Hatenannies??

This blog will get back to the series on on Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows in a few days. But so much is going on in the nation right now that is tied directly to US History that I feel a need to take a short detour and address some of that.  This is being written on the Tuesday after the hellish Neo Nazi/White Supremacist chaos in Charlottesville VA that led to the death of one woman, the injury of 19 others in that single terrorist incident, along with other injuries around the city.

With the bizarre press conference today, we now see the astonishing lengths Trump will go to, to distance himself from actually admitting what it is about Neo Nazis and White Supremacists that is despicable and deserving of strong public denunciation from the President of All the People.

In this context I offer a blog entry I wrote in March last year, when David Duke was also in the news as he is today. It gives a brief, documented and illustrated, overview of the history of the last time America saw a very open, in-your-face surge of Neo Nazism. And brings it up to the time of last year’s election season. The connections to today will be obvious.

I present for your consideration… the history of the HATENANNY.

This Land Ain’t YOUR Land, This Land is MY Land

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Manufacturing an Ogre

Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 22

Manufacturing an Ogre

This is Part 22 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary that
can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on information, concepts, and commentary
introduced in earlier entries in the series, and thus it is most effective to
read the material sequentially from the beginning.
Click here to go to the 
first entry in the series, Part 1.

 

vintageflag

Washington Post, May 7 1919: 

CHICAGOANS CHEER TAR [Sailor] WHO SHOT MAN

Sailor Wounds Pageant Spectator Disrespectful to Flag.

Chicago, May 6 – Disrespect for the American flag and a show of resentment toward the thousands who participated in a victory loan pageant here tonight may cost George Goddard his life. He was shot down by a sailor of the United States navy when he did not stand and remove his hat while the band was playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Goddard had a seat of vantage in the open amphitheater. When he failed to stand he was the most conspicuous figure among the throng.

When he fell at the report of the “sailor’s” gun the crowd burst into cheers and hand-clapping.

When Goddard failed to respond to the first strains of the national anthem Samuel Hagerman, sailor in the guard of honor asked him to get up. “What for?” demanded Goddard. “Hagerman touched him with his bayonet.

“Get up. Off with your hat.”  Goddard muttered and drew a pistol. With military precision Hagerman stepped back a pace and slipped a shell into his gun.

Goddard started away. As the last notes of the anthem sounded the sailor commanded him to halt. Then he fired into the air.  “Halt!” Goddard paid no attention.

The sailor aimed and fired three times. Goddard fell wounded. Each shot found its mark.

When he [Goddard] was searched, an automatic pistol, in addition to the one he had drawn, was found. Another pistol and fifty cartridges were found in a bag he carried. He said he was a tinsmith, out of work. Papers showed he had been at Vancouver and Seattle and it was believed by the authorities he had come here for the I.W.W. convention.

1919 was not a good year for anyone in the US who was not perceived by those around him as “100% American.”

And as you can see from the news report above, it didn’t take much to put someone under suspicion.

Looking back on the conditions of the time, it is easy to understand why. World War 1 created an upheaval in American society in many ways.

During the First World War, there was a nationwide campaign in the United States against the real and imagined divided political loyalties of immigrants and ethnic groups, who were feared to have too much loyalty for their nations of origin. Particular targets were Germans, with sympathies for their homeland, and Irish, whose countrymen were in revolt against America’s ally, the United Kingdom.

In 1915, President Wilson warned against hyphenated Americans who, he charged, had “poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.” “Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy”, Wilson continued “must be crushed out”. The Russian Revolution of 1917 added special force to fear of labor agitators and partisans of ideologies like anarchism and communism. [Source]

And things didn’t get better when the war was over. They got worse.

The emotional pitch of World War I did not abate with the armistice, and rampant inflation, unemployment, massive and violent strikes, and brutal race riots in the United States contributed to a sense of fear and foreboding in 1919. [Source]

As described in the previous entry in this series, for some reason many in government, the mass media, and citizens in the upper and middle classes of America had a difficult time conceiving that striking workers might have honest, legitimate, deep concerns about poverty-level wages, and miserable and dangerous (or even deadly) working conditions.

Yes, “outside influences” (such as Communist agitators) could exacerbate those concerns. But the solution to that problem ought to have been to work toward FIXING what was wrong. Negotiating fair wages and humane working conditions, putting the welfare of the workers on an equal level of importance with high profits for corporate leaders and stockholders, would assure that the outsiders had no foothold.

But sending state militia and National Guard troops to threaten and beat striking workers into submission and force them back to work had long been a quicker…and cheaper…fix. Too bad about the “collateral damage” sometimes to even wives and children of striking workers…as seen in these photos and information about the 1914 “Ludlow Massacre.” But that was one of the costs of doing Big Business.

The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914.

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Ludlow miners’ tent city before the Massacre: 

ludlowbefore

Miners and their families before the Massacre: 

ludlowstrikers

 

Ludlow tent city after the Massacre. 

ludlowafter

About two dozen people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident.

ludlowcostafam

The massacre, the culmination of an extensive strike against Colorado coal mines, resulted in the violent deaths of between 19 and 26 people; reported death tolls vary but include two women and eleven children [the youngest were 2 months and 6 months old], asphyxiated and burned to death under a single tent. [They were in a pit, originally dug as a makeshift cellar below the tent.]

ludlowdeathtent

The deaths occurred after a daylong fight between militia and camp guards against striking workers.

ludlownationalguard

Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914.

A contemporary description of the event:

… the militia “fired the two largest buildings—the strikers’ stores—and going from tent to cent, poured oil on the flimsy structures, setting fire to them. From the blazing tents rushed the women and children, only to be beaten back into the fire by the rain of bullets from the militia. The men rushed to the assistance of their families; and as they did so, they were dropped as the whirring messengers of death sped surely to the mark… into the cellars—the pits of hell under their blazing tents—crept the women and children, less fearful of the smoke and flames than of the nameless horror of the spitting bullets.

One man counted the bodies of nine little children, taken from one ashy pit, their tiny fingers burned away as they held to the edge in their struggle to escape… thugs in State uniform hacked at the lifeless forms, in some instances nearly cutting off heads and limbs to show their contempt for the strikers. Fifty-five women and children perished in the fire of the Ludlow tent colony. Relief parties carrying the Red Cross flag were driven back by the gunmen, and for twenty-four hours the bodies lay crisping in the ashes, while rescuers vainly tried to cross the firing line.”

In the end, the strikers failed to obtain their demands, the union did not obtain recognition, and many striking workers were replaced by new workers.

Eventually there was some sympathy across the nation when these gory details came to light. But early in the strike, media reports no doubt convinced many citizens that these strikers were just unreasonable men, bent on causing a civil disturbance that was extremely unpleasant for those who expected law and order in their nation. Here are a few details about what led to the strike. You decide if the miners had legitimate reasons to risk their lives to try to make changes in the industry.

ludlowcolormine

…Mining was dangerous and difficult work. Colliers [coal workers] in Colorado were at constant risk for explosion, suffocation, and collapsing mine walls. In 1912, the death rate in Colorado’s mines was 7.055 per 1,000 employees, compared to a national rate of 3.15. In 1914, the United States House Committee on Mines and Mining reported that “Colorado has good mining laws and such that ought to afford protection to the miners as to safety in the mine if they were enforced, yet in this State the percentage of fatalities is larger than any other, showing there is undoubtedly something wrong in reference to the management of its coal mines.”

Miners were generally paid according to tonnage of coal produced, while so-called “dead work”, such as shoring up unstable roofs, was often unpaid. According to historian Thomas G. Andrews, the tonnage system drove many poor and ambitious colliers to gamble with their lives by neglecting precautions and taking on risk, with consequences that were often fatal.

Between 1884 and 1912, mining accidents claimed the lives of more than 1,700 Coloradans. In 1913 alone, “104 men would die in Colorado’s mines, and 6 in the mine workings on the surface, in accidents that widowed 51 and left 108 children fatherless.”

 That was the year before the strike.

…Colliers had little opportunity to air their grievances. Many colliers resided in company towns, in which all land, real estate, and amenities were owned by the mine operator, and which were expressly designed to inculcate loyalty and squelch dissent.

ludlowcompanytown
…Historian Philip S. Foner has described company towns as “feudal domain[s], with the company acting as lord and master. … The ‘law’ consisted of the company rules. Curfews were imposed. Company guards – brutal thugs armed with machine guns and rifles loaded with soft-point bullets – would not admit any ‘suspicious’ stranger into the camp and would not permit any miner to leave.” Furthermore, miners who raised the ire of the company were liable to find themselves and their families summarily evicted from their homes.

“Feudal domains.” That sounds a lot like the life in Russia under the Tsars, eh?

No wonder many American industrialists were concerned about “Communist agitators.”

Concerned enough to create ads like this one that were published in newspapers across the land in 1919.

1919posteramlabor

Note the claims about American business and industry…”Our workers are well paid and many of them own their own homes…Employers and employees are getting closer together and the workers are participating in industrial affairs more and more every day.”

Try telling that to the workers in Ludlow. Or the Boston police who struck in 1919, as described in an earlier entry in this series. Or these child laborers, photographed circa 1910. I doubt that the working conditions in  industries they were involved in improved any from 1910 to 1919.

trapboy

I met one little fellow ten years old in Mt. Carbon, W. Va., last year, who was employed as a “trap boy.” Think of what it means to be a trap boy at ten years of age. It means to sit alone in a dark mine passage hour after hour, with no human soul near; to see no living creature except the mules as they pass with their loads, or a rat or two seeking to share one’s meal; to stand in water or mud that covers the ankles, chilled to the marrow by the cold draughts that rush in when you open the trap door for the mules to pass through; to work for fourteen hours—waiting—opening and shutting a door—then waiting again for sixty cents; to reach the surface when all is wrapped in the mantle of night, and to fall to the earth exhausted and have to be carried away to the nearest “shack” to be revived before it is possible to walk to the farther shack called “home.”

Boys twelve years of age may be legally employed in the mines of West Virginia, by day or by night, and for as many hours as the employers care to make them toil or their bodies will stand the strain. Where the disregard of child life is such that this may be done openly and with legal sanction, it is easy to believe what miners have again and again told me—that there are hundreds of little boys of nine and ten years of age employed in the coal mines of this state.

[John Spargo, The Bitter Cry of Children (New York: Macmillan, 1906), 163–165.]

breakerboys

“View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pennsylvania Coal Co. The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view. This dust penetrated the utmost recesses of the boys’ lungs. A kind of slave-driver sometimes stands over the boys, prodding or kicking them into obedience. South Pittston, Pennsylvania.”

“Many of the breaker boys suffered from chronic coughs. “There are twenty boys in that breaker,” one of the foremen said, “and I bet you could shovel fifty pounds of coal dust out of their system.” … Their faces black with soot, they sat in rows on wooden boards placed over coal chutes. As coal came pouring through the chutes, the boys bent over, reached down, and picked out pieces of slate and stone that could not burn.

They had to watch carefully, since coal and slate look so much alike. If a boy reached too far and slipped into the coal that was constantly flowing beneath him, he could be mangled or killed. “While I was there, two breaker boys fell or were carried into the coal chute, where they were smothered to death.” [Lewis Hine]

I’m sure that those two were only two of many. Like this lad working in a mine in Wilkesbarre, PA in 1911.

1911wilkesbara

The reality is that there was much in the US in 1919 that would remind anyone…who had eyes wide open…of conditions in The Old World under feudalism. So it is no wonder that there was concern that “revolutionary attitudes” might be creeping into the lower echelons of American society. Since those in power and authority in the land were deeply entrenched in maintaining the way things had always been done, including Jim Crow laws and customs, and totally unfettered capitalism, there was no chance of any real societal changes.

Instituting equal rights for Negroes, and introducing truly widespread, meaningful changes in wages and working conditions in Big Industry—such as the mines, the mills, the factories—were not on the table as possible solutions.

What to do? What to do? Why of course…the logical solution left for those wanting to maintain the status quo and suppress the disruption of strikes and racial unrest…was to create a straw man enemy who could draw the attention of the masses away from any “practical” problems.

It was necessary to Manufacture an Ogre.

ogre

Or, more correctly, to manufacture  the reputation that such an already-existing Ogre was an imminent threat to America the Beautiful.

Just a couple of years before, a ready-made ogre helped pull the nation together.

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hun2

(In case you ever wondered where the inspiration for the posters in a later era came from…)

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You’ll notice that these WW1 posters didn’t just create antagonism toward the “government” of Germany or the Kaiser of Germany…the purpose of the propaganda in these posters was to create a white-hot rage within Americans toward all Germans… “The Hun.” The propaganda was so effective that Americans with German family backgrounds…or even just “German sounding” names…all came under suspicion. Even from friends and neighbors they had known for years.

The Hun had a pet, too… the dachshund, often used as another “symbol” for Germany in propaganda posters.  The Kaiser himself had often been photographed with his own three dachshunds.

kaiser

And thus the breed literally fell out of favor in the US for years!

hun5dog

But as quickly as The Hun became the Ogre du Jour in US propaganda, the war was over, and Germans became our friends once again (until the next round of German aggression.) No, in 1919 there was no way to blame the Germans, who were busy trying to rebuild their own country from the devastation of the Great War, for current events in the US.

Including the Seattle General Strike, which came in February that year.

The Seattle General Strike of 1919 was a five-day general work stoppage by more than 65,000 workers in the city of Seattle, Washington, which lasted from February 6 to February 11 of that year. Dissatisfied workers in several unions began the strike to gain higher wages after two years of World War I wage controls. Most other local unions, including members of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), joined the walkout. Although the strike was non-violent and lasted less than a week, government officials, the press, and much of the public viewed the strike as a radical attempt to subvert US institutions.

Could it possibly be that the strike reflected honest concerns of American citizens? Nah. No way. Some “outside force” had to be involved. Or at least it was necessary, for the sake of the Public Good, that one be identified and made the focus of attention. A new Ogre needed to be manufactured.

Bingo.

Some commentators raised alarm by calling it [the Seattle strike]  the work of Bolsheviks and other radicals inspired by “un-American” ideologies, making it the first concentrated eruption of the anti-Red hysteria that characterized the Red Scare of 1919 and 1920.  [Source]

Although there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that “radical agitators” somehow brought about the strike, nor that highly organized radical organizations were guiding its path, there is no question that some “took advantage” of it, once it was underway, to promote their own agendas. Pamphlets promoting “revolutionary ideas” were widely distributed on the streets of the city during the strike. Some media reports tended to imply that the strike must have been master-minded by a well-organized and wide-spread underground national movement bent on overthrowing the US government and Communizing the nation.

However—if that was true, the “movement” was lousy at its work! The strike only lasted five days. And in the end, pressure from national union leaders, threats from the Mayor—who brought in federal troops, beefed up the police force, and promised to violently crush any attempt at “revolution”—and the growing inconveniences of life in the city under siege prompted almost all the workers to just give up and go back to work.

None of that mattered, though. The intense national media attention focused on the strike, and speculation on its connection to radical elements, gave one man all the raw materials he needed to manufacture a custom-made Ogre to present to the nation as the source of all unrest.

That one man was A. Mitchell Palmer.

palmer1920

Palmer was US Attorney General, appointed by Woodrow Wilson to fill a vacancy in his cabinet in March, 1919.

palmerwilson

Almost immediately after his appointment Palmer became one of the targets of a cluster of bombings traced to a group of Italian anarchists who were dubbed “Galleanists” as followers of a man named Luigi Galleani.

Galleani was the founder and editor of the anarchist newsletter Cronaca Sovversiva (Subversive Chronicle), which he published and mailed from offices in Barre [Vermont, an Italian enclave of immigrant stone masons]…. Cronaca Sovversiva included a small advertisement for a booklet entitled La Salute è in voi! (Health is in You!), sold for 25 cents and described as a must-have for any proletarian family.

The foreword to the booklet, first published in 1905, said it was to remedy the “error” of advocating violence without giving subversives the physical means of destruction. Health Is In You! was an explicit bomb-making manual, in which Galleani supplied to his readers the chemical formula for making nitroglycerine, compiled by a friend and explosives expert, Professor Ettore Molinari.

Galleani’s handbook was characterized as accurate and practical by the New York City Bomb Squad, though an error Galleani made in transcribing Molinari’s explosive formula for nitroglycerine resulted in one or more premature explosions when the bomb-makers failed to notice the mistake. [OOPS!] Galleani provided a warning and corrected text to his readers in a 1908 issue of Cronaca Sovversiva.  [Source]

“Letter bombs” had been mailed in late April to about 30 targeted individuals, including prominent government officials and businessmen as well as law enforcement officials. No one was killed, but a senator’s housekeeper’s hands were blown off when she unwittingly handled one of the bombs.

1919junnyeveworld

On June 2, 1919, a second wave of bombings occurred, when several much larger package bombs were detonated by Galleanists in eight American cities, including one that damaged the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer in Washington, D.C. At least one person was killed in this second attack, night watchman William Boehner, and fears were raised because it occurred in the capital. Flyers declaring war on capitalists in the name of anarchist principles accompanied each bomb.  [Source]

…the bomb intended for Attorney General Palmer’s home prematurely exploded [perhaps the bombmaker missed the issue of the mag with the “correction” to the formula…] and killed Carlo Valdinoci, who was a former editor of the Galleanist publication Cronaca Sovversiva and close associate of Galleani.

Though not seriously injured, Palmer and his family were shaken by the blast, and the house itself was largely demolished.

palmerhouse

 

Two near-casualties of the same bomb were Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, then living across the street from Palmer.

roosevelts1919

Roosevelt family, 1919

They had walked past the house just minutes before the explosion, and their residence was close enough that one of the bomber’s body parts landed on their doorstep.

It’s not quite clear why Palmer and many others lumped anarchists in with Communists and Socialists—and even just Russian worker’s union members—at  this point and treated them as if they were all in cahoots with one another. But they indeed did, envisioning that all the groups were part of a concerted, organized effort of “radicals” of all stripes to “take over America.”

The very Ogre the nation needed at this time, against which to vent its frustrations.

19190603ogden

palmerlatimes1923

In June 1919, Attorney General Palmer told the House Appropriations Committee that all evidence promised that radicals would “on a certain day…rise up and destroy the government at one fell swoop.” He requested an increase in his budget to $2,000,000 from $1,500,000 to support his investigations of radicals, but Congress limited the increase to $100,000.

An initial raid in July 1919 against an anarchist group in Buffalo, New York, achieved little when a federal judge tossed out Palmer’s case. He found in the case that the three arrested radicals, charged under a law dating from the Civil War, had proposed transforming the government by using their free speech rights and not by violence.

…On August 1, 1919, Palmer named 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover to head a new division of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation, the General Intelligence Division (GID), with responsibility for investigating the programs of radical groups and identifying their members.

hooveryoung

The Palmer Raids begin

 

 

1919novnyeveherals

At 9 pm on November 7, 1919, a date chosen because it was the second anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, agents of the Bureau of Investigation, together with local police, executed a series of well-publicized and violent raids against the Union of Russian Workers in 12 cities. Newspaper accounts reported some were “badly beaten” during the arrests. Many later swore they were threatened and beaten during questioning.

