|Before beginning read pages 1-5 of this textbook and the Final Exam|
to ca. 1900
|R, 6/21*||Assign m ent 1||Discussion 1|
|M, 6/25||Assignment 2||Discussion 2|
|II. ca. 1900
|R, 6/28||Assignment 3||Discussion 3|
|M, 7/2||Assignment 4||Discussion 4|
|R, 7/5||Assignment 5||Discussion 5|
|M, 7/9||Assignment 6||Discussion 6|
to ca. 1970
|R,7/12||Assignment 7||Discussion 7|
|M, 7/16||Assignment 8||Discussion 8|
|V. ca. 1970
|R, 7/19||Assignment 9||Discussion 9|
|M, 7/23||Assignment 10||Discussion 10|
|R, 7/26||Discussion 11|
|T, 7/31||Final Exam Due on Canvas by 11:59 pm|
*You are required to submit one assigned task during the first week to remain enrolled in the class.
If you fail to do so, you will be withdrawn. If withdraw, re-enrollment will not be allowed.
PROLOGUE ESSAY: The essay below explains the general philosophy behind this class. You should read it carefully and be sure that you understand the nature of the class.
M.J. Smith, On Creating a Usable Past.
There’s an adage about history, that it’s just one damn thing after another. Lots of people think that history is a linear narrative of persons, places, events, and the like, the ‘knowing’ of which makes someone an expert in history. Historians, many believe, have a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of the past that they convey to students who are expected to ‘learn’ that information. But, as the philosopher of history R.G. Collingwood said in 1946, “Nothing capable of being memorized is history.” For our purposes, history is not a collection of information or “knowledge” about the past, but an intellectual tool that has value only to the extent that it is usable.
As with any tool, history requires a set of skills to be applied properly and effectively. In the words of the American Historical Association, history involves “the study of the human past as it is constructed and interpreted with human artifacts, written evidence, and oral traditions. It requires empathy for historical actors, respect for interpretive debate, and the skillful use of an evolving set of practices and tools.” In this class, you will be given the opportunity to develop those skills, methods, and habits of mind that will help you make use of the intellectual process, or discipline, that is history.
From its original Greek, the word history means to inquire. Writing in 1931, historian Carl Becker wrote that history is “an imaginative creation.” It is born in the mind, and it requires that we develop what Lendol Calder described in 2016 as “disciplined process of problem solving and supported by evidence.” The skills of historical inquiry can be used to solve problems, address issues, and develop ideas in your daily life. If done properly, you will be able to construct interpretations supported by evidence within a historical context.
In addition to the tools of inquiry, the course also calls for the development of empathy or historical perspective. As you study the experiences of people in the past you will need to understand them on their own terms, born of the historical context in which they lived. You should develop this ability to empathize with the people in the past not for their benefit, but for yours. Connecting with the people of the past helps you understand your place in the present. It gives you examples, experiences, and exemplars of how others have dealt with problems and took advantage of opportunities.
Thus, to create a usable past you need to develop skills: The ability to use evidence and reasoning to come to meaningful conclusions about historical problems. The ability to express understanding of the historical contexts from which the evidence is drawn. The ability to apply empathy to the people of the past. The ability to use the past to address contemporary issues.
At the end of the course, if you can do these things well, you will have a broader and stronger set of thinking skills. You will think more critically and effectively. You will have gone a long way toward creating a usable past. This will help you in all walks of life; it will make you a better citizen, family member, worker, and leader.
GUIDELINES FOR CHARACTERIZING CONTEXT. Making use of the past begins with understanding the context in which historical events, people, movements, ideas, institutions, cultures, etc. are positioned. Explaining historical context requires a clear statement of the broad nature and general contours of the period in question. This is its character and should encompass the entire period.
Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.
How to Characterize Historical Context:
· 1. Write a two to four sentence statement that identifies and fully encompasses the period in question.
· 2. Express the nature and contours of the overall period. Don’t focus on one aspect.
· 3. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.
· 4. Show complexity or thoughtfulness. Clearly suggest the distinctiveness of this period.
Example of a Characterization: The formative period for the United States began in antiquity and continued through the mid-1700s as the population and “American” culture took shape. Over this period indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans came to occupy the region that would become the United States. While Europeans were the dominant culture in the region, African slaves provided important and lasting elements of American life. The development of American culture and society in this period, a sense of American identity, was a necessary precursor for the movement for political independence that followed.
GUIDELINES FOR DESCRIBING FEATURES. You should be able to identify the most significant features of the period, those with the biggest impact. These are most impactful features, rather than specific details. Typically, there are five to seven such features.
Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.
· 1. Describe the historical features of the period that had a broad impact, in two or three sentences each.
· 2. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.
· 3. Show a sense of judgment about what is significant; don’t include unnecessary specifics or details.
Example of a Statement on a Significant Feature*: Development of the American colonies relied heavily on the use of indentured servitude and slave labor. Both added significant social and cultural elements to the country. But while slavery was a violent forced migration of Africans, indentured servants were mostly white Europeans.
*There are typically five to seven of these for each period.
Paragraphs and essays must begin with a concise statement that expresses your argument, interpretation, or claim about the issue in question. If it is clearly a factual statement, it is not a thesis. The thesis is what gives your work coherence, or holds it together. It is the controlling idea for the body of the work that follows. Without a thesis or with a weak thesis, the work is out of control; it is a ramble or a list. The thesis should be clear, focused, and complex. See the example below for a thesis for a paragraph.
Learning Outcome Addressed: (2) Develop and express a historical interpretation in a thesis.
How to write a thesis statement: Use this list to check your work.
· 1. Write a two to four original sentences thesis. Avoid using the terms of the question.
· 2. Identify the historical period in question within the thesis.
· 3. Focus fully and directly on the issue in question as reflected in the sources.
· 4. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.
· 5. Be complex; address more than one aspect of the issue or idea. Reflect all of the sources.
· 6. Be thoughtful or insightful, rather than conventional, basic, or bland.
Immigrants from Europe and Asia in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries faced derision and bigotry from the those who saw them as an economic and cultural threat. These new immigrants confronted the discrimination through activism and adaptation while maintaining their cultural heritage. They formed close-knit communities that helped them cope with life in their new homeland while providing a means to organize and advocate for their needs. While preserving their cultural heritage benefitted the immigrants, it fueled suspicion and distrust among the pre-existing population.
Paragraphs should be developed with evidence in the form of primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources are the accounts produced by historians or other scholars, generally long after the events have taken place. Primary sources are original letters, photographs, works of art, interviews, printed accounts, official records, statistics, or other material produced at the time to which they refer or by those who witnessed the events of the time. You must clearly identify the sources you use as part of a sentence, integrated within your own prose, as shown in bold face in the example paragraph below. Short quotations from sources, integrated carefully within your own sentences, make for good writing.
Learning Outcome Addressed: (3) Support the thesis with evidence.
How to use evidence: Use this list to check your work.
· 1. Write a point of two to four sentences.
· 2. Identify the source as part of a sentence.
· 3. Clearly support the thesis.
· 4. Cite sources in boldface by author, time reference, and type.
· 5. Incorporate at least one quotation from a primary source, not more than 15 words.
· 6. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.
· 7. Fully develop the point without going over four sentences.
· 8. Uses the source and quotations very effectively to provide strong support for the thesis.
In a 1902 magazine article, a Polish Jew named Sadie Frowne demonstrated her resolve to be a part of the American nation. Frowne recalled her arrival in America, the hardships of the voyage, and the joy she felt upon seeing the “Goddess of Liberty.” She lived in Jewish neighborhood in New York, but worked in the wider community where she had to fit in. She notes that she “can read quite well in English now and I look at the newspapers every day,” demonstrating her willingness to assimilate to her new nation.
GUIDELINES FOR DISCUSSION PARTICIPATION: Over the term you will discuss the experiences of people in the past. You should make direct reference to the source or sources by author, use some of the words from the sources, place the people in their historical context, and show understanding of the lived experiences of the people in the sources. Unlike other work in this class, discussion comments may be written in first person.
Learning Outcome addressed: (4) Show historical perspective or empathy.
By developing an appreciation of how others see, and saw, the world, we gain range, depth, and openness in our thinking. This is empathy, and it means to understand people in the past on the terms that come from the conditions in which they lived. You should be able to explain the lived experiences, decisions, and actions of people in a specific historical and social context. And you should be able to demonstrate understanding of how people in the past thought, felt, made decisions, acted, and faced consequences.
Empathy doesn’t mean sympathy; you don’t have to agree with historical actors. It means that you understand “where they are coming from” even if you find their ideas, words, and actions repugnant. As the writer Sisonke Msimang said recently, “We can’t afford to ignore the protagonists we don’t like.” The past includes many stories, and we can’t accept only those that confirm our world view. In the words of novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
In 1964, the great American writer James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was [writers of the past] who taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people.” Baldwin’s message applies clearly to reading history and the stories of the past. When we read the stories of people in the past we can see what they faced and home they coped. This is empathy.
How to Participate in Discussions: Use this list to check your work.
· 1. Post a coherent original comment of about 150 words for each discussion by the due date.
· 2. Show historical perspective or empathy as explained above.
· 3. Post thoughtful responses to two classmates’ posts in each discussion within a day or two of the due date.
· 4. Participate significantly more than required.
Example of a one-paragraph informal comment for discussion:
Immigrants had a difficult time when they came to America. I can see that both Chinese and Jewish immigrants faced discrimination even though they came here to have a better life. Mary Tape just wanted to send her kids to good schools, but when she did they were “hated.” And Jews came from Russia but said “they were safer from assault and insult in that country than they are on the streets of Chicago.” Maybe it was because they were both seen as “different” than the white, Anglo, Christian Americans who were already in America. Both groups probably set themselves apart from society by living in neighborhoods where there were others like them. I can see that in the article by Jacob Riis. He showed how New York was divided up into these little communities of immigrants. That was probably more comfortable for them and gave them access to things that they might not find outside their own community, so it was understandable. Maybe that’s true for all of the United States at that time.
