United states history


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1917 2002

Assets in Assets in

Rank Millions of Dollars Rank Millions of Dollars

1. U.S. Steel 2,449 1. General Electric 326,500

2. Standard Oil of N.J. 574 2. Microsoft 301,000

3. Bethlehem Steel 382 3. ExxonMobil 286,300

4. Armour and Company 314 4. Wal-Mart 256,500

5. Swift and Company 306 5. Citigroup 233,800

6. Midvale Steel 270 6. Pfizer 233,300

7. International Harvester 265 7. Intel 201,800

8. E.I. du Pont 263 8. Johnson and Johnson 194,300

9. U.S. Rubber 258 9. American Int. Group 182,100

10. Phelps Dodge 232 10. IBM 151,500

11. General Electric 232 11. Coca-Cola 137,400

12. Anaconda Copper 226 12. Merck 128,600

13. Am. Smelting 222 13. Phillip Morris 116,900

14. Standard Oil of N.Y. 204 14. Proctor & Gamble 115,200

15. Singer Manufacturing 193 15. Royal Dutch Petroleum 114,400

16. Ford Motor 170 16. Home Depot 113,700

17. Westinghouse Electric 165 17. Bank of America 111,800

18. American Tobacco 162 18. Cisco 109,100

19. Jones & Laughlin Steel 160 19. Verizon Communications 108,600

20. Union Carbide 156 20. Berkshire Hathaway 108,000

It has been suggested that World War I destroyed the Progressive Movement by diverting the nation's attention from political and economic reform to winning the conflict with Germany. Certainly the intense anti German wartime propaganda convinced many Americans that the Kaiser was to be feared far more than the trusts. The passage below is an example of that propaganda.
Let us set down sternly that we are at war with the Germans, not the Junkers [German aristocrats], not autocracy, not Prussianism, not the Kaiser...The German people is what we war with. The German people is committing the unspeakable horrors which set the whole world aghast. The German people is not and has not been conducting war. It is and has been conducting murder. Hold fast to that. The Supreme Court of New York declared the sinking of the Lusitania an act of piracy. Piracy is not war. All decencies, honors, humanities, international agreements, and laws have been smashed by them day and night from the first rape of Belgium to now. The new atrocity which appeared this week was spraying prisoners with burning oil. This is Germany's most recent jest. It makes them laugh so!

They have violated every treaty with the United States; they have lied from start to finish and to everybody. A treaty was a scrap of paper....

Germany has ravished the women of Belgium, Serbia, Romania, Poland, Armenia. Germany murdered the passengers of the Lusitania and struck a medal to celebrate that German triumph, dating it two days before the horrible occurrence. Germany has ruined cathedrals and cities in sheer wanton fury, in such fashion as has not been done in all the wars wages in Europe since the days of the building of the cathedrals. Germany has poisoned wells, crucified inhabitants and soldiers, burned people in the houses, and this by system. Germany has denatured men and boys, has wantonly defaced the living and the dying and the dead. An eye witness tells of seeing women dead at a table with their tongues nailed to the table and left to die.

Germany has disclosed neither decency nor honor from the day it started war, nor has a single voice in Germany to date been lifted up against the orgies of ruthlessness which turn the soul sick and which constitute the chief barbarity of history. Germany remains unblushing and unconscious of its indecency. Germany's egotism still struts like a Kaiser. And to climax its horrid crimes, Germany has inflicted compulsory polygamy on the virgins of its own land.

Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit, Vol. II, Boston, Mass.: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 663 665.

The following vignette describes the role of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer in orchestrating the first Red Scare in 1919 and 1920.
...The spotlight suddenly shifted to Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. A Quaker with a long record of support for progressive legislation, Palmer had been [President Woodrow] Wilson's floor manager in 1912. Regarded by many as the father of women's suffrage and the child labor law a strong advocate of the League of Nations, Palmer was the prototype of the Wilsonian liberal. The Democratic party's contact man with labor in the 1916 campaign, Palmer was appointed Attorney General partly because of his popularity with labor and the foreign born. Yet no sooner had he been sworn into office in March, 1919, he started a campaign against enemy aliens. After the June 2 [Wall Street] bombings he hired William J. Flynn, reputedly an expert on anarchism, and asked for and received a $500,000 increase in his budget in order to combat radicalism. In August he set up an antiradical division in the Department of Justice under J. Edgar Hoover.

