Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
 
 
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History 101:
Survey of the History of the United States
Manual - Chapter 7
The Great Depression and the New Deal

Introduction | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8 | Chap. 9 | Appendix

New Deal Programs and Posters   

Readings for Chapter 7 

Terms for Week 7

ADVERTISING AND CONSUMER SOCIETY

THE STOCK MARKET CRASH

RUMBLES OF REVOLUTION

THE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS

COLLEGE STUDENTS AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION

THE NEW DEAL: THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS

MAJOR NEW DEAL AGENCIES

HUEY LONG: AMERICAN DICTATOR

CALIFORNIA DREAMING IN THE DEPRESSION

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT'S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS

THE NEW DEAL: OPPOSING VIEWS

EIGHT DEAD AT REPUBLIC STEEL

ORGANIZING A FILIPINO UNION

HITLER'S VIEWS:  TERROR, AND THE MASTER RACE

HITLER AND THE JEWS

GERMANY UNDER THE NAZIS

JAPANESE FASCISM: ONE INSIDER'S VIEW

"THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE": AN AMERICAN SUPPORTS ISOLATION

ROOSEVELT ON THE THREAT OF WAR

MARTIAN INVASION, 1938 

Terms for Week 7 

        Stock Market Crash, 1929 

        "bank holiday" 

        relief 

        anti-chain store movement 

        "pump priming" 

        Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) 

        Works Progress Administration (WPA) 

        Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) 

        Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) 

        Wagner Act, 1935       

        Glass-Steagall Act, 1933 

        Social Security Act, 1935 

        Eleanor Roosevelt 

        Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) 

        Dr. Francis Townsend-Old Age Pension Union 

        Senator Huey P. Long-Share Our Wealth Society  

        welfare state    

        Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU) 

        Republic Steel, 1937 

        Gone With the Wind 

        War of the Worlds 

        Mein Kampf 

        Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

ADVERTISING AND CONSUMER SOCIETY 

In the following vignette Earnest Elmo Calkins, author of the 1928 bestseller, Business, the Civilizer, describes how in two generations (1880-1920) manufactured goods and labor-saving devices revolutionized and modernized American households.  He credits business and particularly advertising for this revolution.  Calkins's passage aptly describes what historians call the rise of consumer society which emerged in the 1920s just before the Great Depression. 

        When I was a boy, about fifty years ago more or less, mother used to buy a bar of Castile soap half a yard long and four inches square and saw it up into cakes an inch thick.  The cake was hard as Stonehenge, the corners sharper than a serpent’s tooth.  It took weeks of use to wear it down so that it comfortably fitted the hand.

        Today we have a cake of toilet soap—a great many of them, in fact— just the right shape to fit the hand, just as pure as Castile, scented if we like, tinted to match the bathroom decorations if we prefer, reasonable in price; and when we want another cake we go to the nearest grocery or drug store, and there it is.

        And not only toilet soap.  We have seen the evolution of shaving creams, safety razors, and tooth pastes, as well as soap powders, laun­dry chips, washing machines, vegetable shortenings, self-rising flours, electric irons, vacuum cleaners, hot-water taps, aluminum cooking utensils, refrigerators, kitchen cabinets—everything, in short, that con­stitutes the difference between our mothers’ kitchens and our wives’.

        The amount of sheer drudgery that has been taken out of house­keeping in fifty years can be realized only by comparison, by drawing the illuminating parallel.  An iron, soft-coal cook-stove; a reservoir at the back the only source of hot-water supply; the green-painted iron pump in the wooden corner sink for cold drinking water from the pump out­side; saleratus instead of baking powder; hog lard instead of vegetable shortening; butter and milk hung down the well by a string to keep them cold; heavy iron pots and skillets to be lifted, to say nothing of the coalhod; dishes washed by hand; no device to alleviate the frightful labor—no rubber scrapers, scouring mops, metal-ring dishrags, no wire brushes, or drying racks, or cleansing powders; baked beans an eighteen-hour job; oatmeal an overnight operation; sugar, salt, dried fruit, pickles, crackers, rice, coffee, pepper, spices, lard, bought in bulk, scooped out of open boxes or barrels...exposed until sold, dumped on a sheet of paper laid on the scales.  Molasses and vinegar drawn from the wood, and between whiles the gallon measures stand­ing around, proving the adage that molasses attracts more flies than vinegar.  Food was unclean, there was no sponsor for its quality, and it came to the kitchen almost in a state of nature.  The housemother be­came a miniature manufacturing plant before the food was ready for the family to eat. And the preparation of meals was but a small portion of the housewife’s burden. There was cleaning with no other implements but a rag, a broom, and a turkey wing. Clothes were washed with a rub-rub-rub that wore the zinc from the washboard.

        Put such a kitchen beside the one pictured in most advertisements selling kitchen equipment, or those complete ones shown in the house­keeping departments of the women’s magazines, “How to Furnish the Ideal Kitchen.” Better still, take a modern housewife, not the delicates­sen and can-opener type, but a real housekeeper, who keeps her house and takes pride in it,—there are such even to-day,—and put her in an old-fashioned kitchen like that described above.  She could not do in a week what my mother did every day of her toil-bound life.  To keep house with what was available half a century ago was an art handed down from generation to generation, which happily has been lost, except among the newly arrived foreign-born. 

Source: Ernest Elmo Calkins, Business the Civilizer (Boston, 1928), reprinted in Robert D. Marcus and David Burner, ed. America Firsthand. vol. 2 (New York: 1989), pp. 223-224. 

 

THE STOCK MARKET CRASH 

The following vignette provides a description of the Stock Market Crash in October, 1929. 

        In 1928 no one dreamed we were on the verge of a catastrophic depression.  It had been a glorious year.  Stocks had made a gain of $11,385,993,733.  The New York Times wrote in its New Year's editorial of January I, 1929: "But it will go hard to get people to think of 1928 as merely a 'dead past' which we must make haste to bury.  It has been twelve months of unprecedented advance, of wonderful prosperity--in this country at least... If there is any way of judging the future by the past, this new year may well be one of felicitation and hopefulness."

        The note of hope was sounded everywhere in that New Year edition of the Times. Big businessmen made their usual yearly forecasts, all of them rosy, with only here and there a note of skepticism.  There were a few stories and comments of an uneasy nature, but only a few.  For example, one article told of the disappointing year which England had just gone through.  There was a story that the state guarantee of bank deposits in Nebraska was inadequate to meet the pressure of mounting bank failures.  But the stock market was up.  Most people thought it was up permanently.  And anyway sensible conservative people did not believe in guaranteeing bank deposits.  It was an assault on free enterprise. It was a penalty put on good bankers for the benefit of poor ones.

        There were many reasons for optimism so far as the real wealth of the country was concerned.  In the beginning of 1929 national income was still going up in terms of the production of physical goods.  It was the end of a ten-year period which had shown the greatest increase in national income this country had ever known.  Between 1910 and 1919 the increase in the national income in terms of physical goods was about 10 per cent. During the period from 1920 to 1929 the increase was 93 per cent.  We had practically doubled our national production of goods and services.  Since in the long run real wealth consists only in ability to produce goods and services, we appeared to the casual ob­server on New Year's Day of 1929 to be richer by many times than ever before in our history. And the curve of increased production was going up at a more rapid pace than ever before.

        We had become more efficient industrially than any other country in the world. Output per man-hour in manufacturing industries had doubled in the twenty years between 1909 and 1929.  In coal mining and railroads the increase in output per man-hour had not been so great but it was nevertheless large.  As a result, on New Year's Day of 1929 both weekly cash wages and real wages were at the highest point in our economic history.  Real wages had more than doubled since 1914.

        Mr. Hoover, who was then President, was an engineer with an engineering mind.  He shared with everyone else, including our best economists, a lack of vision with respect to the defects in our social organization.  But he saw better than most old-fashioned businessmen and bankers the technical possibilities of an industrial revolution in methods of production which had begun in the nineteenth century and was moving toward fruition in the twentieth.  During the 1928 election campaign, he had informed the American people that they could expect two chickens in every pot and two cars in every garage as part of the normal standard of living for every family.