Example of an informal reply to a classmate:
You said in your post that immigrants should “mix-in” with the American community. My own grandparents came from Italy and had to make serious adjustments to life in America. They lived in the Italian neighborhood that helped them adjust. Maybe that’s why some people resented the immigrants; they were seen as different or people who set themselves apart from the “Americans.”
Part I (1870s to ca. 1900)
1a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by Richard White below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.
1b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on White’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.
● Richard White. “The Rise of Industrial America, 1877-1900.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2014 All Rights Reserved. [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]
When in 1873 Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner entitled their co-authored novel The Gilded Age, they gave the late nineteenth century its popular name. The term reflected the combination of outward wealth and dazzle with inner corruption and poverty. Given the period’s absence of powerful and charismatic presidents, its lack of a dominant central event, and its sometimes tawdry history, historians have often defined the period by negatives. They stress greed, scandals, and corruption of the Gilded Age.
Twain and Warner were not wrong about the era’s corruption, but the years between 1877 and 1900 were also some of the most momentous and dynamic in American history. They set in motion developments that would shape the country for generations—the reunification of the South and North, the integration of four million newly freed African Americans, westward expansion, immigration, industrialization, urbanization. It was also a period of reform, in which many Americans sought to regulate corporations and shape the changes taking place all around them.
The End of Reconstruction
Reforms in the South seemed unlikely in 1877 when Congress resolved the previous autumn’s disputed presidential election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes on the backs of the nation’s freed blacks. A compromise gave Hayes the presidency in return for the end of Reconstruction and the removal of federal military support for the remaining biracial Republican governments that had emerged in the former Confederacy. With that agreement, Congress abandoned one of the greatest reforms in American history: the attempt to incorporate ex-slaves into the republic with all the rights and privileges of citizens.
The United States thus accepted a developing system of repression and segregation in the South that would take the name Jim Crow and persist for nearly a century. The freed people in the South found their choices largely confined to sharecropping and low-paying wage labor, especially as domestic servants. Although attempts at interracial politics would prove briefly successful in Virginia and North Carolina, African American efforts to preserve the citizenship and rights promised to black men in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution failed.
Congress continued to pursue a version of reform in the West, however, as part of a Greater Reconstruction. The federal government sought to integrate the West into the country as a social and economic replica of the North. Land redistribution on a massive scale formed the centerpiece of reform. Through such measures as the Homestead and Railroad Acts of 1862, the government redistributed the vast majority of communal lands possessed by American Indian tribes to railroad corporations and white farmers.
To redistribute that land, the government had to subdue American Indians, and the winter of 1877 saw the culmination of the wars that had been raging on the Great Plains and elsewhere in the West since the end of the Civil War. Following the American defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn the previous fall, American soldiers drove the Lakota civil and spiritual leader Sitting Bull and his followers into Canada. They forced the war leader Crazy Horse to surrender and later killed him while he was held prisoner. Sitting Bull would eventually return to the United States, but he died in 1890 at the hands of the Indian police during the Wounded Knee crisis.
The defeat of the Lakotas and the utterly unnecessary Nez Perce War of 1877 ended the long era of Indian wars. There would be other small-scale conflicts in the West such as the Bannock War (1878) and the subjugation of the Apaches, which culminated with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886, but these were largely police actions. The slaughter of Lakota Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee in 1890 did bring a major mobilization of American troops, but it was a kind of coda to the American conquest since the federal government had already effectively extended its power from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The treaty system had officially ended in 1871, but Americans continued to negotiate agreements with the Indians. The goal of these agreements, and American land policy in general, was to create millions of new farms and ranches across the West. Not satisfied with already ceded lands, reformers—the so-called “Friends of the Indians” whose champion in Congress was Senator Henry Dawes—sought to divide reservations into individual farms for Indians and then open up most or all of the remaining land to whites. The Dawes Act of 1887 became their major tool, but the work of the Dawes Commission in 1893 extended allotment to the Creeks, Cherokees, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws in Indian Territory, which became the core of the state of Oklahoma. Land allotment joined with the establishment of Indian schools and the suppression of native religions in a sweeping attempt to individualize Indians and integrate them one by one into American society. The policy would fail miserably. Indian population declined precipitously; the tribes lost much of their remaining land, and Indians became the poorest group in American society.
Between 1877 and 1900 immigrants prompted much more concern among native-born white Americans than did either black people or Indian peoples. During these years there was a net immigration of approximately 7,348,000 people into the United States. During roughly the same period, the population of the country increased by about 27 million people, from about 49 million in 1880 to 76 million in 1900. Before 1880 the immigrants came largely from Western Europe and China. Taking the period between 1860 and 1900 as a whole, Germans comprised 28 percent of American immigrants; the British comprised 18 percent, the Irish 15 percent, and Scandinavians 11 percent. Together they made up 72 percent of the total immigration. At the end of the century, the so-called “New Immigration” signaled the rise of southern and eastern Europe as the source of most immigrants to America. The influx worried many native-born Americans who still thought of the United States as a white Protestant republic. Many of the new immigrants did not, in the racial classifications of the day, count as white. As the century wore on, they were increasingly Catholic and Jewish.
Immigrants entered every section of the country in large numbers except for the South. They settled in northeastern and midwestern cities and on western and midwestern farms. The Pacific and mountain West contained the highest percentage of immigrants of any region in 1880 and 1890.
The immigrants forged networks that shaped how and where they migrated and the kinds of communities they established. Chain migrations linked migrants to prior migrants. Early arrivals wrote home to bring family, friends, and neighbors to the United States. Over large swaths of Minnesota, the Dakotas, and elsewhere German was the primary language of daily life. Tensions between immigrants and the native born over the language to be spoken in public schools, Sunday closures of businesses (sabbatarianism), and temperance reform often put cultural issues and practices at the center of local and state politics.
Taken together, immigration and the end of Reconstruction triggered an anti-democratic movement to restrict access to the ballot box. By the 1870s proponents of restricting suffrage, having defeated an early push for women’s suffrage, were calling democracy a mistake. They advocated restrictions on voting as a way to check corruption, elevate political culture, and marginalize those—they had in mind immigrants and blacks—whom they thought incapable of meeting the obligations of republican politics. They sought political changes that would make it far more difficult for the poor and immigrants to vote. Over time, through poll taxes, residence requirements, literacy requirements, and more, they would succeed. The mass politics and high voting rates characteristic of late nineteenth-century America would not outlive the era.
Attempts to restrict suffrage were part of a strong political and social backlash against immigrants that developed over the course of the century. The United States welcomed immigrants because they were essential to its growing economy, but nativists opposed immigrants as antithetical to American culture and society. They thought of immigrants as exotic and inassimilable. In certain situations, however, nativists had allies who were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Workers, both immigrant and native born, often feared that corporations were using contract labor—workers recruited abroad at lower wages than those paid American workers—to undermine American working conditions and the American family, which they defined as a working man whose wife maintained the home. They opposed certain kinds of immigration. One of the forgotten reforms of the period, the Foran Act of 1885, outlawed contract labor, but the law proved difficult to enforce.
Alliances of some native-born Americans with some immigrants against other immigrants proved most effective in the case of the Chinese. Roughly 180,000 Chinese immigrated to the United States between 1849 and 1882, and they became the personification of both the inassimilable immigrant and the contract worker. Although the Chinese came as free laborers, they were often branded as coolies: abject semi-slaves, whose low standard of living allowed them to thrive on wages that could not support white families.
Racists had previously claimed that superior Anglo-Saxons would inevitably replace “inferior” races. But in the West, while Sinophobes saw the Chinese as exotic and inferior, they also thought the Chinese would triumph over the supposedly superior white men because they were efficient workers. Immigrants and the native born formed mobs that attacked the Chinese at Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1885 and expelled them from Tacoma, Washington, in 1885 and Seattle in 1886. Congress passed ten-year restrictions on Chinese immigration in 1882 and 1892 and a permanent exclusion act in 1902. Late in the nineteenth century, those who opposed immigration from Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere compared those groups to the Chinese.
Some immigrants could wrap themselves in the mantle of Americanism if they were “white” and Protestant. Protestant immigrants, particularly Scandinavians and Scots-Irish, joined the American Protective Association in 1887 to restrict Catholic immigration as it rode a larger wave of anti-Catholicism that swept over the country. Aimed initially at Irish and Catholic schools, anti-Catholicism increased its range as new Catholic immigrants began to arrive.
Agricultural, Commercial, and Industrial Development
Although not all of them intended to stay, most immigrants came to the United States for economic opportunity. Cheap land and relatively high wages, compared to their home countries, were available regardless of citizenship. The Homestead Act did not require that settlers filing for land be American citizens, and the railroads not only sold their land grants cheaply, they advertised widely in Europe.
The results of this distribution of fertile and largely accessible land were astonishing. Everything in the late nineteenth century seemed to move faster than ever before. Americans brought more land under cultivation between 1870 and 1900 (225 million acres) than they had since the English first appeared at Jamestown in 1607 (189 million acres). Farmers abandoned small, worn-out farms in the East and developed new, larger, and more fertile farms in the Midwest and West. They developed so much land because they farmed extensively, not intensively. In terms of yields per acre, American farmers ranked far below Europe. Maintaining fertility demanded labor, which was precisely what American farmers were bent on reducing. They invested not in labor but in technology, particularly improved plows, reapers, and threshers. With westward expansion onto the prairies, a single family with a reaper could increase acreage and thus production without large amounts of hired labor. Arable free lands grew scarcer during the 1880s, forcing more and more land seekers west into arid lands beyond the 98th meridian. In many years these lands lacked adequate rainfall to produce crops. “In God we trusted, in Kansas we busted” written on the side of a wagon cover by a family abandoning its homestead summed up the dangers of going too far out onto the semi-arid and arid plains.
