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Good To Know

History Lesson #8: Taxing the Rich

Summary: No, the goal of the U.S. is not to help the rich get richer. 



It seems that somehow the GOP has forced Biden to reconsider raising taxes on the rich, or at least reversing Trump's tax cuts, in an effort to pay for infrastructure and everything else Biden wants.


But why? Isn't a study of economics in history able to give Biden the guidance he needs? Let's give Biden the tools he needs to raise the taxes on the rich before the U.S. comes crashing down around our feet.  But also, it's the GOP's job to make Biden fail.


Here's a report from CBS News: "Poll after poll show that people favor higher taxes to reduce the deficit. That's because, while susceptible to demagoguery, most of us aren't total idiots. The case for balancing the budget in part by raising taxes on top income-earners is compellingly simple. Better yet, it's good economics."


Good economics. What does that mean? According to this site the Bush era tax cuts during his war contributed greatly to our deficit. That's not hard to believe. Even if the taxes on the rich were raised, their income gains would still dramatically increase compared to the rest of us. Can Bezos stand to pay more in taxes? There's really very little doubt about that.


(I would love to stop supporting Amazon but that's the only place my books are currently available. But I will say that my sales have screeched to a halt the better part of this month, so I'm sure others are boycotting.)


And there's this: "Recent income gains for the highest-income one percent have far exceeded gains for everyone else, leading to dramatic income concentration at the top of the scale. Now, more than ever, the highest-income households are in a better position to pay taxes."


Don't believe CBS? Let's look at another source.  The PEW Research Center has a pretty good rap. Here's what they say about what we think about raising taxes: "By two-to-one (44% to 22%), the public says that raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 would help the economy rather than hurt it, while 24% say this would not make a difference. Moreover, an identical percentage (44%) says a tax increase on higher incomes would make the tax system more fair, while just 21% say it would make the system less fair."


Okay, I get it. More of us are in favor than against, which is proportional to more of us voting Democrat to Republican. What are the Republicans afraid of? That rich people will no longer have the money to help them cheat at elections? Okay, you know I'm biased, right? The Republican Party needs a new image, a new mission statement, in order to align with voters today in a more honest and direct way.


Now, granted, that was an old survey, but fair enough because of the references above to GW Bush.


Here's one from Marketplace.org in 2018, a little more recent.  "One of the most pernicious economic falsehoods you'll hear during the next seven months of political campaigning is there's a necessary tradeoff between fairness and growth. By this view, if we raise taxes on the wealthy the economy can't grow as fast," noted Robert Reich. He noted that taxes were higher on the rich in the first three decades after World War II than they've been since. He also said Clinton's taxes on the wealthy contributed more to the growth of the economy than did Bush's tax cuts after him.


"What we should have learned over the last half century is that growth doesn't trickle down from the top. It percolates upward from working people who are adequately educated, sufficiently rewarded, and who feel they have a fair chance to make it in America."


Let's look at an opposing opinion to see how much sense it makes.  "Luckily, there are some people out there who understand why higher taxes are bad for the economy and society. Steven Horowitz of Libertarianism.org is certainly one of them and he does a terrific job of explaining just why the current tax-scheme regime is hurting America. In his recent article, "The Social Harms of Taxing Private Wealth," Horowitz does a great job of defending capitalism and the current private financial system and he explains why the Democrats are so misinformed about wealth and what a wealth tax would mean for not only our nation's billionaires but also every other productive member of society."


Oh my goodness. We cannot take a chance on hurting billionaires? Maybe someone who has 5 billion will end up with 4 billion and that will just destroy him? I'm sorry, it's hard to take those people seriously. Please look at their link if you want to read more. I'd rank those comments right up there with QAnon lies about mass shootings being fake.


When did trickle down start? How about Coolidge? Coolidge both cut taxes and cut the federal budget. He knew that to cut taxes you had to cut spending. Fair enough. No brainer, really. He served during the roaring Twenties, a time of tremendous economic boom, during which a middle class was created. The war was over -- it was time to dance. The tax was reduced on the wealthiest from 77% to 7% he was the one to start Reagan's "trickle down" economics by lowering taxes on businessmen.


Economic historian Steve Fraser felt that the Coolidge administration perfected "crony capitalism," where you could no longer tell the difference "between the representation of a political constituency and the servicing of a corporation client."


This was a happiness bubble that grew too big and finally burst. But not under Coolidge. He didn't like to see what was happening to the stock market but he felt it wrong for the government to interfere. He chose not to run again, Shlaes said, because he'd had enough.


So that particular trickle down, if left uncorrected under Hoover, led to the crash of 1929. From what I could find, Hoover further cut taxes, believing in hands-off capitalism. He too believed people would benefit if the rich business owners had more money.  So low taxes on the rich directly led to the depression, it seems.


Most of us remember Ron Reagan as being the one who created trickle-down. It didn't start with him, but obviously he didn't know his history. Reagan called his program of cutting taxes to produce more jobs and reducing regulations to get the federal government out of business interests as "The New Federalism."


Reagan's package offered no relief when the country went into a devastating recession. High interest rates put the stopper on everything from home mortgages to factory prosperity. They finally realized they had to drop oil prices and Reagan also cut domestic programs. The federal deficit, however, continued to grow, because Reagan funneled domestic savings into the defense budget, while the taxes for the wealthy were cut dramatically to create that 'trickle-down' that would produce jobs.


Did you notice that today even your CDs get very little interest? I wonder why that is. Yes, no economic growth thanks to the pandemic. But maybe taxing the rich would help.


In 1981 there was a serious recession, with unemployment as high as 11%. Growth from tax cuts failed to materialize; he thought slashing income tax up to 25% would encourage people to reinvest in the economy. "Debt interest payments became the government's third largest bill after defense problems and entitlements such as public assistance." As Reagan assured the people to stick with him, Congress enacted a $100 billion tax increase. By 1983 the country again experienced a period of growth.


Hey, I'm not making this stuff up. Some of the above, by the way, you can find in "From Lincoln to Trump."


Here's a summary found online.


"As projections for the deficit worsened, it became clear that the 1981 tax cut was too big. So with Reagan's signature, Congress undid a good chunk of the 1981 tax cut by raising taxes a lot in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1987. George H.W. Bush signed another tax increase in 1990 and Bill Clinton did the same in 1993. One lesson from that history: When tax cuts are really too big to be sustainable, they're often followed by tax increases."


So now it's time for that tax increase, Mr. Biden. Congress must act.


"The other argument that advocates of tax cuts for the rich make is that many small-business owners would be see their taxes go up and thus would be discouraged from hiring workers. The facts do not support this. "Only 3 percent of small-business owners are in the top bracket," notes Roberton Williams, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, which is sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. And, he adds, "They are not all what we think of as job-creating small businesses. A lot of them are hedge-fund managers and law-firm partners." So other than perhaps a few restaurateurs on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the workforce is unlikely to be affected."


This was another article about the Bush tax cuts expiring.  Jeepers, I sure hope they did because if not, we have Trump tax cuts on top of them. No wonder rich men can afford to build spaceships.


Oh wait …


The Bush tax cuts were two tax code changes that President George W. Bush authorized during his first term. Congress enacted tax cuts to families in 2001 and investors in 2003. They were supposed to expire at the end of 2010. Instead, Congress extended them for two more years, and many of the tax provisions remain in effect—and continue to affect the economy—to this day.


Son of a gun.





From Lincoln to Trump: A political transformation









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History Lesson #7: Wild West Madison

The "Wild West" began after the Civil War and west of the Mississippi River. But Wisconsin had its share of wild western times before the Civil War, as the Americans moved westward from the Atlantic seaboard after the Revolutionary War. The Madison area developed after War of 1812, which ended in 1815. This was the second clash over land between the Americans and British. In 1816 the first American fort in Wisconsin, Fort Crawford, was built at Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi River.


Desire for resources had a major impact on western migration. Two were especially prized; lumber and lead. Mining for lead was a major industry by 1822 from Galena up through Prairie du Chien soon after. The first sustained and commercial lumbering sawmill was established north of Green Bay in 1827 by J.P. Arndt; the first uprising over the lead regions south of Madison happened that same year. Arndt built Durham boats to ship lead from the lead mining district via a portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers after the Erie Canal opened in 1825. Fort Howard in Green Bay was much older; first a French fort and then a British one.


The Winnebagoes (now Ho-Chunk), however, had pretty good control of the lead mining region all the way up to the Portage area, similar to what Americans would witness by the Sioux and Cheyenne later in the Black Hills. The Winnebagoes tended to charge Americans for trespass and mining privilege, and even began a kind of working relationship with some in the area. This was not to the liking of the Americans, however.


We all know that miners wanted the Sioux out of the Black Hills, and this led to that famous battle at the Little Bighorn. A lesser known battle happened in southern Wisconsin over lead mining. Said Spoon Decorah, years later: 


When the whites began to come among the mines, the Big Father said to his Winnebago children: ' I want this land and will have my own people to work it, and whenever you go out hunting come by this way, and you will be supplied with lead.' But this agreement was never carried out by the White Father or his agents. Never was a bag of lead or a bag of shot presented to us. For many years there was much sorrowful talk among the Winnebagoes, at the manner in which the Big Father had treated them, with regard to the mines. No, we never saw any of our lead again, except what we dearly paid for; and we never will have any given to us, unless it be fired at us out of white men's guns, to kill us off.


The Winnebago War of 1827 began with the attack and rape of Indian women. This same kind of event caused the Paiute War in Nevada in 1860, during the on-rush of speculators to rumors of gold and silver in the Comstock around Virginia City. Wise Paiute heads attempted to keep the peace there, until two men abducted two Paiute girls, molested and then hid them. Here in Wisconsin, during a drunken party between keelboat traders and some Winnebagoes near Prairie du Chien, their women were taken.


When the Winnebago men sobered up and found them missing, they became upset and demanded action. So Red Bird and his two companions visited some friends in Prairie du Chien, where they had always been received with friendly trust. But because word of these missing women may have reached that community, mistrust, anger, and perhaps lack of judgment led these former friends to reach for weapons and were killed by Red Bird and his party. Around this same time, another group of Winnebagoes went to the river to watch for the keelboats to return. When they saw the first keelboat they attempted to row out to get their women back but were fired on. So they fired back. This attack was exaggerated by the keel boatmen.


Alcohol was the reason for Red Bird's War, along with desire for the lead mines. In Wisconsin's Wild West, alcohol and soldiers who wanted women were a deadly combination. The Paiutes never tried to fight the Europeans again after their 1860 war, even though they'd won, and the Comstock Lode area around Virginia City came fully under European control. The Sioux beat Custer in 1876 over the government's desire for gold, but ultimately lost the Black Hills.


The first cattle drive west of the Great Lakes mimicked the later ones to Abilene, Kansas, and likely traveled through the Madison area. Around 1826 Ebenezer Childs was hired by J.P. Arndt to help with his timbering, but also to drive cattle for him from St. Louis back to Fort Howard in Green Bay. Childs started with 262 head and made it with 210, not bad in those days, especially since that may have entailed crossing the Mississippi River. There's a good chance he sold a few along the way, too.


Black Hawk's War

Indian cession of land in 1829 of the lead mining region encouraged the arrival of more Easterners. There were some Winnebagoes, however, still living in Madison in 1833; moving them across the river was not fully accomplished until 1855, and after that they continued to slip back into Wisconsin. 


In similar fashion to those later clamoring for the Black Hills were those in southern Wisconsin complaining that Indians were still in the way of the lead. In 1832 the Black Hawk War was fought between the U.S. Army and some Sauk and Fox who wanted to continue to work their corn fields on their homeland as they always did. There was a series of misunderstandings on both sides that led to war. Decades later, in 1867, the government sent a Civil War general, William S. Hancock, into Kansas to talk to the Sioux and Cheyenne, but he ended up threatening them, scaring them, and then burning their village. This led to general unrest that summer that resulted in the Treaty of Fort Laramie.


