The Red Scare in Nevada, 1919-1920


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The Red Scare In Nevada, 1919-1920. Master's Thesis, 1979. Ted DeCorte. University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV)

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The Red Scare in Nevada, 1919-1920

  1. 1. The Red Scare In Nevada, 1919-1920by Ted DeCorteChapter 1: The Stage Is Set Immediately following the First World War (1914-1918), the United States experienced a brief yet hysterical "Red Scare," a fear of a radical communist, or bolshevik takeover of the United States. Fear of a radical takeover in the United States led to suppression and persecution of anyone perceived as "un-American." This era of intolerance and paranoia engulfed Nevada, and its citizens responded harshly to the "Red Menace." Nevadas response was both a part of and a reaction to the volatile national scene during 1919-1920. World War I demanded personal sacrifice on the part of Americans. It created immense social and economic strains such as runaway inflation, labor unrest and excessive governmental controls. In 1917 Bolshevik "Reds" had overthrown Russias repressive Czarist government, and America newspapers had kept the public well informed of the revolutions gruesome events. Americans were also distressed by the influence of two radical organizations on their own home front: a Socialist party advocating drastic change in the existing political and economic system, and the Industrial Workers of the World preaching the destruction of capitalism and the government. Wartime superpatriotism had not only created an overwhelming suspicion and hatred of foreigners, but of domestic radicals as well. This experience of war, plus the fear of a worldwide radical conspiracy, produced a pattern of racism, intolerance and flagrant disregard for human rights which permeated American society throughout the postwar decade. Never before had the nation been so overwhelmed with fear. Economic and social dislocations combined with a series of highly suspicious and spectacular events into a common mass from which emerged the public panic and paranoia known as the Red Scare. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilsons "Crusade for Democracy," received the support of all "loyal" Americans. In an attempt to mobilize the people behind the war effort, Wilson established the Committee on Public Information. Headed by journalist George Creel of Colorado, the Creel Committee utilized the talents of thousands of creative people in the arts, advertising and motion pictures to "sell the war." Creels army of speakers and writers blanketed the country with propaganda, picturing the war as a crusade for freedom and democracy, and the Germans as a bestial people bent on world domination. The committees endeavors created a national mood blending sincere idealism, patriotic dedication, nationalistic aggression and xenophobia. The Wilson-Creel propaganda machine made nationalism an American religion. By 1917 the vast majority of Americans found themselves caught up in the patriotic spirit. Most men and women believed 1
  2. 2. this war would be the worlds last; they felt that victory could bring a newuniversal freedom, and therefore fought the war with an almost evangelical zeal.President Wilson himself demanded absolute loyalty and support for Americasconflict in Europe. His administration urged all "loyal" citizens to report personswho spoke against the war and advocated peace. Quick to sense the newsuperpatriotic mood, Congress enacted the Espionage Act of 1917 and theSedition Act of 1918, making "disloyal" and seditious talk against the war - - andthe Wilson Administration - - illegal.During the war years Americans encountered severe limitations on freedom ofspeech and press, as well as outright suppression of dissent. The federalgovernment arrested over fifteen hundred persons for disloyal comments andbanned the dissemination of radical publications. Opening and censoring privatemail also became an effective tool for monitoring "pro-German" thoughts anddeeds. Periodically the Administration seized obviously loyal magazines criticalof government policy. In its zeal, the Justice Department, for instance, delayed anedition of The Nation because it carried the caption "Civil Liberties Are Dead,"and confiscated copies of The Public when it suggested that wartime taxes onlarge incomes were too low. By far the most serious wave of intolerance, of high-handed governmental disregard for individual rights, and of popular hysteriaerupted during the second Wilson Administration. The Administrations forcedfanning of the war fever led to a state of passion which made nonconformity and,certainly, dissent dangerous.The United States Supreme Court contributed to the atmosphere of repression. InSchenck v. United States (1919) and Abrams v. United States (1919), the Courtruled that the federal government could suspend constitutional rights when thenation faced "a clear and present danger." Charles Schenck and his associates haddistributed pamphlets denouncing the Selective Service Act and urging youngmen to resist the draft, while Jacob Abrams and others published leaflets attackingAmerican intervention in the Bolshevik Revolution.In addition to the federal government, the American people were also guilty ofrepressive acts during the war. Wartime propaganda indoctrinated the public with"100% Americanism," a hatred of the "Hun," and a general prejudice towardsforeigners. Uttering ritual phrases of reverence and hate guaranteed protectionfrom fanatical Germanphobes. Throughout the U.S. there arose a wild and fearfulhatred of the Hun, the German Beast, and the murderous Kaiser. The passionateand unreasoning hatred of anything German, including literature, language andmusic, grew into a purge of anything un-American. Equating loyalty withconformity, the 100 Percenters belligerently demanded universal compliance.After 1917, pacifists, socialists and conscientious objectors, as well as"hyphenated-Americans," such as German-Americans or Italian-Americans, 2
  3. 3. encountered unprecedented persecution and harassment. Citizens often subjectedpersons who refused to buy war bonds to public contempt and even assault. Localofficials jailed those who questioned the draft or criticized Red Cross or Y.M.C.A.activities, while vigilante groups looked for "draft dodgers" and "slackers."Eventually Americas loyalty crusade focused on domestic radicals, chiefly thesocialists, anarchists and members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)labor union. A radical was defined as anyone who favored progressive legislationor spoke out against governmental injustice. Nationalistic attacks on radicalsgathered strength during 1917-1918 when most Americans identified the IWWand the Socialist party with the pacifist movement. By advocating peace andnonconforming political beliefs, these groups ran afoul of both anti-radicalnativism and anti-German hysteria. Americas passionate intolerance during thewar eventually led to the indictment and conviction of two Socialist party leaders,on the charges of promoting draft evasion. In mid-1918 federal courts sentencedthree-time presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs and U.S. Senatorial candidateVictor L. Berger to ten and twenty years imprisonment respectively. AlthoughDebs and Berger had never posed a serious threat to the countrys ability to wagewar, they had violated American societys notions of patriotism, nationalism and100% Americanism. Not until 1921, after conservatives so thoroughly cowed thespirit of radicalism in America, were they freed from governmental harassment:Debs by a Presidential pardon from Republican Warren G. Harding and Berger bySupreme Court edict.Another target of the governments anti-radical campaign, the Industrial Workersof the World, advocated, at least in rhetoric, full-scale revolution. Yet, themajority of the IWW members rarely practiced what they preached, utilizingunethical and, at times, illegal methods to obtain their stated goals of labor reformand social justice, most "Wobblies" wanted only to change the unjust andoppressive conditions of western mining and lumber camps, of which Nevada hada number. IWW propaganda demanded better wages, hours (a six-hour work day)and conditions, the release of all "class-war prisoners" and the overthrow of thecapitalistic system. Distraught Americans came to identify members of the radicalunion as agents of the Kaiser, working for the ruin of western civilization. SenatorHenry Ashurst of Arizona dubbed the Wobblies "Imperial Wilhelms Warriors."With the advent of the Russian Revolution in 1917, IWW-ism became moreclosely associated in the public mind with Bolshevism.The disregard for individual freedoms, the increasing intolerance toward aliens,minorities and political dissidents, and the misguided patriotic spirit whichflourished during wartime should have diminished after the hostilities ended inEurope. Yet, when the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, the nationalistic 3
  4. 4. fervor continued unabated. The termination of Democratic President WoodrowWilsons "war to end all wars" did not bring the peace and tranquility Americansexpected. The transition from war to peace would not come easy. Postwareconomic and social problems spoiled the fruits of victory. Business and laborclashed; unemployment and inflation plagued the economy; and labor strikes andrace riots erupted in many major cities.During the war, Big Business had erased much of its tarnished reputation andenhanced its strength and public acceptance. Labor unions also gained increasingsupport, and enjoyed the benefits of high wartime wages, in addition to achievinga temporary eight-hour work day. Washingtons power expanded too, leaving thegovernment in control of the countrys communication and transportation systemsand theoretically regulating every aspect of Americas economy. Organized laborsought to retain its wartime gains. And although the majority of the workersreceived high wartime wages, pay had not kept pace with the rapid inflation.Thus, unions demanded wage increases, as well as a permanent eight-hour dayand better working conditions. Labor leaders also pushed for continued federalregulation of both the economy and Big Business.In 1919 businessmen wanted a return to normalcy, to a time before Big Labor andgovernment interference. They desired freedom from governments wartimeregulation, from labor union demands, and from public responsibility. Troubledby high taxes, spreading radicalism and government ownership, the businesscommunity launched an attack on organized workers and Big Government. Laborresponded with a series of strikes beginning in January 1919. The clash betweenbusiness and labor forced the American public to choose sides, and by 1919 mostAmericans sided with business.An ailing postwar economy led by the high cost of living as well as runawayinflation became the immediate cause of social discontent. From 1914 to 1919 thecost of living had doubled. After the armistice the Wilson Administration abruptlycut all government spending and the chaotic demobilization which followedcaught Americans by surprise. Cancellation of government contracts forcedwartime industries to lay off their workers, creating mass unemployment.American workers faced a serious economic recession by 1919.With the collapse of Germany in November 1918, Americans continued to needsome release for the nationalistic frenzy fostered by the Creel Committee. Formost Americans, the Great War had been too brief. Hostilities ended in Europesooner than expected, leaving many citizens full of unreleased patriotic emotions.The sudden halt of the war can be equated with a state of “coitus interruptus”.Americans had indulged in the act of intercourse with the "Whore of the World,"and suddenly the war ended and the whore vanished. The aggressive nationalism 4
