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tv   Unrest and Reform in the Gilded Age  CSPAN  May 15, 2016 11:55am-12:51pm EDT

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>> on lectures in history, robert childs from the university of maryland talks about labor and social unrest at the turn of the 20th century as well as the reforms that tried to combat this discontent. he describes the tension between corporations, workers and the government over issues such as working conditions with -- which led to various strikes and how all levels of society sought to alleviate fears about the rapid societal changes of the gilded age by a return to nature movement as evidenced by the creation of urban parks. professor charles begins with a brief example of music. this class is about 50 minutes. ♪
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>> welcome back, everybody. we have been in the gilded age we have time now and already seen the technological innovations that made some of this economic expansion possible. economicth the transformation and the effect of those changes in the economy as far as lifestyles, these opulent robber baron lifestyles and the very poor, whether it was people living in the shacks of the new england mill towns or whether it was when we explored the gilded age city, the increasing problems of housing and sanitation that came with this rapid and chaotic growth of the city's in the 19th century, all
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of it accompanied by problems going along with immigration. time, there was some this new gilded age regime as we talk about the farmers. that lecture could have been called discontent in the gilded age part one but today, we turn our attention back toward industry and back toward the cities as well. i want to let at different types of frustration with this new order in america. eightarted with the song " hours" which was a popular labor anthem in the 1880's. eightard the chorus -- hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for what we will. that speaks to what we are going to talk about. on one hand, eight hours for
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work, eight hours for rest, we are talking about labor relations and political economy. we are talking about the potential for state regulation or at least arguments for that. what about eight hours for what we will? in other words, we are not machines, we are human beings. we want a life outside of work and even those on the top of this new gilded age order are in many ways growing anxious over this new world that seems to be coming about. but first, we look at economic and as with so much else this semester, a lot of our story starts with the railroad. you have seen how much the transcontinental railroad changed the west and changed the economy. that railroad holding bonanza did not stop in 1869 when they
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drove the golden spike. instead, there were four transcontinental railroads and there are all sorts of tributary lines that connect different parts of the west to those main core doors. it seemed like a really good investment. indeed, the lion's share of the stock exchange at this time were railroad stocks and a lot of people scrambled to get in on the ground floor and one of those jet was the northern pacific railroad. the fellow who won the rights to be the chief fundraiser was jay cooke, a well respect to financier. he had been a major financier of the effort for the union during the civil war. but investors were starting to that perhaps in our zeal
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for railroad building that we had gone too far. maybe we are overbuilt. maybe the railroad but -- railroad bubble is about to burst and all of the sudden, he had trouble raising people found that he was overextended. on september 18, 1873 he and his company declared bankruptcy. when cook went under a drag down under businesses and banks with him. a panic hit wall street. beginning september 20 the new york stock exchange which was heavily populated by railroad stocks closed for 10 days and over the next two months 55 railroads went bankrupt. it didn't stop there. the 1874 25% of the nation's railroad's bonds were in default. it wasn't just railroads that were affected. over the following two years
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they were over 18,000 businesses that failed. many people including this cartoonist clung to the traditional view that ultimately this was a necessary evil. failure is part of the capitalist system and so we should see the panic as the cartoonist does as a sanitation officer cleaning all of the trash out of wall street. maybe so but in the meantime a lot of people have to suffer. in the meantime railroad construction ground to a halt. unemployment skyrocketed in many sectors and in some cities unemployment was as high as 25%. joblessness remained rife for the next five years. at the same moment. people were starting to ask questions about whether or not the railroads should have so much power.
