Saturday, February 22, 2020

Book Cover Reveal

Hello everyone! This is a very joyous occasion as I get to reveal the front cover of my upcoming book with The History Press! Included with this reveal is the blurb that will be on the back cover. Tell me what you all think in the comments!!



No town is safe from terror

......

Much of New York during the Revolutionary era was frontier wilderness, sparsely populated and bitterly divided. Although the only major campaign in the region would end at the Battle of Saratoga, factional raiding parties traversed the mountains and valleys of the Adirondacks throughout the war. Sir Christopher Carlton led groups of Loyalists, Hessians and Iroquois in successful attacks along Lake Champlain capturing forts and striking fear in local villages. Mohawk war chief Joseph Brant led a motley band of irregulars known as "Brant's Volunteers" in chaotic raids against Patriot targets. Marauding brothers Edward and Ebenezer Jessup brought suffering to the very lands they had purchased years before in Kingsbury, Queensbury and Fort Edward. Aurthor Marie Danielle Annette Williams covers the history of the Adirondacks during the Revolutionary War.

......

Available June 8, 2020 by The History Press. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Life During the Great Depression

Hello readers! After last week's very exciting news, it's time to get back on track with our semi-kind of-but not really regularly scheduled history lesson (I promise that since I now have a Patreon account (https://patreon.cpm/thehalfpinthistorianblog) that I'll try to make regular post updates here on the blog as well as on my Patreon page. 

Since last post examined the various causes of the Great Depression, this post will examine what life was like for those who had to live through the economic crash.


The Great Depression, which continues to be the worst economic downturn in modern American history, deeply affected the daily life of average American families in various ways, both minute and significant.

What is important to note is that both the afflluent and the average American suffered hardships during this period of economic decline. By 1933, about one quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed, the highest it's ever been. Americans who were lucky enough to have had steady employment at the time often saw their wages cut ot saw their hours reduced to part-time. Upper middle class professionals such as doctors and lawyers would see their incomes drop by nearly half at this time. Those who once had enjoyed economic stability regardless of their echleon would face financial instabilty or even ruin.

The motto for the Great Depression era was "Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without". Some families and individuals would attempt to keep up appearances and carry on with the lifestyle they had enjoyed in the previous decade while they adapted to the new economic cicumstances. As a whole, though, households eembraced frugality in daily life with most families keeping kitchen gardens, patching worn-out clothes, and limiting entertainment such as trips to the movies as they struggled to retain ownership of their vehicles and homes. 

Magazines and radio shows of the Depression era taught homemakers how to stretch their food budget through meals that would last a while such as casseroles, chili, macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, soups, and chipped beef on toast. Church potlucks became a popular way for people to share food and as a form of social entertainment. The creation of community gardens in more urban areas provided food for entire neighborhoods.

Despite the Great Depression causing economic distraught for the majority of Americans, people found a way to entertain themselves in affordable ways. Miniature golf became popular during this era and more than 30,000 mini golf links sprang up around the country; people often stayed home and played card and board games with friends and neighbors, such as Scrabble and Monoply which were both introduced in the 1930s; and the radio provided a free form of entertainment as many Americans owned a home radio at the time, providing listeners with entertainment vis swing music, radio shows, sports broadcasts, soap operas, and more.

The Great Depression saw women entering the workforce in increasing numbers. In order to attempt tp make ends meet, many families added an extra wage earner via married women entering the workforce. Despite massive widespread unemployment during the Depression era, the number of married women entering the workforce increased, although they were very heavily criticized for taking jobs when so many men were out of work (although women often took clerical, secretary, or service industry jobs that were not socially acceptable for men to take on at the time). In many cases, because they could get away with doing so, employers paid women less than they paid their male counterparts.   

The economic stress that people were under led to the breakdown of many families and relationships; although divorce rates decreased for a time as people could not afford to separate and divorce, the number of spousal abandonments increased. Young men and young women, mostly teenagers, would ride the rails, illegally hopping from freight train to freight train traveling to various cities in search of work because they felt like they were burdens on their families. And the number of welfare recipients increased during this time, and despite the sharp economic downturn that affected the majority of Americans utilizing social welfare programs was still seen as a stigma.