On November 7 the first of the Palmer raids began, with the arrest of 250 members of the Union of Russian Workers in a dozen cities; many were roughly handled, particularly in New York City, where they were beaten by the police. Most of the prisoners were released with "blackened eyes and lacerated scalps," the New York Times reported. Only 39 men were recommended for deportation. On December 21, 1919, 249 aliens, most of whom had no criminal record and had committed no criminal offense, were deported to Russia on an army transport, the "Buford." Although the country was worried about a Bolshevik conspiracy, few of the people de­ported were Communists; most of them were anarchists, including Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman...who had no intention of ever using violence.

Palmer turned next to the Communists. Working with an agent in the Labor Department, which had authority over de­portations, Palmer in the last week of 1919 secured warrants for the arrest of more than 3,000 aliens who were members ei­ther of the Communist party or the Communist Labor party. On a single night in January, 1920, more than 4,000 alleged Communists were arrested in a dramatic coast to coast raid in 33 cities. If the persons arrested were citizens they were turned over to state authorities for prosecution under antisyndicalist laws; if they were aliens, they were held for deportation.

Palmer invaded private homes, union headquarters, and meeting halls. People were held incommunicado, denied counsel, and subjected to kangaroo trials. In one city, prisoners were handcuffed, chained together, and marched through the streets. In New England, hundreds of people were arrested who had no connection with radicalism of any kind. In Detroit, 300 people were arrested on false charges, held for a week in jail, forced to sleep on the bare floor of a corridor, and denied food for 24 hours, only to be found innocent of any involvement in a revolutionary movement. Not for at least half a century, perhaps at no time in our history, had there been such a wholesale violation of civil liberties. The raids yielded almost nothing in the way of arms and small results in the way of dangerous revolutionaries. Although a few individuals (the steel baron Charles M. Schwab was one) protested against the raids, Palmer emerged from the episode a national hero.

The Red Scare ended almost as quickly as it began. The beginning of the end came in New York State. Directed by the irresponsible Lusk Committee, the antiradical campaign in New York reached its climax when the state legislature expelled five Socialist members of the Assembly, although the Socialist party was a legally recognized party and the members were innocent of any offense. Throughout the country, newspapers and public figures, including the Chicago Tribune and Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio, denounced the action of the legislature. Most effective was Charles Evans Hughes, who not only reproached the legislature but offered the Socialists legal counsel. Although members of the legislature condemned Hughes as "disloyal" and "pro German," the campaign against the radicals was dealt a heavy blow. Not only had a firm stand been taken on democratic principle, but the idea that the New York legislature felt threatened by five Socialists made the Red Scare appear more than a little ridiculous.

Early in 1920 an insurrection against Palmer in the Labor Department, led by Secretary of Labor Wilson and Assistant Secretary Louis Post, turned deportation proceedings in a saner direction. Aided by court decisions which held that men could not be deported on evidence illegally obtained, Post insisted on giving aliens proper counsel and the right to fair hearings. Convinced that Palmer had been violating civil liberties, Post cancelled action. against dozens of aliens and by spring released nearly half of the men arrested in Palmer's January raids. Palmer demanded that Post be fired for his "tender solicitude for social revolution," but when Post was hauled before a congressional committee, he made such an excellent presentation of his case that his critics were forced to back down. In the end, although 5,000 arrest warrants had been sworn out in late 1919, only a few more than 600 aliens were actually deported.

Finally, Palmer, seeking the 1920 presidential nomination, let his attempts to capitalize on the Red Scare get out of hand. In April he issued a series of warnings of a revolutionary plot which would be launched on May 1, 1920, as a step toward overthrowing the U.S. government. Buildings were placed under guard, public leaders were given police protection, state militias were called to the colors, and in New York City the entire police force of 11,000 men was put on 24 hour duty. May Day passed without a single outbreak of any kind. Not a shot was fired. Not a bomb exploded. As a result, the country, vexed at Palmer, concluded he had cried wolf once too often. Congress now turned to an investigation not of the radicals but of Palmer.
Source: William E. Leuchtenburg, The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-32 (Chicago, 1973), 77-80.

