The time period, from 1898 – 1920, sees the United States become more involved around the world as industrialization spurred the need for more resources and markets. It was widely believed that the U.S. needed to gain access to world markets and expand their navy in order to compete in the global economy. The first part of this time period saw the U.S. go to war with Spain over their control of Cuba. The result of the war was Cuban independence and the acquisition by the U.S. of the last Spanish colonial possessions in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. 

The later part of this time period ended with the world engulfed in its first world war fueled by nationalism, imperialism, military arms race, and entangling alliances. While the U.S. tried to steer clear of involvement, the nation was forced to enter in the later years of the war.


Sanford Dole was born in Honolulu to missionary parents. After completing his education and receiving an honorary law degree, he returned to Hawaii as a businessman and public official when Hawaii was an independent kingdom, a republic, a protectorate and later a territory of the United States. At first, he was able to work with both the Hawaiian royalty and the immigrants who lived in the islands. Dole was named President of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Hawaii after Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown. When Grover Cleveland was elected president, Cleveland attempted to restore the monarchy, and plans for the annexation of Hawaii by the United States were delayed. When annexation finally occurred in 1898, Dole led negotiations requiring the U.S. government to pay off the accumulated national debt of both the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Republic of Hawaii. He successfully demanded that public lands be held as a public trust for the residents of Hawaii. He became Hawaii’s first territorial governor and then a presiding judge for the U.S. District Court for Hawaii. His cousin John founded the famous Hawaiian Pineapple Company which later became Dole Pineapple Company.
Born in Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. later earned his law degree from Harvard. He began his political career as a member of the state legislature and then moved to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1893, he became a U.S. Senator where he served until his death. As a conservative Republican, he supported expansion for the United States as a way to establish the country as a world power. Forming a close alliance with Teddy Roosevelt, he endorsed the building of the Panama Canal, war with Spain in 1898, and acquisition of the Philippines as well as other territories in the Pacific. He believed for the United States to be a factor in international trade and diplomacy, it must have a strong army and navy. This would require the building of military bases to protect the merchant marines as they sailed to the Far East and points in between. He clashed often with President Wilson and later led the charge to reject the Treaty of Versailles and its League of Nations at the conclusion of WWI. Lodge feared joining the international League of Nations as it might force the U.S. into war without Congressional approval. Lodge also worked for immigration restrictions during this time as he was worried that the growing number of immigrants would not be able to become what he called, “100 % American.”
Born in West Point, New York, Alfred Thayer Mahan went on to become one of the most important military strategists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He fought in the American Civil War as a Union naval officer and later served in the 1880s as President of the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island. Educated at the U.S. Naval Academy, he became an admiral and noted naval historian. His book, The Influence of Sea Power on History, published in 1890, detailed the important relationship between a strong navy and successful world commerce. Mahan asserted that the nation with the strongest navy would control the globe. His books were widely read in the U.S., Britain, Japan, and Germany and influenced the buildup of navies before World War I. Both Teddy Roosevelt and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. were strongly influenced by Mahan’s theory with regards to United States foreign policy.
Born in Missouri, Pershing began his career as a school teacher. In 1882, he took a competitive exam for an appointment to West Point and won the appointment. There he made a name for himself as a person with excellent leadership qualities. His early military career included guarding the frontier against the Sioux and Apaches in the last days of the Indian wars, fighting in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and fighting in the Philippines in 1903. In 1895, he took command of a troop of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, one of the original Buffalo Soldier regiments composed of African Americans. It was then that he got his nickname, “Black Jack.” In 1915, he was sent to the Mexican border to capture the revolutionary Mexican leader, Pancho Villa. With America’s entry into World War I in 1917, Pershing was named Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces. Upon arriving in Europe, he demanded that his troops fight as an independent American army rather than being blended in with the British and French. His troops were instrumental in the defeat of the Germans in the critical battle of Argonne Forest.
Theodore Roosevelt, born in New York in 1858, was serving as Vice President when President William McKinley was assassinated. With this event, Roosevelt became the youngest person ever to become President. His views on foreign affairs were summed up with the proverb he often called his motto, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Roosevelt was willing to interfere in the affairs of other nations when it benefited the United States.

At home, Roosevelt expanded the federal government’s power of eminent domain. He signed laws establishing five national parks. Explaining his fight for a “square deal” for Americans, he used authority under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to take on consolidated companies that took away consumers’ choices. He worked to protect companies from extreme demands from labor unions. He urged federal lawmakers to enact legislation protecting workers, including child labor laws and a bill providing workmen’s compensation for all federal employees. He proposed laws regulating the nation’s food supply. In response, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, paving the way for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Roosevelt became famous for using the “bully pulpit” to advance his ideas.

