Articles Related To American History

Answer these questions in detail in the article.

Did the labor movements of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era succeed in improving the lives of working people.  If yes, how?  If not, why not?  Did the U.S. government generally support the working class or employers? In what ways?

• Your paper should be at least three pages (that means to the very bottom of the third page at minimum).  It must be double spaced and typed in 12 point Times New Roman font.

• Begin with a strong thesis statement followed by relevant evidence from the readings and lectures.  Cite Foner as (Foner pg.#); cite the Zinn documents by the author of the document of title if the author is anonymous, for example (Ginsburg 454);  and cite the presentations/lectures as Colling + lecture/slide #, e.g. (Colling 5/42).

• In addition to the Foner text and lectures, use at least Four primary documents for evidence.  These can be found in Zinn.  They are your choice, but you must use the primary documents as significant sources to make your case.

• Do not plagiarize.  If you use any sources other than FonerZinn, or the presentations(ppt), you will fail the exam.

At least four references are from the document.

The Progressive Era

Conservatism, Reform, and War

The Progressive Era was progressive in some ways, but profoundly conservative in others. The aristocrats had won. Labor and democratic populists had been soundly defeated in politics and law, and in some cases jailed.


Big businesses had learned and were now highly successful as anti-Progressive propagandists. On the other hand, progressively democratic ideas began to find a hearing with the middle classes and even upper classes.


This was all happening against a backdrop of imperialism.

After ignoring the pleas of white colonists in Hawaii to annex these islands, the U.S. government did an about face.


The islands were halfway between the U.S. mainland and China, via the Philippines. Honolulu had a great natural port (Pearl Harbor) and this could be used as a coaling station for the new fleet.


Overnight, the Hawaiian people became American subjects.


Had been annexed in 1898.

Urbanization was increasing rapidly. The following slides depict the more dramatic aspects of turn of the century Pittsburgh. It was a city whose economy was based on the coal and steel industries and became one of the early extreme cases of environmental degradation.


Eastern seaports were long known as centers of pollution and lucrative industry, but all of this was now expanding westward. When the “Robber Barons” were creating massive industries, they were also creating both urban wealth and urban blight.

Pittsburgh 1900

Home of Charles Schwab

Steel Mill


While the cities were bringing in all kinds of entertainment from the East Coast and Europe, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show was still the most talked about show in America. It had a huge following in Europe and was responsible for the perceptions of America as a nation of cowboy individualists. (Europeans might have agreed with Frederick Jackson Turner no matter how annoyed they were at having a new imperial competitor.)


At one point, both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse (Lakota tribal leaders) worked in Cody’s show. Unfortunately, both had been murdered by government agents before the turn of the century.

New technologies were changing social life in important ways. The Eastman Kodak company released its Brownie Camera in 1900. For the first time people did not have to rely on professional photographers. They could take “snapshots” of their loved ones and interesting sites in the city and country.


Popular and even professional photography took on new importance socially within just a few years. People could now visually record their surroundings. It became an early form of social media.


(My grandmother gave me her old Brownie in the mid 1950s and I could still get film for it. Imagine a computer still in good working condition after over half a century. We’ll talk about this more when we discuss “planned obsolescence.”)

Chemical companies (some of which became America’s bio-tech companies) were already at the game of altering the way we ate.


Saccharin was an early artificial sweetener. Although it had no nutritional value, it was sweet and could be used as a no-calorie substitute for sugar (although it didn’t taste nearly as good).


What environmentalists are saying today about Monsanto.

An early Bio-tech/chemical company.

The most popular commercial, non-alcoholic drink at the time was Coca-Cola. Originally sold as a syrup for medicinal purposes (even though it didn’t do anything), it was later added to soda water and marketed as a “soft drink” that would help perk you up. It was made with cocaine, hence the “coca.” When cocaine was made illegal, the new drug infused into Coca-Cola was caffeine.


Look up the history of Coca-Cola if you’re interested in the soap operas of late Gilded Age and Progressive era start-up companies. This one includes greed and murder.