Here Colonel Dodge convinced the Winnebagoes not to join with the Sauk and Fox, and General Henry Atkinson was given the task of forcing Black Hawk's people back to Iowa to stay. They were accustomed to raising corn at their village near Rock Island but suddenly they were being forced away.


After a successful repulse of Atkinson's detachment under Stillman by Black Hawk's people in May (after trying to stop the attack with a white flag), there came a series of confrontations all that summer. On August 2nd the Sauk and Fox faced final defeat at Bad Axe River north of Prairie due Chien, now considered more of a massacre.


They were confronted by 4,000 military while trying to get across the Mississippi to the western side in any way possible. Black Hawk for the last time tried to surrender, but the captain of the steamboat professed to believe the flag of truce was a ruse and opened fire with a six-pounder and musketry. He ceased only when his supply of fuel gave out. The infantry now came up, pushing the Indians from behind. Men, women, and children were driven into the river at the point of bayonets, to be drowned or picked off by sharpshooters. This lasted three hours and at least 150 were killed and an equal number drowned.


President Andrew Jackson formulated the Indian Removal Act two years before this event; the Five Civilized Tribes were in their way. While Jackson remained president until 1837, the tide of opinion, or Congress, at least, must have turned against him by 1834. That was the year Congress organized the Department of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act.


By this time all the tribes in Wisconsin were in line to be moved out, including the Menominees, who signed a treaty in 1831 that gave J.P. Arndt control of the timber lands he had leased from them for his trees.


The Winnebagoes were continually told they were not welcome here. They signed a treaty in 1832 relinquishing lands south and east of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers. They were told they would no longer be protected from the settlers who were moving in at a rapid rate. The Treaty of 1837 forced them to cede all their lands east of the Mississippi River, along with some land west of the river. The Treaty of 1846 contained completely ambiguous language pertaining to the land they still occupied that they had to give up; they were dealing with remnants of the tribe who refused to move or who had wandered back.


The final treaty of removal from Wisconsin was in 1855, coincidentally through the same commissioner who handled the final land purchase of the Black Hills in late 1876, George Manypenny. This 1855 treaty was an exchange of one area of land in Minnesota for another parcel further west in that territory, with the money to be paid them expended to help them make this final move.


By 1838 there was some reluctance to continue this movement of Indians to the West, where they might form a "confederation" of common property. The president was now Martin Van Buren. The official reason given to discontinue the notion was that they might not all get along, not because they might provide an impenetrable force against further westward movement. As a result, the Menominees, Potawatomies and the Chippewas were given their own permanent reservations in Wisconsin, making Wisconsin the most eastern state to still have a large viable Indian population.


Building a Town

While these negotiations continued, so did fur trade in the Madison area on a large scale until 1835. Madison was only a "paper town" when Judge James B. Doty proposed it that year for the state's territorial capitol. Doty held court at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien but arrived in Madison in 1829 on his first trip to the area. Doty had also been the judge chosen for Red Bird's trial the year before, but he kept stalling because traveling to the area of the uprising put him at great risk, and, not being pro-Indian, wanted extra money for the job. Red Bird died of dysentery at Fort Crawford awaiting his day in court.


Cheyenne, Wyoming, a spirited western town, was settled in 1867 as a good location for a train stop, surveyed by Grenville Dodge (no direct relation to Henry Dodge). Settlement came so fast they called it "Magic City of the Plains." They immediately wanted to get into the Black Hills. To a lesser degree Madison grew, more as a trickle than a boom, and without the accompanying "hell on wheels" that the railroad tended to provide.


But similarly, in 1835 the first road was built to Madison that connected Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien to Fort Winnebago in Portage, the fort built on the spot where Red Bird surrendered in 1827. His statue should be here; however, you will see this greater than life statue at High Cliff State Park. You can also still see parts of this "military road" marked on maps. Doty designed the road, after successfully lobbying for its creation. And then he proceeded to buy real estate and with others formed "The Four Lakes Company." 


Doty wanted to take the importance off the port of Green Bay and bring that importance to the southern part of the state, where he felt the location was more beneficial to capital enterprise. Land offices opened in 1835 in Mineral Point and Green Bay for land sales around Madison and Dane County. Milwaukee got a land office in 1838. 

President Jackson created Wisconsin Territory in 1836 and appointed General Henry Dodge as its first governor. Dodge and Doty did not get along. Doty once accused Dodge of taking more credit than he deserved for the removal of the Winnebagoes from the lead mining region.


Dodge tried to establish the capitol at Belmont; their historic museum is south of Madison off 151. Doty entered this gathering of legislators to push for his townsite of Madison. When I gave tours at Marinette Logging Museum, I was told to tell visitors that the buffalo robe on display was like the ones that Doty gave to the legislatures at Belmont who were shivering in the cold of November for lack of firewood. With Doty's persuasive manner, including handing out choice corner lots, they moved their headquarters to Madison. 


At the time of Madison's creation, Dane County had all of 40 non-native inhabitants.


The Panic of 1837 slowed Madison's growth, caused by Jackson's "Specie Circular," which required payments for public lands in either silver or gold instead of the growing use of "paper money" in circulation. Because of this, land sales were sharply curtailed. The first sawmill in the area was built that year, too, and trees were cut regardless of any potential ownership, because now a state capitol had to be built. Probably because of the panic, this took four years.


This compares to the Panic of 1873 out west, which was the results of abnormal railroad growth between 1866 and 1873. Jay Cooke's firm, Philadelphia Banking, had invested heavily; during its plans to build the Northern Pacific, Cooke realized it had over-invested and declared bankruptcy. Investment money dried up and construction in some areas ceased for two years. During that time 18,000 businesses failed, which led unemployment to rise to 14% by 1876.


Madison's growth remained slow here as well; in 1843, only 40% of the survey lots were owned by locals. Lead mining was still the area's primary occupation. Madison's future was uncertain because of sickness, mosquitoes, wolves, prairie fires and Indians—many Winnebagoes still defied banishment. Also poor roads, high prices and labor shortages all took their toll on its development. And quicksand. Yes, quicksand; the Great Central Marsh had a quicksand scare for at least one local resident.


School was first held in Isaac Palmer's log cabin in 1838, but by 1846, with education on everyone's mind, they got their first schoolhouse for 60 kids. Ten years later, only 450 of the city's 1600 children could attend public schools, which were classes held in that school house and any other building they could find, with one teacher to every 125 children. Indignation appeared in the newspaper: "We have plenty of saloons and tippling houses!" This same indignation later ruled the west.


Also in 1846, locals supported separate status for the races. Black suffrage was rejected by a vote of 176-18. There weren't many slaves in Wisconsin and there were several freed blacks who settled in the area before the Civil War; this population appeared to be just enough to make the ruling against allowing them to vote, even if they were gainfully employed. 


Carl Schurz, who founded the Republican Party in Ripon in 1854, was a German who lost taste for his fellow Germans when he couldn't win them to the party with suffrage as the party's platform. 


Crazy Wild Inhabitants

All kinds of colorful characters moved into the area, following Doty's establishment of the territorial capitol. In 1837 Madison got its first public house with a woman proprietor who had as tough a life as any pioneer woman out west. Doty talked her into opening a boarding house for visiting politicians and others destined to make the area boom. To sweeten the deal he offered her a choice piece of property. After a year Rosalie Peck and her husband started clearing the land to develop their farm when Doty told them there had been a mistake. He never promised her any land. From here they moved to Baraboo, but her husband left her and the children for another woman, and then she was tossed out of that homestead by a drunk who claimed her property.


Even the first religion that came to Madison in 1837 could have been a scam. The fellow claimed to be a Methodist preacher and gave the religion-hungry folk a right nice sermon. His "ministry" came up with $20 for him, and when he was about to leave, his horse came up lame. So they gave him another one and an extra $15. When his horse died a few days later in their care, they grumbled about being conned—they never saw the fellow again. Madison finally got its first church building in 1846. 


Fourth of July in 1839 demonstrated the value of both the beef on the hoof and whiskey, when a fellow hid his steer so he could join the festivities and relax. Three days of whiskey cavorting passed before he remembered what he did with his beefsteak on the hoof—after the whiskey ran out.


Politics made the whiskey climate even livelier—or vice versa. When the Madison legislature was in session the local women were appalled by the "drinking, profanity and wickedness that characterized the tiny town." Gambling houses operated without fear of law, much the same as they did in Aurora, Colorado, Virginia City, Nevada, or San Francisco, years later.


Shootings against unarmed people were claimed as self-defense here as well. There was an event in 1867 in New Mexico where State Legislator Rynerson walked up to a judge who was having dinner in public, told him to take back the things the judge had said about him, or he'd shoot him. Judge Slough responded, "Shoot and be damned" so Rynerson killed him on the spot. He was later found innocent by reason of self-defense.


In Madison, the same defense was probably sought, but with a twist, when on February 11, 1842, Charles Arndt, son of lumberman J.P. Arndt, was shot and killed in the council hall by fellow politician J.R. Vineyard, and yes, Vineyard was also found not guilty. They had been having an argument over who to nominate for sheriff of Grant County. Vineyard, a Kentucky Democrat, called Arndt a liar; Arndt struck him, so Vineyard pulled a gun and shot him. 


Moses Strong was Vineyard's attorney and drank a pitcher of whiskey while he addressed the jury. Even with that (or maybe because of that) Vineyard was acquitted. The records don't indicate if Strong was trying to prove how capable a man can be as a politician with whiskey on his breath, but heaven knows what other reason he might have had to drink whiskey in court.


While Vineyard soon moved to California, Rynerson began practicing law in Santa Fe again.


In 1842 an English visitor saw, during drab rainy weather, drunks lying in the mud beside the road, heard his fill of coarse language, and was treated to crude accommodations and a revolting menu. He threatened to kill anyone who mentioned that he had been in Madison.


No wild west story is complete without the story of a man who could have been somebody except for gambling and liquor. Here let's pick on Moses Strong. He was a Mineral Point resident, a surveyor, friends with future railroad man John Catlin, and a lawyer from Vermont. He helped to survey the land around Madison's capital. He was also on the commission of the first bank at Mineral Point, but nearly got killed for opposing the bank's operator; Strong refused the request for a duel. He was likely a lead miner because he was adamant about the Winnebagoes being entirely at fault for the uprising in 1827, regardless of what others said. With all his connections, his legacy is to be a lesser known except for this whiskey tale.


On May 29, 1848, Wisconsin became the country's 30th state. In this same year, the entire Southwestern U.S. was acquired because of the Mexican War; only two years before, Oregon Territory had been claimed.


Madison wasn't tamed quite yet. Sidewalks were a mess until 1855 and public sanitation before that time read like a page out of Santa Fe in the late 1860s: "garbage tossed in the river, defecation and urination on sidewalks, streets, roads and lanes within the city limits, residential debris spilling onto the sidewalks." Here in Madison they complained of "garbage and slop dumped in the streets, dead animals decaying where they dropped, and offal from slaughterhouses thrown into lakes, and horse manure and urine creating a health hazard."


Cholera epidemics ran through Madison in 1849, 1852 and 1854, and finally public sanitation became a priority, as it did in Santa Fe starting in 1868. Madison's great pig roundup began in 1855.


Establishing the Roadways

The road created the town, and not vice versa, here as well as out west. Mollenhoft referred to the railroad as a "prerequisite for urban success." I would call law, public sanitation and settled property just as necessary, by American standards. The railroad, however, certainly aided the speedy transportation of goods necessary for growth, and we can understand how highly desired it was out West because of how wide, open (and dry) that land is. But the railroad alone brought no taming to the West; they still needed law, public sanitation and settled property.

Regular roads led to the establishment of Madison, but in 1836 the first railroad out of Chicago ran to the lead mines of Galena, called the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. Previous to 1854 the company had built a branch line from Belvidere, Illinois to Beloit, Wisconsin and in that year it leased the Madison & Beloit Railroad, a line projected and partly built from Beloit to Madison. This road, the name of which was changed about this time to the Rock River Valley Union Railroad Company, was consolidated in 1855 with the Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad Company, which was incorporated in Illinois in 1851. The title adopted after this consolidation was the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Railroad Company. 


