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RED SCARE is an image database about the period in the history of the United States immediately following World War I. The dates are approximately from the Armistice in November of 1918 to the collapse of hyper-inflation in mid-1920. Within these two dates the country witnessed--not so much in rapid succession as concurrently--a deadly flu epidemic, a strike wave of unparalled proportions, harsh suppression in some cases of those strikes, race riots, hyper-inflation, mass round-ups and deportations of foreign born citizens, expulsion of duely-elected officials from various offices in government, an incapacitated president, espionage laws, sedition laws and, of course, the advent of Prohibition and women's suffrage.

It was a time then of great upheaval, of right-thinking men--in the words of Walter Lippmann--"scared out of their wits". It is this fear that Red Scare seeks to document, not only as it related to what variously were called "Reds", "Anarchists", "Outside Foreign-Born Radical Agitators" and the like (though of course they play an important role here), but rather the whole breadth of experiences from this period of which the anti-red hysteria was one symptom. Indeed, it is because the anti-red hysteria was so emblematic of the time, that we use it in the context of this database as a short-hand way of expressing the whole period.


RED SCARE is an image database. It relies entirely on the contemporary visual record of that time. The first quarter of the 20th Century was a period rich in this form of material from newspapers to illustrated magazines.

The Literary Digest, a weekly compendium of news culled from various newspapers and magazines both in this country and in Europe, is the primary souce of material for this database. It is a "mainstream" publication and as such is not particularly friendly to radical or working people's movements. It is hardly the first place, for example, to stop for an overview of this period. Nevertheless, it does present a coherent interpretation of events in sufficient variety for users of our day even with the briefest knowledge of the time to read between the lines--or images in our case--and come out with a rewarding experience. This will become readily apparent with but one or two dips into the material.

Tech Note: Red Scare consists of almost 300 images and over 500 text files in HTML coding. Links among these files range in the thousands. All images were scanned at 150 dpi with a dynamic range (i.e. bit depth) of 24. As they were all meant to serve as "reference" copies accessible via the Web, it was thought this quality of scan would be sufficient. A Hewlett-Packard 3c scanner was used along with Adobe Photoshop 3.0 for graphic manipulation. The images were originally archived as non-compressed TIFF files generally ranging from 800k to a magabyte in size. Two surrogate images were then made, a GIF thumbnail and a larger JPEG image, in most cases at 72 dpi. The thumbs average 10k in size and the JPEG's from 30k to 50k with the majority falling within the lower range. Some enhancements were undertaken to these surrogate images particularly in the sharpening of line art to make them legible when viewed on the low-resolution systems typically in use these days to access Web content.


RED SCARE consists of two components:

The Chronological Listing allows browsing through thumbnails with some textual matter, one thumbnail following the other in a straightforward manner according to date of publication. Each list of thumbnails consists of twelve GIF images. The user can move from one list to another by clicking on the "Prev" or "Next" links. It is a convention in this database that "Prev" or "Next" links indicate more images. It is also a convention that each thumbnail is linked to another image--in the case of the Chronological Listing to the larger JPEG version.

The individual JPEG images contain slightly more textual matter, including the full caption of the image plus subject headings or "descriptors" for each. By selecting one of the descriptors, the user can call up all the other images with the same designation from the Subject Listing file. The user has then entered the second component of the database and must use the browser's "Back" button to get back to the Chronological Listing. To access the Chronological Listing, click here.

The Subject Listing works in two ways. There is a textual index much like indexes found at the backs of books. It is alphabetical and includes "see" and "see also's". Clicking on any of the topics brings up all the images (in thumbnails) associated with that topic. The thumbnails are arranged in "tile" fashion, four across and two deep--eight images in all. In cases were there are more than eight images for a particular topic, this will be indicated through "Next" and "Prev" commands. To see the larger JPEG image the user must click on the "View Full Size" command beneath each thumbnail image and NOT on the thumbnail image itself.

This is because the thumbnail images in the Subject Listing act as links to further sets of thumbnail images with related subjects. There may be, for example, a picture of an "extremist" holding a bomb. This may be part of the topic "Extremist(s)" and was called up along with all the other thumbnail images depiciting "extremist(s)" using the appropriate subject heading. By clicking on it in the "tile" listing, a second attribute, in this case "Bomb(s)", is chosen and all the thumbnail images depicting bombs appear. If the user selects one of the pictures depicting a bomb which also contains an American Flag, all of the pictures depicting American Flags are then called up.

The idea is to "hot-wire" the subject headings into the links, and rather than having to look in the Subject Index, the user can go from one subject to another simply by clicking on one of the thumbnail images. To conduct a more refined search, the user can go into the larger individual JPEG file and select one of the descriptors beneath the image. Alternatively the user can go back to the Subject Index by choosing "Go to Subject Heading". In any case, to access the Subject Index, click here.


The author would like to thank Professor Virgil Blake (QC, CUNY), under whose general guidance this database was compiled. The author at the time was attending the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College, City University of New York.

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