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THE ROARING TWENTIES The 20s were a time when diversity replaced unity in America –During the Progressive era, Americans basically agreed on the big issues.

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Presentation on theme: "THE ROARING TWENTIES The 20s were a time when diversity replaced unity in America –During the Progressive era, Americans basically agreed on the big issues."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE ROARING TWENTIES The 20s were a time when diversity replaced unity in America –During the Progressive era, Americans basically agreed on the big issues Shared common fear of “big business and had joined together to protect the “common man” –WWI had exhausted national zeal to right wrongs and opened deep ideological and cultural divisions in the country Americans lost their sense of a common enemy and began to disagree and squabble Also gave up concern for social justice and devoted themselves to “living the good life”

2 WARREN G. HARDING By 1919, most Progressives had either burned out or become disillusioned –Replaced by new men like Warren G. Harding Governor of Ohio Stressed that Americans were tired of all the commitment, excitement, and dedication of Progressive Era and now just wanted to retreat to a quieter, less demanding, and more private world Harding won the Republican nomination for president in 1920 and went on to beat James Cox, the Democrat, by a huge landslide

3 ANDREW MELLON Harding was a mediocre president –Did appoint a few talented men to serve in his cabinet and reduced adversarial relationship between government and business –But he also allowed Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon to launch his “soak the poor” policy –Convinced that high taxes of WWI era hampered business growth, he eliminated wartime profits tax and reduced tax rates for upper brackets But he left rates for lower brackets at wartime levels Mellon attempted to shift the bulk of the national tax burden on to the backs of ordinary wage earners and away from the rich

4 HARDING’S CROOKS Qualifications for jobs didn’t matter to Harding –All that mattered to him was that the appointee be a “regular guy”--fun to talk with, fun to drink with, and fun to play cards with As a result, he hired a lot of crooks –Attorney-General sold pardons, paroles, and jobs to the highest bidder –Director of the VA stole supplies intended for VA hospitals and sold them under-the-table –Secretary of Interior, Albert Fall, tried to swindle the country out of its military oil reserves Teapot Dome scandal

5 SILENT CAL Harding died suddenly of a stroke in 1923 –Unaware of the corruption within his administration Replaced by his vice-president, Calvin Coolidge of Vermont –Morally upright and honest but very lazy –Restored public confidence by firing and prosecuting all the crooks from the Harding years –But he otherwise lived up to his motto, “Do Nothing,” and slept away most of his five years in office This pleased Big Business because they could get away with murder but he did not address problems that would lead to the Great Depression –Re-elected in 1924 over Democrat John W. Davis and third-party candidate Robert LaFollette

6 PROSPERITY Republican political success helped by country’s prosperity –Fueled by a tremendous increase in demand for consumer products Part of the reason was availability of cheap credit –Low interest rates –Invention of the “installment plan” Another reason was increase in “discretionary income” –Money left over after necessities were paid for –Used primarily to buy “durable items” (radios, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, refrigerators, and automobiles) Consumer Durables Revolution sparked billions of dollars of investment, created millions of new jobs, and launched U.S. on the greatest economic boom in its history

7 FARM PROBLEMS Prosperity of the 20s passed many farm families by –Especially in the West and South The decade remained hard for them –In some regions, average farm annual incomes dropped from earlier levels (and these had not been too great to begin with)

8 ORGANIZED LABOR Americans adopted uncritical attitude towards big business –This hurt organized labor Public generally took management’s side in labor disputes And without public support, unions suffered a long series of defeats Union membership declined, even as the work force as a whole was expanding rapidly

9 TWO AMERICAS America was not a harmonious society in the 1920s –Divided over social and cultural issues such as religion, race, moral values, and lifestyles New Americans –Urban based, “modern” in their attitudes, basically indifferent to religion, and generally liberal –In favor of freer sexual standards and were “wet” (against the prohibition of alcoholic beverages) Old Americans –Small town and rural based, generally fundamentalist Protestants, conservative –Rejected freer sexual standards and considered drinking a sin that had to be outlawed by the government Both were loose, informal coalitions with no official organization –Yet they accurately represented two sets of values in the tremendous cultural battle that raged in the U.S. during the 20s

10 THE START OF PROHIBITION By 1915, the activities of such groups as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti- Saloon League had convinced 15 states in the South and West to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and consumption of liquor within their boundaries –But, if this issue had been left up to individual states, this is as far as Prohibition would have gone –Big cities of Northeast and Upper Midwest contained to many New Americans and immigrants for Prohibition to succeed there on the local level. –North was also home to most brewers and distillers

11 DEADLOCK BREAKS U.S. involvement in WWI gave anti-drinking forces the upper-hand –Argued that brewing and distilling wasted grain supplies needed to feed troops –Played on public concern for the morals of young men drafted into the army –Exploited the fact that most brewers in U.S. were of German ancestry

12 “DRY” FORCES WIN Congress passed the 18 th Amendment in 1917 –Outlawed the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating beverages everywhere in the U.S. –Set to go into effect on January 1, 1920

13 PROBLEMS Congress set up Prohibition enforcement bureau but never gave it enough money to do its job effectively Also never provided city and state governments with the funds necessary to enforce the new law –Many therefore never bothered to enforce it Many Americans simply liked to drink –Supported Prohibition publicly for the sake of appearances but continued to drink on the sly

14 MORE PROBLEMS Earlier, middle and upper- class people seldom drank more than a little wine with supper –Hard liquor now became a part of middle-class life and the “cocktail party” replace the tea party as the most popular form of middle-class entertainment Lawbreaking increased –Liquor transported by truck across the Canadian or Mexican border, or brought by boat from Europe, produced huge profits for “rum-runners”

15 ORGANIZED CRIME Created modern organized crime –To meet needs of people who wanted liquor, enterprising and ruthless men organized liquor distribution networks that rivaled legitimate businesses in their complexity and efficiency –Then used profits to diversify into prostitution, gambling, extortion, etc. Authorities would occasionally try to crack down on organized crime –But convictions were hard to obtain because rival gangs refused to testify against each other, witnesses were intimidated or killed, and police and judges were bribed It was connection between Prohibition and organized crime that led to repeal of 18 th Amendment in 1932

16 IMMIGRATION Hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to U.S. after war –This frightened many Old Americans Because many immigrants were Catholic or Jewish And because it was thought that many were radicals Ever since Russian Revolution of 1917, Old Americans had been obsessed with radicals and were convinced that foreign-born radicals were filtering into the country as part of an international conspiracy to take over the U.S.

