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Causes and Results of the Roaring Twenties: Analytical Essay

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The 1920 was a new start for social and political changes because for the first time more Americans decided to live in cities than they did on farms. America’s total wealth doubled and people experienced a nationwide economic boom which swept many into the very popular “consumer society”. It was the land of golden opportunities and had the reputation of being a glamorous decade where people lived in prosperity and happiness. People from all over engaged in the same social activities such as Listening to the same music, doing the same dance and buying the same goods. All of these new trends were started by the same thing, “Jazz”. During this time, the country was coming out of World War I and the attitude of the nation was dark and gloomy. Dance and music clubs became extremely popular in an effort to improve the mood and overall quality of life for many. Women were newly empowered by gaining the right to vote and express their political view. Things seemed to go just fine and people thought that the good times would never end until the Stock Market crash happened. This day is known as Black Tuesday and it signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. American Industries were roaring and growing rapidly during the 1920s. Mass production of consumer products like automobiles, and radios lowered prices and made these products available to the average families. For the first time, They could buy a car on credit and because of that everyone wanted to own a car and a radio. The economy was reaching its peak. Lawrence B. Glickman opinion on this new American lifestyle was that “Consumption was acknowledged as the prime mover of economic life, dislodging the traditional American faith in ‘producerism,’ the belief that the makers and growers of goods lay at the heart of the nation.” and because of losing interest in politics people developed new political engagements based in large measure on their identities as consumers.

The achievement buying more was overwhelming and became a goal for many citizens. The First World War left the US at an advantage. America had joined the war very late and because of that they did not suffer the damage of countries like Germany. During the war, the USA had loaned a great deal of money to France and Britain and they used this money to buy equipment, weapons, and ammunition from America. This process known as one-way trade because America didn’t buy anything in return. Unfortunately, Britain and France still had to re-pay the loans which meant the USA made money on the interest as well as on the profits from the sale of equipment. Before the start of the war Germany used to be the home of the world’s most important chemical industry. During the war, this industry focused on providing arms and weapons, which meant that America was able to take the customers around the world who had previously bought their chemicals from Germany. There were several new industries and new ideas that helped create the boom. During the war, governments had trained people in making propaganda. After the war, they used these skills to create adverts that persuaded people to buy new products. This helped create a change in America’s state of mind. Glickman mention during this time politics and consumerism collided and people started to support or protest against businesses they didn’t agree with “Alongside such traditional forms of consumer politics, new ones were invented. such as the ‘Spend Your Money Where You Can Work’ campaigns. in which, starting in 1929. members of Chicago’s African American community demanded that businesses, which depended on their patronage, hire black workers. During the Great Depression, these would change into the well-known ‘Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work demands in Harlem, Baltimore and elsewhere. “ Another new industry was the credit industry.

Previously people only borrow money if they were well off, or pawned items in pawn-shops. This new idea was that if someone wanted to buy something and they didn’t have the money at the moment they could put down a certain amount of deposit and then pay the rest off over time. Many ordinary people could afford to buy the things they could not before. One example of a new industry that helped create the boom is the automobile industry. Henry Ford’s idea of creating a cheap car that many people had accesses made him rich and helped people to get jobs in industries such as rubber and metal production, garages and petrol production, engineering, hotels. Henry Ford used ‘mass-production’ techniques to help build cars quickly and cheaply. His production line took ‘the work to the man and not the man to the work’ so that people did the same job to a high standard on each car. One might fit the wheels, or the engine or the bodywork. Because they only needed to be trained on one aspect of the job they were unskilled workers and didn’t need to be paid as well as more skilled motor manufacturers. Roaring twenties were roaring not only from its big changes after the war but also from its new creativity in the music industry. Jazz music was originated in New Orleans in the early 1900s and began to spread throughout the country. More employment opportunities opened up in the North and Midwest, both black and white musicians from New Orleans moved to Chicago.

