Chapter 24

The 1920s

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Prosperity
• WWI good for U.S. economy
– Brief period of difficulty in moving from war economy

• 1922-1929: American economy was vigorous and prosperous • GNP rose at 5.5% annual rate
– From $149 billion to $227 billion

• Unemployment never exceed 5% • Real wages rose 15%
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A Consumer Society
• 1920s: growth of consumer goods
– Cars, tractors, washing machines, electric irons, radios, vacuum cleaners – “Consumer durable” – Fresh fruits and vegetables

• Number of cars purchased in the U.S. increased
– Paved roads extended beyond the city – Gas stations, hot dog stands, motels

• Greater number of Americans bought into the stock market, especially middle class
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Growth of Six Leading Grocery Chains
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A People’s Capitalism
• Capitalists claim economic inequality not an issue with 1920s prosperity • Middletown
– Robert and Helen Lynd

• Consumer credit
– Capitalists won’t raise wages, workers unorganized to force it

• People’s capitalism reality mainly middle class
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The Rise of Advertising and Mass Marketing
• General Motors and annual model change • Advertising appealed to consumer desires
– Professional advertising firms – Beauty products, cigarettes, fashion

• Advertisers believed they were helping Americans achieve self-improvement and personal pleasure • Advertising aimed at middle class
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Expenditures on Advertising, 1915-1929
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Changing Attitudes Toward Marriage and Sexuality
• Modern husbands and wives were encouraged to share and pursue sexual and recreational satisfaction together • “Flappers” : independent-minded young, single females

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An Age of Celebrity
• • • • • Mega-events and mass marketing George Herman “Babe” Ruth Charles Chaplin Rudolph Valentino Charles A. Lindbergh
– Spirit of St. Louis

• Role of media hype in celebrity
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Celebrating Business Civilization
• Bruce Barton
– The Man Nobody Knows (1925)

• Welfare Capitalism

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Industrial Workers
• Skilled workers higher wages, more benefits • Semiskilled and unskilled industrial workers contended with labor surplus • New machines sometimes replaced workers • 40% of workers remained in poverty • Coal and textile workers suffered the most through the 1920s • Sidney Hillman • Unions lost significant ground in the 1920s
– “Yellow dog” contracts
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Value of Regional Cotton Textile Output, 1880-1930
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Women and Work
• Women were excluded from skilled craftsmen • Women were often relegated to areas of “women’s work” within an industry • Received less pay for equal work of a man • Opportunities grew for white-collar work (secretaries, typists, file and dept. store clerks) • Social services and teaching • Amelia Earhart
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The Women’s Movement Adrift
• Expected changes from women’s voting did not occur • Some success
– Sheppard-Tower Act – League of Women Voters

• Internal division
– Equal Rights Amendment – Protective labor legislation

The Politics of Business
• 1921-1933: Republican presidents governed the country • Blend of Gilded Age mediocrity and Roosevelt style state building

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Harding and the Politics of Personal Gain
• Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
– Harry M. Daugherty – "Ohio Gang“: Harding’s drinking and womanizing cohorts

• Albert Fall
– Teapot Dome and Elk Hills – Harry Sinclair – Edward Doheny

• Charles R. Forbes
– Veterans’ Bureau

• Harding dies in 1923
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Coolidge and the Politics of Laissez-Faire
• Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
– Revenue Act (1926) – Curtailed FTC ability to regulate industry

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Hoover and the Politics of “Associationalism”
• Herbert Hoover Secretary of Commerce (1921-1929) • Economy built on trade associations

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The Politics of Business Abroad
• Hoover wanted Commerce Dept. to control U.S. international economic relations • Washington Conference
– Charles Evans Hughes – Five-Power Treaty – Hoover shut out

• Dawes Plan
– Charles G. Dawes

• Kellogg-Briand pact (1928) • Continued intervention in Latin America

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Farmers, Small-Town Protestants, and Moral Traditionalists
• Not all Americans enjoyed prosperity of the 1920s • Farmers suffered due to overproduction • Moral-traditionalist white Protestants in small towns
– Fear and suspicion of foreigners
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Agricultural Depression
• Slump for farmers after the wartime boom • Tractor enabled over-production
– Produce market flooded – Prices fell dramatically

• Many farmers lost, sold, or abandoned their farms • McNary-Haugen Bill
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Price of Major Crops, 1914-1929

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Cultural Dislocation
• Majority of farmers saw themselves as ‘backbone of the nation’
– White, Protestant, Northern-European, hard-working, honest, God-fearing

