The Roarin’ 1920s

Why do we call “Roaring” the 1920s?

The economy grew quickly during the 1920s:
- profits from the war and huge resources were used to create new industries
- at first there was a little competition from European industry and farming
- a growing population was further increased by immigration
- Republican policies cut taxes on profits and industry
- technological change, especially mass production, worked in America’s favour
- there was a huge expansion of credit: consumer could easily borrow in order to buy
- confidence in the USA was high: people spent their savings, invested in industries and lent money easily

Which were the effects of these changes?

What sort of people is enjoying the party?
How can you describe this party using three adjectives?
Why is the soundtrack hip and rhythmic?

Let’s create a word cloud using a selection of relevant adjectives

Were the Twenties a real golden era?

Discover it, reading the following texts.

Text 1: Pro-business Republican administration

As the age of progressive reform ended, many Americans became more comfortable with the idea of large successful business. Some of these business, such as department stores, offered both convenience and reasonable prices. Others, like the automobile industry, offered products that made life more convenient and conferred status on their owners. Read the whole text

Text 2: Modern culture

No consumer product better typified the new spirit of the nation than the automobile. At first, automobiles were expensive conveniences, affordable only to the extremely wealthy; then, Henry Ford perfected the assembly line and mass production, which lowered the cost of automobiles. By the end of the decade, most middle-class families could afford a car. Read the whole text

Text 3: Backlash against Modern Culture

Not all Americans were excited about the rapid transition into modern age, and the 1920s were also a time of considerable reactionary backlash and renewed nativism (a socio-political policy, especially in the United States in the 1800s, favouring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants). Read the whole text

Activities: now it’s your turn

Clicking here you can find the worksheets, that you need for dealing with the unit

Summing up.

Changes in US society during the 1920s

Mass production, mass marketing, easier communications and increasing wealth changed some parts of society during the 1920s

- The motor car widened people’s horizon, making day trips, holidays, commuting and shopping much easier.
- The radio service began in 1920, and by 1930 40% of homes had one. New ideas spread much more quickly and popular music was really born.
- Clubs and dancing became popular in towns.
- Jazz became popular, moving from an African American audience to general acceptance among the young.
- Sexual conventions loosened; sex outside marriage became more common.
- The cinema affected everyone: everyone wanted to live like the stars.

but

- The Ku Klux Klan worked to keep rural African Americans poor.
- Prohibition (the Volstead Act) produced lawlessness.
- There was a general fear of communism, caused strikes and bombs. This led to the Palmer Raids.
- African Americans as a whole were unable to enjoy the boom, isolated in rural or urban poverty.
- Some industries declined: cotton, coal, tin and copper.

Now let’s go back to the previous question:

Were the Twenties a real golden era?

Answer yes or not and tell why in an essay not longer than 300 words

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Luca Pirola

Luca Pirola

History and Italian literature teacher