Topics in the News
African Americans and World War I
In 1914, 90 percent of African Americans lived in the states of the former Confederacy, where so-called Jim Crow statutes had legalized the segregation of Americans by race. These statutes had been validated by a series of Supreme Court rulings in the 1890s, culminating in the famous 1896 "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, which made segregation the law of the United States. To make matters worse, President Woodrow Wilson appointed to his cabinet officials who were openly prejudiced, and who extended segregation within federal departments. Nowhere was the separation of races more strict, more prone to violence, or more hypocritical than in the American armed forces that were supposedly fighting for freedom and democracy in Europe. Nonetheless, the social upheavals created by World War I reshaped race relations in the United States in fundamental ways.
The war years accelerated the migration of African Americans out of the rural South, where agriculture had been plagued by floods and crop failures, including a devastating plague of boll weevils that decimated the cotton crop. At the same time, factory owners in northern cities sent recruiters to draw workers northward with glowing reports of high wages and good living conditions. During the 1910s the African American population of the...
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When World War I began in August 1914, most Americans, believing the war was further evidence of the decay of European civilization, were determined to stay out of the conflict. Until 1917 the Woman's Peace Party, the American Union Against Militarism, and many other pacifist organizations that supported American neutrality enjoyed broad public support. Antiwar sentiment peaked in November 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson won reelection with the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War"; during this time the song "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" swept the nation. But there were those who suspected President Wilson's promise to keep Americans away from European battle-fields was disingenuous; whatever his real motivations, in April 1917, shortly after the election, he requested from Congress a declaration of war.
While most Americans rallied to the war effort, significant portions of the population, many of whom were the children of European immigrants or recent immigrants themselves, resisted the war effort because of their natural ties to their native lands. Irish Americans who supported Ireland's drive for independence rued fighting on the side of Great Britain. American Poles and American Russian Jews disliked entering an alliance with Russia, from which both groups had experienced persecution. Then, too,...
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The Model T.
In 1908 Henry Ford introduced the model that would become the low-cost automobile every middle-class American could afford, the Model T. By the time it was discontinued in 1927, more than fifteen million
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The Four Minute Men
Beginning at the Strand.
In March 1917, a month before the American declaration of war against the Central Powers in Europe, a group of young Chicago businessmen followed the suggestion of Sen. Joseph Medill McCormick (R—111.) and organized a committee. Their purpose was to send speakers to Chicago movie theaters to explain the new legislation for universal military training. The group named itself the Four Minute Men, referring to their self-imposed time limit for their speeches, and alluding to the Minutemen of Revolutionary War fame. The committee president, Donald Ryerson, gave the first speech at Chicago's Strand Theater in early April.
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Tens of millions of "New Immigrants" arrived in the United States between 1880 and 1921. Before 1900 most were young men who had left parents and young families behind to seek economic opportunity in the New World. Between 1908 and 1914, however, one third of the immigrants who arrived in America returned to Europe, with the proportion of Italians, Hungarians, and Croatians who returned to Europe as high as one-half. As time passed, women and children made up larger percentages of the number of immigrants who came to stay, as the vanguard of young men established themselves and then sent for loved ones. Only European Jews, facing political persecution in eastern Europe, consistently remained in America. Beginning in 1913 and 1914, the looming war disrupted emigration patterns and sent more than two million people fleeing from central Europe. At the same time, many immigrants to America streamed back home, fearing wartime restrictions would create forced separations from loved ones. Far from being a one-way passage from the Old World to the New, this new phase of immigration was a dynamic process predicated on political and economic conditions on both sides of the Atlantic.
The enormous depot at Ellis Island, New York, completed in 1901, featured a shower facility capable of bathing eight thousand people each...
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The New Retailing and its Detractors
Speed and Economy.
