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Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

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A history of roaring prosperity—and economic cataclysm: “The one account of America in the 1920s against which all others must be measured” (TheWashington Post). Beginning November 11, 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the end of World War I in a letter to the American public, and continuing through his defeat, Prohibition, the Big Red Scare, the rise of women’s A history of roaring prosperity—and economic cataclysm: “The one account of America in the 1920s against which all others must be measured” (TheWashington Post). Beginning November 11, 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the end of World War I in a letter to the American public, and continuing through his defeat, Prohibition, the Big Red Scare, the rise of women’s hemlines, and the stock market crash of 1929, Only Yesterday, published just two years after the crash, chronicles a decade like no other. Allen, who witnessed firsthand the events he describes, immerses you in the era of flappers, speakeasies, and early radio, making you feel like part of history as it unfolds. This bestselling, enduring account brings to life towering historical figures including J. Pierpont Morgan, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and Jack Dempsey. Allen provides insightful, in-depth analyses of President Warren G. Harding’s oil scandal, the growth of the auto industry, the decline of the family farm, and the long bull market of the late twenties. Peppering his narrative with actual stock quotes and breaking financial news, Allen tracks the major economic trends of the decade and explores the underlying causes of the crash. From the trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to the inventions, crazes, and revolutions of the day, this timeless work will continue to be savored for generations to come.  


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A history of roaring prosperity—and economic cataclysm: “The one account of America in the 1920s against which all others must be measured” (TheWashington Post). Beginning November 11, 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the end of World War I in a letter to the American public, and continuing through his defeat, Prohibition, the Big Red Scare, the rise of women’s A history of roaring prosperity—and economic cataclysm: “The one account of America in the 1920s against which all others must be measured” (TheWashington Post). Beginning November 11, 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the end of World War I in a letter to the American public, and continuing through his defeat, Prohibition, the Big Red Scare, the rise of women’s hemlines, and the stock market crash of 1929, Only Yesterday, published just two years after the crash, chronicles a decade like no other. Allen, who witnessed firsthand the events he describes, immerses you in the era of flappers, speakeasies, and early radio, making you feel like part of history as it unfolds. This bestselling, enduring account brings to life towering historical figures including J. Pierpont Morgan, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and Jack Dempsey. Allen provides insightful, in-depth analyses of President Warren G. Harding’s oil scandal, the growth of the auto industry, the decline of the family farm, and the long bull market of the late twenties. Peppering his narrative with actual stock quotes and breaking financial news, Allen tracks the major economic trends of the decade and explores the underlying causes of the crash. From the trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to the inventions, crazes, and revolutions of the day, this timeless work will continue to be savored for generations to come.  

30 review for Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tripp

    I have a bias against older nonfiction books as I don't think they age well. The evidence gets old, the arguments get settled or the style becomes out-dated and the read just isn't the same. Well, Frederick Allen Lewis sure showed me up. He wrote Only Yesterday in 1931 and it read like it was written last year. Lewis was an editor at the Atlantic and I wonder if his style has influenced later writers there. He is crisp, funny and has a strong point of view throughout. I loved his description of I have a bias against older nonfiction books as I don't think they age well. The evidence gets old, the arguments get settled or the style becomes out-dated and the read just isn't the same. Well, Frederick Allen Lewis sure showed me up. He wrote Only Yesterday in 1931 and it read like it was written last year. Lewis was an editor at the Atlantic and I wonder if his style has influenced later writers there. He is crisp, funny and has a strong point of view throughout. I loved his description of the motivations of Klan members: "...but it white robe and hood, its flaming cross, its secrecy, and the preposterous vocabulary of it ritual could be made the vehicle for all that infantile love of hocus-pocus and mummery, that lust for secret adventure, which survives in the adult whose lot is cast in drab places. Here was a chance to dress up the village bigot and let him be a Knight of the Invisible Empire." It doesn't