Unit 6 (Period 7 Part 1): From Populism To The Progressive Era, America's Rise to Power and World War I

Unit 6 1890-1920
Period 7 Part 1, 1898-1920 
  From Populism To The Progressive Era, 
America's Rise to Power and World War I

Unit 6 Textbook Chapters: 

AMSCO Chapters 20-25 / American Pageant Chapters 23*,26*, 27-33 Reading Guides (Optional but HIGHLY ENCOURAGED): 
Chapter 20:  Becoming a World Power, 1898-1917
Chapter 21:  The Progressive Era 1901-1917
Chapter 22:  World War I and Its Aftermath, 1914-1920

American Pageant chapters 23*, 26*, 27: 
If you do  not have your textbook yet, you may read American Pageant chapters online:

Chapter 23*:  Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age 1869-1896 (Only Populist Info.)

Chapter 26*:  The Great West and the Agricultural Revolution 1865-1896 (Only             

                       Farming issues and Populism sections)

Chapter 27:  Empire and Expansion 1890-1900


Chapter 28:  Progressivism and the Republican Roosevelt 1901-1912

Chapter 29:  Wisonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad 1912-1916

Chapter 30:  The War to End War 1917-1918

Chapter 31:  American Life in teh Roaring Twenties 1919-1929

Chapter 32:  The Politics of Boom and Bust 1920-1932

Chapter 33:  The Great Depression and the New Deal 1933-1939


All videos are approximately 20 minutes each.

The Progressive Movement (1890s-1917)

World War I (1914/17-1918)

The 1920s

Depression and New Deal (1929-1940)

WWII: Battle Front (1939/41-1945)


(alternate recorded lectures!)


Unit 6 Terms:


Progressivism Born in the Gilded Age

(from chapters 23-26)

The serious issues of monetary and agrarian reform, labor, race, and economic fairness were largely swept under the rug by the political system, until revolting farmers and a major economic depression beginning in 1893 created a growing sense of crisis and demands for radical change. The Compromise of 1877 made reconstruction officially over and white Democrats resumed political power in the South.  Blacks, as well as poor whites, found themselves forced into sharecropping and tenant farming; what began as informal separation of blacks and whites in the immediate postwar years evolved into systematic state-level legal codes of segregation known as Jim Crow laws.

Populists Documents for Writing Practice

Summary (from ch.23)

After the soaring ideals and tremendous sacrifices of the Civil War, the post–Civil War era was generally one of disillusionment. Politicians from the White House to the courthouse were often surrounded by corruption and scandal, while the actual problems afflicting industrializing America festered beneath the surface.

The popular war hero Grant was a poor politician and his administration was rife with corruption. Despite occasional futile reform efforts, politics in the Gilded Age was monopolized by the two patronage-fattened parties, which competed vigorously for spoils while essentially agreeing on most national policies. Cultural differences, different constituencies, and deeply felt local issues fueled intense party competition and unprecedented voter participation. Periodic complaints by “Mugwump” reformers and “soft-money” advocates failed to make much of a dent on politics.

The deadlocked contested 1876 election led to the sectional Compromise of 1877, which put an end to Reconstruction. An oppressive system of tenant farming and racial supremacy and segregation was thereafter fastened on the South, enforced by sometimes lethal violence. Racial prejudice against Chinese immigrants was also linked with labor unrest in the 1870s and 1880s.


·              The post-Civil War era is rife with corruption, graft, and influence peddling.  Corruption is rampant at the local and state level as well.  The infamous New York City political machine known as the Tweed Ring, for example, bilks the city and state out of millions of dollars.

·              In an attempt to clean their own house, the Republicans take steps to lower the protective tariff, which many consider unreasonably high and beneficial to specific industries.  In addition, to address the problem of nepotism and favoritism in attaining government employment, the Republicans pass modest civil service reform legislation such as the Pendleton Act.

·              A devastating Depression hits the nation in 1873, adding to the already significant political woes of President Grant and his Republican Party.

