All posts by joe.robinson93

Optional Catch-up Assignment- Joe Robinson

For this assignment, I used to find a picture of Walter Raymond Robinson, my great grandfather on my dad’s side.  Walter was born on December 17, 1891 in Gloucester, MA.  The above picture was taken in 1908 when he was 17 years old, making him ineligible to vote in that year’s presidential election.  I believe that in the following two elections we’ve covered in class (1912 and  1920), my great grandfather would have probably voted for the Republican candidates.

Both Walter and his wife, my great grandmother Ruth Warren Tarr, were descendants of English immigrants who first arrived in America around 1700.  One of their ancestors, Richard Tarr, founded the town of Rockport, MA in 1690.  Like other Americans of early European descent, I think Walter would have been more conservative in his views.  Although his family wasn’t rich, they did own a successful grocery store during his childhood.  After graduating school, Walter went to work for the Gloucester National Bank, where he remained for most of his professional career.

Walter’s upbringing, along with his career in the financial world, leads me to believe that he would have voted for Taft and Harding in the 1912 and 1920 elections, respectively.  Although Wilson won in Massachusetts in 1912, I think his supporters would have come from the more industrial areas such as Boston, Lawrence/Lowell, and Springfield where there were larger immigrant populations.  I don’t think the people of Gloucester necessarily fit his supporter base.  As for the landslide 1920 election, I think Walter would have joined the rest of the nation in its desire to “return to normalcy” and would have voted for Harding.

Joe Robinson’s Response to “The Theory of the New Deal”

I found the most interesting aspect of this piece to be Berle’s discussion of income inequality during early 20th century America and how it contributed to the Great Depression.  The unequal distribution of wealth in the U.S. was the source of as much debate then as it is today.  Although there was no single factor that caused the Great Depression, the “vicious spiral” described by Berle certainly played a significant role.  As Berle explains, an insufficient population of consumers resulted in the closings of plants, which lead to layoffs and wage cuts that further reduced the customer base and decreased industrial production.  FDR attempted to redistribute some of this wealth through the National Recovery Administration, which would ensure that “the national income goes not into stagnant pools of unneeded investment but into the hands of people who need goods.”  Although our current economic state is not nearly as poor, recent efforts to increase the minimum wage bear some resemblance to the New Deal’s goal of reducing the income inequality in this country.

I also enjoyed reading about Berle’s alternative to the New Deal, in which the federal government would have done anything in its power “to satisfy the perfectly legitimate needs of a huge mass of people, all of whom were entitled to their right to live.”  This even included the possibility of a Soviet-like government takeover of the entire U.S. economy.  Berle is quick to point out that something like this would have only occurred if the New Deal failed, but it’s nonetheless interesting to consider.  At the time, the New Deal was the greatest exercise of government power in American history.  However, as Berle indicates, the New Deal was not nearly as radical as other economic recovery plans conceived by the Brain Trust.

I wonder how successful this plan would have been, especially in the U.S. where we seem to value economic freedom above all else.  Although it’s hard to imagine the American public being receptive to such a radical proposal, the crippled economic state might have left them with no other choice.  On the other hand, if the New Deal had failed, I doubt there would have been much faith in Roosevelt’s ability to turn the economy around.  We’ll never know whether or not there would have been resistance to Berle’s more extreme alternative.  However, America saw a certain degree of governmental control over the economy less than a decade later with the WWII mobilization effort, an effort which many have attributed to propelling the United States to the top of the industrial world.

Radio Response- Joe Robinson

I listened to two episodes of a comedic detective program called The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue, which aired from 1933 to 1935.  In the first episode, “the world’s dumbest and luckiest detectives” work a case involving a missing shipment of sugar.  The choice of sugar as the stolen object is an obvious attempt at product placement.  According to the archive’s website, Folgers Coffee was one of the major sponsors for the show; one of the detectives also states that the brand of stolen sugar is Domino, which leads me to believe that Domino was another sponsor.  I found it interesting that many of today’s advertising techniques were being used by marketers as far back as the 1930s.  I think this program is also a great example of how the advertising industry capitalized on new technologies such as the radio to market products to an increasingly commercialized society.

The run time for The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue is 15 minutes, which is similar to a modern TV show without commercials.  I noticed that nearly two and a half minutes of the program consisted of intro and outro musical arrangements, where opening and closing credits would normally appear for television.  I couldn’t help but wonder why so much time had been dedicated to the introduction and closing portions of the program, especially since it did nothing to inform audiences of who was involved in the production.

I enjoyed listening to the show and can understand why radio programs of this genre were popular in the 1930s.  Prior to the 30s, I imagine one of primary forms of home entertainment was reading.  The element of sound would have made detective stories such as the ones from The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue that much more entertaining.  Some of the sound effects from the show were surprisingly realistic, which is an impressive feat given the technology of the era.  Although I enjoyed the program, I can’t imagine anything like it existing today, because modern audiences are so reliant on visual stimulation.  I think many viewers would find it difficult to concentrate/follow the storyline without some sort of accompanying visuals.