hurt that the subjects feel particularly relevant today. Lewis covers racism, populism, and the infatuation with celebrity, sports, and trifling events, at the expense of vital issues. He describes the madness of the stock bubble and the shouting down of anyone who call into question the riches to be made. He also looks at the cult of business (the business of America is business, and all that) and at the how religion and business began to use each other's language. He describes a very popular book called the Man Nobody Knows which argued that Jesus was the founder of modern business thanks to his executive experience and his skills at advertising. Reading this book, I was both happy and sad to see that we as a society have many of the same problems. On the downside, there are many problems that we have failed to conquer for so long. On the plus side, our time is not a uniquely debased one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    CoachJim

    The nation was spiritually tired. Wearied by the excitements of the war and nervous tension of the Big Red Scare, they hoped for quiet and healing. Sick of Wilson and his talk of America’s duty to humanity, callous to political idealism, they hoped for a chance to pursue their private affairs without government interference and to forget about public affairs. There might be no such word in the dictionary as normalcy, but normalcy was what they wanted. Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (Page The nation was spiritually tired. Wearied by the excitements of the war and nervous tension of the Big Red Scare, they hoped for quiet and healing. Sick of Wilson and his talk of America’s duty to humanity, callous to political idealism, they hoped for a chance to pursue their private affairs without government interference and to forget about public affairs. There might be no such word in the dictionary as normalcy, but normalcy was what they wanted. Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (Page 99) The subtitle on my edition of this book is “An Informal History of the 1920s”. That seems an apt description in that the history is told in a casual as opposed to an analytical style—almost conversational. The author states in the preface that the audience for this book, which was published in 1931, less than 2 years after the Great Stock Market Crash, is for people who likely will remember the events reported. People were tired of the sacrifices they had to make during the war and the hate engendered by that and the fear of Bolshevism. The country would go through a period of restlessness, but was learning how to relax and have fun. There were changes in women’s fashion, automobiles gave people more freedom, the radio became popular, and it became fashionable to drink, smoke, swear and talk openly about sex in public. The first half of this book covers the social patterns of the country during this time. The Harding scandals are dealt with, and the Coolidge era of prosperity is described. The fascination by the public with “tremendous trifles” such as a heavyweight boxing match, or a murder trial, a new card game, crossword puzzles, the Scopes monkey trial, or the grand prize, a transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh. There is an interesting chapter titled “The Revolt of the Highbrows” which describes a generation of intellectuals. These intellectuals decried the “emotional and aesthetic starvation of American life.” (Page 177) They endorsed the views expressed by Sinclair Lewis in his novels Main Street and Babbitt. In these two volumes “Lewis revealed the ugliness of the American small town, the cultural poverty of its life, the tyranny of its mass prejudices, and the blatant vulgarity and insularity of the booster.” (Page 178) Also in this chapter H. L. Mencken is introduced, who is called the keynoter of this revolt. After this chapter the author turns to some of the more serious issues of the decade. I had previously read Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent and that book gives a better history of Prohibition. In this book Prohibition is dealt with lightly and then turns to Al Capone and the criminal element spawned by Prohibition. The Florida land boom which is a harbinger of the speculative nature of Americans seeking a get-rich-quick plan is described. Here glowing descriptions of the tropical paradise in Florida saw people buying up land with the hope of selling it later and making a profit. However, they were taught a lesson that “a scheme of land values based upon grandiose plans, preposterous expectations, and hot air” (Page 218) would eventually crash taking their profits with it. The impact of two hurricanes blew away any other pretensions of Florida being a tropical, get-rich-quick paradise. The most memorable image of the 1920s is of the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Coolidge-Hoover Prosperity was a state of mind rather than an economic condition. A speculative fever was fed by the actions of many investors seemingly making huge profits on stock market gains. Government officials and other economic experts continued to praise the economy. And prices just continued to rise. A boundless romanticism was the result of years of the Coolidge Prosperity. The public watched as record after record was squashed by the continued rise in stock prices. Each time