Memo to Special Agent Ridgely
By: J. Edgar Hoover
Date: October 11, 1919
Source: Hoover, J. Edgar. Memo to Special Agent Ridgely. October 11, 1919. Reprinted in Hill, Robert A., ed. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. II. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1983, 72.
"Report by Special Agent P-138"
By: J. Edgar Hoover
Date: August 6, 1920
Source: Hoover, J. Edgar. "Report by Special Agent P-138." August 6, 1920. Reprinted in Hill, Robert A., ed. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. II. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1983, 546–547.
Memo to Lewis J. Baley
By: J. Edgar Hoover
Date: February 11, 1921
Source: Hoover, J. Edgar. Memo to Lewis J. Baley, February 11, 1921. Reprinted in Hill, Robert A., ed. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. III. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1983, 177....
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"'These Wild Young People': By One Of Them"
By: John F. Carter Jr.
Date: September 1920
Source: Carter, John F., Jr. "'These Wild Young People': By One Of Them." The Atlantic Monthly, September 1920, 301. About the Author: A contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, author John F. Carter Jr., reflected the angst of American youth in the immediate post-World War I period.
In the eyes of some historians, the U.S. government oversold American participation in the First World War as a crusade to remake the world in the image of a democratic America. For instance, the Committee on Public Information, a Wilson administration agency led by one-time Progressive journalist George Creel, set the stage for later disillusionment by characterizing the struggle as "a Crusade not merely to rewin the tomb of Christ, but to bring back to earth the rule of right, the peace, goodwill to men and gentleness he taught." In his book Reform and Reaction in Twentieth-Century American Politics, historian John J. Broesamle notes: "Good Lord! Of course disillusionment and cynicism set in afterward. The goals and ideals had run not only beyond immediate reality, but beyond any possibility of reality."
Very soon after the guns had fallen silent, it became readily...
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Statement of Mr. William Joseph Simmons
By: William Joseph Simmons
Source: Simmons, William Joseph. Statement of Mr. William Joseph Simmons, of Atlanta, Ga. The Ku-Klux Klan: Hearings Before the Committee on Rules: House of Representatives, 67th Cong., 1st sess. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1921, 67–73.
About the Author: William Joseph Simmons (1880–1945) served in the Spanish-American War (1898). Although he never reached officer rank, he nonetheless adopted the title "Colonel," which he routinely employed throughout the remainder of his life. In 1915, galvanized by the favorable portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan in D.W. Griffith's epic silent motion picture Birth of a Nation, Simmons decided to form a new KKK—an organization that by 1921 had become the largest private paramilitary force in American history.
Born in the aftermath of Southern defeat, military occupation, and slave emancipation, the original Ku Klux Klan symbolized active resistance to Northern rule in a period of Southern white humiliation. Formed initially as a social club in 1865 in Tennessee shortly after the Civil War's end, the Klan engaged in some highly publicized acts of intimidation and outright terror against both the...
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"Flapper Americana Novissima"
By: G. Stanley Hall
Date: June 1922
Source: Hall, G. Stanley. "Flapper Americana Novissima." The Atlantic Monthly, June 1922, 771, 773–774, 775, 776.
About the Author: Grenville Stanley Hall (1844–1924) was a longtime psychological and social observer who specialized in the field of adolescent development.
The term flapper appears to have made its American debut in the February 1915 issue of the New York–based satire/arts review, The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness. In an article in the review, author Henry L. Mencken introduced the word, which seems to have already been in use over in Britain to describe a certain type of young woman. In the United States, up until that time, the French word ingénue was invariably employed.
According to Mencken, the flapper was a young, modern, sophisticated woman/child. Mencken lovingly described "this American Flapper. Her skirts have just reached her very trim and pretty ankles; her hair, newly coiled upon her skull, has just exposed the ravishing whiteness of her neck. A charming creature! … She is an enchantment through the plate glass of a limousine. Youth is hers, and hope, and romance, and—."...
