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American Babel

Rogue Radio Broadcasters of the Jazz Age

By Clifford J. Doerksen

When American radio broadcasting began in the early 1920s there was a consensus among middle-class opinion makers that the airwaves must never be used for advertising. Even the national advertising industry agreed that the miraculous new medium was destined for higher cultural purposes. And yet, within a decade American broadcasting had become commercialized and has remained so ever since.

Much recent scholarship treats this unsought commercialization as a coup, imposed from above by mercenary corporations indifferent to higher public ideals. Such research has focused primarily on metropolitan stations operated by the likes of AT&T, Westinghouse, and General Electric. In American Babel, Clifford J. Doerksen provides a colorful alternative social history centered on an overlooked class of pioneer broadcaster—the independent radio stations.

Doerksen reveals that these "little" stations often commanded large and loyal working-class audiences who did not share the middle-class aversion to broadcast advertising. In urban settings, the independent stations broadcast jazz and burlesque entertainment and plugged popular songs for Tin Pan Alley publishers. In the countryside, independent stations known as "farmer stations" broadcast "hillbilly music" and old-time religion. All were unabashed in their promotional practices and paved the way toward commercialization with their innovations in programming, on-air style, advertising methods, and direct appeal to target audiences. Corporate broadcasters, who aspired to cultural gentility, were initially hostile to the populist style of the independents but ultimately followed suit in the 1930s.

Drawing on a rich array of archives and contemporary print sources, each chapter of American Babel looks at a particular station and the personalities behind the microphone. Doerksen presents this group of independents as an intensely colorful, perpetually interesting lot and weaves their stories into an expansive social and cultural narrative to explain more fully the rise of the commercial network system of the 1930s.

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American Big Business in Britain and Germany

A Comparative History of Two "Special Relationships" in the 20th Century

Volker R. Berghahn

While America’s relationship with Britain has often been deemed unique, especially during the two world wars when Germany was a common enemy, the American business sector actually had a greater affinity with Germany for most of the twentieth century. American Big Business in Britain and Germany examines the triangular relationship between the American, British, and German business communities and how the special relationship that Britain believed it had with the United States was supplanted by one between America and Germany.

Volker Berghahn begins with the pre-1914 period and moves through the 1920s, when American investments supported German reconstruction rather than British industry. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to a reversal in German-American relations, forcing American corporations to consider cutting their losses or collaborating with a regime that was inexorably moving toward war. Although Britain hoped that the wartime economic alliance with the United States would continue after World War II, the American business community reconnected with West Germany to rebuild Europe’s economy. And while Britain thought they had established their special relationship with America once again in the 1980s and 90s, in actuality it was the Germans who, with American help, had acquired an informal economic empire on the European continent.

American Big Business in Britain and Germany uncovers the surprising and differing relationships of the American business community with two major European trading partners from 1900 through the twentieth century.

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American Business and Foreign Policy

1920--1933

Joan Hoff Wilson

With increasing world economic interdependence and a new position as a creditor nation, the American business community became more actively and vocally concerned with foreign policy after World War I than ever before. This book details the response of American businessmen to such foreign policy issues as the tariff, disarmament, allied debts, loans, and the Manchurian crisis.

Far from presenting a monolithic front, the business community fragmented into nationalist and internationalist camps, according to this study. Division over each issue varied with the size, type, and geographic region of the various business interests, and despite their formidable economic power, business internationalists are shown to have played a more limited role on certain issues than has been formerly assumed.

Unfortunately for the future development of United States diplomacy and world stability, no institutional means for tempering business influence on the formulation of foreign policy, or for coordinating economic and political foreign policies, were developed in the twenties.

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American Capitalism

Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century

Edited by Nelson Lichtenstein

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the legitimacy of American capitalism seems unchallenged. The link between open markets, economic growth, and democratic success has become common wisdom, not only among policy makers but for many intellectuals as well. In this instance, however, the past has hardly been prologue to contemporary confidence in the free market. American Capitalism presents thirteen thought-provoking essays that explain how a variety of individuals, many prominent intellectuals but others partisans in the combative world of business and policy, engaged with anxieties about the seismic economic changes in postwar America and, in the process, reconfigured the early twentieth-century ideology that put critique of economic power and privilege at its center.