Again, it is not clear why the raids were not targeted against “Galleanists,” since they were the ones who had committed the notorious bombings earlier that year. But I suppose it was because the Russians were a much larger target, and thus easier with which to make headlines.

1919novogdenhead

Government agents cast a wide net, bringing in some American citizens, passers-by who admitted being Russian, some not members of the Russian Workers. Others were teachers conducting night school classes in space shared with the targeted radical group.

Arrests far exceeded the number of warrants. Of 650 arrested in New York City, the government managed to deport just 43.

That was just the beginning.

… As Attorney General Palmer struggled with exhaustion and devoted all his energies to the United Mine Workers coal strike in November and December 1919, Hoover organized the next raids.

He successfully persuaded the Department of Labor to ease its insistence on promptly alerting those arrested of their right to an attorney. Instead Labor issued instructions that its representatives could wait until after the case against the defendant was established, “in order to protect government interests.”

Less openly, Hoover decided to interpret [the Department of] Labor’s agreement to act against the Communist Party to include a different organization, the Communist Labor Party.

Finally, despite the fact that Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson insisted that more than membership in an organization was required for a warrant, Hoover worked with more compliant Labor officials and overwhelmed Labor staff to get the warrants he wanted. Justice Department officials, including Palmer and Hoover, later claimed ignorance of such details.

1920jannytrib

 

The Justice Department launched a series of raids on January 2, 1920, with follow up operations over the next few days. Smaller raids extended over the next 6 weeks. At least 3000 were arrested, and many others were held for various lengths of time.

 

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The entire enterprise replicated the November action on a larger scale, including arrests and seizures without search warrants, as well as detention in overcrowded and unsanitary holding facilities. Hoover later admitted “clear cases of brutality.”

The raids covered more than 30 cities and towns in 23 states, but those west of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio were “publicity gestures” designed to make the effort appear nationwide in scope.

Because the raids targeted entire organizations, agents arrested everyone found in organization meeting halls, not only arresting non-radical organization members but also visitors who did not belong to a target organization, and sometimes American citizens not eligible for arrest and deportation.

The Department of Justice at one point claimed to have taken possession of several bombs, but after a few iron balls were displayed to the press they were never mentioned again. All the raids netted a total of just four ordinary pistols.

 

Not everyone viewed all this frantic hoopla as positive news.

While most press coverage continued to be positive, with criticism only from leftist publications like The Nation and The New Republic, one attorney raised the first noteworthy protest. Francis Fisher Kane, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, resigned in protest. In his letter of resignation to the President and the Attorney General he wrote: “It seems to me that the policy of raids against large numbers of individuals is generally unwise and very apt to result in injustice. People not really guilty are likely to be arrested and railroaded through their hearings….We appear to be attempting to repress a political party….By such methods we drive underground and make dangerous what was not dangerous before.”

And as the legal questions mounted, other, cooler heads prevailed.

…In a few weeks, after changes in personnel at the Department of Labor, Palmer faced a new and very independent-minded Acting Secretary of Labor in Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis Freeland Post, who canceled more than 2,000 warrants as being illegal.

Of the 10,000 arrested, 3,500 were held by authorities in detention; 556 resident aliens were eventually deported under the Immigration Act of 1918.

…Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels commented later that Palmer “was seeing red behind every bush and every demand for an increase in wages.

 

And then came May Day 1920.

1920aprtulsa

Palmer declared adamantly throughout April 1920 that the insidious, huge cabal of radicals in the nation had nefarious plans to attempt to overthrow the government of the United States on May 1, 1920. And the nation held its breath…for A. Mitchell Palmer had succeeded in manufacturing a Great Ogre upon which the citizens of the US could project their frustrations and fears. Just like the Angry Pitchfork People of the Frankenstein movie, coming against Dr. Frankenstein’s ogre-like monster.

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So April 30 came, and the nation held its breath.

…And then let that breath back out on May 2.

There was no revolution in the US on May 1.

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It was as if a huge monster…

ballbarn

 

…ended up being just a leaking bag of hot air.

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Oh, this is NOT to say that there weren’t anarchists and Communists and Socialists in America at the time. There were. Sometimes some of them popped up here and there agitating and exacerbating social problems. But to think there was a huge, hidden, underground, highly-regimented, ready-to-spring-into-action revolutionary social movement in the US… just two years after the Russian Revolution had basically stumbled its way into reality over in feudal Europe…was a ridiculous notion to begin with.

A perspective that many shared after the May Day failure.

1921janwashtimes

Chicago University Professor says danger from anarchistic doctrine is remote

The danger from anarchistic doctrines seems remote and almost visionary, the danger from undue growth of administrative power is much more real, “Professor Ernest Freund of the Chicago University Law School, declared in a statement presented to the Senate Judiciary committee today.

And as a result, A. Mitchell Palmer’s personal dreams also became totally…deflated. He had once been seen as a likely Democratic presidential candidate for 1920. But after all the bad press in the aftermath of the failure of May Day, he lost his bid for political greatness.

But of course, there is no connection between the manufacture of an Ogre in the long-ago second decade of the 1900s (and the accompanying political aspirations, and the madness of mobs)…and anything going on in the second decade of the 2000s.

October 15, 2016

It’s “pitchforks and torches time”, a prominent conservative sheriff tweeted on Saturday, with a condemnation of the government and media that echoes the increasingly heated rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

David A Clarke, the elected sheriff of Milwaukee County, is a leading Trump supporter who has previously called Black Lives Matter activists the “enemy”.

Clarke paired what appeared to be an accusation of the corruption in most of the United States government with a photoshopped image of a crowd of people carrying burning sticks and pitchforks. [Source]

2017pitchforks

Clarke’s comments come at a time of growing anxiety over Trump’s repeated claims, without evidence, that the presidential election is rigged against him. At least one Trump supporter at a rally in Cincinnati on Friday was quoted by the Boston Globe as saying that if Clinton is elected, “I hope we can start a coup.”

“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office, if that’s what it takes,” the supporter said.

At a rally for Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence on Thursday, a woman from the audience told the candidate she, too, would rather take action than allow a Democrat to win. “I don’t want this to happen – but I will tell you for me, personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in,” she warned, “I’m ready for a revolution because we can’t have her in.” [ibid]

Yes, the Ogre Manufacturing Business is still alive and well in 2017.

And actually, although A. Mitchell Palmer’s efforts were cut short, the Spirit of A. Mitchell lived on. Just as Doc Frankenstein “brought back to life” a dead body, upcoming entries in this series will be tracing a thread of “resurrections” through later decades that will ultimately lead to Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.

itsalive2

 

itsalive

 

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series:

The Baptism of Capitalism

 

 

 

 

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Promoting Paranoia

Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 21

Promoting Paranoia

This is Part 21 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary that
can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on information, concepts, and commentary
introduced in earlier entries in the series, and thus it is most effective to
read the material sequentially from the beginning.
Click here to go to the 
first entry in the series, Part 1

 

1913barneyoldfield

All of us sophisticated movie-goers of the early 21st century have a hard time keeping a straight face when looking at movie dramas of the early Silent Film Era. No matter how serious the topic, it’s hard to get past what we perceive as highly exaggerated, and ultimately corny, “melodrama.”

1921fourhorsemen

If you know enough about movie history, you understand why they were “that way,” of course. Silent films grew directly from stage acting, and before microphones and booming speakers, those acting on a stage before a large audience had to belt out their lines with gusto, and greatly exaggerate their gestures just in order to be seen and heard at the back of the theater. Most of the earliest film actors had originally performed in that setting, and were used to projecting that way.

The camera, of course, was much more “intimate,” and could show close-ups of facial expressions, and focus in on hand gestures. But it was hard to break old habits… and besides, with no sound to express emotion, it was still necessary to overdo almost everything so that silent film audiences would get the point of just how sad, how happy, how frightened, or how passionate someone was feeling. It’s hard for us to mentally and emotionally put ourselves back in that era when watching such films, and “suspend disbelief” in the way viewers would have at the time. So we may well have a hard time being persuaded by the acting to accept the premises of the films.

But in 1915, the audiences were not jaded by a lifetime of watching “sophisticated” film making. Most quickly bought into what they saw on the screen, looking past the exaggerated gestures and facial mugging and just “getting into” the plot.

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And thus the white audiences who were exposed to the three-hour-plus experience of watching DW Griffith’s thundering 1915 screen masterpiece, Birth of a Nation, were indeed swept up into the “message” of the film. As explained in the previous entry in this series, that was a message that so glorified the Ku Klux Klan of the 1860s and 70s, and so vilified the “Negroes” of that time, that it spawned the resurrection of the Klan later that year, and spawned and/or justified racial prejudice all across America…not just in the South. It was so effective at this that the young NAACP (founded in 1909) and other black groups vehemently protested the showing of the film.

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The previous entry in this series covered the 1914 story of William Monroe Trotter, a prominent black leader of that time who led a delegation that visited President Woodrow Wilson in the Oval Office, urging him to roll back the segregation that Wilson had introduced into federal agencies after his election in 1912.

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Wilson rebuffed Trotter’s efforts. Although disheartened by Wilson’s rebuff, Trotter did not abandon his efforts for the cause of Civil Rights and justice for African Americans. In 1915 he led a protest in Boston against the showing of Birth of a Nation. A PBS documentary about Trotter gave some details:

Thousands risked their jobs and lives to march on downtown Boston and to get arrested and to challenge the release of that film…

[Trotter’s] parents were both the offspring of southern slave masters and black women slaves. They moved to abolitionist Boston, and the young Trotter grew up privileged in Hyde Park. He went on to become the first man of color to earn Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard, where he was a classmate of W.E.B. Du Bois.

Trotter went on to found and edit the Boston Guardian, an independent African-American newspaper.

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And he helped create the Niagara Movement, which was the precursor to the NAACP. In 1914, Trotter challenged President Woodrow Wilson at the White House for supporting segregation. A year later, Trotter would be waging a hometown battle against “Birth of a Nation.”

But his 1915 protest was not Trotter’s first attempt to keep the story in Griffith’s film out of Boston. The source material for “Birth of a Nation” was a novel by Thomas Dixon, titled “The Clansman.” The author adapted it into a play, and documentary co-director Susan Gray says Trotter was successful in convincing then Mayor Michael Curley to force the offensive work from the stage in Boston.

“Mayor Curley banned [the play], and then 10 years later the film comes out there was this huge industry behind it, a lot of money, the president,” she recalled. “And even though it’s the same person being asked to ban it for all the same reasons, he didn’t the second time because now he was dealing with something that was economically too large and too important.”

In the end Trotter lost that fight against “Birth of a Nation.” It opened at the Tremont Theatre, which stood where the AMC Boston Common is now. In response, Trotter and a crowd of African-Americans amassed outside the cinema.

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They tried to get tickets, but black patrons were not allowed.

“Trotter demands a ticket,” Lehr narrates in the documentary. “One of the officers in plain clothes sucker punches Trotter. Trotter is placed under arrest and dragged out of the lobby.”

Protests continued for months, but ultimately the country embraced “Birth of a Nation.”

Documentary co-director Bestor Cram says Trotter was right in predicting that film’s potential to influence popular opinion. “Birth of a Nation” fueled a resurgence of the white supremacy movement in the years after it premiered.

“You had basically a non-existent KKK organization that grew enormously,” Cram said.

…Trotter did not give up his fight. In 1921 he and the NAACP won their lobby to get a revival screening of “Birth of a Nation” banned in Boston.

Yes, black Americans understood the power of film to sway audiences. Here’s how the New York Evening Journal put it in a review in 1915:

“ ‘The Birth of a Nation’ will thrill you, startle you, make you hold onto your seats. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you angry. It will make you glad. It will make you hate. It will make you love…” [Source]

Dorothy Dix, famous syndicated columnist of the time, wrote this:

 “I never had the slightest conception of what could be done with the moving picture as an art until I saw ‘The Birth of a Nation.’ ”

But not everyone agreed. An author for the New York Globe wrote under the headline, “Capitalizing Race Hatred”:

 “To make a few dirty dollars men are willing to pander to depraved tastes and to foment a race antipathy that is the most sinister and dangerous feature of American life.”

But the Globe writer was in the minority.

In most cases, the efforts of blacks, and sympathetic whites, were spurned, and the movie broke box office records for years. In fact, as late as 1931, long after “talkies” had replaced silent films, revivals of Birth of a Nation still sprang up in some parts of the nation, often used as a “recruiting film” for the resurrected Klan!  Here’s a poster for the film from 1931, when a musical and sound effects sound track was added to it.

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And here’s a revival showing in 1947 in Los Angeles.

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Blacks were still opposing its screening, as being likely to stir up racist persecution. (Which it always did among some of the US population…)

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With such great success in moving crowds to accept the premise of Thomas Dixon’s book The Clansman, as brought to the screen in 1915 as Birth of a Nation, another movie director and studio decided to appropriate the premise of another of Dixon’s books for a 1919 film to get across a totally different message, about the hottest topic of that year.

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Bolshevism on Trial is a 1919 American silent drama film made by the Mayflower Photoplay Company and distributed through Lewis J. Selznick’s Select Pictures Corporation.

… it is based on the 1909 novel Comrades: A Story of Social Adventure in California by Thomas Dixon, author of another novel that served as the basis for The Birth of a Nation. It premiered in April 1919.

Barbara, a wealthy female socialite intent on reforming capitalism is lured into the Socialist cause by Herman, a Socialist agitator. Her concerned boyfriend Norman hears her lecture on the virtues of international socialism…

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… and is converted to her views.

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Prompted by Herman, she raises money among her wealthy friends to buy Paradise Island off the Florida coast to establish a collective colony, a society of “happiness and plenty.” Norman tries to raise money from his father and is rebuffed. His father expects Norman will benefit from the experience: “He’ll get his island and a lesson along with it.”

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The experimental Socialists arrive on “Paradise Island”…
which  “in real life” was the palatial grounds of the mammoth
Royal Poinciana Hotel near Palm Beach in Florida. 

When the wealthy colonists settled on their island, they elect Norman their “Chief Comrade.” They quickly discover that none of them has any worthwhile skills. Most identify themselves as “assistant managers.” Faced with disorganization, the colonists replace Norman with Herman, as the activist had long intended. He establishes a police force, abolishes marriage, and has the state assume ownership of the women and children.

He imprisons Norman, which prompts Barbara’s epiphany: “The poor deluded people will starve and die as they are in Russia.” She rejects Herman’s advances…

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 …and Norman’s father arrives at the head of a Navy fleet to save the day.

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Norman lowers the Red flag and raises the American flag to general cheers.  [Source]

You can see the last 3.5 minutes of this thriller below, if you enjoy sappy melodramas!

 

The film was promoted as being just what the nation ordered to resist the rampant Bolshevism allegedly abroad in the land. And reviews agreed.

The film’s advertising called it “the timeliest picture ever filmed” and reviews were good. “Powerful, well-knit with indubitably true and biting satire,” said Photoplay.

As a promotion device, the April 15, 1919, issue of Moving Picture World suggested [to local theater owners] staging a radical demonstration by hanging red flags around town and then have actors in military uniforms storm in to tear them down. Then distribute handbills to the confused and curious crowds assuring them that Bolshevism on Trial takes a stand against Bolshevism and “you [theater owners] will not only clean up but will profit by future business.”

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When this publicity technique came to the attention of U.S. Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson, he expressed his dismay to the press: “This publication proposes by deceptive methods of advertising to stir every community in the United States into riotous demonstrations for the purpose of making profits for the moving picture business… .” He hoped to ban movies treating Bolshevism and Socialism. [ibid]

I was unable to discover whether any theater owners tried that weird scheme. But I do know that Secretary Wilson did not succeed with his desires. Bolshevism on Trial was the first in a long, LONG line of anti-Bolshevism/anti-Communist movies, reaching clear into the 1950s and 60s.

The movie was, of course, specifically crafted to match…and make a profit from…the “paranoia of the year” in the US at the time—the rise of the First Red Scare.

But only after pondering those posters above for a few days did it dawn on me that the advertising agency illustrator who designed them was subliminally matching another type of paranoia too. Take a look one more time. When I first found this one on the Internet…

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…I had an uneasy feeling I’d seen the illustration before. Or something very close to it. I had. Numerous times. Such as this pair.

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Those are Nazi propaganda posters from the 1930s/40s. And they aren’t aimed at Communists, even though Nazis were indeed opposed to Communism. Yes, they are portraying sinister, ominous caricatures of Jews.

The one thing that is different is that on the Bolshevism poster, the man has that strange stringy hair hanging down in front of his ears.

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You may have wondered how that fits in a Jewish caricature, as Nazi posters never portrayed such a look when caricaturing Jews. I think I have an answer… the Nazis were almost always depicting Jewish businessmen. In fact, Jewish businessmen who were likely intended to depict “secular” Jews rather than devoutly Orthodox ones.  How do I know that? Have a look at this sketch from 1913.

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That’s an Orthodox rabbi from that time period, and as you’ll note, he has long hair hanging down in front of each ear. This is referred to as payot in Yiddish, or sidelocks in English.

The Torah says, “You shall not round off the pe’at (פְּאַת) of your head” (Leviticus 19:27). The word pe’at was taken to mean the hair in front of the ears extending to beneath the cheekbone, on a level with the nose.  [Source]

Although not all Jews, then or now, observe the custom of letting the sidelocks grow long, it would have been typical among some groups…including in New York City…around the turn of the last century. The illustrator doing that poster must have been familiar with the practice, and included it in his caricature.

But there is NO question about the other stereotyping factors he built in to his drawing to indicate to “those in the know” that this was a picture of a Jew. Particularly the large, bending nose, the protruding lower lip, and the large, distinctive ears.

I don’t know how long those features had been typically used by bigoted non-Jews as signposts for depicting a Jewish man, but they were obviously well set in place by Nazi times. Take a look at this German “children’s propaganda” story book from the Nazi era titled, in English, The Poisonous Mushroom.

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It starts out with a picture of a mother and child looking for mushrooms in the forest.

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A mother and her young boy are gathering mushrooms in the German forest. The boy finds some poisonous ones. The mother explains that there are good mushrooms and poisonous ones, and, as they go home, says:

“Look, Franz, human beings in this world are like the mushrooms in the forest. There are good mushrooms and there are good people. There are poisonous, bad mushrooms and there are bad people. And we have to be on our guard against bad people just as we have to be on guard against poisonous mushrooms. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, mother,” Franz replies. “I understand that in dealing with bad people trouble may arise, just as when one eats a poisonous mushroom. One may even die!”

“And do you know, too, who these bad men are, these poisonous mushrooms of mankind?” the mother continued.

Franz slaps his chest in pride:

“Of course I know, mother! They are the Jews! Our teacher has often told us about them.”

The mother praises her boy for his intelligence, and goes on to explain the different kinds of “poisonous” Jews: the Jewish pedlar, the Jewish cattle-dealer, the Kosher butcher, the Jewish doctor, the baptised Jew, and so on.

“However they disguise themselves, or however friendly they try to be, affirming a thousand times their good intentions to us, one must not believe them. Jews they are and Jews they remain. For our Volk they are poison.”

