1920s Essay Introduction

The Impact of The 1920's - History Essay
The decade of the 1920's was a period of American prosperity, new technology, and a new role for women. As World War I came to an end, society began bursting into many different things. The twenties were a time when

people laughed more often than cried, partied more often than worked, and dreamed more often than faced reality. Athletes were looked up to as heroes, authors helped people escape into a different life, and women dressed as flappers and started voting. The Harlem Renaissance, the model T, prohibition, sports heroes, the role of women, and new technologies all helped influence the social changes in the "Roaring Twenties".

In the 1920's, African Americans were "roaring" in their culture. African American music, literature, dance, art, and social commentary all boomed in Harlem, New York. Their culture movement was known to be called "The New Negro Movement" and later called the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance showed the different cultures of African American. One of the main factors leading to the rise of the Harlem Renaissance was the urban migration. There were different people of the arts, such as Nora Thurston Zeale who was an anthropologist, Countee Cullen who was a romantic poet, Langston Hughes who was a poet as well as a playwright. Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnston, and W.E.B. Dubois were three political figures who helped people have hope of freedom for African Americans and made the Harlem Renaissance what it came to be known for, all the arts, literature, and music. Marcus Garvey was the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the first African American leader in the American history to organize masses of people in a political movement. He advocated "black nationalism" and financial independence for African Americans. W.E.B. Dubois was an author and a teacher who helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped African Americans try to improve their lives. James Weldon Johnston also helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was also the secretary. He was also an influential poet that influenced jazz music. Another black famous figure in the 1920's was Louis Armstrong. He was an amazing trumpet player who played jazz for the first time ever heard north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Langston Hughes was a great writer who wrote funny poems, stories, essays, and poetry. The Harlem Renaissance was a time period which had a huge influence across America and even around the world.

The automobile really changed the way people lived in the 1920's. The automobile became the backbone of the American economy. It altered the American landscape and American's society, and it was only one of the several factors in the country's business boom in the 1920's. The automobile changed the way people lived their lives, the way the city was run, and how the economy was dealt with. The automobile changed the way everyday people lived their lives. Rural families now could travel to the city for shopping and entertainment. It also gave families the opportunity to take a vacation in places far away. Automobiles also gave younger people and women additional opportunities to be more independent. It allowed people to live far away from their jobs causing the urban sprawl. The automobile changed the way the city was run in a few ways. It was evident in the construction of the paved roads suitable for driving in all weather. Houses were being built with garages or carports and a driveway and a smaller lawn due to more people having automobiles. Gas stations, repair shops, public garages, motels, tourist camps, traffic signals, and shopping centers were all being built as well. The economy also had a big change when the automobile came into power. The industry provided an economic underpinning for cities like Akron and Detroit. It drew people to oil-producing states like California and Texas. The automobile industry also helped promote the free enterprise system. In the late 1920's, about one in every five people owned a vehicle in America.

On January 16, 1920, the 18th amendment went to affect which banned all consumption, distribution, and creation of any alcoholic beverages. This created uproar, because people really did not like being told what they could or could not drink. The soul purpose was to reduce the quantity of alcohol consumed. It at first worked, it began to be very difficult to get alcohol, plus the prices went up a lot, and the quantity consumed was less than it used to be. At that time, most bootleggers were from the mafia, which were families that controlled areas of a city. Speakeasies were made to keep people happy when the alcohol was banned. They gave out alcohol illegally. Besides speakeasies, the American population came up with different kind of ways to get around the 18th Amendment, such as putting alcohol in hot water bottles, coconut shells, garden hoses, and other unique things to get alcohol. The mafia saw the amendment as a way to make money. The time between 1920 until 1933 when prohibition ended, mafia families, such as Al Capone, were taking in about sixty million dollars. It was pretty hard to uphold the Prohibition law. So in 1933, the Prohibition law came to an end.