Terms for Week 7
Stock Market Crash, 1929
"bank holiday"
anti-chain store movement
"pump priming"
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)
Wagner Act, 1935

Glass-Steagall Act, 1933
Social Security Act, 1935
Eleanor Roosevelt
Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)
Dr. Francis Townsend-Old Age Pension Union
Senator Huey P. Long-Share Our Wealth Society

welfare state
Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU)
Republic Steel, 1937
Gone With the Wind
War of the Worlds
Mein Kampf
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In the following vignette Earnest Elmo Calkins, author of the 1928 bestseller, Business, the Civilizer, describes how in two generations (1880-1920) manufactured goods and labor-saving devices revolutionized and modernized American households. He credits business and particularly advertising for this revolution. Calkins's passage aptly describes what historians call the rise of consumer society which emerged in the 1920s just before the Great Depression.
When I was a boy, about fifty years ago more or less, mother used to buy a bar of Castile soap half a yard long and four inches square and saw it up into cakes an inch thick. The cake was hard as Stonehenge, the corners sharper than a serpent’s tooth. It took weeks of use to wear it down so that it comfortably fitted the hand.

Today we have a cake of toilet soap—a great many of them, in fact— just the right shape to fit the hand, just as pure as Castile, scented if we like, tinted to match the bathroom decorations if we prefer, reasonable in price; and when we want another cake we go to the nearest grocery or drug store, and there it is.

And not only toilet soap. We have seen the evolution of shaving creams, safety razors, and tooth pastes, as well as soap powders, laun­dry chips, washing machines, vegetable shortenings, self-rising flours, electric irons, vacuum cleaners, hot-water taps, aluminum cooking utensils, refrigerators, kitchen cabinets—everything, in short, that con­stitutes the difference between our mothers’ kitchens and our wives’.

The amount of sheer drudgery that has been taken out of house­keeping in fifty years can be realized only by comparison, by drawing the illuminating parallel. An iron, soft-coal cook-stove; a reservoir at the back the only source of hot-water supply; the green-painted iron pump in the wooden corner sink for cold drinking water from the pump out­side; saleratus instead of baking powder; hog lard instead of vegetable shortening; butter and milk hung down the well by a string to keep them cold; heavy iron pots and skillets to be lifted, to say nothing of the coalhod; dishes washed by hand; no device to alleviate the frightful labor—no rubber scrapers, scouring mops, metal-ring dishrags, no wire brushes, or drying racks, or cleansing powders; baked beans an eighteen-hour job; oatmeal an overnight operation; sugar, salt, dried fruit, pickles, crackers, rice, coffee, pepper, spices, lard, bought in bulk, scooped out of open boxes or barrels...exposed until sold, dumped on a sheet of paper laid on the scales. Molasses and vinegar drawn from the wood, and between whiles the gallon measures stand­ing around, proving the adage that molasses attracts more flies than vinegar. Food was unclean, there was no sponsor for its quality, and it came to the kitchen almost in a state of nature. The housemother be­came a miniature manufacturing plant before the food was ready for the family to eat. And the preparation of meals was but a small portion of the housewife’s burden. There was cleaning with no other implements but a rag, a broom, and a turkey wing. Clothes were washed with a rub-rub-rub that wore the zinc from the washboard.

Put such a kitchen beside the one pictured in most advertisements selling kitchen equipment, or those complete ones shown in the house­keeping departments of the women’s magazines, “How to Furnish the Ideal Kitchen.” Better still, take a modern housewife, not the delicates­sen and can-opener type, but a real housekeeper, who keeps her house and takes pride in it,—there are such even to-day,—and put her in an old-fashioned kitchen like that described above. She could not do in a week what my mother did every day of her toil-bound life. To keep house with what was available half a century ago was an art handed down from generation to generation, which happily has been lost, ex­cept among the newly arrived foreign-born.
Source: Ernest Elmo Calkins, Business the Civilizer (Boston, 1928), reprinted in Robert D. Marcus and David Burner, ed. America Firsthand. vol. 2 (New York: 1989), pp. 223-224.

