The Roaring Twenties: Understanding Social Life. Mr. Phipps U.S. History. California State Standards. 11.5.4. Analyze the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the changing role of women in society.
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11.5.4. Analyze the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the changing role of women in society.
11.5.5. Describe the Harlem Renaissance and new trends in literature, music, and art, with special attention to the work of writers (e.g., Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes).
11.5.6. Trace the growth and effects of radio and movies and their role in the worldwide diffusion of popular culture.
11.5.7. Discuss the rise of mass production techniques, the growth of cities, the impact of new technologies (e.g., the automobile, electricity), and the resulting prosperity and effect on the American landscape.
Before the Great War…
After the Great War…
Political Changes for Women
Water-dancing and posing, a popular fad, symbolizes the new freedom for women during the 1920s. Notice that these women are wearing bathing suits, not bathing dresses.
Outside National Suffrage Party Headquarters. This, obviously, is a staged picture promoting the popularity of the suffrage movement.
The cosmetics industry, which began in the 1880s, became very popular in 1920s with the advent of Hollywood. The movie industry, which promoted beauty also sold a new image for women: sexy, attractive, fashionable.
The Flapper and the Vamp
Women’s fashion in the early 1920s still emphasized modesty. Note, the casual-wear on the left suggest the shape of the woman. On the right, the fashion, again emphasizes the height of the woman, her grace. Included: feathers, hats, clingy fabric, plunging necklines, low waistlines.
On the left, a fashion plate from 1924. On the right, a plate from 1925. Note that the hemlines are moving closer to the knee.
On the left, fashions from 1926 indicate the increasing liberalism of the decade: higher hemlines, lower necklines, clingier fabric. This, and the fashions from 1927 (at right), symbolize the trend-setting fashions of the rich, that dresses were meant to party in, and women were meant to be pretty.
Background to the “Harlem Renaissance”
Artists, during the Harlem Renaissance, borrowed from the Modernist style of art, emphasizing heavy angular lines and primary colors. The focus was on form and movement, rather than on a realistic illustration. African-Americans, in particular, sought to incorporate traditional African themes, colors, patterns, and stories into their art.
Langston Hughes, painted here by artist Winhold Reiss, epitomized the New Negro: talented, well-educated, an outstanding author who wrote about subjects dealing with the African-American experience, and handsome.
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by William Johnson. liberalism of the decade: higher hemlines, lower necklines, clingier fabric. This, and the fashions from 1927 (at right), symbolize the trend-setting fashions of the rich, that dresses were meant to party in, and women were meant to be pretty.
A New American Music
Duke Ellington composed, arranged, and played jazz in Harlem. Known as a ruthless businessman and a genius, most jazz musicians got their start in Ellington’s band
By the late 1920s, musicians often played more than 3 sets: one for the rich white party-goers, one for the African-Americans, and one to work on “chops”, practice sessions which would last until daylight.
Louis Armstrong (left) redefined the trumpet as an instrument. His improvisational phrasing became the basis for all jazz trumpeting, copied and adapted by all subsequent musicians. The Cotton Club (above) was one of the most popular nightclubs in Harlem. Critics of jazz accused musicians of drug use (Armstrong had mafia ties and a drug record for marijuana possession) and clubs as a haven for drug use, prostitution, and immoral activity. They were, more often than not, correct.
Red Grange, the “Galloping Ghost was the first millionaire football player
George Herman Ruth: “The Babe”
Ruth, as a slugger, earned the homerun record of 60 long balls in a single season. It would take 30 years for Roger Maris to beat this record, and another 30 for Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds to beat all…with some help.
Boston and “The Babe”
The “House that Babe/Ruth Built”
With Ruth on the mound, Boston won 5 of the first 15 World Series. After The Babe was sold to the NYY, Boston would have to wait until 2004 when the they finally won a World Series. In the 84 years since the Yanks acquired Ruth, they won the World Series 26 times. The Red Sox only made it to the World Series 4 times, losing every time.