A common belief during this era was that crime rates increased, which is not accurate. The two year long bank robbery spree undertaken by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as well as the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby were both highly broadcast in the media of the day, where overall violent crime rates decreased. 

Homelessness increased during the Depression years and the rise of Hoovevilles, makeshift shantytowns named after Herbert Hoover, the president during the early years of the Depression, sprang up in various areas across the country.

The Great Depression was a dark time in America's history as the majority of Americans suffered through economic hardships. However, through the creation and implementation of various social programs, the Great Depression would come to an end and lead to a new era of economic and social prosperity. Next time here on the blog, we'll examine how the Great Depression met its end.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Book Update!!

Hello everyone! I received some awesome and very exciting news from my editor today...my book with The History Press/Arcadia Publishing, The Revolutionary War in the Adirondacks: Raids in the Wilderness, will be published on June 8th!! I'm so excited to share this journey of being a published author and semi-professional independent historian with all of you.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Causes of Economic Decline and Crash in the 1920s

Hello readers. It's been a while since I posted an update here on The Half-Pint Historian Blog. In that time, life has thrown me some curveballs, partly of my own doing, but the time away has done myself good as I was able to focus on the upcoming publication of my book with The History Press/Arcadia Publishing (I'll post an update about that probably in a couple of weeks), focus on putting together my presentation for History Camp in Boston in March, and focus on a new romantic relationship I'm in. This blog, though, isn't about what's been going on in my life, it's dedicated to the history of my country and so let us continue from where we left off. The previous post here on the blog was about the legal and constitutional issues in the 1920s, and this post will delve into the causes of the Great Depression, the economic downturn beginning in 1929 and lasting through the 1930s.



The stock market crash of 1929 was the worst economic crash in American history, carrying other countries to fall into economic downturns as well. According to history.com, the stock market crash began on Thursday, October 24, 1929 as stock investors traded a record 12.9 million shares. On October 28th, known as "Black Monday", the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 13% and then plunged another 12% the following day, on "Black Tuesday". While this economic crisis sent shockwaves throughout the country, there were signs that this crash was coming. The remainder of the this post will examine the causes of the inevitable stock market crash.

During the period of the Roaring Twenties, the economy and stock market expanded rapidly as the U.S. exited the Great War and entered into a period of manufacturing consumer goods rather than war goods and the introduction of buying on credit on a large scale, including the purchasing of stocks on margin.

From August 1921 through September 1929, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up, leading economists at the time to believe that the stock market had reached a permanently high plateau. The market officially reached its peak in September 1929 when the Dow Jones shot up to 381. By this point in history, even common working-class citizens became interested in the stock market and investing, and with the new purchasing power allotted to these workers in the booming economy, many were able to purchase stocks on margin, meaning they paid a small percentage of what the stock was worth and the bank or a broker lent the rest of the cost of the stock. Despite the purchasing of stocks on margin, which is undoubtedly one of the causes of the economic decline, the economy was in a boom cycle at the time--unemployment was down, purchasing power was up, and various industries were prosperous.

Although there is no one cause for the Great Depression, and economists and historians often debate about the primary cause, there are several theories as to the smaller bumps in the road which led to the Great Depression.


1. Overconfidence leading to a burst bubble--Just as the economy was on an uptick during much of the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, eventually leading to the crash of 2008, one of the causes of the Great Depression was overconfidence when it came to purchasing. Some economists and historians have argued that at the time of the crash, stock market prices were soaring to record highs (which can be both good and bad, as it would turn out), leading to a sense of overconfidence in how prosperous the U.S. economy was at the time as well as stocks being too expensive for many to purchase on their own without assistance from a broker or the bank. This led to an "asset bubble" which would burst.

