The Other Missouri History: Populists, Prostitutes, and Regular Folk
edited by Thomas M. Spencer
introduction by Thomas M. Spencer
University of Missouri Press, 2005
eISBN: 978-0-8262-6430-5 | Paper: 978-0-8262-1565-9
Library of Congress Classification F466.5.O86 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 977.8
Reference metadata exposed for Zotero via unAPI.
Contents Acknowledgments 00 The Many Acts of the Small: An Introduction to the Other Missouri History Thomas M. Spencer 1 The Racial Politics of Reconstruction in Ralls County, 1865-1870 Gregg Andrews 00 The Bald Knobbers, the Anti\-Bald Knobbers, Politics, and the Culture of Violence in the Ozarks, 1860-1890 Thomas M. Spencer 00 Race, Citizenship, and the Origins of Organized Labor in Antebellum St. Louis Daniel A. Graff 00 Race, Power, and the Building Trades Industry in Postwar St. Louis Deborah J. Henry 00 The Failure of Alliance/Populism in Northern Missouri Michael J. Steiner 00 Survival Strategies of Farm Laborers in the Missouri Bootheel, 1900-1958 Bonnie Stepenoff 00 Constance Runcie and the Runcie Club of St. Joseph Janice Brandon-Falcone 00 Women, Identity, and Reform in Missouri's Lead Belt, 1900-1923 Robert Faust 00 Prostitution and Reform in Kansas City, 1880-1930 Amber R. Clifford 00 Contributors 00 Index 00 Acknowledgments Like many products of the academic world, this book had its genesis in a conversation with a colleague--in this case, with Stephen McIntyre of Southwest Missouri State University. In April 1999, Steve and I talked about how we would enjoy putting together an anthology of essays in Missouri social history. We knew many people doing excellent work in this field and decided to pursue our idea. The volume would certainly be useful for classes in Missouri history. After speaking with Beverly Jarrett at the University of Missouri Press, the two of us put out a call for papers, and the project officially started. Now, five years later, I am delighted to see the project through to its conclusion. Although Steve grew too busy with other pursuits to remain with this project, he did a great deal of work during the first several years and deserves to be acknowledged and thanked here. I must also acknowledge the professionalism, perseverance, and patience of the staff at the University of Missouri Press. Bev Jarrett "kept the faith" even when mine was flagging. I also must acknowledge the fine efforts of the editorial and production staff-- particularly Jane Lago--and the marketing staff as well. However, the greatest thanks must go to my fellow contributors. These eight hardy souls remained on board with this project through months of shaping, revising, and editing. I have enjoyed getting to know them, and it is my pleasure to present their excellent scholarship to the world via this book. Together, we are making a substantial contribution to the understanding of our state's history. second half title: The Other Missouri History $CT The Many Acts of the Small $CS An Introduction to the Other Missouri History $CA Thomas M. Spencer Mark Twain once wrote, "History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small." This volume of essays offers ample evidence to support Twain's declaration, reflecting the approach of a generation of historians who practice what Eric Foner has labeled the "new American history," which emphasizes the lives of ordinary Americans rather than the machinations of political and economic elites. Foner contends that history is an exercise in "collective self-discovery about the nature of our society."1 This new approach has transformed scholarship in American history in the last three decades. Correspondingly, the "new" Missouri history began to appear around the same time. In the early 1970s, Gary Fink examined the political activity of the Missouri labor movement in a book that is still widely cited by labor historians. In the 1980s, David Thelen authored a major reinterpretation of Missouri in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, a study that was inspired by the new historical approaches emerging at the time. A few years later, Thelen's student Michael Cassity published a monograph examining the impact of the nineteenth-century market revolution on workers and farmers in Pettis County. At about the same time, Gary Kremer and many others began intensive production of what has grown to be a large number of works on the African American experience in Missouri. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Gateway Heritage, first under the editorship of Kenneth Winn and later Martha Kohl, published important articles on varied topics in Missouri social history. In the 1990s, Gregg Andrews published two works addressing issues of class and gender in small-town Missouri. More recently, the University of Missouri Press published a long-awaited anthology of essays on Missouri women's history.2 The essays in this volume reflect continuing scholarship in Missouri history using the "new-history" approach. All of the essays examine how ordinary Missourians dealt with problems that arose as significant social and economic change took place. The problems they faced are now quite familiar to us: the aftermath of war, racial and class discrimination, crime and violence, and economic, social, and cultural changes brought about by industrialization. As practitioners of this "new" approach to history have discovered, the social location of Americans (and Missourians) impacted their view of problems and the various