Bourne’s Trans-National America- Joe Robinson

In “Trans-National America”, Randolph Bourne dismisses the notion of the U.S. as a melting pot.  He explains that America lacks its own distinct culture that foreigners can assimilate into.  Instead, he believes the country is a federation of different cultures.  While I think this may have been true at the time of this writing (1916), Bourne’s views aren’t applicable today.  Although many Americans retain the cultural roots of their homelands, I think the country as a whole has developed its own unique culture.  I think this is due to the fact that the percentage of the foreign-born U.S. population has decreased between 1916 and today, as more generations have grown up in (and contributed to) the distinctly American culture.

Bourne also supports dual citizenship and the unregulated movement of citizens between America and their home country.  He explains that these measures are necessary in order for America to contribute ‘intellectual internationalism’ to the world, in which all citizens play a part.  Bourne believes this is due to the shift of American colonialism to cosmopolitanism, where individuals are not only influenced by their own heritage, but by the heritage of their peers as well: “Colonialism has grown into cosmopolitanism, and his motherland is no one nation, but all who have anything life-enhancing to offer to the spirit.”

I agree with this sentiment.  Although the U.S. has its own distinct culture, it is also  defined by ancestral differences of its citizens.  By accepting these differences rather than supporting the idea of the melting pot, the concept of cosmopolitanism further unifies the country.  It also puts America in a unique position to be a positive model for the world’s ‘inferior civilizations’ as Bourne calls them.

The Principles of Scientific Management

In The Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor provides a systematic approach toward improving the nation’s industrial efficiency. This book was written in 1911, two years before Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line to his automobile factories; the need for more effective methods of production was at its height during the time of Taylor’s writing. In an effort to eliminate soldering (laborers working at a purposefully inefficient rate) Taylor recommends replacing the traditional rule-of-thumb style of management with one based upon science.


He explains that with the rule-of-thumb approach, success is dependent upon the laborers’ initiative to achieve some sort of reward or incentive. In contrast, scientific management relies on managers taking an increased role in the development of individual work plans, the training of employees, etc. It’s easy to see why this method would be effective. Today, I think the highest valued managers are those who are knowledgeable about the day-to-day activities of their business; those who actually go out and interact with their employees while they work rather than sit in an office all day.


I think Taylor makes a convincing argument for his scientific approach. Not only is his argument sound, but also the manner in which he presents his case is especially effective: he provides real world examples of scientific management’s positive impact in different industries (steel, bricklaying, etc.). That being said, his disparaging marks toward unskilled laborers, in which he consistently questions their intelligence, takes away from the credibility of his argument.

The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois, arguably the most influential civil rights advocate in history, presents a compelling appeal for racial equality in The Souls of Black Folk. I found the most interesting aspect of this piece to be the way in which Du Bois introduces each chapter: by pairing a verse of European poetry with a stanza from a ‘sorrow song’- traditional slave music. Despite their differences, they are both equally significant pieces of art. The sorrow songs, Du Bois explains, “stand to-day not simply as the sole of American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side of the seas”; living proof of the capabilities of African Americans (156).


Du Bois’ writing is based upon the idea that education, particularly higher education, is necessary for the liberation of the black community. He explains that the freedman of his time is not actually free, despite what’s written in the 13th Amendment. Du Bois suggests that racial prejudice has caused the black man to doubt the value of seeking an education. In order to overcome this prejudice, Du Bois says blacks must not only learn to help themselves, but to demand “work, culture, liberty- not singly but together, not successively but together” (7).


It is here that Du Bois and his contemporary, Booker T. Washington, differ. The former is immovable in his demands, whereas the latter is far more conciliatory. In Chapter III, Du Bois makes his most convincing argument in the piece, largely by exposing flaws in Washington’s ‘programme.’ Du Bois recognizes that Washington’s Atlanta Compromise, which supports black submission to white rule, will do far more bad than good for the black community. By establishing African Americans as an inferior class, how can any progress be made towards a more equal society?


It’s easy to see why Du Bois would think this way. As a Harvard graduate who became a successful leader in the black community, Du Bois understood the importance of education in catalyzing the advancement of African Americans. However, he also understood just how difficult the struggle for equality would be, having seen the poor living conditions in Dougherty County, GA and other such places.  These experiences further supported Du Bois in his attempt to educate, and eventually liberate, the black man.

Sumner and Carnegie: Wealth Inequality

I found the most interesting aspect of William Graham Sumner’s piece to be his discussion of the contradictory theories of class relations: There are some who, in their opposition towards wealth inequality and the social classes it creates, argue that they not only have the right to pursue happiness, but that they deserve to get it.   This mindset does nothing to eliminate the class system that these people believe exists. If anything, it further distinguishes society as two separate groups, those who provide aid and those who receive it.

I partly agree with Sumner’s argument. Although I believe every person should be entitled to (at the very least) a basic standard of living, the search for equality often causes us to ignore the interests of all those involved. As Sumner writes, “In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration they forget all about the rights of other classes…they invent new theories of property, distorting rights and perpetuating injustice” (pgs. 20-21).

Sumner’s stance on inequality differs from that of Andrew Carnegie, who believed it was the responsibility of the rich to distribute their excess wealth for the good of society. Carnegie, who immigrated to the United States from Scotland at age 12, had a more modest upbringing than Sumner. This certainly influenced his viewpoints on wealth and the class system in America. In addition, Carnegie believed that inequality was an inevitable byproduct of social evolution beyond human control. I actually think Sumner would agree with Carnegie on this point. Sumner was a supporter of the theories of Social Darwinism and was a strong proponent of laissez-faire capitalism.