Category Archives: Industrialization and the Gilded Age

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Episode 032 How Baseball Became America’s National Pastime

This week we step up to the plate to take on the origins and history of baseball, and how the sport has both reflected and shaped American society.

Among the many things we’ll discuss:

Early bat and ball games that date back as 14th century Europe (and one involving nuns and monks!).

How British immigrants in the 18th century brought early forms of baseball to North America, including rounders and cricket.

Why baseball emerged as a popular sport in US cities, and not in the pastures of rural America.

Why Alexander Cartwright and NOT Abner Doubleday is the the true “father of baseball.”

How the American Civil War played a key role in popularizing not just baseball, but the so-called “New York” version that eventually became the standard.

Why the early promoters of baseball insisted it remain an amateur sport played by men of good character –and why they eventually lost the battle to the forces of commercialization.

How as many as 50 African Americans played major league baseball in the 1870s and 1880s before the surging racism of the day led owners to purge black players and segregate baseball. And why Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first African American to play major league baseball, 60 years before Jackie Robinson re-integrated baseball.

Why the individualism of baseball both sets it apart from other major team sports and reflects a core American value.

How there are dozens of words and phrases in the American lexicon that trace their origins to baseball, everything from “rain check” to “big league” to “screwball.”

Further Reading

Block, David. Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game (University of Nebraska Press, 2005).

Nemec, David. The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Major League Baseball. 2nd ed. (University of Alabama Press, 2006).

Peterson, Robert. Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams (Gramercy Books, 1999).

Rielly, Edward J. Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond (Haworth Press, 2003).

Riess, Steven A. Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era (University of Illinois Press, 1983. Revised 1999).

Rossi, John. The National Game: Baseball and American Culture (Ivan R. Dee, 2002).

Thorn, John. Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game (Simon & Schuster, 2011).

Tygiel, Jules. Past Time: Baseball as History (Oxford, 2000).

Voigt, David Q. America Through Baseball (Nelson Hall, 1976).

White, G. Edward. Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903-1953 (Princeton University Press, 1996).

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

David Szesztay, “Joyful Meeting” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Jimmy Carter press conference

Episode 030 Presidents and the Media: The History of Political Spin


Subscribe to the In The Past Lane podcastThis week at In The Past Lane, we talk about the American presidency – specifically the history of how US presidents have endeavored to communicate their positions on key issues of the day. To use modern political parlance, it’s the history of “spin,” that important but sometimes tawdry business of crafting and communicating a political message in such as way that it enhances your political standing. American presidents have struggled to do this since the days of the Washington administration. To help us understand what spin is and how and why it’s played such a critical role in the evolution of the modern presidency and in the success or failure of individual presidents, I talk to historian David Greenberg. He’s the author of a fascinating new book, Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency.

David Greenberg, Republic of SpinAmong the many things we discuss:
How Theodore Roosevelt created the original permanent White House spin apparatus.

Why Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information during World War I is unfairly characterized as a nefarious propaganda machine.

Why FDR’s “fireside chats” proved so effective in promoting Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda.

How Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to embrace the new medium of television.

Why image making became so essential to presidential success in the age of JFK.

How Jimmy Carter — yes, Jimmy Carter – was hailed early on in his presidency as a master communicator and manipulator of the media.

Why spin is not inherently negative but rather an essential element of presidential leadership.

Why the mainstream media is held in such low regard these days.

About David Greenberg – website

Further Reading

David Greenberg, Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency (WW Norton, 2016)

Katz and M. Barris, The Social Media President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Digital Engagement (2013)

William E. Leuchtenburg, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (2015)

Stephen Ponder, Managing the Press: Origins of the Media Presidency, 1897-1933 (1999)

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Haymarket Bombing

Episode 029 Spies, Traitors, & Saboteurs: Civil Liberties in Times of National Crisis


This week, In The Past Lane is in Chicago to check out a cool history exhibition and speak with John Russick of the Chicago History Museum. The exhibition, “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America,” was originally created by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC in the wake of September 11. The idea behind it was to exSubscribe to ITPL - ERIplore the way the United States has handled the challenges posed by internal threats — terrorists, spies, saboteurs, hate groups, etc — while at the same time protecting civil liberties. Some of the many incidents it explores includes: the Oklahoma City bombing, the Palmer Raids, the Weather Underground, the Haymarket bombing, Japanese Internment, the KKK, German sabotage efforts during World War I, Soviet spying and McCarthyism, and the militia movement. It’s an exhibition well worth seeing. Here’s a link with more info. I also took a lot of photographs, so if you’d like to see what the exhibition looks like, just scroll down a bit.

IMG_2083After I toured the exhibition, I sat down with John Russick, Vice President of Interpretation and Education at the Chicago History Museum, to talk about why the museum decided to host “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs” and why the issues it raises are so very important to our democracy. It’s a really interesting conversation about history and how it should inform the present. Among the many things we discuss:

Why Americans are really good at forgetting the past (and why it’s the job of public history institutions to help them remember).