17 SACCO AND VANZETTI Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian- born anarchists who came to the U.S. at the end of WWI –Arrested and put on trial in 1921 for allegedly robbing and killing a shoe factory paymaster in Boston

18 WELCOME TO AMERICA, GUYS More than reasonable doubt about their guilt even today –And they clearly did not get a fair trial –Judge called them “anarchist bastards” during trial and the jury was clearly prejudiced against them Liberals tried to get case dismissed but they failed –Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty and executed

19 RACIAL VIOLENCE Black vets, who had seen a more racially liberated society in France, returned home to the same old southern system of segregation –Many moved North –This escalated racial tensions in northern cities and many whites tried to exclude them from their neighborhoods –This, in turn, resulted in more race riots The worst one was in Chicago in 1919—lasted for 13 days and caused 40 deaths and 500 serious injuries

20 THE KKK REVIVES Resentment of Old Americans to developments in the country led to revival of Ku Klux Klan KKK had died out in the 1870s but its memory lived on in South –In 1915, William “Doc” Simmons drew on this stupid memory to revive the organization as a means to “defend white Protestant American from the attacks of blacks, aliens, and dissenters” Methodist preacher from Atlanta

21 THINGS GET REAL UGLY Attracted members by the thousands –Not just from the South but also from Midwest and West Played on fears of Old American, terrorized blacks, advocated white supremacy, opposed organized crime, attacked Catholics and Jews, fought all forms of radicalism Became a powerful political force in some parts of the country –Controlled state governments of Indiana and Oregon and city governments of Denver and Dallas Had 3 million members by 1925 and made their presence felt everywhere in daytime parades, massive night- time meetings, the tar and feathering of radicals, the lynching of blacks, and burning of Catholic and Jewish businesses

22 FALL OF THE KLAN Various African-American, Catholic, Jewish, and liberal groups began to fight back in the early 20s –Big city newspapers denounced the Klan, as did some courageous politicians Hypocrisy of Klan leaders revealed –Some leaders had embezzled money and had engaged in sexual relations with female members –Bad PR for a group that claimed to be the guardian of community morals Klan membership began to fall dramatically after 1925 and, by 1930, it was practically dead

23 JOHN SCOPES In 1926, Tennessee state legislature passed the “Butler Law” –Prohibited the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in Tennessee public schools High school teacher from Dayton, John Scopes, took a stand against the law and taught evolution in his biology classes anyway –He was arrested for violating the Butler Law –His trial would attract massive amount of attention from across the country

24 PUBLIC CIRCUS Former Secretary of State and four- time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help state prosecutor American Civil Liberties Union hired famous liberal trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, to defend Scopes Reporters from every major American paper poured into Dayton to cover the trial, as did thousands of curiosity-seekers and local farmers

25 SYMBOLIC BATTLE Scopes’ guilt was never the issue –But Darrow saw trial as a fight for intellectual freedom –Bryan saw trial as a fight to “protect the word of God” Scopes was found guilty and fined $1000 –Verdict later overturned on appeal Trial became a national event because it re-enacted in miniature the battle between free-thinking, urban, modern America and fundamentalist, rural, traditional America

26 1928 ELECTION Republicans nominated Herbert Hoover as their presidential candidate in 1928 –Secretary of Commerce under Harding and Coolidge Democrats nominate Al Smith as their candidate –Governor of New York Hoover was painfully shy, an engineer with degree from Stanford, Quaker from rural Iowa, and in favor of Prohibition Smith was a gregarious extrovert, had never finished high school, urban, Irish, Catholic, and anti- Prohibition

27 CAMPAIGN Old Americans did not like Smith –Anti-Prohibition stand and indifference to farm issues bothered them –But they were primarily bothered by the fact he was a Catholic Many fundamentalist Protestants at the time had a blind, unthinking hatred for Catholicism In the end, there was no way Smith could have won –Prosperity was the big issue and Republicans were credited in the public mind with creating it –Good times, combined with the underlying fear of Catholicism, made the Republican ticket unbeatable and Hoover won easily

28 TURNING POINT Smith did very well in urban areas If southerners and rural people in the West and North voted against him because of his religion, many city people voted for him because of it Some Italian and Irish districts of NYC gave Smith 98% of their vote Smith’s campaign marked turning point in American politics Point where urban immigrant vote became firmly attached to the Democratic Party Marked beginning of the “Great Democratic Coalition” of city- dwellers, immigrants, rural blacks, Jews, and liberals that would give the Democrats 7 victories in the next 9 presidential elections

29 SUMMARY 1920s were a period of unusual achievement –Rise of consumer industry, time of unprecedented prosperity, and of artistic creativity But 1920s also had a darker side –Period of bitter cultural and social strife Marked by clashes between Old and New America and rise of the Klan, anti-immigrant bigotry, racial hatred and violence, prohibition, religious intolerance, and organized crime The 1920s were, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, “the best of times and the worst of times”


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