2. Buying stocks "on margin"--With the economy on an uptick during the early 1920s, people who otherwise would not be able to purchase stocks and play the market were able to do so due to the ability to purchase stocks "on margin". This meant that rather than paying the full amount to purchase a stock, the buyer paid a percentage of the stock's cost while a bank or broker covered the remaining amount. This may have boost the stock market for a short time, but would have major repercussions in the wake of the stock market crash. When the crash occurred, millions of stock market shares became worthless and those who bought stocks "on margin" were saddled with debt they could not afford to repay.

3. Bank failures and distrust--In the 1920s and into the 1930s, the American banking system suffered distrust and hardship. Smaller banks had been forced to close, and as monetary deposits were not insured at the time, those with accounts in the banks that closed lost their money without the ability to gain it back. This led to a widesweeping distrust in the American banking system and many Americans began to cash their checks and withdrawal their funds. Due to that, many banks had to liquidate loans and assets in order to supplement their cash reserves  as they were insufficient.

4. Production decline and a rise in unemployment--What comes up must come down, and during the 1920s the U.S. industrial and manufacturing complexes hadd declined by half. Thousands of Americans lost their jobs and by 1931, more than 6 million Americans were unemployed. Homelessness became a common sight in American cities. Farmers couldn't afford to harvest their crops and often left them rottinin the fields while people elsewhere starved. Meanwhile, due to the Dust Bowl, there was a mass migration of people from rural farming areas to cities in search of employment.

5. Lack of European Competition--In order to attempt to protect American industry, Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1930. This act imposed significant tax increases on imported goods, making it so Americans would not wwwant to purchase goods produced outside of the U.S. However, this led to many of America's European trading partners imposing tariffs of their own, which limited American trade and thus led to a decrease in purchasing.

6. Drought Conditions--The environment played a role in the Great Depression as well. A years-long drought coupled with harsh farming practices that failed to use soil preservation techniques created a region known as the Dust Bowl, which comprised southeast Colorado down to the panhandle of Texas. Dust storms choked towns, killed livestock as well as people, damaged crops, and cause damage all arouuuuuund to the region. People fled the region for the cities, where they believed that the economic situation was better despite the contrary being the case.


There are other causes which led to the Great Depression, but these factors are labeled by historians and economic experts as being the most significant. These facttors would lead to various government reforms, which will be written about in a future post.

3. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Constitutional and Legal Issues in the Roaring Twenties

The 1920s seemed like a carefree period in American history; flappers, speakeasies, jazz music, and lavish parties seem to flood one's thoughts when this time period is mentioned. However, many constitutional and legal issues divided Americans in the 1920s. Many of these issues reflected the struggle between modern and traditional values and highlighted how international affairs could have an affect on domestic policies and attitudes. For some Americans, these issues took the form of racism, nativism, and intolerances of differences in religion and politics. This post will examine such issues as the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Scare, the Scopes trial, and restrictions on immigration.

The Red Scare, 1918-1919

The Red Scare was the imposition of stern measures to suppress dissent after World War I in a crusade aganst internal enemies. Fueled by the November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, an uprising of Communists in Russia who overthrew the tsarist regime of the Romanov dynasty, the Red Scare targeted communists, socialists, anarchists, and others who were viewed as having un-American sentiments.

The Red Scare was led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and was sparked by several events which took place shortly after WWI. Race riots erupted in 25 cities; a series of labor strikes in Boston, Massachusetts climaxed with a walkout by police; several unexplained bombings added to the mass hysteria. All of these events, although unconnected, were seen as part of a Communist conspiracy.

The Attorney General ordered the first of the so-called Palmer Raids in late 1919. In 33 cities across the country, police without warrents raided the headquarters of Communists and other organizations. Eventually, they arrested more than 4,000 people, holding them without charges and denying them legal counsel. Some 560 aliens were deported. Palmer's harsh tactics would turn the public against him and his raids would come to an end. However, the Palmer Raids would have a lasting effect on the general public throughout the 1920s--many Americans would be discouraged from speaking their minds freely in open debate, thus hindering their constitutinal right to freedom of speech.

