The Roaring Twenties, Revisited
It was the golden age of America, a time when wealth grew rapidly and the rich became richer. It created the largest wave of prosperity the world had ever seen, a flowing current of money, innovation, and change. And whether good or bad, right or wrong, the Roaring Twenties are still heralded as one of the most influential decades in our nation’s history.
Soon it will be 2020 — the beginning, perhaps, of our own definitive decade. As we move into this new time, it may be beneficial to reminisce on the past. A brief snapshot of the 1920’s shows some interesting life lessons, bearing an uncanny resemblance in its parallels to modern America. It is through this retrospective lens that we can begin to see our own culture in a different light.
But first, a brief travel in time, moving all the way back to 1919.
The country had just endured both the Great War and influenza epidemic. It was wounded, scarred, but not yet broken. Brimming with hope and optimism, Americans began to gaze toward the future. Families began to move from the countryside to urban areas, causing an unprecedented urban expansion. For the first time in the nation’s history, more citizens lived in cities than in rural areas.
The growth in cities created a reliance on technology, creating an innovation boom. Electricity! Telephones! Radios! Washing Machines! Talking Pictures! Automobiles! Each day seemed to sprout another idea, another product, another thing to buy. And buy they did — Americans consumed more than ever before, relying on the assembly line to satisfy every need. Estimates show that the economy grew 42% (no, that’s not a typo) in the 1920s, while the stock market increased by a yearly average of 12%. Farming, on the other hand, fell to 12.4% of the economic production.
Citizens spent their money in a frenzy, stimulating an already-booming economy. The products they bought (like the washing machine) saved them time and effort, allowing chances to relax. This created a culture of luxury, something that many Americans had never experienced before. And with the luxury came the “Jazz Age,” the most famous part of the Roaring Twenties.
It was the first major shift in American culture. Flappers — young, independent women — had just gained the right to vote. They pushed for…