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The US to the CRASH of 1929 (1 of 10)

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The United States to 1929

Postwar Unrest | Black Migrations, Riots and Repression | Reds, Raids and Vigilantes | Wilson Loses His Treaty and League of Nations | Good Times under Harding | Sports, Entertainment and Morality | The Ku Klux Klan and Others | Prosperity and the Coolidge Years | Economic Dislocation | Optimism and the Market Crash

Th Klan in Washington CDE
Striving for purity, with the US capital dome barely visible in the background.

Postwar Unrest

In the spring and summer of 1919, soldiers home from Europe paraded through New York and other major US cities. They had come home to prohibition, inflation, labor unrest and fear of Bolshevism. And they helped in creating a baby boom – well-timed for war two decades later.

At the close of World War I, President Wilson ended price and profit controls, and prices soared, the price index at the end of 1919 twice what it had been in 1916. With the decline in production of arms, factories dismissed workers. Strikes occurred in the coal, steel, railway and textile industries. And in the Pacific Northwest, a labor movement called the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or the Wobblies, were participating in strikes and looking forward to the establishment of "one big union" and the creation of a worker-run democracy. A major grievance among workers across the nations was the length of the work week. Many were working twelve hours per day.

In extent and depth, frustration in the United States was far from what it had been in Russia just prior to the overthrow of the tsar or the Bolshevik Revolution. The United States emerged from the war richer than when it went in. It had gained in the sale of arms and other goods to Europe, with the nation's entrepreneurs having captured markets that had belonged to Britain and others who were diminishing themselves economically during the war. But the war ended with many Americans fearing that just around the corner in their nation might be a Bolshevik-style revolution.

In the US, anarchist activities helped fuel fears and animosity toward all radicals and labor unionists – with many Americans failing to see a distinction between Marxists, anarchists and organized labor. Anarchists sent bombs in the mail. In April 1919, a bomb arrived at the home of the mayor of Seattle. A similar package went to the home of a former senator from Georgia, which blew off the hands of his maid. Sixteen unexploded bombs were found, then eighteen more which were timed for May Day, the day of celebration for labor. One of the bombs targeted John D. Rockefeller. On June 2 within one hour a series of bombs went off in eight different cities. One of the bombs shattered the home of the Wilson's "progressive" Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer. And in newspapers were headlines about the bombings and descriptions of Bolshevik intrigues around the world and Communist attempts at revolution in Germany.


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