By 1910 three innovations in the way Americans did their shopping were already familiar
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Over there: American Soldiers in World War I
When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the armed forces were made up of about two hundred thousand volunteers. Because an insufficient number of men signed up in the days following Congress's declaration of war than for any other war in American history, clearly reflecting the public's ambivalence about the war, Congress passed the Selective Service Act. All men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty were required to register for the draft. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker stressed the democratic nature of the process: no one could buy his way out or send a surrogate, as was common practice during the Civil War. On 5 June 1917 nearly 10 million American men registered. During the course of the war the age span was widened to eighteen to forty-five; by the end of the war 24 million men had registered, and 2.8 million had been called for service. Of these, 340,000 men, or 12 percent of those called up for service, failed to show; but most recruits seemed to know that the war would introduce them to other worlds. Theodore Roosevelt called going to war the "Great Adventure," and many training camps assembled in the atmosphere of a college campus on the eve of a big football game.
Keeping the Troops in Line.
Controlling the behavior of so many young men proved a challenge. Army psychologists who gave...
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The Eighteenth Amendment.
On 18 December 1917 Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, forbidding the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors." By January 1919, forty-six of the forty-eight states had ratified the amendment; only Rhode Island and Connecticut had not. Despite the rapid ratification of the amendment, however, many industrial states never adopted state Prohibition, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The opposition of new immigrants to the Prohibition measure proved its undoing in the large cities that rejected state or municipal liquor bans between 1917 and 1919: Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco, Saint Louis, and Saint Paul. In states where Prohibition was unpopular, the state governments assumed the position that the measure was a federal law, and left its enforcement to the federal government. Altogether, the cost to states for enforcing Prohibition was only a quarter of what they spent on administering their parks. Meanwhile, the Eighteenth Amendment produced a decline in federal revenues. The federal government had long benefited from domestic liquor sales: in 1914, one-third of its revenue was derived from liquor licenses and taxes.
The Anti-Saloon League.
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The Science of Housework and Childcare
Nineteenth-century writers on women's role in the home had stressed the sanctity of the household domain as an escape from and an alternative to the hurly-burly of public and commercial life; twentieth-century educators and organizers, in contrast, saw the home as a vital part of the larger society. Not only did they maintain that the household performed functions important to public life—the education of children, the caretaking of workers, the production of food and clothing—but they further argued that those who managed the home should employ the same efficiency methods that were modernizing economic activity in American business. At the turn of the century, a new home economics movement gradually coalesced in the atmosphere of progressive reform, with the result that, in the 1910s, large numbers of American housewives were learning to run their households as if they were professional managers.
Courses of Study.
The discipline of home economics found a place in the curricula in the agricultural and mechanical colleges of the Midwest and in a few state universities. At the same time, cooking schools in large cities diversified their curricula to promote professionalization among three distinct classes of women: domestic servants, their employers, and young housewives. Public-school reformers urged home economics...
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Votes for Women
In 1910 the decades-old fight for women's suffrage was led by middle-class women who subscribed to the progressive agenda for social reform. The movement benefited from progressive organizing and the popularity of the progressive movement in the 1900s. The most prominent national organization, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), grew from seventeen thousand members in 1905 to seventy-five thousand members in 1910. Despite resistance to suffrage in eastern states—where it was linked to the Prohibition movement—many western states passed forms of suffrage legislation between 1910 and 1915. In 1912 the Progressive Party, led by Theodore Roosevelt—who had long vehemently opposed women's suffrage—endorsed the suffragist position; when that party dissolved, Republicans and Democrats began to support voting rights for women in order to woo former Progressive Party members. Even proponents
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Women, Work, and the War
When more than two million young men departed for military service in 1917 and 1918, the labor shortage that resulted brought more than a million women, most of whom had never worked outside their homes, into the labor market. For women who had previously worked outside their homes, primarily as domestics, seamstresses, and laundresses, the war years presented an opportunity to move into better-paying industrial occupations. The number of female servants dropped by a quarter of a million, while there was a corresponding rise in the number of women doing clerical work. Two and a quarter million of 9.4 million workers in war-related industries were women, and the number of women in industrial jobs rose more than 100 percent between 1910 and 1920. Nearly forty thousand women served in the armed forces as nurses, in National Guard camps, and as navy "Yeomanettes."
While relatively few women stepped into visible positions that appeared to challenge traditional gender roles, these exceptions received great attention. Six women who joined the New York police force, and female traffic cops in other locations, were almost celebrities in their communities. For the first time, women found work as train and streetcar conductors, a step which raised many eyebrows and protests. Unions in Cleveland and Detroit went on strike...
