History 565  From the New Era to the New Frontier, 1921-1963



Logo: OSU Department of History                            A&S Logo



Autumn Quarter 2010  MW 9:30-11:18

Ramseyer Hall 100 



Professor William R. Childs

Dulles Hall 204 

Office Hours:  MW 12:30-1:15 and by appointment for Tues, Thurs, and Fri.

Phone:  292-7014 (with message machine); e-mail:  childs.1@osu.edu


Teaching Assistant:  Scott Ward


Dulles 322

Office Hours:  W 1:30-3pm; Fri 10:30am-noon.



How does this course fit into the curriculum?


In the History Major or History Minor, History 565 may be used as an Area B (North America), post-1750 selection. 

In the GEC Historical Study category, History 565 may be counted as the second course.

This course is the middle course of a 500-level three-course sequence in Modern U.S. history (1877 to the present).  Other History courses that complement this offering include 570.02 The United States Constitution and American Society since 1877; 579.02 American Cultural and Intellectual History in the 20th Century; 597 Critical Issues of the 20th Century World; 582.02 American Military Policy, 1914-1995; and 583.02 U.S. Diplomacy, 1920 to the Present.


Note:  All students must be officially enrolled in the course by the end of the second full week of the quarter.  No requests to add the course will be approved by the Chair of the Department after that time.  Enrolling officially and on time is solely the responsibility of the student.



Course Description


This lecture-reading-discussion course focuses on the political-social reform impulses in U.S. history between 1921 and 1963.  The interaction of economic and cultural trends and international developments forms a necessary part of that focus.


Continuous reform is one highlight of American political-economic culture.  Reform impulses that emerged from the pre-World War I era (the period historians have labeled “Progressivism”) continued to underlie American politics into the 1960s.  These impluses included attempts to Americanize and democratize the political culture and to humanize and rationalize the capitalist economy.  Americans established large-scale bureaucracies in business and government to accommodate changes in the political economy.  These new institutions and the “modern” ideas behind them appeared to challenge long-held American values (18th and 19th century beliefs in individualism, freedom, and federalism), but Americans slowly accepted the new structures because they appeared to protect the old values even as they accommodated the new, modern world.


This period of U.S. history parallels in world history an era of connected crises (World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the early years of the Cold War).  During this time, Western Europe lost its prominence in the world and the U.S. emerged to take its place as the leading proponent of western liberalism.  For Americans, this was a time in which domestic and international forces converged to prod them to define themselves with respect to others in the world.


After establishing the antecedents and nature of the reform impulses in the modern U.S., the course will survey how social, cultural, intellectual, and political-economic forces interacted with one another to create a series of continuous reform movements, from the New Era (dominated by business interests), to the New Deal in time of depression and war (dominated by the expansion of government action on the state and national levels), to Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, to the New Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower, and to the short-lived New Frontier of John F. Kennedy.  Throughout the course, international events will be analyzed to discover how they shaped the domestic reform movements.


The lectures, discussions, readings, and films will give attention to how different groups of Americans (business and political elites, intellectuals, African-Americans, women, rural and urban groups) responded to the need for reform and particularly how each group interacted with the existing reform impulses.  By the end of World War II, and because of decisions made during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Americans had defined a society in which, with Federal government help within a federalist system, a growing mostly white middle class defined the majority values of the nation.  In that sense, then, the course uncovers the historical dynamics behind the creation of the “Establishment,” which came under attack by the various counter-culture movements in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  Most prominently, of course, African-Americans began to demand the end of the segregated society.  Meanwhile, that same establishment, which had done much to help defeat totalitarianism in the early 1940s turned in the late 1940s and 1950s to responding to the specter of communism.  As with domestic reform, so too with foreign relations—Americans struggled to balance American values of individualism, freedom, and federalism with the need to show a common front against threats from abroad. 



Course Objectives


General Objectives:  Students will acquire a perspective on history and an understanding of the factors that shape human activity to gain knowledge of the origins and nature of contemporary issues and a foundation for future comparative understanding; develop critical thinking through the study of diverse interpretations of historical events; apply critical thinking through historical analysis of primary and secondary sources; and sharpen communications skills in essay exams, papers, and discussions.


