Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, AMERICAN HISTORY (americanhistory.oxfordre.com). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 28 May 2018

The United States in the 1920s

Summary and Keywords

Americans grappled with the implications of industrialization, technological progress, urbanization, and mass immigration with startling vigor and creativity in the 1920s even as wide numbers kept their eyes as much on the past as on the future. American industrial engineers and managers were global leaders in mass production, and millions of citizens consumed factory-made products, including electric refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, technological marvels like radios and phonographs, and that most revolutionary of mass-produced durables, the automobile. They flocked to commercial amusements (movies, sporting events, amusement parks) and absorbed mass culture in their homes, through the radio and commercial recordings. In the major cities, skyscrapers drew Americans upward while thousands of new miles of roads scattered them across the country. Even while embracing the dynamism of modernity, Americans repudiated many of the progressive impulses of the preceding era. The transition from war to peace in 1919 and 1920 was tumultuous, marked by class conflict, a massive strike wave, economic crisis, and political repression. Exhausted by reform, war, and social experimentation, millions of Americans recoiled from central planning and federal power and sought determinedly to bypass traditional politics in the 1920s. This did not mean a retreat from active and engaged citizenship; Americans fought bitterly over racial equality, immigration, religion, morals, Prohibition, economic justice, and politics. In a greatly divided nation, citizens experimented with new forms of nationalism, cultural identity, and social order that could be alternatively exclusive and pluralistic. Whether repressive or tolerant, such efforts held the promise of unity amid diversity; even those in the throes of reaction sought new ways of integration. The result was a nation at odds with itself, embracing modernity, sometimes heedlessly, while seeking desperately to retain a grip on the past.

Keywords: 1920s, jazz age, politics, Prohibition, culture, Ku Klux Klan, Republicans, immigration, economy, consumerism

Conflict, Fear, and Anxiety in the Early 1920s

The Progressives envisioned the European war that the United States joined in April 1917 as a progressive war to advance democracy abroad and at home. They assumed that the immense federal project to coordinate and plan economic production, manage labor relations, and ration foodstuffs during the war was prelude to a new age of federal action to advance social justice and economic rationality and to achieve an “industrial democracy” in which power was shared between capital and labor. Although leery of state infringement on civil liberties, Progressives evinced little compunction when it came to a postwar “reconstruction” featuring expanded federal power over the economy. Their dreams were unfulfilled. President Woodrow Wilson retreated from national planning and labor rights, expending his remaining political energies on a failed effort to gain ratification of the Versailles peace treaty and American participation in a proposed League of Nations.

The chaos of the postwar months, characterized by the administration’s haphazard demobilization efforts, rattled an American public nearing the end of a tumultuous decade of record labor strife, increased conflict over immigration, and rapid cultural change as a result of technological innovations that were altering the texture of daily life. (Progressive social scientists, such as William Ogburn, diagnosed the inability to tailor one’s values to the conditions of modernity as “cultural lag.”1) Between 1916 and 1922, workers engaged in the highest amount of strike activity in U.S. history; 4 million workers participated in 3,600 strikes in 1919 alone.2 American superpatriots had introduced a punitive aspect into wartime patriotism and hounded socialists and labor radicals, effectively destroying the Industrial Workers of the World. Their continued fervor fostered a postwar “Red Scare.”3 Italian anarchists responded with a wave of bombings in April and June 1919, managing to blow off the front of politically ambitious Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s home in Washington, DC.4 He responded vigorously. In December 1919, the Justice Department deported 249 radicals, including Emma Goldman. Palmer initiated a series of raids on suspected radicals around the country in January 1920. Anti-immigrant sentiment peaked; Congress passed legislation in 1917 and 1921 creating a literacy test for all immigrants over sixteen seeking admission and establishing an annual cap on immigration.

The loss of wartime contracts resulted in 3 million unemployed workers by February 1919, and although employment soon picked up, price inflation surged forward.5 The cost of living more than doubled between 1914 and 1919, with a 30 percent increase between the end of the war in November 1918 and June 1920.6 A sharp postwar recession began in January 1920 and lasted through mid-1921, causing whiplash as the nation moved abruptly from inflation to rapid deflation and high unemployment.7 Crime had been rising since 1900 and surged in the first half of the 1920s. Lethal violence doubled in several cities; in the early 1920s, Chicago’s crime rate was one hundred times that of London’s.8

This was in part due to Prohibition. In alliance with moral entrepreneurs like Alabama representative Richmond P. Hobson and Methodist bishop James Cannon Jr., Progressives had proposed a national amendment to eliminate the liquor trade in 1913. Women reformers had long abhorred male workers’ saloon habits, which ate up family wages and sometimes resulted in domestic abuse. However, many native-born Americans also associated beer and alcohol consumption with immigrant laborers. As Lynn Dumenil noted, the battle for Prohibition was an ethnic conflict between native-born Americans and immigrants.9 It was also a religious conflict, as Methodists and Baptists, along with Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Christian Scientists, backed the Anti-Saloon League (founded in 1893) against Catholic laborers. By 1917, over half the states had adopted some sort of Prohibition law.10 Wartime patriotism, which mandated rationing and the ban of liquor sales to the troops, combined with rising nativism to speed passage of the amendment. Congress approved the Eighteenth Amendment in December 1917. It banned “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States” and all territory subject to its jurisdiction; the requisite number of states ratified it in January 1919. Prohibition was remarkable testimony to Americans’ appetite for ambitious social reconstruction and to the potency of nonpartisan interest-group politics, increasingly the dominant form of political action. In hearkening to the abstemious values of rural Protestantism, Prohibition reflected a deeply conservative public.11

Congress approved the National Prohibition, or Volstead, Act, on October 28, 1919. It took effect on January 16, 1920 and, to the surprise of many, banned drinks with as little as 0.5 percent alcohol content, making even the lightest beers and wine illegal.12 Many Americans fiercely opposed the amendment and continued to sell and buy contraband hootch.

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 1. An illustration of the extraordinary and widespread defiance of prohibition laws: a woman pours herself a drink from alcohol hidden in a cane, February 1922. National Photo Company Collection.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-npcc-05760.

Those desperate for a drink unwittingly purchased industrial alcohol cut with products like embalming fluid from bootleggers. Thousands died due to these wretched concoctions. Adulterated bottles of “Jake ginger,” a potent drink sold as a cure for stomach ailments, caused loss of muscle control, leaving thousands with limps or even paralysis.13 Organized crime took over much bootlegging, and federal law enforcement was often draconian and violent in response (although state and local authorities often poorly enforced their dry laws). Poor people and minorities suffered disproportionately, and the organs of the 20th-century federal criminal justice and penal systems emerged. The Prohibition-era “war on alcohol” created conservative law-and-order politics on the national level and evolved into a “war on drugs.” It also killed the workingman’s saloon and reduced working-class drinking; overall, American alcohol consumption fell by about 30 percent, with the pre-Prohibition peak of 2.6 gallons of alcohol per person not reached again until the 1970s. (It has subsequently dropped.14)

The Reign of Republican “Normalcy” in a Transformed Political System

“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration … not surgery but serenity,” Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio declared before the Home Market Club in Boston in May 1920 in an expertly timed assessment of the public mood.15 A small-town newspaperman and undistinguished senator, Harding and his canny gang of Ohio political operatives, including Harry Daughtery, launched a long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination principally as an attempt to fend off potential challengers for his senate seat.

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 2. Warren G. Harding striking a dynamic pose. National Photo Company Collection, June 17, 1920.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-npcc-01850.

Harding won the nomination and handily defeated fellow Ohioan governor James M. Cox by a margin of 7 million votes, winning the Electoral College 404 to 127. The victory inaugurated a decade of Republican control of Congress and the presidency, with Harding followed by Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

To historians, normalcy meant “the domination of political-economic decision-making by Republican businessmen.”16 Harding himself envisioned consensus-driven party governance, with the president taking a back seat to a well-formed cabinet of the “best minds” and Republican party leaders in Congress.17 Republicans controlled the federal government throughout the decade. Republican rule meant pro-business policies, including the enactment of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff in 1922, a farrago of greed and compromise that raised rates to an average of 38.5 percent, and at the urging of Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon, four complex revenue acts (1921, 1924, 1926, and 1928) that managed to give large breaks to the most wealthy (reducing the top tax rate from 65 percent to 20 percent), eliminate the excess-profits tax, and make the overall system (which included excise and similar taxes) moderately more progressive through changes in exemptions and rate structures.18 National prosperity meant that Republican administrations were still able to balance the budget and pay down the debt. Taken together, federal, state, and local tax collections totaled 15 percent of Gross National Product (GNP) in 1929, about twice what had been collected in 1914.19

Normalcy did not mean a return to 19th-century partisan politics, however, as the success of Prohibitionists had proven. Interest-group politics profoundly reshaped the system, and some theorists were floating even more radical pluralist ideas from Britain, such as representation systems based on occupation or economic function, not party.20 The People’s Power League in Oregon proposed a version of the idea that would give housewives a third of the seats in the state legislature.21 There was no going back. Belief in national economic planning for a just and well-managed society defined Progressives, who increasingly self-identified as liberals. They advocated federal farm loans, countercyclical public-works projects, federal ownership of railroads, labor’s right to organize, heavy inheritance taxes, federal bank-deposit insurance, and Prohibition.22 The aged populist lion William Jennings Bryan urged the Nebraska Constitutional Convention in 1920 to “authorize the state, the counties, and the cities to take over and operate any industry they please … The right of the community is superior to the right of any individual.”23 Wilson’s respected treasury secretary (and son-in-law) and potential Democratic presidential candidate William Gibbs McAdoo framed the liberal agenda to the Co-Operative Club in Iowa in 1926 as a necessary response to an integrated and interdependent economy, bureaucratized structures of power, and interest-group politics. Business was doing fine, but workers and farmers were vulnerable. Jeffersonian suspicion of power made sense in relation to civil and political liberties, but only the state could defend the economic liberties of the less powerful against monopolistic enterprise. Bureaucracy was onerous, but business bureaucracy was more worrisome than government bureaucracy because it lacked direct accountability.24