·              An effect of the Civil War, the weakening of the Democratic Party during this period, would have a long term effect.  Indeed, only two Democrats were elected president between 1860 and 1912.

·              While he himself was honest to a fault, President Grant’s administration was riddled with political figures who viewed their position in government as a means to acquire ill-gotten wealth.  Some people who were not government officials found ways to penetrate the federal government to benefit them selves.  For example, financial speculators Jay Gould and Jim Fisk cornered the gold market.  Their unscrupulous acts were uncovered, but not before ruining many unsuspecting investors and businessmen and further tarnishing the already tainted Grant administration.

·              With the end of Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws brought a new form of subordination and degredation for southern blacks.  Relegated again to a position of dependence, many former slaves turned to sharecropping, one of the few options open to them.  Millions of blacks scratched out a meager existence while locked into a system that made them indebted to the owners of the land on which they worked.  In many cases those landowners were their former masters.

“I found myself…with high expectations and a certain belief that whatever perplexities and discouragement concerning the life of the poor were in store for me, I should at least know something at firsthand and have the solace of daily activity.…I had at last finished with the ever-lasting ‘preparation for life,’ however ill-prepared I might be.” Jane Addams

booker         Hull House  (Hull House)

“The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly.…The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.” Booker T. Washington

Theme (from ch.25): In the late nineteenth century, American society was increasingly dominated by large urban centers. Explosive urban growth was accompanied by often disturbing changes, including the New Immigration, crowded slums, new religious outlooks, and conflicts over culture and values. While many Americans were disturbed by the new urban problems, cities also offered opportunities to women and expanded cultural horizons.

 Life in the City (a collection of pictures)

Theme (from ch.25): African Americans suffered the most as the south lagged behind other regions of the country with regard to educational improvements and opportunities. Two schools of thought emerged as to the best way to handle this problem. Booker T. Washington advocated that blacks should gain knowledge of useful trades. With this would come self-respect and economic security – Washington avoided the issue of social equality.  W.E.B. Du Bois demanded complete equality for blacks, both social as well as economic.


chapter 25 summary

The United States moved from the country to the city in the post–Civil War decades. Mushrooming urban development was exciting but also created severe social problems, including overcrowding and slums.

After the 1880s the cities were flooded with the New Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. With their strange customs and non-Protestant religions, the newcomers sometimes met with nativist hostility and discrimination.

Religion had to adjust to social and cultural changes. Roman Catholicism and Judaism gained strength, while conflicts over evolution and biblical interpretation divided Protestant churches.

American education expanded rapidly, especially at the secondary and graduate levels. Blacks and immigrants tried, with limited success, to use education as a path to upward mobility.


·              Industrialization sparks urbanization, and cities become magnets for immigration.  Those who can afford to leave behind the hustle and bustle of urban life move to the budding suburbs.

·              The late nineteenth century sees a surge of immigration, now from eastern and southern Europe.  Most encounter living and working conditions not appreciably better than what they had left.

·              As it was for earlier immigrants, those who immigrate in the post-Civil War era are generally not welcomed by those whose families established roots in America in an earlier period.  Asians, Eastern and Southern Europeans, and Jews often face hostility from those who consider themselves culturally superior and who maintain that American culture is being weakened by these new immigrants.

·              Disappointed with the premature end of Reconstruction and the continuing struggle of blacks to achieve social acceptance and political and economic equality, black leaders suggest various ways to defeat racism.  Some black leaders such as Booker T. Washington advocates a gradualist approach, while W.E.B. Bu Bois is committed to a more aggressive, confrontational approach.

·              Incensed by the expanding gap between wealth and poverty, corruption in government, and a host of other social, economic, and political concerns, reformers put pen to paper and educate millions of Americans about these problems.  Books and journals such as The Nation provide readers an alternative perspective to more widely known mainstream political ideas

·              The foundations of the twentieth-century women’s rights movement are laid in the nineteenth century by advocates such as Victoria Woodhull and Jane Adams.  The struggle over women’s suffrage is one facet of the strain between those who celebrated the new, modern American woman.

