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The Roaring Twenties. History 17B Lecture 7. The New Era. 1920s Mythology A period of dramatic change A revolution in manners and morals Half of American population was now urban Modernism vs. Traditionalism Nation turned inward. Republican victories in 1920s.

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the roaring twenties

The Roaring Twenties

History 17B

Lecture 7

the new era
The New Era
  • 1920s Mythology
  • A period of dramatic change
    • A revolution in manners and morals
    • Half of American population was now urban
    • Modernism vs. Traditionalism
  • Nation turned inward.
republican ascendancy
Republican victories in 1920s.

Progressive regulatory reform gave way to pro-business sentiment.

“The business of America is business.”

President Calvin Coolidge

Government placed in the hands of business.

Republican Ascendancy
an economy in transition
An Economy in Transition
  • Prosperous decade:
    • Unemployment under 5%
    • Paychecks increased, prices dropped.
  • Economic transition from capital goods to consumer goods
  • Consumption the key to prosperity.
consumerism and advertising
Consumerism and Advertising
  • Shift from stressing the product to stressing consumer desires
    • health, popularity, social status
    • a reliance on emotion
  • Influence from World War I propaganda
    • passion and emotion
  • Create fears and desires by centering message:
    • on the body
    • on control of the audience
    • advice from “specialists”
sum up
  • Consumption a central economic activity linked to identity.
  • Individual achievement less important than the things you owned.
    • “You were what you had.”
revolution in manners and morals
The “New Woman”

A symbol of freedom or decline of civilization?

Demanded a larger role in public life outside of the home.

Women poured into the workforce:

1900 – 20% of labor force

1930 - 25% of labor force

Revolution in Manners and Morals
revolution in manners and morals17
Prohibition and Speakeasies

18th Amendment (1920)

Prohibited manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol.

A challenge against authority.

Bootlegging and Gangsters

Al Capone made $60 million in 1927.

Illegal profits opened doors for other illegal activities.

Revolution in Manners and Morals
defenders of the faith
Defenders of the Faith
  • America was divided between:
    • Modernists
      • organization, urban, tolerant
    • Traditionalists
      • rural life, values, conformity
  • Modernism transformed the country, and rural America tried to fight back.

Response to “threat” from modern thinking and science.

Tennessee prohibited the teaching of Darwin in classroom.

Scopes arrested to challenge constitutionality of law.


John Scopes

the monkey trial
Trial commenced in a surreal atmosphere.

City of Dayton sought the publicity.

Clarence Darrow

Professed agnostic for the defense, urban lawyer, modernist

William Jennings Bryan

Defender of the faith, popular rural political figure

The “Monkey Trial”
the red scare
Fear of domestic radicalism after Russian Revolution (1917)

The search for communists.

Rapid demobilization caused severe social dislocation.

Americans assumed the worst.

A “communist conspiracy.”

The Red Scare
why the fear
Nationwide protests on May Day, 1919 increases fear.

Mob violence against protesters.

Palmer Raids (Nov 1919)

U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer arrested and deported thousands of “alleged” communists.

Why the fear?

Explosion on Wall Street

what is nativism
What is Nativism?
  • A turning inward of a country towards its own culture.
    • A rejection of foreign influences, ideas, immigrants.
  • Reaction to the millions of “New” Immigrants entering the country.
reasons for exclusion
Religion: anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism

Racial Science

Biologically inferior

New Immigrants too different to assimilate into America.

Reasons For Exclusion
psychic crisis
Psychic Crisis
  • Definition: A sense that the nation is under siege from sinister forces.
  • New Immigrants a symbol of America’s transformation through urbanization and industrialization.
    • Also cheap labor competition.
nativist success
Nativist Success
  • Literacy Test (1917)
  • National Origins Act of 1924
    • Asian immigration banned outright.
    • Northern/Western European immigrants favored over Southern/ Eastern European immigrants.
ku klux klan
An expression of:

Tradition and Patriotism

White supremacy

Basic morality and 100% Americanism

Self-proclaimed mission: guard the American way of life

5 million members in 1925

A political force in Democratic Party

Ku Klux Klan
ku klux klan28
Ku Klux Klan
  • Typical interests of members:
    • Morality, fellowship, social gatherings.
  • Scandals rock the KKK, and the 1924 Immigration Act robbed it of its main issue in the 1920s.
a chicken in every pot
“A chicken in every pot.”
  • Republican Herbert Hoover elected President in 1928 with promise of further prosperity.
  • Social, economic, and political fears of 1920s didn’t disappear, but they became less important with economic problems in 1930s.