  5. 5. of wartime could not be turned off as easily as it had been turned on. Thearmistice did not end the ideological war on the home front.The defeat of the German Hun cleared by way to concentrate on the "enemies" athome, and the drive for conformity and 100% Americanism continued. Fear ofBolshevism and domestic radicals replaced the hatred of the Hun. Instead ofdiminishing the anti-radical hysteria and demand for 100% Americanism, thewars end only intensified it. With economic abnormalities, the capital-labordispute and the explosive national mood the stage was set for Americas first RedScare.As opposed to Americas "Red Scare" of the late 1940s and 1950s, the Red Scareof 1919-1920 erupted during the early months following the armistice whichended the First World War. Hysteria gained momentum throughout the spring andsummer of 1919, and climaxed in January 1920. By mid-1920 the illiberal frenzyhad fizzled.The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had a profound effect on the American people.Stories of communist atrocities filled column after column in Americasnewspapers. Details of mass executions by the communists, along with thehorrors of the European war, convinced Americans of the Red Menace. Millionsof otherwise rational Americans listened to ugly rumors of a huge radicalconspiracy and feared a Red Revolution in the United States. A series of domesticand world events convinced many Americans that the U.S. stood on the brink ofits own Bolshevik. No longer willing to tolerate socialists, communists andforeign-born radicals, Americans took swift and decisive action to combat thegrowing Red threat.Bolshevik uprisings plagued Bavaria and Hungary, and threatened Italy andFrance. In March 1919 the Communist Third Internationale in Moscow draftedplans to promote civil war and world revolution. Social unrest in the U.S. hadlittle to do with a world-wide communist conspiracy. Nevertheless, the Americanpeople made the most preposterous connections between foreign and domesticdangers, and responded by crushing what they believed were Bolshevik-inspiredstrikes, suppressing radical publications, and clamoring for the wholesaledeportation of alien "reds."Ironically, the federal governments wartime repression had eliminated themajority of domestic radicals, leaving few politically active in the postwar states.In 1919 no more than 100,000 members, or .001 percent of the adult population,belonged to the two American Communist parties. Labor strikes, radicalbombings, race riots, and Red demonstrations further compounded Americaspostwar fears. Strike activity in 1919 alone involved four million Americanworkers in 3,600 strikes. During the Boston police strike, the little-known 5
  6. 6. Governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge, reflected the feelings of Americanpeople when he declared, "There is no right to strike against the public safety byanybody, anywhere, any time." Employers continually fed the antiunion sentimentby purposefully equating all strike activity with revolutionary radicalism. Theanxieties of the Red Scare seriously damaged organized labor, including themoderate American Federation of Labor. In reality, most workers struck forlegitimate reasons. Wages had not kept pace with wartime inflation and after theArmistice, most industries had returned to the traditional ten- to twelve-hour workday. During the fall of 1919 coal miners, and iron and steel workers struck toachieve increased wages and better working conditions. In Seattle, shipyardworkers struck in an effort to equalize all wages paid by shipyard owners.Bostons "finest", its policemen walked out, hoping to achieve higher wages andrecognition for their union. In each case the strikers lost. Public officials, likeSeattles Mayor Ole Hanson, denounced the workers as "Bolsheviks" and utilizedthe National Guard to suppress the "Bolshevik-inspired" demonstrations.More dramatic events plagued American society. In April 1919 a bomb wasdiscovered in Mayor Hansons mail. The next day a bomb addressed to SenatorThomas A. Hardwick blew off the hands of a domestic servant in Atlanta. A mailclerk in New York discovered sixteen parcels containing "infernal machines"addressed to Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, Postmaster General Albert S.Burleson, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Secretary of LaborWilliam B. Wilson, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and other governmentofficials and industrialists. All together thirty-six packages turned up. A fewweeks later several bombs exploded, one in front of Attorney General PalmersWashington home, blowing a man, presumably the bomber, to pieces. Althoughthe bombings were largely the work of criminal fanatics, actions like the veteransraid on the New York Call socialist newspaper office, the Cleveland May DayRiot, and the Centralia Washington Massacre, were planned by overzealouspatriots, paranoid dissidents, or overreacting citizens.With each new frightening event, Americas fear of the "Red Menace" increased.Public figures and the media reflected this concern. Senator Kenneth D. McKellarof Tennessee advocated sending native-born radicals to a penal colony in Guam.Evangelist Billy Sunday wanted to stand all the "ornery wild-eyed Socialists andIWWs" in front of a firing squad. The Tacoma (Washington) Leader crudelydemanded, "We must smash every un-American and anti-American organization in the land. We must put to death the leaders of this gigantic conspiracy of murder, pillage, and revolution. We must imprison for life all its aiders and abettors of native birth. We must deport all aliens." 6
  7. 7. Various governmental agencies responded to the anti-"red" clamor. In New York,the Lusk Committee of the State Assembly authorized a raid on the Communistheadquarters. The Committees investigation led to the eventual arrest of hundredsof Bolsheviks and "fellow-travelers." The federal government also acted. InNovember and December of 1919 and in January of 1920 the Justice Departmentled by Attorney General Palmer and special investigator John Edgar Hooverconducted a series of "Red Raids" and arrested thousands of alien radicals.Believing that the United States stood on the brink of revolution, Palmer and hisassistants ignored fundamental human and civil rights. Many arrests took placewithout warrants. Suspected communists were seized in their homes and jailed,often without any knowledge of the specific charges against them. In Detroit,authorities herded over a hundred men into a bullpen measuring twenty-four bythirty feet and kept them there for a week under intolerable conditions. InHartford, overzealous officials took the further precaution of arresting andincarcerating all visitors who came to see the suspects.The American public supported the "Palmer Raids" and the removal of alienradicals. Utilizing the power given by the Immigration Act of 1917, the Labor andJustice Departments cooperated in the first deportation of 249 anarchists,including the notorious Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. The ship,dubbed the "Soviet Ark," left for Russia on December 21, 1919. Constantine M.Panunzio, in a study of these cases, argued that, "To deport a person merely for the possession of ideas, however objectionable, is not only an illiberal, but a wholly futile, method of directing intellectual development."According to Panunzio the majority of those deported were hard working Russianand Ukrainian immigrants with families who have lived in the United States fromsix to ten years. Only a small minority of those exiled could be called "dangerousradicals."Gradually, opposition to these practices emerged. Twenty-two New Yorkclergymen denounced the "deportation delirium," while one U.S. district attorneyresigned in protest. Acting Labor Secretary Louis F. Post held up theseproceedings, and released most of the six thousand prisoners against AttorneyGeneral Palmers wishes. Palmer retaliated by calling Post a "Bolshevik."Mounting opposition and legal obstacles caused the movement to quickly subside,but only after 556 had been deported.Societys intolerance did not limit itself to the purging of Eastern Europeanimmigrants. During the war, blacks and other disadvantaged groups hadexperienced unprecedented economic gains. The army had siphoned millions ofmen from the labor market creating a huge labor shortage, and with immigration 7
  8. 8. reduced to a trickle, blacks migrated form the rural South to the industrial centers of the North to fill wartime jobs. As more and more blacks came into contact with whites, racial conflicts erupted. In 1917 for example, a bloody riot gripped East St. Louis, leaving forty blacks clubbed, beaten, stabbed or hanged. A series of race riots continued throughout the war. With the return of Americas soldiers many employers fired the unwanted blacks and whites, and contributed substantially to black unemployment and poverty. Following World War I, race riots broke out in several cities, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, Omaha, Tulsa, and Knoxville. Hundreds of lives were lost. In addition, the number of blacks lynched rose from thirty-six in 1917 to seventy-seven in 1919. The meteoric revival of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s symbolized and embodied this increased nativism and racism.. The new Klan defended white against black, gentile against Jew, and Protestant against Catholic. The agonies and sacrifices of the First World War and its aftermath along with the threat of a communist conspiracy, had elicited from Americans strong feelings of superpatriotism and xenophobia. This nationalistic and nativistic emotion triggered increasing intolerance of political dissidents, prejudice towards minorities and a flagrant disregard for human rights. Confronted with a mounting concern over radicalism, labor strikes, runaway inflation, and high unemployment, American society capitulated to the postwar Red Scare.Chapter 2: The Nevada ExperienceThe Red Scare contagion which plagued American society in 1919 also infected Nevada.Nevadans had experienced the emotional trauma of World War I and responded with nationalisticfervor and increased intolerance. Reading daily reports of Bolshevik atrocities, Nevadans alsocame to fear a Communist revolution. High inflation, labor unrest and widespreadunemployment disrupted the local economy and intensified the social dislocations and growingpublic apprehensions. Finally, the press heightened local fears and frustrations by warning of apervasive "spirit of lawlessness" and devoting extensive coverage to labor problems, radicalbombings, and mob violence at the national level.A fear of Bolshevism mingled with the wars leftover emotions to dominate the minds of mostNevadans during the Red Scare. The states "yellow press" reported extensively on the advanceof this "menace of the world," and devoted considerable space to the growing hysteria at home.Even though the U.S. Justice Department reported in January 1919 that Bolshevism showed "nopromise of reaching a stage of open disorder" in the United States, many Nevadans remainedterrified. Newspapers utilized scare tactics in an effort to arouse citizens and prevent "anarchy"from destroying Nevadas "free institutions." Publication of the so-called "Cardinal Principles of 8
