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A Detailed Summary Of 1920s American Culture

Referencing Styles : Harvard | Pages : 1

American Culture of 1920s:

The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929, and this economic growth swept many Americans into an affluent but unfamiliar “consumer society.” People from coast to coast bought the same goods, listened to the same music and did the same dances. Many Americans were uncomfortable with this new, urban, sometimes racy “mass culture;” and the subsequent year 1920 brought more conflict than celebration. The era of 1920 was on the other hand known as the roaring twenties. The most familiar symbol of the “Roaring Twenties” is a young women with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank, smoked and said what might be termed “unladylike” things, in addition to being more sexually “free” than previous generations. In reality, most young women in the 1920s did none of these things (though many did adopt a fashionable flapper wardrobe), but even those women who were not flappers gained some unprecedented freedoms. They could vote at the 19th Amendment of the Constitution and had guaranteed that right in 1920. Millions of women worked in white-collar jobs (as stenographers, for example) and could afford to participate in the burgeoning consumer economy. The increased availability of birth-control devices such as the diaphragm made it possible for women to have fewer children. And new machines and technologies like the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner eliminated some of the drudgery of household work. The era of 1920 also gave rise to the mass culture. During the 1920s, many Americans had extra money to spend, and they spent it on consumer goods such as ready-to-wear clothes and home appliances like electric refrigerators. In particular, they bought radios. The first commercial radio station in the U.S., Pittsburgh’s KDKA, hit the airwaves in 1920; three years later there were more than 500 stations in the nation. By the end of the 1920s, there were radios in more than 12 million households. People also went to the movies: Historians estimate that, by the end of the decades, three-quarters of the American population visited a movie theater every week. During the 1920s, the most important consumer product of the 1920s was the automobile. The low price and the generous credit made the cars affordable luxuries at the beginning of the decade but by the end they became absolute necessities. In 1929 there was one car on the road for every five Americans. Meanwhile, an economy of automobiles was born. In order to meet the need of the drivers, the businesses like service stations and motels sprung up eventually. With the necessities of car, it also gave the young people the freedom to go where they pleased and do what they wanted. Sometimes they were called as the bedroom of wheels by some of the pundits.  Jazz bands played at dance halls like the Savoy in New York City and the Aragon in Chicago radio stations and phonograph records , 100 million of which were sold in 1927 alone, carried their tunes to listeners across the nation. Some older people objected to jazz music’s “vulgarity” and “depravity”, but many in the younger generation loved the freedom they felt on the dance floor. During the 1920s, some freedoms were expanded while others were curtailed. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1919, had banned the manufacture and sale of “intoxicating liquors,” and at 12 A.M. on January 16, 1920, the federal Volstead Act closed every tavern, bar and saloon in the United States. From then on, it was illegal to sell any “intoxication beverages” with more than 0.5% alcohol. This drove the liquor trade underground–now, people simply went to nominally illegal speakeasies instead of ordinary bars–where it was controlled by bootleggers, racketeers and other organized-crime figures such as Chicago gangster Al Capone. At that time, Capone reportedly had about 1,000gunmen and about half of Chicago’s police force on his payroll. During the 1920s, prohibition was one of the way that was used in order to assert some control over the unruly immigrant masses of some of the middle class white Americans who crowded the nation’s cities. For instance, to the so-called “Drys,” beer was known as “Kaiser brew.” Drinking was a symbol of all they disliked about the modern city, and eliminating alcohol would, they believed, turn back the clock to an earlier and more comfortable time. However, prohibition was not the only source of social tension during the 1920s. The Great Migration of African Americans from the Southern countryside to Northern cities and the increasing visibility of black culture—jazz and blues music, for example, and the literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance—discomfited some white Americans. Millions of people in places like Indiana and Illinois joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. To them, the Klan represented a return to all the “values” that the fast-paced, city-slicker Roaring Twenties were trampling. Similarly, an anti-Communist “Red Scare” in 1919 and 1920 encouraged a widespread nativist, or anti-immigrant, hysteria. This led to the passage of an extremely restrictive immigration law, the National Origins Act of 1924, which set immigration quotas that excluded some people including Eastern Europeans and Asians in favor of others consisting of Northern Europeans and people from Great Britain. These conflicts were called as the cultural civil war by some historians that dwells between city, small town residents, protestants and Catholics. The new women, and also the advocates belonging to old fashioned family values are one of the most important part of the 1920s Roaring Twenties. Also during this time, more white-collar jobs became available. Blue-collar jobs, like mining, farming and other forms of physical labor, were by no means rare in the 1920s, but they were increasingly being replaced by white-collar jobs in fields such as law enforcement, public service, private business and the like. This is all about the changes in American culture that took place in the 1920s.

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