Monday, December 13, 2021


 Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856-February 3, 1924) was born in Staunton, Virginia, to parents of a predominantly Scottish heritage. Since his father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Wilson was raised in a pious and academic household. He spent a year at Davidson College in North Carolina and three at Princeton University where he received a baccalaureate degree in 1879.  A scholar,  Wilson would go on to earn his PHD, becoming the first and only President to do so.

 Following College Wilson enlisted in the Navy and becomes marooned on an island in the South Pacific. Far away from home, his girlfriend, and any human contact, he engaged in a battle of wits with himself as he is tested mentally, physically and emotionally in order to survive.  These survival skills would serve him well in politics when he miraculously returns home.

Wilson won the presidential election of 1912 when William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt split the Republican vote. Upon taking office he set about instituting the reforms he had outlined in his book The New Freedom, including the changing of the tariff, the revising of the banking system, the checking of monopolies and fraudulent advertising, the prohibiting of unfair business practices, and the like. But the attention of this man of peace was forced to turn to war.

 In the early days of World War I, Wilson was determined to maintain neutrality. He protested British as well as German acts; he offered mediation to both sides but was rebuffed. The American electorate in 1916, reacting to the slogan «He kept us out of war», reelected Wilson to the presidency. However, in 1917 the issue of freedom of the seas compelled a decisive change. On January 31 Germany announced that 'unrestricted submarine warfare' was already started; on March 27, after four American ships had been sunk, Wilson decided to ask for a declaration of war; on April 2 he made the formal request to Congress; and on April 6 the Congress granted it.

Would I lie to you? I tell at least 1 lie every day... Can you find it?

Would the REAL Woodrow Wilson please stand up?

Friday, December 10, 2021

Life Motto

-Teddy Roosevelt to Larry the Night Watchman; 'Night at the Museum'

While not an original Teddy Roosevelt quote (credit must be given to Shakespeare) this line accurately portrays the kind of leader Roosevelt was: determined, resourceful, self-reliant.

What is your life motto?  (Write your answer on your own sheet of paper.  Include an explanation of what that motto means to you.)

Was Roosevelt born great?  (Copy the question and then list 3 'obstacles' to TR's greatness and how he overcame them.)

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Teddy Bear

In 1902, on an unsuccessful hunting trip, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that expedition trackers had caught and tied to a tree. The incident struck a chord with the American sense of fair play. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman immortalized the incident in “Drawing the Line in Mississippi.” Tugging at American heartstrings, Berryman drew the old, injured female bear as a helpless cub. With Roosevelt’s permission, Morris Mictom, a Russian immigrant and Brooklyn toy-shop owner, sewed a cuddly stuffed toy and dubbed it Teddy’s Bear. With its big head and ears, and eyes as appealing as the future Mickey Mouse, the bear became a hit. German toy manufacturer Margarete Steiff created a stuffed bear, too, and began mass-producing copies in 1903. The stuffed bears became a hit with adults and children. Visitors who flocked to the boardwalks in New Jersey’s seaside resorts took home teddy bears as prizes and souvenirs. Women’s magazines featured ads for bear accessories and offered up-to-date patterns for sewing bear clothes. Books, songs, and even a 1907 feature film marked the rising popularity of teddy bears. This fascination has persisted ever since, making Teddy Bears the most popular plush toy in history.

What popular children's story does the silent film retell? 

How is the ending different from the actual event?

What do you do if a bear attacks?

Still think it's weird for a grown man to play with a Teddy Bear?

Look at these other toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame. Where does the Teddy Bear Rank? What toy is your favorite?  What toys would you add to this list?

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Progressive Presidents

In which John Green teaches you about the Progressive Presidents, who are not a super-group of former presidents who create complicated, symphonic, rock soundscapes that transport you into a fantasy fugue state. Although that would be awesome. The presidents most associated with the Progressive Era are Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. During the times these guys held office, trusts were busted, national parks were founded, social programs were enacted, and tariffs were lowered. It wasn't all positive though, as their collective tenure also saw Latin America invaded A LOT, a split in the Republican party that resulted in a Bull Moose, all kinds of other international intervention, and the end of the Progressive Era saw the United States involved in World War. If all this isn't enough to entice, I will point out that two people get shot in this video. Violence sells, they say.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Trust Busters

"Trustbusting" was one of a number of progressive reforms enacted at the national level in the early 1900s. In addition to local and state issues, progressives were also concerned about problems in the country as a whole. Many of them believed that the national government no longer served the interests of all Americans. In an age when big business seemed all-powerful, many reformers felt the United States was abandoning its promise of freedom and opportunity for all. They wanted the government to play a stronger role in promoting democracy and solving national problems.

