Read Chapter 7 of the textbook (attached) Reflect: The 1920s was a decade of significant social change and social conflict. Consider the sources of social change that occurred in the 1920s, how those changes affected the group that you chose for your Final Project, and what long-term effect those changes had.
Why do you think the event was important, and how does it fit into the conflict and changes of the 1920s?
How does the event you chose relate to your Final Project topic?
What does the primary source you chose tell you about this topic?
What does it not tell you?
Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length answering these questons
7 Tradition and Modernity
in the 1920s The Stapleton Collection/Art Resource, NY Modern culture brought new fashions, dances,
and freedom to the American middle class. bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 199 1/9/15 9:33 AM American Lives: Mary Pickford Pre-Test 1. Though the 1920s was a boom time economically, the American people were cautious
about making purchases on credit. T/F
2. Entertainment was a central part of the 1920s experience, and popular pastimes
included amusements at Coney Island and jazz music from New Orleans. T/F
3. Most Americans were comfortable with the new morality, sexual promiscuity, and
intellectual movements of the 1920s. T/F
4. Harlem artists known as the New Negroes demanded respect from those who continued
to harbor racist ideas; their efforts became known as the Harlem Renaissance. T/F
5. The Great Depression originated within the United States, and the rest of the world was
largely unaffected. T/F
Answers can be found at the end of the chapter. Learning Objectives By the end of this chapter, you should be able to: ? Understand the conservative economic shift the policies of Warren G. Harding brought
to the United States.
? Explore the ways in which the consumer economy changed the lives of Americans.
? Discuss the importance and relevance of leisure pursuits.
? Explain the significance and impact of the Harlem Renaissance.
? Discuss how fundamentalism and conservatism impacted different elements of society.
? Discuss the weaknesses in the U.S. economy during the 1920s. American Lives: Mary Pickford
An early film actress known affectionately as ?America?s Sweetheart,? Mary Pickford became
famous in the early era before movies included sound, when actors had to dramatically express
meaning without the benefit of dialog. But Pickford was more than a silent-film movie star. Her
work bridged the silent and talking film eras in the late 1920s, and her sense of artistry and
financial acumen marked her career as a New Woman.
Like other career-oriented women of the 1920s, she pushed the boundaries of male-dominated
society, exercising social and economic control of her life. A levelheaded businesswoman, Pickford?s approach to the motion picture industry established the star system that persists well into
the 21st century. She leveraged her stardom to negotiate unprecedented budgetary and creative
control over her work, and she regularly received 50% of a film?s profits, often guaranteed to be
more than $1 million.
Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, in 1892, and in their youth she and
her siblings performed on the Canadian stage. As a young woman she moved to New York to
further her stage career, and in 1908 she was cast in a 2-year run of the Broadway production bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 200 1/9/15 9:33 AM American Lives: Mary Pickford The Warrens of Virginia. When the play ended, the performer who was by then known as Mary
Pickford tried her hand at acting in a number of short films in the new and growing movie industry, starring in more than 50 short films in 1 year alone. By 1911 she was established as one of
the nation?s leading actresses, having appeared in 20 films, including many produced by D. W.
Griffith, the filmmaker responsible for the controversial blockbuster The Birth of a Nation. She
often played a youthful girl or adolescent, even well into her 20s.
Pickford became one of the first women to control the
creative side of her career and the production of the
films in which she appeared. In 1919 she joined with
other top creative talents, including Charlie Chaplin,
D. W. Griffith, and her soon-to-be husband Douglas
Fairbanks, to form the United Artists film studio, a
filmmaking and distribution corporation that gave
them creative and financial control of the projects on
which they worked.
Pickford?s star quality made the venture a success.
Pollyanna, the first film Pickford starred in under
United Artists, put the studio on firm financial footing, though many of those that followed were less
successful. Bridging the transition in filmmaking, in
1929 Pickford starred in Coquette, her first talking
film, for which she won an Academy Award for Best
Actress (Garraty & Carnes, 1999).