According to Mollenhoft, however, the first rail line into Madison was the Mississippi and Madison Railroad, under John Catlin. Elsewhere referred to as the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad, ending at Prairie du Chien, the line passed through Madison with great fanfare in 1854 (see historic depot building).


As Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien was built to protect the growing swell of Americans to the area, Fort D.A. Russell was built in 1867 to house the army that protected the Cheyenne Wyoming railroad, its workers and settlers who came to take advantage of this "terminus town." Real estate speculators, merchants, gamblers and tradesman all converged in the area, and trouble soon developed over who had the right to sell the land around the station. Land jumpers were run out of town and the railroad's rights confirmed. By the end of that first year, Cheyenne had 4,000 settlers along with churches and schools. 


Madison's west demonstrates what the westward ho priorities were for development. But even with all these civilizing factors, Cheyenne in 1867 was overrun in lawlessness.


By 1853 in Madison 75% of properties owned by locals, and the Madison "wild west" era could be said to have ended. In 1855 Horace Greeley called it "the most beautiful townsite in the west." So here we'll end the tale of the Wild West Madison era, with the railroad not a "hell on wheels" here as it was in Cheyenne but it was military roads that created Madison's "wild west." Because whatever brought settlers in for resources before law, you have the makings of some wild times that would probably make even State Street Halloween parties today seem tame in comparison.




WESTERN SITES TO SEE related to Madison's Old West: The Old Spring Tavern was built in 1854 by Charles Morgan, native of Connecticut who went "west" for his health. 3706 Nakoma Road, sitting on the historic Milwaukee to Platteville Road. Hyer's Hotel was built in 1854. David came to Madison to help build the first capital in 1837, the one that took four years because of the panic. He probably wanted to get the capitol done before working on his hotel at 854 Jenifer Street. Shortly after he built it, however, he sold it. And speaking of German immigrants and "tavern" fun, we have the Plough Inn, built in 1854 at 3402 Monroe Street. Sadly most of this has been recovered or rebuilt from its original stone by Frederick Paunack, who was a stonecutter and built his house from stone cut the sandstone from the nearby quarry that is now the Glenwood Children's Park. Book binding arrived with a German immigrant, Gottlieb Grimm, who bound the first book in Madison in 1850. The Grimm Book Bindery was founded in 1874 at 454 W. Gilman Street. Religion did come successfully to Madison, as this Grace Episcopal Church at 116 W. Washington Avenue shows, built in 1855 for the congregation that began in 1839. The earlier church mentioned is no longer standing.



Jonathan Carver's Travels Through America, 1766-1768

 Larry Gara, Short History of Madison

Letters Received, Office of Indian Affairs, Prairie du Chien Agency, M234, R696, P90-1778

Dr. Herbert Kuhm, "Mining and Use of Lead by the Wisconsin Indians," Wisconsin Archeologist, Volume 32, #2.

The Story of Mineral Point, 1827-1941

 Lucy E. Murphy, A Gathering of Rivers

Nicolas Boilvin Letters, 1820-1823, Prairie du Chien Papers, 1809-1847, Box 1, Folder 3, David Mollenhoft, Madison: History of the Formative Year.

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The Indian Agency Video Host

Ryan first contact me in the spring of 2019. He told me they were looking for a host for a video series for an excavation project at the Portage Indian Agency House. He told me he felt like I was undiscovered talent, or something to that effect. He probably saw one of my copper videos. The truth is, it's easy to look like talent when you're talking about something you know a lot about and are passionate about. I knew very little about the Indian Agency House. But I was willing to find out.


As I thought about it, I was perfect -- a historian with a background in archaeology who was making her own documentary series, proven comfortable in front of a camera and  lifelong actress. Who better to act as host? And I knew a little something about the area already. In my work on Pensaukee, I discovered that J.P. Arndt was on the first committee that tried to get the portage built between the Wisconsin and Fox rivers back in 1844. The goal was to ship lead from the southern Wisconsin area, up the Wisconsin, to the Fox via this canal, through Green Bay, to the Great Lakes and up into the Erie Canal to New York. You see, the Fox River is unusual, in that it flows from south to north, so they thought that route would be easier than down the Missisippi to the Gulf and around Florida.


I'm not sure why they didn't have the right technology to build the canal at that time. After all, the Erie Canal was build in 1825. But the Portage Canal, though Arndt gave up on it early, wasn't built until the 1870s, by which time the railroad made it ineffective.


I've also done a ton of research on Red Bird's War. Red Bird surrendered in 1827 at what would later be the site of Fort Winnebago. I knew that the whole Red Bird War was staged by the Europeans as a way to get their hands on the lead mining lands in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  The problem was, I couldn't get any history magazine or journal to publish my article. But maybe this involvement would help. For that and for Ryan's belief in me, I said, sure! I'd do my best.


I've been a member of Wisconsin Archeological Society for a number of years now. I was even their membership committee one year, and no, I don't know why they didn't keep me at it -- I was pretty darned good! But I also tend to rub some of the members the wrong way because I am not an archaeologist. To be fair, a lot of them are not, either. We all have a similar interest -- finding what's under ground.


For me, it's copper. Anything pre-contact copper. I make the Wittry copper typology with my updates free to anyone at my website. I have to. I never asked for permission to update it. I will say I'm sure I know more about copper artifacts in the Americas than anyone else in the world.


But this video series wouldn't be about copper, or anything pre-contact, or even about Red Bird. It would cover the excavation to find the location of the first blacksmith shop on the grounds of the Indian Agency, first operated by John and Juliette Kinzie. Much of what they know about it comes from her book, Wau-Bun.


Only one weekend in 2019 was all that they needed me for that year. We had to first determine where to dig using ground penetrating radar (GPR).


I was given a lot of people to interview, but Ryan could also be seen interviewing people. I think that was his assurance that we would cover all our bases. At one point I got bored and helped another archaeologist, John Wackman, with a metal detector flag his hits. I never heard if any of those hits made a difference in locating the excavation.


I also interviewed Dan with the GPR. That machine was a bitch to use. The ground was so rough that the buckets seen on the bottom started getting torn up. We all  took turns pushing the darned thing across the ground because it was so hot that weekend. Most of that area in sand and lighter green is what was tested. This was supposed to give us a good indication of where the 2020 excavations would be situated. I think the machine broke down and they had to go back again, but I wasn't needed.


I was in for a surprise in 2020. Yes, even with the pandemic we went ahead with the planned excavations, and invited the public in to help. If you think excavating in hot weather is hard, try excavating in hot weather while wearing masks. This time I had to be there for two weekends, and I had a different cameraman. He seemed unwilling to follow me around. I often had to hunt him down. Ryan wasn't with us that summer either, fighting Lyme disease, not COVID.


If I can blame anyone for the lack of organization, I suppose it would have to be me, because I was the only common factor. Museum curator Adam took control of most of the filming so I leaned on him a lot.


They had four different excavation grids that summer, based on what the GPR turned up. I was to talk to the volunteers about what they were finding, and be wherever an exciting find turned up. I got interviews with all the archaeologists, including Connie from La Crosse, who was in charge. I taped Adam giving a tour of the agency house; I even helped with a drone video of that area of the portage, the canal between the Wisconsin and Fox rivers.


What I didn't tape -- because there wasn't any -- was the exciting find of the first blacksmith foundation. Four days of excavations turned up a lot of nails, and rocks and some house debris like broken glass and pottery. But no signs of a foundation.  What went wrong? Why had the GPR failed?


I did a closing video of the archaeologists to talk about results and were do we go from here, and I don't think they took too kindly to my question about why didn't we find what we were looking for.


I found out the hard way in 2021 that they were doing yet another excavation this summer. Last summer they said they would try moving up closer to the house. They were talking about an area the GPR hadn't traversed.  This summer they wanted no video host. I saw no videos being shot at all, no cameraman hired. So I asked for permission and shot a couple of my own.


Sure enough, the excavations were closer to the agency house, and all I saw before people started packing up at 4 p.m. was that the ground in one area was more compacted than in another area, indicating a kind of burning process went on there. More nails, more pottery, about the same level of excitement.


This was a very low-key endeavor, not open to the public to dig but only to those who were members of the Agency House. They were going to finish the next day, but Saturday was my closure. I did not expect, even after all my involvement, that anyone was going to tell me how this year's excavation concluded.


My favorite part of the day was Adam's demonstration how the natives made a dugout canoe.


To be honest, I think that European history is becoming the only kind of excavation work we'll see much of in the future, as more and more native tribes demand control of their ancient history. And that's great.I cover this topic in my new novel, "Archaeology of the Dead: A murder mystery in two parts." And though I was paid minimal for my assistance for two summers, I got valuable material from this excavation for the novel.


My takeaways on this three-year "experience" is that I'm glad I'm not an archaeologist. As a historian, I feel much more rewarded by digging in primary and other records to find little noted materials and see how they fit the bigger picture. Things like nails and glassware just don't interest me. Copper, however, does, because it's looking more and more like the oldest metal industry in the world was right here in my back yard. And that's exciting. Plus, I discovered this past Saturday that I tend to suffer from sun exposure, and dehydrate quickly.


No experience is ever wasted. I don't I did the kind of job at video hosting as they would have liked. Someone else might have been more sincere and maybe more intuitive than I was.


I wish them the best with these excavations, but quite frankly, if they don't talk about Red Bird's surrender there, it's all a little dull to me. I would love to give a Red Bird's War talk there, but Adam knows how to reach me, if interested.

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History Lesson #6: Poisonous Progress

Many times in our rush for riches we don't stop to think what part of this could be bad for us. I'm doing physical therapy now because, in part, I worked really hard the first half of this year on three non-fiction projects. Two were second edition, but still required a lot of attention, as you'll see if you get one of them after reading first edition. And the third is very data intensive. So now I'm fighting shoulder, neck and arm pain. Minor, compared to what you're about to read.


This topic jumped out at me, as topics tend to do, while working on the first draft of "A Cartwright Ride through Virginia City History." Now if you want suggest a topic to explore further, I'd love it.


You've heard of Quicksilver, perhaps? It's a cool word, but it doesn't mean getting rich fast. Nor am I talking about a fictional Marvel hero.  Or a 1986 movie with Kevin Bacon. No, in this case, and it took me a while to find this, is it's a process utilizing mercury or another name for mercury, thusly:


"Mercury used to be highly regarded, for reasons both mystical and practical. Among the substances we deal with in our lives, mercury is pretty odd and amazing. The Latin name "hydrargyrum," from which its chemical symbol Hg comes, means water-silver. English speakers used to call it quicksilver, or living silver. The medieval alchemists felt that mercury must have a mighty mojo, some excess of spirit that could be tamed for their great work of turning base metal into gold."


Mercury as we know it today fuels our thermometers. But did you know they also used to put it in your teeth?  No, wait - they still do:


"As a practical matter, mercury does some very useful things. It dissolves other metals in it to make instant alloys or amalgams. A gold or silver amalgam made with mercury is an excellent material for filling tooth cavities, hardening rapidly and wearing well." (Dental authorities do not consider this a hazard to patients.)


Heaven knows if it is -- or isn't. In fact, dentists still use this amalgam in fillings, even while the use is debatable. Some claim it could lead to Alzheimers. But most say the amount of mercury is just too small.


The question that was posed that I'm going to try to answer here is whether the silver miners in Virginia City showed any signs of quicksilver poisoning, when the use of mercury was discontinued, and what are the lingering effects to the environment.


"These miners used mercury in the milling process -- tons of the liquid metal  in the process of ore reduction. They added mercury to the pulverized ore. They threw drew it off together with the gold and silver. The next step involved cooking away the mercury, which vaporized. They did try to recapture the mercury for re-use but lost most of it."


"The amount of quicksilver used by mills working the Comstock ores alone averages 800 flasks,  of 76.5 pounds each or 61,2000 pounds per month. This amount … of quicksilver had to go somewhere, and counting backwards for ten years shows 7,344,000 pounds that have gone somewhere --either up the flue or down the flume."


