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FACTS about the 1920s 106,521,537 people in the United States  2,132,000 unemployed, Unemployment 5.2%  Life expectancy:  Male 53.6,   Female 54.6  343,000 in military Average annual earnings $1236;  Teacher\'s salary  $970 Dow Jones High 100  Low 67

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FACTS about the 1920s

106,521,537 people in the United States 

2,132,000 unemployed, Unemployment 5.2% 

Life expectancy:  Male 53.6,   Female 54.6 

343,000 in military

Average annual earnings $1236;  Teacher\'s salary  $970

Dow Jones High 100  Low 67

Illiteracy rate reached a new low of 6% of the population.  

Gangland crime included murder, swindles, racketeering 


t took 13 days to reach California from New York  There were 387,000 miles of paved road. 


"Old" Culture Pre World War I

Emphasized Production




Idealized the Past

Local Culture


"New" Culture Post World War I

Emphasized Consumption




Looked to the Future

Mass Culture



1. Post War Red Scare

In 1921, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, both Italian-Americans, were convicted of robbery and murder.

The trial showed that the two men were not guilty

But the fact that the two men were known radicals/bolshevicks prejudiced the judge and jury against them.

On April 9, 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti\'s final appeal was rejected, and the two were sentenced to death and we executed in the electric chair.


The Sedition Act was passed by Congress in 1918.

The law made it a crime to criticize by speech or writing the government or Constitution.

During the Red Scare (1919-20) A. Mitchell Palmer, the attorney general and his special assistant, John Edgar Hoover, used the Sedition Act and the Espionage Act (1917) to launch a campaign against radicals and left-wing organizations.

Under these two laws 1500 people were arrested for disloyalty.

Most were eventually released but Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Mollie Steimer and 245 other people, were deported to Russia.

40 bombs exploded across the US in 1919


Immigration Act 1924

Restriction of Southern and Eastern European immigration

Proponents of the Act sought to establish a distinct American Identity by favoring native-born Americans over Southern and Eastern Europeans in order to "maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic composition of the population".

Senator Reed told the Senate that earlier legislation "disregards entirely those of us who are interested in keeping American stock up to the highest standard – that is, the people who were born here".

Southern and Eastern Europeans, he believed, arrive sick and starving and therefore less capable of contributing to the American economy, and unable to adapt to American culture.


3. Prohibition

was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1920 to 1933.

The ban was mandated by the 18th Amendment, and the Volsted Act set the rules for enforcing the ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol was not made illegal.

The contemporary prohibitionists labeled this as the "Noble Experiment“and presented it as a victory for public morals and health.

Anti-prohibitionists criticized the alcohol ban as an intrusion of mainly rural Protestant ideals on a central aspect of urban, immigrant and Catholic everyday life.

Effective enforcement of the alcohol ban during the Prohibition Era proved to be very difficult and led to widespread flouting of the law. The lack of a solid popular consensus for the ban resulted in the growth of vast criminal organizations, including the modern Mafia, and various other criminal cliques. Widespread disregard of the law also generated rampant corruption among politicians and within police forces.


4. Consumer Economy

and Mass Economy

Cars were the symbol of the new consumer society that emerged in the 1920s.

In 1919, there were just 6.7 million cars on American roads.

By 1929, there were more than 27 million cars--or nearly one car for every household in the United States.

In that year, one American out of every five owned a ca Car manufacturers and banks encouraged the public to buy the car of their dreams on credit.

Thus, the American love affair with the car began. In 1929, a quarter of all American families purchased a car.

About 60 percent bought cars on credit, often paying interest rates of 30 percent or higher.


Rolls royce 1920 premier model 6D

Rolls Royce Phantom 1 Jonckheere Coupe 1925


William Potts invented the first automatic traffic light. He used the same colors railroads used…red, green, yellow

First traffic light was in Detroit at the intersection of Michigan and Woodard Ave.


During the 1920s, advertising agencies hired psychologists (including John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism, and Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud\'s nephew) to design the first campaigns.

They touted products by building-up name brand identification, creating memorable slogans, manipulating endorsements by doctors or celebrities, and appealing to consumers\' hunger for prestige and status.

By 1929, American companies spent $3 billion annually to advertise their products--five times more than the amount spent on advertising in 1914.




American Flyer

Black & Decker




General Electric

Hamilton Beach




Kitchen Aid




SC Johnson






The Fundamentalist and Pentecostal movements arose in the early 20th century as a backlash against modernism, secularism, and scientific teachings that contradicted their religious beliefs.

Early fundamentalist doctrine attacked competing religions--especially Catholicism, which it portrayed as an agent of the Antichrist--and insisted on the literal truth of the Bible, a strict return to fundamental principles, and a thoroughgoing rejection of modernity.


6. Mass Culture

Radio drew the nation together by bringing news, entertainment, and advertisements to more than 10 million households by 1929.

Radio blunted regional differences and imposed similar tastes and lifestyles.

No other media had the power to create heroes and villains so quickly.

When Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic from New York to Paris in 1928, the radio brought this incredible feat into American homes, transforming him into a celebrity overnight.



The single most significant new instrument of mass entertainment was the movies.

Movie attendance soared, from 50 million a week in 1920 to 90 million weekly in 1929.

According to one estimate, Americans spent 83 cents of every entertainment dollar going to the movies, and three-fourths of the population went to a movie theater every week.

Mary Pickford


7. Spectator sports

Lou Gehrig

“Iron Horse” played in 2130 consecutive games

Famous farewell from baseball speech

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I\'m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that\'s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it\'s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that\'s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I\'ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.

 — Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939

Babe Ruth

Joe Lewis


CF - Earle Combs - .356 AVG

SS - Mark Koenig .285

RF - Babe Ruth - .356, 60 HR, 164 RBI, 158R, .487 OBA, .772 SLG

1B - Lou Gehrig - MVP - .373 AVG, 47 HR, 175 RBI, 52 2B

LF - Bob Meusel - .337 AVG, 8 HR, 103 RBI, 47 2B

2B - Tony Lazzeri - .309 AVG, 18 HR, 102 RBI

3B - Joe Dugan .321

C - Pat Collins .275


Charles Lindberg

First transatlantic flight