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Prohibition's Supporters and Detractors
Address to Congress
By: Warren G. Harding
Date: December 8, 1922
Source: Harding, Warren G. Address to Congress. December 8, 1922. Congressional Record: House of Representatives, 67th Cong., 4th sess., vol. 64, part 1 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1922), 212.
About the Author: Ohio-born Warren G. Harding (1865–1923) served as president of the United States from 1921 to 1923. Elected by an overwhelming margin in 1920 over Democrat James Cox, the Republican Harding died in 1923 before he could finish serving out his first term.
"Jurors Go on Trial, Drank Up Evidence"
By: The New York Times
Date: January 7, 1928
Source: "Jurors Go on Trial, Drank Up Evidence." The New York Times, January 7, 1928.
Many of the staunchest advocates of Prohibition had never been completely satisfied with the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed by Congress in December 1917 and finally ratified by the requisite number of states in January 1919. The Eighteenth Amendment...
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By: Sinclair Lewis
Source: Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1922, 1–10, 12–13.
About the Author: Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951) was one of modern America's most popular and well-respected novelists. His work combines strong characterization with biting social commentary. Along with Babbitt, some of Lewis's best-known novels include Dodsworth, Main Street, and Elmer Gantry.
Sinclair Lewis's masterpiece, the novel Babbitt, features a devastating portrait of the quintessential smug, complacent 1920s "Booster," George Babbitt, a man who buys into the empty materialism of post–World War I America. An unabashed cheerleader for his country, his social class, and his nation's prevailing business ethos, Babbitt fits perfectly the description of the ever-faithful bourgeois, for he is a conformist to the very depths of his soul. The character Babbitt has come to epitomize the dominant mind-set of the 1920s and symbolizes, perhaps as much as does the flapper or bootleg gin, the entire decade. The very word Babbitt has come to represent a type.
Despite the author's literary artistry,...
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Mary Ware Dennett and Birth Control
Letter to the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives; Letter to the Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
By: Mary Ware Dennett
Date: February 1923
Source: Dennett, Mary Ware. Mary Ware Dennett to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, February 1923; Mary Ware Dennett to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, February 1923. In Birth Control Laws: Shall We Keep Them Change Them or Abolish Them. New York: Grafton Press, 1926, 110, 116–117.
About the Author: Mary Ware Dennett (1872–1947) was a pioneering advocate of birth control, family planning, and sex education. A tireless crusader for her beliefs, she helped found the National Birth Control League, served as director of the Voluntary Parenthood League, and wrote the famous book The Sex Side of Life.
Anthony Comstock left a curious legacy. The onetime leader of the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice and longtime official "censor" of the U.S. Post Office, this mid-nineteenth century moral crusader almost single-handedly induced Congress in 1873 to enact the country's first nationwide antiobscenity laws—in this case, authorizing postal authorities to deny use of the...
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"Rise and Present Peril of Mah Jong: The Chinese Game Has Escaped from Society's Chaperonage and Is on Its Own"
By: Helen Bullitt Lowry
Date: August 10, 1924
Source: Lowry, Helen Bullitt. "Rise and Present Peril of Mah Jong: The Chinese Game Has Escaped from Society's Chaperonage and Is on Its Own." The New York Times Magazine, August 10, 1924, 4.
About the Author: Helen Bullitt Lowry wrote feature articles on such topics as fashion and Atlantic City beauty pageants for the The New York Times Magazine.
Twentieth-century Americans enjoyed a love affair with board games: Monopoly in the 1930s, Scrabble in the 1950s, Risk in the 1960s, and backgammon and Trivial Pursuit in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the old standby, chess, was rediscovered during the early 1970s under the influence of chess champion Bobby Fischer.
However, this love affair appears to have started sometime in 1922 with the importation from Asia into America of the Chinese game Mah Jong—a sort of gin rummy played with elegantly carved rectangular pieces of tile. The rapid spread of this pastime constituted a triumph for the art of modern mass merchandising. As with most fads, the market quickly became saturated as various entrepreneurs sough to capitalize on the craze. At some point, the fad peaks and then recedes, never...
