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How Loudly Did the 1920s Really Roar?

a social, political, and cultural examination of that alluring decade

Jacquelyn Whiting

on 1 October 2012

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Transcript of How Loudly Did the 1920s Really Roar?

Nativism "The man who builds a factory, builds a temple; the man who works there worships there"
- Calvin Coolidge Prosperity 'round the corner? Migration
and Harlem Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer The Red Scare Prohibition & Organized Crime The technological Revolution:
car, interchangeable parts, mass production, raw materials, building construction, distribution networks

New Industries and Products:
electric power, radio (transmitter and receiver), motion picture, refrigerator, electric stove, vacuusm, watches, cigarette lighters, antifreeze, dry ice, pyrex glass Build it! Buy it! Did the 1920s Really Roar? income measured a man's worth Traded Shares:
1923 - 236,000,000
1927 - 577,000,000
1929 - 1,125,000,000 Inequities of Prosperity only frustrated, unsuccessful businessmen, seen as blaming society for their short-comings, inadequacies and failure, questioned wealth and the values of business Fundamentalism The Stock Market Cult of Business Jacob
Lawrence Advertising The means: radio, billboards, magazine

The message: celebrity endorsements, promises of social success (or fear of social embarassment), seduce to consume Sacco and Vanzetti Ku Klux Klan Immigration Quotas Revived in 1915; as many as 5 million members by mid-1920s Anti-black, Catholic, Jew and Immigrant White supremacy, moral purity, 100% Americanism ill-educated, deeply religious, economically marginal; violent and politically powerful South Braintree, MA
Shoe factory guard murdered during a robbery
Italian immigrants
1921 conviction & execution National Origins Act 1924 "America must be kept American"
- Calvin Coolidge 164,000 annual limit
per nation: 2% of total number of people of that national origin in 1890 The
Flapper 1925 TN legislature outlawed teaching evolution
ACLU defend any violators: John T. Scopes
Clarence Darrow v. William Jennings Bryan Deal with social problems associated with alcohol abuse
Loss of native-born political and cultural dominance 1919: Volstead Act set up Prohibition Bureau
1920: 18th Amendment Alcoholic beverages were not illegal; only the commercial manufacture, sale and distribution of them was Al Capone's network of speakeasies netted $60 million annually Culture War
Drys (native-born Protestants) call it Necessary Reform

Wets (liberals, alienated intellectuals, Jazz Age rebels, urban immigrants) see it as Moralistic Meddling Jazz Age Dating replaced courting
Sexual conduct double standard persisted Social Convention Be Damned! For farmers, blacks, industrial workers, recent immigrants economic survival trumped fads and crazes She drank, she smoked, she wore makeup and short skirts, she had short hair and long beads American
Idol(ization) Babe Ruth
Ty cobb
Gertrude Ederle
Jack Dempsey
Al Jolson
Gary Cooper
Greta Garbo
Charles Lindbergh
Mickey Mouse
Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o' those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man's soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--
"Ain't got nobody in all this world,
Ain't got nobody but ma self.
I's gwine to quit ma frownin'
And put ma troubles on the shelf."

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more--
"I got the Weary Blues
And I can't be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can't be satisfied--
I ain't happy no mo'
And I wish that I had died."
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead. The Ex-Patriots 100% American Wartime Spirit
Race Riots
Bolshevik Revolution Palmer's Prediction:
"blaze of revolution... sweeping over every American institution of law and order... crawling into the sacred corners of American homes... burning up the foundation so of society." Sinclair Lewis
H.L. Mencken
T.S. Eliot
Ezra Pound
Ernest Hemingway
Willa Cather
F. Scott Fitzgerald Disillusioned but still committed to American ideals; a desire to create an authentic national culture inspired their literary efforts, much like Hawthorne, Melville and Whitman from an earlier generation Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Marcus Garvey Glorifying in all aspects of black culture and pride
urged black economic cooperation
founded grocery stores and other businesses
urged return to "Motherland Africa" 80,000 UNIA members

criticized by African-American churches and the NAACP

white Americans feared mobilization of blacks

1923 convicted of fraud, imprisoned for two years then deported to Jamaica

highlighted growing discontent in ghettos and the potential for large-scale black activism From Scandal to Silence Warren Harding Calvin Coolidge Republicans controlled Congress and elected three Republican presidents
Party base: northern farmers, corporate leaders, small businessmen, skilled workers
Democrats: white South and urban political machines back-slapping newspaper editor

enjoyed good liquor, good stories, poker

his ordinariness appealed to war-tired voters

underqualified so surrounded himself with seemingly impressive appointments - some good, some sleazy "I have no trouble with my enemies... my goddamn friends... they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights."

He died in 1923;
a Senate investigation in 1924 exposed the scandals:
Stolen veteran's Bureau funds
Influence peddling
Teapot Dome Silent Cal said "Goodbye" to California and "You lose," to a betting man

Supreme Court overturned child labor and women's protection laws
Congress passed high tariffs & low taxes for the rich Cal vetoed McNary-Haugen farm bill calling it "tyranny of bureaucratic regulation and control" that benefitted farmers at the expense of "the general public welfare." Women and Politics State level politics: serve on juries, hold office League of Women Voters is created Sheppard-Towner Act (1921): $1.2 million for rural prenatal and baby-care centers 19th Amendment had little political impact: divided across political spectrum, by materialism, by generation
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