American Life in the Roaring Twenties

American Life in the Roaring Twenties



American Life in the Roaring Twenties

Chapter #31: American Life in the "Roaring Twenties"

 Big Picture Themes

1. A “red scare” struck America in the 20s. Fear of communism resonated through society and was fueled by mail bombings and illustrated by the Sacco and Vanzetti executions.
2. Anti-immigration ran high as well. Laws were passed to limit immigration, and specifically, to limit “New Immigrants” from Italy and Poland.
3. The “Scopes Monkey Trial” illustrated the new controversy of evolution vs. creation.
4. Businesses had a good run in the 20s and consumers bought products wildly, often on credit or with an installment plan.
5. Three Republican presidents were pro-business. The economy and consumers got to running too fast, and coupled with over-buying in the stock market, initiated the Stock Crash and Great Depression.

Chapter #31 Identifications

Modernists  believed that God was a "good guy" and the universe a pretty chummy place; these were the people who believed in God but were also able to except evolution and modern science

Flappers  The dynamic 1920's revealed women notorious for their risky attire and dance styles. Referred to as "wild abandons," these girls exemplified the new sexually frank generation.

Sacco and Vanzetti Case  Nicola Sacco was a shoe-factory worker and Bartholomew Vanzetti was a fish peddler. They were both convicted of murdering a Massachusetts paymaster and his guard in 1921. They were supported by Liberals and Radicals. The case lasted 6 years and resulted in execution based on weak evidence. Mainly because Americans were xenophobic (afraid of foreigners).

Ku Klux Klan  In the 1920s this group was very anti-foreign. It was against all groups which did not have a protestant background. They were most prevalent in the Midwest and the south. They eventually became less popular when Klan officials were caught embezzling money.

Emergency Quota Act 1921  This law restricted immigration to 3% of each nationality that was in the United States in 1910.

Immigration Quota Act 1924 was passed in 1924--cut quotas for foreigners from 3 % to 2% of the total number of immigrants in 1890--purpose was to freeze America's existing racial composition (which was largely Northern European) --prevented Japanese from immigrating, causing outrage in Japan.

Volstead Act  The Volstead Act implemented the 18th Amendment. It established illegal alcohol at above .5%.

Fundamentalism  A movement that pushed that the teachings of Darwin were destroying faith in God and the Bible. It consisted of the old-time religionists who didn't want to conform to modern science.

Sinclair Lewis  Lewis was the chief chronicler of Midwestern life. He was a master of satire and wrote " Main Street " in 1920. Then he wrote "Babbit" which describe a materialistic middle-class American businessman.

William Faulkner  He was a writer. In 1926 he wrote a bitter war novel called "Soldier's Pay". He also wrote many other powerful books about the lives of Southerners during the Civil War.

Buying on Margin This kind of buying stocks was usually only used by poor and middle class people. They would buy the stock, but only pay for part of it and borrow money from the stockbrokers to pay the rest. Then when they sold the stock for a higher price, they would pay the broker off and keep the rest of the profit. This practice led to the great depression, because the banks couldn't get their money back when the stock market crashed.

Red Scare The Red Scare erupted in the early 1920's. The American public was scared that communism would come into the US. Left-winged supporters were suspected. This fear of communism helped businessman who used it to stop labor strikes.

H. L. Mencken a patron to many young writers in the 1920's. He criticized many subjects like the middle class, democracy, marriage and patriotism in his monthly AMERICAN MERCURY.

F. Scott Fitzgerald He belonged to the Lost Generation of Writers. He wrote the famous novel "The Great Gatsby" which explored the glamour and cruelty of an achievement-oriented society.

Ernest Hemingway fought in Italy in 1917. He later became a famous author who wrote "The Sun Also Rises" (about American expatriates in Europe) and "A Farewell to Arms." In the 1920's he became upset with the idealism of America versus the realism he saw in World War I. He was very distraught, and in 1961 he shot himself in the head.

Margaret Sanger She led an organized birth control movement that openly championed the use of contraceptives.

Sigmund Freud The Viennese physician that believed sexual repression was responsible for a variety of nervous and emotional diseases. He argued that health demanded sexual gratification and liberation. His writings seemed to justify the new sexual frankness of the 1920s.


Andrew Mellon the Secretary of the Treasury during the Harding Administration. He felt it was best to invest in tax-exempt securities rather than in factories that provided prosperous payrolls. He believed in trickle down economics. (Hamiltonian economics)

Bruce Barton A founder of the "new profession" of advertising, which used the persuasion ploy, seduction, and sexual suggestion. He was a prominent New York partner in a Madison Avenue firm. He published a best seller in 1925, The Man Nobody Knows, suggesting that Jesus Christ was the greatest ad man of all time. He even praised Christ's "executive ability." He encouraged any advertising man to read the parables of Jesus.

Henry Ford Henry Ford - he made assembly line production more efficient in his Rouge River plant near Detroit- a finished car would come out every 10 seconds. He helped to make car inexpensive so more Americans could buy them.

Frederick W. Taylor an engineer, an inventor, and a tennis player. He sought to eliminate wasted motion. Famous for scientific-management especially time-management studies.

Margaret Sanger she organized a birth-control movement which openly championed the use of contraceptives in the 1920's.

A. Mitchell Palmer Attorney General who rounded up many suspects who were thought to be un-American and socialistic; he helped to increase the Red Scare; he was nicknamed the "Fighting Quaker" until a bomb destroyed his home; he then had a nervous breakdown and became known as the "Quaking Fighter."

John Dewey He was a philosopher who believed in "learning by doing" which formed the foundation of progressive education. He believed that the teachers' goal should be "education for life and that the workbench is just as important as the blackboard."

