergh “the Lone Eagle” — the perfect hero for an age that celebrated individual accomplishment. “Charles Lindbergh,” one journalist proclaimed, “is the stuff out of which have been made the pioneers that


opened up the wilderness. His are the qualities which we, as a people, must nourish.” Lindbergh realized, however, that technical and organizational complexity was fast reducing chances for solitary achievement. Consequently, he titled his book about the flight We (1927) to include the machine that had made it all possible.

Another machine — the radio — became crucial to mass culture in the 1920s. The nation’s first licensed radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, began broadcasting in 1920, and soon American airwaves buzzed with news, sermons, soap operas, sports, comedy, and music. Because they could now reach prospective customers in their own homes, advertisers bankrolled radio’s rapid growth. Between 1922 and 1929, the number of radio stations in the United States increased from 30 to 606. In just seven years, homes with radios jumped from 60,000 to a staggering 10.25 million.

The Lost Generation Some writers and artists felt alienated from America’s mass-culture society, which they found shallow, anti-intellectual, and materialistic. Silly movie stars disgusted them. They believed that business culture blighted American life. In their minds, Henry Ford made a poor hero. Young, white, and mostly college educated, these expatriates, as they came to be called, felt embittered by the war and renounced the progressives who had promoted it as a crusade. For them, Europe — not Hollywood or Harlem — seemed the place to seek their potential.

The American-born writer Gertrude Stein, long established in Paris, remarked famously as the young exiles gathered around her, “They are the lost generation.” Most of the expatriates, however, believed to the contrary that they had finally found themselves. The Lost Generation helped launch the most creative period in American art and literature in the twentieth century. The novelist whose spare, clean style best exemplified the expatriate efforts to make art mirror basic reality was Ernest Hemingway. Admirers found the terse language and hard lessons of his novel The Sun Also Rises (1926) to be perfect expressions of a world stripped of illusions.

Many writers who remained in America were exiles in spirit. Before the war, intellectuals had eagerly joined progressive reform movements. Afterward, they were more likely critics of American cultural vulgarity. Novelist Sinclair Lewis in Main Street (1920) and Babbitt (1922) satirized his native Midwest as a cultural wasteland. Humorists such as James Thurber created outlandish characters to poke fun at American stupidity


and inhibitions. And southern writers, led by William Faulkner, explored the South’s grim class and race heritage. Worries about alienation surfaced as well. F. Scott Fitzgerald spoke sadly in This Side of Paradise (1920) of a disillusioned generation “grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.”

REVIEW How did the new freedoms of the 1920s challenge older conceptions of gender and race?


Resistance to Change Large areas of the country did not share in the wealth of the 1920s. By the end of the decade, 40 percent of the nation’s farmers were landless, and 90 percent of rural homes lacked indoor plumbing, gas, or electricity. Rural America’s traditional distrust of urban America turned to despair in the 1920s when the census reported that the majority of the population had shifted to the city (Map 23.2). Once the “backbone of the republic,” rural Americans had become poor country cousins. Urban domination over the nation’s political and cultural life and sharply rising economic disparity drove rural Americans in often ugly, reactionary directions.

MAP 23.2 The Shift from Rural to Urban Population, 1920–1930 The movement of whites and Hispanics toward urban and agricultural opportunity made Florida, the West, and the Southwest the regions of fastest population growth. By contrast, large numbers of blacks left the rural South to find a better life in the North. Almost all migrating blacks went from the countryside to cities in distant parts of the nation, while white and Hispanic migrants tended to move shorter distances toward familiar places.


Cities seemed to stand for everything rural areas stood against. Rural America imagined itself as solidly Anglo-Saxon (despite the presence of millions of African Americans in the South and Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans in the West), and the cities seemed to be filled with undesirable immigrants. Rural America was the home of old-time Protestant religion, and the cities teemed with Catholics, Jews, liberal Protestants, and atheists. Rural America championed old- fashioned moral standards — abstinence and self-denial — while the cities spawned every imaginable vice. In the 1920s, frustrated rural people sought to recapture their country by helping to push through prohibition, dam the flow of immigrants, revive the Ku Klux Klan, defend the Bible as literal truth, and defeat an urban Roman Catholic for president.

Rejecting the Undesirables Before the war, when about a million immigrants arrived each year, some Americans warned that unassimilable foreigners were drowning the nation. War against Germany and its allies expanded nativist and antiradical sentiment. After the war, large-scale immigration resumed (another 800,000 immigrants arrived in 1921) at a moment when industrialists no longer needed new factory laborers. Returning veterans, as well as African American and Mexican migration, had relieved labor shortages. Moreover, union leaders feared that millions of poor immigrants would undercut their efforts to organize American workers. Rural America’s God-fearing Protestants were particularly alarmed that most of the immigrants were Catholic or Jewish. In 1921, Congress responded by severely restricting immigration.

Three years later, Congress very nearly slammed the door shut. The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants to no more than 161,000 a year and established quotas for each European nation. The act revealed the fear and bigotry that fueled anti-immigration legislation. While it cut immigration by more than 80 percent, it squeezed some nationalities far more than others. Backers of Johnson-Reed, who declared that America had become the “garbage can and the dumping ground of the world,” manipulated quotas to ensure entry only to “good” immigrants from western Europe. The law, for example, allowed Great Britain 62,458 entries, but Russia could send only 1,992. Johnson-Reed effectively reversed the trend toward immigration from southern and eastern Europe, which by 1914 had amounted to 75 percent of the yearly total.

The 1924 law also reaffirmed the 1880s legislation barring Chinese


immigrants and added Japanese and other Asians to the list of the excluded. But it left open immigration from the Western Hemisphere because farmers in the Southwest demanded continued access to cheap agricultural labor. During the 1920s, some 500,000 Mexicans crossed the border legally. In addition, Congress in 1924 passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which extended suffrage and citizenship to all American Indians.

Rural Americans, who had most likely never laid eyes on a Polish packinghouse worker, a Slovak coal miner, an Armenian sewing machine operator, or a Chinese laundry worker, strongly supported immigration restriction, as did industrialists and labor leaders. The laws of the 1920s marked the end of the era symbolized by the Statue of Liberty’s open- armed welcome to Europe’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Antiforeign hysteria climaxed in the trial of two anarchist immigrants from Italy, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Arrested in 1920 for robbery and murder in South Braintree, Massachusetts, the men were sentenced to death by a judge who openly referred to them as “anarchist bastards.” In response to doubts about the fairness of the verdict, a blue- ribbon review committee found the trial judge guilty of a “grave breach of official decorum” but refused to recommend a motion for retrial. When Massachusetts executed Sacco and Vanzetti on August 23, 1927, fifty thousand American mourners followed the caskets, convinced that the men had died because they were immigrants and radicals, not because they were murderers.

The Rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan The nation’s sour antiforeign mood struck a responsive chord in members of the secret society the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan first appeared in the South during Reconstruction to thwart black freedom and expired with the reestablishment of white supremacy (see chapter 16). In 1915, the Klan was reborn at Stone Mountain, Georgia, but when the new Klan extended its targets beyond black Americans, it quickly spread beyond the South. Under a banner proclaiming “100 percent Americanism,” the Klan promised to defend family, morality, and traditional American values against the threats posed by blacks, immigrants, radicals, feminists, Catholics, and Jews.

Building on the frustrations of rural America, the Klan in the 1920s spread throughout the nation, almost controlling Indiana and influencing politics in Illinois, California, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. In 1926, Klan imperial wizard Hiram Wesley Evans described the


assault of modernity: “One by one all our traditional moral standards went by the boards or were so disregarded that they ceased to be binding,” he explained. “The sacredness of our Sabbath, of our homes, of chastity, and finally even of our right to teach our own children in schools [represented] fundamental facts and truth torn away from us.”

Eventually, social changes, along with lawless excess, crippled the Klan. Immigration restrictions eased the worry about invading foreigners, and sensational wrongdoing by Klan leaders cost it the support of traditional moralists. Grand Dragon David Stephenson of Indiana, for example, went to jail for the kidnapping and rape of a woman who subsequently committed suicide. Yet the social grievances, economic problems, and religious anxieties of the countryside and small towns remained alive, ready to be ignited.

The Scopes Trial In 1925 in a Tennessee courtroom, old-time religion and the new spirit of science went head-to-head. The confrontation occurred after several southern states passed legislation against the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the public schools. Scientists and civil liberties organizations clamored for a challenge to the law, and John Scopes, a young biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, offered to test his state’s ban on teaching evolution. When Scopes came to trial, Clarence Darrow, a brilliant defense lawyer from Chicago, volunteered to defend him. Darrow, an avowed agnostic, took on the prosecution’s William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for president, fervent fundamentalist, and symbol of rural America.

The Scopes trial quickly degenerated into a media circus. The first trial to be covered live on radio, it attracted a nationwide audience. When, under relentless questioning by Darrow, Bryan declared on the witness stand that he did indeed believe that the world had been created in six days and that Jonah had lived in the belly of a whale, his humiliation in the eyes of most urban observers was complete. Nevertheless, the Tennessee court upheld the law and punished Scopes with a $100 fine. Although fundamentalism won the battle, it lost the war. Baltimore journalist H. L. Mencken had the last word in a merciless obituary for Bryan, who died just a week after the trial ended. Portraying the “monkey trial” as a battle between the country and the city, Mencken flayed Bryan as a “charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without shame or dignity,” motivated solely by “hatred of the city men who had laughed at him for so long.”


As Mencken’s acid prose indicated, Bryan’s humiliation was not purely a victory of reason and science. It also revealed the disdain urban people felt for country people and the values they clung to. The Ku Klux Klan revival and the Scopes trial dramatized and inflamed divisions between city and country, intellectuals and the uneducated, the privileged and the poor, the scoffers and the faithful.

Al Smith and the Election of 1928 The presidential election of 1928 brought many of the developments of the 1920s — prohibition, immigration, religion, and the clash of rural and urban values — into sharp focus. Republicans emphasized the economic success of their party’s pro-business government and turned to Herbert Hoover, the energetic secretary of commerce and leading public symbol of 1920s prosperity. But because both parties generally agreed that the American economy was basically sound, the campaign turned on social issues that divided Americans.

The Democrats nominated four-time governor of New York Alfred E. Smith. Smith adopted “The Sidewalk of New York” as a campaign theme song and seemed to represent all that rural Americans feared and resented. A child of immigrants, Smith got his start in politics with the help of New York City’s Irish-dominated Tammany Hall political machine, to many the epitome of big-city corruption. He denounced immigration quotas, signed New York State’s anti-Klan bill, and opposed prohibition, believing that it was a nativist attack on immigrant customs. When Smith supposedly asked reporters, “Wouldn’t you like to have your foot on the rail and blow the foam off some suds?” prohibition forces dubbed him “Alcohol Al.” But Smith’s greatest vulnerability in the heartland was his religion. He was the first Catholic to run for president. A Methodist bishop in Virginia denounced Roman Catholicism as “the Mother of ignorance, superstition, intolerance and sin” and begged Protestants not to vote for a candidate who represented “the kind of dirty people that you find today on the sidewalks of New York.”


MAP 23.3 The Election of 1928

Hoover, who neatly combined the images of morality, efficiency, service, and prosperity, won the election by a landslide (Map 23.3). He received nearly 58 percent of the vote and gained 444 electoral votes to Smith’s 87. The only bright spot for Democrats was the nation’s cities, which voted Democratic, indicating the rising strength of ethnic minorities, including Smith’s fellow Catholics.

REVIEW How did some Americans resist cultural change?


The Great Crash At his inauguration in 1929, Hoover told the American people, “Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.” Those words came back to haunt Hoover when eight months later the prosperity he touted collapsed in the stock market crash of 1929. The nation ended nearly three decades of barely interrupted economic growth. Like much of the world, the United States fell into the most serious economic depression of all time. Hoover’s reputation was among the first casualties, along with the reverence for business that had been the hallmark of the New Era.

Herbert Hoover: The Great Engineer When Hoover became president in 1929, he seemed the perfect choice to lead a prosperous business nation. His rise from poor Iowa orphan to one of the world’s most celebrated mining engineers by the time he was thirty personified America’s rags-to-riches ideal. His success in managing efforts to feed civilian victims of the fighting during World War I won him acclaim as “the Great Humanitarian” and led Woodrow Wilson to name him head of the Food Administration once the United States entered the war. Hoover’s reputation soared even higher as secretary of commerce in the Harding and Coolidge administrations.

Hoover belonged to the progressive wing of his party. “The time when the employer could ride roughshod over his labor[ers] is disappearing with the doctrine of ‘laissez-faire’ on which it is founded,” he declared in 1909. He urged a limited business-government partnership that would manage the sweeping changes Americans were experiencing. Hoover brought a reform agenda to the White House: “We want to see a nation built of home owners and farm owners. We want to see their savings protected. We want to see them in steady jobs. We want to see more and more of them insured against death and accident, unemployment and old age. We want them all secure.”

But Hoover also had ideological and political liabilities. Principles that


appeared strengths in the prosperous 1920s — individual self-reliance, industrial self-management, and a limited federal government — became straitjackets when economic catastrophe struck. Moreover, Hoover had never held an elected public office, had a poor political touch, and was too thin-skinned to be an effective politician. Even so, most Americans considered him “a sort of superman” able to solve any problem. Prophetically, he confided to a friend his fear that “if some unprecedented calamity should come upon the nation … I would be sacrificed to the unreasoning disappointment of a people who expected too much.” The distorted national economy set the stage for the calamity Hoover so feared.

The Distorted Economy In the spring of 1929, the United States enjoyed a fragile prosperity. Although America had become the world’s leading economy, it had done little to help rebuild Europe’s shattered economy after World War I. Instead, the Republican administrations demanded that Allied nations repay their war loans, creating a tangled web of debts and reparations that sapped Europe’s economic vitality. Moreover, to boost American business, the United States enacted tariffs that prevented other nations from selling their goods to Americans. Fewer sales meant that foreign nations had less money to buy American goods. American banks propped up the nation’s export trade by extending credit to foreign customers, deepening their debt.

America’s domestic economy was also in trouble. Wealth was badly distributed. Farmers continued to suffer from low prices and chronic indebtedness; the average income of farm families was only $240 per year. The wages of industrial workers, though rising during the decade, failed to keep up with productivity and corporate profits. Overall, nearly two-thirds of all American families lived on less than the $2,000 per year that economists estimated would “supply only basic necessities.” In sharp contrast, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population received 15 percent of the nation’s income — the amount received by the poorest 42 percent. The Coolidge administration worsened the deepening inequality by cutting taxes on the wealthy.

By 1929, the inequality of wealth produced a serious problem in consumption. The rich, brilliantly portrayed in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (1925), spent lavishly, but they could absorb only a tiny fraction of the nation’s output. For a time, the new device of installment buying — buying on credit — kept consumer demand up. By the end of the decade, four out of five cars and two out of three radios were bought


on credit. Signs of economic trouble began to appear at mid-decade. New

construction slowed down. Automobile sales faltered. Companies began cutting back production and laying off workers. Between 1921 and 1928, as investment and loan opportunities faded, five thousand banks failed, wiping out the life savings of hundreds of thousands.

The Crash of 1929 Even as the economy faltered, Americans remained upbeat. Hoping for even bigger slices of the economic pie, Americans speculated wildly in the stock market on Wall Street. Between 1924 and 1929, the values of stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange increased by more than 400 percent. Buying stocks on margin — that is, putting up only part of the money at the time of purchase — accelerated. Some people got rich this way, but those who bought on credit could finance their loans only if their stocks increased in value. A Yale economist assured doubters that stock prices had reached “a permanently high plateau.” Former president Calvin Coolidge declared that, at current prices, stocks were a bargain. But President Hoover observed, “The only trouble with capitalism is capitalists. They’re too damned greedy.”

Finally, in the autumn of 1929, the market hesitated. Investors nervously began to sell their overvalued stocks. The dip quickly became a panic on October 24, the day that came to be known as Black Thursday. More panic selling came on Black Tuesday, October 29, the day the market suffered a greater fall than ever before. In the next six months, the stock market lost six-sevenths of its total value.

It was once thought that the crash alone caused the Great Depression. It did not. In 1929, the national and international economies were already riddled with severe problems. But the dramatic losses in the stock market crash and the fear of risking what was left acted as a great brake on economic activity. The collapse on Wall Street shattered the New Era’s confidence that America would enjoy perpetually expanding prosperity.

Hoover and the Limits of Individualism When the bubble broke, Americans expressed relief that Hoover resided in the White House. Not surprisingly for a man who had been such an active secretary of commerce, Hoover acted quickly to arrest the decline. In November 1929, to keep the stock market collapse from ravaging the entire economy, Hoover called a White House conference of business and


labor leaders. He urged them to join in a voluntary plan for recovery: Businesses would maintain production and keep their workers on the job; labor would accept existing wages, hours, and conditions. Within a few months, however, the bargain fell apart. As demand for their products declined, industrialists cut production, sliced wages, and laid off workers. Poorly paid or unemployed workers could not buy much, and their decreased spending led to further cuts in production and further loss of jobs. Thus began the terrible spiral of economic decline.

To deal with the problems of rural America, Hoover got Congress to pass the Agricultural Marketing Act in 1929. The act created the Farm Board, which used its budget of $500 million to buy up agricultural surpluses and thus, it was hoped, raise prices. But prices continued to fall. To help end the decline, Hoover joined conservatives in urging protective tariffs on agricultural goods, and the Hawley-Smoot tariff of 1930 established the highest rates in history. The same year, Congress also authorized $420 million for public works projects to give the unemployed jobs and create more purchasing power. In three years, the Hoover administration nearly doubled federal public works expenditures.

But with each year of Hoover’s term, the economy weakened. Tariffs did not end the suffering of farmers because foreign nations retaliated with increased tariffs of their own that crippled American farmers’ ability to sell abroad. In 1932, Hoover hoped to help hard-pressed industry with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), a federal agency empowered to lend government funds to endangered banks and corporations. The theory was trickle-down economics: Pump money into the economy at the top, and in the long run the people at the bottom would benefit. Or, as one wag put it, “Feed the sparrows by feeding the horses.” In the end, very little of what critics of the RFC called a “millionaires’ dole” trickled down to the poor.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs each month. By 1932, an astounding one-quarter of the American workforce — nearly thirteen million people — were unemployed. There was no direct federal assistance, and state services and private charities were swamped. The depression that began in 1929 devastated much of the world, but no other industrialized nation provided such feeble support to the jobless. Cries grew louder for the federal government to give hurting people relief.

Hoover was no do-nothing president, but there were limits to his conception of the government’s proper role in fighting the economic disaster. He compared direct federal aid to the needy to the “dole” in Britain, which he thought destroyed the moral fiber of the chronically


unemployed. “Prosperity cannot be restored by raids on the public Treasury,” Hoover declared. Besides, he said, the poor could rely on their neighbors to protect them “from hunger and cold.” In 1931, he allowed the Red Cross to distribute government-owned agricultural surpluses to the hungry. In 1932, he relaxed his principles further to offer small federal loans, not gifts, to the states to help them in their relief efforts. But Hoover’s restricted notions of legitimate government action proved vastly inadequate to address the problems of restarting the economy and ending human suffering.

REVIEW Why did the American economy collapse in 1929?


Life in the Depression In 1930, suffering on a massive scale set in. Men and women hollow-eyed with hunger grew increasingly bewildered and angry in the face of cruel contradictions. They saw agricultural surpluses pile up in the countryside and knew that their children were going to bed hungry. They saw factories standing idle, yet they knew that they and millions of others were willing to work. The gap between the American people and leaders who failed to resolve these contradictions widened as the depression deepened. By 1932, America’s economic problems had created a dangerous social and political crisis.

The Human Toll Statistics only hint at the human tragedy of the Great Depression. When Hoover took office in 1929, the American economy stood at its peak. When he left in 1933, it had reached its twentieth-century low (Figure 23.1). In 1929, national income was $88 billion. By 1933, it had declined to $40 billion. In 1929, unemployment was 3.1 percent, or 1.5 million workers. By 1933, unemployment stood at 25 percent, almost 13 million workers. In Cleveland, Ohio, 50 percent of the workforce was jobless, and in Toledo, 80 percent. By 1932, more than 9,000 banks had shut their doors, wiping out millions of savings accounts.


FIGURE 23.1 Manufacturing and Agricultural Income, 1920– 1940 After economic collapse, recovery in the 1930s began under New Deal auspices.

Jobless, homeless victims wandered in search of work, and the tramp, or hobo, became one of the most visible figures of the decade. Riding the rails or hitchhiking, a million vagabonds moved southward and westward looking for seasonal agricultural work. Other unemployed men and women, sick or less hopeful, huddled in doorways, overcome, one man remembered, by “helpless despair and submission.” Scavengers haunted alleys behind restaurants in search of food. One writer told of an elderly woman who always took off her glasses to avoid seeing the maggots crawling over the garbage she ate. In 1931, four New York City hospitals reported ninety-five deaths from starvation. “I don’t want to steal,” a Pennsylvania man wrote to the governor, “but I won’t let my wife and boy cry for something to eat…. How long is this going to keep up? I cannot stand it any longer.”

Rural poverty was most acute. Tenant farmers and sharecroppers, mainly in the South, came to symbolize how poverty crushed the human spirit. Eight and a half million people, three million of them black, crowded into cabins without plumbing, electricity, or running water. They subsisted — just barely — on salt pork, cornmeal, molasses, beans, peas, and whatever they could hunt or fish. When economist John Maynard


Keynes was asked whether anything like this degradation had existed before, he replied, “Yes, it was called the Dark Ages and it lasted four hundred years.”

There was no federal assistance to meet this human catastrophe, only a patchwork of strapped charities and destitute state and local agencies. For a family of four without any income, the best the city of Philadelphia could do was provide $5.50 per week. That was not enough to live on but better than Detroit, which allotted 60 cents a week before the city ran out of money altogether.

The deepening crisis roused old fears and caused some Americans to look for scapegoats. Among the most thoroughly scapegoated were Mexican Americans. During the 1920s, cheap agricultural labor from Mexico flowed legally across the U.S. border, welcomed by the large farmers. In the 1930s, however, the public denounced the newcomers as dangerous aliens who took jobs from Americans. Government officials, most prominently those in Los Angeles County, targeted Mexican residents for deportation regardless of citizenship status. As many as half a million Mexicans and Mexican Americans were deported or fled to Mexico.

The depression deeply affected the American family. Young people postponed marriage. When they did marry, they produced few children. White women, who generally worked in low-paying service areas, did not lose their jobs as often as men who worked in steel, automobile, and other heavy industries. Idle husbands suffered a loss of self-esteem. “Before the depression,” one unemployed man reported, “I wore the pants in this family, and rightly so.” Jobless, he lost “self-respect” and also “the respect of my children, and I am afraid that I am losing my wife.” Employers discriminated against married women workers, but necessity continued to drive women into the marketplace. As a result, by 1940 some 25 percent more women were employed for wages than in 1930.

Denial and Escape President Hoover assured the American nation that economic recovery was on its way, but the president’s optimism was contradicted by makeshift shantytowns, called “Hoovervilles,” that sprang up on the edges of America’s cities. Newspapers used as cover by those sleeping on the streets were “Hoover blankets.” An empty pocket turned inside out was a “Hoover flag,” and jackrabbits caught for food were “Hoover hogs.” Bitter jokes circulated about the increasingly unpopular president. One told of


Hoover asking for a nickel to telephone a friend. Flipping him a dime, an aide said, “Here, call them both.”

While Hoover practiced denial, other Americans sought refuge from reality at the movies. Throughout the depression, between 60 million and 75 million people (nearly two-thirds of the nation) scraped together enough change to fill the movie palaces every week. Box office hits such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933 capitalized on the hope that prosperity lay just around the corner. But a few filmmakers grappled with realities rather than escape them. The Public Enemy (1931) taught hard lessons about gangsters’ ill-gotten gains. Indeed, under the new production code of 1930, designed to protect public morals, all movies had to find some way to show that crime did not pay.

Despite Hollywood’s efforts to keep Americans on the right side of the law, crime increased. In the countryside, the plight of people who had lost their farms to bank foreclosures led to the romantic idea that bank robbers were only getting back what banks had stolen from the poor. Woody Guthrie, the populist folksinger from Oklahoma, captured the public’s tolerance for outlaws in his tribute to a murderous bank robber with a choirboy face, “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd.” Guthrie sang that there were two kinds of robbers, those who used guns and those who used pens, and he observed that robbers with guns, like Pretty Boy Floyd, never drove families from their homes. Named Public Enemy No. 1, Floyd was shot and killed by police in 1934. His funeral in Oklahoma was attended by between 20,000 and 40,000 people, many of whom viewed Floyd as a tragic figure, a victim of the hard times.

Working-Class Militancy The nation’s working class bore the brunt of the economic collapse. By 1931, William Green, head of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), had turned militant. “I warn the people who are exploiting the workers,” he shouted, “that they can drive them only so far before they will turn on them and destroy them. They are taking no account of the history of nations in which governments have been overturned. Revolutions grow out of the depths of hunger.”

The American people were slow to anger, but on March 7, 1932, several thousand unemployed autoworkers massed at the gates of Henry Ford’s River Rouge factory in Dearborn, Michigan, to demand work. Pelted with rocks, Ford’s private security forces responded with gunfire, killing four demonstrators. Forty thousand outraged citizens turned out for


the unemployed men’s funerals. Farmers mounted uprisings of their own. When Congress refused to

guarantee farm prices, several thousand farmers created the National Farmers’ Holiday Association in 1932, so named because its members planned to take a “holiday” from shipping crops to market. Farm militants also resorted to what they called “penny sales.” When banks foreclosed and put farms up for auction, neighbors warned others not to bid, bought the foreclosed property for a few pennies, and returned it to the bankrupt owners. Militancy won farmers little in the way of long-term solutions, but one individual observed that “the biggest and finest crop of revolutions you ever saw is sprouting all over the country right now.”

Even those who had proved their patriotism by serving in World War I rose up in protest against the government. In 1932, tens of thousands of unemployed veterans traveled to Washington, D.C., to petition Congress for the immediate payment of the pension (known as a “bonus”) that Congress had promised them in 1924. Hoover feared that the veterans would spark a riot and ordered the U.S. Army to evict the Bonus Marchers from their camp on the outskirts of the city. Tanks destroyed the squatters’ encampments while five hundred soldiers wielding bayonets and tear gas sent the protesters fleeing. The spectacle of the army driving peaceful, petitioning veterans from the nation’s capital further undermined public support for the beleaguered Hoover.

The Great Depression — the massive failure of capitalism — catapulted the Communist Party to its greatest size and influence in American history. Some 100,000 Americans — workers, intellectuals, college students — joined the Communist Party in the belief that only an overthrow of the capitalist system could save the victims of the depression. In 1931, the party, through its National Miners Union, moved into Harlan County, Kentucky, to support a strike by brutalized coal miners. Mine owners unleashed thugs against the strikers and eventually beat the miners down. But the Communist Party gained a reputation as the most dedicated and fearless champion of the union cause.


Scottsboro Boys Nine black youths, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-one, were convicted of the rape of two white women and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in March 1931. None was executed, and eventually the state dropped the charges against the youngest four and granted paroles to the others. The last Scottsboro Boy left jail in 1950. © Bettmann/Corbis.

The left also led the fight against racism. While both major parties refused to challenge segregation in the South, the Socialist Party, led by Norman Thomas, attacked the system of sharecropping that left many African Americans in near servitude. The Communist Party also took action. When nine young black men in Scottsboro, Alabama (the Scottsboro Boys), were arrested on trumped-up rape charges in 1931, a team of lawyers sent by the party saved the defendants from the electric chair.

Radicals on the left often sparked action, but protests by moderate workers and farmers occurred on a far greater scale. Breadlines, soup kitchens, foreclosures, unemployment, government violence, and cold despair drove patriotic men and women to question American capitalism. “I am as conservative as any man could be,” a Wisconsin farmer explained, “but any economic system that has in its power to set me and my wife in the streets, at my age — what can I see but red?”


REVIEW How did the depression reshape American politics?


Conclusion: Dazzle and Despair In the aftermath of World War I, America turned its back on progressive crusades and embraced conservative Republican politics, the growing influence of corporate leaders, and business values. Changes in the nation’s economy — Henry Ford’s automobile revolution, mass production, advertising — propelled fundamental change throughout society. Living standards rose, economic opportunity increased, and Americans threw themselves into private pleasures — gobbling up the latest household goods and fashions, attending baseball and football games and boxing matches, gathering around the radio, and going to the movies. As big cities came to dominate American life, the culture of youth and flappers became the leading edge of what one observer called a “revolution in manners and morals.” At home in Harlem and abroad in Paris, American literature, art, and music flourished.

For many Americans, however, none of the glamour and vitality had much meaning. Instead of seeking thrills at the speakeasies, plunging into speculation on Wall Street, or escaping abroad, the vast majority struggled to earn a decent living. Blue-collar America did not participate fully in white-collar prosperity. Rural America was almost entirely left out of the Roaring Twenties. Country folk, deeply suspicious and profoundly discontented, championed prohibition, revived the Klan, attacked immigration, and defended old-time Protestant religion.

The crash of 1929 and the depression that followed starkly revealed the economy’s crises of international trade and consumption. Hard times swept high living off the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. Different images emerged: hoboes hopping freight trains, strikers confronting police, malnourished sharecroppers staring blankly into the distance, empty apartment buildings alongside cardboard shantytowns, and mountains of food rotting in the sun while guards with shotguns chased away the hungry.

The depression hurt everyone, but the poor were hurt most. As farmers and workers sank into aching hardship, businessmen rallied around Herbert Hoover to proclaim that private enterprise would get the country moving again. But things fell apart, and Hoover faced increasingly radical


opposition. Membership in the Socialist and Communist parties surged, and more and more Americans contemplated desperate measures. By 1932, the depression had nearly brought the nation to its knees. America faced its greatest crisis since the Civil War, and citizens demanded new leaders who would save them from the “Hoover Depression.”


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Teapot Dome (p. 595) Five-Power Naval Treaty of 1922 (p. 596) welfare capitalism (p. 598) prohibition (p. 599) new woman (p. 600) New Negro (p. 602) Johnson-Reed Act (p. 606) Ku Klux Klan (p. 607) Scopes trial (p. 608) Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (p. 612) Bonus Marchers (p. 615) Scottsboro Boys (p. 616)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. How did the spread of the automobile transform the United

States? (pp. 594–99) 2. How did the new freedoms of the 1920s challenge older

conceptions of gender and race? (pp. 599–605) 3. How did some Americans resist cultural change? (pp. 605–9) 4. Why did the American economy collapse in 1929? (pp. 609–12) 5. How did the depression reshape American politics? (pp.



M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. What drove popular opinion in the 1920s to unrestrained

confidence in American business? How did it influence Republicans’ approach to governance and the development of the American economy in the 1920s?

2. Americans’ encounters with the wealth and increased personal freedom characteristic of the 1920s varied greatly. Why did some embrace the era’s changes, while others resisted them?

3. How did shifting government policy contribute to both the boom of the 1920s and the bust of 1929?

4. How did Americans attempt to lessen the impact of the Great Depression?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. How did America’s experience in World War I — both at home

and abroad — help shape the 1920s? (See chapter 22.) 2. How did attitudes toward government in the Progressive Era

differ from those in the 1920s? (See chapter 21.)


1920 • Prohibition begins. • Women get the vote. • Warren G. Harding elected president.

1921 • Sheppard-Towner Act enacted. • Congress restricts immigration.

1922 • Teapot Dome scandal breaks. • Five-Power Naval Treaty signed.

1923 • Equal Rights Amendment defeated in Congress. • Harding dies; Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes

president. 1924 • Dawes Plan effected.


• Coolidge elected president. • Johnson-Reed Act enacted. • Indian Citizenship Act enacted.

1925 • Scopes trial held.

1927 • Charles Lindbergh flies nonstop across Atlantic. • Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti executed.

1928 • Kellogg-Briand pact signed. • Herbert Hoover elected president.

1929 • St. Valentine’s Day murders occur. • Agricultural Marketing Act enacted. • Middletown published. • Stock market collapses.

1930 • Congress authorizes $420 million for public works projects.

• Hawley-Smoot tariff passed. 1931 • Scottsboro Boys arrested.

• Harlan County, Kentucky, coal miners strike. 1932 • River Rouge factory demonstration takes place.

• Reconstruction Finance Corporation established. • National Farmers’ Holiday Association formed.


24 The New Deal Experiment 1932–1939


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Explain which issues shaped the presidential campaign of 1932 and

how the candidates’ strategies differed. Determine the significance of Roosevelt’s victory.

◆ Analyze which factors united New Deal reformers and what kinds of policies they endorsed. Describe the initial reforms enacted during Roosevelt’s first one hundred days in office.

◆ Recount why critics resisted the New Deal.

◆ Explain how the Second New Deal moved the country toward a welfare state and describe the kinds of programs reformers proposed. Evaluate why some Americans were left out of the New Deal.

◆ Identify the final phase of the New Deal and why it ultimately reached a deadlock.

IN MARCH 1936, FLORENCE OWENS PILED HER SEVEN CHILDREN INTO her old Hudson. They had been picking beets in southern California,


near the Mexican border, but the harvest was over now. Owens headed north, where she hoped to find work picking lettuce. About halfway there, her car broke down. She coasted into a labor camp of more than two thousand migrant workers who were hungry and out of work. They had been attracted by advertisements of work in the pea fields, only to find the crop ruined by a heavy frost. Owens set up a lean-to shelter and prepared food for her family while two of her sons worked on the car. They ate half-frozen peas from the field and small birds the children killed. Owens recalled later, “I started to cook dinner for my kids, and all the little kids around the camp came in ‘Can I have a bite? …’ And they was hungry, them people was.”

Florence Owens was born in 1903 in Oklahoma, then Indian Territory. Both of Florence’s parents were Cherokee. When she was seventeen, Florence married Cleo Owens, a farmer who moved his growing family to California, where he worked in sawmills. Cleo died of tuberculosis in 1931, leaving Florence a widow with six young children.

Florence began to work as a farm laborer in California’s Central Valley to support herself and her children. She picked cotton, earning about $2 a day. “I’d leave home before daylight and come in after dark,” she explained. “We just existed!” To survive, she worked nights as a waitress, making “50-cents a day and the leftovers.” Sometimes, she remembered, “I’d carry home two water buckets full” of leftovers to feed her children.

Like tens of thousands of other migrant laborers, Owens followed the crops, planting, cultivating, and harvesting as jobs opened up in the fields along the West Coast from California to Oregon and Washington. Joining Owens and other migrants — many of whom were Mexicans and Filipinos — were Okie refugees from the Dust Bowl, the large swath of Great Plains states that suffered drought, failed crops, and foreclosed mortgages during the 1930s.

Soon after Florence Owens fed her children at the pea pickers’ camp, a car pulled up, and a woman with a camera got out and began to take photographs of Owens. The woman was Dorothea Lange, a photographer employed by a New Deal agency to document conditions among farmworkers in California. Lange snapped six photos of Owens, and climbed back in her car and headed to Berkeley. Owens and her family, their car now repaired, drove off to look for work in the lettuce fields.

Lange’s last photograph of Owens, subsequently known as Migrant Mother, became an icon of the desperation among Americans that


President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal sought to alleviate. While Migrant Mother became Dorothea Lange’s most famous photograph, Florence Owens continued to work in the fields, “ragged, hungry, and broke,” as a San Francisco newspaper noted.

Unlike Owens, her children, and other migrant workers, many Americans received government help from Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives to provide relief for the needy, to speed economic recovery, and to reform basic economic and governmental institutions. Roosevelt’s New Deal elicited bitter opposition from critics on the right and the left, and it failed to satisfy fully its own goals of relief, recovery, and reform. But within the Democratic Party, the New Deal energized a powerful political coalition that helped millions of Americans withstand the privations of the Great Depression. In the process, the federal government became a major presence in the daily lives of most American citizens.

Florence Owens and Children This classic photograph of migrant farm laborer Florence Owens and her children was taken in 1936 in the labor camp of a pea field in California by New Deal photographer Dorothea Lange. The photo depicts the privations common among working people during the depression, but it also evokes a mother’s leadership, dignity, and affection, qualities that helped shelter her family from poverty and


joblessness. Library of Congress, 8b29516.


Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Patrician in Government Unlike the millions of impoverished Americans, Franklin Roosevelt came from a wealthy and privileged background that contributed to his optimism, self-confidence, and vitality. He drew on these personal qualities in his political career to bridge the economic, social, and cultural chasm that separated him from the struggles of ordinary people like Florence Owens. During the twelve years he served as president (1933– 1945), many elites came to hate him as a traitor to his class, while millions more Americans in his New Deal coalition, especially the hardworking poor and dispossessed, revered him because he cared about them and their problems.

The Making of a Politician Born in 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up on his father’s leafy estate at Hyde Park on the Hudson River, north of New York City. Roosevelt prepared for a career in politics, hoping to follow in the political footsteps of his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. In 1905, Franklin married his distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt — the current president of the United States and Eleanor’s uncle — gave the bride away. Unlike cousin Teddy, Franklin Roosevelt sought his political fortune in the Democratic Party. In 1920, he catapulted to the second spot on the national Democratic ticket as the vice presidential candidate of presidential nominee James M. Cox. Although Cox lost the election (see “Postwar Politics and the Election of 1920” in chapter 22), Roosevelt’s energetic campaigning convinced Democratic leaders that he had a bright future.

In the summer of 1921, at the age of thirty-nine, Roosevelt caught polio, which paralyzed both his legs. For the rest of his life, he wore heavy steel braces, and he could walk a few steps only by leaning on another person. Tireless physical therapy helped him regain his vitality and intense desire for high political office, although he carefully avoided being


photographed in the wheelchair he used routinely. After his polio attack, Roosevelt frequented a polio therapy facility at

Warm Springs, Georgia. There, he got to know southern Democrats, which helped make him a rare political creature: a New Yorker from the Democratic Party’s urban and immigrant wing who got along with whites from the party’s entrenched southern wing.

By 1928, Roosevelt had recovered sufficiently to campaign for governor of New York, and he squeaked out a victory. As governor of the nation’s most populous state, Roosevelt showcased his activist policies, which became a dress rehearsal for his presidency.

As the Great Depression spread hard times throughout the nation, Governor Roosevelt believed that government should intervene to protect citizens from economic hardships rather than wait for the law of supply and demand to improve the economy. According to the laissez-faire views of many conservatives — especially Republicans, but also numerous Democrats — the depression simply represented market forces separating strong survivors from weak losers. Unlike Roosevelt, conservatives believed that government help for the needy sapped individual initiative and impeded the self-correcting forces of the market by rewarding people for losing the economic struggle to survive. Roosevelt lacked a full- fledged counterargument to these conservative claims, but he sympathized with the plight of poor people. “To these unfortunate citizens,” he proclaimed, “aid must be extended by governments, not as a matter of charity but as a matter of social duty…. [No one should go] unfed, unclothed, or unsheltered.”

To his supporters, Roosevelt seemed to be a leader determined to attack the economic crisis without deviating from democracy — unlike the fascist parties gaining strength in Europe — or from capitalism — unlike the Communists in power in the Soviet Union. Roosevelt’s ideas about how to revive the economy were vague. A prominent journalist described Roosevelt in 1931 as “a kind of amiable boy scout … who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be president.” Roosevelt’s many supporters appreciated his energy and his conviction that government should do something to help Americans climb out of the economic abyss, and they propelled him into the front ranks of the national Democratic Party.

The Election of 1932 Democrats knew that Herbert Hoover’s unpopularity gave them a historic


opportunity to recapture the White House in 1932. Since Abraham Lincoln’s election, Republicans had occupied the White House three- fourths of the time, a trend Democrats hoped to reverse. Democrats, however, had to overcome warring factions that divided the party by region, religion, culture, and commitment to the status quo. The southern, native-born, white, rural, Protestant, conservative wing of the Democratic Party found little common ground with the northern, immigrant, urban, disproportionately Catholic, liberal wing. Eastern-establishment Democratic dignitaries shared few goals with angry farmers and factory workers. Still, this unruly coalition managed to agree on Franklin Roosevelt as its presidential candidate.

In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt vowed to help “the forgotten man at the bottom of the pyramid” with “bold, persistent experimentation.” Highlighting his differences with Hoover and the Republicans, he pledged “a new deal for the American people.” Few details about what Roosevelt meant by “a new deal” emerged in the presidential campaign. He declared that “the people of America want more than anything else … two things: work … and a reasonable measure of security … for themselves and for their wives and children.” Voters decided that whatever Roosevelt’s new deal might be, it was better than reelecting Hoover.

Roosevelt won the 1932 presidential election in a historic landslide. He received 57 percent of the nation’s votes, the first time a Democrat had won a majority of the popular vote since 1852 (Map 24.1). He amassed 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59, carrying state after state that had voted Republican for years (Map 24.2). Roosevelt’s coattails swept Democrats into control of Congress by large margins. The popular mandate for change was loud and clear.


MAP 24.1 The Election of 1932

Roosevelt’s victory represented the emergence of what came to be known as the New Deal coalition. Attracting support from farmers, factory workers, immigrants, city folk, African Americans, women, and progressive intellectuals, Roosevelt launched a realignment of the nation’s political loyalties. The New Deal coalition dominated American politics throughout Roosevelt’s presidency and remained powerful long after his death in 1945. United less by their ideologies or support for specific policies, voters in the New Deal coalition instead expressed faith in Roosevelt’s promise of a government that would somehow change things for the better. Nobody, including Roosevelt, knew exactly what the New Deal would change or whether the changes would revive the nation’s ailing economy and improve Americans’ lives. But as he said during the presidential campaign, “It is high time to admit with courage that we are in the midst of an emergency at least equal to that of war. Let us mobilize to meet it.” Roosevelt and many others knew that the future of American capitalism and democracy was at stake.

MAP 24.2 Electoral Shift, 1928–1932 The Democratic victory in 1932 signaled the rise of a New Deal coalition within which women and minorities, many of them new voters, made the Democrats the majority party for the first time in the twentieth century.

REVIEW Why did Franklin D. Roosevelt win the 1932 presidential election by such a large margin?



Launching the New Deal At noon on March 4, 1933, Americans gathered around their radios to hear the inaugural address of the newly elected president. Roosevelt began by asserting his “firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” He promised “direct, vigorous action,” and the first months of his administration, termed “the Hundred Days,” fulfilled that promise in a whirlwind of government initiatives that launched the New Deal.

Roosevelt and his advisers had three interrelated objectives: to provide relief to the destitute, especially the one out of four Americans who were unemployed; to foster the economic recovery of farms and businesses, thereby creating jobs and reducing the need for relief; and to reform the government and economy in ways that would reduce the risk of devastating consequences in future economic slumps and thereby strengthen capitalism. The New Deal never fully achieved these goals of relief, recovery, and reform. But by aiming for them, Roosevelt’s experimental programs enormously expanded government’s role in the nation’s economy and society.

The New Dealers To design and implement the New Deal, Roosevelt needed ideas and people. He convened a “Brains Trust” of economists and other leaders to offer suggestions and advice about the problems facing the nation. No New Dealers were more important than the president and his wife, Eleanor. The gregarious president radiated charm and good cheer, giving the New Deal’s bureaucratic regulations a benevolent human face. Eleanor Roosevelt became the New Deal’s unofficial ambassador. She served, she said, as “the eyes and ears of the New Deal,” traveling throughout the nation meeting Americans of all colors and creeds. A North Carolina women’s rights activist recalled, “One of my greatest pleasures was meeting Mrs. Roosevelt…. She was so free of prejudice … and she was always willing to take a stand, and there were stands to take about blacks


and women.” As Roosevelt’s programs swung into action, the millions of

beneficiaries of the New Deal became grassroots New Dealers who expressed their appreciation by voting Democratic on election day. In this way, the New Deal created a durable political coalition of Democrats that reelected Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944.

Four guiding ideas shaped New Deal policies. First, Roosevelt and his advisers sought capitalist solutions to the economic crisis. They had no desire to eliminate private property or impose socialist programs, such as public ownership of productive resources. Instead, they hoped to save the capitalist economy by remedying its flaws.

Second, Roosevelt’s Brains Trust persuaded him that the greatest flaw of America’s capitalist economy was underconsumption, the root cause of the current economic paralysis. Underconsumption, New Dealers argued, resulted from the gigantic productive success of capitalism. Factories and farms produced more than they could sell to consumers, causing factories to lay off workers and farmers to lose money on bumper crops. Workers without wages and farmers without profits shrank consumption and choked the economy. Somehow, the balance between consumption and production needed to be restored.

Third, New Dealers believed that the immense size and economic power of American corporations needed to be counterbalanced by government and by organization among workers and small producers. Unlike progressive trustbusters, New Dealers did not seek to splinter big businesses. Roosevelt and his advisers hoped to counterbalance big economic institutions with government programs focused on protecting individuals and the public interest.

Fourth, New Dealers believed that government must somehow moderate the imbalance of wealth created by American capitalism. Wealth concentrated in a few hands reduced consumption by most Americans and thereby contributed to the current economic gridlock. Government needed to find a way to permit ordinary working people to share more fully in the fruits of the economy. “Our task now,” Roosevelt declared during the presidential campaign, “is … meeting the problem of underconsumption, … adjusting production to consumption, … [and] distributing wealth and products more equitably.”

Banking and Finance Reform Roosevelt wasted no time making good on his inaugural pledge for “action


now.” As he took the oath of office on March 4, the nation’s banking system was on the brink of collapse. Roosevelt immediately devised a plan to shore up banks and restore depositors’ confidence. Working round the clock, New Dealers drafted the Emergency Banking Act, propped up the private banking system with federal funds, and subjected banks to federal regulation and oversight. To secure the confidence of depositors, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Banking Act, setting up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which guaranteed bank customers that the federal government would reimburse them for deposits if their banks failed. In addition, the act required the separation of commercial banks (which accept deposits and make loans to individuals and small businesses) and investment banks (which make speculative investments with their funds), in an effort to insulate the finances of Main Street America from the risky speculations of Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

On Sunday night, March 12, while the banks were still closed, Roosevelt broadcast the first of a series of fireside chats. Speaking in a friendly, informal manner, he explained the new banking legislation that, he said, made it “safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress.” With such plain talk, Roosevelt translated complex matters into common sense. This and subsequent fireside chats forged a direct connection — via radio — between Roosevelt and millions of Americans, a connection felt by a man from Paris, Texas, who wrote to Roosevelt, “You are the one & only President that ever helped a Working Class of People…. Please help us some way I Pray to God for relief.”

The banking legislation and fireside chat worked. Within a few days, most of the nation’s major banks reopened, and they remained solvent as reassured depositors switched funds from their mattresses to their bank accounts. One New Dealer boasted, “Capitalism was saved in eight days.” The rescue of the banking system took much longer to succeed, though.

In his inaugural address, Roosevelt criticized financiers for their greed and incompetence. To prevent the fraud, corruption, and insider trading that had tainted Wall Street and contributed to the crash of 1929, New Dealers created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1934 to oversee financial markets by licensing investment dealers, monitoring all stock transactions, and requiring corporate officers to make full disclosures about their companies. To head the SEC, Roosevelt appointed an ambitious Wall Street financier, Joseph P. Kennedy (father of the future president John F. Kennedy), who had a shady reputation for stock manipulation. Under Kennedy’s leadership, the SEC helped clean up and regulate Wall Street, which slowly recovered.


Relief and Conservation Programs Patching the nation’s financial structure provided little relief for the hungry and unemployed. A poor man from Nebraska asked Eleanor Roosevelt “if the folk who was borned here in America … are this Forgotten Man, the President had in mind, [and] if we are this Forgotten Man then we are still Forgotten.” The federal government had never assumed responsibility for needy people, except in moments of natural disaster or emergencies such as the Civil War. Instead, churches, private charities, county and municipal governments, and occasionally states assumed the burden of poor relief, usually with meager payments. The depression necessitated unprecedented federal relief efforts, according to New Dealers. As a New Yorker who still had a job wrote the government, “We work, ten hours a day for six days. In the grime and dirt of a nation [for] … low pay [making us] … slaves — slaves of the depression!”

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), established in May 1933, supported four million to five million households with $20 or $30 a month. FERA also created jobs for the unemployed on thousands of public works projects, organized into the Civil Works Administration (CWA), which put paychecks worth more than $800 million into the hands of previously jobless workers. Earning wages between 40 and 60 cents an hour, laborers renovated schools, dug sewers, and rebuilt roads and bridges.

The most popular work relief program was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), established in March 1933. It offered unemployed young men a chance to earn wages while working to conserve natural resources, a long-standing interest of Roosevelt. Women were excluded from working in the CCC until Eleanor Roosevelt demanded that a token number of young women be hired. By the end of the program in 1942, three million CCC workers had left a legacy of vast new recreation areas, along with roads that made those areas accessible to millions of Americans. Just as important, the CCC, CWA, and other work relief efforts replaced the stigma of welfare with the dignity of jobs. As one woman said about her husband’s work relief job, “We aren’t on relief anymore. My husband is working for the Government.”

The New Deal’s most ambitious and controversial natural resources development project was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), created in May 1933 to build dams along the Tennessee River to supply impoverished rural communities with cheap electricity (Map 24.3). The TVA set out to demonstrate that a partnership between the federal government and local residents could overcome the barriers of state


governments and private enterprises to make efficient use of abundant natural resources and break the ancient cycle of poverty. The TVA improved the lives of millions in the region with electric power, flood protection, soil reclamation, and jobs, although it raised the hackles of many Americans who thought it trespassed unforgivably on free enterprise.

New sources of hydroelectric power helped the New Deal bring the wonders of electricity to country folk, fulfilling an old progressive dream. When Roosevelt became president, 90 percent of rural Americans lacked electricity. Private electric companies refused to build transmission lines into the sparsely settled countryside when they had a profitable market in more accessible and densely populated urban areas. Beginning in 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) made low-cost loans available to local cooperatives for power plants and transmission lines to serve rural communities. Within ten years, the REA delivered electricity to nine out of ten farms, giving rural Americans access for the first time to modern conveniences that urban people had enjoyed for decades.

Agricultural Initiatives Farmers had been mired in a depression since the end of World War I. New Dealers diagnosed the farmers’ plight as a classic case of overproduction and underconsumption. Following age-old practices, farmers tried to compensate for low crop prices by growing more crops. Of course, producing more crops pushed prices lower still. Farm families’ income sank to $167 a year, barely one-tenth of the national average in 1932.

New Dealers sought to cut agricultural production, thereby raising crop prices and farmers’ income. With more money in their pockets, farm families — who made up one-third of all Americans — would then buy more goods and lift consumption in the entire economy. To reduce production, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) passed in May 1933 authorized the “domestic allotment plan,” which paid farmers not to grow crops. Individual farmers who agreed not to plant crops on a portion of their fields (their “allotment”) would receive a government payment compensating them for the crops they did not plant. While millions of Americans like Florence Owens and her children went to bed hungry, farmers slaughtered livestock and destroyed crops to qualify for their allotment payments.


MAP 24.3 The Tennessee Valley Authority The New Deal created the Tennessee Valley Authority to modernize a vast impoverished region with hydroelectric power dams and, at the same time, to reclaim eroded land and preserve old folkways.

With the formation of the Commodity Credit Corporation, the federal government allowed farmers to hold their harvested crops off the market and wait for a higher price. New Dealers also sponsored the Farm Credit Act (FCA) to provide long-term credit on mortgaged farm property, allowing debt-ridden farmers to avoid foreclosures that were driving thousands off their land.

Crop allotments, commodity loans, and mortgage credit made farmers major beneficiaries of the New Deal. Crop prices rose impressively, farm income jumped 50 percent by 1936, and FCA loans financed 40 percent of farm mortgage debt by the end of the decade. These gains were distributed fairly equally among farmers in the corn, hog, and wheat region of the Midwest. In the South’s cotton belt, however, landlords controlled the distribution of New Deal agricultural benefits and shamelessly rewarded themselves while denying benefits to many sharecroppers and tenant farmers — blacks and whites — by taking the land they worked out of production and assigning it to the allotment program. As the president of the Oklahoma Tenant Farmers’ Union explained, large farmers who got “Triple-A” payments often used the money to buy tractors and then


“forced their tenants and [share]croppers off the land,” causing these “Americans to be starved and dispossessed of their homes in our land of plenty.”

Industrial Recovery Unlike farmers, industrialists cut production with the onset of the depression. Between 1929 and 1933, industrial production fell more than 40 percent in an effort to balance low demand with low supply and thereby maintain prices. But falling industrial production meant that millions of working people lost their jobs. Unlike farmers, most working people needed jobs to eat. Mass unemployment also reduced consumer demand for industrial products, contributing to a downward spiral in both production and jobs, with no end in sight. Industries responded by reducing wages for employees who still had jobs, further reducing demand — a trend made worse by competition among industrial producers. New Dealers struggled to find a way to break this cycle of unemployment and underconsumption — a way consistent with corporate profits and capitalism.

The New Deal’s National Industrial Recovery Act opted for a government-sponsored form of industrial self-government through the National Recovery Administration (NRA), established in June 1933. The NRA encouraged industrialists to agree on rules, known as “codes,” to define fair working conditions, to set prices, and to minimize competition. The idea behind codes was to stabilize existing industries and maintain their workforces. Industry after industry wrote elaborate codes addressing detailed features of production, pricing, and competition. In exchange for the relaxation of federal antitrust regulations that prohibited such business agreements, the participating businesses promised to recognize the right of working people to organize and engage in collective bargaining. To encourage consumers to patronize businesses with NRA codes, posters with the NRA’s Blue Eagle appeared in shop windows throughout the nation.

New Dealers hoped that NRA codes would yield businesses with a social conscience, ensuring fair treatment of workers and consumers as well as promotion of the general economic welfare. Instead, NRA codes tended to strengthen conventional business practices. Large corporations wrote codes that served primarily their own interests rather than the needs of workers or the welfare of the national economy.

The failure of codes to cover domestic workers or agricultural laborers


like Florence Owens led one woman to complain to Roosevelt that the NRA “never mentioned the robbery of the Housewives” by the privations caused by the depression.

Many business leaders criticized NRA codes as heavy-handed government regulation of private enterprise. In reality, compliance with NRA codes was voluntary, and government enforcement efforts were weak to nonexistent. The NRA did little to reduce unemployment, raise consumption, or relieve the depression. In effect, it represented a peace offering to business leaders by Roosevelt and his advisers, conveying the message that the New Deal did not intend to wage war against profits or private enterprise. The peace offering failed, however. Most corporate leaders became bitter opponents of Roosevelt and the New Deal.

REVIEW How did the New Dealers try to steer the nation toward recovery from the Great Depression?


Challenges to the New Deal The first New Deal initiatives engendered fierce criticism and political opposition. From the right, Republicans and businesspeople charged that New Deal programs were too radical, undermining private property, economic stability, and democracy. Critics on the left faulted the New Deal for its failure to allay the human suffering caused by the depression and for its timidity in attacking corporate power and greed.

Resistance to Business Reform New Deal programs rescued capitalism, but business leaders lambasted Roosevelt, even though their economic prospects improved more than those of most other Americans during the depression. Republicans and business leaders denounced New Deal efforts to regulate or reform what they considered their private enterprises.

By 1935, two major business organizations, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce, had become openly anti–New Deal. Their critiques were amplified by the American Liberty League, founded in 1934, which blamed the New Deal for betraying basic constitutional guarantees of freedom and individualism. A League spokesman declared, “This administration has copied the autocratic tactics of fascism, Hitlerism and communism at their worst.”

Economists who favored rational planning in the public interest and labor leaders who sought to influence wages and working conditions by organizing unions attacked the New Deal from the left. In their view, the NRA stifled enterprise by permitting monopolistic practices. They pointed out that industrial trade associations twisted NRA codes to suit their aims, thwarted competition, and engaged in price gouging. Labor leaders especially resented the NRA’s willingness to allow businesses to form company-controlled unions while blocking workers from organizing genuine grassroots unions to bargain for themselves.

The Supreme Court stepped into this cross fire of criticisms in May 1935 and declared that the NRA unconstitutionally conferred powers reserved to Congress on an administrative agency. The NRA codes soon


lost the little authority they had. The failure of the NRA demonstrated the depth of many Americans’ resistance to economic planning and the stubborn refusal of business leaders to yield to government regulations or reforms.

Casualties in the Countryside The AAA weathered critical battering by champions of the old order better than the NRA. Allotment checks for keeping land fallow and crop prices high created loyalty among farmers with enough acreage to participate. As a white farmer in North Carolina declared, “I stand for the New Deal and Roosevelt …, the AAA … and crop control.”

Protests stirred, however, among those who did not qualify for allotments. The Southern Farm Tenants Union argued passionately that the AAA enriched large farmers while it impoverished small farmers who rented rather than owned their land. One black sharecropper explained why only $75 a year from New Deal agricultural subsidies trickled down to her: “De landlord is landlord, de politicians is landlord, de judge is landlord, de shurf [sheriff] is landlord, ever’body is landlord, en we [sharecroppers] ain’ got nothin’!” Like the NRA, the AAA tended to help most those who least needed help. Roosevelt’s political dependence on southern Democrats caused him to avoid confronting economic and racial inequities in the South.

Displaced tenants often joined the army of migrant workers like Florence Owens who straggled across rural America during the 1930s, some to flee Great Plains dust storms. Many migrants came from Mexico to work Texas cotton, Michigan beans, Idaho sugar beets, and California crops of all kinds. But since the number of people willing to take agricultural jobs usually exceeded the number of jobs available, wages fell and native-born white migrants fought to reserve even these low-wage jobs for themselves. Hundreds of thousands of “Okies” streamed out of the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Colorado, where chronic drought and harmful agricultural practices blasted crops and hopes. Parched, poor, and windblown, Okies — like the Joad family immortalized in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) — migrated to the lush fields and orchards of California, congregating in labor camps and hoping to find work and a future. But migrant laborers seldom found steady or secure work. As one Okie said, “When they need us they call us migrants, and when we’ve picked their crop, we’re bums and we got to get out.”


Evicted Sharecroppers The New Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Administration that maintained farm prices by reducing acreage in production often resulted in the eviction of tenant farmers when the land they worked was left idle. These African American sharecroppers protested AAA policies that caused cotton farmers to evict them from their homes. They were among the many rural laborers whose lives were made worse by New Deal agricultural policies. Bettmann/Corbis.

Politics on the Fringes Politically, the New Deal’s staunchest opponents were in the Republican Party — organized, well-heeled, mainstream, and determined to challenge Roosevelt at every turn. But the New Deal also faced challenges from the political fringes, fueled by the hardship of the depression and the hope for a cure-all.

Socialists and Communists accused the New Deal of being the handmaiden of business elites and of rescuing capitalism from its self- inflicted crisis. Socialist author Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California in 1934 on a plan that the state take ownership of idle factories and unused land and then give them to cooperatives of working people, a first step toward putting the needs of people above profits. Sinclair lost the


election, ending the most serious socialist electoral challenge to the New Deal.

Some intellectuals and artists sought to advance the cause of more radical change by joining left-wing organizations, including the American Communist Party. At its high point in the 1930s, the party had only about thirty thousand members, the large majority of them immigrants, especially Scandinavians in the upper Midwest and eastern European Jews in major cities. Individual Communists worked to organize labor unions, protect the civil rights of black people, and help the destitute, but the party preached the overthrow of “bourgeois democracy” and the destruction of capitalism in favor of Soviet-style communism. Such talk attracted few followers among the nation’s millions of poor and unemployed. They wanted jobs and economic security within American capitalism and democracy, not violent revolution to establish a dictatorship of the Communist Party.

More powerful radical challenges to the New Deal sprouted from homegrown roots. Many Americans felt overlooked by New Deal programs that concentrated on finance, agriculture, and industry but did little to produce jobs or aid the poor. The merciless reality of the depression also continued to erode the security of people who still had jobs but worried constantly that they, too, might be pushed into the legions of the unemployed and penniless.

A Catholic priest in Detroit named Charles Coughlin spoke to and for many worried Americans in his weekly radio broadcasts, which reached a nationwide audience of 40 million. Father Coughlin expressed outrage at the suffering and inequities that he blamed on Communists, bankers, and “predatory capitalists” who, he claimed, appealing to widespread anti- Semitic sentiments, were mostly Jews. At first, Coughlin championed the New Deal, proclaiming, “I will never change my philosophy that the New Deal is Christ’s deal.” When Coughlin became frustrated by Roosevelt’s refusal to grant him influence, he turned against the New Deal and in 1935 founded the National Union for Social Justice, or Union Party, to challenge Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election.

Dr. Francis Townsend, of Long Beach, California, also criticized the timidity of the New Deal. Angry that many of his retired patients lived in misery, Townsend proposed in 1934 the creation of the Old Age Revolving Pension, which would pay every American over age sixty a pension of $200 a month. To receive the pension, senior citizens had to agree to spend the entire amount within thirty days, thereby stimulating the economy.


Townsend organized pension clubs and petitioned the federal government to enact his scheme. When the major political parties ignored his impractical plan, Townsend merged his forces with Coughlin’s Union Party in time for the 1936 election.

A more formidable challenge to the New Deal came from the powerful southern wing of the Democratic Party. Huey Long, son of a backcountry Louisiana farmer, was elected governor of the state in 1928 with his slogan “Every man a king, but no one wears a crown.” Unlike nearly all other southern white politicians who harped on white supremacy, Long championed the poor over the rich, country people over city folk, and the humble over elites. As governor, “the Kingfish” — as he liked to call himself — delivered on his promises to provide jobs and build roads, schools, and hospitals, but he also behaved ruthlessly to achieve his goals. Long delighted his supporters, who elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1932, where he introduced a sweeping “soak the rich” tax bill that would outlaw personal incomes of more than $1 million and inheritances of more than $5 million. When the Senate rejected his proposal, Long decided to run for president, mobilizing more than five million Americans behind his “Share Our Wealth” plan. “Is that right,” Long asked, “when … more [is] owned by 12 men than … by 120,000,000 people? … They own the banks, they own the steel mills, they own the railroads, they own the bonds, they own the mortgages, they own the stores, and they have chained the country from one end to the other.” Like Townsend’s scheme, Long’s program promised far more than it could deliver. The Share Our Wealth campaign died when Long was assassinated in 1935, but his constituency and the wide appeal of a more equitable distribution of wealth persisted.

The challenges to the New Deal from both right and left stirred Democrats to solidify their winning coalition. In the midterm congressional elections of 1934 — normally a time when a president loses support — voters gave New Dealers a landslide victory. Democrats increased their majority in the House of Representatives and gained a two- thirds majority in the Senate.

REVIEW Why did groups at both ends of the political spectrum criticize the New Deal?


Toward a Welfare State The popular mandate for the New Deal revealed by the congressional elections persuaded Roosevelt to press ahead with bold new efforts to achieve relief, recovery, and reform. Despite the initiatives of the Hundred Days, the depression still strangled the economy. In 1935, Roosevelt capitalized on his congressional majorities to enact major new programs that signaled the emergence of an American welfare state.

Taken together, these New Deal efforts stretched a safety net under the lives of ordinary Americans, including such landmark initiatives as Social Security, which provided modest pensions for the elderly, and the Wagner Act, which encouraged the organization of labor unions. Although many citizens remained unprotected, New Deal programs helped millions with jobs, relief, and government support. Knitting together the safety net was the idea that, when individual Americans suffered because of forces beyond their control, the federal government had the responsibility to support and protect them. The safety net of welfare programs tied the political loyalty of working people to the New Deal and the Democratic Party. As a North Carolina mill worker said, “Mr. Roosevelt is the only man we ever had in the White House who would understand that my boss is a sonofabitch.”

Relief for the Unemployed First and foremost, Americans still needed jobs. Since the private economy left eight million people jobless by 1935, Roosevelt and his advisers launched a massive work relief program. Roosevelt believed that direct government handouts crippled recipients with “spiritual and moral disintegration … destructive to the human spirit.” Jobs, by contrast, bolstered individuals’ “self-respect, … self-reliance and courage and determination.” With a congressional appropriation of nearly $5 billion — more than all government revenues in 1934 — the New Deal created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to give unemployed Americans government-funded jobs on public works projects. The WPA put millions of jobless citizens to work on roads, bridges, parks, public buildings, and


more. In addition, Congress passed, over Roosevelt’s veto, the bonus long sought by Bonus Marchers, giving veterans an average of $580 and further stimulating the economy.

By 1936, WPA funds provided jobs for 7 percent of the nation’s labor force. In effect, the WPA made the federal government the employer of last resort, creating useful jobs when the capitalist economy failed to do so. In hiring, WPA officials tended to discriminate in favor of white men and against women and racial minorities. Still, the WPA made major contributions to both relief and recovery, putting thirteen million men and women to work earning paychecks worth $10 billion.

About three out of four WPA jobs involved construction and renovation of the nation’s physical infrastructure. WPA workers built 572,000 miles of roads, 78,000 bridges, 67,000 miles of city streets, 40,000 public buildings, and much else. In addition, the WPA gave jobs to thousands of artists, musicians, actors, journalists, poets, and novelists. The WPA also organized sewing rooms for jobless women, giving them work and wages. These sewing rooms produced more than 100 million pieces of clothing that were donated to the needy. Throughout the nation, WPA projects displayed tangible evidence of the New Deal’s commitment to public welfare.

Empowering Labor During the Great Depression, factory workers who managed to keep their jobs worried constantly about being laid off while their wages and working hours were cut. When workers tried to organize labor unions to protect themselves, municipal and state governments usually sided with employers. Since the Gilded Age, state and federal governments had been far more effective at busting unions than at busting trusts. The New Deal dramatically reversed the federal government’s stance toward unions. With legislation and political support, the New Deal encouraged an unprecedented wave of union organizing among the nation’s working people. When the head of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, told coal miners that “the President wants you to join a union,” he exaggerated only a little. New Dealers believed that unions would counterbalance the organized might of big corporations by defending working people, maintaining wages, and replacing the bloody violence that often accompanied strikes with economic peace and commercial stability.

Violent battles on the nation’s streets and docks showed the determination of militant labor leaders to organize unions that would


protect jobs as well as wages. In 1934, striking workers in Toledo, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and elsewhere were beaten and shot by police and the National Guard. In Congress, labor leaders lobbied for the National Labor Relations Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner of New York that authorized the federal government to intervene in labor disputes and supervise the organization of labor unions. The Wagner Act, as it came to be called, guaranteed industrial workers the right to organize unions, putting the might of federal law behind the appeals of labor leaders. If the majority of workers at a company voted for a union, the union became the sole bargaining agent for the entire workplace, and the employer was required to negotiate with the elected union leaders. Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act in July 1935, for the first time providing federal support for labor organization — the most important New Deal reform of the industrial order.

The achievements that flowed from the Wagner Act and renewed labor militancy were impressive. When Roosevelt became president in 1933, union membership — composed almost entirely of skilled workers in trade unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) — stood at three million. With the support of the Wagner Act, union membership expanded to fourteen million by 1945. By then, 30 percent of the workforce was unionized, the highest in American history.

Most of the new union members were factory workers and unskilled laborers, many of them immigrants, women, and African Americans. For decades, established AFL unions had no desire to organize factory and unskilled workers. In 1935, under the aggressive leadership of the mine workers’ John L. Lewis and the head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, Sidney Hillman, a coalition of unskilled workers formed the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO); later the Congress of Industrial Organizations). The CIO, helped by the Wagner Act, mobilized organizing drives in major industries, including the bitterly anti-union automobile and steel industries.

The bloody struggle by the CIO-affiliated United Auto Workers (UAW) to organize workers at General Motors climaxed in January 1937. Striking workers occupied the main assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, in a sit-down strike that slashed the plant’s production of 15,000 cars a week to a mere 150. Stymied, General Motors eventually surrendered and agreed to make the UAW the sole bargaining agent for all the company’s workers and to refrain from interfering with union activity. The UAW expanded its campaign until, after much violence, the entire industry was unionized by 1941.


The CIO hoped to ride organizing success in auto plants to victory in the steel mills. But after unionizing the giant U.S. Steel, the CIO ran up against determined opposition from smaller steel firms. Following a police attack that killed ten strikers at Republic Steel outside Chicago in May 1937, the battered steelworkers halted their organizing campaign. In steel and other major industries, such as the stridently anti-union southern textile mills, organizing efforts stalled until after 1941, when military mobilization created labor shortages that gave workers greater bargaining power.

Social Security and Tax Reform The single most important feature of the New Deal’s emerging welfare state was Social Security. An ambitious, far-reaching, and permanent reform, Social Security was designed to provide a modest income to relieve the poverty of elderly people. Only about 15 percent of older Americans had private pension plans, and during the depression corporations and banks often failed to pay the meager pensions they had promised. Corporations routinely fired or demoted employees to avoid or reduce pension payments. Prompted by the popular but impractical panaceas of Dr. Townsend, Father Coughlin, and Huey Long, Roosevelt told Congress that “it is our plain duty to provide for that security upon which welfare depends … and undertake the great task of furthering the security of the citizen and his family through social insurance.”

The political struggle for Social Security highlighted class differences among Americans. Support for the measure came from a coalition of advocacy groups for the elderly and the poor, traditional progressives, leftists, social workers, and labor unions. Arrayed against them were economic conservatives, including the American Liberty League, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Medical Association. Enact the Social Security system, these conservatives and other Republicans warned, and the government will ruin private property, destroy initiative, and reduce proud individuals to spineless loafers.

The large New Deal majority in Congress passed the Social Security Act in August 1935. The act provided that contributions from workers and their employers would fund pensions for the elderly, giving contributing workers a personal stake in the system and making it politically invulnerable. When eligible workers reached retirement age, they were not subject to a means test to prove that they were needy. Instead, they had earned benefits based on their contributions and years of work. Social


Security also created unemployment insurance that provided modest benefits for workers who lost their jobs.

Not all workers benefited from the Social Security Act. It excluded domestic and agricultural workers like Florence Owens, thereby making ineligible about half of all African Americans and more than half of all employed women — about five million people in all. The law also excluded employees of religious and nonprofit organizations, such as schools and hospitals, thereby rendering even more women and minorities ineligible.

Social Security provided states with multimillion-dollar grants to help them support dependent children, blind people, and public health services. After the Supreme Court upheld Social Security in 1937, the program was expanded to include benefits for dependent survivors of deceased recipients. Although the first Social Security check (for $41.30) was not issued until 1940, the system gave millions of working people the assurance that, when they became too old to work, they would receive a modest income from the federal government. This safety net protected many ordinary working people from fears of a penniless and insecure old age.

Fervent opposition to Social Security struck New Dealers as evidence that the rich had learned little from the depression. Roosevelt had long felt contempt for the moneyed elite who ignored the suffering of the poor. He looked for a way to redistribute wealth that would weaken conservative opposition, advance the cause of social equity, and defuse political challenges from Huey Long and Father Coughlin. Roosevelt charged in 1935 that large fortunes put “great and undesirable concentration of control in [the hands of] relatively few individuals.” He urged a graduated tax on corporations, an inheritance tax, and an increase in maximum personal income taxes. Congress endorsed Roosevelt’s basic principle by taxing those with higher incomes at a somewhat higher rate.

Neglected Americans and the New Deal The patchwork of New Deal reforms erected a two-tier welfare state. In the top tier, farmers and organized workers in major industries were the greatest beneficiaries of New Deal initiatives. In the bottom tier, millions of neglected Americans — women, children, and old folks, along with the unorganized, unskilled, uneducated, and unemployed — often fell through the New Deal safety net. Many working people remained more or less untouched by New Deal benefits. The average unemployment rate for the


1930s stayed high — 17 percent. Workers in industries that resisted unions received little help from the Wagner Act or the WPA. Tens of thousands of women in southern textile mills, for example, commonly received wages of less than ten cents an hour and were fired if they protested. Domestic workers, almost all of them women, and agricultural workers — many of them African, Hispanic, or Asian Americans — were neither unionized nor eligible for Social Security.

