The Roaring 20's
The ten years between 1920 and 1930 were filled with great political, economic and social changes in the United States. The nation's wealth about doubled. Many Americans were becoming very rich. More Americans now lived in cities instead of on farms. Many products were becoming 'national' products. They could be bought all over the United States. People in New York and San Francisco danced and sang to the same music. Society in the United States was really 'roaring.' However, many saw real problems in the changes in the culture. They thought of the changes as a lessening of moral values.
Young people, though, enjoyed their new freedoms. A typical young woman of the 1920's was called a 'flapper.' She wore shorter dresses, and smoked and drank. Some young women began to lead a lifestyle which was not in line with previous values. Not all women made all of these changes. However, most women experienced more freedom. Women had the right to vote, granted in 1919. They could work in more professional jobs outside of the home. Modern appliances, like the washing machine, gave women more free time.
Americans had more money to spend during this decade. One of the most common purchases was a radio. 20 million households had one by 1930. The first radio station began in Pittsburgh, in 1920. Thousands of people attended movies every week.
The most important new product for Americans was the automobile. The 1924 Ford cost $260. People now could buy products on credit. They didn't have to pay the entire cost of the car, but could make payments for months or years. Included in the payments was interest, or extra money, for the bank or company who loaned the money to the consumer, or buyer.
Young people especially loved their new freedom of music. Phonograph records sold in the millions. Jazz bands performed all over the country. People danced to the Charleston, the black bottom, the flea hop and others.
The sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages had been forbidden by the Volstead Act beginning on January 16, 1920. Many people thought that the prohibition of alcohol would get rid of a bad influence on those who liked alcohol. They felt that men were neglecting their families because of drink. All taverns and bars closed. However, people started making and selling alcohol secretly. People could go to secret bars called 'speakeasies' and buy alcoholic drinks. That name was used because people had to speak quietly about the illegal bar outside or talk softly when in it.
These were controlled by criminal groups. Al Capone was a famous 'gangster.' He was the boss of a gang of criminals. He paid many Chicago Policemen to look the other way and not arrest him or his men. He hired 1000 tough men to work for him and control the operation of his business.
Other problems in the 1920's involved the movement of many African-Americans from the South to the northern cities. Many people in the North didn't like the jazz and blues music and the different kind of literature they brought with them.
Americans became fearful of immigrants at this time. This fear led to the passing of the National Origins Act of 1924. The law set immigration quotas (number of people allowed) for those wanting to enter the United States. Some countries were favored over others. Conflict between many different people in America existed during the 1920's, involving differences of religion, skin color and moral values.
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