The Creation of an American Hero

During the 1930’s the American escaped the tragic mood of the Great Depression by reading comic strips. By 1935, almost 2000 comic strips were being published in newspapers all across the country. Comic strip creators were treated as celebrities and were able to earn good money for their work. Many young men attempted to break into the comic industry to earn money in lack of proper employment, including the two sons of Jewish immigrants, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. These two friends created the characRiceter Superman, an alien who immigrated to earth and possessed superpowers who protected the American people. They pitched their idea for five years before it was picked up to be the first issue of Action Comics.

Superman became popular almost instantly because he represented justice for the unemployed and prosperity for immigrants. The unemployed American responded to a man whose job was to protect the common man, especially during the 1930’s where the average American felt powerless to big business and a 25% unemployment rate. Immigrants also identified with Superman, as Superman had left his alien home of Krypton behind to assimilate into the ideal American man. Superman changing his name to Clark Kent and finding success in both his career and his mission to protect justice made him a symbol of the “American Dream,” or being able to come into America and find success no matter one’s previous history.

Two years after its release, Action Comic’s published Superman in the first ever full-length comic book devoted to a singular character. His success sparked a new industry of comic books. By 1940, over two-dozen firms were publishing comics of their own myriad of super-heroes, such as The Flash, The Human Torch, and Plastic Man. Superman created a new industry that returned United States citizen’s faith in the American Dream during a hard time in history, and has continued through the 2st century.  posted by Holly Rice

The Problem with American — Historically

‘What Do You Think Is the Most Important  Problem Facing This Country Today?’

Since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Gallup polling organization has asked Americans an open-ended question: “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” The New York Times has translated the polls into a series of infographics.  Here’s an FDR era “picture”  from 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression.  Scroll through the site to see what concerned Americans during the administrations since. 


Eleanor Roosevelt: The First First Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, completely modernized the role of the First Lady. Due to FDR’s paralysis resulting from his battle with polio, Eleanor Roosevelt embraced a politically active lifestyle and represented her husband at a variety of appearances across the country.  Eleanor Roosevelt used her public image in order to advocatCarlsone for the under-privileged populations of America and became a modern voice for women’s issues. Never before had a First Lady been so available to the citizens of the United States, and thus causes that she cared deeply about became available to the American people. Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to hold press conferences. She seldom allowed male reporters to attend in order to draw attention to the lack of female representation in the press.Like her husband, Eleanor Roosevelt hosted her own radio program. Eleanor Roosevelt is perhaps most recognized for her beliefs that women should participate equally in society, politics, and economics. Mrs. Roosevelt paved the way for social activists, but she also redefined the role of the First Lady. Current First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, Let’s Move!, is a movement to inspire healthier lifestyles in the parents and youth of America. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady Michelle Obama uses her public figure to establish a connection with the public via the media. The current First Lady holds her own press conferences, makes her own speeches, and has her own agenda due in part to the innovative efforts by Eleanor Roosevelt. Posted by Mackenzie Carlson



Immigration–interactive map

This is one of the New York Times interactive maps you might find interesting in light of discussions concerning American immigration and settlement.   If any of your family arrived at Ellis Island, you can search records for them here.  Of course, immigrants have arrived–and continue to– through many other ports, across the Canadian and Mexican borders, through Galveston, and other places.  However, only Ellis Island has created this searchable site.

Historians as Detectives: US Infected Guatemalan Prisoners

Dr. Susan Reverby, whose research uncovered the record of the experiments

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Tuskegee Experiments—a shameful chapter in US history in which doctors funded by the U.S. Public Health Service recruited a group of African-American sharecroppers who had syphilis, then watched as their disease progressed, withholding treatment and lying to them about the source of their sickness, all in order to see how the disease worked. In 2011, a professor of history and women’s studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Susan Reverby, was all over the news for having discovered documents that proved that similar studies had been carried out in Guatemala in the 1940s. A doctor who had been part of the Tuskegee experiments, John Cutler, used National Institutes of Health money (that’s taxpayer funding, as the New York Times pointed out) to infect Guatemalan prisoners with venereal diseases in order to test the efficacy of penicillin. Sometimes Cutler even hired prostitutes (which were apparently allowed in Guatemalan jails) to carry out the transmission of disease; sometimes the method was to scrape part of the prisoner’s body and infect that way. The Times quotes a medical ethicist from the University of Chicago, Mark Siegler, who gives some historical perspective: “It’s ironic — no, it’s worse than that, it’s appalling — that, at the same time as the United States was prosecuting Nazi doctors for crimes against humanity, the U.S. government was supporting research that placed human subjects at enormous risk.”

UPDATE: Here’s an interview with Dr. Reverby about her research methods and the initial reception of her work.

A Look Back at Feminism

 A women’s-liberation parade on Fifth Avenue, in New York, in August, 1971.  A women’s-liberation parade on Fifth Avenue, in New York, in August, 1971.

A women’s-liberation parade on Fifth Avenue, in New York, in August, 1971.

Two weeks ago, the New Yorker‘s Ariel Levy wrote this really funny, sad review of Gail Collins’ new book about American women in the past fifty years (When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present). The review was initially located behind a subscriber-only pay wall, but is now freely available.

Levy uses Collins’ book to argue that the popular narrative about the feminist movement (feminists are angry, “feminazi”, man-haters) has eclipsed and overcome the actual accomplishments, or failures, of the movement itself. The most interesting historical revelation I found:

“In 1971, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Walter Mondale, came up with legislation that would have established both early-education programs and after-school care across the country. Tuition would be on a sliding scale based on a family’s income bracket, and the program would be available to everyone but participation was required of no one. Both houses of Congress passed the bill.

Nobody remembers this, because, later that year, President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, declaring that it ‘would commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing’ and undermine ‘the family-centered approach.’ He meant ‘the traditional-family-centered approach,’ which requires women to forsake every ambition apart from motherhood.”

I didn’t know that!

PS This article also has the most exceedingly clever title: “Lift and Separate.” Get it?

Dying for a Drink: A Hidden Prohibition Story

Cops in Detroit inspecting a secret brewery during Prohibition.

Cops in Detroit inspecting a secret brewery during Prohibition.

This fascinating piece on tells the story of how the US Gov’t, knowing that many crime syndicates were re-distilling stolen industrial alcohol during Prohibition, turned to putting harsh poisons in the industrial stock. As a result, as many as 10,000 people actually died, including one man who passed away after this dramatic episode:

“It was Christmas Eve 1926, the streets aglitter with snow and lights, when the man afraid of Santa Claus stumbled into the emergency room at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. He was flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he kept telling the nurses, was just behind him, wielding a baseball bat. Before hospital staff realized how sick he was—the alcohol-induced hallucination was just a symptom—the man died.”

The chief medical examiner of NYC at the time, Charles Norris, often tried to bring publicity to what he called “our national experiment in extermination.” Norris pointed out the government’s poison project disproportionately affected the poor, “who cannot afford expensive protection and deal in low grade stuff,” as opposed to wealthy drinkers, who bought safer bootleg whiskies.