American life in the roaring twenties
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American Life in the “Roaring Twenties”. Chapter 31 By Holly Martin. Essential Questions. What were the changes in American culture in the 1920s? How did the carefree, wild lifestyle of Americans in the 1920s lead to the economic collapse of the 1930s?.

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Essential questions
Essential Questions

  • What were the changes in American culture in the 1920s?

  • How did the carefree, wild lifestyle of Americans in the 1920s lead to the economic collapse of the 1930s?

  • How did new opportunities, education, environment, and entertainment lead to the carefree “flapper” lifestyles of the ‘20s?


  • Modernists

  • Flappers

  • Sacco and Vanzetti Trial

  • Emergency Quota Act of 1921

  • Fundamentalism

  • Scopes Monkey Trial

  • Red Scare

  • John Dewey

  • Margaret Sanger

  • Sigmund Freud

  • H.L. Mencken

  • Bruce Barton

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Ernest Hemingway

  • Henry Ford

  • Frederick W. Taylor

Seeing red
Seeing Red

Big Red Scare (1919-1920)

1. Nationwide crusade against left-wingers suspected of being Communists.

2. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer “saw red” easily, gathered up about 6000 suspects. Called “Fighting Quaker”

3. Dec. 1919, 249 alleged alien radicals shipped to Russia.

4. More hysteria Sept. 1920 when bomb exploded on Wall St. killing 38 people and wounding hundreds of others.

5. Legislation made to protect US from Communists – 5 members of NY legislature denied seats because they were Socialists.

6. Business people called “closed” or all-union shops “socialism in disguise” – pushed for “open shop” because it was the “American Plan”

7. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti convicted for the murder of a MA paymaster and his guard in 1921. They were sentenced to death. Communists and radicals claimed this was a “judicial lynching”

Hooded hoodlums of the kkk
Hooded Hoodlums of the KKK

Growth in the Klan in the early ‘20s

1. More closely resembled the “nativists” movement of the 1850s

2. Anti Catholic, black, Jewish, pacifist, Communist, internationalist, revolutionist, bootlegger, gambling, adultery, and birth control. Pro Anglo-Saxon, “native” American, & Protestant. (Extreme conservatists against diversity & modernity in the US)

3. Popular in the Midwest and South. The KKK had 5 million members and had great political influence.

4.Collapsed in the late 1920s.

Stemming the foreign flood
Stemming the Foreign Flood

“Sickly Europe vomits on America”

1. In 1920-1921 over 800,000 immigrants arrived in the US, 2/3 of them from Eastern Europe.

2. “100% Americans” dislike immigrants, Emergency Quota Act passed in 1921– Only 3% of the number of people of certain nationalities who lived in the US in 1910 were allowed in.

3. Immigration Act of 1924– Quotas cut to 2% of the numbers in 1890, NO Japanese, and Latin Americans except from quotas.

4. Immigrants formed small distinct communities of different nationalities.

5. Reformers not a fan of quotas. Horace Kallen: thought immigrants should preserve their identities and harmonize with other nationalities. Randolph Bourne: wanted all nationalities of immigrants to cross-fertilize with other immigrants and Americans to create a multicultural nation.

The prohibition experiment
The Prohibition “Experiment”

The 18th Amendment and Prohibition

1. Abolition of alcohol supported mainly in West

and South and by churches and women.

Many cities in the east filled with

immigrants against Prohibition.

2. Prohibition not very well enforced – many

people didn’t like it and still wanted their

alcohol, some legislators voted for

prohibition but still drank, not enough

enforcement officers.

3. Speakeasies (places that illegally sell alcohol), moonshiners (people who make illegal alcohol), bootleggers (people who illegally ship alcohol) appear.

The golden age of gangsterism
The Golden Age of Gangsterism

Gangsters and Organized Crime

1. Gangs and gangsters emerged and ruled the underworld of illegal alcohol production and distribution. Later they were also know for gambling, narcotics and prostitution.

2. Gang wars of 1920s: In Chicago, approximately 500 gangsters killed. Many times mobsters killed off their competition.

3. Al Capone: Public Enemy #1. A murderous alcohol distributer, known for the Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, made millions of dollars

from illegal activities. Finally convicted in 1931 for income-tax


4. Many honest merchants had to pay off the mobsters to keep

themselves and their businesses safe from the gangs.

5. By 1930 the yearly earnings from the underworld was about $12

to $18 billion, 3 times that of the US gov.’s income.