·              The prohibition movement attracted those who claimed that alcohol consumption was immoral and unchristian.  Some contemporaneous critics of the movement refuted this perspective as a veiled attempt to impose a set of social and cultural values on society.

·              In 1909, WEB DuBois helped found the black civil rights organization that is still in existence, the NAACP.

.       Significant conflicts over moral values, especially relating to sexuality and the role of women, began to  appear. The new urban environment provided expanded opportunities for women but also created difficulties for the family. Families grew more isolated from society, the divorce rate rose, and average family. Amusement became business.

Progressivism and the Republican Roosevelt, 1901–1912

Chapter Themes

Theme: The strong progressive movement successfully demanded that the powers of government be applied to solving the economic and social problems of industrialization. Progressivism first gained strength at the city and state level, and then achieved national influence in the moderately progressive administrations of Theodore Roosevelt.

Theme: Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor, William H. Taft, aligned himself with the Republican Old Guard, causing Roosevelt to break away and lead a progressive third-party crusade.

chapter summary

The progressive movement of the early twentieth century became the greatest reform crusade since abolitionism. Inaugurated by Populists, socialists, social gospelers, female reformers, and muckraking journalists, progressivism attempted to use governmental power to correct the many social and economic problems associated with industrialization.

Progressivism began at the city and state level, and first focused on political reforms before turning to correct a host of social and economic evils. Women played a particularly important role in galvanizing progressive social concern. Seeing involvement in such issues as reforming child labor, poor tenement housing, and consumer causes as a wider extension of their traditional roles as wives and mothers, female activists brought significant changes in both law and public attitudes in these areas.

At the national level, Roosevelt’s Square Deal used the federal government as an agent of the public interest in the conflicts between labor and corporate trusts. Rooseveltian progressivism also acted on behalf of consumer and environmental concerns. Conservatism became an important public crusade under Roosevelt, although sharp disagreements divided “preservationists” from those who favored the “multiple use” of nature. The federal emphasis on “rational use” of public resources generally worked to benefit large enterprises and to inhibit action by the smaller users.

Roosevelt personally selected Taft as his political successor, expecting him to carry out “my policies.” But Taft proved to be a poor politician who was captured by the conservative Republican Old Guard and rapidly lost public support. The conflict between Taft and pro-Roosevelt progressives finally split the Republican party, with Roosevelt leading a third-party crusade in the 1912 election.


· Corporate abuses and government attempts at patchwork reforms over the previous decades convince progressives that stronger action is needed.

· Muckrakers galvanize Americans through exposes and novels describing, for example, the abuses of major corporations. President Roosevelt, however, is not enamored of these writers.

· The American political system undergoes a revolutionary transformation that will lead to women getting the right to vote in 1920 (19th Amendment). Also, election of senators by state legislatures is replaced by the much more democratic direct election (17th Amendment).

· Wisconsin becomes the model for reform at the state level, with Governor Robert M. La Follette in the vanguard.

· Legislation has been passed to protect the American worker, though widespread abuse continues, sparking strikes. One of the most important is the Anthracite Coal Strike, and it is significant because the federal government does not take the side of management.

· Roosevelt spearheads efforts to impose regulations on corporations and eliminate unfair competition, but his record as a trust-buster is uneven.

· Roosevelt is a unique political leader, especially when it comes to his interest in protecting the nation’s resources through conservation

· Upton Sinclair, author of a novel that exposed abuses at a meatpacking plant, had written The Jungle to awaken Americans to socialist ideas but had to settle for the public’s outrage at the abuses he described in vivid and graphic detail, which led to the passage of the Meat Inspections Act, Pure Food and Drug Act, and other consumer safety legislation.

· At times it took a tragedy to awaken the American people to the exploitation and dangerous working conditions that workers faced on a daily basis. A haunting image of the burned bodies of the mostly female Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York (1911) is one vivid reminder that laws were necessary to protect vulnerable workers.

Wilsonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad, 1912–1916

Chapter Themes

Theme: After winning a three-way election focused on different theories of progressivism, Woodrow Wilson successfully pushed through a sweeping program of domestic economic and social reform in his first term.

Theme: Wilson’s attempt to promote an idealistic progressive foreign policy failed, as dangerous military involvements threatened in both Latin America and the North Atlantic.

chapter summary

Wilson and his New Freedom defeated Roosevelt and his New Nationalism in a contest over alternative forms of progressivism. Eloquent, idealistic former professor Wilson successfully carried out a broad progressive economic reform of the tariff, finances, and the trusts. He also achieved some social reforms that benefited the working classes, but not blacks.

Wilson’s attempt to implement progressive moral goals in foreign policy was less successful, as he stumbled into military involvements in the Caribbean and revolutionary Mexico. The outbreak of World War I in Europe also brought the threat of American involvement, especially from German submarine warfare.

Wilson temporarily avoided war by extracting the precarious Sussex pledge from Germany. His antiwar campaign of 1916 narrowly won him reelection over the still-quarreling Republicans.


· A split in the Republican Party between supporters of Theodore Roosevelt and of President William Howard Taft gives the Democrats’ Woodrow Wilson victory in the 1912 election.

· An idealist by nature and experience, President Wilson soon addresses some of the burning concerns of his time: the high protective tariff, the power of the trusts, and banking monopolies. He also uses his rhetorical skills and academic experience to convince the public and Congress that the plight of impoverished and exploited farmers and wage laborers must be addressed.

· Wilson alters foreign policy in Latin America. Roosevelt waved the Big Stick: Taft advocated what became known as dollar diplomacy to protect and attract US investments. Wilson, on the other hand, recoils from imperial pretensions. But events in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico convince him to modify his objections to imperialism and use of the US military.

· As militarism, nationalism, and imperialism strain relations among European countries, Wilson maintains a precarious policy of neutrality. Germany’s use of U-boats to starve Britain into submission leads to what the US considers serious violations of its shipping and maritime rights.

· Despite his reputation as a progressive and advocate for the downtrodden and often forgotten worker and farmer, Wilson was at best indifferent, often opposed, to black rights. Wilson instituted segregation in the federal government. A product of the Civil War and Reconstruction South, he held attitudes on black rights in stark contrast to his zeal for reform in other areas.

· The sinking of the passenger liner Lusitanian, which resulted in the loss of nearly 1,200 lives including 128 US citizens, outraged Americans. However, today many historians are convinced the ship was carrying war materials to Britain, a violation of the US’s own neutral stance.

America as a World Power


rough riders

Pictured: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders

Empire and Expansion, 1890–1909

Imperialism Vocabulary
Imperialism Documents for Writing Practice

Chapter Themes

Theme: In the 1890s a number of economic and political forces sparked a spectacular burst of imperialistic expansionism for the United States that culminated in the Spanish-American War—a war that began over freeing Cuba and ended with the highly controversial acquisition of the Philippines and other territories.

Theme: In the wake of the Spanish-American War, President Theodore Roosevelt pursued a bold and sometimes controversial new policy of asserting America’s influence abroad, particularly in East Asia and Latin America.

Ch. 27 & 28 Review

Anti-Imperialist League Platform
White Man's Burden

chapter summary

Various developments provoked the previously isolated United States to turn its attention overseas in the 1890s. Among the stimuli for the new imperialism were the desire for new economic markets, the sensationalistic appeals of the “yellow press,” missionary fervor, Darwinist ideology, great-power rivalry, and naval competition.

Strong American intervention in the Venezuelan boundary dispute of 1895–1896 demonstrated an aggressive new assertion of the Monroe Doctrine and led to a new British willingness to accept American domination in the Western Hemisphere. Longtime American involvement in Hawaii climaxed in 1893 in a revolution against native rule by white American planters. President Cleveland temporarily refused to annex the islands, but the question of incorporating Hawaii into the United States triggered the first full-fledged imperialistic debate in American history.

