The Roaring Twenties
The Return to Normalcy
Return to Normalcy [Speech by Warren G. Harding, 1920]
In this speech, Harding calls for a return to the previous point of view. His views of restoration rather than revolution contracted with the view of the youth in the '20s who wanted to move away from the norm. Harding also says that Americans should be peaceful and serene rather than try to "perform surgery" though at the time there was a strong desire to break rules, but also to fix issues in society, such as gender and racial inequality.
Safety Last! [Silent Film Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1923]
Henry Ford For President [Speech by Will Rogers, 1923]
Model T Ford
My Life and Work [Book by Henry Ford, 1922]
Henry Ford's vision for the Model-T can be seen in this statement. He had a large goal and achieved it. He strove to create a vehicle for everybody, not just the rich upper class. This was one of the reasons that Ford continues to be admired today by business workers as well as common people.
The Hearst Group
Ad for Hearst Papers [Call for Advertisements by Hearst Publishing, circa 1920]
The Babe and I [Interview with Clair Ruth on the Babe's 1927 record-breaking game, 1959]
"Babe was fighting to break his 59 home-run record. He needed 17 to do it in the last month, or better than one every two days. He did it of course. The 60th was made in Yankee Stadium...in the final game.
The Babe had smashed out two home runs the day before to bring his total to 59 for the season, or the exact equal of his 1921 record. He had only this game to set a new record. Zachary, a left-hander, was by the nature of his delivery a hard man for the Babe to hit. In fact, the Babe got only two homers in all his life against Tom.
Babe came up in the eighth inning and it was quite probable that this would be his very last chance to break his own record. My mother and I were at the game and I can still see that lovely, lovely home run. It was a tremendous poke, deep into the stands. There was never any doubt that it was going over the fence. But the question was, would it be fair? It was fair by only six glorious inches!"
Babe Ruth not only symbolized sportsmanship and morals in and off the field, he also symbolized the American Dream, the greatest player that America's Pasttime ever knew. While the 1919 World's Series Scandal was a shock to the American people, Babe Ruth was a chance at redemption, a shining beacon that even a large man who loved to drink and smoke could be a star athlete if he tried hard enough resonated with the entire nation. He had already set the record for the most home runs in a season, but that wasn't enough. Babe Ruth was out to beat himself. He symbolized the idea of striving not to be the best and to beat others, but simply to improve and do better individually. And he succeeded too, showing Americans that anything was possible with enough dedication.
The Jazz Singer
New York Times [Review of The Jazz Singer by Mordaunt Hall, 1927]
The Jazz Singer was a huge hit amongst critics. Although it wasn't perfect and did have its flaws. Sound in movies was previously thought to only be viable for shorts and a full-length film was thought to be a huge risk.
Tales of the Jazz Age [Collection of Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922]
F. Scott Fitzgerald was the figurehead of what he called the Jazz Age, a time period characterized by ideas such as those found his short stories and novels. He was popular especially amongst the youth for putting in writing the romantic rebellion of the 1920s. This was a time when young people weren't so fond of following the rules and being righteous. Young people were obedient and did their duty during the war and it resulted in millions dead on all sides. The '20s would not be a time of obedience and bloodshed, but instead of the pure enjoyment of life and freedom.
Sea Runners Held on 2 Liquor Charges [New York Times article about the capture of bootlegger, William McCoy, 1923]
Prohibition was prominent during the 1920s though it stopped very few from drinking and bootleggers and rum-runners like Captain William McCoy became notorious. Smuggling imported liquor into the States became such a big deal that many ships were outfitted with machine guns to combat Coast Gaurd ships. This illustrates two of Americans' favorite things at the time, liquor and money, as well as the extent to which they would to get them.
Bottle of bonded medicinal whiskey, "For Medical Purposes Only" [Photograph, circa 1923]
The Flapper [Life Magazine cover by Frank Xavier Leyendecker, 1922]
The Morality of Birth Control [Speech by Margaret Sanger, 1921]
"We know that every advance that woman has made in the last half century has been made with opposition, all of which has been based upon the grounds of immorality...The church has ever opposed the progress of woman on the ground that her freedom would lead to immorality. We ask the church to have more confidence in women...The church, which aims to keep women moral by keeping them in fear and in ignorance, and to inculcate into them a higher and truer morality based upon knowledge...If we cannot trust woman with the knowledge of her own body, then I claim that two thousand years of Christian teaching has proved to be a failure."
Margaret Sanger continues to be an icon of the feminist movement today, just as she was in her own time. The similar issue of birth control is seen today in the churches harsh opposition of allowing women to make decisions about their own bodies in terms of abortions. Sanger calls for change, to allow women the freedom of decision that is well known to men. Sanger wants to educated women on their bodies, despite the churches fear that it will corrupt them and make them immoral.
The Immigration Act
The Passing of the Great Race [Book by Madison Grant, 1916]
Grant held an idea that very common during this time, despite its radical push for freedom: that there was a superior master race that was supposed to be genetically better than all lesser races. This race was, unsurprisingly, the Nordic race. Grant was a supported for eugenics, the artificial "purifying" of genetics in a species. He was also starkly anti-Jewish and wanted to restrict Jewish immigration. Many supported this immigration reform because they thought that foreign workers lowered wages and took jobs away from Americans. It seems ironic that a nation that stood behind Grant's theories in the '20s would a few decades later enter a war to stop the same actions when lead by Adolf Hitler.
The Scopes Trial
Court Summation [William Jennings Bryan's unread statement at the closing of Scopes Trial,1925]
By 1925, William Jennings Byran had become a front runner for what we now know as Creationists. Where once he fought to upheld the rights of common people and acted as an advocate for their betterment, he had become an advocate against the spread of ideas that clashed with his own. He took on a view that many radical Christians hold even to this day: that anything that does not directly support the idea of an almighty and benevolent God is inherently evil and a threat to morals. This captures the same idea that Margaret Sanger was opposed to in her fight to educate women about their bodies, just John T. Scopes wanted to educate students on the origin of the human species.
The Harlem Renaissance
Cross [Poem by Langston Hughes, 1926]
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I'm going to die,
Being neither white nor black?"
While Hughes himself was not of a mixed family, he certainly captures the idea. He expresses the character telling the story as being "neither white and black" rather than being both because at this time racial inequality made it hard for those of mixed race to embrace their origins. While certainly they could try to be just white as at the time whites were treated far better by society, but this was problematic for multiple reasons. Primarily, it would entail turning one's back on an entire half of their family and conforming to the opressive idea that the white race was inherently better than the black. And to say they were just black would be to turn their back on the other half of their family and to choose a life of opression. Another conflict, which is tackled more in-depth a decade later in William Faulkner's novel, A Light in August, is that to the whites mixed race individuals were considered black, and to the blacks they were considered whites, making it hard to fit into either race even if you were to choose a race.