“Like the poisonous mushroom!” says Franz.

“Yes, my child! Just as a single poisonous mushroom can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire Volk [nation].”  [Source]

And it goes downhill from there. The book warns the kiddies about all sorts of “types” of sinister Jews.

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At one point in the book, a teacher in a classroom helps the little scholars figure out how to recognize a Jew. Check out his chalkboard illustrations.

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Putting the young ones through their paces, he brings one after another to the board, hands them a pointer, and has them repeat what they’ve learned about the visible characteristics that are a dead giveaway that someone is a Jew.

“It is noon,” he says. “We should summarize what we have learned in the past hour. What have we talked about?”

All the children raise their hands. The teacher calls on Karl Scholz, a small lad in the front row. “We have talked about how to recognize the Jews.”

“Good. Say more!”

Little Karl reaches for the pointer, steps up to the board and points at the drawings.

“One can most easily tell a Jew by his nose. The Jewish nose is bent at its point. It looks like the number six. We call it the ‘Jewish six.’ Many Gentiles also have bent noses. But their noses bend upwards, not downwards. Such a nose is a hook nose or an eagle nose. It is not at all like a Jewish nose.”

“Right!” says the teacher. “But the nose is not the only way to recognize a Jew…”

The boy goes on. “One can also recognize a Jew by his lips. His lips are usually puffy. The lower lip often protrudes. The eyes are different too. The eyelids are mostly thicker and more fleshy than ours. The Jewish look is wary and piercing. One can tell from his eyes that he is a deceitful person.”

And another lad comes forward and adds…

Their ears are very large, and they look like the handles of a coffee cup.

It is as if the illustrator of the Bolshevism movie poster had this little “manual” in front of him as he sketched his illustration! Large, bent nose…check. Puffy lips with lower lip protruding…check. Large ears like coffee cup handles…check. Menacing eyes…check.

He just added his own little flourish of very, very Jewish sidelocks. And of course, those claw-like fingernails. Those were likely added to make a connection with the typical conception of Satan the Devil.

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Well, how about that other Bolshevism on Trial poster? Turns out that doesn’t depict just a Jew…it portrays a specific Jew. Have a look:

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Note the standard anti-Jewish caricaturizing of the nose, lips, and ears in both posters. But beyond that, there are characteristics both are adding…including the granny glasses and the poofy hair. That’s because they are both depicting the same man.

I would suggest that the illustration on the movie poster on the left may well have been “inspired by” the poster on the right. That poster on the right was also from 1919, but from Russia itself, created during the “Civil War” that raged in Russia after the Bolsheviks took over control of the country in 1917, ousting the Tsarist regime and the old aristocracy. From 1917 to 1921 a group known as the “White Russians” violently resisted the Bolshevik rule and rejected Communism, wanting to return to a more traditional, autocratic ruling system.

The poster on the right above was a piece of White Russian anti-Bolshevik propaganda, portraying Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, who was a secular Jew, as a Devil-like character. And the illustrator of the movie poster on the left could well have found that to be a really convenient “meme” to use to personify Communism.

Here’s what Trotsky really looked like in 1917.

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An interesting touch…that is NOT a six-pointed Star of David on a chain that Devil Trotsky is wearing on the White Russian poster. Nazi anti-Jew posters later on were known to depict Jews wearing such Star of David symbols on chains as part of the stereotyping used in such propaganda.

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Instead,  the White Russian Trotsky is wearing on his chain a pentagram, a five-pointed star that is used in some circles as a “Satanic symbol.”

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The huge piles of skulls below him on the poster symbolize the White Russian accusations that the Bolsheviks indulged in massive indiscriminate mass murders.

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Note the small characters in blue and gold uniforms working among the bones…look close and you will see that they are obviously intended to portray Chinese men, with slanted eyes and pigtails! What on earth was that all about??

The Chinese with the Red Army were recruited from factory workers who had been attracted into Russia before the war and sided with the urban proletariat with whom they worked. Separate Chinese units fought for the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, Trancaucasia and Siberia.

One estimate suggests that there were hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops in the Red Army.

…Chinese units were involved in virtually every front of the Russian Civil War. Some sincerely sympathized with the Bolsheviks who treated them as “proletarian brothers”. Others simply joined the Red Army in order to survive and others wanted to fight their way home to China.

The Chinese were one of several foreign contingents dubbed in Soviet historiography as “internationalist detachments” Chinese internationalist troops wore the same uniform as the rest of the Red Army.

The Bolsheviks found special value in the use of Chinese troops who were considered to be industrious and efficient. In addition, they were seldom able to understand Russian, which kept them insulated from outside influences.

The use of Chinese troops by the Bolsheviks was commented on by both White Russian and non-Russian observers. In fact, the Bolsheviks were often derided for their reliance on Chinese and Lettish [Latvian] volunteers. Anti-Bolshevik propaganda suggested that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the Russian people and thus had to resort to foreign mercenaries who ran roughshod over the Russian populace.  [Source]

The White Russians who employed propaganda posters such as the one above were notoriously anti-semitic. In fact, they are identified by most historians as the source of the spread of the most notorious anti-semitic propaganda literature of all time, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion is an antisemitic fabricated text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. The forgery was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. According to the claims made by some of its publishers, the Protocols are the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders discussed their goal of global Jewish hegemony [domination] by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies.  [Source]

Although it is generally agreed that the final form of the Protocols was settled on some time after 1901, it is difficult to pin down the exact original authorship. But it is clear that the White Russians are the ones who made sure that it was spread far and wide.

As the Russian Revolution unfolded, causing White movement-affiliated Russians to flee to the West, this text was carried along and assumed a new purpose. Until then, The Protocols had remained obscure; it now became an instrument for blaming Jews for the Russian Revolution. It became a tool, a political weapon, used against the Bolsheviks who were depicted as overwhelmingly Jewish, allegedly executing the “plan” embodied in The Protocols. The purpose was to discredit the October Revolution, prevent the West from recognizing the Soviet Union, and bring about the downfall of Vladimir Lenin’s regime. [Source]

The Protocols document was first published in English in the US in 1920, and picked up immediately by automobile magnate Henry Ford…who was devoutly anti-Jewish.

Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the U.S. in the 1920s. The Nazis sometimes used the Protocols as propaganda against Jews; it was assigned by some German teachers, as if factual, to be read by German schoolchildren after the Nazis came to power in 1933, despite having been exposed as fraudulent by The Times of London in 1921. It is still widely available today in numerous languages, in print and on the Internet, and continues to be presented by some proponents as a genuine document.

So there you have it…the posters for the Bolshevism on Trial movie were in essence subliminally suggesting that the Communist movement was really part of a greater Jewish movement to conquer the world.

Perpetuating the Paranoia

As covered in the most recent entries in this series, the Communist Revolution in Russia began in March, 1917, one month before the US entered the European War. The new Communist leaders of Russia withdrew their country from the conflict in March 1918. The US remained involved until the end of the war, in November 1918.

Before the war was even over, US authorities were concerned that Communist ideas and ideology would infect America, in part through soldiers coming back from the European front. There was a particular fear that Negro soldiers would return to the US after serving in Europe with ideas of racial equality, an idea that much of the white population of the US was definitely not ready to accept! It was feared that Communist agitators would take advantage of the new Negro attitudes to inflame racial unrest in the nation, leaving many open to Communist propaganda.

There was certainly good reason for authorities to worry about this. When the US entered the War, many blacks were actually excited about the opportunity that American military service would provide them…they believed that by being “good soldiers” they would prove their patriotism, and “earn” a more respected place in American society.  And perhaps even the walls of segregation would come down. These notions were dispelled all too quickly.

When the first draft cards were issued, they came with an unusual feature…

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Down in the left hand corner was a little notice printed on the diagonal…

If person is of African descent, tear off this corner.

370,000 black men were inducted as a result of the draft. But the purpose of that little triangle on their card was soon obvious. It was for sorting purposes, so that all men of African descent could be segregated into their own “proper place.” Which was NOT as regular soldiers who would be actually fighting the war. Negroes were instead assigned to “support” roles, even near the front lines in the European theater…such as cooking and serving meals and cleaning latrines.

During boot camp, and once deployed to their ultimate destinations, they were at all times strictly segregated in housing, eating facilities, and more.

Later in the war, when shortages of troops became a big issue, a couple of all-black regiments were organized, with the men actually trained for battle, including the famous 369th Infantry, dubbed “Hellfighters” by the German enemy for their toughness and tenacity…they were thereafter known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

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They were also known for their amazing marching band, which was a hit wherever they performed in Europe… for introducing jazz and ragtime to the continent.

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But the Hellfighters and other Negro units were not trained so that they could fight alongside white American soldiers. Many deeply racist white American soldiers would have vehemently resisted attempts to force them to accept Negroes as equals and comrades. So they were instead “loaned” to the French army for the duration of the war, serving under French military commanders. The Hellfighters regiment was so fabulously successful in battle that they received the highest military honor decoration offered to soldiers by the French, the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War).

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But their highly distinguished medal and a quarter wouldn’t even get them a cup of coffee in most restaurants in America after they returned from the war. A black soldier returning from the Great War was just as subject to Jim Crow laws and customs in his WW1 uniform, wearing his medal, as he was in his civvies before the war. Some returning black soldiers were even lynched in violent racial riots after the war while still wearing their uniforms. So much for earning respect for their bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism.

In fact, even before they got back on US soil, they suffered indignities once “returned” back to US authority over in Europe by the French at the end of hostilities.

Black soldiers experienced many indignities after World War I, including not being allowed to celebrate the Allied victory. In Paris, the United States refused to allow any black American soldiers to march with other Allied soldiers, including [black] colonial African troops, in the victory parade up the Champs-Elysées on Bastille Day in 1919.  [Source]

So is it any wonder that President Wilson and many other American leaders might think that such discharged men might be subject to persuasion by Communist recruiters to reject The American Way? Those in authority could have allowed this reality to be a prod to make some desperately-needed changes to that American Way so that it lined up better with the highest aspirations proclaimed in  the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Instead they turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the plight of the Negro. They proceeded to stir up paranoia among the general populace about the “imminent threat” of a Communist Revolution in America. And offer the solution…getting rid of all outside agitators. They evidently believed that success with these tactics would somehow result in returning all those Negro soldiers to their subservient pre-war response to abuse, neglect, and injustice.

Liberty and justice for all? Don’t need no stinkin’ liberty and justice. Just a big stick.

That big stick would be named A. Mitchell Palmer. We’ll meet him in the next entry in this series:

Manufacturing an Ogre

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Red Scare–Red Summer

Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 20

Red Scare—Red Summer

This is Part 20 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary that
can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on information, concepts, and commentary
introduced in earlier entries in the series, and thus it is most effective to
read the material sequentially from the beginning.
Click here to go to the 
first entry in the series, Part 1

 

The daily news in 2017 has been giving many Americans the weird feeling that they have tumbled down a rabbit hole…

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… and entered an alternate universe where nothing makes any sense…

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…and everyone is mad.

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It might appear that current events are totally disjointed, and current circumstances are just springing up “out of nowhere,” with no roots in the past. So many things going on seem to have no logical explanation…especially—HOW did Donald Trump, a man so far from the mainstream of historical national party politics, get elected?! And in particular—how did a man with a lifestyle so foreign to the morals and ethics and values promoted in the Bible manage to surround himself with so many Strange Bedfellows from the religious world? Christian leader bedfellows—pastors, preachers, televangelists, popular Christian authors and lecturers, leaders of Christian educational institutions—who were so influential in the circles of Evangelical Christianity that they were able to deliver to him the votes of 80% of their followers and supporters.  Disgruntled working class folks wanting to recapture the prosperity of the Good Old Days when America was Great…and Majority W.A.S.P. …were no doubt a key part of Trump’s victory. But he could not have gotten over the finish line without the massive turnout of Evangelical voters on his side.

None of that seems to make any sense. But that is only the case if one ignores history. There really is a “thread” of people and circumstances and events that has wound through the past American century that has ultimately led us to this point. A point where zealous, pious Christians in great numbers were willing to vote for a casino-owning acknowledged adulterer (with three marriages) with an avowed penchant for grabbing the private parts of young women; a crude, loud-mouthed promoter of fake “professional wrestling,”; a glad-handing buddy and business associate of Mafioso-types; and a boorish man given to public bullying, ridiculing, and bad-mouthing others on a massive scale.

As strange as it may seem, there really is a path through American history that can “make sense” of this outlandish anomaly.

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It is not a straight path, easily understood. Which is why the speculation of so many pundits has failed to nail down just “how we got from there to here.” This blog series is carefully and methodically sorting through the factors that have made up that path, with the ultimate goal of making sense out of the madness.

As was noted in earlier entries in the series, this particular historical thread has its beginning at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, in the midst of World War 1. That revolution was the triggering event that started the US down the path to the recent strange choice made by American Evangelicals in the 21st century.  We’ll pick up the thread in this entry immediately after the Great War.

The previous entry in this series explored the labor agitation all across America that immediately followed the end of World War 1. The war years had deeply affected the US economy. For instance, compared to 1915, food prices had doubled by 1920, clothing costs more than tripled.  The necessity to gear up for war production had quickly led to a boom in factory jobs and wages—and demobilization at the end of the war had just as quickly deflated the boom, leaving many without work. The employment situation was desperately exacerbated by the return of over 4 million soldiers from Europe who would immediately need employment—many of them so mangled by their war experiences that it was even more difficult for them to find work.

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Add to this the “Great Migration” of Southern African Americans to the North—where wages were typically three times what they could get doing farm work in the rural south—that had begun before the outbreak of WW1, but intensified in 1914. By 1919 over one million had swarmed into industrial centers like Detroit (black population up over 600% from 1910 to 1920) and Philadelphia (up 500%.) Jobs were easy for them to find in the war years—but so easy to lose once the war was over. When they were desperately needed, during war time, employers overlooked their own racial prejudices—and that of their white employees. But once the war was over, many blacks found themselves the first to be laid off…or unceremoniously replaced by new white applicants.

Competition for jobs and impatience with miserable working conditions, long hours, and unfair labor practices led to an astonishing outbreak of strikes in 1919.

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As mentioned in the previous entry in this series, the government and much of the non-striking population of the US chose to basically ignore the real roots of the strikes…the grueling lives of the workers, the rock-bottom wages and unfair labor practices of many owners of industries, the insecurity and danger of many of the jobs performed by those choosing to go on strike. No, instead of looking at real problems and considering real solutions that would alleviate those problems, the solution of choice was to assume it was just “outside agitators”…Communists and Socialists in particular…who had put foolish notions in the heads of the workers. The solution on behalf of some governmental authorities, along with the popular press, was to stir up a nationwide “Red Scare” to give the populace a tangible enemy to focus on.

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A steel strike that began in Chicago in 1919 became much more than a simple dispute between labor and management. The Steel Strike of 1919 became the focal point for profound social anxieties, especially fears of Bolshevism.

Organized labor had grown in strength during the course of the war. Many unions won recognition, and the 12-hour workday was abolished. An 8-hour day was instituted on war contract work, and by 1919, half the country’s workers had a 48-hour work week.

The war’s end, however, was accompanied by labor turmoil, as labor demanded union recognition, shorter hours, and raises exceeding the inflation rate. Over 4 million workers—one fifth of the nation’s workforce–participated in strikes in 1919, including 365,000 steelworkers and 400,000 miners. The number of striking workers would not be matched until the Depression year of 1937.

The year began with a general strike [by multiple unions, literally shutting down the city] in Seattle. Police officers in Boston went on strike, touching off several days of rioting and crime. But the most tumultuous strike took place in the steel industry. About 350,000 steelworkers in 24 separate craft unions went on strike as part of a drive by the American Federation of Labor to unionize the industry. From management’s perspective, the steel strike represented the handiwork of radicals and professional labor agitators. The steel industry’s leaders regarded the strike as a radical conspiracy to get the company to pay a 12-hour wage for 8 hours’ work. At a time when communists were seizing power in Hungary and were staging a revolt in Germany, and workers in Italy were seizing factories, some industrialists feared that the steel strike was the first step toward overturning the industrial system.

The strike ended with the complete defeat of the unions. From labor’s perspective, the corporations had triumphed through espionage, blacklists, and the denial of freedom of speech and assembly, and through the complete unwillingness to recognize the right of collective bargaining with the workers’ representatives.

During the 1920s, many of labor’s gains during World War I and the Progressive era were rolled back. Membership in labor unions fell from 5 million to 3 million. The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed picketing, overturned national child labor laws, and abolished minimum wage laws for women.  [Source]

All, in part, as a fruit of the zeal of the anti-Communism hysteria of the first “Red Scare.”

Given all this emphasis on the “Red” Scare (red being the color of the Soviet Union flag, and thus the nickname for “Communists”) you’d think that the period of 1919 described in many US history timelines as the Red Summer would be a reference to that kind of “Red.”

It’s not.

Red Summer

The Red Summer refers to the summer and early autumn of 1919, which was marked by hundreds of deaths and higher casualties across the United States, as a result of race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities and one rural county. In most instances, whites attacked African Americans.

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Actually, it wasn’t just in the summer in 1919 that blood was shed.

…between January 1 and September 14, 1919, white mobs lynched at least forty-three African Americans [other estimates are much higher], with sixteen hanged and others shot; while another eight men were burned at the stake.

Most of these lynchings were very public spectacles…viewed by from 100s to many 1000s of men, women, and sometimes children…and often included hideous torture committed in full view of the spectators prior to death, including castration, dismemberment…or worse. Professional and amateur photographers often took photos of the ghoulish goings-on, and before the day was out would print up “souvenir postcards” for folks to buy to send to friends and family or keep in their own photo albums.

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“Burned at the stake”… Some of the men’s dead bodies were burned in front of the teeming crowd after they had been killed by hanging or gunshot…others’ live bodies were burned in full sight of everyone until they were dead…

Such as in this incident in Omaha, Nebraska.

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From statements in the media, the public was encouraged to believe that the states were powerless to interfere. (Although the reality seems to be that they were often unwilling to do so.) As seen in this quote from Governor Bilbo of Mississippi regarding the lynching in his state of John Hartfield.

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Poignantly, none of this, including the burnings and postcards and failure of governmental authorities to intervene, was “new.” Such atrocities had continued unabated since Reconstruction times. It’s just that there was an extremely unusual cluster of such events in 1919, at the same time as the numerous “race riots” described below.

Starting in the late 1960s, when reading about “race riots” in American newspapers, one usually expected the stories to be about militant African Americans in metropolitan areas engaging in massive public disturbances including violence against people and property, in protest of perceived civil rights injustices. Many of them had become frustrated after it became obvious that the Martin Luther King-style non-violent, passive resistance type of civil disobedience of the 1950s and early 1960s…sit-ins, marches, boycotts and the like…had failed to complete the process of fully establishing civil rights in the land. This was so even after formal Civil Rights legislation had been passed in Washington.

What a significant portion of Americans in the 21st century don’t realize is that, historically, the term “race riot” was used in reports in the US media to describe something much different.