Mercury was poisonous and most deadly when inhaled. A question author James asked is how many had been affected? The symptoms at toxic levels caused hair loss, tremors, hallucinations, insanity and death. (But it's okay in our teeth.)  James was unable to share with us any data about the effects mercury had on the miners. 


The first effects of mercury were noted in the hat industry, of all places, because they used quicksilver in the making of felt. Remember "The Mad Hatter?" Lewis Carroll's character went mad because of mercury. I doubt you'll see that in the Disney version, though.


Here's a report on the beginnings of mining in the 1850s in California. By the mid-1850s, in areas with sufficient surface water, hydraulic mining was the most cost-effective method to recover large amounts of gold.


"Vast gravel deposits from ancestral rivers within the Sierra Nevada contained large quantities of placer gold, derived from the weathering of gold-quartz veins. Gold mining evolved from hydraulic mining of unconsolidated placer deposits in the early days of the Gold Rush, to underground mining of hardrock deposits, and finally to large-scale dredging of low-grade gravel deposits, which in many areas included the tailings from upstream hydraulic mines."


As mining progress into deeper gravels, the constant innovation to remove the gold and silver did not allow for "years of research" into safety measures. They built tunnels to discharge placer tailings to adjacent waterways. "Gold particles were recovered by mechanical settling in troughs (riffles) within the sluices and by chemical reaction with liquid mercury to form gold-mercury amalgam."


The result was highly contaminated sediments; in 30 years, more than 1.5 billion "cubic yards of gold-bearing placer gravels were processed by hydraulic mining in California's northern Sierra Nevada region."


As noted at this website, the high density of mercury allowed gold and gold-mercury amalgam to sink while sand and gravel passed over the mercury and through the sluice. This site does not tell us about any impact on the miners; it went on to say that mercury could still be consumed in the fish you catch in the area.


It's apparent that the human costs of working with metals tends to be hidden. I work with copper artifacts -- oh, not directly handling them, most of the time. But Henry Hamilton, in his days of the early 1900s, handled more copper artifacts than maybe anyone else in the world. He likely handled them without gloves and likely even while eating. He died of an unknown ailment in his late '50s. Could it have been arsenic poisoning? Possibly.


Even back in the 1860s the miners knew about foul odors. Ventilators were added to the top of the stamping buildings to encourage the escape of steam, gas, mercury vapors, and other foul airs. There was one instance noted that a man brought home a quantity of amalgam, and left it burning on the stove (for some unknown reason) while he ran errands. He came back to find his baby dead and his wife and German lodger rendered insensible. 


They had direct experience with the toxic effects back then. But they must have been taught that the benefits far outweighed the risks.


We all know today that these things can be poisonous but have we learned to care? Here's a current report from Indonesia:


"Fahrul's been working with mercury for many years, and he's showing the typical symptoms of mercury intoxication," says Bose-O'Reilly, a German medic who began studying the impact of mercury on Indonesians' health a decade ago. "He also has a tremor and a co-ordination problem."


Small scale miners like these supply 15% of the world's gold -- using old methods of mining. "I often have a headache, and I am weak. I have a bitter taste in my mouth." I suspect that upgrading to different mining methods takes money they don't have.


Here's another current report:


There are tiny flecks of gold deep inside Montaña d'Oro that miners extracted using liquid mercury to dissolve the gold from the dirt. Miners then heat the mixture of gold and elemental mercury, which evaporates the liquid mercury so the gold can be recovered. As a result of heating the elemental mercury, invisible, toxic mercury vapor is released in vast quantities into the air, poisoning everyone nearby, including babies and dogs.


There is a cool photo of quicksilver on this page.  But there's nothing cool about quicksilver, except in your thermometer. I haven't been able to find the date when they stopped the quicksilver process in Virginia City, but it sounds like it was used until mining came to an end there in the 1880s.


Carson River is a superfund site, on the list of the nation's worst toxic waste sites.


Mercury had been added to the gold because it would make the gold stick, as an amalgamate, and then the mercury would be burned off, leaving the gold behind. Unfortunately, mercury is also found in the ore of gold that is being mined. "Often where there are very large gold deposits in ore, there are also large mercury deposits, which is the case in Nevada. This is not the case for other US gold mining regions, such as Colorado."


Here in the U.S., mercury is no longer added to industrial scale gold mining. Now they can significantly reduce the amount of mercury released in the air by adding controls to the process that captures the mercury. You can imagine this process to be costly and beyond the reach of the small miners in other countries today, who are still sending amounts of mercury into the air.


The FDS says that too much mercury can cause:





memory problems


pathologic shyness



Now all of these, in themselves, are not necessarily anything that we'd attribute to being poisoned. Pathological shyness? So it's not a surprise that miners did not note anything unusual in their working environment. Did that miner send out an alarm about what killed his child? Today small amounts come in the fish we eat. But if Carson River is a superfund site, what does large amounts of mercury do to the fish themselves?


Studies on mercury's effects on wildlife has been on-going since the 1970s.  Here's just one paragraph from a website you might want to look at more closely:


"In the earliest studies of these sublethal effects in the 1970s, Heinz reported that captive mallards fed mercury-laced food laid fewer eggs than control ducks and laid them outside the nest. Also, their ducklings didn't respond well to their calls. Numerous examples have accumulated since. Fish form loose, sloppy schools and are slow to respond to a simulated predator. Several bird species sing different songs. Loons lay smaller eggs, and they incubate their nests, forage, and feed their chicks less. Salamanders are sluggish and less responsive to prey, Hopkins and colleagues found. Egret chicks are similarly lethargic and unmotivated to hunt."


Sublethal means effects didn't cause death but this goes on to show it makes living less than normal for all living things. It's a cost of progress, right? And who can argue with progress, no matter how depressed it makes us?


So many very real things in nature are not meant to be tampered with. We may never learn the full costs of this lesson.






 James, Roar and the Silence, Reno: University of Nevada: 1998, p. 135-136.


 Crouch, Gregory. The Bonanza King: John Mackay and the Battle over the Greatest Riches in the American West (p. 178). Scribner. Kindle Edition.







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History Lesson #5: CRT VS PC: The Way History Needs to be Taught

When the transcontinental railroad was being constructed across the U.S., specifically that section that went east from California, the Chinese were pivotal in providing the labor to get it done. And yet, they were prejudiced against. Why?


Such is the discussion of history in the United States. We are long past due to teach history with honesty and attitude. How can we be the people we are when we are constantly living lies? Why is teaching real history even a debate?


We have a lot of hate and anger in this country that was of late exemplar in Trump's "Make America Great Again." He even tried to counter the 1619 Project with the alternate attitude in the ill-conceived 1776 Project to "re-promote" patriotic education. Find more on 1619 here: https://www.project1619.org/. In short, that's the year that slaves were first brought here, and this project wants everyone to know American history from the perspective of its slaves. Trump felt we should know it from the perspective of the founders of the Constitution - I think. We all know the constitution was not founded on equality for all, even though it says that, because at the time it only meant white men; certainly not Indians, Blacks or women.


There is another way to teach history. Simply by sharing what happened, and why. We used to call it Political Correctness, but in the current climate we hear the debate is over whether or not to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the schools. Why do we have to give the truth fancy names? Isn't that a sure way to continue to divide us?


Look, I wrote two books where all I did was follow what happened and why. Yes, I found out things I never knew. It didn't make me hate this country. It made me understand this country.


Here's how to understand CRT:


In order to understand the problem of Critical Race Training in Higher Education, parents and students need to understand what Critical Race Theory is and how it is implemented. As discussed below, Critical Race Theory is not the traditional civil rights movement, which sought to provide equal opportunity and dignity without regard to race. Rather, Critical Race Theory, and the training to implement it, is a radical ideology that focuses on race as the key to understanding society, and objectifies people based on race.


As a radical ideology it has, so far, only divided us further as a country. Let's get back to PC issues and talk about what really happened in our history as a way to teach history.


I belong to a number of western Facebook pages and to Western Writers of America, and the most vocal people at these sites are pro-gun and pro-GOP. They think us liberals are all about socialism, a word they abhor without even knowing what it is. Why can't we make Indians the bad guys in our westerns again? Political Correctness (PC) has ruined westerns.


And it's true, cowboys and Indians aren't good guys chasing bad guys anymore. We've learned, and it's taken long enough, that history is not black & white. There were as many bad white cowboys as there were bad red Indians. Real history shows us that the Indians alone did not slaughter Custer and his troops. The army's negligence was also responsible; negligence and political maneuvering to take the Black Hills. That's real history. It's not "re-thinking history." It's removing history's patriotic skin to see what really happened. We don't misuse PC to show what really happened. But we do use PC to make those movies that show what really happened.


You could continue to make fiction movies that show Indians as bad guys. But at least put them on another planet, okay?


Yes, it's true, patriotic history has been taught all through the 20th Century, as Waxman noted. It is long past time to stop. We're smarter than that now. We know what happened in the '60s as a result of Civil  Rights, though many of us still fear voicing it.


I just read an article about CRT by Oivia B. Waxman in Time Magazine and it's more clear than ever that this idea only further divides. It's controversial. Truth in history is not. Oh, sure, some say teaching true history means our kids will grow up hating the  U.S. That we'll stop pledging allegiance and no longer want to fly the flag.


Hang in there: I'm going to show you why this isn't true. As Waxman noted, our understanding of the past is the key to how we envision the future. If we're stuck in the "South lost because their slaves were taken away" version of American history, we cannot progress as a united nation. Maybe that's been our trouble all along. We have not been able to unite since the Civil War.


We can. But it's going to take a real human understanding that no one ever deserved to be enslaved. We can say our forefathers were wrong and learn to live with it. That their "ideal" of equality is still being played out, and is a worthy endeavor. We can say we knew what they meant, even if they didn't. If you 'red' (not reed) Civil War & Bloody Peace, you learned that war was going to break out over western migration, as it did once before; the British didn't want the colonies to expand into Indian territory either. For completely racist notions, the Civil War was fought, and there was no way around it. But though the Union won freedom (for what that was worth) for Black people, the losers were the Indians.


But Lincoln didn't free the slaves. That is lesson #1 in true history. And Washington felt only rich white men should vote. That's lesson #2. The United States was not established on true equality, but on flawed humans' idea of equality. Jefferson opposed Washington, and yet some want to erase Jefferson's name. Nonsense. Erasing any true history is non-PC.


CRT has rallied opponents who say it perpetuates racism and exclusion. Waxman gives Rockwood School District in Missouri as a case in point. The Missouri governor recently said they don't have to abide by federal gun laws. So we know Missouri is a hard GOP case. I'm sure CRT has supporters elsewhere.


But I am not a fan of anything that further divides us anywhere. Can teaching the simple and objective truth do that? What some fear is weighing the scales too much in the opposite direction. Teaching the simple truth does not do that. When I set out to write Civil War & Bloody Peace, I wanted objectivity. I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I appreciated the author's attempts to show what really happened in history but I felt it tipped the scale a little too much in the other direction and really didn't get at the truth that we needed.


The truth that we need is one that shows President Grant as he was, not as he wanted us to remember him. The truth allows us to continue to read books like Mark Twain.


Mark Twain was the one who encouraged and helped President Grant write his Civil War memoirs. Mark Twain helped create his image. Grant avoided writing anything related to his presidential years. Okay, he was dying of throat cancer at the time, but when he left office in 1877, all he said related to his presidency was as an apology for allowing politicians to walk all over him. Really? The hero of the Civil War is blaming others for the graft and corruption during his presidency?


I don't use anyone's autobiography to demonstrate who they were. Nor would I demean any fiction novel like Twain's, written in the past that is a mirror to what that time period was like. You want to know who Grant was, you have to follow objective history.


Unless we learn from history we could well repeat it. And hiding what was written in history has been part of our historical legacy, too, because our history embarrasses us. We want to hide it. Hiding it hasn't done us any good, so let's try learning the truth for a change.


