The Beginning of Modern America (1920s) for AP U.S. History (page 3)
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Summary: During the 1920s, Americans created a consumer culture in which automobiles, home appliances, and other goods were purchased at an unprecedented rate. Advertising helped to fuel this desire to purchase, and the popularity of radio and motion pictures helped to create a more uniform national culture. However, many small-town and rural Americans never felt totally comfortable with the values of the consumer-oriented, more urban "modern" America that they saw threatening their way of life. The conflict between urban and small-town American values was manifested in numerous ways: many in small-town America supported the Prohibition amendment banning alcohol, while many in America's cities tried to get around it. Many in small-town America feared immigration, while many American cities contained immigrant enclaves. Many in small-town America still opposed the teaching of evolution, while many urban newspapers mocked their views. The flapper and a more relaxed sense of morality were symbols of the Jazz Age; generally, these symbols were harder to find in small-town America. All Americans did rally around the two heroes of the age: aviator Charles Lindbergh and home run hitter Babe Ruth.
Teapot Dome: major scandal in the scandal-ridden administration of President Warren Harding; Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall had two oil deposits put under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and leased them to private companies in return for large sums of money.
Red Scare: after World War I, the fear of the spread of communism in the United States.
Palmer Raids: as part of the Red Scare, in these 1919–1920 raids thousands of Americans not born in the United States were arrested, and hundreds were sent back to their country of origin. Today many view the raids as a gross violation of the constitutional rights of American citizens.
National Origins Act (1924): anti-immigration federal legislation that took the number of immigrants from each country in 1890 and stated that immigration from those countries could now be no more than two percent of that. In addition, immigration from Asia was halted. The act also severely limited further immigration from eastern and southern Europe.
Scopes Trial (1925): trial of teacher John Scopes of Dayton, Tennessee, for the teaching of evolution; during this trial, lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off on the teachings of Darwin versus the teaching of the Bible.
Jazz Age: an image of the 1920s that emphasized the more relaxed social attitudes of the decade; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is seen by many as the novel that best depicts this view.
Flapper: the "new woman" of the 1920s, who was pictured as having bobbed hair, a shorter skirt, makeup, a cigarette in her hand, and somewhat liberated sexual attitudes. Flappers would have been somewhat hard to find in small-town and rural America.
"Lost Generation": the group of post–World War I writers who in their works expressed deep dissatisfaction with mainstream American culture. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is a novel that is representative of the works of these writers.
Harlem Renaissance: the 1920s black literary and cultural movement that produced many works depicting the role of blacks in contemporary American society; Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were key members of this movement.
A Decade of Prosperity
By the middle of the 1920s, many of the dire predictions of the effects of capitalism that had been preached by progressives 15 years earlier seemed like no more than ancient history. Business opportunities were plentiful. The prosecution of trusts, which took up much of the Justice Department's time in World War I, were few in the 1920s. New opportunists with capital could challenge corporations like U.S. Steel and make profits. Nevertheless, certain industries, such as the automobile industry, were virtually impossible to crack; by 1929, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler controlled nearly 85 percent of all auto sales. Socialist predictions that the plight of the workers was getting worse seemed to be negated by statistics published in 1924 stating that industrial workers were making nearly double what they had made 10 years earlier.
Strikes and union activities were plentiful in the two years immediately following the end of World War I, but diminished greatly after that (many factory owners realized that paying their workers a decent wage would make them less likely to listen to speeches made by union "agitators").
By the mid-1920s, products made in American factories were available to Americans and also in many European and other world markets. The assembly line of Henry Ford continued to be perfected to the point that by 1925 a Model T was being produced in a Ford plant every 24 seconds. During the decade, the ideas of "scientific management" first proposed by Frederick W. Taylor (see Chapter 16) were utilized in businesses and factories across the country. Production was now being done more efficiently; this ultimately lowered the cost of production and the cost to the consumer.
Many other consumer products, such as vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and radios, were also churned out by American factories at record rates. Many of the products also were produced by assembly line techniques, and the stream of workers who continued to enter the cities from rural America could get work doing one of the monotonous jobs involved in assembly line production. For the consumer, products that were impossible to even dream about 10 years earlier could now be purchased with the installment plan. For 36 or 48 "easy" payments, a middle-class family in the 1920s could have an automobile, a refrigerator, and a vacuum cleaner. Some economists saw danger in the fact that by 1928 nearly 65 percent of all automobiles were being purchased on credit. Most Americans saw little problem with this, since they could not foresee a time when Americans would be unable to make payments on these goods.
