The Roaring Twenties

Topics: Prohibition in the United States, 1920s, Roaring Twenties Pages: 6 (2254 words) Published: March 13, 2014
The decade immediately following World War I is fondly remembered as “The Roaring Twenties.” It was at a time when the nation was happy, and thankful, to be at peace. It was a time of unprecedented prosperity. Economic growth swept Americans into an affluent but unfamiliar ‘consumer society.’ The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929. Manufacturing rose. People made more money than ever before. It was a new fast living world of luxury where the nation had radios, automobiles, and tickets to the movies. From a cultural and historical perspective, the 1920’s were marked by a deep clash of cultures in economics, politics and social changes. The 1920’s had great cultural and historical significance and gave us while the Flapper, Al Capone, Prohibition, and the mass production of cars. Leisure and pleasure were now prized over hard work and there were various sides in the cultural debate between those who embraced the new changes and looked with hope to the future and those who idealized the past and resisted cultural change. Prohibition was major and the Temperance Movement tried to limit and/or ban alcohol consumption in as early as the early 19th century, but it was not until the 1920’s that reformers succeeded in passing a constitutional amendment that outlawed the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The passing of national Prohibition created a major cultural clash in the 1920’s between those who favored Prohibition and those who wished to repeal it. Religious zealots wanted to impose their actions and beliefs on others and those who made a living selling alcohol did not want to be forced out of business. Interestingly enough, those who wanted prohibition were the ones sneaking into the establishments and partaking in the drinking. Their political and social standings often forced them to do things they normally would not have. With prohibition came the religious influence on American society and government. Parishioners believed alcohol would result in domestic violence and poverty. As a result they held church meetings to rally against the evil influence of alcohol. They tried to close saloons through prayer and even violence. Organized crime and political corruption were on the rise. The law used tactics that were against a person’s civil liberties causing Americans to become disillusioned with government. Harold L. Hart, Federal Prohibition Director for New York State, gave warning to places that were scheduled for raids and seizures. When he took office he put pressure on bootleggers. He realized a police force could not be run properly if gamblers and counterfeiters were given warning about these scheduled raids. Mr. Hart’s cardinal rule of enforcing dry law was, “Don’t talk.” He discussed the work of the agents and the rule governing publicity. “Efficiency in enforcing the law, in finding the malefactors, in making the cases and in successfully prosecuting offenders, all demands a reasonable degree of silence. Plain common sense told him that he can’t notify gangs of bootleggers and law breaking saloonkeepers through an announcement in the press or in any other written or spoken manner and then expect to catch them and the evidence.” (Hart, 1921). Under the leadership of Mr. Hart, “The city and state are drier now than they have ever been, and they are getting dryer every day. They were dry on the surface. Of course, there were illegal establishments selling alcohol and other beverages at night in secret locations. As long as the owners kept their noses clean. . As long as no one knew you were selling it illegally, you were fine. Hart took great pleasure saying that, “The law is being enforced to keep the best of our ability, and our enforcement machine in getting more efficient every day.” (Hart, 1921)

According to Paul Myer Mazur, the development of chain store merchandising had an impact of the economy. When he addressed industrialists claiming that...

References: How to Make Big City Dry
Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929
Pennock, Pamela, Ph.D. "Introduction." Introduction. Ohio State University, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Flappers in the Roaring Twenties." 20th Century History., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.
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