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American Cultural History. 1920-1929. FACTS about this decade. 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 (down from 1,172,601 in 1919)

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facts about this decade
FACTS about this decade.
  • 106,521,537 people in the United States2,132,000 unemployed, Unemployment 5.2%
  • Life expectancy:  Male 53.6,   Female 54.6
  • 343.000 in military (down from 1,172,601 in 1919)
  • Average annual earnings $1236;  Teacher's salary  $970
  • Illiteracy rate reached a new low of 6% of the population. 
  • Gangland crime included murder, swindles, racketeering
  • It took 13 days to reach California from New York  There were 387,000 miles of paved road.
art architecture
  • Early modernism in art, design, and architecture, which began at the turn of the century, continued through to 1940 and the war.
  •  In cities, Skyscrapers (first in 1870s) were erected and hundreds of architects competed for the work. The first successful design was the Woolworth Building in New York.  
  • In Chicago, the Wrigley building was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White while the Chicago Tribune Tower was designed by Howells and Hood. 
  • The Art Deco design was exemplified by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings (depression projects - the Empire State Building completed early 1931.)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright was prolific during this period, designing homes in California and in Japan. 
art architecture1
  • The term Art Deco (1925-1950) is derived from the International Art Exposition in Paris in 1925. 
  • In the 20s and 30s art of that style was referred to as modern.  Designers included Karl (Kem) Weber and Eliel Saarinen.
  • Art movements included the modernist movement [George Luks, Charles W. Hawthorne].
  • Abstract expressionism [Willem de Kooning].
  • Surrealism, and dadaism [Georgia O'Keeffe, Morgan Russell, Man Ray],  realism [ Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Leon Kroll].
  • Landscape [Aldro Thompson Hibbard, N.C. Wyeth].  
  • Horace Pippin is considered one of America's foremost primitive or naive painters.  The best museums featured shows by these important artists.
books literature
  • Following WWI (the war to end all wars), talented young authors, some expatriates in France, wrote about their feelings of disillusionment and alienation. A sense of rebellion developed and the Victorian idea of decency was considered hypocritical.  Writers began to write frankly about sexuality.
  • Three important groups during this period were:  The Algonquin Round Table, also called THE ROUND TABLE, informal group of American literary men and women who met daily for lunch on weekdays at a large round table in the Algonquin Hotel in New York City during the 1920s and '30s. Many of the best-known writers, journalists, and artists in New York City were in this group. Among them   were Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott (author of the quote "All the things I really like are immoral, illegal, or fattening", Heywood Broun, Robert Benchley,Robert Sherwood, George S. Kaufman, Franklin P. Adams, Marc Connelly, Harold Ross, Harpo Marx, and Russell Crouse.

by Dorothy Parker

  • Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live.           
the harlem renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance
  • Harlem Renaissance is considered the first important movement of black artists and writers in the US.  Centered in Harlem, NY, and other urban areas during the 1920s, black writers published more than ever before.  Influential and lasting black authors, artists, and musicians received their first serious critical appraisal.  This group includedZora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Alain Locke , who was considered the chief interpreter for the Harlem movement.

by Langston Hughes

  •   Southern gentle lady, Do not swoon. They've just hung a black man In the dark of the moon. They've hung a black man To the roadside tree In the dark of the moon For the world to see How Dixie protects Its white womanhood Southern gentle lady, Be good! Be good!
the lost generation
The Lost Generation
  • The Lost Generation, the self-exiled expatriates who lived and wrote in Paris between the wars.  These writers, looking for freedom of thought and action, changed the face of modern writing.  Realistic and rebellious, they wrote what they wanted and fought censorship for profanity and sexuality.  They incorporated Freudian ideas into their characters and styles.  This group included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller,F. Scott Fitzgerald.
gertrude stein
Gertrude Stein
  • “I am very busy finding out what people mean by what they say.”

