Debates about poverty and inequality in the United States frequently invoke the early twentieth century as a time when new social legislation helped moderate corporate power. But as historian Daniel Amsterdam shows, the relationship between business interests and the development of American government was hardly so simple.
"Roaring Metropolis" reconstructs the ideas and activism of urban capitalists roughly a century ago. Far from antigovernment stalwarts, business leaders in cities across the country often advocated extensive government spending on an array of social programs. They championed public schooling, public health, the construction of libraries, museums, parks, and playgrounds, and decentralized cities filled with freestanding homes a set of initiatives that they believed would foster political stability and economic growth during an era of explosive, often chaotic, urban expansion.
The efforts of businessmen on this front had deep historical roots but bore the most fruit during the 1920s, an era often misconstrued as an antigovernment moment. As Daniel Amsterdam illustrates, public spending soared across urban America during the decade due in part to businessmen's political activism. With a focus on three different cities Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta and a host of political groups organized labor, machine politicians, African American and immigrant activists, middle-class women's groups, and the Ku Klux Klan "Roaring Metropolis" traces businessmen's quest to build cities and nurture an urban citizenry friendly to capitalism and the will of urban capitalists."