The New Deal neglected few citizens more than African Americans. About half of black Americans in cities were jobless, more than double the unemployment rate among whites. In the rural South, where the vast majority of African Americans lived, conditions were worse, given the New Deal agricultural policies such as the AAA that favored landowners, who often pushed blacks off the land they farmed. Only 11 of more than 10,000 WPA supervisors in the South were black, even though African Americans accounted for a third of the region’s population. Disfranchisement by intimidation and legal subterfuge prevented southern blacks from protesting their plight at the ballot box. Protesters risked vicious retaliation from local whites. Bitter critics charged that the New Deal’s NRA stood for “Negro Run Around” or “Negroes Ruined Again.”

Roosevelt responded to such criticisms with great caution since New Deal reforms required the political support of powerful conservative, segregationist, southern white Democrats who would be alienated by programs that aided blacks. A white Georgia relief worker expressed the common view that “any Nigger who gets over $8 a week is a spoiled Nigger, that’s all.” Stymied by the political clout of entrenched white racism, New Dealers still attracted support from black voters. Roosevelt’s overtures to African Americans prompted northern black voters in the 1934 congressional elections to shift from the Republican to the Democratic Party, helping elect New Deal Democrats.

Eleanor Roosevelt sponsored the appointment of Mary McLeod Bethune — the energetic cofounder of the National Council of Negro Women — as head of the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration. The highest-ranking black official in Roosevelt’s administration, Bethune used her position to guide a small number of black professionals and civil rights activists to posts within New Deal agencies. Ultimately, about one in four African Americans got access to New Deal relief programs.

Despite these gains, by 1940 African Americans still suffered severe handicaps. Most of the thirteen million black workers toiled at low-paying menial jobs, unprotected by the New Deal safety net. Segregated and


unequal schools were the norm, and only 1 percent of black students earned college degrees. In southern states, vigilante violence against blacks went unpunished. For these problems of black Americans, the New Deal offered few remedies.

Hispanic Americans fared no better. About a million Mexican Americans lived in the United States in the 1930s, most of them first- or second-generation immigrants who worked crops throughout the West. During the depression, field workers saw their low wages plunge lower still to about a dime an hour. Ten thousand Mexican American pecan shellers in San Antonio, Texas, earned only a nickel an hour. To preserve scarce jobs for U.S. citizens, the federal government choked off immigration from Mexico, while state and local officials deported tens of thousands of Mexican Americans, many with their American-born children. New Deal programs throughout the West often discriminated against Hispanics and other people of color. A New Deal study concluded that “the Mexican is … segregated from the rest of the community as effectively as the Negro … [by] poverty and low wages.”

Mexican Migrant Farmworkers These Mexican immigrants are harvesting sugar beets in 1937 in northwestern Minnesota. Between 1910 and 1940, when refugees from the Mexican revolution poured across the American border, the Hispanic-American Alliance and other such organizations sought to protect Mexican Americans’ rights against nativist fears and hostility. The alliance steadfastly emphasized Mexican Americans’ desire to receive permanent legal status in the United States.


Library of Congress, 8a28739.

Asian Americans had similar experiences. Asian immigrants were still excluded from U.S. citizenship and in many states were not permitted to own land. By 1930, more than half of Japanese Americans had been born in the United States, but they were still liable to discrimination. One young Asian American expressed the frustration felt by many others: “I am a fruit-stand worker. I would much rather it were doctor or lawyer … but my aspirations [were] frustrated long ago by circumstances…. I am only what I am, a professional carrot washer.”

Native Americans also suffered neglect from New Deal agencies. As a group, they remained the poorest of the poor. Since the Dawes Act of 1887 (see “The Dawes Act and Indian Land Allotment” in chapter 17), the federal government had encouraged Native Americans to assimilate — to abandon their Indian identities and adopt the cultural norms of the majority society. Under the leadership of the New Deal’s commissioner of Indian affairs, John Collier, the New Deal’s Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 largely reversed that policy. Collier claimed that “the most interesting and important fact about Indians” was that they “do not expect much, often they expect nothing at all; yet they are able to be happy.” Given such views, the IRA provided little economic aid to Native Americans, but it did restore their right to own land communally and to have greater control over their own affairs. The IRA brought little immediate benefit to Native Americans, but it provided an important foundation for Indians’ economic, cultural, and political resurgence a generation later.

Voicing common experiences among Americans neglected by the New Deal, singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie traveled the nation for eight years during the 1930s and heard other rambling men tell him “the story of their life”: “how the home went to pieces, how … the crops got to where they wouldn’t bring nothing, work in factories would kill a dog … and — always, always [you] have to fight and argue and cuss and swear … to try to get a nickel more out of the rich bosses.”

REVIEW What features of a welfare state did the New Deal create, and why?



The New Deal from Victory to Deadlock To accelerate the sputtering economic recovery, Roosevelt shifted the emphasis of the New Deal in the mid-1930s. Instead of seeking cooperation from conservative business leaders, he decided to rely on the growing New Deal coalition to enact reforms over the strident opposition of the Supreme Court, Republicans, and corporate interests. Roosevelt’s conservative opponents reacted to the massing of New Deal forces by intensifying their opposition to the welfare state.

While he continued to lose conservatives’ support, Roosevelt added new allies on the left in farm states and big cities. Throughout Roosevelt’s first term, socialists and Communists denounced the slow pace of change and accused the New Deal of failing to serve the interests of the workers who produced the nation’s wealth. But in 1935, the Soviet Union, worried about the threat of fascism in Europe, instructed Communists throughout the world to join hands with non-Communist progressives in a “Popular Front” to advance the fortunes of the working class. Many radicals soon switched from opposing the New Deal to supporting its relief programs and support for labor unions.

Roosevelt won reelection in 1936 in a landslide and soon concluded that the economy was improving. He reduced government spending in 1937, triggering a sharp recession that undermined economic recovery and prolonged the depression.

The Election of 1936 Roosevelt believed that the presidential election of 1936 would test his leadership and progressive ideals. The depression still had a stranglehold on the economy. Conservative leaders believed that the New Deal’s failure to lift the nation out of the depression indicated that Americans were ready for a change. Left-wing critics insisted that the New Deal had missed the opportunity to displace capitalism with a socialist economy and that voters would embrace candidates who recommended more radical remedies.

Republicans turned to Kansas governor Alfred (Alf) Landon as their presidential nominee, a moderate who stressed mainstream Republican


proposals to achieve a balanced federal budget and less government bureaucracy. Landon recommended that the perils of sickness and old age should be eased by old-fashioned neighborliness instead of a government program like Social Security.

Roosevelt put his faith in the growing New Deal coalition, whose members shared his conviction that the New Deal promised to liberate the nation from the long era of privilege and wealth for a few and “economic slavery” for the rest. He proclaimed that “the forces of selfishness and lust for power met their match” in his first term as president, and he hoped it would be said about his second term that “these forces met their master.”

Roosevelt triumphed spectacularly. He won 60.8 percent of the popular vote, making it the widest margin of victory in a presidential election to date. Third parties — including the Socialist and Communist parties — fell pitifully short of the support they expected and never again mounted a significant challenge to the New Deal. Congressional results were equally lopsided, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans more than three to one in both houses. In his inaugural address, Roosevelt announced, “I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, [and] ill-nourished,” and he promised to devote his second term to alleviating their hardship.

Court Packing In the afterglow of his reelection triumph, Roosevelt pondered how to remove the remaining obstacles to New Deal reforms. He decided to target the Supreme Court. Conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents had invalidated eleven New Deal measures as unconstitutional interferences with free enterprise. Now, Social Security, the Wagner Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other New Deal innovations were about to be considered by the justices.

To ensure that the Supreme Court did not dismantle the New Deal, Roosevelt proposed a court-packing plan that added one new justice for each existing judge who had served for ten years and was over the age of seventy. In effect, the proposed law would give Roosevelt the power to pack the Court with up to six New Dealers who could outvote the elderly, conservative, Republican justices.

But the president had not reckoned with Americans’ deeply rooted deference to the independent authority of the Supreme Court. More than two-thirds of Americans believed that the Court should be free from political interference. Even New Deal supporters were disturbed by the court-packing scheme. The suggestion that individuals over age seventy


had diminished mental capacity offended many elderly members of Congress, which defeated Roosevelt’s plan in 1937.

Supreme Court justices still got the message. The four most conservative of the elderly justices — the “four horsemen of reaction,” according to one New Dealer — retired. Roosevelt eventually named eight justices to the Court — more than any other president — ultimately giving New Deal laws safe passage through the Court.

Reaction and Recession Emboldened by their defeat of the court-packing plan, Republicans and southern Democrats rallied around their common conservatism to obstruct additional reforms. Former president Herbert Hoover proclaimed that the New Deal was the “repudiation of Democracy” and that “the Republican Party alone [was] the guardian of … the charter of freedom.” Democrats’ arguments over whether the New Deal needed to be expanded — and if so, how — undermined the consensus among reformers and sparked antagonism between Congress and the White House. The ominous rise of belligerent regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan also slowed reform as some Americans began to worry more about defending the nation than changing it.

Roosevelt himself favored slowing the pace of the New Deal. He believed that existing New Deal measures had steadily boosted the economy and largely eliminated the depression crisis. In fact, the gross national product in 1937 briefly equaled the 1929 level before dropping lower for the rest of the decade. Unemployment declined to 14 percent in 1937 but quickly spiked upward and stayed higher until 1940. Roosevelt’s unwarranted optimism about the economic recovery persuaded him that additional deficit spending by the federal government was no longer necessary.

Roosevelt’s optimism failed to consider the stubborn realities of unemployment and poverty, and the reduction in deficit spending reversed the improving economy. Even at the high-water mark of recovery in the summer of 1937, seven million people lacked jobs. In the next few months, national income and production slipped so steeply that almost two-thirds of the economic gains since 1933 were lost by June 1938.

This economic reversal hurt the New Deal politically. Conservatives argued that this recession proved that New Deal measures produced only an illusion of progress. The way to weather the recession was to tax and spend less as well as to wait for the natural laws of supply and demand to


restore prosperity. Many New Dealers insisted instead that the continuing depression demanded that Roosevelt revive federal spending and redouble efforts to stimulate the economy. In 1938, Congress heeded such pleas and enacted a massive new program of federal spending.

The recession scare of 1937–1938 taught the president the lesson that economic growth had to be carefully nurtured. The English economist John Maynard Keynes argued that only government intervention could pump enough money into the economy to restore prosperity, a concept that became known as Keynesian economics. Roosevelt never had the inclination or time to master Keynesian thought. But in a commonsense way, he understood that escape from the depression required a plan for large-scale spending to alleviate distress and stimulate economic growth.

The Last of the New Deal Reforms From the moment he was sworn in, Roosevelt sought to expand the powers of the presidency. He believed that the president needed more authority to meet emergencies such as the depression and to administer the sprawling federal bureaucracy. Combined with a Democratic majority in Congress, a now-friendly Supreme Court, and the revival of deficit spending, the newly empowered White House seemed to be in a good position to move ahead with a revitalized New Deal.

Resistance to further reform was also on the rise, however. Conservatives argued that the New Deal had pressed government centralization too far. Even the New Deal’s friends became weary of one emergency program after another while economic woes continued to shadow New Deal achievements. By the midpoint of Roosevelt’s second term, restive members of Congress balked at new initiatives. But enough support remained for one last burst of reform.

Agriculture still had strong claims on New Deal attention in the face of drought, declining crop prices, and impoverished sharecroppers and tenants. In 1937, the Agriculture Department created the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to provide housing and loans to help tenant farmers become independent. A black tenant farmer in North Carolina who received an FSA loan told a New Deal interviewer, “I wake up in the night sometimes and think I must be half-dead and gone to heaven.” For those who owned farms, the New Deal offered renewed prosperity with a second Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) in 1938, which placed production quotas on cotton, tobacco, wheat, corn, and rice while issuing food stamps to allow poor people to obtain surplus food. The AAA of 1938 brought


stability to American agriculture and ample food to most — but not all — tables.

Advocates for the urban poor also made modest gains after decades of neglect. New York senator Robert Wagner convinced Congress to pass the National Housing Act in 1937. By 1941, some 160,000 residences had been made available to poor people at affordable rents. The program did not come close to meeting the need for affordable housing, but for the first time the federal government took an active role in providing decent urban housing.

The last major piece of New Deal labor legislation, the Fair Labor Standards Act of June 1938, reiterated the New Deal pledge to provide workers with a decent standard of living. The new law set wage and hours standards and at long last curbed the use of child labor. The minimum- wage level was twenty-five cents an hour for a maximum of forty-four hours a week. To critics of the minimum wage law who said it was “government interference,” one New Dealer responded, “It was. It interfered with the fellow running that pecan shelling plant … [and] told him he couldn’t pay that little widow seven cents an hour.” To attract enough conservative votes, the act exempted domestic help and farm laborers — relegating most women and African Americans to lower wages. Enforcement of the minimum-wage standards was weak and haphazard. Nevertheless, the Fair Labor Standards Act slowly advanced Roosevelt’s inaugural promise to improve the living standards of the poorest Americans.

The final New Deal reform effort failed to make much headway against the hide-bound system of racial injustice. Although Roosevelt denounced lynching as murder, he would not jeopardize his vital base of southern political support by demanding antilynching legislation, and Congress voted down attempts to make lynching a federal crime. Laws to eliminate the poll tax — used to deny blacks the opportunity to vote — encountered the same overwhelming resistance. The New Deal refused to confront racial injustice with the same vigor it brought to bear on economic hardship.

By the end of 1938, the New Deal had lost steam and encountered stiff opposition. In the congressional elections of 1938, Republicans made gains that gave them more congressional influence than they had enjoyed since 1932. New Dealers could claim unprecedented achievements since 1933, but nobody needed reminding that those achievements had not ended the depression. In his annual message to Congress in January 1939, Roosevelt signaled a halt to New Deal reforms by speaking about


preserving the progress already achieved rather than extending it. Roosevelt pointed to the ominous threats posed by fascist aggressors in Germany and Japan, and he proposed defense expenditures that surpassed New Deal appropriations for relief and economic recovery.

REVIEW Why did political support for New Deal reforms decline?


Conclusion: Achievements and Limitations of the New Deal The New Deal demonstrated that a growing majority of Americans agreed with Roosevelt that the federal government should help those in need. Through programs that sought relief, recovery, and reform, the New Deal vastly expanded the size and influence of the federal government and changed the way many Americans viewed Washington. New Dealers achieved significant victories, such as Social Security, labor’s right to organize, and guarantees that farm prices would be maintained through controls on production and marketing. New Deal measures marked the emergence of a welfare state, but its limits left millions of needy Americans like Florence Owens and her children with little aid.

Full-scale relief, recovery, and reform eluded the New Deal. Even though millions of Americans benefited from New Deal initiatives, both relief and recovery were limited and temporary. In 1940, the depression still plagued the economy. Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the New Deal was what did not happen. Although authoritarian governments and anticapitalist policies were common outside the United States during the 1930s, they were shunned by the New Deal. The greatest economic crisis the nation had ever faced did not cause Americans to abandon democracy, as happened in Germany, where Adolf Hitler seized dictatorial power. Nor did the nation turn to radical alternatives such as socialism or communism.

Republicans and other conservatives claimed that the New Deal amounted to a form of socialism that threatened democracy and capitalism. But rather than attack capitalism, Franklin Roosevelt sought to save it. And he succeeded. That success also marked the limits of the New Deal’s achievements. Franklin Roosevelt believed that a shift of authority toward the federal government would allow capitalist enterprises to be balanced by the nation’s democratic tradition. The New Deal stopped far short of challenging capitalism either by undermining private property or by imposing strict national planning.

New Dealers repeatedly described their programs as a kind of warfare


against the depression of the 1930s. In the next decade, the Roosevelt administration had to turn from the economic crisis at home to participate in a worldwide conflagration to defeat the enemies of democracy abroad.

Nonetheless, many New Deal reforms continued for decades to structure the basic institutions of banking, the stock market, union organizations, agricultural markets, Social Security, minimum-wage standards, and more. Opponents of these measures and of the basic New Deal notion of an activist government remained powerful, especially in the Republican Party. They claimed that government was the problem, not the solution — a slogan that Republicans championed during and after the 1980s and that led, with the cooperation of some Democrats, to the dismantling of a number of New Deal programs, including the regulation of banking. The deregulation of banking played a large role in the financial meltdown that began in 2008.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S New Deal coalition (p. 624) underconsumption (p. 626) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) (p. 627) fireside chats (p. 627) Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) (p. 628) Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) (p. 629) National Recovery Administration (NRA) (p. 630) Works Progress Administration (WPA) (p. 635) Wagner Act (p. 636) Committee for Industrial Organization (p. 636) Social Security (p. 637) court-packing plan (p. 641)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. Why did Franklin D. Roosevelt win the 1932 presidential

election by such a large margin? (pp. 622–25) 2. How did the New Dealers try to steer the nation toward

recovery from the Great Depression? (pp. 625–31) 3. Why did groups at both ends of the political spectrum criticize

the New Deal? (pp. 631–34) 4. What features of a welfare state did the New Deal create, and

why? (pp. 634–40)


5. Why did political support for New Deal reforms decline? (pp. 640–44)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. How did Roosevelt build an effective interregional political

coalition for the Democratic Party? How did the coalition shape the policies of the New Deal?

2. How effective were reform efforts targeting rural and industrial America?

3. Were any of Roosevelt’s critics able to influence the New Deal? If so, how?

4. Who was in need of New Deal assistance but did not receive it? Why?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. To what degree did the New Deal reflect a continuation of the

progressive movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? In what ways did the New Deal depart from progressive ideals? In general, how new was the New Deal? (See chapters 21 and 22.)

2. How did the New Deal coalition compare to the long-standing political coalition that had elected Republicans to the presidency since 1920? What accounted for the differences and similarities? (See chapter 23.)


1933 • Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes president. • Roosevelt’s “the Hundred Days” launches the New Deal. • Roosevelt declares four-day “bank holiday.” • Federal Emergency Relief Administration created.

1934 • Securities and Exchange Commission created. • Upton Sinclair loses California governorship bid. • American Liberty League founded.


• Dr. Francis Townsend devises Old Age Revolving Pension scheme.

• Indian Reorganization Act enacted. 1935 • Works Progress Administration created.

• Wagner Act enacted. • Committee for Industrial Organization founded. • Social Security Act enacted. • Father Charles Coughlin begins National Union for

Social Justice. 1936 • Franklin Roosevelt reelected by a landslide. 1937 • Sit-down strike organized at General Motors plant in

Flint, Michigan. • Roosevelt’s court-packing legislation defeated. • Economic recession deepens.

1938 • Second Agricultural Adjustment Act enacted. • Fair Labor Standards Act enacted. • Congress rejects antilynching bill.


25 The United States and the Second World War 1939–1945


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Describe the foreign policy dilemmas that confronted the United States

during the interwar years.

◆ Explain which events led to the onset of war and why the United States became involved. Describe the United States’ war mobilization efforts.

◆ Outline the crucial military and diplomatic events of 1941 through 1943, demonstrating how the United States turned the tide in the Pacific and explaining its prime military objectives in the European theater.

◆ Analyze the impact of the war on American society, including the effects it had on women and families, African Americans, and the 1944 presidential campaign.

◆ Assess which military and diplomatic events during 1943 to 1945 contributed to Allied victory in Europe and over Japan.



Paul Tibbets clambered into the front seat of the open cockpit of a biplane for his first airplane ride. While the pilot brought the plane in low over the Hialeah racetrack in Miami, Florida, Tibbets pitched Baby Ruth candy bars tethered to small paper parachutes to racing fans in the grandstands below. After repeating this stunt, sales of Baby Ruths soared, and Tibbets was hooked on flying.

In 1937, Tibbets joined the Army Air Corps and became a military pilot. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 immediately overcame American isolationism and brought the United States into World War II, Tibbets flew antisubmarine patrols against German U-boats lurking along the East Coast. When heavily armored B-17 Flying Fortress bombers became available early in 1942, he took a squadron of the new planes to England. In August 1942, he led the first American daytime bombing raid on German- occupied Europe, releasing on railroad yards in northern France the first of some 700,000 tons of explosives dropped by American bombers during the air war in Europe.

After numerous raids over Europe, Tibbets was reassigned to the North African campaign. After eight months of combat missions, Tibbets returned to the United States and was ordered to test the new B-29 Super Fortress being built in Wichita, Kansas. The B-29 was much bigger than the B-17 and could fly higher and faster, making it ideal for the campaign against Japan. Tibbets’s mastery of the B-29 caused him to be singled out in September 1944 to command a top- secret unit training for a special mission.

The mission was to be ready to drop on Japan a bomb so powerful that it might end the war. No such bomb yet existed, but American scientists and engineers were working around the clock to build one. In May 1945, Tibbets and his men went to Tinian Island in the Pacific, where they trained for their secret mission by flying raids over Japanese cities and dropping ordinary bombs. The atomic bomb arrived on Tinian on July 26, just ten days after a successful test explosion in the New Mexico desert. Nicknamed “Little Boy,” the bomb packed the equivalent of 40 million pounds of TNT, or 200,000 of the 200-pound bombs Tibbets and other American airmen had dropped on Europe.

On August 6, 1945, Tibbets, his crew, and their atomic payload took off in the B-29 bomber Enola Gay and headed for Japan. Less than seven hours later, over the city of Hiroshima, Tibbets and his men released Little Boy from the Enola Gay’s bomb bay. Three days later, airmen from Tibbets’s command dropped a second atomic


bomb on Nagasaki, and within five days Japan surrendered. Paul Tibbets’s experiences traced an arc followed by millions of

Americans during World War II. Like Tibbets, Americans joined their allies to fight the Axis powers in Europe and Asia. Like his Enola Gay crewmen — who hailed from New York, Texas, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Nevada — Americans from all regions united to help defeat the fascist aggressors in Asia and Europe. American industries mobilized to produce advanced bombers along with enough other military equipment to supply the American armed forces and their allies. At enormous cost in human life and suffering — including millions of civilians killed in military actions and millions more exterminated in the Holocaust of the Nazis’ racist death camps — the war resulted in employment and prosperity to most Americans at home, ending the depression, providing new opportunities for women and African Americans, and ushering the nation into the postwar world as a triumphant economic and atomic superpower.


Peacetime Dilemmas The First World War left a dangerous and ultimately deadly legacy. The victors — especially Britain, France, and the United States — sought to avoid future wars at almost any cost. The defeated nation, Germany, aspired to reassert its power and avenge its losses by means of renewed warfare. Italy and Japan felt humiliated by the Versailles peace settlement and saw war as a legitimate way to increase their global power. Japan invaded the northern Chinese province of Manchuria in 1931 with ambitions to expand throughout Asia. Italy, led by the fascist Benito Mussolini since 1922, hungered for an empire in Africa. In Germany, National Socialist Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 in a quest to dominate Europe and the world. These aggressive, militaristic, antidemocratic regimes seemed a smaller threat to most people in the United States during the 1930s than did the economic crisis at home. Shielded from external threats by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Americans hoped to avoid entanglement in foreign woes and to concentrate on climbing out of the nation’s economic abyss.

Roosevelt and Reluctant Isolation Like most Americans during the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt believed that the nation’s highest priority was to attack the domestic causes and consequences of the depression. But unlike most Americans, Roosevelt had long advocated an active role for the United States in international affairs.

The depression forced Roosevelt to retreat from his previous internationalism. He came to believe that energetic involvement in foreign affairs diverted resources and political support from domestic recovery. Once in office, Roosevelt sought to combine domestic economic recovery with a low-profile foreign policy that encouraged free trade and disarmament.

Roosevelt’s pursuit of international amity was constrained by economic circumstances and American popular opinion. After an opinion poll demonstrated popular support for recognizing the Soviet Union — an


international pariah since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 — Roosevelt established formal diplomatic relations in 1933. But when the League of Nations condemned Japanese and German aggression, Roosevelt did not support the league’s attempts to keep the peace because he feared jeopardizing isolationists’ support for New Deal measures in Congress. America watched from the sidelines when Japan withdrew from the league and ignored the limitations on its navy imposed after World War I. The United States also looked the other way when Hitler rearmed Germany and recalled its representative to the league in 1933. Roosevelt worried that German and Japanese actions threatened world peace, but he reassured Americans that the nation would not “use its armed forces for the settlement of any [international] dispute anywhere.”

The Good Neighbor Policy In 1933, Roosevelt announced that the United States would pursue “the policy of the good neighbor” in international relations, which meant that no nation had the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another. He emphasized that this policy applied specifically to Latin America, where U.S. military forces had often intervened. The good neighbor policy did not indicate a U.S. retreat from empire in Latin America, though. Instead, it declared that, unlike in past decades, the United States would not depend on military force to exercise its influence in the region. Roosevelt refrained from sending troops to defend the interests of American corporations when Mexico nationalized American oil properties and revolution boiled over in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Cuba during the 1930s. In 1934, Roosevelt withdrew American Marines from Haiti, where they had been stationed since 1916. While Roosevelt’s hands-off policy honored the principle of national self-determination, it also permitted the rise of dictators in Nicaragua, Cuba, and elsewhere, who exploited and terrorized their nations with private support from U.S. businesses.

Military nonintervention also did not prevent the United States from exerting its economic influence in Latin America. In 1934, Congress gave the president the power to reduce tariffs on goods imported into the United States from nations that agreed to lower their own tariffs on U.S. exports. By 1940, twenty-two nations had agreed to such reciprocal tariff reductions, helping to double U.S. exports to Latin America, contributing to the New Deal’s goal of boosting the domestic economy through free trade, and planting seeds of friendship and hemispheric solidarity.


The Price of Noninvolvement In Europe, fascist governments in Italy and Germany threatened military aggression. Britain and France made only verbal protests. Emboldened, Hitler plotted to avenge defeat in World War I by recapturing territories with German inhabitants, all the while accusing Jews of polluting the purity of the Aryan master race. The virulent anti-Semitism of Hitler and his Nazi Party unified non-Jewish Germans and attracted sympathizers among many other Europeans, even in France and Britain.

In Japan, a stridently militaristic government planned to follow the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 with conquests extending throughout Southeast Asia. The Manchurian invasion bogged down in a long and vicious war when Chinese Nationalists rallied around their leader, Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek), to fight against the Japanese. Preparations for new Japanese conquests continued, however. In 1936, Japan openly violated naval limitation treaties and began to build a battle-ready fleet to seek naval superiority in the Pacific.

In the United States, the hostilities in Asia and Europe reinforced isolationist sentiments. Popular disillusionment with the failure of Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic goals caused many Americans to question the nation’s participation in World War I. In 1933, Gerald Nye, a Republican from North Dakota, chaired a Senate committee that concluded that greedy “merchants of death” — American weapons makers, bankers, and financiers — dragged the nation into the war to line their own pockets. International tensions and the Nye committee report prompted Congress to pass a series of neutrality acts between 1935 and 1937 designed to avoid entanglement in foreign wars. The neutrality acts prohibited making loans and selling arms to nations at war.

By 1937, the growing conflicts overseas caused some Americans to call for a total embargo on all trade with warring countries. The Neutrality Act of 1937 attempted to reconcile the nation’s desire for both peace and foreign trade with a “cash-and-carry” policy that required warring nations to pay cash for nonmilitary goods and to transport them in their own ships. This policy benefited the nation’s economy, but it also helped foreign aggressors by supplying them with goods and thereby undermining peace.

The desire for peace in France, Britain, and the United States led Germany, Italy, and Japan to launch offensives on the assumption that the Western democracies lacked the will to oppose them. In March 1936, Nazi troops marched into the industry-rich Rhineland on Germany’s western border, in blatant violation of the Treaty of Versailles. One month later,


Italian armies completed their conquest of Ethiopia, projecting fascist power into Africa. In December 1937, Japanese invaders captured Nanjing (Nanking) and celebrated their triumph in the “Rape of Nanking,” a deadly rampage that killed 200,000 Chinese civilians.

In Spain, a bitter civil war broke out in July 1936 when the Nationalists — fascist rebels led by General Francisco Franco — attacked the democratically elected Republican government. Both Germany and Italy reinforced Franco, while the Soviet Union provided much less aid to the Republican Loyalists. The Spanish civil war did not cause European democracies or the U.S. government to help the Loyalists, but more than 3,000 individual Americans enlisted in the Russian-sponsored Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight alongside the Republicans. Abandoned by the Western nations, the Republican Loyalists were defeated in 1939, and Franco built a fascist bulwark in Spain.

Hostilities in Europe, Africa, and Asia alarmed Roosevelt and some Americans. The president sought to persuade most Americans to moderate their isolationism and find a way to support the victims of fascist aggression. He warned that an “epidemic of world lawlessness is spreading” and pointed out that “mere isolation or neutrality” offered no remedy. The popularity of isolationist sentiment caused Roosevelt to remark, “It’s a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead and find no one there.” Roosevelt understood that he needed to maneuver carefully if the United States were to help prevent fascist aggressors from conquering Europe and Asia, leaving the United States an isolated island of democracy.

REVIEW Why did isolationism during the 1930s concern Roosevelt?


The Onset of War Between 1939 and 1941, fascist victories overseas eventually eroded American isolationism. At first, U.S. intervention was limited to providing material support to the enemies of Germany and Japan, principally Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. But Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor eliminated that restraint, and the nation began to mobilize for an all-out assault on foreign foes.

Nazi Aggression and War in Europe Under the spell of isolationism, Americans passively watched Hitler’s relentless campaign to dominate Europe (Map 25.1). In 1938, Hitler incorporated Austria into Germany and turned his attention to the Sudetenland, which had been granted to Czechoslovakia by the World War I peace settlement. Hoping to avoid war, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain offered Hitler terms of appeasement that would give the Sudetenland to Germany if Hitler agreed to leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone. Hitler accepted the terms but did not keep his promise. By 1939, Hitler had annexed Czechoslovakia and demanded that Poland return the German territory it had gained after World War I. Recognizing that appeasement of Hitler had failed, Britain and France assured Poland that they would go to war with Germany if Hitler attacked. In turn, Hitler negotiated with his bitter enemy, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, offering him concessions to prevent the Soviet Union from joining Britain and France in opposing a German attack on Poland. Despite the enduring hatred between fascist Germany and the Communist Soviet Union, the two powers signed the Nazi-Soviet treaty of nonaggression in August 1939, exposing Poland to an onslaught by both the German and Soviet armies.


MAP 25.1 Axis Aggression through 1941 Through a series of surprise strikes before 1942, Mussolini sought to re-create the Roman empire in the Mediterranean while Hitler aimed to annex Austria and reclaim German territories occupied by France after World War I. World War II broke out when the German dictator attacked Poland.

At dawn on September 1, 1939, Hitler unleashed his blitzkrieg (literally, “lightning war”) on Poland. “Act brutally!” Hitler exhorted his generals. “Send [every] man, woman, and child of Polish descent and language to their deaths, pitilessly and remorselessly.” The attack triggered Soviet attacks on eastern Poland and declarations of war from France and Britain two days later, igniting a conflagration that raced around the globe. In September 1939, Germany seemed invincible, causing many people to


fear that all of Europe would soon share Poland’s fate. After the Nazis overran Poland, Hitler soon launched a westward

blitzkrieg. In the first six months of 1940, German forces smashed through Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The speed of the German attack trapped more than 300,000 British and French soldiers, who retreated to the port of Dunkirk, where an improvised armada of British vessels ferried them to safety across the English Channel. By mid- June 1940, France had surrendered the largest army in the world, signed an armistice that gave Germany control of nearly two-thirds of the countryside, and installed a collaborationist government at Vichy. With an empire that stretched across Europe from Poland to France, Hitler seemed poised to attack Britain.

The new British prime minister, Winston Churchill, vowed that Britain, unlike France, would never surrender to Hitler. “We shall fight on the seas and oceans [and] … in the air,” he proclaimed, “whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, … and in the fields and in the streets.” Churchill’s defiance stiffened British resolve against Hitler’s attack, which began in mid-June 1940 when wave after wave of German bombers targeted British military installations and cities, killing tens of thousands of civilians. The outgunned Royal Air Force fought as doggedly as Churchill had predicted and finally won the Battle of Britain by November, clearing German bombers from British skies and handing Hitler his first defeat. Churchill praised the valiant British pilots, declaring that “never … was so much owed by so many to so few.” Advance knowledge of German plans aided British pilots, who had access to the new technology of radar and to decoded top-secret German military communications. Battered and exhausted by German attacks, Britain needed American help to continue to fight, as Churchill repeatedly wrote Roosevelt in private.

From Neutrality to the Arsenal of Democracy Most Americans condemned German aggression and favored Britain and France, but isolationism remained powerful. Roosevelt feared that if Congress did not repeal the arms embargo mandated by the Neutrality Act of 1937, France and Britain would soon succumb to the Nazi onslaught. “What worries me,” Roosevelt wrote a friend, “is that public opinion … is patting itself on the back every morning and thanking God for the Atlantic Ocean (and the Pacific Ocean)” and underestimating “the serious implications” of the European war “for our own future.” Congress agreed in November 1939 to allow belligerent nations to buy arms, as well as


nonmilitary supplies, on a cash-and-carry basis. In practice, the revised neutrality law permitted Britain and France to

purchase American war materiel and carry it across the Atlantic in their own ships, thereby shielding American vessels from attack by German submarines lurking in the Atlantic. Roosevelt searched for a way to aid Britain short of entering a formal alliance or declaring war against Germany. Churchill pleaded for American destroyers, aircraft, and munitions, but he had no money to buy them under the prevailing cash- and-carry neutrality law. By late summer in 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged, Roosevelt concocted a scheme to deliver fifty old destroyers to Britain in exchange for American access to British bases in the Western Hemisphere, the first steps toward building a firm Anglo-American alliance against Hitler.

While German Luftwaffe (air force) pilots bombed Britain, Roosevelt decided to run for an unprecedented third term as president in 1940. But the presidential election, which Roosevelt won handily, provided no clear mandate for American involvement in the European war. The Republican candidate, Wendell Willkie, ridiculed by New Dealers as a “simple, barefoot Wall Street lawyer,” attacked Roosevelt as a warmonger. Willkie’s accusations caused the president to promise voters, “Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” a pledge counterbalanced by his repeated warnings about the threats to America posed by Nazi aggression.

Once reelected, Roosevelt maneuvered to support Britain in every way short of war. In a fireside chat shortly after Christmas 1940, he proclaimed that it was incumbent on the United States to become “the great arsenal of democracy” and send “every ounce and every ton of munitions and supplies that we can possibly spare to help the defenders who are in the front lines.”

In January 1941, Roosevelt proposed the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed the British to obtain arms from the United States without paying cash but with the promise to reimburse the United States when the war ended. The purpose of Lend-Lease, Roosevelt proclaimed, was to defend democracy and human rights throughout the world, specifically the Four Freedoms: “freedom of speech and expression … freedom of every person to worship God in his own way … freedom from want … [and] freedom from fear.” Isolationist opponents accused Roosevelt of concocting a “Triple A foreign policy” that would lead to war and “plow under every fourth American boy.” Fiercely debated but approved by Congress, Lend- Lease started a flow of support to Britain that totaled more than $50 billion


during the war, far more than all federal expenditures combined since Roosevelt had become president in 1933.

Stymied in his plans for an invasion of England, Hitler turned his massive army eastward and on June 22, 1941, sprang a surprise attack on the Soviet Union, his ally in the 1939 Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact. Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill had any love for Joseph Stalin or communism, but they both welcomed the Soviet Union to the anti-Nazi cause. Both Western leaders understood that Hitler’s attack on Russia would provide relief for the hard-pressed British. Roosevelt quickly persuaded Congress to extend Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union, beginning the shipment of millions of tons of trucks, jeeps, and other equipment that, in all, supplied about 10 percent of Russian war materiel.

As Hitler’s Wehrmacht raced across the Russian plains and Nazi U- boats tried to choke off supplies to Britain and the Soviet Union, Roosevelt met with Churchill aboard a ship near Newfoundland to cement the Anglo- American alliance. In August 1941, the two leaders issued the Atlantic Charter, pledging the two nations to freedom of the seas and free trade as well as the right of national self-determination.