Specific Objectives:  By completing the reading assignments, attending class, and taking and studying their own notes on the lectures, discussions, and films, students will enhance their factual and conceptual knowledge of this period in U.S. history when rapid international and political-economic changes strongly affected the evolution of political-social culture.  The written assignments will underscore these objectives as well as aid the student in improving his/her analytical and writing skills and encouraging independent thinking by sifting through diverse historical interpretations (and in the case of the novel and the films, primary sources) to find one’s own views.



Assigned Readings


One of the course requirements is to read the books listed below (see “Schedule of Lectures and Exams” for due dates).  All are available at SBX. 


John Dos Passos, The Big Money (1933; 2000).  Guide to The Big Money

David M. Kennedy, The American People in the Great Depression (1999).

Michael C. C. Adams, The Best War Ever:  America and World War II (1993).  GuideBestWarEver

David Halberstam, The Fifties (1993).  Guide to The Fifties

Sloan Wilson, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955, 1983).  Guide to Man in the Gray Flannel Suit



The middle three books are secondary sources, written with the aid of primary sources.  David Kennedy’s book is the best analytical summary of the Great Depression in the U.S. to date.  The Best War Ever is an insightful, respectful debunking of the “Greatest Generation” concept; Michael C.C. Adams reveals the dark side of wartime but does not underplay the successes.  David Halberstam, who died in 2007 in an automobile accident, is a well-recognized journalist and writer who always brings grace and insight to his topics; I will not ask you to read the entire book, but have instead prepared a handout that will guide you through the book, suggesting sections that might be skipped.  The two novels are primary sources, composed during the time period under study; both are American classics.  Dos Passos’ novel, wrritten in the early 1930s during the depths of the Depression, reveals the underside of American society, and especially the contradictions in American capitalism and democracy, in the 1920s.  Wilson’s novel was an instant hit when published in 1955; it presents several themes of mid-20th century U.S., including the stifling atmosphere of the organizational society, the lingering effects of WW II, and gender and family relations.  Each of these assigned readings will interact with the course’s major focus on reform in the U.S.


Your Grade in This Course


Because of the large number of students in the course and Department of History restrictions on the workload of TAs, I can offer only three assignments through which to test your knowledge of the course materials.  The midterm and the final exam will each have two parts:  50% will consist of an essay; the other 50% will consist of short answers.  All assignments are take-home and will be posted on this course web site as noted in the “Schedule of Lectures and Exams.”  All assignments will be typed and double-spaced, with font no small than 12.


The Midterm will count 30% of your course grade and will be due Wednesday,  October 27 .  You will submit an electronic version to the Carmen drop box by 9am and a hard copy to the TA by the end of class.

The Paper will count 20% of your course grade and will be due Wednesday, November 17.  You will submit an electronic version to the Carmen drop box by 9am and a hard copy to the TA by the end of class.

The Final Exam will count 50% of your course grade and will be due Tuesday December 7.   You will submit an electronic version to the Carmen drop box by 9:30am and a hard copy to Prof. Childs between 9:30 and 11:18 in his office (Dulles 204).


I assign these out-of-class exams in order to give you time to develop arguments that are clearly and concisely presented and grammatically correct.  If you do not set aside enough time to work on these exams, you will be undermine the purpose behind them. 


Please see this handout for tips on writing historical essays and short answers:  Guide to Short Answers/Essays in History


You are forewarned that I will pursue cases of academic misconduct to the appropriate University committee.


See this web site for additional information on plagiarism and writing handouts:   http://cstw.osu.edu/



Special comments on the grade in this course: 


1)      Since the University does not record D- grades, a student earning a course average below 62 will receive an E in this course.


2)      In order to pass the course, you must pass the Final Exam with at least a 62.


3)      The TA and I reserve the right to consider improvement when determining final grades.


4)  Here are the grade breakdowns:  A:  92.6 and above; A-:  89.6-92.5; B+:  87.6-89.5; B:  82.6-87.5; B-:  79.6-82.5; C+:  77.6-79.5; C:  72.6-77.5; C-:  69.6-72.5; D+:  67.6-69.5; D:  62-67.5; E:  below 62


Grading Your Exams 


Most of your grade in this course will be based on how well you communicate in writing what you have learned.  You should refer to my handout, “Guide to Writing Short Answers and Essays in History.”  In addition, I furnish below brief descriptions of how you will earn your essay grades:


“C” essays will include:  an introductory paragraph that contains your thesis; a body of several paragraphs in which you offer evidence from the readings, lectures, and discussions to support your thesis; and a conclusion that reiterates your basic argument.


