David J. Adams
The United States From 1900 to 1933
December 9, 1975
United States history has never stood still. This is even true of a time which many people consider uneventful. Each year, hundreds of history making events take place and every month enough events take place that some notice should be taken of them. September of 1924 was no exception. It had many events which could be thought worthy of notice even if some were not earth shattering.
The month of September contained much political history such as the decline of the Ku Klux Klan. The month contained legal history in the form of the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. It also, had its share of technical history with the first circumnavigation of the world by aircraft. There is also a share of the history of United States intervention in world affairs such as the Chinese Civil War. Along with this, there was a chance to learn of Americans feelings toward the military on Defense Day. There was also, a chance to study some Americans social lives with the visit of the Prince of Wales.
Some idea of American life in the 1920s may be seen by looking at these and other events of the month of September 1924.
One of the largest issues during the month was the Ku Klux Klan which had reached its peak in both membership and political power in 1924. The Klan that year had a membership of about three million and was in control of many Statehouses and other government offices.(1)
The beginning of the Klan's downfall, however, can also be seen that same year. During September, many events can be seen which can be used to build a case that the Klan had reached. The summit and was starting to slip back down the mountain of power.
One of the first big losses for the Klan came, when the Texas Democratic Convention nominated Miriam "Ma" Fergusen, wife of ex-governor Ferguson who was impeached by Klan forces, for governor and adopted an anti-Klan platform.(2)Lynch Davidson. Mrs. Fergusons opponent in the primary, saw her victory clearly as an anti-Klan victory.(3)
After being nominated Mrs. Ferguson was challenged again by Klan forces this time in the courts on the grounds that a woman could not be governor.(4) However, she won that battle as well and her name was left on the ballot.(5)
The New York Supreme court at Buffalo dealt the Ku Klux Klan still another blew when it ordered a confiscate list of 4,000 members released to the public. As a result of the releasing of the list, many businesses owned by these Klan members were boycotted by various groups.(6)
In Maine's election there was a sign of the growing sentiment against the Klan. This could be seen even though the Klan supported candidate for governor, the Republican Brewster won. It can be demonstrated that because Brewster's Democratic opponent made the Klan the main issue of his campaign Brewster lost several thousand votes.(7) Brewster won by only thirty thousand votes, while the Republican majority in the last election was better than sixty thousand votes.7 This coupled with the fact that The Republican Senatorial candidate, who was not supported by the Klan, in the same election received fifteen thousand votes more than Brewster did, seems to indicate a very large anti-Klan vote.(8)
Several State parties went against the Klan helping to further erode the power of the Klan. In New York, both major political parties adopted anti--Klan planks in their platforms.(9) In Connecticut, the Democratic party also came out against the Klan in their platform.(10) It was the same story at the New Hampshire Democratic Convention.(11)
It can be found in other states that the Klan candidates were soundly defeated. In Michigan, Senator James Couzens won even though he was openly opposed by the Ku Klux Klan; in fact no Klan endorsed candidate won a major office in Michigan.(12) In the neighboring state of Wisconsin, Governor J. J. Blaine, also an anti-Klan candidate, won his renomination bid by seventy thousand votes.(13)
Not only was the Klan being opposed at the state level, it was also attacked by all the major national candidates. Robert La Follette, the Progressive candidate for president, was the first to come out strongly against the Klan.(14) Davis, the Democratic candidate, also came out strongly against the Klan.(15) This was probably in an effort to get rid of the monkey placed on his back by H. W. Evans. Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan at that time, when the latter said that he could in all conscience support either of the two major political parties.(16) The Republican vice-presidential candidate, Charles Dawes, condemned the Klan as nothing but mindless vigilantes after several killings in Herrin, Illinois.(17) After the results of the Maine election were known Coolidge even came out publicly against the Klan.(18)
From Cargill, "Methinks his Flesh is Punished," The Outlook. CXXXVIII No. 2 (Sept. 10, 1924).
The evidence seems to show definite signs of the decay of The Ku Klux Klan which needed only to be aided by the scandals which were yet to come, that involved the Klans leaders, to bring the whole Klan empire down.