Liberals had little power inside the Democratic Party. The Left was even weaker, with socialists and Bolsheviks suffering from sectarian division.25 Independent Progressives dreamed of a third party akin to Britain’s new Labour Party, and radical Farmer-Labor tickets emerged in eight states. The Committee of Forty Eight advocated for a third party based on a broad-ranging agenda of public ownership, civil liberties, and labor rights but were rebuffed by the conservative craft-oriented American Federation of Labor (AFL) led by the venerable Samuel Gompers until his death in 1924 and thereafter by William Green. The AFL preferred to work for increased wages and benefits through direct negotiation with capital and not state intervention. At its 1923 convention, the delegates called for a coalition with management to thwart government intervention in the workplace, proposing their own version of functionalist reorganization of the political economy, though with labor and capital negotiating directly without the state. Progressives coalesced around Robert M. La Follette’s failed presidential bid in 1924, but he eschewed efforts to establish a permanent party.26

In 1920, the requisite number of states ratified the Nineteenth Amendment barring states from denying women the vote on account of their sex, the fourth landmark amendment adopted in seven years (following the federal income-tax amendment, direct election of senators, and Prohibition) and the culmination of a generations-long struggle by women that had created a distinct and powerful nonpartisan, cross-class women’s political culture built on gender solidarity and oriented toward women’s roles as mothers and moral guardians of the family.27 Women activists were the preeminent examples of the new, Progressive Era civic activism. Social Progressives had advocated protective legislation for women workers and children and continued to work for such causes as a constitutional amendment to end child labor, workplace reforms, anti-poverty measures, social insurance, and public housing.28 Many veterans of the suffrage movement intended to continue women’s gender-based mobilization into the post-Progressive Era through such groups as the League of Women Voters (founded in February 1920) and the Women’s Joint Congressional Committee, which was the most powerful lobby in Washington by 1925.29 Women’s potent political organizing persisted into the 1930s, and women quickly won passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921, which provided federal matching funds to states for health-care and other services for women and children. (The program died an early death in 1929 after facing repeated budget cuts.30)

Gender solidarity quickly dissolved, however, and class and ideological divisions cut against any feminist unity. Women divided on the question of labor. Roughly a quarter of women over the age of fourteen were in the paid workforce in the years between 1910 and 1940, with about 8 million women wageworkers in 1920. Many were married, divorced, widowed, or separated—nearing half the total by 1930. Married African American women worked at an even higher rate (and mostly in service jobs).31 About a quarter of women worked in industrial settings, another quarter in clerical and sales jobs, and nearly 20 percent in domestic service.32 Fewer were professionals.33 Maternalist reformers fiercely defended special protections for women workers and considered such protective laws one of their major achievements, but for many middle-class women, the next logical step was equality. Women faced much discrimination in the workplace. Many firms such as General Electric required women to resign upon marrying; Harvard’s Graduate School of Business flatly denied women admission.34 The equal-rights feminists, mainly associated with the National Women’s Party (NWP) led by Alice Paul, challenged the reigning assumption that married women would leave the workforce and proposed the Equal Rights Amendment (“Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction”).

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 3. Alice Paul of the National Women’s Party and a group of costumed women at the gravesite of Inez Milholland Boissevain, who became a martyr for women’s suffrage in 1916 after she died when on a speaking tour for the cause that she undertook despite being seriously ill.

Courtesy Library of Congress, National Woman’s Party Records, Inez Milholland Memorial, Westport, NY, 1923.

For them feminism meant economic independence, and they increasingly became opposed to sex-based protective legislation. They were acknowledging the reality of married women’s work but ignoring the difficulties and strains this put on working-class women and their families. The result was a bitter debate marked by class antagonism and the evident end of gender solidarity.35

The Republicans stumbled in 1923. Three different scandals, each accompanied by congressional investigations, dogged them. Veterans’ Bureau officials had been taking bribes for hospital construction contracts and illegally selling government supplies for personal gain; a corrupt Ohio gang of political operatives, working out of a “little green house on K Street,” were peddling political influence and liquor permits; and most significantly, the anti-conservationist secretary of interior Albert Fall took over $400,000 in bribes from oil companies in exchange for the right to develop two naval oil reserves, one in Elk Hills, California, and the other near Teapot Dome in Wyoming.36 Already ill with heart disease when he entered the presidency and bedeviled by extramarital affairs, an overwhelmed Harding covered up what he learned of the corruption, acknowledging to the journalist William Allen White that it was not his enemies that caused him problems but “my friends … my God-damn friends … they’re the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!” The genial president died that summer from two heart attacks while on an extended western tour, still a beloved public figure.37 Progressives could not capitalize on what became known as the Teapot Dome scandal, however. McAdoo was tainted by some of the same oil money and failed to win the Democratic nomination in 1924. Absent a strong Progressive candidate, the eastern pro-business wing of the party dominated a sharply divided Democratic party. Cox in 1920, the accomplished Wall Street lawyer John W. Davis in 1924, and New York governor Al Smith in 1928 all ran fruitless campaigns to win the Republican northeastern strongholds with increasingly conservative “me-too” pro-business platforms that were unappealing to the more progressive elements in the South and the West.38

The New Culture

The texture of American life changed in the 1920s, or so it must have seemed. Historians are fond of citing Willa Cather, who believed the world “broke” in 1922.39 Telephones, radio, even movies connected people instantaneously and over long distances in a communications revolution that, of necessity, transformed the nature of community.40 Social mores changed in ways that forever defined the decade in the American imagination. Young women sometimes became “flappers,” meaning they followed trends in fashion that were generally liberating. They discarded corsets and bustles in formal wear; opted for sleek, sheath-like dresses that bared their arms and featured striking décolletage; and sometimes bobbed the hair hid under stylish cloche hats.

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 4. John Held Jr., The Girl Who Gave Him the Cold Shoulder, c. 1923. Held’s caricatures of young people, particularly the carefree young women who became known as flappers, have become a central element of the decade’s iconography. Cabinet of American Illustration.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-05879.

They could go on unchaperoned dates and even visit nightclubs while retaining their respectability. Young women smoked, drank, and more. While premarital sex remained forbidden, “petting” and other kinds of sexual play increased, and some evidence suggests that as many as half of the women who came of age in the 1920s engaged in premarital sex.41 Young people became the idols of the decade and set the tone. In high schools and colleges, with adult supervision loosened, they created new forms of authority centered on standards enforced by their peers.42

Recorded music and black-and-white silent movies knit Americans together through a new mass culture, one in which best-selling black women blues singers became divas. Hollywood “stars” became princes and princesses of a new kingdom of dreams. Mass-marketed and commercially produced media—books, newspapers, radio, movies—helped determine values, morality, character training, patriotism, ideals of manhood and womanhood, even how to kiss. In The Adding Machine (1923), Elmer L. Rice’s scathing and dyspeptic play depicting an anonymized social world of meaningless work and thwarted humans, people have numbers not names. There is much talking, but no communication, even between married couples. Mr. Zero’s admiring coworker yearns for the embraces and kisses featured in movies (“them long ones—right on the mouth”) but absent from her passionless life.43 Mr. Zero recoils from freedom; given the chance of paradise in the afterworld, he chooses to return to the mundane and pointless labor of adding numbers. Rice’s Nietzschean indictment of the slavelike mentality of modern men represented an attitude increasingly characteristic of intellectuals, who were a distinct and relatively new class in modern America. Urban and cosmopolitan in outlook, coteries of young intellectuals in New York City’s Greenwich Village, or Paris, or any number of small cities across the nation gravitated to liberal politics and modernist tastes. They repudiated the Victorian values and stifling moralism many had experienced growing up and advocated instead new values of tolerance, cosmopolitanism, open-mindedness, scientific rationality, and pluralism.44

Science became a guiding principle for scholars of all types but a vexing threat to many Americans, who feared manipulation by experts and resented challenges to religious orthodoxy and parental authority—both issues caught up in the fraught debates over teaching evolution in schools. For some academics, science offered deterministic theories that transformed understandings of human nature (e.g., John B. Watson’s behaviorist psychology, which suggested that human behaviors were conditioned responses and could be controlled for the better through carefully chosen stimuli); for other scholars, scientific canons of accuracy and research represented models of democratic deliberation. Many adopted organic theories of society, which suggested that human intellect and freedom of choice emerged over generations. The human mind was an emergent product of evolution, and the human self was social in nature. Thus the mind could be thought of as culture, as, for example, in the increasingly influential formulations of Franz Boas and his students. Boasian ideas of culture promised a more plastic and pluralistic understanding of social change than past theories premised on racial hierarchies and revealed absolutes.45

By the 1920s, mass production succeeded in transforming American life. Expenditures on consumer goods increased five times between 1900 and 1929, with spending on new technologies like autos, telephones, and electricity jumping by a multiple of forty times and more.46 Women spent four times as much on kitchen appliances in 1929 compared to 1900. By the end of the decade, the percentage of homes lit by electricity had jumped to 68 percent from 35 percent in 1920.47 Henry Ford’s plain, sturdy, and reliable Model T characterized the age, at least through the mid-1920s, as did Ford’s entire system of production: rationalized manufacture of a simple, uniform good at a price affordable to millions with a well-paid and disciplined work force able to act as purchasers (if often with the assistance of consumer lending agencies).

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 5. Henry Ford surveying the progress in automobility. Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, June 1924.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-D420-2659.

Ford relentlessly pursued efficiency, ultimately reducing the costs of the Model T by two-thirds and taking a profit margin of only $2.00 on each car.48 This was “Fordism,” and by making a transformative luxury good affordable to the masses, it promised the democratization of consumption and pleasure. The car promised “automobility”—freedom, pleasure, the ability to move across the landscape and up the social ladder.49 Alfred P. Sloan’s General Motors, which had already pioneered direct consumer loans through the General Motors Acceptance Corporation, overtook Ford as the industry leader in 1927 with a huge investment in advertising, less attention to engineering, and more to styling, color, and frequent model changes.50 General Motors offered a “ladder of consumption” that started with the low-status Chevy and rose through the Oldsmobile and Buick to the elite Cadillac.51 Ford had to scrap the Model T and re-tool his factories to produce the more stylish Model A in 1927.