Grant felt the Indians could be pushed around. Trump felt minorities could be pushed around. He professed to being the first to cut off travel from China, but allowed the virus to get in through all other routes. The first occurrences turned up in NYC and Seattle. We heard early in our shut-down in 2020 that minorities would get hit the hardest. Did Trump know this, too? Is this why he felt he should not have lost the 2020 election? Yet he held rallies that summer and didn't care if his supporters wore masks. He said no, he wasn't worried about the virus; he was standing far enough away from everyone. How that didn't lose him votes, I don't know.


I do feel the GOP got more votes by cheating, and yet they accuse the Democrats of it. Why wouldn't there be more absentee balloting in 2020? There was a pandemic shutdown at the time.


Trump felt Black Lives Matters was one of the problems in the country that White Supremacy could fix. Trump supporters were the ones who caused the violence during the peaceful protests that summer of 2020. They were the ones who had something to gain by disrupting protests over the death of George Floyd. Trump was the one who had something to gain if he could send out the National Guard against a largely Black protest.


Trump decided that his election loss was fraudulent and he gets his QAnon followers so worked up that they tried to invalidate the final election vote confirmation on January 6th by storming the capitol. Trump was completely against the peaceful transfer of power that had been our strength in this country since the Constitution was devised, not because he was being PC. No, because he was a poor loser.


By standing against what this country stood for, he and his supporters committed the biggest act of political incorrectness. You can't pretend reality is what you want it to be. You can't pretend that history is supposed to go your way because you think you're the good guys. Voters decide, as they always have. And losers, up until Trump, have always been gracious.


To be politically correct, we have to correct our misconceptions of history. We have to erase what used to be patriotic history and learn the real history of the U.S., a country born in violence that seems to know no other way to respond. Since Biden was confirmed, gun violence has been worse than ever. According to CBS News on June 24th, there have been 296 mass shootings so far this year, the deadliest year in two decades.


Waxman said it right, that most people have to go to college to learn real history. And that's what makes colleges both liberal and hotbeds of protest. How dare educators lie to me all this time! I hated history in high school. I graduated in 1971 and didn't have my first college history class until 1995. I now hold a master's in history. True history is illuminating and invigorating. There's so much potential there for us to become a real and united people. But only if we learn it.


Waxman noted one who said that they weren't racist just because they didn't want CRT taught in their classroom, but she didn't say what it DID make them. What other reason is there for not wanting it taught? In my mind, it could tip the scale too far the other way and that is what people are objecting to, I think.


We need objective history and we need it in the grade schools, and we need it yesterday.


Trump committed the largest act of political incorrectness by supporting only the white Christians who don't believe that black lives matter.


Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, as a PC salute to the past. It commemorates the end of slavery by making the day slaves in Texas heard they were free a federal holiday. It has nothing to do with the Civil War, or the 13th Amendment. Texas was simply the last to let those people go.


What does another holiday accomplish? I'm not sure. But finding this out, and the Oklahoma massacre, and so many other things that I share in From Lincoln to Trump, is a good start. Maybe we need the students to ask more questions. Maybe the parents can tell them things they don't learn in schools as a way to start those conversations. Maybe if we show that learning the truth doesn't hurt us but sets us free and makes us feel not only smarter but more responsible to do better, we'll be able to move for real honest curriculum in our schools.


In the South in the 1960s, we saw a lot of objection to Civil Rights emerge, and when Kennedy pushed for it, and Johnson finished it, many of the Southern Dixicrats turned Republican. It had been Republicans who were against doing away with segregation. They felt segregation worked. They didn't see the Blacks as a voting bloc worth championing. President Kennedy did, and Bobby Kennedy picked up the Civil Rights voting mantle and ran with it. He got 100% of the black vote in the Los Angeles Watts District just before he was killed. Why was he killed? Because of Civil Rights. That's why his brother John and Martin Luther King were killed.


We cannot pretend race was never an issue. We have not had any decent progress toward equality since then. But the way to get it is through the truth in history.


Yes, it's good to recognize the end of slavery in Juneteenth. But we also have to recognize it wasn't the end of prejudice. It is being PC to write history as it was, not as we were taught to be patriotic and believe America was right no matter what, because then we'll start to understand where we're at today.


You see it, right? If you're taught to believe America is right no matter what, then how could slavery have been wrong? No, it's patriotic teaching that's wrong.


This country of immigrants is filled with examples of prejudice. Here are just a few I used in From Lincoln to Trump:


"Why not discriminate? Why aid in the increase and distribution over our domain of a degraded and inferior race and the progenitors of an inferior sort of men?" This was a quote by Republican Senator John F. Miller of California, and he may have been referring to the Chinese, who he wanted to stop coming to California. (President) Arthur refused to exclude them from immigrating for twenty years, instead reducing it to ten. They were not given citizenship, a law that was finally repealed in 1943. (p. 65)


In 1942 Mexican immigration was encouraged for agricultural needs because of the fear of labor shortages. Called the Bracero Program, it continued to be renewed for the source of cheap labor. FDR incarcerated Japanese US citizens during the war; one refused to go and took the case to the Supreme Court, who ruled it as a military necessity. (p. 108.)


Once we acknowledge that our country has had a past filled with subjective hatred and injury, we discover the true meaning of PC, that we are a different, and a better, people today and the changes in the way we look at ourselves is the best use of PC there is.


Michael Foucault noted that a true student of the past


…must grapple primarily with the events of history, its jolts, its surprises, its unsteady victories and unpalatable defeats -- the basis of all beginnings, atavisms and heredities.


If we show both the good and the bad in U.S. history to even our children, we'll discover that they are able to understand and still love our country, if we teach it right. We are all flawed human beings, doing our best in a flawed system. Let's teach it that way.




 Olivia B. Waxman, "Past Tense," Time, July 5 - 12, 2021, p. 81.


 Matthew Karp, "History as End," Harpers, July 2021, p. 29.

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Updated Political Correctness

In case you missed the first. This is preceding History Lesson #5 and is worth a read.


As a historian I've faced a lot of skepticism readers have about in the past. Some say we can't trust any of it. Some think nothing happened the way historians have presented it. Some wave their patriotic flags, yet today, and say the USA is never on the wrong side. Not only has the USA been on the wrong side, but political correctness (PC) is designed to right those wrongs, to add understanding to our immigrant culture that's sorely been lacking for too long.


I gave this talk at a historical conference in Virginia a few years back and we had a very spirited conversation. I went with the desire to find out from other history writers what the problem is in using terms like "half-breed" on the cover title of historical fiction. In the discussion came the realization that there was an awful lot of mistaken ideas about the topic that need to be addressed. I knew of a cover of a book called Half-Breed; it was nonfiction. But using it in fiction, it turns out, is a real turn-off.


What does using PC mean? It means we are trying to clean up the patriotic attitude that the USA has never done anything wrong in its past. It is completely PC to show what the image of the "half-breed" really was, to show the native American Indians as they were, not as an enemy we were right to vanquish. It is not PC to erase Jefferson from the books just because he owned slaves – that's going overboard. We can't address white supremacism if we don't understand why it still exists.


PC cannot erase history but teaches us to understand how we got from there to here.


PC means giving due respect to all human beings and understanding what really happened in history. It's called cleaning up the patriotic garble. Many want to believe that the USA government never did anything wrong. That we lost the Vietnam war because of protesters. That the Indians really were bad guys who attacked without warning or reason. We have to understand our real history in order to learn from it.


Oxford Dictionary online defined PC this way: "The avoidance, often considered taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."


This definition refers to groups. If you're Jewish, you're greedy. If you're black, you're lazy. Stereotypes. Today some whites claim they voted for Trump because they've been marginalized and disadvantaged. They're the new stereotypes – they're all racist. (Hint: they're not.) At the Parkland shooting, the gunman supposedly belonged to a group that wanted to make all of Florida white. Trump claimed that he was going to "Make America Great Again" and his base is filled with racist sentiment. They're today following his lead with armed protests to open the country up to more infection. Are we to assume that "greatness" is tied to "whiteness? And that's tied to "rightness?"  


We have to get rid of the divide in this country, and the main way is to remove all stereotypes. Take Trump's logo: Make America Great Again. What does America stand for? America in geography encompasses all of the North and South American continents. But America in the USA means just us. We don't care about Mexico or Canada because they're not us.


Political correctness means that we treat historical research without stereotypes. While the Indian wars were being fought, the destruction of their culture was rationalized by saying that they must have killed the Mysterious Mound Builders (as at Cahokia). Only after the wars ended were the native American Indians considered to be the descendants of those mound builders. It's the truth, but it's not patriotic to believe it.


I once chatted with a Maryland college class that used one of my novels as required reading in an 1800s Americana class. One question I was asked was "but cowboys and Indians were never friends, right?" This was only a few years ago. Of course they were, I told them. Where do you think "half-breeds" came from?


Maybe this definition will help:  Today we recognize that slavery was wrong, that there is no inferior race; and all religions are created equal. Today we use this understanding to put all humans on an equal basis, and to understand our common core of humanity. PC means giving equality to every race, creed and philosophy, and recognize people as people, not as representing any single group. PC eradicates stereotype.


Religion is another hot topic today. Conservative Christians see PC as trying to erase them. But this country was not founded on Christian values. It was founded as a place where all could freely follow their beliefs. During the Eisenhower term, "In God We Trust" was put on money and in the Pledge of Allegiance because of fears of communism.


Attitude is what we're talking about. Historians today need to relate the attitudes of the times. That's being politically correct. That's showing how we cannot be stereotyped. When I show that Red Cloud stopped fighting whites because he saw how big the whites' cities were, while Spotted Tail came to appreciate whites when he saw them give a touching funeral for his daughter, I recognized how attitude erased stereotype. How do these images fit with those early westerns where Indians were always the bad guys? If I told you that Grant kept trying to find reasons to believe the Sioux broke the Fort Laramie treaty, and couldn't, and then had to force the war at the Little Bighorn, would you still say the Indians were guilty of slaughtering Custer?


Without attitude, we cannot understand proper use of PC. One lady I ran into wondered why dressing up for Halloween in Muslim garb is considered in poor taste. Were those fellows sitting around pretending to be terrorists? Or were they discussing the good things their religion stands for? A negative attitude is what hurts any residing member of any group. I don't want anyone to see that I'm white and immediately assume I'm racist. Don't assume anything by the color of one's skin. That's PC.


Stereotypes need to disappear from our dialog, or we will continue to be a divided nation. "Why are you a Trump voter? Are you a racist?" It's a sure way to stop dialog. So is using the word "libtard." We've become a nation without sensitivity. Hate spirals "us" downward.


"Half-breed" is one of those terms where historical attitude changed over time. The nonfiction history book, "Halfbreed" by David Fridtjof Halaas and Andrew Masich, was published in 2004 with that title in big bold letters. But inside the book, the term is rarely used, opting for "mixed blood" instead. Half-breed is a term exclusively for that 'condition' of being half-white and half-Indian. In "Halfbreed," there are two attitudes; some of them sided with the Indians, while others worked for the whites as interpreters. No stereotypes.


Guess who made half-breeds a bad word? Right, the whites. And use of the word "breed" makes Indians sound like animals. Heck, we all breed, don't we? It wasn't the word, though, that became offensive. It was the attitude that changed toward them. When the whites could no longer use half-breeds after the Little Bighorn, their existence in helping the Indians became offensive.


People complain that today's westerns are too PC. There are no more good guys vs. bad guys. What did one producer do? Cast Kurt Russell in a western where the bad Indians were cannibals (if you haven't seen Bone Tomahawk, don't bother). But does this mean that John Wayne westerns cannot ever be watched again? No, because if we understand PC, we can also understand where those stereotypes came from in the first place. I personally wouldn't watch them because I don't like John Wayne. If we recognize that they are stereotypes, then we're making progress with our attitude.


We can still have villains in movies, but they cannot be stereotypes. Remember Dances with Wolves? There were bad & good Indians; bad soldiers & good soldiers. That's the way it was, and we have to deal with it as real history. Stop teaching patriotism and teach history as it was. If we learn from the beginning that history is filled with attitude, we will lose our divisiveness. I'm sure of it.