Pickford?s business sense and involvement behind
the scenes of movie production earned her great
wealth but less public acclaim and recognition than
Considered ?America?s Sweetheart,?
actress Mary Pickford was also a sharp her acting did, and her glamorous appearances on
the big screen have overshadowed her importance
businesswoman. She was among the
to the overall success of the movie industry (Whitfounders of United Artists film studio
field, 2007). She ended her acting career in the early
and helped make the movie industry a
1930s, but she remained active in the business operaforce in the U.S. economy.
tions of United Artists. She spent her later years living
in seclusion and turned to writing, penning two books and an autobiography. She died in Hollywood in 1979.
Album/SuperStock Pickford?s contributions to the early motion picture industry were influenced by the time in
which she lived. The 1920s culture of opportunities made it possible for women to make important strides in business, education, and other parts of society once restricted to men. Although
her achievements were not typical, Mary Pickford represented the possibilities opening to American women during the modern age. For further thought:
1. How did Mary Pickford?s life reflect the New Woman in the 1920s?
2. How did Pickford?s career and the growth of the film industry represent a turn
toward modernity? bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 201 1/9/15 9:33 AM A Return to Normalcy Section 7.1? 7.1?A Return to Normalcy Some elements of prewar society persisted into the 1920s, including concerns over private
economic power and government responsibility for social problems. Racial and ethnic divisions and tensions that had grown in earlier decades endured and even intensified. Overall,
though, the decade following World War I represented a shift in temperament and culture
for the United States. The idealism and reform impulse of the Progressive era were replaced
by conservatism, materialism, and a rising consumer culture. Americans turned away from
imperialism and involvement in foreign affairs and back toward isolationism. Among the
most striking changes of the 1920s was the state of American politics (Cooper, 1990). Harding and Coolidge With his health failing at the end of his second term and struggles over the League of Nations
continuing, Woodrow Wilson had ceased to be a viable leader for the Democratic Party by
1920. In the election that year, the Democrats nominated Ohio governor James M. Cox for
president, with Franklin D. Roosevelt for vice president. The other commanding national
political presence, former president Theodore Roosevelt, had died in his sleep on January 5,
1919. On the 10th ballot held at the convention, the Republicans nominated conservative
Ohio senator Warren G. Harding. Harding?s running mate, Calvin Coolidge, had most recently
served as the governor of Massachusetts. Newly enfranchised female voters swelled the electorate, so that 8 million more people voted
in the 1920 election than had in 1916. They cast their ballots for Harding by a large margin
because he was seen as sympathetic to their concerns. During the campaign he sent a personal letter to Carrie Chapman Catt endorsing suffrage, and he sent a campaign staffer to
be on hand for the Tennessee legislature vote that ratified the 19th Amendment. The election was a landslide, with Harding earning 16 million votes to Cox?s 9 million. Campaigning
from federal prison, Socialist Eugene
V. Debs claimed just over 3% of the
vote, demonstrating that more than a
million American voters did not find
representation of their interests in the
Harding?s administration represented
a turn away from reform and toward
conservative policies. He argued that
the nation needed ?not heroism but
healing, not nostrums but normalcy,
not revolution but restoration,? by
which he meant an emphasis on economic growth that would result in
community and harmony. He offered
America a normalcy that represented
an end to reform and war and aimed to
substitute them with small-town simplicity full of nostalgia and tradition
(Payne, 2009). bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 202 © Bettmann/Corbis Running one of the first modern presidential
campaigns, in 1920 Warren G. Harding recorded
campaign speeches on a phonograph and distributed
the records among supporters. 1/9/15 9:33 AM A Return to Normalcy Section 7.1? In international affairs, Harding opposed Wilson?s advocacy for membership in the League of
Nations, but also Theodore Roosevelt?s arguments about military leadership, pacts, and alliances, even within the Western Hemisphere. Harding largely avoided discussing the growing
global interconnections between nations and economies, although the president well knew
that it was impossible to insulate the United States from the world economy and global politics. Instead, he dealt with international issues quietly while he publicly advocated a return to
an unconcern over foreign affairs and gave Americans the impression that they could accept
or reject involvement in world concerns when and where they pleased.