            “B” essays will include:  all of the above requirements for a “C” essay plus more relevant data and analyses than is found in an average essay.


A” essays will include:  all of the above requirements for a “B” essay plus more data and some indication of independent or extended thought.


As for “D” and “E” essays:  usually, these essays do not include a viable thesis and/or they do not include very much information from the course.


Make-up Exams:  If you encounter a problem in meeting the deadlines, you must contact Prof. Childs, not the TA, before the exam is due.  Only in extraordinary and verifiable cases will an extension on the take-home assignments be given.


Attendance Policies:  Given the descriptions above with regard to what we expect on your assignments (evidence from the readings, lectures, and discussions), we expect you to attend regularly.  Very often material offered by students during discussions should be included in your answers.  I reserve the right to take attendance and to award extra credit when I do.



Classroom behavior: 


Do arrive a few minutes before class begins.  If you arrive late, walk quietly around the sides of the room to find a chair.


Do bring your laptops, mini computers, iPads, etc. for note-taking purposes.


Do turn-off your phones and iPods and any other electronic devices during class time.  Do refrain from surfing the web, texting, e-mailing, chatting, and calling others during class time.  (Each class will include a 5-10-minute break.)


Do familiarize yourself with the OSU Code of Student Conduct:  http://studentlife.osu.edu/pdfs/csc_12-31-07.pdf


Do ask Prof. Childs if you do not understand any of the above.



Schedule of Lectures and Exams


I believe that note-taking makes an important contribution to enhancing the analytical skills necessary to perform good historical work.  Thus, I have NOT authorized a “note-taking” company to take and sell notes from this class; I do not allow tape recorders in class; and I do not post my lectures on the web (I do post the basic outlines).  The TA and I will not lend students our notes.  Students who miss a lecture are responsible for getting the notes from fellow students.


Disability Services  Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue; telephone 292-3307, TDD 292-0901; http://www.ods.ohio-state.edu/.



Week 1 


Sept 22

Outline Intro Lecture


Prelude:  Legacies of Reform to 1921


Reading:  Begin The Big Money.


Week 2


Sept 27, 29     

Progressivism, World War I, and the First Red Scare



The New Era in the 1920s


Reform and Conflicts Over Values:  Prohibition, 2nd KKK, Immigration Restriction, Jazz, and American Youth



List of immigration laws


Special link:  Superman and the KKK


Business and the New Era

OutlineBusinessandNew Era


Reading:  Continue reading The Big Money



Week 3


Oct 4, 6



Missionaries of Modernity:  Advertising and the Personality and Consumer Society

Outline Advertising 1920s


Jack Benny radio shows


African Americans in the 1920s

Outline Af-Am 1920s


Discuss The Big Money


The Illusion of Prosperity:  Toward a Crisis in Capitalism

Outline Illusion of Prosperity



Reading:  complete The Big Money; Kennedy, Preface, Prologue, Chs. 1-2.



Week 4


Oct 11, 13


The Great Depression and the New Deal


The Irony and Tragedy of Herbert Hoover

Outline Hoover


Democrats, FDR, and the Early New Deal

Outline Early New Deal


Reading:  Kennedy, Chs. 3-7


Week 5 


Oct 18, 20


Midterm Take-home Exam posted here by Wednesday Oct 20.


Critics of the New Deal

Outline Critics of the New Deal


The Later New Deal, 1935-1939:  Social and Labor Policies

Outline FDR New Deal35-38


FDR signing Social Security legislation, 1935


Film, “The Plow That Broke the Plains”

Outline Land and Capitalism


Legacies of the New Deal

Outline New Deal in Retrospect


Reading, Kennedy, Chs. 8-12



Photo Essay:  FSA America in Color, 1939-1943


Week 6


Oct 25, 27


Midterm due Wed Oct 27:  Electronic version should be submitted to the Carmen web site drop box by 9am; hard copy should be submitted to the TA by the end of class.