John T. Scopes In 1925 Scopes was indicted for teaching evolution in Tennessee. His trial was watched all over the country. This trial represented the Fundamentalist vs. the Modernalist. In the outcome Scopes was only fined $100.00 dollars. While it seemed the Fundamentalists had won, the trial made them look bad.

William Jennings Bryan Joined the prosecution in the " Monkey Trials" (Scopes Trial) against the teachings of evolution in schools, he was supposed to be an expert on the Bible, but was made to look silly in the case and died soon afterward

Clarence Darrow A famed criminal defense lawyer for Scopes, who supported evolution. He caused William Jennings Bryan to appear foolish when Darrow questioned Bryan about the Bible.



Chapter #31 Guided Reading Questions

  • In the 1920s America shunned, denounced, condemned, clanged and plunged what?
  • What made the 1920s roar?

1.  Seeing Red (This section will cite actions taken in reaction to the perceived threat of radicals and communists in post war American Society)
Billy Sunday-

Red Scare-

  • What “ism” did America fear as a result of the Bolshevik revolution?
  • Who was A. Mitchell Palmer and what were the Palmer Raids?
  • What was the soviet Ark?
  • What happened to Sacco and Vanzetti?


2.  Hooded Hoodlums of the KKK (Same old face, new hate)

  • The new KKK was anti what (12 things) and pr what (13 things)?
  • At its peak the KKK claimed how many members in the 1920s?
  • Explain why did the popularity of the Klan recede?


3.  Stemming the Foreign Flood (Focus on the immigration laws passed in the 1920’s as a reaction to the “Red Scare”)

  • What did the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 (National Origins system) do?
  • Who was the National Origins system favorable to?
  • What did Immigration Act of 1924 do? (How did it change the 1921 act)
  • The clear purpose of the 1924 immigration act was to do what?
  • Italian, Jews, Poles lived in what?
  • Define cultural pluralism. What two philosophers developed the concept?


4.  The Prohibition "Experiment" (Explains how and why the 18th amendment was broken so frequently)

  • What was the 18th Amendment?
  • Define dry v. wet.
  • What groups violated Prohibition (5 groups)?
  • What was a speakeasy?


Be sure to read Makers of America the Poles on pages 706-707

  • What was “bathtub gin”?
  • What was another term for Prohibition?



5.  The Golden Age of Gangsterism

  • Who was Al Capone?
  • What was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
  • What illicit activities did Gangsters move into?
  • What impact did Lindbergh have on this era of gangsters?


6.  Monkey Business in Tennessee (Discusses how the clash of cultures in the 20’s spilled over into schools)

  • Who was John Dewey and what was his impact on this era??
  • Who were the Fundamentalists?
  • Who were John scopes and Clarence Darrow?
  • What was the Monkey Trial all about?
  • What was the end result?

7.  The Mass-Consumption Economy (America becomes a mass-consumption economy)

  • For what four reasons did mass consumption occur in the 1920s?
  • By the 1930s Americans owned how many cars?
  • What new commerce sprang forth to promote consumption?
  • Who was Bruce Barton?
  • What do Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey have to do with Mass Consumption?
  • What did once frugal Puritan descendents now buy on credit?
  • Prosperity accumulated what?



8.  Putting America on Rubber Tires

  • America’s new industrial system was based on what two things?
  • Who was Ransom Olds and why is he significant?
  • What is the significance of Frederick W. Taylor?
  • What was a Tin Lizzie?
  • What was Fordism?

Chapter 31 Guided Reading: Part 2

9. The Advent of the Gasoline Age (Describes the impact of the automobile on American society)

  • What powered the car, what industry was negatively impacted by the car?
  • The car made America a nation of what?
  • Why was a car called “a house of prostitution on wheels”?


10. Humans Develop Wings (Identifies the early impact of the airplane on America)

  • What was the miracle of Kitty Hawk?
  • What were flying coffins?
  • What was the Spirit of St. Louis?
  • In what ways did airplane impact railroads, war, and isolationism?



11.  The Radio Revolution

  • Who was Guglielmo Marconi?
  • How did radio change sports, politicians, music and travel?
  • What role did Pittsburgh play on this era?



12.  Hollywood's Filmland Fantasies (Identifies the milestones of the early motion picture industry)

  • How did Thomas Edison impact yet another industry?
  • What was a Nickelodeon?
  • Who was DW Griffith?
  • What was the first talkie?
  • What did movies eclipse?



13.  The Dynamic Decade (Identifies far reaching changes in lifestyles and values paralleled the dramatic upsurge in the economy)

  • What was women’s work in the 1920s?
  • Who was Margaret Sanger?
  • Who were the flappers?
  • How did Sigmund Freud impact the 1920s?
  • Define “neckers” ?
  • What was the social music of the 1920s?
  • Who was Langston Hughes?
  • Who was Marcus Garvey?
  • What was the Black Star Line?
  • The UNIA led to what later group?


14.  Cultural Liberation (Explains how the arts of the 1920’s reflects the turbulent changing times)

  • Identify the following with their work
  • H.L. Mencken
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Theodore Dreiser
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Sinclair Lewis
  • William Faulkner
  • Ezra Pound
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Robert Frost
  • Eugene O’Neill


  • What was the Harlem Renaissance?
  • What was the “new negro”?


Read 722-723 and explain the significance of Frank Lloyd Wright


15. Wall Street's Big Bull Market (Identifies how the governments economic policies were so successful in the 1920s)

  • What was “buying on the margin”?
  • What is a bull market?
  • Who was Andrew Mellon?
  • What was the Bureau of the Budget?
  • What taxes did Congress reduce or end?




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American Life in the Roaring Twenties


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American Life in the Roaring Twenties