Category Archives: American History

Franklin Roosevelt was part of the political establishment and the wealthy elite, but in the 1932 presidential campaign, he did not want to be perceived that way. Roosevelt felt that the country needed sweeping change, and he ran a campaign intended to convince the American people that he could deliver that change. It was not the specifics of his campaign promises that were different; in fact, he gave very few details and likely did not yet have a clear idea of how he would raise the country out of the Great Depression. But he campaigned tirelessly, talking to thousands of people, appearing at his party’s national convention, and striving to show the public that he was a different breed of politician. As Hoover grew more morose and physically unwell in the face of the campaign, Roosevelt thrived. He was elected in a landslide by a country ready for the change he had promised.

Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1941

Figure 26.1 President Roosevelt’s Federal One Project allowed thousands of artists to create public art. This initiative was a response to the Great Depression as part of the Works Project Administration, and much of the public art in cities today date from this era. New Deal by Charles Wells can be found in the Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Trenton, New Jersey. (credit: modification of work by Library of Congress)

Chapter Outline 26.1 The Rise of Franklin Roosevelt 26.2 The First New Deal 26.3 The Second New Deal

Introduction The election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signaled both immediate relief for the American public as well as a permanent shift in the role of the federal government….

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched an aerial attack against the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing or wounding 3,478 Americans. Two battleships, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, were completely destroyed, and six others took heavy damage. The attack was a serious blow to American naval power, but fortunately for the United States, its three largest aircraft carriers were not docked at that time (ibid). In less than a week, Congress approved a formal declaration of war against Japan, with only one vote against. That vote was cast by Montana representative, Jeanette Rankin, a lifelong pacifist who had also voted against World War I. Rankin noted that she, as a woman, could not be sent to war, and she therefore refused to send anyone else (Cott 1993, 298). Within days, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, in accordance with the terms of their alliance with Japan. (Click on the thumbnail NEWSREELS: Pearl Harbor.)

 The Rise of Fascism

The end of World War I left Europe in shambles. Almost an entire generation of young men were either killed or disabled by the war, and the economy, which was just beginning to recover, suffered another hit during the global depression of the 1930s. Comparatively speaking, the United States fared much better than most countries because of profits from manufacturing and arms sales during the war and, in terms of casualties, because of the fact that we entered the war much later. There was, however, a general consensus in the country that World War I had not been our fight to begin with. Wilson’s failure, following the war, to convince the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which included U.S. participation in the….

The year 1920 saw the achievement of two goals that American women had worked toward for decades—the right to vote and the prohibition of alcohol. The Eighteenth Amendment, or Prohibition, made it into the Constitution a few months before women’s suffrage, but the two were closely linked. In fact, many suffragists believed that the assumption that women voters would urge the government to ban alcohol was one reason that the vote had been denied to them for so long, and the liquor industry had been a major source of funding for the antisuffrage movement. The Volstead Act, passed by Congress in 1920, was designed to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment and outlawed the manufacture and sale of any beverage with an alcoholic content of more than 0.5 percent (Lender and Martin 1987, 130–31).

When Americans think of the 1920s, the first images that come to mind are flappers, gangsters, and speakeasies. What is often hidden, however, is the great culture war that lurked beneath the surface. This was, in the words of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, “the Jazz Age,” but for many rural Americans, change was unwelcome. Race, sexual morality, prohibition of alcohol, evolution, women’s place in society, and religious fundamentalism were all hot-button issues in this era, and the dividing lines were generally between those who lived in rural areas and those who lived in the cities.

The conflict between rural tradition and modern beliefs was at center stage in the Scopes trial, where Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan debated whether evolution could be taught in public schools….

A survey of 36,000 Americans in 1999 ranked the beginning of World War I as the fifteenth most significant event of the twentieth century. The panel of journalists that helped to create the list on which the survey was based put it only a bit higher on the list, ranking it at number eight (Newton 1999). A good case can be made that the war should be much closer to the top of the list, however. World War I was the catalyst for much of what happened in the remainder of the century. The rise of Communism in Russia, the Great Depression, World War II, the development of atomic weapons, and the cold war are just a few of the events that are, at least in part, attributable to events during and immediately following World War I.