Roosevelt had his critics. While the Founders believed that powers not granted to the federal government were forbidden, Roosevelt claimed that powers not forbidden were granted. Many charged that the many regulatory agencies he proposed threatened liberty. President William Howard Taft, who succeeded Theodore Roosevelt as President in 1908, said that Roosevelt’s view of “ascribing an undefined … power to the President” was “an unsafe doctrine” that could do “injustice to private right.” Some later historians have called Roosevelt an activist president, because of the way his actions increased the power of the federal government over states and individuals’ lives.

Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia. He earned law and doctoral degrees at prestigious universities before becoming a political science professor and later president of Princeton University. He served as Governor of New Jersey, and in 1912 was elected President of the United States. Alice Paul organized a women’s suffrage parade for the day before his inauguration.

A number of Progressive reforms took place during his administration, in the form of legislation and amendments to the Constitution. The Sixteenth Amendment was ratified a month before he took office; President Wilson gained Congress’s approval for a graduated federal income tax. The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Amendments followed. Congress heeded Wilson’s call to amend the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Finally, Wilson lent his support to women’s suffrage, and in 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.

Though he initially attempted to keep the United States out of World War I, he asked Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917. He acted as Commander in Chief of the military and two years later negotiated the Treaty of Versailles, which included his plan for the League of Nations. The Senate did not approve the treaty, however, so the League of Nations began without the United States as a member. President Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920.

Alvin York, born in 1887, was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner who fought in World War I. He grew up learning to shoot and developed into an expert marksman. Although he was originally a pacifist, a friend convinced him that the Bible said it was okay to serve in the military. As a soldier in World War I, he gained notoriety by his performance in the Battle of Argonne Forest where he attacked the Germans. When members of his group were unable to proceed, he went after the Germans by himself. He killed 17 through sniper fire and then 7 by pistol. He was successful in taking 132 prisoners on his own. He died in 1964.
Documents/Supreme Court Cases
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt's Corollary was announced. This proposition modified the Monroe Doctrine which had been adopted in 1823 to close the western hemisphere to future colonization. Due to the financial and political problems in Latin America in the early years of the twentieth century, several European nations wanted to intervene. President Roosevelt reacted by declaring the United States was the international policeman of the Western Hemisphere, not Europe and would intervene in the affairs of Latin America to assure stability. Latin American countries often resented the interference in their affairs and what they believed to be U.S. imperialism.
As World War I began winding down, Wilson and his advisors, began to formulate plans for peace. Wilson drew up a statement which came to be called the Fourteen Points that he delivered to Congress in January 1918. In the speech to the joint session of the United States Congress, President Woodrow Wilson summarized three major goals in his Fourteen Points for ending the war and attempting to attain lasting peace for not only Europe, but the world. The goals were as follows: A. Improved international relations—Removal of international trade barriers, honor freedom of the seas, advocate open communication with no secret alliances in an international association of nations, and allow for self-rule of nationalities. B. Restoration of territories—Return to pre-war boundaries and make fair adjustments of all colonial claims. C. Restriction on military strength—Military reductions for all nations, especially Germany including demilitarization along the Rhine River. The most controversial part of the proposal was the creation of a League of Nations described in the 14th Point. Both former President Teddy Roosevelt and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge led opposition in the U.S. Senate to ratification of the treaty which had been negotiated in France and included the League of Nations. Against the advice of his doctors, Wilson set out on a railroad tour to build up public support for ratification of the treaty. In October 1919, Wilson suffered a stroke which left him an invalid for the rest of his life. Wilson continued to refuse to compromise on his position, and as a result, the U. S. Senate failed to acquire the two-thirds vote needed to ratify the treaty and the proposed League.
After the United States entered World War I, the U. S. Congress in 1917 instituted a military draft when it passed the Selective Services Act. Also in 1917, Congress passed the Espionage Act which made it a crime to cause or attempt to cause insubordination in the military and naval forces or to obstruct the recruitment or enlistment of persons into the military service of the United States. Charles Schenck, the General Secretary of the Socialist Party, opposed U. S. participation in World War I. He was arrested and prosecuted for violation of the Espionage Act after 15,000 leaflets traced to Socialist Party headquarters urging resistance to the draft were sent to men who had been drafted. The leaflet quoted the Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting slavery or involuntary servitude, asserted that the Selective Service Act violated the amendment, and that a draftee was little better than a convict. It suggested that the draft was despotism in its worst form and was a wrong against humanity in the interest of “Wall Street’s chosen few.” It urged draftees not to submit to intimidation and to assert their rights. It described even silent consent to the draft law as helping to support an infamous conspiracy. Schenck was convicted in a U. S. District Court and appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court where he argued that the leaflets should be protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and press.