proposed solutions. In our collective effort to include various subsets of the nonelite population, the essayists in this volume focus on a rather diverse group of Missourians--hence the populists, prostitutes, and "regular" or "ordinary" folks in this book's title. Along with the rest of the nation (and the South in particular), Missourians faced tremendous challenges in the aftermath of the Civil War. How did Missourians deal with the issue of race after the abolition of slavery? In what ways did race remain an important social and political marker in Missouri? After the dislocations and violence of the war, did Missourians on both sides continue to find themselves fighting the Civil War? Did it change their approach to politics and economic development? Gregg Andrews explores how ordinary people dealt with these problems in his essay, "The Racial Politics of Reconstruction in Ralls County, 1865-1870." After emancipation, race remained an important part of life and an important weapon in Missouri politics. Andrews examines how race shaped the political culture in Ralls County during the Reconstruction Era, arguing that it was not the "vindictiveness" of the controversial "test oath" that doomed the Radicals in the county. Instead, it was the Radicals' attempts to forge a political alliance with blacks that frightened whites away from their party in the 1860s. Andrews finds that race-baiting was prominently used by editors of the Ralls County Record to discredit Radicals in the county and was perhaps the most powerful political weapon that conservatives and Democrats could use to gain the allegiance of voters. Andrews demonstrates how these groups used such racial appeals relentlessly during the era to regain control over county governments. Following emancipation, race became an effective political tool that conservative politicians used to weaken and ultimately destroy the Radical party in Ralls County. My own contribution to the volume, "The Bald Knobbers, the Anti\-Bald Knobbers, Politics, and the Culture of Violence in the Ozarks, 1860-1890," examines the widespread violence in rural Missouri that developed as a result of the Civil War. Focusing on one of the more famous episodes in the history of Ozarks, the essay traces the rise of the "Bald Knobbers" vigilante band in Taney and Christian counties in the 1880s. Historians have often described these vigilante groups as an attempt to "restore order" and thus encourage economic development in the region. Continuing with this reasoning, some historians have contended that these groups represented either a resistance to modernization or an attempt to advocate modernization. A careful analysis of the membership of the groups in question reveals, however, that regional loyalties and the desire for political control were the most important reasons for Ozarks vigilantism. Furthermore, the vigilantism and politically motivated violence of the 1880s and 1890s in southwest Missouri were legacies of a "culture of violence" perpetuated by the experiences of the Civil War in the region. Both of these essays demonstrate that Missourians found themselves facing a changed social and political system in the aftermath of the war. Race was used to unite whites and to mount a political counterrevolution during the 1870s. Andrews shows how this was certainly the case in Ralls County. While the same political counterrevolution had taken place in Taney County during the 1870s, Unionists later used the violent means they had learned during the war to return themselves to power in the 1880s and 1890s. Both of these essays also demonstrate that fear--whether of racial mixing or violence-- was still a very effective political weapon. Not surprisingly, race continues to be an important social marker in Missouri, particularly in St. Louis, one of the state's largest cities. While the city has always been home to a plurality of Missouri's African Americans, white working-class St. Louisans have always been fearful of the integration of black workers into the labor market. In "Race, Citizenship, and the Origins of Organized Labor in Antebellum St. Louis," Daniel A. Graff shows that race was an important issue long before the Civil War. Graff examines the journeymen tailors' strike of 1835 and contends that it was fought and won largely "on the terrain of race." Master tailors tried to mobilize St. Louisans against the strike by raising the specter of the strike leading to an influx of free blacks and disorder into the city. Graff maintains, however, that the tactic failed because white racial consciousness was so pervasive by the 1830s that it was difficult to mobilize the white community against itself. Graff contends that in St. Louis a white racial consciousness was fully formed by the middle 1830s. In "Race, Power, and the Building Trades Industry in Postwar St. Louis," Deborah J. Henry discovers that more than a century after the Civil War, not that much had changed with regard to white working-class St. Louisans' attitudes towards African American workers. Henry's essay examines the role race played in the building trades during the period after World War II. Henry finds that, despite the inclusive rhetoric of urban renewal advocates, during the 1940s and 1950s, skilled black construction workers were blocked from access to jobs by the city's lily-white building trades unions. Worried that rocking the boat would slow the progress of construction, city leaders in St. Louis toned down their rhetoric about equal