Chapter 13 The Roaring Life of the 1920’s . Changing Ways of Life : Section 1.
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The 18th Amendment to the Constitution banned the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of alcohol, took effect in 1920. The law proved unenforceable. The failure of Prohibition was a sign conflicts most evident in the nation’s cities.
51.2 % Americans lived in communities with a population of 2,500 to more than 1 million. Between 1922 and 1929 migration to the cities accelerated with nearly 2 million people leaving the farms an towns each year.
At the beginning of the 1920’s New York had a population of 5.6 million people… Next Chicago with 3 million… life in the cities was far different than the slow-paced suburban world. The city life demanded endurance for the immigrant city dweller. It was impersonal and fast paced.
A big clash between small town and big city was with the 18th Amendment when it went into effect.
The amendment launched the era known as Prohibition… during this the manufacture, sale, a transportation of alcoholic beverages were legally prohibited. Reformers considered liquor a prime cause of corruption.
They thought too much liquor lead to crime, abuse, accidents, and other social problems. Support for this came from the rural South and West… areas with Protestants.
The Anti-Salon league and led the drive to pass the Prohibition amendment. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union considered drinking a sin.
Many Americans eventually became tired of making sacrifices… they wanted to enjoy the life. Most immigrants did not see drinking as a sin but part of socializing and resented the government meddling.
Eventually Prohibition’s failed because the government did not budget the money to enforce it. The Volstead Act established a Prohibition Bureau in the Treasury Department but the agency was under funded.
To obtain liquor illegally drinkers went to hidden saloons and nightclubs known as speakeasies… because when inside one spoke quietly or easily to avoid detection.
Speakeasies were found everywhere… to get in one had to present a card or a password.
Soon people began to find other ways of getting around the law… they distilled alcohol from their own stills… sales of sacramental wine soared.
People who bought alcohol from bootleggers…. Named for their practice of carrying liquor in the leg boots…. Who smuggled it in from Canada, Cuba, and the West Indies. This soon became a national sport.
Prohibition not only generated disrespect for the law… it contributed to organized crime in every major city.
Chicago became known as the home of Al Capone a gangster who took over bootlegging empire that made $60 million a year.
During the 1920’s headlines reported that 522 bloody gang killings and made the image of flashy Al Capone part of the folklore of the period.
In mid 1920’s only 19% of Americans supported Prohibition. The rest of the people wanted the Amendment appealed or changed. The Amendment remained in force until 1933 when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment.
Another bitter controversy was the growing problems between traditional religion and modern ideas during the 1920’s. The battle ragged between fundamentalist religious groups an secular thinkers over the truths of science.
Fundamentalism: the Protestant movement grounded in a literal or non symbolic interpretation of the Bible. The were skeptical of scientific knowledge they argued all important knowledge could be found in the Bible…
they rejected the theory of evolution advanced by Charles Darwin… this theory state that plant and animal species had developed and changed over millions of years… the claim that bothered them the most was that man evolved from apes.
Fundamentalism expressed itself in many ways… in the South and West preachers lead revivals based on the authority of the scriptures.
One of the most powerful revivalists was Billy Sunday… a baseball player turned preacher… they fundamentalist began calling for laws that would prohibit the teaching of evolution.
March 1925 in Tennessee passed the first law making it a crime to teach evolution. The American Civil Liberties Union promised to defend any teacher who would challenge the law. John T. Scopes a young biology teacher in Dayton Tennessee accepted the challenge. In his biology class he read a passage from Civic Biology that promptly arrested Scopes and his trial was set.
The ACLU hires Clarence Darrow… the most famous trial lawyer of the day to defend Scopes. William Jennings Bryan three time candidates for President served as prosecutor. There was no question of guilt or innocence … Scopes was honest about his action. The Scopes trial was a fight over evolution and the role of science and religion. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 … the Tennessee court finally changed the verdict later.