Ch. 12 – Politics of the Roaring Twenties

Ch. 12 & 13
American Society, Economy, &
in the
Roaring Twenties
U.S. History
Fear of Communism (Red Scare 1919-1920)
– “The Red Scare” began in U.S. in 1919 as
Communists in Russia called for a world-wide
revolution. Thousands of Americans panicked.
– Attorney General Mitchell Palmer sent agents to
hunt down Communists in U.S.
– “Palmer Raids” violated
people’s civil rights.
Invaded homes,
jailed w/out lawyers,
deported immigrants.
Red Scare Political Cartoon
Trial of Sacco &
– 1920, Italian immigrants
Sacco & Vanzetti
arrested for robbery &
murder. Both men were
radical anarchists –
people who opposed any
form of govnt.
– Evidence against men
was weak. Sacco &
Vanzetti found guilty and
– Trial was famous in U.S..
Thousands of Americans
protested as country
realized Red Scare had
gone too far…
Ku Klux Klan
– Resurgence of the Klan began
in the South but also spread
heavily into Southwest and the
Midwest: IL, IN, OH
– Resurgence spawned by 1915
movie Birth of a Nation, by D.W. Griffith.
 First blockbuster epic (3 hours)
 Based on 1905 book The Clansman: An
Historical Romance of the KKK, by Thomas
 Opposed immigration, Catholics, blacks,
Jews, Communists, bootleggers, gambling,
adultery, and discussion of birth control
 Pro-WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant)
 Extremist and ultraconservative uprising
against forces of diversity and modernity
transforming American culture: nationalist,
racist, narrow minded.
Nativism: Anti – Immigration Laws:
– Anti-immigrant attitudes grew in U.S. during
1920s, especially toward immigrants from
southern & eastern Europe (where
Communism began).
– Immigrants competed for jobs, worked for low
wages, might spread radical ideas (communism,
anarchism, etc.)
– Emergency Quota Act (1921)
& National Origins Act (1924)
Cut immigration to U.S. from
southern & eastern Europe.
Asians banned completely. Era
of large-scale immigration to
U.S. (1880s – 1920) ended!
 Congress abolished national
origins quota system in 1965.
Popular movement in the
1920s - eugenic “science”
promoted childbearing by
"fit" classes & advocated
birth control or sterilization of
“inferior” people.
– Racial minorities, ethnic immigrant groups, and
handicapped were typically classified as unfit.
– Movement became popular due to large influx of
southern & eastern European immigrants from
– Eugenics was later discredited following WWII &
the Holocaust when it became associated with
racist ideas of Hitler & the Nazis (who also used
eugenics to promote plans for a “master race”).
John Scopes “Monkey
Trial” (1925)
– High school biology teacher in
Tennessee arrested for teaching
Charles Darwin’s theory of
evolution in class (violated
Tennessee’s Butler Law of
1924– “Divine Creation theory”).
– Scopes defended by ACLU
lawyer Clarence Darrow, most
famous trial lawyer in the nation.
– William Jennings Bryan
prosecutor; Presbyterian
– Although Scopes found guilty,
millions of American felt law had
gone too far.
– Issues of “monkey trial” – First
Amendment rights (free
speech), Modern America vs.
Traditional Values.
18th Amendment – Prohibition
(one of the last Progressive Era
– Volstead Act of 1919
implemented the amendment banned all alcohol in the U.S.
– Difficult to enforce. Lack of
respect for law, not enough
agents, alcohol could be made
at home, etc.
– “Speakeasies” - night clubs that
served illegal booze to patrons
who knew the password to enter
the establishments.
– “Bootleggers” smuggled illegal
alcohol into U.S.. Rise in
organized crime as gangsters
fought over territory and
distribution rights.
Radios & Movies
– Became a favorite pastime
for many Americans.
– Radio invented in
Guglielmo Marconi, an
Italian, in the 1890s.
(Technology used for longrange communication
during WWI)
– Motion pictures inexpensive
& fun to watch.
– By 1929 radios were in
many American homes.
Families would gather after
dinner to listen to popular
radio programs together.
– Radios & Movies helped
unite Americans and create
a new, popular culture.
Women in the 1920s
– “Flappers” term for “new women” of
1920s. Young, restless, eager to
experiment. Shocked her elders w/
short skirts, bobbed hair, bright makeup.
– Flappers refused to follow traditional
rules. Used slang, smoked, drank
liquor in public, etc.
– As women became more
independent, they continued to
– National Women’s Party began in
1923 to agitate for an Equal Rights
Amendment to the Constitution
(ERA) -- Alice Paul
Idea shocked traditionalists
Amendment finally defeated in early
Changes for Women in the 1920s
– 19th amendment granted all women the right to
– Flappers expressed changes in social values.
– New electric appliances made lives of
homemakers easier.
Glenn Curtiss
– Motorcycle racer turned
aviator. A founder of the U.S.
aircraft industry.
– Considered the “Father of
Naval Aviation” - responsible
for the first aircraft to take off
from and land on the decks of
ships at sea.