Sacco and Vanzetti

Closely linked to the Red Scare was the case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. These two Italian immigrants--and admitted anarchists--were convicted of murder in 1921 in connection with a Massachusetts robbery. Many people questioned the evidence against Sacco and Vanzetti, concluding that the two men were convicted more for their beliefs and Italian origin than for a crime. In spite of mass demonstrations and appeals, the two men were executed in 1927. The governor of Massachusetts eventually cleared the two men in 1977, 50 years after the fact.

The Resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan

Antiforeign nativist and racist attitudes encouraged a revival of the Ku Klux Klan. The first organization, active during the Reconstruction era, had died out in the late 1800s. A reorganized Klan, formed in 1915, grew slowly until 1920. In that year, it added 100,000 members, The Klan of the 1920s targeted not only African Americans but also Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. To the Klan, the only true Americans were white, Protestant, and American-born. In 1925, membership in the Klan peaked at 2 millop.

Restrictions on Immigration

The nativism and racism of the 1920s that was evident in the Red Scare, the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and the resurgence of the Klan was also present in immigration legislation of the era. Immigration had resumed after World War I, but there was less of a need for workers. In the postwar recession, immigrants were seen as taking jobs from returning American GIs and somehow threatened American values. The nativist climate led to the Immigration Act of 1924. This act established a system of national quotas, which limited the number of immigrants from each country. These quotas deliberately kept the totals for eastern and southern Europe low and excluded all immigration from Asia.

The Scopes Trial

The Scopes Trial, also known as the Monkey Trial, began on July 10, 1925. The defendant, John Thomas Scopes, was a high school science teacher who taught evolution in the classroom, which was said to violate the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of any theory that went against biblical doctrine or denied the theory of creationism.

From the website historynet.com: "The trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee, and was the result of a carefully orchestrated series of events that were intended to bring publicity, and therefore money, into the town by a group of local businessmen. In reality, Scopes was unsure of whether he had ever technically taught the theory of evolution, but he had reviewed the chapter in the evolution chapter in the textbook with students, and he agreed to incriminate himself so that the Butler Act could be challenged by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Several students were encouraged to testify against Scopes at the trial.

The Scopes Trial brought in hundreds of reporters from all over the country, and it was the first trial to be broadcast on radio. Both the prosecuting attorney and Scopes’ defense attorney were charismatic men and drew significant attention to the case, which for the defense was more about defeating the Butler Act then about defending Scopes. Scopes was found guilty and charged a fine of $100, but the verdict was thrown out on a technicality on an appeal. For the next few years, textbooks in Tennessee had all mention of evolution removed. The Butler Act was repealed in 1967."

These dilemmas brought to light some of the underlying issues in a country that otherwise seemed prosperous. However, dark times were ahead for Americans. Next time, we're going to examine the 1929 stock market crash.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Prohibition

The most iconic aspect of the era of the 1920s was prohibition. The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed and would remain in effect from January 1920 to December 1933. The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, distribution, sale, and transportation of alcohol and was described by President Heber Hoover as "a great social and economic experiment". This post will examine major events and figures in the prohibition movement and why the 18th Amendment would eventually be repealed.

Prohibition began as a social and religious movement in the early 19th century and gained popular support in the 1880s and 1890s from reformers who saw alcohol as the leading cause of many social ills such as poverty, crime, political corruption, the rise of urban ghettos, the breakup of families, infant and child mortality, industrial accidents, and more. Groups such as the Prohibition Party, Women's Christian Temperance Union, Anti-Saloon League, and others became powerful driving forces behind the prohibition movement and by 1916, 26 out of the existing 48 states had passed their own prohibition laws.

In a way, the prohibition movement was linked to America's entry into World War I. Prohibition was linked partly to grain conservation and as a way to place limits on German brewers. So, prior to the ratification if the 18th Amendment, limits on alcohol production were used as a war measure but would go on to have a considerable impact on American society in the early 20th century.

