Roaring Twenties Essay, Research Paper
?The Year Was 1925?
The decade of the 1920?s has been given a lot of nicknames. Some of these names have been the ?Jazz Age? and the ?Era of Isolationism.? Perhaps the most accurate name for this decade was the ?Roaring Twenties.? And that is exactly what the decade of the 1920?s was all about. It was a time characterized on one side by a search for safety, religious certainty, business capitalism, and patriotic commitment. On the other side was the increasing appeal of the ?modern?: new technology, consumer goods, and new types of entertainment. The clash of these ideals led to a complexity of creativity and advances in science and technology along with changes in work habits, family responsibilities, and new attitudes about capitalism.
After the Great War ended in 1918 with the Versailles Treaty, the United States entered a jolting economic decline. Industrial output was cut and consumer spending dropped. Unemployment rose and farm incomes plunged. The ?Roaring Twenties? began with a lot of roaring; the roaring cries heard from the lower classes. Aided by the increase in electrical energy, a recover soon began, and the economy was about to go into uncharted waters. Big business’s would benefit with all the new forms of electrical productivity. Consumers, with increased incomes, would buy more and save more than in any period in American history.
The American way of making a living was changing with every new idea and invention the 1920?s produced. Laws that limited the workday, along with increased pay, led to more leisure time. The entertainment industry was born as a result of this. Millions of Americans took to movie theaters and dance halls to enjoy the new styles of entertainment. Changing social values allowed women to dress more comfortably, thus boosting the textile industry to adjust to the changing times. It was almost like America had a fresh breath of air. A chance to change anything that was viewed as old and out of style, and America was taking the ball and running with it.
Among the new ideas that came with the new decade and the end of the Great War was a return to isolationism and an increased nationalistic feeling. Communism was forcibly taking a hold of Eastern Europe and its population. Americans, aware of all the positive changes happening in their capitalistic markets, were experiencing what was later termed a ?Red Scare,? or a fear of communism entering America. Along with the regret of entering the Great War, a growing sense of mistrust for anything foreign was sweeping across the nation. America began to shut down its borders a little bit at a time.
Perhaps the one single thing that characterized the decade of the 1920?s more than anything else was Prohibition, or the Constitutional Amendment making it illegal to buy or produce alcohol. The number of bootleggers and accounts of organized crime exploded during this decade. Crime bosses and Speakeasy?s made millions of dollars and the Government spent just as much trying to stop bootlegging alcohol. A phrase created that characterized this period of Prohibition was that ?Prohibition made criminals common, and common men criminals.?
The 1920?s were a period of growth. Growth in technology, individualism, economic expansion, entertainment, and new ideas. America was becoming the world’s leading power. The decade was ?roaring? along. And the year 1925 was right in the middle of everything. By taking a closer look at 1925, and more specifically the first week in December, one can get a sense of a country that would not accept ?good enough? for an answer. They wanted a better way of living and more of their newfound success, and so the march to end the decade with a ?roar? began with 1925.
On the morning of December 2, 1925, those rushing to buy an issue of the New York Times would have seen in bold print that seven European nations, including Great Britain and Germany, signed the Locarno Treaty the day before. ?This Locarno Treaty and its collateral pacts guarantee peace in Europe and a submission to arbitration for any disputes that may arise between those signing regarding their frontiers in the future.?1 This treaty was reported to have been rather simple compared to the signing of the Versailles Treaty six years earlier. Germany was even reported to have come on their own free will. Although the Locarno Treaty did not have all the glamour and magnificence surrounding it as previous treaties, the effects of this treaty reportedly eased growing tensions in Europe over post-war boundaries.
Other international news shaking the world that week was that the noted writer, Rudyard Kipling, had taken ill to double pneumonia. He was reported to have taken ill after being stranded in a secluded cabin north of the village of Burwash, in Sussex, for three days following a rain/snow storm. The sickness was not feared to take his life, but it still managed to make headlines in both the New York Times and The Fargo Forum for the whole week, as his condition was updated to the public daily.
