The 1920 census showed a majority of the population now lived in urban areas.
Post war Tumult:The strike wave of 1919 and the Red Scare, dismantling labor organizations, the substitution of Corporate Welfare for social reform, the modern woman, urban life, and the consumer culture.
The Red Scare gave impetus to molding public opinion in support of immigration restriction, resulting in a strict quota system in 1924 (National Origins Act), aimed at limiting southern and eastern European immigration and excluding entirely Asian immigration.
The fear of radicalized immigrant agitators undercut the legitimacy of independent unions which were displaced by corporate pension and benefit plans instituted by “company” unions.
1920 Warren Harding wins big for Republicans on slogan of “Return to
Normalcy.”Coolidge follows (on fame of
thwarting the Boston Police Strike), and the nation enjoys nearly a decade of
prosperity.Harding’s presidency is characterized by
good ole boy cooperation between government and business, but is tainted by
outrageous Teapot Dome Scandal (preferential leasing of
During the Coolidge administration Herbert Hoover’s Commerce Dept. fostered self-regulating business
associations, corporate welfare in an enlightened private sector to offset union
activity.Historian Ellis Hawley
characterizes the shift away from Progressive initiatives toward a
semi-regulated state-industry cooperation as the emergence of the “associative
In keeping with his image, Coolidge's great policy concern was economy in government. He assumed office in August 1923 upon the death of Warren G. Harding and served as president for six years. During that time he concerned himself with such measures as paying off the national debt, eliminating waste, and cutting taxes to stimulate capital investment. He also endorsed a business climate in which advertising played a major role. He generally spoke and acted in ways that supported business regardless of his private opinions, and viewed the federal government itself as a cost-conscious business organization.
The American Economy:Spectacular Growth.
Expansion (transition) to consumer society: Electricity & Automobiles reshape economy and infrastructure.Technology spurred a 64% increase in industrial production from 1919-1929, led by automobiles and related industries, steel, rubber, oil and chemical industry, and construction of roads and housing tracts.Electrification of production mechanization and assembly-line methods led to a 72% increase in per-worker production during the decade.
Automobile production went from 1.5 million per year in 1919 to 4.8 million in 1929.Cars represented an incredible new freedom of mobility, as well as privacy.Ironic note: Ford was a fundamentalist, even reactionary, who loved square dances, etc, but his mass produced automobile provided enormous new freedoms and the eight hour day provided new leisure time.
Radio:40% of all homes acquired a radio in the 1920s.
The decade was a busy one for mergers.The concentration of economic power resumed in full force.For example, 1% of banks controlled 46% of the nation’s banking resources.200 corporations controlled 20% of the nation’s wealth.
Coolidge: “The man who builds a factory, builds a temple.The man who works there, worships there.” See Bruce Barton, The Man Nobody Knows,depiction of Jesus as the business manager extraordinaire.
It was a bad decade for farmers.The war had
been a boom, but by 1921 farm income was back to the level of
More and more people worked for big concerns.
Blue-Collar World of Work: scientific management and time-motion studies (Frederick Taylor), assembly lines and mechanization institute deskilling of crafts and routinization (some types of farming and mining excepted) in virtually every kind of business and manufacturing, union membership declined, and corporate control of the shop floor was virtually complete.See decline of union membership- from high of 5 mil down to 3.6 by 1923, decline in strikes from 100 per year 1916-21 to 18 per year in 1926-30 (coal, textiles, and farm workers persisted more than most).Unions undermined by Red Scare; unions also developed their own hierarchies more interested in accommodation; labor surplus, especially in sick industries of coal and textiles; Supreme Court support for management by using anti-trust laws against union actions; development of welfare capitalism--corporate welfare, in-house unions. One long-term result of corporate welfare: heightened expectations of workers.
White-Collar World of Work: shift from entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals to a salaried staff supporting large scale national businesses, as independent retailers displaced by growth of chains, mega-corporations. Education becomes more important, see correspondence courses, Dale Carnegie selling success.
See Babbitt for example of middle-class finding identity in consumer products and gadgets; cars, recreation, appliances, sports. During the 1920s a new confluence of mass production, mass marketing and mass popular culture.
Installment buying and Chain Stores made items like irons, gas stoves, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, refrigerators, radios, sewing machines, and especially automobiles, commonplace.
