Presentation on theme: "The Brief American Pageant Seventh Edition Chapter 31 American Life in the Roaring Twenties 1919-1929."— Presentation transcript:
The Brief American Pageant Seventh Edition Chapter 31 American Life in the Roaring Twenties 1919-1929
Seeing Red Following World War I, Americans overwhelming desired an isolationist approach. Americans wanted nothing to do with foreign nations, condemned un-American lifestyles, opposed radical ideology, focused more heavily on domestic economy, and supported restrictions on immigration. Within this same time period, Americans experienced new prosperity and opportunity.
Seeing Red One example of American’s uneasiness about foreigners were the attitudes of citizens toward the new communist regime in Russia. A small communist political party emerged in the US following the war, and Americans already somewhat wary of labor unions were even more spooked when a series of strikes were mistakenly connected to a Bolshevik plot in the United States. This fear of communism resulted in a “Red Scare” in 1919-1920. Led by Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, the program rounded up suspected communists. Palmer was emboldened when his home was bombed, which resulted in the AG to deport 249 suspected radicals to Russia. The scare continued when an explosion on Wall Street in 1920 killed 38 people and wounded hundreds. State legislatures began to attack insightful speech by passing syndicalism laws that banned the promotion of acts of violence to bring about change. Anti-communist feelings resulted in the denial of many Americans rights, including five members of the New York state legislature that were legally elected but refused their seats because they were Socialists.
Hooded Hoodlums of the KKK The post-war climate in the US gave rise to a new incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan. This time their angered was expanded to include opposition to foreigners, Catholics, Jews, communists, pacifists, adulterers, and users of birth control. The new Klan supported Anglo-Saxon, native born Americans that were Protestant. The primary support base for the Klan came in the Midwest and the “Bible Belt” South. By the mid-1920s the organization claimed over 5 million members and a hierarchy of leadership that included “Imperial Wizards,” “Grand Goblins,” and “King Kleagles.” In order to draw attention to their platform, the Klan held “konclaves” and intimidated their targets with the bright glow of the burning cross and the use of tar and feathers. This new wave of the Klan died out quickly however as Americans turned on its violence and illegal methods such as embezzlement. Nevertheless, the 1920s Klan provides an example of the highly charged climate regarding social change in the US.
Stemming the Foreign Flood Immigrants began to pour into the US following WWI, however these individuals did not find Americans very hospitable. Around 800,000 immigrants came to the US in 1920-21, and the outcry from Americans resulted in the passage of the Emergency Quota Act (1921) followed by the Immigration Act (1924). The law set quotas for immigrants at 2% of the number of each nationality already living in the US allowed in yearly. The 1924 Immigration Act was openly discriminatory prohibiting Japanese immigrants from entering the country. Only those from Canada and Latin America were exempted from the quota restrictions. This “arm’s length” approach carried out by Americans led to the creation of population pockets of immigrants that featured their own places of worship, newspapers, theaters, etc. Opposition to anti-immigration policies did exist in the form of progressives, who advocated a plural society which was the beginnings of the “multiculturalism” movement of the last decades of the 20 th century.
The Prohibition Movement A relic of the progressive movement remains in the Constitution today in the form of the cousin amendments 18 and 21. The church and women’s groups advocated the Prohibition movement as it was known and succeeded with the passage of the 18 th Amendment in 1919 which forbade the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol in all parts of the US. Popular support for prohibition rested in the South and West. In the South, whites saw alcohol as a stimulant to cause blacks to “lose their place” and in the West people saw it was an evil associated with every vice found there. Opposition to prohibition existed primarily in the eastern urban areas where many foreigners lived and were accustomed to free flowing alcohol. Some gains were made during prohibition as individual savings increased and absenteeism at work decreased.
The Prohibition Movement Creativity in breaking the law led to new types of crimes such as bribery (particularly of police) and gang violence (which included machine guns). The city of Chicago became the model of all that was wrong with the prohibition movement as the community was ransacked by gang influence and violence. In the last half of the 1920s, Al “Scarface” Capone led a murderous rampage in the city all in the name of controlling the illegal booze trade. Capone was responsible for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1929) which resulted in the death of seven rival gang members. He was finally brought to justice in 1932 for a nonviolent crime: income tax fraud. Organized crime took part in other illicit activities as well including prostitution, gambling, and drugs. They would also “shake-down” merchants for protection fees to insure that their storefronts were not destroyed by the gang. The mob also infiltrated labor unions as “racketeers” profited off the union’s membership.
Monkey Business in Tennessee Compulsory education continued to grow as many states passed laws requiring students to remain in school until age 16 or 18. New educational theories emerged as well including John Dewey’s theory of “learning by doing.” The overall standard of living of individuals improved as focus was placed on nutrition and health care. Live expectancy increased to 59 years by 1929.
Monkey Business in Tennessee Advances in science and progressive influences on education came under assault by “fundamentalists” who argued that the teachings of God were being challenged. The opposed the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. They also condemned jazz music as contributing to the downfall of America’s youth. Efforts were made to get legislation passed to ban the teaching of evolution in schools. Fundamentalists found success in the South where one such state, Tennessee, adopted laws placing a ban on the subject.
