The Nativist Response To Immigration Dbq Essay For Ap

Chapter 25: America Moves to the City, 1865-1900

  1. The Urban Frontier
    1. The growth of American metropolises was spectacular; in 1860 no city in the US had a million inhabitants; by 1890, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia had passed the million mark; by 1900 New York had 3.5 million people (2nd largest city in the world)
      1. The skyscraper allowed more people and workplaces to be packed onto a parcel of land; appearing first as a ten-story building in Chicago in 1885, the skyscraper was made usable by the perfecting of the electric elevator up and down the building
      2. Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan, contributed to the further development of the skyscraper with his famous principle that “form follows function” (steel)
    2. Americans were becoming commuters, carted daily between home and job on the mass-transit lines that radiated out from central cities to surrounding suburbs
      1. Electric trolleys, powered by overhead wires, propelled city limits explosively outward; rural America could not compete with the siren song of the city
      2. Industrial jobs drew country folks off the farms and into factory centers; electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones all made life in the big city more alluring
      3. Engineering marvels like the skyscraper and New York’s awesome Brooklyn Bridge, a harplike suspension span dedicated in 1883, added to the seductive glamour of cities
    3. Cavernous department stores such as Macy’s in New York attracted urban middle-class shoppers and provided urban working-class jobs, many of them for women
      1. The bustling emporiums also heralded a dawning era of consumerism and accentuated widening class divisions; the spectacle of the city’s dazzling department stores that awakened some to a yearning for a richer, more elegant way of life
      2. The move to the city introduced Americans to new ways of living; country dwellers produced little household waste; in the city, goods came in throwaway bottles, boxes, bags, and cans—waste disposal was an issue new to the urban age
      3. The Mountains of waste that urbanites generated testified to a cultural shift away from the virtues of thrift to the conveniences of consumerism
    4. Criminals flourished in the cities of America; sanitary facilities could not keep pace with the population explosion; impure water, uncollected garbage, unwashed bodies, and droppings from draft animals enveloped many cities in a satanic stench
    5. The cities represented “humanity compressed;” glaring contrasts that assaulted the eye
      1. Worst of all were the human pigsties known as slums; they grew more crowded, more filthy, and more rat-infested, especially after the perfection of “dumbbell” tenement
      2. Named because of the outline of its floor plan, the dumbbell was usually seven or eight stories high, with shallow, sunless, air shafts providing minimal ventilation
      3. Several families were sardined onto each floor of the structures and shared toilets
    6. Flophouses” abounded where the half-starved and unemployed might sleep for a few cents on verminous mattresses; many slum dwellers strove to escape their surroundings
    7. As many escaped the ghetto, they generally resettled in other urban neighborhoods alongside people of the similar group; the wealthiest left the cities altogether and headed for the semirural suburbs—“bedroom communities” (greenbelt of affluence)
  2. The New Immigration
    1. In each of the three decades from the 1850s through the 1870s, more than 2 million migrants had stepped onto America’s shores; by the 1880s the stream had swelled to 5
      1. Until the 1880s most immigrants had come from the British Isles and western Europe, chiefly Germany and Scandinavia—they were typically Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic types, and they were usually Protestant, except for Catholic Irish and Germans
      2. Many of them boasted of a high rate of literacy and were accustomed to some kind of representative government (many of them took up farming like back at home)
    2. But in the 1880s, the character of the immigrant stream changed drastically; the so-called New Immigrants came from southern and eastern Europeans (Italians, Croats, Slovaks, Greeks, and Poles—many of them worshiped in orthodox churches or synagogues)
      1. They came from countries with little history of democratic government; people had grown accustomed to following despotism and where opportunities for advancement were few—largely illiterate and impoverished, many seeked industrial jobs
      2. These new peoples totaled only 19 percent of the inpouring immigrants in the 1880s, but by the first decade of the twentieth century, they constitute 66 percent of the total
      3. They hived together in cities like New York and Chicago and soon claimed more inhabitants than many of the largest cities of the same nationality in the Old World
  3. Southern Europe Uprooted
    1. Many left their native countries because Europe seemed to have no room for them; the population of the Old World was growing vigorously and it nearly doubled in the century after 1800 thanks in part to abundant food from America and cultivation of the potato
      1. American food imports and the pace of European industrialization shook the peasantry loose from its ancient habitats and customary occupation creating a vast, footloose army of the unemployed (millions drained from the countryside into cities)
      2. About 60 million Europeans left the Old World in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; more than half of them moved to United States (urbanization of Europe)
      3. America fever” proved highly contagious in Europe; the United States was often painted as a land of fabulous opportunity in the “America letters” sent back
    2. Profit-seeking Americans trumpeted throughout Europe the attractions of the new promised land; industrialists wanted low-wage labor, railroads wanted buyers for land grants, states wanted more population, and steamship lines more human cargo
    3. As the century lengthened savage persecutions of minorities in Europe drove many shattered souls to American shores; in the 1880s, the Russians turned violent upon their own Jews, chiefly in the Polish areas (tens of thousands of battered refugees fled)
    4. They made their way to the seaboard cites of the Atlantic Coast, notably New York; Jews had experienced city life in Europe (circumstance that made them unique among New Immigrants but many brought urban skills of tailoring or shop-keeping in cities)
    5. Many of the immigrants never intended to become Americans in any case; a large number of them were single men who worked in the United States for some time and then returned home with their hard-earned money; some 25 percent of the nearly 20 million people who arrived between 1820 and 1900 were “birds of the passage” who went back
    6. Even those who stayed in American struggled to preserve their traditional culture; time took its toll on efforts to keep old ways alive and children often rejected the Old Country manners of their mothers and fathers in their desire to be part of American life
  4. Reactions to the New Immigration
    1. Beyond minimal checking to catch criminals and the insane, the federal government did virtually nothing to ease the assimilation of immigrants into American society
      1. State governments, usually dominated by rural representatives, did even less; city governments, overwhelmed by the scale of urban growth, proved inadequate
      2. By default, the business of ministering to the immigrants’ needs fell to the unofficial “governments” of the urban political machines, led by “bosses” of the city
      3. Trading jobs and services for votes, a powerful boss might claim the loyalty of thousands of followers; the bosses found housing, gave gifts of food and clothing, patched up minor scrapes with the law, and helped get schools, parks, and hospitals
    2. The nation’s social conscience gradually awakened to the plight of the cities, and especially their immigrant masses; prominent in awakening were Protestant clergymen
      1. Noteworthy among the Protestant clergymen, who sought to apply the lessons of Christianity to the slums and factories, was Walter Rauschenbusch, who in 1886 became a pastor of a German Baptist church in New York City; also conspicuous was Washington Gladden (Congregational church in Columbus, OH)
      2. Preaching the “social gospel,” they both insisted that the churches tackle the burning social issues of the day; Sermon on the Mouth was the science of society, and many social gospelers predicted that socialism would by the outcome of Christianity
    3. Jane Addams was a middle-class woman who was deeply dedicated to uplifting the urban masses and who was one of the first generation of college-educated women
      1. Upon graduation she sough other outlets for her talents than could be found in teaching or charitable volunteer work, the only permissible occupations of young women of her social class—she became inspired upon a visit to England
      2. She acquired the decaying Hull mansion in Chicago and established Hull House, the most prominent, though not the first, American settlement house
