The 1920s - How They Roared
||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 9 to 12
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||banning, consumerism, culture-wide, frivolity, long-accepted, nullify, mentality, materialism, upheaval, contraband, installment, overload, availability, consumption, automation, cult
||Roaring Twenties, Jazz Age, Wonderful Nonsense, Lost Generation, Ku Klux Klan, Great War, World War, Ellen Welles Page, Sir Alexander Fleming, Sigmund Freud
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The 1920s - How They Roared
By Toni Lee Robinson
1 The 1920s have been called the Roaring Twenties, the Age of Intolerance, the Jazz Age, and the Age of Wonderful Nonsense. The people of the 20s were known as the Lost Generation. The fact that one ten-year span generated so many colorful labels is a clue to the spirit of the era. By any name, the decade was a curious episode in American history.
2 A bird's eye view of the period reveals a writhing, restless jumble of intense movements, conflicts, and events. The 20s were awash with crazes, from wacky fads and fashions to movements fueled by dark fears and suspicions. Trends ranged from fun-loving antics like flagpole sitting to the paranoia expressed in the "Red Scare" and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
3 The mood of the 20s was heavily influenced by the trauma of what was then known as the Great War. The horrors of World War I made a deep impression on the collective psyche of America. One young journalist said: "The war tore away our spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium." (Ellen Welles Page, A Flapper's Appeal to Parents)
4 When the war was over and the soldiers returned, the nation "blew off steam" in a headlong rush into materialism and frivolity. Higher wages for average Americans meant more spending power. Prosperity burst upon the nation in a way that few had ever experienced. At the same time, automation was taking over factories. Mass production brought ready availability and cheaper costs. In 1908, a person could expect to pay over $800 for a car. By 1925, the average car could be had for under $300.
5 Credit was another factor in the 20s cult of consumerism. Big ticket items like cars and household appliances had been, up to this point, a family's reward for patiently saving and doing without. With the blossoming of the installment plan, people signed on the dotted line and took their purchases home immediately. They were then tied to weekly or monthly payments which included interest charged on the debt. Of course, the total cost of the item was far more in the end than if it had been purchased for cash. By the end of the decade, runaway consumer credit was part of the overload that tipped the nation over the edge of a deep economic chasm.
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