The expansion of agricultural lands led to what superficially seems a paradox: the more farmers there were—and the more productive farmers became—the smaller was agriculture’s share of the economy. Farmers had the largest share of the dollar value of American economic output until 1880 when commerce’s 29 percent of the gross national product edged out their 28 percent. In 1890 manufacturing and mining at 30 percent share of the GNP both exceeded agriculture’s 19 percent share. During the same period, the percentage of workers employed in agriculture fell. A majority of the nation’s workers were farmers or farm laborers in 1860, but by 1900 the figure had declined to 40 percent.
Such statistics seemed to reflect a decline in the importance of farming, but in fact, they reflected its significance and efficiency. Farmers produced more than the country could consume with smaller and smaller percentages of its available labor. They exported the excess, and the children of farmers migrated to cities and towns. Where at the beginning of the century exports composed about 10 percent of farm income, they amounted to between 20 and 25 percent by the end of the century. What farmers sold abroad translated into savings and consumption at home that fueled the nation’s industry. Migration from rural to urban areas dwarfed both foreign migration and westward migration. American agricultural productivity allowed it to remain the world’s greatest agricultural economy while it became the world’s largest industrial producer.
The rise of industrial America, the dominance of wage labor, and the growth of cities represented perhaps the greatest changes of the period. Few Americans at the end of the Civil War had anticipated the rapid rise of American industry. For the first time in the nation’s history, wage earners had come to outnumber the self-employed, and by the 1880s these wage earners were becoming employees of larger and larger corporations. As the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor declared in 1873, wage labor was universal: “a system more widely diffused than any form of religion, or of government, or indeed, of any language.”
Skilled workers proved remarkably successful at maintaining their position through the 1880s, but they had to fight to do so. The relatively high wages for skilled workers led employers to seek ways to replace skilled with unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Mechanization provided the best tactic for deskilling work and lowering wages. Many of the bitterest strikes of the period were attempts to control working rules and to maintain rather than raise wages. Beginning with the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, through the Great Upheaval of 1886 that culminated in the slaughter at Haymarket Square, then through the Homestead Strike (1892), Pullman Strike (1894), and more, the largest confrontations often involved violence and the intervention by state or federal governments to repress the strikes.
Many of these strikes involved the railroads; the whole economy seemed to revolve around the railroads. At the end of the 1870s the railroads renewed their expansion. With a brief break in the 1880s, expansion continued at a reckless pace until 1890. At the end of 1890 more than 20 percent of the 161,000 miles of railroad in the United States had been constructed in the previous four years. By the end of the century the railroad corporations rivaled the United States government in size. In 1891 the Pennsylvania Railroad had 110,000 employees, almost three times the number of men in all the armed forces of the United States. Its capitalization of $842 million was only $150 million less than the national debt. Nationally, 418,957 people worked for railroads in 1880 and nearly 800,000 in 1890: about 3 percent of the entire work force of the nation. By 1900 roughly one-sixth of all capital investments in United States were in the railroads.
The railroads powered the industrial economy. They consumed the majority of iron and steel produced in the United States before 1890. As late as 1882, steel rails accounted for 90 percent of the steel production in the United States. They were the nation’s largest consumer of lumber and a major consumer of coal. They also distributed these commodities across the country.
At times, however, railroads threatened to haul the American economy into the abyss. Rail corporations overbuilt, borrowed recklessly, and were often atrociously managed. They ricocheted wildly between rate wars and the creation of pools to fix prices, and they encouraged other industries to follow. Wheat, silver, timber, cattle, and other commodities flooded the market, sent prices tumbling, and dragged many producers into bankruptcy. The signal of every economic collapse in the late nineteenth century was the descent of railroads and the banks associated with them into receivership.
The railroads were typical of the economic contradictions of the era. Over the period as a whole, American industry advanced rapidly. By 1900 the United States had one half the world’s manufacturing capacity. At the end of the century, it had overtaken Great Britain both in iron and steel production and in coal production. The United States made such great gains because it was the fastest runner in a relatively slow race. The entire period from 1873 to the turn of the century became known as the Long Depression in western Europe. The United States grew faster than European economies, although no faster than nations with similar British colonial backgrounds—Australia and Canada. It actually grew more slowly than Argentina. None of these economies, however, were remotely as large.
The growth was not even. Periods of prosperity alternated with deep downturns in a boom/bust pattern. The economy came out of the depression following the Panic of 1873 at the end of that decade, lurched into a short, sharp depression in 1882–1883, and then fell into a much more severe depression from 1893 to 1897. Until the 1930s this was known as the Great Depression.
Such fluctuations in the American economy were linked to the larger world economy. Important sectors of the American economy globalized, putting American businesses and farmers in competition with other places in the world. One result was a steady downward pressure on prices. The Republican policy of maintaining tariff protection for American industry mitigated deflation on the domestic market, but the return to the gold standard with the Resumption Act of 1875, which later became a major political issue, created compensatory deflationary pressure that contributed to the general decline in prices. This benefitted workers only as long as they were able to maintain their wages.
Economic changes manifested themselves in rates of immigration (which rose during good times and declined during bad), urbanization, types of work, family organization, and more. Social and cultural patterns, in turn, affected the economy by determining who held certain jobs, how those jobs were valued, and where and how work took place. The cumulative effects of these changes were staggering, and many Americans worried that immigration, urbanization, wage labor, and the rise of large corporations undermined values that they thought defined the country itself.
The Civil War had seemed to secure the triumph of a world of small producers and the values of free labor, individualism, and contract freedom. Many Americans desperately wanted to believe that those values survived and still ensured success within the new industrial society. Sometimes they attached the old values to new theories. Herbert Spencer, the British writer and philosopher, had many American disciples, of whom William Graham Sumner of Yale was probably the most prominent. Spencer and his disciples tried to understand human social change in terms of Darwinian evolution, utterly obfuscating the mechanisms of biological evolution in the process.
Other Americans simply tried to portray the new economy as essentially the same as the old. They believed that individual enterprise, hard work, and free competition in open markets still guaranteed success to those willing to work hard. An evolving mass print culture of cheap newspapers, magazines, and dime novels offered proselytizers of the old values new forms of communication. Horatio Alger, whose publishing career extended from the end of the Civil War to the end of the century, wrote juvenile novels that reconciled the new economy with the old values of individualism. In his novels, an individual’s fate was still in his hands.
Many other Americans did not think so. They formed a diffuse reform movement contemporaries referred to as antimonopolism. Antimonopolists, including farmers, small businessmen, and workers in the Knights of Labor and other organizations, agreed on the problem, but often differed on the solution. They lamented the rise of large corporations, which to them were synonymous with monopoly. They worried about the dependence on wage labor, the growth of unemployment, particularly during the frequent panics and depressions, the proliferation of tramps as the poor who wandered in search of work were known, and the decline of individual independence. In the 1870s Walt Whitman lamented the human casualties of the new economy. “If the United States, like the countries of the Old World, are also to grow vast crops of poor, desperate, dissatisfied, nomadic, miserably-waged populations such as we see looming upon us of late years—steadily, even if slowly, eating into us like a cancer of lungs or stomach—then our republican experiment, notwithstanding all its surface successes, is at heart an unhealthy failure.” 
Antimonopolists agreed that the purpose of a republican economy was to sustain independent and prosperous republican citizens, but how to restore the economy to that condition was the problem. Some, probably a majority in the 1870s, sought government intervention to restore competition. Others, who grew in numbers in the 1880s and 1890s, accepted the inevitability of large corporations but desired that they be more tightly regulated. By the 1890s, the Populists, an antimonopolist third party centered on the South and West, advocated government ownership of the railroads and the telegraphs.
In many ways the antimonopolists were successful. They comprised large factions within both the Democratic and Republican Parties and created new third parties from the Greenbackers (1874–1884) to the Populists of the 1890s. In 1896, the climactic election of the period pitted the antimonopolist William Jennings Bryan against the Republican William McKinley. Bryan lost, but many of the reforms antimonopolists advocated would be enacted over the next twenty years.
Many others were already in place. The inevitable compromises involved in passing legislation left a contradictory reform legacy. Some measures sought to restore competition by breaking up trusts or holding companies while others accepted the existence of large corporations but enforced regulations to restrain them. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 initiated a movement to break up the largest trusts. State railroad commissions, the most effective of which were in Iowa and Texas, and the Interstate Commerce Commission created in 1887 represented attempts to regulate corporations.
Symbols of Their Age
Certain people became better known and better remembered than the presidents of the period because they came to represent both the economy itself and people’s ideological views of it. Thomas Edison emerged as perhaps the most admired American of the age because he seemed to represent the triumph of individualism in an industrial economy. He built his famous lab at Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876. The public regarded Edison as the “wizard of Menlo Park,” but it was ironically the lab—a cooperative enterprise—that produced the inventions from a workable electric light to the phonograph and more. And when in 1890 Edison merged his lab and other businesses into General Electric, the man who was a symbol of economic individualism became the head of a large corporation. That the corporate form captured Edison was not surprising because large corporations that first arose with the railroads before the Civil War were coming to dominate the American economy during the Great Merger movement of the 1890s.
John D. Rockefeller symbolized the darker view of the economy. His Standard Oil became the best-known and the best-hated corporation of the day. Rockefeller ruthlessly consolidated a competitive oil industry, absorbing rivals or driving them out of business. He was unapologetic, and he had only disdain for those who still thought of the economy as depending on individualism and competition. Organization and consolidation was the future. “The day of the combination is here to stay,” he proclaimed. “Individualism has gone never to return.” 