      3. She was a broad-gauge reformer who courageously condemned war as well as poverty, and she eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931
    4. Located in a poor immigrant neighborhood of Greeks, Italians, Russians, and Germans, Hull House offered instruction in English, counseling to help newcomers cope with American big-city lift, child-care services for working mothers, and cultural activities
      1. Following Addams’ lead, women founded settlement houses in other cities as well
      2. The settlement houses became centers of women’s activism and of social reform; the women of Hull House successfully lobbied in 1893 for an Illinois antisweatshop law that protected women workers and prohibited child labor in those shops
      3. They were led by Florence Kelley, who was armed with the insights of socialism, she was a lifelong battler for the welfare of women, children, blacks, and consumers
    5. The pioneering work of Addams, Wald (Henry Street Settlement in NY), and Kelley helped blaze the trail that many women and some men followed into careers in the new profession of social work—city was the frontier of opportunity for women
      1. The urban frontier opened new possibilities for women; more than a million women joined the work force in the single decade of the 1890s
      2. Because employment for wives and mothers was considered taboo, the vast majority of working women were single—their jobs depended on race, ethnicity, and class
      3. Black women had few opportunities beyond domestic service; white-collar jobs were largely reserved for native-born women; immigrant women tended to cluster in particular industries, as Jewish women crowded in the garment trades
      4. After contributing a large share of their earnings to their families, many women still had enough money in their pocketbooks to enter a new urban world of sociability
  5. Narrowing the Welcome Mat
    1. Antiforeignism, or “nativism,” touched off by the Irish and German arrivals in the 1840s and 1850s, bared its ugly face in the 1880s with fresh ferocity
      1. The New Immigrants had come for much of the same reason as the Old—to escape the poverty and squalor of Europe and to seek new opportunities in America
      2. Nativists viewed eastern and southern Europeans as culturally and religiously exotic hordes and often gave them rude reception; the newest newcomers aroused alarm
      3. Their high birthrate, common among people with a low standard of living and sufficient, raised worries that the original Anglo-Saxon stock would soon be out-bred and outvoted—others worried that Anglo-Saxon types would disappear (inferior)
    2. “Native” Americans voiced additional fears; they blamed the immigrants for the degradation of urban government; trade unionists assailed the alien arrivals
      1. The immigrants were willing to work for “starvation” wages and imported their intellectual baggage as doctrines of socialism, communism, and anarchism
      2. Antiforeign organizations were now revived in a different guise; notorious among them was the American Protective Association (APA), which was created in 1887 and soon claimed a million members—in pursuing nativist goals, the APA urged voting against Roman Catholic candidates for office and sponsored mud-slinging
    3. Organized labor was quick to throw its growing weight behind the move to choke off the rising tide of foreigners; frequently used as strikebreakers, the wage-depressing immigrants were hard to unionize because of the language barrier
    4. Congress finally nailed up partial bars against the inpouring immigrants
      1. The first restrictive law, passed in 1882, banged the gate shut in the faces of paupers, criminals, and convicts, all of whom had to be returned at the expense of the shipper
      2. Congress in 1885, prohibited the importation of foreign workers under contract
      3. In later years other federal laws lengthened the list of undesirables to include the insane, polygamists, prostitutes, alcoholics, anarchists, and people carrying diseases
      4. A proposed literacy test met vigorous opposition and was not enacted until 1917; presidents argued it was more a measure of opportunity than of intelligence
    5. The year 1882 brought forth a law to car completely one ethnic group—the Chinese; after the gates would be padlocked against defective undesirables—plus the Chinese
    6. Four years later, in 1886, the Statue of Liberty arose in New York harbor, a gift from the people of France; to many natavists, the noble words on the Statue described only too accurately the “scum” washed up by the New Immigrant tides
    7. These new immigrants stepped off ready to put their shoulders to the nation’s industrial wheels; the Republic owes much to these latercomers (brawn, brains, courage, diversity)
  6. Churches Confront the Urban Challenge
    1. The swelling size and changing character of the urban population posed sharp challenges to American churches, which, like other national institutions, had grown up in the country
      1. Protestant churches suffered heavily form the shift to the city, where many of their traditional doctrines and pastoral approaches seemed irrelevant
      2. Reflecting the wealth of their prosperous parishioner, many of the old-line churches were distressingly slow to raise their voices against social and economic vices
      3. The mounting emphasis was on materialism; money was the accepted measure of achievement, and the new gospel of wealth proclaimed that God caused the righteous to prosper (Morgan of the Episcopal Church—“the Republican party at prayer”)
    2. Into this moral vacuum stepped a new generation of urban revivalists; most conspicuous was Dwight Lyman Moody who proclaimed a gospel of kindness and forgiveness
    3. Traveling to countless American cities, Moody held huge audiences spellbound; Moody contributed powerfully to adapting the old-time religion to facts of city life
    4. The Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths were gaining enormous strength from the New Immigration; by 1900 the Roman Catholics had increased their lead as the largest single denomination, numbering nearly 9 million communicants (kept common touch)
    5. Cardinal Gibbons, an urban Catholic leader devoted to American unity, was immensely popular with Roman Catholics and Protestants alike (liberal sympathies)
    6. By 1890, the Americans could choose from 150 religion denominations, 2 of them newcomers; one was the Salvation Army from England did much practical good
      1. The other important new faith was the Church of Christ, Scientist, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, after she had suffered much ill health (Christian Science)
      2. She set forth her views in a book entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875), which sold an amazing 400,000 copies before her death
      3. Eddy preached that the true practice of Christianity heals sickness; a fertile field for converts was found in America’s hurried, nerve-racked, and urbanized civilization
    7. Urbanites participated in a new kind of religious-affiliated organization, the Young Men’s and Women’s Christian Associations; the YMCA and YWCA grew by leaps
    8. Combining physical and other kinds of education with religious instruction, the Y’s appeared in virtually ever major American city by the end of the nineteenth century
  7. Darwin Disrupts the Churches
    1. The old-time religion received many blows from modern trends, including a sale of books on comparative religion and on historical criticism as applied to the bible
      1. Most unsettling of all was On the Origin of Species, published by English naturalist Charles Darwin, who set forth the sensational theory that humans had slowly evolved from lower forms of life—a theory soon to be known as “the survival of the fittest”
      2. Evolution cast serious doubt on a literal interpretation of the Bible, which relates how God created the heaven and the earth in six days; the Conservatives (Fundamentalists) stood firmly on the Scripture as the Word of God and condemned the Darwinians
      3. The “Modernists” parted company with the “Fundamentalists” and flatly refused to accept the Bible in entirety as either history or science (rifts in churches and colleges)
      4. As time wore on, an increasing number of liberal thinkers were able to reconcile Darwinism and Christianity—grander revelation of the ways of the Almighty
    2. But Darwinism undoubtedly did much to loosen religious moorings and to promote unbelief among the gospel-glutted; the most bitterly denounced skeptic of the era was Colonel Robert Ingersoll, who lectured and attacked orthodox religion
  8. The Lust for Learning
    1. Public education continued its upward climb; the ideal of tax-supported elementary schools was gathering strength; Americans were accepting the truism that a free government cannot function successfully if the people are shackled by ignorance
      1. By 1870, more and more states were making at least a grade-school education compulsory and this gain helped check the abuses of child labor
      2. Before the Civil War, private academies at the secondary level were common, and tax-supported high schools were rare (only about a few hundred)
      3. The concept was gaining impressive support that a high-school education was the birthright of every citizen and by 1900 there were some six thousand high schools