On the domestic front, Harding supported the efforts of conservative Republicans to court big
business and subvert the gains made by labor during the war. Harding?s probusiness orientation faced some challenges at the state level when Progressive Republican governors were
elected in Wisconsin and Montana. For the most part, however, conservative Republican leaders surged forward with their agenda (Cooper, 1990). A series of scandals also characterized Harding?s presidency. He appointed his close friends
and allies to important political positions, and several members of the so-called Ohio Gang
took advantage of their place in the Harding administration to advance their own agendas. It
is unclear if Harding was fully aware of the actions of his appointees, since many of the scandals came to light only after his death. The Teapot Dome affair, involving the lease of navy petroleum reserves in Wyoming and
California to private companies without public bidding, was the subject of a congressional
investigation. The scandal resulted in the bribery conviction of Harding?s secretary of the
interior, Albert B. Fall, who had negotiated the leases. Other Harding administration scandals involved corruption in the Justice Department, perpetrated by his attorney general and
former campaign manager Harry M. Daugherty, and in the Veterans? Bureau, where director
Charles R. Forbes was accused of putting his own economic gains ahead of the needs of returning veterans. A New Economic Vision In 1921 the nation?s economy was in a severe slump. Demobilization resulted in high unemployment, and investments fell below the rate of inflation, leaving all Americans with less
buying power. The end of wartime production resulted in thousands of layoffs, and the nation
entered a period of economic adjustment that required intervention. Even Americans still
employed found that their incomes did not stretch far enough to cover household needs, and
the purchase of extra consumer goods was out of the question for most households.
To deal with the economic concerns, Harding called a President?s Conference on Unemployment. Its participants recommended a controversial public works expansion and a bonus bill
to reward veterans for their service, but both failed in Congress. Instead, the administration
cut taxes and created a budget bureau to oversee and limit the spending of government funds.
Once the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, investment recovered, and by 1923 many
industries actually faced a labor shortage (Perrett, 1982). Harding?s approach to the presidency was in many ways the opposite of his Progressive predecessor (McGerr, 2005). He supported more individual freedom and greater limitations
on government activism, and he was far more favorable to and tolerant of big business. He bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 203 1/9/15 9:33 AM A Return to Normalcy Section 7.1? demonstrated his convictions by appointing officials to the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Reserve Board that he believed would change those agencies? policies to
make them much more supportive of business.
He also strove to enact legislation that gave corporations more power. He signed legislation to
restore a higher tariff that supported American production, and he encouraged federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and Interstate Commerce Commission to cooperate with businesses rather than merely regulate them. Harding also supported business by
taking a more hands-on approach to breaking labor strikes. Using both the ?carrot? and the ?stick,? business in the 1920s sought to erode worker protections and union membership. The stick, or punitive tactics, some employers used included
forcing newly hired workers to sign so-called yellow dog contracts in which they agreed not
to join unions; if they did, they would be fired. Challenges for Labor More employers engaged in an open shop movement, arguing that they wanted to give their
employees the ability to decide on their own whether to join a union. Mobilizing under what
they called the American Plan, these employers declared that the open shop was consistent with American values, freedom, and patriotism. By contrast, they charged unions with
limiting freedom by creating closed shop workplaces, where only union members could
be employed. They argued that unions restricted production, made unreasonable wage
demands, and kept capable workers from reaching their full earning potential. In reality,
employers promoted the American Plan to rid their industries of union organization and
were successful in holding back the number of workers who could enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining (Goldberg, 1999).
To further discourage unionization, industrialists devised as a carrot the system of welfare
capitalism. Designed to instill worker loyalty and encourage efficiency, welfare capitalism
was practiced by the largest employers, including Goodyear, International Harvester, and
General Electric. The programs included company unions that could bargain for limited workplace improvements but not for wage increases. Some created grievance committees to hear
worker complaints. Other features could include profit sharing, life insurance, and company
baseball teams. Labor journalist Louis Francis Budenz, a reporter for Labor Age, railed against the practices
of company unions, considering them the gravest threat to workers. In one case, he reported
a construction job purporting to have a company union that ingenuously promised, but failed
to pay, trained carpenters $12 a day, nearly double the wage union carpenters earned. Budenz
asserted that company unions were disingenuous organizations that aimed to draw in unsuspecting workers (Grant, 2006). By the mid-1920s a mere 4 million worked for a firm that
practiced welfare capitalism, but the concept grew throughout the decade (Dumenil, 1995).