A race riot in the early 1900s was almost exclusively a situation in which large groups of angry “whites” indiscriminately attacked those of the “Negro Race,” killing or injuring many, destroying their property, and in some cases completely driving all blacks out of a given neighborhood, county, town, or city.

Incidents of such riots had been increasing all across the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and came to a head in the Red Summerof 1919.

Here is just one example of the more than three dozen that occurred that year.

Chicago Race Riot of 1919

Starting July 27, the summer’s greatest violence occurred during rioting in Chicago. The city’s beaches along Lake Michigan were segregated by custom. Eugene Williams, a black youth, swam into an area on the South Side customarily used by whites, was stoned, and drowned.

When the Chicago police refused to take action against the attackers, young black men responded violently.

Violence between mobs and gangs lasted thirteen days, with white rioting led by the well-established ethnic Irish, whose territory bordered the black neighborhood.

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The resulting 38 fatalities included 23 black people and 15 whites. The injured totaled 537, and 1,000 black families were left homeless.

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Other accounts reported 50 people were killed, with unofficial numbers and rumors reporting more. White mobs destroyed hundreds of mostly black homes and businesses on the South Side of Chicago; Illinois called in a militia force of seven regiments: several thousand men, to restore order.

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So what was the response of the US government to this and other such “race riots” and the many lynchings of blacks?

Authorities viewed with alarm African Americans’ advocacy of racial equality, labor rights, or the rights of victims of mobs to defend themselves.

… Unlike earlier race riots in U.S. history, the 1919 events were among the first in which black people in number resisted white attacks and fought back.

Why might the “authorities” view this with alarm? Perhaps they were responding to the attitude at the very top of the government.

In a private conversation in March 1919, President Woodrow Wilson said that “the American Negro returning from abroad [from serving in the US military during the Great War] would be our greatest medium in conveying bolshevism to America.”

Yes, the fact that Negroes might physically resist being burned at the stake, or resist with force having their neighborhoods burned to the ground, couldn’t possibly be because they had legitimate concerns about these things. It had to be that they were just “stirred up” by “outside agitators.” Communist agitators. For hadn’t they always, up until the time of the Russian Revolution, just meekly accepted abuse?

And why might Negroes who had been immersed in the European War, exposed, for instance, to the French society that had no Jim Crow laws and welcomed blacks, be expected to be open to arguments against the American Way of dealing with the resident Negroes in America?

Perhaps part of it was what happened when Woodrow Wilson took office as president in 1913.

As president, Wilson oversaw unprecedented segregation in federal offices. It’s a shameful side to his legacy that came to a head one fall afternoon in 1914 when he threw the civil-rights leader William Monroe Trotter out of the Oval Office.

Trotter led a delegation of blacks to meet with the president on November 12, 1914 to discuss the surge of segregation in the country. Trotter, today largely forgotten, was a nationally prominent civil-rights leader and newspaper editor. In the early 1900s, he was often mentioned in the same breath as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. But unlike Washington, Trotter, an 1895 graduate of Harvard, believed in direct protest actions. In fact, Trotter founded his Boston newspaper, The Guardian, as a vehicle to challenge Washington’s more conciliatory approach to civil rights.

Before Trotter’s confrontation with Wilson in the Oval Office, he was a political supporter of Wilson’s. He had pledged black support for Wilson’s presidential run when the two met face-to-face in July 1912 at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey. Even though then-Governor Wilson offered only vague promises about seeking fairness for all Americans, Trotter apparently came away smitten. “The governor had us draw our chairs right up around him, and shook hands with great cordiality,’’ he wrote a friend later. “When we left he gave me a long handclasp, and used such a pleased tone that I was walking on air.” Trotter viewed Wilson as the lesser of other political evils.

[But in the 1914 meeting]…Trotter came prepared with a statement and launched the meeting by reading it.

Trotter began with a reference to their 1913 meeting and to the petition he had presented, containing 20,000 signatures “from thirty-eight states protesting against the segregation of employees of the national government.” He listed the on-the-job race separation that had gone unchecked since—at eating tables, dressing rooms, restrooms, lockers, and “especially public toilets in government buildings.” He then charged that the color line was drawn in the Treasury Department, in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Navy Department, the Interior Department, the Marine Hospital, the War Department, and in the Sewing and Printing Divisions of the Government Printing Office. Trotter also noted the political support he and other civil-rights activists had provided to Wilson. “Only two years ago you were heralded as perhaps the second Lincoln, and now the Afro-American leaders who supported you are hounded as false leaders and traitors to their race,” he said. And then he reminded the president of his pledge to assist “colored fellow citizens” in “advancing the interest of their race in the United States,” and ended by posing a question that contained a jab at Wilson’s much-ballyhooed [New Freedom] economic reform program. “Have you a ‘New Freedom’ for white Americans and a new slavery for your Afro-American fellow citizens? God forbid!”

The meeting quickly turned sour. The president told Trotter what he previously admitted in private—that he viewed segregation in his federal agencies as a benefit to blacks. Wilson said that his cabinet officers “were seeking, not to put the Negro employees at a disadvantage but … to make arrangements which would prevent any kind of friction between the white employees and the Negro employees.” Trotter found the claim astonishing, and immediately disagreed, calling Jim Crow in federal offices humiliating and degrading to black workers. But Wilson dug in. “My question would be this: If you think that you gentlemen, as an organization, and all other Negro citizens of this country, that you are being humiliated, you will believe it. If you take it as a humiliation, which it is not intended as, and sow the seed of that impression all over the country, why the consequence will be very serious,” he said.

As you can imagine, Trotter and his delegation left extremely disheartened. And within a year after that disheartening meeting, came an even bigger blow to the prospects for progress for the African American population of the US. It came in the unexpected form of a wildly successful silent motion picture.

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Notice on the poster for this 1915 film that it is based on a novel titled The Clansman, by a Thomas Dixon, Jr.—a personal friend of Woodrow Wilson.

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Wilson had been studying for his PhD in Political Science at Johns Hopkins University in 1883 at the same time Thomas Dixon arrived there. Dixon was also there to do graduate work in PoliSci, and the two struck up a long-lasting friendship. But instead of a life in politics, Dixon eventually went on to become a well-known Baptist minister and lecturer. However, his greatest fame came not from preaching but from writing.

In 1905 he wrote The Clansman.

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Dixon has been born in North Carolina in 1864, just before the end of the Civil War. So his earliest memories were of life in the South during the Reconstruction period. Woodrow Wilson had been born in Virginia in 1856, and had grown up in Georgia and South Carolina. His father, a minister, slave owner, and defender of slavery, was at one point a chaplain to the Confederate Army.

Woodrow Wilson’s earliest memory, from the age of three, was of hearing that Abraham Lincoln had been elected and that a war was coming. Wilson would forever recall standing for a moment at General Robert E. Lee’s side and looking up into his face. [Source]

And thus Wilson’s early memories as a child and teen were of life in the South during both the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Although by 1905 Dixon had accepted that eliminating slavery in the US was a good thing, he still clung to his “roots” in his estimation of the potential of African Americans.

“…no amount of education of any kind, industrial, classical or religious, can make a Negro a white man or bridge the chasm of centuries which separate him from the white man in the evolution of human nature.”

-Thomas Dixon Jr., 1905 from “Booker T. Washington and the Negro”, p. 1, Saturday Evening Post, August 19, 1905.

And he made it clear, in describing his novel, what he thought the destiny of inter-racial relations in America were to be.

“My object is to teach the North, the young North, what it has never known—the awful suffering of the white man during the dreadful Reconstruction period. I believe that Almighty God anointed the white men of the South by their suffering during that time . . . to demonstrate to the world that the white man must and shall be supreme.”

How was this conveyed in the book?

As Nel Painter points out, there are no poor whites in The Clansman: “In Dixon’s work all whites display the attributes of power, not only wealth and education (formal or informal), but also height, slenderness, and refinement. These are the natural rulers of Dixon’s made-up society, in which whites unfitted for leadership do not exist” (“Tom Dixon and His Clansman,” 124). This emphasis on nobility ties the novel, first, to the romance genre, from medieval romance to Sir Walter Scott, whose work was a model for the Southern cavalier, and, second, to Dixon’s emphasis on “clan,” Old Scotland as a sign of Aryan purity.  [Source]

As you might guess by the title, the book was about the Ku Klux Klan. The first KKK.

For those unaware…there was a group called the Ku Klux Klan that arose in the South at the end of the Civil War. It is neither the Klan of the 1920s, which was a second incarnation of the name, nor the Klan of the 21stcentury, which is a third incarnation of the name.

The first Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six veterans of the Confederate Army. The name was probably derived from the Greek word kuklos (κύκλος) which means circle.

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It quickly became popular enough to have its own “theme music”!

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KKK sheet music 1868

Although there was little organizational structure above the local level, similar groups rose across the South and adopted the same name and methods. Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement during the Reconstruction era in the United States. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. [Source]

But before it was suppressed, it made its way out of the South, too…

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KKK group, Watertown, NY, 1870

And thus the Klan of that era sort of “disappeared from history” except as a dim memory for most people. For about 35 years.

Then in 1905 Dixon resurrected the glorious memory of the 19th century Klan in his novel The Clansman…which was subtitled: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Immediately after publication, Dixon turned it into a stage play, and both book and play, but particularly the play, took much of the nation by storm, including productions in Los Angeles:

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“Cave Scene” from a live production of The Clansman

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Playbill for Los Angeles production of The Clansman

The book is presented as fiction…but “historical” fiction, in that much of it was based on his own childhood memories of Reconstruction.

Dixon’s father, Thomas Dixon, Sr., and his uncle Leroy McAfee, both joined the Ku Klux Klan early in its history with the aim of “bringing order” to the tumultuous times, and Col. McAfee even attained the rank of Chief of the Klan of the Piedmont area of North Carolina. But, after witnessing the corruption and scandal involved in the Klan they would both dissolve their affiliation with the group and attempt to disband it within their region.  [Source]

But in spite of this “later outcome,” Dixon never seemed to let go of his admiration for the Klan, and built a grand and glorious mythology around it in his writing.

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There were no doubt terrible injustices committed by individuals and groups of both the North and the South during the period of Reconstruction, but you’d never know that from a reading of The Clansman. There is no hint in the book and play that the Klan was ever anything but an entirely noble Savior of the White man and woman of the South.

And in 1915, DW Griffith’s classic movie, the first real “Blockbuster” in movie history, brought Dixon’s written words to vivid and splendiferous life.

The Birth of a Nation began filming in 1914 and pioneered such camera techniques as the use of panoramic long shots, the iris effects, still-shots, night photography, panning camera shots, and a carefully staged battle sequence with hundreds of extras made to look like thousands.

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It also contains many new artistic techniques, such as color tinting for dramatic purposes, building up the plot to an exciting climax, dramatizing history alongside fiction, and featuring its own musical score written for an orchestra.

The movie, like the book, glorified the Ku Klux Klan…at the same time it depicted virtually all African-American men (most played by white actors in blackface) …

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…as ignorant, uncouth, uncivilized rabble at best…

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“Negro legislators” shown in session…eating fried chicken,
drinking booze, propping bare feet on desks.

…and beasts prone to rape at worst.

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Young white woman, pursued by a black soldier intent on rape,
jumps to her death from a cliff.

The first half of the film depicted the Civil War clear up to the assassination of Lincoln. It was portrayed so dramatically and heroically, and, to a certain extent, appeared so authentic and historically accurate…

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…that it set the audience up to accept the second half as also being “historical.” Rather than a melodramatic, highly fictionalized account of Reconstruction designed to glorify the Klan and vilify the freedmen.

To give the movie an even greater punch… There were quotations from President Woodrow Wilson displayed on some subtitles in the movie, such as this one—a quote from Wilson’s own 1902 book, History of the American People.

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When the film was released, it shattered both box office and film-length records, running three hours and ten minutes. [Source]

And it soon swept the nation, from  Baltimore, Maryland…

 

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…to New York City

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…to Appleton, Wisconsin

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to Wichita, Kansas

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…to Boise, Idaho

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…to Seattle, Washington

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…and all points in between.

It even reached as far North and West as Portland. Oregon, as you can see from these newspaper ads in the Portland Oregonian from the summer of 1915.

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Thomas Dixon, Jr., succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in “teaching” not only the North but the West and East to accept his idiosyncratic view of history.

The social impact of the book was certainly enormous. Though Anglo-centric groups had existed previously, they were mostly limited to Southern states and had small membership. The book and subsequent play and movie glorified Anglo-Saxon dominance through the power held by the Klan. This appealed to Anglo-Saxons everywhere, not merely in the South. [Source]

White audiences everywhere ate it up. Including a 35 year old man in Atlanta named William Joseph Simmons.

While convalescing in 1915 after being hit by a car, Simmons decided to rebuild the Klan which he had seen depicted in the newly released film The Birth of a Nation directed by D.W. Griffith. He obtained a copy of the Reconstruction Klan’s “Prescript,” and used it to write his own prospectus for a reincarnation of the organization.

As the nucleus of his revived Klan, Simmons organized a group of friends, in addition to two elderly men who had been members of the original Klan. On Thanksgiving night 1915, they climbed Stone Mountain to burn a cross and inaugurate the new Klan, with fifteen charter members.

 

From the Atlanta paper, 1915.

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Stone Mountain, right outside Atlanta, as it appeared in 1910

 

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Stone Mountain as it appears now, as part of a tourist destination park

 

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The gigantic (158 feet wide, 76 feet tall) Confederate Memorial Carving
on the side of Stone Mountain, depicting Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee,
and Stonewall Jackson. Begun 1923, dedicated 1920. 

 

The imagery of the burning cross, which had not been used by the original Klan, had been introduced by Griffith in The Birth of a Nation. The film, in turn, had derived the image from the works of Thomas Dixon, Jr., upon which the film was based.  [Source]

As a matter of fact, Stone Mountain has seen a lot Klan gatherings and cross burnings ever since 1915…

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1920 from the Chicago Tribune

 

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1934 from the Sandusky, Ohio paper

 

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1946 from TIME magazine

 

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1948: Dr. Samuel Green, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon,
at Stone Mountain, flanked by two KKKids

 

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Here is a one minute clip of a group gathering at Stone Mountain in 1949.

 

And lest you think that the Klan has abandoned its Birth of Its Nation roots at Stone Mountain in recent decades, have a look at a short video allegedly filmed on a night in 2009 at Stone Mountain. No, not at the Amusement Park. The area is big enough to allow… private parties in hidden hollows.

 

But let’s go back to 1915, when the Birth of a Nation movie was in its heyday, and the “second incarnation” of the KKK was just in its infancy.

Those African American men who had visited Woodrow Wilson in his office in 1914 certainly had every right to feel despondent about the future possibilities of an improvement in civil rights for African Americans, given the attitude at the top of the government of the US. And once Birth of a Nation became a smash hit, portraying blacks in an extremely negative light, they had every right to feel even deeper discouragement. With lynchings on the rise, and “race riots” destroying black neighborhoods, it would seem to me that black Americans would have every reason to be inclined to begin more active resistance to their circumstances—without ANY help from “outside agitators” of this or that “-ism”!

That was not the view of much of white America, though. In 1919, or in coming years, such as when this sign was posted all over Alabama in 1934.

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We’ll continue on down the winding historical road leading From 1919 to Now in the next entry in this series.

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Promoting Paranoia 

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Boston Bolsheviks?

Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 19

Boston Bolsheviks?

This is Part 19 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary that
can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on
information, concepts, and commentary
introduced in earlier entries in the series, and thus it is most effective to
read the material sequentially from the beginning.
Click here to go to the 
first entry in the series, Part 1

 

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“The Look” for almost all young women to aspire to in the America of a century ago (no matter their social class) was the Gibson Girl. Illustrator Charles Dana Gibson created this look to represent the supposedly ideal young woman of that era. She was required to be slender and poised and pouty, and athletic—but with a BIG, ample bosom, an impossibly TINY waist, and BIG impossibly poofy hair. Gibson’s artwork, and that of many imitators, was featured on the covers (and also used for ads and story illustrations in) magazines and newspapers and elsewhere, such as these two Gibson covers, from 1902 and 1913.

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As you might guess, even older women, including ones without athletic, slim figures, aspired to the look too, although they seldom could pull it off very convincingly.

When I was a child and teen in the 1940s/50s/60s, you still heard occasionally about Gibson Girls and their look because nostalgia for “turn of the century” pop culture was big from the 40s through the 60s’s. Think Meet Me In St Louis with Judy Garland in 1944, set in a backdrop of the 1904 World’s Fair.

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Or Music Man from Broadway in 1957 and the movies in 1962, set in the same era.

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You don’t hear the name much these days…unless you happen to visit Disneyland or Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Both have a Gibson Girl Ice Cream parlor, since Main Street is a (highly) fictionalized version of an early 1900s small town main street.

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A while back I showed my 40-something daughter Ramona the bathing beauties picture above and asked if she had heard of “Gibson Girls” like those.

Ramona had indeed heard of Gibson Girls, but not from a “history book.” She knew of them because the term was used in a 1987 Anne of Green Gables TV movie (Anne of Avonlea), which was set in that time period. One character exclaimed to Anne, who had her hair piled on her head in the way you see on the young bathing beauty girls above, that she looked “just like a Gibson Girl.”

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I bring this up, because, when not wearing a dress with a plunging neckline to show off her ample bosom…

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…the typical Gibson Girl and Gibson Girl Wannabee would wear a long flared skirt and a “shirtwaist.”  Shirtwaist (sometimes shortened to just “waist”) was a term for a woman’s blouse, usually with a collar (often stand-up), cuffs, long poofy sleeves with cuffs, and a button-down front.  As you see on this group of high school girls from 1910.

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Doing laundry was a real hassle before washing machines and dryers and perma-press fabrics back then, so I would suppose it would be very practical to have a closet full of blouses to change every day to go with skirts—which could go longer between washings (and ironings!)

If you were a young woman (or a young woman’s mother) who was handy with a needle and thread, or maybe even had a treadle sewing machine, you could make your own shirtwaists, using a pattern like this one from McCall’s.

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But a significant portion of the women in the land had neither the skill to sew such fashions, nor a treadle machine. And I would guess that the average middle and upper class woman would look down on having to sew clothing for herself or her daughters anyway.

So they would go to the local department store shirtwaist department, or check their latest Sears Catalog for shirtwaists, such as this catalog from 1909. (“Lawn” isn’t used here to indicate where you’d wear them…lawn was a type of lightweight, delicate linen material, popular for blouses back at that time.)

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And thus they might end up purchasing a mass-produced shirtwaist like this one, which was manufactured at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in Manhattan, New York in about 1910.

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But few aspiring Gibson Girls had the slightest idea under what conditions their lovely, delicate shirtwaists were made. Or by whom.

Working conditions in the early twentieth century were not very safe for many factory workers. In June of 1909, a fire prevention specialist sent a letter to the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to discuss ways to improve safety in the factory. This letter was ignored.