      4. Teacher-training schools (“normal schools”) experience a striking expansion after the Civil War a growth from only twelve to over three from 1860 to 1910
      5. Kindergartens, borrowed from the Germans, also began to gain strong support
    2. The New Immigration in the 1880s and 1890s brought vast new strength to the private Catholic parochial schools, which were becoming a major pillar of educational structure
    3. Public schools excluded millions of adults; this deficiency was partially remedied by the Chautauqua movement, which was launched in 1874 on the shores of Lake Chautauqua
    4. In New York, the organizers achieved gratifying success through nationwide public lectures and there were extensive Chautauqua courses of home study 
    5. Crowded cities generally provided better educational facilities than the old one-room, one-teacher red schoolhouse; the illiteracy rate fell from 20 % in 1870 to 10.7% in 1900
  9. Booker T. Washington and Education for Black People
    1. The South lagged far behind other regions in public education and African-Americans suffered most severely; a staggering 44 percent of nonwhites were illiterate in 1900
      1. Some help came from northern philanthropists, but the foremost champion of black education was an ex-slave, Booker T. Washington (who had been schooled)
      2. Washington taught black students useful trades for gaining self-respect and economic security; Washington’s self-help approach to solving the nation’s racial problems was labeled “accommodationist” because did not solve the nation’s racial problems
      3. Recognizing the depths of southern white racism, Washington avoided the issue of social equality and acquiesced in segregation in return for the right to develop the economic and education resources of the black community (economic independence)
    2. Washington’s commitment to training young blacks in agriculture and trades guided the curriculum at Tuskegee Institute and was the ideal place for George Washington Carver
    3. After joining the faculty, he became an internationally famous agricultural chemist who provided a much-needed boost to the southern economy by discovering hundreds of new uses for the lowly peanut (shampoo, grease), sweet potato (vinegar), and soybean (paint)
    4. Other black leaders, notably Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois assailed Booker T. Washington as an “Uncle Tom” who was condemning their race to manual labor and perpetual inferiority
      1. A mixture of African, French, Dutch, and Indian blood, Du Bois earned a Ph.D. at Harvard, the first of his race to achieve this goal and he demanded complete equality for blacks, social as well as economic and helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910
      2. Rejecting Washington’s gradualism and separatism, he demanded that the black community be given full and immediate access to the mainstream of American life
    5. He died as a self-exile in Africa in 1963; many of Du Bois’ differences with Washington reflected the contrasting life experiences of southern and northern blacks
  10. The Hallowed Halls of Ivy
    1. Colleges and universities shot up in the decades after the Civil War
      1. A college education increasingly seemed indispensable in the scramble for success; the education battle for women now turned into a rout of the masculine diehards
      2. Women’s colleges such as Vassar were gaining ground, and universities open to both genders were blossoming, notably in the Midwest region of United States
      3. By 1900 every fourth college graduate was a women and the black institutes and academies planted during Reconstruction had blossomed into southern black colleges
    2. The truly phenomenal growth of higher education owed much to the Morrill Act of 1862
      1. The law, passed after the South had seceded, provided a generous grant of the public lands to the states for support of education (“land grant colleges”—state universities)
      2. The Hatch Act of 1887, extending the Morrill Act, provided federal funds for the establishment of agricultural experience stations along with the land-grant colleges
    3. Private philanthropy richly supplemented federal grants to higher education; many of the new industrial millionaires, developing tender social consciences, donated immense fortunes to educational enterprises (“one who steals privately and gives publicly”)
    4. Noteworthy among the new private universities of high quality to open were Cornell (1865) and Leland Stanford Junior (1891), the latter found in his deceased child); the University of Chicago (1892) forged into a front-rank position, owing largely to John D. Rockefeller’s oil millions (Rockefeller died having given some $550 million to others)
    5. There was a significant increase in professional and technical schools, where modern laboratories were replacing solo experiments performed by instructors in front of classes
      1. Among the specialized institutions was Johns Hopkins University, opened in 1876, which maintained the nation’s first high-grade graduate school
      2. Several generations of American scholars had attended German universities and Johns Hopkins carried on the Germanic tradition of footnoted tomes (Wilson)
  11. The March of the Mind
    1. The new industrialization brought insistent demands for “practical” courses and specialized training in the sciences; the elective system was gaining popularity; it received a powerful boost when Dr. Eliot, became president of Harvard College
    2. Medical schools and medical science after the Civil War was prospering
      1. Despite the enormous sale of patent medicines and Indian remedies, the new scientific gains were reflected in improved public health (whiskers—germ traps)
      2. Revolutionary discoveries abroad by French scientists Louis Pasteur and English physician Joseph Lister, left their imprint on America; as a result of new health-promoting precautions, including campaigns against public spitting, life expectancy at birth was measurably increased because of the concern of public health
    3. One of America’s most brilliant intellectuals, William James served for thirty-give years on Harvard faculty and through writings, he made a deep mark on many fields
      1. His Principles of Psychology (1890) established discipline of behavioral psychology
      2. He explored philosophy and psychology of religion; in his famous work, Pragmatism (1907), he described America’s greatest contribution to the history of philosophy
      3. The concept of pragmatism held the truth was to be tested, above all, by the practical consequences of an idea, by action rather than theories (kind of reasoning of do-ers)
  12. The Appeal of the Press
    1. Books continued to be a major source of edification and enjoyment for young and old
      1. Bestsellers of 1880s were generally old favorites like David Copperfield and Ivanhoe
      2. Well-stocked public libraries were making encouraging progress, especially in Boston and New York; the magnificent Library of Congress building (1897) provided thirteen acres of floor space in the largest and costliest edifice of its kind in the world
      3. A new era was inaugurated by the generous gifts of Andrew Carnegie; he contributed $60 million for the construction of public libraries all over the country; by 1900 there were about nine thousand free circulating libraries in America (at least 300 books)
    2. Roaring newspaper presses, spurred by the invention of the Linotype in 1885, more than kept pace with the demands of a word-hungry public; but in the heavy investment in machinery and plant was accompanied by a growing fear of offending subscribers
      1. Bare-knuckle editorials were being supplanted by feature articles an d non-controversial syndicated material—day of slashing journalistic giants was passing
      2. Sensationalism was capturing the public taste; the semiliterate immigrants combined with strap-handing urban commuters created a profitable market for news that was simply and punchily written—sex, scandal, and other stories burst into headlines
    3. Two journalistic tycoons emerged; Joseph Pulitzer was a leader in the techniques of sensationalism in St. Louis and especially with the New York World
      1. His use of colored comic supplements, featuring the “Yellow Kid,” gave the name yellow journalism to his lurid sheets; his competitor was William Randolph Hearst
      2. Able to drawn on his California father’s mining millions, he ultimately built up a powerful chain of newspapers beginning with the San Francisco Examiner
    4. The overall influence of Pulitzer and Hearst was not altogether wholesome; although both championed many worthy causes, both prostituted the press in their struggled for increased circulation: both stooped, snooped, and scooped to conquer
    5. Their flair for scandal and sensational rumor was happily somewhat offset by the introduction of syndicated material and by strengthening the news-gathering Associated Press, which had been founded in the 1840s before the Civil War
  13. Apostles of Reform
    1. Magazines partially satisfied the public appetite for good reading, notably old standbys like Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly, and Scribner’s Monthly
    2. Possibly the most influential journal of all was the liberal and highly intellectual New York Nation, which was read largely by professors, preacher, and publicists
