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Muckrakers & Reformers

Muckrakers & Reformers

Muckrakers & Reformers Trivia

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William Tweed, New York's most notorious political machine boss, once offered political cartoonist Thomas Nast $500,000 to stop attacking Tweed's Tammany Hall operation in his popular caricatures. (Nast refused.) Nast's satirical cartoons galvanized public opinion against the corruption, extortion, and general malfeasance of Tweed and his associates. Tweed once reportedly exclaimed, "I don't care a straw for your newspaper articles; my constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them damned pictures!"70

Thomas Nast's satirical caricatures of Boss Tweed were so popular that a legend developed around them. As the popular tale goes, Tweed had escaped from debtor's prison and had taken disguise as a common sailor in Spain in 1876 when a Harper's Weekly reader recognized him from the Nast cartoons, and that was how the notorious political boss came to be re-apprehended. Unfortunately, we at Shmoop have to bust that myth: Tweed was captured because the State Department tracked him as he sailed from Cuba to Spain. The cartoon legend was purposefully circulated in a State Department misinformation campaign.71

Oregon became the first state to recognize Labor Day, in 1887. Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York soon followed suit. Most accounts credit Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, for conceiving of a day to honor the nation's workers.72 Traditionally, July Fourth was the holiday for American working people to celebrate; worldwide, May First—a.k.a. May Day—has been the day reserved for the worker ever since a massive Chicago demonstration for the eight-hour day on 1 May 1886. But more conservative unions and politicians supported the 1 September holiday as a safer alternative to the specter of radical labor unionism that was associated with the Chicago protest.

The Prohibition Party is the oldest minor party, or "third party" still active in American politics (the oldest parties are the Democrats and Republicans). The Prohibition Party was founded in 1869 to fight the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks, and has nominated a candidate for the presidency in every election since 1872. In 2004, the Party underwent a schism: the Concerns of People (Prohibition) Party candidate Gene Amondson received 1,944 votes, and former Prohibition Party National Chairman Earl Dodge ran on a separate ticket (also called the Prohibition Party), which garnered 140 votes. Neither candidate's showing amounted to even 0.01% of the total popular vote.73

When France set out to donate the Statue of Liberty to the United States as a centennial gift, both nations coordinated efforts and agreed that France would be responsible for building the statue and delivering it, while the U.S. would supply the pedestal. When fundraising for the pedestal lagged in America, newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer (for whom the Pulitzer Prize was later named) used the editorial pages of his paper The World to "criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds." By August 1885, the fundraising was complete, and the Statue of Liberty was dedicated on 28 October 1886.74

It was originally suggested that an immigration facility should be built on Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands, but nativists objected on the grounds that immigrants would "taint" the statue. Nearby Ellis Island was chosen instead, and the famous immigration station there opened in 1892.75

Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive (or "Bull Moose") Party was the first national political party to adopt a women's suffrage plank, in 1912.76

Connecticut became the first state to pass a speed limit for automobiles in 1901: cars could go 12 miles per hour on rural roads, and 8 miles per hour in metropolitan areas.77

The settlement house movement was not just confined to Britain and the United States; similar houses to aid the destitute opened in Western Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.78

Temperance reform extended into the White House during the Rutherford B. Hayes presidency of 1877-1881, when First Lady Lucy Hayes enacted a strict prohibitionist policy that later earned her the nickname "Lemonade Lucy."79

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