In 1927, responding to the seemingly overpowering claims of advertisers and mass marketers, engineer Frederick Schlink and economist Stuart Chase published Your Money's Worth, which argued for an "extension of the principle of buying goods according to impartial scientific tests rather than according to the fanfare and triumphs of higher salesmanship." Your Money's Worth became an instant best-seller, and the authors organized Consumers' Research, a testing bureau that provided information and published product tests in a new magazine, Consumers' Research Bulletin. The 1929 stock market crash heightened suspicion of consumer capitalism, and the magazine had 42,000 subscribers by 1932. In 1933, Schlink and Arthur Kallet (executive secretary of Consumers' Research) published 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics. The book struck a responsive chord in depression-era America--it went through thirteen printings in its first six months and became one of the best-selling books of the decade. The book's first chapter ("The Great American Guinea Pig"), gave a flavor of their vigorous arguments.
The deadly lung disease silicosis is caused when miners, sandblasters, and foundry and tunnel workers inhale fine particles of silica dust--a mineral found in sand, quartz, and granite. In 1935, approximately 1,500 workers--largely African Americans who had come north to find work--were killed by exposure to silica dust while building a tunnel in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. Ordinarily, silicosis takes a several years to develop, but these West Virginia tunnel workers were falling ill in a matter of months because of exposure to unusually high concentrations of silica dust. The crisis over silicosis suddenly became a national issue, as seen in this article in the radical newspaper Peoples' Press . In 1936 congressional hearings on the Gauley Bridge disaster, it was revealed that company officials and engineers wore masks to protect themselves when they visited the tunnel, but they failed to provide masks for the tunnelers themselves, even when the workers requested them.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, stunned virtually everyone in the U.S. military: Japan's carrier-launched bombers found Pearl Harbor totally unprepared. In this 1991 interview, conducted by John Terreo for the Montana Historical Society, serviceman Orville Quick, who was assigned to build airfields and was very near Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941, remembers the attack. He also provided a vivid, and humorous, account of the chaos from a soldier's point of view.
For four years after the U.S. dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, America held a monopoly on the production of atomic weapons. During this period, debate centering on the use of nuclear bombs in future wars proliferated among government officials, scientists, religious leaders, and in the popular press. In the following article from Collier's, former Navy lieutenant commander William H. Hessler, using data from the Strategic Bombing Survey, argued that saturation bombing of urban areas during World War II, while devastating for civilians, did not achieve war aims. A future atomic war, therefore, might well destroy cities but fail to stop enemy aggression. Furthermore, with a much higher urban concentration than the Soviet Union, the U.S. had more to lose from atomic warfare. The article, while providing detailed explanations of the bomb's destructive capability, demonstrated the lack of information available regarding the long-term medical and ecological effects of radioactivity. Hessler's prose also evoked both the fascination that gadgetry of atomic warfare held for Americans of the time and the fear many felt about the risks involved in putting this technology to use. On September 24, 1949, one week after publication of this article, news that the Russians had conducted atom bomb tests shocked the nation. The following April, a National Security Council report to President Harry S. Truman advised development of a hydrogen bomb--some 1,000 times more destructive than an atom bomb--and a massive buildup of non-nuclear defenses. The subsequent outbreak of war in Korea in June 1950 justified to many a substantial increase in defense spending.
Faced with stiff business opposition, a conservative political climate, hostile courts, and declining membership, leaders of the American Federeration of Labor (AFL) grew increasingly cautious during the 1920s. Labor radicals viewed AFL leaders as overpaid, self-interested functionaries uninterested in organizing unorganized workers into unions. A cartoon by William Gropper published in the Communist Yiddish newspaper Freiheit (and reprinted in English in the New Masses ) caricatures delegates to a 1926 AFL convention in Atlantic City. Well
In 1981, the U.S. medical community noticed a significant number of gay men living in urban areas with rare forms of pneumonia, cancer, and lymph disorders. The cluster of ailments was initially dubbed Gay-Related Immune Disease (GRID), but when similar illnesses increased in other groups, the name changed to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The mid-1980s saw a number of advances toward understanding and treating the disease, but no vaccine or cure was forthcoming. Gay advocacy and community-based organizations began providing services and pressuring government to increase funding for finding a cure and helping victims. As two representatives of AIDS health services organizations stated in the following 1987 testimony to Congress, AIDS spread in disproportionately high numbers throughout U.S. minority and disadvantaged communities. They advocated increased federal funding for prevention efforts targeted at minority communities and administered by community-based organizations. Despite such efforts, the number of minority AIDS cases continued to rise sharply, and by 1996, African Americans accounted for a higher percentage of reported adult cases of AIDS (41%) than did whites.