forecasters predicted a fall, the market continued to rise. President Hoover himself stated that he saw the end to poverty. These last two chapters were the best of this book. An earlier book that I read The Great Crash of 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith cites this book as one of its sources and is quoted widely. The description of the crash is told in a dramatic fashion. “The Big Bull Market was dead. Billions of dollars’ worth of profits—and paper profits— had disappeared.” (Page 262). As the 1930s began it was apparent that a major depression was on its way. “[T]here was a general sense that something had gone wrong with individualistic capitalism and must be set right—how could it be otherwise, with the existing system dragging millions of families down toward hunger and want?” (Page 276) President Hoover who had administered relief to Belgium after the war proved unable to administer relief to Americans falling into poverty. But this was a different problem. A major change in the national economy along with the drop in prices and production signaled an end to a chapter of American economic history. The author states that Hoover’s greatest mistake had been getting elected in 1928. “The Post-war Decade had come to its close An era had ended.” (Page 263) This is a great history of a fascinating decade. With Prohibition, the stock market speculation and crash, and the change in the social behavior that was notable in this period, the 1920s were an interesting time in American History. Now onto FDR and the New Deal.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ron Davidson

    A very thorough review of the very turbulent decade of the 1920s. As James Howard Kunstler said in a recent podcast (probably quoting somebody else), "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." We find a lot of "rhyming' with recent years in the story of the 1920s: starting the decade with a blind faith in the power of capital, and attacking those who question the irrational exuberance of the dedication to material gain; the rise of sports and entertainment as dominant forces in American cul A very thorough review of the very turbulent decade of the 1920s. As James Howard Kunstler said in a recent podcast (probably quoting somebody else), "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." We find a lot of "rhyming' with recent years in the story of the 1920s: starting the decade with a blind faith in the power of capital, and attacking those who question the irrational exuberance of the dedication to material gain; the rise of sports and entertainment as dominant forces in American culture; the failure of Prohibition, and the rise of organized crime as a result; and the naivete of those who expected "prosperity" to continue forever. (Republicans never change, do they?) Many more comparisons can be found in the text. Overall a very interesting observation of the USA of the time, from politics to culture, and everyday life. I'll be reading (or listening to) the sequel ("Since Yesterday") sometime soon.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    This is a very interesting little book which touches on the memorable (and not so memorable) events of the Roaring 20's. The author covers most of the things that history lovers already know but adds his own thoughts which makes old material new again. Since it was written in the 1930's, there are some events that have been interpreted a little differently in the present day. An example is the positive light thrown on the Coolidge presidency and the blaming of the great depression solely on Pres This is a very interesting little book which touches on the memorable (and not so memorable) events of the Roaring 20's. The author covers most of the things that history lovers already know but adds his own thoughts which makes old material new again. Since it was written in the 1930's, there are some events that have been interpreted a little differently in the present day. An example is the positive light thrown on the Coolidge presidency and the blaming of the great depression solely on President Hoover. Time has shown that this is not exactly the way it was but that just makes the information more interesting. His analysis of the stock market crash is very well done and understandable even to the reader who knows little about how that system works. Enjoyable and recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    What makes this history of the 1920's so fascinating is that it was published in 1931. This is no cold and bloodless text, no sentimental blue fog draped over the past. It feels immediate. It's very well written. And, yes, there are parallels. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear the author was intentionally alluding to current events. At times, it reads almost like a joke: "...[the] song that gave the Post-war Decade one of its most persistent and wearisome phrases, 'I'll Say She Does.'" Or a What makes this history of the 1920's so fascinating is that it was published in 1931. This is no cold and bloodless text, no sentimental blue fog draped over the past. It feels immediate. It's very well written. And, yes, there are parallels. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear the author was intentionally alluding to current events. At times, it reads almost like a joke: "...[the] song that gave the Post-war Decade one of its most persistent and wearisome phrases, 'I'll Say She Does.'" Or a warning: "It was an era of lawless and disorderly defense of law and order, of unconstitutional defense of the Constitution, of suspicion and civil conflict..." I had wanted to escape into the past and discovered that we never learn anything. Everyone should read this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barbara H

