The Effects of Industrialization on American Democracy

image of children working in factories

by Jack Kelly

We like to imagine that we live in the most innovative era in history. After all, we’ve experienced the digital revolution. We’ve seen the power of computers grow at warp speed. We can’t get enough of smartphones and robotics and online everything.

But it was our great-grandparents who really lived through the most astounding period of technological change in human history. It was known as the industrial revolution. It got off the ground in the early 1800s when water power was harnessed to run machinery in the textile mills. The next step was steam power, which revolutionized both industry and transportation. By the end of the century, electricity was bringing changes that had never been dreamed of.

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Posted in Modern History

The Yawning Financial Gap of the Gilded Age

Railroad image

by Jack Kelly

It was Mark Twain who coined the term Gilded Age. He made it the title of a satirical novel about corruption and excess after the Civil War. Later, the Gilded Age became a label for years from about 1870 to 1900 and highlighted the period’s excesses and inequality.

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Posted in Modern History

The First Wells Fargo Detective

by John Boessenecker

For fifteen years, Henry Johnson had his hands full as Wells Fargo’s pioneer detective. The company built its reputation on safety and security. From the time of its founding, it guaranteed delivery and paid its customers for all losses suffered in transit, whether due to theft, fire, or accident. The vast riches carried by the company were a magnet for robbers, and it quickly became evident that the company needed detectives to investigate thefts and recover stolen property. A common misconception is that the famous western lawman James B. Hume was the first Wells Fargo detective. In fact, San Francisco police officers Isaiah Lees, Leonard Noyes, and James Gannon, as well as Sacramento lawmen Dan Gay and Charles P. O’Neil, all worked as Wells Fargo sleuths long before Hume’s start in 1873.
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Posted in Early Modern History

Who Was Father Charles Coughlin?

by Bradley W. Hart

In November 1938, one of America’s most famous radio personalities took to the airwaves on a Sunday afternoon, as he had done for years. Unlike the talk shows of later years, this host would not be taking calls from his fans. On this occasion, the host opened his show with the usual church choir and organ music, before launching into a startling defense of Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews. Though he claimed to oppose any form of religious discrimination, the host proclaimed that recent violence against the German Jewish community was merely a response to the threat posed by Communism. He went on to name two dozen Jews he claimed had helped bring about the Russian Revolution back in 1917, before concluding that Jews had risen to “high places in radio, press and finance” and were now feeling a backlash.

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Posted in Modern History

Bearing the Legacy of Topf and Sons

by Karen Bartlett

When Hartmut Topf was a small boy, he was captivated by puppets. On a warm summer’s day in 1930s Berlin, he would sit with his sisters under the blossom of the fruit tree in the family’s back garden while their otherwise rather taciturn father acted out puppet shows through the dining room window. With Hitler in power, the city was already in the grip of the Third Reich, but the horrors of that regime remained hidden from Hartmut, who enjoyed collecting and swapping Nazi belt-buckles, badges and toy planes with boyish enthusiasm.

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Posted in Modern History

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