African American musicians began gathering in New Orleans and they would improvise and share their music in Storyville. Early jazz musicians often called New Orleans their home. In the early day of 1920 a real jazz stars surfaced such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Kid Ory a and they were able to establish a reputation for their original music. The Jazz age was a post war movement which combined African American traditions, which represented a drastic change in culture. However, many whites were against this form of art, and classified its uniqueness as the “Devils Music”. It was believed at the time by people that Jazz was responsible for the downfall in many people, particularly young girls residing in Chicago. “Jazz was, as a generic model and organizational device, crucially misunderstood by some early twentieth-century audiences, so much so that it became itself a genre built upon the manufacture of misunderstanding.” wrote Sheila Liming From the University of North Dakota. Jazz was considered different because it essentially broke the rules of normalcy in music and encouraged improvisation and because of it many feared that young people had lost interest in classical music and traditional values. The impulse of racism was born strongly upon the opposition to jazz, which was seen as sinful and immoral. “Adorno’s complaints against jazz music, similarly, hinge on what he sees as a formal reliance upon the essentially disingenuous deployment of sexual stereotype. Like Wharton, Adorno criticizes jazz, not for its provocativeness, but its insincerity. Jazz seeks to rouse and to titillate but does so with a kind of uniformity that empties sexual response of both its authenticity and meaning. In therefore being always scandalous, always provocative. “ Liming explained that many musicians tough of this new area of music as violent which brings out animalistic behavior from people which led to many of them rejection Jazz music. In fact, by end of the 1920s, at least sixty communities across the nation had enforced laws that completely outlawed Jazz to be played in public dance halls.

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The introduction of Prohibition in 1920 had brought jazz into gangster-run nightclubs, and venues that provided alcohol and hired black musicians. These events also invited younger crowds from all social classes and attracted to both the music and the popular suggestive jazz dances. Both the integration of the races and the comprehensive belief that jazz aroused sexual activity caused critics of jazz and other citizens to increase their hatred filled efforts against it. Unfortunately because of that many African American jazz musicians experienced discrimination and were never appreciated for the music they created. Jazz had essentially reflected African American culture, however, due to racial segregation and discrimination, it was never truly valued to the extent that it was entitled to. The Roaring twenties were not only about the growth in economics and entertainment but also about a society that taken a massive leap forward In 1920 when all women finally started to enjoy life outside of their homes. The roles of American Women in the 1920s varied considerably between the ‘New Woman’, the Traditionalists and the older generation. The ‘New Woman’, including the young Flappers, embraced new fashions, personal freedom and new ideas that challenged the traditional role of women. The Traditionalists feared that the ‘ New Morality’ of the era was threatening family values and the conventional role of women in the home. The lives of Black American Women in the 1920s were also subject to change due to the influence of the Harlem Renaissance and the change from rural to urban life in the cities. Black women especially started speaking and fighting for not only civil rights but the discrimination against black men also. Mary Jane Brown from Advocates in the Age of Jazz mentioned “In the summer of 1921 women participated in a silent march of 4,000 people who paraded against lynching and discrimination at the annual NAACP conference in Detroit.55 Other women generated a stream of letters to congressmen.” and because women believed that it was their right and duty to take a serious part in politics.

They recognized that political decisions affected their daily lives. When passed in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. Surprisingly, some women didn’t want the vote. A widespread attitude was that women’s roles and men’s roles did not overlap. This idea of held that women to concern themselves with home, children, and religion, while men took care of business and politics. Though slow to use their newly won voting rights, by the end of the decade, women were represented on local, state, and national political committees and were influencing the political agenda of the federal government. More attention began to be put on social improvements like protective laws for child labor and prison reform. Women active in politics in 1929 still had little power, but they had begun the journey to actual political equality. At the same time, public acceptance of wage-earning jobs for young unmarried women was growing. No longer being limited to work as a domestic housewife, these women began to perform clerical work in offices and retail work in shops and department stores. It became acceptable for working girls to live away from their families. Some young married women worked until they had children and became consumers of popular products and fashions. Women who would never tolerate the strong smells and stains of chewing tobacco or cigars began to smoke the new, and relatively clean, mild cigarettes. Cigarettes were advertised to women as a sign of modern sophistication, and the 1920s “flapper” is usually pictured with a cigarette in her hand. The flapper with her short skirts, short hair, noticeable makeup represented a new freedom for women. The old restrictions on dress and behavior were being overthrown. Highly publicized flappers shortened their skirts, drank illegal alcohol, smoked, and otherwise defied society’s expectations of proper young women. To be a flapper, a woman had to have enough money and free time to play the part. College girls, unmarried girls living at home, and independent office workers most frequently presented themselves as flappers.