Proper use of PC stops us from saying all Indians were savage and all cowboys were John Wayne, trying to save the settlers. Remember that college class I mentioned? Had they never seen "The Lone Ranger?" Or "Bonanza?" Even while John Wayne westerns were being made, there were those who tried to set the historical record straight.

Many think PC attacks Christianity. It doesn't; it attacks racism and stereotype. PC doesn't apply to your Christmas celebration. PC doesn't prevent you from being annoyed. Some Christians get annoyed when they say "Merry Christmas" to you, and you say "Happy Holidays" in return. We hear "Jesus is the reason for the season" as their reproach. As a Pagan, I know that Christmas was placed over the winter solstice celebration, so I get annoyed when I'm told I must believe in Jesus to celebrate the holiday. I once wrote an editorial about the Christian takeover of Pagan holidays and got a phone call from a local politician thanking me. He said I opened his eyes to something he never knew.


Rreedom of religion is in the Constitution. I don't want to believe in Jesus and would reject a law telling me I have to.


Here's a solution. You say Merry Christmas to me, and I won't get offended because that's what you celebrate. I'll say Happy Holidays to you, and if you get offended, or stop talking to me, I won't care.


Religion is filled with attitude. Kick out the Muslims, block immigration from Mexico and build that wall; Trump sounds sincere when he believes these things will make "America" great again.


Is citizenship that hard to get here now? Is a country of immigrants really anti-immigration or just anti-certain-people-immigration? I tried to find out how hard on a Q&A site set up online, and it asked if I was over 18, and live here, and have a green card. Once I got that far, I realized the questions were all in English. I did learn that to apply for citizenship, you need to be a green card holder for at least five years, be physically present here for 30 months out of those 60 months, and be able to write, read and speak English. Here where I live, with its high Hispanic population, many of the signs are in Spanish. Does that mean illegal immigrants live here? And of course you have to be law-abiding, of good character, know the Constitution … then how did someone like Trump get to be president?

How political is PC? From Writing.com:


The phrase "political correctness" has been around a lot longer than most people realize. Today the phrase is applied in everything we do, say, or act upon.  In 1793, the phrase was used in the US Supreme Court "to describe something that was not literally accurate but correct in the political field." 


Correct in the political field. That is a mouthful. They used it to apply fairness, it seems, because that's what the Supreme Court should be all about -- a fair and correct interpretation of the Constitution in all things.


Obama's failures were more related to the growing Tea Party influence (read: racism) on the GOP, who decided they would make him a one-term president by not working with him on anything. Where's fairness? Trump and the GOP reversed nearly all of Obama's accomplishments -- as though it offends them to have black progress in our government. Yet the Supreme Court upheld his health care for the third time.


Conservatives in the GOP were okay with PC if it worked in their favor. But PC attitude is now considered liberal, or leftist. Note this from Conservapedia.com:


The modern politically correct movement began at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is one of the most liberal colleges in the United States. Political correctness is a liberal degrading of the freedom of speech. Words or actions that violate political correctness are called politically incorrect. At American universities, liberals began imposing political correctness to prevent recognition of differences [stereotypes] among gender, religion, belief system, sexual orientation and nationality.


In the 1960s, feminists began to demand that the neutral pronouns he, him and his be replaced with expressions like "he or she", "him or her" … they argued that no one would be able to understand that the masculine gender included the feminine gender in neutral contexts. But this was just part of their campaign to redefine the social roles traditionally associated with masculinity and femininity.


We can't have freedom of speech if we use the word "human" in place of "man?" If we recognize that the male gender term could have been squashing woman's rights in the marketplace?


Yes, it's PC to eliminate some words from our vocabulary. We can be annoyed by political correctness, but my annoyance isn't the same as yours. We're all annoyed by different things. There's no pleasing everyone, as the saying goes.


"Make America Great Again" referred to a time that didn't exist. America -- I mean the USA -- was never great; patriotic attitude packs history with lies. Patriotism once told us that whites were good and Indians were bad, and blacks were only fit to be slaves.


It is "not cool" to say that any group of people is too lazy to get a job, or all blacks are on welfare, all immigrants are abusing the system, or women dress to get raped. It is good PC to recognize where our dialog crosses these lines; hardly a petty annoyance to assert that no one deserves to get raped. Rape is not protected free speech; although with recent abortion laws, it is starting to feel like rape is in vogue. It never was, in case you're wondering. "Baby It's Cold Outside" is not a song about rape.


We're the ones who can make the right changes in the world, by proper application of PC. One way is to understand how to read history books.


The term "half-breed" was used in the 1800s to identify someone who was half American Indian and half white. White settlers first headed west, as trappers or explorers, and they married Indian women. William Bent was one. His son Charly became a Cheyenne dog soldier and died a Cheyenne dog soldier. His son George worked with Indian agents as an interpreter. Half-breeds in the 1800s who were interpreters were considered valuable because they could understand both sides. If they became warriors, however, they would teach other Indians things like how to tear apart railroad tracks and set cars ablaze using coals from the engine.


Eventually even half-breeds like George Bent, featured in the book "Halfbreed," were considered a nuisance when the army no longer had need of them. After the Little Bighorn, they were written out of Indian annuity rights; suddenly they didn't know where they belonged anymore. Indians married whites because they felt their offspring would give them leverage with the white world. But after the Little Bighorn, all that changed.


We need to teach our teachers how to teach things like Mark Twain and Song of the South. That movie has been removed from Disney's play list because it's considered racist to show blacks in the South as being happy. For one thing, the song is set after the Civil War. So yeah, there were happy blacks in the South back then. We can understand that one movie doesn't mean they all were. Show the movie to middle schoolers and start a spirited conversation, one that will live on with them.


They're afraid that, if they let kids read Mark Twain, they'll be reintroducing those "bad" words into today's conversations. They need to teach historical attitude by showing the difference between what people knew then, and what we know now.


I contend that we can still love the USA, even with warts.


Some people believe that writers cannot write about a race to which we do not belong. It's PC to say we can never experience how they feel. That's true for contemporary works; but if a historian is writing about a period that emerges from primary sources that were written at a time when no one alive has lived, that changes the issue. We research a period in history and show what people were like then, so that others can share these experiences. And the historical terms we find in that primary research helps all of us understand the attitude of the time.


Feeling superior to another race is an attitude created by a stereotype. Waving a Nazi flag today is an attitude. Believing all people are equal is more than PC -- it's the truth. What makes each of us different, regardless of skin color, is how we were raised: our experiences.


PC serves us by removing stereotypes and reminding us, as the Constitution tried to inject, that all people are created equal. They didn't believe that back then because slaves were still slaves and women had no place in government. But trying to erase Jefferson from our history because he was a slave holder is overboard PC; did you know he tried to stop slavery in his time? We can admire Robert E. Lee for being a great military leader while wondering why he didn't just quit and free his slaves. But we didn't live back then. All we can do is show what happened, free of stereotypes.


Clint Eastwood made the movie Gran Torino because he "hates the so-called PC thing," according to Edition.CNN.com. The movie was about an old man who's a Korean war vet and an open racist. But he has a change of heart when he sees a neighborhood Korean boy being tormented by other boys and comes to his aid. He learns that they are people, too. Getting to know people is the best way to get over racism. Clint actually made the perfect PC movie.


I still use the term "half-breed" in the dialog of my novel about a half white son in the 1850s because, for teaching our children what the world used to be like, they can see how much better the world can be when we treat each other as equals. This means we don't stop teaching Mark Twain just because we don't know how. Learn how. Use it in historical context. Show students what people were like back then; explain why it isn't considered acceptable now.


We can do this as a people, and we must. It's long past time to acknowledge this country's real history. And that's being politically correct. But it's also the truth.

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History Lesson #4: Immigration Segregation's Impact on Blacks and Indians

Is it possible that immigration segregation that began in the 1800s had an impact on Indian and Black populations? I got this idea from working the Cartwright Virginia City history book. Ronald James noted that 30% of Virginia City residents came from other countries. 39% were from California, with the total number in 1860 at 3017. Hispanics were well represented as were people from the East Coast. The question that rose came with James's comment that "Most of the Spanish-speaking men were packers, and they apparently lived together, suggesting that Euro-Americans restricted people of their ethnicity and occupation to a designated area." Is this true, or did people of like languages simply settle together for support and communication?

A study that was completed by Eriksson and Ward noted this:  "Immigrants from Western Europe were most segregated during their peak immigration decades in the 1850s and 1860s. For later-sending countries in eastern and southern Europe, segregation peaked at the same time as inflows did around 1910. Segregation for all European sources fell after the immigration quota acts of the 1920s, laws which ended the open-door policy of the US."

This does sound as though segregation was a natural policy dominated by the first Europeans (British-French-Spanish) who settled here. But with my German heritage I have noted that Germans tended to settle in areas where there were other Germans and where the weather seemed most like what they were used to in the Old World.


People from Europe self-segregated because they felt at home, at first, with their own kind, speaking their own language. Second generation, however, who learned English were much quicker to leave this segregated neighborhood, Eriksson and Ward found. From 1850 to 1870 the most segregated groups were the Irish in mill towns of the northeast such as Lowell and Fall River, Massachusetts. Later in the 20th century, some of the most highly segregated areas were for Eastern Europeans in the mining counties in western Pennsylvania. Mexicans were also highly segregated in the agricultural and mining counties in the American southwest. 


There was perhaps an early, and what seemed sensible, decision to segregate Indians and Blacks with each other for the same reason that the immigrants chose to segregate. One reason is you're more likely to get stores, newspapers and restaurants that cater to your needs.


The problem is of being unable to get out.


We often look down on the segregation of Indians on reservations, and the segregation of blacks into their own neighborhoods, but it's important to remember that if you were a white second generation who spoke clear English you had a much easier time assimilating into a traditional white neighborhood. As noted in "Civil War and Bloody Peace," William Powell talked with a young Indian who had gone to school and had excellent English about why he didn't have a job. "But no one will give an Indian anything to do out here," was his response after saying he would love to have a job.


This fight for jobs and fair wages is nothing new. During the Civil War the draft riots in New York City broke out because the Irish were angry at the thought of Blacks taking their jobs at a lower wage. Unions started after the Civil War to try to stabilize wages and working conditions. One group of people (Whites) preferred not to have another group of people (Blacks) vying for their jobs because it tended to drive the wages down. Instead, they were forced into more menial tasks, and a Jim Crow law kind of slavery kept them there until the 1960s. And should a Black move into a White neighborhood? Whites moved out and property values plummeted, for no better reason than fear of accepting them as equal.


There was a group of Blacks in the 1870s who pleaded with the government to give them the kind of reservation land that the Indians had. Anything was better the the KKK violence they were enduring.


Segregated immigrant communities is still happening. Here's from a report by Gelatt, Hanson and Koball: "Just like US-born white, black, Hispanic, and Asian residents, immigrants from different world regions sort into neighborhoods across cities in patterns strongly shaped by the racial and ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics of those neighborhoods."


So even though immigrant segregation seemed like something that was equally good for Blacks and Indians, the difference was in wanting the freedom to move out, move up, and take advantage of the American dream. The difference, too, is that the Indian and Black communities are NOT immigrants, and never have been. But it could easily have been perceived by the white majority as something all inclusive for any group of people who identify a certain way.


(Today the white majority fears they're losing their majority, and the GOP attempt to control from a growing minority position.)


There's another demographic to pay attention to: According to Ireland & Scopiilliti Black immigrants also segregate. "Levels of segregation are much higher for black immigrants than for Asian, Hispanic, and white immigrants. In addition, because black immigrants are, on average, of higher socioeconomic status than native-born blacks, such characteristics do not help explain their very high levels of segregation."


There are case studies online, too, of half-black families who dare to move into white neighborhoods. "When Baptiste-Mombo was seven years old, she and her family moved from Queens, NY, to the suburbs of Jackson Township, NJ. "We left what now I see was our comfort zone — moving from an all-Black neighborhood into an all-white neighborhood," she says. "And we later came to find out that it was not going to be an easy road for our family.""


(Note that I left the comments in quotes as I found them.)