The 18th Amendment was adopted by both houses of Congress in December 1917 and was ratified by the necessary two-thirds of the states in January 1919. The 18th Amendment was implemented by the Volstead Act, named for Andrew Volstead who was the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a major proponent of prohibition. Under the Volstead Act, the manufacture, sale, and distribution of "intoxicating liquor" was prohibited; the Act defined "intoxicating liquor" as anything that contained more than one half of one percent alcohol by volume, making an exception for alcohol used for sacramental, industrial, and medicinal purposes. 

As can be imagined, people found numerous ways to skirt around the laws. The same of sacramental wine increased in the early years of prohibition; and doctors were allowed to purchase alcohol for medicinal purposes and for laboratory use. Because the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act didn't outlaw the private possession and consumption of alcohol, Americans continued to demand alcoholic beverages and so gangsters and rum runners stepped up to meet the demands of the public. Speakeasies, illegal drinking dens which often required a password or phrase to get in, became popular locations for people to frequent; these speakeasies were often operated by gangsters. People also skirted the law by producing their own alcohol, often called bathtub gin or moonshine.

Sure to the ease in which people could get around the Volstead Act, enforcement of the prohibition legislations often proved to be difficult. Local law enforcement officers as well as the forces of the (federal) Bureau of Prohibition worked tirelessly to prevent the smuggling of alcohol as well as investigated the illegal production and transportation of alcohol into and around the country as a whole.

As mentioned, gangsters often profited from the running of speakeasies and through the smuggling of alcohol, known commonly as "bootlegging" or "rum running". These gangsters tended to be there children of immigrants or immigrants themselves who arrived in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Often living in ghettos, these newer Americans turned to crime because it offered a quick route to success and wealth. These crimes were not small scale affairs but rather were organized crime syndicates. Particularly in New York and Chicago, these crime syndicates often competed against one another for control of territory. These rivalries between gangs led to more than 500 gangland killings across the US between 1927 and 1930 alone. 

The most famous gangster of the prohibition era was undoubtedly Al Capone. Capone was known for many tragic murders in and around Chicago, but none of the charges stuck. Instead, he was imprisoned for tax evasion and fraud in 1931. Other notable gangsters of the era included Dutch Schultz, Arthur Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, and Frank Costello. 

Prohibition had a number of effects on the country. It destroyed the brewing industry causing a massive loss in jobs and tax revenue. Prohibition cost millions of dollars to enforce but was difficult to actually enforce because police were often easy to corrupt and were in the pockets of the gangsters. As crime rates rose above where they were prior to prohibition, people began to call for its repeal.

Ratified in December 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment effectively bringing the prohibition era to an end. Today, prohibition still has a hold on our country as some towns and counties remain "dry" or may have "blue laws" in place, prohibiting the sale of alcohol in those locations on certain days (such as Sundays). 

Next time here on the blog, we're going to be examining questions in constitutionalism and society such as the resurgence of the KKK, the Red Scare, and the Scope's Trial. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Emergence of the New Woman

The 1920s was a period marked by great societal changes as America moved toward a more homogenized culture thanks to the emergence of popular culture such as television, radio and motion pictures, magazines, and mass advertising and consumerism. Along with the emergence of popular culture, or maybe because of it, emerged the New Woman, a cultural icon that many continue to associate with the era. During this time period, there existed a conflict between modern and traditional values, and this conflict led to the expression of contradictory roles for women. To the chagrin of many, women were shedding the Victorian ties that bound them to the domestic roles of wife and mother and were becoming more prominent in the public arena; they worked outside the home, smoke and drank alcohol in public, became increasingly involved in politics, and were unafraid to flaunt their femininity and sexuality.

What was new about the "new woman"? The most important change that women underwent during this era was that they had an increased presence in the public sphere. Because women were no longer relegated to the domestic sphere, they were able to venture into jobs, became more involved with politics, and became involved with the new consumer culture of the time.



