Refers to a period in America from 19200 - 1929, it is often characterized as the most colorful period in American history. Ironically people were less inhibited during this time than any other time in history. This inhibition led to backlashes and it wouldn't be till the late 60s where the inhibition level of the 20s was again reached. Virtually naked men and women were seen in the follies, crude humour was featured in vaudeville, and sexual overtones considered the norm in the 20s would disappear like the stock market did by the end of the decade.
A real generalized feeling to break out of and even directly break traditions was seen throughout the United States. Encouraged by Prohibition, lawlessness rose as people relaxed. The 20s saw the rise of cars, the decline of railroads, the beginning of instant communication with Radio and the decline of newspapers. And vaudeville began to die as movies and even talking pictures replaced them. Gas lamps were replaced by electric lights in virtually all apartments. This and the availability of new consumer goods led to a spending spree and drove the economic prosperity of the 20s.
A large part of this came about because government hadn't stepped in and regulated industries. But as public outcries of indecency and in the case of radio, just mass confusion; (people broadcast GOD-knows-what, on whatever frequency they wanted) the government stepped in. The Roaring Twenties were really the last decade of before "big government" stepped in, in the 1930s.
Urbanization increased as people fled the farm and onto the cities
10 Largest Citys In the United States By Population
(1920 US Census)
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|1||New York City||4,766,883|
Social Commentary took hold in the place of writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein who fled America and wrote about it from far away war ravaged Paris. Even in building commentary was shaped. The Chrysler Building, (my favourite building) was as much of about beauty as it was about competition to have the world's tallest building.
African American culture flourished with the Harlem Renaissance, as black people found away to express themselves positively instead of in stereotype. Cotton Clubs and the Savoy Ballroom both in Harlem became the leaders in entertainment. It should be noted while the Cotton Club was a leader using African American entertainers it was restricted to whites for clientele while the Savoy allowed integrated clientele of all races. (The Savoy also provides the line from 1978's #1 Hit Le Freak "Stomping at the Savoy, come on and freak oh what a joy".
Women all over the nation received the right to vote. Previously only in some states did women have the right to vote. And sometimes that right to vote was limited to local or national or primary contests only.
Homosexual saw a level of acceptance they would not see again till the late 70s. Mae West a supporter of gay rights used them in her acts. Though Ms West's naive viewpoint of homosexuals may sound unkind or even offensive but she actually supported gay rights. For example when the police broke up a raid on a gay bar, then called "pansy clubs," she publicly denounced the police telling them "That when they beat homosexuals it's like hitting a woman."
On the downside labor unions for the first time in American History declined and they would never have the potential to grow again. And the nation became xenophobic to immigrants and demanded isolation from the problems of the world, particularly Europe, which Americans views as single handedly rescuing the French and British from Germany. Many Americans felt it was not to save democracy but to save the French and British Empires.
As stated in the 30s the freedom that America seemed to be leading to was restricted, for example while Black and White performers would often be seen on stage, this was reversed in the 30s through self censorship. It should be noted, in some areas like Radio and Movies, if the censorship wasn't self-imposed the government would likely have done it.
But on the other hand actresses like Mae West made a career out of double meaning, as did America's most popular radio team "Burns And Allen." For example they would put sound like words in their act such as this
Gracie) I just came back from doing the Charleston, and boy am I exhausted.
George) Too danced out?
Gracie) No, I just need a little exercise.
The joke won't work but read it aloud if you say "too danced out," fast it comes out as "too damn stout."