opportunity and looked the other way. Henry points out that this has had major consequences for African Americans in the building trades ever since, as this segment of the workforce in St. Louis remains largely white to the present day. While many in St. Louis insist that racism and discrimination are a thing of the past, Henry's article tells a very different--and important--story. Henry's essay provides ample evidence that beneath the city's veneer of racial progress, racial discrimination is alive and well in St. Louis today. Farmers are another popular topic of study for those practicing the "new American history." While the earlier essays in the anthology demonstrate that race and violence were often used as political tools in the state during the late nineteenth century, there were other major obstacles to political radicalism as well--particularly among the state's farmers. Michael J. Steiner's essay "The Failure of Alliance/Populism in Northern Missouri" provides insight into the economic and rhetorical reasons for the failure of populism in Missouri. Steiner contends that white farmers in northern Missouri were happy with the status quo and rejected calls for radical reform and major change in the agricultural economy. Appeals to farmers as a distinct and aggrieved class in northern Missouri were therefore doomed to fail among those who were relatively prosperous economically and therefore "comfortably settled" in their political outlook. Unlike their white farming brethren, blacks faced a much more difficult existence during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Correspondingly, black farmers, most of whom were employed as sharecroppers, eventually staged protests against their deplorable working and living conditions. Bonnie Stepenoff chronicles the life of African American sharecroppers in southeast Missouri in "Survival Strategies of Farm Laborers in the Missouri Bootheel, 1900-1958." She discovers that black sharecroppers were treated more poorly than white sharecroppers and contends that African American sharecroppers had to employ various strategies to survive, especially during the lean years of the Great Depression. The poverty of sharecroppers in the bootheel region became public knowledge during the New Deal when the press began to report that the public assistance programs were appallingly inadequate. In 1938, faced with eviction by landowners, black sharecroppers staged a mass protest along the highways in southeast Missouri. Stepenoff tells the story of several prominent African American union organizers in southeast Missouri and discusses the end of the tenant farm system in the 1940s and 1950s. Clearly, farmers did not vote as a monolithic block; a farmer's political views differed greatly depending upon his social location--in this case, race and class. Women began to become active in public life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Janice Brandon-Falcone's essay "Constance Runcie and the Runcie Club of St. Joseph" examines the first two decades of an important women's club that still exists in St. Joseph, Missouri. Brandon-Falcone examines the fascinating life of Constance Runcie, granddaughter of the famous utopian socialist Robert Owen. The Runcie Club, in addition to providing an important place for cultural and spiritual uplift for its members, also provided Constance Runcie with a safe and socially sanctioned way to make a comfortable living. Falcone contends that the club, while never radical in its political outlook, nevertheless prepared women in St. Joseph for later political activity. Robert Faust's "Women, Identity, and Reform in Missouri's Lead Belt, 1900- 1923" also takes women's club work as its topic, examining the Mother's and Patron's Club in what was then a mining town, Flat River, Missouri. Unlike the Runcie Club, the Mother's and Patron's Club was fairly radical in its critique of the mining companies in the area--despite the fact that most of the women's husbands were employees (and usually managers) of the companies. The Mother's and Patron's Club (which later became the Lead Belt Woman's Club and subsequently the Flat River Woman's Club) helped create many important local agencies and encouraged needed reforms for the people of Flat River. In turn-of-the-century Missouri, women were not only instigators of reform, but also the subjects of it. In "Prostitution and Reform in Kansas City, 1880-1930," Amber R. Clifford sees Kansas City's reformers as part of a national movement. Clifford insists that the struggle over prostitution was one of class, in which reformers tried to make sure that middle-class Victorian moral sensibilities about gender conventions and sexuality prevailed over more permissive working-class attitudes. She also profiles Kansas City's most famous madam, Annie Chambers. Clifford notes, ironically, that the stained-glass window of Chambers's bawdy house eventually became a central feature of a restaurant in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City in the 1920s. Together, these nine essays demonstrate that the social categories of race, class, and gender have greatly impacted the lives of "ordinary" or "regular" Missourians for the last two centuries and continue to do so today. The authors whose articles appear in this anthology contend that the "many acts of the small" in Missouri history tell much about the people and the society of this state and provide important lessons about the mistakes of the past and guidance for the future.