Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lincoln Steffens 1894

At the beginning of the 20th Century, a new way of thinking was taking shape. With the rapid development of industries and large factories, the need for laborers would become an urgent demand. Unfortunately the conditions that these workers faced would start an uproar in the media. These journalists told the drastic truth of the corruption in our business industry and political government. Muckrakers was the name these reporters were given.

Lincoln Steffen's " The shame of the cities" 1904, became a series of articles
for Mc Clure's Magazine. Also W. T. Stead " If Christ came to Chicago" and Upton Sinclair's " The Jungle" boldly uncovered the terrible conditions that workers dealt with during the Industrial Revolution. Men like these men mentioned changed the course of the way people would think about how the food industry was an unsafe haven. These were the many answers to causes of disease and death in the early 1900's. These unsanitary conditions would make way for the Pure Food and Drug Act.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of is federal law that dictates inspection of meat products and prohibits the manufacturing, sale, or transportation of tainted and/or posionous food products. The law begain as a result of public speaking through Muckrakers like the men mentioned in this blog.

Muckraker Video:


McClure's Magazine was an illustrated publication created at the turn of the 20th century
It was started by S. S. McClure and John Sanborn Phillips. The magazine featured political and literary content. It published books that were in the process of being written, a chapter at a time. The magazine contained a great deal of muckraking journalism.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bombs that Save

The Manhattan project beginning in 1939, was a project as well as a race to the first nuclear weapons. The project employed over 130,000 people and cost over $2 billion dollars when completed. Not only would the bombs defeat Japan but the project would employ the once unemployed.

When deciding targets to hit, we looked for strategic targets and strongholds. There were many rumors that if we invaded Nagasaki and Hiroshima with ground forces, hundreds of thousands of American live would have been lost and it might reach the millions with Japanese military and civilian lives included.


Hiroshima was responsible for the defense of all of southern Japan as the 2nd Army Headquarters was stationed there. Many of the buildings were built of extremely think concrete to withstand earthquakes, but also managed to still stand after an atomic blast.

On August 6, 1945, after the "Little Boy" detonated, 80,000 were said to be instantly killed and another 60,000 were said to have died later from the poisoning and burns that they bomb has left them with.

One of the largest seaports Japan had during the 1940's was Nagasaki, responsible for the creation of bombs, bullets, guns, ships, planes for the Japanese side of the war. Unlike Hiroshima's strong building construction, Nagasaki was one of the flimsiest/cheapest cities built due to rapid growth and no zoning of building laws. A lot of buildings were built of wood and plaster, and the homes were traditional wood and paper homes.
On August 9, 1945, after the "Fat Man" detonated missing its mark, it had still cleared out part of Nagasaki besides the mountains that once stood there. Over 39,000 were instantly killed and another 25,000 were to die later on from complications that they suffered because of the bombs radiation and power.
Only days later on the 14th, it was broadcast on the radio that the emperor of Japan was surrendering and on September 2, 1945, the official documents were signed ending the war with Japan.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The End is Near

The ending of the Great Depression is not signified by any specific event in history. However, most historians say that America entering World War II was the end of the Great Depression. When America first considered entering the war in Europe, they began the arming process. Workers were needed in factories to make war time supplies for America and its allies. With such a high demand for supplies, Americans that were previously unemployed were now getting jobs in factories making supplies for the war. The unemployment rate went below 10%. Productivity rose like never seen before. People were working overtime, and not going out as often with their families. People began saving money and budgeting their everyday spending.

