Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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.

Monday, November 28, 2022

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.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Baby Its Cold Inside

"He was nearly as close to the stove as he could get, and yet he could not persuade himself, that he felt the slightest heat, not withstanding the 'glass' door was still gently and serenely glowing. He tried to get a trifle closer to the stove, and the consequence was, he tripped the supporting poker and the stove-door tumbled to the floor. And then there was a revelation--there was nothing in the stove but a lighted tallow-candle! The poor youth blushed and felt as if lie must die with shame. But the Colonel was only disconcerted for a moment--he straightway found his voice again: What you want is the appearance of heat, not the heat itself--that's the idea. Well how to do it was the next thing. I just put my head, to work, pegged away, a couple of days, and here you are!  Stove with a candle in it and a transparent door--that's it--it has been the salvation of this family."                      
The period in the late 1800s known as the 'Gilded Age' derived its name from a satire written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner.  It was considered the first "social protest" novel in American literature and inspired future writers to expose social and political ills that they observed in the nation.

1) What does the contradiction between the Colonel's explanation and the cold the young man feels imply about "Gilded Age?"

2) What does it mean if something is gilded?

3) How was the 'Gilded Age' a scam?  Who were the only ones feeling the real warmth?

The Political Political Poor Relation-An Unwelcome Guest

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?

Make a prediction and then check out the reality.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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?

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veterans Day

Dear US Service Member,
We don’t know each other and will probably never meet, but I want you to know that you and all of our troops are in our hearts and prayers each day. Please always remember what you're doing will always be appreciated and never forgotten. I wish you all the best and pray for your safe and speedy return home to your family and friends. Thank you.
Talawanda HS Student
Oxford, OH

Some of our soldiers don't get much mail from home. They don't often hear how much we appreciate all they do for our country, even though there are many easy ways in which we can let them know. Write your letters of thanks in class and we will compile and send them to our soldiers currently serving overseas.

Monday, November 7, 2022

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, November 3, 2022


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?

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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.