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Catt, Carrie Chapman 1859-1947
Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader during the 1910s of the movement for a women's suffrage amendment to the Constitution, was born on a family farm in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1859. In 1866 her family settled in Charles City, Iowa, where Carrie attended a one-room schoolhouse until entering high school. In March 1877 she entered the Iowa State Agricultural College, where she paid her tuition with the money she had earned while teaching at a country schoolhouse. She graduated in 1880, the only woman in her class of eighteen students, and began reading for the law. But she abandoned her legal education to accept a teaching job in Mason City, Iowa, and in her second year at the school she became its superintendent. In 1885 she married Leo Chapman, a suffragist and editor of the local weekly, Republican, and she began writing about women's issues for the paper. She also began attending women's suffrage meetings, traveling that year to Des Moines, Iowa, for a conference of the American Association of Women, chaired by suffragist Julia Ward Howe. In May 1886 Chapman arrived in San Francisco to find that her husband had died of typhoid fever...
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Dodge, Mabel 1879-1962
MEMOIRIST, ARTS PATRON, BOHEMIAN
In Movers and Shakers (1936), the third book of a four-volume autobiography, Mabel Dodge Luhan described her years in New York City during the 1910s in these words: "in the first place I wanted to know everybody, and in the second place everybody wanted to know me. I wanted, in particular, to know the Heads of things. Heads of movements. Heads of Newspapers. Heads of all kinds of groups of people. I became a Species of Head Hunter, in fact." She also became the best-known hostess in New York's Greenwich Village, which during the 1910s was teeming with artists, writers, intellectuals, and radicals. From the time of Dodge's arrival in the city in 1912 to her departure in 1918, her salon at 23 Fifth Avenue was the gathering place for the intellectual and artistic elite, the most famous salon of its kind in America. Dodge was at its center, bringing the "heads of things" together, so that she could observe them while also inventing her apparently elusive self. Her New York years were probably her best-known period, but even before this time, and then through the odyssey of her later years, Dodge was regarded by many friends and observers as an embodiment of the much-discussed New Woman, who repudiated stale traditions, searched for more-fulfilling roles than those society had usually permitted her, and demonstrated...
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Frank, Leo 1884-1915
MANUFACTURER, LYNCHING VICTIM
Among the most notorious events in America during the 1910s was the lynching of Leo Frank on 16 August 1915 in the woods outside Marietta, Georgia. Frank had been convicted of murder in August 1913, but as his case gained notoriety, his guilt was increasingly questioned, and the anti-Semitic fervor that had surrounded his trial received increasing news coverage, especially in the North. Governor John M. Slaton, after reviewing the case, commuted Frank's death sentence in June 1915, but a frenzied mob refused to accept Slaton's judgment. Frank was abducted from prison and hanged.
Born in Texas in 1884, Frank was raised in New York City. He attended the Pratt Institute, then graduated from Columbia University in 1906 with a degree in mechanical engineering. After briefly working in Boston, he moved to Atlanta, where he became superintendent of the National Pencil Factory. In 1910 Frank married into a wealthy Atlanta family and in 1912 was elected president of the local B'nai B'rith.
In the early morning of 27 April 1913 Newt Lee, a night watchman at the National Pencil Factory, found the body of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan in the basement of the factory. Phagan, a factory employee, had been beaten...
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Garvey, Marcus 1887-1940
BLACK NATIONALIST, EDITOR
Although he lived in the United States a mere eleven of his fifty-three years, Marcus Garvey had a tremendous impact on African American consciousness after 1917, as well as in the years after his death in 1940. He was born in Jamaica in 1887 and raised in Saint Ann's Bay. In 1901 he left school and began life as an apprentice printer with his father in Kingston. By 1907 he was a master printer working at a large Kingston print shop, where he led an unsuccessful strike that year. Blacklisted, he spent the next years traveling. In 1910 he was in Costa Rica working for the United Fruit Company; he then traveled to Peru and Panama. In all three places he witnessed the harsh and difficult life of working blacks. In 1912 Garvey moved to London, where he met the Egyptian activist Duse Mohammed Ali, publisher of Africa Times and Orient Review, The interest in Africa that later defined Garvey's life came from Ali. Garvey also read Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery (1901) at this time and was deeply influenced by its message of black progress through vocational and technical training.