America was brought out of the Great Depression thanks to WWII, however it was more the morale of the Americans. Without the Americans undisputed support of the war, business owners may not have pushed production to the extent they did. In the end, the fact that supplies were needed pulled America back to the forefront of international industry.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle"

Ever since Upton Sinclair’s, “The Jungle” first came into print in 1906, it has been has been used by generations as a tool to illustrate the corruption of the beef industry in turn-of-the-20th-Century Chicago. No doubt readers have cringed at the torturous descriptions of wailing animals and the spectacle of filthy, disease ridden disassembly lines producing every product imaginable including lard, sausage, glue, and fertilizer. Even President Theodore Roosevelt was shaken by this story and questioned whether-or-not tainted meat products were responsible for deaths in the Spanish American War. The Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 were the result of The Jungle. And although, the book’s notoriety may have made Sinclair famous, the resulting healthier meat products and increase in the number of vegetarians were unintended consequences.

Sinclair’s goal in the novel was to create an awareness of the greater human tragedy of urban slums and the factory systems throughout the world. He once wrote, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” For this reason the book’s effectiveness as a work of propaganda may not have been completely realized.

Sinclair was a Socialist, and his goal from the beginning was to bring attention to the plight of workers. The book was commissioned by the largely circulated Socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason, with the goal of bringing attention to working-class liberation. He made his intentions clear when he first arrived in Chicago to research for the book 1904 and declared, “Hello! I’m Upton Sinclair, and I have come to write the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the labor movement.” And although the book is a work of fiction, its content was based on indisputable facts about the awful conditions and corruption dominating Chicago at the time. Only the names were changed to protect the innocent.

Roosevelt sent his own agents to Chicago to investigate whether meat packing was as bad as Sinclair described. The conditions were actually a hundred times worse, the agents reported back.

The president invited Sinclair to the White House and solicited his advice on how to make inspections safer. By June 30, Congress had passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, cracking down on unsafe food and patent medicines, and the Meat Inspection Act. To this day, our hamburgers, chicken patties and other meats are safeguarded by the same law.

Roosevelt was so taken with Sinclair that he coined the term “muckrakers” to describe him and other reformist crusaders, even though the president’s phrase was not meant to be wholly complimentary.

The book reeked with the stink of the Chicago stockyards. He told how dead rats were shoveled into sausage-grinding machines; how bribed inspectors looked the other way when diseased cows were slaughtered for beef, and how filth and guts were swept off the floor and packaged as "potted ham."

In short, "The Jungle" did as much as any animal-rights activist of today to turn Americans into vegetarians.

But it did more than that. Within months, the aroused -- and gagging -- public demanded sweeping reforms in the meat industry.

President Theodore Roosevelt was sickened after reading an advance copy. He called upon Congress to pass a law establishing the Food and Drug Administration and, for the first time, setting up federal inspection standards for meat.

Sinclair used as his prop, an unfortunate and misguided group of Lithuanian immigrants to showcase the inequities of capitalism or the “wage slave” system. The story is seen through the eyes and mind of Jurgis Rudkus, a boldly ambitious young man, who despite his incredible strength and work ethic becomes a casualty of greed and avarice at a place called “Packingtown.” The villains of the story are the American Beef Trust, the corrupt political machine of Chicago, and capitalism altogether.

Rudkus brings with him to America, his aging father Antanas, his young fiancĂ© Ona, and members of her family including her mother Elzbieta. When they arrive in Chicago Jurgis seeks employment in Packingtown, and because of his brawn, immediately finds work to the chagrin of the hordes of onlookers who fruitlessly wait daily for the opportunity of employment within the slaughterhouses and processing factory. Before long the realities of many desperate situations set in, and despite Jurgis’ pledge to “work harder,” the family goes deeper into a cycle of debt and poverty until every capable member of the family is forced to work in deplorable and dangerous conditions for paltry wages. The biggest contributor to their demise was being conned into purchasing a home they could not afford.

Before long, Ona dies in childbirth because they cannot afford a doctor and eventually their only surviving son drowns in a mud hole in a street near their tenement boarding house. In exhausted frustration, Jurgis abandons the family entirely and leaves for life as a hobo in the heartland. Eventually he returns to Chicago where he takes up every means of employment available; from being a criminal to a political operative, which in most cases by Sinclair’s description, are one and the same. His political shenanigans lead him back to Packingtown, where many betrayals leave him unemployed and eventually imprisoned. Ultimately, he ends up as a high risk beggar on the streets where nightly he faces death from freezing or starvation.