Three presidents—Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson—worked to advance the progressive reforms. Their efforts helped change how Americans thought, and continue to think, about the role of government.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Chicago Fire

Have you ever found yourself in a 'survival situation?' Explain how you would build a fire. What do you need? What steps would you take?

October 1871: Chicago is a tinderbox. In three months, only an inch of rain has fallen. For days a strong, hot wind has blown in from the southwest. The city of wooden buildings and woodpaved streets is ripe for the fire that will destroy three-quarters of it. Chicago is about to suffer one of the  worst urban disasters in history. 

Track the path of the fire and read accounts of the people who lived through it, in this interactive timeline and map.

You are part of a special inquiry by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners to determine how the fire started, could it have been prevented, and who is to blame?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Chicago Fire: Is the Cow to Blame?

In all of American, and even world, history, no bovine is more infamous than a cow, belonging to Patrick and Catharine O’Leary, that was accused of starting what Fire Marshall Robert A. Williams called a "hurricane of fire and cinders.”   One of the worst urban disasters in American History (until the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906) the fire destroyed 73 miles of streets, more than 17,000 buildings, and left a 3rd of the population homeless. Even as the fire cut a swath through the city, neighbors and newspaper reporters quickly placed the blame on the O’Learys and their cow. In the early hours of October 9,  1871, newspapers first reported that the blaze started when the cow, as Catharine milked it, kicked over a kerosene lantern.

What's a fire without a camp song (Lyrics)

But did the Cow do it?

You are part of a special inquiry by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners to determine how the fire started, could it have been prevented, and who is to blame?

Read the primary source narratives assigned to you in class and then answer these questions on a seperate sheet or in the space provided on the back.

Track the path of the fire and read accounts of the people who lived through it, in this interactive timeline and map.

Friday, November 19, 2021

The All American Hot Dog

What food could be more American than the Hot Dog? What is your favorite? - a chili dog, a cheese dog, or a foot-long dog? A multitude of toppings can enhance the flavor of your hot dog. Common toppings used on hot dogs include ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, chili, cheese, and sauerkraut.

Hot dogs are popular among Americans because they are easy to make, inexpensive, and delicious. Hot dogs can be prepared in a number of great ways--nuke-em, grill-em, sauté-em, roast-em, fry-em or boil-em.

Most recipes for hot dogs combine together a tasty blend of favorite meats (pork, beef, chicken, or turkey), meat fat, a cereal filler which could be either bread crumbs, flour, or oatmeal, a little bit of egg white, and a mouth-watering array of herbs and seasonings including garlic, pepper, ground mustard, nutmeg, salt, and onion.

Once these ingredients are grinded together, the stuffing is squeezed into sausage casings. Many of the hot dogs sold in stores are enclosed in synthetic cellulose casings, but most home-made hot dogs are made out of natural animal intestines.

During the 'Gilded Age' increased production meant that more products were available to the public, but buying them was not always a good idea. Consumers often did not know what was in the products because the government did not regulate product quality.

Meat was one example. In his 1906 novel The Jungle, muckraker Upton Sinclair wrote about unsanitary conditions in meatpacking plants.

Read excerpt from The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and answer these 3 questions.

1) What do you suppose was the reaction of the public when they found out what was in their meat?

2) Why did meat companies allow this to happen?

3) How is our food better regulated today as a result?

Read this excerpt from Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, watch the trailer for the movie, then answer the next 3 questions.

4) Compare this reading to Upton Sinclair's 100 years ago. Have we learned our lesson?

5) Both Upon Sinclair and Eric Schlosser were "Muckrakers" and used their books to cause change in our society. Perhaps some day you too will write a great American novel; but until that time what greater power do you have? Will you think twice the next time you pull up to the Drive-Thru window?

6) Sinclair himself once stated: “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” He intended the book to raise public consciousness about the plight of the working poor; like the Lithuanian family in his story. Who do you think works in the slaughterhouses of today? What hasn't changed?

