The 1920s 1 What were the 1920s all about? ? Contradiction ? Ambivalence ? Individualism ? Modernity Key Characteristics A. Cultural and demographic shift The transition is complete ? more Americans live in urban than rural areas by the 1920s. This doesn?t erase a conflicted sense of nostalgia for traditional values ? they are missed, but not embraced. B. Good-bye to the Progressive Era ? The impulse to equalize or ?fix? during the Progressive Era takes a hit. It doesn?t go away, but more and more Americans concentrate on individual advancement rather than on social issues. ? People are turning away from the Christian moralism and intellectual idealism that characterized the Progressive Era. ? Renewed emphasis on business and private enterprise. C. The Economy The gap between the rich and poor widens again ? BUT, more and more people are joining the middle class. There is prosperity for many, but its enjoyment is not evenly distributed. D. Cultural Backlash The dramatic shift from rural to urban, from traditional to modern, created social and cultural tensions that played out in different ways. ? Feminism ? Nativism ? The new KKK ? Artistic expression Key Topics A. Politics and Economy 1920 Presidential Election Republican Warren G. Harding wins on campaign of the ?return to normalcy.? ? Post-war ? let?s forget the trauma we just experienced and move on ? Progressive Era reform ? let?s shift our focus from public crusading Harding?s administration a mix of capable people and cronies ? Result: a few men debated national concerns while others used their positions for their own private advancement ? Haunted by scandal ? Teapot Dome an example Post-war economy ? Unemployment shoots up to 20% ? Farmer bankruptcies increase ? Harding tackles these issues with higher protective tariffs, price supports for agriculture, and by removing government control over industry that was implemented during the war Calvin Coolidge When Harding dies of heart attack in 1923, his VP Calvin Coolidge continues Harding?s policies. ? Cut government control of economy ? Cut taxes for corporations and wealthy ? Relaxed FTC rules The 1920s 2 1924 election ? Coolidge wins ?This is a business country, and it wants a business government.? Henry Ford and the Automobile Auto industry changed America?s physical and cultural landscape more dramatically than any other technology at the time, with the possible exception of electricity. ? Mobility ? Independence ? Shift in dwellings from city to suburbs Detroit great place to locate auto industry. Close to key resources. ? Iron and steel production ? Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana ? Oil and gas ? Ohio, Indiana ? Ancillaries ? Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois Ford?s mass production/assembly line model becomes standard process in American productivity Auto industry employed hundreds of workers directly ? Employed hundreds more in ancillaries ? Resources and materials: glass, tires, oil, gas, steel ? Indirect industry and business: motels, filling stations, roadside restaurants, construction By 1929 1 in 4 Americans was employed in some occupation directly or indirectly related to auto industry Welfare Capitalism Concept developed by business in reaction to and to counter the labor unrest of the past decades. ? Improved safety and sanitation ? Paid vacations ? Pension plans ? Encouraged worker loyalty ? Discouraged labor unions B. Consumer Culture Mass production methods fueled corporate profits, increased national prosperity, and produced an enormous amount of products to be purchased. ? Per capita income increased roughly by 1/3 during this decade ? Cost of living stayed stable ? By mid 1920s unemployment had stabilized and stayed low But?.these successes were not evenly distributed ? Lower, working classes did not see a significant increase in wages or improvement in their lives ? On the other hand, middle class and white collar workers acquired more money, had more leisure time, bought more products Middle class was buying high-dollar things like radios, refrigerators, washing machines, and cars. Certainly it would be difficult for the lower classes to purchase these high-end products, but it could be challenging for the middle class as well. Installment plans With mass production, businesses developed installment plans, with interest, for consumers to purchase high- dollar products. One newspaper proclaimed: ?The first responsibility of an American to his country is no longer that of a citizen, but of a consumer.? The 1920s 3 The role of advertising Advertising becomes a full-fledged profession ? Newspapers, radios, billboards, magazines ? Advertisers hammered away at traditional values of thrift and saving o The message: material goods = security, confidence, the fulfillment of every spiritual and emotional need. o Emphasis on what Americans should have, needed to have, to be popular and successful o Products, material goods, defined social status. The US completes the transition from a producer to a consumer society ? Who is going to buy the goods? ? Businesses focus on increasing both domestic and foreign markets. ? This is one reason why the installment plan comes about ? it increases the domestic market by allowing people who might not have the money up front to still purchase something. Example: Henry Ford and Fordism ? Symbolic peak of these transitions ? Standardization ? Assembly line (Highland Park, MI 1913) ? Workers deskilled ? Cars were mass produced ? required a mass market ? Consumption and the $5 day $5 day concept ? If people were to afford his product, he needed to give them wages to accommodate that ? Ford?s $5/day made sure people had money to purchase his products. ? Most other industries were not this visionary (nor generous). Most wage laborers barely earned enough for basic needs ? their incomes were too puny to purchase all these neat products Rapid and overwhelming changes in technology and organizational structures left people uncertain about their abilities to participate in civic affairs. ? Progressive Era = active fixers ? 