Mass-produced consumer goods became common, as chain stores began to make inroads in American retail, challenging locally owned stores; uniformly packaged name-brand items superseded commodities scooped out of barrels.52 In big cities, department stores, staffed by armies of young female clerks, were opulent palaces of desire.53 Advertising became the ubiquitous and essential lubricant of an economy built on the sale of an ever-expanding array of mass-produced goods. Advertisers seized on the changes created by modernity and amplified them; they sold aspirational benefits of the product more than the thing itself, playing on the sense that an individual is constantly subject to the discerning eyes of a judgmental world.54 Lucky Strike cigarettes could improve your figure, and thus sex appeal; cigarettes consumed per capita increased from 454 in 1920 to 998 in 1929.55 By 1924, three-quarters of American cars were purchased on credit; installment purchasing accounted for over 70 percent of the sales of such goods as radios, furniture, appliances, and phonographs by 1925.56 By decade’s end, William Leach observed, “America’s urban landscape of consumer desire was fully operational.”57

While some intellectuals and artists found popular culture invigorating, most saw it as manipulative and feeding upon Americans’ desires to conform to popular tastes. Standardized commercial amusements were, Lewis Mumford opined, “means of giving jaded and throttled people the sensations of living without the direct experience of life—a sort of spiritual masturbation.”58 Such attacks were themselves fashionable, especially among the young, who gravitated to the vituperative and hyperbolic assaults on American puritanism and yokelism of the Baltimore journalist H. L. Mencken. Mencken disdained prudishness and was a special scourge of rural and fundamentalist America and of the Prohibition he assumed they foisted on the nation. He mixed elitist disdain for commoners with the broader anxiety about conformity, small-mindedness, and intolerance that troubled many young intellectuals in the decade. “The whole drift of our law is toward the absolute prohibition of all ideas that diverge in the slightest from the accepted platitudes,” he declared, “and behind that drift of law there is a far more potent force of growing custom, and under that custom there is a national philosophy which erects conformity into the noblest of virtues and the free functioning of personality into a capital crime against society.”59 Sinclair Lewis, the most popular novelist of the decade, shared the diagnosis, presenting the hypocritical, lazy, and chauvinist small businessman George F. Babbitt as the bloviating laureate of the “Standardized American Citizen,” “a God-fearing, hustling, successful, two-fisted Regular Guy” who belongs to a fraternal society like the Kiwanis or Elks and “whose answer to his critics is a square-toed boot that’ll teach the grouches and smart alecks to respect the He-man and get out and root for Uncle Samuel, U.S.A.!”60

Culture Wars

Flashpoints of conflict between the cosmopolitan intellectuals and conservatives occurred regularly in what was a highly contentious decade. The August 1927 execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants who belonged to an anarchist cell in Boston and had undoubtedly participated in the 1919 spate of anarchist violence if not necessarily the bank robbery murders for which they were convicted in 1921, ignited protests around the world. Sacco and Vanzetti lingered on death row for six years, becoming a cause célèbre among liberal and left intellectuals who lionized them as peaceful and simple anarchists.61 Mencken helped lead the charge against laws that banned the teaching of human evolution from lower species in public schools. The confrontation between science and religion culminated in the August 1925 trial of John T. Scopes, whom the city fathers of Dayton, Tennessee, had convinced to be a test case for the state’s anti-evolution law. Clarence Darrow joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Scopes’s defense, and William Jennings Bryan advocated for the state. The ACLU sought to make the case about academic freedom and First Amendment rights. Many in the media considered it a test of the authority of science versus religion. Bryan conceived of it as a test of a democratic society’s right to determine the moral values taught in public schools. The state won the case, although only two more states subsequently passed similar anti-evolution laws. Both secularists and evangelical Christians grew in strength and support in the decades after Scopes.62

The 1920s culture wars were about nationhood. Congress passed the Emergency Immigration Act in 1921, which curtailed immigration and set nationality-based quotas for admission as a stopgap measure until passage of a permanent bill. Resistance to mass immigration had been increasing over three decades and was rooted in native-born patrician distaste for southern and eastern European immigrants and wartime demands that “hyphenated” immigrant Americans demonstrate their loyalty. Popular racial theorists like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard provided careful taxonomies of racial groups based on phenotypical characteristics such as hair color, skin tone, and head shape and, in the vein of social Darwinists, fretted about the effects of fertile foreign racial stocks on the overall fitness of the national population.63 In 1924, Congress passed the Immigration Restriction, or Johnson-Reed, Act, which cut annual immigration to 150,000 and established national quotas based on the white population of the United States in 1920.64 Government statisticians faced the difficult task of attempting to identify the ethnic and racial composition of all those living in the United States in 1920 based on very incomplete data. Non-white people were specifically excluded from the quota system despite having significant representation in the 1920 census: descendants of slave immigrants, descendants of “American aborigines,” aliens ineligible for citizenship based on previous statutes (Chinese, Japanese, and South Asians, with the exceptions of Filipinos, who were citizens of an American territory), and immigrants from the Western hemisphere or their descendants.65 As Mae Ngai observed, the law effectively created a new racially based nationalism.66 Moreover, the legislation advanced the progress of redefining race in binary terms. By giving those of European origins a nationality as well as the status of white, the act divided their ethnicity from race; previously, people of different nations were considered different races.67 After the 1924 act, anti-immigration activists turned their energies to limiting the migration of Mexicans, who were still eligible under the National Immigration Act. Over one million Mexicans migrated to the United States between 1910 and 1930, with over 500,000 coming in the 1920s, often working in agriculture in the South and Southwest but increasingly taking jobs on railroads across the country and in industry in Midwestern cities. A new border-control regime required passports, visas, and inspections and imposed a head tax. As the head tax increased, Mexican immigrants evaded the legal requirements, becoming the prototypical illegal immigrants. Deportation of Mexicans increased tenfold in the late 1920s, and failed legislative efforts to place quotas on Mexican migrants occurred in 1926 and 1928.68

The simultaneously backward-looking and newer nationalistic and interest-group elements of Americans’ social and political mobilization in the 1920s are exemplified by the remarkable revival of the Ku Klux Klan. Established in 1915 by William J. Simmons, who had been variously a Methodist preacher, history teacher, and fraternal group organizer, the second, or 1920s, Klan took off when Simmons enlisted two publicists, Edward Young Clarke and Mary Elizabeth Tyler.69 They saw the Klan as a business proposition and implemented a recruitment system based on monetary rewards. Salesmen, or Kleagles, who recruited members received $4.00 of the $10.00 membership fee, or Klecktoken, as compensation. Money went up the chain to the Atlanta headquarters, not just for membership fees but the various paraphernalia associated with membership, which were purchased through a national supplier. Clarke and Young packaged the racist, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant Klan as an explicitly Protestant civic group, building on the chauvinist and exclusivist nationalism prevalent at the time, and fostered a new type of social organization, replete with parades, family picnics, and beauty contests.70

By 1922, a more programmatically conservative Dallas dentist named Hiram W. Evans pushed Simmons aside and became Imperial Wizard, promoting the Klan as an embodiment of “Native, white, Protestant supremacy.”71 Best estimates suggest a total Klan membership somewhere between 2 and 5 million, most of it from outside the South and composed of middle-class men who could afford the required fees and expenses.

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 6. The Ku Klux Klan parading down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, September 13, 1926. National Photo Company Collection.

Courtesy Library of Congress,LC-DIG-npcc-16226.

(The Klan supported women’s auxiliaries as well.) Local groups often mobilized around civic goals, such as effective Prohibition enforcement, opposition to local corruption, zoning disputes, and road construction.72 The Klansmen entered politics, working within whatever political party was most dominant in the area. Before it faded after 1925 due to internal feuding and corruption, the Klan controlled the legislatures and governorships in Indiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Oregon, and elected senators in Texas and Colorado.73 The Klan used modern marketing techniques and exploited the mass media. Tyler was a skilled businesswoman and for a while did much to direct the organization. She and Clarke capitalized on the 1921 revival of D. W. Griffith’s Civil War epic Birth of a Nation (1915), which romanticized the Klan as defenders of white womanhood against black bestiality in the most lurid terms. When the New York World ran a 1921 exposé documenting Klan vigilantism, Tyler used the publicity to improve recruitment; many used membership blanks clipped from the article to enroll.74 Violence was prevalent in the Klan before 1923, mostly in the South and Southwest.75 African Americans, Catholics, and liberal intellectuals denounced it and organized against it. In the North, anti-Klan groups, such as the Knights of the Flaming Circle, might have been more responsible for violence than the relatively timid Klansmen; when Klansmen arrived in South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame undergraduates engaged them in a pitched battle in the streets.76

The Klan exemplified the 1920s impulse to organize outside political parties and to affirm a particularistic conception of national identity around which to unite the social order using voluntarist and nonstate means. To its members, the Klan represented an “Invisible Empire,” an alternative nation within a nation premised on white Protestantism as a cultural identity. Built most of all on anti-Catholicism and calls to enforce Prohibition, the Klan exploited the social divisions between Protestants and immigrants, espousing a narrow interdenominational Protestant ecumenism, primarily attracting Methodists, Baptists, United Brethren, Disciples of Christ, and unchurched Protestants.77 When entering a community, Klan organizers would often announce themselves at local churches. Klan meetings opened with a prayer and featured a flag-draped altar, prayers led by the Kludd (or chaplain), and repurposed Christian hymns, such as “Onward Christian Klansmen.”78 As Benedict Anderson argued, nationalisms are linguistic inventions inculcated in schools and print publications.79 Klansmen published journals, promoted a nationalist and patriotic curriculum, and focused on public education, often lobbying for increased funding, free textbooks, and a federal Department of Education, positions that sometimes drew them into coalition with Progressive educators.80 Their one notable legislative success was an anti-Catholic initiative in Oregon requiring compulsory attendance at public schools, later overturned by the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925).81