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Sewer

We Sing this song of the Sewer....

Can a picture change History?

After a yellow fever epidemic swept through Memphis, Tennessee in 1878, the newly created National Board of Health sent engineer and Civil War veteran George A. Waring Jr. to design and implement a better sewage drainage system for the city. His success there made Waring’s national reputation, and in 1895 he was appointed sanitation commissioner of New York City. During his brief tenure, Waring made a huge impact on the city, making much-needed reforms that would become the foundations for modern recycling, street sweeping and garbage collection.

In 1895 street cleaning commissioner Colonel George E. Waring Jr. ordered his entire brigade of sweepers to wear all white uniforms and caps, eaning them the nickname the 'White Wings.'

Why White? He believed the eye-catching regulation whites would keep members of the force at work, and would prevent them from slacking off. Regulation whites remained in effect until the 1930s.

Who else wears white?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

New York: Sunshine and Shadow

Mid-century New York City was a mystery to those who were unfamiliar with its stratified society, contrasting neighborhoods, and diverse populations. City guidebooks and illustrated newspapers offered to decode these urban complexities for readers struggling to understand the rapidly expanding metropolis. To enliven their descriptions of the city, the authors and illustrators added theatrical sensationalism with themes of light and darkness in text and image. These contrasting images, representing the richest and poorest sections of the city, appealed to a middle-class audience fascinated by tales of both the opulence and the depravity in New York. Many of the guidebook names, such as Sunlight and Shadow in New York and Lights and Shadows of New York Life, indicate how central the contrasting images were to these depictions of the city.   Read more...

Monday, November 15, 2021


How many of you hope to leave Talawanda and live in ' the Big City' someday?  Why/ not?

This footage is from a San Francisco cable car shortly before an earthquake and fire destroyed the city in 1906. What social, political, and environmental problems do you see on the ride?

How about this trip through New York City 1911?

In a Writing for Understanding activity today in class you will  act as muckrakers to conduct field investigations using primary sources.  You will then use your notes to write newspaper reports exposing problems in American society in the early 20th century.  Be sure to use shocking and vivid language that will stir your readers into action.

Trying to imagine what a bustling city street in the late 1800's/early 1900's sounds like?

Friday, November 12, 2021

How the Other Half Lives

Jacob Riis, the third of fifteen children, was born in Ribe, Denmark, on 3rd May, 1849. He worked as a carpenter in Copenhagen before emigrating to the United States in 1870. Unable to find work, he was often forced to spend the night in police station lodging houses.

Riis did a variety of menial jobs before finding work with a news bureau in New York City in 1873. The following year he was recruited by the South Brooklyn News. In 1877 Riis became a police reporter for the New York Tribune. Aware of what it was like to live in poverty, Riis was determined to use this opportunity to employ his journalistic skills to communicate this to the public. He constantly argued that the "poor were the victims rather than the makers of their fate".

In 1888 Riis was employed as a photo-journalist by the New York Evening Sun. Riis was among the first photographers to use flash powder, which enabled him to photograph interiors and exteriors of the slums at night. He also became associated with what later became known as muckraking journalism.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

What Does it Mean to Be an American?

If you wish to become a US citizen and neither of your parents are US citizens, you’ll first need to immigrate to the United States and become a legal permanent resident.  You must reside in the United States as a permanent resident continuously for five years. The only exception to this rule is if you are married to, and living with the same U.S. citizen spouse; then you can qualify after only three years.

Before immigrants to the United States can take the final Oath of U.S. Citizenship they must first pass a naturalization test which assesses their knowledge of basic U.S. government and history. Applicants must correctly answer at least 6 of the 10 randomly selected questions to pass.

Do you know more about America than the immigrants who want to become citizens? 

Click here to find out.

Are these questions fair? Why are they so hard? 

What questions should we be asking?

What does the US citizenship exam actually test? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Angel Island

How were new immigrants 'welcomed' differently by Americans already living here (old immigrants)? Were all immigrant groups treated the same? How are immigrant groups today treated differently?

Friday, November 5, 2021

Mission US: City of Immigrants

It’s 1907. You are Lena Brodsky, a 14-year-old Jewish immigrant from Russia. How will you start a new life in America?