1920s = passive consumers. Americans defer completely to the experts, especially in politics and economics, and focus their attention and energy on individual self-fulfillment. C. Culture Shock The New Woman ? Open sexuality ? ?Shocking? clothing ? makeup ? smoking and drinking ? late marriages ? fewer births Liquor ? Progressive Era brings about the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) ? 1920s a decade of increased crime and violence, much of it related to alcohol ? 18th Amendment repealed in 1931 with the 21st Amendment ? Only amendment at this time that has been repealed The 1920s 4 Entertainment ? Movies, radio create a smaller world ? Hero worship, fan clubs and fan magazines ? Opulence and decadence of ?Hollywood Undesirables Backlash of modernity and WWI a. Immigrants National Origins Act (1924) aka the Johnson-Reed Act ? Result of ?nativist? backlash against the ?new immigrants? ? Aimed at curtailing post WWI immigrants ? Limited the total # of immigrants to 165,000/year ? this is 1/5 of pre-WWI levels ? System of national quotas, based on percentage of population as of 1890 ? Excluded East Asians entirely Significance: created Border Patrol; created the legal notion of illegal alien/immigrant b. Modernity ? Rebirth of KKK o Stone Mountain, Georgia, 1915 o Grows rapidly into 1920s in response to rapidly changing economic, political, social, and cultural landscapes o Capitalized on the frustration and resentment of rural America toward urban America o Anti-black, anti-Jew, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, anti-Catholic, anti-modern ? Artistic expression o Artists lament the lack of traditional values, the hedonistic individualism, the vapid materialism o Literature: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis o Music: Jazz Age c. Science and religion Scopes Trial (the ?monkey trial?) - Dayton, Tennessee, 1925 ? Southern states had passed laws prohibiting discussion of evolution theory in the classroom ? Civil liberties groups sought to challenge the law and convinced high school biology teacher John Scopes to teach it. ? Trial a media circus ? highly publicized ? Prosecuted by William Jennings Bryan (former populist; Wilson?s former secretary of state) ? Defended by Clarence Darrow ? Bryan ridiculed by masses for his literal interpretations of the Bible ? TN court upholds law, but rural America and Protestant evangelicalism take a hit ? Sinful arrogant urbanites vs. rural backwards, Bible-thumping rubes ? The trial epitomized the tensions that divided rural and urban America d. People Eugenics ? Margaret Sanger o Joins forces with the American Medical Association to promote birth control as a necessary and appropriate means to limit reproduction among undesirable groups. o Aligning herself with science made her seem less radical and more credible. Made discussing contraception not only scientific but respectable. The 1920s 5 ? Policies Buck v. Bell (1927) USSC rules that Virginia sterilization law which provided for compulsory sterilization of the ?mentally disordered? was constitutional Scenario: o J.H. Bell was superintendent of State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-Minded. o Patient Carrie Buck, a ?feeble-minded? female and mother of a ?feeble-minded? child, was forcibly sterilized (salpingectomy ? removed fallopian tubes). o The Virginia law allowed for the superintendent of a facility like this to order the procedure for what eugenicists characterized as ?the best interests of the patient and society.? Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes announced the ruling that upheld the Virginia law: ?We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind?Three generations of imbeciles are enough.? A book written in 1932 on this subject said Holmes? opinion breathed ?an air of realism, humanity, and progress.? Davis, Warden v. Walton (1929) o Black inmate convicted of robbery was caught ?practicing sodomy? with an inmate. o Prison warden okayed sterilization as a deterrent. o Utah State Prison okayed sterilization of inmate Esau Walton. Law provided for sterilization of ?sexual criminals, idiots, epileptics, imbeciles, and insane. o The issue was that sterilization laws applied to inherited, not acquired, traits. Can someone be sterilized as a means of deterrence? Was this cruel and unusual punishment? o Court upheld constitutionality of forced sterilization, but only for inherited traits. Walton not sterilized. Eugenics and sterilization laws in the 1920s 1928 ? Mississippi 1929 ? Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, West Virginia 1931 ? Indiana, Oklahoma, Vermont 1928-1931: States that debated sterilization legislation but did not pass it. California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin http://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/ The debate, the laws, the literature written by medical and scientific professionals surrounding the eugenics movement in the United States in the 1920s was widely discussed in European countries such as Italy, Germany, and France in the 1920s and 1930s. Michele Lansdown The West
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