The following vignette provides a description of the Stock Market Crash in October, 1929.
In 1928 no one dreamed we were on the verge of a catastrophic depression. It had been a glorious year. Stocks had made a gain of $11,385,993,733. The New York Times wrote in its New Year's editorial of January I, 1929: "But it will go hard to get people to think of 1928 as merely a 'dead past' which we must make haste to bury. It has been twelve months of unprecedented advance, of wonderful prosperity--in this country at least... If there is any way of judging the future by the past, this new year may well be one of felicitation and hopefulness."

The note of hope was sounded everywhere in that New Year edition of the Times. Big businessmen made their usual yearly forecasts, all of them rosy, with only here and there a note of skepticism. There were a few stories and comments of an uneasy nature, but only a few. For example, one article told of the disappointing year which England had just gone through. There was a story that the state guarantee of bank deposits in Nebraska was inadequate to meet the pressure of mounting bank failures. But the stock market was up. Most people thought it was up permanently. And anyway sensible conservative people did not believe in guaranteeing bank deposits. It was an assault on free enterprise. It was a penalty put on good bankers for the benefit of poor ones.

There were many reasons for optimism so far as the real wealth of the country was concerned. In the beginning of 1929 national income was still going up in terms of the production of physical goods. It was the end of a ten-year period which had shown the greatest increase in national income this country had ever known. Between 1910 and 1919 the increase in the national income in terms of physical goods was about 10 per cent. During the period from 1920 to 1929 the increase was 93 per cent. We had practically doubled our national production of goods and services. Since in the long run real wealth consists only in ability to produce goods and services, we appeared to the casual ob­server on New Year's Day of 1929 to be richer by many times than ever before in our history. And the curve of increased production was going up at a more rapid pace than ever before.

We had become more efficient industrially than any other country in the world. Output per man-hour in manufacturing industries had doubled in the twenty years between 1909 and 1929. In coal mining and railroads the increase in output per man-hour had not been so great but it was nevertheless large. As a result, on New Year's Day of 1929 both weekly cash wages and real wages were at the highest point in our economic history. Real wages had more than doubled since 1914.

Mr. Hoover, who was then President, was an engineer with an engi­neering mind. He shared with everyone else, including our best economists, a lack of vision with respect to the defects in our social organization. But he saw better than most old-fashioned businessmen and bankers the technical possibilities of an industrial revolution in methods of production which had begun in the nineteenth century and was moving toward fruition in the twentieth. During the 1928 election campaign, he had informed the American people that they could ex­pect two chickens in every pot and two cars in every garage as part of the normal standard of living for every family.

Wall Street was fully in accord with such sentiments. During May and June, 1928, stocks wavered, but as Election Day approached, the market advanced. And when Hoover rolled in by twenty-one million votes to Al Smith's fifteen million, the Dow-Jones industrials soared to 300. The "New Era" had arrived. A new school of economists argued that when you buy common stocks, you buy the future, not the present. Imaginative projections of earnings, five and ten years ahead, flour­ished. Radio Corporation of America (RCA) went up to 500, was split five for one. Names like Auburn, Grigsby-Grunow, Koister Radio--names you no longer hear of--flashed across the ticker tape. Blue chips, like U. S. Steel, American Telephone, and Eastman Kodak, reached all-time highs.

Inauguration Day, March 4, 1929, found Wall Street even more ebullient. The Dow Jones industrials were up another 20 points. When stocks faltered in April, Wall Street seers regarded it as a "buying opportunity." And so it proved for a few months. By August the Dow­ Jones industrials hit 380. But somehow, somewhere, the old zip was lacking. Pools worked valiantly, but stocks thrashed about getting nowhere. The first week in September stocks climbed to 381.