Making national headlines in the news this week was the coal mining industry. In Boulder, Colorado on December 1, coal miners were reported to have been entrapped in a coalmine by a fire. ?Officials of the Fairview Mining Company announced that the fire that had entrapped 25 miners in the company?s coal mine had been extinguished, and that only one life was lost.?2 This incident in Colorado, along with other stories of poor working conditions in America, gave workers across the nation fuel to fight for better working conditions with higher pay for the rest of the decade.
The 1920?s was a definitely a period of economic growth for a country. At the front of this growth was the Stock Market. To fuel the growth in the Stock Market, a new trend was taking hold of the country: buying on credit. A record amount of buying on credit was reported in 1925. As of December 1, $20,000,000 worth of stock was purchased on credit. New homes and cars were being purchased on credit. Jobs were then created and everyone was happy. The carefree attitude of the 1920?s made Americans believe that the economy would always be this good. The economy was ?roaring? along on the belief the Stock Market would never fail. Locally, Ottertail Power Company was issued one million dollars in preferred stock by the state railroad board.3 From coast to coast, buying on credit was a quick and easy way to appear to live a life of glamour.
Local news reported this week coming from the Fargo/Moorhead area was that the U.S. Senate was getting set to oppose the appointment of North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye by Governor his state, Aurthur Sorlie. The Senate?s ground for disproval came from the idea that a Senator is not a state officer, so the Governor Sorlie could not appoint him. A trial was set for the next week in Washington D.C. Farmers in the region have also been feeling the effects of a strong economy. ?Farmers returning to Fargo on the Northern Pacific Special are convinced North Dakota is the ideal place to raise livestock.?4 After talking with farmers from around the country at a meeting in Chicago, it was reported by those who attended that North Dakota has been more prosperous at raising livestock than any other state. Also, the region produced a record number of turkeys this year. It was listed that $5,250,000 worth of birds were produced this year.
When Historians look at the 1920?s, one aspect usually sticks out more than other part of the decade. That was the Government?s experiment with Prohibition. Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, and created a fortune for bootleggers. It also cost a fortune to the Government in trying to contain it. For bootleggers and crime bosses, 1925 was a successful year. In Chicago, the legendary Al Capone was beginning his rise to becoming ?Public Enemy #1.? When Capone?s boss, John Torrio was shot by rival gang members and consequently decided to leave Chicago, Capone inherited the “outfit” and became boss. The outfit’s men liked, trusted, and obeyed Capone, calling him “The Big Fellow.” He quickly proved that he was even better at organization than Torrio, syndicating and expanding the city’s vice industry between 1925 and 1930. Capone controlled speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling houses, brothels, horse and race tracks, nightclubs, distilleries and breweries at a reported income of $100,000,000 a year. He even acquired a sizable interest in the largest cleaning and dyeing plant chain in Chicago.
Prohibition was not only limited to large operations run by crime bosses in the big cities. ?Off the coast of New York on December 3, 1925, Federal Prohibition Agents believed that they had uncovered the largest ring of rum smugglers on the Atlantic coast. Nineteen men were arrested, including six Coastguard members.?5 The head of the ring, William Dwyer, claimed that he had bribed the Coastguard with ?money and fine women? so that they would overlook his fleet of eighteen vessels that were bringing in an estimated $2,000,000 worth of rum annually. The members of Dwyer?s ring faced federal penalties, while at the time; the Coastguard members were only faced with a possible court martial.
Locally, bootlegging violations were regular news headlines as well. On December 1, Mrs. Charles Schumacher, Moorhead, was caught transporting illegal alcohol for sale in her vehicle. Being this was her third offense, she faced up to 90 days in jail and a possible fine of up to $300. A raid of her house after the arrest produced more alcohol, believed to have been gin and whiskey. The alcohol was conveniently hid under the floor of the kitchen sink. That same day, Adolph Littke of Rock Lake, North Dakota, was turned over the U.S. District Court in Fargo on charges of illegally bringing intoxicating liquor into the United States from Canada. Bond in his trial was set at $2,500.
Bootleggers and crime bosses taking advantage of America?s need for alcohol darkened the times of the 1920?s. Common men and women were made into criminals, many times in their own homes. It was a wild time for the American public. The Government was serious about bringing law-breakers to justice. Bootleggers, as the times progressed, found loopholes around the law. Bribes to those enforcing the law became more common. If the 1920?s were considered a ?roaring time? marked with prosperity and good times, than one was overlooking the growing problems Prohibition was creating.