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within this new national economy. we saw the farmers asking these questions very loudly. here we see railroad tycoon william henry vanderbilt pictured as the modern colossus of railroads. along with some of his colleagues cyrus field in the notorious jay gould. farmers considered their great control over the economy to be extortion. other groups were starting to feel this way as well. the political efforts of frustrated farmers and some allied industrialists led to early attempts at state intervention. in the early 1870's some states passed what we call the granger
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laws. they set maximum freight elevator rates. for bidding rate discrimination against shortfalls. many urban consumers felt that the railroads were overcharging them. it was not just farmers who were frustrated. they created state railroad commissions to supervise and enforce this new regulatory regime. this happened in places like minnesota and iowa and illinois. it was there that the law was challenged by the firm of monday and scott. who were confused -- accused of having overcharged customers of the grain elevator in chicago. they challenge to the $100 fine and it went to the supreme court and 1877 by a seven-to majority the court under chief justice waite said that when private property was devoted to a public use is subject to public reggie -- regulation. the doors open for the states to
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step in. don't consider this a long-term win for state regulation. in 1886 a 6-3 majority at the supreme court declared that under the commerce clause of the constitution states were forbidden to impose direct burdens on interstate commerce. illinois regulatory regime was considered a direct burden on a railroad which was considered interstate commerce and therefore state-level regulation was severely hampered moving forward after the wabash case. >> "washington journal" continues. this along with a couple of other cases in the late 1880's extended the 14th amendment protections to corporations. it acted to undermine the state regulation.
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that doesn't mean the public stopped being frustrated with the abuses of the railroads. public outrage over the wabash case led to the passage of the interstate commerce act by congress in 1887. it created the interstate commerce commission and it made its forbidden to have special rates for powerful shippers. you remember rockefellers scheme from a few weeks ago. there would be no rate discrimination against shortfalls. public inspection of rates. if you abuse the regulations, you could face up to a $5,000 fine. take that, vanderbilt. they work through. in 1890 growing public frustration over the strength of the trust led congress to pass the sherman act of 1890. by 1890 several states have passed antitrust laws and now
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congress was joining the parade. the sherman act is important for us moving forward because it outlawed every contract and combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade again imposing a $5,000 fine. potentially also a year in prison. i don't want you to be misled. this hardly represents the foundation of a robust regulatory regime.
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for one thing, the president of the gilded age were generally uncomfortable with this stored at state intervention. they held to a more traditional laissez-faire view. benjamin harrison sign to the law because it was in accord with public opinion but he didn't do too much to enforce it. the same could be said for his successors whether a democrat like grover cleveland over republican like william mckinley. in moments when the federal government did try to enforce it, they were smacked down by the courts. in 1895 the course defanged the sherman act when it came to industrial combinations. the court declared 8-1 50 sherman act did not apply to manufacturing monopolies. the company controlled more than 90% of the sector. certainly this is consolidation. they say production is not interstate commerce. that is something different. they have narrowly defined the powers given to enforcement
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under the sherman act. it would be until the 20th century that the sherman act was used successfully against industrial monopolies, something we will talk about in a later lecture. it wasn't only the government and public opinion also workers who were growing frustrated with the demands of gilded age businessmen. like the public and the legislature, labor would be largely frustrated and its protests. the hard times of the agency of the meant less availability of work and less stability and at times harsh measures by management to try to keep their companies afloat. railroads in particular had tried to respond to the crises of the 1870's by cutting their own rates in trying to outdo their competitors. how do they make up for the
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losses of these rates? they cut the workers wages. that led to a decade of mounting frustration by the workers. there were a series of strikes in 1876 and 1877. resenting the wage cuts, and the public opprobrium it was often heaped on the workers as they stood up for themselves, it was seen that railroads were a good and so if you strike against the railroad you are doing something especially evil. the workers began to resent all of this. it exploded in the summer of 1877. a new group struck against the
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baltimore and ohio railroad beginning in july 18 77. baltimore police broke up the first round of strikers. then they took control of the key railroad junction in martinsburg west virginia. a battle between police and the mob required intervention by the militia. and eventually federal troops had to restore order. within days these kinds of schemes were wrapping around the country. in baltimore a mob tried to trap the militia in an armory. the militia fired and killed 10 people. in pittsburgh rioters burned railroads and destroyed the depot. while exchanging fire with troops. strikers in indianapolis seized control of the depot and halted all cars and trains except for ones carrying mail. by july 25th all the lines outside new england in the south are being affected one way or the other.