In 1914 Garvey returned to Kingston...
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Hill, Joe 1879-1915
SONGWRITER; LABOR ACTIVIST; FOLK HERO
Death in the Morning.
On 19 November 1915, at 7:44 A.M., Joe Hill, strapped to a chair in the Utah State Penitentiary in Salt Lake City, was pronounced dead. Hill had been shot in the heart minutes before by a five-man firing squad, ending a yearlong struggle by his supporters to have his sentence commuted or a new trial declared in what may have been the trial of the decade. Hill's case had, since its beginning in January 1914, grown from a dubious murder charge for a local crime to an international cause célèbre that symbolized the violent ongoing struggle between the forces of capital and the much hated Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), of which Joe Hill was a member. Before his death, Hill, an itinerant worker known throughout his workers' union as a songwriter, had remained in prison, professing his innocence while the storm raged around him. "I have absolutely no desire to be one of them what-ye-call-em-martyrs," he wrote in a letter in August 1915; but as his execution neared, he became a martyr, nevertheless, and his name became a prominent labor rallying point in the 1910s, when his case achieved the status of folklore.
Although his later life achieved a myth-like status, little is known about Joe Hill before his arrest for murder on 13 January...
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Kellogg, Paul 1879-1958
"The Surveys work is," Paul Kellogg wrote in 1915, "as an investigator and interpreter of the objective conditions of life and labor and as a chronicler of undertakings to improve them. The points of view of those who contribute is almost as diverse as their places of residence." Kellogg was more than editor in chief of this prominent journal of social work, reform, progressive politics, and opinion. The Survey was inextricably tied to his name, from his early work as a contributor, to his becoming editor in chief in 1912, to the journal's demise from lack of funding in 1952. In the 1910s Kellogg and the writers for the Survey were at the forefront of progressive reform, leaders in taking social work—which had previously focused on amelioration of existing conditions—to the level of constructive planning for policies to prevent the creation of the difficult conditions routinely faced by the poor, laborers, immigrants, and minorities. Kellogg's journal grew from a small professional journal in social-work practice to a large and influential instrument for interpreting America in the 1910s.
Kellogg, born in 1879 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, grew up on close terms with his brother Arthur, who was a year older and who also devoted his later life to the...
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Paul, Alice 1885-1977
In December 1912 Alice Paul, age twenty-seven, arrived in Washington, D.C., to work for women's suffrage. She arrived alone, having convinced the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) that she should begin lobbying for a federal amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage throughout the nation. NAWSA had for years concentrated its efforts on individual states, and, in fact, had seen nine states, all in the West, grant women the right to vote. But Alice Paul did not want to wait for the other states to follow. By 1912 she was already an experienced organizer in suffrage work.
Paul was born in 1885 in Moorstown, New Jersey, into a Quaker family, which, like other Quakers, ardently believed in women's suffrage. After attending Quaker schools, Paul graduated from Swarthmore College with a B.S. in biology in 1905. In 1906 she attended the New York School of Philanthropy, and the following year finished her M.A. in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. She then traveled to England...
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Randolph, A. Philip 1889-1979
EDITOR, LABOR LEADER
In the latter half of the 1910s, when any dissent against American government policy could be punished by a long prison term, A. Philip Randolph was one of the nation's most vociferous dissidents, criticizing American policy in World War I and American capitalism as a whole. A radical activist, Randolph was editor of the Messenger, which issued its first monthly volume in November 1917. Randolph and his partner, Chandler Owen, were among a group known as the New Negroes, who were strong voices against American racism throughout the decade, particularly during the war years. By 1919 Randolph and Owen, nicknamed "Lenin and Trotsky" around Harlem, were referred to as "the most dangerous Negroes in the United States," and the Messenger was called by the U.S. Department of Justice "the most able and the most dangerous of all the Negro publications."
Asa Philip Randolph was born in...
