?The generation of Americans that fought the Civil War thought they perfected American liberty when they amended the Constitution to? end slavery and guarantee equal rights to blacks.
But during the 1880?s, many of their children who knew only comfort and peace went to colleges that promoted? ?modern?? communist, socialist ideas? which were then popular in Europe.?? .?? The ?best and brightest? of? this generation called themselves ?progressives?.? They included Woodrow Wilson who became a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey at age 34.? They thought? the?? principles of maximum liberty and limited government found in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence? were outdated and could not work in a modern, industrial society.? ?These ?progressives?? did not think most Americans knew what was best for them.??? To them, a big and powerful government was needed to force people to do the ?right? things that were best for them and the? ?common good?.
Many ?progressives?, including Woodrow Wilson, who learned German as his required foreign language, were influenced by ?scientific? racial theories then popular in Germany? which held that blacks, Jews, and southern and eastern Europeans were inferior.??? They thought our Constitution and Declaration of Independence were also outdated? for treating people of all races and nationalities equally. ??They also regretted that the Civil War ended by recognizing the equal rights of African-Americans.
Thomas Dixon, a longtime friend, college classmate, and ?progressive? supporter of Woodrow Wilson wrote ?The Clansman?, a novel that lamented the outcome of the Civil War, glorified the Ku Klux Klan, and portrayed blacks as uncouth, uncivilized rabble not worthy of civil rights.?? Ten years later, that novel became America?s first full-length feature movie blockbuster called ?Birth of a Nation?.??? Wilson personally endorsed it as historically accurate.?? That one movie poisoned white attitudes towards blacks for the next 50 years, revived the Klan, inspired race riots, beatings, murders, and lynchings of blacks around the country.
During that time, only conservative Republicans? like President Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and state and local Republican leaders? like Nucky Johnson and ?Mayor Edward Bader in Atlantic City, publicly denounced this racism and supported and defended blacks.
?Progressives? took control of the New Jersey state legislature in 1906.?? Wilson, now president of Princeton University President Woodrow? was Governor of New Jersey in 1910.
Woodrow Wilson and the ?Progressives? immediately adopted new laws to eliminate Sunday liquor sales, gambling, and prostitution in New Jersey, and the state attorney general hired agents to enforce them.?? However, local Atlantic City officials? like ?Commodore? Louis Kuehnle,? Mayor Frank Stoy, and Sheriff Enoch ?Nucky? Johnson ?refused to enforce them.?? When Wilson?s state attorney general sent agents to Atlantic City to make arrests, Nucky Johnson used his power as sheriff to pick ?friendly? juries and grand-juries so there were no indictments or convictions.
,In? 1913, Woodrow Wilson became President.? His main opponent, ?former President Theodore Roosevelt? had quit the Republican Party and ran as the candidate for a newly formed ?Progressive Party?.? The incumbent President, conservative Republican Howard Taft came in a distant third.? .??? Progressives Democrats and Republicans formed a super-majority of? Congress and most state legislatures.
In their first year of control, these ?Progressives? ?amended the Constitution to provide for a new Federal income tax.? ???In 1913, they also created a new Federal Reserve banking system.?? In 1917, they had the ?Federal government effectively take control of many industries, including ?the nation?s railroads.? In 1919, Progressives amended the U.S. Constitution to outlaw the manufacture, transportation, and sale (but not possession) of intoxicating liquor.
These laws later caused major harm to Atlantic City and the rest of the country.?? But not right away.??? Federal income tax rates for most people was less than 6%, the Federal Reserve did not make major changes? right away,? and local official in Atlantic City were as effective in ignoring Federal laws against all liquor sales as they were in ignoring state laws against Sunday liquor sales when Woodrow Wilson was Governor.
In the 1920 elections, Americans elected conservative Republicans and completely repudiated everything Woodrow Wilson and the ?Progressives? stood for.?? Republicans Warren Harding and? Calvin Coolidge were elected President and Vice-President with 16 million votes against Democrats? James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt who got only 9 million votes.?? With 61% of the popular vote, Harding won with an even bigger landslide than Roosevelt?s re-election of 1936.