The Klan did not have a monopoly on the history of that month; Clarence narrow made a place for himself. That month marked the end of one of his greatest trials, the Bobby Franks murder trial. In this trial, of two students (Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb) for the murder of fellow student Bobby Franks, Darrow tried to convince the court that the then accepted legal definition of insanity was wrong. Using the new psychology of that time, he seemed to show Leopold to be neurotic and Loeb to be psychotic, however, the court continued to hold to the old legal definition.(19) With the throwing out of this defense the two students were found guilty.
After Darrows clients were found guilty, Darrow turned his full efforts toward one of his goals in life, The ending of capital punishment. He was more successful in this effort. The court gave Leopold and Loeb a sentence of life in prison.
The fact that the two men were not executed made some people angry because they thought it was setting a bad example in that The victim was punished worse than the criminals.(20)
It also made many convicted murderers bitter because they were to be hung while the millionaires' sons were getting away with their lives.(21)
September 1924 was also the month in which the first circumnavigation of the world by air was completed. This feat was accomplished in two planes of the United States Army Air Corp. The pilots for the flight were commander Lieutenant Lowell Smith of the "Chicago" and Lieutenant Erik Nelson of the "New Orleans." Their flying mechanics were Lieutenant Leslie Arnold and lieutenant John Harding Jr. respectfully.(22) The trip took a total of six months and six days and ended September 23, 1924 at Clover Field, California.(23) The flight started with four planes, two of which were unable to finish; luckily no one was injured in the downing of those two planes. The two Douglas Cruisers that finished the world trip made fifty-seven stops and used six motors in completing the journey around the world.(24)
This feat showed that the United States though having a slow start in the building of an air force had caught up with and even passed the two giants of the time, England and France.
Of even more importance must have been the realization brought upon many people, at this time, that now even landlocked nations had the potential of gaining from international trade by air.
While the United States was not engaged in any major wars at that time, it was active in many civil wars and other minor actions in order to protect American lives and investments.
The first of these took place in Shanghai, China. This city was a major trading center and as such had many foreign nationalities there including Americans. So when a civil war brake cut between the Republican forces and the warlords of China, the United States along with several other countries sent Marines to protect the city of Shanghai.(25) The United States, while not suffering casualties, as many of the other countries did, made its presence known. It dispatched a squadron of the Pacific Fleet to Shanghai and ordered all ships in Woosung harbor on alert and put ashore landing parties to protect the American sector of the city.(26)
Through the whole action in China, the United States along with England seemed to be the only two countries which did not see the war as a good time to turn a big profit. Both stuck by an agreement which prohibited the sale of munitions to either side in the dispute.(27) This appears to sustain the belief that the United States was just there to protect American citizens and property from being killed and destroyed.
At the same time, the United States was embroiled in China, it found itself caught up in another civil war this time in Honduras. This action did not require the manpower that had been used in China. In Honduras, one hundred Marines were landed from the cruiser Tulsa to protect the American Consulate at Celba. The cruiser Galveston was dispatched to aid the Tulsa in protecting American interest. In this civil war the United States guaranteed its services as mediator of the altercation if both sides would call a cease-fire. The United States government worked toward that end all month.(28)
During this period, the United States was not only being drawn into more military actions. It was in addition removing American troops from countries it had occupied for more than a decade. The Marines were pulled out of Nicaragua after the country paid off its rail loans and Santo Domingo was nearly finished paying off its debts so The United States troops were preparing to leave there too.(29)
It can be seen that for a country that has been credited with having deep-rooted feelings of isolationism, its military machine had done a good job of keeping busy.
September 12, 1924 must go down in history as one of the American Military Establishments lowest days. The day was titled National Defense Day. The day was said, by The War Department, to be a test of how well and how fast the nation's resources should be mobilized to prevent an attack.
The observance of that day was supported by almost seventeen million people including "Regular Army and Marine Corp, the National Guard, and Organized Reserves as well as Army Nurses" along with many civilian volunteers.(30)
However, The thing that is as striking about Defense Day is not the number of people that supported it, but strong protest against it. That pretest came from many political leaders from many different parts of the country and took many different forms.