Click the link to play the game. The goal of Mission US is to understand history, not to win. In each mission, you’ll meet a range of people with very different viewpoints, explore historical settings, and witness key past events, and will have to make difficult decisions. The fate of your character is based on your choices in the game, which will also impact the outcome of your character’s story. You can replay the game and make different choices to see how your character’s story might have turned out differently.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Golden Lamp

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

These lines from Emma Lazarus famous poem 'The New Colossus' are engraved within the pedestal upon which 'Lady Liberty' stands; but what do they mean? What was the 'Old Colossus?' Who are these tired masses? Wretched Refuse? Why were they coming to America?  Were all immigrants to the US so welcome?  Is America a true 'Melting Pot?'

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Isle of Hope

On the first day on January,
Eighteen ninety-two,
They opened Ellis Island and they let
The people through.
And the first to cross the treshold
Of that isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was all of fifteen years.


Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it's not the isle you left behind.
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you'll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind.

Like Isle of Hope, The Pogues’ Thousands are Sailing (written by guitarist Phil Chevron) ties the economic emigration of the 80’s in with a prior wave of emigration—in this case, the post-Famine emigration to the United States.

1) Compare and contrast the two songs.

2) What was it like to really experience Ellis Island

3) What 'pushed' Immigrants from their homelands?  What Pulled them here? (t-chart)

4) Why do you suppose Ellis Island closed in 1954? 

5) How is immigration today different than a century ago?

How would you do as an immigrant?  Play from Ellis Island to Orchard Street.

How was this experience different than Angel Island in the West?  How and why were the Chinese Excluded?

Monday, November 1, 2021

Suffrage or Suffering?

We have all suffered through this election.  But are we willing to give up our 'suffrage?'

Women's suffrage in the United States was achieved gradually, at state and local levels, during the late 19th century and early 20th century, culminating in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

The fight to gain suffrage was not an easy one.  Not for Ourselves Alone explores the movement for women's suffrage in the United States in the 19th century, focusing on leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Was this cartoonist a man or a woman?  What should the caption be?

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Happy Halloween!

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Click here to learn more.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Homestead Strike

What was the Homstead Strike? Were the workers justified in their words and actions? Did they have the right to strike against their employers? Why or Why not?

A Ballad is a narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing. Originally ballads were not written down. They were a way to pass tradition and culture down from generation to generation; the music helped people to remember the story. The traditional ballad form has a few easily replicated characteristics that have made it a popular storytelling device for hundreds of years.

Listen to the ballad written about the Homestead Strike (1892) and read the lyrics.

Now the man that fights for honor,
 none can blame him.
May luck attend wherever he may roam.
And no son of his will ever live
 to shame him.
Whilst Liberty and Honor rule our Home.

Now this sturdy band of working men
 started out at the break of day
Determination in their faces
 which plainly meant to say:
"No one can come and take our homes
 for which we have toiled so long
No one can come and take our places ---
 no, here's where we belong!"

A woman with a rifle
 saw her husband in the crowd,
She handed him the weapon
 and they cheered her long and loud.
He kissed her and said, "Mary,
 you go home till we're through."
She answered,"No. If you must die,
 my place is here with you."


When a lot of tramp detectives
 came without authority
Like thieves at night when decent men
 were sleeping peacefully---
Can you wonder why all honest hearts
 with indignation burn,
And why the slimy worm that treads the earth
 when trod upon will turn?

When they locked out men at Homestead
 so they were face to face
With a lot of bum detectives
 and they knew it was their place
To protect their homes and families,
 and this was neatly done
And the public will reward them
 for the victories they won.

What is the mood created by the lyrics of the song? (Answers might include pride, anger and determination)

What words might contribute to the mood of the song? (Select 3 words or phrases and discuss how each word/phrase contributes to the emotional impact of the lyrics. Answers might include shame, bum detectives, like thieves in the night, grasping corporations.)

What words could be used to predict tension and violence?

Read 'How to Write a Ballad" and then write your own labor song about the Railroad Strike of 1877, the Haymarket Affair, or the Pullman Strike. Be prepared to share your song in front of the class.

Research more Union Songs.

Which Side Are You On?

The Union Song Playlist

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Wealth Inequality

'Diamond Dog'

      During the "Gilded Age," every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie, and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before.  In New York, the opera, the theatre, and lavish parties consumed the ruling class' leisure hours.  Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish once threw a dinner party to honor her dog who arrived sporting a $15,000 diamond collar.  How much would that be in today's $$$$?