The decade of the 1920s can certainly be seen as the beginning of the advertising age. Consumers were warned that if they wanted to live the "good life," they had to have the latest model refrigerator or automobile. People living in urban, suburban, and rural areas all saw the same advertisements for products that had been placed in both national and local publications by advertising men. As stated previously, this helped create a universal national culture. Advertisements showed the farmer in Kansas and the suburbanite in Connecticut that they had to have exactly the same product.
Republican Leadership in the 1920s
Throughout the 1920s, the Republican party was truly dominant at the national level. Both houses of Congress were under Republican control, the three presidents of the decade (Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover) were all Republicans, and for most of the decade the Supreme Court was dominated by Chief Justice (and ex-president) William Howard Taft. Government policies throughout the decade were almost exclusively pro-business; Republican candidates at all levels during this decade had to be acceptable to the business community.
The Presidency of Warren G. Harding
Many presidential scholars claim that Warren G. Harding was one of the least qualified men ever nominated for the presidency by a major party in America. Harding, a senator from Ohio, was not even mentioned as a possible candidate before the Republican convention of 1920. Harding finally became the Republican nominee after the party bosses determined that he would be a candidate they could control. He was opposed in the national election by Governor James Cox of Ohio. Harding ran on a platform of low taxes, high tariffs, farmer's assistance, and opposition to the League of Nations.
Where Governor Cox (and his running mate, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt) ran a strong and aggressive campaign, Harding was generally content to campaign from his own back porch. He ended up winning 61 percent of the national vote. Americans found something they liked in both the message and style of Harding: his message was essentially that it was time to pull back from "schemes" to change the world (the postwar plans of Woodrow Wilson) and "social experiments" (all of the programs of the progressives). Harding's call for a period of "normalcy" struck a chord with Americans and seemed to put the final nail in the coffin of progressivism in American thought.
During the presidency of Harding, efforts were made to prevent America from having any involvement with the League of Nations or any other provision of the Versailles Treaty. One of the outstanding appointments made by Harding was the naming of former Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes as Secretary of State. Hughes' major accomplishment as Secretary of State took place at the Washington Conference of 1921. At this meeting, diplomats from the United States, Japan, China, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, France, Great Britain, and Italy met to discuss the possible elimination of further naval development and affairs in China and the rest of Asia. All nine nations agreed to respect the independence of China (and maintain the Open Door in China), a major goal of American business interests. The United States, Britain, France, Japan, and Italy all agreed to halt the construction of naval vessels (Hughes did not realize at the time that this gave naval superiority in the Pacific to the Japanese).
Another notable appointment by Harding was the naming of Andrew Mellon, the "richest man in America," as Secretary of the Treasury. Mellon firmly believed in the traditional Republican tenet that very low taxes would ultimately encourage business investment and ensure economic prosperity. To do this, Mellon sought to reduce government spending in any way possible, and to reduce taxes, especially for the wealthier business classes. To cut expenses, Harding opposed bonus payments to World War I veterans in 1921; some benefits for veterans were authorized by Congress. In the Revenue Act of 1921, the administration proposed large reductions in the amounts of taxes that the wealthiest Americans would have to pay (protests from some Republicans from farm states caused these reductions to be less than what Mellon desired). In the end, many of Mellon's policies increased the economic pain of the working class while benefiting the rich.
To assist American business interests, Mellon also wanted large tariff increases on imported industrial goods. The Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922 did increase the tariffs on industrial products. However, to appease Republicans from farm states, the largest tariff increases were on imported farm products.
Little was done in the Harding administration to assist organized labor. Many court decisions of the decade took the side of management, including several court decisions that overturned lower-court rulings making child labor illegal. It was clear in this decade that the interests of farmers and the interests of industrial workers were very dissimilar.
The Scandals of the Harding Administration
The Harding administration may have been the most scandal-ridden administration in American political history. No principle whatsoever was involved in these scandals; the participants were only interested in money. There is no knowledge that Harding participated in any way in these scandals; his biggest sin was probably appointing political cronies from his Ohio days to important government positions in his administration and not supervising them.
