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Which may not be a high bar to clear, but still. From Present at the Creation, p. 71.
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It’s 1915, and Josephus Daniels wants you to want a bigger Navy, by exposing you to “the complex life that throbs through our dreadnoughts.”

Here’s a short clip including a submarine going down.

You can take in the whole thing, or at least 11′24″ of it, at the National Film Preservation Foundation.

H.R. 3314, “to provide for the participation of the United States in the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development,” better known as the Bretton Woods Agreements Act, passed the 79th House on June 7, 1945, by a vote of 345-18, and the Senate on July 19, by a vote of 61-16, and was signed into law by Harry Truman on July 31, becoming Public Law 171, cited at 59 Stat. 512.
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I’m teaching progressivism today in introductory US history, so I thought I’d post one of my favorite cartoons of the 1912 campaign.

By E. W. Kemble, from Harper’s Weekly, 9/21/1912, p. 9.

Warsaw, 1938

The Times article on Roman Vishniac’s photographs of Jews in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust (a few days old now) is fascinating. I didn’t know him primarily through A Vanished World, the book that’s now (somewhat) in question. Rather, I knew first his scientific photography, probably through the many back issues of Scientific American lying around the house as I grew up. Then, when I began to look more seriously at general photography, I spent a long time with John Szarkowski’s Looking at Photographs, in which he’s represented by this dramatically suggestive scene.

From Maya Benton’s research, it seems that in composing the book, Vishniac winnowed down the wide variety of pictures he took, to present a vision of Jewish Eastern Europe as old, rural, narrow, timeless; and that he arranged them to illustrate narratives that didn’t really take place. Neither takes away, though, from the strength of individual pictures, especially when the suggestion of narrative within them is as strong and ambiguous as in this one. It looks like the man is telling the girl something, but what? Not exactly welcome news, I think.

Since Ahistoricality asked, some comparisons on late c19 / early c20 levels and growth of per capita GDP.

That’s Germany (DE), United States (US), Britain (UK), Japan (JP), Brazil (BR). Data from Angus Maddison.

Sometimes as historians we have reason to sum up our careers to date and make a projection forward as to what we’re doing next. Here’s mine. I don’t think this will really interest people for discussion, so I’m putting it below the fold by backdating it 72 hours, and people who read the blog on the web probably won’t notice it. Those of you who get these posts on RSS will of course see it presented as if it were fresh and intriguing; sorry about that.

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In 1967, Lyndon Johnson’s Department of Labor issued the “Manpower report of the president”, in keeping with the requirements of the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962 (76 Stat. 23) signed into law by John Kennedy for “making possible the training of the hundreds of thousands of workers who are denied employment because they do not possess the skills required by our constantly changing economy”.

Heading 4 of the introduction to Johnson’s report read, “We Must Make Military Service a Path to Productive Careers”, and underneath that announced,

… the Secretary of Defense has launced ‘Project 100,000’ to accept and train thousands of young men who were previously rejected as unfit for military service. Under this program, 40,000 young men are joining the Armed Forces this year; 100,000 will join next year. All will receive specialized training to help them become good soldiers—and later, productive citizens.1

The men had been “previously rejected as unfit” because they failed the Armed Forces Qualification Test, falling into the fourth of five rating categories. Categories I-III were eligible for military service and Category V was not, but in the considered opinion of the Great Society’s architects, Category IV could be saved—indeed, needed saving. Men falling into Category IV were overwhelmingly poor and from broken homes, half of them with IQs below 85.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then assistant secretary of labor for policy planning, worried that these men suffered “de facto job discrimination” because they could not get into the military, which he saw it as part and parcel of the problems plaguing black America he was also considering.

Given the strains of disorganized and matrifocal family life in which so many Negro youth come of age, the armed forces are a dramatic and desperately needed change; a world away from women, a world run by strong men and unquestioned authority.

