Danger on the Doorstep

Anti-Catholicism and American Print Culture in the Progressive Era

Justin Nordstrom

Danger on the Doorstep is a fascinating study of anti-Catholicism in the Progressive Era, a subject that has been neglected by historians for far too long. Justin Nordstrom’s thorough research and careful analysis of editorial cartoons of the period (and the politics that inspired them) leave the reader with a far better understanding of this crucial era.” —Tyler Anbinder, George Washington University

“Justin Nordstrom’s splendid book is a singular contribution to a distinctive period in the cultural history of anti-Catholicism. Richly contextualized with an evident command of an abundance of sources and historical literature, this study is a fine blend of sharp analysis and an engaging rhetorical style. Readers will be treated to impassioned conflicts on the meanings of civic life, nationalism, and religious-political subversions and loyalties as manifested in ‘American Print Culture.’ Nordstrom’s many bright insights, particularly on the ironies of the conflicts that lace his wide-ranging analytical narrative, make for a stimulating read. There is no doubt that this book will be well received.” —Christopher J. Kauffman, The Catholic University of America

“Justin Nordstrom has broken new ground with this study of anti-Catholic print culture in the decade leading up to World War I.” —Nancy Lusignan Schultz, Salem State College, author of Fire and Roses: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834

“Justin Nordstrom’s fascinating look at anti-Catholic newspapers during the progressive Era is a reminder of the complexities and tensions of that uncertain period. In this lively and even-handed account, the author suggests that anti-Catholic journalism shared many of the assumptions and civic goals of other reformers. Not the only or even the first dispute over definitions of who belongs in America, it would also not be the last.” —James Gilbert, University of Maryland

From 1910 to the end of World War I, American society witnessed a tremendous outpouring of books, pamphlets, and newspapers expressing intense anti-Catholic hostility and calling on readers to recognize the danger Catholicism posed to the American republic. Anti-Catholic propaganda of this decade revived older xenophobic traditions in the United States, while revealing writers’ deep anxieties about the early twentieth century. Justin Nordstrom’s Danger on the Doorstep examines for the first time the rise and abrupt decline of anti-Catholic literature during the Progressive Era, as well as the issues and motivations that informed anti-Catholic writers and their “Romanist” opponents.

JUSTIN NORDSTROM is associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University, Hazleton.


“Danger on the Doorstep is a valuable addition to scholarship about the relationship between print and social movements. Its emphasis on anti-Catholicism makes it especially valuable, given how big the movement was and how little scholarship there is on the subject. Readers will especially appreciate the appendix of anti-Catholic cartoons, which powerfully underscores what was at stake in this struggle over citizenship in Progressive Era America.” — The Historian

“Danger on the Doorstep focuses on a crucial time in American history to study the emergence of a new type of hostility toward Catholicism and its adherents and the supposed threat they posed to the ‘American way of life.’ It is an important contribution to understanding nativist feelings against Catholics in the 20th century.” — Crisis

“_Danger on the Doorstep_ is a balanced, carefully researched study of one important episode in the history of American anti-Catholicism . . . Nordstrom does a fine job of placing his story in the context of Progressivism and of the rapid expansion of print journalism in the early twentieth century.” — Catholic Library World

“While most textbooks provide coverage of the Know-Nothing movement, the American Protective Association, and the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, very little, if anything, is ever mentioned about anti-Catholicism in the Progressive Era. Nordstrom’s book fills that void. His examination of anti-Catholicism through print culture enables historians and communications specialists to determine how effectively some groups used modern information resources for negative purposes.” — The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“. . . This study is a valuable addition to the recent raft of insightful monographs . . . on American Catholics in the Progressive Era. The degree to which the author, emulating historians such as Jay Dolan and John McGreevey, has integrated his topic into the sociopolitical context of the period is noteworthy . . . . This volume deserves a readership in university courses and among scholars in the humanities and social sciences.” — The Journal of American History

Danger on the Doorstep is highly recommended to those interested in the anti-Catholic press, Catholic Church history in the United States, and journalism.” — Sooner Catholic

“. . . [A] comprehensive and vivid glimpse into the unsettling proclivities of those white, non-Catholic Americans known as nativists, with particular focus on those among their rank who explicated their opposition to Roman Catholicism in the print media. Also included in this fine text are illustrations and cartoons, descriptive of nativist print culture.” — Catholic Worker

“In this first major exploration of anti-Catholic print culture in the 1910s, Nordstrom argues that such anti-Catholicism became prominent by its ‘critical overlap’ with discourses of progressivism, masculinity and nationalism, but later in the decade took backstage to international wartime priorities. Progressive Era anti-Catholicism was distinctive, Nordstrom argues, because it insisted that Roman Catholicism was insufficiently liberal and therefore posed a threat to the nation’s political fabric . . . Recommended.” — Choice

“While retaining a sharp analytical focus on the 1910s, Nordstrom connects the anti-Catholicism of that decade with earlier outbreaks (antebellum era, 1980s) and later ones (1920s, 1950s). He firmly establishes the surprising extent and popularity of nativism of the decade. He strongly connects it to many disparate strands of scholarship and convincingly explains its ‘hiatus’ after World War I. Finally, Nordstrom acutely analyzes the Catholic counter-attack. An impressive monograph.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“Nordstrom’s study provides a window for understanding an important, long-lived spiritual/militaristic metaphor through its manifestation in a specific context . . . it seeks to explore the macrocosm through a microcosm and to provide a building block for further studies. The book is thought-provoking and diligently researched in primary sources.” — Indiana Magazine of History

“What makes this book particularly valuable is Nordstrom’s placement of these anti-Romanist writings of the 1910s, which had clear links to a longstanding Nativist tradition, into the Progressive milieu of reform rhetoric and the journalism of exposure.” — Journalism History

“Nordstrom’s study is enhanced by his mastery of the historiography of U.S. anti-Catholicism. Indeed, his extensive knowledge of this subject enables him skillfully to compare and contrast Progressive anti-Catholicism with its counterpart in other eras.” — American Historical Review

“Justin Nordstrom’s study of ten American anti-Catholic periodicals published between the years 910 and 1919 tracks both unexpected and familiar cultural currents. . . . In Nordstrom’s analysis, the orientation of these publications was unique in the long history of American anti-Catholicism.” — The New England Quarterly

“It is a contribution to the history of the Progressive Era and is necessary reading for anyone interested in that period. More largely, it is a contribution to the history of anti-Catholicism and anticlericalism, not just in the United States but globally, a topic rich with promise to illuminate important aspects of social, political, cultural, and sexual (dis)order. It is also a field that calls now for a ‘transnational history’—a history, given current historiographical trends and the state of scholarship on anti-Catholicism at the level of the nation-state, whose time has come.” — Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

“Nordstrom makes a convincing case for his conclusions and does an excellent job of bringing an interesting and previously not well-known period of anti-Catholicism in American history into focus. He also does a good job of connecting his analysis to the larger themes of Progressive-Era culture—muckraking, reform, and national idealism.” — American Catholic Studies

“Nordstrom . . . has provided a thorough, well-documented, and insightful account of one of America’s most virulent and persistent prejudices, as manifested during an era that deemed itself enlightened.” — FCS Quarterly