The 1920?s were also marked by prosperity in another aspect of society: the nation?s love for sports. Taking the family to the ballpark on Sunday to root for your favorite player, or listening to the ?Monsters of the Midway? on the radio was a way to get one?s mind off the rigors of everyday life. The 1920?s were a time of dominance for the Chicago Bears and their star player Red Grange. So dominant were they that they earned the nickname ?Monsters of the Midway.? On November 30, 1925, the Bears defeated a strong Columbus team 14 to 13 to wrap up their fourth gridiron championship of the 1920?s.
The baseball crowd was just wrapping up their season by handing out some post-season awards. The Pittsburgh Pirates were in the midst of celebrating their World Series Championship in that early part December. Before the New York Yankees were to become the most dominate team of this century, they at least could field the ball. They were named the team-fielding champ for the third consecutive year with a team percentage of .974.6 Henry Heilman, a right fielder for the Detroit Tigers, won the batting title with a whopping average of .393.
Making headlines in the local area was the news that four Bison football players, including the great Claudie Miller, were named to the All-Conference team. Claude Miller was named the Most Outstanding Player, while leading the conference in rushing. Also, a large intercollegiate hockey league was in the midst of being created by the University of Minnesota that was to include the North Dakota University Sioux. The early December 1925 issues of The Fargo Forum?s sports section were dominated by headlines of boxing results and stories, as well as bowling scores and horse racing results. This goes to show the reader the intense love for all sports that was captivating the nation in this decade. With increases in wages, as well as a limited work week and the availability of radios, the nation could take part in helping the sports world grow to new heights. It also was a time highlighted by the nations need to gamble their newfound wealth on sporting events. This new form of profit introduced in this part of the century made millions for crime bosses in all the big cities.
The 1920?s were also a time for wonderful new forms of entertainment and a golden age for literature. The decade was considered a rather warm decade in terms of temperature. This led to movie theaters adding air-conditioning in their building. In 1925, millions of Americans took advantage of the cool atmosphere to watch classic silent films such as the ?Phantom of the Opera,? starring Lou Chaney, and the great Charlie Chaplin in ?The Gold Rush.? In local theaters in December of 1925, air-conditioning was less of a priority, but classic films such as ?State,? starring Jay Hunt, and ?King of the Wild,? starring Rex Garrick, were captivating audiences.
The year of 1925 was considered a great year for literature, and right in the middle of one of the best decades for literature of all-time. It was a year highlighted by Minnesota native F. Scott Fitzgerald?s release of the masterpiece, ?The Great Gatsby.? Another book was being sent to the publisher, although not quite as much was made about this book at the time. A young, German military officer jailed after the Great War, Adolph Hitler, had just finished writing his life story entitled ?Mien Kampf? in the winter of 1925.
The music industry also took advantage of all the changes in society and technology. Most homes contained a radio by now, and those without a radio knew where to go to listen to one. They would listen to talk programs and classical music on stations like WDAY out of Fargo or WCCO from Minneapolis. Popular songs that listeners were singing along to were ?Sweet Georgia Brown,? If You Knew Susie Like I Knew Susie,? and ?Albamy Bound.? New forms of music were emerging from the prosperity of the 1920?s as well. Jazz, considered a distinctly American form of music, was emerging from New Orleans and Kansas City, with performers such a Bessie Smith and the great Louis Armstrong. The prosperity of Americans, along with their desire to get out of their houses, led to the creation of dance halls in this period. Live bands would play the sounds of the time, while a new dance named the ?Charleston? was becoming the dance craze of 1925. The dancers, with their turned-in-toes and syncopated arms with legs flying everywhere, were showing signs of the happy times that characterized social life in 1925.
