HST210 – US History 1877 to Present
Lecture #9 – WWI, 1920s and Depression
- U.S. declared war on Germany on April 16, 1917.
o Continuation of unrestrictive German warfare
Sinking of the Lusitania
o Zimmerman telegram
Central powers requesting Mexican alliance
o Economic interest
US lent the allies shit tons of money
- Germans plan a major offensive for the spring of 1918, hoping to defeat the Allies before
the arrival of American troops
o Launched in France and make it within 15 miles of Paris
o In 1917 has 400,000 men in the US army/navy
Wilson asks for volunteers but doesn't have enough
- Selective Service Act (May 1917)
o All men bow 21-30 have to register with their local draft corps > later expanded
- 24 million men register for service and 2.8 million were drafted and fought alongside 2
- Women barred from the Army but joined the Navy and Marines
o Did primarily clerical work
o "Too radical to enlist women"
o Worked as nurses (mostly for Red Cross)
African Americans and WWI
- 400,000 African Americans serve in the war.
- Serve in segregated units under the command of white officers.
- Excluded from the Marines and limited to food service in the Navy.
o They don't get to fight > black men aren't brave enough, etc.
- Croix de Guerre
o The French rewarded the AAs with the award for courage
- American troops pour into France in the spring of 1918.
o By the end of the war, there’s 2 million American soldiers in France
- Allies turn back a series of German assaults in July 1918.
- Germany seeks an armistice and fighting ends Nov. 11, 1918
Mobilizing Public Opinion - Continued to be some opposition to the war
- Wilson created the Committee on Public Information to mobilize support for the war.
o Floods country with press releases/war movies portraying the war as a patriotic
- "He who is not with us is against us and should be treated as an alien enemy" -- Wilson
- Advertisements portray dissent as unpatriotic and a threat to national security
Espionage and Seditions Acts
- Prescribed a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 20 years' imprisonment for obtaining
information regarding national defense with the intent to use the information to injure
- AND the acts criminalized criticism of the war.
o The sedition act made it a crime to criticize by speech or writing the US
government/armed forces or the war effort
- Anti-war protestors are sent to jail
o 900 people sent to prison under espionage act
- Supreme Court held that freedom of speech (First Amendment right) was not absolute; it
could be violated if the speech in question posed a clear and present danger to the
Wilson's Post-War Vision
- Fourteen Points - set of principles Wilson hoped would secure an equitable peace for all
nations and prevent future wars.
o Goal is to prevent another world war
o Open communication
o No more secret alliances
o General disarmament
o Dismantle the imperial order > opening up colonies to self rule
o Create an international body to implement his vision (League of Nations)
o Cautioned against being overly punitive against Germany
- Allies didn't respond well to Wilson's points > Britain/France didn't want to let Germany
get away with everything
- Calls for open communication, end of colonial holdings, disarmament, free trade and a
League of Nations to implement these principles and resolve future disputes
Treaty of Versailles
- Allies reject Wilson’s Fourteen Points and impose a punitive peace on Germany (guilt
clause, heavy reparations).
o Germany takes full responsibility for starting WWI
o Germany has to pay full reparations to the Allies ($33M)
o Germany had to give up colonies to Allied victors
- League of Nations is established. - U.S. Senate refuses to ratify the Treaty or join the League of Nations
o Wilson underestimated how important it was to get the Senate on his side >
Senate has the sole power to ratify treaties
o Republicans control the Senate (Wilson is a Democrat)
o Wilson had been secretive about negations in Paris
o Wilson excluded Republicans > they were pissed
o Americans don't want to get drawn into European wars > League of Nations
would draw them in
o Treaty could undermine American sovereignty
First Red Scare
- Bolshevik/ Communist Revolution in Russia (1917) under Lenin.
o Russians overthrow the government, and set up a new government under the
- Communist goal is to create a centrally planned economy with government control over
the means of production.
o Resources to be owned publicly for the benefit of all, rather than the benefit of a
- Classless society based on the common ownership of land and capital
o Elimination of private property
- Soviet government creates the Communist International (Commenter) to
promote/export communist revolutions worldwide.
- Communist Party USA formed in 1919, primarily by European immigrants
- Bolsheviks were expansionists
o Disturbing to Americans
BC of atheism in communism
- There’s a link in the minds of Americans between communists and Americans >especially
- Ideological differences between Americans and Communist Russians
Post-War Labor Unrest
- Workers across the nation go out on strike as the economy contracts after the war and
the cost of living rises.
o Conditions are shit
o War orders end and industries shut down over night
o Wages slashed
- Leads to fears that radicals have infiltrated the working class to foment a socialist
revolution (fears that are exploited by capital)
o Strikes are a prelude to a communist revolution
- Bombs are mailed to American politicians and businessmen, including Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer & Rockefeller
- June 2nd, bombs go off in several cities
o Some guy accidentally blew himself up in front of Palmer's house
- Palmer launches a series of raids against suspected radicals (Nov. 1919-Jan. 1920).
- Immigration Act (1918)
o Allows government to deport any immigrant who advocates overthrowing the
o Close to 600 immigrants deported
- Bombs were actually mailed by anarchists (not communists)
- Red scare fades away > to be reignited later
- The "roaring" twenties
- Decade of consumerism
- Divide b/w urban/rural life
- Jazz, speak easies, flappers
- Prosperity wasn't evenly distributed
- During the 1920s America becomes much more of an urban industrial and consumer
- 1920s Economy
- Manufacturing output increases by 64% (automation, mass production).
- The automobile industry (assembly line and Taylors).
o Allows workers to do one job all day
o So cars can be produced much quicker and more cheaply
- Ford and the $5.00 day (helped grow the middle class) and the Sociological Department
o In 1929 - the auto industry employed 1 out of every 12 American workers > lots
of them for Ford
o Ford was first industrialist to pay his workers more than a living wage > average
wage had been $2.34 but ford promised to pay at least $5 a day
o To improve worker loyalty > wasting money training new workers
o By paying the workers more, he could turn them into consumers that would buy
o Sociological department in Detroit to monitor workers > to see where workers
were spending money, what they were doing, etc.
- Through product diversification, aggressive advertising campaigns, corporate mergers,
and offering customers goods on installment, corporations grow in the 1920s.
o Producing things that aren't necessities
o Advertising emerges
o Encouraging people to buy products on credit
- Emergence of national chain stores and the oligopoly o Oligopoly: a few giant terms control an entire industry > auto industry controlled
by Ford, Chrysler
- Huge corporations displaces small businesses
Harding in Power
- Warren Harding considered to be unqualified
o Promised to return country to normalcy > old ways of laissez faire
- Proponent of laissez-faire economics
- Massive corruption in his administration (Teapot Dome Scandal)
o Gave out jobs to friends who were corrupt
- Harding’s Secretary of Interior, Albert Hall, is convicted of taking bribes from Big Oil in
return for leases on federal oil reserves
- Calvin Coolidge
- Small government conservative
o Favors little government regulation of big business
- Revenue Acts of 1924 and 1926 reduced taxes on the wealthy.
- Workers and farmers struggle (Open Shop drive destroys many unions)
- Hard for workers to unionize durin