    We read this as a text for a wonderful course I am taking about the "Roaring Twenties". Allen has written an entertaining and full-scale history of this period. It was a perfect complement for an excellent subject. We read this as a text for a wonderful course I am taking about the "Roaring Twenties". Allen has written an entertaining and full-scale history of this period. It was a perfect complement for an excellent subject.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    Much modern popular history is mendacious, written with an ideological agenda that deliberately distorts, or omits, or simply lies about, the truth. Sometimes, therefore, reading history written in the past can offer better information. Earlier historians were often more objective, ideology being less prevalent. Their biases, if they have any, are usually obvious. Thus I thought that "Only Yesterday," a semi-famous history of the 1920s, published in 1931 by a mass-market journalist/intellectual Much modern popular history is mendacious, written with an ideological agenda that deliberately distorts, or omits, or simply lies about, the truth. Sometimes, therefore, reading history written in the past can offer better information. Earlier historians were often more objective, ideology being less prevalent. Their biases, if they have any, are usually obvious. Thus I thought that "Only Yesterday," a semi-famous history of the 1920s, published in 1931 by a mass-market journalist/intellectual of the time, Frederick Lewis Allen, might teach me something new about that decade. But I found, to my sorrow, that I learned little new, and I was instead again reminded of how early the rot in America’s ruling classes set in. In today’s common imagination, the 1920s are the “Roaring Twenties”—an economic boom combined with a new focus on the freedom to do as one pleased (even if Prohibition was the law of the land). The HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" gives a flavor of the times—or at least reflects the common imagination. Only Yesterday contains nothing that is not precisely in-line with today’s common imagination about the decade, which suggests one of two things. Either today’s common imagination correctly reflects the reality of the 1920s—or today’s common imagination was shaped by men like Allen, with their own agenda, and does not fully reflect reality. After reading this book, I conclude the latter seems more likely. It would appear that since all his readers lived through the period he covers, Allen could not distort history. Up to a point, that’s true, since he couldn’t simply lie like many modern historians do. But Allen still distorts, because he is preaching to the choir—he is writing to people like him, members of the 1920s professional-managerial elite, sympathetic to the Progressives and Woodrow Wilson, violently opposed to Calvin Coolidge, and eager to find and support a candidate like Franklin Roosevelt, although he is nowhere mentioned in this book. Allen’s main air is one of supercilious superiority; he knows what is good for the country, and he is pleased to be able to report that the benighted masses are generally getting with the program advocated by their betters. He reports the 1920s through this lens, not objectively. And that his book has been used for decades in schools and colleges reinforces my conclusion that our image of the 1920s, in particular that it was a decade of moral progress, rather than moral decay, arises from this book and the ideology its author pushes. Allen begins with a great deal of detail about Wilson’s attempts to force America to join the League of Nations. Using a combination of over-the-top language about the utopia the League would bring and what he knew to be falsehoods about the League’s origin and purpose, Wilson, the first ideological President, desperately tried to get America to take the medicine he was sure would be good for it. “He warned his audiences that if the Treaty were not ratified, disorder would shake the foundations of the world, and he envisioned ‘those heights upon which there rests nothing but the pure light of the justice of God.’ ” But America, we know, was not interested, something Allen attributes mostly to a lack of “idealism” and a desire to return to “normalcy,” along with a variety of special interests, not to simply a clear-eyed rejection of what Wilson had to offer. Wilson failed, as we also know. In the next section, Allen’s prejudices really begin to show. He sneers at length at “The Big Red Scare.” I don’t know how significant the Communist threat in America was in 1919 and 1920. Certainly, there were many militants demanding Communism and anarchism, and the war atmosphere, combined with the Bolshevik victory in Russia and numerous bombings of public places in America killing hundreds of people (with an impact on society like September 11th on us), certainly led many to rationally believe that Communism was a real present threat to America. That it didn’t turn out to be a problem in the end does not prove that it was not a problem at the time. Communists certainly were a huge problem later, in the 1940s and 1950s, when circumstances were more favorable to Communist traitors and to Communist power gains. Not to mention that the crackdown on Communists in 1919 may have prevented it being a bigger problem in 1921. Allen’s claim, though, is that the public was stupid, the “Red Scare” was a chimera put out by the Attorney General, Mitchell Palmer, for no good reason while Wilson was incapacitated and unable to stop him, and there was zero basis for concern. Allen, who has nothing to say about the massive suspensions of civil liberties by Wilson and the federal government during World War I, nor about the hundreds of African Americans killed in race pogroms at the exact same time as the so-called Red Scare in places like Tulsa, claims that this period was “in a very literal sense, a reign of terror,” even though no Communist was harmed or killed (except a few executed for proven crimes) and within a few months they could stop even looking over their shoulders. The reader concludes that suppression of the Left is Allen’s only concern, and that suggests that he’s simply protecting his own kind and enlarging their freedom for future operation. That said, it’s certainly possible Allen is objectively describing the ideological oppression that he says briefly swept over the country for a few months. Students and businessmen, he says, were only able to state their real opinions in whispers; schoolteachers were made to sign ideological commitments; college professors were dismissed for wrongthink; the media spread historical propaganda; and much more along the same lines. All of it is very familiar, because it is precisely the treatment conservatives suffer under in America today, under constant vicious attack by the woke Left that controls all the levers of power. In 1919, though, things quickly returned to normal, whereas our current Scare isn’t a scare at all, but a deliberate attempt to exercise total ideological dominance and total power. That’s why today’s atmosphere of Left terror has lasted for years, not months, is accelerating, not slowing, and is very unlikely to stop unless it is stopped by force. This is also the chapter in which we are introduced to Calvin Coolidge, not by name, but as the Governor of Massachusetts, “an inconspicuous, sour-faced man with a reputation for saying as little as possible and never jeopardizing his political position by being betrayed into a false move.” Allen’s treatment of Coolidge, the substance of whose Presidency he barely mentions, further betrays his bias in favor of the Left. Coolidge’s "Autobiography" is “smug”; in all his writings and speeches “the most original thing you will find in them is his uncompromising unoriginality.” For no given reason at all, Allen claims “his presidential record was surprisingly negative.” He was “uninspired and unheroic”—Allen wants, obviously, the so-called inspiration and heroism that the Progressives and other men of the Left foisted on America. As to the common people, Allen complains that in the 1920s “public spirit,” that is, eagerness for Left nostrums, “was at low ebb.” Instead, Americans filled up their time with becoming excited about boxing matches and local crimes given national attention, sniffs Allen, along with crosswords and mah-jongg. Allen is glad that at least religiosity declined, accelerated by the appearance of the prosperity gospel and by propaganda pushing science as exalting itself over religion. But what makes up for it in Allen’s eyes is “The Revolution in Manner and Morals” and its effect on the common people, both of which he celebrates, not analyzes. (And revolution was no doubt what it was, although nothing compared to what the Baby Boomers managed to bequeath to us since the late 1960s.) Allen attributes the new moral laxity to many factors: the war, the “growing independence of the American woman,” arising from labor-saving housekeeping devices and an increased ability to be employed outside the home; Freudianism; automobiles; Prohibition; and mass media, especially movies and the new risqué magazines. Slickly, he deliberately confuses new hairstyles and clothing with substantive changes in morals, a motte-and-bailey technique allowing him to respond to any criticism of the corrosive social effect of lax sexual morality with a snippy comment about rubes who think that hairstyles have a moral component. What is very evident is that in every area, the ruling classes set new low standards permitting and encouraging hugely increased moral laxity, which quickly filtered down to the lower orders. Among the “prosperous classes,” “It was better to be modern, —everybody wanted to be modern, —and sophisticated, and smart, to smash the conventions and to be devastatingly frank.” Allen loves all of the resulting moral laxity spreading through the country. Obscene material is, righteously, “upheld by a liberal judge and endorsed by intelligent public opinion.” Those trying to maintain the rules on obscenity found “the intellectuals of the whole country were laughing at them. . . . [T]he taste of the country demanded a new sort of reading matter.” That is, for Allen, the “taste