The scandals of the Harding administration were numerous. Charles Forbes, the director of the Veteran's Bureau, stole or horribly misused nearly $250 million of government money; he was indicted for fraud and bribery concerning government hospital supply contracts. Harding allowed Forbes to go abroad and to resign, although he eventually did go to jail. Attorney General Harry Daugherty had taken bribes from businessmen, bootleggers, and many others. Daugherty failed to go to jail when a hung jury was unable to convict him.
The worst of the scandals was the Teapot Dome Scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall maneuvered to have two oil deposits put under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior; one of these was a reserve in Wyoming called Teapot Dome. Fall then leased these reserves to private companies and got large sums of money from them for doing it. Fall was convicted and finally sent to prison in 1929.
The revelation of these scandals greatly bothered Harding, who died of a stroke on August 2, 1923. He was replaced by his vice president, Calvin Coolidge of Vermont.
The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge
American business leaders could have had no better friend in the White House than Calvin Coolidge. His credo was that "the business of the United States is business." Coolidge did little as president, but this was largely intentional; he was convinced that the major decisions affecting American society should be made by businessmen. Like Harding, Coolidge believed in increased tax cuts for the wealthy and favored policies that would help promote American business.
Several decisions made during Coolidge's presidency demonstrate the administration's thinking. Coolidge proposed that a dam constructed at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on the Tennessee River by the government during World War I be turned over to private interests; this plan was defeated by Congress (the dam would become a crucial part of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s). In the Revenue Act of 1926, large tax cuts were given to the wealthiest members of society. Finally, on the grounds that the government couldn't afford it, Coolidge vetoed payments to World War I veterans (Congress passed the legislation over the president's veto).
The Election of 1928
Coolidge made the announcement "I do not choose to run" several months before the 1928 presidential election. The Republicans nominated Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. Hoover was a seemingly perfect candidate for the mood of the era. He was a selfmade man, had worked his way through Stanford, had made his first million in business before he was 40, and had run relief efforts in Belgium and the Commerce Department with tremendous, although unsmiling, efficiency. Hoover's campaign speeches emphasized the achievements of past Republican administrations that had created prosperity and the possibilities for success achievable through rugged individualism.
The Democratic candidate was New York Governor Al Smith, an opponent of Prohibition and a Catholic. Many Southern Democrats had obvious suspicions about him; Smith's supporters received their support by promising that the Democratic platform would say nothing about the repeal of Prohibition. The election was a landslide for Hoover, with Smith only winning eight states. Nevertheless, the fact that many people living in the large cities of America voted for Smith showed the divisions that existed in American society in the 1920s.
Urban vs. Rural: The Great Divide of the 1920s
As stated previously, the 1920s was the decade that the United States, population-wise, became an urban country. Tremendous resentment existed in rural and small-town America against the growing urban mind-set that was increasingly permeating America. Many citizens who did not live in America's cities felt that the values associated with urban life needed to be opposed. From these sentiments came many of the great cultural battles that were at the center of American life in the 1920s.
Many in the North and the South shared resentment against black Americans in the years immediately after World War I. A number of blacks had come North during the war to take factory jobs in urban centers; now that the war was over, many Northerners saw them as competitors for prime industrial employment. In 1919, large race riots took place in Washington, DC, and in many other Northern cities; anti-black riots in Chicago lasted nearly two weeks. Press reports of these riots oftentimes noted the participation of white veterans.
During the postwar years, violence against blacks intensified in the South as well. Lynchings increased dramatically in the postwar years; over 70 blacks were lynched in 1919 alone. The response by some blacks was to think of leaving the United States altogether; beginning in 1920, sign-ups began for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, headed by Marcus Garvey. Garvey called on blacks to come with him to Africa to create a new empire (with him on the throne). By 1925, nearly half a million people had expressed interest in Garvey's scheme. In the end, the Garvey program was a failure, since few blacks actually went to Africa, and many of those who did go ended up returning to the United States. Garvey was later arrested and jailed for fraud, but the fact that his plan attracted so many black supporters demonstrated the plight of black Americans during the period.
The Ku Klux Klan grew tremendously during the early 1920s; by 1925, the Klan's membership was over 5 million. Unlike the Klan of the Reconstruction era, membership in the Klan was not entirely from the South, although it was almost entirely from rural and small-town America (Indiana was a huge hotbed of Klan activity in the 1920s). Blacks continued to be a target of the Klan, as were other groups who appeared to be "enemies" of the rural way of life, such as Catholics and immigrants. The Klan had tremendous political power in several states, although terror tactics such as lynchings and cross burnings remained a dominant part of Klan activity.