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Advertising Response: A Research Into Influences That Increase Sales
By: Howard McCormick Donovan
Source: Donovan, H.M. Advertising Response: A Research into Influences That Increase Sales. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1924, 19, 21–23, 24.
About the Author: Howard McCormick Donovan (1883–?) was a well-known advertising and marketing expert.
The 1920s witnessed the practical application of insights gleaned from both experimental psychology as well as from survey research methods to the age-old art of selling, which traditionally had been approached more or less intuitively. The 1920s saw the advent of modern
In this atmosphere, an appreciation of the various "niche" markets appeared for the first...
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Handbook for Guardians of Camp Fire Girls
By: Camp Fire Girls, Inc.
Source: Handbook for Guardians of Camp Fire Girls. New York: Camp Fire Girls, Inc, 1924, 167–171, 173.
About the Author: Camp Fire Girls, Inc., was founded in 1910 by Dr. Luther Gulick and his wife, Charlotte. Initially their organization was known as "Camp Fire USA."
Tensions abound in American society between the ethos of individualism and the social pressure that demands conformity. The twentieth century American experience bounced between one extreme and the other. The relatively free-spirited 1910s and 1960s stand in marked contrast to the conformist 1950s and 1980s. Meanwhile, the decade of the 1920s, perhaps more so than any other period in recent American history, epitomizes an era when society exerted tremendous pressure to follow the crowd in order to gain acceptance.
The third decade of the century witnessed the "coming of age" of both advertising and public relations, which sought to use many of the theoretical insights gleaned from modern social science disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Since, in the 1920s, the overriding concern with many Americans was to be "popular," advertisers helped create anxieties...
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"Into the Land of Talk"
By: Lydia Lion Roberts
Date: March 1926
Source: Roberts, Lydia Lion. "Into the Land of Talk." American Cookery, March 1926, 584–586.
About the Author: Lydia Lyon Roberts was a contributor to American Cookery, formerly known as The Boston Cooking-School Magazine.
Everyday gossip can provide a unique window into the prevailing mind-set of an era, especially the thoughts and aspirations of ordinary people. Unlike politics, or even some aspects of popular culture, gossip reflects the mundane, day-to-day concerns of average citizens. We can decipher a great deal about a society by examining exactly what men and women chat about during their idle time.
It remains remarkably difficult to analyze such gossip because much of it is unrecorded. We have tantalizing glimpses of marketplace chitchat handed down from ancient times in the classics. The characters in William Shakespeare's plays make frequent reference to the gossip of the street. But for the most part, gossip has inherent ethereal quality to it. Hence, it is hard to capture, let alone analyze.
Nonetheless, if various reports are to be believed,...
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"Fools and Their Money"
By: Keyes Winter
Date: August 1927
Source: Winter, Keyes. "Fools and Their Money." Harpers Magazine, August 1927, 361–362.
About the Author: Republican Keyes Winter served as assistant attorney general of New York State.
History is replete with examples of speculative booms that trapped the unwary: the seventeenth-century Dutch Tulip Craze, the eighteenth-century English South Sea Bubble, or the various modern-day Ponzi schemes that cheat investors out of their money. In these schemes, unsophisticated investors fall prey to inflated expectations while the "insiders" and the "smart money" have long since recognized the inevitable and have cashed out. In recent times, the "go-go" stock-market of the 1960s along with the gold and silver speculations of the late 1970s confirm showman P.T. Barnum's adage that there's a "sucker born every minute."
The most famous speculative bubble in American history was the stock-market mania of the 1920s. The proliferation of get-rich-quick schemes help define the Roaring Twenties as much as do flappers, Al Capone, and bootleg gin. Not only were stock prices wildly over-inflated,
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Discontinuing the Model T Ford
"Strut, Miss Lizzie!"
By: The Nation
Date: December 14, 1927
Source: "Strut, Miss Lizzie!" The Nation, December 14, 1927, 672.
"The King Is Dead"
By: Margaret Marshall
Date: December 14, 1927
Source: Marshall, Margaret. "The King Is Dead." The Nation, December 14, 1927, 678.