The temperance movement would become far more successful in the Progressive Era and ultimately lead to the prohibition of alcohol in America. Feminists blamed alcohol for domestic violence, industrial managers blamed it for a loss of productivity, and doctors blames it for the general poor health of American men.


Industrialists had begun to follow the new dictates of “scientific management” espoused by academic Frederick Taylor that aimed to quantify work.



Scientific management became what many labor advocates saw as a new industrial slavery.

A new American Modernism exploded onto the artistic/literary scene in the late Gilded Age and Progressive Era.


Two of the movements most famous practitioners and innovators were Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture and Isadora Duncan in dance. Duncan was also an early radical feminist calling for women’s suffrage, as well as sexual and other social freedoms.

Isadora Duncan

Corporate mergers and consolidations became the order of the day. It became an era of monopolies and reactions to those monopolies. Despite being conservative Republicans, the first two Progressive era presidents, Roosevelt and Taft, spearheaded drives to break down monopolistic enterprises. (They were pro-business and generally anti-labor, but also believed in capitalistic competition.)


Regardless of the anti-monopolistic sentiments of the day, J.P. Morgan merged his steel interests with Carnegie steel and formed U.S. Steel, one of the largest corporations in the world. (It would also be an important producer of armaments or supplier to the arms industry. We’ll look at the importance of this when we examine Morgan’s influence on the U.S. entry into WWI.)



The automobile industry was one reliant upon steel. Henry Ford would revolutionize the auto industry when he created his line of cheap, but reliable cars. No longer was driving a rich man’s past-time. Now working-class people could enjoy motorized outings.


The mass production of cars would change American society in, as yet, untold ways. What it did do, was expand market production and created the need for new kinds of nationwide infrastructure (specifically, paved roads).


(Fords were all black until competitors began to eat into the company’s sales.)

Henry Ford

Ford didn’t invent the assembly line but used it to great effect in big industry.


Knowing the monotonous nature of work on an assembly line, he paid his workers well. He also hired non-whites and gave them equal pay. These were progressive notions at the time.


….but he was also one of the most virulent racists of the day. His hatred of Jews bordered on the pathological. He published a newspaper almost entirely dedicated to rooting out an imagined Jewish evil.


He published a document, written by Russian aristocrats and meant to discredit Jews leadership, in American for the first time.


Ford’s anti-Jewish (Anti-Semitic) rhetoric was so powerful that he became a hero to some of the worst men of the 20th century, such as a young Adolph Hitler.


While Ford wanted to rid the world of Jews, he was also interested in utopian societies. Specifically, he wanted to create the perfect industrial society, where regimented workers would lead productive social and spiritual lives, as well as making him a lot of money.


In Brazil, he tried some a utopian scheme with rubber plant tappers. When neither the rubber trees not the workers cooperated, his scheme failed rather spectacularly.


Still, Ford was a committed monopolist. He maintained a horizontal monopoly (dominating the auto manufacturing and sales industry) as well as a vertical monopoly, meaning that he produced all the resources necessary to build a car (except steel, of course). He had rubber plantations for tires, cattle farms for leather, glass factories for windshields, forests for steering wheels and dashboards, and parts factories to make all the gadgetries that went into auto production.

What kind of natural resources do they require?



Men had been fighting for shorter working hours for more than half a century, but it was women who made the first inroad on this issue.


In Muller v. Oregon (1908), laws limiting women’s working hours was upheld by the Supreme Court (for all the wrong reasons, but nonetheless leading to a more humane existence). How after all could women work all day in a factory and then be able to fulfill family obligations. The eight-hour day was thus established, and this would ultimately lead to men’s eight-hour days as well.

Turn of the Century
Garment Workers


The United States got to China about the time that Chinese framers and students had had enough. In a quasi-religious movement, millions of Chinese protested the foreign dominance and called for the ejection of the Europeans, Japanese, and Americans.