Quote by Gertrude Stein, who coined the phrase, Lost Generation

books and literature
Books and Literature
  • Others who were important during this decade include e. e. cummings experimented with language (and punctuation!),  William Faulkner was an important part of the Southern Renaissance,  Edna St. Vincent Millay expressed the defiance and desires of her generation from Greenwich Village, and Eugene O'Neill drew attention to a serious American stage.  AND, we can't leave out the beginning of the Golden Age of Mysteries. and introducing America's own contribution to the mystery novel, the hard-boiled, with writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashielle Hammett and paving the way for the future.
e e cummings
e.e. cummings
  • i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

iam never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear no fate(for you are my fate,mysweet)

iwant no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

books that define the time
Books That Define the Time
  • The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot   |  The ultimate indictment of the modern world's loss of personal, moral, and spiritual values. 
  • The New Negro by Alain Locke  |  A hopeful look at the negro in America  
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald    |  The American dream  that anyone can achieve anything   [ Connect to a  Fitzgerald index. ]  
  • Strange Interlude by Eugene O'Neill  |  A look at 30 years in the life of a modern woman  
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway  |  The lost generation of expatriates  
  • Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis  |  A satirical look at small town life  
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner  |  Details the moral decay of the Old South  
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston  |  Black life in a Black community 
fads fashion
  • Fads and slang of the day:
  • A period of slang: slang used for "girls or women":  a broad, a bunny, a canary (well, one who could sing), a charity girl (one who was sexually promiscuous), a dame, a doll, cat's meow, cat's whiskers
  • Jazz age jargon included: Joe College - better yet a Joe Yale - or a Joe Zilch , jazzbo, jellybean, blind date, upchuck, jazz babies, pos-a-loot-ly, and the real McCoy.
  • Games included mah-jngg, ouija boards, and crossword puzzles
  • Endurance races of all sorts gained popularity and included  Marathons and flagpole sitting
  • Dance marathons - began in 1923 and really became the rage.
  • Harry Houdini was the great escape of the 1920s.
  • American Baseball!  and other sports were very popular.
  • Miss America contest began in Atlantic City in 1921. Margaret Gorman (16 years old) was the first winner with measurements of 30-25-32
  • Dance crazes included the Charleston,  the Black Bottom, and the Shimmy.
  • Dining at Sardi's.
costumes fashion
Costumes / Fashion
  • Men: Clothing for men became a bit more conservative in the 1920s.  Trousers widened to as wide as 24 inches at the bottomes.  Knickers grew in width and length and were called 'plus fours'.  White linen was popular during the summer.  And during the winter, an outstanding American coat was popular - the racoon coat.  These were very popular with the college men. The slouch hat was made of felt and could be rolled up and packed into a suitcase. A wool suit was only $15.85. Garters were 40 cents. All this and a 12" long cigarette holder. Cigarettes were 10 cents a pack.
  • Women:  By 1921 the longer skirt was back - some long and uneven at the bottom.  The short skirt was popular by 1925.  This period was called the Flapper Age.  No bosom, no waistline, and hair nearly hidden under a cloche hat.  This decade began the present hey-dey for the manufacturing of cosmetics.  Powder, lipstick, rouge, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, colored nails.  They had it all!  AND pearls.
  • This period marked the spread of ready-to-wear fashion.  More women were wage earners and did not want to spent time on fittings.  The status symbol aspect of fashion was losing its importants as class distinctions were becoming blurred.  Inexpensive fashion became available.  America moved ahead of other countries  mass production of contemporary style clothing for women.  America even produced several designers of this fashion including Jane Derby.
historic events and people
  • Thanks to Henry Ford and mass production, one could buy a ford for $290. 
  • The Volstead Act became effective Jan 16, 1920 and made the sale of a drink containing as much as one half-ounce of alcohol unlawful. This one unsuccessful act brought about much of the flavor of the Jazz Age or Roaring Twenties as we know them. This was a period of  prohibition and intolerance, speakeasies, flappers, gangsters, and crime. Hootch was supplied by Dutch Schultz and Al Capone.  The Nineteenth Amendment had passed the previous year allowing women the right to vote in national elections.  At the beginning of the decade the US was paralyzed by the grip of the red scare . Racial tensions were high and quotas were set for immigrants coming into America. The Ku Klux Klan was very active during this period. The decade was a wonderful one for all of the arts and literature in America. Technology grew - the country shrunk - as popularity of automobiles, radios, and movies exploded. Buying on credit or installments was an outcome of the industrial age. In the fall of 1929, the New York Stock Exchange was more active than it had ever been. Economists predicted a permanent high plateau. By October 24, 1929, Black Thursday, the stock market crashed and panic broke out. Banks closed. The nation stayed in this depression through the end of the twenties and most of the thirties.  Check out the Regulatory environment of the 1920s.