        Wall Street was fully in accord with such sentiments.  During May and June, 1928, stocks wavered, but as Election Day approached, the market advanced.  And when Hoover rolled in by twenty-one million votes to Al Smith's fifteen million, the Dow-Jones industrials soared to 300.  The "New Era" had arrived.  A new school of economists argued that when you buy common stocks, you buy the future, not the present.  Imaginative projections of earnings, five and ten years ahead, flour­ished.  Radio Corporation of America (RCA) went up to 500, was split five for one.  Names like Auburn, Grigsby-Grunow, Koister Radio--names you no longer hear of--flashed across the ticker tape.  Blue chips, like U. S. Steel, American Telephone, and Eastman Kodak, reached all-time highs.

        Inauguration Day, March 4, 1929, found Wall Street even more ebullient. The Dow Jones industrials were up another 20 points.  When stocks faltered in April, Wall Street seers regarded it as a "buying opportunity."  And so it proved for a few months. By August the Dow­ Jones industrials hit 380.  But somehow, somewhere, the old zip was lacking.  Pools worked valiantly, but stocks thrashed about getting nowhere.  The first week in September stocks climbed to 381. 

        The break came early in September.  There was a mid-month recovery, but it was the last gasp.  Liquidation increased.  Brokers' clerks worked long hours sending out margin calls.  Came Thursday, October 24.  Panic.  U. S. Steel, which had been as high as 261, opened at 205, crashed through 200, and soon was down to 93.  General Electric, which only a few weeks before sold above 400, opened at 315, dropped to 283.  About noon, Charles E. Mitchell, head of the National City Bank, slipped into the offices of J. P. Morgan and Company.  So did Albert H. Wiggin, head of the Chase National, William Potter, head of the Guaranty Trust, and Seward Prosser, head of the Bankers Trust. They, with Thomas Lamont, of Morgan, and George F. Baker, of the First National Bank, formed a consortium to shore up the market.

        Toward 2:00 P.M., Richard Whitney, known as the Morgan broker, bid 205 for Steel.  The market rallied.  There was in that rally no hint that Whitney, then vice-president of the Exchange and subsequently its president, would ultimately go to Sing Sing [Prison] for speculations as head of the firm of Richard Whitney and Company--a depression casualty.

        Came Black Tuesday, October 28.  Buy and sell orders piled into the Stock Exchange faster than human beings could handle them.  The ticker ticked long after trading closed.  A record 16,410,000 shares changed hands.  The climax came November 13, 1929. The Dow-Jones average dropped to 198.7.  And how the high and mighty had fallen! American Can was down from 181 to 86; American Telegraph and Telephone (AT&T) from 304 to 97; General Motors from 72 to 36; New York Central from 256 to 160; United States Steel from 261 to 150.  The Big Bull Market was dead.  And Coolidge-Hoover Prosperity was dead with it.       

Source: Thurman Arnold, "The Crash—and What it Meant (1929)" reprinted in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), p. 215-217. 

 

RUMBLES OF REVOLUTION 

Oscar Ameringer, an Oklahoma City newspaper editor, describes to a Congressional committee the anger of farmers and ranchers over their economic plight in 1932. 

        Some time ago a cowman came into my office in Oklahoma City.  He was one of these double‑fisted gentlemen, with the gallon hat and all.  He said, "You do not know me from Adam's ox. I came to this country without a cent, but, knowing my onions, and by tending strictly to business, I finally accumulated two sections of land and a fine herd of white‑faced Hereford cattle.  I was independent."

        I remarked that anybody could do that if he worked hard and did not gamble and used good management.

        He said, "After the war, cattle began to drop, and I was feeding them corn, and by the time I got them to Chicago the price of cattle, considering the price of corn I had fed them, was not enough to even pay my expenses.  I could not pay anything."

        Continuing, he said, "I mortgaged my two sections of land, and to‑day I am cleaned out; by God, I am not going to stand for it."

        I asked him what he was going to do about it, and he said, "We have got to have a revolution here like they had in Russia and clean them up."

        I finally asked him, "Who is going to make the revolution?"

        He said, "I just want to tell you I am going to be one of them, and I am going to do my share in it."

        I asked what his share was and he said, "I will capture a certain fort. I know I can get in with twenty of my boys," meaning his cowboys, "because I know the inside and outside of it, and I [will] capture that with my men."

        I rejoined, "Then what?"

        He said, "We will have 400 machine guns, so many batteries of artillery, tractors, and munitions and rifles, and everything else needed to supply a pretty good army."

        Then I asked, "What then?"

        He said, "If there are enough fellows with guts in this country to do like us, we will march eastward and we will cut East off.  We will cut the East off from the West.  We have got the granaries; we have the hogs, the cattle, the corn; the East has nothing but mortgages on our places.  We will show them what we can do."

        That man may be very foolish, and I think he is, but he is in dead earnest; he is hard‑shelled Baptist and a hard‑shelled Democrat, not a Socialist or a Communist, but just a plain American cattleman whose ancestors went from Carolina to Tennessee, then to Arkansas, and then to Oklahoma.  I have heard much of this talk from serious‑minded prosperous men of other days.

        I do not say we are going to have a revolution on hand within the next year of two, perhaps never.  I hope we may not have such; but the danger is here. I have met these people virtually every day all over the country.  They say the only thing you do in Washington is to take money from the pockets of the poor and put it into the pockets of the rich.  They say that this Government is a conspiracy against the common people to enrich the already rich.  I hear such remarks every day. 

Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David Kennedy, ed., The American Spirit, Vol. II, (Lexington, Mass.:  D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 739‑740.    

THE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS

Each of the two statements below reflect the gravity of the unemployment situation in 1932.  The first is from Fortune Magazine and the second is an excerpt from Franklin Roosevelt's campaign speech at Boston.  The Fortune Magazine article is perhaps most striking because it recognizes the grave threat to the social order if the millions of jobless become angry and violent. 

        Unemployment has steadily increased in the U.S. since the beginning of the depression... The number of persons totally unemployed is not at least 10,000,000... The number...next winter will...be 11,000,000...one man of every four employable workers...

        This percentage is higher than the percentage of unemployed British workers…and higher than the French, the Italians, and the Canadian percentages, but lower than the German...

        Eleven million unemployed means 27,500,000 whose regular source of livelihood has been cut off... Taking account of the number of workers on part time, the total of those without adequate income becomes 34,000,000 or better than a quarter of the entire population...  It is conservative to estimate that the problem of next winter's relief is a problem of caring for approximately 25,000,000 souls...

        And it is not necessary to appeal...to class fear in order to point out that there is a limit beyond which hunger and misery become violent. 

From Fortune Magazine, September 1932 

        We have two problems: first, to meet the immediate distress; second, to build up on a basis of permanent employment.

        As to "immediate relief," the first principle is that this nation, this national Government, if you like, owes a positive duty that no citizen shall be permitted to starve...

        In addition to providing emergency relief, the Federal Government should and must provide temporary work whenever that is possible.  You and I know that in the national forests, on flood prevention, and on the development of waterway projects that have already been authorized and planned but not yet executed, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of our unemployed citizens can be given at least temporary employment...

        Third, the Federal Government should expedite the actual construction of public works already authorized...

        Finally, in that larger field that looks ahead, we call for a coordinated system of employment exchanges, the advance planning of public works, and unemployment reserves. 

From Franklin D. Roosevelt, Campaign Address in Boston, October 1932 

Source: John M. Blum, The National Experience: A History of the United States (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), pp. 614‑615. 

 

COLLEGE STUDENTS AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION 

While few could argue that college and university students were among those who suffered most during the Great Depression, the economic crisis reached into their lives as well.  This account from a 1933 article, illustrates the creative ways they responded to economic adversity. 

        College students have probably developed more ingenious ways of betting the depression than any other group in America.  Using their wits to earn money or cooking their own meals and living in shacks to save it, Joe College and Betty Co-ed are getting educated in spite of technological unemployment, bank moratoria, impoverishment of agriculture and a general scarcity of cash.  For instance:
        Two male students at Ohio State University have started a "dog laundry."  They call for Fido, Bruno or Towser, take him to their "plant" and return him all nicely bathed, combed and manicured...

        A student at Western Reserve University, Cleveland, has been able to hold a comparatively lucrative position right through the depression because he is accustomed to hold-ups.  The large gasoline station at which he is a night attendant has been robbed three times by gunmen.

        A couple of husky freshmen at West Virginia University who probably didn't know the difference between a casserole and a wash tub when they left home, have been going to school on less than $1.60 a week apiece by renting a back bedroom with a small stove in it and cooking cheap but nourishing foods.

        Eight boys at the University of Washington are getting their meals at very small cost by cooking them in a basement and "taking in" several other students as boarders...