One particular evening he went indoors to join an audience listening to a speech, something he did frequently as a way of seeking refuge from the cold. This time, however, he was spellbound by a charismatic Socialist orator whose words seemed to be describing the agony of Rudkis’ travails on a personal level. From that point on, he became a Socialist “Comrade” with his life finally taking a positive turn and becoming all he had hoped for in coming to America. This is the part of the story that was supposed to be the epiphany of Sinclair’s book, that Socialism was the answer to all societal evils. Unfortunately for Sinclair, most reader’s minds were already more fixated about not eating Tubercular beef than on the plights of exploited workers. So, based on Sinclair’s original intent of promoting Socialism, his work of fiction was less effective as a work of propaganda.

There is also much racism in "The Jungle", African Americans hate Latino immigrants, whites get the best jobs, and blacks and mexicans get the jobs on the slaughter house floor, doing the cutting and killing. The descrptions he uses about what goes on in meatpacking plants in 1906 is horrific and appauling. Dead rats, rat poison, feces, dirty water, rust and cigarette butts were dumped in vats with fresh meat to make sauseges and canned meat. It's horrific. That is one reason I've been a vegetarian for nine years.

Is Sinclair's "The Jungle" is Old News?

Sausage Makers in Chicago, LOC, N.D.

Think that the horrors exposed by Upton Sinclair are just a part of our distant past?  Did the progressive reformers at the beginning of the century solve the problem with 'muckraking' reporting and books like The Jungle?

Think again:

William Glaberson, "Misery on the Meatpacking Line," New York Times, June 14, 1987.
Charlie LeDuff, "At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die; Who Kills, Who Cuts, Who Bosses Can Depend on Race," New York Times,  June 16, 2000.

David Barboza, "Meatpackers' Profits Hinge On Pool of Immigrant Labor," New York Times, December 21, 2001.

Human Right's Watch, "Meatpacking's Human Toll," 2005.

 Steven Greenhouse, "Meat Packing Industry Criticized on Human Rights Grounds," New York Times, January 25, 2005.

PBS NOW, "Meatpacking in the U.S.: Still a "Jungle" Out There?," December 15, 2006.

Kim Severson, "Upton Sinclair, Now Playing on YouTube," New York Times, March 12, 2008

Human Society Undercover Video of California Slaughterhouse, 2008.  (Hallmark Meat Packing Co., of Chino, California, 2008.)

Mattew L. Wald, "Meat Packer Admits Slaughter of Sick Cows," New York Times, March 13, 2008.

Julia Preston, "After Iowa Raid, Immigrants Fuel Labor Inquiries," New York Times, July 27, 2008.

Julia Preston, "Inquiry Finds Under-Age Workers at Meat Plant," New York Times, August 6, 2008.

Michael Moss, "E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection," New York Times, October 3, 2009.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mary Antin

(Mary Antin in 1915)
Mary Antin

     Mary Antin, originally Maryashe in Hebrew and Marya in Russian, was born in Polotsk, Russia to a Jewish family in 1881. During this time period Jews were facing persecution, discrimination, and economic hardships in Russia. This caused a massive wave of Russian immigration to America. 2 ½ million of the 8 million immigrants who immigrated to America between 1880-1941 from Russia and neighboring countries were Jewish.

     When Mary Antin was 12 she immigrated to Boston with her parents and three siblings. They moved into the West end of Boston. During this time the West and North ends of Boston were known as the slums, full of tenement housing. Yet, Antin saw her new life in America as a “second birth” full of endless opportunities. She received free education from Boston’s public school system; where she excelled, and was published in the Boston Herald by the time she was 15 years old. After graduating the Girls Latin School in Boston, she continued on to the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City, and then onto Barnard College.