American Foreign Policy, 1919-1941



The New Deal War


Mobilization for WW II

Film, “The Negro Soldier”

Ethnic Americans, Women, and the War



Reading:  Kennedy, Ch. 13; Adams, Chs. 1-4


Week 7


Nov 1, 3


New Deal War continued …






Reading:  Adams, Chs. 5-7; Halberstam, 3-19, 49-61, 87-100 


Week 8 


Nov 8, 10


Paper Assignment posted Wednesday Nov 10.


Mobilization in the South and West


WW II Diplomacy and The Manhattan Project

Conclusions on WW II  and discuss Adams, The Best War Ever






Hiroshima, 1945



Chronology of Postwar America





Harry Truman, the Cold War, and the Fair Deal


Early Years of the Cold War



The Second Red Scare, 1947-1954

OutlineSecondRed Scare



Reading:  Halberstam, 116-160, 172-187, 195-202, 224-253, 272-307; begin Wilson



Week 9


Nov 15, 17


Paper due Wed Nov 17:  Electronic version should be submitted to the Carmen web site drop box by 9am; hard copy should be submitted to the TA by the end of class.


Fair Deal:  Liberals and Conservatives

OutlineFair Deal


Eisenhower’s New Republicanism at Home and Abroad, 1953-1961


The Eisenhower Years

Outline Eisenhower



Society and Culture in the 1950s



Reading:  Halberstam, 411-507, 521-536; finish Wilson.


Disneyland Then and Now?


Week 10


Nov 22, 24


The Atomic Age, Civil Defense, and Fallout Shelters:  View and discuss the dark comedy, The Atomic Café (1982)


For background on this cult classic, see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083590/



                        The Atomic CafeBuy this from nostalgia.com




Duck and Cover



The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s



            Image: Caption follows 

 Little Rock Nine” Copyprint. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-119154 (9-18b) Courtesy of the NAACP

Week 11

Nov 29, Dec 1


Discuss The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.


The New Frontier

          Dwight D. Eisenhower: Farewell Address, January 17, 1961:  http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html (with audio)

John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address delivered January 20, 1961:  http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/johnfkennedyinaugural.htm (with audio)


JFK and Camelot:  The Spirit versus the Results


OutlinePromise of Camelot


Reading:  Halberstam, 539-576, 587-606, 643-698



Examples of Short Answers


Final Exam posted here by Wed Dec 1.


The Final Exam is due Tuesday Dec. 7:  The electronic copy should be submitted to the Carmen course web site drop box 9:30 am; the hard copy should be submitted to Prof. Childs (Dulles 204) between 9:30 and 11:18.



Modern America:  Selected Web sites.


American Memory, LOC

Early Radio History US



World War I

World War I Document Archive

League of Nations Photo Archive

Posters of WW I:  http://gulib.lausun.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/amposter.htm

WW I internet site



Temperance & Prohibition. Professor K. Austin Kerr:


Calvin Coolidge: http://www.calvin-coolidge.org/

Clash of Cultures in the 1920s: http://history.osu.edu/Projects/Clash/default.htm

Medicine and Madison Avenue: http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/mmc/

The Great Migration  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/reference/articles/great_migration.html

Blacks in Aviation photos  http://www.allstar.fiu.edu/prime-tech/BIA/default.htm

See also for the History of Jim Crow:  http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/history/history.htm

Jelly Roll Morton



FDR American Heritage Center

African Americans in the CCC 


Center for Steinbeck Studies

Voices from the Dustbowl

The Grapes of Wrath Web Page 2010 Childs 

A New Deal for the Arts

History of Social Security

A Century of Progress 1933-1934 World’s Fair



World War II

America’s World War II in Color: http://www.pbs.org/perilousfight/

Fly Girls: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/flygirls/

Rutgers Oral History WW II: http://fas-history.rutgers.edu/oralhistory/

Mexican Braceros:  http://www.farmworkers.org/benglish.html; http://www.museumca.org/picturethis/4_3.html




1947 -1963

For information and numerous web sites on the era, 1947-1961, see:  http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/childs1/CATCOPlayNotesBrown.htm


http://www.ep.tc/realist/ On-going archive of satirist magazine, The Realist, initially associated with Mad Magazine in the late 1950s.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Realist


Civil Rights Movement