These Republicans cut, but did not eliminate the federal income tax and repealed some, but not all of the ?progressive? laws? passed during the previous eight years.?? They also promised? a ?Return to Normalcy? and an end to big ?progressive? government.???? They also restricted immigration.??? The results were astonishing.
During the next eight years from 1921 to 1929, Americans achieved the highest standard of living that any people had ever known.?? Per capita income increased by 24% from 1920 to 1929?more than 5 times the increase during nine years of ?progressive? government.?? But increased productivity and low taxes increased the buying power of most Americans even more.??? Industrial production in America almost doubled, while the manufacturing workforce remained the same.
During the 1920?s auto plants that once took 14 hours to produce one automobile did it in 92 minutes.?? By 1929, American factories were producing 4,800,000 cars and trucks per year at low prices? that most Americans could afford.? By 1929, Americans owned 26,000,000 cars and trucks?one for every five Americans.? (There was one car for 43 persons in Britain, one to 325 in Italy, and one to 7,000 in Russia).??? To fuel these cars, new oil fields were discovered and put into production in Texas, Oklahoma, and California.?? New paved roads and highways were built around the country, including Route 40, named Harding Highway after the conservative Republican President.
New electric power plants were built in every town.??? Discount chain stores like A&P, Woolworths, Rexall Pharmacies offered consumers lower prices in every town.?? Abundant cheap steel and new electric motors and equipment led to a boom in skyscraper production.
In 1922, three million Americans owned radios, and $60 million worth of radios were produced.? Seven years later in 1929, $852 million in radios were sold.?? In 1922, 40 million movie tickets were sold each week.??? By 1930, 100 million movie tickets were sold each week.
The economic boom that swept American from 1920 to 1929 brought exceptional prosperity to Atlantic City.?? That is because Atlantic City was the only place in American where thanks to Nucky Johnson?s ?Boardwalk Empire?, the enforcement of laws prohibiting liquor was virtually non-existent.
(In his book Boardwalk Empire, Nelson Johnson describes how in May of 1924, Atlantic County Prosecutor Louis Repetto arrested four U.S. Coast Guardsmen who? dared to shoot at a smuggler whose boat filled with illegal liquor was speeding through the Atlantic City Inlet, and refused their orders to stop.)
As a result, Atlantic City became the leading tourist and convention destination in the country, because it was the only city in the country with open liquor and gambling.
In 1921, Republican Mayor Edward Bader, a construction engineer by profession,? pushed through construction of? an even bigger and more modern high school at Albany and Atlantic Avenues and a massive new ?Convention Hall (now called Boardwalk Hall)? He also encouraged many private organizations and charities and helped extend the summer tourist season by one week with the Miss America Pageant in 1921.?? The new high school opened in 1923 and the new Convention Hall opened in 1929.
Bader attracted national attention by publicly denouncing the Ku Klux Klan in 1923.
??By 1925, Atlantic City had:
More than 1,200 hotels and boarding houses capable of accommodating nearly 400,000 visitors at a time.
- Ninety-nine trains running in and out daily in summer and 65 daily in winter. Of the 16 fastest trains in the world, 11 were in service to Atlantic City
- A Boardwalk lined with hundreds of businesses extending seven miles
- Five ocean piers with amusements
- Twenty-one theaters
- Four newspapers, two daily, one Sunday, one weekly
- Three Country Clubs
- Three airports. Two for seaplanes. One for land based planes.
- The Easter Parade and Miss America Pageant.
(Source:?? Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson, Plexus Publishing, 2002)
The Shelbourne and Dennis Hotels opened in 1926.? The opulent Warner Embassy movie theater ?opened on the Boardwalk? in 1929, as did the 400 room , 24 story skyscraper Hotel? Claridge.? In 1930, Atlantic City had its peak year-round population of 66,000.