Blue-Collar Consumption and Leisure: While skilled workers did enjoy some wage advances, less skilled, especially new immigrants, African Americans, and women earned less, and enjoyed smaller increases; unemployment was persistent, steady work not the rule for unskilled workers, a circumstance exacerbated by heightened expectations. Working-class and ethnic groups helped shape culture, while resisting homogenization. Ethnic groups initially utilized new cultural formats (local theaters, ethnic shops, native language newspapers, etc) to reinforce their distinctiveness, but gradually nationalizing momentum undermined localism and ethnicity.
White-Collar Consumption and Leisure: Middle-class had most capacity to engage in new consumer culture, accompanied by shift from value of self-sacrifice to self-realization.
The 20s concept of self-expression and self-realization (Freud) through consumption and leisure was the flip side of the monotony and alienation of workplace. Popular tracts of the day included titles like, “Day by day, I’m getting better and better,” How to Win Friends and Influence People (How to get ahead).
Advertising mushroomed, 5X growth from 1914-1929 on appeals to self satisfaction through leisure and consumption. Advertising offered cures to stress, and the plight of the individual in ‘modern’ society. Consuming a solution to life’s problems--see celebrity pitches, concern with opinion of others, e.g. mouthwashes (Listerine), deodorants etc. Movies reflected and reinforced consumer culture. Nonetheless, there was a certain ambivalence between peoples’ desires for the fruits of technology etc and their concern for individual freedom and autonomy.
According to historians, the work ethic actually began dying in the middle of the nineteenth century and finally succumbed entirely by the 1920s. Two developments killed it. The first was industrialism, which made work dreadfully dull. Jewish glove makers in Chicago, Herbert Gutman found, grew morose and spiritless when the owner of the factory where they worked installed an assembly line. Nobody wanted to work all day sewing just one finger of a glove instead of the entire piece. At congressional hearings held in the 1880s clergyman R. Heber Newton noted that the industrial worker "makes nothing," and "sees no complete product of his skill growing into finished shape in his hands." Hence, the worker feels dejected and lifeless. "What zest," he asked, "can there be in the toil of this bit of manhood?" Add to this the fact that factories exploited many workers and you understand why workers suddenly weren't as thrilled with the work ethic as they once may have been.
A second factor in the death of the work ethic was the birth of consumerism in the 1920s. "Want the good life?" businesses asked Americans. It's for sale! The goal in life then became living well not working hard. In the past one worked hard to gain the good life. Now one simply achieved it instantaneously by buying goods on credit. Loren Baritz reports that in the 1920s "$6 billion worth of consumer goods were bought on credit: 85 percent of furniture sales, 80 percent of phonographs, 75 percent of electric washing machines, and most of the vacuum cleaners, pianos, sewing machines, radios, and electric refrigerators."
The Lost Generation:Americans jaded by the war produced literary expressions of disillusionment.Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises; Farewell to Arms), Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald (Great Gatsby).Social critics like H.L. Mencken satirized American provincialism.Political radicals like John Dos Passos offered tough critiques and alternative visions to capitalism.
The New Woman
Education: After the Civil war educational opportunities expanded for women ( Vassar 1865, Wellsley, Smith 1875, Bryn Mawr, Banard, Radcliff, B.U. Stanford, U. of Chicago by 1890s).That translated into women representing 40%of all college students in 1910, and a peak of 47% in 1920, a rate that went into decline for the next five decades.
52% of social workers
79% of librarians
83% of stenographers
93% of nurses
66% of teachers
The 1920s witnessed a major increase in married women in the workplace.Prior to 1920, most married women who worked for wages were poor, but in the 20s, middle class women entered the expanding white collar world.Part of the impetus was fueled by the consumer revolution and credit plans, the desire for discretionary income to make payments for consumer products.
The automobile and dating.
Birth control (MargaretSanger):the promise and fears about sex without reproduction.Popular movie titles reveal the titillation and fears surrounding “liberated” women:The Daring Years;Women Who Give; The Price She Paid; Name the Man; Queen of Sin.
One response came from the science of psychology: the notion of companionate marriage, in which one should expect to enjoy an intimate sexual partnership rather than the Victorian model of male dominance and submission.This position turned the tables on the old morality:the Victorian woman who enjoyed sex was “abnormal,” but the new woman was expected to find a man and fulfillment within marriage.By extension, women who did not marry were portrayed as dangerous, unwholesome, mannish. Social science effectively domesticated sexual freedom (the Flapper) into the arena of marriage.
Social sciences redefined (essentialized) femininity, masculinity, and literally invented the category of homosexuality.
