U.S. Department of State: A Reference History

By Elmer Plischke | Go to book overview

6
United States Becomes a Superpower -- Expansion, Reorganization, and Career Consolidation, 1914-1945

The years from 1913 to April 1945 proved to be a critical period of U.S. development and involvement in world affairs, which launched what has been called "the American Century" and the era of "the new diplomacy" and which affected the organization, management, and functioning of the Department of State and the conduct of diplomacy in many ways. By way of background, the American population grew by nearly 40 percent, including an estimated 10 million new immigrants (although this represented a declining rate of admissions). Agricultural and industrial production and foreign trade increased, and by the early 1920s the United States became both a leading economic power and the principal international creditor nation. As American trade expanded, the Department of State shifted from concluding conditional to unconditional mostfavored-nation commercial treaties and agreements.

But the stock market crash of October 1929, followed by the Great Depression, affected foreign trade and resulted in increased tariffs (evidenced by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930) and eventually, in a series of new reciprocal trade agreements. The changing financial and economic status of the United States was reflected in the creation of the Federal Reserve system in 1913 and the dropping of the gold standard and launching of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal twenty years later. During World War II, however, the United States became the principal supplier of both the anti-Axis Allies and the redeemed former occupied powers. It also contributed to the development and expansion of the intercontinental air age and, with the invention of atomic energy, the nuclear age.

President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in October 1919, which invalided him for months, President Warren G. Harding became ill as he returned from a trip to Alaska and died in San Francisco on August 2, 1923, and was

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