The “splendid little” Spanish-American War began in 1898 over American outrage about Spanish oppression of Cuba. American support for the Cuban rebellion had been whipped up into intense popular fervor by the “yellow press.” After the mysterious Maine explosion in February 1898, this public passion pushed a reluctant President McKinley into war, even though Spain was ready to concede on the major issues.

An astounding first development of the war was Admiral Dewey’s naval victory in May 1898 in the rich Spanish islands of the Philippines in East Asia. Then in August, American troops, assisted by Filipino rebels, captured the Philippine city of Manila in another dramatic victory. Despite mass confusion, American forces also easily and quickly overwhelmed the Spanish in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

After a long and bitter national debate over the wisdom and justice of American imperialism, which ended in a narrow proimperialist victory in the Senate, the United States took over the Philippines and Puerto Rico as colonial possessions. Regardless of serious doubts about imperialism, the United States had strongly asserted itself as a proud new international power.

America’s decision to take the Philippines aroused violent resistance from the Filipinos, who had expected independence. The brutal war that ensued was longer and costlier than the Spanish-American conflict.

Imperialistic competition in China deepened American involvement in Asia. Hay’s Open Door policy helped prevent the great powers from dismembering China. The United States joined the international expedition to suppress the Boxer Rebellion.

Theodore Roosevelt brought a new energy and assertiveness to American foreign policy. When his plans to build a canal in Panama were frustrated by the Colombian Senate, he helped promote a Panamanian independence movement that enabled the canal to be built. He also altered the Monroe Doctrine by adding a “Roosevelt Corollary” that declared an American right to intervene in South America.

Roosevelt negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War but angered both parties in the process. Several incidents showed that the United States and Japan were now competitors in East Asia.


· Having expanded to the Pacific Ocean by the late nineteenth century, the US will go on to establish a global empire. The first step is to defeat Spain and take over its crumbling empire. This is accomplished in the Spanish-American War when the US ostensibly comes to the aid of Cubans who are seeking to break the chains of Spanish imperialism. Having defeated the Spaniards and wrested them their empire in the Caribbean and the Pacific, the US faces an insurgency by people who earlier were its allies, notably the Cubans and Filipinos, who bridle at what they see as a new hegemonic power.

· Despite nearly coming to blows over the Venezuelan boundary dispute, the US and Britain establish a cordial relationship that has endured.

· To protect US economic interests in China, Secretary of State John Hay proposes the Open Door policy to guarantee equal trading and commercial rights in China for all. The Chinese, however, are not consulted; this exacerbates tensions between China and the western powers.

· McKinley’s assassination thrust Theodore Roosevelt into the spotlight and the oval office – a man whom most conservative Republicans distrust. Many advocates of US imperialism are not disappointed by Roosevelt’s policies, such as the construction of the Panama Canal and a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that strengthens US hegemonic influence in Latin America.

· Hawaii came under US control when the reigning monarch, Queen Lilioukalani, opposed American economic and political presence in her island country.

· The Spanish-American War facilitated the reconciliation of the North and South as both sections now had a common foreign-policy objective. An example of this development is that ex-Confederate General Joseph Wheeler fought in a war that was in part orchestrated by Lincoln’s former aid, later McKinley’s secretary of state, John Hay.

American Imperialism Varying Viewpoints... 
Should the United States become an imperialist power by keeping the Philippine Islands?

For: The “proimperialists”—led by expansionists like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Albert Beveridge; some business publications like the Review of Reviews and business spokespersons like Mark Hanna; and some religious leaders like the Rev. J. H. Barrows and the Rev. Josiah Strong.

Against: The “anti-imperialists”—led by writers like William James and Mark Twain; some business spokespersons like Andrew Carnegie; some labor leaders like Samuel Gompers; and some clergymen like the Rev. Charles Ames and the Rev. Henry Van Dyke.

Manifest Destiny Varying Viewpoints... 
Is overseas expansion, and therefore control of the Philippines, part of the inevitable manifest destiny of the United States?