Nationalism, Anderson noted, fosters kinship through exclusive membership, evocation of home, and expressions of solidarity; love for the nation as for family is disinterested because unchosen.82 It is difficult to see the love in Klan-based white ethnic nationalism, for it is obscured by the hate. It is also difficult to understand the flowering of particularistic nationalisms within a pluralistic nation. Klan nationalism was an assertion of cultural values, not so much a claim on the land as a claim against a cosmopolitan elite. The philosopher Horace Kallen, who emigrated to America from Germany as a child and proudly embraced his Jewish heritage as a cultural identity, coined the term cultural pluralism in arguing for an alternative, hyphenated nationalism. “The alternative before Americans is Kulture Klux Klan or Cultural Pluralism,” Kallen wrote.83 Kallen argued that the United States lacks a single ethnocracial “American” identity, and efforts to Americanize immigrants only accentuated their native nationalism. The well-known Chicago school of sociologists, led by Robert Park, were coming to similar conclusions, arguing that immigrants’ ethnicity and ethnic institutions were practical means to manage the transition from one culture to another.84 Faithful to the prejudices of cosmopolitan intellectuals, Kallen dismissed much of American culture as standardized hokum. Instead, he envisioned unity from multiplicity and likened American civilization to an orchestra in which each ethnic group contributed its own timbre and tonality to create a greater “symphony of civilization.”85 The hyphen unites more than it separates, he declared. Americans are a “mosaic of people, of different bloods and of different origins.” “Democracy involves, not the elimination of differences, but the perfection and conservation of differences.”86

The Jamaican immigrant Marcus Garvey put forth a third version of nationalism, drawing immense support from working-class African Americans for a broad program of cultural assertiveness. More than one million African Americans migrated North in the Great Migration of the 1910s and 1920s, following patterns of chain migration not unlike those of European immigrants.87 They found some degree of political freedom but also persistent racial discrimination. Blacks found access to better-paid industrial jobs limited and had difficulty moving out of predominantly black ghettos, in which housing and businesses were often white owned, rents were high, and housing substandard. White violence and devices like the restrictive covenant, a voluntary contractual agreement entered into by white homeowners that barred sales to blacks, often prevented even successful black professionals from buying homes in white neighborhoods.88 In Detroit’s Black Bottom ghetto, residents sometimes rented soiled mattresses for a night’s sleep; enterprising pool-hall owners rented out their tables as beds.89 Racial violence occurred on a regular basis, with major riots in East St. Louis in 1917, Chicago in 1919, and Tulsa in 1921. Whites rampaged through Rosewood, Florida, in what amounted to a pogrom in 1923. Despite these barriers, a vibrant culture and a more assertive and militant “New Negro” emerged in northern cities.

For many, Garvey embodied this assertiveness. Well educated and well traveled, Garvey arrived in the United States in March 1916 having already established what came to be known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) with the goal of uniting the “Negro peoples of the world into one great body to establish a country and Government absolutely of their own.”90

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 7. Marcus Garvey calling for a “Constitution for Negro Rights” at Liberty Hall in New York City, 1920. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-109628.

Garvey toured the nation touting his program of black nationalism and espousing black pride, self-determination, and self-help. He fashioned the UNIA as a government in waiting, with himself as president general (often appearing in full regalia) and various ministries, noble orders, and paramilitary wings. The UNIA published a newspaper, Negro World, that attained a circulation of 200,000 and established the ill-fated Black Star Line, a poorly run shipping company designed to facilitate the redemption of Africa and the eventual return of all black peoples. Based in Harlem, the UNIA gained 100,000 dues-paying members and claimed to have a wider membership. It boasted 1,000 worldwide divisions (or chapters), 80 percent of which were in the United States, with over 400 in the South.91 Strong divisions consisting of industrial and domestic workers sprang up in Midwestern cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.92

Garvey’s popularity demonstrated the appeal of nationalist strategies of political mobilization in the 1920s and the vulnerability of established black leaders, both labor-oriented figures like A. Phillip Randolph and the integrationist and middle-class black leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), including W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson. Garvey’s pro-capitalist message alienated black-labor activists, and his emphasis on racial purity and separatism appalled black elites, many of whom were light skinned, unlike Garvey. Garvey repudiated racial mixing and met with the Klan’s Edward Clarke, a move that alienated many of his rank-and-file supporters. The poor management of the Black Star Line made him vulnerable to government harassment and to the attacks of his political rivals. He was convicted of mail fraud in 1923 and deported in 1927.

Skin color, cultural pride, and national identity were essential features of the Harlem Renaissance, an explosion of African American literary and artistic activity fostered by the relative freedoms of the North and midwifed by Du Bois, who was editing the NAACP’s Crisis, and the Urban League’s Charles S. Johnson, who edited Opportunity. They recruited young artists and writers to Harlem, supported them, and linked them to the white literary establishment with the goal of demonstrating black artistic genius.93 The Harlem Renaissance was a program of cultural boosterism, not nationalist mobilization, but the cultural creativity of black Harlem soon overflowed the genteel aesthetic standards Du Bois and Johnson observed. Harlem’s nightclubs and cabarets, many owned by whites, catered to white patrons who enjoyed the exotic thrill of “slumming” in primarily black districts.94 White patronage and money saturated Harlem and the arts scene, and jazz was a thoroughly hybridized race form. Miscegenation and mixed-race identities were major themes of black artists, such as the novelist Nella Larsen, whose heroines were tortured by the compulsion to choose between their racial identities when the wisest solution seemed not to choose at all.95 Younger writers like the poet Langston Hughes rejected the pressure to adopt the cultural values and aesthetic standards of white America, diagnosing the need for white approval as a form of black self-hatred. It was the “mountain” black artists must surmount if they sought to be genuine artists. He hailed the “low-down” folks, “the people who have their nip of gin on Saturday nights and are not too important to themselves or the community, or too well fed, or too learned to watch the lazy world go round.” The great black artist would be the one who dispensed with the old strategy of donning masks and was no longer “afraid to be himself”: “We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful… . We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”96

Visions of a Corporatist New Era

While social activists and cultural elites crafted nationalistic agendas that simultaneously united and divided, business leaders and policymakers pursued likewise conflicting goals of national economic integration and a reduced federal state. The Progressive Era impulse to engage in civic life and affect national social and economic change outside of politics persisted into the 1920s even as the Progressive affection for state-oriented solutions faded. Demonstrative partisanship and popular politics continued their long-term slide; electoral turnout for presidential elections in 1924 and 1928 reached all-time lows.97 Pro-business “normalcy” meant an antipathy toward state-oriented solutions to economic overproduction. Two overriding facts prescribed the contours of economic planning in these years. First, the age of capitalist development based on capital accumulation, meaning the diversion of labor power and capital from consumption to creating productive capacity, was rapidly being replaced by a regime based on “disaccumulation,” which was not about investing surplus capital and labor value in increased production but rather fostering economic growth through increased consumption.98 The American economy was haunted by the threat of overproduction throughout the decade. Second, the federalized American political system, with forty-eight states and the federal government as distinct regulatory and taxation regimes, was uniquely disorganized and competitive and thus unable to regulate economic competition or integrate industrial enterprise. State institutions were weak, with much popular and elite deference to business leadership. Corporate America’s preferred strategy to manage competition was consolidation and oligopoly. Twelve hundred manufacturing and mining mergers occurred between 1920 and 1928 resulting in the closing of almost 6,000 firms; 4,000 firms in utilities disappeared.99 The strategy was ultimately lacking. Productivity rose, and barriers to entry by new entrepreneurs remained low.100

Industries with high labor costs promoted a wave of anti-union corporate and state activism under the aegis of Republican leadership between 1919 and 1922. Employers launched the American Plan, a series of “open-shop” drives against unions in 240 cities in 1920 and 1921. They declared workers’ wage demands to be unreasonable and responsible for the rising cost of living.101 Judges used injunctions to thwart strikes; frustrated by a rail strike that stranded travelers in summer 1922, Harry Daugherty, now Harding’s attorney general, obtained a sweeping and notorious injunction from Judge James H. Wilkerson in September prohibiting union officials not only from picketing but also from even communicating in support of a labor stoppage.102 Violence characterized coal strikes in the unorganized southern West Virginia coal fields, as did corporate use of private detectives and demands that workers sign “yellow dog” contracts barring them from joining a union.103 The AFL was on the defensive and losing members throughout the decade. Overall union membership declined from just over 5 million in 1920 to 3.4 million in 1930.104 Unions remained in a defensive crouch in printing, railroads, shipping, construction, and the “sick” industries, coal, textiles (the older New England textile mills were unionized though gradually losing out to the southern non-union mills), and clothing. The emerging mass-production industries such as automobile production, steel, chemicals, and rubber were unorganized, as was the electrical manufacturing industry.105

A minority of capitalist managers, labor leaders, and business-oriented Progressive political leaders, most notably Herbert Hoover, were keenly aware of the need to impose order and bolster consumer purchasing power. Henry Ford’s 1910s experiment in $5.00-a-day wages based on profit sharing provided a forerunner of various more elaborate programs of “welfare capitalism” in the 1920s. New managerial elites were committed to using managerial, organizational, and labor-relations strategies to create a “better social order.”106 Enlightened business leaders at various mass-production firms such as Owen D. Young and Gerard Swope at General Electric, Elbert Gary at U.S. Steel, and Charles M. Schwab of Bethlehem Steel pioneered programs in welfare capitalism that aimed to attach the loyalty of workers to the industrial firm and bolster their status as consumers while retaining managerial power. Corporations offered savings, home ownership, pension, group insurance, and stock-purchase plans. By 1927, 800,000 employees had invested $1 billion in 315 different companies; $7.5 billion worth of accident, illness, old age, and life insurance covered close to 6 million workers by 1928; and by 1929, 350 companies offered pensions. Specialists in personnel management became more commonplace, as did company-sponsored sports teams, musical clubs, and dances along with Americanization classes.107 The centerpiece was the employee representation plan, a type of company union promoted by Canadian labor minister W. L. Mackenzie King before the war to John D. Rockefeller Jr., who was searching for ways to resolve labor conflicts at his company’s coal mines in Colorado, and boosted by War Labor Board requirements during World War I.108 Workers scorned these plans for the most part, and the entire system of welfare capitalism collapsed within two years of the start of the Great Depression.109

The most expansive promoter of these visions of private capitalist solutions to the problems of the emerging mass-production capitalist order was Herbert Hoover, the dynamic head of the Commerce Department through much of the decade.

