Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920

Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920

Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920

Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920

Synopsis

Contemporary America began in the first two decades of this century. These were the years in which two of our greatest presidents-- Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson--transformed the office into the center of power; in which the United States entered the world stage and fought its first overseas war; in which the government's proper role in the economy became a public question; and in which reform became an imperative for muckraking reporters, progressive politicians, social activists, and writers.

Excerpt

For the United States, the first two decades of the twentieth century marked a turning point. During these twenty years a political, economic, social, and cultural agenda was set that still dominates American life as we enter the century's final decade. To begin to grasp the pivotal character of this era, one need only recall certain salient facts about the United States in 1900. The airplane had not yet been invented, nor had radio, much less television. Automobiles were few and expensive, and there were no paved roads. In the development of nuclear energy, only the most basic discoveries had occurred and only the first tentative theories were being advanced. In 1900, women could vote in only four states. Throughout the entire period, black Americans suffered segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement, racist political demagoguery, and racial violence that nearly always went unpunished and often won applause from whites. The United States Army in 1900 numbered fewer than 100,000 officers and enlisted men (and, except for nurses, who held separate and lower ranks, no women). The United States Navy in 1900, though modem in equipment, ranked far behind the navies of Great Britain and Germany in size and firepower.

Two decades later, the airplane had proven itself as a weapon of war and was about to be launched as a means of civilian transportation. As "wireless telegraphy," radio had long since become a major medium of communication and was now transmitting the sound of the human voice, making it a potential medium of information and entertainment as well. Automobile manufacturing had mushroomed into one of the nation's biggest businesses, and over a million cars and trucks traveled thousands of miles of asphalt and concrete roads through cities, towns, and even the countryside. Discoveries in electromagnetism and radia-

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