Allies during World War II, the U.S. and the Soviet Union disagreed over a number of issues after the war. These included control of Eastern Europe, division of Germany, atomic energy, international loans, and the Middle East. On February 9, 1946, Soviet premier Josef Stalin asserted that the continued existence of capitalism in the West would inevitably lead to war. Foreign Service senior diplomat George Kennan sent President Harry Truman, still forming a Soviet policy, a lengthy telegram advocating containment. Commerce Secretary Henry A. Wallace--Secretary of Agriculture (1933-1941) and Vice-President from (1941-1945)--was one of the few liberal idealists in Truman's cabinet. Wallace envisioned a "century of the common man" marked by global peace and prosperity. In the following excerpt from a letter dated July 23, 1946, Wallace urged Truman to build "mutual trust and confidence" in order to achieve "an enduring international order." Truman asked Wallace to resign. In March 1947, Truman asked Congress for money "to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Thus articulated, the "Truman Doctrine" of containment served as the rationale for future American Cold War foreign policy initiatives.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965--called "the most successful civil rights law in the nation's history" by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights--was enacted in order to force Southern states and localities to allow all citizens of voting age to vote in public elections. Although the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, guaranteed citizens the right to vote regardless of race, discriminatory requirements, such as literacy tests, disenfranchised many African Americans in the South. In 1965, following the murder of a voting rights activist by an Alabama sheriff's deputy and the subsequent attack by state troopers on a massive protest march in Selma, President Lyndon B. Johnson pressed Congress to pass a voting rights bill with "teeth". The Act, signed into law on August 6, applied to states or counties where fewer than half of the citizens of voting age were registered in 1964--Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, and numerous counties in North Carolina. For these areas, the law banned literacy tests, appointed Federal examiners to oversee election procedures, and, according to the Act's controversial Section 5, required approval by the U.S. Attorney General of future changes to election laws. In the following letter to a 1969 Senate subcommittee hearing on extending the Act, New Jersey Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr., provided statistics to show the law's effect. The position described in the letter was Attorney General John Mitchell's proposal to replace Section 5 with an oversight mechanism more amenable to the white South. Ultimately, on June 22, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed into law a bill that extended the Act's provisions--including Section 5--for five additional years, and in addition, lowered the voting age throughout the country to 18.
"The Land of Liberty" was the ironic title of this cartoon published in an 1847 edition of the British satirical weekly Punch. As the cartoon suggests, Americans faced a number of dilemmas and crises that came to revolve around the institution of slavery and its expansion into the West. As slavery became more entrenched in Southern social and economic life, the war against Mexico, the forced removal of Native Americans from the Southeastern United States, and conflicts between rich and poor whites all highlighted the conflicts within Southern society and between the North and South about the place of slavery in a rapidly expanding republic.
In November 1865 a group of 52 black delegates met in Charleston's Zion Church to formulate a position regarding their future in the still uncertain world of the post-emancipation South. Their address invoked the language of the Declaration of Independence to claim full rights of citizenship for themselves, rights that were endangered by widespread southern "Black Codes." The Black Codes were a series of laws introduced in the months after the war by the reconstituted state legislatures of the South. These laws were enacted to restrict the movements and employment possibilities of blacks regardless of whether they had been free or enslaved before the war?in essence to replace the constrictions of slavery.
The 1890s witnessed the emergence of a commercial popular music industry in the United States. Sales of sheet music, enabling consumers to play and sing songs in their own parlors, skyrocketed during the "Gay Nineties," led by Tin Pan Alley, the narrow street in midtown Manhattan that housed the country's major music publishers and producers. Although Tin Pan Alley was established in the 1880s, it only achieved national prominence with the first "platinum" song hit in American music history--Charles K. Harris's "After the Ball"--that sold two million pieces of sheet music in 1892 alone. "After the Ball's" sentimentality ultimately helped sell over five million copies of sheet music, making it the biggest hit in Tin Pan Alley's long history. Typical of most popular 1890s tunes, the song was a tearjerker, a melodramatic evocation of lost love.
The climate of repression established in the name of wartime security during World War I continued after the war as the U.S. government persecuted communists, Bolsheviks, and reds." Caught up in this "Red Scare
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Encouraged by the government to back their men at the front
The interwar peace movement was arguably the largest mass movement of the 1920s and 1930s, a mobilization often overlooked in the wake of the broad popular consensus that ultimately supported the U.S. involvement in World War II. The destruction wrought in World War I (known in the 1920s and 1930s as the "Great War") and the cynical nationalist politics of the Versailles Treaty had left Americans disillusioned with the Wilsonian crusade to save the world for democracy. Senate investigations of war profiteering and shady dealings in the World War I munitions industry both expressed and deepened widespread skepticism about wars of ideals. Charles Lindbergh, popular hero of American aviation, had been speaking in support of American neutrality for some time, and allies of FDR's interventionist foreign policy sought to counter the arguments of the famous aviator. In a May 19, 1940, radio speech, Senator James F. Byrnes of South Carolina refuted Lindbergh's position, specifically rebutting a speech Lindbergh had given on military spending.
Isabelle Van Wagenen was born enslaved in New York State and became a well-known abolitionist speaker under the name Sojourner Truth after gaining her freedom in 1827. She moved to New York City where she engaged in evangelical and other reform activities; at various points she also lived in several utopian communities. Truth supported herself by traveling and speaking on abolitionist and women's rights subjects, taking the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. She often faced opposition at her speaking engagements. Truth made this extemporaneous speech in Akron Ohio in 1851 at a women's rights meeting. No direct record of the speech exists, but Frances Gage, a white activist and author who was presiding over the meeting, recalled it over a decade later. While some historians have questioned Gage's accuracy in reconstructing the syntax and even the exact language of Truth's oration, the power and charismatic force of her argument about the equality of women remains evident.