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Figure 8. Herbert Hoover in 1929. National Photo Company Collection.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-131567.

A brilliant mining engineer who had made his first million by his mid-twenties, Hoover gradually adopted Progressive attitudes toward labor and workplace safety as a globe-trotting managerial consultant based in England before the war.110 He proved a brilliant, bold, and effective administrator of relief efforts and food production during the war and gave his name—“Hooverism”—to public-spirited economics.111 As secretary of commerce, Hoover spearheaded what Ellis W. Hawley labeled the “associative state,” or “reform statism.”112 Ideologically opposed to centralized state planning, Hoover believed that the state could facilitate industry-wide cooperative efforts to integrate production (he was relentless in pushing for standardized measures, for example, uniform necks on bottles, or red-yellow-green traffic signals) to increase efficiency, harmonize capital and labor (he fought to end the twelve-hour-day in steel), and raise the standard of living. He fostered industry trade associations and created a dense network of government agencies and voluntary committees to promote cooperation and coordination. He invested heavily in government efforts to disseminate market information useful to small businesses and intervened heavy-handedly to the full extent of his authority (and then some) to stimulate private-sector growth in such industries as transportation and radio. An anti-bureaucrat who was actually a consummate bureaucrat, Hoover epitomized the aspirations of scientific rationalizers and social engineers, all while clinging to an ideological hostility toward direct federal intervention in the economy or planning.113 Hoover and his associationalist fellows were “groping their way toward a form of American corporatism and indicative planning,” reimagining American political economy in a way that could leverage American individualistic and voluntaristic principles to promote the necessary integration for a consumer economy.114 The project was a failure, as the Depression soon revealed, with the desired national integration thwarted by chronic industrial overproduction and fragmented government regulatory regimes.

The Crash

The 1928 Democratic Party presidential candidate was Al Smith. Unapologetically urban and Catholic and born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he dropped out of school after his father’s death and proudly ascribed his knowledge of human nature to the Fulton Fish Market, where he worked to support his family. The subsequent campaign between Smith and Hoover epitomized the decade’s conflicts. Anti-Catholic rumors of papal plans to take over the nation, suspiciously cardinal-red drapes at the White House, and hidden images of rosaries, crosses, and the Virgin Mary on the dollar bill flourished. (Klansmen clipped off the corners of dollar bills in an act of defiance.) One correspondent to Franklin D. Roosevelt recommended fingerprinting all nuns.115 On policy, Hoover was the more progressive candidate, with Smith running to the left of him only on the issue of public power. Smith’s decision to name John J. Raskob, a Wall Street financier and partner of industrialist Pierre du Pont, as chairman of the Democratic Party confirmed the power of business in the New Era.116 The “wet” Smith called for a “fundamental change” in the Prohibition law. This and his Catholicism lost him rural votes across the South and West; one Methodist newspaper acknowledged his right to run for office but defended the “constitutional right to vote against him because he is a Catholic.” Southern Democrats race baited Hoover in an effort to win votes.117 Hoover won 21.4 million votes to Smith’s 15 million, an Electoral College victory of 444 to 87. The silver lining for Democrats was Smith’s 50 percent of the urban vote, evidence of the future New Deal coalition.118

Hoover proved to be a poor president: aware of the factors inflating the stock market, the fragility of the international economic system, and the economic undertow of consumer incapacity, but cold and austere in public demeanor, curiously passive in office, and ideologically opposed to strong state action to address the problems. He could envision the end of poverty in his convention acceptance speech but warned privately of the public’s exaggerated confidence in his abilities: “They have a conviction that I am a sort of superman, that no problem is beyond my capacity… . If some unprecedented calamity should come upon the nation … I would be sacrificed to the unreasoning disappointment of a people who expected too much.”119

The American economy boomed between 1920 and 1929, despite a sharp recession between January 1920 and July 1921 and two smaller ones in the middle of the decade (between May 1923 and July 1924 and October 1926 and November 1927). Overall, industrial production increased 40.6 percent between January 1920 and July 1929; the Gross National Product, at $74 billion in 1922, rose to $103 billion in 1929, with an average annual growth rate over the 1920s of 4.5 percent.120 Broad aggregate data suggest an increase in per capita income of 30 percent between 1919 and 1929, which powered the surge in consumption that defined the mid-decade “Coolidge Prosperity.” Inflation-adjusted real income grew by more than 25 percent for non–farm workers, particularly in the first half of the decade.121 Yet automobile production began to slow as early as 1925.122 By 1928, the depression that economists would technically date to August 1929 began to unfold as inventories piled up.123

Corporate statesmen had not achieved a level of political and economic integration that could solve the problem of overproduction or create an economy that broadly distributed wealth. The distribution of real wage gains varied greatly, with many industrial workers seeing only modest wage increases; they were also plagued by chronic unemployment. Many were spending most of their income on food, housing, and clothing.124

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Graph 1: Unemployment, 1918–1933 (in thousands)

Source: Susan B. Carter, “Labor Force, Employment, and Unemployment: 1890–1990,” table Ba470–477 in Historical Statistics of the United States, Earliest Times to the Present: Millennial Edition, eds. Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Consumer purchasing hit a wall. The nation generated great wealth (accounting for one-half of the world’s industrial output between 1925 and 1929), but there was a high degree of inequality, as profits gained from productivity flowed more to capital than labor, and debt as a share of income doubled.125 “Underconsumption” theorists, including figures like Evans Clark, George Soule, and David Sapass at the private Labor Bureau, as well as Stuart Chase, Waddill Catchings, and William T. Foster, called for bolstering wages. In the words of John Frey of the Ohio Labor Federation, “Social inequality, industrial instability and injustice must increase unless the real wage and purchasing power of workers be advanced in proportion to man’s increasing power of production.”126

The depression remained a rather typical economic slowdown through late 1930, and then it evolved into something worse, a global liquidity crisis that plunged the juggernaut economy of the United States into a Great Depression lasting the remainder of the decade (see Graph 1). The reasons for this lay in deeper structural problems with an economy that had been plagued with chronic underperformance in certain sectors, such as agriculture, and with a weakly regulated financial and banking sector. An extraordinary series of bank collapses occurred after the 1929 stock-market crash. The United States was deeply integrated in the global economic system, but many of its financial and political leaders still approached the world with a remarkably short-sighted view of national interest. At crucial points, American policymakers refused to reduce or forgive European war debt, choosing to recycle American capital through European banks to pay old European debt with new. The international gold-standard system, which was supposed to maintain global economic equilibrium, failed in the late 1920s. The Federal Reserve switched to a contractionary monetary policy in January 1928, too late to prevent the stock bubble and, disastrously, contracted the money supply again in the face of a liquidity crisis in 1931.127

The stock-market crash in the fall of 1929 brought a ringing conclusion to a decade of carefree pleasure, rising hopes, and new freedoms.128 As production continued to outpace consumption and domestic capital investment lagged, capital flowed to Europe and, after 1927, into speculative stock investments that sparked a two-year-long bull market on the stock exchange. Private investors, big corporations, and commercial banks poured money into the market. Beginning on September 3, 1929, as the economy entered recession, the bubble began to burst, and the stock market began a long, rolling slide that lasted through November 13, 1929. On Monday, October 21, sales were so high that the stock ticker fell behind. Buyers lacking accurate market information panicked. On October 24, “Black Thursday,” the decline became a rout. Heroic interventions by financiers staved off catastrophe—for a weekend. On Tuesday, October 29, “Black Tuesday,” the values of stocks plummeted again, with millions of shares changing hands and, at points, sellers unable to find a buyer for some stocks at any price129 (see Graph 2).

The United States in the 1920sClick to view larger

Graph 2: Common Stock Prices, 1917–1940 (Composite, industrials, railroads, and utilities index: 1941–1943 = 10; Dow Jones Industrial Average provided)

Source: Peter L. Rousseau, “Common Stock Prices: 1802–1999,” table Cj797–807 in Historical Statistics of the United States, Earliest Times to the Present: Millennial Edition, eds. Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Although under 3 percent of Americans invested in the stock market, the confidence of millions more was shaken. Within three years, the national economy had shrunk by almost 30 percent, and billions of dollars of wealth had simply vanished, along with it the “New Era.” The nation embarked on a new age.

Discussion of the Literature

The generation who lived through the 1920s conceived its longtime initial historical reputation: a period of intellectual disillusionment, especially for veterans and supporters of the Great War; an era of conformity to liberal critics; and gay years of fads, prosperity, social change, and ballyhoo for many, including women and youth. Frederick Lewis Allen’s instant history, Only Yesterday (1931), reflected a surprising number of these themes.130 Memoirs and autobiographies shaped public memory of the decade, for example, Malcolm Cowley’s influential literary memoir, which touched on the much mythologized Paris expatriates.131 Preston William Slosson provided an early scholarly account, but William Leuchtenburg’s The Perils of Prosperity, 1914–1932 (1958) marks the beginning of contemporary scholarly treatments.132 Several valuable syntheses appeared in subsequent years: Ellis W. Hawley extended Robert Wiebe’s thesis that the Progressive Era amounted to a “search for order.” Hawley stressed the organizational imperatives of New Era intellectuals, businessmen, and statesman, best exemplified by Herbert Hoover, who sought to achieve social integration through private, nonstatist means.133 Lynn Dumenil’s The Modern Temper (1995) updated this framework while providing more extensive treatment of women, African Americans, and other ethnic minorities and stressing the pluralistic, consumerist, and conservative tendencies of the years.134 David J. Goldberg published a second synthetic account in the 1990s that wove together Wilsonian foreign policy with social and labor history to emphasize the intense post-Progressive nationalism of the decade.135

