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A fierce competition between two major New York-based newspapers, Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal, exaggerated Weyler's already atrocious tactics as they vied for readers with increasingly sensational news stories. This exaggeration and publication of rumors as fact came to be called "yellow journalism." The two papers even fought over the source of the term: Hearst stole the cartoonist who created a comic strip character called "the yellow kid" from Pulitzer, who in turn hired another cartoonist to create a second "yellow kid." Read more about the role of yellow journalism in shaping this period in American history.

The World and the Journal continued to undercut actions that might have prevented the war, as when Hearst published a private letter from a Spanish minister that spoke unfavorably of US President William McKinley.

In January 1898, violent riots broke out in Cuba. President McKinley, pretending friendly intentions, sent the US battleship the Maine to Havana in 1898 to evacuate citizens should the violence threaten them. When the Maine was destroyed in an explosion while in harbor at Havana, these journalists reinforced the false perception that Spain had blown up the ship. No evidence supported this claim, and Spain would not have benefited from taking such an action. In fact, findings from recent investigations uncover that the explosion was actually caused by an accidental furnace explosion, not by Spain's actions. Nevertheless, with the help of unsubstantiated reporting, the incident led to war.
The Treaty of Paris left Cuba with at best a tentative status of independence from its budding imperialist neighbor. The Philippines posed even stickier issues about the role that the United States should play in the future of those islands. The Dewey and Roosevelt battle at Manila Bay in the Philippines helped the nation imagine itself a controlling influence abroad, as well as foreshadowing the dangerous web of relations that such sway would bring on.

The fate of the Philippines became a topic of extensive debate between pro- and anti-imperialist factions, with the former favoring their annexation to be a territory of the United States. The anti-imperialist William Jennings Bryan argued that colonizing foreign people violated their right to self-determination and conflicted with ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Others argued that the United States could acquire foreign markets without the military takeover of foreign regions. A far less noble anti-imperialist argument was that imperial expansion would involve bringing in "inferior races" to America.

President McKinley had a number of unsatisfactory options to choose from. If he left the Philippines on its own, it might be vulnerable to takeover by Germany or Japan, dragging the United States into a messy war. Ultimately, McKinley chose to annex, or take possession of, the Philippines. Adopting a distant territory populated by a diverse population profoundly different from that of the United States would prove disastrous for the nation in the short-run and long term.
Theodore Roosevelt intervened significantly in Latin America when he pushed to get the Panama Canal built to enable easier access to the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic coast. Once again, this task required military intervention into Latin American lands.

A French company owned the rights to build a canal in Panama in a region then controlled by Colombia. When Colombia refused a US offer to construct the canal there, the engineer for the French company encouraged Panamanians to rebel against Colombia while US naval ships blocked Colombia from quashing the rebellion. Roosevelt quickly recognized Panama's independence and installed the French engineer as its minister.

Some Americans and many Latin Americans objected to the means by which the United States gained access to the canal, although for Americans the practical advantages of its completion somewhat mitigated those objections. In parts of Latin America, however, suspicion of the powerful northern imperial power grew, and some dubbed the whole incident the "rape of Panama."

Digging of the canal started in 1904. The canal's construction was another feat of engineering borne of great faith in science and machinery. It took nine years of nearly nonstop digging to open the 50-mile long isthmus in 1914 that would reduce the trip from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States by more than 8,000 miles. Read more about the building of the Panama Canal.

The 50-mile long Panama Canal was an incredible engineering achievement at the time it was built and remains so today. The Canal's locks are truly impressive. The locks took more than four years to build, but they have remained in great condition for about 100 years. These huge structures help to raise and lower ships 85 feet as they pass through the Canal.

In between the locks, workers built miles of artificial lakes for ships to pass through. Of these, Gatun Lake was the largest. In fact, Gatun Lake was the largest artificial body of water in the world until the 1930s. With its completion in 1914, the canal allowed ships to pass through Central America rather than around the southern tip of South America. The Panama Canal decreased the time and cost for traveling and shipping goods between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The canal also represented the United States' talent in engineering and innovation, as well as its growing power on the international stage.
Before we look at how the United States became involved in World War I, let's examine events in Europe in the years leading up to the war. There was no one cause of the war. Rather, a complex set of circumstances developed over many years to the point where an assassination—a single event—triggered a large-scale war, one that brought widespread destruction and took the lives of about 8.5 million soldiers and more than 6 million civilians.