        The University of Pennsylvania took action at the start of the present school year to turn over as many campus jobs as possible to students.  As a result, collegians are now acting as night watchmen, janitors, secretaries, mail carriers, switchboard operators, locker room attendants, technicians and clerks.

        Officials of Carthage College, in Illinois, let a miner pay his daughter's tuition in coal this past winter.  At Notre Dame 300 students are earning their board by waiting on tables in the dormitory dining halls.  They are so numerous that they serve a meal to their 2,000 fellow students in 20 minutes.

        When the economic depression is finally over and commendations for valor are being passed around, some sort of special recognition should be given to the student who, with only enough money to last until June if he spent but 35 cents a day for food, quit a $100 a month job because it was keeping him from his studies.       

Source: Gilbert Love's "College Students Are Beating the Depression," School and Society XXXVII (June 10, 1933), reprinted in David A. Shannon, ed., The Great Depression (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 1960), pp. 104-105. 

 

THE NEW DEAL: THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS 

In the account below historian Arthur Schlesinger describes both the transition of the presidency from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt on March 4, 1933, and FDR's legislative agenda which was implement immediately after he took office. 

        The White House, midnight, Friday, March 3, 1933. Across the country banks had shuttered their windows and closed their doors. The machinery of American capitalism had broken down; the great depression had reached its symbolic climax. “We are at the end of our string,” the retiring President, weary and red-eyed, said to his friends as the striking clock announced the day of his retirement. “There is nothing more we can do.”

        Saturday dawned gray and bleak. Winter clouds hung over the Capitol, where a huge crowd, quiet, somber, drawn almost by curiosity rather than by hope, gathered to watch the new President. The colorless light of the granite skies merged with the emotionless faces of the people who stood in huddled groups, sat on benches, climbed on trees and rooftops in front of the Capitol. “What are those things that look like little cages?” asked someone in the waiting crowd. “Machine guns,” replied a woman with a giggle.

        On the drive to the Capitol the President-to-be was sociable and talkative. Herbert Hoover, his face heavy and sullen, could not conceal his bitterness. They separated inside the Capitol. The new President, waiting nervously in the Military Affairs Committee Room, started down the corridor toward the Senate ten minutes before noon. He was stopped; it was too early. "All right," he laughed, "we'll go back an wait some more."

        The bugle blew at noon. Franklin Roosevelt, leaning on the arm of his son James, walked down a special maroon-carpeted ramp to the platform. Charles Evans Hughes, erect in the chilly gusts of wind, administered the oath on a Dutch Bible which had been in the Roosevelt family for three hundred years.

        Then the new President turned to the crowd, and microphones carried his words to millions across the land. “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” The crowd stirred as if with hope. “In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

        The firm, resonant tone itself brought a measure of confidence. “This nation asks for action, and action now. . . . We must act and act quickly. . . It may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure."

        “We do not distrust the future of essential democracy,” he said in summation. “The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes.” Herbert Hoover stared glumly at the ground.

        There was a diffused roar of applause, quickly dying away. The crowd began to break up, curiously excited as it had not been an hour earlier. Some saw dismal portents in the eloquent but ambiguous phrases.  "The thing that emerges most clearly," wrote Edmund Wilson, down from New York to report the occasion for the New Republic, "is the warning of a dictatorship.  But the people as a whole welcomed the promise of action—action to exorcise the dark spell that lay over the nation's economy, to break through the magic circle which benumbed the powers of government." 

        "This NATION asks for action and action now... We must act, and act quickly." That night the new cabinet was sworn in quietly at the White House.  The next day the President convened a special session for March 9 and, late in the evening, proclaimed a four-day bank holiday.

        Yet, for all the audacity of his long-range plans, the President's intentions toward the banks were strictly conservative.  His advisers were intent on restoring business confidence.  Roosevelt himself had been impressed by the deathbed repentances.  When Senator LaFollette gave him a plan of drastic reform, Roosevelt declared it wasn't necessary at all: "I've just had every assurance of cooperation from the bankers."

        The problem, as he saw it, was to reopen the banks as quickly as possible. The Republican holdovers at the Treasury stood by.  Leading bankers, frightened and panicky, converged on Washington.  Phones rang incessantly with calls from distant cities. Four days of tense, weary, and endless conferences began.  In the prevailing near-hysteria, only the President, who seemed to be exhilarated by crisis, and Secretary of the Treasury Woodin, who moved through turbulence in his own serene way, strumming his guitar in moments of perplexity, remained calm. As day was breaking on Thursday, March 8, Woodin left the White House with the emergency banking bill.  "Yes, it's finished," he told newspapermen.  "Both bills are finished.  You know my name is Bill, and I'm finished too."

        Congress met.  The House passed the bill in thirty-eight minutes; most of the Representatives had only the sketchiest idea what it was all about.  The Senate took three hours. In the evening the President signed the act in the Oval Room.  The tired men at the Treasury took showers, shaved, and turned to the frantic twenty-four-hour task of deciding what banks should reopen.

        Later that same evening Roosevelt handed party leaders his economy bill, aimed at reducing government expenses and cutting veterans’ compensation.  With Republican support and progressive opposition, Congress passed the economy bill on March 15.  By now the banks were reopening; a surge of deposits showed that the people were regaining their faith in the banking system.  On March 15 the Stock Exchange resumed. 

Source: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The First Hundred Days of the New Deal (1933) reprinted in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), p. 275-277, 284-285.

 

 

                             MAJOR NEW DEAL AGENCIES

1933 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)--Insures deposits in the nation's banks.      

        Farm Credit Administration--Provides long and short term credit for farmers. 

        Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)--Assists farmers with commodity price supports and regulates farm production. 

        Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)--Provides work for unemployed youth in National Parks and National Forests.   

        Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)--Responsible for providing electricity to the Tennessee Valley. 

        Home Owner's Loan Corporation (HOLC)--Grants low-interest loans to home owners in financial difficulty.     

1934 Federal Communications Commission (FCC)--Regulates radio, television, telephone and other communications systems. 

        Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)--Regulates stock market practices. 

        Federal Housing Administration (FHA)--Insures private lending agencies against loss on home mortgage and home improvement loans. 

1935 Social Security Board (SSB)--Oversees the Social Security system. 

        Works Progress Administration (WPA)--Provides work for needy persons on public works projects.        

        National Youth Administration (NYA)--Provides job training for unemployed youth and part-time work for needy students. 

        National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)--Settles disputes between unions and management. 

1937 Farm Security Administration (FSA)--Helps farmers purchase equipment. 

1938 Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC)--Provides insurance protection against unavoidable loss of crops. 

1940 Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB)--Regulates private and commercial aircraft. 

 

HUEY LONG: AMERICAN DICTATOR

President Franklin Roosevelt had challengers on the left and right.  One of those on the left was Huey Long, the popular governor (and simultaneously U.S. Senator) of Louisiana who proposed a plan to "Share the Wealth" of the United States by excessively taxing the fortunes of American millionaires.  That the scheme was impractical did little to diminish its popularity among many people impoverished by the Great Depression.  Reprinted below is an account of this "American dictator." 

        For newspapermen, those were...memorable days.  You stood beside his hotel dining table, as he slopped up great table­spoonfuls of cereal with a sidewinding sweep or tore broiled chicken to pieces with his fingers, and you jotted down the incessant harangues against the lying newspapers, the city machine, and the battered enemy politicians, while the bodyguards glowered protectively near by.  You didn’t like him, if only because the slugging of newspapermen didn’t seem justifiable even for vote getting, and especially when the strong-arming became personal.  You were chased by militiamen across the parade grounds of Jackson Barracks in New Orleans and held a prisoner after you had sneaked in to discover whether the Governor was calling out the troops on the eve of the Senatorial election—in which the Gov­ernor was a candidate.

        In a corridor of the garish Roosevelt Hotel, managed by a...former shoe clerk who was now his paymaster and treasurer, you watched a fellow reporter being hustled out of the Governor’s suite.  ...The reporter had struck the Governor in retaliation for being cursed, and the Governor had struck back, but only after his body­guards had pinioned his attacker.

        You interviewed him after he had precipitated a silly international incident by receiving a German admiral in disheveled green pajamas, and you laughed in spite of yourself at his shrewdly appealing account of his gaucherie.  You heard a pale-faced man, thrust before a micro­phone, identify himself as Sam Irby, who had been kidnapped by state police on the eve of an election because he had threatened to tell what he knew about his daughter and the Governor, who employed her as his secretary.  And after Irby had told who he was, in front of the micro­phone in the hotel headquarters, you marveled at his exoneration of the Governor, and speculated upon the reasons therefore.

