Americans focus on the nation's awesome new material culture which the war produced
America's social culture also undergoes accompanying dramatic change
A number of cultural icons support the the newly emerging secular / material culture
And the new movie industry grows explosively


American post-war cynicism  with regards to Wilson's vision of a democratic world

A deep moral disappointment combined with a growing sense of cultural cynicism rather naturally set in on America following the collapse of the Wilsonian dream of a world of utopian politics.  Political Idealism underwent a decided decline after the war. 

Instead, the decade of the 1920s was about material wealth, personal freedom – and above all, fun.  The spirit of Progressivism was not dead, just numbed somewhat by all the wealth.  In a way America’s prosperity seemed to promise the ability of American society to advance itself simply through the mechanism of business and industry.  This greatly dulled the reformist spirit of Progressivism (also, American Progressivism's increasing identity with European Socialism did not help matters).

America's women finally gain the right to vote (1920)

Progressivism was however not totally dead in the immediate post-war period.  One piece of Progressivism actually announced a deep social change arriving with the 1920s: women’s suffrage (the right to vote).  This concept had been advanced in the late 1800s as an idea to bring the woman’s motherly sense of morality to the vices of male politics – an inspired way of reforming or cleaning up the often sordid business of American boss politics.  Eventually the rationale for women’s suffrage was simply reshaped as a matter of basic rights, regardless of the moral impact it might or might not have on American politics.  This idea was finally put forward as a constitutional Amendment.

In August of 1920 the last state needed to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment providing for universal suffrage (the right of women as well as men to vote) approved the amendment.  Thus the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution entered into force ... in time for women to vote in the national elections that November.  It is ironic that this new involvement of supposedly more moral-minded women in national politics coincided with the election into office the Harding Presidency, possibly the most corrupt White House team in American history!

During the 1920s the radio entered the homes of American families everywhere
connecting even farm folks more closely to a dynamic national culture

The radio department
60,000 families owned radios in 1922; by 1930, 13.8 million

An Oregon family gathered around the radio - 1925

Dancing to the radio

Radio Broadcasting in the 1920s - a Minneapolis radio station

Radio program production

And the automobile became a more central part of American life

Standard Oil of New Jersey – 1920: 12 stations / 1929: 1,000 stations

Opening of a new Gulf station in Kentucky - 1925

But car sales vastly outpace road building

Typical scene in rural America - 1920s

Air Travel has moved up to join automobile travel as part of the new material culture

Pan American passengers boarding a flight to Havana in 1928

A typical air terminal --the Ford Airport,  Detroit

Stout Air Lines, owned by Ford - the first to carry mail

Airline pilots take on a dressy uniform as a sign of their prestigious occupation

Some of the first stewardesses -- dressed warmly for flying conditions

A steward serving a meal

And just in general – America's material culture explodes to life

Salesman of home appliances - 1920s

Woolworth – 1920: 1,111 stores / 1929:1,825 stores

J.C. Penney – 1920: 312 stores / 1929:1,395 stores

A?P – 1920: 4,621 stores / 1929: 15,418 stores

Safeway Stores – 1926: 766 stores / 1929: 2,660 stores

Piggly Wiggly – 1920: 515 stores / 1929: 2,500 stores

Western Auto Supply Co. – 1920: 3 stores / 1929: 54 stores

And urban American life begins to outpace rural/small-town life in America in growth and excitement

Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street - New York, 1926

Most exciting of all is the New York Stock Market which even ordinary citizens can invest in --
with the high expectation of gaining great material profits.

The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange - 1920s

Science continued to make great advances -- and to impress the culture with its power

Einstein lecturing on relativity - Paris, 1922

Einstein's first wife, Mileva Maric, and his sons Eduard (l.) and Hans Albert (r.)
in 1914 - the year Einstein and Mileva separated

Einstein and his cousin, Else in 1921 (they would later marry)

Einstein with his eldest son, Hans Albert (an engineer), and his grandson, Bernhard - 1936


Washington, DC, immigrant-naturalization school - 1920s
 Library of Congress LC-F801-4509)

Alice Paul celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 20, 1920
giving women full voting rights

The new League of Women Voters preparing for the Democratic National Convention
in San Francisco - 1920

Coeds at Creighton University, Omaha - 1924

A young lady having her hair "bobbed" by a barber

A young man wearing his "Oxford bags"

A slicked-down, center-parted hairdo as part of the new look

A raccoon coat and peekaboo hat as high fashion
Library of Congress

College undergrads doing a bit of "crooning"

A 1926 Charleston contest in Los Angeles

Doing the Charleston in competition - St. Louis, 1925

Carroll Dickerson's band plays for a jazz floor show - Chicago - 1924

Louis Armstrong

The first Miss America pageant in Atlantic City with contestants from 9 cities - 1921
(winner:  Margaret Gorman, 16, [3rd from left] of Washington D.C.)

Atlantic City's bathing beauties - 1922

Coney Island beauty contestants - 1923

California bathers being confronted by policewomen because they were "scantily clad" - 1922

Chicago police arresting bathers for indecent exposure - 1922

A "liberated" flapper taking a puff
Library of Congress LC-USZ62-95891

Women's smoking car - 1920s

There existed a certain zaniness about the times -- exemplified by the popularity of stunt programs -- especially aeronautic stunts

Aeronautic stunt-man Olmer Locklear transferring from one airplane to another
U.S. Air Force

Lillian Boyer, aeronautic stunt-woman

Airborne tennis at 70 mph


The most influential prophet of the new "have it your way" culture was Dr. Sigmund Freud --
who taught that the worst thing people could do was repress their deeper instincts

Austrian psychiatrist Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald - models of Jazz Age flapperdom

F. Scott, Zelda and daughter Scottie Fitzgerald

Ernest Hemmingway

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
A witty and outspoken Baltimore columnist / author / social-critic of national fame in the 1910s and 1920s.

In the 1930s his wit turned bitter and he became an arch-foe of FDR's New Deal  

George Gershwin - 1927
The Museum of Modern Art, New York


The lobby of the Fox Theater - San Francisco

Loew's Paradise Movie Theater - seating for 3,936

Actress Clara Bow -- the starlet with the "It" appeal

Miles H. Hodges - 2014