Boxing: Another All-American Past-time
Dempsey’s title was surrounded in scandal. During the seventh round, Tunney was knocked down, but the referee made a “long count” during which Dempsey was supposed to (not officially) to go to a neutral corner. Instead, Dempsey chased Tunney. Tunney spent the rest of the match dodging punches.
Harold Grange, “the Galloping Ghost” (left), became the first football millionaire, after making 4 consecutive TD for a total of 263 yards in the first 12 minutes of a game against a top ranked Michigan team. Gertrude Ederle (above) challenged gender stereotypes, world records, the environment, and strong oceanic currents when she was the first female to swim across the English Channel. Her time, 14 hours 31 minutes, was almost 2 hours faster than the men’s record.
Prosperity Becomes Evident
How long could it last? Credit expenses, particularly for the lower and middle classes (who were the primary targets for ads) often matched their incoming cash flow. A worker in Indiana, who only earned $35/wk spent $35/month on the family car. A worker in Chicago, making $60/wk, spent $27.50 on home furnishings and his wife’s new coat.
Two of the most popular home purchases was the radio and the phonograph. Both items provided home entertainment. This revolutionary technology, however, completely changed the home environment. Rather than playing musical instruments, families listened passively. Instead of playing together, they listened separately. Instead of creating, they passively listened to mass produced radio shows and music. Many considered these items “mechanisms of the devil” which eroded family values.
Foreshadowing our own modern times, ads showed a new body image which people struggled to attain. The desire to look like the rich and beautiful caused many people to overspend their limits, and sometimes, to commit suicide.
Unlike our modern commercials, ads in the 1920s were designed to tell a story and provide substantive reasons why people should buy their product. Some of the evidence was even accurate. Above, is a General Electric ad for a kitchen product. At right, is an ad for Imperial Records, a company which continued to produce “hot acts” well into the 1950s.
Sheer, sexy, and hole proof, hosiery was a luxury for all women. Note the peacock: part of the American fascination with the mysterious Orient.
Popularity of movies were due to
Most every major city had at least one 100 seat theatre
Grauman’s Theatre, in Hollywood, was the center for all movie premiers. It was here, as it still is now, where average Americans caught a glimpse of their favorite star, and the paparazzi scratched for gossip.
“The Jazz Singer”, released in 1927, was the first movie to incorporate a soundtrack, rather than have a separate accompanying band (or piano). Al Jolson, the principal actor, portrayed an African-American by using the common technique of applying “black-face” makeup.
Charlie Chaplin, right, had his heyday during the silent movie era. As “the Tramp”, Chaplin represented the downtrodden every-man. He, along with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, opened the first movie-production studio outside Fremont, CA.
Douglas Fairbanks, above, was type-casted as the masculine swashbuckler, modeled as a hero of the downtrodden, with plots taken from dime-store pulp fiction.
Greta Garbo, left, was typically cast as the brash, assertive sex-pot.
Rudoph Valentino, here as the Sheik, captivated women’s hearts and inspired men to be like him. When he died suddenly at the age of 31, mourners lined up for a mile to watch his casket pass.
By 1929, radio had become one of the leading industries of the American entertainment industry. The National Broadcasting Company, NBC, was making $150 million a year.
Comedies like “Amos and Andy” and serialized drama mysteries like “The Shadow” became a part of people’s everyday lives. Orson Wells, the voice of the Shadow, became a fixture in Hollywood with his famous radio show “The War of the Worlds.” Churches also used the radio to evangelize
Dance offs (above) and Lindy-hopping (right) were popular past-times which drew spectators and cash rewards, similar to the breakdancing competitions of the 1980s and the karaoke competitions of the 1990s.
Pole sitting and ping pong were also favorite past-times, but notice the bravado in these endeavors. The ping pong competition is atop an airplane’s wings.
Impact of the Automobile
Scientific Management to boost worker efficiency
Federal Highway Act (1921) supported automobile industry
In the 1920s. 98% of all cars were open to the weather.