The break came early in September. There was a mid-month recov­ery, but it was the last gasp. Liquidation increased. Brokers' clerks worked long hours sending out margin calls. Came Thursday, October 24. Panic. U. S. Steel, which had been as high as 261, opened at 205, crashed through 200, and soon was down to 93. General Electric, which only a few weeks before sold above 400, opened at 315, dropped to 283. About noon, Charles E. Mitchell, head of the National City Bank, slipped into the offices of J. P. Morgan and Com­pany. So did Albert H. Wiggin, head of the Chase National, William Potter, head of the Guaranty Trust, and Seward Prosser, head of the Bankers Trust. They, with Thomas Lamont, of Morgan, and George F. Baker, of the First National Bank, formed a consortium to shore up the market.

Toward 2:00 P.M., Richard Whitney, known as the Morgan broker, bid 205 for Steel. The market rallied. There was in that rally no hint that Whitney, then vice-president of the Exchange and subsequently its president, would ultimately go to Sing Sing [Prison] for speculations as head of the firm of Richard Whitney and Company--a depression casualty.

Came Black Tuesday, October 28. Buy and sell orders piled into the Stock Exchange faster than human beings could handle them. The ticker ticked long after trading closed. A record 16,410,000 shares changed hands. The climax came November 13, 1929. The Dow-Jones average dropped to 198.7. And how the high and mighty had fallen! American Can was down from 181 to 86; American Telegraph and Telephone (AT&T) from 304 to 97; General Motors from 72 to 36; New York Central from 256 to 160; United States Steel from 261 to 150. The Big Bull Market was dead. And Coolidge-Hoover Prosperity was dead with it.

Source: Thurman Arnold, "The Crash—and What it Meant (1929)" reprinted in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), p. 215-217.

Oscar Ameringer, an Oklahoma City newspaper editor, describes to a Congressional committee the anger of farmers and ranchers over their economic plight in 1932.
Some time ago a cowman came into my office in Oklahoma City. He was one of these double fisted gentlemen, with the gallon hat and all. He said, "You do not know me from Adam's ox. I came to this country without a cent, but, knowing my onions, and by tending strictly to business, I finally accumulated two sections of land and a fine herd of white faced Hereford cattle. I was independent."

I remarked that anybody could do that if he worked hard and did not gamble and used good management.

He said, "After the war, cattle began to drop, and I was feeding them corn, and by the time I got them to Chicago the price of cattle, considering the price of corn I had fed them, was not enough to even pay my expenses. I could not pay anything."

Continuing, he said, "I mortgaged my two sections of land, and to day I am cleaned out; by God, I am not going to stand for it."

I asked him what he was going to do about it, and he said, "We have got to have a revolution here like they had in Russia and clean them up."

I finally asked him, "Who is going to make the revolution?"

He said, "I just want to tell you I am going to be one of them, and I am going to do my share in it."

I asked what his share was and he said, "I will capture a certain fort. I know I can get in with twenty of my boys," meaning his cowboys, "because I know the inside and outside of it, and I [will] capture that with my men."

I rejoined, "Then what?"

He said, "We will have 400 machine guns, so many batteries of artillery, tractors, and munitions and rifles, and everything else needed to supply a pretty good army."

Then I asked, "What then?"

He said, "If there are enough fellows with guts in this country to do like us, we will march eastward and we will cut East off. We will cut the East off from the West. We have got the granaries; we have the hogs, the cattle, the corn; the East has nothing but mortgages on our places. We will show them what we can do."

That man may be very foolish, and I think he is, but he is in dead earnest; he is hard shelled Baptist and a hard shelled Democrat, not a Socialist or a Communist, but just a plain American cattleman whose ancestors went from Carolina to Tennessee, then to Arkansas, and then to Oklahoma. I have heard much of this talk from serious minded prosperous men of other days.

I do not say we are going to have a revolution on hand within the next year of two, perhaps never. I hope we may not have such; but the danger is here. I have met these people virtually every day all over the country. They say the only thing you do in Washington is to take money from the pockets of the poor and put it into the pockets of the rich. They say that this Government is a conspiracy against the common people to enrich the already rich. I hear such remarks every day.

Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David Kennedy, ed., The American Spirit, Vol. II, (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 739 740.

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