Chapter 32: American Life in the "Roaring Twenties" 1919-1929

Seeing Red:
  • Russian Bolshevik revolution 1917 -> tiny Communist party in America
  • Strikes. 1919 Seattle Strike => federal troops to arrest Communist suspects (attorney General A. Mithcell Plamer pushed this)
  • 1919, 249 alien radicals deported on Buford - "ship or shoot"...unexplained Wall Street bombing.
  • 1919-1920: state legislations made advocacy of violence to secure social change punishable. Obstructing free speech?
  • Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Italians, athiests, anarchists, draft dodgers) - charged for murder with death penalty.

Hooded Hoodlums of the KKK:

  • Extremist, ultraconservative uprising against diversity in American culture
  • Popular in MidWest and "Bible Belt" South, 5 milion members. Parades = "konclaves." Warning=blazing cross. Weapon=bloodied lash.
  • Collapsed late 1920s - people against terrorism, federal gov. caught them embezzling.

Stemming the Foreign Flood:

  • US was being flooded with immigration - "European refuse"
  • Congress passed Emergency Quota Act of 1921 - newcomers from Europe restricted to definite quota each year - 3% of the people from that country in the US 1910.
  • immigration Act of 1924 - 2% from 1890. Reduced immigration further and favored Northern Europe. Completely stopped Japanese immigration. Exempted Canadians and Latin Americans, because they could be sent back when they couldn't get jobs.
  • Ended era of free immigration. Recents = Italians, Jew, and Poles - enclaves. Ethnic variety and different languages hindered labor unions and class solidarity.

The Prohibition "Experiment":

  • 1919 - 18th amendment and Volstead Act prohibited alcohol
  • Prohibition was popular in the the south and West (against blacks drinking and saloons). Foreign immigrants in big cities were not so happy.
  • How could weak federal government enforce a law that so many people were against?
  • Bootlegging, "bar hunts." underpayed agents couldn't enforce it, and were bribed. "speakeasies" - like bars - people drank hard liquor like the cocktail. Got alky from Canada, W. Indies, "home brew" and "bathtub gin"
  • There wasssss less total alcohol-intake during prohibition.

The Golden Age of Gangsterism:

  • Illegal alcohol => bribery of the police, gang wars
  • 1925 Al Capone - murderrous booze distributor began 6 years of gang warfare - Chicago - eventually jailed for income tax evasion
  • Gangsters went into prostitution, gambling, and narcotics. -> 1930 $12-18 billion annual profits of the underworld
  • 1932 aviator Charles A. Lindbergh's infant son was kidnapped for ransom and murdered :( => Lindbergh Law - interstate abduction could get death penalty

Monkey Business in Tennessee:

  • High school grads almost doubled in the 1920s
  • Professor John Dewey - "learning by doing," "education for life" should be primary goal of teachers. Progressive in education.
  • Rockefeller foundation launched public-health program - increased life expectency from 50 (1901) to 59 yrs old (1929)
  • Fundamentalists against teaching evolution in schools, 3 states including Tennessee made laws against it.
  • 1925 "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee. Biology teacher John T. Scopes was indicted for teaching evolution - prosecuted by William Jennings Bryan, who was made a fool of by defense attorney clarence Darrow. Scopes found guilty and fined $100, but let off on a technicality.

The Mass-Consumption Economy:

  • Small postwar recesison of 1920-1921: economy prospered.
  • Machines, assembly-line production (Henry Ford, Detroit)
  • Cars for the common citizen
  • Advertisment - Bruce Barton - 1925 The Man Nobody Knows - Jesus was the greatest ad-man of all time.
  • Sports: Baseball - Babe Ruth - Yankee Stadium. Million-dollar wrestling matches.
  • Buying on credit => debt.

Putting America on Rubber Tires:

  • Gasoline engine invented in Europe
  • Henry Ford and Ranson E. Olds (Oldsmobile) developed automobile industry
  • Frederick W. Taylor - "Father of Scientific Management"
  • Ford pumped them out and with Fordism (assembly line), made them cheap enough for the common man

The Advent of the Gasoline Age:

  • Automobiles => steel, rubber, glass, fabrics, highway construction, service stations and garages => American standard of living rose.
  • Petrolium industry exploded. Oil derricks CA, TX, OK
  • Hurt railroad industry
  • Cars became a status symbol -> auto accident deaths -> prostitution on wheels

Humans Develop Wings:

  • 1903 Kitty Hawk, NC = Wright brothers flew
  • Planes used in WWI, transcontinental airmail 1920.
  • 1927 Charles Lindbergh - first W to E conquest of the Atlantic. New York to Paris. Popularized flying!

The Radio Revolution:

  • Italian Guglielmo Marconi invented wireless telegraphy
  • Radio! 1920s, become long-range. Commericals.
  • Lurde poeple home. Heard politicians, music!

Hollywood's Filmland Fantasies:

  • Movie invented - 5-cent thearters (nickelodeons)
  • Hollywood. Used for anti-German propaganda WWI.
  • 1927 sound films. The Jazz Singer
  • Movie stars -huge income - popularity
  • Movies Americanized immigrants

The Dynamic Decade:

  • More people lived in the city than coutnry
  • Women got low-paying jobs (retail clerking and office typing)
  • Birth-control movement: Margaret Sanger -contraceptives
  • National Woman's Party: Alice Paul - campaigned for an equal rights amendment to the Constitution
  • Modernized religion -> God was a good guy
  • Sex advertised, women less modest -> Dr. Sigmund Freud - sexual repression was responsible for bad health - sexual liberation!
  • Jazz moved from New Orleans north - blacks. But all-white Jazz bands made the profits
  • Black racial pride - Harlem NYC: Poet Langston Hughes. Political leader Marcus Garvey - UNIA - wanted to resettle American blacks to Africa, sponsored black stores and businesses.

Cultural Liberation:

  • New generation of writers
  • Names, names, names

Wall Street's Big Bull Market:

  • In the 1920s, the stock market became increasingly popular.
    In Washington, little was done to curtail money management.
    In 1921, the Republican Congress created the Bureau of the Budget in order to assist the president in preparing estimates of receipts and expenditures for submission to Congress as the annual budget. It was designed to prevent haphazardly extravagant appropriations.
    Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's belief was that taxes forced the rich to invest in tax-exempt securities rather than in the factories that provided prosperous payrolls. Mellon helped create a series of tax reductions from 1921-1926 in order to help rich people. Congress followed by abolishing the gift tax, reducing excise taxes, the surtax, the income tax, and estate taxes. Mellon's policies shifted much of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle-income groups. Mellon reduced the national debt by $10 billion.