of the country” is really the “taste of the left-wing intellectuals.” He even has a whole chapter celebrating left-wing intellectuals, whom he calls “highbrows,” such as Sinclair Lewis (and also H. L. Mencken, not strictly speaking left-wing but just as corrosive), and magazines like the "American Mercury" (where the odious Albert Jay Nock got his start). This is contrasted with the “hinterlands [where] there was still plenty of old-fashioned sentimental thinking about sex,” leading to “frantic efforts to stay the tide of moral change” by people unable to “all at once forget the admonitions of their childhood.” Sure, Allen says, this laxity led to some temporary bad manners, but was all to the good with a few years of practice in the new laxity. The masses experienced, despite Prohibition, a great deal of new freedom, the release from old moral codes and expectations, and for Allen, this is all to the good, as long as they keep the right people in charge. Not necessarily in charge of the government—the federal government did not have the powers it does now, and its only real relevancy was in foreign affairs and, as the Progressive agenda of hugely expanding federal power began its first major project, Prohibition. Rather, in charge of society at every level. Allen covers Prohibition and the resulting big-city crime, especially Al Capone. He admits Prohibition sharply reduced alcohol consumption, and resultant pathologies, among the common people, but “among the prosperous classes which set the standards of national social behavior, alcohol flowed more freely than ever.” In other words, the rotten ruling classes of the 1920s were responsible for the ills of Prohibition, too. When Allen wrote this book, Prohibition was still in effect, so there is no resolution, just lots of text about the social ills resulting. Other chapters cover land speculation boom and bust in Florida, and, for the last third of the book, the run-up in the stock market and the subsequent crash, in more detail than is really interesting. At the end, the modern reader has learned nothing new about the 1920s, and as I have shown, has good reason to suspect he has been led by the nose down the ideological garden path. Like so much else used in the educational system today, this book is still force-fed to present-day students because it is useful as propaganda to advance the indoctrination of the Left. I suspect that there exist now-obscure works that portray an entirely different picture of the 1920s. Find those books, and give them to your children, not this toxic mush.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    Wow! This was very well written, so informational, and engaging. Real good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen A near-contemporaneous and well written narrative of the 1920’s that still feels fresh today. Allen has a gift for story telling. Within the fourteen distinct chapters here there are a lot of interesting details that I learned. Most of the book is geared towards American attitudes in the big cities as there isn’t much coverage on rural areas. I guess we have to look to Sinclair Lewis and others for that main street perspective. This is not an excessively li Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen A near-contemporaneous and well written narrative of the 1920’s that still feels fresh today. Allen has a gift for story telling. Within the fourteen distinct chapters here there are a lot of interesting details that I learned. Most of the book is geared towards American attitudes in the big cities as there isn’t much coverage on rural areas. I guess we have to look to Sinclair Lewis and others for that main street perspective. This is not an excessively liberal interpretation of history like Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’. But there are some parallels and common sympathies for the average Joe. This book is focused on a smaller number of years and at 300 pages is not a lengthy read which made it more of an enjoyable read for me than Zinn’s bible. Here are some notes on interesting facts and some of the chapters that I enjoyed most. The Big Red Scare Aggressive and extra-judicial actions were taken by local officials in fear of Communist bogeymen. This paranoia was fueled by U.S. Attorney General Palmer who began targeting Reds in 1919. One such outcome was In Hartford, while the suspects were in jail the authorities took the further precaution of arresting and incarcerating all visitors who came to see them, a friendly call being regarded as prima facie evidence of affiliation with the Communist party. Repression of free speech came from many of the same hate groups who targeted socialists and communists. These groups perverted their cause further by going after minorities, Jews and Catholics. In Chicago there was the case of a black boy who drowned after being stoned by a mob for swimming into an area near a ‘whites only’ beach. Dozens of riots followed in Chicago and hundreds lost their lives. In Tulsa the Wall Street Massacre of black Americans occurred largely because others were viewed as a threat to the white establishment. Elsewhere Jews were targeted by none other than Henry Ford - the most visible (or perhaps the wealthiest) anti-Semite in America. Not surprisingly KKK enrollment soared during this period. The Revolution in Manners and