The Roaring Twenties

Stocks rose, generation gaps increased, important agreements were formed and culture thrived. Entering an era post a World War meant it was time for re-construction. America in the 1920’s marked a time post war and pre depression that was a booming or “roaring” time. The United States experienced a developing age like never before. Politically, the government decided to reform their beliefs on war and foreign relations—although, anti-immigration laws were enforced around the country. Economically, the stock market rose and Henry Ford took charge of a new mechanical front—however, “tariff walls” were put up. African Americans and Women socially inspired the new face of the United States—although, women still fought on for more rights. The 1920’s were a time of both confidence and disillusionment for the American culture in many aspects such as political, economic, cultural and social.

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During the post-war era, political ideas and relations thrived with confidence. A large milestone in political relation of countries was the Washington Naval Conference called by President Harding. The Washington Conference was an effort to compromise; it was not a victory for any one nation. The four countries had good intentions and made an effort to calm the tensions in the Pacific. Secondly, the Kellogg-Brian Pact was an international agreement for all counties not to use war as a solution. A total of 62 signatures signed this treaty. Although this pact was a great solution to conflict, many believed that the United States should fully stay out of foreign country affairs. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was very passionate about not passing Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles and removing America from any further relation with other countries (DOC A).

On the other hand, the government ran into conflict with members of the population having anarchist views. Alexander Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General, began to start “raids” to deport or arrest suspected Communist or Socialist radicals (DOC N). Italian anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolommeo Vanzetti were convicted of murdering two men during the armed store robbery. The case incited controversy based on questions regarding liability, the question of the innocence or guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti. The last question asked about the Sacco-Vanzetti Case with whether or not it was fair to the two immigrants or if it was biased due to anti-immigration views held by the government (DOC B).

The economic structure changed drastically during the 1920’s. Henry Ford, a mechanical genius, gave rise to an original invention known as the automobile. This innovative machine was a new form of transportation admired by the entire population of the United States. Although this machine was well-like by everyone, it was not necessarily affordable. Because of this, the upper-class was the greatest consumers of automobiles at this time. The part that was so economically stimulating about the Ford Company was its great demand to have a large staff for mass production. Due to this, many job opportunities were offered to the general public no matter what their experience (DOC D). Secondly, the stock market became a very popular topic of conversation.

The market “boomed” with a rise in popularity of placing investments on companies. Negatively, with a rising economy came high tariffs in the 1920’s. The U.S. began to put much too high tariffs on exports almost as if they were “shutting in” their goods. By doing so they figuratively put “tariff walls” all over the United States which literally meant other counties could not afford to pay the tariffs. Other counties began to threaten the United States that they would shut them out or do the same to their import and export tariffs(DOC P). These tariffs also affected other countries ability to pay back war debt to America. This threat and execution contributed to the downfall of the U.S. economy in the late 1920’s.

The 1920’s became a social and cultural breakthrough for both African-Americans and Women. African Americans began to play a style of music known as Dixie-Land that developed during their great migration from the South to the North. This was a completely new sound to the American culture that was very appealing to all that supported it. It later would be called “Jass” or “Jazz” music. This music was indigenous to America and truly developed the culture. White Supremacists despised the music while most of the culture found it to be upbeat and fun. The African-American culture still felt in the shadows (DOC M) but their success in the social front and the first development of a black culture brought them hope. Women truly came into the forefront of the social eye with the passing of the 19th
amendment in August of 1920. After many protests of women asserting their views that they were “half the nation,” the 19th amendment was finally ratified (DOC C). Although women were given the right to suffrage, they were still under the umbrella of Republican Motherhood.

Many women tried to make a difference and continue to fight for more rights but the sexist ideas of the country held them back. Margret Sanger, a women’s activist rebel, saw a women’s right to control her own body as the next big goal. Sanger was arrested for passing out birth control to a large New York Building.(DOC E) Stating that birth control is the “means by which woman attains basic freedom,” Sanger started an organization known as “Planned Parenthood” helping teens with birth control so parenthood is a planned event. On the contrary, religion became the greatest social tension of the 1920’s. An example of the religious conflict was the fundamentalists, who interpreted the Bible literally, and modernists who were willing to interpret the Bible more flexibly. The most notable conflict between the two groups was the Monkey Trial in 1925. John Scopes, a high school biology teacher, taught Darwin’s theory of evolution in the classroom which was highly against religious teachings.

Clarence Darrow, defending John Scopes—the accused— skillfully interrogated prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan. This conflict brought arguments forward such as one not being able to achieve personal fulfillment or execute their own beliefs making life meaningless (DOC O). Darrow’s questioning forced Bryan to openly state the inflexibility of fundamentalist beliefs. Many Americans began to follow modernists’ beliefs after the Monkey Trial.

The 1920’s had strengths and weaknesses related to political, social, cultural, and economic events. Confidence spread throughout the nation but disillusionment struck many aspects of the American culture. Isolation became a major topic of conversation politically. The economy took a major turn with high stock prices and new machines. Finally, African-Americans and women rose to prominence and took the lead in a social era.

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