A survey of 36,000 Americans in 1999 ranked the beginning of World War I as the fifteenth most significant event of the twentieth century. The panel of journalists that helped to create the list on which the survey was based put it only a bit higher on the list, ranking it at number eight (Newton 1999). A good case can be made that the war should be much closer to the top of the list, however. World War I was the catalyst for much of what happened in the remainder of the century. The rise of Communism in Russia, the Great Depression, World War II, the development of atomic weapons, and the cold war are just a few of the events that are, at least in part,….

The growth of urban areas after the Civil War was unprecedented. New immigrants flocked to U.S. cities in record numbers and Americans from small towns also headed to the cities in search of better jobs. The population of urban areas nearly tripled in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, with over one-third of the U.S. population living in cities (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1975). The infrastructure of the cities was simply unprepared for such rapid growth and conditions deteriorated. Suburbs emerged as the middle class opted to live outside the city limits—close enough to enjoy the benefits of the city, but away from the squalor and poverty that plagued the densely inhabited areas.

The label “Gilded Age” comes from the title of an 1873 book by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner—The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. The book is a political satire, depicting a greedy, materialistic society where people aimed to get rich quickly, with little concern for ethical standards. It is not one of Twain’s best-known or most critically acclaimed works, but the title seemed a fitting label for an era of extravagant wealth juxtaposed against extreme poverty, and it stuck.

These last decades of the nineteenth century were marked by explosive growth, in terms of wealth and population. The population of the United States nearly doubled between 1870 and 1900—from an estimated 40 million in the 1870 census to an estimated 76 million at the….

Lincoln’s relations with members of his own party had not been strong in recent years, as many of the Radical Republicans feared he would be too generous to the southern aristocracy in his efforts to resume normal relations. The radicals rejected Lincoln’s Ten Percent Plan, which would have allowed Confederate states to rejoin the Union and be seated in Congress once ten percent of its citizens took an oath of loyalty. The counterproposal passed by Congress, the Wade-Davis Bill, called for a fifty percent minimum of loyal citizens, and further specified that no one could run for national office unless he publicly declared he had never supported the Confederacy—something that precluded most of the former leaders from returning to Washington. Lincoln refused to sign it, resulting in a brief schism and essential dissolution of the Republican Party in 1864. Two separate presidential campaigns were launched, and although the other “Republican” candidate would eventually drop out and endorse Lincoln, the incumbent actually won re-election in 1864 on the ticket of the National Union Party. His running mate was Andrew Johnson, a former senator from Tennessee who was a staunch opponent of southern secession and the only senator to retain his seat in Congress after the war began

On April 11, 1865, two days after the Confederate surrender, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd outside the White House. This speech was his first since the end of the war, and many assumed it would be a victory speech. Instead, Lincoln laid out the long and difficult road that lay ahead during Reconstruction. Much of the South lay in ruins, and it would have to be rebuilt. Many difficult decisions would need to be made about reconstruction of the former Confederate states. Lincoln emphasized his view that the former Confederate states should be treated, legally, as though they had never left, but also suggested that it might be necessary and expedient to grant the vote to black men, under certain limited conditions. Even this tentative suggestion enraged many….

In the middle of the Civil War, Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862. The Act allowed farmers to claim up to 160 acres in the Great Plains, by staking their claim and occupying the land for five years. At the end of that time, the settler would be given full rights to the land or he could opt to purchase it for $1.25 per acre after only six months of occupancy. The Homestead Act was responsible for bringing over 700,000 families to the West between 1862 and the turn of the century, and an additional two million families purchased land from railroad companies and other investors during the same period. (Click on the thumbnail Multimedia: Little Houses on the Prairie? Scroll through the photos while listening to the music that accompanies this multimedia.)