  9. 9. Bolshevism" further reinforced everyones worst fears that Bolshevism advocated high wages, nowork, no punishment, no taxation and the confiscation of personal property.The editor of the Battle Mountain Scout, Mrs. Alice L. Haworth, reduced the sources of theBolshevik danger in America to "the over-educated college theorist and the under-educated toilerwho takes his ideas form the soapboxer." "Neither of then," Haworth continued, "is a taxpayer."Her solution to the Bolshevik problem was to make these people go "out into the open and (do)some real work."Others, such as William W. Booth, editor of the Tonopah Daily Bonanza had more "effective"remedies: "The proper punishment for every fellow who says hes a bolshevik, (should be) tomake him go and live right among em." By the Fall of 1919 many Nevadans agreed with Booththat "there is no place in the United States for . . . enemies of the government." Hence, the onlypractical solution became, in the popular expression of the day, "ship or shoot."Like most Americans, Nevadans became caught up in the emotional rhetoric and they clamoredfor the deportation of "Red." They believed as the Nevada State Journal put it, that "if Boshevismis as good as it is cracked up to be," why not deport the American Bolsheviks to Russia? Thisirrational and narrow-minded rhetoric typified the mood of Nevadans during the Red Scare. Theyassumed that everyone with non-conforming or nontraditional political beliefs was "un-American" and therefore a "menace."Consequently, they felt the sooner "Bolsheviks" and "traitors" could be either imprisoned ordeported, the sooner the welfare of the United States would be ensured.Some Nevadans expressed concern that Communist Russia would unite with Germany and riseagainst the world. Nevadans wanted to preserve and protect their investment in the war effort;almost five thousand Nevada boys had served in the armed forces and 120 had been killed.(NOTE: an epidemic of Spanish influenza swept across the United States during the winter of1918-1919. By February over 125 thousand Americans perished from the disease, more lives lostin the war. The flu killed over 600 Nevadans. Certainly, these deaths along with the casualties ofwar further aggravated the emotional instability of postwar Nevada.)The weekly casualty lists in the newspapers and perennial Victory Bond drives only fanned theflames of hatred toward the Germans and prolonged the sadness and tragedy of the war. Whilestories of the stalled peace negotiations and the German atrocities filled Nevadas newspapers,advertisements and posters urged Nevadans: "Dont Be A Slacker - - Buy Victory Bonds."Editorials depicted the German "Hun" as subhuman, militaristic and cunning. A typical columndescribed the "Hun" as "the worlds real yellow peril." As in other states, hostility toward theGerman "Beast" turned inward and Nevadans directed their bigotry toward the alien immigrantsand "slackers" who refused to support Americas crusade against Germany. Indeed, citizens 9
  10. 10. branded anyone criticizing the U.S. as "German" or "un-American." Patriotic groups appealed toall loyal Americans and "hun killers" to prevent "slackers" from spreading anti-Americanpropaganda.The case of Tony Denati of Dayton provides an excellent example of the prevailing intolerancetoward "slackers." Federal officials has arrested Denati in June 1918 on the charge of"obstructing the sale of war stamps," a direct violation of the Espionage Act of 1918. Witnessesat the trial in March 1919 testified that Denati believed "Germany did right in sinking theLusitania." Furthermore, Denati had declared that the war was a "rich mans war." Given theintolerant postwar mood in Nevada, certainly Denatis statements as much as his actions led tohis conviction, although he had posed no threat to Americas war effort in Europe.Nevadas irregular postwar economy and soaring inflation prompted citizens to search forscapegoats to hold responsible for the high cost of living. The editors of the Reno EveningGazette and the Battle Mountain Scout blamed "profiteers" and "hoarders" for the economicwoes, and labeled them as "Judas," although one editor did note that "Judas had the grace to hanghimself." To combat rising prices, citizens appointed committees to investigate profiteering bylocal merchants, and wore home-made overalls, the "common rainment for the common people,"at work and social events.Nevadas rampant inflation had actually resulted from the war. The conflict had brought anartificial prosperity to the state by increasing the demand for copper, silver and other metals. By1918 Nevadas annual mineral production had reached $48 million, nearly two million dollarsmore than the heyday of Virginia Citys Comstock lode during the 1870s. World War I had alsostimulated agriculture in Nevada. Sugar and honey production, for instance, became increasinglyprofitable, as Nevada farmers shipped more overseas. The states ranchers sent meat and horsesto American soldiers and European allies, while sheepherders supplied wool for uniforms andclothing. Although the war had greatly increased the demand for Nevadas agricultural andmining products, this ceased with the armistice in 1918.President Wilsons chaotic national demobilization abruptly cut mining activity in Nevada andalso brought sharp declines in livestock and farm prices. Because the economies of the statessmall towns relied heavily on these industries, many people suffered. Nevadans felt betrayed.They had fought and sacrificed to make the "world safe for Democracy," only to see their ownwell-being seemingly threatened. One returning doughboy in New York City remarked, "Wefought for democracy, and what we got was prohibition and influenza." In his message to the1919 Nevada legislature, Governor Emmett Boyle warned that postwar economic readjustmentswould be necessary if Nevadans wished to preserve their way of life, and he pointed out the the"greatest immediate problem" of the postwar period would be unemployment.While falling prices and unemployment helped create a wave of intolerance in the state, theenactment of prohibition laws contributed to the rising social problem of "lawless and disorderly 10
  11. 11. defense of law and order." Prohibition measures were passed primarily to conserve grain duringthe war, but with the patriotic necessity eliminated these statutes became difficult to enforce.Many Nevadans refused to obey them, thereby creating a postwar atmosphere of disobedience inthe the state. The wars end had also produced a significant transient population whichcontributed to the climate of restlessness and turmoil. Thousands of unemployed workers and ex-soldiers wandered from town to town, some searching for jobs, others seeking excitement.Tonopah represented a typical postwar Nevada mining community. Many of the drifters, vagrantsand con-artists who took up temporary residence committed burglary, vandalism, petty larcenyand other crimes.Opposition to prohibition and the general social dislocation produced a clamor for social controlin the state. The threat of Bolshevism and the occurrence of national strikes, riots and bombings,made people increasingly intolerant of criminal behavior in Nevada. In response to the risingcrime and "anarchy," Nevadans demanded law and order, and organized vigilante committeesand "law and order" campaigns. They urged public officials to declare war on bootleggers,gamblers and prostitutes. Looking for scapegoats, Nevadans blamed criminal activity on theIWWs, agitators and other "troublemakers." Reno police escorted employed drifters out of townwhile Elko citizens called for an "anti-loafing" law similar to New Yorks. In an effort to reducefatal accidents and crime, a small minority of Nevadans supported legislation to stop the privatesale of guns.In Tonopah, one newspaper launched a law and order campaign, reporting all unsolved crimesand urging citizens hel to combat the crime wave. This action provoked a violent response, notfrom Tonopahs "lawless" element, but ironically from the police force. Indeed, Police Chief JackGrant assaulted the papers editor after ordering him to "cut it out." During Grants trial, defensewitnesses asserted that he was right to assail the editor, especially since the newspaper had calledTonopahs police force "slackers." Sympathizing with Grants indignation, the jury acquitted him.Despite the verdict, Tonopahs law and order crusade continued. Eventually, the towns businesscommunity intervened and organized the Tonopah Law Enforcement League to crack down onbootleggers and illegal gamblers. The "law and order" frenzy became a key political issuethroughout the 1920s.The Nevada press coverage of national events contributed significantly to the states heightenedfear and apprehension during the postwar period. Accounts of mob violence and labor unrestexpressed in highly emotional rhetoric convinced many Nevadans that "radicalism" would soonspread to their state.In early 1919 the states newspapers alerted citizens to what looked like a revolutionary takeoverby radical labor in Seattle, Washington. On February 6, sixty thousand Seattle workers paralyzedthe city by calling a general strike. Although the laborers had struck for higher wages, shorterhours, and the right to bargain collectively, Nevadas press labeled Seattles walkout "an 11
