In writing my manuscript about Isaac Werner and his community, I spent many hours at the Stafford County History Museum turning the fragile, yellowed pages of newspapers. However, this week I am sharing newspaper stories from late 1953 or early 1954 discovered not in a library nor in a museum. Instead the Pratt Tribunes were found in the wall of the kitchen during our recent remodel.
My suggestion about keeping your eyes open for history certainly applies to the discovery of these old newspapers, beginning with my enjoyment of the Dagwood and Blondie cartoon strip pictured above. Part of the strip is missing, but enough is there to get the punch line.
However, this blog is not about old comic strips. In the same newspaper, in the middle of the page, just to the right of the Produce Markets and Livestock Markets, is an article about Senator Joseph McCarthy.
I thought that was quite a significant headline, but how many of my blog readers would recognize the name Joseph McCarthy, the U.S. Senator from Wisconsin from 1947 to 1957. I did some brief research and found that about a quarter of the American population is under the age of 20. That group might have heard of McCarthy in school, but I doubted whether his was a name they would remember. About 13% is over the age of 65, so that group would include those born in 1957 or earlier. According to the site I consulted, the median age of Americans is about 37. I began to wonder whether very many Americans living today have much awareness of Sen. McCarthy. In fact, I realized I knew of him in general terms but lacked specifics. I decided readers of my blog might be interested in what I found about this man.
McCarthy served in the Marines, but his debunked claims of heroism--falsified or exaggerated--tarnished his military record. His initial years in the Senate were not particularly remarkable, although he was recognized as a gifted speaker. That talent found a use in 1950 when he gained attention claiming there were communists in government offices. Those years following W.W. II were frightening to Americans, and McCarthy used that fear effectively. He disposed of critics and political opponents by accusing them of being communists or communist sympathizers. He became more powerful when candidates he supported won and those he opposed lost.
|Concern for men they knew, draftees and volunteers, fueled worry|
Some were courageous enough to speak out against him. President Truman called him "the best asset the Kremlin has." McCarthy's response: "The S..O..B.. should be impeached." (McCarthy did not use abbreviations.) Later, President Eisenhower chose to work behind the scenes to reduce McCarthy's influence, but because of the Senator's popularity with voters, he never confronted McCarthy directly nor criticized him by name in a speech. McCarthy's supporters were not limited to Republicans. He became a close friend of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., who not only provided financial assistance but also used his influence to build support for McCarthy among Catholics.
|Newspaper reports frightened readers, which built McCarthy's popularity|
Because of his popularity and the wide spread fear of communists among Americans, Republican leaders were wary of opposing him, and Senate Majority Leader Robert A. Taft came up with the idea of assigning McCarthy a Senate office "where he can't do any harm." Instead, the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Government Operations gave McCarthy the platform from which to launch his investigations of communists in the government. McCarthy appointed J.B. Matthews as staff director of the Subcommittee on Investigations, which brought attention to an article written by Matthews in which he claimed "The largest single group supporting the Communist apparatus in the United States is composed of Protestant Clergymen." McCarthy's initial refusal to dismiss Matthews, followed later by accepting Matthews' resignation, was perhaps the first crack in McCarthy's armor, which until then had seemed impenetrable.
|Contradictory news reports about curbing McCarthy|
It was in 1954 when McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, began an investigation of the Army that McCarthy's tumble began. Hearings lasted 36 days and were broadcast on live television. His poll numbers dropped. Congressman George H. Bender said, "McCarthyism has become a synonym for witch-hunting." The New York World-Telegram accused him of "wild twisting of facts and near facts." The words of Joseph Nye Welch, the Army's chief legal representative, are the ones people most familiar with McCarthy remember, however. Welch asked, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last: Have you left no sense of decency?"
|Edward R. Murrow|
Even before those hearings began, Edward R. Murrow broadcast a show titled "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy." The script from that show vibrates with the once familiar voice of Murrow: "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. ... There is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. ...We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. ... The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it--and rather successfully. Cassius was right: 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'"
At last his fellow Senators could ignore McCarthy's actions no longer. Senator Ralph Flanders introduced a resolution calling for McCarthy to be censured. On December 2, 1954, by a vote of 67 to 22, the Senate voted to "condemn" McCarthy, a vote generally agreed as being a censure of one of their own. He remained in the Senate, but his power was gone. The press ignored him and speaking engagements disappeared. He died on May 2, 1957, and in the memoirs of Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he revealed that his department had become aware of McCarthy's addiction to heroin in the 1950s, and when McCarthy had refused to stop using, threatening Anslinger and claiming "...if it winds up in a public scandal and that should hurt this country, I wouldn't care...the choice is yours," Anslinger allowed McCarthy to continue using and even stopped a journalist from publishing McCarthy's herion use. While he was known to be a heavy drinker, his drug abuse had been kept a secret.
William Bennett, Reagan's Secretary of Education, summed up McCarthy's behavior well. "...his approach to the real problem was to cause untold grief to the country he claimed to love...Worst of all, McCarthy besmirched the honorable cause of anti-communism. He discredited legitimate efforts to counter Soviet subversion of American institutions."
|The condition of the newspapers found in the farmhouse walls|
I have no idea who put the newspapers inside the walls nor why that person put them there. I only know that the men working on our remodel over six decades later found them and asked if I wanted them. They already knew that I tended to be interested in any unexpected discoveries, like the old kitchen wallpaper I blogged about on "Antique Wallpaper," 11-27-2014, or the stone foundation we unearthed, "A Solid Foundation," 10-23-2014. They weren't surprised when I gathered up what they had found, even the smallest pieces, thinking I might discover something of interest. You never know what may be found in the walls of old houses nor all of the things you can learn from taking the time to carefully remove what you have found to discover the forgotten secrets and the history that may be uncovered.
Remember, you can enlarge images by clicking on them.
"Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?" YouTube 1-6-2017 to watch part of the Army Hearings.
"Murrow on McCarthy, no fear, 1954" YouTube 11-13-2011 and "Edward R. Murrow-See It Now (March 9, 1954)" YouTube 8-22-2009 to watch broadcast of program mentioned in blog