For two years I lived in an all-Black apartment building in Madison, because it was all I could afford. When I first moved in, two of the seven apartments were with white college students. When they moved out, one Hispanic family and one Black family moved in. I remember the gal who lived on the first floor below my second story apartment. She asked me to stop putting out birdseed because it encouraged the possums to come to her patio. I wanted to say "lucky you," but didn't. In another instance she reported of a flood in her bathroom and the fire department was sent to inspect my apartment to see if I had left any water running. I hadn't. Once I got a plant delivered and it was locked outside the apartment. The nice fellow across from me brought it to me. I never ever had any package stolen while I lived there, as my son has had in his all-White apartments in Green Bay. I never once felt unsafe, not even when the police pounded on my door in the middle of the night, asking me if I'd heard anything suspicious. I hadn't. Eventually I had to move across town because the business I worked at moved and I liked walking to work. That's when I noticed another difference - the all-Black apartment community had more litter around it. Whether this was the result of having to pay more for rent so the owners kept it neater, or not, I don't know. But in the lower rent area, no one cared if I let my cat run up and down the stairs. At the high rent area, they told me I couldn't let them anymore because neighbors complained. So where would I move again if I had the choice? The all-Black neighborhood.


Yes, segregated communities are still a thing. But are they still in place because of White supremacy? Or because that's how these cultural and racial groups like it? Again, from Gelatt et al:  "Both Chicago and DC exhibit stark segregation between black and white neighborhoods, with the highest-SES areas primarily made up of white residents and the lowest-SES areas primarily made up of black residents. This dichotomy has changed little over the past two decades. Both cities have also attracted large numbers of immigrants. For the most part, immigrant residents have avoided both the traditionally black, lowest-SES communities and the traditionally white, highest-SES communities, instead settling into the middle-SES neighborhoods.


You can see what's going on here, and what needs yet to be addressed by this country and its Juneteenth celebration. Low communities must be upgraded to become more favorable to all if we are ever to achieve perfect equality in this country. This means part of our infrastructure needs to be a dedication to inner cities.


If we get used to having clean neighborhoods, maybe we'll all take more responsibility for that litter, too.



James, The Roar and the Silence, 35-36. I will be developing this idea into History Lesson #4.
https://www.gpb.org/news/2021/06/17/immigrant-family-navigates-generational-trauma. Read more of her story here.

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History Lesson #3: Virginia City Silver & the US Money System

Virginia City became one of the richest places on earth in the later 1800s because of deposits of gold and especially silver. But how does that relate the U.S. being on the gold or silver standard? If at all? Nevada residents were Republican and voted in a state constitution so that Lincoln could admit Nevada as a state in 1864 and and give him more electoral vote. Was the country already preparing to go off the silver standards, making this push for statehood an effort by Nevada to keep the US on silver?


In its early years, the US had a bi-metallic standard defined by both gold and silver, set at a ratio of 15 to 1. This explains why gold was a much more sought after commodity. But in Virginia City, silver discovered far out-measured that ratio. The gold discoveries of 1849 reduced the value of gold, and silver coins disappeared from circulation at that time. Of course, the more you have, the less valuable it is. In 1853, the silver content of small coins was reduced below their official face value so that the public could have the coins needed to make change.


The Comstock's silver lode was discovered in 1859. Stock in Virginia City metals took a hit in April 1860, which to some signaled the end of that boom. But that crash related to finding little or nothing to report in some of the peripheral mining areas. The Comstock itself was still solid. One of the problems in Virginia City's rich history was that they continually needed to go deeper and deeper to find ways to access the silver lode. And that meant the need for capital -- it takes gold to find silver.


Those dipping stock prices didn't reflect the fact that miners were bringing up gold and especially silver at Virginia City every day. "The reality of gold and silver provided its own momentum, and mining continued despite fluctuations  in the stock market."


There were crooked investors, of course, those only to happy to swindle someone looking to invest with worthless mine stock. "The two mining operations, one into pockets of ore and the other into pockets of fools, paralleled each other for decades."

I wonder if that was anything like insider trading, which became illegal, eventually.


This doesn't sound like the atmosphere of Virginia City silver made an impact on the monetized system. In fact, the Comstock was discovered only a decade after the California gold rush, during which there was a back flow of gold seekers who followed rumors to Sun Mountain in Nevada. The gold was enough to keep them there, but the silver lode made Virginia City one of the richest mountain cities on earth.


Here are a couple of events relating to devaluing silver:


In 1853, the U.S. government moved to debase—reduce the amount of silver—in its silver coinage. While the silver dollar returned as legal tender in 1878, it didn't last long. A silver-preserving law known as the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 was repealed because it undercut gold reserves.


The United States abandoned the silver standard in 1861, and by 1893 had effectively moved to a gold standard. In the intervening years it had been on a virtual bimetal system; that is a currency fixed to values in both silver and gold.


This second source is confusing; what does it mean by intervening years? If the silver standard had been dropped as noted, the Comstock Lode would have become almost valueless. Instead, Virginia City had boom and bust years between 1860 and 1880 -- mostly boom. Because of the Comstock, though, silver flooded the market, and likely caused the move to gold standard only. But not before 1880.


During the Civil War, the government issued legal tender paper money that was not redeemable in gold or silver, effectively placing the country on a fiat paper system. Another source noted that, in 1879, the country was returned to a metallic standard on gold only. This makes the most sense as it marks also the end of Virginia City's final bust.


But why was the silver standard abandoned? Here's a possible explanation that covers Virginia City's silver becoming devalued without mentioning the silver found there.


A major difficulty with a silver standard is the low value of the metal. In order to maintain parity with the metal value, silver coins can become physically large and heavy.For governments and central banks, maintaining either a gold or silver standard becomes difficult as the metal's bullion value rises and falls. For example, following the California Gold Rush, the gold price in the US fell and the physical metal value of silver coins exceeded their face value. As a result, many silver dollars were taken out of the US, and melted into a more valuable ounce of silver in other countries.


Also, both gold and silver standards restrict financial movement and the ability of government to set interest rates. Many economists cite this as the cause of the "long depression" from 1873 until 1896, and the "Great Depression" in the 1930s.


Silver wasn't that valuable to begin with, and as this site noted, the gold rush in '49 also devalued gold. So when technology was needed to go deeper and deeper into the lodes, the stockholders found the process more costly than it was worth. That finally happened to the city in the late 1870s.


Let's look closer at Virginia City. "In the 20 years between 1860 and 1880, they mined 6,971,641 tons of pure silver. To transport this amount of silver today, it would take a freight train stretching from Madrid to Moscow."


Of course stockholders invested as long as they could make a handy profit, and even President Grant invested. But here's an interesting comment:


Most of the silver kings converted their enormous wealth into political influence. No wonder they managed to defer the adoption of the pure gold standard for the United States. To support silver mining, the Bland-Allison Act stipulated the purchase and coining of silver in the amount of two to four million dollars each month. When in 1893 Congress ceased coining silver, the Comstock Lode was depleted and the ones who made a profit invested their assets in other things.


The Bland-Allison Act, which allowed for a liberal use of silver coinage during the Panic of 1873, was passed by two Senators, Bland of Missouri and Allison of Iowa. But this enabled Virginia City to keep digging. Late in 1874, and into the next year, there was great stock excitement in San Francisco and Virginia City, due to the developments in the Consolidated Virginia and California mines, where astonishing rich deposits of ore were opened into view, sending stock from $50 to $1,000, seemingly overnight. The same happened at the Ophir Mine, and all along the Comstock.


There was great speculation -- sell now and triple your investment, or wait?


On very critical occasions, either when stocks are rapidly rushing or when they are rapidly 'tumbling,' then is a grand charge made upon all the bulletin-boards as soon as it is known that the reports have arrived. Dry-goods clerks -- yardstick in hand and scissors peeping from vest pocket -- come running out bareheaded and bald-headed to catch a glimpse of the bulletin; barkeepers in their white aprons come; bareheaded, bare-armed and white-aproned butchers smelling of blood come; blacksmiths in leather aprons and hammer in hand, flour-dusted bakers, cooks in paper caps, cobblers, tinkers and tailors all come to learn the best and the worst.


Everywhere they talk stock.


Bill Stewart was Nevada's famous "silver senator." He ran as a Silver Party candidate in 1892 and 1898 because he opposed the Republican Party's position on demonetizing silver, though he ultimately rejoined the Republican caucus in 1899. Seems by this time, though, he should have known he was kicking a dead horse. But this demonstrates the continued desire of the locals to hit it big once more.


The move to a sole gold standard was fiercely opposed by many in the United States; the "free silver" movement included the eventual Secretary of State – William Jennings Bryan. He famously decried the move in a speech on July 9th, 1896. The Cross of Gold speech supported bi-metallism and was concluded with the infamous line: "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold".


Throughout the late 19th century, there were efforts to re-monetize silver. A quantity of silver money was issued; however, its intrinsic value did not equal the face value of the money, nor was silver freely convertible into money. In 1900, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to the gold standard and relegated silver to small denomination money.


Throughout the period under which the United States had a metallic standard, paper money was extensively used. This use of paper money is entirely consistent with a gold standard. Much of the money used under a gold standard was not gold, but promises to pay gold. To help ensure that the paper notes issued by banks were honored, the government created the national bank system in 1863.


So it appears we were on the gold standard exclusively between 1879 and 1933, when FDR took us off. In 1913, it created the Federal Reserve System to help ensure that checks were similarly honored. The creation of the Federal Reserve did not end the gold standard.


But to understand how we're not on any standard now, there's this:


The gold standard is a monetary system in which a nation's currency is pegged to the value of gold. In a gold standard system, a given amount of paper money can be converted into a fixed amount of gold. Countries on the gold standard can't increase the amount of paper money in circulation without also increasing their reserves of gold.The gold standard is a monetary system in which a nation's currency is pegged to the value of gold. In a gold standard system, a given amount of paper money can be converted into a fixed amount of gold. Countries on the gold standard can't increase the amount of paper money in circulation without also increasing their reserves of gold.


FDR's move to get us out of the Depression by taking us off the gold standard is considered to have been a smart move. Abandoning the gold standard allowed countries to print more money. And that means more money than we have anything of value to back it up.


Obviously, Virginia City would have lost its great wealth much sooner, if the silver standard had not been upheld as long as 1878. The final blow to the city was the decision to go exclusively on the gold standard, removing the value needed to invest in new technology for the continued depth needed to reach the silver.


Whether anyone understood the reason we stayed on the bi-metal standard long after silver flooded the market, it appears very relevant to the continuing wealth of Virginia City between 1860 and 1880.






 https://coinsweekly.com/virginia-city-where-monetary-history-was-written/. Two photos saved from this site for the book, Mckay Villa and Sutro tunnel.


DeQuille, Big Bonanza, 305-307.  




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History Lesson #2: NIGHT WATCH to MODERN POLICE: History of the Beat

The first to police the colonies were called "night watch."  There were also private for-hire men called "The Big Stick." The Watchers were volunteers, sometimes people who'd been caught at a crime, and were often drunk or asleep. The wealthiest also hired men for protection, maybe not aware the these were often unscrupulous people. What we think of as our modern police force didn't get its start until the early 1900s. Also confirmed was that the first forms of policing in the South was "patroling," going after slaves. Here's an excerpt from "Civil War & Bloody Peace:"


Regulators, Loyal League activists, and Ku Klux (KK) klansmen, some of whom Democratic officials allied with, carried out lynch law in Kentucky before 1871. "Patrolers" had been in existence since long before the war and were considered one of the 'evils' of the slavery system. They were organized by law and protected by public sentiment; they could whip any Negro caught away from home, or for committing any supposed offense. They also tarred and feathered white men thought to be abolitionists. When they became "Ku Klux" after the war, they donned calico masks to avoid detection, especially after the federal government began to allow prosecution.


Kentucky bootleg whiskey (moonshining) was protected by the KK; an underground business, it emerged because of excise tax on liquor after the Civil War, even after many wartime levies had been repealed. Grains that made whiskey were Kentucky's main crop and most of the liquor industry was in the South. The KK protected moonshiners, and by extension, grain farmers; and certain leading Democrats protected the KK.  