Social sciences also reinforced the role of the homemaker as a domestic engineer, with a proliferation of literature to enable women to make the home safe, satisfying, etc., covering topics including nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and child rearing manuals. Advertising used “scientific claims” as the modern authority.Advertisers assumed the role of educators, aimed at women who made 80% of the consumer purchases.Advertisers largely sold women images of themselves. Purchasing became the arena where women could exercise choice and control, essentially collapsing feminist notions of choice to individual consumer decisions.
Tribune, 1930: Chicago
“Today’s woman gets what she wants. The vote.Slim sheaths of silk to replace voluminous petticoats.Glassware in sapphire blue or glowing amber.The right to a career.Soap to match her bathroom’s colors.”
The net effect of was to safely contain the radical feminism of the 1920s back within the confines of traditional domestic subservience.
The “New Negro,” from the title of Alain Locke’s 1925 collection of poetry, prose, art and essays representing the strength and accomplishments of black culture and the Harlem Renaissance.The revival was broader than just
Harlem, it took place in with the Jazz, in St Louis with the Blues, and other cities as well. Authors Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Claude McKay.Paul Robeson on Broadway. Chicago
I, too, sing
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes
The great migration of Southern blacks to northern cities had created new African American urban communities.While there was racism in the North too, the iron clad oprssion of Jim Crow was not everywhere the same, there were other possibilities in the urban Black communities.
Civil Rights:NAACP, DuBois, the Crisis, the Defender,The Urban League.NAACP.
On the presistence of lynching: http://www.musarium.com/withoutsanctuary/main.html
Pan Africanism (precursor of Black Nationalism, Black Power):
"Up you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will! The negro of yesterday has disappeared from the scene, and his place is taken by a new negro who stands erect, conscious of his manhood rights, fully determined to preserve them at all costs."--Marcus Garvey.
Garvey was Jamaican-born and a gifted promoter who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association.He promoted ethnic pride and self-help, in the form of Black-owned, operated, and supported businesses.Most visible: The Black Star Line. 2.Garvey’s empire collapsed and he was imprisoned for fraud (rightly or wrongly) and deported.
Cultural Conflict:Fundamentalists (prohibition), the Scopes trial, The New KKK
The Klan:3-5 million members, native-born Protestants, targeted immigrants, Jews, Catholics, and Blacks for failing to live up to “100% American.”Lynchings continued, but ironically the rate declined in the face of energetic work by the NAACP.
Around the turn of the century the Klan, and the Confederate "lost cause" generally, took on a retrospective romantic appeal for southerners. This appeal was greatly stimulated by Thomas Dixon's 1905 novel, The Clansman, and D. W. Griffith's 1915 motion picture based on it, Birth of a Nation. The second Klan was born in that environment in 1915, which encouraged the superpatriotism of World War I. After the war its membership and geographic range expanded dramatically.
During its heyday in the early 1920s this Klan numbered over 3 million members nationwide, and it won political power in
, Indiana , Oklahoma , and a number of other states. Unlike its predecessor it was mainly an urban phenomenon, reflecting the demographic changes in the nation. It drew members and leaders from all ranks of white society, including substantial women's participation, but chiefly from lower-middle-class people, largely religious fundamentalists who felt threatened by a national drift away from the small-town Protestant culture they had grown up with. The 1920s Klan fed on a variety of frustrations and fears: fear of the immigrants who were entering the country in large numbers, of communists and other radicals spawned by the Russian Revolution, of blacks who were moving into northern cities in increasing numbers, of Jews and Catholics who were rising in the economic and social order, and of labor unions demanding a larger share of the pie for their members. Oregon
Some of these Klansmen resorted to violence as in the days of old. But, in a membership exceeding 3 million, the vast majority were nonviolent. They marched in parades, paid dues, and bought regalia (this Klan was, for some of its organizers, a financial bonanza). They voted for Klan-endorsed political candidates and attended rallies where crosses were burned. (The original Klan did not burn crosses; the idea seems to have originated in
's novels.) The organization dwindled away in the late 1920s, the result of its own legal, financial, and political excesses, though a remnant persisted until its final disbandment in 1944. Dixon
Excerpt from The Klan Manual, 1925:
"To unite white male persons, native-born, Gentile citizens of the United States of America, who owe no allegiance of any nature or degree to any foreign government, nation, institution, sect, ruler, person, or people; whose morals are good; whose reputations and vocations are respectable; whose habits are exemplary; who are of sound minds and eighteen years or more of age, under a common oath into a brotherhood of strict regulations."