      1. Launched in 1865 by the Irish-born Edwin L. Godkin, a merciless critic, it crusaded militantly for civil-service reform, honesty in government, and a moderate tariff
      2. The Nation attained only a modest circulation about 10,000 in the 19th century
    3. Another journalist-author, Henry George, was an original thinker who left a mark
      1. Poor in schooling, he was rich in idealism and in human kindness; after seeing poverty in India and land-grabbing in California, he took pen in hand
      2. His treatise Progress and Poverty undertook the solve “the great enigma of our times”
      3. The association of progress with poverty” according to George was the pressure of growing population on a fixed supply of land unjustifiably pushed up property values, showing unearned profits on owners of land; a single 100 percent tax on those windfall profits would eliminate unfair inequalities and simulate economic growth
    4. George soon became a most controversial figure; his single-tax ideas were so horrifying to the propertied classes that his manuscript was rejected by numerous publishers
      1. Finally brought out in 1879, the book eventually sold some 3 million copies
      2. George also lectured widely in America, where he influence thinking about the maldistribution of wealth, and Britain where he left an indelible mark on socialism
    5. Edward Bellamy was another journalist-reformer of remarkable power; in 1888 he published a socialistic novel, Looking Backward, in which the hero falls asleep and awakens in the year 2000 and finds that social and economic injustices of 1887 have melted away under an idyllic government, which had nationalized big business
    6. To a nation already alarmed by the trust evil, the book had a magnetic appeal and sold over a million copies; scores of Bellamy Clubs sprang up to discuss this mild utopian socialism and heavily influence American reform movements near the end of the century
  14. Postwar Writing
    1. As literacy increased, so did book reading; Post-Civil War Americans devoured millions of “dime novels,” usually depicted the wilds of the woolly West
      1. Paint-bedaubed Indians and quick-triggered gunmen shot off vast quantities of powder and virtue invariable triumphed; these lurid “paperbacks” were frowned upon by parents, but youths read them in haylofts or in schools behind covers of books
      2. The king of dime novelists was Harlan F. Halsey, making a fortune writing about 650
    2. General Lewis Wallace sought to combat the prevailing wave of Darwinian skepticism with his novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) which sold about 2 million copies; it was the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the anti-Darwinists (support for the Holy Scriptures)
    3. An even more popular writer was Horatio Alger, a Puritan-reared New Englander, who in 1866 forsook the pulpit for the pen; he wrote more than a hundred volumes of juvenile fiction that sold over 100 million copies; his stock formula was that virtue, honesty, and industry are rewarded by success, wealth, and honor—a kind of survival of the purest
    4. Alger implanted morality and the conviction that there is always room at the top
    5. In poetry Walt Whitman was one of few luminaries of yesteryear who remained active
      1. Although shattered in health, he brought out successive—and purified—revisions of his hardy perennial, Leaves of Grass; the curious figure of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most gifted lyric poets, sadly did not emerge until she had died
      2. A Massachusetts recluse, she wrote over a thousand short lyrics on scraps of paper
      3. Among the lesser poetical lights was a tragic southerner, Sidney Lanier; dying young of tuberculosis, Lanier was best known for “The Marshes of Glynn” a poem of faith inspired by the current clash between Darwinism and orthodox religion
  15. Literary Landmarks
    1. In novel writing the romantic sentimentality of a youthful era was giving way to a rugged realism that reflected more faithfully the materialism of an industrial society; American authors now turned increasingly to the coarse human comedy and drama of the world
    2. Two authors with deep connections to the South brought altogether new voices
      1. Feminist author Kate Chopin wrote candidly about adultery, suicide, and women’s ambitions in The Awakening (1899); largely ignore, Chopin was rediscovered by later readers who cited her work as suggestive of the feminist yearnings in the Gilded Age
      2. Mark Twain had leapt to fame with The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Countyand The Innocents Abroad and teamed up with Charles Dudley Warner in 1873 to write The Gilded Age; an acid satire on politicians and speculators (name)
      3. Twain typified a new breed of American authors in revolt against the elegant refinements of the old New England school of writing (Samuel Clemens—real name)
      4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn rank among American masterpieces, initially regarded as “trash” by snobbish Boston critics
      5. Journalist, humorist, satirist, and foe of social injustice, he made his most enduring contribution in recapturing frontier realism and humor in authentic American dialect
    3. Another author who wrote out of the West and achieved at least temporary fame and fortune was Bret Harte who struck it rich in California with gold-rush stories, especially “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”
    4. William Dean Howells carried him high into the literary circles of the East; he became the editor in chief of the Atlantic Monthly and was presented with honorary degrees; he wrote about ordinary people and about contemporary and sometimes controversial social themes (divorce, trials of a newly rich manufacturer, reforms, strikes, and Socialists)
    5. Stephen Crane also wrote about the seamy underside of life in urban, industrial America; he rose to prominence with The Red Badge of Courage (Civil War recruit under fire)
    6. Henry James was a New Yorker who turned from law to literature; his book The Bostonians was one of the first novels about the rising feminist movement—he frequently made women his central characters, exploring their inner reactions to complex situations
    7. Candid portrayals of contemporary life and social problems were the literary order of the day by the turn of the century; Jack London, famous as a nature writer (The Call of the Wild), turned to depicting a possible fascistic revolution in The Iron Heel
    8. Frank Norris wrote The Octopus (1901), an earthy saga of the stranglehold of the railroad and corrupt politicians on California wheat ranchers; the sequel, The Pit, dealt with wheat
    9. Two black writers, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles W. Chesnutt brought another kind of realism to late-nineteenth century literature; Dunbar embraced the use of black dialect and folklore to capture the spontaneity and richness of southern black culture
    10. Conspicuous among the new “social novelists” rising in the literary firmament was Theodore Dreiser whose Sister Carrie was a graphically realistic narrative of a poor working girl who disregarded the prevailing moral standards (offended publisher)
  16. The New Morality
    1. Victoria Woodhull also shook the pillars of conventional morality when she publicly proclaimed her belief in free love in 1871; Woodhull was a beautiful and eloquent divorcee, sometime stockbroker, and tireless feminist propagandist
      1. Together with her sister, she published a periodical Woodhull and Clafin’s Weekly and shocked society in 1872 when their journal struck a blow for the new morality by charging that Henry Beecher (preacher of day) had been having an adulterous affair
      2. Pure-minded Americans sternly resisted these affronts to their moral principles; their foremost champion was crusader Anthony Comstock, who made war on “immoral”
      3. Armed after 1873 with a federal statute, the notorious “Comstock Law” this self-appointed defender of sexual purity boasted that he had confiscated hundreds of thousands of obscene pictures and photos, thousands of pills used by abortionists
    2. The antics of the Woodhull sisters and Anthony Comstock exposed to daylight the battle going on in the late-nineteenth-century America over sexual attitudes and the place of women; economic freedom encouraged sexual freedom and the “new morality” began to be reflected in soaring divorce rates, spreading practice of birth control, and discussions
  17. Families and Women in the City
    1. The urban environment was hard on families; crowded cities were emotionally isolating
      1. As families increasingly became the exclusive arena for intimate companionship and for emotional and psychological satisfaction, they were subjected to stress; the urban era launched the era of divorce (twentieth century “divorce revolution”)
      2. Not only fathers but mothers and even children as young as ten years old often worked, and usually in widely scattered locations (children as more baggage in city)
      3. Not surprisingly, birthrates were still dropping and family size continued to shrink; marriages were being delayed, and more couples learned the techniques of birth control; the decline in family size in fact affected rural Americans as well