The work day at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was 14 hours long with only one break throughout the day. Extra bathroom breaks were often denied forcing people to urinate on the factory room floor adding to the already unsanitary work space. Poor ventilation and locked factory room doors were common. Heaping piles of fabric scraps littered the factory room floors.

Here are two views of Triangle workrooms in about 1910. Although there were some men employed in the factory, they were mostly hired to cut the cloth. It was women who did the actual sewing.

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The workers were paid two dollars a day, were docked pay for their errors and for the needles and thread they consumed. [If they pricked a finger and got blood on fabric, they were fined. If they did it a second time, they were fired.] Sometimes, they were docked more than they were paid.

At the end of September 1909, with the backing of Local 25 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) the Triangle Shirtwaist factory workers went on strike seeking increased wages, reduced working hours and union representation.

Conditions were no better at other factories. Unrest was infiltrating throughout the women’s garment workers industry. Something big was about to happen. On November 22, 1909, activist Clara Limlich [a petite 5 foot 4 inch young woman of 23] spoke out at a union meeting that they must do something.

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“I have listened to all the speakers, and I have no further patience for talk. I am a working girl, one of those striking against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in generalities. What we are here for is to decide whether or not to strike. I make a motion that we go out in a general strike.”

As most women’s garment workers faced these desperate times, Limlich’s call for action against these repressive conditions resulted in a vote to strike. On November 24, 1909, in the largest single work stoppage in the US up to that time, twenty thousand workers walked off the job in an industry-wide strike joining the already striking Triangle workers. They sought better wages, standardized work day, improved working conditions, and union representation.

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Almost all of the women involved in this strike were recent immigrants, either Jewish or Italian. Notice the Yiddish writing on the signboard above in one of their protest marches.

At first, people paid little attention, and the press barely made mention of the strike in their newspapers. Until in December 1909 Anne Morgan, daughter of international financier JP Morgan, took up the cause of the striking workers. Joining her in support of the workers was Alva Vanderbuilt Belmont. With the voices of these rich, upper class women, also known as the mink brigade, by the middle of December the media picked up on the story of the horrible working conditions. Within forty-eight hours, smaller businesses capitulated and workers began to return to union only workshops.

Not so at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory housed in the Asch Building in Greenwich Village. Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were angered and indignant. They attempted to stymie the workers by hiring prostitutes to fight with the women on the picket lines. Blanck and Harris hired ex-prize fighters to pick fights with the picketers. Bribed policemen arrested any who fought back and dragged them off to court bandaged and bloodied. Bribed judges found workers guilty.

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700 of the women Limlich led on the strike were arrested, 19 were sentenced to labor camps. 

Blanck and Harris formed an association of the factory owners. By December 1909, they engaged in negotiations with the strikers offering increases in wages, and improvements in working conditions but stopped short of agreeing to allow the unions to organize in the factories.

Workers refused and the strike continued. Slowly one by one, individual factory owners agreed to the demands of the workers including union representation. But at Triangle, Harris and Blanck would not allow the union to be formed in their organization. Five months after they they began their strike, 23 February 1910, Triangle workers decided to accept increased wages and better hours. They did not get the much coveted union representation.  [Source]

But they got better hours and a bit of increase in wages. A cause for celebration, right?

Until 13 months later, on March 25, 1911.

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The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history.

It was also one of the deadliest disasters that occurred in New York City – after the burning of the General Slocum on June 15, 1904 [over 1,000 people on their way to a German Lutheran church picnic died when that excursion steamship caught fire and sank in the East River] – until the destruction of the World Trade Center 90 years later.

The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three; of the victims whose ages are known, the oldest victim was Providenza Panno at 43, and the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and “Sara” Rosaria Maltese.

Because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below.

… Under the ownership of Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the factory produced women’s blouses, known as “shirtwaists.” The factory normally employed about 500 workers, mostly young immigrant women, who worked nine hours a day on weekdays plus seven hours on Saturdays, earning between $7 and $12 a week.

As the workday was ending on the afternoon of Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire flared up at approximately 4:40 PM in a scrap bin under one of the cutter’s tables at the northeast corner of the eighth floor. The first fire alarm was sent at 4:45 PM by a passerby on Washington Place who saw smoke coming from the eighth floor. Both owners of the factory were in attendance and had invited their children to the factory on that afternoon.

The Fire Marshal concluded that the likely cause of the fire was the disposal of an unextinguished match or cigarette butt in the scrap bin, which held two months’ worth of accumulated cuttings by the time of the fire. Beneath the table in the wooden bin were hundreds of pounds of scraps which were left over from the several thousand shirtwaist that had been cut at that table. …

A bookkeeper on the eighth floor was able to warn employees on the tenth floor via telephone, but there was no audible alarm and no way to contact staff on the ninth floor. According to survivor Yetta Lubitz, the first warning of the fire on the ninth floor arrived at the same time as the fire itself. Although the floor had a number of exits, including two freight elevators, a fire escape, and stairways down to Greene Street and Washington Place, flames prevented workers from descending the Greene Street stairway, and the door to the Washington Place stairway was locked to prevent theft by the workers; the locked doors allowed managers to check the women’s purses.

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Locked door being inspected after the fire

The foreman who held the stairway door key had already escaped by another route. Dozens of employees escaped the fire by going up the Greene Street stairway to the roof. Other survivors were able to jam themselves into the elevators while they continued to operate.

Within three minutes, the Greene Street stairway became unusable in both directions.

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Terrified employees crowded onto the single exterior fire escape, which city officials had allowed Asch to erect instead of the required third staircase. It was a flimsy and poorly anchored iron structure which may have been broken before the fire. It soon twisted and collapsed from the heat and overload, spilling about 20 victims nearly 100 feet (30 m) to their deaths on the concrete pavement below.

Just as in the Twin Towers inferno, there were heroes of the story that day…

Elevator operators Joseph Zito and Gaspar Mortillalo saved many lives by traveling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but Mortillalo was eventually forced to give up when the rails of his elevator buckled under the heat. Some victims pried the elevator doors open and jumped into the empty shaft, trying to slide down the cables or to land on top of the car. The weight and impacts of these bodies warped the elevator car and made it impossible for Zito to make another attempt.

A large crowd of bystanders gathered on the street, witnessing sixty-two people jumping or falling to their deaths from the burning building.

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The remainder waited until smoke and fire overcame them. The fire department arrived quickly but was unable to stop the flames, as there were no ladders available that could reach beyond the sixth floor.

Which also meant there was no way to reach anyone on those floors with a ladder to rescue them.

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Picture from the NY Times of that date in 1911 shows x’s on the windows
above where the ladder reaches, indicating where victims jumped.

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The fallen bodies and falling victims also made it difficult for the fire department to approach the building.  [Source]

 There was a great outpouring of grief in New York City regarding the tragedy.

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The parade of mourning above was viewed by close to 400,000 people standing in pouring rain along the route.

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And there was a widespread outcry for “something to be done” about holding those responsible accountable.

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But in the end, did anyone end up shouldering responsibility for this horror?

The company’s owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, who survived the fire by fleeing to the building’s roof when the fire began, were indicted on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter in mid-April; the pair’s trial began on December 4, 1911.

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And quickly ended with an acquittal for both. The defense lawyer convinced the jury that the prosecution needed to prove that the owners specifically KNEW that the exit doors were locked at the time of the fire. In spite of the fact that almost everyone knew that this was “standard procedure” for this sweat shop.

There was a subsequent civil trial, and the owners lost that one. The plaintiffs won $75 compensation to the survivors of each victim. Which ended up being no sweat for Blanck and Harris—their insurance company ended up paying them about $60,000 over their reported losses. About $400 per casualty. They came out ahead.

These jerks were not “robber barons,” of course. They were just petty small-time, greedy men, part of a grander scheme of heartless Capital and helpless, hapless Labor in the land at the time.

But surely the greedy jerks at least “learned their lesson” and dedicated the rest of their lives to factory safety out of a sense of guilt for so many innocent lives lost…

Harris and Blanck were to continue their defiant attitude toward the authorities. Just a few days after the fire, the new premises of their factory had been found not to be fireproof, without fire escapes, and without adequate exits.

In August of 1913, Max Blanck was charged with locking one of the doors of his factory during working hours. Brought to court, he was fined twenty dollars, and the judge apologized to him for the imposition.

In December of 1913, the interior of his factory was found to be littered with rubbish piled six feet high, with scraps kept in non-regulation, flammable wicker baskets. This time, instead of a court appearance and a fine, he was served a stern warning.

The Triangle Waist Company was to cease operations in 1918, but the owners maintained throughout that their factory was a “model of cleanliness and sanitary conditions,” and that it was “second to none in the country.”  [Source]

Oh. And Clara Limlich, the leader of that 1909 strike?

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She had a cousin who worked at the Triangle Shirt Factory. The cousin evidently survived the fire.

For her outspoken union efforts, Clara was blacklisted from the garment industry. She then turned her efforts to the campaign for women’s suffrage, to being a consumer advocate, and eventually to campaigns against nuclear weapons, against the Viet Nam war, and for Civil Rights. She died in 1970 at age 96. You can even read a book about her many exploits.

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The period of the “industrialization” of America that exploded after the Civil War, with the rise of huge corporations led by Robber Barons, led directly to the conditions among the working classes of the early 1900s typified by the Triangle Shirt Factory strike and subsequent fire. And in spite of pop-culture names that glossed over the various parts of the period in later years, such as “Gay ‘90s,” for vast portions of the population, nothing about it was gay or refreshing.

Growing even more rapidly than the general population, which almost doubled between 1870 and 1900, the industrial labor force expanded to more than a third of the population by the end of the century.

… A rough economic profile from the end of the 1880s indicates how close to the margin of poverty many workers were compelled to live. About 45% of the industrial laborers barely held on above the $500 per year poverty line; about 40% lived below the line of tolerable existence, surviving in shabby tenements and rundown neighborhoods by dent of income eked out by working wives and children. About a fourth of those below the poverty line lived in actual destitution. A small group of highly skilled workers, about 50%, were capable of earning from $800-$1100 a year. The common daily pay for unskilled labor remained about $1.50. Moreover hardships were exacerbated by periods of high unemployment (as much as 16%) during the depressions of the mid-1870s and mid-1880s.

As you might guess, this led to continual “labor unrest.”

…the 1880s witnessed almost 10,000 strikes and lockouts; close to 700,000 workers went out in 1886 alone…

And it wasn’t just long hours and low pay that concerned them.

…Hazards to health and to life its self were common in the heavy metal industries, in textile factories, and in chemical plants. The railroad took a particularly horrible toll: 72,000 employees killed on the tracks between 1890 and 1917, and close to 2 million injured; another 158,000 killed in repair shops and roundhouses. Workmen’s Compensation did not appear until the 1930s, and railroad disability insurance not until 1947.

But didn’t manufacturing wizardry of the era bring every housewife’s dream of “laborsaving devices”? Maybe for middle class housewives…

The image of machinery as “laborsaving” held a bitter irony for workers: not only did machines threaten life and limb, not only did they increasingly threaten the usefulness of craft skills, but, employed by capital to increase productivity as rapidly as possible, they often increased the amount of physical exertion over time. [Source]

And it wasn’t just adults who were toiling under miserable conditions and constant threat of death or serious injury. It has been estimated that by 1910, 2 million children in the US under the age of 15 were working at industrial jobs.  At times their work could be even more miserable and dangerous than that of adults since employers typically took advantage of their smaller size and forced them squeeze into tight, dangerous spaces.

Faced with back-breaking labor and long, exhausting shifts, fatigued child workers suffered high accident rates. Those who were injured or maimed in the course of their duties often received no compensation. [Source]

A few examples, photographed in the early 1900s by Lewis Hine as part of an expose’ of the child labor problem in the US:

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An injured young mill worker. Giles Edmund Newsom, photographed on October 23, 1912. Giles was injured while working in Sanders Spinning Mill in Bessemer City, North Carolina, on August 21st, 1912. A piece of machinery fell on his foot, mashing his toe. This caused him to fall onto a spinning machine and his hand went into unprotected gearing, crushing and tearing out two fingers. He told the investigating attorney that he was 11 years old when it happened. He and his younger brother worked in the mill several months before the accident. Their father, R.L. Newsom, tried to compromise with the company when he found the boy would receive the money and not the parents. Their mother tried to blame the boys for getting jobs on their own, but she let them work several months. Their aunt said “Now he’s jes got to where he could be of some help to his ma, an’ then this happens and he can’t never work no more like he oughter.”

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Frank P……., whose legs were cut off by a motor car in a coal mine in West Virginia when he was 14 years 10 months of age. Location: Monongah, West Virginia.

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1909: Neil Gallagher, who lost his leg in an accident in a Pennsylvania mine at the age of 13.

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Luther Watson, of Corinth, KY, 14 years old. Right arm had been cut off by a veneering saw in a box factory (in Cincinnati) on Nov. 14, 1907.

The reality of socio-economics in the US in that era:

[In 1890] Out of 12 million families, 11 million lived on incomes below $1200 a year. The average income of this group was $380, far below the accepted poverty line.

In the population as a whole, the richest 1% earned more than the total income of the poorest 50%, and commanded more wealth than the remaining 99%.

Yes, the Victorian Era had its own “1%.”

It was somewhat easy for that 1% to ignore the unwashed masses right up to World War 1. Oh, the masses occasionally stirred up a fuss with one of those tens of thousands of strikes against factories, sweatshops, mines, or mills. But the effects of those didn’t reach into their enclaves of mansions and estates.

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Millionaire’s Row, New York City

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Cornelious Vanderbilt II Mansion, New York 1898

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Jay Gould Estate, Tarrytown NY 

Farther down the economic ladder from the 1%, the middle class was seldom supportive of any kind of strikes, as they were a bit closer to the front lines of unrest…the marches and sometimes boisterous public rallies in the streets by strikers were scary, and upset their sensibilities of the need for unquestioned law and order. So they were often, by nature, “anti-labor” when it came to disputes between employers and laborers.  And the government at local, state, and national levels was decidedly unsupportive of any disturbance of that law and order, almost always siding against labor…to the point of sending in the state militias, or even federal troops to quell labor unrest.

Strikes sometimes succeeded in getting minor victories for workers…a pittance more pay, a tiny adjustment of hours worked (but all too seldom no improvement in safety conditions, as is clear with the Triangle Fire example!) But as soon as they were over, and the headlines in the newspapers quit talking about them, the industrialists and the 1% and the middle class promptly went back to not worrying about them.

Until…the Russian Revolution.

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At that point, the “narrative” changed drastically, both as expressed by the national press and the government. It seems that from that point on, the “aristocratic” part of the American populace began worrying. Because it was painfully obvious that the forces that wiped out the aristocracy of Russia, including the assassination of the royal family…

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…whose mansion and estates didn’t protect them…

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…might be headed directly to America’s shores. In fact… perhaps had already arrived and were infiltrating the nation.

This sense of things was exacerbated immediately after the end of the World War. Many working class men who had labored in decent jobs in bustling war-time industries in America to back up the war effort, suddenly found those jobs disappearing as the nation de-mobilized.  And what was worse, the labor market was suddenly inundated by millions of working-class men coming back from the European war to find no jobs waiting for them. Jobs were scarce, employers could fill any needs they had easily, with no need to cater to anyone complaining about long hours, low wages, or unsafe conditions…gripers could be replaced instantly with others eager to get any work at all.

When this led to labor unrest, suddenly it was easier to blame–not  the hellish working conditions and starvation wages—but “agitation” by Communists. If those fiendish Bolsheviks would just be ferreted out and deported back to wherever they came from, and any hapless converts among American citizens they made while here be incarcerated and deprogrammed,  the masses could go back to quietly suffering instead of being so belligerent.

Take the Boston Police, for instance.

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In the Boston Police Strike, Boston police officers went on strike on September 9, 1919. [Source]

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This is a crowd of Boston police leaving the meeting where they voted to strike.
Note how young so many look…many were WW1 veterans with young families.

They sought recognition for their trade union and improvements in wages and working conditions. Police Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis denied that police officers had any right to form a union, much less one affiliated with a larger organization like the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Attempts at reconciliation between the Commissioner and the police officers, particularly on the part of Boston’s Mayor Andrew James Peters, failed.

During the strike, Boston experienced several nights of lawlessness, although property damage was not extensive. Several thousand members of the State Guard, supported by volunteers, restored order.

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Governor (later President) Calvin Coolidge
inspects the militia that he called up.

Press reaction both locally and nationally described the strike as Bolshevik-inspired and directed at the destruction of civil society. The strikers were called “deserters” and “agents of Lenin.”

… When Governor Coolidge called the strikers “deserters” and “traitors,” a mass meeting of the Boston Police Union responded:

When we were honorably discharged from the United States army, we were hailed as heroes and saviors of our country. We returned to our duties on the police force of Boston.

Now, though only a few months have passed, we are denounced as deserters, as traitors to our city and violators of our oath of office.

The first men to raise the cry were those who have always been opposed to giving to labor a living wage. It was taken up by the newspapers, who cared little for the real facts. You finally added your word of condemnation….

Among us are men who have gone against spitting machine guns single-handed, and captured them, volunteering for the job. Among us are men who have ridden with dispatches through shell fire so dense that four men fell and only the fifth got through.

Not one man of us ever disgraced the flag or his service. It is bitter to come home and be called deserters and traitors. We are the same men who were on the French front.

Some of us fought in the Spanish war of 1898. Won’t you tell the people of Massachusetts in which war you [Coolidge] served?

(Coolidge, who indeed had never served in the military, was no doubt particularly miffed at this slam at his masculinity and patriotism…)

You might think police work wouldn’t be a good example of hellish working conditions such as could be found in the mines and factories. Until you find out the details of the life of the cop of the time.

In 1918, the salary for patrolmen was set at $1,400 a year. Police officers had to buy their own uniforms and equipment which cost over $200. New recruits received $730 during their first year, which increased annually to $821.25 and $1000, and to $1,400 after six years. In the years following World War I, inflation dramatically eroded the value of a police officer’s salary. From 1913 to May 1919, the cost of living rose by 76%, while police wages rose just 18%. Discontent and restiveness among the Boston police force grew as they compared their wages and found they were earning less than an unskilled steelworker, half as much as a carpenter or mechanic and 50 cents a day less than a streetcar conductor. Boston city laborers were earning a third more on an hourly basis.

Police officers had an extensive list of grievances. They worked ten-hour shifts and typically recorded weekly totals between 75 and 90 hours.

…Patrolmen worked a 7-day week, with one day off every 15 days. Patrolmen who worked the day shift put in 73 hours a week and “night men” worked 83 hours a week, while “wagon men” worked 98 hours.

After a day off, the men were required to serve a “house day” which meant they were on call at the station from 8:00am until 6:00pm performing various tasks such as recording duty, wagon runs and attending to the “signal desk.” After a three-hour break, they reported back to the station house at 9:00 pm where they slept for three hours until midnight at which time the bell rang for roll call and they “went out on the street” until 8:00am.

After that, they could go home, but had to be back at 6:00pm for what they called an “evening on the floor” which meant performing the same type of duties such as taking care of prisoners, wagon trips or “whatever turned up.” At 9:00pm the patrolmen went back to bed for three hours. The “day men,” in addition to their 10-hour day, were required to spend one night a week in the station house on reserve.