  12. 12. experiment in Russian Bolshevism," declared it "without much merit," and believed it had "noplace in the history of the American people." After Seattle mayor Ole Hanson mobilized thenational guard to "crush the reds," Nevadas newspapers praised his "courageous" efforts toprotect the city from the "enemies of society" and prevent it from becoming "a battlefied forIWWs or Bolshevists."Nevadans were further warned of the danger of radical domination in the West by reports of theCentralia, Washington episode in November 1919. Centralias Armistice Day parade erupted intoa clash between American Legionnaires and members of the IWW when the marching veteransand rerouted their parade to purposely pass the IWW headquarters. Anticipating this moveWobbly leaders had stationed armed members inside the hall and on rooftops overlooking thestreet. When paraders arrived, a group of Legionnaires rushed the hall door. They were met witha flurry of bullets leaving four Legionnaires and several Wobblies dead. After the bloody melee,officials arrested the IWWs. That night an enraged mob hauled one Wobbly agitator, a veteranhimself, out of jail ad castrated him. They then dragged him behind a car, hanged him from abridge, and shot him full of holes. Later, the coroner determined that cause of death to be"suicide."The Centralia Massacre triggered a violent reaction from Nevadas press, which labeled the"wholesale murder of citizens" as a "cowardly plot . . . executed by a lot of fools." Editorsendorsed the "lynch law" and believed that "no regret" could be expressed; the shots fired atCentralia "have been heard over the entire country," and should "awaken Americans to take stepsto end IWW-ism . . . whenever and wherever it shoves its snaky head above ground." Accordingto the press, "The spirit of IWW-ism, of Bolshevism, or anarchy, is in the air," and they predictedthat "blood may flow in our streets."After Centralia, the press and patriotic groups in Nevada clamored for the arrest and deportationof all "un-American, disloyal, disturbing, radical, or destructive individuals." In December 1919the U.S. Justice Department began to arrest and deport "alien reds." Newspapers praised thegovernments action: "Uncle Sam is doing the right thing in sending undesirable citizens back toRussia"; these radicals "should be deported in a leaky boat with the pumps clogged." When 249radicals left on the "Soviet Ark," Nevadans bid them "Good Riddance." In a particularlybewildering Christmas message the Sparks Tribune wrote: "The Justice Department is cleaningthe Nation of the citizens of other climes who teach and preach against our government and thebest ideals of Christianity . . . Let greed, envy, malice, and hatred be cast into the junk pile for theday, at least."As Nevadas press also fueled passions with irrational denunciations of Socialists and otherpolitical nonconformists, Nevadans freely denounced all Socialists as "Bolshevists" or "traitors."One "traitor" who provoked the wrath of citizens was the Socialist, Congressman-elect Victor L.Berger of Wisconsin. In early 1919 Congress refused to seat this duly elected representative fromMilwaukee. Although the Houses decision violated the principle of representative government, 12
  13. 13. the vast majority of Nevadans supported the ruling. The press attack on Bergers radical beliefsreveals the inflammatory role of the third estate within Nevada. The Sparks Tribune insisted thatBerger "should never be allowed to again participate in the benefits of liberty, let alone bementioned in the same breath with Congress." Renos Evening Gazette called Bergers election a"disgrace," and denounced Berger as one "who speaks English with the gutteral accent of theenemy."The Gazette urged the federal government to deport Berger along with "all other offensivelyactive alien born citizens." The paper also declared: "Victor L. Berger, felon, is no more eligibleto a seat in Congress than a yellow dog would be."In a special election to choose a replacement, Milwaukee voters again selected the controversialSocialist. Nevadas press was outraged, denouncing the voters as "a menace to the nation." In factthe Nevada State Journal s editor called for the disenfranchisement of Bergers supporters: "Thecountry should know each man who voted for Berger, then it would be possible to disenfranchisethose who deliberately put into jeopardy the welfare of the country by . . . casting a ballot (for)an avowed enemy of American institutions." After Congress again refused to seat Berger,Wisconsins governor declined to call another election. In response, the Yerington Timescongratulated the Governor "for refusing to waste money by returning to Congress a manwasteful to that body." Milwaukee voters went unrepresented in Congress until the 1920 election.Another Socialist, Eugene V. Debs, also provoked Nevadas reactionary press. Following hisconviction in 1918 for violation of the Espionage Act, Debs and his supporters sought apresidential pardon from President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson refused, forcing Debs to remain inthe federal penitentiary at Atlanta. Nevadas Republican newspapers labeled Debs an "avowedrevolutionist," and believed his sympathizers should be forced to join him in prison, so they toocould "study the difference between 100 percent Americanism and rotten pretensions."The press treatment of former Nevadan Louise Bryant, the wife of American Communist leaderJohn Reed, further illustrates Nevadas hostility toward political nonconformists. Ms. Bryant,after a trip to Bolshevik Russia, wrote a book entitled Six Red Months in Russia . (NOTE: Ms.Bryant was raised in Wadsworth, Nevada and spent her first two college years at the Universityof Nevada in Reno. In 1919 her stepfather, Sheridan Bryant, was a conductor for the SouthernPacific Railroad. Ms. Bryants relationship with John Reed was depicted in Warren Beattys film"Reds.") The press immediately branded the former University of Nevada student a"revolutionary." In response to this criticism, Ms. Bryant, in a letter to the Reno Evening Gazettewrote, "I have never written a revolutionary pamphlet in my life." Bryants opposition toAmerican intervention in Russia and claim that the Bolshevik Revolution was "like the Americancivil war," infuriated people. To many Nevadans, radicals like Bryant, Berger, and Debssymbolized the foreign "plot" to overthrow democracy. 13
  14. 14. Most of the factors that had produced the Red Scare on the national scene were also present inNevada. Economic and social dislocations combined with pent up wartime emotions to produceanxiety and frustration. Disoriented and apprehensive, Nevadans viewed Bolshevik activitieswith a wary eye. When the press fanned the flames of this mounting hysteria with sensationalaccounts of national events, Nevadans began to last out at the "un-American" groups in theirmidst.Chapter 3: Response to Immigrants and SocialistsImmigrants and Socialists were two of the principal groups on whom many Nevadans focusedtheir intolerance during the Red Scare. In fact the attacks on Wobblies, Socialists and otherpolitical radicals, developed in part from older patterns of prejudice and hostility towardimmigrants and minorities. Since the 1880s Americans had worried about immigration,especially the new tide flowing in from Southern and Eastern Europe. Westerners, includingNevadans, also had grave concerns over the influx of Asians. Native-born citizens consideredthese "new immigrants" racially and culturally inferior, and believed they would never make"good and loyal Americans." Thus, a major problem arose over how to rid the country ofunassimilated and supposedly unassimilable foreigners.Immigrants migrated to the United States hoping to escape overcrowded cities, industrial andagricultural depressions, and religious and political persecution. With hopes of obtaining highpaying jobs, buying land, and eventually improving their social and economic status, they settledin ethnic ghettos with others from their homeland. Like most American cities, Nevadascommunities had their own "Austrian Town," "Greek Town," and "Jap Town."In 1919 over one-third of Nevadas population had foreign backgrounds. Nevadans, like mostAmericans, made sharp distinctions between the original Anglo-Saxon settlers and the "newimmigrants" from Italy, Greece, Poland, Russia, other Slavic countries, and Asia. The newcomershad generally darker complexions and spoke little or no English; they remained isolated fromNevadas general population, established their own newspapers and ethnic societies, andpracticed Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Jewish faiths. Proud of their heritage, they celebratedtheir national and religious holidays in hopes of preserving the Old World traditions for theirchildren.Hostility toward the foreign-born arose for a variety of reasons. Nevadans disliked theperpetuation of Old World customs and traditions, believing the United States to be "superiorto . . . any nation." They also felt the newcomers instigated labor strikes, violated prohibitionlaws, and helped create the postwar atmosphere of radicalism and lawlessness. Furthermore,since most immigrants worked for lower wages, Nevadans believed the American laborer wouldbe reduced to the level of the European or Asian peasant. The Las Vegas Age declared, "Our men 14
  15. 15. should not be required to work with and compete with the alien element," and citizens agreedthat jobs in Nevada were meant for "Americans only."In early 1919 the Sparks Tribune declared, "One Hundred Percent Americanism . . . should bethe slogan of the times. . . . The man who cannot register one hundred percent Americanism isnot a desirable citizen at any time." The chief purveyor of "100% Americanism" in Nevada wasthe American Legion, which also vowed to "uphold and defend the Constitution, . . . maintainlaw and order, . . . (and) combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses." Formed in1919 by World War veterans, this organizations preached the virtues of "courage, justice, truth,sincerity, and hardihood," and adopted Theodore Roosevelts racist rhetoric condemning"hyphenated-Americans." Legionnaires also demanded "unquestioned loyalty" to Americas flagand institutions, and embarked on a campaign to eradicate foreign influence on American life.Nevadas Legion played an instrumental role in suppressing radical activity in Nevada. For theirefforts, the Nevada press proclaimed the states 1,590 Legionnaires the "backbone of the nation,"and expected "all men eligible (to become) members . . . of this patriotic organization." TheLegions determination to "hit IWW hard" and "purge" organized labors ranks of the "Bolshevikmenace," made the group immensely popular in Nevada. Citizens and the press adopted theLegions patriotic rhetoric and supported their campaign for "100% Americanism." The RenoEvening Gazette declared, "If a man is loyal to any other flag . . . he is disloyal to the Stars andStripes," while the Nevada State Journal exclaimed, "The citizens of this country must be allAmericans or nothing." People suspected of not placing "America First" in their hearts andthoughts were labeled "slackers" or "un-American."The concept of "un-American" is a strange phenomenon arising from the intolerance of WorldWar I and the Red Scare. As historian David Shannon observed, there is no such thing as "un-Norwegian," and the "idea that something is un-French would seem as strange to the ear of aParisian as the idea of un-Americanism." Nevertheless, Nevadans and the press brandedpicketing, ethnic societies, "aliens," critics, and reformers as "un-American." The editors ofNevadas newspapers emphatically supported the divisions between patriots and traitors: "Let usrespect the one and destroy the other." The Reno Evening Gazette, in a precursor to the 1960s"America Love It or Leave It" slogan, announced: "If these noisy aliens do not like the wayAmericans run America, let them go back to the countries whence they came."Nevadans were particularly disturbed with German-Americans, considering them "enemy aliens"who had maintained dual loyalties during the war. Confident that these Germans had upheld theirallegiance to their native land during the War, the press branded them "cowardly, disgraceful andun-patriotic" and believed the United States should forever bar "those aliens who . . . neither(fought) for their mother country nor fought for this country . . . (and) bar from citizenship everyman who evaded the service." Nevada ridiculed the Germans for keeping their Old World ideas,prejudices, and "Kultur," and suspected that the only solutions was to "get rid of them." 15
