Recent Event Highlights: The Armory at 69th Regiment Armory, and 13 more...
Created by NYHSSundayScholars on Oct 27, 2013
Last updated: 12/09/13 at 11:59 AM
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The Nineteenth Amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was first passed by Congress June 4, 1919 and was ratified by the last state, Tennessee, on August 18, 1920. A few days later it was officially granted that all American women have the right to vote. -Ana Leon
With the demise of The Masses arose a new socialist magazine, one equally provocative in its fictional stories written by Carl Sandburg and exaggerated art forms created by Art Young. Under the leadership of Max Eastman, this new Liberator magazine became so different from its predecessor because of the international climate of the time. World War One was brewing overseas and the magazine, which detested all forms of political censorship, (the exact process which had killed The Masses), used artistic forms to work its way around the prevailing censorship. Inside of graphic cartoons were subliminal messages about the court’s treatment of the radicals. Inside of seemingly fictional stories were snippets of the speeches given by what the radicals saw as great Soviet leaders. For just two dimes, American intelligentsia could have access to this ultra-thin yet incredibly worldly newspaper, a newspaper which processed the unfolding of the politics of World War One through a critically innovative lens. -Philip Brand
On November 15, 1917 a group of women were protesting during the night in front of the White House, demanding President Wilson to allow women the right to vote. The women were simply protesting, holding signs such as “Mr. President how long must women wait for liberty?,” “Wilson is against women,” “President Wilson how long do you advise us to wait?," and “Vote Against Wilson he opposes National Woman Suffrage”. Trying to get their point across, 44 policemen soon arrived on the scene, due to women committing the crime of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’ This ended in the arrest of 33 women to which one of them was Lucy Burn, a women’s rights advocate who was beaten by police officers and whose hands were chained above her head leaving her gasping for air and bleeding for the night. -Ana Leon
Taylorism: Management, Efficiency, Science “THE principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee.” (The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911) As a former foreman for a steel company, Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) had observed firsthand the differences between workers in terms of output, speed, and overall level of skill. In the empirical fashion suited to the industrial age he lived in, Taylor proposed a “finely detailed division of labor” through the use of the scientific method. By analyzing the average worker’s capacity to perform work in a set time, Taylor wanted to build work ethics, reduce waste and standardize the most efficient methods, giving to each worker a task to which he was best suited. In this way, Taylor created a virtuous cycle of higher production, higher profit, and higher wages while reducing the need for skilled workers through knowledge transfer. This, in addition to comprehensive records and logistics, allowed the “development of every branch of the business to its highest state of excellence.” In effect, the main object of Taylorism was to create permanent prosperity. Taylorism was very controversial due to several key faults. In 1915, a committee of the House of Representatives banned Taylorism at the Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts since it gave managers unprecedented power over workers, driving them to extremes of production. On a short term basis, the application of Taylorism lowered the morale of workers and increased hostile competition within factories. This caused a resurgence in unions in opposition to Taylorism. In the long term, Taylorism promoted offshoring and mechanization, which raised unemployment rates in the United States. Remnants of Taylorism persisted into the 1930s and still exist in some form today in such terms as “corporate reengineering” and “business process engineering.” -Alexander Regent
First adopted by the British Navy during World War One, this form of camouflage was not designed to make its users invisible, but rather to confuse German submarines as to the size, class, heading, and speed of ships. Since surface vessels of the time were readily visible due to their smokestacks, artists John Kerr and Norman Wilkinson independently promoted the use of disruptive patterns along with clashing and intersecting bands of colors instead of traditional “battleship gray,” drawing inspiration from Abbott Thayer’s writings on “razzle dazzle” in nature. These factors allowed dazzle camouflage to interfere with attempts at parallax range-finding and ship-to-ship shelling. Countershading was also used to conceal guns. Many artists, like William Mackay and Everett Warner, were drawn to dazzle camouflage and contributed to the war effort. Picasso, upon seeing a canon fitted with a dazzle scheme, claimed that cubism had inspired it. Soon, navy yards had painters design and apply their own forms of dazzle camouflage. However, because every ship was given a unique dazzle pattern, the actual effectiveness of patterns was extremely difficult to evaluate. -Alexander Regent