What was also gone was the United States as a purely continental nation. In many ways, the American acquisition of an overseas empire was a continuation of its continental expansion at the expense of American Indian peoples. But with the annexation of Hawaii (1898) and the subsequent annexation of the Philippines and Puerto Rico following the Spanish American War (1898), the United States extended its military and governmental reach beyond its continental boundaries. The war, like so many things, marked the vast changes that took place in a neglected era.
 Quoted in Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 62.
 Walt Whitman, Specimen Days and Collect (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), 330.
 Allan Nevins, John D. Rockefeller , 1:622.
Richard White is the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University and a past president of the Organization of American Historians. His books include It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A New History of the American West (1991), The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815 (1991), which won the Parkman Prize, and most recently Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (2011)
DISCUSSION 1: Comment on the letter by the German immigrant. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.
● This 1882 letter was written by a thirty-eight-year-old German immigrant to the United States. He writes to medical writer and sexologist Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing in response to Krafft-Ebling’s article “Perversion of the Sexual Instinct? Report of Cases.”
Until I was twenty-eight years old I had no suspicion that there were others constituted like myself. One evening in the castle garden at [X?], where, as I subsequently found, those constituted like myself were accustomed to seek and find each other, I met a man who powerfully excited my sexual feelings, so much so that I had a seminal emission. With that I lost my better manhood and came often to the park and sought similar places in other cities.
You will readily conceive that with the knowledge thus acquired there came a sort of comfort—the satisfaction of association and the sense of no longer being alone and singular. The oppressive thought, that I was not as others were, left me. The love affairs which now followed gave life a certain zest which I had never known before. But I was only hurrying to my fate. I had formed an intimate acquaintance with a young man. He was eccentric, romantic and frivolous in the extreme and without means. He obtained complete control over me and held me as if I were his legal wife. I was obliged to take him into business. Scenes of jealousy which are scarcely conceivable took place in my house. He repeatedly made attempts at suicide with poison and it was with difficulty that I saved his life. I suffered terribly by reason of his jealousy, tyranny, obstinacy and brutality. When jealous he would beat me and threaten to betray my secret to the authorities. I was kept in constant suspense lest he should do so. Again and again I was obliged to rid my house of this openly insane lover by making large pecuniary sacrifices. His passion for me and his shameless avarice drove him back to me. I was often in utter despair and yet could confide my troubles to no one. After he had cost me 10,000 francs, and a new attempt at extortion had failed, he denounced me to the police. I was arrested and charged with having sexual relations with my accuser, who was as guilty as myself! I was condemned to imprisonment. My social position was totally destroyed, my family brought to sorrow and shame, and the friends who had heretofore held me in high esteem now abandoned me with horror and disgust. That was a terrible time! And yet I had to say to myself ‘You have sinned, yes, grievously sinned against the common-ideas of morality, but not against nature.’ A thousand times no! part of the blame at least should fall upon the antiquated law which would confound with depraved criminals those who are forced by nature to follow the inclinations of a diseased and perverted instinct…
I know of a case in Geneva where an admirable attachment between two men like myself has existed for seven years. If it were possible to have a pledge of such a love they might well make pretensions to marriage . . .One thing is true. Our loves bear as fair and noble flowers incite to as praiseworthy efforts as does the love of man for the woman of his affections. There are the same sacrifices, the same joy in abnegation even to the laying down of life, the same pain, the same joy, sorrow, happiness, as with men of ordinary natures. . . .
In consequence of the disgrace which came upon me in my fatherland I am obliged to reside in America. Even now I am in constant anxiety lest what befell me at home should be discovered here and thus deprive me of the respect of my fellow-men.
May the time soon come when science shall educate the people so that they shall rightly judge our unfortunate class, but before that time can come there will be many victims.
ASSIGNMENT 2: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.
2a. How was the United States divided on matters of race and gender in the late-nineteenth century? What did this mean for the country? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on the sources provided below.
2b. Following closely the Guidelines on Evidence, write four separate points of evidence to support the thesis you wrote in ‘a’ above, drawn from the sources below.
John Solomon Lewis, article, Boston Traveller, June 10, 1879
John Solomon Lewis of Leavenworth, Kansas, wrote this letter on June 10, 1879. Lewis and his family were among thousands of African Americans known as “Exodusters” who escaped the harsh economic and racial realties of the Reconstruction South. The journey was difficult and many suffered hardships. Their exodus to Kansas mirrored earlier ideas about escape to Canada during slavery.
You see, I was in debt, and the man I rented land from said every year I must rent again to pay the other year, and so I rents and rents, and each year I gets deeper and deeper in debt. In a fit of madness I one day said to the man I rented from: ‘It’s no use, I works hard and raises big crops and you sells it and keeps the money, and brings me more and more in debt, so I will go somewhere else and try to make headway like white working-men.’ “He got very mad and said to me: ‘If you try that job, you will get your head shot away.’ So I told my wife, and she says: ‘Let us take to the woods in the night time.’ Well we took [to] the woods, my wife and four children, and we was three weeks living in the woods waiting for a boat. Then a great many more black people came and we was all together at the landing. Boats came along, but they would not stop, but before long the Grand Tower hove up and we got on board.
Says the captain, ‘Where’s you going?’ Says I, ‘Kansas.’ Says he, ‘You can’t go on this boat.’ Says I, ‘I do; you know who I am. I am a man who was a United States soldier and I know my rights, and if I and my family gets put off, I will go in the United States Court and sue for damages.’ Says the Captain to another boat officer, ‘Better take that nigger or he will make trouble.’
When I landed on the soil, I looked on the ground and I says this is free ground. Then I looked on the heavens, and I says them is free and beautiful heavens. Then I looked within my heart, and I says to myself I wonder why I never was free before? When I knew I had all my family in a free land, I said let us hold a little prayer meeting; so we held a little meeting on the river bank. It was raining but the drops fell from heaven on a free family, and the meeting was just as good as sunshine. We was thankful to God for ourselves and we prayed for those who could not come. I asked my wife did she know the ground she stands on. She said, ‘No!’ I said it is free ground; and she cried like a child for joy.
Former slave Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, social reformer, and writer who led the efforts on African American to gain civil and political rights through the 1880s.
Necessity often compels men to migrate, to leave their old homes and seek new ones, to sever old ties and create new ones; but to do this the necessity should be obvious and imperative. It should be a last resort, and only adopted after carefully considering what is against the measure, as well as what is in favor of it. There are prodigal sons everywhere, who are ready to demand the portion of goods that would fall to them, and betake themselves to a strange country. Something is ever lost in the process of migration, and much is sacrificed at home for what is gained abroad. A world of wisdom is in the saying of Mr. Emerson, that “those who made Rome worth going to see, stayed there.” Five moves from house to house are said to be worse than a fire. That a rolling stone gathers no moss, has passed into the world’s wisdom.
The colored people of the South, just beginning to accumulate a little property, and to lay the foundation of family, should not be in haste to sell that little and be off to the banks of the Mississippi. The habit of roaming from place to place in pursuit of better conditions of existence is by no means a good one. A man should never leave his home for a new one till he has earnestly endeavored to make his immediate surroundings accord with his wishes. The time and energy expended in wandering about from place to place, if employed in making him a comfortable home where he is, will in nine cases out of ten, prove the best investment. No people ever did much for themselves or for the world without the sense and inspiration of native land, of a fixed home, of familiar neighborhood and common associations. The fact of being to the manor born has an elevating power upon the mind and heart of a man. It is a more cheerful thing to be able to say: I was born here, and know all the people, than to say: I am a stranger here, and know none of the people.
It cannot be doubted that in so far as this exodus tends to promote restlessness in the colored people of the South, to unsettle their feeling of home and to sacrifice positive advantages where they are for fancied ones in Kansas or elsewhere, it is an evil. Some have sold their little homes, their chickens, mules and pigs, at a sacrifice, to follow the exodus. Let it be understood that you are going, and you advertise the fact that your mule has lost half his value — for your staying with him makes half his value. Let the colored people of Georgia offer their six millions’ worth of property for sale, with the purpose to leave Georgia, and they will not realize half its value. Land is not worth much where there are no people to occupy it, and a mule is not worth much where there is no one to drive him.
Then, again, is there to be no stopping-place for the negro? Suppose that, by-and-by, some “Sand-lot orator” shall arise in Kansas, as in California, and take it into his head to stir up the mob against the negro, as he stirred up the mob against the Chinese? What then? Must the negro have another exodus? Does not one exodus invite another? and in advocating one, do we not sustain the demand for another?
Not only is the South the best locality for the negro, on the ground of his political powers and possibilities, but it is best for him as a field of labor. He is there, as he is nowhere else, an absolute necessity. He has a monopoly of the labor market. His labor is the only labor which can successfully offer itself for sale in that market. This fact, with a little wisdom and firmness, will enable him to sell his labor there, on terms more favorable to himself than he can elsewhere. As there are no competitors or substitutes, he can demand living prices with the certainty that the demand will be complied with. Exodus would deprive him of this advantage. It would take him from a country where the landowners and planters must have his labor, or allow their fields to go untilled and their purses unsupplied with cash, to a country where the landowners are able and proud to do their own work, and do not need to hire hands, except for limited periods, at certain seasons of the year. The effect of this will be to send the negro to the towns and cities to compete with white labor. With what result, let the past tell. They will be crowded into lanes and alleys, cellars and garrets, poorly provided with the necessaries of life, and will gradually die out.
The negro, as already intimated, is pre-eminently a Southern man. He is so both in constitution and habits, in body as well as mind. He will not only take with him to the North Southern modes of labor, but Southern modes of life. The careless and improvident habits of the South cannot be set aside in a generation. If they are adhered to in the North, in the fierce winds and snows of Kansas and Nebraska, the emigration must be large to keep up their numbers.