Nationalism
In the century before World War I, conflicts between European nations were localized and often rooted in a rising sense of nationalism. Increasingly, people who shared a common language, culture, and history began to see themselves as a national group, even across borders.

In western Europe, feelings of nationalism led to brief wars that consolidated many small states into two new powers, Italy (1861) and Germany (1871). These countries and others in western Europe expanded voting rights, boosting national pride and helping to make their governments increasingly powerful. But nationalism had the opposite effect in the large empires of eastern Europe. It weakened the governments of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, each of which ruled many national groups that fought for self-rule. Between 1821 and 1913, Romania and the Balkan states of Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania all won their independence.

The spread of nationalism was most explosive in the Balkan states of southeastern Europe, many of which had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire. As the Ottomans' influence there weakened, Austria-Hungary and Russia vied for the region. The ensuing tensions among these three powers would eventually help ignite World War I.
The assassination ultimately became the trigger that set off World War I. With Germany's support, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia on July 23 that would effectively revoke Serbia's independence and give Austria-Hungary control of the country. Surprisingly, Serbia accepted most of the terms and asked that the others be decided by an international conference. Austria-Hungary took the minor areas of dissent as a reason to declare war on Serbia on July 28.

With Austria-Hungary and Serbia at war, other countries quickly took sides based on the terms of their alliances. Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilized its army on July 30, 1914. On August 1, Germany declared war against Russia and then against Russia's ally, France. By August 3, Germany, whose leaders had long been making battle plans in anticipation of war, had invaded Belgium and prepared to attack France.

The major powers quickly aligned. Germany joined with Austria-Hungary and Italy to make up the Central powers. On the other side were Serbia, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Japan, who made up the Allied powers. In 1915, Italy would switch loyalties to the Allies, two years before the United States entered the war, to support the Allied powers.

With the opposing sides poised for battle, let's review the circumstances that brought Europe to this point. We saw how a race to build up military might, the formation of military alliances, the desire to gain new territory and wealth, and national pride all played a role in the conflicts and tensions that led to World War I.
Initially, the United States pledged to remain neutral in World War I, following the philosophy of early leaders such as George Washington. In his Farewell Address, Washington cautioned America "to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world." President Woodrow Wilson even urged Americans in 1914 to remain "neutral in thought as well as in action."

President Wilson's words were easier said than done. Many Americans had ancestral ties to countries fighting on both sides in Europe, and their positions on the war varied greatly. Also, while President Wilson was neutral in speech, his actions indicated that he favored the British. For example, the British blocked US ships headed to Germany with supplies after it declared the North Sea a war zone, and the United States did not sternly warn them. However, the United States did warn Germany when that country started unrestricted submarine warfare in the same waters. The US government also loaned billions of dollars to the Allies, while loans only in the millions of dollars went to the Central powers.

To draw the United States to the side of the Allies, Great Britain started a propaganda campaign aimed at creating bias in the minds of US citizens. The British shrewdly touted the historic ties between the two nations, including their shared language and culture. The British also highlighted every atrocity that Germany inflicted on them while hiding their own misconduct.

Despite the geographical distance from Europe and the neutral stance of the United States, these pressures and events would soon draw the nation into World War I. Let's look at the sequence of events that convinced the United States to join the war effort.
After the United States entered the European conflict, the nation sprang to action to support its war needs. The US government had to quickly raise funds and conserve food and other essential commodities for the war. The government raised taxes and sold bonds to raise money. Liberty Bonds and Victory Bonds raised more than $20 billion to aid the war effort, some of which was loaned to the Allies to buy weapons, food, and other war necessities. These funds also supported the US troops' training and other needs when they arrived in Europe.

In addition to raising funds for the war effort, the United States also needed food and ammunition for the troops and fuel to keep industries running at full throttle. To meet these needs, the US government set up several administrative bodies. In 1917, the War Industries Board (WIB) was established. Under Bernard Baruch, a perceptive Wall Street investor, this board decided on raw material allocation, production, and prices. This regulation ensured a steady supply of materials needed for the war.

Similar bodies for fuel and food administration were also set up in 1917. The Fuel Administration promoted "heatless Mondays" in American households to save fuel that could be diverted for higher industrial production.

The Food Administration was headed by Herbert Hoover, a future US president. The slogan "Food will win the war" encouraged people to cultivate "victory" gardens to grow their own produce. Instead of forced rationing, citizens were asked to conserve certain foods on specific days, such as "meatless Mondays" and "wheatless Wednesdays."