     While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line. Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas. Tenements spread across city landscapes, teeming with crime and filth. Americans had sewing machines, phonographs, skyscrapers, and even electric lights, yet most people labored in the shadow of poverty.  Read more....

Is the Distribution of Wealth more equal today than in the Gilded Age?

What do the 'bean counters' say?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Under the Boardwalk

In 1934, Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania, presented a game called MONOPOLY to the executives of Parker Brothers. Mr. Darrow, like many other Americans, was unemployed at the time and often played this game to amuse himself and pass the time. It was the game’s exciting promise of fame and fortune that initially prompted Darrow to produce this game on his own.

With help from a friend who was a printer, Darrow sold 5,000 sets of the MONOPOLY game to a Philadelphia department store. As the demand for the game grew, Darrow could not keep up with the orders and arranged for Parker Brothers to take over the game.

Since 1935, when Parker Brothers acquired the rights to the game, it has become the leading proprietary game not only in the United States but throughout the Western World. As of 1994, the game is published under license in 43 countries, and in 26 languages; in addition, the U.S. Spanish edition is sold in another 11 countries.

1) What is a Monopoly?

6) How are monopolies regulated today?

7) If you were part of the Federal Trade Commission how would you change the rules of Monopoly to make the game more fair and ensure competition?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Social Darwinism

According to the idea of Social Darwinism who would the Lion be? And the giraffes?  What happens to the 'unfit?'  Can a giraffe ever hope to beat the lion?   What do the trees think?

When Science meets History: Consider this case of 'survival of the fittest' in the Florida Everglades. Talk about your hostile takeovers! 

As William Graham Sumner, the father of social Darwinism in America, put it in the 1880s: "Civilization has a simple choice." It's either "liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest" or "not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members."

Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was "merely a survival of the fittest... the working out of a law of nature and of God."

What would it be like to be eaten by a boa constrictor? 
Do Boa Constrictor's feel guilty for who they eat?
Should the rich 'eat' the poor? 
What was Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal?

The social Darwinism of that era also undermined all efforts to build a more broadly based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn't do much of anything.

Do the rich have a responsibility to help the poor? 
What does wealth inequality sound like?
Why does it matter? Why should the 'lion's' care about the 'trees?'

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Richest People In the World

Who are the 5 richest people in the world today? Sure you can name Bill Gates but what about the rest? How did they make their fortunes? The answers may surprise you.

Who were the TYCOONS of the late 1800s? In what ways are the similar or different from today's tycoons?

Is Greed Good?  What is the legacy of the Business Tycoons?

Friday, October 8, 2021

Thomas Edison's Shaggy Dog

"It was back in the fall of eighteen seventy-nine," said the stranger at last, softly. "Back in the village of Menlo Park, New Jersey. I was a boy of nine. A young man we all thought was a wizard had set up a laboratory next door to my home, and there were flashes and crashes inside, and all sorts of scary goings on. The neighborhood children were warned to keep away, not to make any noise that would bother the wizard. "I didn't get to know Edison right off, but his dog Sparky and I got to be steady pals. A dog a whole lot like yours, Sparky was, and we used to wrestle all over the neighborhood. Yes, sir, your dog is the image of Sparky."

Would you want to be Edison's Shaggy Dog?

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Ever since its publication in 1900 Lyman Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been immensely popular, providing the basis for a profitable musical comedy, three movies, and a number of plays. It is an indigenous creation, curiously warm and touching, although no one really knows why.

Political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz include treatments of the modern fairy tale  as an allegory or metaphor for the political, economic and social events of America of the 1890s.

In a 1964 article, high school teacher Henry Littlefield outlined an allegory in the book regarding monetary policy. According to this view, for instance, the "Yellow Brick Road" represents the gold standard, and the silver slippers (ruby in the film version) represent the Populist Party's desire to construct a bimetallic standard of both gold and silver in its place.