Although the commissioner and mayor had agreed to give the police a 24-hour holiday for every 8 days of work, this could be taken away “at will” and often was. Additionally, even during his free time, a patrolman could not leave the city limits without express permission. According to one patrolman; “That was the way it was day after day, round after round. We had no freedom, no home life at all. We couldn’t even go to Revere Beach without the captain’s permission.”

Revere Beach was the first public beach in the United States, founded in 1895. It was only four miles north of downtown Boston, and a popular refreshment spot for Bostonians…particularly among the working classes. Back in 1919 you could easily get there by a dedicated small “narrow gauge” railway…

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…by ferry, or by auto if you were affluent enough to afford your own wheels.

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It was much like Atlantic City in New Jersey, with a sandy beach for sunning, wading, and swimming…

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…or ogling the bathing beauties…

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… such as the Peekaboos, shown here in 1919…

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I’m not sure how the Peekaboos got past the requirement on this Revere Beach sign, also from 1919. Those bathing outfits don’t seem to me to include “bloomers”!

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…nor does the one worn by this young beauty, also in 1919.

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But spending time on the beach was only a tiny portion of the excitement available at Revere Beach.  There was a Midway with amusement games and rides…

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…a roller skating rink, and a dance pavilion out at the end of the long pier…

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… bathhouses, many food and snack concessions, and much more.

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But it sounds like the average steel worker or streetcar conductor got to enjoy an outing there more often than the average policeman.  Maybe the cops’ chances were better to ask for permission from their captain in the slow crime season of winter. You could still get to Revere Beach then. But not many bathing beauties to ogle…

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Yes, life was pretty bleak for the Boston Police of 1919.

… They complained about having to share beds and the lack of sanitation, baths, and toilets at many of the 19 station houses where they were required to live, most of which dated to before the Civil War. The Court Street station had four toilets for 135 men, and one bathtub.  [ibid]

They didn’t get black lung disease like miners, nor seriously physically risk life and limb all day long every day like many in the steel mills. But it sure sounds like they had a pretty miserable working life.

But no, the federal government, the press, and the upper echelons of the Boston government couldn’t possibly conceive that these conditions would be enough to rebel against. Surely it was just that there were Bolsheviks stirring them up to not appreciate what they had!

So the answer to the grievances of these policemen, as well as those of the downtrodden workers in many industries in equally miserable circumstances, the answer to how to “fight the influence of Bolshevism,” wasn’t to remove the sources of complaints. It wasn’t to encourage all employers (including the city of Boston) to “turn over a new leaf” and give their employees a living wage, an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, under safe, sane, civilized working conditions, with the opportunity for employees to actually have a little bit of “pursuit of happiness” in a life outside work.

No, the answer was to blame an “outside force,” to insist it was what was causing the wheels of the country to not run smoothly and quietly like they should so that the American Aristocracy would not be inconvenienced.

… A Philadelphia paper viewed the Boston violence in the same light as other labor unrest and numerous race riots in 1919: “Bolshevism in the United States is no longer a specter. Boston in chaos reveals its sinister substance.”

… A report from Washington, D.C. included this headline: “Senators Think Effort to Sovietize the Government Is Started.”  Senator Henry Cabot Lodge saw in the strike the dangers of the national labor movement: “If the American Federation of Labor succeeds in getting hold of the police in Boston it will go all over the country, and we shall be in measurable distance of Soviet government by labor unions.”

And thus began the “First Red Scare.”

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1919 movie—Based on a novel by Thomas Dixon,
the author of The Klansman, a novel made into
the widely-acclaimed but controversial 1915 movie Birth of a Nation
that glorified the Ku Klux Klan!

 

We’ll continue to trace this thread of the specter of Communism on into the following decades in the next installment of this series.  Click the link to read…

Red Scare–Red Summer

 

 

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Threading Our Way Through History

sDonald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 18

Threading Our Way Through History

This is Part 18 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary that can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on information, concepts, and commentary introduced in earlier entries in the series, and thus it is most effective to read the material sequentially from the beginning. Click here to go to the first entry in the series, Part 1

 

The overarching title of this series is “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.” Those who have followed the series since the beginning know that the “strangest bedfellows” referred to are a variety of leaders of the Evangelical Christian movement in America who have embraced Trump as a man “ordained by God” to Make America Great Again. AND…put in place policies that will empower the agenda of these leaders to mold American government and society into the image which they desire.

Some of these leaders are truly strange in their own right, such as Trump’s “closest spiritual advisor,” TV evangelist and Name-it-and-Claim-it, “Prosperity Gospel” proponent Pastor Paula White, who gave the invocation at Trump’s Inauguration.

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Or disgraced-and-incarcerated-in-the-80s-but-now-back-in-the-saddle (with a new, younger wife he married in 1998 after he got out of jail) TV evangelist Jim Bakker.

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Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, pre-scandal

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Jim and Lori, married in 1998

Jim and Lori mixed on their shows all last year prophecies for the coming Great Presidency of Donald Trump…with offers of over-priced bulk “survival food and supplies” so that viewers can live through the imminent Great Tribulation.

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Or… VERY strange bedfellow, TV Evangelist Benny Hinn. Who knocks over individuals, small groups, and sometimes whole audiences of thousands of people, with the alleged “power of the Holy Spirit—aided  by waving his arms…or snapping his white suit jacket at them like a jock snapping a wet towel at other jocks in a football locker room.

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(That last is a group of military men “slain in the spirit” by Benny at a Crusade in Venezuela 2009.)

Pastor Benny is a good friend of Pastor Paula, and she brought him to the Inauguration with her.

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They’ve traveled together before that, as you can see from this two-page spread in the National Enquirer in 2010.

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Or there’s “retired firefighter turned prophet” Mark Taylor.

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Taylor electrified the circles of Donald’s Strangest Bedfellows when he claimed to have “heard from the Lord” clear back in 2011 that Trump was chosen by God to become president. Just a snippet of his “prophecy”…

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged.

The Spirit of God says, the enemy will quake and shake and fear this man I have anointed. They will even quake and shake when he announces he is running for president, it will be like the shot heard across the world. The enemy will say what shall we do now? This man knows all our tricks and schemes. We have been robbing America for decades, what shall we do to stop this? The Spirit says HA! No one shall stop this that l have started! …

The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word, when he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him. This man’s word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless.

Even mainstream news media will be captivated by this man and the abilities that I have gifted him with, and they will even begin to agree with him says the Spirit of God.

And those Strange Bedfellow examples are just a tip of the iceberg.

But how did we get here? How did the most flamboyantly religious, the most piously inclined folks in America, folks who supposedly spread the Gospel of the simple carpenter of Nazareth, come to embrace a man with THIS lifestyle and reputation…

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How did they become convinced he was the Only One who could save the nation and put in policies and programs to Make America Christian Again? The answer to that is not simple to explain, which is the reason for this extended series of blog entries.

There is a thread running through American history for almost exactly the past 100 years, leading to this moment in time. But it’s a thread with a number of unexpected twists and turns.

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Let’s go back to the beginning and follow it forward, and combine it with some of the factors explained in previous entries in this series.

Russia plays prominently in the story thread out at this end of history.  Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

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Strangely enough, Russia plays a prominent part in the story as the thread begins a century ago. Starting with this man…

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That’s Tsar Nicholas II, royal head of the Romanov Dynasty of Russia, rulers of Russia since 1613. Nicholas became emperor in 1894. Even if you didn’t recognize his picture, it is likely that you at least heard him mentioned in World History class back in high school. But if you are anything like I was until recently, you are likely unaware of the extent throughout Europe of his family circle. For some reason, high school history courses typically ignored mentioning just how “inbred” the ruling heads of Europe had become by the turn of the last century.

Nicholas was related to several monarchs in Europe. His mother’s siblings included Kings Frederik VIII of Denmark and George I of Greece, as well as the United Kingdom’s Queen Alexandra (consort of King Edward VII). Nicholas was also a first cousin of both King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway, as well as King Constantine I of Greece.

But most amazing is THIS little tidbit…

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Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were all first cousins of King George V of the United Kingdom.

Yes, in one way you might say that World War 1 was a really, really enlarged Family Feud!

At the outbreak of the First World War the royal descendants of Queen Victoria (Queen of the United Kingdom) and of Christian IX (King of Denmark) occupied the thrones of Denmark, Greece, Norway, Germany, Romania, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. For this, Queen Victoria was nicknamed “the grandmother of Europe” while Christian IX was nicknamed “Father-in-law of Europe”. Of the remaining kingdoms of Europe today, only Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands descends neither from Queen Victoria nor Christian IX. Their grandchildren currently occupy the thrones of Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  [Source]

The Three Cousins perhaps played with each other at extended family gatherings in their childhood, and “hung out” occasionally with each other in their young adulthood. Nicholas and George actually looked more like twins than cousins!

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Nicholas and George

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Wilhelm with Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra

By 1913, all three were married with several children, and occupying the thrones of their respective countries, but still getting together on occasion. Such as this occasion.

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This picture was taken during the wedding of the Kaiser’s daughter Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia. The wedding, an extravagant affair, took place on 24 May 1913 in Berlin. In a diplomatic gesture, Emperor Wilhelm invited almost his entire extended family.

For the occasion, Nicholas and George were each wore the splendiferous German ceremonial military attire you see in their joint portrait above!

The wedding became the largest gathering of reigning monarchs in Germany since German unification in 1871, and one of the last great social events of European royalty before World War I began fourteen months later (July 28, 1914).  [ibid]

We’ve gone back from the second decade of the 21st century to the second decade of the 20th century, because something happened then, besides the World War, that shook all the (inbred) crowned heads of Europe (and eventually the uncrowned leadership of the United States…). They and their families and dynasties, and a small circle of “aristocrats” with which they surrounded themselves, had been “in charge” for a long, long time. You might say that they represented the “one percent” of their era. Although some of the nations were moving slowly toward a more modern concept of “democracy,” or at least a bit wider spread of wealth and prosperity than in medieval, feudal times, there was a still a very deep divide between the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous “royalty and aristocracy” and the Way the Other Half Lived… the “peasants and the urban working classes” of people. (Well, not really “other half.” In many nations it was more like the other 95%.)

One place where this was particularly evident was Russia. At the turn of the last century, there were tens of millions of Russian peasants and workers, mostly leading very bleak lives.

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And then there were those Russians who didn’t lead bleak lives. They were the aristocracy and royalty, such as Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, and his lovely family, shown in all their opulence in this family photo portrait in about 1908.

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But the opulence ended all too soon after that. Here is another portrait of the Tsar and his lovely family, depicting them on the evening of July 17, 1918. No photographer was present. This is an artist’s representation of the evening, sketched shortly after that date.

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Yes, that is a representation of the assassination of Nicholas and his wife and five children. Right in the middle of World War 1, Nicholas had been forced to abdicate his throne by the Russian Revolution that began March 8, 1917. Since that time, for over a year, he and his family had been under “house arrest” at various locations in Russia. He had hoped they might be able to escape into exile somewhere…Britain, preferably…but his hopes were never realized.  On the night pictured above, his family was unexpectedly ushered into the basement of the house where they were confined, and summarily all put to death by bullet and/or bayonet.

What crushed the Tsar’s hopes for a dignified exile…hosted by his close cousin George V of England?

When Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, George’s first cousin, was overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the British government offered political asylum to the Tsar and his family, but worsening conditions for the British people, and fears that revolution might come to the British Isles, led George to think that the presence of the Russian royals would be seen as inappropriate. Despite the later claims of Lord Mountbatten of Burma that Prime Minister Lloyd George was opposed to the rescue of the Russian imperial family, the letters of Lord Stamfordham suggest that it was George V who opposed the rescue against the advice of the government. The Tsar and his immediate family remained in Russia, where they were killed by Bolsheviks in 1918. King George V essentially signing his owns cousin’s death certificate. [Source]

Yes, the reality is that George understood that some, if not many, of the “underlying causes” of the Russian Revolution, which eventually established a Communist government in that country, weren’t unique to that country. The lower classes all over Europe had been long stirred up with resentment against the inequity of the distribution of wealth in their own lands. Severe poverty, hunger, and harsh working conditions among the peasants and urban working class—while the aristocracy lived in opulence—were common throughout the continent.

The horrors of World War 1 exacerbated these circumstances to unbearable levels almost everywhere. The lower classes had no investment in the “reasons” for the War—they were disputes between the aristocracies of the various countries. Yet they were forced to bear the worst of the suffering caused by the War. Russia, for instance, instituted the first general mass draft of citizens into the military in its history. Thus one of the first things the Bolsheviks did when they came into power in Russia was to sign a treaty with Germany and withdraw from the War.

The March revolution was not a planned affair. Lenin was in Switzerland, the Bolsheviks did not even have a majority in the Petrograd Soviet and the Duma had not wanted the end of the Romanovs. So why did it happen?

The ruling dynasty must take a great deal of the blame. Nicholas was an ineffective ruler who had let his wife dominate him to such an extent that the royal family became inextricably linked to a disreputable man like Gregory Rasputin.

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(Rasputin was the “Mad Monk” who wormed his way into the royal family circle with claims of supernatural powers, but was viewed by many as a complete charlatan.)

Such an association only brought discredit to the Romanovs.

The ruling elite also failed to realise that the people would only take so much. They took their loyalty for granted. In February/March 1917, lack of food, lack of decisive government and the cold [temperatures at that time of year in that area of Russia average -4 °F] pushed the people of Petrograd [St. Petersburg] onto the streets.

The people of Petrograd did not call for the overthrow of Nicholas – it happened as a result of them taking to the streets calling for food. People had to burn their furniture to simply get heat in their homes. Very few would tolerate having to queue in the extreme cold just for food – food that might run out before you got to the head of the queue. The spontaneous reaction to police shooting at protestors in a bread queue showed just how far the people of Petrograd had been pushed. That it ended with the abdication of Nicholas II was a political by-product of their desire for a reasonably decent lifestyle.  [Source]

In other words, Communism didn’t come to power in Russia through a careful, long-term, clandestine program of education and persuasion of the lower classes to understand and agree with the political and economic “theories” of Marx and Engels, so that they would eventually cooperate in conducting a revolution! It came to power as a result of people just wanting an answer to their desperate plight, and other people ready and waiting to offer them what looked like just such an answer through a change of leadership.

And thus the concern of George V of England! For, of course, the lower classes in England had many of the same exact complaints as the lower classes in Russia. It just wasn’t as cold in England! They could be expected to have sympathy for the plight of the peasants and working classes of Russia, not for Tsar Nicholas and his pampered family. Best not to agitate the British lower classes to ponder their own relationship to pampered royalty in England, in the middle of the hellish war, by the notoriety of the stories that would make it into the newspapers if Nicholas and family showed up on their shore.

But, you may ask, what does any of this have to do with the United States in that era? For of course America was literally founded as an escape from the system of royalty in the Old World. It was founded on the idea of “all men are created equal,” and all equally have the right to pursue happiness…not just pursue enough food to not starve and enough fuel to not freeze during the winter. For a brief moment after the American Revolution, some men actually tried to convince George Washington that he could aspire to being a king of the new nation, but he would have none of it. The generational “castes” of Europe were to be no more, no more huge divide between aristocracy and the common man. (Well, at least there were to be no castes among white men. The Native Americans and the African slaves were another topic…)

So what would the United States have to fear from the spread of Communist ideas, or the restlessness of peasants?

This.

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For although there was no American royalty in 1776, that was before the game-changing Industrial Revolution. Once “venture capitalism” created a path to untold wealth (through capitalizing on the availability of masses of workers who could be forced to work 16 hour days at slave labor wages, under often horrifically unsafe conditions) in order to create giant, hugely-profitable corporations, a new kind of royalty arose in the United States.

The connection with the old kind of royalty was unmistakable, and the new kind of royalty was dubbed very early with terms like “Robber Barons.”

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The fruit of this development was masses of downtrodden urban working people and rural farmer/peasants who differed little from their European counterparts. And strangely enough, the New Royalty in the New World made no effort to hide this reality before the start of the World War. No, they flaunted it.

For instance, by 1897, the US had been in the midst of an economic depression since 1877. It was so exacerbated by a financial crisis known as “The Panic of ‘93”,  that the whole economy tumbled into the worst depression in its history to that point, in some ways more severe than that of the Great Depression of the 1930s, if not quite as long and drawn out. Like the later Crash of ’29, it affected not just the working classes, but even the newly-prosperous middle class.

As a result of the Panic, stock prices declined. 500 banks were closed, 15,000 businesses failed, and numerous farms ceased operation. The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania hit 25%, in New York 35%, and in Michigan 43%. [The nationwide “average” was about 20%.] Soup kitchens were opened in order to help feed the destitute. Facing starvation, people chopped wood, broke rocks, and sewed in exchange for food. In some cases, women resorted to prostitution to feed their families.…The huge spike in unemployment, combined with the loss of life savings kept in failed banks, meant that a once-secure middle-class could not meet their mortgage obligations. [Wiki]For those who had work, an average annual wage for an unskilled factory worker would have been something like $400. But that was an average, which indicated perhaps what amount would provide a bare-minimum “living wage” for a family. Just very humble food, clothing, and shelter—little more. And many families had a more meager income than that, just on the margins of destitution.

Allowing for inflation, the $400 would be the equivalent of about $10,000 now—or $4.80 an hour for a 40-hour week. Of course, many factory workers back then were still working a 60-hour week. Or more. So they would have made about $3.20 an hour in modern dollars. (And, of course, many workers and their families, particularly among American blacks of the time…as well as within the ghettos of new immigrants from Europe…subsisted on far less than this.)

Back in their own time, the “gross” amount of that average paycheck would have been about $7.75 for a six-day work week. (Although no doubt quite a few men worked seven day weeks.) You could go into a snazzy restaurant in New York and get a sirloin steak dinner with potatoes, bread and butter, and coffee for 85 cents. But even though that amount seems astonishingly low by our own “price standards,” at a salary of about $1.25 a day to feed, clothe, and house a family (of maybe four or five or six children), it would have been out of the question for the average worker to even consider one of those “cheap” steak dinners!

Of course, there could be more than one income in a family. Lots of wives and children…even down to pre-school age…worked to help “supplement” the family income.

Like this boy, about age 10, working in a coal mine back around the turn of the 19th century. For 60 cents a day. For a 14 hour day.

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I met one little fellow ten years old in Mt. Carbon, W. Va., last year, who was employed as a “trap boy.” Think of what it means to be a trap boy at ten years of age. It means to sit alone in a dark mine passage hour after hour, with no human soul near; to see no living creature except the mules as they pass with their loads, or a rat or two seeking to share one’s meal; to stand in water or mud that covers the ankles, chilled to the marrow by the cold draughts that rush in when you open the trap door for the mules to pass through; to work for fourteen hours—waiting—opening and shutting a door—then waiting again for sixty cents; to reach the surface when all is wrapped in the mantle of night, and to fall to the earth exhausted and have to be carried away to the nearest “shack” to be revived before it is possible to walk to the farther shack called “home.” [From The Bitter Cry of the Children, 1906, John Spargo.]