Japan Attacks America Although the likelihood of war with Germany preoccupied Roosevelt, Hitler exercised a measure of restraint in directly provoking America. Japanese ambitions in Asia clashed more openly with American interests and commitments, especially in China and the Philippines. And unlike Hitler, the Japanese high command planned to attack the United States in order to pursue Japan’s aspirations to rule an Asian empire it termed the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Appealing to widespread Asian bitterness toward such white colonial powers as the British in India and Burma, the French in Indochina (now Vietnam), and the Dutch in the East Indies (now Indonesia), the Japanese campaigned to preserve “Asia for the Asians.” Japan’s invasion of China — which had lasted for ten years by 1941 — proved that its true goal was Asia for the Japanese (Map 25.2). Japan coveted the raw materials available from China and Southeast Asia, and it ignored American demands to stop its campaign of aggression.

In 1940, Japan signaled a new phase of its imperial designs by entering a defensive alliance with Germany and Italy — the Tripartite Pact. To thwart Japanese plans to invade the Dutch East Indies, in July 1941 Roosevelt announced a trade embargo that denied Japan access to oil, scrap iron, and other goods essential for its war machines. Roosevelt


hoped the embargo would strengthen factions within Japan that opposed the militarists.

Instead, the American embargo played into the hands of Japanese militarists headed by General Hideki Tojo, who seized control of the government in October 1941 and persuaded other leaders, including Emperor Hirohito, that swift destruction of American naval bases in the Pacific would leave Japan free to follow its destiny. On December 7, 1941, 183 aircraft lifted off six Japanese carriers and attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the Hawai’ian island of Oahu. The devastating surprise attack sank all of the fleet’s battleships, killed more than 2,400 Americans, and almost crippled U.S. war-making capacity in the Pacific. Luckily for the United States, Japanese pilots failed to destroy oil storage facilities at Pearl Harbor or any of the nation’s aircraft carriers, which happened to be at sea during the attack.

The Japanese scored a stunning tactical victory at Pearl Harbor, but in the long run the attack proved a colossal blunder. The victory made many Japanese commanders overconfident about their military prowess. Worse for the Japanese, Americans instantly united in their desire to fight and avenge the attack. Roosevelt vowed that “this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.” On December 8, Congress endorsed the president’s call for a declaration of war. Both Hitler and Mussolini declared war against America on December 11, bringing the United States into all-out war with the Axis powers in both Europe and Asia.


MAP 25.2 Japanese Aggression through 1941 Beginning with the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Japan sought to extend its imperialist control over most of East Asia. Japanese aggression was driven by the need for raw materials for the country’s expanding industries and by the military government’s devotion to martial honor.

REVIEW How did Roosevelt attempt to balance American isolationism with the military aggression of Germany and Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s?


Mobilizing for War The time had come, Roosevelt announced, for the prescriptions of “Dr. New Deal” to be replaced by the stronger medicines of “Dr. Win-the- War.” Military and civilian leaders rushed to secure the nation against possible attacks, causing Americans with Japanese ancestry to be stigmatized and sent to internment camps. Roosevelt and his advisers lost no time enlisting millions of Americans in the armed forces to bring the isolationist-era military to fighting strength for a two-front war. The war emergency also required economic mobilization unparalleled in the nation’s history. As Dr. Win-the-War, Roosevelt set aside the New Deal goal of reform and plunged headlong into transforming the American economy into the world’s greatest military machine, thereby achieving full employment and economic recovery, goals that had eluded the New Deal.

Home-Front Security Shortly after declaring war against the United States, Hitler dispatched German submarines to hunt American ships along the Atlantic coast, where Paul Tibbets and other American pilots tried to destroy them. The U-boats had devastating success for about eight months, sinking hundreds of U.S. ships and threatening to disrupt the Lend-Lease lifeline to Britain and the Soviet Union. But by mid-1942, the U.S. Navy had chased German submarines into the mid-Atlantic.

Within the continental United States, Americans remained sheltered from the chaos and destruction the war brought to hundreds of millions in Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, the government worried constantly about espionage and internal subversion. Posters warned Americans that “Loose lips sink ships” and “Enemy agents are always near; if you don’t talk, they won’t hear.” The campaign for patriotic vigilance focused on German and Japanese foes, but Americans of Japanese descent became targets of official and popular persecution because of Pearl Harbor and long-standing racial prejudice against people of Asian descent.

About 320,000 people of Japanese ancestry lived in U.S. territory in 1941, two-thirds of them in Hawai’i, where they largely escaped wartime


persecution because they were essential and valued members of society. On the mainland, however, Japanese Americans were a tiny minority — even along the West Coast, where most of them worked on farms and in small businesses. Although an official military survey concluded that Japanese Americans posed no danger, popular hostility fueled a campaign to round up all mainland Japanese Americans — two-thirds of them U.S. citizens. “A Jap’s a Jap…. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not,” one official declared.

On February 19, 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized sending all Americans of Japanese descent to ten makeshift internment camps located in remote areas of the West and South (Map 25.3). Allowed little time to sell or secure their properties, Japanese Americans lost homes and businesses worth about $400 million and lived out the war penned in by barbed wire and armed guards. Although several thousand Japanese Americans served with distinction in the U.S. armed forces and no case of subversion by a Japanese American was ever uncovered, the Supreme Court, in its 1944 Korematsu decision, upheld Executive Order 9066’s blatant violation of constitutional rights as justified by “military necessity.”

MAP 25.3 Western Relocation Authority Centers Responding to prejudice and fear of sabotage, President Roosevelt authorized the relocation of all Americans of Japanese descent in 1942. Taken from their homes in the cities and farmland of the far West, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were confined in camps scattered as far east as the Mississippi River.


Japanese Internment This photo shows Japanese Americans who were rounded up and confined to the horse barns and racetrack at Santa Anita, California, before being shipped out to internment camps throughout the western states. The imprisoned people on the left are saying good-bye to their friends seen waving from the windows of the train shown on the right, which was taking them to internment camps. Corbis.

Building a Citizen Army In 1940, Roosevelt encouraged Congress to pass the Selective Service Act to register men of military age who would be subject to a draft if the need arose. More than 6,000 local draft boards registered more than 30 million men and, when the war came, rapidly inducted them into military service. In all, more than 16 million men and women served in uniform during the war, two-thirds of them draftees, mostly young men. Women were barred from combat duty, but they worked at nearly every noncombatant task, eroding traditional barriers to women’s military service.

The Selective Service Act prohibited discrimination “on account of race or color,” and almost a million African American men and women donned uniforms, as did half a million Mexican Americans, 25,000 Native Americans, and 13,000 Chinese Americans. The racial insults and discrimination suffered by all people of color made some soldiers ask, as a


Mexican American GI did on his way to the European front, “Why fight for America when you have not been treated as an American?” Only black Americans were trained in segregated camps, confined in segregated barracks, and assigned to segregated units.

Most black Americans were consigned to manual labor, and relatively few served in combat until late in 1944, when the need for military manpower in Europe intensified. Then, as General George Patton told black soldiers in a tank unit in Normandy, “I don’t care what color you are, so long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sonsabitches.”

Homosexuals also served in the armed forces, although in much smaller numbers than black Americans. Allowed to serve as long as their sexual preferences remained covert, gay Americans, like other minorities, sought to demonstrate their worth under fire. “I was superpatriotic,” a gay combat veteran recalled. Another gay GI remarked, “Who in the hell is going to worry about [homosexuality]” in the midst of the life-or-death realities of war?

Conversion to a War Economy In 1940, the American economy remained mired in the depression. Nearly one worker in seven was still unemployed, factories operated far below their productive capacity, and the total federal budget was less than $10 billion. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt announced the goal of converting the economy to produce “overwhelming …, crushing superiority of equipment in any theater of the world war.” Factories were converted to assembling tanks and airplanes, and production soared to record levels. By the end of the war, jobs exceeded workers, plants operated at full capacity, and the federal budget topped $100 billion.

To organize and oversee this tidal wave of military production, Roosevelt called upon business leaders to come to Washington and, for the token payment of a dollar a year, head new government agencies such as the War Production Board, which set production priorities and pushed for maximum output. Contracts flowed to large corporations, often on a basis that guaranteed their profits. During the first half of 1942, the government issued contracts worth more than the entire gross national product in 1941.

Booming wartime employment swelled union membership. To speed production, the government asked unions to pledge not to strike. Despite the relentless pace of work, union members mostly kept their no-strike pledge, with the important exception of members of the United Mine Workers, who walked out of the coal mines in 1943, demanding a pay hike


and earning the enmity of many Americans. Overall, conversion to war production achieved Roosevelt’s ambitious

goal of “crushing superiority” in military goods. At a total cost of $304 billion (equivalent to about $4 trillion today) during the war, the nation produced an avalanche of military equipment, more than double the combined production of Germany, Japan, and Italy. This outpouring of military goods supplied not only U.S. forces but also America’s allies, giving tangible meaning to Roosevelt’s pledge to make America the “arsenal of democracy.”

REVIEW How did the Roosevelt administration mobilize the human and industrial resources necessary to fight a two-front war?


Fighting Back The United States confronted a daunting military challenge in December 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed much of its Pacific Fleet. In the Atlantic, Hitler’s U-boats sank American ships, while German armies occupied most of western Europe and relentlessly advanced eastward into the Soviet Union. Roosevelt and his military advisers believed that defeating Germany took top priority. To achieve that victory required preventing Hitler from defeating America’s allies, Britain and the Soviet Union. If they fell, Hitler would command all the resources of Europe in a probable assault on the United States. To fight back effectively against Germany and Japan, the United States had to coordinate military and political strategy with its allies and muster all its human and economic assets. Victory over the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Midway, the successful elimination of Germany’s menace to Allied shipping in the prolonged Battle of the Atlantic, and the Allied assault on North Africa and then Italy established Allied naval superiority in the Atlantic and Pacific and began to challenge German domination of southern Europe.

Turning the Tide in the Pacific In the Pacific theater, Japan’s leading military strategist, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, believed that if his forces did not quickly conquer and secure the territories they targeted, Japan would eventually lose the war because of America’s far greater resources. Swiftly, the Japanese assaulted American airfields in the Philippines and captured U.S. outposts on Guam and Wake Island. After capturing Singapore and Burma, Japan sought to complete its domination of the southern Pacific with an attack in January 1942 on the American stronghold in the Philippines (see Map 25.5). American defenders surrendered to the Japanese in May. The Japanese victors sent captured American and Filipino soldiers on the infamous Bataan Death March to a concentration camp, causing thousands to die. By the summer of 1942, the Japanese had conquered the Dutch East Indies and were poised to strike Australia and New Zealand.

In the spring of 1942, U.S. forces launched a major two-pronged


counteroffensive that military officials hoped would reverse Japanese advances. Forces led by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U.S. armed forces in the Pacific theater, moved north from Australia and eventually attacked the Japanese in the Philippines. Far more decisively, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz sailed his battle fleet west from Hawai’i to retake Japanese-held islands in the southern and mid-Pacific. On May 7–8, 1942, in the Coral Sea just north of Australia, the American fleet and carrier-based warplanes defeated a Japanese armada that was sailing around the coast of New Guinea.

Nimitz then learned from an intelligence intercept that the Japanese were massing an invasion force aimed at Midway Island, an outpost guarding the Hawai’ian Islands. Nimitz maneuvered his carriers and cruisers to surprise the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. In a furious battle that raged on June 3–6, American ships and planes delivered a devastating blow to the Japanese navy. The Battle of Midway reversed the balance of naval power in the Pacific and put the Japanese at a disadvantage for the rest of the war. Japan managed to build only six more large aircraft carriers during the war, while the United States launched dozens, proving the wisdom of Yamamoto’s prediction. But the Japanese still occupied and defended the many places they had conquered.

The Campaign in Europe After Pearl Harbor, Hitler’s eastern-front armies marched ever deeper into the Soviet Union while his western-front forces prepared to invade Britain. As in World War I, the Germans attempted to starve the British into submission by destroying their seaborne lifeline. In 1941 and 1942, they sank Allied ships faster than new ones could be built. Overall, the U-boat campaign sank 4,700 merchant vessels and almost 200 warships and killed 40,000 Allied seamen.

Until mid-1943, the outcome of the war in the Atlantic remained in doubt. Then, newly invented radar detectors and production of sufficient destroyer escorts for merchant vessels allowed the Allies to prey upon the lurking U-boats. After suffering a 75 percent casualty rate among U-boat crews, Hitler withdrew German submarines from the North Atlantic in late May 1943, allowing thousands of American supply ships to cross the Atlantic unimpeded. Winning the Battle of the Atlantic allowed the United States to continue to supply its British and Soviet allies for the duration of the war and to reduce the imminent threat of a German invasion of Britain.

The most important strategic questions confronting the United States


and its allies were when and where to open a second front against the Nazis. Stalin demanded that America and Britain mount an immediate and massive assault across the English Channel into western France to force Hitler to divert his armies from the eastern front and relieve the pressure on the Soviet Union. Churchill and Roosevelt instead delayed opening a second front, allowing the Germans and the Soviets to slug it out. This drawn-out conflict weakened both the Nazis and the Communists and made an eventual Allied attack on western France more likely to succeed. Churchill and Roosevelt decided to strike first in North Africa to help secure Allied control of the Mediterranean.

In October and November 1942, British forces at El-Alamein in Egypt halted German general Erwin Rommel’s drive to capture the Suez Canal, Britain’s lifeline to the oil of the Middle East and to British colonies in India and South Asia (see Map 25.4). In November, an American army under General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed far to the west, in French Morocco. Propelled by American tank units commanded by General George Patton, the Allied armies defeated the Germans in North Africa in May 1943. The North African campaign pushed the Germans out of Africa, made the Mediterranean safe for Allied shipping, and opened the door for an Allied invasion of Italy.

In January 1943, while the North African campaign was still under way, Roosevelt and Churchill met in Casablanca and announced that they would accept nothing less than the “unconditional surrender” of the Axis powers, ruling out peace negotiations. They concluded that they should capitalize on their success in North Africa and strike against Italy, consigning the Soviet Union to continue to bear the brunt of the Nazi war machine.

In July 1943, American and British forces landed in Sicily. Soon afterward, Mussolini was deposed in Italy, ending the reign of Italian fascism. Quickly, the Allies invaded the mainland, and the Italian government surrendered unconditionally. The Germans responded by rushing reinforcements to Italy, turning the Allies’ Italian campaign into a series of battles to liberate Italy from German occupation.

German troops dug into strong fortifications and fought to defend every inch of Italy’s rugged terrain. Allied forces continued to battle against stubborn German defenses for the remainder of the war, making the Italian campaign the war’s deadliest for American infantrymen. One soldier wrote that his buddies “died like butchered swine.”


REVIEW How did the United States seek to counter the Japanese in the Pacific and the Germans in Europe?


The Wartime Home Front The war effort mobilized Americans as never before. Factories churned out ever more bombs, bullets, tanks, ships, and airplanes, which workers rushed to assemble, leaving their farms and small towns and congregating in cities. Women took jobs with wrenches and welding torches, boosting the nation’s workforce and violating traditional notions that a woman’s place was in the home rather than on the assembly line. Despite rationing and shortages, unprecedented government expenditures for war production brought prosperity to many Americans after years of depression-era poverty. Although Americans in uniform risked their lives on battlefields in Europe and Asia, Americans on the U.S. mainland enjoyed complete immunity from foreign attack — in sharp contrast to their Soviet and British allies. The wartime ideology that contrasted Allied support for human rights with Axis tyranny provided justification for the many sacrifices Americans were required to make in support of the military effort. It also established a standard of basic human equality that became a potent weapon in the campaign for equal rights at home and in condemning atrocities such as the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis.

Women and Families, Guns and Butter Millions of American women gladly took their places on assembly lines in defense industries. At the start of the war, about a quarter of adult women worked outside the home, but few women worked in factories, except for textile mills and sewing industries. But wartime mobilization of the economy and the enlistment of millions of men in the armed forces left factories begging for women workers.

Government advertisements urged women to take industrial jobs by assuring them that their household chores had prepared them for work on the “Victory Line.” One billboard proclaimed, “If you’ve sewed buttons, or made buttonholes, on a [sewing] machine, you can learn to do spot welding on airplane parts.” Millions of women responded. Advertisers often referred to a woman who worked in a war industry as “Rosie the Riveter,” a popular wartime term. By the end of the war, women working


outside the home numbered 50 percent more than in 1939. Contributing to the war effort also paid off in wages. A Kentucky woman remembered her job at a munitions plant, where she earned “the fabulous sum of $32 a week. To us it was an absolute miracle. Before that we made nothing.” Although men were paid an average of $54 for comparable wartime work, women accepted the pay differential and welcomed their chance to earn wages and help win the war at the same time.

The majority of married women remained at home, occupied with domestic chores and child care. But they, too, supported the war effort, planting Victory Gardens, saving tin cans and newspapers for recycling into war materiel, and buying war bonds. Many families scrimped to cope with the 30 percent inflation during the war, but men and women in manufacturing industries enjoyed wages that grew twice as fast as inflation.

The war influenced how all families spent their earnings. Buying a new washing machine or car was out of the question since factories that formerly built them now made military goods. Many other consumer goods — such as tires, gasoline, shoes, and meat — were rationed at home to meet military needs overseas. But most Americans readily found things to buy, including movie tickets, cosmetics, and music recordings.

The wartime prosperity and abundance enjoyed by most Americans contrasted with the experiences of their hard-pressed allies. Personal consumption fell by 22 percent in Britain, and food output plummeted to just one-third of prewar levels in the Soviet Union, creating widespread hunger and even starvation. Few went hungry in the United States as farm output grew 25 percent annually during the war, providing a cornucopia of food for export to the Allies.

The Double V Campaign Fighting against Nazi Germany and its ideology of Aryan racial supremacy, Americans confronted extensive racial prejudice in their own country. The Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black newspaper, asserted that the wartime emergency called for a Double V campaign seeking “victory over our enemies at home and victory over our enemies on the battlefields abroad.” As a Mississippi-born African American combat veteran of the Pacific theater recalled, “We had two wars to fight: prejudice … and those Japs.”

In 1941, black organizations demanded that the federal government require companies receiving defense contracts to integrate their


workforces. A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, promised that 100,000 African American marchers would descend on Washington if the president did not eliminate discrimination in defense industries. Roosevelt decided to risk offending his white allies in the South and in unions, and he issued Executive Order 8802 in mid-1941. It authorized the Committee on Fair Employment Practices to investigate and prevent racial discrimination in employment.

Progress came slowly, however. In 1940, nine out of ten black Americans lived below the federal poverty line, and those who worked earned an average of just 39 percent of whites’ wages. In search of better jobs and living conditions, 5.5 million black Americans migrated from the South to centers of industrial production in the North and West, making a majority of African Americans city dwellers for the first time in U.S. history. Severe labor shortages and government fair employment standards opened assembly-line jobs in defense plants to African Americans, causing black unemployment to drop by 80 percent during the war. But more jobs did not mean equal pay for blacks. The average income of black families rose during the war, but by the end of the conflict it still stood at only half of what white families earned.

Blacks’ migration to defense jobs intensified racial antagonisms, which boiled over in the hot summer of 1943, when 242 race riots erupted in 47 cities. The worst mayhem occurred in Detroit, where a long-simmering conflict between whites and blacks over racially segregated housing ignited into a race war. In two days of violence, twenty-five blacks and nine whites were killed, and scores more were injured.

Racial violence created the impetus for the Double V campaign, officially supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which asserted black Americans’ demands for the rights and privileges enjoyed by all other Americans — demands reinforced by the Allies’ wartime ideology of freedom and democracy. While the NAACP focused on court challenges to segregation, a new organization founded in 1942, the Congress of Racial Equality, organized picketing and sit-ins against racially segregated restaurants and theaters. Still, the Double V campaign achieved only limited success against racial discrimination during the war.

Wartime Politics and the 1944 Election Americans rallied around the war effort in unprecedented unity. In June 1944, Congress recognized the sacrifices made by millions of veterans and


unanimously passed the landmark GI Bill of Rights, which gave military veterans government funds for education, housing, and health care, as well as providing loans to start businesses and buy homes. The GI Bill put the financial resources of the federal government behind the abstract goals of freedom and democracy for which veterans were fighting, and it empowered millions of GIs to better themselves and their families after the war.

After twelve turbulent years in the White House, Roosevelt was exhausted and gravely ill with heart disease, but he was determined to remain president until the war ended. His poor health made the selection of a vice presidential candidate unusually important. Convinced that many Americans had soured on liberal reform, Roosevelt chose Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri as his running mate. A reliable party man from a southern border state, Truman satisfied urban Democratic leaders while not worrying white southerners who were nervous about challenges to racial segregation.

The Republicans, confident of a strong conservative upsurge in the nation, nominated as their presidential candidate the governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, who had made his reputation as a tough crime fighter. In the 1944 presidential campaign, Roosevelt’s failing health alarmed many observers, but his frailty was outweighed by Americans’ unwillingness to change presidents in the midst of the war and by Dewey’s failure to persuade most voters that the New Deal was a creeping socialist menace. Voters gave Roosevelt a 53.5 percent majority, his narrowest presidential victory, ensuring his continued leadership as Dr. Win-the- War.

Reaction to the Holocaust Since the 1930s, the Nazis had persecuted Jews in Germany and every German-occupied territory, causing many Jews to seek asylum beyond Hitler’s reach. Thousands of Jews sought to immigrate to the United States, but 82 percent of Americans opposed admitting them, and they were turned away. In 1942, numerous reports reached the United States that Hitler was sending Jews, Gypsies, religious and political dissenters, homosexuals, and others to concentration camps, where old people, children, and others deemed too weak to work were systematically killed and cremated, while the able-bodied were put to work at slave labor until they died of starvation and abuse. Other camps were devoted almost exclusively to murdering and cremating Jews. Despite reports of the brutal slave labor and death camps, U.S. officials refused to grant asylum to


Jewish refugees. Most Americans, including top officials, believed that reports were exaggerated. Only 152,000 of Europe’s millions of Jews managed to gain refuge in the United States before America’s entry into the war. Afterward, the number of Jewish refugees dropped to just 2,400 by 1944.

Mass Execution of Jewish Women and Children On October 14, 1942, Jewish women and children from the village of Mizocz in present-day Ukraine were herded into a ravine, forced to undress and lie facedown, and then shot at point-blank range by German officials. To centralize such executions, the Nazis built death camps, where they systematically slaughtered millions of Jews and other “undesirables.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Desperate to stem the killing, the World Jewish Congress appealed to the Allies to bomb the death camps and the railroad tracks leading to them in order to hamper the killing and block further shipments of victims. Intent on achieving military victory as soon as possible, the Allies repeatedly turned down such bombing requests, arguing that the air forces could not spare resources from their military missions.

The nightmare of the Holocaust was all too real. When Russian troops arrived at Auschwitz in Poland in January 1945, they found emaciated prisoners, skeletal corpses, gas chambers, pits filled with human ashes, and loot the Nazis had stripped from the dead, including hair, gold fillings, and


false teeth. At last, the truth about the Holocaust began to be known beyond the Germans who had perpetrated and tolerated these atrocities and the men, women, and children who had succumbed to the genocide. By then, it was too late for the 11 million civilian victims — mostly Jews — of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity.

REVIEW How did the war influence American society?


Toward Unconditional Surrender By February 1943, Soviet defenders had finally defeated the massive German offensive against Stalingrad, turning the tide of the war in Europe. After gargantuan sacrifices in fighting that had lasted for eighteen months, the Red Army forced Hitler’s Wehrmacht to turn back toward the west. In the Pacific, the Allies had halted the expansion of the Japanese empire but now had the deadly task of dislodging Japanese defenders from the outposts they still occupied. Allied military planners devised a strategy to annihilate Axis resistance by taking advantage of America’s industrial superiority. A secret plan to develop a superbomb harnessing atomic power came to fruition too late to use against Germany. But when the atomic bomb devastated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan finally surrendered, canceling the planned assault on the Japanese homeland by hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and sailors and their allies.

From Bombing Raids to Berlin While the Allied campaigns in North Africa and Italy were under way, British and American pilots flew bombing missions from England to German-occupied territories and to Germany itself as an airborne substitute for the delayed second front on the ground. During night raids, British bombers targeted general areas, hoping to hit civilians, create terror, and undermine morale. Beginning with Paul Tibbets’s flight in August 1942, American pilots flew heavily armored B-17s from English airfields in daytime raids on industrial targets vital for the German war machine.

German air defenses took a fearsome toll on Allied pilots and aircraft. In 1943, two-thirds of American airmen did not survive to complete their twenty-five-mission tours of duty. In all, 85,000 American airmen were killed in the skies over Europe. Many others were shot down and held as prisoners of war. In February 1944, the arrival of America’s durable and deadly P-51 Mustang fighter gave Allied bombers superior protection. The Mustangs slowly began to sweep the Luftwaffe from the skies, allowing


bombers to penetrate deep into Germany and pound civilian and military targets around the clock.

In November 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin met in Tehran to discuss wartime strategy and the second front. Roosevelt conceded to Stalin that the Soviet Union would exercise de facto control of the Eastern European countries that the Red Army occupied as it rolled back the still- potent German Wehrmacht. Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan once Germany finally surrendered, in effect promising to open a second front in the Pacific theater. Roosevelt and Churchill promised that they would at last launch a massive second-front assault in northern France, code-named Overlord, scheduled for May 1944.

General Eisenhower was assigned overall command of Allied forces, and mountains of military supplies were stockpiled in England. The huge deployment of Hitler’s armies in the east, which were trying to halt the Red Army’s westward offensive, left too few German troops to stop the millions of Allied soldiers waiting to attack France. More decisive, years of Allied air raids had decimated the German Luftwaffe, which could send aloft only 300 fighter planes against 12,000 Allied aircraft.

After frustrating delays caused by stormy weather, Eisenhower launched the largest amphibious assault in world history on D Day, June 6, 1944 (Map 25.4). Allied soldiers finally succeeded in securing the beachhead. An officer told his men, “The only people on this beach are the dead and those that are going to die — now let’s get the hell out of here.” And they did, finally surmounting the cliffs that loomed over the beach and destroying the German defenses. One GI who made the landing recalled the soldiers “were exhausted and we were exultant. We had survived D Day!”

Within a week, a flood of soldiers, tanks, and other military equipment propelled Allied forces toward Germany. On August 25, the Allies liberated Paris from four years of Nazi occupation. As the giant pincers of the Allied and Soviet armies closed on Germany in December 1944, Hitler ordered a counterattack to capture the Allies’ essential supply port at Antwerp, Belgium. In the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944, to January 31, 1945), as the Allies termed it, German forces drove fifty-five miles into Allied lines before being stopped at Bastogne. The battle caused nearly 90,000 American casualties, more than in any other battle of the war. An American lieutenant recalled the macabre scene of “all the bodies … frozen stiff … many dead Americans and Germans … [many with] the ring finger … cut off in order to get the ring.” The battle cost the Nazis hundreds of tanks and more than 100,000 men, fatally depleting Hitler’s


reserves. In February 1945, while Allied armies relentlessly pushed German

forces backward, Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt met secretly at the Yalta Conference (named for the Russian resort town where it was held) to discuss their plans for the postwar world. Roosevelt managed to secure Stalin’s promise to permit votes of self-determination in the Eastern European countries occupied by the Red Army. The Allies pledged to support Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) as the leader of China. The Soviet Union obtained a role in the postwar governments of Korea and Manchuria in exchange for entering the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany.

MAP 25.4 The European Theater of World War II, 1942–1945 The Russian reversal of the German offensive at Stalingrad and Leningrad, combined with Allied landings in North Africa and Normandy, trapped Germany in a closing vise of Allied armies on all sides.

The “Big Three” also agreed on the creation of a new international peacekeeping organization, the United Nations (UN). All nations would have a place in the UN General Assembly, but the Security Council would wield decisive power, and its permanent representatives from the Allied powers — China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United


States — would possess a veto over UN actions. The Senate ratified the United Nations Charter in July 1945 by a vote of 89 to 2, reflecting the triumph of internationalism during the nation’s mobilization for war.

While Allied armies sped toward Berlin, Allied warplanes dropped more bombs after D Day than in all the previous European bombing raids combined. By April 11, Allied armies reached the banks of the Elbe River and paused while the Soviets smashed into Berlin. The Red Army captured Berlin on May 2. Hitler had committed suicide on April 30, and the provisional German government surrendered unconditionally on May 7. The war in Europe was finally over, with the sacrifice of 135,576 American soldiers, nearly 250,000 British troops, and 9 million Russian combatants.

Roosevelt did not live to witness the end of the war. On April 12, he suffered a fatal stroke. Americans grieved for the man who had led them through years of depression and world war, and they worried about his untested successor, Vice President Harry Truman.

The Defeat of Japan After punishing defeats in the Coral Sea and at Midway, Japan had to fend off Allied naval and air attacks. In 1943, British and American forces, along with Indian and Chinese allies, launched an offensive against Japanese outposts in southern Asia, pushing through Burma and into China, where Jiang’s armies continued to resist conquest. In the Pacific, Americans and their allies attacked Japanese strongholds by sea, air, and land, moving island by island toward the Japanese homeland (Map 25.5).


MAP 25.5 The Pacific Theater of World War II, 1941–1945 To drive the Japanese from their far-flung empire, the Allies launched two combined naval and military offensives — one to recapture the Philippines and then attack Japanese forces in China, the other to hop from island to island in the Central Pacific toward the Japanese mainland.

The island-hopping campaign began in August 1942, when American Marines landed on Guadalcanal in the southern Pacific. For the next six months, a savage battle raged for control of the strategic area. Finally, during the night of February 8, 1943, Japanese forces withdrew. The terrible losses on both sides indicated to the Marines how costly it would be to defeat Japan. After the battle, Joseph Steinbacher, a twenty-one-year- old from Alabama, sailed from San Francisco to New Guinea, where, he recalled, “all the cannon fodder waited to be assigned” to replace the killed and wounded.

In mid-1943, Allied forces launched offensives in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands that gradually secured the South Pacific. In the Central Pacific, amphibious forces conquered the Gilbert and Marshall islands, which served as forward bases for air assaults on the Japanese home islands. As the Allies attacked island after island, Japanese soldiers were ordered to refuse to surrender no matter how hopeless their plight.


While the island-hopping campaign kept pressure on Japanese forces, the Allies invaded the Philippines in the fall of 1944. In the four-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the greatest naval battles in world history, the American fleet crushed the Japanese armada, clearing the way for Allied victory in the Philippines. While the Philippine campaign was under way, American forces captured two crucial islands — Iwo Jima and Okinawa — from which they planned to launch an attack on the Japanese homeland. To defend Okinawa, Japanese leaders ordered thousands of suicide pilots, known as kamikaze, to crash their bomb-laden planes into Allied ships. But instead of destroying the American fleet, they demolished the last vestige of the Japanese air force. By June 1945, the Japanese were nearly defenseless on the sea and in the air. Still, their leaders prepared to fight to the death for their homeland.

Joseph Steinbacher and other GIs who had suffered “horrendous” casualties in the Philippines were now told by their commanding officer, “Men, in a few short months we are going to invade [Japan]…. We will be going in on the first wave and are expecting ninety percent casualties the first day…. For the few of us left alive the war will be over.” Steinbacher later recalled his mental attitude at that moment: “I know that I am now a walking dead man and will not have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it through the last great battle to conquer the home islands of Japan.”

Atomic Warfare In mid-July 1945, as Allied forces prepared for the final assault on Japan, American scientists tested a secret weapon at an isolated desert site near Los Alamos, New Mexico. In 1942, Roosevelt had authorized the top- secret Manhattan Project to find a way to convert nuclear energy into a superbomb before the Germans added such a weapon to their arsenal. More than 100,000 Americans, led by scientists, engineers, and military officers at Los Alamos, worked frantically to win the race for an atomic bomb. Germany surrendered two and a half months before the test on July 16, 1945, when scientists first witnessed an atomic explosion that sent a mushroom cloud of debris eight miles into the atmosphere. After watching the successful test of the bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the head scientist at Los Alamos, remarked soberly, “Lots of boys not grown up yet will owe their life to it.”


Hiroshima This photo shows part of Hiroshima shortly after the atomic bomb dropped from the Enola Gay, leveling the densely populated city. Deadly radiation from the bomb maimed and killed Japanese civilians for years afterward. Bettmann/Corbis.

President Truman saw no reason not to use the atomic bomb against Japan if doing so would save American lives. Despite numerous defeats, Japan still had more than 6 million reserves at home for a last-ditch defense against the anticipated Allied assault, which U.S. military advisers estimated would kill at least 250,000 Americans. But first Truman issued an ultimatum: Japan must surrender unconditionally or face utter ruin. When the Japanese failed to respond by the deadline, Truman ordered that an atomic bomb be dropped on a Japanese city. The bomb that Colonel Paul Tibbets and his crew released over Hiroshima on August 6 leveled the city and incinerated about 80,000 people, and many thousands more died later from injuries and radiation. Three days later, after the Japanese government still refused to surrender, the second atomic bomb killed nearly as many civilians at Nagasaki.

With American assurance that the emperor could retain his throne after the Allies took over, Japan surrendered on August 14. On a troopship departing from Europe for what would have been the final assault on Japan, an American soldier spoke for millions of others when he heard the wonderful news that the killing was over: “We are going to grow to adulthood after all.”


While all Americans welcomed peace, some worried about the consequences of unleashing atomic power. Almost every American believed that the atomic bomb had brought peace in 1945, but nobody knew what it would bring in the future.

REVIEW Why did Truman elect to use the atomic bomb against Japan?


Conclusion: Allied Victory and America’s Emergence as a Superpower At a cost of 405,399 American lives, the nation united with its allies to crush the Axis aggressors into unconditional surrender. Almost all Americans believed they had won a “good war” against totalitarian evil. The Allies saved Asia and Europe from enslavement and finally halted the Nazis’ genocidal campaign against Jews and many others whom the Nazis considered inferior. To secure human rights and protect the world against future wars, the Roosevelt administration took the lead in creating the United Nations.

Wartime production lifted the nation out of the Great Depression. The gross national product soared to four times what it had been when Roosevelt became president in 1933. Jobs in defense industries eliminated chronic unemployment, provided wages for millions of women workers and African American migrants from southern farms, and boosted Americans’ prosperity. Ahead stretched the challenge of maintaining that prosperity while reintegrating millions of uniformed men and women, with help from the benefits of the GI Bill.

By the end of the war, the United States had emerged as a global superpower. Wartime mobilization made the American economy the strongest in the world, buttressed by the military clout of the nation’s nuclear monopoly. Although the war left much of the world a rubble- strewn wasteland, the American mainland had enjoyed immunity from attack. The Japanese occupation of China had left 50 million people without homes and millions more dead, maimed, and orphaned. The German offensive against the Soviet Union had killed more than 20 million Russian soldiers and civilians. Germany and Japan lay in ruins, their economies and societies as shattered as their military forces. But in the gruesome balance sheet of war, the Axis powers had inflicted far more grief, misery, and destruction on the global victims of their aggression than they had suffered in return.

As the dominant Western nation in the postwar world, the United States asserted its leadership in the reconstruction of Europe while


occupying Japan and overseeing its economic and political recovery. America soon confronted new challenges in the tense aftermath of the war, as the Soviets seized political control of Eastern Europe, a Communist revolution swept China, and national liberation movements emerged in the colonial empires of Britain and France. The forces unleashed by World War II would shape the United States and the rest of the world for decades to come. Before the ashes of World War II had cooled, America’s wartime alliance with the Soviet Union fractured, igniting a Cold War between the superpowers. To resist global communism, the United States became, in effect, the policeman of the free world, repudiating the pre–World War II legacy of isolationism.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S good neighbor policy (p. 651) neutrality acts (p. 652) appeasement (p. 654) Lend-Lease Act (p. 655) internment camps (p. 658) Selective Service Act (p. 660) Battle of Midway (p. 662) Double V campaign (p. 664) GI Bill of Rights (p. 665) Holocaust (p. 667) D Day (p. 668) Manhattan Project (p. 671)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. Why did isolationism during the 1930s concern Roosevelt? (pp.

650–52) 2. How did Roosevelt attempt to balance American isolationism

with the military aggression of Germany and Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s? (pp. 652–57)

3. How did the Roosevelt administration mobilize the human and industrial resources necessary to fight a two-front war? (pp. 658–61)


4. How did the United States seek to counter the Japanese in the Pacific and the Germans in Europe? (pp. 661–63)

5. How did the war influence American society? (pp. 663–67) 6. Why did Truman elect to use the atomic bomb against Japan?