It would appear, therefore, that neither the laws of politics, labor nor climate favor this exodus. It does not conform to the laws of healthy emigration, which proceeds not from south to north, not from heat to cold, but from east to west, and in climates to which the emigrants are more or less adapted and accustomed.
Thus far, and to this extent, any man may be an emigrationist; and thus far, and to this extent, I certainly am an emigrationist. In no case must the negro be “bottled up” or “caged up.” He must be left free, like every other American citizen, to choose his own local habitation, and to go where he shall like. Though it may not be for his interest to leave the South, his right and power to leave it may be the best means of making it possible for him to stay there in peace.
● Senator Benjamin R. Tillman, “Speech before Congress,”1900
The author was a Democratic Senator from South Carolina.
. . . And he [Senator John C. Spooner, of Wisconsin] said we had taken [blacks] rights away from them. He asked me was it right to murder them in order to carry the elections. I never saw one murdered. I never saw one shot at an election. It was the riots before the elections precipitated by their own hot-headedness in attempting to hold the government, that brought on conflicts between the races and caused the shotgun to be used. That is what I meant by saying we used the shotgun.
I want to call the Senator’s attention to one fact. He said that the Republican party gave the negroes the ballot in order to protect themselves against the indignities and wrongs that were attempted to be heaped upon them by the enactment of the black code. I say it was because the Republicans of that day, led by Thad Stevens, wanted to put white necks under black heels and to get revenge. There is a difference of opinion. You have your opinion about it, and I have mine, and we can never agree.
I want to ask the Senator this proposition in arithmetic: In my State there were 135,000 negro voters, or negroes of voting age, and some 90,000 or 95,000 white voters. General Canby set up a carpetbag government there and turned our State over to this majority. Now, I want to ask you, with a free vote and a fair count, how are you going to beat 135,000 by 95,000? How are you going to do it? You had set us an impossible task. You had handcuffed us and thrown away the key, and you propped your carpetbag negro government with bayonets. Whenever it was necessary to sustain the government you held it up by the Army.
Mr. President, I have not the facts and figures here, but I want the country to get the full view of the Southern side of this question and the justification for anything we did. We were sorry we had the necessity forced upon us, but we could not help it, and as white men we are not sorry for it, and we do not propose to apologize for anything we have done in connection with it. We took the government away from them in 1876. We did take it. If no other Senator has come here previous to this time who would acknowledge it, more is the pity. We have had no fraud in our elections in South Carolina since 1884. There has been no organized Republican party in the State.
We did not disfranchise the negroes until 1895. Then we had a constitutional convention convened which took the matter up calmly, deliberately, and avowedly with the purpose of disfranchising as many of them as we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. We adopted the educational qualification as the only means left to us, and the negro is as contented and as prosperous and as well protected in South Carolina to-day as in any State of the Union south of the Potomac. He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got. As to his “rights”—I will not discuss them now. We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. I would to God the last one of them was in Africa and that none of them had ever been brought to our shores. But I will not pursue the subject further.
● W.E.B. DuBois, Niagara Movement Speech, 1905
The author was a historian and activist. He was a founder of the NAACP.
The men of the Niagara Movement coming from the toil of the year’s hard work and pausing a moment from the earning of their daily bread turn toward the nation and again ask in the name of ten million the privilege of a hearing. In the past year the work of the Negro hater has flourished in the land. Step by step the defenders of the rights of American citizens have retreated. The work of stealing the black man’s ballot has progressed and the fifty and more representatives of stolen votes still sit in the nation’s capital. Discrimination in travel and public accommodation has so spread that some of our weaker brethren are actually afraid to thunder against color discrimination as such and are simply whispering for ordinary decencies.
Against this the Niagara Movement eternally protests. We will not be satisfied to take one jot or tittle less than our full manhood rights. We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans. It is a fight for ideals, lest this, our common fatherland, false to its founding, become in truth the land of the thief and the home of the Slave–a by-word and a hissing among the nations for its sounding pretensions and pitiful accomplishment. Never before in the modern age has a great and civilized folk threatened to adopt so cowardly a creed in the treatment of its fellow-citizens born and bred on its soil. Stripped of verbiage and subterfuge and in its naked nastiness the new American creed says: Fear to let black men even try to rise lest they become the equals of the white. And this is the land that professes to follow Jesus Christ. The blasphemy of such a course is only matched by its cowardice.
In detail our demands are clear and unequivocal. First, we would vote; with the right to vote goes everything: Freedom, manhood, the honor of your wives, the chastity of your daughters, the right to work, and the chance to rise, and let no man listen to those who deny this.
We want full manhood suffrage, and we want it now, henceforth and forever.
Second. We want discrimination in public accommodation to cease. Separation in railway and street cars, based simply on race and color, is un-American, un-democratic, and silly. We protest against all such discrimination.
Third. We claim the right of freemen to walk, talk, and be with them that wish to be with us. No man has a right to choose another man’s friends, and to attempt to do so is an impudent interference with the most fundamental human privilege.
Fourth. We want the laws enforced against rich as well as poor; against Capitalist as well as Laborer; against white as well as black. We are not more lawless than the white race, we are more often arrested, convicted, and mobbed. We want justice even for criminals and outlaws. We want the Constitution of the country enforced. We want Congress to take charge of Congressional elections. We want the Fourteenth amendment carried out to the letter and every State disfranchised in Congress which attempts to disfranchise its rightful voters. We want the Fifteenth amendment enforced and No State allowed to base its franchise simply on color.
The failure of the Republican Party in Congress at the session just closed to redeem its pledge of 1904 with reference to suffrage conditions at the South seems a plain, deliberate, and premeditated breach of promise, and stamps that party as guilty of obtaining votes under false pretense.
Fifth, We want our children educated. The school system in the country districts of the South is a disgrace and in few towns and cities are Negro schools what they ought to be. We want the national government to step in and wipe out illiteracy in the South. Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.
And when we call for education we mean real education. We believe in work. We ourselves are workers, but work is not necessarily education. Education is the development of power and ideal. We want our children trained as intelligent human beings should be, and we will fight for all time against any proposal to educate black boys and girls simply as servants and underlings, or simply for the use of other people. They have a right to know, to think, to aspire.
These are some of the chief things which we want. How shall we get them? By voting where we may vote, by persistent, unceasing agitation; by hammering at the truth, by sacrifice and work.
We do not believe in violence, neither in the despised violence of the raid nor the lauded violence of the soldier, nor the barbarous violence of the mob, but we do believe in John Brown, in that incarnate spirit of justice, that hatred of a lie, that willingness to sacrifice money, reputation, and life itself on the altar of right. And here on the scene of John Brown’s martyrdom we reconsecrate ourselves, our honor, our property to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free.
Our enemies, triumphant for the present, are fighting the stars in their courses. Justice and humanity must prevail. We live to tell these dark brothers of ours–scattered in counsel, wavering and weak–that no bribe of money or notoriety, no promise of wealth or fame, is worth the surrender of a people’s manhood or the loss of a man’s self-respect. We refuse to surrender the leadership of this race to cowards and trucklers. We are men; we will be treated as men. On this rock we have planted our banners. We will never give up, though the trump of doom finds us still fighting.
And we shall win. The past promised it, the present foretells it. Thank God for John Brown! Thank God for Garrison and Douglass! Sumner and Phillips, Nat Turner and Robert Gould Shaw, and all the hallowed dead who died for freedom! Thank God for all those to-day, few though their voices be, who have not forgotten the divine brotherhood of all men white and black, rich and poor, fortunate and unfortunate.
We appeal to the young men and women of this nation, to those whose nostrils are not yet befouled by greed and snobbery and racial narrowness: Stand up for the right, prove yourselves worthy of your heritage and whether born north or south dare to treat men as men. Cannot the nation that has absorbed ten million foreigners into its political life without catastrophe absorb ten million Negro Americans into that same political life at less cost than their unjust and illegal exclusion will involve?
Courage brothers! The battle for humanity is not lost or losing. All across the skies sit signs of promise. The Slav is raising in his might, the yellow millions are tasting liberty, the black Africans are writhing toward the light, and everywhere the laborer, with ballot in his hand, is voting open the gates of Opportunity and Peace. The morning breaks over blood-stained hills. We must not falter, we may not shrink. Above are the everlasting stars.
Susan B. Anthony, speech, 1872
By the law of every state in this Union to-day, North as well as South, the married woman has no right to the custody and control of her person. The wife belongs to her husband; and if the refuses obedience to his will, he may use moderate correction, and if she doesn’t like his moderate correction, and attempts to leave his “bed and board,” the husband may use moderate coercion to bring her back. The little word “moderate,” you see, is the saving clause for the wife, and would doubtless be overstepped should offended husband administer his correction with the “cat-o’-nine-tails,” or accomplish his coercion with blood-hounds.
In many of the states there has been special legislation, giving to married women the right to property inherited, or received by bequest, or earned by the pursuit of any avocation outside of the home; also, giving her the right to sue and be sued in matters pertaining to such separate property; but not a single state of this Union has eve secured the wife in the enjoyment of her right to the joint ownership of the joint earnings of the marriage copartnership. And since, in the nature of things, the vast majority of married women never earn a dollar, by work outside of their families, nor inherit a dollar from their fathers, it follows that from the day of their marriage to the day of the death of their husbands, not one of them ever has a dollar, except it shall please her husband to let her have it.