For: Proimperialist Theodore Roosevelt: “Our whole national history has been one of expansion. Under Washington and Adams we expanded westward to the Mississippi. Under Jefferson we expanded across the continent to the mouth of the Columbia.…The same will be true of the Philippines. Nations that expand and nations that do not expand may ultimately go down, but the one leaves heirs and a glorious memory, and the other leaves neither.”

Against: Anti-imperialist Carl Schurz: “Whenever there is a project on foot to annex a foreign territory to this republic the cry of ‘manifest destiny’ is raised to produce the impression that all opposition to such a project is a struggle against fate. The fate of the American people is in their own wisdom and will. If they devote their energies to the development of what they possess within their present limits…their ‘manifest destiny’ will be the preservation of the exceptional and invaluable advantages they now enjoy.…”

Democracy Varying Viewpoints... Would ruling another nation be compatible with basic American ideals of democracy and self-government?

For: Pro-imperialist New York Tribune: “Cannibals govern themselves. The half-ape creatures of the Australian bush govern themselves. The Eskimo governs himself, and so do the wildest tribes of darkest Africa. But what kind of a government is it?”

Against: Anti-imperialist Rev. Henry Van Dyke: “How can we pass by the solemn and majestic claim of our Declaration of Independence, that ‘government derives its powers from the consent of the governed’? How can we face the world as a union of free states holding vassal states in subjection, a mighty mongrel nation in which a republic is tied to an empire, and democracy bears children not to be distinguished from the off-spring of absolutism?”

Economic benefit Varying Viewpoints... Is acquiring the Philippines essential for America’s economic health and future trade with Asia?

For: Proimperialist American Wool and Cotton Exporter: “Annexation is important because the contingencies of our China trade bid fair to be such as to make the Philippines exceedingly valuable to us as a basis for operations in the continent of China.”

Against: Anti-imperialist Carl Schurz: “I agree that we cannot have too many foreign markets. But can such markets be opened only by annexing to the United States the countries in which they are situated?”

Race Varying Viewpoints... 
Should the dark-skinned Filipinos be brought under the rule of white-skinned Americans?

For: Proimperialist The Textile Record: “Supremacy in the world appears to be the destiny of the race to which we belong, the most competent governor of inferior races.…The clear path of duty for us appears to be to bring to the people of the Spanish islands in the Pacific and the Atlantic an opportunity to rise from misery and hopelessness to a promise of just government and commercial success.”

Against: Anti-imperialist Henry Labouchère: [A parody of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.” See text]

“Pile on the brown man’s burden

Nor do not deem it hard

If you should earn the rancor

Of those ye yearn to guard.

The screaming of your eagle

Will drown the victim’s sob

Go on through fire and slaughter

There’s dollars on the job.

Pile on the brown man’s burden

And through the world proclaim

That ye are freedom’s agent—

There’s no more paying game!

And should your own past history

Straight in your teeth be thrown

Retort that Independence

Is good for whites alone.”

(Varying Viewpoints REFERENCES: E. Berkeley Tompkins, Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890–1920 (1970); Richard Welch, ed., Imperialists vs. Anti-Imperialists (1972).

Expanding the “varying viewpoints”

· Julius Pratt, Expansionists of 1898 (1951).

A “traditional” view of imperialism:

“The Manifest Destiny of the 1840s had been largely a matter of emotion. Much of it had been simply one expression of a half-blind faith in the superior virility of the American race and the superior beneficence of American political institutions. In the intervening years, much had been done to provide this emotional concept with a philosophic backing.…Far-fetched and fallacious as their reasoning may appear to us, it nevertheless carried conviction.…The observation must be made that the rise of an expansionist philosophy in the United States owed little to economic influences.…The need of American business for colonial markets and fields for investment was discovered not by businessmen but by historians and other intellectuals, by journalists and politicians.”

· William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959).

