Roaring Twenties

By: Jillian Shepperd and Taylor Arvidson

Red scare

A nationwide fear of communists, socialists, anarchists, and other dissidents suddenly grabbed the American psyche in 1919 following a series of anarchist bombings. The nation was gripped in fear.

On April 15, 1921, two employees in South Braintree, Massachusetts, were murdered during a robbery. The police arrested two Italian immigrants named Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists and socialists. Just a little over two weeks after their arrest, they were found guilty. Many socialists protested, saying the two men were convicted more on political and ethnic prejudice than on any real evidence. This was found true when four years later, another man said he had committed the crime with a local gang. Even then Sacco and Vanzetti were never granted a retrial. When they were sentenced to death on April 9, 1927, protests erupted around the country. Yet the men were still executed on Aug. 23, 1927. They claimed they were innocent until the moment of their deaths.

History Brief: The Red Scare in the 1920s

Rise of Nativism

In 1924 Congress passed a discriminatory immigration law. This restricted the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans and practically excluded Asians and other nonwhites from entry into the United States. The government then only allowed 2 percent of that population into the nation. In addition, the act completely barred immigration, specifically Asians. The National Origins Act drastically lowered the annual quota of immigration, from 358,000 to 164,000. Congress abolished the national origins quota system in the 1960s.

Race Relations

On the morning of May 30, 1921, a young black man named Dick Rowland was riding in an elevator with a woman named Sarah Page. Tulsa police arrested Rowland the following day and began an investigation. The Tulsa Tribune spurred a confrontation between black and white armed mobs around the courthouse where the sheriff and his men had barricaded the top floor to protect Rowland. Shots were fired and the outnumbered blacks began retreating.

Black Tulsa was looted and burned by white rioters. Governor Robertson declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fire. Over 6,000 people were held at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds. Twenty-four hours after the violence erupted, it ceased. This violence caused 35 city blocks to lay in ruins, over 800 people were treated for injuries and contemporary reports of deaths began at 36. In 2001, the Tulsa Race Riot Commission released a report indicating that historians how believe close to 300 people died in the riot.

Tulsa Race Riot 1921 Video/Presentation

Republican Presidents and Policies

By the time in the early 1920s, America was just overcoming the failure of Wilson's plans to create a new world order. Americans looked for stability, and they thought they would receive that from republican president, Warren G. Harding. Unfortunately Harding's administration was then known for corruption which then led up to the Teapot Scandal in which was leasing two oil reserves to two businessmen in return for $400,000. Harding then died in 1923, in the 1924 Calvin Coolidge was elected, he led a scandal free government and saw "business of America as business". With lower income tax rates for the rich started by Andrew Melon, people started getting extremely frustrated. Many Americans rebelled against the tradition like ways of the republican policies. In 1928 Herbert Hoover the 3rd president of the decade took a different towards big businesses. Hoover thought capitalism produced social obligations and was more of a fan towards voluntarism. Basically the republican presidents of the 1920's reversed the progressive era trend of regulating big businesses and lowering tariffs. With this republican policies gave corporations free rein, raised protective tariffs, and cut taxes for the rich. The only people that benefited from this were wealthy businessmen and the rich. Which this is when the middle class and the poor started rebelling.
1920s Republican Presidents

Speculations in Stock Market and Real Estate

During the 1920s the boom market continued, people were still using the "buy now, pay later". This method was introduced to the stock market as "buying on margin." This method worked by putting a certain amount of down, and then paying for the rest of the shares with profits when the paper was sold.This helped by having the stock prices continue to keep going up.

Buying on margin became so popular that by the late 1920s, ninety percent of the purchase price of the stock was being made with borrowed money. The U.S. economy had also come to depend on that activity.

Stock Market Crash of 1929

Technology and Innovation

The 1920s was a decade of new inventions. This was the time directly after World War I, and when soldiers were eager to return to a more prosperous life. To help them enjoy their new lives new technologies such as the radio, silent movies and Henry Ford's automobile industry were invented. People were getting richer and began to spend more money. They therefore began to spend money for better roads, tourism and holiday resorts. Henry Ford's Model T., was the first car invented and helped people to live an easy life by making transportation easier and faster.

