The Immigration Act of 1917

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954.

On this day in 1917, the United States Congress overrode the veto of President Woodrow Wilson and enacted the Immigration Act of 1917.

The act was also known and The Literacy Act and as the most sweeping immigration act the United States had passed until that time. It was the first such law to restrict immigration, rather than just regulate it. The law imposed literacy tests, created new categories of those who were inadmissible, and barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific Zone. It remained in effect until the Immigration Act of 1952.

Peace Without Victory

Woodrow Wilson announces to Congress on February 3, 1917 that official relations with the German Empire have ceased. (Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1917, prior to the United States’ entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson addressed the Senate and called for “peace without victory” to settle the European conflict.

Wilson said “The present war must first be ended; but we owe it to candor and to a just regard for the opinion of mankind to say that, so far as our participation in guarantees of future peace is concerned, it makes a great deal of difference in what way and upon what terms it is ended. The treaties and agreements which bring it to an end must embody terms which will create a peace that is worth guaranteeing and preserving, a peace that will win the approval of mankind, not merely a peace that will serve the several interests and immediate aims of the nations engaged. We shall have no voice in determining what those terms shall be, but we shall, I feel sure, have a voice in determining whether they shall be made lasting or not by the guarantees of a universal covenant; and our judgment upon what is fundamental and essential as a condition precedent to permanency should be spoken now, not afterwards when it may be too late.” Full Text.

A little more than two months later, Wilson addressed Congress to request permission to declare war against Germany. A formal declaration of war was issued on April 6, 1917. The war would end the following November. By the end of the war 116,708 American military lives and 757 U.S. civilians would die from all causes associated with the war (influenza, combat, and wounds).

The Cartoons of World War I

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about our script Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy. The script is finished and being shopped around to production companies.

Over the course of time we’ve been looking at the history and culture of that era.

Through the years, political cartoons have been used to express the mood of a nation. The same was true during World War I when not everyone supported the effort or U.S. involvement. Here are ten examples of the cartoons of the day.

A dentist (Uncle Sam) about to extract a tooth from a patient (Kaiser Wilhelm II); representing America’s successful involvement in the First world war. Pen drawing by P. Forbes-Robertson, 1918. Iconographic Collections Keywords: Uncle Sam; world war, 1914-1918.

 

‘Bravo, Belgium !’ Political cartoon showing a Belgian farmer standing up to the German aggressor.

Blessed are the Peacemakers by George Bellows. Anti-war cartoon depicting Jesus with a halo in prison stripes alongside a list of his seditious crimes. First published in The Masses in 1917.

 

Cartoon by Jay N. Darling. Uncle Sam carries a dead soldier, representing the first reported U.S. casualties from World War I

 

The Cartoon Book was published by the US Government in 1918, with the intention of promoting the third Liberty Loan; various cartoonists, including Bushnell, donated their work. Here, the accusing hand of Uncle Sam points at an arrogant Prussian officer standing before the flaming wreckage of Europe.

 

His Best Customer (1917) by Winsor McCay. Anti-war cartoon depicting War serving Death with the caption “His Best Customer.”

 

Uncle Sam with empty treasury. Reference to economic situation at end of World War I.

 

This is likely Will Dyson’s most famous cartoon of World War I.

 

Cartoon shows the figure of Peace as a pretty woman and angel, standing in the aisle of a train or bus, while Senators Borah, Lodge, and Johnson occupy the seats. The cartoon refers to the successful efforts of the Republican isolationists after World War I to block Senate ratification of the Treaty of Versailles establishing the League of Nations.

 

“The Spirit of ’76”, cartoon about the U.S. entry to World War I. Uncle Sam (U.S.) handing Marianne (France) a sack labeled One Billion Dollars while Lafayette looks on.

 

The War wasn’t popular. War never is. American reluctantly entered near the end of the war and most of the country rallied behind the cause. This was the war to end war that did nothing of the kind. But, it changed the course of the 20th century and we still feel the effects some 100 years later.

Cartoon Source: Wikipedia