Or these kids at a cotton mill.

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“Children on the night shift going to work at 6 p.m. on a cold, dark December day. They do not come out again until 6 a.m. [12 hour shift] When they went home the next morning they were all drenched by a heavy, cold rain and had few or no wraps. Two of the smaller girls with three other sisters work on the night shift and support a big, lazy father who complains he is not well enough to work. He loafs around the country store. The oldest three of these sisters have been in the mill for 7 years, and the two youngest for two years. The latter earns 84 cents a night. Whitnel, North Carolina.” [1908. From the photo collection of photo-journalist/child labor activist Lewis W Hine]

Or this one, making 48 cents a day at a similar mill.

hinecottonmillgirl

“One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mill. She was 51 inches high. Has been in the mill one year. Sometimes works at night. Runs 4 sides – 48 cents a day. [Likely for a twelve hour shift.] When asked how old she was, she hesitated, then said, “I don’t remember,” then added confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but do just the same.” Out of 50 employees, there were ten children about her size. Whitnel, North Carolina.” [Hine, 1908]

Some families had more than four or five kids, so it was no doubt a relief to have them working as soon as possible to supplement the family income.

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“Little Fannie, 7 years old, 48” tall, helps her sister in Elk Cotton Mill in Fayetteville, Tennessee,November 17, 1910. Her sister said, “Yes, she helps me right smart. Not all day but all she can. Yes, she started with me at 6 this mornin’.” The two girls belong to a family of 19 children.” [Hine]

So they’d start ‘em young to bring home the bacon. Such as this little five year old “newsboy” in St. Louis, Missouri, who sold papers to the public by jumping on and off moving trolley cars at the risk of his life. To make a few cents a day.

hinertrolley

So what became of the American Royalty during the period of the depression of the 1890s? Nothing…it was business—and pleasure—as usual for most of them.

The reality is that while those kids shown above, and their parents, were toiling away in the mines and the mills and factories and sweatshops for slave-labor wages, the people of the American Royalty in New York were making “memories” to be passed down to posterity. And being breathlessly written up in the newspapers of the time, and photographed by the finest photographers.

Such as this blurb,  from a New York City “gossip sheet” called Town Topics of 1897:

“Future generations will date every event in relation to the Bradley-Martin ball.”

Pretty high estimation of a social event! Admittedly the western world dates all events from the (presumed) date of Jesus’ Christ’s birth…B.C. to A.D.  And ancient societies often dated events in relation to what “year of the reign of King So-and-so” it happened. But the thought that “future generations” in America would “date every event” in light of a High Society party attended by a few hundred people in the 1890s?? This is surely over the top.

But then again, the kind of stunts the American Royalty of the time pulled WERE “over the top” much of the time. Which, I think, is one of the main reasons people nowadays ignorantly speak of the1890s as the “Gay ‘90s.” It WAS full of “gaiety” for a favored few.

So just why should we, of later generations be all agog still about the Bradley-Martin Ball? Just what was the BMB all about?I don’t know about my readers, but I’ve heard, at least in passing, since childhood of names of such really, really rich people of the Victorian age as the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, and the Carnegies. But until recently I’d never heard of Bradley Martin and his wife Cornelia.

Here they are.

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1897cornelia

They started out their marriage with a bit of inherited wealth from both sides of the family. (Still, only enough to reach the lower rungs of the Richness Ladder of the time, Lower High Class, I guess.)  Then Cornelia’s dad died in 1881. He had been thought at the time to “only” have a fortune of about $200,000. (About $7 million today.) But at the reading of the will, it was revealed HE had a fortune squirreled away that no one knew about. And left the bulk of it…$6 million or so (+/- $162 million today)…to Cornelia.

The couple took an extended European vacation shortly after that. And at some point, evidently in order to give some sort of “faux European” lilt to their names, they inexplicably chose to tack a hyphen in the midst of  Bradley Martin’s name, and began referring to themselves as a couple as “the Bradley-Martins.” (Not quite the same idea as the modern habit of referring to a famous couple by a name mash-up—“Brangelina”—but perhaps in the same ball park.) Once they got the European vacation out of the way and were back in the states, it became obvious that Cornelia had new aspirations to fulfill.

In the Winter and Spring of 1883, Mrs. Martin’s name began to appear among the patronesses of fashionable entertainments…[Source]

She started out gradually, giving lavish dinners and small balls. But by late 1896 she had her sights set on the heights. As described in this snippet from the New York Times in February 7, 1897, regarding the Bradley-Martin ball to be held February 10:

Mrs. Martin is credited with two separate ambitions, which, it is said, induced her to give the coming ball. These are, first, a desire to round off her society career in New York with the most superb entertainment the city has ever seen, and, second, a wish to have her ball surpass the famous Vanderbilt one of 1883

That 1883 New York City costume ball, for a few hundred guests, had cost the William K Vanderbilts the equivalent of $6 million 21st century dollars, including the equivalent of over $1.5 million worth of champagne.

Cornelia Martin succeeded in her quest to best it. She managed to blow almost 9 million (modern) dollars on a single evening to entertain fewer than 800 guests. That comes to over 11,000 (modern) dollars per guest. For a ball that lasted about five hours.

Guests were requested to come in costumes that impersonated famous people (most chose to impersonate royalty) from the 16th-18th century. The event was held at the newly-completed Waldorf-Astoria luxury hotel on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Cornelia pretty much handed carte blanche to the hotel’s staff to spend whatever it took to make the Ballroom and adjacent areas of the hotel sort of look like…the Palace of Versailles in France as it would have appeared during the reign of “The Sun King,” King Louis XIV in the 1700s.

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(The REAL Versailles)

Here’s how Cornelia’s brother-in-law Thomas Martin wrote of the event in his memoirs years later:

The best way I can describe what is always known as the “Bradley Martin Ball,” is to say that it reproduced the splendour of Versailles in New York, and I doubt if even the Roi Soleil [Sun King—Louis XIV, 1643-1715] himself ever witnessed a more dazzling sight. The interior of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was transformed into a replica of Versailles, and rare tapestries, beautiful flowers and countless lights made an effective background for the wonderful gowns and their wearers.

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The Waldorf Astoria of the time

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An etching depicting the ball from Harper’s magazine of the time 

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A diorama of the ball, with costumed mannequins, from a New York museum 

“I do not think there has ever been a greater display of jewels before or since; in many cases the diamond buttons worn by the men represented thousands of dollars, and the value of the historic gems worn by the ladies baffles description.

Yes, “baffles description” is probably a good way to put it. Not only did the richest families of New York pull out their own family heirlooms to bedeck themselves, they seem to have raided the attics of their rich buddies from all over the country. As the New York Times writer put it in the pre-ball wrap-up on the morning of February 10:

… I know of cases where family jewels and other finery have been drafted in the service from friends East, West, and South. You know some of the old Southern families, especially in Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia, have very valuable gems and heirlooms that date back to Colonial days, and they managed to preserve them during the dreadful times of the war. Now some of our Four Hundred folks, in days gone by, have been on such intimate terms with their Southern friends, and have managed to entertain them so handsomely, that it comes hard to refuse when they make special requests for loans of their treasures. Some of the old Oglethorpe gems from Georgia, and the Fairfax gems from Virginia, and a lot of rare old bracelets and brooches from Savannah will figure in the Bradley Martin pageant, and go to swell Gotham’s reputation for antique gems. It’s just dreadful to think of the way some of these guests will flash and strut in borrowed plumage of all sorts, family heirlooms they never had the least right or title to wear in public.

They also raided all the antique jewelry shops in the Big Apple, as described by this Times writer:

There is no estimating the value of the rare old jewels to be worn at the Bradley Martin ball. All the jewelers who deal in antiques say they have been cleaned out of all they had on hand, and people still keep calling for old buckles, snuff boxes, lorgnettes, diamond or pearl studded girdles, rings, and, in fact, every conceivable decoration in gems.

All this, of course, is outside of the costly jewels held as heirlooms by the old families of New York. These have been taken from safety vaults and furbished up for the occasion in such quantities that the spectator will be puzzled to know where they all came from.

But how else do you impersonate European royalty if you haven’t got a huge amount of bling?!  Among the women there were at least 50 Marie Antionettes present that evening, 10 Madame Pompadours, 8 Madame De Manintenons (second wife of the Sun King), 3 Catherine the Greats, 1 Queen Louise of Prussia (1600s), and countless other queens, princesses, and other assorted royalty.  Sample:

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(That last photo is of John Jacob Astor, who died in the Titanic tragedy.)

Obviously, the unwashed masses of New York were not afforded even a tiny glimpse of all these goodies. Guests were driven right up to the doors of the Waldorf and whisked right in. They either had cloaks on covering their lavish costumes and all their bling, or brought in trunks with what they needed, and used dressing rooms in the hotel to bedeck themselves. No, you couldn’t peek in a window or a door either. The Waldorf arranged to board up all the windows of the first and second floor.

You couldn’t even get close to the building without an invite that night. Teddy Roosevelt (who was president of the board of police commissioners at the time) stationed something like 200 police around the building and lining the sidewalks, ordered the street barricaded in front of the hotel, and positioned “ten of his tallest men” on either side of the walk guests would have to take from the curb to the doorway.

‘Twould seem to be that all this was because there was kind of a gut feeling in New York that just maybe the starving masses might not be too impressed with such an extravagant display of excess flaunted right in the middle of their abject misery.

There was a lot of grumbling in editorials in some papers across the country about how arrogant and thoughtless and lacking in discretion such a blatant display of excess of greed and conspicuous consumption was in the midst of the economic desperation of so many. But the poor themselves just went right on starving meekly and quietly. There was no protest on the streets at all.

(But of course…this was before the Russian Revolution…)

The Evening World newspaper back then mentioned how $10,000 (in 1897 dollars) could be used. (Multiply each of these examples by 35 or so to arrive at how far the cost of the Bradley-Martin ball…$350,000 in 1897 dollars…could have gone if spent elsewhere.) …

$10,000 could pay the average wages of eighteen New York workingmen for a year, pay the average wages of 6,240 workingmen for a day; support a family at average workingmen’s wages for fifteen years; … buy half a ton of coal each for 7,000 families…

American Royalty were very accustomed to the American Peons mostly starving meekly and quietly throughout the Gilded Age (which lasted from about 1870 to the early 1900s.) So one would not expect their complacency to change much from the time of the Bradley-Martin Ball up through the entry of the US into the World War in 1917. Oh, there was the occasional strike against some factory…occasionally stopped by the National Guard being called in and maybe killing a few strikers…or their family members. But those were isolated incidents. Nothing to worry about.

But then, in 1917, the Russians revolted against their county’s royalty and aristocracy, and Tsar Nicholas abdicated his throne, making the headlines in New York. And no doubt making a lot of American Royalty and Aristocracy nervous.

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And then the Bolsheviks in Russia killed Tsar Nicholas in 1918. At that point nervousness intensified into anxiety in many US circles.

It didn’t take long for the Bolsheviks in the United States to become big news, dominating American newspaper articles and editorial cartoons. Like this one in the November 1, 1919 New York Evening Telegram.

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Or this one from the June 15, 1919 New York Times.

 

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The First Red Scare had begun. This is where we will pick up the winding thread that will meander through the subsequent century, leading eventually to the incredible situation of a huge proportion of (white) American Evangelical Christians supporting for president a boorish, trash-talking Billionaire with a reputation for flagrant immorality. In an election under the shadow of strange rumblings from Communist Russia!

The next installment of this series:

 

Boston Bolsheviks?

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A Closer Look At Some Not-So-Happy Days

Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 17

A Closer Look At Some Not-So-Happy Days

This is Part 17 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary
that can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on
information, concepts, and commentary introduced in earlier entries in the series,
and thus it is most effective to read the material sequentially from the beginning.

Click here to go to the first entry in the series, Part 1

 

joe1

Russian Atomic Bomb Test: “Joe-1”

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Headlines: September 23, 1949

“Now that Russia has the atomic bomb,
the world is in an armament race driving us to destruction.”

Billy Graham, Los Angeles Crusade, September/October 1949

Headlines about the explosion of the first Russian atomic bomb reached the American public on September 23, 1949. Fortuitously, Billy Graham started the first big Crusade of his career just two days later, in Los Angeles, California.

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Billy lost no time in appropriating the Russian menace into his Crusade sermons. If some unconverted folks in his audience had been carelessly thinking they had plenty of time in life to “get right with the Lord,” he made sure they understood that their time for dilly-dallying had been cut short. The world might go up in smoke any time now.

Economic Fears

As noted in earlier entries in this blog series, Corporate America had been organizing efforts since the 1930s to somehow mesh their own interests with the interests of religion in America. By 1949 they had been attempting for close to two decades to convince pastors across the nation, and evangelists like Billy, to promote to their flocks the notion that totally unfettered Capitalism was the Bible Way of economics. And that Capitalism and Christianity hand in hand were the key elements to true American Patriotism. They had long been trying to press this point by continual attacks on the New Deal programs and policies that had been instituted by Franklin Roosevelt.

Billy Graham had been an easy target to convince, and he had absorbed the Corporate message practically into his pores. One London newspaper dubbed him “The Big Business Evangelist” in the 1950s. Billy regularly renounced any government restrictions or interference in economic affairs as being “socialism.”

There was just one problem with this emphasis on the New Deal in October 1949. The Bomb. Russia Had The Bomb! And while Crusade audiences might have been expected to be intrigued by rants against government programs that smelled of “creeping socialism,” who had time to care about socialism when the specter of nuclear annihilation hovered over America once Russia Had The Bomb?

Most people born in the 1970s or later have a very dim idea of just HOW pervasive and intense concern was about The Bomb in the 1950s and early 1960s. It’s not something you hear much about in nostalgia regarding those allegedly Happy Days. Richie Cunningham and The Fonz never talked about the bomb.

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Danny and Sandy and their friends in the Grease movie never sat around discussing the bomb.

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Andy and Barney and Gomer never fretted over The Bomb in Mayberry.

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Yes, if you believed the nostalgia promoted on-screen about the 50s and early 60s, you’d never know The Bomb existed.

But it did. As you will see from this plaintive teen love ballad of that era.

“Fallout Shelter”

Singer: Billy Chambers    Composer: Bobby Braddock
Year: 1962

Lyrics:

Mom and Dad and I were getting ready for the game
I couldn’t play tonight, you know, my leg’s still kinda lame
And then I heard my mother call out our Savior’s name
I looked to the east and the sky was filled with flames

Then Dad said don’t worry, we don’t have to be scared
We’ve got our new fallout shelter waitin’ for us there
When I told Dad I’d go get you, he said don’t you dare
There’s no room for your girl, son, that just wouldn’t be fair

Refrain:
I’d rather die with you than live without you
And I hope that you feel the same.

Then I thought of all the happy times that we had spent together
And the way we pledged our love to each other forever
Could I be there in that shelter with you out here
Rather than hold you in my arms? No, my darlin’, never

Old Uncle Ben, everybody’s friend, sits in there with his gun
The streets are all deserted now, did you see those people run?
You hold my hand, I understand the sickness has begun
And if we live or if we die our hearts will beat as one.

Refrain:
I’d rather die with you than live without you
And I hope that you feel the same.

 

A while back I discovered a website called “Atomic Platters” that features Nuclear Bomb-themed music from the Cold War era, with history and commentary about the items featured.

atomicplatters

Here’s what that Atomic Platters site had to say about Fallout Shelter by Billy Chambers. (There were other songs by the same name.)

Pop culture historians and music scholars have long noted that the so-called teenage ‘death’ songs of the late 1950s and early 1960s (1959’s Teen Angel, 1960’s Tell Laura I Love Her, 1962’s Patches, etc.) were, in effect, allegorical Bomb songs. These dire, yet catchy songs about train accidents, car wrecks and double suicides channeled the atomic angst of America’s youth into mainstream hit singles.

The unforgettable 1962 release Fallout Shelter takes a more direct approach in conveying the fears of teenagers everywhere over nuclear annihilation. Its melodramatic storyline of a boy who wants to share his family’s shelter with his girlfriend and his father’s intervention is a perfect blending of elements from the overt and the allegorical/subtle Bomb song.

And with the tune’s lyrics about radiation sickness and fire-filled skies some might argue that the subtle route would have been the more profitable one. But then this particular non-charting record was written by a 21-year-old man who was more obsessed with impending hydrogen doom then he was in cracking the Top 40.

However, Bobby Braddock, the songwriter and producer of Fallout Shelter, admitted in an interview that drugs may have exacerbated his World War III mania: “To be very candid, I was a musician going through serious psychological problems due to an overdose of speed [amphetamine] at the time and I was quite paranoid; I had tried to talk my parents into having a fallout shelter built—I remember we went to a place that built them and looked at their model.”

A secondary, non-amphetamine induced inspiration for his song, according to Braddock, was a 1961 episode of the ‘The Twilight Zone’ (The Shelter) in which a false attack alert throws a small community into chaos with a neighbor’s shelter becoming a flashpoint of mob violence.

Not familiar with that classic T-Zone episode? Here’s a brief overview of the plot.

The Shelter

Season 3, episode 68, aired 9/29/61

It is a typical evening in a typical suburban community. At the residence of physician Bill Stockton, he enjoys a birthday party being thrown for him by his wife Grace and their son Paul. Also at the party are Jerry Harlowe, Bill’s brother-in-law; Frank Henderson and Marty Weiss, Bill and Jerry’s former roommates; and the wives and children of Jerry, Frank and Marty. Bill is well-known and liked by this gathering; he attended the State University with Marty, Frank and Jerry. Moreover, Bill has repeatedly administered to the health and well being of each one of said guests, and/or delivered their children. Everyone is especially friendly and jovial, even when mention is made of Bill’s late-night work on a fallout shelter which he has built in his basement. Suddenly, a Civil Defense (CONELRAD) announcement overheard by young Paul, is made that unidentified objects have been detected heading for the United States. In these times, everybody knows what that means: nuclear attack.

As panic ensues, the doctor locks himself and his family into his shelter.

twi1

The same gathering of friends becomes hysterical and now wants to occupy the shelter. All of the previous cordiality is now replaced with soaring desperation; pent-up hostility, searing racism and other suppressed emotions boil to the surface. Stockton offers his basement to the guests, but the shelter itself has sufficient air, provisions and space for only three people (the Stocktons themselves). The once-friendly neighbors don’t accept this; they break down the shelter door with an improvised battering ram.

twi2

Just then, a final Civil Defense broadcast announces that the objects have been identified as harmless satellites and that no danger is present. The neighbors apologize for their behavior; yet Stockton wonders if they have not destroyed each other – and themselves – without a bomb.

twi3

This theme of violence and shelters didn’t show up just in drama and popular music:

Gun Thy Neighbor

Following President John F. Kennedy’s Berlin crisis speech on July 25, 1961 that featured prominent and alarming references to nuclear war and civil defense, the topic of shelter morality entered the national discussion. Indeed, Time magazine published a remarkable article entitled “Gun Thy Neighbor” in its August 18, 1961 edition that reflected hard-line attitudes on shelter defense. One quote in the story came from an unnamed Chicago suburbanite:

“When I get my shelter finished, I’m going to mount a machine gun at the hatch to keep neighbors out if the bomb falls. I’m deadly serious about this. If the stupid American public will not do what they have to to save themselves, I’m not going to run the risk of not being able to use the shelter I’ve taken the trouble to provide to save my own family.”