There were many sports heroes in the 1920's, such as George Herman Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Johnny Weismuller, Steve Donoghue, Harold Edward Grange, Helen Newington Wills, and William Tilden. George Herman Ruth, later dubbed Babe Ruth from his fans, set the baseball record of sixty home runs in one season in 1927. This record stood until 1961 when Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. He might have been the best baseball player who ever played the game. He led the Yankees to seven World Series and made two million dollars in his career. Jack "the Manassa Mauler" Dempsey was one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time. He was a heavyweight champion and fought and won against Georges Carpentier. The battle was later called "The Battle of the Century" and they were the first people to be paid more than one million dollars for promotion of the fight. Johnny Weismuller was a swimmer who won a lot of Olympic gold medals. He won 52 United States titles and 28 world distance records. He also starred in many films as Tarzan Lord of the Jungle. Steve Donoghue won several Derby's. He won six total Derby's and was named the champion jockey from 1914-1923. Harold Edward Grange was a college football hero who helped get the game of American football popular. Helen Newington Wills was a woman's tennis champion. She won Wimbledon for the first time in 1927. She had won two Olympic gold medals and 19 singles championships. She was later inducted into the U.S. Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame. William "Big Bill" Tilden was a men's tennis champion. He was the first American to win the Wimbledon title in 1920. These two champions helped get the game of tennis popular during the twenties.

On August 26th, 1920, President Wilson ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. The Nineteenth Amendment was for women suffrage. In the twenties, many roles changed for women. Women were declared the right to vote, their styles changed, they began doing other jobs such as doctors, bankers, lawyers, and other different jobs which were usually reserved for men. Women's style changed from wearing clothes that went all the way down to their ankles and with long hair all pinned up to short "bob" hair cuts and short skirts. These women were called "flappers". In the twenties, the jobs that were usually seen as womanly such as household things dropped. Women started doing jobs that men usually did. It was still seen that women were to be in the home and men brought home the money.

A lot of new technology thrived in the 1920's. In 1927, Philo Farnsworth patented the "dissector tube" which turned out to be important to inventing the television. Late in 1922, the first movie with sound, "The Jazz Singer" came out. Television's first drama came out on September 11, 1928, which was called "The Queen's Messenger". In 1926, the first movie with sound and color came out.

The Harlem Renaissance, the model T, prohibition, sports heroes, the role of women, and new technologies all helped influence the social changes in the "Roaring Twenties". The prosperity and experiences that America went through in the "Roaring Twenties" looked like they would go on forever. There were not any signs that the country that was thriving would go into a complete and total economic depression. New inventions, new advancements, and new discoveries helped make life better in America. Life seemed so easy in the twenties thanks to all the new advancements. No one would have guessed what laid ahead for the powerful country.

The 1920s Summary & Analysis

The 1920s have long been remembered as the Roaring '20s, an era of unprecedented affluence best remembered through the cultural artifacts generated by its new mass-consumption economy:

  • a Ford Model T in every driveway
  • Amos 'n' Andy on the radio
  • the first "talking" motion pictures at the cinema
  • baseball hero Babe Ruth in the ballpark
  • celebrity pilot Charles Lindbergh on the front page of every newspaper

As a soaring stock market minted millionaires by the thousands, young Americans in the nation's teeming cities rejected traditional social mores by embracing a modern urban culture of freedom—drinking illegally in speakeasies, dancing provocatively to the Charleston, and listening to the sexy rhythms of jazz music.

However, the entrenched image of the 1920s as a sort of nationwide, decade-long party—à la the movable feast enjoyed by Jay Gatsby, an iconic figure of the age—obscures a very different reality for many Americans: the Roaring '20s left nearly half the country behind. 

The 1920 Census revealed that for the first time in United States history, a majority of Americans lived in cities. Still, throughout the decade, well over 40% of the country's population resided on farms and in tiny rural communities. 

And down on the farm? Life was anything but roaring.

For American farmers, the Great Depression began not with the stock market crash in 1929, but with the collapse of agricultural prices in 1920. So, the entire decade of the 1920s was a time of poverty and crushing indebtedness, leading to ever-rising foreclosures of family farms. More than 90% of American farms lacked electricity, and the proportion of farms with access to a telephone actually decreased over the course of the decade.8 


Furthermore, rural Americans—overwhelmingly native-born, white Protestants—found the modern, sexualized, multi-ethnic culture of the cities deeply offensive to their traditional beliefs. 

Their antagonism toward the perceived cultural excesses of the Roaring '20s fueled a political backlash that allowed a resurgent Ku Klux Klan to take over several state governments. It was anti-Black as always, but now also anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-evolution, anti-drinking, and anti-sex.

The story of the 1920s is embodied no more by Henry Ford or Louis Armstrong than it is by Ed Jackson, Ku Klux Klansman, and the Governor of Indiana. The 1920s roared with a clash of civilizations as Americans struggled to reconcile the prosperous modernity of the city with the impoverished traditionalism of the country.


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