Among the first victims of the uprising were Christian missionaries who were seen as corrupters of Chinese cultural traditions.


The foreigners (including Americans) sent in their forces to squash the rebellion, but there was stiff resistance. The Boxers, so called because their way of fighting (Kung-Fu), refused to back down and extraordinary violence ensued.


Public executions of Boxers were celebrated by Europeans and Americans in postcards sent back to their families at home.


This kind of extreme brutality would unfortunately become a hallmark of the 20th century.

This kind of ferocious cruelty was demonstrated by Americans in the Philippines as well.


Emilio Aguinaldo led a rebellion against the U.S (although he was captured early on). The rebellion continued for many years.


Many Americans protested our involvement. William James protested because he thought American imperialism was racist and immoral. Others simply didn’t want to bring Filipinos into the American sphere on racial grounds.

Captured in March 1901

Most Filipinos simply wanted independence and the Moros (Muslim Filipinos) in the south, wanted to be left alone by everyone.


One such group were the Tausug of the Sulu Archipelago in the South China Sea. They were pirates by tradition until the late 20th century when they became largely performers for tourists.


The great American author and journalist Mark Twain wrote about atrocities of the U.S. Army (see Zinn pg. 248). In this case, he wrote of the massacre of an entire Moro village.


William Howard Taft (a later U.S. president and Supreme Court justice) was sent by McKinley to set up a government in the Philippines. Neglecting local traditions, the 2nd Philippine or “Taft” Commission created a local replica of American political styles.


(Symbolic of throwing their weight around and riding the back of others’ labor?)

Self proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot and killed McKinley on September 6th, 1901. (Famous anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman condemned the act.)


The act shook America and seemed to be a portent of things to come in the 20th century.


Theodore Roosevelt suddenly found himself in the presidency.


Sept. 6, 1901

McKinley Assassinated


Theodore Roosevelt took over the presidency and became one of the most controversial leaders in U.S. History. He was a staunch Republican who hated the Robber Barons. He was pro-business, but anti-monopolist. He was anti-labor but seemed to respect the working man. He was a big game hunter who wanted to preserve natural settings for all, not just fellow hunters. He was gruff and quick to anger and just as quick to laugh. He was pro-war but died of a broken heart with loss from war.


He once saved a baby bear cub in one of the new national parks that was created during his presidency. The cub became know as Teddy’s Bear, which was shortened to Teddy Bear by toy companies.

Theodore Roosevelt

Early in his presidency, TR invited Booker Washington to the White House to discuss African American issues. When some fellow Republicans and Southern Democrats protested, Roosevelt reminded them who the president was. He said he was the president of all of the people and that he needed advice from Washington.


It was a strong statement of independence from the party machinery.


Roosevelt lost most of his first family to epidemic during the Gilded Age. He then started another family, with sons who tried hard to follow in his footsteps. Older son TR Jr. would go into politics and later become an army general in WWII (his dad had once said that it was important to experience combat, if you were to call yourself a man). Middle son, Kermit, would accompany his dad on a perilous expedition down the Amazon after TR lost a 1912 bid for the presidency, and his favorite, little Kermit, would also grow up to be a soldier (an Army Air Corp pilot).


TR himself had left a cushy Washington job to fight in the Spanish American War.


TRs eldest daughter, Alice, would become famous for her Washington and New York parties.

Roosevelt was a committed environmentalist, or so he wanted people to think. He appointed Gifford Pinchot to head his newly formed Forest Service and the two of them, along with famed environmentalist John Muir, made a profound impact on the national park system.


But Muir was a purest who helped found the Sierra Club. He believe in saving nature for nature’s sake. Pinchot was a utilitarian. He believed in the greatest good for the greatest number of people and felt that U.S. business and urban utilities could outweigh the call to preserve natural beauty. Muir and Pinchot locked horns over the Hetch Hetchy valley near Yosemite. Muir wanted it kept intact. Pinchot thought it should be flooded to create a reservoir for San Francisco. Pinchot’s view would eventually win out.