Beginning in 1964, the military dipped into Category IV, taking high-school graduates who scored in the top half of the category and then going further, taking high school graduates who scored anywhere in Category IV but could pass a further set of tests. Within two years, the military had dropped its rejection rate from 50% to 34%.

It was, labor secretary Willard Wirtz claimed, “the most important human salvage program in the history of our country”. Defense secretary Robert McNamara touted the advantages to the nation’s “subterranean poor” by bringing them to the “world’s largest educator of skilled men”.

But in 1966, the increased need of men for the army had so grown that even these efforts did not suffice: hence Project 100,000, to rescue as many men from Category IV per year for the military.

It is worth noting here that African Americans seemed largely to believe the administration’s promises. Forty percent of blacks enlisting in 1965 said they were doing it for “self-advancement”, which was more than twice the proportion of whites who made this claim. And Project 100,000’s recruits were 41% black, as against 12% military-wide.

In the event the program did not work well for the advancement of its members. They were supposed to get extra remedial education; only 6% did. But 40% were trained for combat, as against 25% of overall enlisted men. Even if they survived they were three times as likely to go AWOL during basic training as the average soldier, twice as likely to receive an early discharge, and two and a half times as likely to be court-martialed.

In 1970, troop requirements began falling and Project 100,000 numbers with them; the program stopped in 1972.

1Manpower report of the President and a report on manpower requirements, resources, utilization, and training by the United States Department of Labor, transmitted to the Congress April 1967, Serial Set Vol. No. 12789, Session Vol. No.25, 90th Congress, 1st Session, H.Doc. 116, pp. XVII-XVIII.

Other information from Christian Appy, Working-class War and Lawrence Baskir and William Strauss, Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation (New York: Knopf, 1978).

Ted Kennedy’s more-or-less deathbed injunction to Barack Obama:
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In the Report of the Public Lands Commission published 1905, you will find this discreet description of land fraud beginning on page v:

Under the act of June 3, 1878, generally known as the timber and stone act, there has lately been an unusual increase in the number of entries, which can not be accounted for by an increase in the demands of commerce or by any unusual settlement of the localities in which the greater part of the entries were made. … The law was enacted to meet the demands of settlers, miners, and others for timber and stone for building, mining, and other purposes. There is much evidence, however, going to show that many entries have been made for purposes not contemplated by Congress. … The Commission believes that Congress did not intend that this law should be used for the acquisition of large tracts of valuable timber land by individuals or corporations, but it has been used for such purposes. … [M]any of these entries were made by nonresidents of the State in which the land is situated, who could not use the land nor the timber upon it themselves, and it is apparent that they were made for speculative purposes and will eventually follow the course made by many previous similar entries and become part of some large timber holding.1

The Timber and Stone Act was supposed to provide settlers with timber and stone from lands neighboring their claims, offering such lands not suitable for farming for sale in tracts sized up to 160 acres at $2.50 an acre.

Misappropriating timber lands was big business in the Pacific Northwest, involving pillars of the community like Senator John H. Mitchell, and Representatives John Williamson and Binger Hermann, who assisted investors in finding timber lands they might find suitable, whether or not they were entitled to such lands under the Timber and Stone Act.

Under Theodore Roosevelt, agents of the Secret Service—among them, William “Billy” Burns, who would later become a celebrity private detective and be disgraced as director of the Bureau of Investigation for involvement with the Teapot Dome scandal—worked with prosecutor Francis Heney to bring cases against the fraudsters. They obtained a variety of convictions, including Williamson and Mitchell (though not Hermann).

In 1912, applications for pardon in some of the convictions came before the Justice Department headed by George Wickersham for President William Howard Taft. And Taft did indeed issue some pardons, most notably to one Willard Jones:

… [I]t is perfectly clear that his conviction was effected by the most barefaced and unfair use of all the machinery for drawing a jury that has been disclosed to me in all my experience in the Federal court. It gives sufficient reason to justify the pardon of Mr. Jones, as well as the condemnation of the methods of Mr. Heney and Mr. Burns. …

Sincerely yours,

Wm. H. Taft

Now, astute readers will have thought, as indeed Congressman Israel Foster mildly says here, “1912 was the year there was quite a contest between Taft and Roosevelt, was there not?”