    2. Women were growing more independent in the urban environment and in 1898 they heard the voice of a major feminist prophet, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
      1. Publishing Women and Economics, a classic of feminist literature, Gilman displayed the restless temperament and reforming zeal characteristic of the remarkable Beecher clan (she devoted herself to a vigorous regimen of physical exercise and meditation)
      2. Gilman called on women to abandon their dependent status and contribute to the larger life of the community through productive involvement in the economy; she argued that “our highly specialized motherhood is not so advantageous as believed”
      3. She also advocated centralized nurseries and cooperative kitchens to facilitate women’s participation in the work force (anticipating the day-care centers)
    3. Fiery feminists also continued to insist on the ballot; they had been demanding the vote since before the Civil War, but many high-minded female reformers had temporarily shelved the cause of women to battle for the rights of blacks
      1. In 1890 militant suffragists formed the National America Woman Suffrage Association; its founders included aging pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had helped organize the first women’s rights convention in 1848 and her long-time comrade Susan B. Anthony, the radical Quaker spitfire who had courted jail
      2. By 1900 a new generation of women had taken command of the suffrage battled; their most effective leader was Carrie Chapman Catt, a pragmatic, dedicated reformer
      3. Under Catt the suffragists de-emphasized the argument that women deserved the vote as a right, because they were in all respects the equals of men; instead Catt stressed the desirability of giving women the vote if they were to continue to discharge their traditional duties as homemakers and mothers in the public world of the city
      4. In the city, they needed a voice on boards of public health, commissions, and school board; they linked the ballot to a traditional definition of women’s role
    4. Suffragists registered encouraging gains as the new century opened (love not vote); women were increasingly permitted to vote in local elections, especially on school issues
    5. Wyoming Territory (Equality State) granted the first unrestricted suffrage to women in 1869 and many states followed Wyoming’s example (most of the states by 1890 had passed laws to permit wives to won or control their property after marriage)
    6. City life fostered the growth of a spate of women’s organizations but the reborn suffrage movement and other women’s organizations excluded black women from their ranks
      1. Fearful that an integrated campaign would compromise its efforts to get the vote, the National American Woman Suffrage Association limited membership to whites
      2. Black women created their own associations—Ida B. Wells inspired black women to mount a nationwide antilynching crusade; she helped launch the black women’s club movement which culminated in the National Association of Color Women (1896)
  18. Prohibition of Alcohol and Social Progress
    1. Alarming gains by Demon Rum spurred the temperance reforms to redoubled zeal; the corner saloon, known as “the poor man’s club” helped keep his family poor
    2. Liquor consumption had increased during the nerve-racking days of the Civil War, and immigrant groups, accustomed to alcohol in the Old Country, were hostile to restraints
      1. Many tipplers charged that temperance reform amounted to a middle-class assault on working-class lifestyles (rudely hissed temperance lecturers)
      2. The National Prohibition party, organized in 1869, polled a sprinkling of votes in some of the ensuing presidential elections with catchy songs of sober souls
    3. Militant women entered the alcoholic arena, notably when the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was organized in 1874; the white ribbon symbol of purity
      1. The saintly Frances E. Willard, a champion of planned parenthood, was its leading spirit but less saintly was a muscular, mentally deranged Carrie A. Nation
      2. She boldly smashed saloon bottles and bars with her hatchet and brought considerable disrepute to prohibition movement because of the violence of her one-woman crusade
    4. The potent Anti-Saloon League was formed in 1893; statewide prohibition, which had made surprising gains in Maine and elsewhere before the Civil War, was sweeping
    5. The great triumph came in 1919 when the national prohibition amendment was attached to the Constitution as the Eighteenth Amendment but it was only a temporary victory
    6. Banners of other social crusaders were aloft; the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was created in 1866; the American Red Cross was launched in 1881 with Clara Barton, an “angel” of Civil War battlefields, at the helm
  19. Artistic Triumphs
    1. Portrait painting continued to appeal but many of America’s finest painters made their living abroad; James Whisler did much of his work, and that of his mother, in England; another gifted portrait painter, in self-exile in England, was John Singer Sargent
    2. Mary Cassatt, an American in exile in Paris, painted sensitive portrayals of women and children that earned her a place in the pantheon of the French impressionist painters
    3. Other brush wielders, no less talented, brightened the artistic horizon
      1. George Inness became America’s leading landscapist; Thomas Eakins attained a high degree of realism in his paintings, a quality not appreciated by portrait sitters
      2. Winslow Homer was perhaps the greatest painter of the group; he revealed rugged realism and boldness of conception—his canvases of the sea and of fisherfolk were masterly and probably no American artist has excelled him in portraying the ocean
    4. Probably the most gifted sculptor yet produced by America was Augustus Saint-Gaudens; among his most moving works is the Robert Gould Shaw memorial in Boston
    5. Music was gaining popularity and America of the 1880s and 1890s was assembling high-quality symphony orchestras notably in Boston and Chicago (Metropolitan Opera House)
    6. Strains of homegrown American music were sprouting in the South; black folk traditions like spirituals and “ragged music” were evolving into the blues, ragtime, and jazz
    7. A marvelous discovery was the reproduction of music by mechanical means; the phonograph, invented by the deaf Edison, had by 1900 reached over 150,000 homes
    8. In addition to skyscraper builder Louis Sullivan, a famous American architect of the age was Henry H. Richardson (spread influence throughout the eastern half of America)
      1. He popularized a distinctive, ornamental style came to be known as “Richardsonian”
      2. High-vaulted arches were his trademark and his masterpiece and most famous work was the Marshall Field Building in Chicago (noted for champagne and laughter)
    9. A revival of classical architectural forms and a setback for realism came with the great Columbian Exposition; held in Chicago in 1893, it raised American artistic standards, promoted city planning, and was visited by more than 27 million people
  20. The Business of Amusement
    1. The pursuit of happiness had be century’s end become a frenzied scramble; people sought their pleasures fiercely, as they had overrun their continent fiercely; they had more time
      1. American inconsistently sought to escape from democratic equality; vaudeville, with its coarse jokes an graceful acrobats, continued to be immensely popular during the 1880s and 1890s as were minstrel shows in the South (black singers and dancers)
      2. The circus finally emerged full-blown; Phineas Barnum, the master showman joined hands with James A. Bailey in 1881 to stage the “Greatest Show on Earth”
      3. Colorful “Wild West” shows, first performed in 1883, were even more distinctively American; headed by William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody, the troupe included war-whooping Indians, live buffalo, and deadeye marksmen—among them Annie Oakley
    2. Baseball was clearly emerging as the national pastime and a league of professional players was formed in the 1870s and in 1888 an all-start baseball team toured the world
    3. A gladiatorial trend toward spectator sports was exemplified by football; this rugged game had become popular well before 1889 when Walter Camp chose his All-Americans
    4. Even pugilism gained a new and gloved respectability in 1892 when “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, a scientific boxer, wrestled the world championship from the again and alcoholic John L. Sullivan, the fabulous “Boston Strong Boy”
    5. Two crazes swept the country in the closing decades of the century; croquet became all the rage though condemned by moralists of the “naughty nineties” (exposed feminine)
    6. The low-framed “safety” bicycle came to replace the high-seated model and by 1893 a million bicycles were in use and thousands of young women were turning to this new “spinning wheel,” one that offered freedom, not tedium
    7. Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a YMCA instructor; designed as an active indoor sport that could be played during the winter months, it spread rapidly
    8. The land of the skyscraper was plainly become more standardized, owing largely to the new industrialization; Americans started to share a common popular culture