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you could feel the tension on streets around the country. in chicago businessmen can -- patrolled the streets cheering a potential revolution. in buffalo the revolution was underway. crowds swarmed the yard of the new york central. ultimately this great railroad strike of 77 collapsed. first of all the depression was still going on and was easy to find desperate people to work as strikebreakers. unemployment was still around 8%. some companies were fearful of continued strikes and continued chaos and were willing to negotiate. ultimately we can't call it a win for labor. if anything the press became
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increasingly indignant over this outburst of street action and they called on the states to beef up their militias to put down future agitation. state-level militia units were enhanced and armories were constructed to prepare for the next events. meanwhile, conflagrations like those in the late 1870's caused many workers to ask a fundamental question. wouldn't this be more easily accomplished if we had some better organization? many of them turned to a fledgling organization the knights of labor. it started as a kind of secret society.
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he was obsessed with all sorts of rituals and secret posts. after 1877, many workers became interested in organization and they looked to the knights. this was often spontaneous. they were never particularly effective recruiters. people were looking for organization so in 1879 they had 19 -- by 1882 they had 14,000. they were taken over by new leadership. he moved to the group away from ritual and toward reform. they began stressing monetary reform as we discussed last time. they began discussing an eight hour day. organizing for cooperatives among the workers. trying to gain state and local political influence. many within the knights of labor again embracing the ideas of henry george who called for a single tax on land. what is interesting is their broad membership. this group was anomalous especially within labor. they were highly inclusive. they reached across lines of
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craft, scale, it was skilled and unskilled workers. immigrants and nativeborn workers. catholics and protestants in this organization. black members as well as white members. female members as well as inmen. a very large and inclusive organization and they were building a lot of momentum in the 1880's. they will have a precipitous climb -- decline however. a totally different ideal in labor will come to the four.
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that is craft unionism. that is the american federation of labor, founded in 1886. their leader is samuel coppers. his papers are held in our library. they were inclusive. they were focused on elite craftsman. this is strategic. the skilled craftsman have a little bit more leverage when it comes to negotiation. unskilled craftsman are replaceable but skilled workers are a little more valuable. they had much narrower goals. the phrase the gompers spoke of was pure and simple unionism. we are going to get a better wage and shorter hours. were not trying to change the
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world. this more conservative elite unionism. they could survive the chaos we're going to talk about now. in the meantime, the 1880's would see recapitulation's of many of the troubling themes of the 1870's. a major economic panic, this one in 1884. followed by an industrial downturn and labor troubles. the great upheaval. a sporadic series of events. as successful strike by unorganized railroad workers against the union pacific railroad. the railroad capitulated within two days. workers said now that we are on a roll let's join the knights of labor. let's make this a permanent fixture. in june 1884 we saw the beginning of a major mind -- mine strike. 4000 workers went out on strike and it lasted six months.
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what noteworthy is that once again taught them the usefulness of coordination. if you go on strike you don't get paid. the strike doesn't last very long because you have to eat. they were able to organize a strike fund. it enabled them to keep this fight up for six months. the value of organization. then came a major strike against the missouri pacific railroad. they were trying to have a pay cut. most of that network was owned by our friends jay gould and others.
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the governors of nebraska and kansas intervened on behalf of the workers which tells us more about jay gould that it does about the governors. jay gould gave back the pay cut. once again workers saw value in the organization. this led to growth for the knights of labor. by 1886 they had 700,000 members. this would be their high water mark. the first of several very famous the very telling episodes within american labor relations. an explosion in the gilded age. that is the haymarket affair. there was a strike at the mccormick works on may 3, 1886. they were calling for an 18 hour
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-- eight hour day. at least two workers were killed by police. there were anarchists in chicago. they said this violence to us is a wonderful example of our broader critique of american capitalism and we want to take advantage of this moment to use this tragedy in order to demonstrate to people the validity of our arguments. so they called for protests. the getting may 4. protests were well attended by the working classes especially german immigrants. there was a large turnout. it was peaceful by all accounts. the rhetoric was relatively tame. according to the relatively tame mayor of chicago, carter harrison, a lot of people were deciding that things were ok and it was time to go home. but it wasn't.