About the Publication: The Nation, founded in 1865, has consistently been a voice for leftist viewpoints on politics, social issues, lifestyle trends, and the like. Margaret Marshall wrote for The Nation.
It was remarked that you could purchase a Ford Model T in any color so long as it was basic black. In a nutshell, this statement captured automaker Henry Ford's lifelong commitment to producing and marketing a no-frills automobile, a "people's car," that would be affordable to countless millions of Americans. First sold in 1913, the legendary Model T achieved Ford's goal. The car was priced around $900 the year of introduction, but as a result of Ford's innovative assembly-line fabrication system, the price eventually came down to $260. Motoring had truly become accessible to the masses and hence an integral part...
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This Smoking World
By: Albert Edward Hamilton
Source: Hamilton, A.E. This Smoking World. New York: Century, 1927, 174–177, 182, 183–187.
About the Author: A.E. (Albert Edward) Hamilton (1887–?) was a widely recognized authority on tobacco.
Americans have always attached a great deal of cultural significance to smoking. During the 1920s, the cigarette became a conspicuous sign that, by emulating men who enjoyed the freedom to light up in public, newly liberated women had themselves finally "arrived." In addition, the triumph of the cigarette over its rivals—the cigar and the pipe—amply demonstrated the enormous power of the modern mass media to shape consumer tastes.
During the nineteenth century, the cigar and to a lesser extent the pipe had dominated Americans' smoking habits. The cigar, consisting of various layers of tobacco leaves, and the pipe were considered to be the only authentic smokes—the only ones acceptable for "respectable" people. In contrast, the cigar's cheap imitation, the lowly cigarette, containing lesser-quality ground tobacco wrapped in paper, was reserved for the "lower sorts," who evidently could not afford the genuine article.
By the 1920s, the...
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Men of Destiny
By: Walter Lippmann
Source: Lippmann, Walter. Men of Destiny. New York: Macmillan, 1927, 35–36, 38–41.
About the Author: Walter Lippmann (1889–1974) was twentieth century America's premier syndicated columnist and political analyst. So great was Lippmann's impact that
"Demography is destiny." Perhaps nowhere is this saying so true as with politics, for long-term population trends involving birth rates and immigration have an impact on the political scene. Although founded largely by Protestants from northern and western Europe, since its inception the...
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"The Next Revolution"
By: Ellsworth Huntington
Date: October 1928
Source: Huntington, Ellsworth. "The Next Revolution." Eugenics: A Journal of Race Betterment, October 1928, 6–14.
About the Author: Ellsworth Huntington (1876–1947), a geographer by academic training, was one of the world's leading figures in the controversial eugenics movement.
Eugenics, the long-forgotten pseudo-science of selective human breeding, was once a major intellectual discipline. It was based on the superficially attractive notion that human reproduction should be carefully channeled, not merely left to random chance, in much the same manner that man has purposefully domesticated plants and animals over the ages.
In practice, eugenics contained several facets. It sought to maintain the...
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"The Child Stylites of Baltimore"
By: Frederic Nelson
Date: August 28, 1929
Source: Nelson, Frederic. "The Child Stylites of Baltimore." The New Republic, August 28, 1929, 37–38.
About the Publication: The New Republic magazine was founded in 1914 by journalists Herbert Croly, Walter Weyl, and Walter Lippmann. Its first issue in November sold 875 copies, but within a year, its monthly sales reached fifteen thousand. While the magazine is and has been regarded as liberal, its editorial positions over the years have not followed a strict ideological line.
Twentieth-century America has witnessed the sudden appearance of various popular fads. Either because of boredom or the desire for social conformity, crazes have often captured the American public's fancy. Some of these frivolous stunts reflect the lighthearted side of America: college students swallowing goldfish in the 1940s, shoehorning as many people as possible into a telephone booth in the late 1950s, or "streaking" naked in 1974. Even many aspects of the 1960s "Hippie" movement exhibited faddish themes.
The prosperous 1920s boasted one of the century's most famous crazes, "flagpole sitting," an otherwise harmless diversion that featured daredevils...
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