With the opening of relevant archives in the 1960s, scholars began to present more nuanced views of the Republican presidencies of the era.136 In particular, revisionists have hailed Herbert Hoover as a forgotten Progressive and traced the corporatist tendencies of his “associative state” into the thinking that went into the subsequent New Deal.137 Conversely, scholars have emphasized the conservatism of the Democratic Party of Al Smith and John J. Raskob.138 A vast and growing literature on the second, or 1920s, Ku Klux Klan has appeared in the last thirty years, with several revisionist studies, including a study of Indiana by Leonard J. Moore, emphasizing its mainstream membership and civic-activist orientation; they have been challenged by Nancy MacLean and others who find in the Klan’s violence and anti-Catholic, racist, anti-Semitic, and patriarchal agenda a platform of reactionary populism that foreshadowed elements of the later radical right.139 Much of the recent relevant scholarship on gender and race has focused on the social history of working-class lives; a growing body of work examines the African American migration north and the creation of black communities in Midwestern cities.140 Focused studies have examined the Ossian Sweet case in Detroit, the complexities of racial identity raised by the Rhinelander case, and the black nationalism of Marcus Garvey.141 Mae Ngai has argued that immigration legislation racialized American national identity and contributed to a growing scholarship on the experiences of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans in the early 20th century.142 Dorothy M. Brown published a sprightly synthesis of older scholarship on 1920s women, the authoritative account of feminist thought is by Nancy Cott, and several studies have focused on women’s increasing entrance into the workplace.143 The noteworthy evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson has received attention of late.144 Recent scholarship has focused on Prohibition’s contribution to the rise of the modern “war on crime” and penal state.145

Scholars of consumerism have found the 1920s to be a period when economic and cultural transformations resulted in the maturation of a society built on dreams of abundance and pleasure.146 Ronald Edsforth’s influential study of Flint, Michigan, emphasized the way automobile-driven consumerism and mass production sundered workers’ links to older cultures, while Liz Cohen suggested that workers experienced a brief interlude early in the media revolution in which pluralistic and class-based identities were bolstered rather than eroded.147 Gradually, Americans began to define citizenship in terms of wages and purchasing power.148 An understanding of American intellectual life in the era begins with Warren Susman’s attention to intellectuals’ rethinking of culture and civilization in an age of mass communications.149 The broader intellectual contours of the decade focusing on intellectuals’ evolving sense of self-identity and their crafting of a liberal modernism are examined by Paul Murphy; Andrew Jewett provides a comprehensive account of trends in academic thought in his broader study of the rise and fall of scientific democracy in the 20th century.150 The intellectual explosion represented by the Harlem Renaissance and its crucial role in the shaping of 20th-century African American identity has received enormous attention. Interpretations have evolved from Nathan I. Huggins’s critical appraisal of its achievements to its more subversive implications and hybrid character.151

Acknowledgment

Jalen Benton provided research assistance for this essay.

Primary Sources

Research on the 1920s, the first great decade of mass media, should begin with newspapers and magazines. For newspapers, begin with major metropolitan dailies such as the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune; prominent African American papers include the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier. Examples of popular magazines include the New Yorker (founded in 1925); Life, a humor magazine prior to being purchased by Henry Luce in the 1930s; Forum; the Saturday Evening Post, Vanity Fair; and H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury, popular with college students. The University of Chicago Press has published an anthology of the Chicagoan, a Midwestern counterpart to the New Yorker.152 The Saturday Review of Literature, the New York Herald Tribune Books supplement, and the Dial provide invaluable insights on American literary life. For journals of opinion, consult the Nation and the New Republic; the Survey Graphic was a journal of reform-oriented social thought; the NAACP’s Crisis and the Urban League’s Opportunity cover African American life.153

The Nation published a series of interesting articles on every state of the union, which have been collected by Daniel H. Borus; Tom Lutz and Susanna Ashton have published a competing series published by African Americans and appearing in the Messenger.154 Seminal anthologies from a decade rife with critical anthologies on American life and culture include Alain Locke’s The New Negro, an essential text for the Harlem Renaissance; a symposium edited by Freda Kirchwey of the Nation on sexual mores (Kirchwey also sponsored series on “These Modern Women”); and Harold Stearns’s collection of critical comments on American culture appearing as Civilization in the United States.155 Further essential Harlem Renaissance texts are available in readers edited by Nathan Huggins, David Levering Lewis, Jeffrey Brown Ferguson, and Venetria K. Patton and Maureen Honey.156 Primary documents relevant to the anti-evolution controversy and the Scopes Trial can be found in Jeffrey P. Moran’s The Scopes Trial, and Willard B. Gatewood Jr.’s broader Controversy in the Twenties.157 Douglas O. Linder’s Famous Trials website has primary documents related to the Scopes Trial and other noteworthy 1920s trials, including the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Ossian Sweet trials. Henry F. May considered Recent Social Trends in the United States (1933), the two-volume report of President Hoover’s Committee on Social Trends, to be one of the most informative documents about the 1920s.158 Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd’s study of Muncie, Indiana, remains an invaluable source of information and a vital interpretation of the period.159 Numerous autobiographies and memoirs of are of interest; one of the most influential has been Malcolm Cowley’s Exile’s Return.160

The papers of Warren G. Harding are at the Ohio Historical Society with some personal letters at the Library of Congress; the papers of Calvin Coolidge are at the Library of Congress; Herbert Hoover’s are collected at his presidential library in West Branch, Iowa. The Public Papers of the President series from the National Archives includes six volumes on Hoover, and many of Hoover’s writings have been published in his lifetime and posthumously.161 Thirteen volumes of the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers have appeared.162

Further Reading

Boyle, Kevin. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. New York: Henry Holt, 2004.Find this resource:

Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Corn, Wanda M. The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915–1935. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Cott, Nancy F. The Grounding of Modern Feminism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Douglas, Ann. Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995.Find this resource:

Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s. New York: Hill & Wang, 1995.Find this resource:

Edsforth, Ronald. Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus: The Making of a Mass Consumer Society in Flint, Michigan. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Fass, Paula S. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.Find this resource:

Goldberg, David J. Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Gordon, Colin. New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America, 1920–1935. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2017.Find this resource:

Hawley, Ellis. The Great War and the Search for a Modern Order: A History of the American People and Their Institutions, 1917–1933. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979.Find this resource:

Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Harlem Renaissance. London: Oxford University Press, 1971.Find this resource:

Hutchinson, George. The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. New York: Basic Books, 1997.Find this resource:

Leffler, Melvyn P. “1921–1932: Expansionist Impulses and Domestic Constraints.” In Economics and World Power: An Assessment of American Diplomacy since 1789. Edited by William H. Becker and Samuel F. Wells Jrs., 225–275. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Leuchtenburg, William E. Herbert Hoover. New York: Times Books, 2009.Find this resource:

Lewis, David Levering. When Harlem Was in Vogue. New York: Penguin, 1997.Find this resource:

Lienesch, Michael. In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Anti-evolution Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Lynd, Robert S., and Helen Merrell Lynd. Middletown: A Study in American Culture. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957.Find this resource:

McGirr, Lisa. The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. New York: Norton, 2016.Find this resource:

MacLean, Nancy. Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Montgomery, David. “Thinking about American Workers in the 1920s.” International Labor and Working-Class History 32 (1987): 4–24.Find this resource:

Moore, Leonard J. Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921–1928. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Murphy, Paul V. The New Era: American Thought and Culture in the 1920s. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.Find this resource:

Pegram, Thomas R. One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011.Find this resource:

Stricker, Frank. “Affluence for Whom? – Another Look at Prosperity and the Working Classes in the 1920s.” Labor History 24 (1983): 5–33.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) William Fielding Ogburn, Social Change: With Respect to Culture and Original Nature (New York: Viking, 1927), 2000–2203.

(2.) David Montgomery, “Thinking about American Workers in the 1920s,” International Labor and Working-Class History 32 (Fall 1987): 5; Douglas B. Craig, After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920–1934 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 27; and Meg Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 73.

(3.) M. J. Heale, American Anti-Communism: Combating the Enemy Within, 1830–1970 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 47–55; and David J. Goldberg, Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 41–44.

(4.) Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 153–159.

(5.) Robert K. Murray, The Politics of Normalcy: Governmental Theory and Practice in the Harding-Coolidge Era (New York: Norton, 1973), 3.

(6.) Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics, 33, 66.

(7.) Murray, Politics of Normalcy, 4–5; and Randall Parker, “An Overview of the Great Depression,” EH.net.

(8.) Jeffrey S. Adler, “Less Crime, More Punishment: Violence, Race, and Criminal Justice in Early Twentieth-Century America,” Journal of American History 102 (2015): 34–36.

(9.) Lynn Dumenil, The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (New York: Hill & Wang, 1995), 227.

(10.) Lisa McGirr, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State (New York: Norton, 2016), 10, 33.

(11.) McGirr, War on Alcohol, 33–35.

(12.) McGirr, War on Alcohol, 33–36.

(13.) McGirr, War on Alcohol, 59.

(14.) McGirr, War on Alcohol, 50; and Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York: Scribner, 2010), 118–119, 373. See Jeffrey A. Miron and Jeffrey Zwiebel, “Alcohol Consumption during Prohibition,” American Economic Review 81 (1991): 242–247.

(15.) Robert K. Murray, The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969), 70.

(16.) Ronald Edsforth, Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus: The Making of a Mass Consumer Society in Flint, Michigan (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 72.

(17.) Murray, Politics of Normalcy, 22–23.

(18.) Murray, Harding Era, 276–279; and Benjamin G. Rader, “Federal Taxation in the 1920s: A Re-Examination,” Historian 33 (1971): 415–435.

(19.) David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 29.

(20.) Elizabeth S. Clemens, The People’s Lobby: Organizational Innovation and the Rise of Interest Group Politics in the United States, 1890–1925 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Michael E. McGerr, The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865–1928 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); and Howard Brick, Transforming Capitalism: Visions of a New Society in Modern American Thought (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 59–60. For a summary of the new ways private and public power were exercised, see Dumenil, Modern Temper, 16–55, particularly pp. 40–54 on the “new lobbying.”

(21.) Robert D. Johnston, The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 152–156.