– Built many civil and military
aircraft during WWI, 1920s,
1930s, WWII.
Charles Lindbergh
– Most admired hero of
the 1920s. Symbolized
American values of
honesty and courage.
– Made first non-stop solo
flight across Atlantic
Ocean. Flew from NY
to Paris in his airplane,
“The Spirit of St. Louis”.
Harlem Renaissance
– Harlem section of New York City
became center of black cultural
movement in 1920s.
– Significance: Harlem produced a
wealth of African American
poetry, literature, art, and music,
expressing the pain, sorrow, and
discrimination blacks felt at this
– Langston Hughes
Best known figure of Harlem
African American poet, wrote
about black pride & heritage.
– Other poets and writers: Claude
McKay, Countee Cullen, Zora
Neale Hurston
Jazz – the American
– Began in New Orleans.
Blended African
rhythms w/ European
– Jazz unique –
musicians improvise as
they play & take “mood”
a step further.
– “Duke” Ellington
(pianist) & Louis
Armstrong (trunpet
player/singer) famous
black jazz musicians of
the time.
– Cotton Club in Harlem
famous for its jazz.
Tin Pan Alley
– Section of NYC with
many theaters &
publishing houses –
place where musicians
would play their music
for publishers &
– Would synthesize jazz,
ragtime, and popular
ballads into new sounds.
Marcus Garvey
– Leader of the United Negro Improvement
Association (UNIA)
– "Back to Africa Movement": Purpose was to
promote the resettlement of American
blacks in Africa. Advocated black racial
pride and separatism rather than integration.
– Urged blacks to buy only from blacks & founded chain of
businesses including grocery stores, restaurants, and
Garvey a native of Jamaica and founded UNIA there.
– FBI director J. Edgar Hoover monitored Garvey and
eventually sought to have him arrested and imprisoned.
Garvey convicted of mail fraud in sale of his company's
stock, imprisoned, and then deported.
– Garvey instilled self-confidence and self-reliance among
blacks, and later became the basis for the Nation of Islam
(Black Muslim) movement in 1960s
Booming Economy
– 1920 – 1929 U.S. enjoyed extreme prosperity.
– U.S. came out of WWI the world’s largest creditor
– Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin
Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover very pro-business & kept
taxes low - "trickle down" tax policies favored the
rapid expansion of capital investment. Americans
annual income rose more than 35%.
– Buying on credit (installment plan) became another
innovative feature of the postwar economy.
– Electricity became common in homes and
workplaces. Americans bought new appliances
like radios, vacuums, stoves, etc.
Harding’s Presidency
– Elected in 1920
– Harding spoke of returning America
to "Normalcy“
 Americans eager to turn inward
and evade international issues.
 Many Americans were tired of the
idealism, sacrifice and
overreaching reforms of the
Progressive Era and sought
– Conservative "Old Guard" wing of
the Republicans now dominated
Republican’s Conservative Economic
Agenda (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover)
– Conservatives believed role of gov’t was to make
business more profitable.
– Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy: "trickle
down" economics
– Government’s role should be limited; stay out of
business (laissez faire)
Harding appointed people to regulate agencies that didn't
like regulation
– Government helped to facilitate monopolies and
consolidation of industries
Antitrust laws often ignored, circumvented, or
inadequately enforced
– Businessmen should run the government as they
had experience in management.
 Cabinet positions went to wealthy business leaders who
looked out for big business interests.
– Hostile to Unions
Membership in labor unions dropped nearly 30% between
1920 and 1930
Mass-Consumption Economy
– Glorification of business --Business
became almost a religion.
– The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce
Barton: top selling book in 1925-1926.
 Called Jesus the first modern
– "Picked up 12 men from the bottom of
society and forged an organization that
conquered the world."
– "Every advertising man ought to study
the parables of Jesus. They are
marvelously condensed, as all good
advertising should be.”
– Calvin Coolidge: "The man who builds a
factory builds a temple; The man who
works there worships there.“
– Businessmen were considered the
people that "ruled" the nation.
Henry Ford & the Auto Industry
– Detroit emerged as the automobile capital of the world
– Ford focused on producing a car most Americans could
Ford realized workers were also potential consumers of his cars
– In 1914, raised worker salaries from $2 a day to $5 if workers
adopted "thrifty habits" (e.g. learn English, no gambling, drinking,
– Ford paid good benefits, hired handicapped, convicts, and
– Ford called a "traitor" to his class by many wealthy people.
– Model T car built using assembly line process. Became
first mass-produced automobile made quickly & cheaply.
Took only 1.5 hours to build a car (before assembly line: 14 hours)
– Ford’s use of the assembly line made him about $25,000 a day
during the 1920s
– Auto sales soared by late 1920s.
Impact of the Automobile
– Suburbs began to grow as drivers were able to live farther
away from jobs in cities.
– Auto production generated new jobs in steel, rubber, and
glass industries.
– Roadside gas stations, motels, restaurants grew to meet
needs of motorists.
– Automobile became backbone of American economy from
1920s until 1970s…