The Klan began to lose its popularity in 1925 with revelations of scandals involving Klan members, including the murder conviction of the leader of the Klan in Indiana. Many historians see the popularity of the Klan in the 1920s as a symbol of the intolerance prominent in much of American society; several see it as an American version of totalitarianism, which took control in Germany, the Soviet Union, and Italy during this period.
Many Americans in the years following World War I were also terrified of Bolshevism. America, to no avail, gave military aid and actual manpower to forces attempting to overthrow Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the years immediately following the Russian Revolution of 1917. Much about Bolshevism (soon to be called communism) was in opposition to mainstream American thought. Communism taught that capitalism was evil, and that worker's revolutions would soon break out in highly industrialized countries like the United States. As a result, a Red Scare developed in America in 1919. Many historians maintain that Americans were not just opposed to the ideas of communism, but that many Americans began to see everything wrong in American society as a creation of the "Reds."
Beginning in November of 1919, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer carried out raids in the homes and places of employment of suspected radicals. As a result of the Palmer Raids, thousands of Americans were arrested, in many cases for no other crime than the fact that they were not born in the United States. Hundreds of former immigrants were sent back to their countries of origin, even though it was never proven (or, in most cases, even charged) that they were political radicals. The Red Scare demonstrated the nativism present in America during the period. This was also one of the worst examples in American history of the trampling of the constitutional rights of American citizens.
Nativism probably also accounts for the results of the case of Sacco and Vanzetti. Both were Italian immigrants, and were charged with the murder of two employees of a shoe company in Massachusetts in 1920. Although there was little evidence against them, they were convicted and finally executed in 1927.
American nativism also was displayed in immigration legislation that was passed in the early 1920s. Many in small-town America blamed the problems of America on the continued inflow of immigrants to the country; pseudoscientific texts published in the first part of the decade claimed that white Americans were naturally superior to Southern and Eastern Europeans as well as blacks, but warned that these groups had to be carefully controlled to prevent them from attempting to dominate the country.
Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which limited immigration to 3 percent of the number of persons each country had living in the United States in 1910. This act limited the immigration of Eastern and Southern Europeans, and cut immigration in 1922 to roughly 40 percent of its 1921 totals. A real blow to immigration was the National Origins Act of 1924. This legislation took that number of immigrants from each foreign country living in the United States in 1890, and stated that immigration to the United States from these countries could now be no more than 2 percent of that; the bill also stated that no more than 150,000 new immigrants could come from outside the Western Hemisphere. In addition, all immigration from Asia was halted. The intent and the effect of this legislation was obvious. Immigration from countries such as Italy and Poland was virtually halted.
Another area where urban and rural/small-town interests clashed was over the issue of Prohibition. Statistics from 1924 indicated that 95 percent of citizens in Kansas were obeying the Prohibition law, while the figure was close to 5 percent in New York State. For many small-town observers, alcohol, immigrants, and urban life were viewed together as one giant evil. Many small-town preachers spoke of alcohol as an "instrument of the devil" and were outraged that the law was not enforced in places like New York City.
However, the enforcement of Prohibition in a city like New York would have been virtually impossible. Neither the citizenry nor elected officials favored enforcement (it was reported that Warren Harding had a huge collection of bootlegged alcohol that he served to guests). Speakeasies were frequented by police officers and city officials in many locations; "bathtub gin," some of it good and some of it absolutely atrocious, was also consumed by thousands eager for some form of alcohol during the Prohibition era. Bootlegging of alcohol allowed many famous gangsters of the 1930s to get their feet wet in the world of organized crime; Al Capone in Chicago became the king of the bootleggers, with judges, newspapers, and elected government officials all eventually under his control.
The final area where urban and rural/small-town mind-sets drastically differed was over religion and evolution. Many in small-town America felt vaguely threatened by the changes that science had brought about, and clung to the literal interpretation of the Bible as a defense. William Jennings Bryan and others led the charge against the teachings of Darwin in the postwar years. In 1925, Bryan assisted a group in Tennessee in drafting a bill that would outlaw the teaching of evolution in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union offered to assist any teacher who would challenge this law, and John Scopes of Dayton, Tennessee, volunteered. For several weeks in 1925, the Scopes Trial (or "monkey trial") riveted the nation.