Both the American Plan and welfare capitalism accelerated during the postwar recession
and caused considerable strife between labor and employers. Although the decade saw many
strikes across multiple industries, the probusiness climate assured that organized labor made
few gains. bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 204 1/9/15 9:33 AM A Return to Normalcy Section 7.1? The U.S. economy rebounded from the postwar recession by 1922, thanks largely to a consumer revolution and growth in industries that manufactured automobiles and other
durable goods like refrigerators and radios. Following Harding?s sudden death in 1923,
Calvin Coolidge succeeded to the presidency. A Republican attorney from Vermont, Coolidge
began his political career in Massachusetts, first in the state legislature and then as the commonwealth?s governor. He gained a national reputation as an opponent of organized labor
after he fired the striking Boston police force in 1919. The Triumph of Big Business Coolidge was elected in his own right in 1924 and extended a series of policies favorable to
business expansion. He appointed probusiness men to the Federal Trade Commission and the
Interstate Commerce Commission and supported a move to raise tariffs to offer more protection for business. Under his watch, Congress also passed three revenue acts, greatly reducing
income taxes for most Americans. In contrast to the Progressive era?s push to regulate large corporations and make them more
responsive to environmental and societal problems, the 1920s political climate supported
business mergers and did little to restrict or influence business practices. The U.S. Supreme
Court and Justice Department protected businesses from organized labor through a series of
injunctions and limitations on union organization and strike activity.
The economy grew considerably for the remainder of the decade. Industrial output rose
64%, and the production of automobiles grew from 1.5 million in 1919 to 4.8 million in 1929.
Industries incorporated new technologies, including mechanization, assembly lines, and electricity to boost production. Worker productivity grew 43%, and overall output grew 70%
(Murphy, 2012). Henry Ford?s motor company stands as a clear example of the business ethos of the 1920s.
Initially operating one plant outside Detroit, Michigan, Ford introduced the moving assembly
line and applied Frederick Winslow Taylor?s scientific management to the manufacture of his
Model T automobiles. The process reduced the time and cost to produce a car but also created
a monotonous and challenging work environment that initially led to massive turnover. Ford countered by paying workers $5 per day (roughly $15 an hour in today?s money) and
reducing the workday to 8 hours. Soon workers were lined up for jobs at the Ford plants.
The Ford Motor Company was also one of the first to apply the principles of welfare capitalism, offering workers profit sharing to discourage unionization. Ford also implemented
a so-called sociology department to ensure worker loyalty, patriotism, and moral values
(Drowne & Huber, 2004).
Ford?s sociology department, also known as the education department, aimed to guide his
workers in living moral and upright lives and to embrace a new identity as a ?Ford Man.? Ford
expected his workers to refrain from using tobacco and alcohol and to avoid interaction with
unions, political radicals, and socialists. Immigrant workers received instruction in English
and endured a plan of Americanization as a condition of continued employment. Those who
demonstrated clean and wholesome habits were likely to see a wage increase. Those who did
not want their employer intruding in their personal lives were invited to look elsewhere for
a job (Hooker, 1997). bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 205 1/9/15 9:33 AM A Return to Normalcy Section 7.1? Although some workers such as those at Ford plants made wage gains in the 1920s, most
corporate profits were not passed along to employees. Nor did all segments of the economy benefit from the government?s new probusiness orientation. Although most of the
economy recovered from the postwar recession fairly quickly, railroads, coal, textiles, and
agriculture continued to struggle. Workers in those industries experienced stagnant wages
(Murphy, 2012). Employees at a Gastonia, North Carolina, textile mill, for instance, averaged
70 hours per week. Despite the long hours, men?s wages were a mere $18 per week, and
women earned a paltry $9 per week (St. Germain, 1990). Many workers also faced unemployment or underemployment. Sick Industries The coal industry was another ?sick? industry struggling to recover in the postwar decade.