Roosevelt was often caught between the two.




Hetch Hetchy


In Pinchot’s fervor to stop forest fires he created a policy that led to some of the greatest forest fires in American history.


His Forest Service would extinguish all the brush fires they could, but by not allowing the brush to burn, the ground cover grew and grew, eventually becoming a massive kindling supply that fueled huge fires.


This was an example of how government policy, often with the best intentions, can have deadly unintended consequences.

The U.S. agreed to build a canal through Nicaragua, but European and American bankers convinced the government to build it through Panama. The only problem was that Panama belonged to Colombia (which was not happy with U.S. imperial abuses).


Teddy Roosevelt convinced Panamanian businessmen to join forces with separatists to create the new nation of Panama. The United States was then free to build its canal under favorable terms.


The new canal had a huge impact on the American economy, cutting down shipping costs from Atlantic ports to Pacific ports dramatically.


The same year that the canal opened, Wilber and Orville Wright flew their self-powered aircraft on a beach in North Carolina (Kitty Hawk).


They invited journalists to the event and became known as the inventors of powered flight. Others had apparently achieved this, but not in any practical way.


The commercial airline industry would soon be taking passengers around the world; 66 years later, people would fly to the moon; and millions would die from the weaponization of aircraft.

Dec. 17, 1903

In 1905, future immigrant to America, Albert Einstein, would change how we view the world. His theories and calculations, along with others like Ernest Rutherford from New Zealand,



would lead to modern physics.


Einstein’s ideas would be instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics, modern electronics, nuclear power, and space travel.





Special Theory of Relativity

Time passes at different rates for those at different speeds.


Photoelectric Effect

Photo electrons emitted when light is shined on metals.

Brownian Motion

Particles in solutions wiggle when bumped into by atoms and molecules travelling in different directions at different speeds.



In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote a book exposing the deplorably unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry, particularly in Chicago, the center of the industry.

Sinclair’s novel would shock the nation and lead to the Pure Food and Drug Act and its enforcement agency, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Chicago Meatpacking

(Rat parts, feces, bugs packed in with the meat in cans.)

In 1907, America suffered from another Wall Street panic. Tight money, lack of regulation (allowing corruption in the investment community), and the ultimate lack of confidence in financial institutions would lead to the near collapse.


J.P Morgan blamed young, undisciplined investors and suggested that more established bankers should guide the system. He, in effect, proposed an internal regulation by elite bankers that would eliminate many of the uncertainties associated with Wall Street investment.

Ida Tarbell and other “muckrakers”* disagreed with Morgan. To them, the villains of the American economy were monopolistic** power brokers, including Morgan.


Tarbell’s reportage on Rockefeller and Standard Oil would lead to the break-up of that monopoly in 1911. Roosevelt, who had little love for the investigative reporting of the day, hated the monopolists more and supported Tarbell’s crusade.


*The term “muckrakers” was coined by Roosevelt to describe those like Tarbell and Sinclair, who looked at the underbelly of American society.


**The game monopoly was created a socialist to illustrate the corruptions of big business. Little did she know that it would become the iconic game of the greedy.



Ida Tarbell

If any American politician truly embodied the essence of Progressivism, it was Republican Robert LaFollette from Wisconsin*. He vowed to combat political and economic corruptions and would become one of the most outspoken ant-war advocates in America.


He would continue to expose political scandals well into the 1920s.

*LaFollete served as Governor and then as a long-time Senator from Wisconsin.

Robert LaFollette

In 1908, Roosevelt decided not to run for another term and handpicked fellow Republican, William Howard Taft, to succeeded him. Even though Taft had even more conservative credentials, Roosevelt admired his anti-monopolistic stance and Taft would actually sign more anti-monopoly legislation than Roosevelt did.


Taft, however, was ferociously anti-labor. He would have an ongoing battle with unions. The free market notions seemed to naturally oppose both big union and monopolistic practices. His almost irrational opposition to practices meant to ease the burdens of working people, would eventually make even Roosevelt uneasy.