One of America's finest lawyers, Clarence Darrow, assisted Scopes, while Bryan was retained to work with prosecutors who wanted to convict Scopes. Scopes was found guilty and fined (this was later overturned on a technicality), but the real drama of the trial was when Darrow questioned Bryan, who took the stand as an "expert on the Bible." Bryan seriously discredited the entire cause of creationism when he admitted on the stand that he personally did not take every fact found in the Bible literally.
Culture in the 1920s
Vast numbers of Americans were attracted to the culture of business that so permeated American life in the 1920s. It was possible, it was felt, that an individual could start with nothing and become a millionaire (a few buying land in Florida and elsewhere did exactly that). It is no surprise that individual heroes were worshipped in the press, on the radio, and on street corners. Sports heroes such as Babe Ruth were perceived as hardly mortal (members of the press had to cover up the excesses found in the personal lives of Ruth and many other heroes). Newspapers delighted in reporting incidents such as those involving Ruth visiting children's hospitals and promising countless home runs for sick children.
Other heroes of the decade included other athletes, such as boxer Jack Dempsey, and movie stars Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow, and Mary Pickford. No hero, however, was lionized more than Charles Lindbergh after he became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. Incredible numbers of songs and newspaper headlines were devoted to Lindbergh for several years after this historic flight.
The Jazz Age
Many Americans rejected the values of business civilization adopted in the decade. These people, both men and women, decided that pleasure and private expression were more important than the virtues of Taylorism. Those associated with the Jazz Age adopted more open attitudes toward sex, and adopted jazz music as another symbol of their rejection of traditional society. Rural/small-town America (and some in the cities) saw jazz as "the devil's music," as black music, and as music that helped to promote lewd dancing and sexual contact. For many who went to jazz clubs in Harlem in the early 1920s, these were probably the very reasons why they listened to it.
The typical symbol of the Jazz Age was the flapper, a young girl with short hair, a short hemline, a cigarette in her hand, and makeup (all of these things were frowned on in rural/small-town America and in pre–World War I urban America). The number of actual flappers in American cities was always relatively small. Many advertisements of the 1920s portrayed women as sex objects; as a result, in the eyes of many Americans, women lost their respected position as moral leaders of the family.
Statistics do show that both sexual promiscuity and the consumption of alcohol increased among the young during this decade. This revolution was greatly aided by the availability of the automobile, which allowed young people to get away from the prying eyes of parents. Margaret Sanger and others promoted the increased availability and usage of birth control during this period. The behavior of flappers and their male counterparts was looked down on by some urban and by almost all rural observers. It should be noted that this "freer" behavior by young people would be drastically reduced by the massive economic difficulties of the Great Depression and World War II, but would again become pronounced in the 1950s (with critics voicing many of the same concerns as they had in the 1920s). By the 1950s, rock and roll had replaced jazz as the "devil's music."
After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote, many female leaders thought that women would come to have a pronounced role in American political life. Much to their disappointment, this did not occur in the 1920s. Women did not vote in a block "as women." Yet, the overall position of women did increase in the decade. Divorces increased throughout the decade, showing that more women (and men) were leaving unhealthy married relationships. The number of women working during the decade also increased, although working women were usually single. Restrictions remained, however. Women seldom received the same pay for doing the same work as men, and women were almost never put into management positions. Most women still worked in clerical jobs, as teachers, or as nurses.
The Rise of Radio and Motion Pictures
As stated previously, as more and more people read newspapers, listened to the radio, and watched movies, a truly universal mass culture was being created. Movie attendance rose rapidly during the 1920s; in 1922, about 35 million people a week saw movies. By 1929, this figure was up to 90 million people per week. In 1927, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, became the first "talking" motion picture, a trend that would create new movie stars and ruin the careers of others who had been stars in the silent era.
Nothing created a more national mass culture than did the radio. Station KDKA in Pittsburgh was the first station to get a radio station license in 1920. Radio networks began to form (the National Broadcasting Company being the first in 1926) and brought listeners across the country news, variety shows, and (at first) recreated sporting events.
The Lost Generation
Many novels were written during the 1920s that supported the business culture of the decade. The most famous of these was Bruce Barton's 1925 The Man Nobody Knows, which portrayed Christ as a businessman. Most famous novelists of the era, however, wrote of deep feelings of alienation from mainstream American culture. These writers, called by Gertrude Stein members of the "Lost Generation," turned their backs on the business culture and the Republican political culture of the era. Some of these writers ended up in Paris, while others congregated in Greenwich Village in New York City.