     Antin wrote many articles for the Atlantic Monthly (including, “The American Miracle” in our course packet). In 1912 her autobiography, “The Promised Land”, was published. In her autobiography she describes her life and assimilation into American culture as a child and young adult. She followed it by publishing a second book in 1915, “They Who Knock at Our Gates: A Complete Gospel of Immigration.” Antin used the popularity she gained from her success as a writer to fight against restrictive immigration legislation as an adult.   

The American Miracle, Atlantic Monthly:

"Naturalization, with us Russian Jews, may mean more than the adoption of the immigrant by America: it may mean the adoption of America by the immigrant."

Sites Used:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Alchol and Al Capone

On January 16, 1920 the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The sale or use of alcohol was now illegal. America was entering the era of prohibition. Frederick Lewis Allen wrote about this era in his book "Only Yesterday" this book was written in 1931 about the 1920s. It was not a very long look back. Mr. Allen spoke of how easily the amendment was passed seemingly without much opposition. He also said it was taken for granted that this law would be followed and easily enforced.It turned out the law was not easily enforced as alcohol became quite prevalent and easily available. Alcohol was being made illegally all over the country as well as being shipped in from Canada and other countries. perhaps the most famous or infamous character from this time was Alphonse Capone more commonly known as simply Al Capone. Al Capone was a gangster from Chicago who made the majority of his money from bootlegging. That is the nickname given for the illegal sale of alcohol. It is estimated that Capone's gang made around 60 million dollars a year most of that profit came from bootlegging. Mr. Allen states that prohibition was a big reason for the rise of organized crime in America.

"To say that prohibition-or if you prefer, the refusal of the public to
abide by Prohibition-caused the rise of the gangs to lawless power would be
altogether too easy an explanation. There were other causes: the
automobile which made escape easy, as the officers of robbed banks had
discovered; the adaptation to peace-time use of a new arsenal of handy and
deadly weapons; the murderous traditions of the Mafia, imported by Sicilian
gangsters; the inclination of a wet community to wink at the by-products of a
trade which provided them with beer and gin; the sheer size and unwieldiness of
the modern metropolitan community, which prevented the focusing of public
opinion upon any depredation which did not immediately concern the average
citizen; and, of course the easy-going political apathy of the times. But
the immediate occasion of the rise of gangs was was undoubtedly

I agree with Mr. Allen in his contention that prohibition was a silly law which was enacted way too easily without much thought. I also feel that a similar situation is occurring now with the war on drugs. The government is spending billions of dollars to fight drugs rather than legalizing them, which when taxed would make the government billions of dollars in profit. Drugs are part of society weather we like it or not, we might as well make some money off of them rather than put all that money in the hands of the drug kingpin's who continue to blaze the path that Al Capone paved for them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Speech Against Declaration of War

George W. Norris was born in Sandusky, Ohio on July 11, 1861. George W. Norris was a law graduate from of Valparaiso University in 1883. George Norris started out his career as the county attorney of Furnas County for three terms, then became district judge of the fourteenth district from 1895-1902. Norris was a Representative and a Senator for Nebraska. Norris spent most of his political career in the Senate. Norris spent his years in the Senate as a Republican from 1912-1936 and when re elected in 1936, he was a member of the Independent Party.

In George Norris' "Speech Against Declaration of War," he thought it was in America's best interest to stay neutral in World War I. His speech acted as the voice of Americans who opposed the United States from entering the war. He felt that the reason why America entering the war would be for its own profit, not for principles. In his point of view, America had the 'technical right' to declare itself as a neutral nation and stayed out of the English warzone and "disregarded the German war zone."

Norris has no quarrel against citizens for the war, but he feels they have been some what hypnotized by the ads by newspapers and ads. He felt the only person who would prosper from America's entry to the war would be from Wall street, but not the soldiers who have to fight on the battlefield against the Germans.