Roosevelt began to see Taft as lazy and out of touch.


A famous story, told by his housekeepers, was a about the evening that Taft got stuck in the White House bathtub. A new, huge, bathtub had to be installed to accommodate his girth. Whether apocryphal or not, the story illustrated his opponents’ disdain for his self-indulgences. He was a man, they thought in reveled in personal excesses while supporting managerial denial of decent living conditions for workers.


In 1909 the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was formed. It was bi-racial in membership, but actually the brainchild of W.E. B. DuBois. Ida Wells, who was at the founding, was heavily influential in its creation.


The NAACP, would provide legal aid to African Americans who had been discriminated against by white America. It also supported educational and welfare programs.


NAACP lawyers would become some of the greatest social justice advocates of the century.




In 1911, the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire would lead to industrial safety regulations. On March 25th, young immigrant women had gone to work at the factory that was on the upper floors of a high rise. Many of the young women had protested the conditions and dangers the year before but had been beaten up by police during the protests. Exactly what they were afraid of happened on that March day. Fire broke out and almost 150 of the sweat shop workers were either burned to death or died jumping from the upper floors.


The ILGWU (the International Lady Garment Workers Union) would use this incident to force government to legislate new safety standards. Taft opposed the new legislation but was no match for an aristocratic league of women who were appalled by the loss of life, and for the moment joined forces with the working-class women.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire


The largest and most highly praised passenger ship, Titanic, sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. Many Americans died, but many others who had tickets decided no to go for one reason or another (including Henry Clay Frick and his wife).


Oddly, novelist Morgan Robertson, had written a book in 1898 called the Wreck of the Titan about a giant passenger ship that struck an iceberg and sank on its first voyage.

April 15th


By the time the Titanic sank, the next presidential campaign was underway. Theodore Roosevelt, disgusted with Taft at this point, decided to run again. In an unlikely move, he headed up the Progressive Party* ticket. The party’s platform was one of the most truly progressive statements of the 20th century. It was written by feminists and other social reformers, calling for women’s suffrage, industrial safety, working wages, tax reform, and many other objectives for the betterment of American society (assuming that corporate control was no for that betterment).


*Because of Roosevelt’s rugged, no-nonsense personality, the Progressive Party was often referred to as the Bull-Moose Party.

Roosevelt took more former supporters from the Republican Party than from the Democrats, and Woodrow Wilson swept into office.


Wilson was a Southerner who became President of that bastion of Northern pride, Princeton University. He also had been governor of New Jersey. He benefited in the election from his progressive credentials, but also his Southern roots that could be anything but progressive.

Early in 1913, before Wilson was inaugurated, the 16th Amendment was ratified. This Amendment created an income tax. The only other income tax in America was short lived and solely for the purpose of funding the Civil War.


So-called free market has Republicans railed against the 16th and the 17th Amendments to this day.


In response to the Panic of 1907, J.P. Morgan sent his cadre of elite bankers to his personal resort on Jekyll Island (off the coast of Georgia) to hammer out a plan to create a regulatory financial institution that would oversee American banking.


The plan would be realized in 1913, with the create of the Federal Reserve, America’s central banking system. It is a private/public entity that loans money to banks and thereby controls the monetary system.

The Senate, for many years, was viewed as a clubhouse for the elite. It was dominated by those who had been appointed by state legislatures. It was in some respects as undemocratic as the Supreme Court.


In 1913, the American people ratified the 17th Amendment that mandated direct elections for Senators. They would now be elected by the people instead of their financial and political cronies in the state legislatures. It was heralded as a great moment in American democracy, but over the years has probably had less impact than expected.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.


When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.


This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.[1 ]

17th Amendment

May 31,1913

Wilson’s time in office was wracked with labor disputes throughout the nation. Among the most violent was the miner’s strike in Ludlow, Colorado.