  16. 16. Nevadans hostility was not limited to "Huns." Eight Spanish and Mexican "aliens" who refusedto join Americas army were "forever barred" from becoming citizens of the U.S. by a judge inMarch 1919.Nevadans like most Americans advocated three solutions to the "alien problem": deportation,restriction, and "Americanization." Although citizens urged the government to deport foreignerswho were not "100% American" and other "un-American" citizens, Nevadans realizeddeportation would never work on a large scale.Therefore, they advocated immigration restriction and "Americanizing" those foreigners whoremained. The Goldfield Daily Tribune wrote, "Let us keep this country pure . . . . We are morethan a spawning ground for the insane and the defectives of the world . . . . We do not want thedemoralized elements of Europe . . . . Let us keep America free and let us purify it rather than tofurther befoul it with those who at heart despise us and our institutions." Other newspapersjoined the cry that the United States cannot afford to be made "the dumping ground for Europeshuman wreckage" or "the pauperized element of other nations." Advocating restrictions onfurther immigration to the U.S., the Reno Evening Gazette wished to halt the onslaught of newimmigrants who it considered "ignorant" and "mentally untrained for Americanism," and "toomuch for the melting pot." The Reese River Revielle stated that now was the time to "dam thestream of cheap labor, before it damns us."Patriotic groups like the American Legion, the United War Veterans, and Renos UnitedAmericans led the clamor for barring the immigration door. All three groups prohibited all"aliens," even veterans, from joining their ranks, advocated deporting non-citizens, anarchists,Bolshevists, and "other undesirables," and believed the United States did not need a dangerousalien population that refused to go through the "melting pot" process. They urged Congress toclose the immigration door, to give America time to "digest the mass" it had swallowed.One Hundred Percenters were dedicated to preserving "the American way of life," maintainingthe status quo, and fostering a spirit of conformity. They had little toleration for "hare-brained"reforms, and agreed with one stalwart patriot who remarked, "Individualism? Down with allIsms." One Hundred Percenters attempted to eliminate all remnants of the immigrants Old Worldculture, and melt them into the monolithic mold labeled "100% Americanism." To accomplishthis task, patriotic organizations established "Americanization" programs to teach Americanideals to both foreigners and citizens. The Battle Mountain Scout confidently declared, "The bestpreventative and cure of Bolshevism is education in American citizenship. A boy or girl who isreared under the influence . . . (of) Americanism . . . will never be a revolutionist." (OurFounding Fathers would have been proud.) Great pressure was exerted on the newcomer to adoptnative customs and develop an appreciation for American institutions. Nevadas courts orderedprospective citizens to enroll in "Americanization" classes. 16
  17. 17. One objective of the "Americanization" movement was to emphasize the teaching of English.Many Nevadans believed enforcing the instruction of English along with a "doctrine of trueAmericanism" would eliminate radicalism. The editor of the Winnemucca Silver State wrote,"Find a radical and nine times out of ten he cant speak good English." Public officials andeditors advocated other "solutions" to the "melting pot" problem, the Bolshevik threat, and laborunrest: mandatory education, industrial training, instilling "thrift," saluting the flag, and teachingthe Constitution.As the teaching of English was the One Hundred Percenters primary goal, the state legislature in1919 passed a law prohibiting the instruction of German or other languages in Nevadaselementary schools. This measure appealed to advocates of "no frills education." The legislaturealso banned the employment of non-citizens on public works, barred foreigners from filingmining claims and holding water and grazing rights, outlawed interracial marriages, illegalcohabitation, and boxing matches between whites and members of "colored" races. Nevadas"anti-alien" laws produced the desired effect; immigrants either became "Americanized" byfiling for citizenship or left the state. Editors rejoiced at the "exodus" of Austrian, Italian, Greekand Oriental immigrants.Ironically, this exodus created a severe shortage of "menial laborers," farmhands, mechanics, androad construction workers throughout the state. The exodus of immigrants from the state was inpart due to the strict enforcement of prohibition laws. The Nevada State Journal wrote, "Ifnational prohibition will keep foreigners . . . from coming here . . . it is a good law if for no otherreason."The Japanese were the one significant immigrant group not given the option of Americanization.Nevadas hostility toward the Japanese went far beyond any fears warranted by their number: in1919 only 754 lived in the state. Japanese had resided in Nevada since the 1890s, and from thebeginning had the distinct disadvantage of being neither European or Caucasian. Like mostnewcomers, they worked for low wages. In January 1919 when Nevada Consolidated CopperCompany laid off white workers, they hired several Japanese at lower pay. Nevadas miners wereenraged and claimed they could not compete with "coolie" labor. The Tonopah Daily Bonanzalabeled the Japanese "a pest of the worst kind" and a "cootie" who "propagates like rabbitry." TheSparks Tribune agreed, declaring, "We dont want the Jap for our neighbor and we dont want theJap for the associate of our children. . . . (In three years) he will probably be occupying the houseadjacent to yours and his friends will live on the other side of you." Other papers condemned the"yellow menace," stating that the Japanese "are not the racial equal of the white man and neverwill be. Nevadans seized upon the fact that U.S. law prohibited the Japanese and other Orientalsfrom becoming citizens as still another justification to "get rid of the Jap."Nevadans urged Congress to close the door on the "Japs," while the states attorney generalrecommended legislation barring them from owning or leasing land. Churchill CountysCommercial Club demanded that the "colored people" should not "let the sunshine on (their) 17
  18. 18. yellow hides here," and refused to allow the "little yellow men" to step off the train. In Las Vegasand Sparks, union members barred the Japanese from membership and urged employers to hire"white men only." Many communities closed Japanese laundries and drove their Orientalpopulations out of town. This fervent "anti-Jap" clamor eventually led to a law in 1921prohibiting the purchase of land in Nevada by persons "ineligible for citizenship."The states growing hostility toward immigrants also colored its attitudes of "foreign" politicalideologies, such as socialism. Nevadans like most Americans viewed socialism as an "un-American" Eastern European political philosophy. Many foreigners who had been socialists inEurope brought socialism with them to the United States. As David Shannon has observed, "Thecircumstances of living in a strange new land did not necessarily change the . . . immigrantssocial and economic ideas and attitudes." Like the ethnic society and the church, the SocialistParty represented another way in which Nevadas newcomers maintained their Old Worldidentity and traditions. Given the states fanatical intolerance of "aliens" and foreign institutions,Nevadas Socialist Party became the chief political victim of the post war Red Scare.Entering Nevada politics with the 1906 Election, the Socialist party thereafter profited from thereactionary behavior of both major parties. In 1908 Democratic governor John Sparks usedfederal troops to quell a Goldfield labor strike, and in 1912 Republican governor Tasker L. Oddiesent state troops to McGill during a labor dispute. Both incidents enraged Nevadas immigrantminers, and thousands of them joined the new Socialist party.Nevadas Socialist party gained most of its new members from the Democrats. Socialist clubssprang up in traditional Democratic strongholds throughout the state, with one of the strongest inTonopah. In 1912 at the height of the partys popularity, Tonopah miners elected Socialistcandidate Martin J. Scanlon to the state Senate and J. F. Lewis to the state Assembly. In thatsame election, Nevadans gave the Socialist presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, substantialsupport. Debs ran third behind Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, polling more votesthan President Taft. Although Nevadas Socialists failed to win state elections after 1912, severalwere elected sheriff, justice of the peace and county assessor. If America had not entered theWorld War, the Socialist party might well have become a major force in Nevada politics. In 1914the Socialist candidate for the United States Senate, A. Grant Miller, received over 20 percent ofthe vote, and in 1916 he polled almost a third of the vote in a race against Samuel Platt and thepopular Key Pittman. However, the outbreak of World War severely damaged Socialist influencein Nevada.In May 1916 socialists had founded a colony in Churchill County, four miles of Fallon. Thecommunity, called Nevada City, was located on land reclaimed by the Newlands Reclamationproject. The colonys physical isolation made it an excellent place to preserve traditional socialistideals and to create a socialist utopia. The strong anti-war stand of Nevadas Socialists helped thegroup politically and coincided with the Democratic partys attitude toward the war. During the 18