".....War brings no prosperity to the great mass of common and patriotic citizens. It increases the cost of living of those who toil and those who already must strain every effort to keep soul and body together. War brings prosperity to the stock gambler on Wall Street- to those who are already in possesion of more wealth than can be realized or enjoyed....."

Woodrow Wilson, Speech on the Fourteen Points, 1918

Woodrow Wilson’s speech to congress during WWI made him the moral leader of the Western world. Wilson and his intimate adviser, Colonel Edward M .House prepare the Fourteen Points after the House was convinced that something had to be gone to encourage and boast the morals of allies and remind them of the reason for the war. The two men created the program carefully making the phrases flexible enough to be able to with stand whatever the out come of the war would have been.

The purpose of this program was to stop the use of secret covenants entered into by governments for their own interest, help establish peaceful relationship among nations after the war and most important, help avoid another world war from happening again in the future.

“What we demand in this war, therefore, is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live it’s own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealings by other peoples of the world ,as against force and selfish aggression”.

I found four of the fourteen points very important especially from the stand point of the Western world. The first one was the elimination of secret convents and a greater emphasis on diplomacy. The second was the absolute freedom to navigate in the ocean outside territorial waters in both war and peace times. The third was the removal of economic barriers as much as possible and the creation of equality of trade among peace loving nations. The fourteenth point was the creation of a general association of nations which would help guarantee political independence and territorial integrity among great and small states alike.

Wilson said that they (US and Allies) will continue to fight until these arrangements were achieved. He further said that they had nothing against Germany and her greatness, there was nothing in the program to impair it and they wish her no harm. But in order for Germany to associate with peaceful loving nations, she has to accept her place of equality in the new world and not that of mastery of the past.

One of the benefits of this program was that it leads to the creation of International institutions that would help foster peace in the world. The League of nations and the international courts of justice are good examples of institutions created from this program.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Socialist Party Protests WWI

In 1917, during the St. Louis Convention, members of the Socialist Party gathered together, condemning the United States involvement in World War I.
The party's leader
Eugene V. Debs thought that the capitalist and imperialist nations were consumed with greed and only wanted war to gain power and domination of the world markets, therefore they stated that the United States was making a mistake by entering into the war.
The Socialist Party felt that "wars bring wealth and power to the ruling classes, and suffering, death and demoralization to the workers".
During the convention speakers painted a picture about the ugliness of war and plead to the masses, the workers of all countries, to refuse to support the war in Europe. The speaker wanted the working masses to realize that the government and "national groups of capitalists" had no concern for the working people. The speaker goes on to say that the masses are being misled to believe that the United States was entering the war to defend democracy, when in fact the United States is turning into the imperialist and militarist government just like the Europeans. Within the speech, the speaker explains many reasons why the war would not accomplish anything.

The speaker also points out that even thought the German's U-Boat attack was ruthless, "it was not an invasion of the rights of the American people", and attempts to validate the argument against United States involvement in the war by stating the following:

"...Militarism can never be abolished by militarism", "...Democracy can never be imposed upon any country by a foreign power by force of arms", and "...if we send an armed force into the battlefields of Europe, its cannons will mow down the masses of the German people and not the Imperial German Government".
The Socialist Party of the United States felt that entering the war was going to senselessly kill the masses of innocent working classes in order for the capitalists to profit. The speaker said that if we were fighting to end the struggle for freedom of the working class, then they would fight with all their will, however the Socialist's refused to let one working class member die to support the greed of capitalism or militarism.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Even though slavery was abolished after the Civil War, Southern States continued to treat African Americans differently.
Governments within the southern states passed Jim Crow laws which prohibited blacks from using the same public accommodations as the whites. Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act(1890).

This act justified that separate accommodations for blacks and whites on railroad cars was within the law as long as the accommodations were equal in quality.
A group of both white and black activists from New Orleans organized the Citizen's Committee to Test the Separate Car Act to challenge the constitutionality of the Separate Car Law.