His interlocutor rather hilariously replies, “I do not recall.” Indeed, it was an unprecedentedly and unrepeatedly epic contest. And Theodore Roosevelt, bitter to the last about its outcome, wrote in his Autobiography,

One [sic] of the most conspicuous of the men whom they had succeeded in convicting was pardoned by President Taft—in spite of the fact that the presiding Judge, Judge Hunt, had held that the evidence amply warranted the conviction, and had sentenced the man to imprisonment. As was natural, the one hundred and forty-six land-fraud defendants in oregon, who included the foremost machine political leaders in the State, furnished the backbone of the opposition to me in the Presidential contest of 1912. … [H]alf of the delegates elected from Oregon under instructions to vote for me, sided with my opponents in the National Convention—and as regards some of them I became convinced that the mainspring of their motive lay in the intrigue for securing the pardon of certain of the men whose conviction Heney had secured.

In fact, the Republican National Convention was held just the week after Jones’s pardon—though Taft’s review of the cases extended well into late 1912.

So here’s the mystery: was Roosevelt’s belief that the pardons were politically motivated a correct one? On Roosevelt’s side, the timing is interesting. And most of the time I side with the sentiment of Thomas Gore—”I much prefer the strenuosity of Roosevelt to the sinuosity of Taft”—even if I have a hard time associating that much adiposity with a characteristic sinuosity.

On Taft’s side, Billy Burns was not known for observing the niceties when dealing with juries. And generally, one suspects Taft took the law pretty seriously. Still, you never can tell.

Or maybe you can: does someone know all about this, and I just haven’t seen it?

1Report of the Public Lands Commission with appendix. Serial Set vol. no. 4766, session vol. no. 4. 58th Congress, 3rd session. S.Doc 189.

See also John Messing, “Public Lands, Politics, and Progressives: The Oregon Land Fraud Trials, 1903-1910,” Pacific Historical Review 35, no. 1 (February 1966):35-66.

Atrios points us to this Times article, by Jennifer Steinhauer, on the foreclosure crisis in Moreno Valley, out by Redlands in the Inland Empire. It’s inhibited by conventions of the genre, and the interviews seem only to have gone so far, but it’s suggestive — it sketches a picture of the community that took root on one street during the boom years, and the strains that were put on it by the bust.

The neighborly virtues of mutual consideration and assistance seem, in this telling, to go hand in hand with wealth, or with the exclusion of those whose wealth isn’t above a certain bar. For the established residents, moving into this neighborhood, ten years ago, was a move up, and a move away from rougher neighborhoods (El Monte, for example). And as foreclosure pushes some of them out, and the prices of the vacated houses fall to 1989 levels, they seem to fear that rough neighbors like the ones they moved away from (South LA is mentioned) may move in.

It’s possible that this element in the story is due to Steinhauer’s spin. Her concrete examples turn out to be a little more complex: for example, the line “I didn’t get this house that I paid a lot of money for to be next to a mechanic” is spoken by one of the new neighbors about one of the old ones, who’s fixing up cars to get by after losing his job. (And in context, it seems she’s objecting to being next to the auto work, not his person.) But the story left me gloomy again about our national inability to live with each other. A decent built and human environment is a right, and it’s one we generally deny to those who can’t pay a lot for it — true I think even if inadequately supported in this case.

Speaking of cowboy culture, here’s a chart of the murder rate in the US for most of the twentieth century.1

Douglas Eckberg presents the revised series because the early Census data under-reported homicides and didn’t cover the whole US; Eckberg’s estimates probably provide a more accurate picture of the murderous early c20.