Morals In this interesting chapter we unsurprisingly learn that the dress code and mores of young people were rapidly changing following the Great War … In July, 1920, a fashion-writer reported in the New York Times that “the American woman has lifted her skirts far beyond any modest limitation,” which was another way of saying that the hem line was now all of nine inches above the ground. It was freely predicted that skirts would come down again in the winter but instead they climbed a few scandalous inches further. and by 1927 skirt lines were above the knee Supposedly nice girls were smoking cigarettes … It was not until F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had hardly graduated from Princeton and ought to know what his generation was doing, brought out This Side of Paradise in April 1920 that fathers and mothers realized what was afoot and how long it had been going on. But why had this revolution come about? First of all was the state of mind brought about by the war and its conclusion. A whole generation has been infected by the eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-die spirit which accompanied the departure of the soldiers to the training camps and the fighting front. There had been an epidemic not only of abrupt war marriages, but of less conventional liaisons. One American nurse who came back from the front in Europe said in 1920 to an Atlantic Monthly reporter “The older generation pretty much ruined this world before passing it on to us. They give us this thing, knocked to pieces, leaky, red-hot, threatening to blow up; and then they are surprised that we don’t accept it with the same attitude of pretty, decorous enthusiasm with which they received it, way back in the eighties [1880s]” Women had recently gained the right to vote and there more economic opportunities opening to them. Freud and European views on sex were becoming more popular. Practical hairdos like bobs were popular and cosmetic sales exploded. Men and women now drank together. Contraceptives were now popular. Surveys indicated that half of high school kids were engaging in sex of one degree or another. These factors led to liberation. Harding and the Scandals In this chapter Allen seems to have a clear eyed view of Harding. Over the years after Harding’s death we see the drip-by-drip release of scandalous news. Early on there was a lot of historical whitewashing of Harding’s image. Warren Harding had two great assets, and these were already apparent. First he looked as a President of the United States should. He was superbly handsome …. And he was the friendliest man who ever entered the White House. He seemed to like everybody, he wanted to do favors for everybody, he wanted to make everybody happy …. His liabilities were not at first so apparent, yet they were disastrously real. Beyond the limited scope of his political experience he was almost unbelievably ill informed … If he had been discriminating in the choice of his friends and advisors, all might have been well … Nor did Harding appear to be able to distinguish between honesty and rascality … And why did he choose such company? The truth was that under his imposing exterior he was just a common small-town man. Allen touches on the Teapot Dome scandal, the corruption of the Veteran’s bureau,one administration official committed suicide rather than testifying before Congress, the affair and the love child. But most American’s didn’t care at the time during this era of prosperity. In fact most condemnation was directed towards those Senators who were uncovering the scandals. Over time the senators and other Harding detractors would be vindicated but it took until the 1930’s for Harding’s image to be entirely ruined. In the next chapters Allen covers the radio era, the expansion of the auto industry and Ford in particular. During this post war period America becomes the financier to the world. This led, in part, to the Stock Market Crash and subsequent Depression. On the Coolidge chapter we learn that Coolidge never made any effort to “persuade the American people that they were not happily isolated from the outside world.” Coolidge was the right president for America of the late 1800’s but not the 1920’s. He was principled and frugal but he never seriously contemplated the complexities of a global economy. Allen discusses horse racing, boxing, the mah-jong craze, the Lindbergh flight and the Scopes Monkey Trial in a chapter entitled the Ballyhoo Years. There was a detailed assessment of H.L. Mencken. Mencken was an American critic who wrote of the insane excesses of the period and the harbinger of the Great Depression. Alcohol and Al Capone In this chapter, Allen focuses on Chicago. Nothing in recent American history is more extraordinary, as one looks back from the nineteen-thirties, than the ease with which - after generations of uphill fighting by the drys - prohibition was finally written upon the statute-books. The country accepted it not only willingly, but almost absent-mindedly. After the Volstead Act was passed and Prohibition was enacted, it was clear that enforcement was hopeless in such a large country with porous borders and so many legal variants of near liquor that could be modified into outlaw liquor. Allen suggests that within months of the new law that Capone’s boss Johnny Torio decided to corner all the booze