When miners and their families refused to leave after being fired by the mine’s management (it was a Rockefeller property), the National Guard was brought in. A battle ensued killing about 25, half of whom were women and children.


The battle inspired workers from other mines to organize in support of the Ludlow miners. The Colorado Guard engaged these other groups and ultimately over 200 died.


1914 Ludlow Massacre

Meanwhile in Europe, war was looming, Nationalistic, capitalistic, imperialistic pressures created enormous tensions. Even though the royal leaders of the European states were cousins, the countries could not mediate amongst themselves (although they had staved off war through a series of crises).


War would break out in August of 1914.


Woodrow Wilson promised Americans that the United States would not enter the war. The American people saw it as European foolishness. Morgan and his fellow arms dealers and bankers saw it as an opportunity for great wealth, selling to both sides.


King George V

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Tsar Nicholas II

European Colonies


Southeast Asia

Americans were steeped in their own social issues.


In 1915, D.W. Griffith made a profoundly racist film. The KKK were depicted as the heroes and African Americans were viewed as destroyers of Southern culture and moral order. Wilson touted it as great history.



In the same year, Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) was arrested on obscenity charges for talking about birth control. While today birth control has positive connotations, Sanger was also a eugenicist and believe in the social engineering of a higher race.


1915 arrested on obscenity charge

Later in the year hundreds of Americans died when a German U-boat (an early submarine) sank a large passenger ship known as the Lusitania.


The British had told America that it would not pay back its loans from Morgan’s bank (among others) if the U.S. continued to sell arms to Germany. When the U.S. stopped selling to Germany, the Germans felt they had no choice but to sink craft carrying American arms shipments. They claimed that the Lusitania was transporting arms as well as passengers (later confirmed to be true).


After the Lusitania, American public opinion began to change. Many began to support entry into the war against Germany.




Meanwhile, a civil war had been raging in Mexico (the Mexican Revolution). Pancho Villa tried to trick his rival Carranza into fighting the Americans. He provoked the U.S. into invading Mexico (something the U.S. had done in the past (most recently 1911). Carranza however stayed out of it.


Arthur Zimmerman, the German foreign minister sent a letter to Carranza in 1917 asking Mexico to ally with Germany in the event of war. Zimmerman promised that Mexico would regain the territory lost in the Mexican war Carranza considered it but thought better of it and rejected Zimmerman. The Zimmerman Telegram was intercepted by British Intelligence, however, and published in America. This turned American opinion toward war.

Villa kills 18 U.S. Engineers in Mexico
& 17 U.S. Civilians in Columbus, New Mexico


Pershing in Mexico

With 15,000 U.S. Troops

The United States, at the behest of big business (Morgan in specific) entered the war with the backing of many Americans.


Young men by the thousands rushed to join up and fight in Europe. It was a startling turnaround from just a few years before. Public thinkers like Eugene Debs, Hellen Keller, and Randolph Bourne saw through the propaganda and knew that Americans had bee manipulated into the war.


Without expectations of a foreign war, the U.S. had few troop ships and had to be transported on warships.


U.S. at War

When they got to Europe, they found utter devastation. In many cases children were fighting, given the tremendous losses to what were previously considered fighting aged men.


They found trench warfare with new kinds of weaponry….high powered machine guns and large artillery, poison gases and aircraft that would strafe and drop bombs. The European military leadership was generally inept at dealing with this new kind of warfare.


Over 55,000 American soldiers died in less than two years.


The common European soldier didn’t understand the war, and in one famous instance, the rank and file soldiers from both sides decided to stop fighting while their officers were away for the Christmas holidays.

The Christmas Truce 1914

Aerial combat was a wholly different game. It was seen in romantic terms as an aristocratic game of nobility and honor (at least until the proletarian Americans got involved).


When Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin was shot down and killed, the German flyers who killed him, honored him with a private burial shrine. One even sent Roosevelt a letter of condolence.


These same flyers had no problem killing working class infantrymen by the thousands.