How so many issues that we wrestle with in contemporary American society — immigration, terrorism, radical movements, violations of civil liberties, debates over security vs. liberty — are not new.

How the desire for security in America during tumultuous times has always been in tension with our civil liberties, especially free speech and free thought.

How America has always struggled to define itself and its citizens — What rights are essential? Which ones are the most important? Who should enjoy them? “The work of being a free and fair society,” says Russick, “is never done.”

Why “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs,” which was created 13 years ago, is still very relevant in 2017.

Photos of the exhibition: scroll down

Information on the exhibition: here

Further Reading:

“Exhibit on U.S. spies and traitors hopes to speak to present day,” Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2017.

Description of the exhibition from the International Spy Museum – link

Credits:

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “Escape the Profane” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Discovery” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Photos of the exhibition:

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A float for the Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union in the 1909 New York City Labor Day parade.

The Birth of Labor Day

The first Labor Day parade was held in New York City on September 5, 1882.

Back in the late nineteenth century  Labor Day meant something more than a three-day weekend and the unofficial end of summer.  This unique holiday was first celebrated on September 5, 1882. On that day  thousands of workers in New York City risked getting fired for taking an unauthorized day off to participate in festivities honoring honest toil and the rights of labor.  This first commemoration of Labor Day testified to labor’s rising power and unity in the Gilded Age and its sense that both were necessary to withstand the growing power of capital.

The Labor Day holiday originated with the Central Labor Union (CLU), a local labor federation formed in January 1882 to promote the interests of workers in the New York area.  The CLU immediately became a formidable force, staging protest rallies, lobbying state legislators, and organizing strikes and boycotts.  By August membership in the organization boomed to fifty-six unions representing 80,000 workers.

A float for the Women’s Auxiliary Typographical Union in the 1909 New York City Labor Day parade.

But CLU activists wanted to do more than simply increase membership and win strikes.  They wanted to build worker solidarity in the face of jarring changes being wrought by the industrial revolution.  Gilded Age workers were alarmed by the growing power of employers — from local building contractors to national corporations like Western Union — over their employees.  With political leaders wedded to laissez faire economics, employers were free to increase hours, slash wages, and fire workers at will.  Equally disconcerting was the growing gap between rich and poor, a disparity made shockingly clear by the emergence of millionaire industrialists and financiers with names like Gould, Stanford, Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie.

These developments, noted labor leaders, called into question the future of the American republic.  “Economical servitude degrades political liberties to a farce,” announced the CLU constitution.  “Men who are bound to follow the dictates of factory lords, that they may earn a livelihood, are not free.  … [A]s the power of combined and centralized capital increases, the political liberties of the toiling masses become more and more illusory.”  CLU activists believed the establishment of a day celebrating the honest worker, the foundation of the republic, would open their eyes and compel them to reclaim their dissipating rights.  As John Swinton, editor of the city’s only labor paper wrote, “Whatever enlarges labor’s sense of its power hastens the day of its emancipation.”

The precise identity of the CLU leader who in May 1882 first proposed the idea of establishing Labor Day remains a mystery.  Some accounts say it was Peter “P. J.” McGuire, General Secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (and future co-founder of the AFL), who proposed the idea.  Others argue that it was another man with a similar last name, machinist Matthew Maguire.  Official bragging rights to the title of “Father of Labor Day” aside, both men played key roles in promoting and organizing the original holiday.

Labor Day in Detroit, 1942

After months of preparation the chosen day – Tuesday September 5, 1882 – finally arrived.   Optimism among the organizers ran high, but no one knew how many workers would turn out.  Few could expect their employers to grant them a day off and many feared getting fired and blacklisted for labor union activity.  When William G. McCabe, the parade’s first Grand Marshall and popular member of Local No. 6 of the International Typographers Union, arrived an hour before the parade’s start, the situation looked grim.  Only a few dozen workers stood milling about City Hall Park.

To the relief of McCabe and other organizers, some 400 men and a brass band had assembled by the time the parade touched off at 10:00 a.m.  Initially, the small group of marchers faced ridicule from bystanders and interruptions in the line of march because policemen refused to stop traffic at intersections.  As the parade continued north up Broadway, however, it swelled in size as union after union fell into line from side streets.  Soon the jeers turned into cheers as the spectacle of labor solidarity grew more impressive.

Marchers held aloft signs that spoke both to their pride as workers and the fear that they were losing political power and economic standing in the republic:

To the Workers Should Belong All Wealth

Labor Built this Republic. Labor Shall Rule It

Less Work and More Pay

Strike with the Ballot

Don’t Smoke Cigars without the Union Label

Eight Hours for a Legal Day’s Work

Many wore their traditional work uniforms and aprons and walked behind wagons displaying their handiwork.  Others dressed in their holiday best for the occasion.