The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is a movement devoting itself to the needed task of developing a genuine spirit of American patriotism. Klansmen are to be examples of pure patriotism. They are to organize the patriotic sentiment of native-born white, Protestant Americans for the defense of distinctively American institutions. Klansmen are dedicated to the principle that America shall be made American through the promulgation of American doctrines, the dissemination of American ideals, the creation of wholesome American sentiment, the preservation of American institutions.
The movement is designed to create a real brotherhood among men who are akin in race, belief, spirit, character, interest, and purpose. The teachings of the order indicate very clearly the attitude and conduct that make for real expression of brotherhood, or, "the practice of Klannishness."
"To relieve the injured and the oppressed; to succor the suffering and unfortunate, especially widows and orphans." The supreme pattern for all true Klansmen is their Criterion of Character, Jesus Christ, "who went about doing good." The movement accepts the full Christian program of unselfish helpfulness, and will seek to carry it on in the manner commanded by the one Master of Men, Christ Jesus.
I. The Home. "To shield the sanctity of the home." The American home is fundamental to all that is best in life, in society, in church, and in the nation. It is the most sacred of human institutions. Its sanctity is to be preserved, its interests are to be safeguarded, and its well-being is to be promoted. Every influence that seeks to disrupt the home must itself be destroyed. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan would protect the home by promoting whatever would make for its stability, its betterment, its safety, and its inviolability.
2. Womanhood. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan declares that it is committed to "the sacred duty of protecting womanhood"; and announces that one of its purposes is "to shield . . . the chastity of womanhood." The degradation of women is a violation of the sacredness of human personality, a sin against the race, a crime against society, a menace to our country, and a prostitution of all that is best, and noblest, and highest in life. No race, or society, or country, can rise higher than its womanhood.
3. The Helpless. "To protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal."Children, the disabled, and other helpless ones are to know the protective, sheltering arms of the Klan.
4. American Interests. "To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and all laws passed in conformity thereto, and to protect the states and the people thereof from all invasion of their right from any source whatsoever."
"To maintain forever white supremacy." "To maintain forever the God- given supremacy of the white race." Every Klansman has unqualifiedly affirmed that he will "faithfully strive for the eternal maintenance of white supremacy."
ended their constitutional ban on interracial marriage in 2000, by voter referendum. Alabama removed laws criminalizing interracial marriage in 1998. Although such laws were unenforceable, the South Carolina legislator who fought for removing Article IV, Section 102 of the Alabama Constitution, contended that the law continued to discourage interracial couples from marrying in rural areas of Alabama into the 1990s. AlabamaSee Werner Sollers, ed. Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature and Law. UP 2000 Oxford“Here in , a mixed-race couple, Chinese and Anglo, were offered a marriage license but reminded the clerk of the anti-miscegenation law. The law was then taken off the books in 1962, well before the Supreme Court Loving decision. I believe my wife and I were the first Black/White couple legally married in Arizona (1964).” ArizonaPBarrett @cox.net Pat Barrett
Aug. 23, 1927, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in for the murders of two men during a 1920 robbery. Boston
The Scopes trial was a mass media pageant carried live on the radio that ultimately yielded a devastating blow to fundamentalism as Darrow embarrassed
.. Great actors : Wm Jennings Bryan v Clarence Darrow (ACLU). The paradox about the trial was that Bryan , Dayton wanted to be the host in order to profit from the proceeding in order to finance its modernization! Ohio
Meanwhile, science strikes again with the surge in eugenics at UMN and elsewhere across the country, imposing over 20,000 forced sterilizations.
Linkages: Klan, Scopes, Origins Act, Prohibition, New Negro, NAACP, Flappers.
The Collapse: The Great Stock Market Crash
Underlying conditions: Maldistribution of wealth--prosperity and poverty. Mechanized production exceeds demand capacity. Unsteady employment patterns in industry. “Sick” industries belie prosperity. Coal, shipbuilding, and esp. agriculture endure persistent economic declines. Farmers’ depression started in the 1920s with foreclosures and bank failures in full stride.
Short term: Confluence of economic pressures, lead by Speculative fever like the Florida land bubble and the bull market--increased margin stock buying, land speculations, corporate pyramids (Insull)--shakes investor confidence and initiated a downward spiral of production and demand.