        Afterwards, in the corridor, a fellow reporter was to have a gun thrust into his stomach as he sought to enter the elevator on which the mysterious Mr. Irby was being whisked away. And then you testified in United States District Court that a tele­gram, also absolving the Governor and purportedly coming from the mother of another kidnapping victim—the secretary’s ex-husband—was signed with the name she had borne before her second marriage.  Counterfeit...was this telegram which you had seen and read on a speaker’s stand in New Orleans on one of the last heated nights before election.  And so, endlessly, through brawling campaigns, brawling legislative sessions, brawls¼  Such goings-on made of Louisiana a reportorial heaven¼.

        Louisiana’s frightened, vengeful Governor surrounded himself with a half-dozen gun-ready, slugging bodyguards. He established a weekly newspaper, the Louisiana Progress, staffed it principally with skillful, conscienceless young newspapermen, and sicked it on his ene­mies.  State employees found it good insurance to subscribe to the Progress, the number of subscriptions depending upon the size of their salaries, but with a minimum of ten to be sold, eaten, or used as wall­paper.  No opponent big enough to be worthy of notice escaped its libeling.  The voters of the nation’s most illiterate state could under­stand its cartoon obscenities even when they couldn’t spell out the text.

        The public-works program went into high gear.  The depression was rocking Louisiana.  Public works meant needed jobs.  And the adminis­tration could count on at least five votes for each employee; the votes of the aunts and uncles and cousins and wives and children of job holders who made it clear to their relatives that their fifteen to thirty dollars a week was secure only so long as they could prove their loyalty with political performance.

        The first program was followed by a second and more ambitious one: a sixty-eight-million-dollar highway construction project, a five-mil­lion-dollar skyscraper capitol, and another twenty million dollars in assorted projects, all to be financed by an additional three-cent hike in the gasoline tax.  With a year and a half yet to serve as Governor, and with the opposition organizing against the program, Huey decided to run for the United States Senate with the state program as his platform. Huey won hands down; and when his...Lieutenant Gov­ernor claimed the Governorship because of Long’s election to the Senate, Huey called out the state police and the National Guard, read the Lieutenant Governor out of office, and put in the president pro tempore of the Senate as acting Governor¼.       

        In 1934 Long formalized the program which he hoped would even­tually win him the Presidency.  The hazy concept of a national redistri­bution of wealth, presented fifteen years before by the obscure state Senator from Winn Parish, took definable shape in a national “Share Our Wealth” organization.  No dues were necessary... No matter that the Share Our Wealth program was demonstrably impracticable as presented.  It was believ­able: a limitation of fortunes to $5,000,000; an annual income mini­mum of $2,000 to $2,500 and a maximum of $1,800,000; a homestead grant of $6,000 for every family; free education from kindergarten through college; bonuses for veterans; old-age pensions, radios, auto­mobiles, an abundance of cheap food through governmental purchase and storage of surpluses. The Share Our Wealth members had their own catchy song, "Every Man a King," their own newspaper, the mudslinging Louisiana Progress, expanded now to the American Progress.       

        As the Share Our Wealth chorus swelled, Huey, like a wise military tactician, took care to protect his rear.  In a spectacular, degenerative series of special sessions in 1934 and 1935, his legislature reduced Louisianans almost literally to the status of Indian wards. Together with this final elimination of...democratic self-govern­ment—to the unconcern of a majority of the unconsulted electorate—came new benefits: homestead tax exemption, theoretically up to two thousand dollars; abolition of the one-dollar poll tax; a debt mora­torium act; and new taxes—an income tax, a public utilities receipts tax, an attempted “two cents a lie” tax on the advertising receipts of the larger newspapers, which the United States Supreme Court pro­nounced unconstitutional.

        Perhaps it seems inconceivable that any legislature, no matter how great the material rewards for its complaisant majority, could have so completely surrendered a people’s political powers and economic and personal safety to one man.  But Louisiana’s legislature did.  Administration-designated election supervisors were given the sole right of select­ing voting commissioners, sole custody over the ballot boxes themselves, and the privilege of designating as many “special deputies” as might be necessary to guard the polls... The Governor could—and did—expand the state police force into a swarm of private agents, some uniformed and some not, their number and the identity of the uninformed alike a secret.  The State Attorney General was empowered to supersede any district attorney in any trial. The State Tax Commission was given the right to change any city or county tax assessment, so that a misbehaving corporation or individual might know just who held the economic stranglehold.  An ironically designated civil service board was created, with appointive control over all fire and police chiefs, and a school budget committee with the right to review the appointments of every school teacher and school employee.  The Governor was even enabled to re­place the entire city administration of Alexandria...[where] Huey had once been rotten-egged.  There were other repressive measures, many others. But these are sufficient to indicate what had happened to self-government in Louisiana.       

        It is perhaps a corollary that in the last year of his life Long became obsessed with a fear of assassination.  He increased his armed body­guard, and took other unusual precautions to insure his personal safety.  In July, 1935, he charged on the floor of the Senate that enemies had planned his death with “one man, one gun, and one bullet” as the medium, and with the promise of a Presidential pardon as the slayer’s reward.  This plot, he said, was hatched in a New Orleans hotel at a gathering of his enemies. A dictograph, concealed in the meeting room, had recorded the murderous conversation. I was at that meeting. It was a caucus of die-hard oppositionists...trying to decide what to do for the next state campaign.  The "plotting" was limited to such hopefully expressed comments as "Good God, I wish somebody would kill the son of a bitch."

        And somebody did...  On the night of September 8, a slender, bespectacled man in a white suit stepped from behind a marble pillar in the capitol as Long, accompanied by his closest aides and bodyguard, hurried to the Governor’s office.  Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, the man in the white suit, drew a small pistol and fired once.  Seconds later, the assassin lay dead, his body and head riddled by sixty-one shots.  Huey Long staggered away with one bullet wound, per­haps a second, in his stomach.  Thirty hours later he died. 

Source: Hodding Carter, Huey Long: American Dictator (1935) reprinted in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), p. 339-40, 351-52, 353-56. 

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMING IN THE DEPRESSION

University of Washington historian James Gregory, in his book, American Exodus, describes the so-called "Dust Bowl" migration which brought 250,000 Oklahomans, Texans, Arkansans and Missourians along Route 66 to California between 1935 and 1940, and which was immortalized by the film, "The Grapes of Wrath."  In the following vignette Gregory shares the personal account of two of those migrants, Lonnie Nelson and Flossie Haggard, mother of country music singer Merle Haggard. 

        Nelson: I've live in Oklahoma since I was eight years old, stayed on the farm till I was sixteen.  I went to railroadin' when I was 22. Come out durin' the big strike.  I really believe in the Union.  I got married in 1922, 12th of July--six o'clock in the evening.  Then me and the bride went back to the farm, and stayed on the farm till '24.  From that I taken up ginnin' and concrete work 'cause the drought hit and wasn't makin' nothing'...

        I went back to the railroads in '26, with a different outfit and worked there till '32... The second day of January '32 I got...laid off fer good... The only think to do was to go back to the farm and stayed there one year.  About this time, in '33, my wife was operated on fer thyroid goiter.  Then I worked on C.W.A. for one year buildin' and such like as that.

        In '34 I got a job with the Government killin' cattle.  It lasted seven week and I killed form 26 to 135 head a day... After that was over I picked up odd jobs till January of '35 and went back to farmin'.  The drought struck again in '35, and high waters come on in the late fall.  In other words, what the drought didn't git the high waters did.  I was overflowed five times in two months.  A farmer can't stand the like of that.  So there was nothin' to do but throw up my tail and go back on relief.  We all got hit and hit hard.  That was from '36 to '39, by gosh...  So the 15th of January, 1940 we loaded up and come out here, leavin a snow storm to our back, sunny California to our belly and here we are.  The good Lord is just lettin' me sit around the see what the hell will happen next. 

        Haggard: In July, 1935, we loaded some necessary supplies onto a two wheel trailer and our 1926 model Chevrolet which Jim had overhauled.  We headed for California on Route 66, as many friends and relatives had already done. We had our groceries with us--home sugar-cured bacon in a lard can, potatoes, canned vegetables, and fruit.  We camped at night and I cooked in a dutch oven.  The only place we didn't sleep out was in Albuquerque where we took a cabin and where I can remember bathing. 