In some of the states, also, there have been laws passed giving to the mother a joint right with the father in the guardianship of the children. But twenty years ago, when our woman’s rights movement commenced, by the laws of the State of New York, and all the states, the father had the sole custody and control of the children. No matter if he were a brutal, drunken libertine, he had the legal right, without the mother’s consent, to apprentice her sons to rumsellers, or her daughters to brothel keepers. He could even will away an unborn child, to some other person than the mother. And in many of the states the law still prevails, and the mothers are still utterly powerless under the common law.
I doubt if there is, to-day, a State in this Union where a married woman can sue or be sued for slander of character, and until quite recently there was not one in which she could sue or be sued for injury of person. However damaging to the wife’s reputation any slander may be, she is wholly powerless to institute legal proceedings against her accuser, unless her husband shall join with her; and how often have we hard of the husband conspiring with some outside barbarian to blast the good name of his wife? A married woman cannot testify in courts in cases of joint interest with her husband. A good farmer’s wife near Earlville, Ill., who had all the rights she wanted, went to a dentist of the village and had a full set of false teeth, both upper and under. The dentist pronounced them an admirable fit, and the wife declared they gave her fits to wear them; that she could neither chew nor talk with them in her mouth. The dentist sued the husband; his counsel brought the wife as witness; the judge ruled her off the stand; saying “a married woman cannot be a witness in matters of joint interest between herself and her husband.” Think of it, ye good wives, the false teeth in your mouths are joint interest with your husbands, about which you are legally incompetent to speak!! If in our frequent and shocking railroad accidents a married woman is injured in her person, in nearly all of the States, it is her husband who must sue the company, and it is to her husband that the damages, if there are any, will be awarded. In Ashfield, Mass., supposed to be the most advanced of any State in the Union in all things, humanitarian as well as intellectual, a married woman was severely injured by a defective sidewalk. Her husband sued the corporation and recovered $13,000 damages. And those $13,000 belong to him bona fide; and whenever that unfortunate wife wishes a dollar of it to supply her needs she must ask her husband for it; and if the man be of a narrow, selfish, nighardly nature, she will have to hear him say, every time, “What have you done, my dear, with the twenty-five cents I gave you yesterday?” Isn’t such a position, ask you, humiliating enough to be called “servitude?” That husband, as would any other husband, in nearly every State of this Union, sued and obtained damages for the loss of the services of his wife, precisely as the master, under the old slave regime, would have done, had his slave been thus injured, and precisely as he himself would have done had it been his ox, cow or horse instead of his wife.
There is an old saying that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and I submit it the deprivation by law of the ownership of one’s own person, wages, property, children, the denial of the right as an individual, to sue and be sued, and to testify in the courts, is not a condition of servitude most bitter and absolute, though under the sacred name of marriage?
Does any lawyer doubt my statement of the legal status of married women? I will remind him of the fact that the old common law of England prevails in every State in this Union, except where the Legislature has enacted special laws annulling it. And I am ashamed that not one State has yet blotted from its statue books the old common law of marriage, by which Blackstone, summed up in the fewest words possible, is made to say, “husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband.”
Thomas E. Hill, “Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms,” 1888 The Wife’s Duty.
Never should a wife display her best conduct, her accomplishments, her smiles, and her best nature, exclusively away from home. Be careful in your purchases. Let your husband know what you buy, and that you have wisely expended your money. Let no wife devote a large portion of her time to society work which shall keep her away from home daytimes and evenings, without the full concurrence of her husband. Beware of entrusting the confidence of your household to outside par- ties. The moment you discuss the faults of your husband with another, that moment an element of discord has been admitted which will one day rend your family circle. If in moderate circumstances, do not be over ambitious to make an expensive display in your rooms. With your own work you can embellish at a cheap price, and yet very handsomely, if you have taste. Let the adornings of your private rooms be largely the work of your own hands. Beware of bickering about little things. Your husband returns from his labors with his mind absorbed in business. In his dealings with his employees, he is in the habit of giving commands and of being obeyed. In his absent-mindedness, he does not realize, possibly, the change from his business to his home, and the same dictatorial spirit may possess him in the domestic circle. Should such be the case, avoid all disputes. What matters it where a picture hangs, or a flower-vase may sit. Make the home so charming and so wisely-ordered that your husband will gladly be relieved of its care, and will willingly yield up its entire management to yourself. Be always very careful of your conduct and language. A husband is largely restrained by the chastity, purity and refinement of his wife. A lowering- of dignity, a looseness of expression and vulgarity of words, may greatly lower the standard of the husband’s purity of speech and morals. Whatever may have been the cares of the day, greet your husband with a smile when he returns. Make your personal appearance just as beau- tiful as possible. Your dress may be made of calico, but it should be neat Let him enter rooms so attractive and sunny that all the recollections of his home, when away from the same, shall attract him back. Be careful that you do not estimate your husband solely by his ability to make display. The nature of his employment, in comparison with others, may not be favorable for fine show, but that should matter not. The superior qualities of mind and heart alone will bring permanent happiness. To have a cheerful, pleasant home awaiting the husband, is not all. He may bring- a guest whom he desires to favorably impress, and upon you will devolve the duty of entertaining the visitor so agreeably that the husband shall take pride in you. A man does not alone require that his wife be a good housekeeper. She must be more; in conversational talent and general accomplishment she must be a companion.
The Husband’s Duty.
A very grave responsibility has the man assumed in his marriage. Doting parents have confided to his care the welfare of a loved daughter, and a trusting woman has risked all her future happiness in his keeping. Largely will it depend upon him whether her pathway shall be strewn with thorns or roses. Let your wife understand fully your business. In nearly every case she will be found a most valuable adviser when she understands all your circumstances. Do not be dictatorial in the family circle. The home is the wife’s province. It is her natural field of labor. It is her right to govern and direct its interior management You would not expect her to come to your shop, your office, your store or your farm, to give orders how your work should be conducted; neither should you interfere with the duties which legitimately belong to her. If a dispute arises, dismiss the subject with a kind word, and do not seek to carry your point by discussion. It is a glorious achievement to master one’s own temper. You may discover that you are in error, and if your wife is wrong, she will gladly, in her cooler moments, acknowledge the fault. Having confided to the wife all your business affairs, determine with her what your income will be in the coming year. Afterwards ascertain what your household expenses will necessarily be, and then set aside a weekly sum, which should regularly and invariably be paid the wife at a stated time. Let this sum be even more than enough, so that the wife can pay all bills, and have the satisfaction besides of accumulating 1 a fund of her own, with which she can exercise a spirit of independence in the bestowal of charity, the purchase of a gift, or any article she may desire. You may be sure that the wife will very seldom use the money unwisely, if the husband gives her his entire confidence. Your wife, possibly, is inexperienced; perhaps she is delicate in health, also, and matters that would be of little concern to you may weigh heavily upon her. She needs, therefore, your tenderest approval, your sympathy and gentle advice. When her efforts are crowned with suc- cess, be sure that you give her praise. Few husbands realize how happy the wife is made by the knowledge that her efforts and her merits are appreciated. There are times, also, when the wife’s variable condition of health will be likely to make her cross and petulant ; the husband must overlook all this, even if the wife is at times unreasonable. Endeavor to so regulate your household affairs that all the faculties of the mind shall have due cultivation. There should be a time for labor, and a time for recreation. There should be cultivation of the social nature, and there should be attention given to the spiritual. The wife should not be required to lead a life of drudgery. Matters should be so regulated that she may early finish her labors of the day; and the good husband will so control his business that he may be able to accompany his wife to various places of amusement and entertainment. Thus the intellectual will be provided for, and the social qualities be kept continually exercised.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “The Solitude of Self” The Woman’s Column, January 1882
Elizabeth Cady Stanton served for twenty years as the president of national organizations for woman suffrage. In 1892, she resigned at age 77. Below is her resignation speech that was subsequently published.
The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul; our Protestant idea, the right of individual conscience and judgment; our republican idea, individual citizenship. In discussing the rights of woman, we are to consider, first, what belongs to her as an individual, in a world of her own, the arbiter of her own destiny, an imaginary Robinson Crusoe, with her woman, Friday, on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her faculties for her own safety and happiness.
Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all others members, according to the fundamental principles of our Government.
Thirdly, viewed as a woman, an equal factor in civilization, her rights and duties are still the same—individual happiness and development.
Fourthly, it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, which may involve some special duties and training. . . .
The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear—is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself. No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency, they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to watch the winds and waves, and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all. It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman; nature, having endowed them equally, leaves them to their own skill and judgment in the hour of danger, and, if not equal to the occasion, alike they perish.
To appreciate the importance of fitting every human soul for independent action, think for a moment of the immeasurable solitude of self. We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us, we leave it alone, under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. No mortal ever has been, no mortal ever will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life. There can never again be just such a combination of prenatal influences; never again just such environments as make up the infancy, youth and manhood of this one. Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another. No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no one will ever find two human beings alike. Seeing, then, what must be the infinite diversity in human character, we can in a measure appreciate the loss to a nation when any class of the people is uneducated and unrepresented in the government.
We ask for the complete development of every individual, first, for his own benefit and happiness. In fitting out an army, we give each soldier his own knapsack, arms, powder, his blanket, cup, knife, fork and spoon. We provide alike for all their individual necessities; then each man bears his own burden.
Again, we ask complete individual development for the general good; for the consensus of the competent on the whole round of human interests, on all questions of national life; and here each man must bear his share of the general burden. It is sad to see how soon friendless children are left to bear their own burdens, before they can analyze their feelings; before they can even tell their joys and sorrows, they are thrown on their own resources. The great lesson that nature seems to teach us at all ages in self-dependence, self-protection, self-support. . . .
In youth our most bitter disappointments, our brightest hopes and ambitions, are known only to ourselves. Even our friendship and love we never fully share with another; there is something of every passion, in every situation, we conceal. Even so in our triumphs and our defeats. . . .