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People in the News
Thirty-nine-year-old historian Charles Beard revolutionized the writing of American history with the 1913 publication of his controversial An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution. Beard argued that the founding fathers were men of considerable property, and acted to protect their wealth from an excess of democracy.
As a choreographer of parade drill teams with the American army in France in 1917 and 1918, Busby Berkeley perfected the crisscrossing precision that moviegoers would come to love.
In 1919 Edward L. Bernays founded the world's first public relations firm. Bernays dispensed advice to clients well after his one hundredth birthday, until his death in 1995.
Cornelia Foster Bradford, the founder of the Whittier Settlement House in Jersey City, New Jersey, became estranged from her eastern European immigrant constituency after 1915 when she took an increasingly nativist stance.
On a business trip in London, Chicago publisher William Boyce lost his way in a fog. A British Boy Scout helped him, and on 6 February 1910 Boyce founded the Boy Scouts of America.
Edith Terry Bremer established the International Institute in Greenwich Village in 1910 to work with second-generation immigrant girls. The institute offered English classes, job counseling,...
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Henry Adams, 80, American historian, 27 March 1918.
Col. John Jacob Astor, 48, drowned aboard the Titanic after helping his ailing wife and other women to life-boats, 15 April 1912.
Hubert H. Bancroft, 85, American historian, 2 March 1918.
Isabel Hayes Chapin Barrows, 68, physician and social reformer, 15 October 1913.
Clara Barton, 90, founder of the American Red Cross, 12 April 1912.
Frank Baum, 63, author of the Oz books, 6 May 1919.
John Shaw Billings, 74, physician, social reformer, and sanitarian, 11 March 1913.
Elizabeth Blackwell, 89, first American woman to earn a medical degree; also a noted public health advocate and medical educator, 31 May 1910.
James Buchanan "Diamond Jim" Brady, 60, famously lavish railroad equipment entrepreneur and Broadway bon vivant, 13 April 1913.
Simon Brentano, publisher, 15 February 1915.
Andrew Carnegie, 83, steel baron and philanthropist, 11 August 1919.
William F, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, 71, army scout, Indian fighter, land speculator, expert rifleman, symbol of the Old West, 10 January 1917.
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Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1918);
Jane Addams, The Long Road of Woman's Memory (New York: Macmillan, 1916);
Addams, A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil (New York: Macmillan, 1912);
Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (New York: Macmillan, 1910);
Addams, Emily Balch, and Alice Hamilton, Women at the Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results (New York: Macmillan, 1915);
Emily Greene Balch, Approaches to the Great Settlement (New York: Huebsch, 1918);
Balch, Our Slavic Fellow Citizens (New York: Charities Publication Committee, 1910);
Charles Austin Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1913);
Sophonisba Breckinridge and Edith Abbott, The Delinquent Child and Home (New York: Charities Publication Committee, 1912);
Breckenridge and Abbott, eds., The Housing Problem in Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1910);
John Graham Brooks, American Syndicalism (New York: Macmillan, 1913);
Richard Clarke Cabot, The Christian Approach to Social Morality (New York: Young...
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- The average American worker earns less than fifteen dollars per week and works fifty-four to sixty hours per week.
- Life expectancy in the United States reaches 48.4 years for men and 51.8 years for women.
- Seventy percent of bread consumed in the United States is baked at home, compared with 80 percent in 1890.
- After approval by an act of Congress, the U.S. Post Office inaugurates parcel post service to carry packages up to four hundred pounds.
- Over ten thousand nickelodeons in cities across the nation provide entertainment, mainly for the poor. For an admission fee of five to ten cents, customers can sit in wooden seats and watch an hour of one-reel movies, vaudeville, and sometimes a dog act.
- In Ohio, fifty-eight of the state's eighty-eight counties vote to ban the sale of liquor.
- Among the new products available this year are electric kitchen ranges (with three settings) and iodine.
- On February 6, Chicago publisher William Boyce founds the Boy Scouts of America.
- On March 17, Dr. and Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Thompson Seton, and others found the Camp Fire Girls.
- On March 26, Congress amends the 1907 Immigration Act, barring criminals, paupers, anarchists, and...
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