The 1920’s were a time of prosperity, at least that’s what it looked like. In all reality it was a time of economic and social change. It was a time in which American morals declined and the government shifted to a more liberal government. Gone were the time off long dresses and the separation of the sexes. It became a time of flappers, bootleggers and gangsters. A time of big business and prohibition. Government seemed to take a backseat to business. This essay will show the decline of morals, the boom of big business and how the decade became the twilight of the Jeffersonian government.
Social changes were a big part of the twenties. One big change was the role of women. They went from “belonging in the home” to being in the work place. Women went to work because they wanted to be financially independent. Women also gained the right to vote. All of this brought about a new class of women known as flappers. Flappers were known to be giddy risk takers who drank, smoked, danced and even voted. They tended to have a short bob hair cut and wore make up. They were less interested in saving themselves for marriage and were more about being able to decide what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it. Another social change that came about in the 1920s was prohibition and their secret organizations that would go around the laws to give the people what they wanted. Prohibition was an amendment to the constitution that prohibited the use of alcohol, opiates, marijuana, heroin and cocaine. One way people went around the laws was to create speakeasies, opium dens and other secret social gathering clubs. At these clubs people would have to knock on a door and present a secret password or knock to gain entrance. Here they would drink or do the drugs that were prohibited.
Of course social changes weren’t the only big things to happen in the 1920s. Of course there was also a boom in big businesses. Thanks to the increase in inventions patent attorneys did a roaring trade. Thanks to new business and production methods manufactures also made large profits. These large profits allowed them to put some into the creation of new factories and wage raises. Department stores and service stations were also impacted by the increase in production because it allowed them to by in mass and lower their prices while increasing their services and choice selection. Henry Ford used his buying power to make discount groceries for his employees. This annoyed local store owners. A big business that hit Americans was the mass production of the automobile. Thanks to the low costs of mass production allowed more people to be able to purchase automobiles. This allowed people to move farther from the center of the big cities while still getting to work in a time efficient manner. Other big inventions that contributed to a boom in industry were vacuum cleaners, furniture, pianos, washing machines, radios, and fridges.
The government of this new era was different than any other era in America’s history. It was more detached and left the running of the country to big business. There was such a decline in presidential involvement that was not seen in previous decades. Government was considered more of a laissez faire government more now than ever. This era is also known as the twilight of the Jeffersonian era. It is known as this because of its lack of government involvement. It is also known as the twilight of the Jeffersonian era because during the 20s issues that were not touched in the previous governmental eras were forced into light. This included alcoholism, the quality of public education, slavery and women’s rights. Many reforms were made by individuals and organizations.
I think that there are many lessons we can learn from this decade in America’s history. Some key lessons we can learn are that even though we do not need big governments we do need a government that is more willing to participate than that in the 1920s. Another lesson that can be applied is that while prohibitions on some things are necessary, it is not necessary on others.
Even though the 1920s are portrayed as just a fun, prosperous decade we know that is not all it was. It was a time of change. A time for big business to come to the fore front of America’s economy, a time for government to take a backseat and a time for women to be given more rights. Yes money was a big factor and more readily available in this decade. However it was not all that this decade was about.