We ask no sympathy from others in the anxiety and agony of a broken friendship or shattered love. When death sunders our nearest ties, alone we sit in the shadow of our affliction. Alike amid the greatest triumphs and darkest tragedies of life, we walk alone. On the divine heights of human attainment, eulogized and worshipped as a hero or saint, we stand alone. In ignorance, poverty and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted and hounded through dark courts and alleys, in by-ways and high-ways; alone we stand in the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and misfortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows. In hours like these we realize the awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities, hours in which the youngest and most helpless are thrown on their own resources for guidance and consolation. Seeing, then, that life must ever be a march and a battle that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right.
To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands. To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment. Think of . . . woman’s position! Robbed of her natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection. . . .
The young wife and mother, at the head of some establishment, with a kind husband to shield her from the adverse winds of life, with wealth, fortune and position, has a certain harbor of safety, secure against the ordinary ills of life. But to manage a household, have a desirable influence in society, keep her friends and the affections of her husband, train her children and servants well, she must have rare common sense, wisdom, diplomacy, and a knowledge of human nature. To do all this, she needs the cardinal virtues and the strong points of character that the most successful statesman possesses. An uneducated woman trained to dependence, with no resources in herself, must make a failure of any position in life. But society says women do not need a knowledge of the world, the liberal training that experience in public life must give, all the advantages of collegiate education; but when for the lack of all this, the woman’s happiness is wrecked, alone she bears her humiliation; and the solitude of the weak and the ignorant is indeed pitiable. In the wild chase for the prizes of life, they are ground to powder.
In age, when the pleasures of youth are passed, children grown up, married and gone, the hurry and bustle of life in a measure over, when the hands are weary of active service, when the old arm chair and the fireside are the chosen resorts, then men and women alike must fall hack on their own resources. If they cannot find companionship in books, if they have no interest in the vital questions of the hour, no interest in watching the consummation of reforms with which they might have been identified, they soon pass into their dotage. The more fully the faculties of the mind are developed and kept in use, the longer the period of vigor and active interest in all around us continues. If, from a life-long participation in public affairs, a woman feels responsible for the laws regulating our system of education, the discipline of our jails and prisons, the sanitary condition of our private homes, public buildings and thoroughfares, an interest in commerce, finance, our foreign relations, in any or all these questions, her solitude will at least be respectable, and she will not be driven to gossip or scandal for entertainment.
The chief reason for opening to every soul the doors to the whole round of human duties and pleasures is the individual development thus attained, the resources thus provided under all circumstances to mitigate the solitude that at times must come to everyone. . . .
Inasmuch, then, as woman shares equally the joys and sorrows of time and eternity, is it not the height of presumption in man to propose to represent her at the ballot box and the throne of grace, to do her voting in the state, her praying in the church, and to assume the position of high priest at the family altar?
Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one’s self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, everywhere conceded—a place earned by personal merit, not an artificial attainment by inheritance, wealth, family and position. Conceding, then, that the responsibilities of life rest equally on man and woman, that their destiny is the same, they need the same preparation for time and eternity. The talk of sheltering woman from the fierce storms of life is the sheerest mockery, for they beat on her from every point of the compass, just as they do on man, and with more fatal results, for he has been trained to protect himself, to resist, and to conquer. Such are the facts in human experience, the responsibilities of individual sovereignty. Rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, man and woman; it is ever the same, each soul must depend wholly on itself.
Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of death to give life to every man that is born into the world; no one can share her fears, no one can mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.
From the mountain-tops of Judea long ago, a heavenly voice bade his disciples, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”; but humanity has not yet risen to that point of self-sacrifice; and if ever so willing, how few the burdens are that one soul can bear for another! . . .
So it ever must be in the conflicting scenes of life, in the long, weary march, each one walks alone. We may have many friends, love, kindness, sympathy and charity, to smooth our pathway in everyday life, but in the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone.
But when all artificial trammels are removed, and women are recognized as individuals, responsible for their own environments, thoroughly educated for all positions in life they may be called to fill; with all the resources in themselves that liberal thought and broad culture can give; guided by their own conscience and judgment, trained to self-protection, by a healthy development of the muscular system, and skill in the use of weapons and defence; and stimulated to self-support by a knowledge of the business world and the pleasure that pecuniary independence must ever give; when women are trained in this way, they will in a measure be fitted for those hours of solitude that come alike to all, whether prepared or otherwise. As in our extremity we must depend on ourselves, the dictates of wisdom point to complete individual development.
In talking of education, how shallow the argument that each class must be educated for the special work it proposes to do, and that all those faculties not needed in this special work must lie dormant and utterly wither for want of use, when, perhaps, these will be the very faculties needed in life’s greatest emergencies! Some say, “Where is the use of drilling girls in the languages, the sciences, in law, medicine, theology. As wives, mothers, housekeepers, cooks, they need a different curriculum from boys who are to fill all positions. The chief cooks in our great hotels and ocean steamers are men. In our large cities, men run the bakeries; they make our bread, cake and pies. They manage the laundries; they are now considered our best milliners and dressmakers. Because some men fill these departments of usefulness, shall we regulate the curriculum in Harvard and Yale to their present necessities? If not, why this talk in our best colleges of a curriculum for girls who are crowding into the trades and professions, teachers in all our public schools, rapidly filling many lucrative and honorable positions in life?”. . .
Women are already the equals of men in the whole realm of thought, in art, science, literature and government. . . . The poetry and novels of the century are theirs, and they have touched the keynote of reform, in religion, politics and social life. They fill the editor’s and professor’s chair, plead at the bar of justice, walk the wards of the hospital, speak from the pulpit and the platform. Such is the type of womanhood that an enlightened public sentiment welcomes to-day, and such the triumph of the facts of life over the false theories of the past.
Is it, then, consistent to hold the developed woman of this day within the same narrow political limits as the dame with the spinning wheel and knitting needle occupied in the past? No, no! Machinery has taken the labors of woman as well as man on its tireless shoulders; the loom and the spinning wheel are but dreams of the past; the pen, the brush, the easel, the chisel, have taken their places, while the hopes and ambitions of women are essentially changed.
We see reason sufficient in the outer conditions of human beings for individual liberty and development, but when we consider the self-dependence of every human soul, we see the need of courage, judgment and the exercise of every faculty of mind and body, strengthened and developed by use, in woman as well as man.
Whatever may be said of man’s protecting power in ordinary conditions, amid all the terrible disasters by land and sea, in the supreme moments of danger, alone woman must ever meet the horrors of the situation. The Angel of Death even makes no royal pathway for her. Man’s love and sympathy enter only into the sunshine of our lives. In that solemn solitude of self, that links us with the immeasurable and the eternal, each soul lives alone forever. A recent writer says: “I remember once, in crossing the Atlantic, to have gone upon the deck of the ship at midnight, when a dense black cloud enveloped the sky, and the great deep was roaring madly under the lashes of demoniac winds. My feeling was not of danger or fear (which is a base surrender of the immortal soul) but of utter desolation and loneliness; a little speck of life shut in by a tremendous darkness. . . .”
And yet, there is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self. Our inner being which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery, for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter.
Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?
Senator George G. Vest (Democrat, Missouri), Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 2d Session (25 January 1887).
The Senator gave this speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate during debate on whether voting rights should be granted to women.
If this Government, which is based on the intelligence of the people, shall ever be destroyed it will be by injudicious, immature, or corrupt suffrage. If the ship of state launched by our fathers shall ever be destroyed, it will be by striking the rock of universal, unprepared suffrage. . . .
The Senator who last spoke on this question refers to the successful experiment in regard to woman suffrage in the Territories of Wyoming and Washington. Mr. President, it is not upon the plains of the sparsely settled Territories of the West that woman suffrage can be tested. Suffrage in the rural districts and sparsely settled regions of this country must from the very nature of things remain pure when corrupt everywhere else. The danger of corrupt suffrage is in the cities, and those masses of population to which civilization tends everywhere in all history. Whilst the country has been pure and patriotic, cities have been the first cancers to appear upon the body-politic in all ages of the world.
Wyoming Territory! Washington Territory! Where are their large cities? Where are the localities in those Territories where the strain upon popular government must come? The Senator from New Hampshire [Henry W. Blair—Ed.],who is so conspicuous in this movement, appalled the country some months since by his ghastly array of illiteracy in the Southern States. . . . That Senator proposes now to double, and more than double, that illiteracy. He proposes now to give the negro women of the South this right of suffrage, utterly unprepared as they are for it.
In a convention some two years and a half ago in the city of Louisville an intelligent negro from the South said the negro men could not vote the Democratic ticket because the women would not live with them if they did. The negro men go out in the hotels and upon the railroad cars. They go to the cities and by attrition they wear away the prejudice of race; but the women remain at home, and their emotional natures aggregate and compound the race-prejudice, and when suffrage is given them what must be the result? . . .
I pity the man who can consider any question affecting the influence of woman with the cold, dry logic of business. What man can, without aversion, turn from the blessed memory of that dear old grandmother, or the gentle words and caressing hand of that dear blessed mother gone to the unknown world, to face in its stead the idea of a female justice of the peace or township constable? For my part I want when I go to my home—when I turn from the arena where man contends with man for what we call the prizes of this paltry world—I want to go back, not to be received in the masculine embrace of some female ward politician, but to the earnest, loving look and touch of a true woman. I want to go back to the jurisdiction of the wife, the mother; and instead of a lecture upon finance or the tariff, or upon the construction of the Constitution, I want those blessed, loving details of domestic life and domestic love. . . .
I speak now respecting women as a sex. I believe that they are better than men, but I do not believe they are adapted to the political work of this world. I do not believe that the Great Intelligence ever intended them to invade the sphere of work given to men, tearing down and destroying all the best influences for which God has intended them.
The great evil in this country to-day is in emotional suffrage. The great danger to-day is in excitable suffrage. If the voters of this country could think always coolly, and if they could deliberate, if they could go by judgment and not by passion, our institutions would survive forever, eternal as the foundations of the continent itself; but massed together, subject to the excitements of mobs and of these terrible political contests that come upon us from year to year under the autonomy of our Government, what would be the result if suffrage were given to the women of the United States?
Women are essentially emotional. It is no disparagement to them they are so. It is no more insulting to say that women are emotional than to say that they are delicately constructed physically and unfitted to become soldiers or workmen under the sterner, harder pursuits of life.
What we want in this country is to avoid emotional suffrage, and what we need is to put more logic into public affairs and less feeling. There are spheres in which feeling should be paramount. There are kingdoms in which the heart should reign supreme. That kingdom belongs to woman. The realm of sentiment, the realm of love, the realm of the gentler and the holier and kindlier attributes that make the name of wife, mother, and sister next to that of God himself.
I would not, and I say it deliberately, degrade woman by giving her the right of suffrage. I mean the word in its full signification, because I believe that woman as she is to-day, the queen of the home and of hearts, is above the political collisions of this world, and should always be kept above them. . . .
It is said that the suffrage is to be given to enlarge the sphere of woman’s influence. Mr. President, it would destroy her influence. It would take her down from that pedestal where she is today, influencing as a mother the minds of her offspring, influencing by her gentle and kindly caress the action of her husband toward the good and pure.
DISCUSSION 2: Comment on the four sources on social classes in the Gilded Age. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.
● Article excerpt, Chicago Tribune, 1892
Darkest Chicago was as hot and sultry and uninviting yesterday as ever Darkest Africa dared be. The ill-kept streets radiated the heat from the pavements, the gutters and garbage-boxes steamed and sizzled until the air was filled with noxious odors, and with every gust of hot wind came a cloud of stifling dust to choke and blind the thousands of unfortunate human beings who fought for a miserable existence from early dawn until the sun went down. In a damp, slimy area on O’Brien street, near Jefferson, were five or six half starved little girls. Each had a puny, half naked baby to care far, which they did by depositing the little sufferers in a damp corner of the area. They had procured a piece of wilted watermelon and were having a feast. The eldest one was master of ceremonies and passed the melon from mouth to mouth, and each in turn took a bite with evident enjoyment. And they were happy despite the heat.
● Illinois Bureau of Statistics, “The Conditions of Families, Laborer,” Third Biennial Report, 1884.
EARNINGS: Of Father, $320; of Wife, $100. CONDITION: Family numbers 8—parents and six children, four girls, twins three months, one two and one three years, two boys, one five and the other seven. Lives in a house containing 4 rooms, and pay $11 per month rent. House very poorly furnished, and a miserable affair altogether. FOOD—Breakfast: Bread, meat, and coffee. Dinner: Bread, vegetables, and coffee. Supper: Bread and coffee, etc. COST OF LIVING—Rent: $132, Fuel: $33, Meat and groceries: $165, Clothing, boots and shoes, and dry goods: $65. Sundries: $25. TOTAL: $420.
● Article Excerpt, Newport Daily News, 1891
Chateau sur mer, the residence of ex Govenor and Mrs George Peabody Wetmore was a blaze of glory last night upon the occasion of the ball given in honor of Miss Maude Wetmore. Mrs. Wetmore, in a pale mauve silk with lace and pearls received and was assisted by her daughter, who was in white. The principal favors were miniature coronets set with colored stones for the ladies and fleur de lys pins to match for the gentlemen and long sashes of ribbons, bonbons and Parisian novelties were given out in abundance. It is a room worthy of the title Grand Salon, and with the delicate decorations by the floral artist, was made especially charming. The room is decorated in Louis XV style with panels in pale lavender and green, and its unusual height made some very striking floral effects possible, and the various delicately tinted flowers used harmonized perfectly with the permanent decoration
● Article Excerpt, Newport Daily News, 1889
Dinner at Chateau sur mer. A creamy sauce velouté was whisked and coddled to the perfect consistency. Chilled, it became a sauce chaud-froid to coat a ham or a boned and stuffed fowl, which was elaborately decorated with artistic cutouts from vegetables. One of the girls probably labored for hours over the kitchen mortar and pestle grinding chicken meat to a fine paste for quenelles. The quenelles also required making a panade, a pastry-like mixture into which eggs were thoroughly beaten, by hand in this case. The combined paste and panade was seasoned, then carefully formed into small ovals and gently poached. Another sauce would be prepared for the quenelles, then the last step before serving was to carefully glaze the finished dishes with a red-hot salamander. A delicate sponge paste would be prepared to make ladyfingers for an architecturally composed Charlotte for dessert. The soft dough had to be carefully piped onto sheets and baked to a delicate, pale gold color.
Part II (ca. 1900 to 1929)
ASSIGNMENT 3: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.
3a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by Daniel Rodgers below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.
3b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on Rodgers’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.
● Daniel Rodgers, “The Progressive Era to the New Era, 1900-1929,” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2014 All Rights Reserved. [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]
We should not accept social life as it has “trickled down to us,” the young journalist Walter Lippmann wrote soon after the twentieth century began. “We have to deal with it deliberately, devise its social organization, . . . educate and control it.” The ambition to harness and organize the energies of modern life of which Lippmann spoke cut through American economy, politics, and society in many different, sometimes contradictory ways between 1900 and 1929, but it left virtually none of its major institutions unchanged. The modern business corporation, modern politics, the modern presidency, a modern vision of the international order, and modern consumer capitalism were all born in these years.
More than in most eras, Americans in the first years of the twentieth century felt the newness of their place in history. Looking back on the late nineteenth century, they stressed its chaos: the boom-and-bust cycles of the economy, the violent and exploitative aspects of its economy and social life, the gulf between its ostentatious new wealth and the lot of its urban poor and hard-pressed farmers, and the inefficiency of American politics in a world of great nations.
A Revolution in Organization
The pioneers in the reorganization of social life on more deliberate and systematic lines were the architects of the modern business corporation. In the aftermath of the 1890s depression, they undertook to supplant the unstable partnership and credit systems of the past with the forms of the modern corporation: broadly capitalized, more intensely managed, and national in scope and market. The reorganization of Andrew Carnegie’s iron and steel empire by the J. P. Morgan banking house into the mammoth US Steel Corporation in 1901 was a sign of the trends to come. By the 1920s, corporate giants in production, communications, finance, life insurance, and entertainment dominated the economy; the two hundred largest corporations in 1929 owned nearly half the nation’s total corporate wealth.
The new scale of economic enterprise demanded much more systematic organization. On the shop and office floor the systematization of work routines was intense, from the elaborate organization of clerical labor at Metropolitan Life to the subdivision of automobile making at Ford in 1913 into tasks that workers could repeat over and over as an assembly line dragged their work past them. In the showcases of “welfare capitalism,” a new cadre of personnel managers undertook to smooth out the radically unstable hiring and firing practices of the past, creating seniority systems and benefits for stable employees. By the 1920s the corporate elite was heralding a “new era” for capitalism, freed of the cyclical instabilities of the past. Its watchwords now were efficiency, permanence, welfare, and service.
With similar ambition to escape the turbulence of late nineteenth-century economy and society, progressive reformers undertook to expand the capacities of governments to deal with the worst effects of barely regulated capitalism. Their projects met far more resistance than those of the corporate managers. But between 1900 and 1929 they succeeded in bringing most of the characteristics of the modern administrative state into being. More professionalized corps of state factory inspectors endeavored to safeguard workers from dangerous working conditions, physically exhausting hours, and industrial diseases. Public utility commissions endeavored to pull the pricing of railroad shipping, streetcar fares, and city gas and water supplies out of the turmoil of politics and put them in the hands of expert-staffed commissions charged with setting fair terms of service and fair return on capital. New zoning boards, city planning commissions, and public health bureaus sprang into being to try to bring more conscious public order out of chaotic land markets, slum housing, poisoned food, polluted water supplies, and contagious diseases.
The energy of the new progressive politics was most intense at the state and local levels where civic reform associations of all sorts sprang up to thrust the new economic and social issues into politics. Women’s leagues, labor federations, businessmen’s good government lobbies, social welfare associations, and investigative journalists led the way, borrowing on each other’s techniques and successes.
Despite the more sharply defined constitutional limitations on federal power in this period, visions of more active government filtered up into national politics as well. Theodore Roosevelt set the mold for a much more active, issue-driven presidency than any since the Civil War. Roosevelt brought an anti-trust rhetoric and a powerful interest in environmental conservation into politics. In the national railroad strike of 1894, President Cleveland had dispatched federal troops to break the strike; now in the national coal strike of 1902, Roosevelt offered the White House as a venue for mediation. Pushed by its farm and labor constituencies, the Democratic Party, too, moved toward more active and effective governance. The era’s impetus for the creation of a more centralized banking system to stabilize the nation’s credit system had come first from elite bankers. Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Congress incorporated their plan for a central bank into the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, sliding a publicly appointed board of governors over the bankers’ plan for self-regulation. Congress took its first steps toward nation-wide child labor restriction, though the Supreme Court struck down the act on a narrow reading of the Constitution’s “commerce clause.”
The relationship of these progressive reforms to democracy was complex. To break what they saw as the corrupt alliance between business wealth and political party bosses, progressive reformers succeeded in moving the election of US Senators from the state legislatures to the general electorate and, in some states, instituting new systems of popular referenda, initiative, and recall. They championed votes for women, bringing the last states holding out against women’s suffrage into line in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But they also tightened up voting registration systems to curb immigrant voters, and they acquiesced in disfranchisement measures to strike African Americans off the voting rolls that had swept through southern states between 1890 and 1908.