(pp. 667–72)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. Did isolationism bolster or undermine national security and

national economic interests? Discuss Roosevelt’s evolving answer to this question.

2. Who benefited most from the wartime economy? What financial limitations did various members of society face, and why?

3. How did the United States play a decisive role in the Allies’ victory?

4. How did minorities’ contributions to the war effort draw attention to domestic racism? What were the political implications of these developments?

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. How did America’s involvement in World War II differ from its

participation in World War I? Consider diplomacy, allies and enemies, wartime military and economic policies, and social and cultural changes. (See chapter 22.)

2. Why did World War II succeed in creating the full economic recovery that remained elusive during the New Deal? Consider specifically the scope and limits of New Deal economic reforms and how they changed, if at all, during World War II. (See chapter 24.)


1935– 1937

• Neutrality acts passed.

1936 • Nazi Germany occupies Rhineland.


• Italian armies conquer Ethiopia. • Spanish civil war begins.

1937 • Japanese troops capture Nanjing. 1938 • Hitler annexes Austria. 1939 • German troops occupy Czechoslovakia.

• Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact formed. • Germany’s attack on Poland begins World War II.

1940 • Germany invades Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

• British and French troops evacuate from Dunkirk. • Battle of Britain fought. • Tripartite Pact formed.

1941 • Lend-Lease Act passes. • Germany invades Soviet Union. • Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

1942 • Japanese Americans moved to internment camps. • Japan captures the Philippines. • Congress of Racial Equality founded. • Battles of Coral Sea and Midway fought. • Manhattan Project begins. • U.S. forces invade North Africa.

1943 • Allied leaders demand unconditional surrender of Axis powers.

• U.S. and British forces invade Sicily. 1944 • D Day executed. 1945 • Yalta Conference held.

• Roosevelt dies; Vice President Harry Truman becomes president.

• Germany surrenders. • United States joins United Nations. • United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and

Nagasaki. • Japan surrenders, ending World War II.



26 Cold War Politics in the Truman Years 1945–1953


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Explain the origins of the Cold War, and describe where and how the

containment policy was implemented.

◆ Describe President Truman’s Fair Deal domestic agenda, and explain its accomplishments and failures.

◆ Explain why the United States went to war in Korea and how military objectives changed. Identify the war’s costs and consequences.

HEADS TURNED WHEN CONGRESSWOMAN HELEN GAHAGAN DOUGLAS walked through the U.S. Capitol. She was one of only ten female representatives in the 435-seat body, and she also drew attention as an attractive former Broadway star and opera singer. Douglas served in Congress from 1945 to 1951 when the fate of the New Deal hung in the balance and the nation charted an unprecedented course in foreign policy.

Born in 1900, Helen Gahagan grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and left college early for the stage. She quickly won fame on Broadway,


starring in show after show until she fell in love with one of her leading men, Melvyn Douglas. They married in 1931, and she followed him to Hollywood, where he hoped to advance his movie career and where she bore two children.

Helen Gahagan Douglas admired Franklin D. Roosevelt’s leadership during the depression, and the Douglases joined Hollywood’s liberal political circles. Douglas visited migrant camps where she saw “faces stamped with poverty and despair.” Her work on behalf of poor migrant farmworkers led her to testify before Congress and become a friend of the Roosevelts. In 1944, she won election to Congress, representing not the posh Hollywood district where she lived but a multiracial district in downtown Los Angeles, which cemented her dedication to progressive politics.

Like many liberals, Douglas was devastated by Roosevelt’s death and unsure of his successor. “Who was Harry Truman anyway?” she asked. A compromise choice for the vice presidency, this “accidental president” lacked the charisma and political skills with which Roosevelt had transformed foreign and domestic policy, won four presidential elections, and forged a Democratic Party coalition that dominated national politics. Besides confronting domestic problems that the New Deal had not solved — how to avoid another depression without the war to fuel the economy — Truman faced new international challenges that threatened to undermine the nation’s security.

By 1947, a new term described the hostility that had emerged between the United States and its wartime ally, the Soviet Union: Cold War. Truman and his advisers insisted that the Soviet Union posed a major threat to the United States, and they gradually shaped a policy to contain Soviet power wherever it threatened to spread. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Douglas urged cooperation with the Soviet Union and initially opposed aid to Greece and Turkey, the first step in the new containment policy. Yet thereafter, Douglas was Truman’s loyal ally, supporting the Marshall Plan, the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the war in Korea. The containment policy achieved its goals in Europe, but communism spread in Asia, and at home a wave of anti- Communist hysteria — a second Red scare — harmed many Americans and stifled dissent and debate.


Helen Gahagan Douglas in Congress Long accustomed as an actress to appearing before an audience, the congresswoman from California was a popular campaigner for Democratic candidates and a charismatic speaker. When soaring prices threatened ordinary Americans’ budgets in 1948, she brought a basket of groceries to the House of Representatives to plead for the continuance of government price controls. Bettmann/Corbis.

Douglas’s earlier links with leftist groups and her advocacy of civil rights and social welfare programs made her and other liberals easy targets for conservative politicians exploiting the anti-Communist fervor that accompanied the Cold War. Running for the U.S. Senate in 1950, she faced Republican Richard M. Nixon, who had gained national attention for his efforts to expose Communists in government. Nixon’s campaign labeled Douglas as “pink right down to her underwear” and sent thousands of voters the anonymous message, “I think you should know Helen Douglas is a Communist.” Douglas’s political career ended in defeat, just as much of Truman’s domestic agenda fell victim to the Red scare.



From the Grand Alliance to Containment With Japan’s surrender in August 1945, Americans besieged the government to bring their loved ones home. They looked forward to the end of international crises and the dismantling of the large military establishment. Postwar realities quickly shattered these hopes. The wartime alliance of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union crumbled, giving birth to a Cold War. The United States began to develop the means for containing the spread of Soviet power around the globe, including a military buildup and an enormous aid program for Europe, known as the Marshall Plan.

The Cold War Begins “The guys who came out of World War II were idealistic,” reported Harold Russell, a young paratrooper who had lost both hands in a training accident. “We felt the day had come when the wars were all over.” But such hopes were quickly dashed. Once the Allies had overcome a common enemy, the prewar mistrust and antagonism between the Soviet Union and the West resurfaced over their very different visions of the postwar world.

The Western Allies’ delay in opening a second front in Western Europe aroused Soviet suspicions during the war. The Soviet Union had made supreme wartime sacrifices, losing more than twenty million citizens and vast portions of its agricultural and industrial capacity. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wanted to make Germany pay for Soviet economic reconstruction and to expand Soviet influence in the world. Above all, he wanted friendly governments on the Soviet Union’s borders in Eastern Europe, through which his nation had been attacked twice in the past twenty-five years. A ruthless dictator, Stalin also wanted to maintain his own power.

In contrast to the Soviet devastation, American losses were light, and the United States emerged from the war as the most powerful nation on the planet, with a vastly expanded economy and a monopoly on atomic


weapons. That sheer power, along with U.S. economic interests and a belief in the superiority of American institutions and intentions, all affected how American leaders approached the Soviet Union.

With the depression still fresh in their minds, American officials believed that a healthy economy depended on opportunities abroad. American companies needed access to raw materials, markets for their goods, and security for their investments overseas, needs best met in countries with similar economic and political systems. As President Harry S. Truman put it in 1947, “The American system can survive in America only if it becomes a world system.” Yet leaders and citizens alike regarded their foreign policy not as a self-interested campaign for economic advantage, but as the means to preserve national security and bring freedom, democracy, and capitalism to the rest of the world. Laura Briggs, a woman from Idaho, spoke for many Americans who believed “it was our destiny to prove that we were the children of God and that our way was right for the world.”

Recent history also shaped postwar foreign policy. Americans believed that World War II might have been avoided had Britain and France resisted rather than appeased Hitler’s initial aggression. Navy Secretary James V. Forrestal opposed trying to “buy [the Soviets’] understanding and sympathy. We tried that once with Hitler.” The man with ultimate responsibility for U.S. policy was a keen student of history but had little international experience beyond his service in World War I. Harry S. Truman expected Soviet-American cooperation, as long as the Soviet Union conformed to U.S. plans for the postwar world. Proud of his ability to make quick decisions, Truman was determined to take a firm hand if the Soviets tried to expand, confident that America’s nuclear monopoly gave him the upper hand.

The Cold War first emerged over clashing Soviet and American interests in Eastern Europe. Stalin insisted that wartime agreements gave him a free hand in the countries defeated or liberated by the Red Army, just as the United States was unilaterally reconstructing governments in Italy and Japan. The Soviet dictator used harsh methods to install Communist governments in neighboring Poland and Bulgaria but initially tolerated non-Communist governments in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In early 1946, he responded to Western pressure and removed troops from Iran on the Soviet Union’s southwest border, allowing U.S. access to the rich oil fields there.

Stalin saw hypocrisy when U.S. officials demanded democratic elections in Eastern Europe while supporting dictatorships friendly to U.S.


interests in Latin America. But the Western Allies were unwilling to match tough words with military force against the largest army in the world. Their sharp protests failed to prevent the Soviet Union from establishing satellite countries throughout Eastern Europe (Map 26.1).

MAP 26.1 The Division of Europe after World War II The “iron curtain,” a term coined by Winston Churchill to refer to the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe, divided the continent for nearly fifty years. Communist governments controlled the countries along the Soviet Union’s western border, except for Finland, which remained neutral.

In 1946, the wartime Allies contended over Germany’s future. Both sides wanted to demilitarize Germany, but U.S. policymakers sought rapid industrial revival there to foster European economic recovery. By contrast, the Soviet Union wanted Germany weak both militarily and economically, and Stalin demanded heavy reparations from Germany to help rebuild the devastated Soviet economy. Unable to settle their differences, the Allies divided Germany. The Soviet Union installed a puppet Communist government in the eastern section, and Britain, France, and the United States began to unify their occupation zones, eventually establishing the Federal Republic of Germany — West Germany — in 1949.


The war of words escalated early in 1946. Boasting of the superiority of the Soviet system, Stalin told a Moscow audience in February that capitalism inevitably produced war. One month later, Truman sat beside Winston Churchill, the former prime minister, who denounced Soviet interference in Eastern Europe. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” Churchill said. Stalin saw Churchill’s proposal for joint British-American action to combat Soviet aggression as “a call to war against the USSR.”

In February 1946, George F. Kennan, a career diplomat and expert on Russia, wrote a comprehensive rationale for what came to be called the policy of containment. Downplaying the influence of Communist ideology, he instead stressed Soviet insecurity and Stalin’s need to maintain authority at home as the prime forces behind efforts to expand Soviet power abroad. Kennan believed that the Soviet Union would retreat if the United States would respond with “unalterable counterforce.” This approach, he predicted, would eventually end in “either the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.”

Not all public figures agreed. In September 1946, Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace urged greater understanding of the Soviets’ national security concerns, insisting that “we have no more business in the political affairs of Eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America.” State Department officials were furious at Wallace for challenging the administration’s hard line against the Soviet Union, and Truman fired Wallace.

The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan In 1947, the United States began to implement the doctrine of containment that would guide foreign policy for the next four decades. It was not an easy transition; Americans approved of taking a hard line against the Soviet Union but wanted to keep their soldiers and tax dollars at home. In addition to selling containment to the public, Truman had to gain the support of a Republican-controlled Congress, which included those staunchly opposed to a strong U.S. presence in Europe.

Crises in two Mediterranean countries triggered the implementation of containment. In February 1947, Britain informed the United States that its crippled economy could no longer sustain military assistance to Greece, where the autocratic government faced economic disaster and a leftist uprising, and to Turkey, which was trying to resist Soviet pressures. Unaware that the Soviet Union had deliberately avoided aiding the Greek


Communists, Truman promptly sought congressional authority to send both countries military and economic aid. Meeting with congressional leaders, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson predicted that if Greece and Turkey fell, communism would soon consume three-fourths of the world. After a stunned silence, Michigan senator Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican foreign policy leader, warned that to get approval, Truman would have to “scare hell out of the country.”

Truman did just that. He warned that if Greece fell to the rebels, “confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East” and then create instability in Europe. According to what came to be called the Truman Doctrine, the United States must not only resist Soviet military power but also “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The president failed to convince Helen Gahagan Douglas and some of her congressional colleagues, who wanted the United States to work through the United Nations and opposed propping up the authoritarian Greek government. But the administration won the day, setting a precedent for forty years of Cold War interventions that would aid any kind of government if the only alternative appeared to be communism.

A much larger assistance program for Europe followed aid to Greece and Turkey. In May 1947, Acheson described a war-ravaged Western Europe, with “factories destroyed, fields impoverished, transportation systems wrecked, populations scattered and on the borderline of starvation.” American citizens were sending generous amounts of private aid, but Europe needed large-scale assistance to keep desperate citizens from turning to socialism or communism.

In March 1948, Congress approved such assistance, which came to be called the Marshall Plan, after Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who proposed what a British official called “a lifeline to a sinking man.” Over the next five years, the United States spent $13 billion ($117 billion in 2010 dollars) to restore the economies of sixteen Western European nations. Marshall invited all European nations and the Soviet Union to cooperate in a request for aid, but the Soviets objected to the American insistence on free trade and financial disclosure. As U.S. officials had expected, the Soviets rejected the offer and ordered their Eastern European satellites to do the same.

Humanitarian impulses as well as the goal of keeping Western Europe free of communism drove the adoption of this enormous aid program. The Marshall Plan also helped boost the U.S. economy; the European recipients used the aid to buy American products, and Europe’s economic


recovery created new markets and opportunities for American investment. By insisting that the recipient nations work together, the Marshall Plan marked the first step toward the European Union.

While Congress was debating the Marshall Plan, in February 1948 the Soviets brutally installed a Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, the last democracy left in Eastern Europe. Next, Stalin threatened Western access to Berlin. That former capital of Germany lay within Soviet-controlled East Germany, but all four Allies jointly occupied it. As the Western Allies moved to organize West Germany as a separate nation, the Soviets retaliated by blocking roads and rail lines between West Germany and the Western-held sections of Berlin, cutting off food, fuel, and other essentials to two million inhabitants (see Map 26.1).

“We stay in Berlin, period,” Truman vowed. To avoid a confrontation with Soviet troops, for nearly a year U.S. and British pilots airlifted 2.3 million tons of goods to sustain the West Berliners. Stalin hesitated to shoot down these cargo planes, and in 1949 he lifted the blockade. The city was then divided into East Berlin, under Soviet control, and West Berlin, which became part of West Germany.

Building a National Security State During the Truman years, advocates of the new containment policy fashioned a six-pronged defense strategy: (1) development of atomic weapons, (2) strengthening traditional military power, (3) military alliances with other nations, (4) military and economic aid to friendly nations, (5) an espionage network and secret means to subvert Communist expansion, and (6) a propaganda offensive to win friends around the world.

In September 1949, the Soviet Union detonated its own atomic bomb, ending the U.S. monopoly on atomic weapons. Truman then approved the development of a hydrogen bomb — equivalent to five hundred atomic bombs — rejecting the counterarguments of several scientists who had worked on the atomic bomb and of George Kennan, who warned of an endless arms race. The “superbomb” was ready by 1954, but the U.S. advantage was brief. In November 1955, the Soviets exploded their own hydrogen bomb.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, deterrence formed the basis of American nuclear strategy. To deter a Soviet attack, the United States strove to maintain a nuclear force more powerful than that of the Soviets. Because the Russians pursued a similar policy, the superpowers became


locked in an ever-escalating nuclear arms race amassing weapons that could destroy the earth many times over. Albert Einstein, whose mathematical discoveries had laid the foundations for nuclear weapons, commented grimly that the war that came after World War III would “be fought with sticks and stones.”

Implementing the second component of containment, the United States beefed up its conventional military power to deter Soviet threats that might not warrant nuclear retaliation. The National Security Act of 1947 united the military branches under a single secretary of defense and created the National Security Council (NSC) to advise the president. During the Berlin crisis in 1948, Congress hiked military appropriations and enacted a peacetime draft. In addition, Congress granted permanent status to the women’s military branches, though it limited the number of women, the jobs they could do, and the rank they could attain. With 1.5 million men and women in uniform in 1950, the military strength of the United States had quadrupled since the 1930s, and defense expenditures claimed one- third of the federal budget.

Collective security, the third prong of containment strategy, marked a sharp reversal of the nation’s traditional foreign policy. In 1949, the United States joined Canada and Western European nations in its first peacetime military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), designed to counter a Soviet threat to Western Europe (see Map 26.1). For the first time in its history, the United States pledged to go to war if one of its allies was attacked.

The fourth element of defense strategy provided foreign assistance programs to strengthen friendly countries, such as aid to Greece and Turkey and the Marshall Plan. In addition, in 1949 Congress approved $1 billion of military aid to its NATO allies, and the government began economic assistance to nations in other parts of the world.

The fifth ingredient of containment improved the government’s capacity to thwart communism through espionage and covert activities. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to gather information and to perform any activities “related to intelligence affecting the national security” that the NSC might authorize. Such functions included propaganda, sabotage, economic warfare, and support for “anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” In 1948, secret CIA operations helped defeat Italy’s Communist Party. Subsequently, CIA agents would intervene even more actively, helping to topple legitimate foreign governments and violating the rights of U.S. citizens.


Finally, the U.S. government created cultural exchanges and propaganda to win “hearts and minds” throughout the world. The Voice of America, established during World War II to broadcast U.S. propaganda abroad, expanded, and the State Department sent books, exhibits, jazz musicians, and other performers to foreign countries as “cultural ambassadors.”

By 1950, the United States had abandoned age-old tenets of foreign policy. Isolationism and neutrality gave way to a peacetime military alliance and efforts to control events far beyond U.S. borders. Short of war, the United States could not stop the descent of the iron curtain, but it aggressively and successfully promoted economic recovery and a military shield for the rest of Europe.

Superpower Rivalry around the Globe Efforts to implement containment moved beyond Europe. In Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, World War II accelerated a tide of national liberation movements against war-weakened imperial powers. By 1960, forty countries had won their independence. These nations, along with Latin America, came to be referred to collectively as the third world.

Like Woodrow Wilson during World War I, Roosevelt and Truman promoted the ideal of self-determination. The United States granted independence to the Philippines in 1946 and applauded the British withdrawal from India. As the Cold War intensified, however, the ideal of self-determination gave way to concern when new governments supplanting the old empires failed to emulate the American model. U.S. policymakers encouraged democracy and capitalism in emerging nations and sought to preserve opportunities for American trade, while U.S. corporations coveted the vast oil reserves in the Middle East. Yet leaders of many liberation movements, impressed with Russia’s rapid economic growth, adopted socialist or Communist ideas. Although few of these movements had formal ties with the Soviet Union, American leaders saw them as a threatening extension of Soviet power. Seeking to hold communism at bay by fostering economic development and political stability, in 1949 the Truman administration began a small program of aid to developing nations.

Meanwhile, civil war raged in China, where the Communists, led by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), fought the official Nationalist government under Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek). While the Communists gained popular support for their land reforms, Jiang’s corrupt, incompetent


government alienated much of the population, and his military forces had been devastated by the Japanese. Failing to achieve a settlement between Jiang and Mao, the United States provided $3 billion in aid to the Nationalists. Yet, recognizing the ineptness of Jiang’s government, Truman refused to divert further resources from Europe to China.

In October 1949, Mao established the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan. Fearing a U.S.- supported invasion to recapture China for the Nationalists, Mao signed a mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union. The United States refused to recognize the PRC, blocked its admission to the United Nations, and supported the Nationalist government in Taiwan. Only a massive U.S. military commitment could have stopped the Chinese Communists, yet some Republicans charged that Truman and “pro-Communists in the State Department” had “lost” China. China became a political albatross for the Democrats, who resolved never again to be vulnerable to charges of being soft on communism.

With China in turmoil, U.S. policy shifted to helping Japan rapidly reindustrialize. In a short time, the Japanese economy was flourishing, and the official military occupation ended when the two nations signed a peace treaty and a mutual security pact in September 1951. Like West Germany, Japan now sat squarely within the American orbit, ready to serve as an economic hub in a vital area.

The one place where Cold War considerations did not control American policy was Palestine. In 1943, then-senator Harry Truman spoke passionately about Nazi Germany’s annihilation of the Jews, asserting, “This is not a Jewish problem, it is an American problem — and we must … face it squarely and honorably.” As president, he made good on his words. Jews had been migrating to Palestine, their biblical homeland, since the nineteenth century, resulting in tension and hostilities with the Palestinian Arabs. After World War II, as hundreds of thousands of European Jews sought refuge and a national homeland in Palestine, fighting and terrorism escalated on both sides.

Truman’s foreign policy experts sought American-Arab friendship to contain Soviet influence in the Middle East and to secure access to Arabian oil. Uncharacteristically defying his advisers, the president responded instead to pleas from Jewish organizations, his moral commitment to Holocaust survivors, and his interest in the American Jewish vote. When Jews in Palestine declared the state of Israel in May 1948, Truman quickly recognized the new country and made its defense the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East.


REVIEW What factors contributed to the emergence of the Cold War?


Truman and the Fair Deal at Home Referring to the Civil War general who coined the phrase “War is hell,” Truman said in December 1945, “Sherman was wrong. I’m telling you I find peace is hell.” Challenged by crises abroad, Truman also faced shortages, strikes, and inflation as the economy shifted to peacetime production. At the same time, he tried to expand the New Deal with his own Fair Deal agenda of initiatives in civil rights, housing, education, and health care — efforts hindered by the wave of anti-Communist hysteria sweeping the country. In sharp contrast to the bipartisan support Truman won for his foreign policy, he achieved few domestic reforms.

Reconverting to a Peacetime Economy Despite scarcities and deprivations, World War II had brought most Americans a higher standard of living than ever before. Economic experts as well as ordinary citizens worried about sustaining that standard and providing jobs for millions of returning soldiers. To that end, Truman asked Congress for a twenty-one-point program of social and economic reforms. He wanted the government to continue regulating the economy while it adjusted to peacetime production, and he sought government programs to provide basic essentials such as housing and health care to those in need. “Not even President Roosevelt ever asked for as much at one sitting,” exploded Republican leader Joseph W. Martin Jr.

Congress approved just one of Truman’s key proposals — full- employment legislation — and then only after watering it down. The Employment Act of 1946 called on the federal government “to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power,” thereby formalizing government’s responsibility for maintaining a healthy economy. It created the Council of Economic Advisors to assist the president, but it authorized no new powers to translate the government’s obligations into effective action.

Inflation, not unemployment, turned out to be the biggest problem. Consumers had $30 billion in wartime savings to spend, but shortages of meat, automobiles, housing, and other items persisted, thereby driving up


prices. With a basket of groceries to dramatize rising costs, Helen Gahagan Douglas urged Congress to maintain price and rent controls. Those efforts, however, fell to pressures from business groups and others determined to trim government powers.

Labor relations were another thorn in Truman’s side. Organized labor emerged from the war with its 14.5 million members making up 35 percent of the nonagricultural workforce. Yet union members feared the erosion of wartime gains and turned to the weapon they had surrendered during the war. Five million workers went out on strike in 1946, affecting nearly every major industry. Shortly before voting to strike, a former Marine and his coworkers calculated that an executive had spent more on a party than they would earn in a whole year at the steel mill. “That sort of stuff made us realize, hell we had to bite the bullet…. The bosses sure didn’t give a damn for us.” Although most Americans approved of unions in principle, they became fed up with strikes and blamed unions for shortages and rising prices. When the strikes subsided, workers had won wage increases of about 20 percent, but the loss of overtime pay and rising prices left their purchasing power only slightly higher than in 1942.

Women workers fared even worse. Polls indicated that 68 to 85 percent wanted to keep their wartime jobs, but most who remained in the workforce had to settle for relatively low-paying jobs in light industry or the service sector. Displaced from her shipyard work, Marie Schreiber took a cashier’s job, lamenting, “You were back to women’s wages, you know … practically in half.” With the backing of women’s organizations and union women, Congresswoman Douglas sponsored bills to require equal pay for equal work, provide child care for employed mothers, and create a government commission to study women’s status. But at a time when women were viewed primarily as wives and mothers and opposition to further expansion of federal powers was strong, these initiatives got nowhere.

By 1947, the economy had stabilized, avoiding the postwar depression that so many had feared. Wartime profits enabled businesses to expand. Consumers could now spend their wartime savings on items that had lain beyond their reach during the depression and war. Defense spending and foreign aid that enabled war-stricken countries to purchase American products also stimulated the economy. A soaring birthrate further sustained consumer demand. Although prosperity was far from universal, the United States entered into a remarkable economic boom that lasted through the 1960s (see “New Work and Living Patterns in an Economy of Abundance” in chapter 27).


Another economic boost came from the only large welfare measure passed after the New Deal. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill), enacted in 1944, offered 16 million veterans job training and education; unemployment compensation until they found jobs; and low-interest loans to purchase homes, farms, and small businesses. By 1948, some 1.3 million veterans had bought houses with government loans. Helping 2.2 million ex-soldiers attend college, the subsidies sparked a boom in higher education. A drugstore clerk before his military service, Don Condren was able to get an engineering degree and buy his first house. “I think the GI Bill gave the whole country an upward boost economically,” he said.

Yet the impact of the GI Bill was uneven. As wives and daughters of veterans, women benefited indirectly from the GI subsidies, but few women qualified for the employment and educational preferences available to some 15 million men. Moreover, GI programs were administered at the state and local levels, which resulted in routine racial and ethnic discrimination, especially in the South. Southern universities remained segregated, and historically black colleges could not accommodate all who wanted to attend. Black veterans were shuttled into menial labor. One decorated veteran reported “My color bars me from most decent jobs, and if, instead of accepting menial work, I collect my $20 a week readjustment allowance, I am classified as a ‘lazy nigger.’” Thousands of black veterans did benefit, but the GI Bill did not help all ex- soldiers equally.

Blacks and Mexican Americans Push for Their Civil Rights “I spent four years in the army to free a bunch of Frenchmen and Dutchmen,” an African American corporal declared, “and I’m hanged if I’m going to let the Alabama version of the Germans kick me around when I get home.” Black veterans along with civilians resolved not to return to the racial injustices of prewar America. The migration of two million African Americans to northern and western cities meant that they could now vote and participate in ongoing struggles to end discrimination in housing and education. Pursuing civil rights through the courts and Congress, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) counted half a million members.

In the postwar years, individual African Americans broke through the color barrier, achieving several “firsts.” Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers and braving abuse from


fans and players to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. In 1950, Ralph J. Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize for his United Nations work, and Gwendolyn Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Some organizations, such as the American Medical Association in 1949, opened their doors to black members. Still, little had changed for most African Americans, especially in the South, where violence greeted their attempts to assert their rights. Armed white men prevented Medgar Evers (who would become a key civil rights leader in the 1960s) and four other veterans from voting in Mississippi. A mob lynched Isaac Nixon for voting in Georgia, and an all-white jury acquitted the men accused of his murder. Segregation and economic discrimination were widespread in the North as well.

The Cold War heightened U.S. leaders’ sensitivity to racial issues, as the superpowers vied for the allegiance of newly independent nations with nonwhite populations, and Soviet propaganda repeatedly highlighted racial injustice in the United States. Secretary of State Dean Acheson noted that systematic segregation and discrimination endangered “our moral leadership of the free and democratic nations of the world.”

“My very stomach turned over when I learned that Negro soldiers just back from overseas were being dumped out of army trucks in Mississippi and beaten,” wrote Truman. Risking support from southern white voters, Truman spoke more boldly on civil rights than any previous president had. In 1946, he created the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, and in February 1948 he asked Congress to enact the committee’s comprehensive recommendations. The first president to address the NAACP, Truman asserted that all Americans should have equal rights to housing, education, employment, and the ballot.

As with much of his domestic program, Truman failed to act aggressively on his bold words. Congress rejected his proposals for national civil rights legislation, although some non-southern states did pass laws against discrimination in employment and public accommodations. Running for reelection in 1948 and hoping to appeal to northern black and liberal voters, Truman issued an executive order to desegregate the armed services, but it lay unimplemented until the Korean War, when the cost of segregation to military efficiency became apparent. Then officers gradually integrated their ranks, and by 1953 nearly all African Americans served in mixed units. Although actual accomplishments fell far short of Truman’s proposals, desegregation of the military and the administration’s support of civil rights cases in the Supreme Court contributed to far- reaching changes.


Integration of the Military Truman’s 1948 executive order integrating the armed services met steely resistance from parts of the military and took years to implement fully. The pressures of the Korean War forced the military to use African Americans where personnel were needed, placing black and white soldiers, such as these Marines, side by side. In 1954, the army dissolved its last all-black unit. Official Marine Corps Photo #A171810.

Discussion of race and civil rights usually focused on African Americans, but Mexican Americans fought similar injustices. In 1929, they had formed the League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC) to combat discrimination and segregation in the Southwest. Like black soldiers, Mexican American veterans believed, as one insisted, that “we had earned our credentials as American citizens.” Problems with getting their veterans’ benefits spurred the formation of the American GI Forum in 1948 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dr. Héctor Peréz García, president of the local LULAC and a Bronze Star combat surgeon, led the GI Forum, which became a national force for battling discrimination and electing sympathetic officials.

“Education is our freedom,” read the GI Forum’s motto, yet Mexican American children were routinely segregated in public schools. In 1945, with the help of LULAC, parents filed a class action suit in southern California, challenging school districts that barred their children from


white schools. In the resulting decision, Mendez v. Westminster (1947), a federal court for the first time struck down school segregation. NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall filed a supporting brief in the case, which foreshadowed the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 (see “African Americans Challenge the Supreme Court and the President” in chapter 27). Efforts to gain equal education, challenges to employment discrimination, and campaigns for political representation all demonstrated a growing mobilization of Mexican Americans in the Southwest.

The Fair Deal Flounders Republicans capitalized on public frustrations with strikes and shortages in the 1946 congressional elections, accusing the Truman administration of “confusion, corruption, and communism.” Helen Gahagan Douglas kept her seat, but the Republicans captured control of Congress for the first time in fourteen years. Many had campaigned against the New Deal, and in the Eightieth Congress they weakened some reform programs and enacted tax cuts favoring higher-income groups.

Organized labor took the most severe blow when Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over Truman’s veto in 1947. Called a “slave labor” law by unions, the measure amended the Wagner Act (see “Empowering Labor” in chapter 24), putting restraints on unions that reduced their power to bargain with employers and made it more difficult to organize workers. States could now pass “right-to-work” laws, which banned the practice of requiring all workers to join a union once a majority had voted for it. Many states, especially in the South and West, rushed to enact such laws, encouraging industries to relocate there. Taft-Hartley maintained the New Deal principle of government protection for collective bargaining, but it tipped the balance of power more in favor of management.

In the 1948 elections, Truman faced not only a resurgent Republican Party headed by New York governor Thomas E. Dewey but also two revolts within his own party. On the left, Henry A. Wallace, whose foreign policy views had cost him his cabinet seat, led the new Progressive Party. On the right, South Carolina governor J. Strom Thurmond headed the States’ Rights Party — the Dixiecrats — formed by southern Democrats who walked out of the 1948 Democratic Party convention when it passed a liberal civil rights plank.

Truman launched a vigorous campaign, yet his prospects were so bleak that on election night the Chicago Daily Tribune printed its next day’s issue with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” But even though the


Dixiecrats won four southern states, Truman took 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189, and his party regained control of Congress (Map 26.2). His unexpected victory attested to the broad support for his foreign policy and the enduring popularity of New Deal reform.

MAP 26.2 The Election of 1948

While most New Deal programs survived Republican attacks, Truman failed to enact his Fair Deal agenda. Congress made modest improvements in Social Security and raised the minimum wage, but it passed only one significant reform measure. The Housing Act of 1949 authorized 810,000 units of government-constructed housing over the next six years and represented a landmark commitment by the government to address the housing needs of the poor. Yet it fell far short of actual need, and slum clearance frequently displaced the poor without providing alternatives.

With southern Democrats posing a primary obstacle, Congress rejected Truman’s proposals for civil rights, a powerful medical lobby blocked plans for a universal health care program, and conflicts over race and religion thwarted federal aid to education. Truman’s efforts to revise immigration policy were mixed. The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 ended the outright ban on immigration and citizenship for Japanese and other Asians, but it authorized the government to bar suspected Communists and homosexuals and maintained the discriminatory quota system established in the 1920s.

Truman’s concentration on foreign policy rather than domestic proposals contributed to the failure of his Fair Deal. By late 1950, the Korean War embroiled the president in controversy and depleted his power


as a legislative leader (see pages 692–96). Truman’s failure to make good on his domestic proposals set the United States apart from most European nations, which by the 1950s had in place comprehensive health, housing, and employment security programs to underwrite the material well-being of their populations.

The Domestic Chill: McCarthyism Truman’s domestic agenda also suffered from a wave of anticommunism that weakened liberals. “Red-baiting” (attempting to link individuals or ideas with communism) and official retaliation against leftist critics of the government had flourished during the Red scare at the end of World War I (see “The Red Scare” in chapter 22), and Republicans had attacked the New Deal as a plot of radicals. A second Red scare followed World War II, born of partisan politics, foreign policy setbacks, and disclosures of Soviet espionage.

Republicans jumped on events such as the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe and the Communist triumph in China to accuse Democrats of fostering internal subversion. Wisconsin senator Joseph R. McCarthy avowed that “the Communists within our borders have been more responsible for the success of Communism abroad than Soviet Russia.” McCarthy’s charges — such as the allegation that retired general George C. Marshall belonged to a Communist conspiracy — were reckless and often ludicrous, but the press covered him avidly, and McCarthyism became a term synonymous with the anti-Communist crusade.

Revelations of Soviet espionage lent credibility to fears of internal communism. A number of ex-Communists, including Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, testified that they and others had provided secret documents to the Soviets. Most alarming of all, in 1950 a British physicist working on the atomic bomb project confessed that he was a spy and implicated several Americans, including Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs pleaded not guilty but were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and electrocuted in 1953.

Records opened in the 1990s showed that the Soviet Union did receive secret documents from Americans that probably hastened its development of nuclear weapons by a year or two. Yet the vast majority of individuals hunted down in the Red scare had done nothing more than at one time joining the Communist Party, associating with Communists, or supporting radical causes. And nearly all the accusations related to activities that had taken place long before the Cold War had made the Soviet Union an


enemy. The hunt for subversives was conducted by both Congress and the

executive branch. Stung by charges of communism in the 1946 midterm elections, Truman issued Executive Order 9835 in March 1947, establishing loyalty review boards to investigate every federal employee. “A nightmare from which there [was] no awakening” was how State Department employee Esther Brunauer described it when she and her husband, a chemist in the navy, both lost their jobs because he had joined a Communist youth organization in the 1920s and associated with suspected radicals. Government investigators allowed anonymous informers to make charges and placed the burden of proof on the accused. More than two thousand civil service employees lost their jobs, and another ten thousand resigned as Truman’s loyalty program continued into the mid-1950s. Hundreds of homosexuals resigned or were fired over charges of “sexual perversion,” which anti-Communist crusaders said could subject them to blackmail. Years later, Truman said privately that the loyalty program had been a mistake.

Congressional committees, such as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), also investigated individuals’ political associations. When those under scrutiny refused to name names, investigators charged that silence was tantamount to confession, and these “unfriendly witnesses” lost their jobs and suffered public ostracism. In 1947, HUAC investigated radical activity in Hollywood. Some actors and directors cooperated, but ten refused, citing their First Amendment rights. The “Hollywood Ten” served jail sentences for contempt of Congress — a punishment that Helen Gahagan Douglas fought — and then found themselves blacklisted in the movie industry. Popular crooner Frank Sinatra, a defender of the Hollywood Ten, wondered if someone called for “a square deal for the underdog, will they call you a Commie?”

The Truman administration went after the Communist Party directly, prosecuting its leaders under a 1940 law that made it a crime to “advocate the overthrow and destruction of the [government] by force and violence.” Although civil libertarians argued that the guilty verdicts violated First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, and association, the Supreme Court ruled in 1951 that the Communist threat overrode constitutional guarantees.

