Frederick Lewis Allen was born in born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1890. After studying at Harvard University he joined the editorial staff of theAtlantic Monthly. This was followed by periods working for Century Magazine and Harper's Magazine. His best-selling book, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s in America, was published in 1931. Lewis died in 1954.
If the American people turned a deaf ear to Woodrow Wilson's plea for the League of Nations during the early years of the Post-war decade, it was not simply because they were too weary of foreign entanglements and noble efforts to heed him. They were listening to something else. They were listening to ugly rumours of a huge radical conspiracy against the government and institutions of the United States. They had their ears cocked for the detonation of bombs and the tramp of Bolshevist armies. They seriously thought - or at least millions of them did, millions of otherwise reasonable citizens - that a Red revolution might begin in the United States the next month or next week, and they were less concerned with making the world safe for democracy than with making America safe for themselves.
Those were the days when column after column of the front pages of the newspapers shouted the news of strikes and anti-Bolshevist riots; when radicals shot down Armistice Day paraders in the streets of Centralia, Washington, and in revenge the patriotic citizenry took out of jail a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) - a white American, be it noted - and lynched him by tying a rope around his neck and throwing him off a bridge; when properly elected members of the Assembly of New York State were expelled (and their constituents thereby disfranchised) simply because they had been elected as members of the venerable Socialist Party.
At the height of the Big Red Scare - in April, 1920 - there had taken place at South Braintree, Massachusetts, a rime so unimportant that it was not even mentioned in the New York Times of the following day - or, for that matter, of the whole following year. It was the sort of crime which was taking place constantly all over the country. A paymaster and his guard, carrying two boxes containing the pay-roll of a shoe factory, were killed by two men with pistols, who thereupon leaped into an automobile which drew up at the kerb, and drove away across the railroad tracks. Two weeks later a couple of Italian radicals were arrested as the murders, and a year later the Italians were tried before Judge Webster Thayer and a jury and found guilty.