Quentin Roosevelt

American propaganda posters did everything they could to shame young men into joining the army.


When American intellectuals protested the war, the United States government made it illegal to protest.


Eugene Debs went to jail for telling college students that they could resist and that they did not have to fight.


Even a prominent and highly admired judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes, sided with the U.S government’s strong-arm police tactics.


After the war, the repression continued as Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer broke into dissidents’ homes and offices in unconstitutional raids against numerous organizations (who were generally identified as socialist or anarchist, even if they weren’t so affiliated).

Palmer Raids 1919

Espionage Act 1917

Crime to Obstruct Recruitment

or Foster Unrest

Debs, Schenk, Holmes and “Clear and Present Danger”

Sedition Act of 1918

Crime to Hinder War Effort, Disparage Government , Flag or Constitution




In order to justify the war, Woodrow Wilson set out a postwar agenda in January of 1918. He called this his Fourteen Points.


They were a mixed bag of ideas but were meant in great part to make the world safe for American capitalism.


It included the idea of a League of Nations (that the U.S. would never join).

The entry of America into the war had made the German loss a foregone conclusion. Had the U.S. not entered, the war, it would have likely fizzled out.


Woodrow Wilson met in 1919 with the leaders of Great Britain (David Lloyd George), France (Georges Clemenceau), and for a time, Italy (Vittorio Orlando) at the palace at Versailles outside of Paris. They concocted a plan to divide up the post-war world and despite Wilson’s objections, to make Germany take full responsibility for the war, both morally and financially.


The Treaty of Versailles forced Germans to pay reparations and this became a major theme in Hitler’s rise to power.

The peace negotiations were taking place in the wake of the world’s worst epidemic.. Following the war, soldiers came down with a virulent flu that killed thousands. The virus mutated and came back later in 1918, killing over 50 million worldwide. This was far worse and more than had died in the war itself.




It was also taking place while the U.S. was invading Russia to help the Russian monarchists bring Czar Nicholas back to power.


The Russian Revolution had implanted the radical Bolsheviks into power, and the Soviet Union was created. The United States could not see itself co-existing with a revolutionary government in Europe, It had fought the war, after all, to secure a capitalist Europe.

Wilson had a stroke while campaigning for the passage of the Treaty of Versailles.

His lobbying for the League of Nations also failed to convince American legislators.

Edith Wilson

In the same year , the face of professional sports was changed forever in the United States. Underpaid and undervalued professional baseball players were owned by their teams (they could, of course, quit and become common laborers). In 1919, several Chicago White Sox players decided to work with New York gamblers to throw the World Series.


They were caught and banished from baseball, but this ushered in a new era whereby a commissioner would have near dictatorial powers in the area of baseball labor relations. This format would spread to most other professional sports later in the century.


Chicago “Black Sox” Scandal

Another group of elite workers, specifically actors Mary Astor, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin, as well as director D.W. Griffith, tried to undercut what they thought was an oppressive studio system. They create United Artists which was meant to be run by the artists themselves.



In 1919, the temperance movement finally won. Alcohol was banned in the United States. Specifically, it could not be made, transported, or sold. It was not illegal to drink if you had it. Thus was born the era of Prohibition.


A new kind of criminal, the “bootlegger,” became a folk hero in American culture. Along with Prohibition came a new level of violence, as well as a new kind of establishment know as the “speakeasy” where elites rubbed shoulders with the middle classes and social climbing working class women.


Women were now drinking and smoking in public, perhaps dubious advances, but they had also attained a certain sexual freedom and were soon to get the vote.

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

18th Amendment

The American Suffragist Movement was more active than ever during and just after the war. Outspoken, brilliant feminists made unassailable arguments in favor of women voting rights and they would get them early in the next decade.


Another organization based on social justice issues sprang up. The American Civil Liberties Union was created, largely in response to the wartime Sedition and Espionage Acts. It would go on to defend citizens against government violations of the Bill of Rights until this day.


Elizabeth Gurley Flynn