Monkey Business in Tennessee The legacy of the law was the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” (1925) in Dayton, Tennessee. A high school biology teacher named John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution. The case attracted international attention as former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan sat with the prosecution and testified as an expert on the Bible. Scopes was represented by well-known defense attorney Clarence Darrow who cross-examined Bryan and blew holes in his fundamentalism. In the end, Scopes was convicted and fined $100. The law that convicted Scopes remained on the books in Tennessee until 1967. The case was a victory for Fundamentalists and their literal interpretations of the Bible.
The Mass Consumption Economy The American economy shrugged off a recession in 1920-21 and embarked on a seven year run of prosperity due in large part to favorable tax policies that encouraged investment, new innovations in technology, and the advent of assembly line production. The shining example of American production capabilities rested in the Detroit automobile factory of Henry Ford where a new vehicle came off the assembly line every 10 seconds.
The Mass Consumption Economy Production was no longer a problem for producers. Their new challenge was to get their products in the hands of consumers. Advertising became big business as sexual suggestions, persuasion, and allure became common practices used to sell products. Americans, accustomed to the scheduled work day, had more leisure time therefore industries competed for individual’s disposable income. Professional baseball and its heroes like “Babe” Ruth attracted thousands of fans. Professional boxing and the champ Jack Dempsey drew crowds paying large sums for tickets. Americans started to buy on credit in the 1920s than ever before. People abandoned their thrifty ways in favor of instant gratification. Individuals incurred debt in the purchase of new inventions such as refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, cars, and radios. Credit created a mountain of debt and the economy became extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of credit.
Humans Develop Wings The gasoline engine helped propel the creation of airplanes, which was sparked by the 12 second flight conducted by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. Before WWI, airplanes were dubbed “flying coffins” used mostly by stuntmen. However, the war brought about their first serious use in combat. Following the war, private companies began to develop and operate private passenger planes as well as airmail routes. Flying gave rise to new American heroes such as Charles Lindbergh who became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic. In his Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh collected a $25,000 prize for flying from New York to Paris.
Radio and Film Revolutions Guglielmo Marconi invented wireless telegraphy in the 1890s,which was also adapted for military use for battlefield communication in WWI. Following the war, the radio became a popular means of communicating information. News reports on stations such as KDKA of Pittsburgh became common as well as comedy shows like “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” Advertisers saw radio as a way to promote their products and therefore a market for commercials was created. Film, first invented by Thomas Edison, was initially tied to pornography. However, the peep shows were replaced by movies with actors and storylines. The first movie “The Great Train Robbery” was featured in movie theaters then known as nickelodeons. Full length films such as “The Birth of Nation” were developed as well. Produced by D.W. Griffith, this film glorified the KKK and defamed blacks and northern carpetbaggers. As the film industry grew, its capital emerged in Hollywood, California. Critics attacked the radio and film industries, alleging cultural values were being lost as the youth of America was diluted. However, it can be argued that it was the new mass media that helped to assimilate immigrants and introduce them to American culture.
The Dynamic Decade People’s lifestyles changed drastically as Census data reflected for the first time more Americans lived in urban areas than in rural areas. Women slowly gained greater access to the job market, however those jobs remained in the low paying sector of sales clerks and secretary. Following their earning the right to vote, women took up another crusade: birth control. Margaret Sanger became the leading voice in support of women using contraceptives.
The Dynamic Decade Fundamentalists within the church fought a battle with mainstream “modernists” who viewed Gods as a “good guy.” In order to attract the young crowd, churches offered entertainment in the form of wholesome films. The sexual revolution in the US during this time shocked the older generations who became aghast with advertisers use of sexually explicit ads and of single young women who called themselves “flappers” began to smoke, drink, dance, and dress in a provocative way.
The Dynamic Decade The black community, particularly in the North, experienced a rejuvenation as authors such as Langston Hughes took part in the Harlem Renaissance. Resettlement in Africa became a popular movement for blacks in the 1920s. Marcus Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association which advocated relocation to Africa. Although his efforts were largely a failure and he was sent deported after a mail fraud conviction, Garvey’s movement paved the way for the birth of the Nation of Islam in the US. (“black Muslims”)
Literary Liberation Numerous literary contributions were made during the 1920s including: F. Scott Fitzgerald- The Great Gatsby- discusses the ideal of the self-made American man Theodore Dreiser- An American Tragedy- discussed social striving through the story of the murder of a pregnant working girl by her lover Ernest Hemingway- A Farewell to Arms- recounted the story of a WWI soldier William Faulkner- The Sound and the Fury- was set in the Deep South
Wall Street’s Big Bull Market Even in the thriving economy, several hundred banks failed each year. Fraudulent land speculation also ripped off eager investments who unknowingly purchased swamp land in Florida that was made even worse following a devastating hurricane. Speculation in the market led to increased gambles as boom-or- bust trading became commonplace. Americans were drawn to the lure of the market in hopes of getting rich quick.