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Philadelphia was a conservative city with a resolute population and an established Republican political machine by the turn of the 20th century. In 1917, outrage over the murder of a police officer in the election year led to the reduction of two houses of the City Council to one. Philadelphia was among 36 cities across the country that experienced a race riot by ethnic whites against blacks in July 1919. This occurred as post-World War I turmoil erupted and new immigrants were competing with blacks for work. Brig. The U.S. Marine Corps appointed Gen. Smedley Butler as the director of public safety. However, political pressure prevented long-term success in combating corruption and crime.
Non-Hispanic whites made up 86.8% of the city's 1940 population. In 1950, the city's population topped two million. The decline in the number of residents began with the restructuring of the industry. This resulted in the loss of many union jobs for the middle class. Many of the most wealthy residents moved to suburban areas for better living conditions and access to newer homes. Philadelphia was hit hard by the reduced tax base and limited resources of the local government. It ended up in bankruptcy in the 1980s.