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Chapter 24

The 1920s

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Prosperity
• WWI good for U.S. economy
– Brief period of difficulty in moving from war economy
• 1922-1929: American economy was vigorous and
prosperous
• GNP rose at 5.5% annual rate
– From $149 billion to $227 billion
• Unemployment never exceed 5%
• Real wages rose 15%

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A Consumer Society
• 1920s: growth of consumer goods
– Cars, tractors, washing machines, electric irons, radios,
vacuum cleaners
– “Consumer durable”
– Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Number of cars purchased in the U.S. increased
– Paved roads extended beyond the city
– Gas stations, hot dog stands, motels
• Greater number of Americans bought into the
stock market, especially middle class

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Growth of Six Leading Grocery Chains
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A People’s Capitalism
• Capitalists claim economic inequality not an issue
with 1920s prosperity
• Middletown
– Robert and Helen Lynd
• Consumer credit
– Capitalists won’t raise wages, workers unorganized to
force it
• People’s capitalism reality mainly middle class

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The Rise of Advertising and
Mass Marketing
• General Motors and annual model change
• Advertising appealed to consumer desires
– Professional advertising firms
– Beauty products, cigarettes, fashion
• Advertisers believed they were helping
Americans achieve self-improvement and
personal pleasure
• Advertising aimed at middle class
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Expenditures on Advertising, 1915-1929

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Changing Attitudes Toward
Marriage and Sexuality

• Modern husbands and wives were


encouraged to share and pursue sexual and
recreational satisfaction together
• “Flappers” : independent-minded young,
single females

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An Age of Celebrity
• Mega-events and mass marketing
• George Herman “Babe” Ruth
• Charles Chaplin
• Rudolph Valentino
• Charles A. Lindbergh
– Spirit of St. Louis
• Role of media hype in celebrity
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Celebrating Business Civilization
• Bruce Barton
– The Man Nobody Knows (1925)
• Welfare Capitalism

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Industrial Workers
• Skilled workers higher wages, more benefits
• Semiskilled and unskilled industrial workers
contended with labor surplus
• New machines sometimes replaced workers
• 40% of workers remained in poverty
• Coal and textile workers suffered the most through
the 1920s
• Sidney Hillman
• Unions lost significant ground in the 1920s
– “Yellow dog” contracts
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Value of Regional Cotton Textile Output, 1880-1930
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Women and Work
• Women were excluded from skilled craftsmen
• Women were often relegated to areas of “women’s
work” within an industry
• Received less pay for equal work of a man
• Opportunities grew for white-collar work
(secretaries, typists, file and dept. store clerks)
• Social services and teaching
• Amelia Earhart

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The Women’s Movement Adrift
• Expected changes from women’s voting did
not occur
• Some success
– Sheppard-Tower Act
– League of Women Voters
• Internal division
– Equal Rights Amendment
– Protective labor legislation
The Politics of Business

• 1921-1933: Republican presidents


governed the country
• Blend of Gilded Age mediocrity and
Roosevelt style state building

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Harding and the Politics of
Personal Gain
• Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
– Harry M. Daugherty
– "Ohio Gang“: Harding’s drinking and womanizing
cohorts
• Albert Fall
– Teapot Dome and Elk Hills
– Harry Sinclair
– Edward Doheny
• Charles R. Forbes
– Veterans’ Bureau
• Harding dies in 1923
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Coolidge and the Politics of
Laissez-Faire

• Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)


– Revenue Act (1926)
– Curtailed FTC ability to regulate industry

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Hoover and the Politics of
“Associationalism”

• Herbert Hoover Secretary of Commerce


(1921-1929)
• Economy built on trade associations

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The Politics of Business Abroad
• Hoover wanted Commerce Dept. to control U.S.
international economic relations
• Washington Conference
– Charles Evans Hughes
– Five-Power Treaty
– Hoover shut out
• Dawes Plan
– Charles G. Dawes
• Kellogg-Briand pact (1928)
• Continued intervention in Latin America

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Farmers, Small-Town
Protestants, and Moral
Traditionalists
• Not all Americans enjoyed prosperity of the
1920s
• Farmers suffered due to overproduction
• Moral-traditionalist white Protestants in
small towns
– Fear and suspicion of foreigners

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Agricultural Depression
• Slump for farmers after the wartime boom
• Tractor enabled over-production
– Produce market flooded
– Prices fell dramatically
• Many farmers lost, sold, or abandoned their
farms
• McNary-Haugen Bill

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Price of Major Crops,
1914-1929