These voluntary acts helped reduce domestic food consumption by 15 percent, which helped feed US and Allied troops in Europe.

In addition to providing munitions and food, the US government needed to draft and mobilize troops quickly. On May 18, 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed. This law compelled all men ages 21 to 30 to register for the draft and was later broadened to include all men ages 18 to 45.

The US government used multiple methods to convince citizens to join the army. Army posters depicting soldiers and their mothers flashed messages such as "The sentiment of every American mother: America, here's my boy." Attempts were made to enlist African Americans with posters of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, looking down approvingly at African American soldiers fighting the Germans.

All that propaganda worked. More than three million American troops served, including more than 350,000 African Americans, who served in a segregated US Army. Of the total number of troops, two million were sent to Europe to fight alongside the Allies.

Watch this video to see US troops preparing to go to war.
While the United States became involved in World War I to uphold democracy, ironically, civil liberties took a hit on the home front. There were several witch hunts under the guise of patriotism. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 resulted in widespread persecution of German Americans and antiwar Americans, including antiwar socialists and members of the Industrial Workers of the World.

In 1917, Congress passed the Espionage Act, which prohibited disclosing information that pertained to national defense, interfering in recruiting troops for World War I, and refusing to perform military duty. Violating this act would mean a fine of $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

Congress passed the Sabotage and Sedition Acts in 1918. The Sabotage Act made it illegal to obstruct US war efforts by interfering with the production or shipment of military supplies. The Sedition Act impeded freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Both laws were aimed at anticapitalist groups, such as the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, who might speak against the war or organize strikes.

Many Americans opposed these new laws because they infringed upon civil rights. The US Supreme Court case of Schenck v. United States in 1919 argued that these laws violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. However, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled against Schenck, a member of the Socialist Party, and upheld the statutes that were harsh restrictions of freedom of speech. The convictions and jail sentences didn't stop until much later when, after the war, President Warren G. Harding pardoned 24 people convicted under the Espionage Act, including Eugene V. Debs.

US labor unions were also harassed. Instead of negotiating with workers who went on strike during the war, businesses promptly replaced them with those who would work for lower wages, many times immigrants.
The United States became actively involved in World War I in 1917, just after the Russian government fell to Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik party. Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and made peace with the Germans. Russia's exit had considerably weakened the Allies and freed up German troops to attack France.

While many factors spurred the United States to get involved in the war, the Zimmerman note, along with Germany's decision to attack all ships regardless of nationality, gave the final nudge. One of the United States' first strategic military moves was to ensure safety on the seas. As German submarines continued to attack ships indiscriminately, the US Navy convinced the Allies to post military convoys aboard their ships.

In October 1917, the first 14,500 US troops under the command of General John J. Pershing arrived in France, where forces were engaged in trench warfare on the western front. During the course of the war, more than two million US troops crossed the Atlantic, and the sheer size of their presence changed the momentum of the war. The Allies, now bolstered by American troops, were able to prevent the Germans from advancing to Paris. In fact, the Allies pushed the Germans back toward Belgium, which led to a German defeat in the Battle of St. Mihiel.

Several additional battles were fought in France through the remainder of the war. While Germany tried to hold its battle line, the addition of the US expeditionary forces made that impossible. This pushback was the beginning of the end for the German war machine. The Allies and US troops didn't stop at pushing the Germans out of France. They launched an offensive on the Carignan-Sedan-Mezieres railroad, near the Belgium border, which was the Germans' main supply route. The battles of this offensive raged for three months, but finally the Allies prevailed. On November 11, 1918, Germany surrendered and World War I finally ended.
President Wilson sailed with his delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference in France in December 1918. During this conference, the US president dominated the peace proceedings along with the other leaders who made up the Big Four: Britain's David Lloyd George, France's Georges Clemenceau, and Italy's Vittorio Orlando. Other nations' delegates also attended, but their influence was minimal.

Wilson presented his Fourteen Points and ideas about a League of Nations. But his detractors in Congress were proven right. His ideas were too altruistic for the Allies, who wanted revenge for the heavy loss of life they had suffered. They wanted to punish the Central powers and also expand their own territories.

Matters at the peace conference became heated over territorial demands, which went against Wilson's Fourteen Points. He threatened to walk out and arrive at a peace agreement with Germany separately. The Allied leaders knew that only Germany's fear of the United States would keep it under control. They placated Wilson, but were determined to severely punish the Central powers. Over time, the Allied leaders convinced Wilson to come around to their demands for territorial expansion and their refusal to relinquish their colonies. Despite his efforts, Wilson's Fourteen Points were not incorporated in the peace treaty.