Monkey business in tennessee
Monkey Business in Tennessee

A. A Growth in Education and Public Health

1. More states required kids to stay in school until 16 or 18 or until graduated. The number of 17 year olds who finished high school jumped up to more than 1 in 4.

2. Prof. John Dewey, from Columbia University, made a large contribution to education by introducing the idea of “learning by doing,” that teachers’ primary goal should be to teach things that would help in life.

3. Rockefeller Foundation launched health program in 1909 that wiped out hookworm.

4. Better nutrition and health care increase life expectancy from 50 (in 1901) to 59 (in 1929).

B. Darwinism and the Scopes Monkey Trial

1. Fundamentalists (devoted religionists) claimed Darwinism was destroying faith in Christian teachings and creating the immorality of the youth. Tried to get laws passed outlawing the teaching of evolution in schools. 3 states outlawed it.

Monkey business in tennessee1
Monkey Business in Tennessee

2. John T. Scopes, a high school biology teacher from Tennessee, was put on trial for teaching evolution.

3. The Trial: Scopes defended by Clarence Darrow and prosecuted by Williams Jennings Bryan (who died 5 days after the trial was over). Verdict: Scopes guilty, fined $100

Watch a Video about the Scopes Trial

The mass consumption economy
The Mass Consumption Economy

New Prosperity in the ‘20s

1. Assembly line perfected by Henry Ford. At Ford’s Detroit plant a finished car was produced every 10 sec.

2. Cars become common, approximately 30 million cars owned by Americans in 1930.

3. Advertising becomes important. Founder of the advertising profession was Bruce Barton. Used sexual suggestions and seduction to sell products

4. Sports became popular, especially baseball.

5. Buying things on credit started in the ‘20s. People started buying new things like refrigerators, cars, radios, and vacuum cleaners on credit.

Babe Ruth

Putting america on rubber tires
Putting America on Rubber Tires

The Automobile

1. Henry Ford and Ransom E. Olds (Oldsmobile) were leaders in developing the automobile industry, though at first cars were not very reliable

2. Detroit becomes motorcar capital of the US

3. Frederick W. Taylor: “Father of Scientific Management,” wanted to improve production efficiency by getting rid of wasted time and energy.

4. Ford’s assembly line production made the Model T affordable to the average worker.

The advent of the gasoline age
The Advent of the Gasoline Age

The Effects of the Automobile

1. New Jobs: over 6 million Americans were employed directly and indirectly by the auto industry in 1930.

2. Oil and Petroleum industries shot up.

3. New prosperity: standard of living rose

3. Trains hit with competition

4. Farmers able to get their products to market faster.

5. New Roads: paved roads, highways

6. More freedom: Easier to travel, women further freed from dependence on men

7. School buses: Less but larger schools

8. Car accidents killed 1 million Americans by 1951

9. Young people have more freedom: Parents worry what would happen in closed cars, “condemned the automobile as ‘a house of prostitution on wheels’”

10. Gangsters (and others) can escape more easily.

Humans develop wings
Humans Develop Wings

The Invention of the Airplane and Air travel

1. Airplane invented by Orville and Wilber Wright, first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, NC on Dec. 17, 1903.

2. Planes were used a little in the Great War

3. The 1st transcontinental airmail route established in 1920 and went from NY to San Francisco.

4. Charles Lindbergh: 1st person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, he flew the 33 ½ hour flight alone in his plane The Spirit of St. Louis

The radio revolution
The Radio Revolution

Radio and its Effects

1. Guglielmo Marconi invented wireless telegraphy in the 1890s and it was used in WWI

2. In Nov. 1920, the 1st radio broadcast took place in Pittsburgh, PA from the 1st radio station KDKA.

3. By the late 1920s both local and national radio available. Commercials appeared.

4. Radio drew families and neighbors together as they gathered around to listen to popular programs.

5. Sports, comedies, politics, and music were all heard on the radio.

Hollywood s filmland fantasies
Hollywood’s Filmland Fantasies

Movies in the 1920s

1. The motion picture was invented in the 1890s by many

people including Thomas Edison.

2. 1st real movie was in 1903, it was called The Great Train

Robbery but the 1st full-length movie was Birth of a

Nation in 1915.

3. Hollywood became the movie capital of the world at the

start of the movie industry.

4. At first movies were full of nudity, female vampires and

other content that angered many citizens who called for censorship.