The essays consider a broad spectrum of figures—from C. L. R. James and John Kenneth Galbraith to Peter Drucker and Ayn Rand—and topics ranging from theories of Cold War "convergence" to the rise of the philanthropic Right. They examine how the shift away from political economy at midcentury paved the way for the 1960s and the "culture wars" that followed. Contributors interrogate what was lost and gained when intellectuals moved their focus from political economy to cultural criticism. The volume thereby offers a blueprint for a dramatic reevaluation of how we should think about the trajectory of American intellectual history in twentieth-century United States.

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American Cool

Constructing a Twentieth-Century Emotional Style

Peter N. Stearns

Cool. The concept has distinctly American qualities and it permeates almost every aspect of contemporary American culture. From Kool cigarettes and the Peanuts cartoon's Joe Cool to West Side Story (Keep cool, boy.) and urban slang (Be cool. Chill out.), the idea of cool, in its many manifestations, has seized a central place in our vocabulary.

Where did this preoccupation with cool come from? How was Victorian culture, seemingly so ensconced, replaced with the current emotional status quo? From whence came American Cool?

These are the questions Peter Stearns seeks to answer in this timely and engaging volume.

American Cool focuses extensively on the transition decades, from the erosion of Victorianism in the 1920s to the solidification of a cool culture in the 1960s. Beyond describing the characteristics of the new directions and how they altered or amended earlier standards, the book seeks to explain why the change occured. It then assesses some of the outcomes and longer-range consequences of this transformation.

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American Cyclone

Theodore Roosevelt and His 1900 Whistle-Stop Campaign

John M. Hilpert

When Theodore Roosevelt entered national politics as the Republicans’ nominee for the vice presidency in 1900, he was only forty-one years old. However, he had caught the public’s attention with the popular version of his life story. Child of East Coast privilege. Sickly, bespectacled youth. Naturalist and author. Harvard graduate. New York assemblyman. Young widower. Badlands cowboy. Civil Service reformer. Urban police commissioner. Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Rough Rider and war hero. Enemy of political bosses as governor of the nation’s most important state. Attentive husband to his second wife, Edith, and the father of six children. Few candidates for the presidency or vice presidency have enjoyed the elevated level of admiration accorded Roosevelt in the waning days of the nineteenth century.

Biographers have chronicled every significant period of Roosevelt’s life with one exception, and American Cyclone fills that gap. His nomination for the vice presidency was Roosevelt’s debut as a candidate for national office. American Cyclone presents the story of his campaign, a whirlwind effort highlighted by an astounding whistle-stop tour of 480 communities across twenty-three states. Eighteen of those states gave a plurality of votes to the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket, a gain of five states for the Republicans over 1896.

Everywhere Roosevelt went, admiring throngs and dramatic events helped forge him into the man who would soon be the twenty-sixth president of the United States. Returning from the Spanish War, Roosevelt was familiar to millions of people across the country as a determined leader. As he interacted with crowds of hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands, Roosevelt felt their eagerness to see and hear him. Accordingly, for the first time, this whistle-stop campaign marks the development of the confidence and maturity that would transform Roosevelt into a national leader.

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The American Dream

A Cultural History

by Lawrence R. Samuel

There is no better way to understand America than by understanding the cultural history of the American Dream. Rather than just a powerful philosophy or ideology, the Dream is thoroughly woven into the fabric of everyday life, playing a vital role in who we are, what we do, and why we do it. No other idea or mythology has as much influence on our individual and collective lives. Tracing the history of the phrase in popular culture, Samuel gives readers a field guide to the evolution of our national identity over the last eighty years. Samuel tells the story chronologically, revealing that there have been six major eras of the mythology since the phrase was coined in 1931. Relying mainly on period magazines and newspapers as his primary source material, the author demonstrates that journalists serving on the front lines of the scene represent our most valuable resource to recover unfiltered stories of the Dream. The problem, however, is that it does not exist, the Dream is just that, a product of our imagination. That it is not real ultimately turns out to be the most significant finding about the Ameri­can Drea, and what makes the story most compelling.

