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From These Beginnings

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The optimism in Mark Twain’s early literature gradually turned bitter and pessimistic. Discuss some of the blows to Twain’s optimistic view of things between the publication of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and that of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Mark Twain was growing up on the Mississippi River. The flavor of that experience pervaded his best works and the best memories. However, more and more Mark Twain wrote about a myth. The river, Twain himself, and his nation changed significantly during the lifetime, and much of the old magic rubbed off. During his lifetime, on numerous occasions, Mark Twain bumped into corpses in his ramblings along the river. And there was the slavery that had certain impact on the works of the writer as well. Few Americans who had lived through the cataclysms of the Civil War were unaffected. That was a shock for Mark Twain who expressed his feelings in a short story centering on the murder of an unarmed man who innocently rode through the camp one night. Another factor was the passage through the searing fire of the Civil War into the often disgusting and ugly Gilded Age of urbanization and industrialization. The experiment with imperialism also influenced the work of Mark Twain. By that time, the frontier, which had been close to Twain’s Missouri boyhood, had retreated to the far corners of the continent. In many ways, Mark Twain and the USA grew up together – and neither aged gracefully. Gradually, the sunny humor left Twain’s works as he grew bitter and pessimistic about his country and compatriots. 

With regard to material gain and wealth, Mark Twain epitomized the ambivalence of the Gilded Age. Explain his feelings about the great industrialists of the day, and discuss some of his own attempts to gain financial fortune.   

Mark Twain was among the first authors to call the years after the Civil War the “Gilded Age” (The Gilded Age Summary & Analysis). Struck by what he saw as the uncontrolled greed and speculative frenzy of the marketplace, and the corruption pervading politics, he satirized this society whose problems had been veiled by the gold. This phase left the author with a permanent disrespect for politicians, their intelligence and honesty. During those years, economy of the USA did grow at an extraordinary rate, creating unprecedented wealth. Railroads and telephone lines stretched across the state, bringing on new chances for entrepreneurs and cheaper goods for people. However, the nation was divided between the haves and the have-nots – a society in which poor workers struggled to survive, while an emerging industrial aristocracy enjoyed the rich life. Some Americans celebrated the wealth, while others lamented it.

Although the author was very critical of the modernization of the USA, Twain understood its profitability. Twain maintained and delighted in a grandiose standard of living. Twain’s money came from his writing, lecturing and wife’s substantial estate. But the author remained unsatisfied, and his pursuit of financial success led him in a series of unfortunate investments and disastrous speculations. 

Chapter Two

What were the career options for women of Jane Addams’s social class during the latter 1800s?

The spheres of influence of women of Jane Addams’s social class during the later 1800s were limited to the home. Ladies were expected to be modest and polite. They were expected to take care of men, who could concentrate on power, money, and politics. However, this had not always been the case. After the Reformation in Europe, ladies had the right to vote and possess property, and the law recognized their personal rights. Unfortunately, they lost their parity with men and became silent shadows. Social approval of a career began and ended with marriage. Women had no vote in elections. They were second-class citizens. Moreover, after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing the right of the black men to vote, all women fell to the bottom of the social ladder in the USA (Nash, Graves, 2007).

Addams attended Rockford College and it was there that her basis for feminism was laid. In 1881, she graduated with the valedictorian. Then she studied medicine in Europe for the next 6 years, but understood that there were limited career options available for ladies. As a result, she decided to help the society.

Why did Jane Addams choose Chicago and Hull House to establish her settlement house?

At some point in life, Jane Addams happened to glimpse at the poverty and depravity that existed beneath the polished surface of Europe’s cities. Many people were very deprived and attempted to become prosperous, but did not have any opportunity. There were many immigrants, especially near Chicago where Addams lived. They arrived in the country in hope of wealth, but were forced to work long hard hours. During the European tour, Jane and Ellen Gates Star saw a settlement house Tonybee Hall in a pitiable district of London. This led the ladies to the thought of creating a similar facility in the poorest district of Chicago. Two friends of theirs purchased a mansion and opened a settlement house Hull House. Hull House testifies to Addams’s belief that only unfavorable circumstances stood between the innate dignity and worth of every human being and his or her realization thereof. Addams thought that, as a cultivated lady, she had certain responsibility for lessening the social ills accompanying the nation’s growth. Hull House was mostly aimed at assisting immigrants from other countries that moved to Chicago. About 80% of the residents of Chicago were immigrants. So, it was a huge success.