  19. 19. election of 1916, thousands of American Socialists deserted their partys standard bearer to votefor the Democratic "peace" candidate, Woodrow Wilson.With the outbreak of war, the Socialist partys persistent antimilitarism ceased to be a politicalasset. Nevada Citys newspaper denounced Wilsons war and recommended Nevada as a havenfor antiwar agitators and draft evaders. The colony became a refuge for pacifists, and the DraftBoard listed one of the colonys members, Paul Walters, as a draft "dodger," and ordered SheriffMark Wildes of Fallon to arrest him. While attempting to do so, Sheriff Wildes was killed. Amanhunt for Walters ensued, resulting in the killing of the young evader by bounty hunter"Skinny" Pascal. The antagonism toward the colony after the incident caused most the residentsto leave. By 1918 only a few families remained at Nevada City, and a year later, the SocialistsNevada Colony Corporation sold its 320 acres of farm land, officially ending Nevadas socialistutopia.The general animosity toward "slackers" during the war, doomed Nevadas Socialist party. Afterthe United States entered the war, many Socialists demonstrated a preference for patriotism oversocialism. Several members of the colony left to join the army while others, such as Grant Millertook government positions. Miller, the Socialist party leader in Nevada, joined the Republicanparty in 1917 and turned to ferreting out subversive elements as the head of Nevadas wartimeDefense Council. The Socialist partys decline was particularly evident in the elections of 1918and 1920. In 1918 Martin J. Scanlon, the Socialist candidate for the Senate, received only 710votes, less than three percent of the total. In the partys last election in 1920, the Socialistcandidate received less than two percent of the vote.By the outbreak of the Red Scare in 1919, a combination of outside pressures and internaldissension had dissolved the Socialist partys influence in Nevada. Nevadas antagonism towardlocal Socialists in the state was reinforced by radical activities on the national scene. Socialistleaders who preached pacifism and other "un-American" beliefs, like Eugene V. Debs and VictorL. Berger, provoked the publics wrath. To Nevadans, radicals like Debs and Burger, along withlocal Socialists, symbolized the Communist conspiracy to overthrow the United States. Citizenscondemned all Socialists, and demanded that they renounce their radical philosophies and jointraditional political parties. Those rejecting this option were told to leave the state, or suffer theconsequences.Although by 1919 Nevada Socialists played no active role in state elections, they remainedactive in local politics. In Tonopah, the Socialist candidates ran as independents and continuedwinning at least one office every election. Most of their support came from immigrants, minersand other members of the laboring class. This growth of "independent" support threatened thepower of the conservative business community and the tradition of two-party politics in thetown. Nevadas reactionary press struggled to undermine support for "independents" by equatingthe local Socialists with radicals and Bolsheviks. Editors branded the Socialists and their 19
  20. 20. sympathizers "un-American" and denounced the party as "the greatest menace this country has toface." Obviously feeling the pressures of the anti-radical sentiment, the more moderate TonopahDaily Times declared that the Socialist party had sprouted "an ultra radical" left wing which haddrifted "far from their original ideals." In short, the Times believed the Socialist party had gone tothe "bow-wows."In January 1919 a Nye County state senate seat became vacant with the death of TonopahsSenator James Wesley Stewart. County Republicans urged Governor Boyle to appoint Mrs. OlineStewart to finish her husbands term. Boyle, a Democrat, ordered a special election. Fearing acontest against Harry Dunseath, a popular Socialist, the Republicans urged the Nye CountyTaxpayers Association to protest Boyles decision as "too costly." Ignoring the protest, the stateattorney issued a statement setting Tonopahs special election for January 17. While the Socialistparty nominated Dunseath, a former Justice of the Peace, the Democrats joined the Republicansin supporting Mrs. Stewart. The Bonanza decried Dunseaths candidacy as "sinister," and anattempt "to thwart the wishes of the representative voters by foisting an interloper on the NevadaSenate."The "budget-conscious" Taxpayers Association sought a temporary restraining order haltingelection preparations. The petition, filed by one George Christian, an ex-soldier, claimed hewould lose his vote because military service prevented his registration in the last election. JudgeMark Averill of Tonopah agreed and granted a temporary injunction. Averill, who had been anoutspoken critic of the special election, then disqualifies himself, leaving further decisions toJudge J. Emmett Walsh of Goldfield. On January 16, after hearing Christians petition, JudgeWalsh ordered a permanent injunction barring the special election in Nye County. Most citizensin Tonopah approved the decision. Nevertheless, the reactionary Bonanza, once in favor of theinjunction, now disapproved, characterizing Walshs ruling a "sinister plot" framed by"Bolshevists and IWWs." It was never clear if William W. Booth, the editor of the Bonanza,aimed his "sinister plot" label at the judge or the Socialists. In any event, the Bonanzas rivalpaper called Booth the "laughingstock" of Tonopah, and urged Judge Walsh to hold Booth incontempt for his remarks. When confronted with this perceived Socialist threat, Nevadansproved willing to suspend the electoral process.In November 1920 the Socialist party entered its last Nevada election, nominating candidates forthe United States Senate, Congress, three state Assembly seats and various county offices.Tonopahs Socialists ran Harry Dunseath for district attorney, William Thomas for sheriff, andfour others as "independents." From the campaigns beginning the Socialists posed a seriousproblem for Tonopahs Republicans and Democrats. The Reno Evening Gazette gave theSocialists a good chance of winning. To exclude the popular independents from the Novemberballot, the state filed a petition with Judge E. T. Lunsford of Reno on behalf of Nye Countyspolitical parties questioning the legality of the Socialists nominating petitions. Judge Lunsfordbarred the six independents from the election, causing the Bonanza to exclaim, "Had they filed as 20
  21. 21. Socialists . . . instead of attempting to use the camouflage of independents, this question of lawevasion would not have come up." The Bonanza concluded that the candidates were trying toescape the Socialist "stigma."Dunseath and Thomas appealed Lunsfords ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court whichoverturned the decision, stating the move was only to bar Socialists from the ballot. After avicious campaign, Dunseath lost in a close election, while Thomas won by just nineteen votes.Other Socialist candidates in the state lost by substantial margins. This poor showing enabled thestate attorney general, as prescribed by Nevadas election laws, to permanently remove theSocialist party from the ballot and ban its recognition as a distinct political party.The experience of 1919-1920 of Nevadas immigrant population and Socialist party clearlyillustrates the problems of those the state defined "un-American." The treatment of these groupsran the gamut from strident denunciation to repressive legislation and judicial harassment.However, their problems stopped short of the violence that occurred in other pasts of the country.While both groups were seen as undesirable when they refused to conform, neither wasnumerous enough to warrant physical attack. More extreme was the treatment Nevada reservedthe group it perceived as most threatening: the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).Chapter 4: Labor and the Industrial Workers of the WorldAmericas postwar recession and high cost of living thrust Nevada’s wage earners into economicchaos. Wartime "no strike" pledges and government controls had prevented wages from keepingpace with inflation. Nevadas workers toiled ten- to twelve-hour days under perilous workingconditions, and received pay not much higher than during the 1870s. Laborers, becomingincreasingly frustrated and disillusioned, formed unions to represent them. Most Nevadans weresympathetic to the workingmans plight, and urged employers to grant wage increases andupgrade working conditions.However, Nevadans did distrust one union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Sweptup in the national hysteria, Nevadans became obsessed with "communists" and plots tooverthrow the country. Perceiving the IWW, or Wobblies as they were called, as a grave radicalthreat, citizens adamantly opposed IWW unions in the state. Ironically, minimal “Wobbly”activity existed in Nevada. Even so, its few IWW members were harassed, and small incidentswere frequently distorted and exaggerated. Nevadas intolerance toward radicals contributedgreatly to this harassment and eventually led to repressive measures, unbridled, eliminatingWobbly agitators in the state. Founded in 1905 by a group of prominent socialists, the Industrial(or International) Workers of the World was an effectively organized union challenging "theAmerican way of life." Influenced by Marxian ideology, the Wobblies encouraged workers tooverthrow the government, destroy capitalism, and seize the means of production. They preachedthe organization of all skilled and unskilled laborers into "One Big Union," and were especiallyattractive to poorly paid, badly treated, unskilled immigrant laborers. Primarily a western 21
  22. 22. movement, the IWW gained much of its support from miners, lumberjacks, construction gangsand migratory farm hands. The unjust and oppressive working conditions these groupsencountered made the I.W.W.s unconventional methods highly attractive.By espousing Marxist philosophies and advocating radical, social and political reform, Wobbliesaroused many Americans worst suspicions and fears. The union hoped to abolish the wagesystem, gain a six- hour workday and better working conditions, but their strong-arm tacticsoffended most Americans and alienated traditional organized labor. Wherever I.W.W.s attemptedto mobilize workers, slowdown tactics, boycotts and general strikes resulted. Talk of revolution,along with scorn for the church and flag, symbols of the "unjust status quo," provoked thepublics wrath. During World War I, anti-Wobbly employers associated the militant union withpro-Germanism and later radicalism and Bolshevism. Americans accused "Imperial WilhelmsWarriors" of disrupting war production by spiking logs, wrecking machinery, burning haystacks,and carrying on widespread acts of subversion and violence.Throughout the West, I.W.W.s suffered severe physical abuse from irate citizens for their lack ofwartime patriotism and disruptive labor strikes. Tar and feathering of Wobbly members as well asflogging were common. State and federal officials raided IWW union halls, destroyed radical,literature and arrested hundreds as "enemy aliens." "Loyal" Americans even resorted to deportingand murdering Wobbly agitators. In 1917 the Bisbee (Arizona) Loyalty League rounded up 1,200IWW and American Federation of Labor organizers and strikers at gunpoint, tried them by a"kangaroo court," and exiled them on a cattle train to the New Mexico desert. After being beatenand deprived of food and water for several days, the men were transported to a federal stockade.That same year, in Montana, the Butte copper companies "hired guns" dragged a Wobblyagitator behind a car for several miles and hung him from a railroad trestle.In December 1918 and January 1919 Nevadas newspapers reported extensively on IWW activityin neighboring states, convincing local citizens that a radical takeover was imminent. TheSacramento trial of forty-six Wobblies for violation of the Sabotage Act elicited widespreadcomment. The Reno Gazettes editor denounced these agitators as cowards who "attack in thedark, . . . stab in the back, and . . . murder from ambush." The Carson City Morning Newsadvocated a "few legal hangings" to eliminate "murderers, bomb throwers, and sabotagefollowers"; the Daily Appeal asked, "Why not begin at home?" The press also reported strikeactivity in Jerome, Arizona, where IWW laborers closed down the towns mines and in Seattlewhere sixty thousand workmen, including 3,500 I.W.W.s, called a general strike. Nevadasnewspapers also denounced the Butte, Omaha, San Francisco, Kansas City, Winnipeg, and NewYork City Wobblies, labeling them an "un-American bunch of reptiles" and "rattlesnakes," and"one big union -- of idlers." In 1919, Nevadas newspapers contain numerous descriptions of theWobblies as "rattlesnakes," "vipers," and "reptiles."The Reese River Reveille urged, "Now that we have a big army fully equipped and spoiling for afight, wouldnt it be a good time to test out this Bolshevic (sic) IWW crowd and see . . . how farthey will go." Other Nevadans suggested that the ultimate solution to the Wobbly problem was to"line them up against solid walls and perforate their hides with lead. As Nevadans became 22