The organization raised money to hire a lawyer to defend them. When Albion W. Tourgee was approached, he agreed to help at no cost to the Citizen's Committee. The group found Homer A. Plessy, who was 1 eighth black and 7 eighth white, to deliberately break the segregation ruling. Although Plessy could pass as white, he announced that he had an African American ancestor. He was arrested on June 7, 1892 and his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896.
In a majority decision, Justice Henry Brown handed down the verdict that the Louisiana Separate Car Act did not violate the 13th Amendment nor did it violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The reasoning was that the case did not involve the act of enslaving of Homer Plessy(13th) and the 14th Amendment was not violated because was created only for the right of African Americans to vote and serve on juries. It did not protect the social rights of African Americans.

"we cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable, or more obnoxious to the Fourteenth amendment than the acts of Congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia"
"...the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority.....(is) solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it"
As a result of this ruling Homer Plessy had to pay the fine. The ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson also served as the legal justification for racial segregation within the public sphere ultimately creating a racial caste society. There would continue to be segregation for over 50 years, until Brown v. Board of Education (1954) over turned the decision.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Judge Not a Man by the Cost of his Clothing

During the Age of Progress, in the late 19th century, investors like Cornelius Vanderbilt created great wealth within the railroad corporations and George Westinghouse made his fortunes in large part because of his advances in railroad technology by inventing the automatic coupler. While these men and other capitalists were part of the elite, the laborers in the coal and iron ore mines were suffering from poverty. They worked long hours under harsh conditions for little pay.

The ballad Judge Not a Man by the Cost of his Clothing, written anonymously, exemplifies the social class differences that were developing in this time period.

Give me the man as a friend and a neighbor,
Who toils at the spade, the loom or the plough,
Who wins his deploma of manhood by labor...
Then why should the broadcloth alone be respected,
And the man be despised who is fustian appears.

Within these two stanzas, the author explains his fustrastion with the attitudes of the rich. He is thought of as less of a man because he is poor and can only afford clothing made from twilled cotton or low-quality wool. He wants to be judged for his character because he thinks of himself as a good man that is hard working, yet he is looked down upon because of his wardrobe.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Survival of the fittest in society

In this post we will take a quick glance at the views of William Graham Sumner who was an economics and sociology professor at Yale University. Sumner followed a "Social Darwinism" believe. He based his social ideas on the theories of Charles Darwin who first proposed the idea of natural selection and survival of the fittest in nature.

William Graham Sumner
Sumner discusses in his reading "What Social Classes Owe to Each Other" the idea that even in our complex society we are still bound by the laws of Nature. In this case the theory on natural selection which favors best suited organisms for competition of the limited resources available. He suggests that by having programs in society that take from an individual to give to another who is not productive and does not contribute to society is a burden and detrimental to our long term survival as a society. Our society is about equality of opportunity. The more opportunity that's available the more disparity in social classes because some will choose to take advantage while others will choose not to. The greatest help we can provide people in need is the advancement of science, government and society. This will in turn better the chances of individuals but not necessarily guarantee equality. As Sumner said:

"The man who by his own effort raises himself above poverty appears, in these discussions to be of no account. The man who has done nothing to raise himself above poverty finds that the social doctors flock about him, bringing the capital which they have collected from the other classes, and promising him aid of the State to give him what other had to work for." William Graham Sumner " What Social Classes Owe to Each Other" 2.1: The Industrial Status Quo Defended (1833)
If we take the Social Darwinist view and apply it to the period of time between late 1800s and early 1900s where large scale enterprises played such an important role, we can see that industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller who took advantage of the opportunities in the market and in the process created thousands of jobs for those who wanted to be productive and chose not to be a burden on society.
This problem transcends time into our own. What do we do with members of society who need financial help and do not contribute to our economy.? Many of us approve of aid such as the Federal Welfare programs while others think that it's a waste of tax payers money and many are abusing it.