• 1920 Census: urban areas vs. rural areas • Fears of rural whites manifested in their support of
– – – – Prohibition The Ku Klux Klan Immigration restrictions Religious fundamentalism

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Urbanization, 1920

Prohibition
• Eighteenth Amendment: prohibited manufacture and sale of alcohol
– January 1920 – Difficulty of enforcing the law – Speakeasies and bootleggers

• Prohibition effect: encouraged law-breaking more than abstinence • Al Capone
– Liquor trafficking and violence – Chicago

• Urban supporters rethink Prohibition, confirms racist views of rural supporters
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The Ku Klux Klan
• • • • William Simmons D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation Hiram Evans Hatred of members extended beyond Blacks to include Jews, Catholics, foreigners • 1924: 4 million Americans were members of the KKK, many outside the South
– Women’s Auxiliary group: Women of the KKK

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• In many ways, Klan was also typical fraternal organization • Klan hate speech often sexually themed, reaction against changed attitudes toward sexuality

Immigration Restriction
• Many white Protestants responded to Klan style nativist arguments • Johnson-Reed Act (1924)
– Limits and quotas on immigration – Western hemisphere exempt

• Border Patrol • Limitation quotas spread to other areas
– Ivy League colleges
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Fundamentalism vs. Liberal Protestantism
• Protestant fundamentalism
– Bible as God’s word – Bible as the source of all “fundamental” truths – Took opposition to liberal Protestantism and the discoveries of science

• Fundmentalists anti-urban • Liberal Protestants believe that religion had to adapt to modernism, including skepticism and scientific discoveries
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The Scopes Trial
• Fundamentalists pass law prohibiting teaching of Theory of Evolution in Tennessee (1925) • ALCU and other worried it could be start of new wave of restrictions of Free Speech • John T. Scopes
– William Jennings Bryan vs. Clarence Darrow – Bryan’s rejection of Darwin partly reaction of Populist defender against Social Darwinism

• Publishers, afraid of Fundamentalist backlash, remove Darwin from textbooks until the 1960s
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Ethnic and Racial Communities
• Government policy discouraged “new immigrants” • Continued migration within the United States
– African Americans moved from the South to the North – Mexicans crossed the Rio Grande into the Southwest

• Creation of vibrant subcultures • Surge in religious and racial discrimination in the Jazz Age

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European Americans
• “Americanization campaigns” • Many Americans responded by strengthening their ethnic and religious identities and cultures through organizations and associations • Use of the vote: Democrats • Split in the Democratic Party between
– Urban-ethnic forces: Smith – Rural-Southern forces: McAdoo

• Election of 1928
– Alfred Smith – First Catholic nominated to presidency
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African Americans
• African-Americans continue to migrate north • Harlem: the “Negro Capital”
– A Black ghetto

• Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
– A. Philip Randolph

• Jazz
– – – – Willie Smith Count Basie Duke Ellington Louis Armstrong

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The Harlem Renaissance
• Harlem Renaissance: create works in rooted in African culture not imitations of white culture • "New Negro“ • White owned Harlem Jazz Clubs refused to admit African-Americans • Charlotte Mason
– Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston
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Mexican Americans
• Johnson-Reed Act, 1924
– Mexican-Americans became primary source of immigrant labor 500,000 Mexicans came to U.S. in 1920s – Most settled in Southwestern, U.S.
• Texas, California • Dominated agriculture and construction jobs • Exploited and discriminated against

• Californios • Los Angeles to Mexican-Americans what Harlem was to African Americans • corridos
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The “Lost Generation” and Disillusioned Intellectuals
• Alienated White artists • Sinclair Lewis
– Main Street (1920) – Babbit (1922)

• • • • •

T.S. Eliot-- The Waste Land (1922) F. Scott Fitzgerald-- The Great Gatsby (1925) Eugene O'Neill’s plays Ernest Hemingway-- A Farewell to Arms (1929) William Faulkner--The Sound and the Fury

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Democracy on the Defensive
• Alienated intellectuals begin to distrust democracy • H.L. Mencken: democracy “the worship of jackals by jackasses” • Walter Lippmann • John Dewey: Faith in democracy

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Conclusion
• Consumerism and mass production • Society seemed somewhat more egalitarian
– However, many groups did not benefit from economic prosperity of the 1920s:
• Working-class, rural Americans

• Democratic party
– Tensions between traditionalists and new populations

• Alienated intellectuals • Republicans take credit for prosperity
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