After intense negotiations at Versailles, the German delegation signed the harsh peace treaty. Germany had to pay reparations to the Allies and accept full blame for the war. The country was disarmed and stripped of all its colonies, which became either independent or colonies of the Allied nations. Germany resented the ruthless terms of the treaty. This festering resentment is considered a root cause of World War II.

Take a look at this map to see how the Treaty of Versailles changed the national borders within Europe.
In the midst of the tense peace negotiations in Versailles, President Wilson aimed for long-term world peace and justice by setting up an international organization called the League of Nations.

Wilson presented his draft for the League of Nations to the Allies on February 14, 1918. Back home, his idea met with stiff, largely partisan opposition. He had angered the Republicans by including only one Republican in his peace conference delegation, even though the Democrats had lost their majority in Congress to the Republicans in 1918. He suffered a backlash for this move during discussions about his foreign policies.

The Foreign Relations Committee amended the pact for setting up the League of Nations and sent it to the Senate on September 10, 1919. The Senate, however, couldn't come to an agreement. The Democrats were willing to accept the pact without any amendments. Some Republicans, who came to be thought of as the irreconcilables, completely opposed the league because they thought it would hamper the United States' powers.

Others in opposition to the League of Nations were the isolationists, such as Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. These Republicans objected only to Article 10, which ensured territorial integrity and independence for all League members. The reservationists felt this article would infringe on the power of the United States to declare war, if necessary, and to expand its territory.

After the Republicans refused to ratify the League of Nations, Wilson went on a national tour, hoping to garner public support. He traveled thousands of miles by train and spoke about his vision for a better world. All the traveling and speaking exhausted Wilson, however, and on October 2, 1919, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. Wilson's ill health, instead of weakening his stance, made him more stubborn. He refused to accept the League of Nations without Article 10. According to Wilson's wishes, the Democrats voted against the amended League of Nations in November 1919.

Forty-four nations came together to form the League of Nations in January 1920, but the United States was still at a stalemate. The Democrats voted against the league amendments again in March 1920. The ailing President Wilson stood defeated, but he remained obstinate about his all-or-nothing stand. The United States never did join the League of Nations, nor did it ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Instead, the United States signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921.
After Coolidge's reelection, the US economy continued to prosper under his laissez-faire policies. "The chief business of the American people is business," Coolidge declared in 1925. However, overshadowed by industrial prosperity, the farm sector continued to languish, and frustration among farmers mounted. New technology enabled farmers to cultivate more land and reap higher yields and better quality crops, but the abundance only served to lower crop prices.

The federal government promised to raise local crop prices by exporting the surplus, but this action delayed the McNary-Haugen Bill. This bill required the government to buy surplus crops at high prices and sell them abroad. If the exports resulted in losses, the government was to bridge the gap by imposing taxes on local sales. However, Coolidge was not in favor of this bill, and he vetoed it twice after it was passed by Congress. The farmers were furious with the president.

Coolidge enthusiastically passed the Revenue Act of 1926, which reduced inheritance and personal income taxes. A rate of 13.5 percent was also assessed on the net income of corporations. Coolidge did not feel it was the role of the national government to assist people affected by natural disasters. For example, when floods along the Mississippi wiped out towns and farmlands in 1927, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless, the Coolidge administration provided no aid to the victims.

Coolidge maintained popular support because the economy continued to do well under his business-friendly policies. Find out more about the Coolidge administration and its contribution to the economic boom of the 1920s.
What caused the market to crash? Economists point to the following underlying issues as the likely causes.

Credit expansion led to a price bubble: As the market rose through the 1920s, stockbrokers allowed investors to buy "on the margin," that is, by making only a small down payment, often as low as 10 percent. Easy availability of credit lured many investors to make quick profits on borrowed money. This credit expansion created a speculative bubble that inflated stock prices to unrealistic highs. The bubble burst in October 1929 when the British raised their interest rates to attract capital invested in the US market. As stock prices started falling, many investors who had bought on credit failed to repay, so brokers sold stocks held as collateral. This chain reaction led the market into a downward spiral.

Tax cuts led to higher savings and lower consumer demand: Consumer spending slowed through the 1920s as tax cuts encouraged people to save and invest in the rising stock market. Higher savings led to lower demand in the economy. A decline in foreign trade due to high tariff barriers accelerated the economic slowdown. Most investors didn't see these warning signals and believed that the boom would continue.