There seems to be an inadvertent link to policing and liquor; connect this with the "night watch" in the first paragraph. Another source noted:


The first form of policing in the South was known as slave patrol, which began in the colonies of Carolina in 1704. The patrol was usually made up of three to six men riding horseback and carrying whips, ropes, and even guns.

On January 16th, 1871, a group of Blacks went to the capitol at Frankfort to complain. The two houses of the state general assembly announced that they would devise a plan to suppress the KK, even if it cost the state a million per year. But a month later the testimony bill, which would allow "persons charged with crimes and Negroes" to testify, was postponed.  


Back to CWBP:

Congress passed the Ku Klux Bill, also known as the 'Civil Rights Act.' This was meant to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment's right to vote regardless of race or former servitude. When Congress enacted this bill on April 20th, certain crimes were punishable under federal law: "Conspiracies to deprive citizens of the right to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and enjoy the equal protection of the laws, could now, if states failed to act effectively against them, be prosecuted by federal district attorneys, and even lead to military intervention and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus."


With this second bill President Grant could, according to one newspaper, "call out the militia, proclaim martial law, close up the courts, stifle the press, and exercise arbitrary and unbounded power at his discretion."


Between this act and the end of the century, then, we can imagine the military was often used to suppress this kind of policing activity, when it was suppressed at all. But Jim Crow laws were also put into place, giving this kind of policing more teeth.


In the North a more official police force was coming into fashion. Clashes between incoming immigrant groups were getting out of a control. Boston was first to implement a police force in 1838, following by New York City.

These "modern police" organizations shared similar characteristics: (1) they were publicly supported and bureaucratic in form; (2) police officers were full-time employees, not community volunteers or case-by-case fee retainers; (3) departments had permanent and fixed rules and procedures, and employment as a police officers was continuous; (4) police departments were accountable to a central governmental authority.


By the 1880s, almost every major city had a police force, all independently run and controlled, based on that city's needs. With their reporting to political heads, corruption came in the form of paying them off to not report some illegal activity.


August Vollmar was the creator of the modern police force. "He stressed the importance of sociology, social work, psychology, and management in police work. In this system, officers patrolled the neighborhoods they lived in on foot. Vollmer also made sure policemen went to college and even created a separate system for juveniles to be tried and punished instead of trying them as adults." His idealism was short lived, however. Prohibition required police to patrol in cars, and Hoover wanted them to be an active fighting force.


Defining social control as crime control was accomplished by raising the specter of the "dangerous classes." The suggestion was that public drunkenness, crime, hooliganism, political protests and worker "riots" were the products of a biologically inferior, morally intemperate, unskilled and uneducated underclass. The consumption of alcohol was widely seen as the major cause of crime and public disorder. The irony, of course, is that public drunkenness didn't exist until mercantile and commercial interests created venues for and encouraged the commercial sale of alcohol in public places.


This led to the change of the police preventing crime, rather than just responding to it. To give cops more to do, they once again (as in the south's patrolers) began to patrol, looking for trouble, as a means of keeping the population safe. Dr. Gary Potter in his article at PLsonline.com emphasized how easy these early police forces could be corrupted. They became part of a corrupt political partnership, and ran rampant during Prohibition.


During the 1960s, the black communities began to question the way they were treated and had been suppressed under Jim Crow laws. Under Jim Crow in the south, segregation became acceptable and black people were harassed and denied equal rights. Most presidents feared taking on any states that imposed Jim Crow laws; the Republicans didn't care and the Democrats feared their own voting base. John Kennedy finally actively went for Civil Rights, but was killed before passage. Lyndon Johnson picked up the mantle but was hard to say "there goes the deep south." You can see more on this in "From Lincoln to Trump."


In 1915, the midst of this corruption in many places, the Fraternal Order of Police was founded by two police offers in Pittsburgh, as a means of airing their grievances. They went national in 1917, becoming the largest police organization in the country. Both Bobby Kennedy and Barrack Obama tried to take them on, with changes needed to police training.


"President Obama initiated the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which developed a set of recommendations to improve procedural justice in police-citizen interactions and enhance the perceived legitimacy of the police." But when Trump was elected, the FOP requested that he de-prioritize what Obama's initiative had implemented; Trump excelled at reversing much of Obama's work.


And we all know what happened to Bobby Kennedy. In "From Lincoln to Trump," you'll find out that the police there doctored the murder scene.


I wish I was the type to infiltrate. But the Fraternal Order of Police, which considers itself along the lines of Freemasons, needs to take responsibility for those police still acting like White Supremacists and accuse and kill black people without due process. Because one of the things we've noticed in our current police force is their brotherhood, and not turning on one who's doing something that's obviously not under the motto of "to protect and to serve."

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History Lesson 01: Women's Suffrage

Did you know that the first movement to get women the right to vote was in 1848? That's even before the Civil War! On July 19th the Women's Suffrage movement was launched in Seneca Falls, New York. Lucretia Mott was a Quaker and Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a young mother. They wanted to be included in the Constitution's "All men are created equal."


What else was happening in 1848 that might have spurred this action? Europe's most radical revolution happened, which sent many people to the USA, including a great-grandfather of mine from Germany, not then called Germany. Workers were on the uprise around Europe. This revolution included a series of political upheavals. Closer to home, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo gave the US a lot more territory, most specifically in the Southwest. The California gold rush began.


Possibly as a result of their early efforts, the first medical school for women opened in Boston later that year, or certainly coincidental and perhaps stirring them for more of the same.


But these women weren't initially successful. There were disagreements over what they should be fighting for. Stanton wanted the vote immediately but others thought that was a little too radical. They finally agreed to add suffrage when Frederick Douglass spoke in support of it.


Stanton met Susan B. Anthony in 1850 and the two forged a lifetime alliance. Little was found about their efforts before the Civil War but afterward, they helped the movement build and pushed lawmakers to protect their rights during Reconstruction.


I've often thought that the 15th amendment that guaranteed voting rights to "all persons born or naturalized" should have automatically included women but the wording elsewhere in the amendment defined citizens as male. Petitions then began to fly in objection to that word, deliberately excluding them. George Washington Julian of Indiana proposed in December 1868 than the reference to male be removed, but it never even came to a vote.


One would like to think this reference to woman's suffrage was extended to black women as well. Stanton denounced this extension of voting rights to black males while excluding "educated white women." This is where black women felt alienated, and that animosity extended into the 20th century. Obviously, Stanton didn't choose her words well.


But black voices were not silent. They simply had other fights, such as Jim Crow. In an 1898 address to the NAWSA, African-American activist Mary Church Terrell decried these injustices, while remaining hopeful "not only in the prospective enfranchisement of my sex but in the emancipation of my race."


The women's movement fragmented into two groups in 1869: Stanton and Anthony's the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). Lucy Stone formed the other; she was a one-time Massachusetts antislavery advocate and a prominent lobbyist for women's rights. The groups united in 1890. That's when they formed NAWSA. But they were without powerful allies in Congress. For the next 20 years they worked for voting at the state level.


In 1869 Wyoming became the first to grant women the right to vote, the only one for the next 25 years. Colorado followed in 1893, with Utah and Idaho in 1896. Some believe it was to encourage more women to move west. Others saw women as being equally as strong as men. A third reason was to help the territory gain statehood. Wyoming, however, didn't get statehood until 1890 and remains one of the lowest population states in the Union, even lower than the current population of DC. Seven more states granted women voting rights between 1910 and 1914.


The impact of Jeanette Rankin as the first Congresswoman elected in Montana in 1916 cannot be overstated. She turned out to be a great orator and led successful campaigns for women's suffrage. The first day of the new Congress, with herself installed as Congresswomen, she introduced the Susan B. Anthony Suffrage amendment. California Democrat John Edward Raker proposed a new standing committee in the House—the Committee on Woman Suffrage—to consider bills related to women's voting rights, bypassing Judiciary entirely.


"We have as a Member of this body the first woman Representative in the American Congress," Edward William Pou of North Carolina said to applause. "She will not be the last, Mr. Speaker."


Raker's Woman Suffrage Committee began hearings on the voting-rights amendment on January 3, 1918. Well, you can imagine the excitement of the women, who brought sandwiches to hearings.


Rankin began by invoking the generations of American women who had fought for the right to vote. "For 70 years the women leaders of this country have been asking the Government to recognize this possibility," she said. She even invoked the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe, as though to make up for Stanton's mistakes decades previously. Stowe was a white abolitionist, however.


Opponents were, of course, feeling their status quo threatened. Federal suffrage would violate the state's rights to determine voter qualifications. Suffrage was not a "right," they said, but a privilege, to be withheld at the pleasure of the state. (Oh are we seeing evidence of that today!) Southern legislatures opposed it because it included black women -- all the more they would have to fight to keep away from the polls.


One Suffragette named Carrie Chapman Catt even used white supremacy to help the amendment get through: "If the South is really earnest in its desire to maintain white supremacy, its surest tactics is [sic] to endorse the Federal Suffrage Amendment." She continued, "If you want white supremacy, why not have it constitutionally, honorably? The Federal Amendment offers the way."


The first vote on the amendment was narrowly defeated, even though Woodrow Wilson supported it. Then came midterm elections when the Republicans ran on suffrage as a means to defeat the Democrats, especially in the South. Jeanette Rankin, however, lost her seat in that election.


The 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote on August 18, 1920.


Despite the passage of the amendment and the decades-long contributions of Black women to achieve suffrage, poll taxes, local laws and other restrictions continued to block women of color from voting. Black men and women also faced intimidation and often violent opposition at the polls or when attempting to register to vote. It would take more than 40 years for all women to achieve voting equality.


The NAWSA prevented black women from attending their conventions. They had to march separately from whites in suffrage parades. But these women worked hard for those equal rights, too, and received little credit. Much of their activity centered around their churches, where they held political rallies and planned strategies. They faced unique challenges, being torn between the civil rights of the two groups to which they belonged, and being excluded by white women did not help.


This is an issue that may have lingered yet today. When there was a woman's march in Madison in 2017, I saw very few blacks in the crowd, even though Madison has a strong black population. Sojourner Truth, a name I just heard recently on Jeopardy that no contestant knew, noted that prejudice against them was even worse than against black men, and she was right. At least black men could vote, although in many states they were denied for whatever reason could be conjured.


Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth died in 1883 so never saw the freedom she longed for. She walked away from slavery, though, in 1827 and changed her name when she became a traveling preacher.  She gave her most famous speech at a Women's Rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851: "Ain't I a woman?" Here's more from that speech:


Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.


It wasn't until 1913 that the first black women's suffrage group formed in Chicago by Ida B. Wells. Even after the 19th Amendment passed, they fought with black men for those rights until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It seems today we're going backward in time to erase all that progress.


Here's an interesting statistic I found online: "If just men had voted in 2012, Romney would have defeated Obama 322–216. If just white women had voted, the spread would have grown to 346–192." The voting bloc of black women helped; their vote was 96% in favor of Obama, the largest bloc percentage of any group. It was not the white vote that got Obama elected the second time, which, we can see, is what makes the GOP so nervous about the popular vote of growing minority groups.


Let's compare that to the vote for Nixon in 1968, shortly after the Civil Rights Act. It's not as easy to find that breakdown, but according to Wikipedia, 94% of the vote in black neighborhoods went to Humphrey, compared to 33% of rural votes.


I could find no demographics for the vote for Harding in 1920. It's said that his good looks helped with women voters, but it's rumored that his wife killed him for philandering before his term was up. He also said at one point that he wasn't meant for this office.


Fortunately women -- especially black women -- have gotten better at making choices. In fact, it would appear that black women always had it right. The black vote overall was at 89% for Clinton in 2016, while white women were only 54% for the first female president. White men supported Trump over Clinton.


And isn't it interesting that we don't see a breakout of black men versus black women for the 2016 cycle? Are we indeed going backward in time?



at https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a33808321/how-women-vote-statistics/. 














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