The 1920s witnessed a boom in consumerism, an explosion in artistic expression, and a growth in leisure time. This change came at the expense of many people and without regard for future problems.
II. Big Business Triumphant
A. Business Consolidation and Lobbying
The consolidation movement that began in the late nineteenth century continued into the 1920s. Business and professional associations began to engage in “the new lobbying.”
B. Fate of Organized Labor
Public opinion continued to be generally hostile toward unions. Some large corporations attempted to counter the appeal of union through what is known as welfare capitalism.
III. Politics and Government
A. Harding Administration
Harding began his presidency as a reformer.
B. Teapot Dome
Scandals and corruption plagued the Harding administration.
C. Coolidge Prosperity
Calvin Coolidge, aided by Andrew Mellon, helped private enterprise, a stance that helped him win election in 1924.
D. State and Local Reform
Interest in reform faded in the 1920s, but some innovations occurred on the state and local levels.
E. Indian Affairs
During the 1920s, the government conferred citizenship on all Indians and restructured the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
F. Women and Politics
After attaining suffrage, many women continued to maintain their own organizations through which they engaged in pressure-group politics. Most women, like most men, did not vote.
IV. Materialism Unbound
A. Expansion of Consumer Society
Technological advances, modern marketing, and higher wages helped increase the number of consumers.
B. Effects of the Automobile
Mass production and competition forced automobile prices down. Cars brought more independence, spurred road building, and increased oil consumption.
Advertising expenditures rose dramatically in the 1920s.
As most Americans acquired a radio, it became an influential advertising and entertainment medium.
V. Cities, Migrants, and Suburbs
A. Farm-to-City Migration
By the 1920s, over half the people of the United States lived in urban areas. Industrial jobs lured thousands of migrants to the cities. African Americans made up a significant percentage of those moving to urban areas.
B. Marcus Garvey
A Jamaican immigrant, Marcus Garvey headed the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which called for black separatism, racial pride, and equal rights.
C. Mexican and Puerto Rican Immigrants
During the 1920s, large numbers of immigrants from Mexico and Puerto Rico entered the United States.
D. Growth of the Suburbs
Advances in transportation allowed many people to flock to the suburbs to escape the crowded cities.
VI. New Rhythms of Everyday Life
A. Family Time
As birth rates declined, divorce rates rose, and life expectancy increased, adult Americans devoted less time to raising children.
B. Household Management
Ready?made clothes, processed food, and mass?produced furniture meant Americans could spend more time on leisure activities, but housewives still worked hard.
An emphasis on nutrition led to better diets. That fact coupled with improved sanitation led to increased life expectancy.
D. Older Americans and Retirement
Americans enjoyed improved health in the 1920s, leading to increased numbers of retirees and the need for some minimal assistance for poor elderly people.
E. Social Values
A loosening of social values in the 1920s occurred as traditional ideas of proper behavior came under criticism.
F. Employment for Women
Millions of women continued to move into the work force after World War I, despite gender discrimination.
G. Jobs for Minority Women
The percentage of minority women who worked for pay was double that of white women.
E. The New Woman
Women experimented with new images of femininity, such as the “flapper” look. These changes marked a sharp break with the restraint of the nineteenth century.
F. Gay and Lesbian Culture
An underground homosexual culture began to expand in some cities, despite general intolerance from the rest of society.
VII. Lines of Defense
A. Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan revived in 1915 to ensure the survival of “Native, white, Protestant supremacy.”
B. Immigration Quotas
Congress responded to nativist pressure and set quotas that prevented large numbers of eastern and southern European immigrants from entering the country.
C. Sacco and Vanzetti Case
Antiforeign sentiment characterized the arrest, trial, and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.
Many Americans turned to fundamentalist religious beliefs in reaction to what they perceived to be the skepticism and materialism of American society.
E. Scopes Trial
In 1925, fundamentalism clashed with science when John Scopes stood trial for teaching evolution.
Through the use of modern advertising techniques, revivalist preachers attracted more followers.
VIII. The Age of Play
Movies became a premier American medium, and many films, especially comedies, included social commentary.
B. Sports Heroes
Spectator sports boomed. People began to elevate sports personalities to heroic status.
C. Movie Stars
Movie stars satisfied America’s yearning for romance and adventure.
Prohibition proved successful at first, but bootleggers soon made the illicit liquor industry into a thriving business in the 1920s.
E. Al Capone
Al Capone met the demand for liquor, gambling, and prostitutes, becoming the best-known gangster of the era.
IX. Cultural Currents
A. Literature of Alienation
Disillusioned writers of the 1920s, known as the “Lost Generation,” indicted modern American society.
B. Harlem Renaissance
Black artists asserted pride in their African heritage. Harlem became the Mecca for many African Americans.
Jazz, which grew out of the urban experience of African Americans and which blurred the line between composer and performer, influenced a generation of artists.
D. Experiments in Art and Music
Innovations abounded in art, music, and architecture, making the 1920s one of the most creative eras in American history.
X. The Election of 1928, and the End of the New Era
A. Herbert Hoover
Hoover advocated the old values of hard work along with the new ideas of associationalism.
B. Al Smith
The Democrats nominated New York Governor Al Smith in 1928. A Catholic and a second?generation immigrant, he appealed to urban ethnic groups.
C. Hoover’s Administration
Having won the election, Hoover began his term with high hopes and with emphasis on personal responsibility.
D. Stock Market Crash
The stock market crash in 1929 led to further dumping of stock. Hoover believed the economy would stabilize, but the crash instead helped begin a devastating depression.
E. Declining Demand
Overproduction prevented economic expansion, forcing producers to fire workers, which exacerbated problems.
F. Corporate Debt
Oligopolies dominated American industry, and once the pyramids started to fail, corporate structures collapsed.
G. Speculation on the Stock Market
Widespread speculation based on margin buying characterized the bull market. When the market crashed brokers called in loans, adding to the panic.
H. International Economic Troubles
International economic conditions affected Americans, and crises abroad aggravated the deepening depression.
I. Drawbacks of Federal Policies
The government bears some responsibility for the crisis because it failed to regulate or restrict wild speculation.