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what happened next at the rally, someone through a pipe bomb. a policeman was killed. the policeman began to fire. a shootout ensued. six police and four protesters were killed in the crossfire. we never figured out who through the pipe bomb. we knew who to blame. the anarchists. these germans, these radicals. four of them were executed. others received long prison sentences. one committed suicide. in the 1890's john peter altgeld the new governor of illinois and himself german born part in
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three surviving anarchists. basically saying the whole thing has been a travesty of justice. we still don't know who through the pipe bomb. we know wasn't them. the resulting fear of radicalism led to increasing anti-labor sentiment nationwide. 1892 was a period with many major incidents. in new orleans there was a general strike that went on and on. 25,000 workers. dozens of different organizations. lack workers and white workers in new orleans. a major incidents in the coal mining fields of eastern illinois. the coal creek wars. tennessee miners protested
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against the use of convict labor is being used to undermine their wages. they protested by arming themselves and burning down the stockade where the convicts were being held. releasing a lot of the prisoners. the militia came in. the one i will choose to spend more time on took place in homestead, pennsylvania. and andrew carnegie's steelworks. they are trying to organize and to join a national group known as the amalgamated iron and steel workers. at one point in his career andrew carnegie had favored the principle of collective bargaining but it was hitting a little too close to home now. and so he changed his mind.
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he did not become a great innovator and billionaire but being a fool. he prudently decided this battle was not for him. he left it to henley crew -- henry clay frick. he declared that he would not negotiate with his union. he fortified the steel plant. but this was not the end of the story. the workers armed themselves, captured the plant, argued themselves inside. frick had another move to make. he hired a notorious group known as the pinkerton guards. they are politely referred to as a detective agency but they were really mercenaries.
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they came lumbering up the monongahela river on their barges. it didn't quite work out. when they arrived a brawl ensued. nine workers and one guard were killed. the people of homestead were on the side of the workers. these are our families, our customers, our neighbors. they chased them out of town. they couldn't sleep by their barges because they burn to the barges. the haymarket affair, local law enforcement had ultimately been effective in stopping the radicals. this could be the case this time because the mayor, the sheriff, they are on the side of the workers. in fact, public opinion by and
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large was on the side of the workers. that is not the end of the story. in the meantime, an anarchist named alexander berkman brewed into frick's office and shot him twice and repeatedly stabbed him. he was one of the great failures in assassination history. not only did he fail to kill frick, he also undermined the strikers for whom he was professing sympathy. in many ways public opinion saw this outburst of radical violence as a discredit to the union movement. while some public opinion remained with the workers there was enough of a shift that there was political cover for us to move up one level of government. the governor of pennsylvania strikebreakers were brought by day and there would not be long-term unionization of the steelworkers until 1930. episode 3, two years later,
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illinois. the context is the depression. what that meant is that in 1894, a lot of labor frustration, almost 1400 strikes, a record-breaking 500-5000 workers out on strike that year -- 505 ,000 workers out on strike that year. pullman, illinois, is one of these company towns and we've talked about company towns. compared to the unheated shacks with little water supply that we have seen in the textile towns in new england, pullman was a relatively nice company town by all reports. the housing was decent standard,
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there were libraries and parks. he referred to his workers as his children. this ended up being a problem. they make pullman cars for trains. you work in this factory, you live in his town where he owns everything, you stop in his stores, you pay rent to mr.
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pullman. this is a relatively decent standard of living. but then came the depression. mr. pullman decided he needed to help the company's bottom line and he called for a major wage cut, up to 30%. the rent was going to remain the same. he is your boss, but he is also your landlord. how are you going to argue? the rent was already exorbitant because compared to similar rental properties in that region, he was charging about 20% more. not only is he not lowering the cost, he is also cutting their wages. he said this was for the good of the company. consider this. they paid $2.8 million worth of dividends. they were supposed to be losing money. while there was a real problem and production was down, it is not as though the company was on e vthge of collapse. the workers tried to negotiate. mr. pullman listened to what they have to say. he said, that is very
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interesting, you guys are fired. this is a did the workers and it led to a strike. a walkout beginning may 11. the workers were aligned with the national group and they had some support and sympathy of its president. the american railway union calls for secondary strikes. real word workers -- railway workers around the country refuse to switch any pullman cars into a train. it starts to get serious and by real word workers -- railway late june, train networks were
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being shut down around the country. they tried not to obstruct the mail because they did not want to run afoul of the federal government. management was quite smart and how they handled this. -- in how they handle this. if the train is not complete, we are not running it. then they went to the federal government and explained that the unionists were being obstructionists and the federal government started to take notice at the action going on. in chicago, it had been local authorities. at homestead, it had been the state. in illinois, the governor is sympathetic to labor. this time, it was going to be federal intervention. the justice department went to court, they got an injunction against the strikers. the strike continued.
