Aftermath on the Home Front
A wounded African American soldier attends a victory parade after the war.
Boston Police Strike
The United States government had taken substantial control over the economy and society in order to support the war effort. When the war ended, the government abruptly released this control and attempted to return to the status quo. No plans were made as to how to make this a smooth transition. Businesses lost contracts immediately, and soldiers returned home with no jobs or plans.
After the war ended, Americans spent large amounts of money buying goods that had been difficult to acquire during the war. High demand for certain goods led to temporary shortages, which in turn led to inflation. High inflation led to labor unrest, as the now stronger unions demanded higher pay. During the war, workers had refrained from going on strike out of loyalty to the nation and the war effort. After the war, the nation experienced numerous labor strikes. As they traditionally had, the public primarily supported management. Policemen in Boston and steel workers in Chicago comprised two of the many groups that organized strikes during 1919. Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge said of the police strike: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”
The (First) Red Scare
1919 political cartoon about the Red Scare
In October 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution instituted socialism in Russia and caused terror and panic among the United States and other Russian allies. Although very few socialists lived in America, the public still feared communist influence. Many people equated strikes and labor unrest with communist sentiments. The suppression of dissent during the war continued after the war, although it focused on radicals and socialists rather than Germans.
A. Mitchell Palmer
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer sent federal agents around the country to arrest radicals and extremists, conduct warrantless wiretaps, and deport immigrant radicals. The public initially supported Palmer strongly. By the early 1920s the press and Congress began to criticize Palmer for the abundance of civil liberty abuses. Americans grew weary of worrying about the communists, who never showed up to take over the United States, and the first Red Scare faded away.
Did you know?
Wall Street Bombing
On September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded on Wall Street in New York City. Killing nearly forty people, the Wall Street Bombing was the deadliest terror attack in the United States until the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. Although the perpetrators were never identified, most Americans blamed the attacks on either anarchists or communists.