A unanimous Supreme Court upheld Schenck’s conviction. In one of the most memorable Supreme Court opinions in history, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the Court: “We admit that in many places and in ordinary times the defendants in saying all that was said in the circular would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. … The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Thus, the Court ruled that speech can be limited in wartime.

The so-called “clear and present danger rule” first enunciated by Justice Holmes in Schenck quickly became the test by which a majority of the Supreme Court judged freedom of speech cases for many years to come.


The war between Spain and the United States, known as the Spanish-American War, began in 1898. The two nations fought over economic and humanitarian concerns in the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Caribbean and the Philippines in the Pacific. The United States sent the U.S.S. Maine to Cuba to protect the lives and economic interests of Americans on the island. When the Maine was attacked and sunk, sensationalistic reporting called yellow journalism in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fueled American outrage against Spain who was blamed for the attack. When President William McKinley proposed war to Congress, he had support from the American citizens. The brief conflict resulted in a U.S. victory and marked an end to Spain’s colonial empire. As a result of the Spanish American War, the U.S. began to emerge as a world power as a result of the decisive victory. As evidence of this new status in the world, President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the heroes of the Spanish-American War, invoked the principles of the Monroe Doctrine in his 1904 Roosevelt Corollary. The Corollary declared the United States to be the international policeman of the Western Hemisphere.
Spanish and U.S. officials signed the Treaty of Paris (June, 1919) that officially ended the Spanish-American War. This treaty granted Cuba independence under the protection of the United States. The former Spanish colonial possessions of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded to the United States. The acquisitions required the U.S. to make difficult decisions about the rights of people living in the newly acquired territories, as well as how to govern from a distance. Philippine nationalists fully expected that they would be able to govern themselves, which led to another war with the Philippines and resistance for several years. The territorial acquisitions also played a large part in the U.S. emergence as a world power due to their strategic geographic locations.
The United States became a world power following its defeat of Spain and its willingness to use force to protect its interests in the Spanish-American War. Having acquired territory in the Pacific, the United States sought more opportunities to trade in that region, especially in China. The Chinese government had been weakened in an earlier war with Japan, and the United States was concerned about other countries laying claim to areas of China as part of their “spheres of influence.” In 1899, Secretary of State John Hay sent notes to these governments explaining that the United States would support an “open door policy” with China; meaning all foreign nations would have equal trading rights in China. This policy was designed to provide equal opportunity for international trade and commerce among the various powers operating in China.
World War I, the first modern war, was particularly deadly because of the concept of total war and the use of new and improved weapons created as a result of industrialization. These weapons included the machine gun, poison gas, submarines, tanks, and airplanes. Another reason for the casualties was the stalemate created by the use of trench warfare on the Western Front along the border of France and Germany. Trench warfare involved both sides digging trenches and dugouts opposite each other to protect soldiers from enemy fire. The land between the trenches, called “no man’s land,” was fortified with barbed wire and land mines. Neither side was able to make significant advances, which resulted in stalemate and a war of attrition that caused massive damage to the land and tremendous loss of life.
World War I began with the 1914 assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Serbian nationalist. Fueled by strong feelings of nationalism, an imperialist desire for colonies to support a strong economy, a buildup of arms, and an entangling system of alliances for protection, the assassination quickly developed from an isolated incident between Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a worldwide conflict. During the next four years the Allied powers of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and eventually the United States fought the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire.
In the first years of World War I, the U.S. struggled to stay neutral even though both Great Britain and Germany tried to persuade the U.S. to come to their aid. This changed when Germany began using "unrestricted submarine warfare" in the Atlantic. In May of 1915, German submarines attacked and sank The Lusitania, a British passenger ship, because they believed the British were using passenger ships to secretly carry weapons. After the loss of 128 American lives in the attack, the mood of many Americans shifted as they began to openly oppose Germany.
Despite negotiations between Germany and the U.S., Germany refused to stop using submarine warfare against ships they suspected of carrying Allied weapons. American opposition to Germany continued to build in the United States. In 1917, British officials intercepted a telegram from the German Foreign Minister to officials in Mexico promising to return Mexican territories currently held by the U.S. if Mexico would help Germany fight the United States. This message, known as the Zimmerman Telegram, coupled with Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare finally culminated in President Wilson's decision to enter the war. On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a formal Declaration of War and the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies. The entry of the U.S. changed the outcome of the war and broke the stalemate between the two sides.