Dorothy learns that to return home, she must reach the Emerald City, Oz's political center, to speak to the Wizard, representing the President of the United States. While journeying to the Emerald City, she encounters a scarecrow, who represents a farmer; a woodman made of tin, who represents a worker dehumanized by industrialization; and a cowardly lion, who represents William Jennings Bryan, a prominent leader of the Silverite movement. The villains of the story, the Wicked Witch of the West and the Wicked Witch of the East, represent the wealthy railroad and oil barons of the American West and the financial and banking interests of the eastern U.S. respectively.

Baum did not offer any conclusive proof that he intended his novel to be a political allegory and Historian Ranjit S. Dighe wrote that for sixty years after the book's publication, "virtually nobody" had such an interpretation. None-the less the comparisons are compelling.

Do you think Baum's portrayal of the Populists was positive or negative? Why?

What modern day movies could be used as allegories?

Why do you think The Wizard of Oz lives on in Popular culture? What about the story appeals to new and old generations?

Still not convinced? Watch The Secret of Oz for more on the symbolism.

The Dark Side of the Rainbow launched a whole new craze based on the movie. Coincidence, Apophenia, or Synchronicity?

Wonder which character of Oz you are? Take the quiz.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

How Much Is My Dollar worth?

Although experiments with paper money did occur throughout the early history of the country, they were largely unsuccessful. People, for good reason, didn't trust the notes and preferred gold and silver coin. In 1861, needing money to finance the Civil War, Congress authorized the issuance of Demand notes in $5, $10 and $20 denominations. The Demand notes were so named because they were redeemable in coin "on demand." The notes were nicknamed Greenbacks, a name which is still in use today to refer to United States currency.

By the 1870s the debate between supporters of the gold or silver standard began to dominate national politics. Bankers and others involved in international trade feared that considering silver as money would undermine the economy. In contrast, most farmers favored coining silver hoping it would increase their income. These farmers went on to form the 'Populist' party in 1892.

1) How much is that piece of paper in your wallet really worth?

2) How long do you have to work to earn $1?

3) How much you can buy with $1?

4) Is our dollar worth more or less than other currencies around the world?

5) Is it worth the same today as it was 100 years ago?

6)  Just where does our paper money come from anyway?

7) What are the symbols on the dollar and what do they mean?

8) Does the new U.S. $20 bill contain hidden pictures?

9) What is the 'Fed' and how does it regulate the value of our money?

10) What are the two main mandates of the Fed?

11) Who can really coin money?

12) Why can't they just print as much as they want?

13) What are the conspiracy theories about the Fed?

14) What is the largest denomination US bill ever printed?

Cross of Gold

The most famous speech in American political history was delivered by William Jennings Bryan on July 9, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The issue was whether to endorse the free coinage of silver at a ratio of silver to gold of 16 to 1. (This inflationary measure would have increased the amount of money in circulation and aided cash-poor and debt-burdened farmers.) After speeches on the subject by several U.S. Senators, Bryan rose to speak. The thirty-six-year-old former Congressman from Nebraska aspired to be the Democratic nominee for president, and he had been skillfully, but quietly, building support for himself among the delegates. His dramatic speaking style and rhetoric roused the crowd to a frenzy. The response, wrote one reporter, “came like one great burst of artillery.” Men and women screamed and waved their hats and canes. “Some,” wrote another reporter, “like demented things, divested themselves of their coats and flung them high in the air.” The next day the convention nominated Bryan for President on the fifth ballot. The full text of William Jenning Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech appears below. The audio portion is an excerpt. [Note on the recording: In 1896 recording technology was in its infancy, and recording a political convention would have been impossible. But in the early 20th century, the fame of Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech led him to repeat it numerous times on the Chautauqua lecture circuit where he was an enormously popular speaker. In 1923 (25 years after the original speech), he recorded portions of the speech for Gennett Records in Richmond, Indiana. Although the recording does not capture the power and drama of the original address, it does allow us to hear Bryan delivering this famous speech.]

from Harper's Weekly, 18 July, 1896.
You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

 Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good, but that we cannot have it until other nations help us, we reply, that instead of having a gold standard because England has, we will restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States has it. If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we will fight them to the uttermost. Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: 

You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!

William Jennings Bryant would lose to Ohioan William McKinley in one of the most dramatic presidential races in American History; and America would stay on the 'gold standard' more or less for the next 70 years.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Resistance is Futile

Whats the longest you've ever been away from your home and family? Did you get homesick? Why or Why not?