Included in this closer look at the year 1925, are two advertisements that typified the times. The first advertisement, a Christmas ad for Ricker?s, a Fargo department store, gives the reader, probably a male, and an idea of what to get his wife for Christmas. It gets you in the Christmas spirit with the plain Christmas tree with nothing on it except a gift hose. The writing on the bottom finishes the deal with a few well-crafted sentences that reassures the reader that this is what his wife really wants and cannot live without. The second ad, a Tom Moore Cigar, again is supposed to get the man?s attention. It goes on to tell the reader with a few spicy sentences that they cannot go without their daily fix of tobacco. The ad even tells the reader that the ?Tom Moore Cigar? is America?s favorite cigar. A potential buyer who wants to feel like he fits in with the times would have to smoke the most popular brand. Although both ads seem to be directed at the male audience, the ?Ricker?s? ad is only a seasonal ad, being the Christmas season. Also, while the product is the main focus of the ?Tom Moore? ad, the price of the items seem to be the main focus of the ?Ricker?s? ad.
The decade of the 1920?s was a spirited time. With all the new ideas and technologies that were sweeping across the nation, the nation as a whole was seemingly becoming closer. The prosperity of the nation allowed its citizens to go out and experience the growth for themselves. According to The Fargo Forum and College President R.B. MacLean, registration at the Moorhead State Teachers College exceeded the fall terms enrollment by about fifty students.7 Also, eighty-eight more marriage licenses were issued in Clay County for the first eleven months of this year than all of 1924. With all the prosperity, students were allowed to go to college and more couples could afford to get married.
A closer look at 1925 would not be complete without listing some of the prices for groceries at the neighborhood store. A shopper could have bought a pound of sugar for fifty-five cents, a pound of butter for forty-six cents, and a pound of bulk coffee for forty-nine cents. Buying the day?s issue of The Fargo Forum would set the reader back only a nickel. Making ends meet today would sure be a lot easier if those prices were still around today.
The year of 1925 was also marked with some new ideas and invention. The Ku-Klux-Klan was rising to some of their largest enrollment numbers ever with the nationalistic feelings sweeping the post-war world in the 1920?s. The KKK was at the head of these anti-foreigner feelings that were spreading hate across the nation. In Europe, even with the signing of the Locarno Treaty, France began construction of their infamous Maginot Line, a series of fortifications to protect them from invasion on their eastern border with Germany. In the industrial world, Walter P. Chrysler began to take advantage of growth in the automobile industry by creating a line of automobiles that would take his name. Inventors were also busy at work in 1925. Some of the highlights of their work were the creations of the Frisbee, scotch tape, and the circuit breakers that we have in our houses to this day.
As one can see, 1925 was a significant year. America was in a period of unprecedented growth. Society was well aware of the prosperity, and fully intended to take advantage of the times. The decade truly lived up to its nickname, the ?Roaring Twenties.? The clash of ideals that led to the rapid changes in the economy after the war, continued throughout the whole decade. The American way of life truly had received a fresh breath of air.
The ideas that were created in this decade, such as the ?Return to Isolationism? and Prohibition, also characterized this decade. By comparing the New York Times and The Fargo Forum, a reader would sense a lack of concern for international news, even less of a concern in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The Stock Market covered the most pages in both papers. America was very proud of their booming economy. Crime was a growing problem, and along with corruption, the newspapers had their work cut out for them in helping the law enforcer’s expose it. Workers were noted heavily in this period of striking for better working conditions and higher pay. With all the new and more profitable ways of producing this decade created, employers could now afford to pay more now than ever before. New forms of entertainment and a rise in the popularity of sports were aided by the prosperity as well. More money for the public, along with more leisure time, boosted both industries. Prohibition was aided by the economy as well. More money earned meant more money could be invested in the activities of the crime bosses, and also meant more people realizing the prosperity of bootlegging. The Great War ending and the rise of Communism meant America began an era of mistrust of foreigners. The KKK helped more Americans grow to hate differences in this period than ever before. The 1920?s were definitely a ?roaring? time.
The ways of the American people were definitely changing. In most cases, the 1920?s meant good changes. As you have read, bad changes also arose in this period. Everything that happened in that decade has helped this country to grow to what it is today. Many lessons were learned, as well as an attitude to not settle for anything but the best. The year of 1925 was significant for many reasons. It was a peaceful year for the world. A prosperous year for America. And a ?roaring? year for Historians who chose to take a closer look at 1925.