Midway through the parade, the throng passed a reviewing stand at Union Square.  Among the many dignitaries was Terence Powderly, Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, the most powerful labor organization in the nation.

After moving up Fifth Avenue, past the opulent homes of Vanderbilt, Morgan, Gould and other recently-minted tycoons, the grand procession of 5,000 or more terminated at 42nd Street and Sixth Ave.  There participants boarded elevated trains – extra cars had been added to handle the anticipated crowds – for a short ride to Wendel’s Elm Park at West 92nd Street for a massive picnic.  Tickets for the event were just 25 cents and by late afternoon upwards of 25,000 workers and their families jammed the park to participate in the festivities and consume copious amounts of food and beer.  Members of individual craft unions gathered under banners put up throughout the park.  Several bands provided music, while speaker after speaker held forth from various stages and soapboxes.

Thrilled with the success of their first effort, CLU leaders staged a second Labor Day the following year and drew an even larger number of participants.  In 1884 the CLU officially designated the first Monday in September as the annual Labor Day, calling upon workers to “Leave your benches, leave your shops, join in the parade and attend the picnic.  A day spent with us is not lost.”  Upwards of 20,000 marched that year, including a contingent of African American workers (the first women marchers debuted in 1885).

With such an impressive start, the tradition of an annual Labor Day holiday quickly gained popularity across the country.  By 1886 Labor Day had become a national event.  Some 20,000 workers marched in Manhattan, and another 10,000 in Brooklyn, while 25,000 turned out in Chicago, 15,000 in Boston, 5,000 in Buffalo, and 4,000 in Washington, D.C.   Politicians took notice and in 1887 five states, including New York, passed laws making Labor Day a state holiday.  Seven years later – just a dozen years after the first celebration in New York — President Grover Cleveland signed into law a measure establishing Labor Day as a holiday for all federal workers.

Labor Day caught on so quickly among Gilded Age workers because unlike the traditional forms of labor activism (i.e., striking and picketing) or civic holidays commemorating victories in war, it drew together workers for the purposes of celebration. As P. J. McGuire later wrote of the parade,

No festival of martial glory of warrior’s renown is this; no pageant pomp of warlike conquest … attend this day.  … It is dedicated to Peace, Civilization and the triumphs of Industry.  It is a demonstration of fraternity and the harbinger of a better age – a more chivalrous time, when labor shall be best honored and well rewarded.

In the twentieth century, Labor Day parades grew into massive spectacles of pride and power.  The highpoint came 1961 when 200,000 workers processed up Fifth Avenue behind Grand Marshall Mayor Robert Wagner, passing on the reviewing stand dignitaries that included Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Senator Jacob K. Javitts, and former President Harry S. Truman.  But the strength of organized labor demonstrated by that parade –union membership had just reached its historic highpoint with 39% of the American workforce – was already being eroded by the emergence of the service economy, globalization, and a political climate often hostile to unions.  By the late 1990s fewer than fifteen percent of American workers belonged to unions and Labor Day parades disappeared in many cities.  Or, as is the case in New York City, parades were moved to the weekend following Labor Day so as to avoid competing with the public’s desire for a final three-day weekend of recreation.

Still, it would be unwise to predict the Labor Day’s demotion to the status of Arbor Day or Flag Day.  Despite the fact that few Americans are even remotely aware of the struggle and spirit that laid the foundation of their current prosperity, comfort, and leisure, many of the issues that inspired the first Labor Day persist.  Public distrust of corporations has spiked in recent years as the result of scandals in accounting, campaign finance, and massive payouts to departing executives.  All the while, polls indicate that more and more Americans are worried about job security, health care costs, and pension funding.  Other workplace issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and family leave continue to attract attention.  Whether these concerns ultimately lead Americans to “Strike with the Ballot” remains to be seen.  In the meantime Labor Day will endure for the foreseeable future as an annual reminder of battles won and battles yet to be joined.

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Episode 015 The History of the Republican Party – Convention Edition!


This week, in honor of the G.O.P. Convention, In The Past Lane explores the fascinating history of the Republican Party. I speak with historian Heather Cox Richardson, author of a superb history of the Republican party. She’ll take us on a fascinating journey through eras when the GOP was the party of big business and Wall Street and when it periodically shifted to become the party of the people and the common good. And she’ll bring her analysis all the way to the present to help put Donald Trump in historical perspective.

Episode 015 notes and credits

Recommended Reading

Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life

Lewis L. Gould, The Republicans: A History of the Grand Old Party

Heather Cox Richardson, To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party

Theda Skocpol, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

Jean Edward Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace


Music

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (courtesy, JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

The Womb, “I Hope It Hurts” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home”

The Bell, “I Am History”