(22.) Craig, After Wilson, 13, 20.

(23.) David Burner, The Politics of Provincialism: The Democratic Party in Transition, 1918–1932 (New York: Knopf, 1968), 13.

(24.) Craig, After Wilson, 40–42.

(25.) James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912–1925 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1984 [1967]); and John P. Diggins, The American Left in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).

(26.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 223, 230, 236, 290–291, 313–315, 324; Brick, Transcending Capitalism, 61; and Montgomery, “Thinking about American Workers,” 15.

(27.) Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 97. See Paula Baker, “The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780–1920,” American Historical Review 89 (1984): 620–647; and Estelle Freedman, “Separatism as Strategy: Female Institution Building and American Feminism, 1870–1930,” Feminist Studies 5 (1979): 512–529.

(28.) Clarke A. Chambers, Seedtime of Reform: American Social Service and Social Action, 1918–1933 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967).

(29.) Jan Doolittle Wilson, The Women’s Joint Congressional Committee and the Politics of Maternalism, 1920–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 1.

(30.) Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, 85; and Lynn Dumenil, “The New Woman and the Politics of the 1920s,” OAH Magazine of History 21 (2007): 24.

(31.) Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, 129, 183; and Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equality: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 37.

(32.) Montgomery, “Thinking about American Workers,” 20.

(33.) Dumenil, Modern Temper, 116; and Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, 217.

(34.) Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equality, 53.

(35.) Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, 53–81, 119–129; and Amy E. Butler, Two Paths to Equality: Alice Paul and Ethel M. Smith in the ERA Debate, 1921–1929 (Albany: State University of New York, 2002).

(36.) Murray, Politics of Normalcy, 105–127; and Eugene P. Trani and David L. Wilson, The Presidency of Warren G. Harding (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977), 182–185.

(37.) Robert H. Ferrell, The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge (Lawrence: Regents University of Kansas, 1998), 17; Murray, Politics of Normalcy, 100; and Trani and Wilson, Presidency of Harding, 179, 182–183.

(38.) Craig, After Wilson, 1–4, 17–22, 88, 137–139.

(39.) Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 105.

(40.) See “Culture and Civilization: The Nineteen Twenties,” in Culture as History, ed. Susman, 105–121.

(41.) John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 24, 240–242, 256–267; Beth L. Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 13, 17–18; and Paula S. Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 262–263, 265–266.

(42.) Fass, Damned and the Beautiful.

(43.) Elmer L. Rice, The Adding Machine (1923) in Contemporary Plays: Sixteen Plays from the Recent Drama of England and America, eds. Thomas H. Dickinson and Jack R. Crawford (Houghton Mifflin, 1925), 583–584.

(44.) Paul V. Murphy, The New Era: American Thought and Culture in the 1920s (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012).

(45.) Andrew Jewett, Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Cold War to the Civil War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). See also Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Marc C. Smith, Social Science in the Crucible: The American Debate over Objectivity and Purpose, 1918–1941 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994); and Robert C. Bannister, Sociology and Scientism: The American Quest for Objectivity, 1880–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987).

(46.) Stanley Lebergott, Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 36.

(47.) Lebergott, Pursuing Happiness, 40.

(48.) Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics, 2–3, 85.

(49.) Edsforth, Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus, 16–17.

(50.) Michael A. Bernstein, “Why the Great Depression Was Great: Toward a New Understanding of the Interwar Economic Crisis in the United States,” in The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930–1980, eds. Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 39; and Edsforth, Conflict and Cultural Consensus, 21, 32.

(51.) Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics, 85.

(52.) Susan Strasser, Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), 222–230.

(53.) William A. Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York: Pantheon, 1993).

(54.) Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 1–24.

(55.) Lebergott, Pursuing Happiness, 85.

(56.) Gary S. Cross, All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America (New York: Columbia University Press, 29.

(57.) Leach, Land of Desire, 266.

(58.) Harold E. Stearns, ed., Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1971), 13.

(59.) H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: Second Series (New York: Knopf, 1920), 78.

(60.) Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (New York: Bantam Classic, 1998 [1922]), 189–190, 195.

(61.) Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti; and Lisa McGirr, “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Global History,” Journal of American History 93 (March 2007): 1085–1115. See Beverly Gage, The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

(62.) See Michael Lienesch, In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Anti-evolution Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (New York: Basic Books, 1997); Paul K. Conkin, When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and American Intellectuals (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998); and Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

(63.) John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925, rev. ed. (New York: Atheneum, 1965); and Mae N. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

(64.) Goldberg, Discontented America, 162–163.

(65.) Ngai, Impossible Subjects.

(66.) Ngai, Impossible Subjects, 23.

(67.) Ngai, Impossible Subjects.

(68.) Mae Ngai, “Nationalism, Immigration Control, and the Ethnoracial Mapping of America in the 1920s,” OAH Magazine of History 24 (2007): 12–13; Dumenil, Modern Temper, 119; Zaragosa Vargas, Proletarians of the North: A History of Mexican Industrial Workers in Detroit and the Midwest, 1917–1933 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 1–5; and John Weber, “Homing Pigeons, Cheap Labor, and Frustrated Nativists: Immigration Reform and the Deportation of Mexicans from South Texas in the 1920s,” Western Historical Quarterly 44 (2013): 168–170, 174–176.

(69.) General studies of the second Klan are Leonard Moore, Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921–1928 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); Nancy MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Shaw Lay, ed., The Invisible Empire of the West: Toward a New Historical Approach of the Ku Klu Klan of the 1920s (Urbana: University of Illinois Pres, 1992); and Thomas R. Pegram, One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011).

(70.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 15–16, 26–27, 43. See Leonard J. Moore, “Historical Interpretations of the 1920’s Klan: The Traditional View and the Populist Revision,” Reviews in American History 24 (1990): 341–357.

(71.) Hiram Wesley Evans, “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism,” North American Review 223 (March 1, 1926): 33.

(72.) Stanley Coben, Rebellion against Victorianism: The Impetus for Cultural Change in 1920s America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 148–149; and Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 16.

(73.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 186.

(74.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 7, 10, 15; and Goldberg, Discontented America, 119.

(75.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, x, 65, 158; and MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry.

(76.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 83.

(77.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 8–9, 109.

(78.) Burner, Politics of Provincialism, 82.

(79.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006).

(80.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 69, 89–90, 102–104, 121–122.

(81.) Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 114–115, 200–201,186.

(82.) Anderson, Imagined Communities, 144.

(83.) Horace M. Kallen, Culture and Democracy in the United States (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998), 35.

(84.) On the Chicago School of sociology, see Fred H. Matthews, Quest for an American Sociology: Robert E. Park and the Chicago School (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1977); Stow Persons, Ethnic Studies at Chicago, 1905–1945 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); and Eli Zaretsky, “Editor’s Introduction,” in The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, eds. William I. Thomas, and Florian Znaniecki (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 1–46.

(85.) Kallen, Culture and Democracy in the United Staetes, 117.

(86.) Kallen, Culture and Democracy in the United States, 50–51, 53.

(87.) See Carole Marks, Farewell—We’re Good and Gone: The Great Black Migration (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989); Peter Gottlieb, Making Their Own Way: Southern Blacks’ Migration to Pittsburgh, 1916–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); and Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994).

(88.) Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 34–37.

(89.) Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), 110–111.

(90.) Alphonso Pinckney, Red, Black, and Green: Black Nationalism in the United States (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 43. See also Judith Stein, The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986); and Mary G. Rolinson, Grassroots Garveyism: The Universal Negro Improvement Association in the Rural South, 1920–1927 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).

(91.) Rolinson, Grassroots Garveyism, 1–4.

(92.) Erik S. McDuffie, “Chicago, Garveyism, and the History of the Diasporic Midwest,” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 8 (2015): 130–134.

(93.) See David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Penguin, 1997); Nathan Irvin Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (London: Oxford University Press, 1971); and George Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

(94.) Ann Douglas, Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995); and Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue.

(95.) See Hutchinson, Harlem Renaissance in Black and White; and Murphy, New Era, 134–137. See also Stephen Robertson, Shane White, and Stephen Garton, “Harlem in Black and White: Mapping Race and Place in the 1920s,” Journal of Urban History 39 (2013): 864–880.

(96.) Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” Nation, June 23, 1926, 693–694.

(97.) McGerr, Decline of Popular Politics; and Liette Gidlow, The Big Vote: Gender, Consumer Culture, and the Politics of Exclusion, 1890s–1920s (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2004).

(98.) James Livingston, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 4, 16–21. Livingston follows Martin J. Sklar, “On the Proletarian Revolution and the End of Political-Economic Society,” Radical America 3 (1969): 1–41.

(99.) Ellis W. Hawley, The Great War and the Modern Order, A History of the American People and Their Institutions, 1917–1933 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979), 91.

(100.) Colin Gordon, New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America, 19200–1935 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 1–25.

(101.) Goldberg, Discontented America, 72.

(102.) Robert H. Zieger, Republicans and Labor, 1919–1929 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1969), 139.

(103.) Goldberg, Discontented America, 70.

(104.) “Table Ba4814-4831: Union membership, by industry: 1897–1934,” Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennium Edition Online. Retrieved from http://hsus.cambridge.org/HSUSWeb/toc/aboutHsus.do#.

(105.) Edsforth, Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus, 29–30; and Gordon, New Deals, 37.

(106.) Hawley, Great War and the Modern Order, 6–7.

(107.) David Brody, Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the Twentieth Century Struggle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 52–55; and Montgomery, “Thinking about American Workers,” 5.

(108.) Montgomery, “Thinking about American Workers,” 6; and Brody, Workers in Industrial America, 55.

(109.) Brody, Workers in Industrial America, 60, 67–69, 70–71.

(110.) William E. Leuchtenburg, Herbert Hoover (New York: Times Books, 2009), 11–20.

(111.) Leuchtenburg, Herbert Hoover, 30–35.

(112.) Ellis W. Hawley, “Herbert Hoover, the Commerce Secretariat, and the Vision of an ‘Associative State,’ 1921–1928,” Journal of American History 61 (1974): 116–140; and Hawley, Great War and the Modern Order, 60.

