Monday, July 23, 2012

The Ecomics of the 1920s

The religious fervor that thrust rural values on the nation created a backlash response. In part it was caused by the dazzling upswing in the country. WWI the war to end all wars was over, unemployment was low, wages were up, and many in all classes found themselves with "money to burn." The middle class following the example of the rich began buying on credit and speculating in the stock market which was rising at a fever pitch.

This new confidence in most urban societies led to a change from the old to the new. The new generation resented the old crones with their stranglehold on temperance and their Victorian ideals of society. Those newly rich mixed with the old money crowd, but were resented for their lack of breeding. It was hardly an issue as the main goal was the party.

The Rise of Organized Crime and Bootleggers

Prior to Prohibition the mob was limited to racketeering, extortion, prostitution, and infiltrating labor unions. Prohibition provided a demand for an illegal service that was too lucrative to miss. The money earned from the sale and distribution of alcohol was enough to bank roll the mob, allowing them to become an invisible  force even in today's modern times.

Smaller bootleggers and distributors were squeezed out in the lawless age of tommy guns. Gang wars caused territorial disputes that spilled into the streets causing the nation to rethink the Prohibition "experiment."

In Chicago the Capone Gang was big. They frightened the nation. Smuggling  alcohol in from Canada for private distribution in underground bars called speakeasies. Speakeasies had a number of disguises, like funeral homes with secret entrances and everyone drank "100 proof coffee." Those were now as fronts and often had a burly doorman waiting behind a panel to hear the secret password.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Roaring 20s

What to do you know about the 1920s? Did you know that the women featured above were part of a movement? They were part of the Women's Christian Temperance Union that was formed in the late 1800s to confront the lawlessness that surrounded saloons. They campaigned through the Bible Belt in the mid-west  and finally in 1919 they were able to get the 18th Amendment ratified outlawing alcohol in the United States.

Did you also know that Prohibition played into the fears of white Anglo-Saxon Americans? Oh yes, they believed that the European immigrants had too many social issues including consumption of alcohol. These new immigrants were held in contempt and with suspicion. Racism at that time included both African Americans and immigrants. African Americans were saddled with segregation laws that were prevalent in both the North and South. Chicago was no exception and tensions rose among the working class blacks and whites as they competed for the same jobs. Immigrants tossed into the mix fared no better.

Women were finally seen as a political force when on the heels of the 18th Amendment they got the 19th Amendment ratified in 1920 giving them the right to vote. However their prime roles were in society and in the home. They were paid less than men and their opportunities were slim. Well brought up young ladies still required a chaperon when out on a date. All women were dependent on first their fathers and then their husbands.

Flappers grew out of young women who were trying to break the mold. They shortened their hair and raised their hemlines. They even took to painting their faces. The counterpart to flappers were known as Flaming Youth. Both were decadent partiers who demanded access to liquors that were accessible to the well connected, thus increasing the demand for liquor.

Speakeasies flourished. Those were the hidden clubs that still served liquor in violation of the 18th Amendment. The next post will deal more with speakeasies and the crime that grew out of them. 

Imagine what it would have been like to live in that time.

Just Getting Started

I really have nothing to post yet, I am working on a blog idea and getting a website ready. So for now this is hello.