Paul Poiret (1879-1944) was a fashion designer of great but short-lived influence. In 1911, the French courtier liberated women from the stuffy, restricting bustles and corsets of the Edwardian Era, introducing his own “hobble” skirt (so named for its small hem, which could restrict walking), pioneering draping techniques, and expressing oriental influences through bright colors and patterns. He also created such dramatic shapes as the “lampshade” dress and baggy harem pants, and even ventured into the perfume and housewares markets. A 1913 visit to America led Poiret to bring his designs to the country, creating a steep demand for his light, silken designs, which led him to release a collection of fabrics to be purchased on March 1, 1914. He was known for being arrogant and egotistical, calling himself “The King of Fashion,” but his claims did hold some weight. Poiret’s designs were theatrical yet neoclassical, allowing them to act perfectly as transitory garments to truly modern fashions. Poiret opened the door for such designers as Gabrielle Chanel, whose success eventually drove him to a destitution and irrelevance from which he never recovered. -Claudia Landowne
Led by John Reed in 1913, the pageant program around Madison Square Garden made a concerted effort to publicize the struggles of the silk-workers strike in New Jersey and to promote its funding. However, unlike most public gatherings or strikes of the time, the pageant program sought to use art as means to create sympathy for the silk workers across the river. In patronizing artists such as John Sloan to paint the silk mills of New Jersey and in glorifying such art around Madison Square, viewers were reminded of the power of creativity and the idea of rejecting predictability. For the first time in the nation’s history, social radicalism and the avant garde art movement had collided. Artistic innovation now had found its home in the left-wing bohemians who were outspoken in literature, film, and music. Such a relationship made the new, innovative art movement’s influence more far-reaching and palpable. -Philip Brand
While the triumphant Woolworth building completed in 1913 pushed the limits of American commercial architecture and romanticized Manhattan for the growing empire it was, the revolutionary 800 foot structure simultaneously challenged the avant garde artistic ambitions of the time. Following the traditional aesthetics of the National Academy of Design, architect Cass Gilbert created a technical masterpiece whose Gothic lines, walls of golden terra cotta, and vaulted ceilings of mosaic glass gave the structure its description as a “Cathedral of Commerce.” In 1913, it would have been difficult to walk through Manhattan and not see the Woolworth’s soaring tower, a tower whose prominence hid the actual intense, taylorism-inspired efforts to perfect the building’s terra-cotta surface. In addition to feeling the Woolworth’s power from the streets, New Yorkers could now feel the metropolitan power of Manhattan from above, perched in the high offices of the Woolworth building itself. Viewing Manhattan from above now became an almost “transcendental” and revolutionary New York experience, harvesting New Yorkers’ love for their own city. Nevertheless, the concept of loving New York for what it was--a growing social, political, and economic empire--presented a stark contrast with artist’s love for creating what was not, putting reality underneath their artistic desires. Such a contrast is best exemplified through John Marin’s expressionistic oil painting of the Woolworth building and the various responses to such a painting. Cass Gilbert, in viewing the painting, said that he “had lost his last friend.” To Cass Gilbert, the Woolworth was the gloried symbol of American power. To John Marin, the Woolworth was a merely an inspirational platform off of which he could express himself creatively. -Philip Brand
The Armory Show took place from February 17 to March 15, 1913 at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue and 25th Street, and in just less than a month it changed the way Americans thought about modern art. It has been called the most important exhibition ever held in the United States.
The Armory Show was a stunning exhibition of nearly 1,400 objects that included both American and European works, but it is best known for introducing the American public to the new in art: European avant-garde paintings and sculpture. One hundred years later it is hard to imagine what it would have been like to see works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent Van Gogh, all together for the very first time. The exhibition created a huge sensation in New York. It traveled to Chicago and Boston, and was even more controversial in Chicago, where students burned paintings by Matisse in effigy. The exhibition’s travel turned it into a national event, and the polemical responses to the show have come to represent a turning point in the history of American art.
It was an era of change and New York was the capital of the new, drawing the latest movements in politics, social reform, progressive thought, developments in communication, and modern architecture. Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated after a bruising four-way presidential election against Eugene Debs, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft. The Woolworth Building opened in 1913 as the tallest skyscraper in the world. The new Grand Central Terminal, an important symbol of transcontinental travel, was completed in 1913. Women marched in the streets for suffrage and workers went on strike for safer labor conditions and equitable wages. Greenwich Village became identified with the new “Bohemians” and was a fertile breeding ground for radical ideas.