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Red Scare

As World War I was raging in Europe, a political and social revolution defined by a struggle between the labor class and capitalists was taking place in Russia. In early 1917, the Bolshevik Party, headed by Vladimir Lenin, felt that the social climate in Russia was beginning to change in their favor. Outlining his plan for a communist revolution, Lenin wrote his “April Thesis” to demonstrate the Bolshevik vision for a Soviet State. By the end of October 1917, the Bolshevik Party, soon to be renamed the Communist Party, had control of the Russian government. In March 1918, Russia officially withdrew from the “capitalistic” world war.

In the United States, a small handful of individuals took notice of the promise of the new Russian government and formed their own communist party. At first, there was little reaction to this nascent political movement, since at the time the American public’s attention was focused on events in and around Germany. It did not take long after the war, however, for America’s attention to shift to a new target.

Just as the Russian communists had appointed themselves the “champions of the workers,” the tiny U.S. contingent of communists had also taken up the workers’ cause. They were quick to align with the pressing union issues, especially labor strikes brought about by high post-war prices. This alignment unsettled an American public already annoyed with a wave of strikes. In the minds of many, unionized labor became synonymous with communism.

The first notable strike occurred in February 1919, when Seattle was brought to a virtual standstill. Although the Seattle strike was considered orderly and the demands made by those on strike deemed humble, the fact that pro-communists helped organize the walkout raised a number of concerns among conservatives. The mayor of Seattle eventually called for federal troops to curb “the anarchy of Russia.” Another round of strikes starting in September 1919, organized by the radical William Foster, resulted in approximately 340,000 steelworkers, factory workers, and dockworkers declaring a strike, which continued to heighten popular suspicion.

Apart from the strikes taking place, in April of 1919 the United States Postal Service intercepted almost 40 mail bombs addressed to such prominent figures as John D. Rockefeller and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. In June 1919 a bomb that slipped through the postal screening exploded at the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. No one was injured in the blast, but Palmer’s home was damaged and anarchist pamphlets were strewn up and down his Washington D.C. street. Even though these extreme tactics were the work of a handful of anarchist, few people saw the difference between anarchy and communism. The “red scare” of 1919-1920 had officially begun.

Palmer wasted no time in forming the General Intelligence Division within the Department of Justice to gather information about radical individuals behind the perceived communist insurgence. The new division was headed by J. Edgar Hoover, who declared their intention to begin deporting radicals.

On November 7, 1919, federal agents in 12 cities raided the meeting places of the Union of Russian Workers. Over 650 people were arrested, many who did not have a connection to the union. On December 22, 249 people suspected of anarchy and criminal activity were deported to Russia without the benefit of any judicial process on a ship nicknamed the “Soviet Ark.” The evidence to deport existed for only 43 of the individuals.

The public approved of what came to be known as the “Palmer Raids” and deportation, and Palmer was well aware of the support. His personal ambition was to seek the 1920 Democratic presidential nomination, so he aimed to give the public more of what it wanted. Starting on January 2, 1920, Palmer began enforcing over 3,000 arrest warrants, and police in 33 cities took about 6,000 suspected communist into custody. Some of those arrested where held for weeks at a time without the right to communicate with a lawyer or their family, while authorities attempted to gather evidence against them. In some cases when visitors were allowed to meet with suspects, the visitors themselves were arrested under the pretense that they must be communists since they were visiting a suspected communist.

Eventually, public opinion started to turn against Palmer’s crusade as people began to question the constitutionality of the raids led by Palmer. Palmer attempted to regain public support by warning of a massive terrorist protest around the country on May 1, 1920. Many cities braced for the worst and federal troops were placed on standby, but not one demonstration took place that day. By the summer of 1920, many saw Palmer as more of a threat to American civil liberties than a handful of radicals.

Nativism and Racism

Beginning in 1920, immigration into the United States once again increased dramatically. Approximately 110,000 people immigrated to the U.S. in 1919, and that number increased to more than 430,000 in 1920 and more than 800,000 in 1921. And as before, many native-born Americans saw the immigrants as a threat to their livelihood and their image of America. Congress, reacting to this widespread sentiment, passed the Emergency Quota Act of 1921.

Under this act, a new quota system would stem the influx of foreign-born citizens into the United States. The number of immigrants allowed to enter America for any given county was limited to three percent of the number of immigrants from that country already living in the United States as defined by the census of 1910. To further restrict immigration, in 1924 Congress adjusted the quota system so it was based on the census of 1890 when few southern Europeans had arrived.

The sensational Sacco and Vanzetti trial in 1921 underscored the anti-foreign attitude of many Americans. Nicola Sacco, a shoe factory worker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fish peddler, were Italian immigrants and known atheists and anarchists. When the two were accused of killing a paymaster and a guard in a daylight robbery of a shoe factory, a notorious trial followed. During the trial, the judge and jury appeared overtly prejudiced against Sacco and Vanzetti because of their immigrant background and their political beliefs.

The trial, and determination of Sacco and Vanzetti’s fate, dragged on for seven years, while protestors around the world organized rallies to show support and demand a new trial for the two doomed men. In the end, both men were executed on August 23, 1927.

As immigrants struggled for fair treatment, a force of evil had reconstituted. A new Ku Klux Klan, one focused against foreigners rather than blacks, was established in 1915 by William J. Simmons, a former preacher. Simmons would allow only native-born white Protestants into his organization, and he referred to America’s melting pot as nothing more than a “garbage can.” Klan membership rapidly grew to a peak of five million members in 1923.

Although the movement’s strongest support was in the Midwest and South, the Klan’s message spoke to individuals in all corners of America. Klan members wore robes, burned crosses, held dogmatic rituals, and organized mass demonstrations to protect its ideal of American life from African American, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and immigrant “corruption.”

In the late 1920s, Americans finally recoiled from the hateful messages the Klan espoused and the violence of their actions. Infighting began to plague the Klan as factions squabbled over control of the large amounts of money collected through a $10 initiation fee. When David C. Stephenson, the leader of the Indiana Klan, was convicted of assault that caused the death of a young woman, many of the remaining supporters deserted the Klan. Finally, a Congressional investigation launched to investigate money-laundering charges, revealed that a large part of initiation fee charged to members was used to pay kickbacks to local organizers to encourage additional recruitment.


While some Americans were concerned with the increasing immigration into the United States; others feared modernism and new ideas might usurp the authority of the church. For many of the millions of people who lived in rural areas, towns, and small cities around the country, it was not the great urban migration that was a problem, it was that urban culture itself seemed to be wicked, materialistic, and detrimental to moral character.

As Americans abandoned the country in droves and moved to large cities, new ideas emerged among these urban transplants as the influence of modernism was taking hold. More than ever before, education was a priority in Americans’ lives. Many states started to require students to attend school until the age of sixteen or eighteen. A professor from Columbia University, John Dewey, founded the progressive educational movement by promoting the principles of “learning by doing.” Dewey’s idea stated that teachers should educate students on traditional subjects as well as more practical life-skill topics.

Along with the changes in education, Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution and Karl Marx’s suggestion that individuals were primarily motivated by economic motives became key points in shaping the progressive mindset. Modernist Christians, who mostly lived in large cities, attempted to connect new scientific advances with religion. They believed that science and religion could not only coexist, each could support the other’s tenants and principles.

It was Darwin’s contribution to Biology that religious fundamentalists despised most. They rejected the theory of evolution and hoped to eliminate all mention of the scientific advances made during the last century regarding the origins of the universe and the history of humankind. Fundamentalists believed that these new ideas minimized the importance of the Bible and contributed to the moral breakdown of young people.

