The Paradox of the 1920s What made the Twenties “roar?” Contradictions and Paradoxes • A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true: the paradox that standing is more tiring than walking. • One exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects: “The silence of midnight, to speak truly, though apparently a paradox, rung in my ears.” Paradox of the 1920s - Prohibition • Americans supported the enactment of Prohibition, yet a significant subculture emerged around distributing and drinking illegal alcohol • Era’s boldest moral reform America Experiments with Prohibition • Prohibition received popular support • Americans continued to drink – ALL classes • Widespread illegal drinking offered huge profits – organized crime permeated society Al Capone • The law was not repealed until 1933 Paradox of the 1920s - Prohibition • Passed under Democratic administration (Wilson) • Found its greatest support within the Republican Party Why is this so very ironic? Republican Platform: Involved greater government intervention, while promising to reduce government. Effects of Prohibition • Organized crime • New popular culture emerges – Glorified drinking, gangsters, and having a good time • Restricted private enterprise • Women divide over prohibition Paradox – Culture Clash Decade of rapid social and cultural changes (ethnic enclaves flourished around urban neighborhoods, social clubs)… MODERN AGE v. TRADITIONALISTS Changes Spark a Backlash • While many Americans welcomed social and cultural change, others looked to traditional values • Fundamentalist efforts to outlaw the teaching of evolution in public schools reached a climax with the Scopes trial • The Ku Klux Klan re-formed to terrorize blacks, Jews, and Roman Catholics Presidents in the 1920s Warren G. Harding Administration (1921-1923) was marred by scandal yet achieved major domestic and foreign policy initiatives Reconversion of the nation’s economy – The Jones Merchant Marine Act 1920 – The Esch-Cummins Act 1920 – Cut taxes for wealthy Presidents in the 1920s Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) Harding never really wanted to be president Role of chief executive was very stressful and his mind and body could not endure He died suddenly in 1923 Death prevented humiliation of a corrupt cabinet (Albert Fall – Interior Secretary) Presidents in the 1920s “Silent Cal” Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) espoused the values of free enterprise yet extended federal regulatory powers over business • “The best thing a president could do for a nation was to do very little” – economy • Won re-election in 1924 and did not run for a second term in 1928 Presidents in the 1920s Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) called himself Progressive but left office in the midst of an economic depression • Hoover personified the American success story • Hoover had little time to enjoy his victory – within one year after his election, the American economy began a frightening spiral downward. (October 29, 1929) • “do nothing” president A decade of MASS CONSUMERISM • The 1920s were a decade of prosperity • Americans enjoyed a higher standard of living and a better quality of life than ever before • MASS CULTURE spread thanks to advancements in technology • American consumers went on a buying binge – extension of consumer credit allowed American families to buy A decade of MASS CONSUMERISM • Automobile became a symbol of the decade (Henry Ford Company) • Effects: – New freedom, decline of railroad, advancement of assembly line, road development, day trips A decade of MASS CONSUMERISM • Although prosperity characterized the decade, not all groups participated equally Agriculture did not prosper, nor did cotton textiles, railroads, and coal mining Media Recreates Mass Culture • America starts going to the movies… Media Recreates Mass Culture • America starts listening to the radio… Effects: evangelizes the nation, music Media Recreates Mass Culture • America starts listening to music… – Because of radio and the phonograph Americans could enjoy the same recording stars – Ethnic music – Jazz – The Harlem Renaissance: center of black American cultural and intellectual life (artists, poets, authors, musicians, and painters) Media Recreates Mass Culture • America starts listening to music… Media Recreates Mass Culture • The Harlem Renaissance Personalities Emerge • Mass media created heroes and personalities – Movie stars, radio personalities, sports heroes – The greatest hero – Charles Lindbergh THE RED SCARE • First RED scare was the result of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 • Americans, supported by government believed that communism was on the rise • Bombing = Paranoia swept the nation • Nativist sentiment consumed the nation – Reemergence of KKK – Immigration restrictions (Emergency Quota Act 1924, Immigration Act 1924) – The Sacco and Vanzetti Trial Key Concepts of the 1920s • The 1920s were dominated by conservative Republican presidents. • Americans experienced an unprecedented burst of consumer activity as new mass- produced commodities were made available. • Tensions prevailed between rural and urban America. Key Concepts of the 1920s • The decade witnessed a rise in nativism and racism. • The period was culturally vibrant as new forms of music and art became popular. • The US government persecuted radicals in the red scare.