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debs was arrested for contempt of court. meanwhile, the president had to act because the strike continued. the president is still grover cleveland. we got to know him last time. the mail is being disrupted. management tells us it is the fault of the workers. george pullman is a friend of mine, by the way. don't forget cleveland is pro-business, pro-management. they get the injunction based on two matters. they are interrupting federal delivery of the mail. this is viewed by the courts and the justice department as an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade.
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they are in violation of the sherman antitrust act and so the injunction is granted and the union does not back down and we have to send in the army. thousands of u.s. soldiers. the fighting took place, dozens were killed. the strike got broken up, obviously. the following january, the supreme court ruled that the government was right. this gives great power to those seeking injunctions from courts against labor in the future. in all of these cases, a lot of americans knew who was to blame. the workers, the radicals, but also groups we talked about a week ago.
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the outsiders, these newcomers, these immigrants. not just that we can blame the immigrants in the city for undermining american democracy. it is not just that we can blame the immigrants for challenging american religious traditions or challenging the cultural standards with their saloons and beer halls. but also, who is to blame for a crime and for anarchists and socialists, the answer is quite clear if you read this cartoon. the german socialist, the polish vagabond, the irish proper, and -- irish pauper, and so forth and so on. we are being conflated, intertwined, and this was going to be very distant weaponry
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against -- wouldn'potent weaponry. in the meantime, i started out saying this was not all about the workplace, not all about the economy. some of the discontent in the gilded age was social in nature. when you work in a factory, you have no control. no control over what your work schedule looks like. they control your life. you do not set your schedule the way you did when you were a pleasant back in europe the way you did before you emigrated. you do not make your own schedule. you do not have any sense of craftsmanship. when you combine this with
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living in a very large city, could be confined in a world of a few dozen blocks, and if that world could be a very dark, dirty, diseased world, frustrating, stifling world, you start to understand why people would grow discontented with this arrangement. there were certain solutions that were proposed. one response was a push for recreation. reformers in the gilded age cities, they believed that urban dwellers would benefit immensely from access to playgrounds and parks and beaches, like the speech we see here being enjoyed by some -- like this beach we see here being enjoyed by some of the textile workers. the potential discontent of the cooped up urban dweller was the rise of recreation and urban parks. it had been going on for many
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decades. the most famous of the sparks, central park -- of those parks, central park in new york. more and more parks would follow. as the gilded age approached the 20th century, this push for outdoor breathing spaces would
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become even more vehement. we also need to make sure we are keeping everybody fit and active. if they are physically active, that will keep them out of trouble and if they are physically fit, that will help keep them -- that will help them avoid the saloon potentially. reformers thought all sorts of means of keeping the masses from getting bored and lethargic and of encouraging them to stay healthy. this, in turn, led to the increasing popularity of athletics. sports were a way to bring order to people, to organize people not only into community
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organizations, but also to keep them fit at the same time and to develop a sense of pride in your group, in your church, in your union. this is a transnational phenomenon. historians can tell you the same story about soccer clubs in britain and europe, cricket clubs and so forth. in our case, it is very important. this is a time when baseball starts to get organized and formalized in the years after the civil war. and basketball is invented in 1891 at a ymca in springfield, massachusetts. we start to have college
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football. the first college football game took place in 1869 the 20 and -- between princeton and rutgers. rutgers won 6-4. no helmets, plenty of unnecessary roughness, no notion of unnecessary roughness. the game came close to being banned a couple of times. carnage is the right word for it. the president held this commission, at least 45 deaths on college football field. one historian estimates that in
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the year -- it has been estimated that college football games please 18 deaths -- used 18 deaths -- produced 18 deaths. it was not only the working classes who found modern society butanal. the upper classes, the intellectuals became increasingly disenchanted with their society. many of them suffered from an incredibly vague, but increasingly popular disorder. it consisted of anxiety, fatigue, depression, impotence, headache. the diagnosis depended heavily
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on who you were. if you were of the working classes, you were either lazy. or insane. if you were a woman, you are hysterical. you read about this in "the yellow wallpaper." for a lot of people, male and female, the symptoms might mean you are suffering from nerve weakness. a neurologist named george miller beard and he identified this order as a symptom of modern life.