The numbers indicate something long remarked on but little explained. Here’s Richard Hofstadter in his introduction to American Violence:

For the long span from about 1938 to the mid-1960’s, despite the external violence of World War II and the Korean War, the internal life of the country was unusually free of violent episodes. Industrial violence and lynching had almost disappeared. Rioting in the cities—despite the Harlem riot of 1935, the Detroit riot of 1943, and the Los Angeles zoot-suit riot of the same year—occurred less often than in many past periods. Americans who came of age during and after the 1930’s found it easy to forget how violent a people their forebears had been.

Later in the chapter, Hofstadter speculates as to why the US has a history of violence but little memory of it:

… one is impressed that most American violence—and this also illuminates its relationship to state power—has been initiated with a “conservative” bias. It has been unleashed against abolitionists, Catholics, radicals, workers and labor organizers, Negroes, Orientals, and other ethnic or racial or ideological minorities, and has been used ostensibly to protect the American, the Southern, the white Protestant, or simply the established middle-class way of life and morals. A high proportion of our violent actions has thus come from the top dogs or the middle dogs. Such has been the character of most mob and vigilante movements. This may help to explain why so little of it has been used against state authority, and why in turn it has been so easily and indulgently forgotten. Our new concern about violence today is, among other things, a response to a sharp increase in its volume, but it is also a response to its shifting role. Violence has now become, to a degree unprecedented in the United States, the outgrowth of forcible acts by dissidents and radicals who are expressing hostility to middle-class ways and to established power.

Hofstadter was writing in 1970, when he observed and worried about increased enthusiasm for violence on the left. I do not think this lasted much longer than 1970, yet the murder rate stayed pretty high afterward.

1From Historical Statistics of the US, series Ec190-191.

A number of people asked in comments to “Schooling” if the pattern shown for migrants out of the South wouldn’t be about the same for the rest of the country. I said “no”, but I couldn’t leave it alone. And since AWC didn’t take the bait when I offered to send him data, I did some figuring myself.

Does the pattern of education for all migrants look like the pattern for migrants out of the South? For this we use the same definition of migrants—recent (within the last five years) migrants across state lines, age 26 or older; nonmigrants defined as people over the age of 26 who live in the same house as they did five years ago.

So the pattern is different. Completion of 8th grade is more common among nonmigrants than among migrants.

What about migrants to the South? Here we look at people born in the non-South, resident in the South, over the age of 26, who moved across state lines within the last five years versus people born in the non-South, resident in the same house as five years ago, over the age of 26.

Here again, the pattern is different from migration out of the South and more like the overall pattern of interstate migration.

I guess I’d go so far as to say, for black people leaving the South, any further level of education completed was a spur to leave the South, the reasons for which are probably too obvious to state. Whereas for other interstate migrants, you’re looking at a premium on higher levels of education completed.

Oh, one more point: racial composition. Southern-born persons 26 or older resident in the non-South who moved across state lines within the previous five years are around 76 percent white, 24 percent black. Persons 26 or older who moved across state lines within the previous five years are around 94 percent white, 6 percent black. Persons 26 or older who moved across state lines within the previous five years, born in the non-South, resident in the South, are around 98 percent white and 2 percent black. And in the 1940 Census there were about 394,000 southern-born recent migrants 26 or older recorded as living in the non-South and about 314,000 non-southern-born recent migrants 26 or older recorded as living in the South.

Did education lead to a brain drain in the Jim Crow South? There’s considerable anecdotal evidence that it did, often focusing on college education.1 Can’t keep ’em down on the farm once they’ve been to an ag. school.

I wondered if it would be possible to have a slightly more systematic go at this question, looking at all levels of education, using IPUMS.

The 1940 census asked people if they’d moved across state lines within the last five years. Suppose you look at people born in the South, resident outside the South, who’d moved across state lines in the past five years, over the age of 26—you’d mainly be looking at people who had moved out of the South after completing their education, wouldn’t you? I think so. Anyway, that’s what the graphs show, with migrants defined as “moved across state lines to a state in the non-South within the last five years”, divided into white and black.

