The previously mentioned defining social and cultural features began in leading metropolitan centers , especially Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Paris and London, then spread widely in the aftermath of World War I.
The United States gained dominance in world finance and when Germany couldn’t afford war reparations to Britain, France and other Allies, the Americans came up with the Dawes Plan and invested a lot of money in Germany.
With this help, Germany could pay reparations to nations that in turn used the dollars to pay off their war debts to Washington [see diagram on next slide].
By the middle of the decade, prosperity was widespread. The second half of the decade was known as the "Golden Twenties". In France and francophone Canada, they were also called the "années folles" ("Crazy Years").
New government growth policies = tax laws, expanding credit, and the stock market
Construction boom (el ague)
Rapid growth of consumer goods
At the end of WW I, soldiers returned to the United States and Canada with wartime wages and bought a lot of the new products on the market = more consumers!
At first, the recession of wartime production caused a brief but deep recession, known as the Post-World War I recession. Quickly, however, the U.S. and Canadian economies rebounded as returning soldiers re-entered the labor force and factories were reorganized to produce consumer goods.
For the first time, more Americans and Canadians lived in cities of 2,500 or more people than in small towns or rural areas.
However the nation was fascinated with its great metropolitan centers that contained about 15% of the population. New York and Chicago built skyscrapers, though New York had more (Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, etc.).
The finance and insurance industries doubled and tripled in size. The basic pattern of the modern white collar job was set during the late 19th century, but it now became the norm for life in large and medium cities.
Typewriters, filing cabinets and telephones brought unmarried women into clerical jobs. In Canada, one in five workers was a woman by the end of the decade.
Art Deco : the style of design and architecture that marked the era. Originating in Belgium , it spread to the rest of western Europe and North America towards the mid-1920s.
Cinema : At the beginning of the decade, films were silent and colorless. In 1922, the first all-color feature, Toll of the Sea, was released. In 1926, Warner Bros. released Don Juan, the first feature with sound effects and music. In 1927, Warner released The Jazz Singer, the first sound feature to include limited talking sequences.
Harlem Renaissance : African-American literary and artistic culture developed rapidly during the 1920s under this name.
In the U.S., one of the most remarkable buildings featuring this style was constructed as the tallest building of the time: the Chrysler Building.
The forms of art deco were pure and geometric, even though the artists often drew inspiration from nature. In the beginning, lines were curved, though rectilinear designs would later become more and more popular.
Art Deco in Europe Train station in Valencia, Spain.
Jazz Age : The first commercial radio station in the United States, KDKA, began broadcasting in Pittsburgh in 1922. Radio stations subsequently multiplied at a fast rate, and with them spread the popularity of jazz. Jazz became associated with all things modern, sophisticated, and also decadent.
Dance : Dance clubs became very popular. Dance music came to dominate all forms of popular music by the late 1920s. Classical pieces, operettas, folk music, etc. were all transformed into popular dance melodies. Dance clubs across the U.S. sponsored dance contests, where dancers invented, tried, and competed with new moves. The most popular dances throughout the decade were the foxtrot, waltz and American tango.
With the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920 which granted women the right to vote, women finally attained the political equality that they had been fighting for.
A generational gap began to form between the “new” women of the 20s and the previous generation.
Prior to the 19th Amendment, society commonly thought that a woman could have either a career or that she could have a husband and a family. This mentality began to change in the 20s as more women began to desire not only successful careers, but also families. The two did not inhibit each other developmentally.
The 1920s saw significant change in the lives of working women. World War I had temporarily allowed women to enter into industries such as chemical, automobile, and iron and steel manufacturing, which were once deemed inappropriate work for women.
Yet their success was only temporary; most women were also pushed out of their factory jobs after the war.
A new legislation passed at the beginning of the 20th century forced many factories to shorten their workdays and pay a minimum wage.
Factories encouraged workers to produce more quickly and efficiently with bonus systems, increasing the pressure on factory workers.
Despite the strain on women in the factories, the booming economy of the 1920s meant more opportunities even for the lower classes. Many young girls from working-class backgrounds did not need to help support their families as prior generations did and were often encouraged to look for work or receive vocational training. This gave them more social mobility.
The 1920s saw the emergence of the co-ed, as women began attending large state colleges and universities.
Women entered into the mainstream middle-class experience, but took on a gendered role within society. Women typically took classes such as home economics, “Husband and Wife”, “Motherhood” and “The Family as an Economic Unit”.
In an increasingly conservative post-war era, it was common for a young woman to attend college with the intention of finding a suitable husband.
Fueled by ideas of sexual liberation, dating underwent major changes on college campuses.