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it was caused by this faster pace. above all, it was caused by modern technology. technology was not natural, degrading us in our biology. his solution was a regimen of electrical shock. other physicians called for bed rest or isolation. to a lot of intellectuals, if this burnout is a symptom of modernity, our solution is to embrace anti-modernism. they wanted something more than the superficial consumerism, the secularized drive for material gain. many of them rejected modern society in favor of any number
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of more basic alternatives. a return to the simple life, a return to craftsmanship, a return to medieval style religious devotion, a return to the practices of the far east. they turned to alternatives to their modern society. it gives you insight into their frustration with the society. for many of them, including the president, self exertion was the tonic of choice. theodore roosevelt, his solution to all of this was the vigorous life, time spent in the great outdoors. in his very famous attempts to
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invigorate himself, theodore roosevelt would hike mountains, hunt big game, engage in cattle ranching, encourage his fellow men to procreate as much as possible. these concerns from the neurotic elite or confused, overwhelmed intellectuals, they may seem trivial when compared to the labor strike any economic turmoil of the late 19th century. elites were just as interested in using central park and other
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perks for themselves as they were in creating the park as an outlet to prohibit -- prevent discontent among the lower sort. the point, in other words, is during the gilded age there was disenchantment coming from all directions. from those who needed a break, from those who fear the immoral or social implications of an increasing reckless working-class, from businesses who found themselves abused by monopolies, from states who found themselves powerless to stop monopolies, from workers who are finding themselves being crushed by monopolies and other
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companies as well, and from those near the top of the gilded age social hierarchy who found their society increasingly vacuous and unsatisfying. we are not done with the gilded age yet. we have been away from the south for some time now. next time, we will turn our gaze back to dixie and observe their peculiar version of the gilded age. have a wonderful weekend. turn your papers in. have a wonderful weekend. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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>> you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of american history tv descent three.n follow us on twitter for information on the schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. of women -- how the bureau got the information is not entirely clear, but it appears to be by informants. we have informants around the country, checking up on what housewives are talking about in their efforts to decide whether women should have a different role in the society. womenports on particular who said why they had come to the meeting, and how she felt oppressed, sexually, or other rights -- otherwise. reports on such other important
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matters such as the women's liberation movement, interested in protesting the standards -- whatever they protest in th atlantic city. my favorite example, in the baltimore women's liberation movement, in a document which sent not only to the fbi, but to three military agencies, for some reason, a document in which there is a long discussion on the purposes of the group, the location, the pamphlets, and in concluding on the purpose of the group, they come up with ofh an important finding saving women from the humdrum existence of being a wife and mother.
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nothing to do with violence. nothing to do with labels of subversion and extremism. what is the conclusion on the document? we will continue to follow the activities of the women's liberation movement. >> watch more of the church committees investigation into intelligence activities saturday night at 4:00 eastern here on american history tv on c-span 3. >> madam secretary, we probably votes tof our delegate the next president of the united states. [applause]
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>> next, a panel discusses the vietnam antiwar movement. former antiwar act to list, othersden joins including the playwright, robert jenkins, who serves as moderator. we will hear their views on a .ivided country this bout was part of a three-day conference at the lbj presidential library in austin, texas that was called the vietnam war summit. it is a little over one hour. >> ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation of the colors by the texas army rotc color

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