  23. 23. increasingly intolerant of Americas two radical movements, the Socialist party and the IndustrialWorkers of the World, many Nevadans demanded drastic measures to combat "the red flag ofanarchy and Bolshevism" and to destroy "IWWism."Nevadans had experienced difficulties with the turbulent Industrial Workers of the World prior toWorld War I. At Goldfield between 1906-1908 and at McGill in 1912 clashes had eruptedbetween IWW-led miners and the mine operators "guards." Several deaths resulted, leaving aresidue of extreme bitterness. The states citizens also remembered Idaho Governor FrankStuenenbergs assassination in 1907, the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times building in 1911,and the bombing deaths of ten people during a San Francisco parade in 1916. These threeincidents were blamed on IWW agitators; Nevadans, like most Americans, were appalled by theradical unions flagrant acts of violence.In January 1919 emotions ran high, and Nevadans feared Wobbly violence would soon spread totheir state. Legislators responded by preparing punitive legislation designed to stifle Wobblyactivity in the State. In early January a "Red Flag" bill was introduced to prohibit the "wearing ordisplaying of a red flag." Samuel Platt, a prominent politician, noted, "The only place for a redflag . . . is over a sewer." (By 1921, thirty-three states had enacted "Red Flag" laws.) Two weekslater the Senate proposed a Criminal Syndicalism bill, which declared any "doctrine whichadvocates or teaches crime, sabotage, violence or unlawful methods of terrorism, as a means ofaccomplishing industrial or political reform," a felony punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.Although Nevadas organized labor opposed the Criminal Syndicalism bill, there was virtually noopposition from legislators or newspapers. Indeed, the press hailed it as "a very drastic measurethat would "squelch any attempts to spread IWW Bolshevism in Nevada . . . and make hardgoing for the adherents of the red flag." The Reese River Reveille believed the law would "curbthe activities of the violent dynamiting, barn burning lawbreakers," and purge the "evil doers"from organized labors ranks. The Criminal Syndicalism Law passed both houses of thelegislature with only one dissenting vote; the Senate tabled the "Red Flag" bill. (During the RedScare, twenty-three states enacted criminal syndicalism laws.)Legislators also introduced a compulsory Labor Arbitration bill, outlawing employer lockoutsand employee strikes; a three-member investigation board would mediate labor disputes. Thepress endorsed the bill "to protect the public from exploitation by both selfish employers anddangerous agitators." It was, however, doomed from the start. "Big Business" resented forcednegotiations with workers, and organized laborers wanted to retain their right to strike. In a rareexample of agreement, Nevadas large mine companies and labor unions soundly defeated theLabor Arbitration bill in the Senate.The last punitive measure designed "to curb the activities of Bolsheviks in Nevada" was thedeath penalty. Citizens fully expected the radical Wobblies to commit heinous crimes, and capitalpunishment would provide Nevadans appropriate retribution. Governor Emmett Boyle vetoed thebill in January, and although the legislators sustained his veto, they reintroduced the measure thefollowing month. The bill was again passed, and the governor, bowing to public pressure, 23
  24. 24. allowed capital punishment to become law. Ironically, in January 1919 little IWW activityexisted in Nevada. Wartime repression had driven most IWW members "underground," and nosignificant Wobbly directed conflicts had occurred since an Ely strike in 1917.Several minor labor incidents occurred in early January 1919. Although the IWW did not initiatethese disputes, Nevadans, keenly aware of the IWWs disruptive potential, feared Wobblyinfiltration and domination of the strikes. When Nevada Consolidated Copper Company laid offone thousand mine workers at Ruth, Ely, and McGill, and reduced wages, over a hundredemployees walked off the job in protest. The miners subsequently agreed to return, but NevadaConsolidated managers flatly refused to reinstate the higher wages. The dispute remainedunresolved months. Elys Nevada Northern Railroad employees simultaneously demanded anincrease of their four to five dollars daily wage, which was not much higher than that paid theComstock miners during the 1870s. The railroad officials refused to meet the unionrepresentatives and continued laying off workers and reducing wages.The corporations uncompromising attitude produced much criticism from Nevadas press. TheTonopah Daily Bonanza believed the operators were helping "to breed a generation of anarchistsand invited a reign of Bolshevism" in the state. Many Nevadans were hostile toward the stateslarge mining and railroad industries, considering them "outsiders" who had shown little socialconcern for the local community. They believed "Big Business was basically anti-union,suppressing the workingmans attempts to organize and strike by utilizing scabs, state police andfederal troops. Many newspapers observed that the majority of Nevadas workers were "honestmen," "steadfastly on the side of law and order," who had every right to strike for higher wagesor better working conditions.In fact, unlike most western states, Nevada supported traditional labor unions affiliated with theAmerican Federation of Labor. Realizing that law-abiding workers who desired fair wages andimproved working conditions initiated most walkouts, local citizens supported many legitimatestrikes. A typical case was the successful strike of Reno Traction Company employees whowanted increased pay and a reduction in their twelve-hour work shift. Another involved the RenoBell Telephone operators who, in addition to work- ing long hours, had not received a wageincrease since 1917. Both occurred in June 1919 and enjoyed widespread public support, eventhough they paralyzed city services for a month. Las Vegas citizens demonstrated their pro-laborsentiments during a nationwide railroad tie-up by detaining a trainload of "strikebreakers"headed for Los Angeles. No violence resulted but union members did taunt the "strikebreakers"and parade them through the downtown streets.To combat the states pro-union posture, "Big Business" branded all labor activity and strikes asWobbly inspired. Newspapers sympathetic to the capitalists cause also attempted to convincecitizens that labor agitation in Nevada was the work of the IWW or Bolshevists. Theconservative press labeled anyone who undermined industrial conditions in Nevada a "yellowdog," and felt that in times of economic crisis workers should take pay cuts. They also comparedstrikes to "a small revolution." Nevadans, reading daily national accounts of "looting, 24
  25. 25. destruction, and devastation, began expecting the states labor tensions to explode into"bloodshed."In reaction to the corporations anti-IWW campaign, unions did everything possible to divorcethemselves from the Wobbly stigma. The Reno and Sparks Labor and Trade Councils and theSparks Railroad Brotherhoods resolved to "fight IWWism and Bolshevism" in Nevada. Sinceover seventy-five percent of the states labor force were non-union workers and highlysusceptible to IWW agitation, labor leaders struggled to quickly organize as many industries aspossible. Unions were formed to represent miners, cooks, waitresses, carpenters, andcowpunchers, and their representatives established a State Federation of Labor. By 1921 Nevadahad one hundred non-IWW labor organizations with 6,337 members.While Elys mining and railroad conflicts remained unresolved, other disputes erupted involvingsheep shearers, electricians, waitresses, and newsboys who demanded higher wages and an eight-hour day. Their requests were far from "radical"; still, Nevadas paranoia increased with eachdisturbance. Furthermore, after the nationwide radical bombing and "Red" riot frenzy during thespring of 1919, many citizens quickly equated the states industrial strife with the worldwideBolshevik conspiracy. For many Nevadans in 1919, the words "Wobbly" and "radical"automatically carried the implication of dynamite, and conjured visions of a person with "wild-eyes, bushy unkempt hair, and tattered clothes, holding a smoking bomb in his hands. Nevadanscondemned this use of the "cowardly assassins bomb" to gain drastic social and economicreform, and advocated swift punishment for these "enemies of society" who "conspire to murderand to overthrow the best government in the world." Newspaper editors seemed to agree thattossing them "back into the sea" was one way to rid the country of agitators with "mishapen [sic]heads and . . . distorted morals." Having fought to make the world safe for democracy, Nevadansnow had "to make it unsafe for criminal conspirators who . . . undo the good work" of Americassoldiers. The bombings made Nevadans suspicious of all reforms and retarded organized laborscause in the state.Their nerves tightly drawn, Nevadans envisioned "anarchy spooks" in every shadow andconcluded that the IWW represented Bolshevism in Nevada and was attempting to takeover thestate. During the summer of 1919 local law enforcement officials made the Wobblies the chieftarget of an anti-radical purge. Elkos constable expelled fifteen Wobbly "agitators" from thecounty, with an order not to "come back." He sentenced several others who refused employmentto fifty days in jail. Renos police invited "all Anarchists, I.W.W.s, Bolshevists, Radicals,Government Destroyers, Cooties, and Murderers" to "go to hell where you belong," and arrestedone agitator for admitting he was a card-carrying Wobbly and "proud of it." In Goldfield, statepolice apprehended their first "Criminal Syndicalism" violators after searching the residences ofeight alleged Wobbly organizers and uncovering "radical" literature. No IWW membership cardswere found however, and after a week the district attorney ordered the charges dismissed.Nevadans perceived the Wobblies as a threat to "the American way of life," and with theoccurrence of each turbulent national event, their intolerance and harassment of this "un-American bunch of rascals" increased. Skepticism of IWWs eventually crystallized when a rash 25
