Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Roaring Twenties definition and facts

The Roaring Twenties is a term used to describe Western society in the 1920s. Sometimes known as the Jazz Age, it was characterized by new freedoms in social, economic and cultural aspects of life. It is often synonymous with pleasure seeking and people having a good time after the devastation of the First World War. In America especially, the economy boomed, with mass consumerism arriving for the first time. For the first time in history, ordinary workers were able to purchase goods, such as motor cars and radios. The Roaring Twenties also saw a loosening of social morality, though in America, prohibition saw alcohol outlawed and the subsequent growth of criminal bootlegging.

Facts about the Roaring Twenties

  • Bright Young Things was a term given to a group of bohemian young people, who enjoyed partying in 1920s London. These were predominately aristocrats and the ‘idle rich’
  • P.G. Wodehouse in his humorous novels, e.g. Jeeves and Wooster lampooned the habits of these ‘bright young things’ and idle rich.
  • During the 1920s, millions of African-Americans migrated from the south to north – to escape segregation and racism. It was termed the Great Migration.
  • The new black communities, helped to forge a new black identity, especially in major cities, like New York. The Harlem Renaissance was considered the flowering of a new negro identity and culture.
  • The 1920s also saw a re-emergence of the Klu Klux Klan, with membership peaking at over 4 million people during the 1920s.
  • Despite growing wealth and conspicuous consumption – during the 1920s, more than 60 per cent of Americans lived just below the poverty line – especially black-Americans and those living in rural areas.
  • In 1920, all women were given the right to vote in the US. (19th Amendment)
  • In 1921, Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The greater availability of contraception, helped to liberate women, enabling a greater sexual promiscuity without risk of pregnancy
  • In the 1920s, divorce was made easier and the number of divorces doubled.
  • In the 1920s, more Americans lived in cities than in rural communities for the first time.
  • The 1920s saw the explosion of numerous dance crazes, including the Charleston and the Breakaway.
  • The Cotton Club was the most famous jazz club, played by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other masters of jazz.
  • In 1927, ‘The Jazz Singer’ starring Al Jolson was the first major ‘talking’ movie. This led to the decline of the silent movie, but growth in cinema attendance.
  • The 1920s, saw an explosion in ownership of the radio. By the end of the 1920s, there were over 100 million radios in circulation.
  • Flappers was a term used to describe young women, who wore short skirts, listened to jazz music and took rebellious attitudes to old standards of morality.
  • In the 1920s, many banks, including the Federal Reserve had an ‘anti-flapper code’ – prohibiting women dressing too attractively.
  • Due to prohibition, speakeasies – illegal salons selling alcohol – became popular and numerous as the Prohibition years progressed.
  • In 1927, Charles Lindbergh was the first pilot to fly solo,non-stop across the Atlantic – in the “Spirit of Saint Louis”.
  • The economic boom of the 1920s was not equally felt across the country. Agriculture suffered from low prices and entered recession, even before the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
  • Art deco was a new style of architecture, which was based on pure, geometric shapes. The Empire State building was designed in the late 1920s and built in 1930-31.
  • Buying on the margin. The stock market boom caused many investors to buy shares on the margin – a way of increasing profits by taking more risk. This led to the creation of many new ‘paper millionaires.’
  • In the 1920s, there was a credit and share price bubble. The S&P 500 Share price index saw a rise in earnings per share from 20 (1922) to 100 in 1929. (What caused Wall Street Crash?)
  • The Roaring Twenties came to a shuddering halt on 29 October 1929 (Black Tuesday. Share prices fell by $40 billion in a single day. By 1930 the value of shares had fallen by 90%.

Read On…

Gilded Age definition

The Gilded Age is a period in American society (1870-1900) with rapid economic growth but also characterised by corruption, materialism, monopoly businesses and growing inequality.

The Gilded Age was a time of unbridled capitalism, with some business leaders becoming very wealthy through the consolidation of key industries into powerful monopolies.

The_Bosses_of_the_Senate_by_Joseph_Keppler

Cartoon by Joseph Keppler entitled ‘The Bosses of the Senate’ – suggestion US Congress effectively owned by wealthy industrial bosses.

The term ‘Gilded Age’ implies outer wealth was a mask for the inner corruption and inner poverty. ‘Gilded Age’ is a satire on the rich monopolists, who were accused of gaining wealth through monopoly practices, mistreatment of workers and corruption of the political process.

One of the defining elements of the Gilded Age was the railroad industry. Americans developed a love/hate relationship with the railroads. They transformed society enabling greater travel and economic growth, but they were also run by business magnates who wielded enormous power and could set high prices to farmers, suppliers and travellers. While the owners grew very wealthy, the industrial work was also very dangerous, with numerous accidents and relatively low pay. Read On…