The protests of Governor Baxter of Maine, Governor Bryan of Nebraska, Governor Sweet of Colorado, and Governor Blame of Wisconsin have appeared in the press. Governor Bryan consented to mobilization of The Guard, but Governor Sweet has refused even this participation. Governor Baxter declares he will take no action toward securing observance of the day. Upon publication of Governor Banters Statement which was the first of the series, Governor Blame of Wisconsin wired him, heartily agreeing with his position.
Governor Smith of New York, who has kept The matter before him for some time, has finally agreed to cooperate in The plan but has called upon The public to go to church on September 12 and give thanks for the preservation of peace and security and to pray for the continuing of goodwill among all nations.(31)
The religious leaders of America were net silent on that issue either. The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America,(32) The Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church,(33) and The Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends,(34) each drafted resolutions denouncing Defense Day. The reasons given by these groups appeared to originate with the belief that in a time of peace a nation should show its desire for continued peace not make a show of its willingness to go to war.
Along with this protest against the celebration of Defense Day, there were many questions raised as to how well it really demonstrated the United States ability to mobilize in the event of war. This was pointed out by the fact that Elbert H. Gary put his industrial resources behind the observance of the day, but during World War I he "skinned" the Government and the public until the Government threatened to nationalize the steel industry.(35)35 So was there any reason to expect anything other than a repeat of his actions during World War I.
There were also cases of over zealous patriotism causing much hard feelings such as when the police chief of Bergenfield, New Jersey stated that any man of military age that did not participate in the mobilization would be arrested. This later turned out to be a lie.(36) Actions like this raised the question of whether Defense Day was really a military test or just one more day to give "name play" for politicians.
Young, "Mobilization or Defense Day." The Nation, CXIX No. 3088, (Sept. 10, 1924), P. 253
Along with the other events of Defense Day cane the retirement of one of the armies most colorful leaders, John Joseph (Black Jack) Pershing resigned after forty--two years of military service. He lead two major campaigns, the first of which was the Villa chase of 1916. Pershing was then given command of the World War I Expeditionary Forces. He was then appointed Chief of Staff July 1. 1921. "Black Jack" was replaced by Major General John Leonard Hines on September 12, 1924.(37)
Competing for The headlines and usually winning was Prince Edward of Great Brittan. The Prince made a month long visit to the United States in order that he could watch the International Polo Match which was held in New York.(38) Prince Edward received more publicity than anyone during his visit even though it was an election year.(39)
Without really trying, he set the styles for American men that year especially with the turned down brim on his hat. By taking a look at all the stories about him in the society columns, one would get the impression he was the answer to every girls dreams. If he had more than one dance with a girl, the columnist wondered out loud if they were to be engaged. During the Princes stay, President Coolidge gave a dinner party for him. One coarse of the meal consisted of corn on the cob. The Princes ability at eating the corn prompted a call for an international conference on the subject of eating corn on the cob.(40)
The visit of Prince Edward made a deep and lasting impression on the people of the United States that could still be seen when he abdicated in 1936.
During The month of September Mayor Lew Shank of Indianapolis ordered the drafting of a bill, to be put before the State Legislature, that would combine all the taxing units of Indianapolis and Marion county.(41) This proposal, which was just accepted in the 1970s for several communities across the nation including Marion county Indiana and Dade county Florida, is still being discussed pro and con. It appears in the long run, however, to be a very necessary step in saving many of our major cities.
This was not just a time of serious events or of famous people capturing the headlines of the newspapers and magazines. There were also many crazy things which caught the interest of the nation. One man named Milton Pavlowa, an immigrant from Greece, preformed a feat which struck the fancy of many people. Milton dived one hundred and thirty-three feet down from the Brooklyn Bridge into the waters of the East River and the only injury he received was a bloody nose.(42)
The American society of 1924 was no more homogeneous than it is today. In the month of September, a wide variety of events can be seen which can show how Americans differed in thought. It can be seen that even at the peak of its membership the Ku Klux Klan still had many enemies in this country. It can also be seen that even though there were large numbers of participants on Defense Day there were many anti-militarist too.
It can be seen that during this month United States policies were not isolationist by any means. The government recognized it had a part to play in world affairs and it came closest to fitting the part. Sometimes over and sometimes under playing The part.
There can also be seen in this month the light hearted nature of many Americans in the way they reacted to such people as Prince Edward and Milton Pavlowa.
