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1920s: The Roaring Decade

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1920s: The Roaring Decade

The 1920s was a time of conservatism and it was a time of great social change. From the world of fashion to the world of politics, forces clashed to produce the most explosive decade of the century. It was the age of prohibition, it was the age of prosperity, and it was the age of downfall.

Americans knew about Communism because Communists had been at large in the country for years. When the Bolshevik revolution succeeded in Russia, it sent a shock wave in America. Americans have never been sympathetic to radicalism in any form. People that were associated with radicalism, rightly or wrongly, were harassed, lynched, jailed and subject to all sorts of bias. Thousands were arrested in 1920 and often held for long periods without trial. The Red Scare of 1920 was a precursor of McCarthyism (Baughman 200).

The Kellogg-Briand Pact was an agreement to outlaw war and it was signed on August 27, 1928. It was named after the American Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand, who drafted the pact. In the United States, the Senate approved the treaty overwhelmingly by a vote of 85 to 1. The Kellogg-Briand Pact was concluded outside the League of Nations and the Permanent Court of International Justice (Baughman 218).

World War I may not have made the world safe for democracy, but it did help to lay the groundwork for a decade of American economic expansion. The war began in Europe in 1914, and the United States entered the fray in 1917. The 1920s saw the growth of the culture of consumerism. A significant reason for United States involvement in the war was the nation’s economic links to the Allied Powers, and especially to Great Britain. American soldiers returned home in May 1919 with the promise of a prosperous decade (Baughman 197).

The Great Depression was a period in United States history when business was poor and many people were out of work. The beginning of the Great Depression in the United States was associated with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. Thousands of investors lost large amounts of money and many were wiped out, lost everything. Banks, stores, and factories were closed and left millions of Americans jobless and homeless (Baughman 82).

John Thomas Scopes was a high school teacher who went on trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. He had purposely violated the law by teaching evolution in schools. The trial was broadcast live on radio and attracted worldwide interest. Scopes was found guilty under the Butler Act, which banned teaching evolution in publicly funded state educational institutions, and the judge fined Scopes $100 (Feldmeth).

Prohibition was the period in United States history in which the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors was outlawed. It was a time characterized by speakeasies, glamour, and gangsters and a period of time in which even the average citizen broke the law. In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibited the sale and manufacture of alcohol, was ratified. It went into effect on January 16, 1920 (Feldmeth).

The struggle between fundamentalists versus modernists took various forms. Fundamentalists opposed any scientific teaching that cast doubt on veracity of Scripture, particularly Genesis. Modernists attempted to adapt religion to the teachings of modern science and a changing world (Baughman 379).

On the whole, the United States economy experienced steady growth and expansion during the 1920s. The World War I stimulated a number of old industries, such as petroleum and steel, and helped create a host of new industries, such as plastic and rayon production. One measure of these accelerated technological changes is the money spent on new machinery for industry. As scientific management and new technology increased worker productivity, workers earned higher wages and became better consumers (Feldmeth).

Being one of the most important inventions of the 1920s, the automobile significantly changed the lives of Americans for the better. It did not only improve transportation, but it also gave the economy the boost that it needed to provide America with the age of prosperity that the twenties is known for. Over the first few years of twenties, the automobile became a hit with everyone, especially young people who wanted freedom and excitement. Every household in America soon owned an automobile, and it quickly became an integrated part of American life. As a result of the automobile, Americans benefitted greatly from the advantages it brought to them (McDonnell 330).

Mass production had made the post-World War I United States the richest society the world had ever seen. The United States tried to pretend that the rest of the world did not really exist. Its people turned

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