Women found their lives changed in more than appearance. Society now accepted that women could be independent and make choices for themselves in education, jobs, marital status, and careers. The Roaring Twenties roared loudest and longest on the New York Stock Exchange. Share prices rose to unprecedented heights and with all the optimism and the booming economy, people were buying lots of products on credit. The overall debt of the country grew rapidly but at the same time, people were speculating on the stock market. Stock values increased and people thought they would keep going up but unfortunately on October 29 in 1929, the stock market crashed which signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. Companies attempted to stabilize the market by buying up great blocks of stock on Friday. By Monday, the market officially collapsed. Black Monday was followed by complete collapse and 16,410,030 shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange in almost a single day. Millions of dollars were lost and wiping thousands of investors were ruined. Stock tickers ran hours behind because the machinery could not handle this fast trading in such sort time. After October, stock prices had nowhere to go up, so there was considerable recovery during succeeding weeks. However, prices continued to drop as the United States fell into the Great Depression, and by 1932 stocks were worth only about 20 percent of their value. The stock market crash of was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, but it did act to accelerate the global economic collapse of which it was also a symptom. Not economic historian believes that interwar protection caused the Great Depression, but the two phenomena were linked in the sense that they shared, to a large extent, a common cause, namely the gold standard. Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke from “Two Great Trade Collapses: The Interwar Period and Great Recession Compared” talks about the fact that “In combination with the open international capital markets of the 1920s, the gold standard implied that negative monetary shocks were rapidly generalized, as in the case of the infamous 1928 decision to raise interest rates in the United States. Worse, when countries as a result found themselves in recession, they had no macroeconomic policy instruments with which to respond. Staying on gold ruled out activist monetary policy, while countries did not feel able to use activist fiscal policy either.” In many cases they engaged in pro-cyclical austerity, in an effort to keep budget deficits under control. And in many cases, it seemed as though they had little alternative, as new lending dried up on international capital markets. “It was only once countries had shaken off the ‘‘golden fetters’’ of the gold standard, and regained macroeconomic policy-making independence, that they started to recover.” O’Rourke claimed.

Nearly half of America’s banks had failed, and unemployment was approaching 30 percent of the workforce. Relief and reform measures enacted by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt lessen the worst effects of the Great Depression; however, the U.S. economy would not fully turn around until after 1939, when World War II revitalized American industry. While the precise cause of the stock market crash of 1929 is often debated there are many obvious signs that led up to it. The concept of “buying on margin” allowed ordinary people with little financial acumen to borrow money from their stockbroker and put down as little as 10 percent of the share value. A similar type of overconfidence was seen in industries such as manufacturing and agriculture overproduction led to a glut of items including farm crops, steel, durable goods and iron. This meant companies had to purge their supplies at a loss, and share prices suffered. Another factor was an ongoing agricultural recession: Farmers struggled to make an annual profit to keep their businesses afloat. Public panic also contributes because days after the stock market crash led to hordes of people rushing to banks to withdraw their funds in a number of “bank runs,” and investors were unable to return their money because bank officials had invested the money in the market. This led to massive bank failures and further deepened an already dire financial situation. A soaring, overheated economy that was destined to one day fall likely played a large role. Equally relevant issues, such as overpriced shares, public panic, rising bank loans, an agriculture crisis, higher interest rates and a cynical press added to the disarray. Many investors and ordinary people lost their entire savings, while numerous banks and companies went bankrupt. The Roaring Twenties, with all of its abundance and new freedoms, can certainly be described as a break from tradition and overall way of life back then. Being a women gain a new meaning and therefore was redefined, music was undergoing an “unnatural” evolution, and new inventions were transforming everyone’s day to day activities. This break from tradition represented the ideals of the 1920s, and showed that the it would become the guide for a more modern culture. Today Americans prideful of all the opportunities available in this country unlike others, as well as the freedom to be anything or to pursue their dreams. These freedoms and ideals of modern America, which have increasingly turned away from tradition, can easily be traced back to the 1920s. The Great Depression became a huge blow to everyone around the world. Many people, companies, and businesses suffered from this economic crisis and Everybody experienced big losses. Although the USA and other counties experienced different economic downturns, nothing could be compared with the severity of the Great Depression.

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Causes and Results of the Roaring Twenties: Analytical Essay. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
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