        [Things went well until the reached the desert and their car broke down]

        We were out of water, and just when I thought we weren't going to make it, I saw this boy coming down the highway on a bicycle.  He was going all the way from Kentucky to Fresno. He shared a quart of water with us and helped us fix the car.  Everybody'd been treating us like trash, and I told this boy, "I'm glad to see there's still some decent folks left in this world. 

Source: James Gregory, American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California (New York, 1989), pp. 31, 34. 

 

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT'S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS 

The worst of the crisis of the Great Depression had passed by the end of Roosevelt's first term.  His second term was then devoted to developing permanent reforms that would prevent future depressions.  In this excerpt from his Second Inaugural Address on January 20, 1937, Roosevelt discusses the remaining challenges facing the nation. 

        I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great wealth of natural resources...  I see a United States which can demonstrate that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be translated into a spreading volume of human comforts heretofore unknown, and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of mere subsistence.

        But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens‑‑a substantial part of its whole population‑‑who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

        I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

        I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so‑called polite society half a century ago.

        I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

        I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

        I see one‑third of a nation ill‑housed, ill‑clad, ill‑nourished. 

Source: Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York: Knopf, 1961), p. 747. 

 

THE NEW DEAL: OPPOSING VIEWS

The New Deal program of Franklin Roosevelt dramatically increased government involvement in a wide range of economic and social activity.  That heightened involvement prompted a debate, which continues to this day, concerning the aims of the New Deal and its impact on the citizens and institutions of the United States.  I have reprinted below two views of the New Deal. 

        Organized enterprise is obtaining an increasingly large proportion not only of national income, but of all savings and of all wealth... Within the corporate structure itself the concentration is progressing...

        This amazing concentration of the corporate ownership of wealth has been accompanied by a similar concentration of dividend distribution.  The great and powerful business organizations which dominate the economic scene are owned by a numerically insignificant proportion of the total population... Less than 1% of all American corporate stockholders are the beneficiaries of one‑half of all the dividends paid in this country...

        As the concentration proceeds, the flow turns away from organized business to government... The inevitable and inescapable result of continued concentration in big business is the final triumph of big government...

        If we are agreed...that we want to preserve free enterprise...it must be perfectly clear that any remedy that does not stop the steady progress of concentration will be utterly futile and will end only in an all‑powerful government...

        The only remedy to save a democratic economy is to be found in making the economy democratic. 

From the Final Report... of the Temporary National Economic Committee, 1941. 

        The New Deal is nothing more or less than an effort sponsored by inexperienced sentimentalists and demagogues to take away from the thrifty what the thrifty or their ancestors have accumulated, or may accumulate, and to give it to others who have not earned it...and who never would have earned it and never will earn it, and thus indirectly to destroy the incentive for all future accumulation.  Such a purpose is in defiance of everything that history teaches and of the tenets upon which our civilization has been founded.

        Nothing could threaten the race as seriously as this [the New Deal].  It is begging the unfit to be more unfit.  Even such a measure as old‑age insurance...removes one of the points of pressure which has kept many persons up to the strife and struggle of life. 

Quoted in George Wolfskill, The Revolt of the Conservatives, 1962. 

Source: John M. Blum, The National Experience: A History of the United States (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), p. 629, 633. 

EIGHT DEAD AT REPUBLIC STEEL

The following vignette describes the violent confrontation between Chicago police and striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in 1937. 

        Republic Steel stood abrupt out of the flat prairie.  Snakelike, the line of pickets crossed the meadowland, singing at first: Solidarity for­ever! The union makes us strong, but then the song died, as the sun-drenched plain turned ominous, as five hundred blue-coated policemen took up stations between the strikers and the plant.  The strikers' march slowed, but they came on.  The police ranks closed and tightened.  It brought to mind how other Americans had faced the uniformed force of so-called law and order so long ago on Lexington Green in 1775; but whereas then the redcoat leader had said, "Disperse, you rebel bastards!" to armed minutemen, now it was to unarmed men and women and children that a police captain said, "You dirty sons of bitches, this is as far as you go!"

        Once there was an illusion somewhere that the police were gentle souls who helped lost children, but a striker put it afterwards: "A cop is a cop, that's all.  He's got no soul and no heart for a guy who works for a living.  They learned us good.

        About two hundred and fifty yards from the plant, the police closed in on the strikers.  Billies and clubs were out already, prodding, strik­ing, nightsticks edging into women's breasts and groins.  But the cops were also somewhat afraid, and they began to jerk guns out of holsters.

        "Stand fast! Stand fast!" the line leaders cried.  "We got our rights! We got our legal rights to picket!"

        The cops said, "You got no rights. You red bastards, you got no rights."

        Even if a modern man's a steelworker, with muscles as close to iron bands as human flesh gets, a pistol equalizes him with a fat-bellied weakling...  Grenades began to sail now; tear gas settled like an ugly cloud. Children suddenly cried with panic, and the whole picket line gave back, men stumbling, cursing, gasping for breath.  Here and there a cop tore out his pistol and began to fire; it was pop, pop, pop at first, like toy favors at some horrible party, and then, as the strikers broke under the gunfire and began to run, the con­tagion of killing ran like fire through the police.

        They began to shoot in volleys at these unarmed men and women and children who could not strike back or fight back.  The cops squealed with excitement.  They ran after fleeing pickets, pressed revolvers to their backs, shot them down, and then continued to shoot as the victims lay on their faces, retching blood.  When a woman tripped and fell, four cops gathered above her, smashing her flesh and bones and face.

        And so it went, on and on, until seven were dead and more than a hundred wounded.   

Source: Howard Fast, "An Occurrence At Republic Steel (1937)" reprinted in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), pp. 386-387. 


ORGANIZING A FILIPINO UNION
 

In contrast to other Asian Americans who looked to entrepreneurship for economic development, many Filipino Americans believed that working-class organizations such as unions would provide economic security.  One of the most effective of these unions was the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU), Local 18257, a predominately Filipino Union organized in Seattle in 1933.  A brief account of the union appears below. 

        Not until the winter of 1932 did efforts at unionization among Filipino salmon-cannery hands in the Pacific Northwest begin.  Pence Torres recalled that only "a few people (met) to plan something to improve ourselves."  They congregated in secret for fear of reprisals by contractors and canners.  Torres explained that they could not "possibly get many people at one time...We have to do it between school days."  Planning around school schedules indicated the central role played by students in the effort.  More than Filipinos, students felt the constraints on their expectations for social mobility during the depression, which explains their interest in changing the labor recruitment and management practices in the industry.  Nonetheless, this early cabal barely included a dozen members.

        The small group of planners concluded that "the only solution to the problem is to be organized," and in June 1933 they held a special public meeting of the Filipino Laborers' Association to discuss affiliation with the American federation of Labor (AFL).  The "big crowd" of seven Filipino union officers and nineteen others listed to C.W. Doyle of Seattle's Central Labor Council, carefully discussed the issue, and voted in favor of affiliation.  On June 19, 1933, the Filipinos entered the AFL as the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU), Local 18257.  Although the reasons for AFL endorsement of the local are unclear, CAWIU successes in organizing California field laborers may have jolted the AFL into action to head off what it perceived as a communist-led insurgency.

        The newly affiliated local stressed goals that revealed the barriers to be overcome if the workers were to improve their condition.  The union pledged to foster the attainment of higher skills and efficiency among its members.  Although unions invariably used such language, Filipinos did need to cultivate their canning expertise in order to make possible their movement into the specialized tasks monopolized by Chinese and Japanese.  The local also proposed shorter working hours, which would either bring greater overtime pay in rush periods or force the hiring of larger crews and thus provide more jobs for unemployed Filipinos.

        To achieve its goals, the local also had to unite a divided Filipino community.  This proved no easy task.  In Seattle, for example, most Filipino immigrants were Ilocanos, but the community also had Tagalogs, Pangasinans, and Visayans--each group with its own dialect--as well as other ethnic associations.  In 1923 Tagalogs in Seattle had founded a branch of the Caballeros Dimas Alang (its title originating from revolutionary Jose Rizal's pen name).  In that political, nationalistic, and self-help organization, members conducted rituals and secret meetings in Tagalog to the exclusion of other groups.  Not every Filipino association was based on ethnicity, however.  In the late 1920s, students at the University of Washington had formed a Filipino Club that fostered their academic pursuits, helped with their social lives, and provided economic assistance.  Contractors helped raised money to run the club, and they used that connection as an avenue to a labor supply.  Small-group activity was symptomatic of the factions among Filipino immigrants.  The manner in which Filipinos entered and worked in the industry further heightened their reliance on such groups.