Women in the Workforce

Throughout the 1920s, the number of women in the workforce increased steadily.  By 1930, 10.7 million women were working outside the home, making up 22% of the workforce.  Most working women were single, widowed, or divorced; by 1930, 1 in 6 married women worked outside of the home. 

By 1930, women earned 40% of the bachelor's degrees awarded. Most of those women became teachers, nurses, and social workers which were already traditional female occupations. Fewer than 20% of educated women worked in the better paying skilled factory jobs. Changes in technology and scientific management created opportunities for women in white collar service industry jobs. These low paying, low status, and low mobility occupations included work as secretaries, salespeople, telephone operators, and beauticians. Because these jobs were labeled "female only", even in hard economic times women were able to be hired for these and other new occupations.

One important gain for working women was the creation of the Women's Bureau in 1920. The Women's Bureau was part of the federal Department of Labor and it tried to improve working conditions for women from inside the government and provided data about working women.
These working women were empowered by earning an income and a small percentage of women even joined labor unions. This earning of an income allowed young women to become consumers in this newer economy through the purchase of makeup, ready to wear clothing, and household appliances as well as through commercialized forms of entertainment such as going to dance halls, movie theaters, and amusement parks. 



Involvement in Politics

In 1920, women had won the right to vote. However, voter turnout for women was relatively low in the national election and their vote didn't have a distinct effect on the outcome. Women did not vote in large numbers, nor did they vote as a bloc. To try to encourage women to play a greater part in politics the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was formed, as a reorganized version of the National American Women's Suffrage Association. 



Health, Rights, and Working Conditions
The divisions of the 1920s were reflected in the fate of two pieces of legislation. 

In 1921, Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Act which had the aim of reducing the infant mortality rate; the law provided for public health centers where women could learn about nutrition and health care. According to an article written by Katherine Madgett for The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, "The Act provided federal funds to states to establish programs to educate people about prenatal health and infant welfare. Advocates argued that it would curb the high infant mortality rate in the US. Many states accepted funding through the Sheppard-Towner Act, leading to the establishment of nearly 3,000 prenatal care clinics, 180,000 infant care seminars, over three million home visits by traveling nurses, and a national distribution of educational literature between 1921 and 1928. The Act provided funding for five years, but was repealed in 1929 after Congress did not renew it. Historians note that infant mortality did decrease during the years the Act was in effect. The Act also influenced provisions aimed at infant and maternity welfare in later legislation, such as the Social Security Act of 1935" (source: https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/sheppard-towner-maternity-and-infancy-protection-act-1921). 

The second piece of notable legislation from this era that would have an affect on women was an equal rights amendment, proposed by Alice Paul in 1923. The proposed equal rights amendment, which never passed, led to bitter disagreements among women. Many feminists supported it, but other feminists opposed it because they believed it would do away with special laws that protected female workers.



Flappers

The image of the flapper is iconic to the 1920s era. The flapper represented more than just a style of dress, the flapper represented this new woman. Flappers represented modernism and the clash of values in the changing status of women in this era. The flappers were free-spirited and flouted convention; they cut their hair in short styles, wore short skirts and dresses and shirked the corsets worn by their mothers, they listened to jazz and blues music, they danced the new dance crazes of the time, they smoke and drank in public, and they became sexually liberated in the 1920s.

The flappers, of course, were not the norm although popular culture would one believe as such. Flappers tended to be middle-class and upper-class urban women. Women in the mid-west and in many other rural settings still clung to the Victorian model of marrying young and managing a family and household rather than having the time or the disposable income the flappers had for leisure activities.


The 1920s brought about an era where women were more free than they had been in the past, but women would still have a long way to go to be seen as equal to their male counterparts.

Next time here on the blog, we're going to examine prohibition, one of the most aspects of the 1920s. 





Book Cover Reveal

Hello everyone! This is a very joyous occasion as I get to reveal the front cover of my upcoming book with The History Press! Included with ...