Chapter Three

How did the 1890 U.S. Census Report, which declared that there was no more frontier, help place Gifford Pinchot’s forestry ideas into practice?

The parks in the USA seemed like a passing phase of the past until the Census of 1890 revealing the lack of an obvious frontier line. This statement influenced the citizens of the USA greatly. After many years of being oblivious of the untapped wilderness beyond the settled lands, the society had to reassess its standing. Together with the rise in the urbanized East and the growth of industrialization, significantly polluting the cities and the countryside, it appeared as if the Census had owed up to losing a considerable part of America's cultural identity (Johns, 1996). The Census also reported a decreasing quantity of woodlands, adding the vice of deteriorating natural riches to the damage of the disappearing cultural heritage. The fact that the wilderness of America was in danger encouraged the Cultural Revolution, which comprised the conservation of nature to defend the American prosperity and historic accomplishments.

Government acted quickly to defend the remaining land (Miller, 2001). Gifford Pinchot and Roosevelt confirmed the utilitarian conservation measures by registering the forest into reserves. They encouraged the approaches of conservation that exist today, including leasing of lands out to private interests and promoting land reclamation.

Gifford Pinchot was at the center of a major schism in the Republican party, beginning in 1909. How did the rift develop? What were some of the short- and long-term impacts of the so-called Ballinger-Pinchot affair?

President Taft disappointed conservationists by Ballinger’s appointment as Head of the Department of the Interior. Ballinger was sure that Roosevelt had inappropriately utilized his power to move public lands into the reserve status, and so the new secretary started the process of opening some tracts to business users.

The issue became a national controversy when Gifford Pinchot joined this debate. Congress and the President carried out a research and asserted that Ballinger did nothing wrong. However, Pinchot continued to criticize Taft and Ballinger. Pinchot declared to a group of publishers, “The people of the United States have been the complacent victims of a system of plunder…by men who have suffered a curious perversion when it comes to the public trust” (Nash, Graves, 2007). Naturally, Ballinger realized he would lose his position.

The debate around the Ballinger-Pinchot scandal had eventually turned into the main factor of schism among the Republicans. Roosevelt thought that Taft had ignored the conservationist ethics and thus had to be relegated. The Ballinger-Pinchot affair ensued the long-lasting pressure between the proponents of instant usage of natural resources and those who wished to have them saved for the coming generations, a debate that is active today.

Chapter Four

What techniques did Henry Ford incorporate to turn his small automobile company into the giant Ford Motor Company?

In 1903, it did not seem possible to make something as complicated as a car cheaply. But Ford had a plan, “The way to make cars is to make one automobile, just like another automobile, to make them all alike” (Nash, Graves, 2007). The roots of the mass production system with which Ford revolutionized the manufacture of cars were as old as the first factories in the USA. Farmer’s son Oliver Evans applied the idea of automation to the milling of flour. He invented vertical and horizontal conveyors that used the power of waterwheel instead of manual labor. In Ford’s time, this idea was developed by Frederick W. Taylor. Taylor made it a basic principle to replace a worker with a machine whenever possible. And the automotive industry suggested the most fertile ground in the economy of the USA for the application of these ideas. The efficient production explained why the Ford Motor Company was capable to sell a car for $850. In 1908, the Model T was created shaping Ford’s crucial decision: to produce Model T and no other car for the next twenty years.

A noticeable leap forward occurred in the early spring of 1913, when construction of the magneto, or electrical generator, was placed on a continuously moving assembly line. Now one worker could do the work of four. After this success, it was the matter of months before Ford placed the whole car on the moving assembly line. Production time per car reduced radically.

Due to Ford’s innovations, the car became accessible to middle-class Americans, including the assembly line production, instead of handcrafting. This policy opened the way to unprecedented efficiency and enormous economies of scale. 

Like many other industrialists, Ford opposed government intervention to ease the ravages of the Great Depression. In their view, what were the causes of and solutions for the economic downturn?

Ford never accepted the alterations brought about by the Great Depression and President Roosevelt's plan to help the USA recover from the Great Depression. The company with 24% of the nation’s automobile production refused to cooperate. Its leader advised his fellow industrialists to “forget the alphabet schemes and take hold of their industries and run them good, sound, American business sense.” As a result, Ford became a hero to the opponents of the Roosevelt administration.

During the Great Depression, Ford responded to the downfall by reducing the level of operations and laying off some staff. To cope with the Great Depression, Roosevelt created some programs to solve the unemployment and poverty.

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