        Before the depression, the use of family, friendship, and ethnic networks to gain employment had its advantages for Filipinos, who faced a Chinese and Japanese oligarchy over labor recruitment and management in the industry.  That strategy also helped at the plants where Filipinos worked in the small groups characteristic of their immigration.  Sylvestre A. Tangalan explained that at the cannery where he worked: "We were happy, mostly Bauanganians," fellow villagers from La Union.  Segregation at the cannery reinforced, rather than destroyed, Filipino ethnic and immigrant ties...

        To compete with the contractors and aspirant agents even more successfully, the CWFLU adopted a series of social welfare programs for members.  It gave $50 to a Filipino-owned cafe in exchange for the restaurateur's providing meals to "indigent active members."  The local also loaned money to members.  In 1935, for example, it approved a $50 loan to a Filipino who a year earlier had supported the local's efforts in a farm workers' strike near Seattle.  Such actions helped members avoid indebtedness to contractors and encouraged nonunion Filipinos to think seriously about joining.  Allocation of the local's financial resources, for any purpose other than supporting cannery organization, however, led to charges of favoritism and misuse of union funds.  In spite of the charges, the local's efforts to provide meals and money for some of its members reveal that some money was returned to the rank and file.

        As the union's membership grew to several hundred in the first few years, it created its own job ladder, separate from that of the existing hierarchy of cannery tasks.  At first, titles were awarded as recognition of service to the union and carried status only.  Financial stability soon allowed the local to pay its officers for their contributions.  The salaries for 1935 reveal the significance of income from a union position relative to the average cannery worker's $25-$50 a month during the canning season.  The CWFLU monthly salary scale for officers was: president, $80; vice-president, $40; secretary, $60; treasurer, $40; trustees, $40; guard, $20; guide, $20.  Their salaries also touched off resentment, especially when they voted raises for themselves.

        The local also became politically active in an attempt to achieve recognition as the voice of the Filipino community.  Its appearance at the NRA code hearings marked it as an early advocate for the Filipino community.  Elsewhere, the local's records indicate no activity concerning the Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934), which proposed eventual independence for the Philippines but also convinced stringent immigration restrictions.  The CWFLU did get involved in at least two other legislative actions at he state level.  In 1935 the local sent a three-person delegation to Olympia to fight against antimiscegenation bills in the Washington state legislature.  Also, in 1937, the local protested a Washington state bill that would prevent Filipino immigrants from owning or leasing lands because of their newly acquired "alien" status under the Tydings-McDuffie Act.  Such highly visible political lobbying enhanced the local's status in the Filipino community.  Among contractors, only Pio De Cano took up broader community concerns,  challenging in state courts the application of anti-alien land laws to Filipino immigrants between 1937 and 1941.

        The local also cultivated community support through its public relations efforts.  It gave to the Philippine American Chronicle a 4 percent interest loan as well as gifts of cash.  In return, the CWFLU asked for a regular labor column in the paper.  Thereafter, the Chronicle became for all practical purposes the local’s official organ.  This was no great concession for the paper because two officials of the local, Virgil Dunyungan and Cornelio Mislang, were the publishers.  While the local's involvement with the Chronicle gave it a wider voice within the community, it also fostered deeper divisions because the other major newspaper, the Philippine Advocate, lined up against the local and the Chronicle and was backed by Ayamo's Filipino Protective Labor Association... 

Source: Chris Friday, Organizing Asian American Labor--The Pacific Coast Canned-Salmon Industry, 1870-1942, (Philadelphia 1994), pp. 136-137, 144-145. 

HITLER'S VIEWS:  TERROR, AND THE MASTER RACE 

Hitler in Mein Kampf, lays forth his ideas on terror and about a `Master Race.'  Those ideas would take tragic form for Germans, for Europeans, for the rest of the world nearly twenty years later. 

        I achieved an...understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses.  Here, too, the psychological effect can be calculated with precision.  Terror at the place of employment, in the factory, in the meeting hall, and on the occasion of mass demonstrations will always be successful unless opposed by equal terror.

        The impression made by such a success on the minds of the great masses of supporters as well as opponents can only be measured by those who know the soul of a people, not from books, but from life.  For while in the ranks of their supporters the victory achieved seems a triumph of the justice of their own cause, the defeated adversary in most cases despairs of the success of any further resistance.

        The more familiar I became, principally with the methods of physical terror, the more indulgent I grew toward all the hundreds of thousands who succumbed to it.  

        Human culture and civilization on this continent are inseparably bound up with the presence of the Aryan.  If he dies out or declines, the dark veils of an age without culture will again descend on this globe.

        The undermining of the existence of human culture by the destruction of its bearer seems in the eyes of a folkish philosophy the most execrable crime.  Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.

        We all sense that in the distant future humanity must be faced by problems which only a highest race, become master people and supported by the means and possibilities of an entire globe, will be equipped to overcome. 

Source:  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Boston, 1971), pp. 44, 383-384. 

 

HITLER AND THE JEWS 

Adolf Hitler's racial attitudes reflected longstanding European prejudices but they also helped determine the specially horrendous character of the Nazi state.  In Mein Kampf he describes his evolving anti-Semitism. 

        Today it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to say when the word `Jew' first gave me ground for special thoughts... Not until my fourteenth year did I begin to come across the word `Jew,' with any frequency, partly in connection with political discussions...  There were few Jews in Linz.  In the course of the centuries their outward appearance had become Europeanized and had taken on a human look; in fact, I even took them for Germans.

        Then I came to Vienna... Once, as I was strolling through the Inner City, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks.  Is this a Jew?, was my first thought... Is this a German?

        Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity.  Particularly the Inner City and the districts north of the Danube Canal swarmed with a people which even outwardly had lost all resemblance to Germans.

        In a short time I was made more thoughtful than ever by my slowly rising insight into the type of activity carried on by the Jews in certain fields.  Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural life, without at least one Jew involved in it?

        The fact that nine tenths of all literary filth, artistic trash, and theatrical idiocy can be set to the account of a people, constituting hardly one hundredth of all the country's inhabitants, could simply not be talked away; it was the plain truth.

        When I recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy, the scales dropped from my eyes.  A long soul struggle had reached its conclusion...  I gradually became aware that the Social Democratic press was directed predominately by Jews; yet I did not attribute any special significance to this circumstance, since conditions were exactly the same in the other papers.  Yet one fact seem conspicuous: there was not one paper with Jews working on it which could have been regarded as truly national, according to my education and way of thinking.  From the publisher down, they were all Jews.

        I took all the Social Democratic pamphlets I could lay hands on and sought the names of their authors: Jews.  I noted the names of the leaders; by far the greatest part were likewise members of the `chosen people,' whether they were representatives in the Reichsrat or trade-union secretaries, the heads of organizations or street agitators....One thing had grown clear to me:  the party with whose petty representatives I had been carrying on the most violent struggle for months was, as to leadership, almost exclusively in the hands of a foreign people; for, to my deep and joyful satisfaction, I had at last come to the conclusion that the Jew was no German. 

Source:  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Boston, 1971), pp. 51-61. 

GERMANY UNDER THE NAZIS 

William L. Shirer, an American correspondent assigned to cover Germany and central Europe for CBS News during the 1930s, has provided a revealing glimpse of life in Germany under the Nazi Party.  Here are excerpts of his Berlin Diary. 

Paris, June 30, 1934

        Berlin was cut off for several hours today, but late this afternoon telephone communication was reestablished.  And what a story!  Hitler and Goring have purged the S.A., shooting many of its leaders.  Rohm, arrested by Hitler himself, was allowed to commit suicide in a Munich jail... The French are pleased.  They think this is the beginning of the end for the Nazis. 

Paris, August 3

        Hitler did what no one expected.  He made himself both President and Chancellor.... Hitler had the army swear an oath of unconditional obedience to him personally. 

Nuremburg, September 4

        Like a Roman emperor Hitler rode into this medieval town at sundown today past solid phalanxes of wildly cheering Nazis... Tens of thousands of Swastika flags blot out the Gothic beauties of the place... The streets are a sea of brown and black uniforms. 