5. Movies used in WWI to portray anti-German propaganda which helped in the sale of war bonds and growth of support of the war.

6. 1st “talkie” (movie with sound) was The Jazz Singer in 1927. Colored movies arrived shortly afterwards.

The dynamic decade
The Dynamic Decade

New Changes in American Society

1. More Americans lived in urban areas vs. country areas

2. More women worked outside the home, lead to more women’s rights movements like Alice Paul’s campaign for a Equal Rights Amendment and the birth-control movement lead by Margaret Sanger.

3. Fundamentalists vs. the Modernists (believed God is good and the world was an ok place) in churches

B. “The chimes ‘strike sex o’clock in America’”

1. Flappers: young women bob their hair, wear short dresses, rolled stockings and lots of makeup, smoke, and wear the shocking one piece swimsuit.

2. Dr. Sigmund Freud, a Viennese doctor, argued that sexual repression leads to some nervous and emotional illnesses.

3. Young men and women explored their sexuality: Dancing, kissing (or necking) in movie theaters, cars and other places.

The dynamic decade1
The Dynamic Decade

C. Jazz Music

1. The most popular music of the ‘20s

2. Moved up from New Orleans and spread throughout the US

3. Blacks were the inventers of jazz but soon whites

joined in and stole most of the profits.

D. African Americans

1. Harlem, in NYC, one of the biggest black communities

in the world, over 100,000 African Americans lived

there in ‘20s.

2. Langston Hughes: Black poet, published 1st book in


3. United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) founded by Marcus Garvey. Promoted the resettlement of blacks to Africa, sponsored black businesses.

Cultural liberation
Cultural Liberation

Literature of the 1920s

1. New young writers emerge, bring new energy, vitality, and imagination.

2. H.L. Mencken wrote the monthly American Mercury.

3. F. Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby

4. Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms

5. Sinclair Lewis: Main Street, Babbitt

6. William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom Absalom!

7. Robert Frost wrote poetry.

8. Black writers: Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston

B. Other new cultural aspects

1. Louis Armstrong and Eubie Blake: Jazz Artists

2. Architecture: New cities planning, Empire State Building opened in 1931, Frank Lloyd Wright was a big architect.

Wall street s big bull market
Wall Street’s Big Bull Market


1. The Stock Exchange – speculation ran wild, became a gambling den.

2. Everyone was buying stocks in small down payments

3. National debt skyrocketed.

4. Sec. of the Treasury Mellon reduced

income taxes and encouraged

Congress to repeal or reduce

many other taxes.

Review quiz
Review Quiz

  • The 1st restriction on immigration from Europe which only allowed 3% of the people of certain nationalities who were living in the US in 1910.

Review quiz1
Review Quiz

  • The 1st restriction on immigration from Europe which only allowed 3% of the people of certain nationalities who were living in the US in 1910.

  • The Emergency Quota Act of 1921

Review quiz2
Review Quiz

  • What caused the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925?

Review quiz3
Review Quiz

  • What caused the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925?

  • A high school biology teacher in Tennessee, John Scopes, was caught teaching evolution in a Tennessee school, which had been outlawed thanks to the efforts of Fundamentalists.

Review quiz4
Review Quiz

  • Name 3 effects of the Automobile.

Review quiz5
Review Quiz

  • Name 3 effects of the Automobile.

  • New Jobs

  • Oil and Petroleum industries shot up.

  • New prosperity: standard of living rose

  • Trains have more competition

  • Farmers able to get their products to market faster.

  • New Roads: paved roads, highways

  • More freedom: Easier to travel, women further freed from dependence on men

  • School buses: Less but larger schools

  • Car accidents killed 1 million Americans by 1951

  • Young people have more freedom

  • Gangsters (and others) can escape more easily.

Review quiz6
Review Quiz

  • Who was Al Capone?

Review quiz7
Review Quiz

  • Who was Al Capone?

  • A notorious gangster and booze distributor who gained millions of dollars through illegal activities and was branded Public Enemy Number One who was finally jailed in 1931 for income-tax evasion.

Review quiz8
Review Quiz

  • Name 3 important authors from the 1920s.

Review quiz9
Review Quiz

  • Name 3 important authors from the 1920s.

  • H.L. Mencken

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Ernest Hemingway

  • Sinclair Lewis

  • William Faulkner

  • Robert Frost

  • Claude McKay

  • Langston Hughes

  • ZoraNeale Hurston