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American Evangelicals and the 1960s

Edited by Axel R. Schäfer

In the late 1970s, the New Christian Right emerged as a formidable political force, boldly announcing itself as a unified movement representing the views of a "moral majority." But that movement did not spring fully formed from its predecessors. American Evangelicals and the 1960s refutes the thesis that evangelical politics were a purely inflammatory backlash against the cultural and political upheaval of the decade.
            Bringing together fresh research and innovative interpretations, this book demonstrates that evangelicals actually participated in broader American developments during "the long 1960s," that the evangelical constituency was more diverse than often noted, and that the notion of right-wing evangelical politics as a backlash was a later creation serving the interests of both Republican-conservative alliances and their critics. Evangelicalism's involvement with—rather than its reaction against—the main social movements, public policy initiatives, and cultural transformations of the 1960s proved significant in its 1970s political ascendance. Twelve essays that range thematically from the oil industry to prison ministry and from American counterculture to the Second Vatican Council depict modern evangelicalism both as a religious movement with its own internal dynamics and as one fully integrated into general American history.

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American Girls and Global Responsibility

A New Relation to the World during the Early Cold War

Jennifer Helgren

American Girls and Global Responsibility brings together insights from Cold War culture studies, girls’ studies, and the history of gender and militarization to shed new light on how age and gender work together to form categories of citizenship.
 
Jennifer Helgren argues that a new internationalist girl citizenship took root in the country in the years following World War II in youth organizations such as Camp Fire Girls, Girl Scouts, YWCA Y-Teens, schools, and even magazines like Seventeen. She shows the particular ways that girls’ identities and roles were configured, and reveals the links between internationalist youth culture, mainstream U.S. educational goals, and the U.S. government in creating and marketing that internationalist girl, thus shaping the girls’ sense of responsibilities as citizens. 

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American Girls, Beer, and Glenn Miller

GI Morale in World War II

James J. Cooke

 "Cooke's examination of the Special Services and PX System during World War II, a subject previously overlooked by scholars, shows that these goods and services kept the armed forces' spirits up under the alienating conditions of global war."—Dennis Showalter, author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century 

 

 

As World War II dawned in Europe, General George C. Marshall, the new Army Chief of Staff, had to acknowledge that American society—and the citizens who would soon become soldiers—had drastically changed in the previous few decades. Almost every home had a radio, movies could talk, and driving in an automobile to the neighborhood soda fountain was part of everyday life. A product of newly created mass consumerism, the soldier of 1940 had expectations of material comfort, even while at war. Historian James J. Cooke presents the first comprehensive look at how Marshall’s efforts to cheer soldiers far from home resulted in the enduring morale services that the Army provides still today.

 

 
Marshall understood that civilian soldiers provided particular challenges and wanted to improve the subpar morale services that had been provided to Great War doughboys. Frederick Osborn, a civilian intellectual, was called to head the newly formed morale branch, which quickly became the Special Services Division. Hundreds of on-post movie theaters showing first-run movies at reduced prices, service clubs where GIs could relax, and inexpensive cafeterias were constructed. The Army Exchange System took direction under Brigadier General Joseph Byron, offering comfort items at low prices; the PX sold everything from cigarettes and razor blades to low-alcohol beer in very popular beer halls.

 

 
The great civic organizations—the YMCA, the Salvation Army, the Jewish Welfare Board, and others—were brought together to form the United Service Organizations (USO). At USO Camp Shows, admired entertainers like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Frances Langford brought home-style entertainment to soldiers within the war zones. As the war heightened in intensity, the Special Service Companies grew to over forty in number, each containing more than one hundred enlisted men. Trained in infantry skills, soldiers in the companies at times would have to stop showing movies, pick up their rifles, and fight.

 

The Special Services Division, PX, and USO were crucial elements in maintaining GI morale, and Cooke’s work makes clear the lasting legacy of these efforts to boost the average soldier’s spirits almost a century ago. The idea that as American soldiers serve abroad, they should have access to at least some of the comforts of home has become a cultural standard.

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