  26. 26. of labor strikes erupted throughout the state. Conditioned by the tumultuous national scene,many Nevadans became convinced that "I.W.W.ism in short . . . must be crushed. "Through the summer and fall of 1919 Nevadans witnessed still further labor-managementconflicts. Elys Nevada Consolidated Copper and Nevada Northern Railroad employees finallywalked off the job in July, protesting repeated wage cuts, layoffs, and the high cost of living. InAugust, miners at Virginia City, Goldhill, and Tonopah demanded six dollars a day and an eight-hour shift. In a ten-day strike at Battle Mountain, copper miners demanded a fifty-cent dailyincrease. In each case company officials threatened to close down their operations and leave thestate. They also attempted to discredit the strikers by branding the disputes the work of the IWW.While the miners repeatedly stated that "there is no Bolshevism in our action," the pressdenounced the strikes as "abominations," "unreasonable," and "serious social disturbancescredited to . . . greed. "The states most serious strike occurred at Tonopah in August 1919 and triggered a fervent anti-Wobbly campaign. On August 17 Tonopah and Divide miners walked off the job, demanding adollar per shift increase plus an eight-hour day. A power struggle developed between themainstream "conservative" miners and a minority of Wobblies; both groups presented differentwage demands and disagreed over strike strategy. Tonopah and Divide mine operators feared anyslowdown would impede the silver boom prosperity and discourage shareholders investment. Tocombat the IWW influence they enlisted the help of Governor Boyle and the state police. In thefirst days of the strike, state police deported three Wobbly agitators and arrested several othersfor syndicalism violations. Governor Boyle also played an integral part in settling the dispute byconvincing the majority of the miners to oust the Wobblies and compromise with companyofficials.Several times the "conservative" miners called off the strike, only to have IWW picketingprevent the workers from returning to the mines. Finally, to prevent Wobbly picketing, thegovernor secured a court injunction from Judge Mark Averill prohibiting "all persons frompublishing the statement that a strike exists, or that Tonopah or Divide camps are unfair orcirculating any libelous or false statements concerning Tonopah or Divide." Wobblies whocontinued to intimidate or coerce returning miners by picket lines were arrested; as a result,miners returned to work in November. The judges action had infringed upon the IWWs right tofreedom of speech and assembly. Averill justified his actions by declaring that "the right of freespeech and free assembly guaranteed American citizens by the Constitution does not apply tounnaturalized foreigners." Tonopahs press praised Judge Averills "patriotic stand" and declaredthat "no un-American gathering can fall back on the Constitution" when attempting "to foistsoviet rule on the land. Nevadas editors and civic leaders had repeatedly warned against"unbridled and absolute freedom of speech," and "unwarranted" criticism. (Tonopahs press, likemost Nevada newspapers, suppressed reports of IWW activity in the state. The Bonanzas editoralso wanted to suppress reports of national events to prevent his readers from getting "all riledup" and spoiling their digestion. Civic leaders denounced all criticism of Nevada and the UnitedStates as "harmful" and "inexcusable," believing that "Defamers of Old Glory" and "knockers" of 26
  27. 27. the state could not be punished "too severely." Certainly many Nevadans agreed with one papersinculcation that "the right of free speech is assured but speech must be right.")Tonopahs agitation infuriated Nevadans, and the Carson City Appeal press labeled the actions ofthe IWWs "second only to treason," declaring, "It is our duty if we are American . . . to resist thisdomination by the One Big Union, of our government and institutions and stand forAmericanism. Tonopahs Wobbly problem heightened public awareness of potential IWW"invasions" in other Nevada communities. Patriotic organizations like the American Legiondemanded that Governor Boyle call a special legislative session to enact stronger anti-IWWmeasures as well as "prohibit for all time the use of foreign language in any and all public,private, and secret gatherings within the State of Nevada." Many Nevadans, however, saw thefutility of such action and urged Boyle to disregard the suggestion.While the United States Justice Department in December 1919 rounded up domestic radicals fordeportation, Nevadas law enforcement officials with the assistance of the American Legionmanaged to find their own "alien reds." On a tip from an Episcopal minister and Legionnaire,Reno police arrested Thomas Degan after finding four suitcases full "of the reddest books andpamphlets in existence" in his hotel room. This "veritable IWW nest" also contained a Bible andMormon Church brochure. During Degans trial, Reno postal officials discovered a package-"bomb" addressed to the Episcopal minister. A test, however, proved the "infernal machine"harmless, but it was an ironic twist for Degans charges were eventually dismissed, prompting theReno Evening Gazette to remark, "Degans a harmless old man," and Nevada "is not in the leastendangered by the fanciful doctrines of a few . . . hare-brained lunatics." Reno authorities alsoarrested a Mexican laborer, Miguel Lopez, who had just stepped off the train wearing an IWWbutton. A confused Lopez told the judge he thought the button was for "goodluck." The skepticaljudge replied with a three-month sentence in the city jail, advising Lopez to thereafter wear "agood American flag." In Tonopah, state police raided the cabins of three Wobbly leaders, andafter discovering radical literature arrested two for violating the Criminal Syndicalism Act. TheWobblies trial lingered on for months, and Judge Averill finally dismissed the charges andordered the agitators to leave town.Strikes in 1919 alone had cost Nevada over four million dollars. Nevada continued experiencingnumerous strikes throughout 1920 and into 1921. These labor disputes involved painters,barbers, copper and silver miners, railroad switchmen, and other workers, who were stillconcerned about the rising cost of living and demanded higher wages and reduced hours. IWWsplayed a significant role in a strike at Elko and another at Tonopah. Tonopahs Wobbliessuccessfully closed down the mines twice in 1920. The towns mine operators and businesscommunity responded by organizing the "Committee of 100," a "patriotic" vigilante groupheaded by former state policeman private detective William J. Otts. After much fanfare andwidespread publicity "Billy" Otts launched a "Wobbly wrecking program" and declared war onTonopahs IWWs. The "Committee of 100" branded all strike activity as "un-American," andwith the help of the American Legion, set Tonopah as well as Nevada on the road to permanentlyeliminating the Industrial Workers of the World. 27
  28. 28. Compared with other western states such as Washington or California, Nevada experiencedminimal IWW agitation during Americas postwar Red Scare. Nevadas support of mainstreamlabor and the fact that few Wobblies resided in the state explain why Nevadans never resorted towholesale arrest and deportation of IWWs, radicals and "Huns." But even given these factors,Nevadans harshly denounced IWW activity in the state or nation, and passed repressivelegislation to combat the IWW "menace." Moreover, citizens had occasionally allowed their anti-radical passions to color their attitudes toward all labor and denounced legitimate strikes asWobbly-directed or "un-American." Nevadas IWW, and any labor groups that could beassociated with it, had suffered the fate common to immigrants, Socialists and all those branded"un-American."(For treatment of Wobblies in other western states see: William Preston, Aliens and Dissenters;Robert Murray, Red Scare; Patrick Renshaw, The Wobblies; Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All;Robert L. Friedheim, The Seattle General Strike; Roger Sale, "Seattles Crisis, 1914-1919," HughT. Lovin, "Idaho and the Reds, 1919-1926," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, July 1978; Philip L.Cook, "Red Scare In Denver," The Colorado Magazine, Fall 1966.)Chapter 5: 1920s: Decline and Legacy of the Red ScareAmericas Red Scare of 1919-1920 subsided almost as quickly as it had erupted, and althoughthe scars remained, the nation rapidly regained its composure. Several factors explain the declineof the postwar frenzy. First, the nations economy slowly stabilized, relieving citizens of thepressures of inflation and unemployment. As Americans regained prosperity, they no longerneeded "scapegoats" for the postwar turmoil. Second, the labor conflicts of 1919 also subsidedwith business successful repression of labor and its demands. By 1920, industry and businessactively favored an end to the Red Scare hysteria; they feared the loss of cheap immigrant laborand wanted to eliminate the confining governmental controls. Third, time diminished the ferventemotions created by the Creel Committee, leaving Americans with a clearer perspective on theirwartime experience. Finally, the Bolshevik revolutions in Europe, which had instilled terror inmost Americans, ended; Americans now realized that the communist conspiracy to overthrow theworld was no longer a threat. Believing that communism would remain confined to Russia,Americans tired of reports of the "Bolshevik menace" and began to focus their attention on otherissues. Purging radicals from America was no longer a necessary prescription and with many ofthe postwar traumas alleviated, citizens looked forward to "normalcy."Many factors operating on the national level also explain the decline of the postwar turbulence inNevada. By mid- 1920 the states wartime fever had passed, and Nevadans became lessconcerned with the "red menace." The Silver States legislative and judicial proscriptions hadeliminated the bulk of the IWWs, Socia!ists, and other perceived threats, and had driven a fewforeign born immigrants from the state. By 1920 heavy demands for silver and copper, alongwith increased construction, relieved the states unemployment, eased labor problems, andensured prosperity for the rest of the decade. Improvement of the economy helped restore 28