Nuremburg, September 5

        I'm beginning to comprehend some of the reasons for Hitler's astounding success.  Borrowing a chapter from the Roman church, he is restoring pageantry and color to the drab lives of 20th Century Germans.  This morning's opening meeting in the Luitpold Hall was more than a gorgeous show; it also had something of the mysticism of an Easter Mass in a great Gothic cathedral.  Even Hitler's arrival was made dramatic.  The band stopped playing.  There was a hush over the 30,000 people packed in the hall.  Hitler appeared in the back of the auditorium and followed by his aides, he strode slowly down the long center aisle while thirty thousand hands were raised in salute. 

Nuremburg, September 6

        Hitler sprang his Arbeitsdienst, his Labor Service Corps, on the public for the first time today and it turned out to be a highly trained, semi-military group of fanatical Nazi youths.  Standing there in the early morning sunlight, fifty thousand of them, with the first thousand bared above the waist, suddenly made the German spectators go mad with joy when without warning, they broke into perfect goose-step.  The boys formed an immense chanting chorus─and with one voice intoned─"We want one Leader!  Nothing for us!  Everything for Germany! Heil Hitler! 

Bad Saarow, April 21, 1935

        The hotel mainly filled with Jews and we are a little surprised to see so many of them still prospering and apparently unafraid.  I think they are unduly optimistic. 

Berlin, April 20, 1937

        Hitler's birthday.  He gets more and more like a Caesar.  Today a public holiday with sickening adulation from all the party hacks, delegations from all over the Reich bearing gifts, and a great military parade.  The Army revealed a little of what it has:  heavy artillery, tanks, and magnificently trained men.  Hitler stood on the reviewing stand as happy as a child with tin soldiers, saluting every tank and gun.  The military attaches of France, Britain, and Russia, I hear, were impressed.  So were ours. 

Berlin, June 15

        Five more Protestant pastors arrested yesterday.  Hardly keep up with the church war any more since they arrested my informant, a young pastor; have no wish to endanger the life of another one. 

Berlin, September 27

        The strain on the life of the [German] people and on the economic structure of the state is tremendous.  Both may well crack.  But the youth, led by the S.S., is fanatic.  So are the middle class "old fighters" who brawled in the streets for Hitler in the early days and now have been awarded with good jobs, authority, power, money.  The bankers and industrialists, not so enthusiastic now as when I arrived in Germany, go along.  They must, It is either that or the concentration camp.

        I leave Germany in this autumn of 1937 with the words of a Nazi marching song in my ears:

                  Today we own Germany

                  Tomorrow the whole world  

Vienna, March 22, 1938

        On the streets today gangs of Jews, with jeering storm troopers standing over them and taunting crowds around them, on their hands and knees scrubbing the Schuschnigg [former Austrian Prime Minister] signs offs the sidewalks.  Many Jews killing themselves.  Jewish men and women made to clean latrines.  Hundreds of them just picked at random off the streets to clean the toilets of the Nazi boys.  The wife of a diplomat, a Jewess, told me today she dared not leave her home for fear of being picked up and put to "scrubbing things." 

Rome, May 3

        The town full of [detectives]─fifty thousand of them, they say, German and Italian, to protect the two great men [Hitler and Mussolini].  All the foreign Jews here have been jailed or banished for the duration of the visit.  The Italians hardly hide their hostility to the Germans.  They watch them walk by, and then spit contemptuously.__________________

Source:  William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary, (New York, 1941), pp. 11-192.  

JAPANESE FASCISM: ONE INSIDER'S VIEW 

Saburo Ienaga, a political dissident in Japan during the 1930s and 1940s, provided this description of Japanese fascism just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into World War II. 

        Japanese fascism differed from its German and Italian counterparts.  They were broad movements from below.  Charismatic leaders established dictatorial systems based on mass organizations, the Nazi party and Fascist party.  In Japan fascism was imposed from above by the military and the bureaucrats, aided by their junior partners, the civilian rightists (whose money came from secret army funds and similar covert sources).  A "new political structure movement" was planned and the Imperial Rule Assistance Association (IRAA) was established in October 1940.  It was not comparable to the mass parties of Germany or Italy and was not very effective in organizing or mobilizing the populace.  The IRAA used local organizations such as the hamlet and village associations, neighborhood associations, civil defense associations, and the reservist associations to constantly interfere in the people's lives through ration distribution, air raid drills, official sendoffs for draftees, and memorial services for war dead.  These organizations got into the act by forcing women to stop wearing long‑sleeved kimonos and getting permanent waves, and insisted that citizens put on the prescribed air raid "uniforms" of puttees and khaki caps for men and monpe (women's work pants gathered at the ankle) for women.

        The Nazis destroyed the Weimar Republic and established a dictatorship.  No such clear break with the past occurred in Japan.  The Meiji Constitution was never revised or suspended.  The Diet was rendered impotent but it continued to exist.  About the only major legal shift was the 1938 enactment of the National Mobilization Law.  Although probably unconstitutional, its sweeping provisions broadened the state's administrative authority, imposed new duties on the citizenry, and curtailed civil rights.

        In January 1934 Army Minister Araki Sadao presented a study to Premier Saito which shows the hawks' attitude toward civil liberties.  Among Araki's recommendations and proposals were the following about "controls on journalism and publication":  "Direct publishing activities so that they contribute to state prosperity, social order, the smooth functioning of national life and to wholesome public entertainment; "Ban views which would impair fundamental national policies"; "Tighten controls over rumors, gossip, speech, and publications that would harm the state."  On the "Purification of thoughts," Araki recommended:  "Tighten controls over subversive organizations.  The most severe methods should be carried out by legal groups which disseminate anti‑imperialist ideas...  Strengthen public unity for national mobilization by making participation in the Reservists' Association and youth training mandatory and encouraging organizations such as the...Boy Scouts, Patriotic Women's Association, National Defense Women's Association, Red Cross Society..." 

Source:  Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War:  World War II and the Japanese, 1931-1945, (New York, 1978), pp. 97, 112‑113. 

"THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE": AN AMERICAN SUPPORTS ISOLATION 

In 1940 Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the aviator Charles Lindbergh, wrote a book titled, The Wave of the Future which called for continued American isolationism as World War II spread across Europe.  But she also reflected the views of millions of Americans when she expressed her admiration for the major European dictatorships.  Lindbergh urged her countrymen to understand rather than oppose the dictatorships because they were, in her words, "the wave of the future."  Part of her comments are reprinted below: 

        What was pushing behind Communism?  What behind Fascism in Italy?  What behind Naziism?  Is it nothing but a "return to barbarism," to be crushed at all costs by a "crusade"?  Or is some new, and perhaps even ultimately good, conception of humanity trying to come to birth, often through evil and horrible forms and abortive attempts?... I cannot see this war, then, simply and purely as a struggle between the "Forces of Good" and the "Forces of Evil."  If I could simplify it into a phrase at all, it would seem truer to say that the "Forces of the Past" are fighting against the "Forces of the Future..."

        Somehow the leaders in Germany, Italy and Russia have discovered how to use new social and economic forces...  They have felt the wave of the future and they have leapt upon it.  The evils we deplore in these systems are not in themselves the future; they are scum on the wave of the future...  There is no fighting the wave of the future, any more than as a child you could fight against the gigantic roller that loomed up ahead of you. 

Source: John M. Blum, The National Experience: A History of the United States, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989) p. 656. 

ROOSEVELT ON THE THREAT OF WAR 

In 1940, after World War II had already broken out in Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt began to psychologically prepare the United States for what he and a number of Americans thought would be the inevitable clash with the Axis powers.  Here is part of his radio address on December 29, 1940. 

My Friends:

        This is not a fireside chat on war.  It is a talk on national security...  There is danger ahead‑-danger against which we must prepare.  But we well know that we cannot escape danger, or the fear of danger, by crawling into bed and pulling the covers over our heads.

        Some nations of Europe were bound by solemn non‑intervention pacts with Germany.  Other nations were assured by Germany that they need never fear invasion...  As an exiled leader of one these nations said to me the other day‑"The notice was given to my Government two hours after German troops had poured into my country in a hundred places."

        There are those who say that the Axis powers would never have any desire to attack the Western Hemisphere.  The plain facts are that the Nazis have proclaimed, time and again, that all other races are their inferiors and therefore subject to their orders.  And most important of all, the vast resources and wealth of this American Hemisphere constitute the most tempting loot in all the round world.