Purchasing power declined: Businesses invested most of their profits back into expanding production, so workers' wages grew only modestly during the 1920s. While investment in factories and other businesses soared, mechanization of farms and a sharp fall in the prices of farm products led to unemployment and poverty. These trends caused a decline in purchasing power, which eventually led to an imbalance of production and consumption in the economy.

The stock market crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The political movements to right racial injustice in the 1920s coincided with the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem had been an elite all-white suburb, but during the 1920s it became the home of hundreds of thousands of blacks. This concentrated population, coupled with an abundance of artistic institutions—such as recording companies, theater companies, and book publishers—plus the NAACP headquarters, fueled the freedom of expression of African American intellectuals, artists, writers, and musicians. Harlem became a cultural home for many who wanted to transform the stereotypical image of black Americans. This political movement came to be called the New Negro Movement.

In literary circles, this Renaissance produced the African American poets Claude Mckay and Langston Hughes, novelist Zora Neale Hurston, and Jean Toomer, whose book Cane (1923) mixed poetry and fictional vignettes to convey the horrors of black life in the rural South. These writers, and others, celebrated the distinctiveness of African American culture. Their works promoted racial pride and also influenced mainstream white culture.

Famous musicians of the period included Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday.Actors and dancers from the time of the Harlem Renaissance remain in our memories today—for example, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Paul Robeson. The Harlem Renaissance marked the first time that the literature, music, and art of African Americans was noticed and accepted by non-African Americans. The times and the work set the foundations for today's African American culture.
Fundamentalist Protestants, who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible and its precedence over all human knowledge, opposed some of the key scientific ideas of the age because they seemed to challenge biblical beliefs. Particularly, the fundamentalists focused their efforts on banning the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in schools because they perceived it as a challenge to the biblical theory of creation. In 1925, Tennessee passed the Butler Act to ban the teaching of evolution, and about 20 other states were considering antievolution legislation.

In May 1925, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put out an advertisement that offered to pay the legal expenses of any teacher who was willing to challenge the Butler law in Tennessee. In July of that year, John T. Scopes, a biology teacher from Tennessee, declared that he had violated the Butler law.

William Jennings Bryan led the prosecution's case in the Scopes trial. Over the trial's 12 days, Bryan attacked the theory of evolution, but the defense relentlessly entrapped Bryan and exposed his ignorance of biblical history and scholarship. Clarence Darrow, a renowned lawyer, atheist, and former supporter of Bryan, defended Scopes. Darrow put up an excellent fight in court against Bryan and even against the presiding judge, John T. Raulston, an evangelist who often quoted the Bible. Darrow exposed Bryan's ignorance of biblical studies and requested that the judge keep his religious beliefs out of the courtroom. Darrow lost the case, but he is remembered for his intelligent arguments in Scopes's defense.
The temperance movement in the United States dates back at least to 1826, the year the American Temperance Society, one of many reform movements of the time, was established in Boston. Its aim was to instill greater moderation in drinking to lessen the corrupting effects of alcohol consumption, which was deemed harmful to work quality and safety as well as to the safety of women and children in families. The movement's goal was not an outright ban on drinking.

However, the Civil War and a large influx of immigrants led to an increase in alcohol use and spurred the formation of the National Prohibition party in 1869. Some states and counties passed laws banning or limiting alcohol use, production, or distribution. In 1914, at the advent of World War I in Europe, about half of US territory was dry, and saloons had been outlawed in three-fourths of the land. Large cities, in which a large percentage of the population was often immigrant workers, more successfully resisted the passage of such bans.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League were the two leading temperance organizations of the early 1900s. Both organizations initially tried to reform individuals, but in 1906, the Anti-Saloon League began a movement in support of a national Prohibition law.

Under intense lobbying by various temperance groups, Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1919. It imposed a national ban on the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. But by then, 19 states, encompassing more than 50 percent of the population, already had legislation restricting alcohol consumption. The same year, Congress passed the Volstead Act to enforce Prohibition.

Among lawmakers' stated reasons for imposing Prohibition were that it would strengthen the spirit of nationalism and the need for sacrifice and thwart the prosperity of German American brewers (a reflection of the nation's hostility toward Germany). Patriotism was strongly linked with Prohibition during World War I, when the government passed legislation to prevent the use of food grains for producing alcohol to ensure that enough food was available to feed US troops and their European allies.