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Cultural Dislocation
• Majority of farmers saw themselves as ‘backbone
of the nation’
– White, Protestant, Northern-European, hard-working,
honest, God-fearing
• 1920 Census: urban areas vs. rural areas
• Fears of rural whites manifested in their support of
– Prohibition
– The Ku Klux Klan
– Immigration restrictions
– Religious fundamentalism
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Urbanization, 1920
Prohibition
• Eighteenth Amendment: prohibited manufacture
and sale of alcohol
– January 1920
– Difficulty of enforcing the law
– Speakeasies and bootleggers
• Prohibition effect: encouraged law-breaking more
than abstinence
• Al Capone
– Liquor trafficking and violence
– Chicago
• Urban supporters rethink Prohibition, confirms
racist views of rural supporters
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The Ku Klux Klan
• William Simmons
• D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation
• Hiram Evans
• Hatred of members extended beyond Blacks to
include Jews, Catholics, foreigners
• 1924: 4 million Americans were members of the
KKK, many outside the South
– Women’s Auxiliary group: Women of the KKK
• In many ways, Klan was also typical fraternal
organization
• Klan hate speech often sexually themed, reaction
against changed attitudes toward sexuality
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Immigration Restriction
• Many white Protestants responded to Klan
style nativist arguments
• Johnson-Reed Act (1924)
– Limits and quotas on immigration
– Western hemisphere exempt
• Border Patrol
• Limitation quotas spread to other areas
– Ivy League colleges

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Fundamentalism vs. Liberal
Protestantism
• Protestant fundamentalism
– Bible as God’s word
– Bible as the source of all “fundamental” truths
– Took opposition to liberal Protestantism and the
discoveries of science
• Fundmentalists anti-urban
• Liberal Protestants believe that religion had to
adapt to modernism, including skepticism and
scientific discoveries

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The Scopes Trial
• Fundamentalists pass law prohibiting teaching of
Theory of Evolution in Tennessee (1925)
• ALCU and other worried it could be start of new
wave of restrictions of Free Speech
• John T. Scopes
– William Jennings Bryan vs. Clarence Darrow
– Bryan’s rejection of Darwin partly reaction of Populist
defender against Social Darwinism
• Publishers, afraid of Fundamentalist backlash,
remove Darwin from textbooks until the 1960s
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Ethnic and Racial Communities
• Government policy discouraged “new
immigrants”
• Continued migration within the United States
– African Americans moved from the South to the North
– Mexicans crossed the Rio Grande into the Southwest
• Creation of vibrant subcultures
• Surge in religious and racial discrimination in the
Jazz Age

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European Americans
• “Americanization campaigns”
• Many Americans responded by strengthening their
ethnic and religious identities and cultures through
organizations and associations
• Use of the vote: Democrats
• Split in the Democratic Party between
– Urban-ethnic forces: Smith
– Rural-Southern forces: McAdoo
• Election of 1928
– Alfred Smith
– First Catholic nominated to presidency

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African Americans
• African-Americans continue to migrate north
• Harlem: the “Negro Capital”
– A Black ghetto
• Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
– A. Philip Randolph
• Jazz
– Willie Smith
– Count Basie
– Duke Ellington
– Louis Armstrong
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The Harlem Renaissance
• Harlem Renaissance: create works in rooted
in African culture not imitations of white
culture
• "New Negro“
• White owned Harlem Jazz Clubs refused to
admit African-Americans
• Charlotte Mason
– Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston

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Mexican Americans
• Johnson-Reed Act, 1924
– Mexican-Americans became primary source of
immigrant labor 500,000 Mexicans came to U.S. in
1920s
– Most settled in Southwestern, U.S.
• Texas, California
• Dominated agriculture and construction jobs
• Exploited and discriminated against
• Californios
• Los Angeles to Mexican-Americans what Harlem
was to African Americans
• corridos
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The “Lost Generation” and
Disillusioned Intellectuals
• Alienated White artists
• Sinclair Lewis
– Main Street (1920)
– Babbit (1922)
• T.S. Eliot-- The Waste Land (1922)
• F. Scott Fitzgerald-- The Great Gatsby (1925)
• Eugene O'Neill’s plays
• Ernest Hemingway-- A Farewell to Arms (1929)
• William Faulkner--The Sound and the Fury
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Democracy on the Defensive
• Alienated intellectuals begin to distrust
democracy
• H.L. Mencken: democracy “the worship of
jackals by jackasses”
• Walter Lippmann
• John Dewey: Faith in democracy

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Conclusion
• Consumerism and mass production
• Society seemed somewhat more egalitarian
– However, many groups did not benefit from economic
prosperity of the 1920s:
• Working-class, rural Americans
• Democratic party
– Tensions between traditionalists and new populations
• Alienated intellectuals
• Republicans take credit for prosperity

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