A “revisionist” view of imperialism as a product of economic expansionism:

“Men like McKinley and other national leaders thought about America’s problems and welfare in an inclusive, systematized way that emphasized economics. Wanting democracy and social peace, they argued that economic depression threatened those objectives, and concluded that overseas economic expansion provided a primary means of ending that danger. They did not want war per se, let alone war in order to increase their own personal fortunes. But their conception of the world ultimately led them into war in order to solve the problems in the way that they considered necessary and best.”

World War I

Chapter Themes

Theme: Entering World War I in response to Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare, Wilson turned America’s participation into a fervent ideological crusade for democracy that successfully stirred the public to a great voluntary war effort, but at some cost to traditional civil liberties.

Theme: After America’s limited but important contribution to the Allied victory, a triumphant Wilson attempted to construct a peace based on his idealistic Fourteen Points. But European and senatorial opposition, and especially his own political errors, doomed American ratification of the Versailles Treaty and participation in the League of Nations.

chapter summary

Germany’s declaration of unlimited submarine warfare, supplemented by the Zimmerman note proposing an alliance with Mexico, finally caused the United States to declare war. Wilson aroused the country to patriotic heights by making the war an idealistic crusade for democracy and permanent peace based on his Fourteen Points.

Wartime propaganda stirred voluntary commitment to the war effort, but at the cost of suppressing dissent. Voluntary efforts also worked wonders in organizing industry, producing food, and financing the war. Labor, including women, made substantial wartime gains. The beginnings of black migration to northern cities led to racial tensions and riots.

America’s soldiers took nearly a year to arrive in Europe, and they fought in only two major battles at the end of the war. America’s main contribution to the Allied victory was to provide supplies, personnel, and improved morale. Wilson’s immense prestige created high expectations for an idealistic peace, but his own political blunders and the stubborn opposition of European statesmen forced him to compromise his lofty aims.

As Lodge stalled the treaty, Wilson tried to rouse the country on behalf of his cherished League, but his own physical collapse and refusal to compromise killed the treaty and the League. Republican isolationists effectively turned Harding’s victory in 1920 into a death sentence for the League.


American Life in the “Roaring Twenties,” 1919–1929

Chapter Themes

Theme: A disillusioned America turned away from idealism and reform after World War I and toward isolationism in foreign affairs, domestic social conservatism and the pleasures of prosperity.

Theme: New technologies, mass-marketing techniques, and new forms of entertainment fostered rapid cultural change along with a focus on consumer goods. But the accompanying changes in moral values and uncertainty about the future produced cultural anxiety as well as sharp intellectual critiques of American life.

chapter summary

After the crusading idealism of World War I, America turned inward and became hostile to anything foreign or different. Radicals were targeted in the red scare and the Sacco-Vanzetti case, while the resurgent Ku Klux Klan joined other forces in bringing about pronounced restrictions on further immigration. Sharp cultural conflicts occurred over the prohibition experiment and evolution.

A new mass-consumption economy fueled the spectacular prosperity of the 1920s. The automobile industry, led by Henry Ford, transformed the economy and altered American lifestyles.

The pervasive media of radio and film altered popular culture and values. Birth control and Freudian psychology overturned traditional sexual standards, especially for women. Young literary rebels, many originally from the Midwest, scorned genteel New England and small-town culture and searched for new values as far away as Europe. The stock-market boom symbolized the free-wheeling spirit of the decade.


·              Concerned about the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, The US, Britain, and other nations send troops to participate in the Russian Civil War in the hope of toppling Lenin’s communist government.  Domestically, a systematic effort to suppress Bolsheviks, or reds, is launched.

·              Intolerance grows in the nations after WWI.    A new and more virulent strain emerges in the reborn KKK, which has expanded it influence across the nation.

·              To shrink immigration from certain areas of the world, a quota system is put in place.  That and the Immigration Act of 1924 dramatically reduce eastern and southern European immigration.

·              To control social and moral behavior, the prohibition movement addresses alcohol consumption.  In 1919 the 18th Amendment is ratified, eliminating “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.”