Virtually none of the goals of the Prohibition supporters were achieved by the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act. Prohibition served only to strengthen organized criminal gangs, allowing them to thrive as bootleggers. The law banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor but did not directly ban consumption, so most Americans who drank never really stopped drinking.

Prohibition soon created a culture of bootlegging, hip flasks, speakeasies, and cocktail parties. Criminal gangs smuggled alcohol into the United States from Canada and the West Indies. Americans, including women, began to visit speakeasies instead of taverns and clubs. Shady entrepreneurs and local gangs bribed authorities to ensure that bootlegged liquor was available to anyone who could pay for it.

It's ironic how some of the issues the temperance movement and the dry politicians were fighting against flourished under Prohibition.

Prohibition, dubbed the noble experiment, ended in 1933 when a national commission reported that the Volstead Act, which was supposed to enforce Prohibition, was underfunded and attempts to enforce it had broken down. But this was only a technical reason. In reality, with flourishing speakeasies and easy availability of bootlegged alcohol, the law was flouted by many Americans who did not consider drinking to be a crime. New York repealed its Prohibition enforcement law as early as 1923, and many other states followed suit. The death of Prohibition proved the futility of enforcing legislation that is not acceptable to the majority in a democratic society.
How could the United States slip so quickly into an economic depression? Which forces were behind the sudden decline in prosperity? No single event or policy caused the Great Depression. Rather, historians and economists recognize a confluence of structural weaknesses and economic policies that led to the Depression.

A surplus of goods is one factor that contributed to the weakening of the economy. During the 1920s farmers produced more agricultural products than they could sell in the marketplace. Similarly, businesses constructed new factories, and new efficiencies in manufacturing resulted in higher production.

At the same time, consumers did not have the disposable income to purchase extra goods. Consider a typical family living in 1929. A worker in a Ford factory made $6 a day. With an annual income of less than $1,500 (approximately $18,600 in today's money), families had little money to spend on things other than food, shelter, and clothing. Many families borrowed money from the banks to pay for homes and automobiles.

Farmers were in trouble long before Black Tuesday. Surpluses and competition from abroad kept farm prices low. Hoover first responded to the problem in 1929 by creating the Federal Farm Board, an organization that was funded with $500 million. Congress directed the Farm Board to loan the money to farmers so they could create cooperatives that would help organize trade and production.

During his election campaign, Hoover promised to protect farmers from foreign competition by raising tariffs on imported agricultural goods. Republican legislators wanted to extend the tariff to protect not only agriculture but manufactured products as well. In 1930 Congress approved the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, a law that significantly increased the taxes paid on agricultural and industrial imports.

The tariff had a ripple effect on foreign affairs. Major trading partners with the United States, such as Canada and Great Britain, strongly objected to the bill. The bill signaled that America was retreating from free trade in favor of protectionist measures. In response, countries passed their own tariffs on goods exported from the United States.
FDR was elected governor of New York in 1928, and again in 1930. In the 1932 presidential election, FDR trounced the incumbent Republican president, Hoover, winning 22,809,638 popular votes to Hoover's 15,758,901 votes, and 472 electoral votes to Hoover's 59. The Democrats also won commanding majorities in both houses of Congress.

FDR's personal battle with paralysis and his determination to maintain mobility and independence added to his belief in himself, in the motivational power of hope, and to his compassion for the forgotten man that he had taken to heart in his formative years. His charismatic personality and comfort with public speaking would prove immensely valuable throughout his presidency.

In his message to Congress in June 1934, FDR announced his ambitious Social Security program, and promised that his administration would place "the security of the men, women, and children of the Nation first" and that the "security of the home, the security of livelihood, and the security of social insurance constitute a right that belongs to every individual." The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in August 1935.

After leading the United States through the Great Depression and most of World War II (1939-1945), FDR died of cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945, at the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia, which he had founded as a rehabilitation center for polio victims.
In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Roosevelt told Americans, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." At the time, one in four Americans was jobless, salaries had fallen by 40 percent, and industrial wages had fallen by 60 percent since 1929. Approximately 1.2 million people were homeless, a quarter of a million families had defaulted on their mortgages, eight out of ten banks had closed, and factory output had slumped to 56 percent of its 1929 level.

In his first 100 days in office, Roosevelt pushed through Congress a series of bills intended to produce results that historians have classified under three Rs:

recovery of business and agriculture
relief to the jobless and those in danger of losing their farms and homes
reform of government and corporate America.
These laws, which collectively came to be known as Roosevelt's New Deal for Americans, significantly increased the US government's role in the economy.