Module 1: Building and Rebuilding the Nation

Throughout the 1800s, hundreds of thousands of Americans decided to follow the advice of men like Horace Greeley, who urged the young and ambitious to “Go West!” to seek their fortune. Before the Civil War, the number willing to make the difficult and dangerous journey was small, and most remained clustered along the eastern seaboard. Several forces combined during the mid- to late 1800s, however, to increase westward migration. The promise of land for homesteading attracted families of all races and nationalities to the prairies of the Midwest. The prospect of gold and other economic opportunities drew the adventurous to the Pacific coast, where cities were emerging. By the end of the century, the two primary obstacles to moving west—distance….

The eighteenth century witnessed the birth of Great Britain (after the union of England and Scotland in 1707) and the expansion of the British Empire. By the mid-1700s, Great Britain had developed into a commercial and military powerhouse; its economic sway ranged from India, where the British East India Company had gained control over both trade and territory, to the West African coast, where British slave traders predominated, and to the British West Indies, whose lucrative sugar plantations, especially in Barbados and Jamaica, provided windfall profits for British planters. Meanwhile, the population rose dramatically in Britain’s North American colonies. In the early 1700s the population in the colonies had reached 250,000. By 1750, however, over a million British migrants and African slaves had established a near-continuous zone of settlement on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia.

Figure 4.1 Isaac Royall and his family, seen here in a 1741 portrait by Robert Feke, moved to Medford, Massachusetts, from the West Indian island of Antigua, bringing their slaves with them. They were an affluent British colonial family, proud of their success and the success of the British Empire.

Chapter Outline 4.1 Charles II and the Restoration Colonies 4.2 The Glorious Revolution and the English Empire 4.3 An Empire of Slavery and the Consumer Revolution 4.4 Great Awakening and Enlightenment 4.5 Wars for Empire

Introduction The eighteenth century witnessed the birth of Great Britain (after the union of England and Scotland in 1707) and the expansion of the British Empire. By the mid-1700s, Great Britain had developed into a commercial and military powerhouse; its economic sway ranged….

When the United States stock market crashed in October of 1929, the world was shaken, and all eyes were on America as it tried to get back on its feet. Enter beloved dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, whom quite literally urged the U.S. to “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.” Although most of their musicals did not deal directly with the Great Depression, the overall themes were incredibly emblematic of the emotional experience of the time.

When the United States stock market crashed in October of 1929, the world was shaken, and all eyes were on America as it tried to get back on its feet. Enter beloved dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, whom quite literally urged the U.S. to “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.” Although most of their musicals did not deal directly with the Great Depression, the overall themes were incredibly emblematic of the emotional experience of the time. While the popularity of their films is nearly unarguable, audiences often attribute their success to the escapist nature of blissful song and dance. Many scholars will contest, however, that the films are not as much escapism as they are an embodiment of the conflicts of the….

Mexican Muralism is conceivably one of the most popular artistic style that has ever been recorded in the history of America. This movement was dominated by three famous painters David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera.[footnoteRef:1] In between the 1920s and 1970s, these painters are considered to have enhanced the creation of murals with political, social, and nationalistic messages in almost all public buildings.[footnoteRef:2] The mural works were typically epic in scope, political, and performed in public to increase awareness of Mexicans’ pride. Indeed, the popular Mexican muralists have greatly affected the abstract expressionism movement. [1: Flores, Lori A. “Seeing through Murals: The future of Latino San Francisco.

Mexican Muralism is conceivably one of the most popular artistic style that has ever been recorded in the history of America. This movement was dominated by three famous painters David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera.[footnoteRef:1] In between the 1920s and 1970s, these painters are considered to have enhanced the creation of murals with political, social, and nationalistic messages in almost all public buildings.[footnoteRef:2] The mural works were typically epic in scope, political, and performed in public to increase awareness of Mexicans’ pride. Indeed, the popular Mexican muralists have greatly affected the abstract expressionism movement. [1: Flores, Lori A. “Seeing through Murals: The future of Latino San Francisco.” Boom: A Journal of California 6, no. 4 (2016): 16-27.] [2: Cross, Mary. 100 People who Changed….