The domestic Cold War spread beyond the nation’s capital. State and local governments investigated citizens, demanded loyalty oaths, fired employees suspected of disloyalty, banned books from public libraries, and more. College professors and public school teachers lost their jobs in


New York, California, and elsewhere. Because the Communist Party had helped organize unions and championed racial justice, labor and civil rights activists fell prey to McCarthyism as well. African American activist Jack O’Dell remembered that segregationists pinned the tag of Communist on “anybody who supported the right of blacks to have civil rights.”

McCarthyism caused untold harm to thousands of innocent individuals. Anti-Communist crusaders humiliated and discredited law-abiding citizens, hounded them from their jobs, and in some cases even sent them to prison. The anti-Communist crusade violated fundamental constitutional rights of freedom of speech and association and stifled the expression of dissenting ideas or unpopular causes.

REVIEW Why did Truman have limited success in implementing his domestic agenda?


The Cold War Becomes Hot: Korea The Cold War erupted into a shooting war in June 1950 when troops from Communist North Korea invaded South Korea. For the first time, Americans went into battle to implement containment. Confirming the global reach of the Truman Doctrine, U.S. involvement in Korea also marked the militarization of American foreign policy. The United States, in concert with the United Nations, ultimately held the line in Korea, but at a great cost in lives, dollars, and domestic unity.

Korea and the Military Implementation of Containment The Korean War grew out of the artificial division of Korea after World War II. Having expelled the Japanese, the United States and the Soviet Union created two occupation zones separated by the thirty-eighth parallel (Map 26.3). With Moscow and Washington unable to agree on unification, the United Nations sponsored elections in South Korea in July 1948. The American-favored candidate, Syngman Rhee, was elected president, and the United States withdrew most of its troops. In the fall of 1948, the Soviets established the People’s Republic of North Korea under Kim Il- sung and also withdrew. Although unsure whether Rhee’s repressive government could sustain popular support, U.S. officials appreciated his anticommunism and provided economic and military aid to South Korea.


MAP 26.3 The Korean War, 1950–1953 Although each side had plunged deep into enemy territory, the war ended in 1953 with the dividing line between North and South Korea nearly where it had been before the fighting began.

Skirmishes between North and South Korean troops at the thirty-eighth parallel began in 1948. Then, in June 1950, 90,000 North Koreans swept into South Korea. Truman’s advisers assumed that the Soviet Union or China had instigated the attack (an assumption later proved incorrect), and the president quickly decided to intervene, viewing Korea as “the Greece of the Far East.” With the Soviet Union absent from the Security Council, the United States obtained UN sponsorship of a collective effort to repel the attack. Authorized to appoint a commander for the UN force, Truman named World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur.

Sixteen nations sent troops to Korea, but the United States furnished most of the personnel and weapons, deploying almost 1.8 million troops and dictating strategy. By dispatching troops without asking Congress for a declaration of war, Truman violated the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution and contributed to the expansion of executive power that


would characterize the Cold War. The first American soldiers rushed to Korea unprepared and ill

equipped: “I didn’t even know how to dig a foxhole,” recalled a nineteen- year-old army reservist, who was told by his sergeant to “Make it like a grave.” As a result, U.S. forces suffered severe defeats early in the war. The North Koreans took the capital of Seoul and drove deep into South Korea, forcing UN troops to retreat to Pusan. Then, in September 1950, General MacArthur launched a bold counteroffensive at Inchon, 180 miles behind North Korean lines. By October, UN and South Korean forces had retaken Seoul and pushed the North Koreans back to the thirty-eighth parallel. Now Truman had to decide whether to invade North Korea and seek to unify the country.

On the Defensive in Korea After UN troops approached the Yalu River, the Chinese entered the Korean War, throwing UN forces on the defensive and pushing deep into the South. In this photo, taken in April 1951, infantrymen are protecting a pontoon bridge so that UN trucks and tanks on the other side can escape the advancing Chinese army. Eventually, UN forces recaptured this territory. AP Photo/James Martenhoff.

From Containment to Rollback to Containment “Troops could not be expected … to march up to a surveyor’s line and stop,” remarked Secretary of State Dean Acheson, reflecting support for transforming the military objective from containment to elimination of the


enemy and unification of Korea. Thus, for the only time during the Cold War, the United States tried to roll back communism by force. With UN approval, on September 27, 1950, Truman authorized MacArthur to cross the thirty-eighth parallel. Concerned about possible intervention by China, the president directed him to keep UN troops away from the Korean- Chinese border. Disregarding the order, MacArthur sent them to within forty miles of China, whereupon 300,000 Chinese soldiers crossed into Korea. With Chinese help, the North Koreans recaptured Seoul.

After three months of grueling battle, UN forces fought their way back to the thirty-eighth parallel. At that point, Truman decided to seek a negotiated settlement. MacArthur was furious when the goal of the war reverted to containment, which to him represented defeat. Taking his case to the public, he challenged both the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy and the principle of civilian control of the military. Fed up with MacArthur’s insubordination, Truman fired him in April 1951. Many Americans sided with MacArthur, reflecting their frustration with containment. Why should Americans die simply to preserve the status quo? Why not destroy the enemy once and for all? Those siding with MacArthur assumed that the United States was all-powerful and blamed the stalemate in Korea on the government’s ineptitude or willingness to shelter subversives.

When Congress investigated MacArthur’s dismissal, all of the top military leaders supported the president. According to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, MacArthur wanted to wage “the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong enemy.” Yet Truman never recovered from the political fallout. Nor was he able to end the war. Negotiations began in July 1951, but peace talks dragged on for two years while 12,000 more U.S. soldiers died.

Korea, Communism, and the 1952 Election Popular discontent with Truman’s war boosted Republicans in the 1952 election. Their presidential nominee, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a popular hero. As supreme commander in Europe, he won widespread acclaim for leading the Allied armies to victory over Germany in World War II, and in 1950 Truman appointed Eisenhower the first supreme commander of NATO forces.

Although Eisenhower believed that professional soldiers should stay out of politics, he found compelling reasons to run in 1952. He largely agreed with Truman’s foreign policy, but he deplored the Democrats’


propensity to solve domestic problems with costly new federal programs. He also disliked the foreign policy views of leading Republican presidential contender Senator Robert A. Taft, who attacked containment and sought to cut defense spending. Eisenhower defeated Taft for the nomination, but the old guard prevailed on the party platform. It excoriated containment as “negative, futile, and immoral” and charged the Truman administration with shielding “traitors to the Nation in high places.” By choosing thirty-nine-year-old Senator Richard M. Nixon for his running mate, Eisenhower helped to appease the right wing of the party.

Richard Milhous Nixon grew up in southern California, worked his way through college and law school, served in the navy, and briefly practiced law before winning election to Congress in 1946. Nixon quickly made a name for himself as a member of HUAC and a key anti- Communist, moving to the Senate with his victory over Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950.

With his public approval ratings plummeting, Truman decided not to run for reelection. The Democrats nominated Adlai E. Stevenson, the popular governor of Illinois, but he could neither escape the domestic fallout from the Korean War nor match Eisenhower’s widespread appeal. Shortly before the election, Eisenhower announced dramatically, “I shall go to Korea,” and voters registered their confidence in his ability to end the war. Cutting sharply into traditional Democratic territory, Eisenhower won several southern states and garnered 55 percent of the popular vote overall. His coattails carried a narrow Republican majority to Congress.

An Armistice and the War’s Costs Eisenhower made good on his pledge to end the Korean War. In July 1953, the two sides reached an armistice that left Korea divided, again roughly at the thirty-eighth parallel, with North and South separated by a two-and-a- half-mile-wide demilitarized zone (see Map 26.3). The war fulfilled the objective of containment, since the United States had backed up its promise to help nations that were resisting communism. Both Truman and Eisenhower managed to contain what amounted to a world war — involving twenty nations altogether — within a single country and to avoid the use of nuclear weapons.

Yet the war took the lives of 36,000 Americans and wounded more than 100,000. Thousands of U.S. soldiers suffered as prisoners of war. South Korea lost more than a million people to war-related causes, and 1.8 million North Koreans and Chinese were killed or wounded.


Korea had an enormous effect on defense policy and spending. In April 1950, just before the war began, the National Security Council completed a top-secret report, known as NSC 68, on the United States’ military strength, warning that national survival required a massive military buildup. The Korean War brought about nearly all of the military expansion called for in NSC 68, vastly increasing U.S. capacity to act as a global power. Military spending shot up from $14 billion in 1950 to $50 billion in 1953 and remained above $40 billion thereafter. By 1952, defense spending claimed nearly 70 percent of the federal budget, and the size of the armed forces had tripled.

To General Matthew Ridgway, MacArthur’s successor as commander of the UN forces, Korea taught the lesson that U.S. forces should never again fight a land war in Asia. Eisenhower concurred. Nevertheless, during the Korean War the Truman administration had expanded its role in Asia by increasing aid to the French, who were fighting to hang on to their colonial empire in Indochina. As U.S. Marines retreated from a battle against Chinese soldiers in 1950, they sang, prophetically, “We’re Harry’s police force on call, / So put back your pack on, / The next step is Saigon.”

REVIEW How did U.S. Cold War policy lead to the Korean War?


Conclusion: The Cold War’s Costs and Consequences Hoping for continued U.S.-Soviet cooperation rather than unilateral American intervention to resolve foreign crises, Helen Gahagan Douglas initially opposed the implementation of containment. By 1948, however, she was squarely behind Truman’s decision to fight communism throughout the world, a decision that marked the most momentous foreign policy initiative in the nation’s history.

More than any development in the postwar world, the Cold War defined American politics and society for decades to come. It transformed the federal government, shifting its priorities from domestic to external affairs, greatly expanding its budget, and substantially increasing the power of the president. Military spending helped transform the nation itself, as defense contracts promoted economic and population booms in the West and Southwest. The nuclear arms race put the people of the world at risk, consumed resources that might have been used to improve living standards, and skewed the economy toward dependence on military projects.

In sharp contrast to foreign policy, the domestic policies of the postwar years reflected continuity with the 1930s. Douglas had come to Congress hoping to expand the New Deal, to help find “a way by which all people can live out their lives in dignity and decency.” She avidly supported Truman’s proposals for new programs in education, health, and civil rights, but a majority of her colleagues did not. Consequently, the poor and minorities suffered even while a majority of Americans enjoyed a higher standard of living in an economy boosted by Cold War spending and the reconstruction of Western Europe and Japan.

Another cost of the early Cold War years was the anti-Communist hysteria that swept the nation, denying Douglas a Senate seat, intimidating radicals and liberals, and narrowing the range of ideas acceptable for political discussion. Partisan politics and Truman’s warnings about the Communist menace fueled McCarthyism, along with popular frustrations over the failure of containment to produce clear-cut victories. The Korean


War, which ended in stalemate rather than the defeat of communism, exacerbated feelings of frustration. It would be a major challenge of the Eisenhower administration to restore national unity and confidence.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Cold War (p. 679) iron curtain (p. 681) containment (p. 681) Truman Doctrine (p. 682) Marshall Plan (p. 682) North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (p. 683) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (p. 683) Taft-Hartley Act (p. 689) Housing Act of 1949 (p. 690) House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) (p. 691) Korean War (p. 692) NSC 68 (p. 696)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. What factors contributed to the emergence of the Cold War?

(pp. 678–85) 2. Why did Truman have limited success in implementing his

domestic agenda? (pp. 685–92) 3. How did U.S. Cold War policy lead to the Korean War? (pp.



M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. What was the containment policy, and how successful was it up

to 1953? Discuss the views of both the supporters and the critics of the policy.

2. How did returning American soldiers change postwar domestic life in the areas of education and civil rights? Discuss how wartime experiences influenced their demands.

3. Why did anti-Communist hysteria sweep the country in the early 1950s? How did it shape domestic politics? Be sure to consider the influence of developments abroad and at home.

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. What events and decisions during World War II contributed to

the rise of the Cold War in the late 1940s? (See chapter 25.) 2. What did the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 1940s and the

1950s have in common with the Red scare that followed World War I, and how did these two phenomena differ? (See chapter 22.)


1945 • Roosevelt dies; Truman becomes president. 1946 • Postwar labor unrest affects major industries.

• President’s Committee on Civil Rights created. • George F. Kennan drafts containment policy. • United States grants independence to Philippines. • Employment Act passes. • Republicans gain control of Congress.

1947 • National Security Act passes. • Truman announces Truman Doctrine. • United States sends aid to Greece and Turkey. • Truman establishes loyalty program. • Mendez v. Westminster decided.

1948 • Marshall Plan approved.


• Truman orders desegregation of military. • American GI Forum founded. • United States recognizes Israel.

• Truman elected president. 1948– 1949

• Berlin crisis precipitates airlift drops.

1949 • Communists take over China. • North Atlantic Treaty Organization formed. • Soviet Union explodes atomic bomb. • Truman approves hydrogen bomb.

1950 • Senator Joseph McCarthy claims U.S. government harbors Communists.

• Korean War begins. 1951 • Truman fires General Douglas MacArthur.

• U.S. occupation of Japan ends. 1952 • Dwight D. Eisenhower elected president. 1953 • Korean War ends.


27 The Politics and Culture of Abundance 1952–1960


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Explain the major issues of the Eisenhower administration and how

Eisenhower’s approach represented the politics of the “Middle Way.”

◆ Describe how the Eisenhower administration practiced containment and explain how the “New Look” in foreign policy influenced its handling of world events.

◆ Explain the factors that led to an economy of abundance and how that abundance influenced Americans’ lives.

◆ Analyze how the economy of abundance influenced consumption, religion, gender roles, and the media.

◆ Explain the origins of the modern civil rights movement and the strategies activists used to end racial segregation.

TRAILED BY REPORTERS, VICE PRESIDENT RICHARD M. NIXON LED Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev through the American National Exhibition in Moscow in July 1959. The display of American


consumer goods was part of a cultural exchange that reflected a slight thaw in the Cold War after Khrushchev replaced Stalin. In Moscow, both Khrushchev and Nixon seized on the propaganda potential of the moment. As they examined the display, they exchanged a slugfest of words and gestures that reporters dubbed the kitchen debate.

Showing off a new color television set, Nixon said that the Soviet Union “may be ahead of us … in the thrust of your rockets,” but he insisted that the United States outstripped the Soviets in consumer goods. Nixon linked capitalism with democracy, asserting that the array of products represented “what freedom means to us … our right to choose.” Moreover, Nixon boasted that “any steelworker could buy this house,” as the two leaders walked through a model of a six-room ranch-style home. Khrushchev retorted that in the Soviet Union “you are entitled to housing,” whereas in the United States the homeless slept on the pavement.

Nixon declared that the household appliances were “designed to make things easier for our women.” Khrushchev disparaged “the capitalist attitude toward women,” maintaining that the Soviets appreciated women’s contributions to the economy, not their domesticity. Nixon got Khrushchev to agree that it was “far better to be talking about washing machines than machines of war,” yet Cold War tensions surfaced when Khrushchev later blustered, “We too are giants. You want to threaten — we will answer threats with threats.”

In fact, the Eisenhower administration (1953–1961) had begun with threats, and the two nations engaged in an intense arms race throughout the decade and beyond. During the 1952 campaign, Republicans had vowed to roll back communism and liberate “enslaved” peoples under Soviet rule. In practice, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pursued a containment policy much like that of his predecessor, Harry S. Truman, though Eisenhower relied more on nuclear weapons and on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secret operations against left-leaning governments. Yet as Nixon’s visit to Moscow demonstrated, Eisenhower seized on political changes in the Soviet Union to reduce tensions in Soviet-American relations.

Continuity with the Truman administration also characterized domestic policy. Although Eisenhower favored corporations with tax cuts and resisted strong federal efforts in health care, education, and race relations, he did not try to demolish the New Deal. He even extended the reach of the federal government with a massive highway program.

Although poverty clung stubbornly to one of every five Americans,


the Moscow display testified to the unheard-of material gains savored by many in the postwar era. Cold War weapons production spurred the economy, whose vitality stimulated suburban development, contributed to the growth of the South and Southwest (the Sun Belt), and enabled millions of Americans to buy a host of new products. As new homes, television sets, and household appliances transformed living patterns, Americans took part in a consumer culture that celebrated the family and traditional gender roles, even as more and more married women took jobs outside the home. Challenging the dominant norms were dissenting writers known as the Beats and an emerging youth culture.

The Cold War and the economic boom helped African Americans mount the most dramatic challenge of the 1950s, a struggle against the system of segregation and disfranchisement that had replaced slavery. Large numbers of African Americans took direct action against the institutions of injustice, developing the organizations, leadership, and strategies to mount a civil rights movement of unprecedented size and influence.


Eisenhower and the Politics of the “Middle Way” Moderation was the guiding principle of Eisenhower’s domestic agenda and leadership style. In 1953, he pledged a “middle way between untrammeled freedom of the individual and the demands for the welfare of the whole Nation,” promising that his administration would “avoid government by bureaucracy as carefully as it avoids neglect of the helpless.” Eisenhower generally resisted expanding the federal government’s power, he acted reluctantly when the Supreme Court ordered schools to desegregate, and his administration terminated the federal trusteeship of dozens of Indian tribes. As a moderate Republican, however, Eisenhower supported the continuation of New Deal programs, and in some cases, such as in the creation of a national highway system, he expanded federal action. Nicknamed “Ike,” the confident war hero remained popular, but he was not able to lift his party to national dominance.

Modern Republicanism In contrast to the old guard conservatives in his party who criticized containment and wanted to repeal much of the New Deal, Dwight D. Eisenhower preached “modern Republicanism.” This meant resisting additional federal intervention in economic and social life, but not turning the clock back to the 1920s. “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security and eliminate labor laws and farm programs,” he wrote privately in 1954, “you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” Democratic control of Congress after the elections of 1954 further contributed to Eisenhower’s moderate approach.

The new president attempted to distance himself from the anti- Communist fervor that had plagued the Truman administration, even as he intensified Truman’s loyalty program, allowing federal executives to dismiss thousands of employees on grounds of loyalty, security, or “suitability.” Reflecting his inclination to avoid controversial issues,


Eisenhower refused to denounce Senator Joseph McCarthy publicly. But, in 1954, McCarthy began to destroy himself when he hurled reckless charges of communism against military personnel during televised hearings. When the army’s lawyer demanded of McCarthy, “Have you left no sense of decency?” those in the hearing room applauded. A Senate vote in 1954 to condemn him marked the end of his influence but not the end of harassing dissenters on the left.

Eisenhower sometimes echoed conservative Republicans’ conviction that government was best left to the states and economic decisions to private business. Yet he signed laws bringing ten million more workers under Social Security, increasing the minimum wage, and creating a new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. And when the spread of polio neared epidemic proportions, Eisenhower obtained funds from Congress to distribute a vaccine, even though conservatives wanted the states to bear that responsibility.

MAP 27.1 The Interstate Highway System, 1930 and 1970 Built with federal funds authorized in the Interstate Highway and Defense System Act of 1956, superhighways soon crisscrossed the nation. Trucking, construction, gasoline, and travel were among the industries that prospered, but railroads suffered from the subsidized competition.

Eisenhower’s greatest domestic initiative was the Interstate Highway and Defense System Act of 1956 (Map 27.1). Promoted as essential to national defense and an impetus to economic growth, the act authorized construction of a national highway system, with the federal government paying most of the costs through increased fuel and vehicle taxes. The new highways accelerated the mobility of people and goods, spurred suburban expansion, and benefited the trucking, construction, and automobile industries that had lobbied hard for the law. Eventually, the monumental highway project exacted unforeseen costs in the form of air pollution,


energy consumption, declining railroads and mass transportation, and decay of central cities.

In other areas, Eisenhower restrained federal activity in favor of state governments and private enterprise. His large tax cuts directed most benefits to business and the wealthy, and he resisted federal aid to primary and secondary education as well as strong White House leadership on behalf of civil rights. Eisenhower opposed national health insurance, preferring the growing practice of private insurance provided by employers. Although Democrats sought to keep nuclear power in government hands, Eisenhower signed legislation authorizing the private manufacture and sale of nuclear energy. The first commercial nuclear power plant opened in 1958 in northwest Pennsylvania.

Termination and Relocation of Native Americans Eisenhower’s efforts to limit the federal government were consistent with a new direction in Indian policy, which reversed the New Deal emphasis on strengthening tribal governments and preserving Indian culture (see “Neglected Americans and the New Deal” in chapter 24). After World War II, when some 25,000 Indians had left their homes for military service and another 40,000 for work in defense industries, policymakers began to favor assimilating Native Americans and ending their special relationships with the government.

To some officials, who reflected Cold War emphasis on conformity to dominant American values, the communal practices of Indians resembled socialism and stifled individual initiative. Eisenhower’s commissioner of Indian affairs, Glenn Emmons, did not believe that tribal lands could produce income sufficient to eliminate poverty, but he also revealed the bias of policymakers when he insisted that Indians wanted to “work and live like Americans.” Moreover, Indians still held rights to water, land, minerals, and other resources that were increasingly attractive to state governments and private entrepreneurs.

By 1960, the government had implemented a three-part program of compensation, termination, and relocation. In 1946, Congress established the Indian Claims Commission to hear outstanding claims by Native Americans for land taken by the government. When it closed in 1978, the commission had settled 285 cases, with compensation exceeding $800 million. Yet the awards were based on land values at the time the land was taken and did not include interest.

The second policy, termination, also originated in the Truman


administration when Commissioner Dillon S. Myer asserted that his Bureau of Indian Affairs should do “nothing for Indians which Indians can do for themselves.” Beginning in 1953, Eisenhower signed bills transferring jurisdiction over tribal land to state and local governments and ending the trusteeship relationship between Indians and the federal government. The loss of federal hospitals, schools, and other special arrangements devastated Indian tribes. As had happened after passage of the Dawes Act in 1887 (see “The Dawes Act and Indian Land Allotment” in chapter 17), corporate interests and individuals took advantage of the opportunity to purchase Indian land cheaply. The government abandoned termination in the 1960s after some 13,000 Indians and more than one million acres of their land had been affected.

Indian Relocation As part of its new emphasis on assimilation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs urged Native Americans to move from their reservations to cities, and the percentage of Indians in urban areas grew from 13.4 in 1950 to 44 in 1970. Jack Riddle/Getty Images.

The Indian Relocation Program, the third piece of Native American


policy, began in 1948 and involved more than 100,000 Native Americans by 1973. The government encouraged Indians to move to cities, where relocation centers were supposed to help with housing, job training, and medical care. Even though Indians were moved far from their reservations, about one-third returned.

Most who stayed in cities faced racism, unemployment, poor housing, and the loss of their traditional culture. “I wish we had never left home,” said one woman whose husband was out of work and drinking heavily. “It’s dirty and noisy, and people all around, crowded…. It seems like I never see the sky or trees.” Reflecting long-standing disagreements among Indians themselves, some who overcame these obstacles applauded the program. But most urban Indians remained poor, and even many who had welcomed relocation worried that “we would lose our identity as Indian people, lose our culture and our [way] of living.” Within two decades, a national pan-Indian movement — a by-product of this urbanization — emerged to resist assimilation and to demand much more for Indians (see “Native American Protest” in chapter 28).

The 1956 Election and the Second Term Eisenhower easily defeated Adlai Stevenson in 1956, doubling his victory margin of 1952. Yet Democrats kept control of Congress, and in the midterm elections two years later, they all but wiped out the Republican Party, gaining a 64–34 majority in the Senate and a 282–135 advantage in the House. Although Ike captured voters’ hearts, a majority of Americans remained wedded to the programs and policies of the Democrats.

Eisenhower faced more serious leadership challenges in his second term. When the economy plunged into a recession in late 1957, he fought with Congress over the budget and vetoed bills to expand housing, urban development, and public works projects. The president and Congress did agree on the first, though largely symbolic, civil rights law in a century and on a larger federal role in education, largely in the interest of national security (as discussed on pages 720 and 709).

In the end, the first Republican administration after the New Deal left the functions of the federal government intact, though it tipped policy benefits somewhat toward corporate interests. Even with two recessions, unparalleled prosperity graced the Eisenhower years, and inflation was kept low. Eisenhower celebrated what he called the “wide diffusion of wealth and incomes” across the United States, yet amid the remarkable abundance were some forty million impoverished Americans. Rural


deprivation was particularly pronounced, as was poverty among the elderly, African Americans, and other minorities.

REVIEW How did Eisenhower’s domestic policies reflect his moderate political vision?


Liberation Rhetoric and the Practice of Containment At his first inauguration, Eisenhower warned that “forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history.” Like Truman, he saw communism as a threat to the nation’s security and economic interests, and he wanted to keep the United States the most powerful country in the world. Eisenhower’s foreign policy differed, however, in three areas: its rhetoric, its means, and — after Stalin’s death in 1953 — its movement toward accommodation with the Soviet Union.

Although some Republicans, such as Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, deplored containment as “negative, futile, and immoral,” the Eisenhower administration did not attempt to roll back communism with force. Nuclear weapons and CIA secret operations took on a more prominent role in defense strategy, and the United States intervened at the margins of Communist power in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Toward the end of his presidency, Eisenhower sought to ease tensions between the superpowers.

The “New Look” in Foreign Policy Eisenhower was determined to control military expenditures in order to balance the budget and cut taxes. Reflecting American confidence in technology and opposition to a large peacetime army, Eisenhower’s “New Look” in defense strategy concentrated U.S. military strength in nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Instead of maintaining large ground forces of its own, the United States would arm friendly nations and back them up with an ominous nuclear arsenal, providing, according to one defense official, “more bang for the buck.” Dulles believed that America’s willingness to “go to the brink” of war with its intimidating nuclear weapons — a strategy called brinksmanship — would block any Soviet efforts to expand.

Nuclear weapons could not stop a Soviet nuclear attack, but in response to one, they could inflict enormous destruction. This certainty of


“massive retaliation” was meant to deter the Soviets from launching an attack. Because the Soviet Union could respond similarly to an American first strike, this nuclear standoff became known as mutually assured destruction, or MAD. As leaders of both nations pursued an ever- escalating arms race, the United States stayed on top of the Soviet Union in nuclear warheads and delivery missiles.

Nuclear weapons could not roll back the iron curtain. When a revolt against the Soviet-controlled government began in Hungary in 1956, Dulles’s liberation rhetoric proved to be empty. A radio plea from Hungarian freedom fighters cried, “SOS! They just brought us a rumor that the American troops will be here within one or two hours.” But help did not come. Eisenhower was unwilling to risk U.S. soldiers and possible nuclear war, and Soviet troops soon suppressed the insurrection, killing or wounding thousands of Hungarians.

Applying Containment to Vietnam A major challenge to the containment policy came in Southeast Asia. During World War II, Ho Chi Minh and his nationalist coalition, the Vietminh, fought both the occupying Japanese forces and the French colonial rulers. In 1945, the Vietminh declared Vietnam’s independence from France, and when France fought back, the area plunged into war. Because Ho declared himself a Communist, the Truman administration quietly began to provide aid to the French. American principles of national self-determination took a backseat to the battle against communism.

Eisenhower viewed communism in Vietnam much as Truman had regarded it in Greece and Turkey. In what became called the domino theory, Eisenhower explained, “You have a row of dominoes, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly.” A Communist victory in Southeast Asia, he warned, could trigger the fall of Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. By 1954, the United States was paying 75 percent of the cost of France’s war, but Eisenhower resisted a larger role. When the French asked for American troops and planes to avert almost certain defeat in the battle for Dien Bien Phu, Eisenhower, remembering the Korean War, refused.

Dien Bien Phu fell to the Vietminh in May 1954, and two months later in Geneva a truce was signed. The Geneva accords recognized Vietnam’s independence and temporarily partitioned it at the seventeenth parallel, separating the Vietminh in the north from the puppet government established by the French in the south. Within two years, the Vietnamese


people were to vote in elections for a unified government. Some officials warned against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, envisioning “nothing but grief in store for us if we remained in that area.” Eisenhower and Dulles nonetheless moved to prop up the dominoes with a new alliance and put the CIA to work infiltrating and destabilizing North Vietnam. Fearing a Communist victory in the elections mandated by the Geneva accords, they supported South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem’s refusal to hold the vote.

Between 1955 and 1961, the United States provided $800 million to the South Vietnamese army (ARVN). Yet the ARVN proved grossly unprepared for the guerrilla warfare that began in the late 1950s. With help from Ho Chi Minh’s government in Hanoi, Vietminh rebels in the south stepped up their attacks on the Diem government. The insurgents gained support from the largely Buddhist peasants, who were outraged by the repressive regime of the Catholic, Westernized Diem. Unwilling to abandon containment, Eisenhower left his successor with a deteriorating situation and a firm commitment to defend South Vietnam against communism.

Interventions in Latin America and the Middle East While supporting friendly governments in Asia, the Eisenhower administration sought to topple unfriendly ones in Latin America and the Middle East. Officials saw internal civil wars in terms of the Cold War conflict between the superpowers and often viewed nationalist movements as Communist challenges to democracy. They also acted against governments that threatened U.S. economic interests. The Eisenhower administration took this course of action out of sight of Congress and the public, making the CIA an important arm of foreign policy.

Guatemala’s government, under the popularly elected president Jacobo Arbenz, was not Soviet controlled, but it accepted support from the small local Communist Party. In 1953, Arbenz moved to help landless, poverty- stricken peasants by nationalizing land owned, but not cultivated, by the United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation whose annual profits were twice the size of Guatemala’s budget. United Fruit refused Arbenz’s offer to compensate the company at the value of the land it had declared for tax purposes. Then, equating Arbenz’s reformist government with the spread of communism, the CIA provided pilots and other support to an opposition army that overthrew the elected government and installed a military


dictatorship in 1954. United Fruit kept its land, and Guatemala succumbed to destructive civil wars that lasted through the 1990s.

In 1959, when Cubans’ desire for political and economic autonomy erupted into a revolution led by Fidel Castro, a CIA agent promised “to take care of Castro just like we took care of Arbenz.” American companies controlled major Cuban resources, and decisions made in Washington directly influenced the lives of the Cuban people. The 1959 Cuban revolution drove out the U.S.-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista and led the CIA to warn Eisenhower that “Communists and other extreme radicals appear to have penetrated the Castro movement.” When the United States denied Castro’s requests for loans, he turned to the Soviet Union. And when U.S. companies refused Castro’s offer to purchase their Cuban holdings at their assessed value, he began to nationalize their property. Many anti-Castro Cubans fled to the United States and reported his atrocities. Before leaving office, Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba and authorized the CIA to train Cuban exiles for an invasion to overthrow the Castro government.

In the Middle East, the CIA intervened in Iran to oust an elected government, support an unpopular dictatorship, and maintain Western access to Iranian oil (see Map 30.3). In 1951, the Iranian parliament, led by Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, nationalized the country’s oil fields and refineries, which had been held primarily by a British company and from which Iran received less than 20 percent of profits. Britain strongly objected to the takeover and eventually sought help from the United States.

Advisers convinced Eisenhower that Mossadegh, whom Time magazine had called “the Iranian George Washington,” left Iran vulnerable to communism, and the president wanted to keep oil-rich areas “under the control of people who are friendly.” With Eisenhower’s authorization, CIA agents instigated a coup, bribing army officers and financing demonstrations in the streets. In August 1953, Iranian army officers captured Mossadegh and reestablished the authority of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, known for favoring Western interests and the Iranian wealthy classes. U.S. companies received a 40 percent share of Iran’s oil concessions. But resentment over the intervention would poison U.S.-Iranian relations into the twenty-first century.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Eisenhower continued Truman’s support of Israel but also pursued friendships with Arab nations to secure access to oil and build a bulwark against communism. U.S. officials demanded that smaller nations take the American side in the Cold War, even when those


nations preferred neutrality. In 1955, as part of this effort to win Arab allies, Secretary of State Dulles began talks with Egypt about American support to build the Aswan Dam on the Nile River. The following year, Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, sought arms from Communist Czechoslovakia, formed a military alliance with other Arab nations, and recognized the People’s Republic of China. In retaliation, Dulles called off the deal for the dam.

In July 1956, Nasser responded by seizing the Suez Canal, then owned by Britain and France but scheduled to revert to Egypt within seven years. In response to the seizure, Israel, whose forces had been skirmishing with Egyptian troops along their common border since 1948, attacked Egypt, with help from Britain and France. Eisenhower opposed the intervention, recognizing that the Egyptians had claimed their own territory and that Nasser “embodie[d] the emotional demands of the people … for independence.” Calling on the United Nations to arrange a truce, he pressured Britain and France to pull back, forcing Israel to retreat.

Despite staying out of the Suez crisis, Eisenhower made it clear in a January 1957 speech that the United States would actively combat communism in the Middle East. In March, Congress approved aid to any Middle Eastern nation “requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism.” The president invoked this Eisenhower Doctrine to send aid to Jordan in 1957 and troops to Lebanon in 1958 to counter anti-Western pressures on those governments.

The Nuclear Arms Race While Eisenhower moved against perceived Communist inroads abroad, he also sought to reduce superpower tensions. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev emerged as a more moderate leader. Like Eisenhower, who remarked privately that the arms race would lead “at worst to atomic warfare, at best to robbing every people and nation on earth of the fruits of their own toil,” Khrushchev wanted to reduce defense spending and the threat of nuclear devastation. Eisenhower and Khrushchev met in Geneva in 1955 at the first summit conference since the end of World War II. Although the meeting produced no new agreements, it symbolized what Eisenhower called “a new spirit of conciliation and cooperation.”

In August 1957, the Soviets test-fired their first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and, two months later, beat the United States into space by launching Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to circle the earth.


The United States launched a successful satellite of its own in January 1958, but Sputnik raised fears that the Soviets led not only in missile development and space exploration but also in science and education. In response, Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with a huge budget increase for space exploration. He also signed the National Defense Education Act, providing support for students in math, foreign languages, and science and technology.

Eisenhower assured the public that the United States possessed nuclear superiority. In fact, during his presidency, the stockpile of nuclear weapons more than quadrupled. With ICBMs at home and in Britain, the United States was prepared to deploy more in Italy and Turkey. In 1960, the United States launched the first Polaris submarine carrying nuclear missiles. Yet nuclear weapons could not guarantee security for either superpower because they both possessed sufficient capacity to devastate each other. Most Americans did not follow Civil Defense Administration recommendations to construct home bomb shelters, but they did realize how precarious their lives had become. A new organization, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, called the nuclear arms race “a danger unlike any danger that has ever existed.”

In the midst of the arms race, the superpowers continued to talk, and by 1960 the two sides were close to a ban on nuclear testing. But just before a planned summit in Paris, a Soviet missile shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Soviet territory. The State Department first denied that U.S. planes had been violating Soviet airspace, but the Soviets produced the pilot and the photos taken on his flight. Eisenhower and Khrushchev met briefly, but the U-2 incident dashed all prospects for a nuclear arms agreement.

As Eisenhower left office, he warned about the growing influence of the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower had struggled against persistent pressures from defense contractors who, in tandem with the military, sought more dollars for newer, more powerful weapons systems. In his farewell address, he warned that the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry … exercised a total influence … in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government,” but his administration had done little to curtail the defense industry’s power. The Cold War had created a warfare state.


The Age of Nuclear Anxiety As schools routinely held drills to prepare for possible Soviet attacks, children directly experienced the anxiety and insecurity of the 1950s nuclear arms race. The federal government distributed this pamphlet about how to protect oneself from an atomic attack. Photo: American Stock Archive/Getty Images; pamphlet: Lynn Museum and Historical Society.

REVIEW Where and how did Eisenhower practice containment?


New Work and Living Patterns in an Economy of Abundance Stimulated by Cold War spending and technological advances, economic productivity increased enormously in the 1950s. A multitude of new items came on the market, and consumption became the order of the day. Millions of Americans enjoyed new homes in the suburbs, and higher education enrollments skyrocketed. Although every section of the nation enjoyed the new abundance, the Southwest and South — the Sun Belt — especially boomed in production, commerce, and population.

Work itself was changing. Fewer people labored on farms, service sector employment overtook manufacturing jobs, women’s employment grew, and union membership soared. Not all Americans benefited from these changes; forty million lived in poverty. Most Americans, however, enjoyed a higher standard of living, prompting economist John Kenneth Galbraith to call the United States “the affluent society.”