The goal of these writers seemed to be to attack the notion of America that they had either physically or spiritually left behind. In novels such as Main Street and Babbit, Sinclair Lewis attacked the materialism and narrow thinking of middle-class business types in small-town America. Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio was another novel of alienation in small-town America.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was both a celebrant of the Jazz Age and a brilliant commentator on it; his novel The Great Gatsby dissects the characters of typical Jazz Age figures. Ernest Hemingway in works such as A Farewell to Arms expresses a deep dissatisfaction with American values, especially concerning war. Perhaps none was more direct in his criticisms of American society than journalist H. L. Mencken, who called the American people an "ignorant mob" and was especially disdainful of the "booboisie," his term for the American middle class.
It should also be remembered that black cultural expression in the 1920s was being celebrated in a cultural movement called the Harlem Renaissance. Writers of this movement, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, wrote on the role of blacks in contemporary American society; the theme of blacks "passing" into the white world and the importance of black expression were common among writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Many in the Harlem Renaissance studied African folk art and music and anthropology. The goal of many in the movement was reconciling the notions of being black and being American (and also to reconcile the notions of being black and being intellectual). Jazz was the music of the movement, with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington playing this "primitive music" in clubs across Harlem.
When Herbert Hoover was inaugurated in early 1929, America looked to the 1930s with eager anticipation. The stock market was at an all-time high, and Hoover had continually promised during the campaign that the Republican goal was to wipe out poverty once and for all. All of this would make the events that would begin to unfold in the fall of 1929 even more cruel and devastating.
To achieve the perfect 5, you should be able to explain the following:
- A consumer economy was created in the 1920s on a level unprecedented in American history.
- Advertising, newspapers, radio, and motion pictures provided new forms of entertainment in the 1920s and helped create a uniform national culture.
- The changes of the 1920s were resisted by many in small-town/rural America, creating many of the cultural conflicts of the decade.
- Assembly line techniques and the ideas of scientific management of Frederick W. Taylor helped make industrial production in the 1920s quicker and more efficient, ultimately creating cheaper goods.
- Installment buying helped fuel consumer buying in the 1920s.
- The Republican party controlled the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court in the 1920s, generally sponsoring government policies friendly to big business.
- The scandals of the Harding administration were among the worst in history.
- Resentment against blacks existed in both the American South and North in the years after World War I, resulting in race riots in the North and lynchings and the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in the South.
- The Red Scare of 1919 and 1920 resulted in the suspension of civil liberties and deportation of hundreds of immigrants, the vast majority of whom had committed no crime.
- Nativist fears also resulted in restrictive quota legislation passed in the early 1920s.
- Cultural conflicts between urban and rural America also developed over the issues of Prohibition and the teaching of evolution in schools (resulting in the Scopes Trial).
- During the Jazz Age, many Americans rejected the prominent business values of the decade and turned to jazz, alcohol, and looser sexual mores for personal fulfillment.
- The flapper was the single most prominent image of the Jazz Age.
- Writers of the Lost Generation expressed extreme disillusionment with American society of the era; writers of the Harlem Renaissance expressed the opinions of American blacks concerning American culture.
- 1917: Race riots in East St. Louis, Missouri
- 1918: Armistice ending World War I
- 1919: Race riots in Chicago
- Major strikes in Seattle and Boston
- Palmer Raids
- 1920: Warren Harding elected president
- First broadcast of radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh
- Publication of Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
- Arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti
- Prohibition takes effect
- 1921: Immigration Quota Law passed
- Disarmament conference held
- 1922: Fordney-McCumber Tariff enacted
- Publication of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
- 1923: Teapot Dome scandal
- Death of Harding; Calvin Coolidge becomes president
- Duke Ellington first performs in New York City
- 1924: Election of Calvin Coolidge
- Immigration Quota Law enacted
- Ku Klux Klan reaches highest membership in history
- Women governors elected in Wyoming and Texas
- 1925: Publication of The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton
- Publication of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Scopes Trial held in Dayton, Tennessee
- 1926: Publication of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- 1927: The Jazz Singer, first movie with sound, released Charles Lindbergh makes New York to Paris flight Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
- 15 millionth car produced by Ford Motor Company
- $1.5 billion spent on advertising in United States
- Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs
- 1928: Election of Herbert Hoover
- 1929: Nearly 30 million Americans have cars
- Stock market crash
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