The drive to  assimilate Indians into the mainstream of American life by changing their customs, dress, occupations, language, religion and philosophy has always been an element in Federal-Indian relations. In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, this assimilationist policy became dominant. A major thrust of assimilation efforts was to educate Indians in American ways. in 1879 the Carlisle Indian Training School was established by a former military officer. Its 'benevolent philosophy' of separating Indian children totally from their Indian environment   was supposed to help them not cause harm. Forcing Indians to adopt white ways became the basis for a widescale boarding school movement that eventually removed thousands of Indian children from their cultural settings and families.

1) In what specific ways did this young man undergo assimilation?

2) Were assimilated Indians accepted by the whites as Americans? Would they be accepted by their own people when they went home?

3) Was forced assimilation a success or failure? Why?

4) What if our school wanted to enforce a school uniform? Would you approve? Why/not?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Buffalo Soldiers

The Buffalo Soldiers were a segregated regiment of black cavalry fighters during the American campaign to rid the West of "Indians" so that "civilized" white people could gain the lands used by Native Americans. They were given their name by the Native Americans who called them Buffalo Soldiers because their short & curly hair was like the hair on the back of a buffalo's neck. They were compared with the buffalo's strength and tenacity. Duties were settling railroad disputes, building telegraph lines, repairing and building forts, helping settlers find a place to live and protecting the settlers from Indian attacks.

1) Who were the Buffalo Soldiers?

2) What was is the great IRONY of the Buffalo Soldier?

3) Who were America's forgotten cowboys?

4) Why would they want to be a cowboy?  Would you?

5) Why haven't we ever heard their stories?

6) What are their names and stories?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hollywood Indians

"A Nation that does not know its history has no future."
What does this saying mean? How has Hollywood stereotyped the Indians in the movies? Why?

How is what happened in history very different than the Hollywood stereotype of the Indians as warriors?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

All Aboard!

Folk music, trains, and railroads would hardly exist in this country without one another. Some of the greatest American folk songs of all time can be traced back to the building of the railroads, the advent of train travel, and, of course, the riding of the rails during the Depression—when working class men and immigrants traveled on trains in search of work.

You may know our nation's railroads were built primarily by African-Americans and immigrants (particularly Irish immigrants). It was grueling work made more tolerable by the presence of music (similarly to the way field calls and African-American folk songs developed out of the slave tradition).

In the case of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," the telling line is "...all the livelong day." These men really did back-breaking work beyond the hours of labor now acceptable in our society.

From Crazy Train to Peace Train, songs about trains are still popular today...


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Mt. Trumpmore?!

Should President Trump be added to this famous sculpture? Will his legacy be as great? Compare him to the each of the famous Presidents shown.Who is he most like? The least? Why?

"We believe a nation's memorial should, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt, have a serenity, a nobility, a power that reflects the gods who inspired them and the gods that they have become" 
- Gutzon Borglum, on his reason for building Mt. Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore stands as a ‘shrine of Democracy’, in South Dakota. It has commemorated four epoch-making presidents of America. It typifies the first 150 years of the history of United States of America and dates back to 1923. Mount Rushmore continues to remain the most popular tourist spot in South Dakota.

Is Mt. Rushmore truly a 'Shrine to Democracy'  or a symbol of White Supremacy?  You Decide.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The End Justifies the Means


Machiavelli's name is a byword for immorality and political scheming. But that's deeply unfair. This was simply a political theorist interested in the survival and flourishing of the state.  Can you be a 'good person' and a good 'politician?'  What would Richard Nixon say?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Nixon's 'Checkers' Speech


On September 23, 1952, California senator Richard Nixon reserved a spot on television to deliver the most important speech of his career. With this address, Nixon hoped to squash rumors that he had accepted $18,000 in illegal political contributions to finance personal expenses. The Republicans had recently nominated Nixon to run for vice president on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s ticket. When these charges against Nixon became public, Eisenhower was noncommittal— he did not drop Nixon from the ticket, but he also did not defend him.

In his speech, Nixon said, “Not one cent of the $18,000 or any other money of that type ever went to me for my personal use. Every penny of it was used to pay for political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers of the United States.” But, he did confess to accepting one personal gift:

A man down in Texas heard [my wife] Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip, we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was. It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

—Senator Richard Nixon, “Checkers” speech, September 23, 1952

Do you trust him?   Why or why not?