Yes, the United States role in world affairs has changed and technology has advanced, but doesnt it seem strange that some ideas do not appear to have changed in fifty years.
If grandpap could only return with some of his discipline.
Orr, "Methinks His Flesh is Punished," Outlook, Sept.10, 1924
|Go to top of Page||Go to Prior Page||Bibliography|
1. "Ku Klux Klan" Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, (1972) Vol. XIV. pp. 461--63
2. New York Times, Sept. 3. 1924. p. 2
3. New York Times, Sept. 4, 1924. p. 4
4. Indianapolis News, Sept. 25, 1924, p. 86
5. Indianapolis News, Sept. 29, 1924, p. 1
6. New York Times, Sept. 17, 1924, p. 10
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8. "The Klan at Bay," Current Opinion. LXXVII (July--Dec.1924)p. 422
9. Indianapolis News. Sept. 26, 1924, pp. 16. 25
10. New York Times. Sept. 16, 1924, p. 2
11. "Indianapolis News. Sept. 26, 1924, p. 25
12. "The Political Steeplechasers Take a Hurdle," The Outlook. CXXXVIII, No. 4, (Sept. 24, 1924) p. 109
13. New York Times, Sept. 4, 1924. p. 4
14. "The Klan at Bay." Current Opinion, LXXVII (July--Dec. 1924) p. 421
15. "The Klan at Bay." Current opinion, LXXVII (July--Dec. 1924) p. 422
16. Indianapolis News, Sept. 1, 1924, p. 20
17. "The Klan as an Issue." The Outlook, CXXXVIII. Ne. 3, (Sept. 3, 1924), p. 5
18. "The Week," The New Republic, XL,(Sept. 1924), p. 29
19. Leonard Blumgart. "The New Psychology and The Franks Case, The Nation, CXIX. No. 3088, (Sept. 10, 1924) p. 262
20. Leonard Blumgart, "The New Psychology and The Franks Case," The Nation. CXIX, No. 2088, (Sept. 10, 1924) p. 261
21. "Chronology, 1924," World Almanac, (1925), p. 106
22. "Magellans of The Air," Current Opinion, LXXVII (July--Dec. 1924), p. 423
23. Stewart Beach, ed.; "What The World is Doing The Independent. CXIII, No. 3879, (Oct. 4, 1924) p.
24. "Magellans of The Air." Current Opinion. LXXVII (July--Dec. 1924), p. 424
25. New York Times. Sept. 9, 1924, p. 1
26. Indianapolis News, Sept. 29, 1924, p. 1.
27. "The Week," The New Republic, XL, (Sept. 1924), p. 57
28. Stewart Beach, ed., "What The World is Doing." The Independent, CXLLL, N.. 3878, (Sept. 27, 1924), p. 210
29. "The Hard Boiled Marines are on Their Way," The Forum, LXXII (July-Dec. 1924), p. 418
30. Stewart Beach, ed.. "What The World is Doing," The Independent, CXIII, N.. 3878, (Sept. 27, 1924), p. 208
31. "Mobilization or Defense Test?" The Nation, CXIX No. 3088.(Sept. 10, 1924), p. 254
32. "Mobilization or Defense Tent?" The Nation, CXIX No. 3088, (Sept. 10, 1924), p. 253
33. "Yes, Defense Day." The Nation, CXIX, No. 3090 (Sept. 24, 1924), p. 297
34. Indianapolis News, Sept. 1, 1924, p. 24
35. "I Told You So," The Nation. CXIX, No. 3090, (Sept. 24, 1924) p.297
36. I Told You So," The Nation, CXIX. No. 3090 (Sept. 24, 1924) p. 297
37. Stewart Beach, ed., "What The World is Doing." The Independent, CXIII, No. 3877, (Sept. 13, 1924) p. 164
38. Stewart Beach, ed., "What The World is Doing," The Independent, CXIII, N.. 3877, (Sept. 13. 1924) p. 165
39. 39"Fuss and Feathers and The Prince," Current Opinion, LXXXVII (July--Dec. 1924), p. 428
40. "Editorial," The Nation. CXIX, No. 3091. (Oct. 1, 1924) p.323
41. Indianapolis News, Sept. 2, 1924, p. 17
42. New York Times, Sept. 28, 1924, p. 1