And, what you see is consistent with the idea that education provided a greater impetus to move than to stay put, particularly completion of 8th grade or 12th grade. What you see is also consistent with education providing a much greater impetus for black people to move than for white people.

Which is perhaps not surprising, but nice to see it laid out.

1See e.g. James N. Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 36-37.

Thanks to Kieran for helping me make the graphs non-ugly.

Whatever one’s overall opinion of Jefferson the man and Jefferson the president, he could write. Here he is at work, with his strikeouts shown in parentheses:

they are permitting their (sovereign) chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our (own) common blood but Scotch & foreign mercenaries to (destroy us) invade and deluge us in blood. (this is too much to be borne even by relations. enough then be it to say, we are now done with them.) these facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, & manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these unfeeling brethren! we must endeavor to forget our former love for them and to hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. we might have been a (great) free & a (happy) great people together, but a communicat(ed)ion of (happiness) [g]randeur & of (grandeur) freedom it seems is be(neath)low their dignity. (we will climb then the roads to glory & happiness apart) be it so, since they will have it: the road to (glory &) (to) happiness & to glory is open to us too, we will climb it (in a separate state) apart from them & acquiesce in the necessity which (pro) denounces our (everlasting Adieu) eternal separation. (these facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, & manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these unjust) (unfeeling) (brethren.)

Notice how happiness gets struck, and struck, and finally lands in its spot next to glory. I’m especially taken by the struck sentiment, “this is too much to be borne even by relations”. Nice thought for a holiday weekend.


Ars Technica has a post summarizing Kodak’s decision to end sales of Kodachrome after 74 years because, basically, “not enough people are shooting KODACHROME for us to continue offering it.” In 1935 the film offered casual photographers the ability to take snapshots in color—to indulge that “twinge in your heart more powerful than memory alone,” as Don Draper says; it “takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”
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It’s a great irony (perhaps sufficiently remarked on by historians, perhaps not) that one of the principal architects of the American West was a Vermonter—Justin Smith Morrill. I just came across a Morrill item that—unusually, as I do not think he was much for humor—made me smile, just a little.

Perkins, Stern sent Morrill “by Express … four cases of our wines, which we beg you to accept”—why? Because they had “noticed the very sensible and praiseworthy position, which you have taken upon the taxation of American wines.”

Morrill replied, “Now, I want some California wine, though not quite so much as 4 cases just now, but I am quite able to pay for all I need and I cannot accept of any [sic] wine from you in view of your interests and the positions I hold. If, however, you will send me a bill of the wine forwarded, at your usual prices, I will take it, and at once remit the amount…. Of course I think we ought and can largely increase the California wines and the best way to do that is to make them better and cheaper in our markets than similar foreign wines.”

Correspondence from the Morrill papers, December 1865.

Tone matrix. (Sound; NSFW.)

From W.A.P. Martin, a minister and participant in the siege of Beijing:

“On reaching New York in the actual costume which I wore during the siege, I called a boy to carry my packages, my son Newell having gone to the wrong station to meet me.

As I was carrying a gun, the lad remarked: ‘You must have been hunting somewhere?’

‘Yes,’ said I, “in Asia, beyond the sea.’

‘What kind of game?’ he inquired.

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Simply too good not to share:

Let those who are inclined to cavil at the new role of the country in the world’s affairs remember that the moment is rapidly approaching, if it has not already arrvied, when the future of the world’s civilization will be at stake. Will it be a world in which the English-speaking, with its high standard of life and liberty, will prevail; or a world in which the despot and the slave–shall we leave out the ‘e’ and call it Slav?–will dictate the future of the spheres?

From Leslie’s Weekly, August 11, 1900. Quoted in William Duiker, Cultures in Collision: The Boxer Rebellion (San Rafael, Calif. Presidio, 1978): 92.

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