The Time article concludes with quotes from a gaggle of religious representatives (two Lutherans, an Episcopalian, a Methodist, a Catholic and a Baptist) opining on the morality of shelter defense. With one exception, pacifism was the standard line coming from these holy men.

However, a few weeks later, another holy man weighed in with an opposing viewpoint on the pages of the Jesuit magazine, America (National Catholic Weekly Review). In fact, Father L.C. McHugh’s opinion piece (“Ethics at the Shelter Doorway,” America, September 30, 1961) cites the Time article as his impetus for writing.

1961mchugh

Father McHugh took particular exception to the following quote in the Time story from the Reverend Hugh Saussy of the Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia: “If someone wanted to use the shelter, then you yourself should get out and let him use it. That’s not what would happen, but that’s the strict Christian application.”

Father McHugh belittles the moralist argument against defending one’s shelter in his piece and asserts that “unjust aggressors” should be “repelled by whatever means will effectively deter their assault.” Ironically, the editors of the magazine sought to soften the priest’s uncompromising position on shelter defense by offering this ridiculous and baseless line in the accompanying writer’s biography: “Our guess is that Fr. McHugh would be the first to step aside from his own shelter door, yielding space to his neighbor.”

(I’m suspicious those editors were mistaken. Have a listen to a short clip from Father McHugh from back then…who, if he were still alive, would no doubt be very enthusiastic about the rise of “Stand Your Ground” laws in the land…)

 

Coincidentally, the night before the publication date of Father McHugh’s controversial article, the CBS television network broadcast the famous episode of The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling entitled “The Shelter.” This harrowing story about a homeowner locking his frenzied neighbors out of his shelter after an announced UFO sighting crystallized the shelter debate better than a thousand dueling op-ed pieces. And, in true Serling fashion, it is the behavior of the whole human race, not just the shelter owner and his neighbors, that wind up looking bad.

Father McHugh’s article spurred the shelter debate further and various newspaper articles commented on his unlikely position. In a September 27, 1961 New York Times piece by John Wicklein the paper called upon Rabbi Herbert Brichto, a professor of the Bible at the Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion for an opinion the America magazine article. Rabbi Brichto responded that “…preparation for an atomic war, such as building fall-out shelters, is immoral. The moral thing is not to prepare for survival of a fraction of the human race, but to put all our efforts into avoiding such a catastrophe.”

And Time magazine re-entered the fray in their October 20, 1961 issue by quoting a rebuttal to McHugh’s position from Washington, D.C.-based Episcopal Bishop Angus Dun: “I do not see how any Christian conscience can condone a policy which puts a supreme emphasis on saving your own skin without regard to the plight of your neighbor. Justice, mercy and brotherly love do not cease to operate, even in the final apocalypse.”

So well publicized was Father McHugh’s article that even Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy referenced the priest in an internal White House policy discussion on the issue of private versus public shelters. In Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s JFK administration memoir, A Thousand Days (Houghton Mifflin, 1965, page 749), RFK is quoted as saying in a forlorn voice, “There’s no problem here — we can just station Father McHugh with a machine gun at every shelter.”

According to Schlesinger and other sources, it was during the McHugh-inflamed controversy that President Kennedy opted for shifting the administration’s support toward public shelters. Private shelters were never outright discouraged, but it was in late 1961 that the first iconic yellow and black National Fallout Shelter Signs started appearing on public buildings. The debate was effectively over.

 sheltersign

Since little tots of five and six and seven years old weren’t likely to be either watching Twilight Zone on TV or listening to Teen Death Songs on the radio, you might think they were spared from noticing the gradually increasing angst over The Bomb that started with Russia setting off Joe-1 in 1949.

You would think wrong. The Authorities just “came at” America’s youngest set a bit differently with Atomic concerns.

If you grew up in the 1950s, you’d be well familiar with lots of cartoon characters, from the cartoon shorts at the theater that preceded the movies. There would be Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and many more.

looney

And, in fact, your own grandchildren would be likely familiar with these same exact characters. There are seldom any Looney Tunes shorts being played before movies these days, but the Looney crowd has made their fortune on TV and in feature films in recent decades.

But if you are a Baby Boomer “Child of the 50s,” like me (I was born in 1946), there is one cartoon character you may remember, that neither your children nor grandchildren have ever heard of. He had a very short heyday—only one “starring role.” He was Bert the Turtle.

bertposter

No, Bert didn’t star on the big screen. Nor on TV. He starred in a 1952 film (and related comic book) that was instead played on 16mm projectors in classrooms all across America, teaching little kids what to do if they were faced with a nuclear attack by America’s enemies on our own turf.

bertvarietyad

bertfilmad

In the film, Bert, an anthropomorphic turtle who walks on his hind legs, is harassed by a cheerful, naughty monkey who keeps trying to catch Bert out of his shell and explode a firecracker right in his face.  But Bert keeps spotting the danger in time. As soon as he does, he “ducks” by dropping down to all fours, and then “covers” by pulling his head and legs into his shell. And Bert’s urgent admonition to the kiddies watching is to “Duck and Cover” themselves if they see the flash of a nuclear bomb, or hear a siren warning one is coming. If you want to take the time, you can see in Bert in action in his 10 minute film, still available on Youtube.

 

Bert was part of an effort by the Federal Government to provide “emergency preparedness” information to the public as part of the Civil Defense program spawned by the US-Russia arms race. Under this program, the average American, from Kindergartener to Senior Citizen, was encouraged to take an active part in dealing with the Threat of Nuclear War. Kids were taught that their main responsibility for preparation was to learn to duck and cover. If they were at school when an attack came, they were to Duck under their desks, and Cover their heads.

kidsunderdesks

As you can see in the picture below, some younger students didn’t quite “get it” without a lot of practice.

kidnotunderdesk

There was one other thing some could do to be even more prepared. I didn’t know about this until a few years ago when I was sorting through the belongings of my late mother in law after her death. She was a packrat who kept just about every scrap of paper that entered her house, and a whole lot more. In among the boxes of clutter I found the following little gem.

geodogtag

This was the card that came with my husband George’s dog tag.  No, he was never in the armed forces. And besides, at the time this card was issued by his grade school in Lansing, Michigan, he was likely only 8 years old or so.

Instead, these were dog tags issued by many schools around the country in the early-to-mid-1950s to all students. The tag bore their name, year of birth, blood type and Rh blood factor, a “religious code,” and an “individual identification number” issued to them by the company providing these tags. The tags were to be worn ALL THE TIME by the children on a chain around their neck, just like Army personnel. And for the same purpose as men on active duty overseas in war zones … identification of an injured or dead body! If the Big Bomb went off and ducking and covering didn’t work, rescue workers would be able to identify the injured student and know what blood type to give, or if the child was closer to Ground Zero, searchers days or weeks later could identify the charred remains. (And know what kind of religious funeral to give the body.)

There were lots of other little daily life hints that kept the nuclear threat before the public, from tots to senior citizens.

For instance, starting in 1953, the AM station dial on every radio produced in America (including vehicle radios) had odd little triangle marks—just after the number 6 and the number 12. Like these…

conelrad3

conelrad2

conelrad4

conelrad5

conelrad1

Early in the “Cold War”, there was concern that enemy bombers could simply home in on American cities by tuning in to specific broadcast radio and television transmitters. At the time, certain 50 kilowatt AM broadcast stations were still clear channel, the only stations in the nation at night on specific frequencies.

The 1951 solution to the problem was called Conelrad which stood for CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation. Conelrad was “devised to provide radio communications in a national emergency while denying enemy bombers the use of radio beams as an aid in finding targets. This is accomplished by having television and FM stations cease their regular transmissions and selected AM stations to go to either 640 or 1240 KHz.”

In an alert, with broadcast stations transmitting only on either 640 or 1240 KHz, no directional aid would be available to an enemy bomber. Emergency information for the public would be broadcast on those frequencies.

Radios beginning with model year 1953 are marked with little CD triangles at 640 and 1240 on the AM broadcast dial. The CD stood for Civil Defense or Conelrad.

conelrad

(Conelrad was phased out in 1963, replaced by the Emergency Broadcast system.)

Through most of the 1950s, the advice on “duck and cover,” although admitted privately by experts to be very unlikely to provide any real survival benefits in the event of an actual nuclear attack, was drummed into the heads of many school children across the country. The reason? It was part of a goal of the federal government to provide what was described privately among the authorities as “emotion management” to the populace.  It gave children the illusion that there really was something tangible they could do to help themselves in a nuclear attack. And the continual practice sessions for ducking and covering gave them a focus for nervous emotional energy. Thus feelings of anxiety and panic would be minimized.

At first very little was done to help find “things to do” for adults in a similar vein. Although individual “family bomb shelters” were mentioned early on, few people in the early 1950s took the suggestion seriously. But once both the US and Russia had successfully tested thermonuclear H-bombs in the Megaton range, and were obviously planning on continuing their Cold War arms race, the mood changed. In fall 1961, President John Kennedy focused the attention of the entire nation on the idea of Fallout Shelters.

Kennedy on Civil Defense (1961)

In a September letter published in Life magazine, Kennedy advised readers on survival tips. The article entitled “You Could Be Among the 97% to Survive If You Follow Advice in These Pages” was an unrealistic assessment of the likelihood of survival. Kennedy’s science advisers informed him that his analysis would provide false hope, but Kennedy insisted that as long as some were saved, it was worth it.

HE SAID…

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be inhabitable. Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

Despite the unlikely success of the program, Kennedy urged governors to take civil defense seriously and instructed the Pentagon to create a pamphlet discussing the steps to take for survival. In its draft form, its suggestions — just like Kennedy’s article — were unrealistic. Even more troubling, only the affluent were able to build fallout shelters, and newspapers reported on the buildup of weapons among New Jersey and California suburbanites who were preparing to fend off nearby city dwellers from using their shelters.

shelter

Kennedy gave a national speech on the same topic in October, 1961, and only weeks later it became obvious that he needed to be taken seriously.

tsarbomba

1961headlinehbomb

On 10/30/61 the Russians tested the largest nuclear bomb ever exploded (including to this day!), a monster H-bomb nicknamed Tsar Bomba. It exploded with 50 Megatons of force (3,000 times as strong as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima)—and it could have released 100 megatons, but the Russians chose to “power down” the impact before detonating it. (The largest US bomb ever exploded was Castle Bravo, in 1954, with a force of only 15 Megatons.) The mushroom cloud from the Tsar Bomba reached 40 miles high, the flash from the blast could be seen 620 miles away, and the force of the explosion broke window panes farther than 500 miles from the test site where it was detonated.

In the shadow of such an apocalyptic weapon, it didn’t take long for shelter construction to become widespread.

When bomb shelters were all the rage

Civil defense officials talked confidently of group shelters for 50 million people, but in the new suburban communities the nervous were taking survival into their own hands. Bomb shelters costing from $100 to as much as $5,000 for an underground suite with phone and toilet were selling like hotcakes.

Wall Street investors said the bomb shelter business could gross up to $20 billion in the coming years (if there would be coming years).

Survival stores around the nation sold air blowers, filters, flashlights, fallout protection suits, first aid kits and water. General Foods and General Mills sold dry-packaged meals as underground rations.

Families with well stocked shelters lived with the fear that after a nuclear attack they’d be invaded by an army of friends and neighbors who neglected to build bunkers of their own. Many ordered contractors to construct their shelters in the dead of night so nosey neighbors wouldn’t see. One owner assured his neighbor that the bomb shelter he was building was really a wine cellar.

Civil defense films assured the public that simple precautions like walled-off basement corners stocked with two weeks rations and a radio tuned to Conelrad, the new emergency network, would help them survive a nuclear attack. But the government warned that a shoddy homemade shelter could broil its occupants “to a crisp” or squeeze them “like grapefruit.”

magazines

… Major airlines, Detroit automakers, IBM, the phone company and Wall Street planned employee shelters. The Federal Reserve designated banks for postwar check cashing, and a farmer in Iowa built a fallout shelter for 200 cows.

…  A year later, the Cuban Missile Crisis would shove the world to the brink for 13 agonizing days. Newspaper headlines blared warnings of impending annihilation. “Highest Urgency, Kennedy Reports,” “Invasion Possible, Air, Sea and Ground Forces Ordered Out for Maneuvers,” they cried.

But the bomb never dropped.

The world heaved a sigh of relief as the Soviets backed off. And as the immediate peril of nuclear holocaust began to fade, Americans began to accept that fallout shelters probably did little to protect them from nuclear disaster. The backyard bomb shelters became wine cellars, fruit cellars, or just quietly filled up with water.

Government officials acknowledge that over the last several decades they have quietly been discarding nearly a half-century of old foodstuffs and other supplies stocked for survivors of a nuclear war. The olive green canisters of water and food rations stamped with official civil defense markings have been discarded, donated or sold off.

Experts can’t agree on how well these shelters would protect occupants from radiation but they can agree that there were other problems to worry about. Most shelters didn’t have sufficient air-handling devices. Body heat alone could significantly raise the temperature during the two weeks people were told to remain in their bunkers after a blast. Many people could end up dying, not from radiation poisoning, but from old-fashioned heat exhaustion or suffocation.  (Fifties History)

Even the toy-makers of America were in on the “emotion management” movement…check out this 1962 doll house with its very own bomb shelter nestled under the family deck. It came complete with “supplies” painted on the walls, and little plastic cots and other accessories to make it feel just like home.

dollhouse

The theory seemed to be that getting to PLAY “surviving nuclear holocaust” brought the idea down to an emotionally manageable level.

The craze for fallout shelters eventually faded, but before it did, one record company found a way to make some money off the paranoia.

ifthebombfallsrecord

If the Bomb Falls: A Recorded Guide to Survival

 

[ 1961, TOPS Records ]

Released shortly after JFK’s Civil Defense appeal to America in the pages of LIFE magazine, this chilling spoken word LP was issued complete with a bonus insert manual on how to construct a “Family Fallout Shelter.”

SIDE ONE, “What to Do In Case of Nuclear Attack,” opens with a CONELRAD alert signal and is followed by the no-nonsense narration of David Wiley: “The threat of nuclear warfare is a threat to all of us. How can we live with this threat? Our best life insurance may be summed up in four words: Be Alert, Stay Alert. This will take some doing on your part. It will take ingenuity, it will take fervor, it will take the desire to survive. And it need not take a lot of money. All you’ll need is shelter and common sense.”

SIDE TWO, “Supplies Needed for Survival,” offers a litany of items required to wait out World War III: “…cups, napkins, matches, pocket knife, battery-powered radio and extra batteries, human waste can, recreational and spiritual supplies, a bible, books, cards and games…

And here’s where some of the “adult emotion management” came in. For this LP included the following advice:

By all means provide some tranquilizers to ease the strain and monotony of life in a shelter. A bottle of 100 should be adequate for a family of four. Tranquilizers are not a narcotic and are not habit forming. Ask a doctor for his recommendation.”

Although it seems the record company wasn’t quite clear on the concept … for they also added to the angst with some of the ominous wording on the LP. You can download some brief clips at these links:

You’ll Die!!

Just Terror

Tranquilizers

Yes, given the tenor of the times, it would certainly have been understandable that many religious preachers and evangelists of this period would have used the anxiety over Russia attacking America with The Bomb as a “tool of evangelism.” That is what I assumed for a long time.

I assumed wrong.

Oh, I am sure that some fellows did indeed use the specter of a nuclear holocaust as a prod in their preaching at times, especially whenever some big news hit the headlines, like the explosion of the Russian H-bomb. But in my recent research I was startled to discover that a significant proportion of what has seemed in hindsight to be religious fervor of that time, affected by the role of Russia in the Cold War, wasn’t really as a result of fear of Russia’s  bombs.

It was related to Russia, indeed. But not to their bombs. For you see, the Corporate Backers of the move to connect Christianity to corporate interests, to identify True Christian Patriotism with Small Government and Unfettered Capitalism, evidently could not find a way to weave nuclear fears into their plans. So they found a different way to use Russia.

I found that the underpinnings of their efforts show most clearly in a quote from teen-heart-throb singer Pat Boone, in a speech he gave in 1961 (the same year he had a big hit with the novelty song “Speedy Gonzales”.) He obviously had more on his mind some of the time than April Love.

patboonespeedy

 

I would rather see my four daughters blown to heaven in an atomic blast
than caught in the hell of a Communist United States.

And Pat wasn’t speaking of a United States “subjugated through war” by the Russians, part of a Russian Empire led by a Russian totalitarian dictator. You’ll notice he doesn’t even mention Russia by name at all. For, you see, the corporate leaders of America weren’t concerned about the Russian military, or even Russian Communism.

Pat was speaking at a 1961 Anti-Communism convention in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena before a standing-room only crowd of 16,000. The sessions were broadcast on TV to an estimated audience of 3 million.

He and the other speakers at that convention(including Hollywood luminaries such as Roy Rogers and Ronald Reagan)—and their corporate sponsors—were concerned about a “home grown revolution” in the United States that would lead to an American Communist nation. And they managed during that era to so inflame the fears and attitudes of much of “evangelical America” regarding this topic that the fallout (to use a Cold War term…) has continued to this day.

The rallying cry that brought evangelical Americans into the “right wing politics” fold back in the 1950s and early 1960s had nothing to do with the modern outcry against legalized abortion and gay rights. Those issues weren’t a factor in American life in that era. Roe v Wade didn’t legalize abortion until 1973. And gays were almost all still “in the closet” during that era, when even the federal government had a policy of firing any employees who were discovered to be gay.

The rallying cry that brought Religion and Politics together in that era was against what huge numbers of Evangelicals were led to believe was an imminent threat of American democracy being destroyed by an American communist movement.

Now mind you, I was aware of the anti-Communist furor leading up to the Army-McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s. But I must admit I have been very naïve…thinking that this faded with the condemnation of McCarthy by a Senate vote in 1954. I guess I’m not the only one who has been naïve, though. The History Channel website has an overview of the McCarthy Red Scare era, which includes this comment…

“The climate of fear and repression linked to the Red Scare finally began to ease by the late 1950s.”

I have found that this might have been true in some circles in America. But in Evangelical circles and among the politicians and corporate backers who were ready to feed the paranoia of anti-Communist rhetoric to  those religious folks, the climate was just heating up in 1960!

The rallying cry and rhetoric was ultimately wildly successful, and nurtured a relationship that has lasted to the present between many…if not most… Evangelicals, Right Wing politicians, and corporate capitalist interests. A relationship that ultimately played a large part in electing a most decidedly Un-Evangelical man as president in 2016.

More about this coming soon in the next installment of this series:

Threading Our Way Through History

But before you go…here’s a moment of levity to clear your palate of the grimness of the Cold War…

coldwarreenactors

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