Technology Transforms Agriculture and Industry Between 1940 and 1960, agricultural output mushroomed even while the number of farmworkers declined by almost one-third. Farmers achieved unprecedented productivity through greater crop specialization, intensive use of fertilizers, and, above all, mechanization. A single mechanical cotton picker replaced fifty people and cut the cost of harvesting a bale of cotton from $40 to $5.

The decline of family farms and the growth of large commercial farming, or agribusiness, were both causes and consequences of mechanization. Benefiting handsomely from federal price supports begun in the New Deal, larger farmers could afford technological improvements, while smaller producers lacked capital to purchase the machinery necessary to compete. Consequently, average farm size more than doubled between 1940 and 1964, and the number of farms fell by more than 40 percent.

Many small farmers who hung on constituted a core of rural poverty.


Southern landowners replaced sharecroppers and tenants with machines. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved to cities, where racial discrimination and a lack of jobs mired many in urban poverty. A Mississippi mother reported that most of her relatives headed for Chicago when they realized that “it was going to be machines now that harvest the crops.” Worrying that “it might be worse up there” for her children, she agonized, “I’m afraid to leave and I’m afraid to stay.”

New technologies also transformed industrial production. Between 1945 and 1960, the number of labor-hours needed to manufacture a car fell by 50 percent. Technology revolutionized industries such as electronics, chemicals, and air transportation. It also promoted the growth of television, plastics, computers, and other newer industries. American businesses enjoyed access to cheap oil, ample markets abroad, and little foreign competition. Even with Eisenhower’s conservative fiscal policies, government spending reached $80 billion annually and created new jobs.

The strength of labor unions contributed to prosperity by putting money into the hands of people who would spend it. Real earnings for production workers shot up 40 percent. A steelworker’s son remembered, “In 1946, we did not have a car, a television set, or a refrigerator. By 1952 we had all those things.” In most industrial nations, government programs underwrote their citizens’ security, but the United States developed a mixed system in which company-funded programs won by unions provided for retirement, health care, paid vacations, supplementary unemployment benefits, and more. This system, often called a private welfare state, resulted in wide disparities among workers, disadvantaging those who did not belong to strong unions and those with irregular employment.

While the number of organized workers continued to grow, union membership peaked at 27.4 percent of all workers in 1957. Technological advances eliminated jobs in heavy industry. “You are going to have trouble collecting union dues from all of these machines,” commented a Ford manager to union leader Walter Reuther. Moreover, the economy as a whole was shifting from production to service. Beginning in 1957, white- collar jobs outnumbered blue-collar jobs, as more workers distributed goods, performed services, provided education, and carried out government work. Unions made some headway in these fields, especially among government employees, but most service industries resisted unionization.

The growing clerical and service occupations swelled the demand for female workers, who held nearly one-third of all jobs by the end of the


1950s. The vast majority of them worked in offices, light manufacturing, domestic service, teaching, and nursing; because these occupations engaged primarily women, wages were relatively low. In 1960, the average female full-time worker earned just 60 percent of the average male worker’s wages. At the bottom of the employment ladder, black women took home only 42 percent of what white men earned.

Burgeoning Suburbs and Declining Cities Although suburbs had existed since the nineteenth century, nothing symbolized the affluent society more than their tremendous expansion in the 1950s. Eleven million new homes went up in the suburbs, and by 1960 one in four Americans lived there. As Nixon boasted to Khrushchev during the kitchen debate, the suburban homes were accessible to families with modest incomes. Builder William J. Levitt adapted the factory assembly line to home construction, erecting nearly identical units so that workers moved from house to house performing one specific job. In 1949, families could purchase mass-produced houses in his 17,000-home development, called Levittown, on Long Island, New York, for just under $8,000 each ($80,000 in 2016 dollars). Similar developments, as well as more luxurious ones, quickly went up throughout the country. The government subsidized home ownership by guaranteeing low-interest mortgages and by making interest on mortgages tax deductible. Government-funded interstate highways running through metropolitan areas also encouraged suburban development.

By the 1960s, suburbs came under attack for bulldozing the natural environment, creating groundwater contamination, and disrupting wildlife patterns. Social critic Lewis Mumford disparaged suburbia as “a multitude of uniform, unidentifiable houses in a treeless communal wasteland, inhabited by people of the same class, the same income, the same age group.” Yet most families were thrilled to be able to own new homes. “It was a miracle to them,” one man said of his working-class parents who moved to Levittown.

The suburbs did help polarize society, especially along racial lines. Each Levittown homeowner signed a contract pledging not to rent or sell to a non-Caucasian. The Supreme Court declared such covenants unenforceable in 1948, but suburban America remained severely segregated. Although some African Americans joined the suburban migration, most moved to cities in search of economic opportunity, doubling their numbers in major cities during the 1950s. But those cities were already in decline, losing not only population but also commerce,


industry, and jobs to the suburbs or to southern and western states. “Detroit is in the doldrums,” commented social worker Mary Jorgensen in 1952.

The Rise of the Sun Belt No regions experienced the postwar economic and population booms more intensely than the South and Southwest (Map 27.2). California overtook New York as the most populous state. Sports franchises followed fans: In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, joined by the Minneapolis Lakers three years later.

MAP 27.2 The Rise of the Sun Belt, 1940–1980 The growth of defense industries, a non-unionized labor force, and the spread of air-conditioning all helped spur economic development and population growth in the Southwest and the South. This made the Sun Belt the fastest-growing region of the country between 1940 and 1980.

A pleasant natural environment attracted new residents to the Sun Belt, but no magnet proved stronger than economic opportunity. As railroads had fueled western growth in the nineteenth century, so the automobile and airplane spurred the post–World War II surge. Air- conditioning cooled nearly eight million homes by 1960, and it facilitated


industrial development and tourism. “Can you conceive a Walt Disney World in central Florida without its air-conditioned hotels?” asked a journalist.

So important was the defense industry to the South and Southwest that the area was later referred to as the “Gun Belt.” The aerospace industry boomed in such cities as Los Angeles and Dallas–Fort Worth, and military bases helped underwrite prosperity in San Diego and San Antonio. Although defense dollars benefited other regions — military bases and aerospace plants were numerous in the Northwest — the Sun Belt captured the lion’s share of Cold War spending. By the 1960s, nearly one of every three California workers held a defense-related job.

The surging populations and industries soon threatened the environment. Providing sufficient water and power to cities and to agribusiness meant building dams and reservoirs on free-flowing rivers. Native Americans lost fishing sites on the Columbia River, and dams on the Upper Missouri displaced nine hundred Indian families. Sprawling suburban settlement without efficient public transportation contributed to blankets of smog over Los Angeles and other cities.

The high-technology basis of economic development drew well- educated, highly skilled workers to the West, but economic promise also attracted the poor. “We see opportunity all around us here…. We smell freedom here, and maybe soon we can taste it,” commented a black mother in California. Between 1945 and 1960, more than one-third of African Americans leaving the South moved west.

The Mexican American population also grew, especially in California and Texas. To supply California’s vast agribusiness industry, the government continued the bracero program begun in 1942, under which Mexicans were permitted to enter the United States to work for a limited period. Until the program ended in 1964, more than 100,000 Mexicans entered the United States each year to labor in the fields — and many of them stayed, legally or illegally. But permanent Mexican immigration was not as welcome as Mexicans’ low-wage labor. In 1954, the government launched a series of raids called “Operation Wetback,” sending more than a million Mexicans back across the border.

At the same time, Mexican American citizens gained a victory in their ongoing struggle for civil rights in Hernandez v. Texas. In this 1954 case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Mexican Americans constituted a distinct group and that their systematic exclusion from juries violated the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. Legal scholar Ian Haney-Lopez called Hernandez “huge for the Mexican American


community. They now had the highest court in the land saying it’s unconstitutional to treat Mexicans as if they’re an inferior race.”

Free of the discrimination faced by minorities, white Americans enjoyed the fullest prosperity in the West. In April 1950, when California developers opened Lakewood, a 17,500-home development in Los Angeles County, thirty thousand people lined up to buy houses at prices averaging $87,500 in 2016 dollars. Many of the new homeowners were veterans, blue-collar and lower-level white-collar workers whose defense- based jobs at aerospace corporations enabled them to fulfill the American dream of the 1950s. A huge shopping mall, Lakewood Center, offered myriad products of the consumer culture, and the workers’ children lived within commuting distance from community colleges and six state universities.

The Democratization of Higher Education California’s university system exemplified a spectacular transformation of higher education. Between 1940 and 1960, college enrollments in the United States more than doubled, and more than 40 percent of young Americans attended college by the mid-1960s. The federal government subsidized the education of more than two million veterans, and the Cold War sent millions of federal dollars to universities for defense-related research. State governments vastly expanded the number of public colleges and universities, while municipalities began to build two-year community colleges.

All Americans did not benefit equally from the democratization of higher education. Although their college enrollments surged from 37,000 in 1941 to 90,000 in 1961, African Americans constituted only about 5 percent of all college students. For a time, the educational gap between white men and women grew, even though women’s enrollments increased. In 1940, women had earned 40 percent of undergraduate degrees, but as veterans flocked to college campuses, women’s proportion fell to 25 percent, rising to just 33 percent by 1960. Women were more likely than men to drop out of college after marriage, taking jobs to keep their husbands in school. Reflecting gender norms of the 1950s, most white college women agreed that “it is natural for a woman to be satisfied with her husband’s success and not crave personal achievement.”

REVIEW What fueled the prosperity of the 1950s?



The Culture of Abundance Prosperity in the 1950s intensified the transformation of the nation into a consumer society, changing the way Americans lived and shifting the traditional work ethic toward an ethic of consumption. The new medium of television both reflected and stimulated a consumer culture. People married at earlier ages, the birthrate soared, and dominant values celebrated family life and traditional gender roles. Undercurrents of rebellion, especially among young people, and women’s increasing employment defied some of the dominant norms but did not greatly disrupt the complacency of the 1950s.

Consumption Rules the Day Scorned by Khrushchev during the kitchen debate as unnecessary gadgets, consumer items flooded American society in the 1950s. Although the purchase and display of consumer goods was not new (see “Consumer Culture” in chapter 23), at midcentury consumption had become a reigning value, vital for economic prosperity and essential to individuals’ identity and status. In place of the traditional emphasis on work and savings, the consumer culture encouraged satisfaction and happiness through the acquisition of new products.

The consumer culture rested on a firm material base. Between 1950 and 1960, both the gross national product (the value of all goods and services produced) and median family income grew by 25 percent in constant dollars. Economists claimed that 60 percent of Americans enjoyed middle-class incomes in 1960. By then, four-fifths of all families owned a television set, nearly all had a refrigerator, and most owned at least one car. The number of shopping centers quadrupled between 1957 and 1963.

Several forces spurred this unparalleled abundance. A population surge — from 152 million to 180 million during the 1950s — expanded demand for products and boosted industries ranging from housing to baby goods. Consumer borrowing also fueled the economic boom, as people made purchases on installment plans and began to use credit cards. Increasingly


Americans enjoyed their possessions while they paid for them instead of saving their money for future purchases.

Although the sheer need to support themselves and their families motivated most women’s employment, a desire to secure some of the new abundance sent growing numbers of women to work. As one woman remarked, “My Joe can’t put five kids through college … and the washer had to be replaced, and Ann was ashamed to bring friends home because the living room furniture was such a mess, so I went to work.” The standards for family happiness imposed by the consumer culture increasingly required a second income.

The Revival of Domesticity and Religion Despite married women’s growing employment, a dominant ideology celebrated traditional family life and conventional gender roles. Both popular culture and public figures defined the ideal family as a male breadwinner, a full-time homemaker, and three or four children. Writer and feminist Betty Friedan gave a name to the idealization of women’s domestic roles in her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique. Friedan criticized health professionals, scholars, advertisers, and public officials for assuming that biological differences dictated different roles for men and women. According to this feminine mystique that they promulgated, women should find fulfillment in devotion to their homes, families, and serving others. Not many women directly challenged these ideas, but writer Edith Stern maintained that “many arguments about the joys of housewifery have been advanced, largely by those who have never had to work at it.”

Although the glorification of domesticity clashed with women’s increasing employment, many Americans’ lives did embody the family ideal. Postwar prosperity enabled people to marry earlier and to have more children. In the midst of a general downward trend over the century, the American birthrate soared between 1945 and 1965, peaking in 1957 with 4.3 million births and producing the baby boom generation. Experts like Dr. Benjamin Spock encouraged mothers to devote even more attention to child rearing, while they also urged fathers to cultivate family “togetherness” by spending more time with their children.

Interest in religion also surged in the 1950s. From 1940 to 1960, membership in churches and synagogues rose from 50 to 63 percent of all Americans. Polls reported that 95 percent of the population believed in God. Evangelism took on new life, most notably in the nationwide


crusades of Baptist minister Billy Graham. Congress linked religion more closely to the state by adding “under God” to the pledge of allegiance and by requiring that “In God We Trust” be printed on all currency.

Religion helped to calm anxieties in the nuclear age, while ministers such as Graham made the Cold War a holy war, labeling communism “a great sinister anti-Christian movement masterminded by Satan.” Some critics questioned the depth of the religious revival, attributing the growth in church membership to a desire for conformity and a need for social outlets. One commentator noted that 53 percent of Americans could not name a single book of the Christian New Testament.

Television Transforms Culture and Politics Just as family life and religion offered a respite from Cold War anxieties, so too did the new medium of television. By 1960, nearly 90 percent of American homes boasted a television set, and the average viewer spent more than five hours each day watching it. Audiences were especially attracted to situation comedies, which projected the family ideal and the feminine mystique into millions of homes. On TV, married women did not have paying jobs and they deferred to their husbands, though they often got the upper hand through subtle manipulation.

Television also began to affect politics. Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential campaign used TV ads for the first time, although he was not happy that “an old soldier should come to this.” By 1960, television played a key role in election campaigns. Reflecting on his narrow victory, president-elect John F. Kennedy remarked, “We wouldn’t have had a prayer without that gadget.” In addition, money played a much larger role in elections because candidates needed to pay for expensive TV ads. The ability to appeal directly to voters in their living rooms put a premium on personal attractiveness and encouraged candidates to build their own campaign organizations, relying less on political parties. The declining strength of parties and the growing power of money in elections were not new trends, but TV accelerated them.

Unlike government-financed television in Europe, private enterprise paid for American TV. What NBC called a “selling machine in every living room” became the major vehicle for fostering consumption, and advertisers did not hesitate to interfere with shows that might jeopardize the sale of their products. In 1961, Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, called television a “vast wasteland.” While acknowledging some of TV’s achievements,


particularly documentaries and drama, Minow depicted it as “a procession of game shows, … formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, … and cartoons.” But viewers kept tuning in. In little more than a decade, television came to dominate Americans’ leisure time, influence their consumption patterns, and shape their perceptions of the nation’s leadership.

Countercurrents Pockets of dissent underlay the conventionality of the 1950s. Some intellectuals took exception to the materialism and conformity of the era. In The Lonely Crowd (1950), sociologist David Riesman lamented a shift from the “inner-directed” to the “other-directed” individual, as Americans replaced independent thinking with an eagerness to adapt to external standards of behavior and belief. Sharing that distaste for the importance of “belonging,” William H. Whyte Jr., in his popular book The Organization Man (1956), blamed the modern corporation for making employees tailor themselves to the group. Vance Packard’s 1959 best seller, The Status Seekers, decried “the vigorous merchandising of goods as status-symbols.”

Implicit in much of the critique of consumer culture was concern about the loss of traditional masculinity. Consumption was associated with women and their presumed greater susceptibility to manipulation. Men, required to conform to get ahead, moved further away from the masculine ideals of individualism and aggressiveness. Moreover, the increase in married women’s employment compromised the male ideal of breadwinner. Into this gender confusion came Playboy, which began publication in 1953 and quickly gained a circulation of one million. The new magazine idealized masculine independence in the form of bachelorhood and assaulted the middle-class norms of domesticity and respectability. By associating the sophisticated bachelor with good wine, music, furnishings, and the like, the magazine made consumption more masculine while promoting sexual freedom, at least for men.

In fact, two books published by Alfred Kinsey and other researchers at Indiana University — Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) — disclosed that Americans’ sexual behavior often departed from the postwar family ideal. Large numbers of men and women reported that they had engaged in premarital sex and adultery; one-third of the men and one-seventh of the women reported homosexual experiences. Although Kinsey’s sampling procedures later cast doubt on his ability to generalize across the


population, the books became best sellers. Less direct challenges to mainstream standards appeared in the

everyday behavior of young Americans. “Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news!” belted out Chuck Berry in his 1956 hit record celebrating rock and roll, a new form of music that combined country with black rhythm and blues. White teenagers lionized Elvis Presley, who shocked their parents with his tight pants, hip-rolling gestures, and sensuous rock-and-roll music. “Before there was Elvis … I started going crazy for ‘race music,’” recalled a white man of his teenage years. His recollection underscored African Americans’ contributions to rock and roll, as well as the rebelliousness expressed by white youths’ attraction to black music.

The most blatant revolt against conventionality came from the self- proclaimed Beat generation, a small group of mostly male literary figures based in New York City and San Francisco. Rejecting nearly everything in mainstream culture — patriotism, consumerism, technology, conventional family life, discipline — writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac celebrated spontaneity and absolute personal freedom, including drug consumption and freewheeling sex. The Beats shocked “square” Americans, but both they and their lifestyles would provide a model for a new movement of youthful dissidents in the 1960s.

Bold new styles in the visual arts also showed the 1950s to be more than a decade of bland conformity. In New York City, “action painting” or “abstract expressionism” flowered, rejecting the idea that painting should represent recognizable forms. Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists poured, dripped, and threw paint on canvases or substituted sticks and other implements for brushes. The new form of painting so captivated and redirected the Western art world that New York replaced Paris as its center.

REVIEW Why did American consumption expand so dramatically in the 1950s, and what aspects of society and culture did it influence?


The Emergence of a Civil Rights Movement Building on the civil rights initiatives begun during World War II, African Americans posed the most dramatic challenge to the status quo of the 1950s as they sought to overcome discrimination and segregation. Every southern state mandated rigid segregation in public settings ranging from schools to cemeteries. Voting laws and practices in the South disfranchised the vast majority of African Americans. Employment discrimination kept blacks at the bottom throughout the country. Schools, restaurants, and other public spaces were often as segregated, though usually not by law, in the North as in the South.

Although black protest was as old as American racism, in the 1950s grassroots movements arose that attracted national attention and the support of white liberals. Pressed by civil rights groups, the Supreme Court delivered significant institutional reforms, but the most important changes occurred among blacks themselves. Ordinary African Americans in substantial numbers sought their own liberation, building a movement that would transform race relations in the United States.

African Americans Challenge the Supreme Court and the President Several factors spurred black protest in the 1950s. Between 1940 and 1960, more than three million African Americans moved from the South into areas where they had a political voice. Black leaders emphasized how racist practices at home tarnished the U.S. image abroad and handicapped the United States in its competition with the Soviet Union. The very system of segregation meant that African Americans controlled certain organizational resources, such as churches, colleges, and newspapers, where leadership skills could be honed and networks developed.

The legal strategy of the major civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), reached its crowning achievement with the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board


of Education in 1954, which consolidated five separate suits. Oliver Brown, a World War II veteran in Topeka, Kansas, filed suit because his daughter had to pass by a white school near their home to attend a black school more than a mile away. In Virginia, sixteen-year-old Barbara Johns initiated a student strike over wretched conditions in her black high school, leading to another of the suits joined in Brown. The NAACP’s lead lawyer, future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, urged the Court to overturn the “separate but equal” precedent established in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 (see “Progressivism for White Men Only” in chapter 21). A unanimous Court, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, agreed, declaring that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and thus violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Ultimate responsibility for enforcement of the decision lay with President Eisenhower, but he refused to endorse Brown. He also kept silent in 1955 when whites murdered Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy who had allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi. Reflecting his own prejudice, his preference for limited federal intervention in the states, and a leadership style that favored consensus and gradual progress, Eisenhower kept his distance from civil rights issues. Such inaction fortified southern resistance.

In September 1957, Governor Orval Faubus sent Arkansas National Guard troops to block the enrollment of nine black students in Little Rock’s Central High School. Later, he allowed them to enter but withdrew the National Guard, leaving the students to face an angry white mob. “During those years when we desperately needed approval from our peers,” Melba Patillo Beals remembered, “we were victims of the most harsh rejection imaginable.” As television cameras transmitted the ugly scene, Eisenhower was forced to send regular army troops to Little Rock, the first federal military intervention in the South since Reconstruction. Paratroopers escorted the “Little Rock Nine” into the school, but resistance to integration continued across the South.

School segregation outside the South was not usually sanctioned by law, but northern school districts separated black and white students by manipulating neighborhood boundaries and with other devices. Even before Brown, black parents in dozens of northern cities challenged the assignment of their children to inferior “colored” schools. While these protests reaped some successes, the structure of residential segregation, often supported by official action, made school segregation a reality for African Americans in both the North and South.

Eisenhower ordered the integration of public facilities in Washington,


D.C., and on military bases, and he supported the first federal civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. Yet the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 were little more than symbolic. Baseball star Jackie Robinson spoke for many African Americans when he wired Eisenhower in 1957, “We disagree that half a loaf is better than none. Have waited this long for a bill with meaning — can wait a little longer.” Eisenhower appointed the first black professional to his White House staff, but E. Frederick Morrow confided in his diary, “I feel ridiculous … trying to defend the administration’s record on civil rights.”

Montgomery and Mass Protest What set the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s apart from earlier acts of black protest was its widespread presence in the South, the large number of people involved, their willingness to confront white institutions directly, and the use of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience to bring about change. The Congress of Racial Equality and other groups had experimented with these tactics in the 1940s, organizing to integrate movie theaters, restaurants, and swimming pools in northern cities. In the South, the first sustained protest to claim national attention began in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955.

That day, police arrested Rosa Parks for violating a local segregation ordinance. Riding a crowded bus home from work, she refused to give up her seat in the white section so that a man could sit down. She resisted not because she was physically tired, she recalled; rather she was “tired of giving in.” The bus driver called the police, who promptly arrested her. Parks had long been active in the local NAACP, headed by E. D. Nixon. They had already talked about challenging bus segregation. So had the Women’s Political Council (WPC), led by Jo Ann Robinson, an English professor at Alabama State, who had once been humiliated by a bus driver when she accidentally sat in the white section.

When word came that Parks would fight her arrest, WPC leaders mobilized teachers and students to distribute fliers urging blacks to boycott the buses. E. D. Nixon called a mass meeting at a black church, where those assembled founded the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The MIA arranged volunteer car pools and marshaled most of the black community to sustain the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott.


Civil Rights Activism in the North While southern civil rights activism gained national attention in the 1950s, black protest had a long history in the North. African Americans and their allies battled job discrimination and segregation in schools, housing, and public accommodations. Here demonstrators march outside the Stork Club in New York City in 1951, protesting its refusal to serve the world-famous dancer, singer, and actress Josephine Baker. FPG/Getty Images.

Elected to head the MIA was twenty-six-year-old Martin Luther King Jr., a young Baptist pastor with a doctorate in theology from Boston University. A captivating speaker, King addressed mass meetings at churches throughout the bus boycott, inspiring blacks’ courage and commitment by linking racial justice to Christianity. He promised, “If you will protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love … historians will have to pause and say, ‘There lived a great people — a black people — who injected a new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’”

Montgomery blacks summoned their courage and determination in abundance. An older woman insisted, “I’m not walking for myself, I’m walking for my children and my grandchildren.” Boycotters walked miles or carpooled to get to work, contributed their meager financial resources, and stood up to intimidation and police harassment. Authorities arrested several leaders, and whites firebombed King’s house. Yet the movement persisted until November 1956, when the Supreme Court declared


unconstitutional Alabama’s laws requiring bus segregation. King’s face on the cover of Time magazine in February 1957 marked

his rapid rise to national and international fame. In January, black clergy from across the South had chosen King to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), newly established to coordinate local protests against segregation and disfranchisement. The prominence of King and other ministers obscured the substantial numbers and critical importance of black women in the movement. King’s fame and the media’s focus on the South also hid the national scope of racial injustice and the struggles for racial equality in the North that both encouraged and benefited from the black freedom struggle in the South.

REVIEW What were the goals and strategies of civil rights activists in the 1950s?


Conclusion: Peace and Prosperity Mask Unmet Challenges At the American exhibit in Moscow in 1959, the consumer goods that Nixon proudly displayed to Khrushchev and the Cold War competition that crackled through their dialogue reflected two dominant themes of the 1950s: American prosperity and the superpowers’ success in keeping their antagonism within the bounds of peace. The tremendous economic growth of the 1950s, which raised the standard of living for most Americans, resulted in part from Cold War defense spending.

Prosperity changed the very landscape of the United States. Suburban housing developments sprang up, interstate highways cut up cities and connected the country, farms declined in number but grew in size, and population and industry moved south and west. Daily habits and even values shifted as the economy became more service oriented and the appearance of television and a host of new products intensified the growth of a consumer culture.

The prosperity, however, masked a number of developments and problems that Americans would soon face head-on: rising resistance to racial injustice, a 20 percent poverty rate, married women’s movement into the labor force, and the emergence of a youth rebellion. Although defense spending and housing, highway, and education subsidies helped to sustain the economic boom, in general Eisenhower tried to curb domestic programs and let private enterprise have its way. His administration maintained the welfare state inherited from the New Deal but resisted the expansion of federal programs.

In global affairs, Eisenhower exercised restraint on large issues, recognizing the limits of U.S. power. In the name of deterrence, he promoted the development of more destructive atomic weapons, but he withstood pressures for even larger defense budgets. Still, Eisenhower shared Truman’s assumption that the United States must fight communism everywhere, and when movements in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, and Vietnam seemed too radical, too friendly to communism, or too inimical to American economic interests, he tried to undermine them, often with


secret operations. Eisenhower presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, but his foreign policy inspired anti-Americanism and forged commitments and interventions that plagued future generations. As Eisenhower’s successors took on the struggle against communism and grappled with the domestic challenges of race, poverty, and urban decay that he had avoided, the tranquility and consensus of the 1950s would give way to turbulence and conflict in the 1960s.


Chapter Review

K E Y T E R M S Interstate Highway and Defense System Act of 1956 (p. 703) mutually assured destruction (MAD) (p. 706) domino theory (p. 706) Cuban revolution (p. 708) Eisenhower Doctrine (p. 709) military-industrial complex (p. 709) Sun Belt (p. 713) Hernandez v. Texas (p. 714) baby boom (p. 716) rock and roll (p. 718) Brown v. Board of Education (p. 719) Montgomery bus boycott (p. 721)

R E V I E W Q U E S T I O N S 1. How did Eisenhower’s domestic policies reflect his moderate

political vision? (pp. 702–5) 2. Where and how did Eisenhower practice containment? (pp.

705–10) 3. What fueled the prosperity of the 1950s? (pp. 710–15) 4. Why did American consumption expand so dramatically in the

1950s, and what aspects of society and culture did it influence? (pp. 715–18)


5. What were the goals and strategies of civil rights activists in the 1950s? (pp. 719–22)

M A K I N G C O N N E C T I O N S 1. How did Eisenhower’s “modern Republicanism” address the

New Deal legacy? 2. What economic and demographic changes contributed to the

growth of suburbs and the Sun Belt? Consider both Americans who participated in these trends and those who did not.

3. What developments in American society in the 1950s were at odds with prevailing norms and values?

4. Explain how new policies and court decisions regarding minorities came about and their impact, for better and for worse.

L I N K I N G T O T H E P A S T 1. How did the policies of termination and relocation differ from

the New Deal’s policy toward Indians? (See chapter 24.) 2. What developments stemming from World War II influenced

U.S. foreign policy in such areas as Vietnam and Latin America? (See chapter 25.)


1952 • Dwight D. Eisenhower elected president. 1953 • CIA organizes coup against Iranian government. 1954 • CIA organizes coup against Guatemalan government.

• Geneva accords end French presence in Vietnam. • United States begins aid to South Vietnam. • Operation Wetback begins. •Hernandez v. Texas decided. •Brown v. Board of Education decided. • Senate condemns Senator Joseph McCarthy.

1955 • Eisenhower and Khrushchev meet in Geneva.


1955– 1956

• Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott carried out.

1956 • Interstate Highway and Defense System Act becomes law.

• Eisenhower reelected. 1957 • Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

founded. • Soviets launch Sputnik. • Civil Rights Act of 1957 passes.

1958 • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) established.

• National Defense Education Act passes. 1959 • Nixon and Khrushchev engage in kitchen debate. 1960 • Soviets shoot down U.S. U-2 spy plane.

• One-quarter of Americans live in suburbs. • Thirty-five percent of women work outside the home.


28 Reform, Rebellion, and Reaction 1960–1974


After reading and studying this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Identify the ways in which liberalism was manifested in President

Johnson’s Great Society.

◆ Identify the strategies civil rights activists used during the 1960s and describe Washington’s response. Explain the rise of the black power movement and its influence on American society.

◆ Explain how the civil rights movement inspired protest movements among other groups, including Native Americans, Chicanos, students, and gays and lesbians.

◆ Define the origins of the feminist movement and identify its various strategies and criticisms of society. Explain feminism’s achievements and the backlash it provoked.

◆ Describe the ways in which liberalism persisted during the Nixon administration.



a bus carrying eighteen African Americans to the county seat in Indianola, Mississippi, where they intended to register to vote. Blacks constituted a majority of Sunflower County’s population but only 1.2 percent of registered voters. Before civil rights activists arrived in Ruleville to start a voter registration drive, Hamer recalled, “I didn’t know that a Negro could register and vote.” The poverty, exploitation, and political disfranchisement she experienced typified the lives of most blacks in the rural South. The daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began work in the cotton fields at age six, attending school in a one-room shack from December to March and only until she was twelve. After marrying Perry Hamer, she moved onto a plantation where she worked in the fields, did domestic work for the owner, and recorded the cotton that sharecroppers harvested.

At the Indianola County courthouse, Hamer passed through a hostile, white, gun-carrying crowd. Refusing to be intimidated, she registered to vote on her third attempt, attended a civil rights leadership workshop, and began to mobilize others to vote. In 1963, she and other activists were arrested in Winona, Mississippi, and beaten so brutally that Hamer went from jail to the hospital.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s courage and determination made her a prominent figure in the black freedom struggle, which shook the nation’s conscience, provided a protest model for other groups, and pressured the government. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson launched the Great Society — a multitude of efforts to promote racial justice, education, medical care, urban development, environmental and economic health, and more. Those who struggled for racial justice made great sacrifices, but by the end of the decade American law had caught up with the American ideal of equality.

Yet strong civil rights legislation and pathbreaking Supreme Court decisions could not alone mitigate the deplorable economic conditions of African Americans nationwide, on which Hamer and others increasingly focused after 1965. Nor were liberal politicians reliable supporters, as Hamer found out in 1964 when President Johnson’s allies rebuffed black Mississippi Democrats’ efforts to be represented at the Democratic National Convention. By 1966, a minority of African American activists were demanding black power; the movement soon splintered, while white support sharply declined. The war in Vietnam stifled liberal reform, while a growing conservative movement denounced the challenge to American traditions and institutions mounted by blacks, students, and others.


Though disillusioned and often frustrated, Fannie Lou Hamer remained an activist until her death in 1977, participating in new social movements stimulated by the black freedom struggle. In 1969, she supported students at Mississippi Valley State College who demanded black studies courses and a voice in campus decisions. In 1972, she attended the first conference of the National Women’s Political Caucus, established to challenge sex discrimination in politics and government.

Feminists and other groups, including ethnic minorities, environmentalists, and gays and lesbians, carried the tide of reform into the 1970s. They pushed Richard M. Nixon’s Republican administration to sustain the liberalism of the 1960s, with its emphasis on a strong government role in regulating the economy, guaranteeing the welfare and rights of all individuals, and improving the quality of life. Despite its conservative rhetoric, the Nixon administration implemented affirmative action and adopted innovative measures in environmental regulation, equality for women, and justice for Native Americans. The years between 1960 and 1974 witnessed the greatest efforts to reconcile America’s promise with reality since the New Deal.


Liberalism at High Tide At the Democratic National Convention in 1960, John F. Kennedy proclaimed “a New Frontier” that would confront “unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.” Four years later, Lyndon B. Johnson invoked the ideal of a “Great Society, [which] rests on abundance and liberty for all [and] demands an end to poverty and racial injustice.” Acting under the liberal faith that government should use its power to solve social and economic problems, end injustice, and promote the welfare of all citizens, the Democratic administrations of the 1960s won legislation on civil rights, poverty, education, medical care, housing, consumer safeguards, and environmental protection. These measures, along with momentous Supreme Court decisions, responded to demands for rights from African Americans and other groups and addressed problems arising from rapid economic growth.

The Unrealized Promise of Kennedy’s New Frontier John F. Kennedy grew up in privilege, the child of an Irish Catholic businessman who became a New Deal official and the U.S. ambassador to Britain. Helped by a distinguished World War II navy record, Kennedy won election to the House of Representatives in 1946 and the Senate in 1952. With a powerful political machine, his family’s fortune, and a dynamic personal appeal, Kennedy won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960. He stunned many Democrats by choosing as his running mate Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, whom liberals disparaged as a typical southern conservative.

In the general election, Kennedy narrowly defeated his Republican opponent, Vice President Richard M. Nixon, by a 118,550-vote margin (Map 28.1). African American voters contributed to his victory, Johnson helped carry the South, and Kennedy also benefited from the nation’s first televised presidential debates, at which he appeared cool and confident beside a nervous and pale Nixon.


MAP 28.1 The Election of 1960

At forty-three, Kennedy was the youngest man ever to be elected president and the first Roman Catholic. His administration projected energy, idealism, and glamour, while the press kept from the public his serious health problems and extramarital affairs. At his inauguration, Kennedy called on Americans to serve the common good. “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he implored, “ask what you can do for your country.” That idealism inspired many, but Kennedy failed to persuade Congress to expand the welfare state with federal education and health care programs. Moreover, he resisted leadership on behalf of racial justice until civil rights activists gave him no choice.

Moved by the desperate conditions he observed while campaigning in Appalachia, Kennedy pushed poverty onto the national agenda. In 1962, he read Michael Harrington’s The Other America, which identified more than one in five Americans “maimed in body and spirit, existing at levels beneath those necessary for human decency.” By 1962, Kennedy had won support for a $2 billion urban renewal program, providing incentives to businesses to locate in economically depressed areas and job training for the unemployed. In the summer of 1963, he asked aides to plan a full-scale attack on poverty.

With economic growth a key objective, Kennedy called for an enormous tax cut in 1963, which he promised would increase demand and create jobs. Passed in February 1964, the law contributed to an economic boom, as unemployment fell to 4.1 percent and the gross national product


shot up. Some liberal critics of the tax cut, however, noted that it favored the well-off and argued instead for increased spending on social programs.

Kennedy’s domestic efforts were in their infancy when an assassin’s bullets struck him down on November 22, 1963. Within minutes of the shooting — which occurred as Kennedy’s motorcade passed through Dallas, Texas — radio and television broadcast the unfolding horror to the nation. Stunned Americans struggled to understand what had happened. Soon after the assassination, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and concluded that he had fired the shots from a nearby building. Two days later, while officers were transferring Oswald from one jail to another, a local nightclub operator killed him. Suspicions arose that Oswald was murdered to cover up a conspiracy by ultraconservatives who hated Kennedy or by Communists who supported Castro’s Cuba (see “Meeting the ‘Hour of Maximum Danger’” in chapter 29). To get at the truth, President Johnson appointed a commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, which concluded that both Oswald and his assassin had acted alone.

Kennedy’s domestic record had been unremarkable in his first two years, but his attention to taxes, civil rights, and poverty in 1963 suggested an important shift. Whether Kennedy could have persuaded Congress to enact his proposals remained in question. Journalist James Reston commented, “What was killed was not only the president but the promise…. We saw him only as a rising sun.”

Johnson Fulfills the Kennedy Promise Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency with a wealth of political experience. A self-made man from the Texas Hill Country, he had won election in 1937 to the House of Representatives and in 1948 to the Senate, where he served skillfully as Senate majority leader. His modest upbringing, his admiration for Franklin Roosevelt, and his ambition to outdo the New Deal president all spurred his commitment to reform. Equally compelling were external pressures generated by the black freedom struggle and the host of movements it helped inspire.