Coal was once the main fuel for American factories and mills, but competition from cleaner
and abundant oil and hydroelectric power contributed to falling coal prices. The price of coal
fell from a high of $3.74 a ton in 1920 to a mere $1.78 in 1929. Mines reduced production or
shut down altogether, leaving remote communities unable to participate in the growing consumer economy.
Farmers likewise struggled to find prosperity. Mechanization in the form of tractors, combines, and disc plows increased production capabilities but reduced the prices of staple
crops like wheat and corn. Coolidge vetoed congressional proposals to aid the farm crisis,
arguing that the government had no constitutional power to intervene in private business
(St. Germain, 1990). The agricultural sector continued to limp along well into the 1930s, when
the Great Depression reversed attitudes toward government interference in the economy. Economic Growth and Foreign Policy America?s emergence as the world?s dominant economic power drew the nation into a host of
international affairs during the 1920s. The nation officially sought a foreign policy that aimed
to reduce the risk of international conflict and ensure the safety of trade and investment. In
practice, however, U.S. foreign interactions often undermined those very goals. U.S. investment overseas made America the world?s leading creditor nation, and its continued economic success depended on the ability of other nations, especially those in Europe,
to repay their war debts of approximately $10 billion. However, Harding and the Congress,
focused on nurturing U.S. business development, enacted a series of policies that showed
little concern for European recovery following the war?s devastation. Higher tariff rates made
it difficult for Britain and France to profit from exports. At the same time, the United States
flooded European markets with American manufactured goods. Instead of providing relief
and encouraging the commerce needed to reduce the debt, the United States continued on a
path that produced further restrictions. In this climate the United States hosted the first conference aimed at world disarmament.
Held in Washington, D.C., from November 1921 through February 1922, leaders from nine
nations met to consider interests in the Pacific Ocean and east Asia. Among those attending
were representatives from China, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal. Neither
Germany nor the new Soviet Union was invited. Supported by peace advocates in America
and abroad, the conference resulted in the Washington Naval Treaty, in which each nation bar82063_07_c07_199-232.indd 206 1/9/15 9:33 AM The Culture of Modernity Section 7.2? agreed to reduce the size of its naval fleet and limit production of new warships (Goldstein &
Maurer, 2012). The Harding and Coolidge administrations also sought to retreat from involvement in Latin
American affairs unless economic ties there forced the United States to intervene. American
business interests sought investment in the rich oil fields in South America and encouraged a
foreign policy favorable to their plans. The Senate ratified a treaty apologizing to Colombia for
American intervention in Panama in 1903 and offered a payment of $25 million in amends.
This paved the way for U.S. investment in Colombian and eventually Venezuelan oil fields. To further cement relations in Latin America, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes used
the centennial of the Monroe Doctrine in 1923 to assure the nations of the region that the
United States intended to be a good neighbor, although at that moment the United States
still occupied and controlled the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (see
Chapter 6) (Goldberg, 1999). 7.2?The Culture of Modernity Modernity, or the bureaucratic, industrial, and consumer-oriented society of early 20thcentury America, was characterized by an evolving and distinct culture. Following the postwar recession, the nation saw unprecedented prosperity and industrial productivity. The
United States stood as the world?s dominant economic power, and at home most Americans
enjoyed a higher standard of living and more leisure time. Although some segments of society,
such as farmers, coal miners, and African Americans, did not experience as much prosperity,
all participated in an emerging culture of modernity. The Boom of the Consumer Culture and the Consumer Economy Beginning with the growth of American capitalism and industrialization in the 19th century,
a new consumerism began to emerge. Linked to the expanding market economy, consumer
culture celebrated the worth of goods and services in terms of their financial value. A significant part of modernity in the 1920s was the expansion of a consumer-oriented culture that
prioritized acquisition and consumption. It associated happiness with accumulating material
goods and made monetary value the most important measure of worth. Consumption rather
than hard work came to measure an individual?s worth in society (Leach, 1994). Drawing more Ame...
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