To appease fundamentalists, three southern states, including Tennessee, adopted laws prohibiting the teaching of “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible.” The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it would finance a challenge to the constitutionality of the law if a teacher would knowingly violate it. Friends convinced John T. Scopes, a well-liked Biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, to teach evolution in his classroom, and he was immediately arrested. Lawyers from around the country came forward to defend him, and the stage was set for a sensationalistic event that would put progressive education on trial. The case, often referred to as the “Monkey Trial,” began on July 13, 1925.

The State of Tennessee retained the services of Williams Jennings Bryan to prosecute Scopes. Bryan, a well-known Presbyterian fundamentalist and an accomplished speaker, had helped to popularize the fundamentalist movement. Bryan had begun to campaign against the teaching of evolution as early as 1921. Clarence Darrow, a trial lawyer from Chicago and self-described agnostic, volunteered to defend Scopes.

Reporters from large cities camped in the small Tennessee town reporting on the trial’s spectacle. Spectators drawn by curiosity and publicity seekers captivated by the media-hype also crowded the streets of Dayton. The trial itself did not disappoint the public in terms of drama. Darrow even insinuated that the magnitude of the trial went well beyond the legal issue when he argued, “Scopes isn’t on trial, civilization is on trial … no man’s belief will be safe if they win.”

The judge presiding over the trial ruled that scientific testimony would not be allowed. Faced with this limitation, Darrow decided to try to attack the state’s position, and he asked if Bryan would take the stand as an expert of the Bible. Bryan agreed and what followed was a bitter exchange between Darrow and Bryan that ended in a quick adjournment of the court when the two charged at one another, fists raised. Darrow’s strategy was to point out Bryan’s literal beliefs in the text of the Bible, including that a “great fish” swallowed Jonah, that Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs, and that Joshua had stopped the movement of the sun. Darrow’s intention was to make Bryan appear irrational; a tactic that many reporters and spectators considered successful.

Ultimately, the court ruled that the real issue was whether or not Scopes taught evolution in his classroom. According to the court, Scopes had purposely violated the law and was fined $100; though the state Supreme Court later overturned the fine on a technicality. Bryan died of a stroke five days after the trial ended, and his death was attributed to the stress of his testimony and the July courtroom heat.


The era of national prohibition began in 1920 with the establishment of the Eighteenth Amendment and was enforced by the Volstead Act passed by Congress that same year. The Act forbade the manufacture and sale of beverages with an alcoholic content greater than .5 percent. Zealous supporters of this law, including many women and parishioners, believed that prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol would eliminate the social problems caused by intoxication.

Many Americans began fighting for prohibition long before 1920. Near the beginning of the twentieth century, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League crusaded for legal prohibition. The Anti-Saloon League became a powerful special interest and mobilized Protestant churches to elect candidates that were anti-alcohol. The practice of self-denial that emerged in support of the war effort led many to view alcohol as an unnecessary luxury. The Lever Act of 1917 outlawed the use of grain and other foodstuffs in the production of alcoholic beverages.

By the time Congress enacted a national prohibition, almost 75 percent of Americans lived in counties or states that already prohibited drinking alcohol. The movement, however, faced great resistance in large eastern cities where many social activities were built around the consumption of alcohol. Those who wanted to drink found ingenious ways around the law. Secret and illegal supplies of highly concentrated alcohol sprang up overnight. Citizens began regularly visiting “speakeasies,” secret bars where individuals gathered to socialize.

Americans consumed tremendous amounts of alcohol during prohibition. Women began drinking in record numbers, and youth found it exciting to “bootleg,” or smuggle liquor. Bootlegging became a major business, as many smuggled alcohol into the United States. Others found a new hobby in manufacturing “bathtub gin” and “home brew” for their own personal consumption. Sometimes, drinking highly concentrated homemade concoctions resulted in blindness or death.

Prohibition supplied organized crime with a massive influx of income. Although organized crime had long been a component of the landscape in large cities, mobsters like “Scarface” Al Capone reveled in their increasing power as booze distributors. Capone’s criminal empire, which extended beyond the sale of alcohol to include gambling and prostitution, netted him nearly $60 million in 1927. In Chicago’s gang wars of the 1920’s, mobsters killed about 500 rivals in an effort to control the billion-dollar business of the underworld.

Law enforcement officials were unable, and in many cases unwilling, to stop the endless stream of illegal alcohol. The state and federal agencies charged with enforcing prohibition were understaffed, and many enforcement agents were susceptible to bribery. Many opponents of prohibition believed that the only way to change the law was to break it on a massive scale, so they tried to undermine enforcement efforts so that the law would be seen as meaningless.

In the end, the “noble experiment” of prohibition did not succeed. Few politicians called for an outright appeal of the amendment before 1930; however, leaders recognized the need to at least overhaul the law if it was to be enforced. The prohibition lobby rejected outright all attempts to modify the law, but enforcement of the law remained grossly under funded and understaffed. In 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment upholding national prohibition was repealed by the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which allowed the states to decide for themselves whether or not to support prohibition.

New Culture

In addition to the political and social transformations brought about by prohibition, fundamentalism and nativism, the 1920s also witnessed a cultural transformation. In this postwar decade, many citizens, especially in larger urban areas, were embracing new forms of entertainment, discovering new recreational activities, and adopting the culture of consumerism. Literature and music were taking adventurous new strides, and the women rights movement was making slow progress. In light of all these events, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald dubbed this postwar period the “Jazz Age.”

In an era that saw a number of advances for women, the battle for the right to vote finally found closure. In 1918, President Wilson asked Congress to approve a Constitutional amendment to allow women the right to vote, but the Senate failed to pass it by two votes. The National Suffrage Association, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, continued to lobby and petition Congress. On June 4, 1919, the issue went before Congress once again, and this time it passed. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was not ratified until August 21, 1920, and by that time the National Suffrage Association had changed its name to the League of Women Voters.

On the labor front, women found more opportunity for work, but the jobs were limited to a few fields such as clerical, teaching, or roles in the service industry. These were jobs that many men considered too “womanly” to actively pursue for themselves. Wages for women typically remained low, especially when compared to the salary of a male performing the same job. In 1920, more than eight million women worked outside the home, and that number increased to well over ten million by the end of the decade.

A drastic alteration in appearance and values helped to distinguish the “new woman” of the 1920s. Known as “flappers,” their look and attitude was characterized by knee-length or higher dresses, rolled down stockings, smoking, ample use of makeup, and even dancing the “Charleston.” The traditionalists, of whom a majority of women still considered themselves, looked down on flappers for what they felt was a disregard for morality. Traditionalist were also alarmed by a rising divorce rate, which was fueled by relaxed divorce laws and a new sense of independence among women. This rate started to decline at the end of the decade due to the Great Depression.

Coinciding with the gains made by women during the 1920s, was a revolution in African American culture. The artistic, political, and literary achievements were due in part to a massive migration of blacks from southern states to northern cities. This move began in 1915 when northern industries were experiencing labor shortages due to the war. In New York City alone the black population more than doubled between the years of 1920 to 1930. Living in the northern states, blacks found they were able to speak out and act more freely, and thus their political and cultural influence started to expand. Jazz music, the creation of black musicians working together in New Orleans in the late nineteenth century, started to gain widespread national popularity. Caucasians and African Americans alike were drawn to jazz’s nontraditional rhythms and melodies.