Another popular invention found in almost every home was the Radio. Radios sold at 400 to 850 dollars. The first public station was known as KDKA station. Radio had become a national pastime and many listeners gathered in their living rooms to listen to sports news, concerts, sermons and "Red Menace" news.

Mass Consumerism

The rise of prosperity of the United States in the 1920s led to the up-rise of American Consumerism. American Consumerism increased during the Roaring Twenties due to technical advances and innovative ideas and inventions when it came to communication, transportation and manufacturing. Mass advertising and marketing techniques such as the newspapers and the radio saw a massive increase in sales.

Woodrow Wilson was the 28th American President who served in office from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. One of the important events during his presidency was the rise of American Consumerism in the 1920s.

Farming Decline

US agriculture had expanded during the World War I to sell food to Europe, but later countries returned to growing their own a grain. This led to over-production. Farmers found it more and more difficult to sell their produce. Large surpluses were accompanied by falling prices at a time when American farmers were already dealing with heavy debt.

Between 1920 and 1932, one in four farms was sold to meet financial obligations and many farmers migrated to urban areas. The situation was made worse by the policy of the US government. The result was a severe agricultural depression. During the 1920s more than 600,000 farmers went bankrupt.

1920s Agricultural Depression


Speakeasies were established because of the Volstead Act. The Volstead Act was the act in which the prohibition of alcohol was enforced. Not long after the Act was put in place, people started hustling alcohol into illegal and concealed saloons.The people involved with speakeasies mainly revolved around gangs, who supplied the liquor, in particular Al Capone and his gang. Prohibition and the Speakeasies that resulted were definitely some of the most secretive and rebellious things to happen in the 1920s.

Scopes Trial

John Scope taught at a school of science. He was accused of teaching evolution in a time when it was illegal. Scope was found guilty and charged $100. Clarence Darrow help in defending John Scopes in the "money trial". Since then he is considered one of Americas greatest lawyers.

New Women

Flappers were northern, urban, single, young, middle-class women. By night, flappers engaged in the active city nightlife. They frequented jazz clubs and vaudeville shows. Speakeasies were a common destination, as the new woman of the twenties adopted the same carefree attitude toward prohibition as her male counterpart. Women during the 1920s began to take over some of the men's jobs while the men were away at war. Women also got the right to vote. Many women worked outside of the home yet 1 out of 4 women still worked at home.

Mass Culture and Arts Demonstrating Shifts in American Life

The 20's witnessed the use of automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, and electricity come arise. With social changes and technological advances, the Harlem Renaissance was a period of African-American literacy and artistic growth. The Harlem Renaissance spanned the 1920's through the 1930's . This originated in the African-American neighborhoods of Harlem in New York. This was fueled by the idea that intellect and production of literature, art, and music could challenge pervading racial stereotypes and promote racial and socail integration.

With African-American stereotypes being lifted, sports mania started becoming a big deal. Sports grew in the 1920's. Baseball, tennis, golf, swimming, football, and boxing began being widely talked about in newspapers and over the radio. Gertrude Ederle was an Olympic Champion in the 20's and was the first woman to swim across the English channel. this was a big deal because she was a woman accomplishing goals that most women in the 20's wouldn't have had the opportunity to accomplish.

Women were also influenced by the arts and culture. Women would engage in going to night clubs and speakeasies and wore more daring fashions. They had a more carefree attitude and were like the feminists of the 20's.

Comparisons Between Modern America and the 1920's

America has changed drastically through the years of 1920 and 2016, though much is still the same. Modern America may not call them speakeasies any more but we do still have clubs where groups of people who have the same interests go. Women today who are found going out to night clubs or other parties, wearing short/tight clothes, being over flirtatious are what used to be known as flappers, but are now considered trashy or can be known under many other innapropriate names. Women over the years have gradually earned new rights that we had never had before.

Though the names may have changed throughout the years, the items or places are still the same, and even though the rights women have today may be different from those of the 1920s, women are still earning more and more rights and breaking down that barrier between women and men.