The 1920's

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

The Worst of Times

Social


Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924 and introduced the quota system which limited the amount of immigrants from each country due to complaints from nativists that they were "taking jobs from union workers." They completely banned Immigration from Asia which led the Japanese government to create the national day of mourning. Nativists also accomplished talking congress into lowereing the number of immigrants even more to 150,000 per year.

This was a bad time because Congress was limiting the rights of unpopular groups which was going against what the US stood for.


In 1920 the Klu Klux Klan membership numbers rose to a staggering 4 million members. The Klan battled against African Americans, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. The thought they were trying to destroy Americanism. They had very strong political support and political ties so they got away with many things like whippings, kidnappings, cross burnings, arson, lynching, and murder to try to terrorize and scare of target groups.


Many people died for no cause and were usually innocent. The group terrorized people and caused havoc among these targeted communities to where they were genuinely fearful of their lives.



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Cultural


A rise in Jewish immigration rights caused anti-Semitism which was a prejudice against Jews. They were often turned down by landlords, colleges would only allow few Jews, and many job listings were "Christians only." The Jews had to undergo these prejudices throughout the 1920's.


Jews were not held as equals like others at this time. They could not live a normal life and had to fight to stop the assumptions of them.


Another target of religious prejudice were Catholics. In 1928 Al Smith, a catholic was nominayed for president. Americans had revolted against Britain and did not like the idea of a Catholic reigning over the country in fear of the reintroduction of the pope and the Catholic system. In spite of Smith's attempt to tell the public that this was not his intention, the anti-Catholic beliefs could not be overcome. He failed to win the election.


Again, the US is a place that claims to not hold you against your religion and there was a lot of religious tensions and prejudice in the 1920's. People of a certain religion might be robbed of their rights because of what they choose to believe in.

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Political


On May 1st 1919, eight bombs were set off in different cities escalating the intensity of the Red Scare. The Palmer Raids began when Attorney General Palmer was targeted by one of these bombs. They raided homes, businesses, and different places of suspected radicals without permission in search of weapons or anything of violence. Foreigners were deported and many people were falsely accused on no grounds.


The fear of turning into a Communist country turned the US into something much worse at the time. People were letting the fear control their common sense. Many people's reputations and careers were even ruined from being wrongly accused.


A clerk from a town in Connecticut was convicted and sentenced to do six months in jail due to a comment he had said to a customer. He believed that Lenin, the Russian revolutionary was one of the brainiest world leaders. He was reported and sentenced.


People were being thrown in jail left and right for little things that did not prove that they had ties to communism.

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Economic


The government was unprepared for demobilization which caused many factories that made war products to close, crop prices dropped as the demand for them wasn't necessary anymore, and unemployment rates dropped considerably. By 1920 more than 5 million americans were unemployed. The government used propaganda to try and encourage employers to hire Veterans but there just weren't enough jobs


A shortage of jobs after a war could bring the economy down and could take the country into a depression. Veterans who had worked so hard in the war to defend their country and support their family could not even get a job.


A rise in electricity in homes brought new appliances such as vacuums, dishwashers, washing machines, etc. Companies were selling these on the grounds that they were labor saving and made cleaning less painful.


Although all of this seems like a good thing, it was the opposite. It actually made a stay at home wife's work week even longer as the standard level of cleanliness rose. They were expected to use these appliances to do even more in order to keep the house clean.

The Best of Times

Economic


Henry Ford introduced a whole new work system. He raised worker's minimum wages two times higher than what they normally were and cut their hours from nine to eight in order to lower employee turnover and raise productivity. He also cut car prices more than six times between 1921 and 1925 which made a car much more affordable to the average citizens.


More cars were introduced to the community and traveling became much faster and easier at an affordable price to the work I class.


Chains of stores were introduced and expanded rapidly. All across the country different chain stores opened. By 1928 A&P had 17,500 stores opened nationwide. The different types of chain stores ranged from cigar stores to grocery stores to banks and urtility companies. The banks and utility companies were critical in promoting financial speculation.

Political


As governor of New York, Al Smith was nominated for president in the Election of 1928. As governor he introduced many new things such as state parks, public hospitals, and the nations first housing program. He gave women a 40 hour work week. His goal was the betterment of the publics well-being. Although he lost the election he did make gains. Many immigrants began to vote and many African Americans began to favor Democrats.


On top of introducing many of the things we use in the modern world he also helped to get immigrants and African Americans more involved in the elections.


Herbert Hoover brought many good things. He helped poverty to be lowered by bringing industry leaders together and heading the Food Administration. He set up programs made to feed the hungry.


Herbert wanted to end all poverty, that was his goal and that would help many people who were having trouble.

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Social


The American Civil Liberties Union was made to combat Red Scare accusations and the loss of freedom of speech. They wanted to protect the immigrants that were being deported and fight for them to be able to stay. They helped free Wobblies and pacifists and they defended the right for trade unions to hold meetings.


Immigrants went through many hard times during the Red Scare but there were people who did stand up for them and their rights.


Women gained the right to vote in 1920. The government wanted to give start a program of women and infant health care clinic and made an amendment to stop child labor. Women beegan to be accepted into congress as sexual descrimination was lessening. In 1925, Mae Ella Norton was the first woman to chair a congressional committee.


Women were making strides towards equality and this pleased many of them. They were able to do more things but were still working towards being able to do more.

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Cultural


After the war people used movies to escape from the realities. Ticket sales rose dramatically from 301 million to 721 million dollars. Movies changed the culture and actors became celebrities to the public. Fans copied the actors hairstyles and fashions as many different styles became more popular.


Movies brought more joy and fun back to the people after a wartime. They were able to escape in movies.


Radio brought popular culture a voice. They reported news, the elections, and even sports. They brought music and comedy into listeners lives. Radio broadcasting was able to reach to a very large audience.


This was a good time for people because like movies, it brought fun and entrertainment into people's lives.

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