The musical roots of jazz can be traced to post-Reconstruction traditions, such as spirituals, ragtime, and stringbands. Blending these musical forms with European influences resulted in a distinctive, improvisational sound, which spread across the country as African Americans moved northward. Louis Armstrong, who moved from New Orleans to Chicago to join Joseph Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1922, is praised as one of the fathers of the jazz movement and an extraordinary musical talent. Edward “Duke” Ellington, a significant innovator of early jazz, moved from Washington D.C. to New York City. Ellington started playing at Harlem’s Cotton Club in 1927, during which time his compositions, including large ensembles of twelve to fourteen instruments, foreshadowed the 1930s swing movement.

It was in the same New York City borough where the Cotton Club enjoyed its fame that the African American cultural revolution found its center. The “Harlem Renaissance” gave rise to such figures as Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes. These artists found their voice through the patronage of white Americans who found such creativity inspirational in times when many were becoming increasingly disillusioned.

Garvey was an influential political leader whose platform was based on promoting black expressionism and racial pride, ending imperialism in Africa, and unifying the dispersed black populations. Garvey came to New York from Jamaica in 1916, bringing with him the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), an organization he started two years earlier. The purposes of the UNIA were to help black citizens relocate to Africa (the “Back to Africa Movement”), to sponsor black businesses, and to help fund the Black Star Line Steamship Company. Most of Garvey’s financial endeavors were unsuccessful and ultimately failed, and he was eventually sent to prison in 1925 for defrauding investors. In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge pardoned Garvey and had him deported back to Jamaica.

McKay, one of the first literary standouts during the Harlem Renaissance, published a collection of poems called Harlem Shadows in 1922. Some of McKay’s poem titles included “If We Must Die” and “To the White Fiends.” Langston Hughes, considered to be one of the best poets of the period, described his feelings during his first visit to Harlem by saying “Harlem! I dropped my bags, took a deep breath, and felt happy again.” Hughes published his first compilation in 1926, titled The Weary Blues.

Many African American women also found their voice during the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neale Hurston, considered by many to be the most prolific African American writer of her time, explored themes of female identity and love in her books Dust Tracks on a Road and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The literary revival of the 1920s extended well beyond Harlem. In fact, the postwar era seemed to influence many young writers who had become disillusioned by the hopeful optimism before the war, the harsh realities of the war itself, the tactics of the fundamentalist, and Klan brutality. Some of the more prominent American writers became expatriates, while many others were happy to just travel abroad, gathering cultural and life experiences.

Gertrude Stein, an expatriate living in Paris, is credited as being one of the first writers to popularize a modernist writing style starting with her 1906 book Three Lives. Stein also helped to name this new generation of authors when she wrote to Ernest Hemingway saying, “All of you young people who served in the war, you are the lost generation.” The idea of a “lost generation” took hold, and no one typified the epithet more than F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was an almost overnight success, with his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise, which became very popular with the young flapper culture. Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), achieved much critical acclaim, but by the end of the decade Fitzgerald’s personal life fell into ruin. He became an alcoholic and his wife was “prone to fits of madness.” Eventually, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood to find work as a scriptwriter, but he never regained the level of success he enjoyed in the 1920s.

Ernest Hemingway, a WWI veteran, moved away from traditional writing styles and instead developed his own lean, declarative style. The publication of his first two novels, The Sun also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929) marked the beginning of a writing career that would include a Pulitzer Prize for his 1952 novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

The writers of the lost generation also included William Faulkner and T. S. Eliot. Among Faulkner’s contributions to early modernist literature were the harsh war novels Soldier’s Pay (1926), The Sound and the Fury (1929), and As I Lay Dying (1930). The poet T. S. Eliot exemplified the modernist ideal in much of his work. In The Waste Land (1922), Eliot’s disenchantment and sense of helplessness were palpable and his work became a benchmark for modern literature.

Despite all of the turmoil following WWI, including the disillusioned works of the lost generation, America saw great economic prosperity. The 1920s witnessed a spectacular growth in industrial output, business expansion, and consumerism. Helping to sustain this growth, the Federal Reserve Board allowed interest rates to remain low and the Federal government assumed a firm laissez-faire attitude toward business.

Many other factors also contributed to the economic expansion, including the mass production of electricity. More electricity was being generated in America by 1929 than the combined output of the rest of the world. This helped to spur the mass production of automobiles, refrigerators, heavy building equipment, vacuum cleaners, and radios. Between 1921 and 1929, industrial output was doubled, and a finished automobile was rolling off the Ford assembly line in Rouge River Michigan every ten seconds. The Ford Motor Company, founded in 1903, and its Model T automobile greatly contributed to the social and economic impact the car had on the nation. When the Model T was introduced in 1908, its price tag was $850, but by 1924 the car was selling for no more than $290. Frederick Taylor developed a method to standardize the manufacturing process through a step-by-step analysis and factories that applied his methodology were increasing their production.

The mass production of the car was perhaps one of the more important economic advents during the 1920s. No longer a novelty of the wealthy, the efficient assembly line lowered the cost of a car enough that over 30 million were owned in America by 1930. Fast transportation, revenue generating gasoline taxes, and growing dependency on the automobile gave rise to suburb expansion in cities nationwide. The auto industry’s success also drove economic expansion in other areas. It created a need to manufacture more tires, glass, and petroleum products. The proliferation of gas stations soon followed, along with the people needed to staff them, and tourism flourished.

A multitude of willing consumers were also eager to experience other forms of leisure. Heroes such as baseball’s George (“Babe”) Ruth, boxing’s Jack Dempsey, and swimming’s Gertrude Ederle encouraged a growing fan base and huge ticket sales for professional sports. Ederle held eighteen world records by the time she was seventeen, and in 1926 swam the English Channel on her second attempt. The new home entertainment center of the era, the radio, also helped popularize sports. Staring in 1921, radios began appearing throughout American homes, even though long-ranged broadcasting was not viable until late in the decade.

Motion pictures, mostly a novelty until WWI, found a purpose in war propaganda with the “Hang the Kaiser” films. Earlier films, including 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, were shown in five-cent theaters, known as “nickelodeons.” In the 1920s, movies began to show their true potential, reflecting the social climate, adapting to new technologies, and giving rise to a shared experience nation-wide. Unlike radio broadcasts that varied from region to region, people going to “picture palaces” to watch movies saw the same show. The first “talkie,” The Jazz Singer, was released to a delighted public in 1927, marking the end of silent films.

The popularity of the film was also attracting the nation’s attention to another novelty—the movie star. At many times more recognizable than the nation’s leaders, top movie stars were popular enough to demand salaries that eclipsed the salary of the President of the United States. Stars such as Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow began to wow audiences. Valentino, one of the first film idols and considered to be consummate “Latin lover”, captured the attention of millions with his silent films The Sheik and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Bow, one of the first sex symbols of the movies, attracted the flapper filled audiences in mass. Her films such as Mantrap and It demonstrated her depth and range, and inspired many young to emulate her.

Film production was soon big business, and during the 1920s it was under the control of a few large companies. Production, distribution, and advertising were all business aspects that were handled internally by companies such as Paramount, MGM, and Warner Brothers. Mostly, the headquarters of each of these media giants was in New York City, but the actual filming process was taking place in Hollywood-taking advantage of the warm, sunny southern California climate. The rise of Hollywood signaled the beginning of a new industry that continues to influence American culture and imagination to this day.

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Social Tensions" Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2018. <>.


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