Lacking Kennedy’s sophistication, Johnson excelled behind the scenes, where he could entice, maneuver, or threaten legislators to support his objectives. His persuasive power, the famous “Johnson treatment,” became legendary. In his ability to achieve his legislative goals, Johnson had few peers in American history.

Johnson entreated Congress to act so that “John Fitzgerald Kennedy


did not live or die in vain.” He pushed through Kennedy’s tax cut bill by February 1964. More remarkable was passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination in employment, education, and public accommodations illegal. The strongest such measure since Reconstruction required every ounce of Johnson’s political skill to pry sufficient votes from Republicans to overcome opposition by southern Democrats. Republican senator Everett Dirksen’s aide reported that Johnson “never left him alone for thirty minutes.” In proportion to their numbers in Congress, more Republicans voted for the measure than Democrats.

Antipoverty legislation followed fast on the heels of the Civil Rights Act. Johnson announced “an unconditional war on poverty” in his January 1964 State of the Union message, and in August Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act. The law authorized ten new programs, allocating $800 million — about 1 percent of the federal budget — for the first year. Many provisions targeted children and youths, including Head Start for preschoolers, work-study grants for college students, and the Job Corps for unemployed young people. The Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program paid modest wages to those working with the disadvantaged, and a legal services program provided lawyers for the poor.

The most novel and controversial part of the law, the Community Action Program (CAP), required “maximum feasible participation” of the poor themselves in antipoverty projects. Poor people began to organize to make welfare agencies, school boards, police departments, and housing authorities more accountable to the people they served. When local Democratic officials complained, Johnson backed off from pushing genuine representation for the poor. Still, CAP gave people usually excluded from government an opportunity to act on their own behalf and develop leadership skills. A Mississippi sharecropper was elated to attend a CAP literacy program that enabled him “to help my younger children when they start school.”

Policymaking for a Great Society As the 1964 election approached, Johnson projected stability and security in the midst of a booming economy. Few voters wanted to risk the dramatic change promised by his Republican opponent, Arizona senator Barry M. Goldwater, who attacked the welfare state and entertained the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Johnson achieved a recordbreaking 61 percent of the popular vote, and Democrats won resounding majorities in the House (295–140) and Senate (68–32). Still, Goldwater’s considerable grassroots support marked a growing movement on the right (see


“Emergence of a Grassroots Movement” in chapter 30) and a threat to Democratic control of the South.

“I want to see a whole bunch of coonskins on the wall,” Johnson told his aides, using a hunting analogy to stress his ambitious legislative goals for what he called the “Great Society.” The large Democratic majorities in Congress, his own political skills, and pressure from the black freedom struggle and other movements enabled Johnson to obtain legislation on discrimination, poverty, education, medical care, housing, consumer and environmental protection, and more. Reporters called the legislation of the Eighty-ninth Congress (1965–1966) “a political miracle.”

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was the opening shot in the War on Poverty. Congress doubled the program’s funding in 1965, enacted new economic development measures for depressed regions, and authorized more than $1 billion to improve the nation’s slums. Direct aid included a new food stamp program, giving poor people greater choice in obtaining food, and rent supplements that provided alternatives to public housing. Moreover, a movement of welfare mothers, the National Welfare Rights Organization, assisted by antipoverty lawyers, pushed administrators of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to ease restrictions on welfare recipients. The number of families receiving assistance jumped from less than one million in 1960 to three million by 1972, benefiting 90 percent of those eligible.

Central to Johnson’s War on Poverty were efforts to equip the poor with the skills necessary to find jobs. His Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 marked a turning point by involving the federal government in K–12 education. The measure sent federal dollars to local school districts and provided equipment and supplies to private and parochial schools serving the poor. That same year, Congress passed the Higher Education Act, vastly expanding federal assistance to colleges and universities for buildings, programs, scholarships, and loans.

The federal government’s responsibility for health care marked an even greater watershed. Faced with a powerful medical lobby that opposed national health insurance as “socialized medicine,” Johnson focused on the elderly, who constituted a large portion of the nation’s poor. Congress responded with the Medicare program, providing the elderly with universal medical insurance financed largely through Social Security taxes. A separate program, Medicaid, authorized federal grants to supplement state-paid medical care for poor people. By the twenty-first century, these two programs covered 87 million Americans, nearly 30 percent of the population.


Whereas programs such as Medicare fulfilled New Deal promises, the Great Society’s civil rights legislation represented a break with the past. Racial minorities were neglected or discriminated against in many New Deal programs; by contrast, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination in employment, education, and public accommodations illegal. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned literacy tests and other practices used to disqualify black voters and authorized federal intervention to ensure access to the voting booth.

Another form of bias fell with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished quotas based on national origins that discriminated against non–western European immigrants. The law maintained caps on the total number of immigrants and, for the first time, included the Western Hemisphere in those limits; preference was now given to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and to those with desirable skills. The measure’s unanticipated consequences triggered a surge of immigration in the 1980s and thereafter (see “The Internationalization of the United States” in Chapter 31).

Medicare Becomes Law President Lyndon Johnson traveled to the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, to sign the law establishing Medicare and Medicaid, recognizing that President Harry Truman had first tried to enact universal health care two decades earlier. Here, Lady Bird Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman look on while Johnson presents Truman with a pen he used to sign the bill.


LBJ Library photo.

Great Society benefits reached well beyond victims of discrimination and the poor. Medicare covered the elderly, regardless of income. A groundswell of consumer activism won legislation making cars safer and raising standards for the food, drug, and cosmetics industries. Johnson insisted that the Great Society meet “not just the needs of the body but the desire for beauty and hunger for community.” In 1965, he sent Congress the first presidential message on the environment, obtaining measures to control water and air pollution and to preserve the natural beauty of the American landscape. In addition, the National Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 funded artists, musicians, writers, and scholars and brought their work to public audiences.

The flood of reform legislation dwindled after 1966, when Democratic majorities in Congress diminished and a backlash against government programs arose. The Vietnam War dealt the largest blow to Johnson’s ambitions, diverting his attention, spawning an antiwar movement that crippled his leadership, and devouring tax dollars that might have been used for reform (see “The Widening War at Home” in chapter 29).

In 1968, Johnson pried out of Congress one more civil rights law, which banned discrimination in housing and jury service. He also signed the National Housing Act of 1968, which authorized an enormous increase in low-income housing — 1.7 million units over three years — and put construction and ownership in private hands.

Assessing the Great Society The reduction in poverty in the 1960s was considerable. The number of poor Americans fell from more than 20 percent of the population in 1959 to around 13 percent in 1968. Those who in Johnson’s words “live on the outskirts of hope” saw new opportunities. To Rosemary Bray, what turned her family of longtime welfare recipients into taxpaying workers “was the promise of the civil rights movement and the war on poverty.” A Mexican American who learned to be a sheet metal worker through a jobs program reported, “[My children] will finish high school and maybe go to college…. I see my family and I know the chains are broken.”

Certain groups, especially the aged, fared better than others. Many male-headed families rose out of poverty, but impoverishment among female-headed families actually increased. Whites escaped poverty faster than racial and ethnic minorities. Great Society programs contributed to a


burgeoning black middle class, yet one in three African Americans remained poverty-stricken.

Conservative critics charged that Great Society programs discouraged initiative by giving the poor “handouts.” Liberal critics claimed that focusing on training and education wrongly blamed the poor themselves rather than an economic system that could not provide enough adequately paying jobs. In contrast to the New Deal, the Great Society avoided structural reform of the economy and spurned public works projects as a means of providing jobs for the disadvantaged.

Some critics insisted that ending poverty required raising taxes in order to create jobs, overhaul welfare systems, and rebuild slums. Great Society programs did invest more heavily in the public sector, but the Great Society was funded from economic growth rather than from new taxes on the rich or middle class. There was no significant redistribution of income, despite large increases in subsidies for food, housing, and medical care. Economic prosperity allowed spending for the poor to rise and improved the lives of millions, but that spending never approached the amounts necessary to claim victory in the War on Poverty.

The Judicial Revolution A key element of liberalism’s ascendancy emerged in the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953–1969). In contrast to the federal courts of the Progressive Era and New Deal, which blocked reform, the Warren Court often moved ahead of Congress and public opinion. Expanding the Constitution’s promise of equality and individual rights, the Court’s decisions supported an activist government to prevent injustice and provided new protections to disadvantaged groups and accused criminals.

Following the pathbreaking Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision of 1954 (see “African Americans Challenge the Supreme Court and the President” in chapter 27), the Court struck down southern states’ maneuvers to avoid integration and defended protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly and speech. In addition, a unanimous Court in Loving v. Virginia (1967) invalidated state laws banning interracial marriage, calling marriage one of the “basic civil rights of man.”

Chief Justice Warren considered Baker v. Carr (1963) his most important decision. The case grew out of a complaint that inequitably drawn Tennessee electoral districts gave sparsely populated rural districts far more representatives than densely populated urban areas. Using the


Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of “equal protection of the laws,” the Court established the principle of “one person, one vote” for state legislatures and for the House of Representatives. As states redrew electoral districts, legislatures became more responsive to metropolitan interests.

The Warren Court also reformed the criminal justice system, overturning a series of convictions on the grounds that the accused had been deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment. In decisions that dramatically altered law enforcement practices, the Court declared that states, as well as the federal government, were subject to the Bill of Rights. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) ruled that when an accused criminal could not afford to hire a lawyer, the state had to provide one. Miranda v. Arizona (1966) required police officers to inform suspects of their rights upon arrest. The Court also overturned convictions based on evidence obtained by unlawful arrest, by electronic surveillance, or without a search warrant. Critics accused the justices of “handcuffing the police” and letting criminals go free; liberals argued that these rulings promoted equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

The Court’s decisions on religion provoked even greater outrage. Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) ruled that requiring Bible reading and prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state. Later judgments banned official prayer in public schools even if students were not required to participate. The Court’s supporters declared that these decisions protected the rights of non-Christians and atheists and left students perfectly free to pray on their own, but the decisions infuriated many Christians. Billboards demanding “Impeach Earl Warren” spoke for critics of the Court, who joined a larger backlash mounting against Great Society liberalism.

REVIEW How did the Kennedy and Johnson administrations exemplify a liberal vision of the federal government?


The Second Reconstruction As much as Supreme Court decisions, the black freedom struggle distinguished the liberalism of the 1960s from that of the New Deal. Before the Great Society reforms — and, in fact, contributing to them — African Americans had mobilized a movement that struck down legal separation and discrimination in the South and secured their voting rights. Whereas the first Reconstruction reflected the power of northern Republicans in the aftermath of the Civil War, the second Reconstruction depended heavily on the courage and determination of black people themselves to stand up to racist violence.

Civil rights activism that focused on the South and on legal rights won widespread acceptance in most of the country. But when African Americans stepped up protests against racial injustice outside the South and challenged the economic deprivation that equal rights left untouched, a strong backlash developed as the movement itself lost cohesion.

The Flowering of the Black Freedom Struggle The Montgomery bus boycott of 1955–1956 gave racial issues national visibility and produced a leader in Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1960s, protest expanded dramatically, as blacks directly confronted the people and institutions that segregated and discriminated against them: retail establishments, public parks and libraries, buses and depots, voting registrars, and police forces.

Massive direct action in the South began in February 1960, when four African American college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, requested service at the whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter. Within days, hundreds of young people joined them, and others launched sit-ins in thirty-one southern cities. From Southern Christian Leadership Conference headquarters, Ella Baker telephoned her young contacts at black colleges: “What are you going to do? It’s time to move.”

In April, Baker helped protesters form a new organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Embracing King’s civil disobedience and nonviolence principles, activists would confront their


oppressors and stand up for their rights, but they would not respond if attacked. In the words of SNCC leader James Lawson, “Nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.” SNCC, however, rejected the top-down leadership of King and the established civil rights organizations, adopting a structure that fostered decision making and leadership development at the grassroots level.

The activists’ optimism and commitment to nonviolence soon underwent severe tests. Although some cities quietly met student demands, more typically activists encountered violence. Hostile whites poured food over demonstrators, burned them with cigarettes, called them “niggers,” and pelted them with rocks. Local police attacked protesters with dogs, clubs, fire hoses, and tear gas, and they arrested thousands of demonstrators.

Another wave of protest occurred in May 1961, when the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized Freedom Rides to implement Court orders for integrated transportation. When a group of six whites and seven blacks reached Alabama, whites bombed their bus and beat them with baseball bats so fiercely that an observer “couldn’t see their faces through the blood.” CORE leader James Farmer rebuffed President Kennedy’s pleas for a cooling-off period, noting that blacks had been “cooling off for 150 years. If we cool off anymore, we’ll be in a deep freeze.” Finally, after a huge mob attacked the riders in Montgomery, Alabama, Attorney General Robert Kennedy dispatched federal marshals to restore order. Nonetheless, Freedom Riders arriving in Jackson, Mississippi, were promptly arrested, and several hundred spent weeks in jail. All told, more than four hundred blacks and whites participated in the Freedom Rides.

In the summer of 1962, SNCC and other groups began the Voter Education Project to register black voters in southern states. They, too, met violence. Whites bombed black churches, threw tenant farmers out of their homes, and beat and jailed activists like Fannie Lou Hamer. In June 1963, a white man gunned down Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers in front of his house. Similar violence met King’s 1963 campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, to integrate public facilities and open jobs to blacks. The police attacked demonstrators, including children, with dogs, cattle prods, and fire hoses — brutalities that television broadcast around the world.

The largest demonstration drew 250,000 blacks and whites to the nation’s capital in August 1963 in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, inspired by the strategy of A. Philip Randolph in 1941 (see “The


Double V Campaign” in chapter 25). Speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, King put his indelible stamp on the day. “I have a dream,” he repeated again and again, imagining the day “when all of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing … ‘Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”

The euphoria of the March on Washington faded as activists returned to face continued violence in the South. In 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project mobilized more than a thousand northern black and white college students to conduct voter registration drives. Resistance was fierce, and by the end of the summer, only twelve hundred new voters had been allowed to register. Southern whites had killed several activists, beaten eighty, arrested more than a thousand, and burned thirty-five black churches. Hidden resistance came from the federal government itself, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spied on King and expanded its activities to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” black protest.

Still, the movement persisted. In March 1965, Alabama state troopers used such violent force to turn back a voting rights march from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery, that the incident earned the name “Bloody Sunday” and compelled President Johnson to call up the Alabama National Guard to protect the marchers. Battered and hospitalized on Bloody Sunday, John Lewis, chairman of SNCC (and later a congressman from Georgia), called the Voting Rights Act, which passed that October, “every bit as momentous as the Emancipation Proclamation.” Referring to the Selma march, he said, “We all felt we’d had a part in it.”


Selma March The fifty-four-mile voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery, gained national attention because of the violent reaction to the marchers from onlookers and state officials. The protest helped get the 1965 Voting Rights Act through Congress, a measure that eventually rewrote politics in the South. © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

The Response in Washington Civil rights leaders would have to wear sneakers, Lyndon Johnson said, if they were going to keep up with him. But both Kennedy and Johnson, reluctant to alienate southern voters and their congressional representatives, tended to move only when events gave them little choice. In June 1963, Kennedy finally made good on his promise to seek strong antidiscrimination legislation. Pointing to the injustice suffered by blacks, Kennedy asked white Americans, “Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?” Johnson took up Kennedy’s commitment with passion, as scenes of violence against peaceful


demonstrators appalled television viewers across the world. The resulting public support, the “Johnson treatment,” and the president’s appeal to memories of the martyred Kennedy all produced the most important civil rights law since Reconstruction.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 guaranteed access for all Americans to public accommodations, public education, employment, and voting, and it extended constitutional protections to Indians on reservations. Title VII of the measure, banning discrimination in employment, not only attacked racial discrimination but also outlawed discrimination against women. Because Title VII applied to every aspect of employment, including wages, hiring, and promotion, it represented a giant step toward equal employment opportunity for white women as well as for racial minorities.

Responding to voter registration drives in the South, Johnson demanded legislation to remove “every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to vote.” In August 1965, he signed the Voting Rights Act, empowering the federal government to intervene directly to enable African Americans to register and vote, thereby launching a major transformation in southern politics. Black voting rates shot up dramatically (Map 28.2). In turn, the number of African Americans holding political office in the South increased from a handful in 1964 to more than a thousand by 1972. Such gains translated into tangible benefits as black officials upgraded public facilities, police protection, and other basic services for their constituents.


MAP 28.2 The Rise of the African American Vote, 1940–1976 Voting rates of southern blacks increased gradually in the 1940s and 1950s but shot up dramatically in the deep South after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided for federal agents to enforce African Americans’ right to vote.

Johnson also declared the need to realize “not just equality as a right and theory, but equality as fact and result.” To this end, he issued an executive order in 1965 requiring employers holding government contracts (affecting about one-third of the labor force) to take affirmative action to ensure equal opportunity. Extended to cover women in 1967, the affirmative action program aimed to counter the effects of centuries of discrimination by requiring employers to act vigorously to align their labor forces with the available pool of qualified candidates. Most corporations came to see affirmative action as a good employment practice that could make them more successful in “today’s increasingly global marketplace.”

In 1968, Johnson maneuvered one final bill through Congress. While those in other regions often applauded the gains made by the black freedom struggle in the South, whites were just as likely to resist claims for racial justice in their own locations. In 1963, California voters rejected


a law passed by the legislature banning discrimination in housing. And when Martin Luther King Jr. launched a campaign against de facto segregation in Chicago in 1966, thousands of whites jeered and threw stones at demonstrators. Johnson’s efforts to get a federal open-housing law succeeded only in the wake of King’s assassination in 1968. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 banned racial discrimination in housing and jury selection, and it authorized federal intervention when states failed to protect civil rights workers from violence.

Black Power and Urban Rebellions By 1966, black protest engulfed the entire nation, demanding not just legal equality but also economic justice and abandoning passive resistance as a basic principle. These developments were not completely new. African Americans had waged campaigns for decent jobs, housing, and education outside the South since the 1930s. Some African Americans had always armed themselves in self-defense, and many protesters doubted that their passive response to violent attacks would change the hearts of racists. Still, the black freedom struggle began to appear more threatening to the white majority.

The new emphases resulted from a combination of heightened activism and unrealized promise. Legal equality could not quickly ameliorate African American poverty, and black rage at oppressive conditions erupted in waves of urban uprisings from 1965 to 1968 (Map 28.3). In a situation where virtually all-white police forces patrolled black neighborhoods, incidents between police and local blacks typically sparked the riots and resulted in looting, destruction of property, injuries, and deaths. The worst riots occurred in Watts (Los Angeles) in August 1965, Newark and Detroit in July 1967, and the nation’s capital in April 1968, but violence visited hundreds of cities, and African Americans suffered most of the casualties.


MAP 28.3 Urban Uprisings, 1965–1968 When a white police officer in the Watts district of Los Angeles struck a twenty-one-year-old African American, whom he had just pulled over for driving drunk, one onlooker shouted, “We’ve got no rights at all — it’s just like Selma.” The altercation sparked a five- day uprising, during which young blacks set fires, looted, and attacked police and firefighters. When the riot ended, 34 people were dead, more than 3,000 were arrested, and scores of businesses had been wiped out. Similar but smaller-scale violence erupted in dozens of cities across the nation during the next three summers.

In the North, Malcolm X posed a powerful challenge to the ethos of nonviolence. Calling for black pride and autonomy, separation from the “corrupt [white] society,” and self-defense against white violence, Malcolm X attracted a large following, especially in urban ghettos. At a June 1966 rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, SNCC chairman Stokely Carmichael gave the ideas espoused by Malcolm X a new name when he shouted, “We want black power.” Carmichael rejected integration and assimilation because they implied white superiority. African Americans were encouraged to develop independent businesses and control their own schools, communities, and political organizations. The phrase “Black is beautiful” emphasized pride in African American culture and connections to dark-skinned people around the world who were claiming their


independence from colonial domination. Black power quickly became the rallying cry in SNCC and CORE as well as other organizations such as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, organized to combat police brutality.

The press paid inordinate attention to the black power movement, and civil rights activism met with a severe backlash from whites. Although the urban riots of the mid-1960s erupted spontaneously, triggered by specific incidents of alleged police mistreatment, horrified whites blamed black power militants. By 1966, 85 percent of the white population — up from 34 percent two years earlier — thought that African Americans were pressing for too much too quickly.

Martin Luther King Jr. agreed with black power advocates about the need for economic justice and “a radical reconstruction of society,” yet he clung to nonviolence and integration as the means to this end. In 1968, the thirty-nine-year-old leader went to Memphis to support striking municipal sanitation workers. There, on April 4, he was murdered by an escaped white convict.

Although black power organizations captured the headlines, they failed to gain the massive support from African Americans that King and other leaders had attracted. Nor could they alleviate the poverty and racism entrenched in the entire country. Black radicals were harassed by the FBI and jailed; some encounters left both black militants and police dead. Yet black power’s emphasis on racial pride and its critique of American institutions resonated loudly and helped shape the protest activities of other groups.

REVIEW How and why did the civil rights movement change in the mid-1960s?


A Multitude of Movements The civil rights movement’s undeniable moral claims helped make protest more respectable, while its successes encouraged other groups with grievances. Native Americans, Latinos, college students, women, gay men and lesbians, and others drew on the black freedom struggle for inspiration and models of activism. Many of these groups engaged in direct-action protests, expressed their own cultural nationalism, and challenged dominant institutions and values. Their grievances gained attention in the political arena, and they expanded justice and opportunity for many of their constituents.

Native American Protest The cry “red power” reflected the influence of black radicalism on young Native Americans, whose activism took on fresh militancy and goals in the 1960s. The termination and relocation programs of the 1950s, contrary to their intent, stirred a sense of Indian identity across tribal lines and a determination to preserve traditional culture. Native Americans demonstrated and occupied land and public buildings, claiming rights to natural resources and territory they had owned collectively before European settlement.

In 1969, Native American militants captured world attention when several dozen seized Alcatraz Island, an abandoned federal prison in San Francisco Bay, claiming their right of “first discovery” of this land. For nineteen months, they used the occupation to publicize injustices against Indians, promote pan-Indian cooperation, and celebrate traditional cultures. One of the organizers, Dr. LaNada Boyer, the first Native American to attend the University of California, Berkeley, said of Alcatraz, “We were able to reestablish our identity as Indian people, as a culture, as political entities.”

In Minneapolis in 1968, two Chippewa Indians, Dennis Banks and George Mitchell, founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) to attack problems in cities, where about 300,000 Indians lived. AIM sought to protect Indians from police harassment, secure antipoverty funds, and


establish “survival schools” to teach Indian history and values. The movement’s appeal quickly spread and filled many Indians with a new sense of purpose. Lakota activist and author Mary Crow Dog wrote that AIM’s visit to her South Dakota reservation “loosened a sort of earthquake inside me.” AIM leaders helped organize the “Trail of Broken Treaties” caravan to the nation’s capital in 1972, when activists occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs to express their outrage at the bureau’s policies and interference in Indians’ lives. In 1973, a much longer siege occurred on the Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Conflicts there between AIM militants and older tribal leaders led AIM to take over for seventy-two days the village of Wounded Knee, where U.S. troops had massacred more than one hundred Sioux Indians in 1890 (see “Indian Resistance and Survival” in chapter 17).

Although these dramatic occupations failed to achieve their specific goals, Indians won the end of relocation and termination policies, greater tribal sovereignty and control over community services, protection of Indian religious practices, and a measure of respect and pride. A number of laws and court decisions restored rights to ancestral lands and compensated tribes for land seized in violation of treaties.

Latino Struggles for Justice The fastest-growing minority group in the 1960s was Latino, or Hispanic American, an extraordinarily varied population encompassing people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and other Latin American origins. (The term Latino stresses their common bonds as a minority group in the United States. The older, less political term Hispanic also includes people with origins in Spain.) People of Puerto Rican and Caribbean descent populated East Coast cities, but more than half of the nation’s Latino population — including some six million Mexican Americans — lived in the Southwest. In addition, thousands illegally crossed the border between Mexico and the United States yearly in search of economic opportunity and security from violence.

Political organization of Mexican Americans dated back to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), founded in 1929, which fought segregation and discrimination through litigation (see “Blacks and Mexican Americans Push for Their Civil Rights” in chapter 26). In the 1960s, however, young Mexican Americans increasingly rejected traditional politics in favor of direct action. One symbol of this generational challenge was young activists’ adoption of the term Chicano (from mejicano, the Spanish word for “Mexican”).


The Chicano movement drew national attention to California, where Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta organized a movement to overcome the exploitation of migrant agricultural workers. As the child of migrant farmworkers, Chavez lived in soggy tents, saw his parents cheated by labor contractors, changed schools frequently, and encountered indifference and discrimination. One teacher, he recalled, “hung a sign on me that said, ‘I am a clown, I speak Spanish.’” After serving in World War II, Chavez began to organize voter registration drives among Mexican Americans.

In contrast to Chavez, Dolores Huerta grew up in an integrated neighborhood and avoided the farmworkers’ grinding poverty but witnessed subtle forms of discrimination. Once, a high school teacher challenged her authorship of an essay because it was so well written. Believing that collective action was the key to progress, she and Chavez founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) union in 1962. To gain leverage for striking workers, the UFW mounted a nationwide boycott of California grapes, winning support from millions of Americans and gaining a wage increase for the workers in 1970. Although the UFW struggled and lost membership during the 1970s, it helped politicize Mexican Americans and improve farmworkers’ lives.

Other Chicanos pressed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to act against job discrimination against Mexican Americans. After LULAC, the American GI Forum (see “Blacks and Mexican Americans Push for Their Civil Rights” in chapter 26), and other groups picketed government offices, President Johnson responded in 1967 by appointing Vicente T. Ximenes as the first Mexican American EEOC commissioner and creating a special committee on Mexican American issues.

Claiming “brown power,” Chicanos organized to end discrimination in education, gain political power, and combat police brutality. In Denver, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales set up “freedom schools” where Chicano children learned Spanish and Mexican American history. The nationalist strains of Chicano protest were evident in La Raza Unida (the United Race), a political party founded in 1970 based on cultural pride and brotherhood. Along with blacks and Native Americans, Chicanos continued to be disproportionately impoverished, but they gradually won more political offices, more effective enforcement of antidiscrimination legislation, and greater respect for their culture.

Student Rebellion, the New Left, and the


Counterculture Although materially and legally more secure than their African American, Indian, and Latino counterparts, white youths also expressed dissent, participating in the black freedom struggle, student protests, the antiwar movement, and the new feminist movement. Challenging establishment institutions, young activists were part of a larger international phenomenon of student movements around the globe.

The central organization of white student protest was Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), whose 1962 statement of purpose asserted, “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably at the world we inherit.” The idealistic students criticized the complacency of their elders, the remoteness of decision makers, and the powerlessness and alienation generated by a bureaucratic society. SDS aimed to mobilize a “New Left” around the goals of civil rights, peace, and universal economic security. Other forms of student activism soon followed.

The first large-scale white student protest arose at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, when university officials banned students from setting up tables to recruit support for various causes. Led by whites returning from civil rights work in the South, the “free speech” movement occupied the administration building, and more than seven hundred students were arrested before the California Board of Regents overturned the new restrictions.

Hundreds of student rallies and building occupations followed on campuses across the country, especially after 1965, when opposition to the Vietnam War mounted and students protested against universities’ ties with the military (see “The Widening War at Home” in chapter 29). Students also challenged the collegiate environment. Women at the University of Chicago, for example, charged in 1969 that all universities “discriminate against women, impede their full intellectual development, deny them places on the faculty, exploit talented women and mistreat women students.” At Howard University, African American students called for a “Black Awareness Research Institute,” demanding that academic departments “place more emphasis on how these disciplines may be used to effect the liberation of black people.” Across the country, students won curricular reforms such as black studies and women’s studies programs, more financial aid for minority and poor students, independence from paternalistic rules, and a larger voice in campus decision making.

Student protest sometimes blended into a cultural revolution against


nearly every conventional standard of behavior. Drawing on the ideas of the Beats of the 1950s (see “Countercurrents” in chapter 27), the so-called hippies rejected mainstream values such as consumerism, order, and sexual restraint. Seeking personal rather than political change, they advocated “Do your own thing” and drew attention with their long hair, wildly colorful clothing, and drug use. Across the country, thousands of radicals established communes in cities or on farms, where they renounced private property and shared everything.

Rock and folk music defined both the counterculture and the political left. Music during the 1960s often carried insurgent political and social messages that reflected radical youth culture. “Eve of Destruction,” a top hit of 1965, reminded young men of draft age at a time when the voting age was twenty-one, “You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’.” The 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, attended by 400,000 young people, epitomized the centrality of music to the youth rebellion. Hippies faded away in the 1970s, but many elements of the counterculture — rock music, jeans, and long hair, as well as new social attitudes — filtered into the mainstream. More tolerant approaches to sexual behaviors spawned what came to be called the “sexual revolution,” with help from the birth control pill, which became available in the 1960s. Self-fulfillment became a dominant concern of many Americans, and questioning of authority became more widespread.

Gay Men and Lesbians Organize More permissive sexual norms did not stretch easily to include tolerance of homosexuality. Gay men and lesbians escaped discrimination and ridicule only by concealing their very identities. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t found themselves fired from jobs, arrested for their sexual activities, deprived of their children, or accused of being “perverted.” Despite this, some gays and lesbians began to organize.

An early expression of gay activism challenged the government’s aggressive efforts to keep homosexuals out of civil service. In October 1965, picketers outside the White House held signs calling discrimination against homosexuals “as immoral as discrimination against Negroes and Jews.” Not until ten years later, however, did the Civil Service Commission formally end its antigay policy.

A turning point in gay activism came in 1969 when police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and gay men and lesbians fought back. “Suddenly, they were not submissive


anymore,” a police officer remarked. Energized by the defiance shown at the Stonewall riots, gay men and lesbians organized a host of new groups, such as the Gay Liberation Front and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In 1972, Ann Arbor, Michigan, passed the first antidiscrimination ordinance, and two years later Elaine Noble’s election to the Massachusetts legislature marked the first time an openly gay candidate won state office. In 1973, gay activists persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to withdraw its designation of homosexuality as a mental disease. It would take decades for these initial gains to improve conditions for most homosexuals, but by the mid-1970s gay men and lesbians had a movement through which they could claim equal rights and express pride in their identities.

REVIEW What other movements emerged in the 1960s, and how were they influenced by the black freedom struggle?


The New Wave of Feminism On August 26, 1970, the fiftieth anniversary of woman suffrage, tens of thousands of women across the country — from radical women in jeans to conservatively dressed suburbanites, peace activists, and politicians — took to the streets. They carried signs reading “Sisterhood Is Powerful” and “Don’t Cook Dinner — Starve a Rat Today.” Some of the banners opposed the war in Vietnam, others demanded racial justice, but women’s own liberation stood at the forefront.

Becoming visible by the late 1960s, a multifaceted women’s movement reached its high tide in the 1970s and persisted into the twenty- first century. By that time, despite a powerful countermovement, women had experienced tremendous transformations in their legal status, public opportunities, and personal and sexual relationships, while popular expectations about appropriate gender roles had shifted dramatically.

A Multifaceted Movement Emerges Beginning in the 1940s, large demographic changes laid the preconditions for a resurgence of feminism. As more and more women took jobs, the importance of their paid work to the economy and their families challenged traditional views of women and awakened many women workers, especially labor union women, to the inferior conditions of their employment. The democratization of higher education brought more women to college campuses, where their aspirations exceeded the confines of domesticity and of routine, subordinate jobs.

Policy initiatives in the early 1960s reflected both these larger transformations and the efforts of women’s rights activists. In 1961, Assistant Secretary of Labor Esther Peterson persuaded President Kennedy to create the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). Its 1963 report documented widespread discrimination against women and recommended remedies, although it did not challenge women’s domestic roles. One of the commission’s concerns was addressed even before its report came out, when Congress passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, making it illegal to pay women less than men for the same work.


Like other movements, the rise of feminism owed much to the black freedom struggle. Women gained protection from employment discrimination through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the extension of affirmative action to women by piggybacking onto civil rights measures. They soon grew impatient when the government failed to take these new policies seriously. Determining the need for “an NAACP for women” to put pressure on the government and other institutions, Betty Friedan, civil rights activist Pauli Murray, several union women, and others founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966.

Simultaneously, a more radical feminism grew among mostly white young women active in the black freedom struggle and the New Left. Frustrated when male leaders dismissed and ridiculed their claims of sex discrimination, many women walked out of New Left organizations and created independent women’s liberation groups throughout the nation.

Women’s liberation began to gain public attention, especially when dozens of women picketed the Miss America beauty pageant in 1968, protesting against being forced “to compete for male approval [and] enslaved by ludicrous ‘beauty’ standards.” Women began to speak publicly about personal experiences that had always been shrouded in secrecy, such as rape and abortion. Throughout the country, women joined consciousness-raising groups, where they discovered that what they had considered “personal” problems reflected an entrenched system of discrimination against and devaluation of women.

Radical feminists, who called their movement “women’s liberation,” differed from feminists in NOW and other more mainstream groups in several ways. NOW focused on equal treatment for women in the public sphere; women’s liberation emphasized ending women’s subordination in family and other personal relationships. Groups such as NOW wanted to integrate women into existing institutions; radical groups insisted that women’s liberation required a total transformation of economic, political, and social institutions. Differences between these two strands of feminism blurred in the 1970s, as NOW and other mainstream groups embraced many of the issues raised by radicals.

Although NOW elected a black president, Aileen Hernandez, in 1970, the new feminism’s leadership and constituency were predominantly white and middle-class. Women of color criticized white feminists for their inadequate attention to the disproportionate poverty experienced by minority women and to the particular forms of oppression women of color experienced when gender combined with race or ethnicity. To black women, who were much more frequently compelled to work in the lowest-


paying jobs for their families’ survival, employment did not necessarily look like liberation.

In addition to struggling with vast differences among women, feminism also contended with the media’s refusal to take women’s grievances seriously. For instance, when the House of Representatives passed an equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1970, the New York Times criticized it in an editorial titled “The Henpecked House.” After Gloria Steinem founded Ms.: The New Magazine for Women in 1972, feminists had their own mass-circulation periodical controlled by women and featuring articles on a broad range of feminist issues.

Ms. Magazine In 1972, Gloria Steinem and other journalists and writers published the premier issue of the first mass-circulation magazine for and controlled by women. Ms.: The New Magazine for Women shunned the recipes and fashion tips typical of women’s magazines and instead featured literature by women writers and articles on a broad range of women’s issues. Reprinted by permission of Ms. magazine, © 1972.


Ms. reported on a multifaceted movement that reflected the tremendously diverse experiences, backgrounds, and goals of American women. New women’s organizations represented ethnic and racial minorities, labor union women, religious women, welfare mothers, lesbians, and more. Other new groups focused on single issues such as health, education, abortion rights, and violence against women. In addition, U.S. women connected with women abroad, joining a movement that crossed national boundaries.

Common threads underlay the great diversity of organizations, issues, and activities. Feminism represented the belief that women were barred from, unequally treated in, or poorly served by the entire male-dominated public arena, including politics, medicine, law, education, culture, and religion. Many feminists also sought equality in the private sphere, challenging traditional norms that identified women primarily as wives and mothers or sex objects who accommodated themselves to men’s needs and interests.

Feminist Gains Spark a Countermovement Although more an effect than a cause of women’s rising employment, feminism lifted female aspirations and helped lower barriers to occupations monopolized by men. By 2010, women’s share of law and medical degrees had shot up from 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, to around 50 percent, though they earned much less than men in those fields. Women gained political offices very slowly; yet by 2016, they constituted about 20 percent of Congress and nearly 25 percent of all state legislators.

Despite outnumbering men in college enrollments and making some inroads into male-dominated occupations, women still concentrated in low-paying, traditionally female jobs, and an earnings gap between men and women persisted into the twenty-first century. Employed women continued to bear primary responsibility for taking care of their homes and families, thereby working a “double day.” Unlike in other advanced countries, women in the United States were not entitled to paid maternity leave, and government provisions for child care lagged far behind.

By the mid-1970s, feminism faced a powerful countermovement, organized around opposition to an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution that would outlaw differential t