(113.) Hawley, “Herbert Hoover”; and Leuchtenburg, Herbert Hoover, 53–55, 62–64.

(114.) Hawley, “Herbert Hoover,” 140.

(115.) Burner, Politics of Provincialism, 88; and Pegram, One Hundred Percent American, 75–76.

(116.) Craig, After Wilson, 131–137,158–161, 177; and Burner, Politics of Provincialism, 195. For an alternative depiction of Al Smith as a forerunner of liberalism, see Robert Chiles, The Revolution of ’28: Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018).

(117.) Burner, Politics of Provincialism, 200–204; and Craig, After Wilson, 169.

(118.) Martin L. Fausold, The Presidency of Herbert C. Hoover (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985), 30; and Craig, After Wilson, 178.

(119.) Leuchtenburg, Herbert Hoover, 72, 79.

(120.) Parker, “Overview of the Great Depression”; and Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics, 90.

(121.) Frank Stricker, “Affluence for Whom?—Another Look at Prosperity and the Working Classes in the 1920s,” Labor History 24 (1983): 7, 9.

(122.) Kennedy, Freedom from Fear, 34–35.

(123.) Kennedy, Freedom from Fear, 35; and Parker, “Overview of the Great Depression.”

(124.) Stricker, “Affluence for Whom?” 10–11, 17–19; and Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics, 91–92.

(125.) Parker, “Overview of the Depression”; and Livingston, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 113.

(126.) Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics, 75–77, 82–84.

(127.) Kennedy, Freedom from Fear, 72–79; and Parker, “Overview of the Depression.”

(128.) On the stock-market crash, see John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929 (New York: Mariner Books, 2009); Robert Sobel, The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920s (New York: Norton, 1968); and Maury Klein, Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(129.) Robert S. McElvaine, The Great Depression: America, 1929–1941 (New York: Times Books, 1984), 46, 48.

(130.) Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informa History of the 1920s (New York: Perennial Classics, 2000). See also David M. Kennedy, “Revisiting Frederick Lewis Allen’s Only Yesterday,” Reviews in American History 14 (1986): 309–318; and Kenneth S. Lynn, The Air-Line to Seattle: Studies in Literary and Historical Writing about America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 140–151.

(131.) Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s, rev. ed. (New York: Viking, 1951).

(132.) Preston William Slosson, The Great Crusade and After, 1914–1928 (New York: Macmillan, 1930); and William Leuchtenburg, The Perils of Prosperity, 1914–32, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

(133.) Ellis W. Hawley, The Great War and the Search for a Modern Order, A History of the American People and Their Institutions, 1917–1933 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979).

(134.) Lynn Dumenil, The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (New York: Hill & Wang, 1995).

(135.) David J. Goldberg, Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).

(136.) Robert K. Murray, The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969); Robert K. Murray, The Politics of Normalcy: Governmental Theory and Practice in the Coolidge-Harding Era (New York: Norton, 1973); and Donald R. McCoy, Calvin Coolidge: The Quiet President (New York: Macmillan, 1967). See also the volumes published in the University of Kansas’s presidency series: Eugene P. Trani and David L. Wilson, The Presidency of Warren G. Harding (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977); Robert H. Ferrell, The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998); and Martin L. Fausold, The Presidency of Herbert C. Hoover (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985).

(137.) Joan Hoff-Wilson, Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive (Boston: Little, Brown & Co.), 1975; and David Burner, Herbert Hoover: The Public Life (New York: Knopf, 1979). For a multivolume, multi-author biography with different volumes by George H. Nash, Kendrick A. Clements, Glen Jeansonne, and Gary Dean Best, see The Life of Herbert Hoover, 6 vols., vols. 1–3 (New York: Norton, 1983–1996), vols. 4–6 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010–2013). A seminal essay is Ellis W. Hawley, “Herbert Hoover, the Commerce Secretariat, and the Vision of an ‘Associative State,’ 1921–1028,” Journal of American History 61 (1974): 116–140. See also William J. Barber, From New Era to New Deal: Herbert Hoover, the Economists, and American Economic Policy, 1921–1933 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1985); and Guy Alchon, The Invisible Hand of Planning: Capitalism, Social Science, and the State in the 1920s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985). Colin Gordon, New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America, 1920–1935 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994), provides a later perspective on these issues.

(138.) David J. Burner, The Politics of Provincialism: The Democratic Party in Transition, 1918–1932 (New York: Knopf, 1968); Douglas B. Craig, After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920–1934 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992); and David Farber, Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(139.) Leonard J. Moore, Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921–1928 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); Nancy MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). For historiographical reviews, see Leonard J. Moore, “Historical Interpretations of the 1920’s Klan: The Traditional View and the Populist Revision,” Reviews in American History 24 (1990): 341–357; and Leonard J. Moore, “Good Old-Fashioned New Social History and the Twentieth-Century American Right,” Reviews in American History 24 (1996): 555–573. See also Shawn Lay, ed., The Invisible Empire of the West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992). A pugnacious assertion of the civic interpretation is Stanley Coben, Rebellion against Victorianism: The Impetus for Cultural Change in 1920s America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 136–156. A recent synthetic account of the second Klan is Thomas Pegram, One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011). New work includes Felix Harcourt, Ku Klux Kulture: America and the Klan in the 1920s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); and Linda Gordon, The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition (New York: Liveright, 2017).

(140.) See, for example, Carole Marks, Farewell—We’re Good and Gone: The Great Black Migration (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989); Peter Gottlieb, Making Their Own Way: Southern Blacks’ Migration to Pittsburgh, 1916–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994); Kimberley L. Phillips, AlabamaNorth: African-American Migrants, Community, and Working-Class Activism in Cleveland, 1915–1945 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); Davarian L. Baldwin, Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Beth Tompkins Bates, The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014); and Christopher Robert Reed, The Rise of Chicago’s Black Metropolis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014). See also Mark R. Schneider, African Americans in the Jazz Age: A Decade of Struggle and Promise (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).

(141.) Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age (New York: Henry Holt, 2004); and Earl Lewis and Heidi Ardizzone, Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (New York: Norton, 2001). On Marcus Garvey, see Alphonso Pinckney, Red, Black, and Green: Black Nationalism in the United States (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1976); Judith Stein, The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986); Mary G. Rolinson, Grassroots Garveyism: The Universal Negro Improvement Association in the Rural South, 1920–1927 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Claudrena N. Harold, The Rise and Fall of the Garvey Movement in the Urban South, 1918–1942 (New York: Routledge, 2007); and Colin Grant, Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

(142.) Mae N. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004). For the classic and still valuable account of nativist thought, see John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925, 2d ed. (New York: Atheneum, 1965). For Mexican migration, see Zaragosa Vargas, Proletarians of the North: A History of Mexican Industrial Workers in Detroit and the Midwest, 1917–1933 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican American Women in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); and Douglas Monroy, Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles from the Great Migration to the Great Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

(143.) Dorothy M. Brown, Setting a Course: American Women in the 1920s (Boston: Twayne, 1987); and Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987). See as well Susan Porter-Benson, Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar United States (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007); Winifred D. Wandersee, Women’s Work and Family Values, 1920–1940 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); and Lois Scharf and Joan M. Jensen, Decades of Discontent: The Women’s Movement, 1920–1940 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983).

(144.) See, in particular, Matthew Avery Sutton, Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

(145.) Lisa McGirr, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State (New York: Norton, 2016). See also Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York: Scribner, 2010).

(146.) William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York: Pantheon, 1993); and Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). See the essays by Jackson Lears and Richard Fox in The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880–1980 (New York: Pantheon, 1983). See also Gary S. Cross, All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

(147.) Ronald Edsforth, Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus: The Making of a Mass Consumer Society in Flint, Michigan (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987); and Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

(148.) Meg Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

(149.) Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (New York: Pantheon, 1984).

(150.) Paul V. Murphy, The New Era: American Thought and Culture in the 1920s (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012); and Andrew Jewett, Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Cold War to the Civil War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). See also Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Marc C. Smith, Social Science in the Crucible: The American Debate over Objectivity and Purpose, 1918–1941 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994); and Robert C. Bannister, Sociology and Scientism: The American Quest for Objectivity, 1880–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), for the older emphasis on the rising scientism and positivism of this period.

(151.) Nathan Irvin Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (London: Oxford University Press, 1971); David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Penguin, 1997; Cary D. Wintz, Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance (College Station: Texas A & M University College Press, 1992); George Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995); Cheryl A. Wall, Women of the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); and Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, ed., The Harlem Renaissance Revisted: Politics, Arts, and Letters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

(152.) Neil Harris, The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

(153.) See also Sondra Kathryn Wilson, ed., The Opportunity Reader: Stories, Poetry, and Essays from the Urban League’s Opportunity Magazine (New York: Modern Library, 1999).

(154.) Daniel H. Borus, ed., These United States: Portraits of America from the 1920s (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992); and Tom Lutz and Susanna Ashton, eds., These “Colored” United States: African American Essays from the 1920s (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996).

(155.) Alain Locke, ed., The New Negro (New York: Touchstone, 1992); Freda Kirchwey, ed., Our Changing Morality: A Symposium (New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1930); Elaine Showalter, ed., These Modern Women: Autobiographical Essays from the Twenties (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1989); and Harold E. Stearns, Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1971).

(156.) Nathan Irvin Huggins, ed., Voices from the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); David Levering Lewis, ed., The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Penguin Books, 1994); Jeffrey Brown Ferguson, The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008); and Venetria K. Patton and Maureen Honey, eds., Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem Renaissance Anthology (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001).

(157.) Jeffrey P. Moran, The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002); and Willard B. Gatewood Jr., ed., Controversy in the Twenties: Fundamentalism, Modernism, and Evolution (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969).

(158.) Recent Social Trends in the United States: Report of the President’s Committee on Social Trends, 2 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1933).

(159.) Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in American Culture (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957 [1929]).

(160.) Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s, rev. ed. (New York: Viking, 1951).

(161.) Public Papers of the Presidents: Herbert Hoover, Containing the Public Messages, Speeches and Statements of the President (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1974–1976).

(162.) Robert A. Hill, ed., The Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, 13 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983–2016).