        The American appeasers ignore the warning to be found in the fate of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and France.  They tell you that the Axis powers are going to win anyway; that all this bloodshed in the world could be saved; that the United States might just as well throw its influence into the scale of a dictated peace, and get the best out of it that we can.

        They call it a "negotiated peace."  Nonsense!  Is it a negotiated peace if a gang of outlaws surrounds your community and on threat of extermination makes you pay tribute to save your own skins?

        With all their vaunted efficiency, with all their parade of pious purpose in this war, there are still in their background the concentration camp and the servants of God in chains.

        The history of recent years proves that shootings and chains and concentration camps are not simply the transient tools but the very altars of modern dictatorships.  They may talk of a "new order" in the world, but what they have in mind is only a revival of the oldest and the worst tyranny.  In that there is no liberty, no religion, no hope.

        The proposed "new order" is the very opposite of a United States of Europe of a United States of Asia.  It is not a Government based upon the consent of the governed.  It is not a union of ordinary, self‑respecting men and women to protect themselves and their freedom and their dignity from oppression.  It is an unholy alliance of power and greed to dominate and enslave the human race.

        We must be the great arsenal of democracy.  For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself.  We must apply ourselves to our task with same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war. 

Source: Howard Quint, Milton Cantor and Dean Albertson, Main Problems in American History, (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1987) p. 262‑266. 

MARTIAN INVASION, 1938 

On October 2, 1938, Orson Wells, operating from a CBS studio called the Mercury Theater of the Air, broadcast a simulated invasion of the earth by Martians based on the H.G. Wells science fiction novel, War of the Worlds.  The broadcast was so realistic that millions of listeners believed it was an actual event.  In the vignette, Charles Jackson, an executive with CBS Radio, describes the radio broadcast and its impact.  Historians have suggested that the panic over the broadcast reflected actual fears of an impending Second World War. 

        At Moments of crisis or disaster people are fond of telling where they were at the time, how they happened to hear the news, or what they were doing when they heard it, as if their personal reaction were more important than the event itself.  Thus, on Monday morning, October 3, 1938, while everybody in the radio business collected in excited knots to discuss the panic the country had been thrown into on the previous evening by the medium they worked in, my own story went something like this: 

        My wife and I had returned from dinner in Greenwich Village. I went into the bedroom, lay down on my bed, and dialed WABC to see how the Orson Welles show was going.  As usual, Orson was presenting a dramatization of a book.  The opening announcement said: The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air in The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells.  But strangely, no dramatic program seemed to ensue.  A prosaic weather report was given instead.  Then an announcer remarked that the program would be continued from a New York hotel, with dance tunes.  For a few moments, one heard the music of a swing band.  Then came a sudden break-in with a "flash" which declared dramatically that a professor had just noted from his observatory a series of gas explosions on the planet Mars.  The clever Welles—not H. G. (indeed, the dramatization had little connection with H. G.'s original at any point)—was up to one of his tricks.

        Simulated news bulletins followed in rapid succession, interspersed with "remotes": on-the-spot broadcasts of actual "scenes."  These reported brilliantly, with the extraordinary technique which radio had long since perfected for news events, the landing of a meteor near Princeton, New Jersey, killing fifteen hundred persons—and then the discovery that it was no meteor at all but a metal cylinder containing Martian creatures armed with death rays, come to open hostilities against the inhabitants of the earth.

        I could not but admire Orson for the marvelous reality he was able to bring to such a fantastic story, but after a few moments, it seemed to me, he succeeded too well; the very grotesqueness of the broadcast soon caused me to lose interest—it outraged all my sense of belief, and by eight-fifteen or so, I switched off the dial and took a nap.

        Arriving at the office the next morning, I was dumfounded—and somewhat ashamed for my fellow Americans—to discover that a national panic had been generated by the broadcast.  Sunday night's wave of mass hysteria took strange forms.  Through­out New York City, families fled their apartments in panic, some to near-by parks, many to seek verification of the horrendous report, hundreds of others, in a state of terror, to find out how they could follow the broadcast’s advice and flee from the city.

        In Newark, New Jersey, in a single block, more than twenty families rushed out of their homes with wet handkerchiefs and towels over their heads and faces, to flee from what they believed to be a gas raid.

        In San Francisco, the general impression of listeners was that an overwhelming force had invaded the United States from the sky; New York was in the process of being destroyed, and the frightful Martians were even now moving westward.  "My God," roared one man into a phone, "where can I volunteer my services?  We've got to stop this awful thing!"

        In Caldwell, New Jersey, a terror-stricken parishioner rushed into the First Baptist Church during the evening service and shouted that a meteor had fallen, showering death and destruction, and that North Jersey was threatened with annihilation.  The Reverend Thomas attempted to quiet his congregation by leading them in prayer for deliverance from the catastrophe.

        A man in Pittsburgh returned home in the midst of the broadcast and found his wife in the bathroom, a bottle of poison in her hand, screaming, "I'd rather die this way than like that!"  Another man, in Mt. Vernon, New York, called police to tell them that his brother, a hopeless invalid, had been listening to the broadcast and when he heard the report, he got into an automobile and "disappeared."

        In Harlem, extreme panic was created.  Thirty men and women rushed into the West 123rd Street Police Station and twelve into the West 135th Street Station saying they had their household goods packed and were ready to quit Harlem if the police would tell them where to go to be evacuated.  One man insisted he had heard "the President's voice" over the radio, advising all citizens to leave the city.  One could hardly blame him, for at a dramatic point in the broadcast the President's voice was exactly imitated by a Mercury Theater actor telling the listeners to do just that.

        Nor was credulity confined to the susceptible citizenry alone.  Men of science were not immune.  Dr. Arthur F. Buddington, chairman of the department of geology, and Dr. Harry Hess, professor of geology, Princeton University, received the first alarming reports in a form indicating that a meteor had fallen near Dutch Neck, some five miles away. They armed themselves with "the necessary equipment" and set out to find the specimen. What they found was a group of excited natives, searching, like themselves, for the meteor.

        Later, a detailed study of the entire panic and its effects was made by the Princeton Radio Project, operating on a grant of the Rockefeller Foundation to Princeton University. Some of the comments recorded by interviewers for the Project were as follows:

        A New Jersey housewife: "I knew it was something terrible and I was frightened. But I didn't know just what it was.  I couldn't make myself believe it was the end of the world.  I've always heard that when the world would come to an end, it would come so fast nobody would know--so why should God get in touch with this announcer?   When they told us what road to take and getup over the hills and the children began to cry, the family decided to go out.  We took blankets and my granddaughter wanted to take the cat and the canary.  We were outside the garage when the neighbor’s boy came back and told us it was only a play."

        A high-school girl in Pennsylvania: "...I was really hysterical. My two girlfriends and I were crying and holding each other and everything seemed so unimportant in the face of death.  We felt it was terrible we should die so young..."

        A Negro housewife in Newark: "We listened, getting more and more excited. We all felt the world was coming to an end.  Then we heard, "Get gas masks!" That was the part that got me.  I thought I was going crazy.  It's a wonder my heart didn't fail me because I'm nervous anyway.  I felt if the gas was on, I wanted to be together with my husband and nephew so we could all die together.  So I ran out of the house.  I guess I didn’t know what I was doing.  I stood on the corner waiting for a bus and I thought every car that came along was a bus and I ran out to get it.  I kept saying over and over again to everybody I met: "New Jersey is destroyed by the Germans--it's on the radio!  I was all excited and I knew that Hitler didn't appreciate President Roosevelt's telegram a couple of weeks ago. While the United States thought everything was settled, they came down unexpected.  The Germans are so smart they were in something like a balloon, and when the balloon landed--that's when they announced the explosion--the Germans landed."

        A man in a Midwest town: "That Halloween show had our family on its knees before the program was half over.  God knows but we prayed to him last Sunday. It was a lesson in more than one thing to us.  My mother went out and looked for Mars.  Dad was hard to convince, and skeptical, but even he got to believing it.  Brother Joe, as usual, got more excited than anyone.  Brother George wasn't home.  Aunt Grace, a good Catholic, began to pray with Uncle Henry.  Lillie got sick to her stomach.  I don't know what I did exactly, but I know I prayed harder and more earnest than ever before.  Just as soon as we were convinced that this thing was real, how petty all things on earth seemed, and how soon we put our trust in God!" 

Source: Charles Jackson, "The Night the Martians Came (1938)" printed in Isabel Leighton, ed., The Aspirin Age, 1919-1941 (New York, 1949), p. 431-436.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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