·              Automotive production becomes an integral part of the economy as it stimulates demand in other businesses, among them the gas and oil industry, and gives Americans relatively easy access to shopping (which itself is transformed by the auto), schools, and the workplace.

·              The decade known as the roaring twenties witnesses cultural, social, and economic challenges to Victorian values.  Women begin to defy gender stereotypes through, for example, fashion, smoking cigarettes in public, and jazz dancing.

·              Henry Ford paid his workers handsomely (about $5/day) and shortened their workday, but he expected their loyalty and established a paternalistic relationship with them that went even beyond the workplace – their personal lives were monitored by the company.  Other companies followed suit, hoping to prevent labor strikes and other interferences in the production process.

·              Charles Lindberg, known as “Lucky Lindy” because of his unprecedented feat of flying nonstop from NYC to Paris, initiated a new age of air travel.  The airplane fundamentally changed the nation and the world, allowing personal air travel and revolutionizing the military.

The Politics of Boom and Bust, 1920–1932

Chapter Themes

Theme: The Republican administrations of the prosperous 1920s pursued conservative, pro-business policies at home and economic unilateralism abroad.

Theme: The great crash of 1929 led to a severe, prolonged depression that devastated the American economy and spirit, and resisted Hoover’s limited efforts to correct it.

chapter summary

The Republican governments of the 1920s carried out active, pro-business policies while undermining much of the progressive legacy by neglect. The Washington Naval Conference indicated America’s desire to withdraw from international involvements. Sky-high tariffs protected America’s booming industry but caused severe economic troubles elsewhere in the world.

As the Harding scandals broke, the puritanical Calvin Coolidge replaced his morally easygoing predecessor. Feuding Democrats and La Follette progressives fell easy victims to Republican prosperity.

American demands for strict repayment of war debts created international economic difficulties. The Dawes plan provided temporary relief, but the Hawley-Smoot Tariff proved devastating to international trade.

The stock-market crash of 1929 brought a sudden end to prosperity and plunged America into a horrible depression. Herbert Hoover’s reputation collapsed as he failed to relieve national suffering, although he did make unprecedented but limited efforts to revive the economy through federal assistance.


·              Harding is incorruptible, but some friends and appointees lack his honesty and tarnish Harding’s administration.

·              Shocked by the enormous devastation that the war brought to Europe, the victorious world powers hold disarmament talks (Washington Naval conference) and agree to reduce the size of their navies.  As part of the government, Japan is not permitted to have a higher tonnage amount than Britain and the US but is granted hegemonic power in the Far East.

·              Congress raises the protective tariff to augment the already big profits businesses are amassing.  European countries retaliate with their own high tariffs, which stymie int4ernational trade and debilitate Germany, already financially pressed by its obligation to pay for war reparations.

·              Determined to be repaid its war loans, the US create s the Dawes Plan, a complicated method of financial payments that fails to get repayment but places considerable strain on European finances.

·              The stock-market collapse starts a deep depression from which the nation will not fully recover until WWII.  The rest of the world shares in this calamity.

·              Near the end of Hoover’s term in office the Japanese invade China.  The US response is tepid and does little to deter the Japanese from taking future aggressive action.

·              Farmers who purchase labor-saving technology such as mechanical harvesters and reapers dramatically increased production but at a considerable cost: the price of their crops plummeted.

·              Aggravating the problem of underconsumption was the Mellon tax plan, which had lowered taxes on the rich, thereby concentrating even more wealth in a small percentage of the population.

·              Hoover’s solution to the economic collapse reflected his faith in the resiliency of American capitalism.  While he adopted drastic measures inconsistent with his own monetary philosophy, he still relied on volunteerism, local-government assistance to the unemployed, and rugged individualism to see the nation through, methods that were inadequate for the depression.

·              Hoover’s brutal response to the Bonus Marchers eroded even further his rapidly declining popularity, a trend that did not bode well for the president’s reelection prospects. 

1920s Review

End of 1920s and Beginning of the Great Depression

Unit 6 Review materials: