Woodrow Wilson’s America 100 Years Ago

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Ford Model T Production at the Highland Park Plant, 1913. Library of Congress holding. No restrictions for use.

By the end of 1913, Henry Ford began to pay his employees five dollars a day after recording record profits of twenty million in 1913.

Pursuing the American Dream

Early in 1913 underpaid restaurant workers staged a walkout in New York. Mobs of waiters and kitchen employees broke the windows of the famed Hotel Knickerbocker, Hotel Belmont, Waldorf Astoria, the Ritz-Carlton, and Delmonico’s.

These actions, under the auspices of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), were followed by a strike in Paterson, New Jersey lasting four months. Ironically, both actions were planned in the Greenwich Village apartment of Mrs. Mabel Dodge, one of the wealthiest Americans, and a leader in New York society.

This was also the time new music – syncopation, “modern” art, and silent movies were altering society. The Birth of a Nation, which premiered in 1915, received a “thumbs up” from President Wilson, who supposedly commented, “that’s the way it really was.” The film perpetuated many of the myths associated with the Reconstruction Era as well as stereotyping blacks in the South.

One hundred years later the nation is still divided between post-modernists and the social purists who yearn for a simpler past. The history of America, however, has always been of struggle and the attainment of the American Dream. At the end of 1913 many believed that Henry Ford was making that dream possible by raising wages for his workers from two to five dollars a day. World War One was only six months away.


Cowles, Virginia. 1913 An End and a Beginning. (1967). New York: Harper & Row.

Frost, Bob. Soul Saver. (July/August 2013). History Channel Magazine.

Kelly, Alfred and Winfred A. Harbison. The American Constitution Its Origins and Development. (1976). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Smith, Page. A People’s History of the United States. (1986). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

© Copyright 2013 Michael Streich, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past

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