Although educational radio stations flourished in the early 1920s--more than 200 existed prior to the introduction of network radio in 1926--most faltered shortly thereafter. One reason was the alignment of the Federal Radio Commission (FRC), created by legislation declaring that the airwaves belonged to the public, with commercial interests. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) replaced the FRC in 1934, educational, religious, and labor groups promoted an amendment requiring the allocation of one-fourth of all broadcast licenses to nonprofit organizations. The amendment failed to pass, and by 1937, only 38 educational radio stations remained in operation. In 1948, as sales of televisions skyrocketed, Freida B. Hennock, the first female FCC commissioner, began a campaign to assign channel frequencies for nonprofit, educational use. Advocates backing Hennock documented the high number of acts or threats of violence shown to children every week on commercial television broadcasts. Consequently, when the FCC in 1952 added UHF (ultra high frequency) channels to the existing VHF (very high frequency) channels, they reserved 10 percent for use by nonprofit educational organizations. In the following testimony to a 1955 Congressional subcommittee, Hennock advocated oversight of commercial television by governmental and civic bodies and championed educational television. The testimony from the general manager of a new Pittsburgh educational station, William Wood, follows. Wood emphasized the lack of violence in his 'poverty stricken' station's programming and included excerpts from fan mail praising an acclaimed children's show, The Children's Corner, a program co-produced by Fred Rogers, who later created, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Until 1967, however, when the Federal government established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to appropriate funds for public television, non-commercial stations struggled to survive.
William Penn, a well placed English gentlemen and a Quaker, turned an old debt into a charter for the proprietary colony called "Pennsylvania," (all the land between New Jersey and Maryland) Penn took great pains in setting up his colony; twenty drafts survive of his First Frame of Government, the colony's 1682 constitution. Penn was determined to deal fairly and maintain friendly relations with the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians. He laid out in great detail the city of Philadelphia as well as organized other settlements and established the Free Society of Traders to control commerce with England. He sent back glowing accounts of the colony to his English friends and patrons. This Letter to the Free Society of Traders, published in 1683, has been recognized as the most effective of his promotional tracts. And it proved successful; by 1700 Pennsylvania's population reached 21,000.
The constitution of the United States was composed in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Afterward, ratifying conventions were held in the states. In Massachusetts, site of the previous year's Shay's Rebellion against government enforcement of private debt collection, ratification did not go uncontested. Farmers from the western part of the state, such as the "yeomen" who signed this letter published in the Massachusetts Gazette in January, 1788, were suspicious of the power that the constitution seemed to centralize in elite hands. Rural smallholders were not the only ones who felt this way, however. Thomas Jefferson, then in Paris as the United States' minister to France, felt similarly. Massachusetts ratified the constitution on February 7, 1788.
In the years following the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment extending voting rights to women, the National Woman's Party, the radical wing of the suffrage movement, advocated passage of a constitutional amendment to make discrimination based on gender illegal. The first Congressional hearing on the equal rights amendment (ERA) was held in 1923. Many female reformers opposed the amendment in fear that it would end protective labor and health legislation designed to aid female workers and poverty-stricken mothers. A major divide, often class-based, emerged among women's groups. While the National Woman's Party and groups representing business and professional women continued to push for an ERA, passage was unlikely until the 1960s, when the revived women's movement, especially the National Organization for Women (NOW), made the ERA priority. The 1960s and 1970s saw important legislation enacted to address sex discrimination in employment and education--most prominently, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the 1972 Higher Education Act--and on March 22, 1972, Congress passed the ERA. The proposed amendment expired in 1982, however, with support from only 35 states÷three short of the required 38 necessary for ratification. Strong grassroots opposition emerged in the southern and western sections of the country, led by anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schafly. Schlafly charged that the amendment would create a "unisex society" while weakening the family, maligning the homemaker, legitimizing homosexuality, and exposing girls to the military draft. In the following 1970 Senate hearing, author and editor Gloria Steinem argued that opposition to the ERA was supported by deep-seated societal myths about gender that exaggerated difference, ignored factual evidence of inequitable treatment, denied the importance of the women's movement, and promoted male domination.
One of the earliest accounts of the European-Indian encounter in North America was of the ill-fated 1527 expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez. After disembarking on the Florida coast near Tampa, the Spanish forces on land and sea became disastrously separated. Having overstayed their welcome and with local Indians in pursuit, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, second in command, set out with his men on rafts back to Cuba. Eighty survivors came through a hurricane to land near Galveston, Texas. Four years later, in 1536, when they were rescued in northern Mexico by Spanish slave traders, only four remained: Cabeza de Vaca, two other Spaniards, and an African named Estevan. In his epic Relacions (1542), Cabeza de Vaca recounted how he was frequently called upon to cure natives that they encountered, which led to the natives' adoration. Since the Indians left no written sources, what little we know about the coming of the European explorers and their early encounters with the Indians often comes from European accounts such as this.