Progressivism and the Resurgence of Neoclassical Architecture Despite the fact that many modern artists were socialists, left-leaning progressive politicians were often quick to disown new styles such as cubism and futurism. Upon viewing the Armory show, Teddy Roosevelt disowned its works as being part of the “lunatic fringe” of the progressive movement. The far more popular style of the progressives was neoclassicism. New public works like Grand Central Terminal, which was refurbished in 1898 and reopened as the city’s primary transportation hub in 1913, and the Central Park Maine Monument (built in 1862) revealed a distinctly progressive desire to provide works of art for public use while not making such a visually radical departure from Gilded Age, European portraiture. -Claudia Landowne
January 1911-July 1912, December 1912-December 1917 The Masses was a monthly socialist magazine, first started in 1911 under Dutchman Piet Vlag and financially backed by Rufus Weeks who was, somewhat ironically, the president of the New York Life Insurance Company. However, it wasn’t until late 1912, when the magazine was taken over by the more politically aggressive Max Eastman, that it gained significant notoriety, becoming more radical in a departure from traditional socialism (early issues of the magazine would include excerpts from the writings of such ideological founders as Tolstoy). The fervor of the magazine’s socialist message can be gauged by its covers, which change from more placid, gentler, almost idyllic images of vaguely neoclassical people to violently avant-garde, colorful, less detail-oriented but more emotionally-charged illustrations overtime. The typeface changes as well, beginning a transition from a Roman-esque font to an abstract sans-serif at the end of 1914. Through its cover art, one can observe the change in message of The Masses, which, due to the influence of modern artists like John Sloan and other members of the Ashcan school, outgrew its original trite, socialist message and began to more aggressively advocate for the rights of workers. This switch encapsulates the formation of a workers’ rights movement unique to America, showing the modification of traditional socialist ideals to fit the specifics of life in the Gilded Age. The magazine eventually folded at the end of 1917, despite defeating charges of treason, due to a technicality with the Post Office that prevented its publication. -Claudia Landowne
Lasting for ten weeks from the 11th of January until the 12th of March, 1912, the Lawrence Textile Strike was a landmark victory for workers in the struggle between labor and capital. By the beginning of the XXth century, labor laws in the US were trailing far behind those in nearly every other industrialized nation. Mechanization had increased the proportion of unskilled laborers in American factories, and working conditions worsened. These workers often received no benefits and were given unfair salaries in addition to unsafe work environments. Labor was far from unionized, with union membership representing only about 8% of workers. Improvements were either far and few between or nonexistent. The hardships faced by workers during this period were most evident in the town of Lawrence, Massachusetts, which had long been a dominant player in the textile industry. By 1912, 60,000 individuals out of its population of 86,000 directly depended on the textile factories for a living. With an average wage of $8.76 per week for men but only $6 for women and children, living conditions were poor and the average life expectancy was one of the lowest in the nation. In 1911, the state of Massachusetts had passed a law decreasing the workday for women and children from 56 hours a week to 54. When the law went into effect on January 1, 1912, factory owners in Lawrence reduced salaries by 3.5% to reflect the shorter workday and to remain competitive with other textile mills, but this only worsened the workers' plight. On the 11th of January, exasperated women deserted their posts en masse, demanding the continuation of a 54 hour work week, a 15% increase in salary, and double pay for overtime, marking the beginning of one of the largest strikes in American history. Reacting quickly, the I.W.W. (International Workers of the World) sent in two men, Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, to organize and lead the strike, as over 20 languages were spoken by the different ethnic groups in Lawrence. When they were arrested, the I.W.W. sent in two of its best, Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The careful organization of the strike allowed it to draw in both national and international recognition and support. The workers also put pressure on the factory owners by marching on Lawrence's city hall, facing Massachusetts militiamen, and having the first moving picket line. By March, all the demands of the workers were accepted and salaries were greatly increased. The workers had won a victory, but much still remained to do, as factory owners soon struck back and the I.W.W. collapsed in the area. -Alexander Regent
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took place in New York and was one the deadliest industrial disasters that has happened within the history of the city of New York. This tragic event caused the death of 146 garment workers (who sewed as part of their job), of which 123 were women and 23 were men. These deaths were caused by the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. The fire led to legislation that required the improvements of factory safety standards and helped the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (a group which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers). The factory was located in the Asch Building at 23–29 Washington Place, known as the Brown Building. For the tragic event and impact on history the building has been designated as both a National Historic Landmark and as a New York City landmark. -Ana Leon
For several decades from the 1850s till the early twentieth century, newspapers were mainly distributed by young boys called “newsies” or simply “newsboys,” many of whom were homeless and lived on the streets. In the morning, they bought bundles of newspapers and sold them late into the night for minimal pay. Once purchased, newsies could not get refunds for unsold copies. In 1898, the Spanish-American war had caused newspaper sales to rise along with prices. Once the war was over, however, two newspapers, Joseph Pulitzer’s The Evening World and the William Randolph Hearst’s The Evening Journal, both New York based newspapers, kept their wholesale prices at wartime levels: 60-70¢ per bundle instead of 50¢. On the 18th of July, 1899, risking starvation, the newsies went on strike, demanding a lower price to compensate for their abysmal salary. Led by the charismatic Kid Blink, over 300 boys participated in the initial strike, which soon spread to the rest of New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, drawing several thousand more newsies. Avoiding the police, the newsies organized parades and destroyed the stocks of any newsie who wasn’t striking. Faced with increasing pressure and rumours that they were using thugs to intimidate the newsies, newspaper companies agreed to a compromise. While the wholesale price would not be lowered, any unsold newspapers would be refundable. On August 1, 1899, the New York Daily Tribune reported that all strikers had returned to work. The newsies had shown that a strike, even one organized by children, could be successful in the face of powerful businesses and bring about tangible change. -Alexander Regent