The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) were the U.S. troops under the command of General John J. Pershing. The AEF was sent to Europe to fight the Central Powers after the U.S. entered World War I in April of 1917. Eventually, the U.S. sent more than two million men overseas to fight. Many of these men were drafted into the military as a result of the Selective Service Act (1917), requiring eligible males to register for the draft. This infusion of troops tipped the balance of the war in favor of the Allies, and eventually ended the stalemate in the trenches. The Battle of Argonne Forest (1918), fought along the Belgian border in the northeast of France, demonstrated the importance of the additional American troops. The entire battle lasted over a month and resulted in heavy casualties for both sides. However, due to the American forces, the battle resulted in a victory for the Allies and marked the beginning of the end for the Central Powers.
At the close of World War I, an outbreak of influenza infected 500 million people before it finally came to an end. Known as the Spanish flu, the epidemic killed approximately 20 million people worldwide. More soldiers died from the flu than from combat in the war.
Once Germany surrendered in November 1918, crafting a peace treaty to resolve the issues that led to World War I at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference proved difficult. The Allies, especially the French, who had suffered greatly in the years prior to U.S. entry into the war, wanted to punish Germany. President Wilson previously outlined his plan for peace known as the Fourteen Points in a speech delivered to a joint session of Congress in January 1918. Designed to make the world “safe for democracy,” the Fourteen Points included a plan for a League of Nations. The League of Nations was to be an international organization of member nations that would mediate disputes before armed conflict began. Members would also agree to come to each other’s aid if conflict arose. President Wilson made concessions to Allied leaders concerning the harsh economic punishments given to Germany in order to achieve his idea for the creation of the League of Nations. Concerned that the U.S. might be forced into another war, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., led the opposition to the Treaty of Versailles in the Senate. Those opposing the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations were known as isolationists. The main desire of the isolationists was to maintain U.S. neutrality in any future military conflicts in Europe. They believed this would keep them from becoming entangled in future disputes such as the one that had caused heavy American casualties in World War I. Despite Wilson’s whirlwind train trip across the country to rally American support, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Neither side would compromise. As a result, the U.S. did not join the League of Nations or sign the Treaty of Versailles.
As the United States began to expand after the Spanish American War, the ability to navigate and control the new territorial acquisitions of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Hawaii became a primary concern of President Roosevelt. It became imperative that a canal be built in the narrow country of Panama connecting the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. This would considerably shorten the time to move from one ocean to another without having to go around the tip of South America to do so. After negotiating a treaty with Panama to not only build the canal but control the zone around the canal, construction began in 1904. The canal was completed and opened on August 15, 1914. While most in the United States supported the construction, there was resentment among the Latin American nations over the method used by the U.S. to obtain control of the canal zone. In 1978 the U.S. Senate ratified a treaty negotiated by President Carter that began to gradually return control of the canal to the nation of Panama by 2000. Today the Panama Canal is a vital part of the global economy.
Propaganda uses biased or misleading information to publicize and persuade people to support a particular point of view. Both sides in World War I used propaganda to present only the information about the war that aligned with their respective point of view. The propaganda campaign used various media sources which included posters, songs, books, photographs, and artwork.

The use of propaganda in World War I played a key role in persuading Americans at home to send troops and resources overseas as well as enlist and join the fight against the Central Powers. The posters even encouraged Americans to do their part at home by conserving food that could be sent to the troops and growing their own fruits and vegetables by planting victory gardens.

The Camp Logan Riot of 1917 took place in Houston. It involved an all-Black regiment of the U.S. Army stationed at Camp Logan and the Houston Police Department. Tensions in Houston were high due to the Jim Crow laws and strict segregation policies, which impacted the African American soldiers stationed at the camp near the city. The riot began with an incident when several of the soldiers were beaten and arrested. When others from Camp Logan marched into Houston, fighting broke out and eleven civilians, five police officers, and five soldiers died. Once the riot was over, 13 soldiers were executed and 41 were sentenced to life imprisonment for participation in the riots. Some raised questions about the fairness of the trials and the severity of the punishments. The Camp Logan Riot highlighted the continued tension with the role of African Americans in the military