in Chicago and pegged Capone as his enforcer. Capone subsequently invented new methods of murder never seen before. These included shooting Thompson sub-machine guns into the car sitting at the stop light and driving away without any real consequences. Capone’s terror began in 1920 many years before the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 when perfecting their depravity Capone’s men dressed as policeman in order to mow down the opposition as they stood lined up against the wall waiting to be frisked. Allen points out that although prohibition is blamed for the rise of organized crime most of the actual increase in barbarity came about from the rise of automobiles. Largely because of the ease at which assassins could get from point A to B, commit a murder, flee the scene and even to dispose of bodies. I guess it would be significantly harder to bring out the horse and wagon every time you needed to dispose of a body. Interestingly enough the violence wasn’t all done with guns either - there were more than a hundred bombings in Chicago in 1929 alone. Home Sweet Florida This was an interesting but odd chapter. This era brought about the raising of Miami and south Florida from the Everglades estuaries and swamps. Allen writes that in 1925 alone there were 25,000 real estate agents selling land and homes in and around Miami and south Florida! The area went from a population of 30,000 in 1920 to 150,000 by 1930. But there were two developments beginning in 1926 that created a large number of communities in South Florida to go bankrupt prior to the crash. They were both caused by deadly hurricanes. And more deadly hurricanes continued into the ‘30s. No malevolent Providence bent upon the teaching of humility could have struck with a more precise aim than the second and worst of these Florida hurricanes. It concentrated upon the exact region where the boom had been the noisiest and most hysterical - the region about Miami. Hitting the Gold Coast early in the morning of September 18, 1926, it piled the waters of Biscayne Bay into the lovely Venetian developments, deposited a five-masted steel schooner high in the street at Coral Gables, tossed big steam yachts on the avenues of Miami, picked up trees, lumber, pipes, tile, debris, and even small automobiles and sent them crashing into the houses, ripped the roofs off jerry-built cottages and villas, almost wiped out the town of Moore Haven on Lake Okeechobee, and left behind it some four hundred dead, sixty-three hundred injured, and fifty thousand homeless. Imagine a place were nearly half the population was homeless. As one could expect the real estate in South Florida plunged and it would be more than a decade before it fully recovered. For the real estate speculators the focus would move to Wall Street in 1927. The last two chapters cover the Bull Market and the Crash. It was notable that Hoover ran on Republican prosperity and rode the wave of stock market exuberance. In 1928 - at least on the surface - the economic drivers were positive. In fact he was so positive of the progress that he said America could wipe out poverty. Allen points out many times that such words would come back to bite Hoover when he would abandon the needs of the poverty stricken and stubbornly refuse to help. In the final pages there are some nice summaries but not so much new information. Allen relates the mood and sense of failure that gripped the country in 1930 following the crash a few months earlier and we begin to see American culture move away from intellectualism and the fine arts. Not so much a move from elitism altogether - that wouldn’t happen until the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964. If you are a history buff and like popular culture then this book will resonate. My favorite era of history is the period from 1910 to 1930 so I especially enjoyed this book. There is also some truly exceptional literature from this period that helps bring these years into focus but this was as good a summary of the 20s that I have read. 5 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Noticed that one of my goodreads friends had read this, and it triggered me to add it. I read it years ago, but it is easily one of the best compact histories of the 1920s. The only thing I can compare it to is the multi-volume Mark Sullivan series "Our Times" (which dealt with several decades, but Allen is a more engaging writer. It is interesting to see the perspective on the 1920s from 1931. Many things that seem iconic about the decade are ignored or glossed over in this book, but it gives Noticed that one of my goodreads friends had read this, and it triggered me to add it. I read it years ago, but it is easily one of the best compact histories of the 1920s. The only thing I can compare it to is the multi-volume Mark Sullivan series "Our Times" (which dealt with several decades, but Allen is a more engaging writer. It is interesting to see the perspective on the 1920s from 1931. Many things that seem iconic about the decade are ignored or glossed over in this book, but it gives a rather immediate sense of the everyday concerns and social attitudes of the time. "Only Yesterday" was turned into a movie by Universal in 1933, though the film tosses out any pretense of being a history of the 1920s; rather the filmmakers just used the title and adapted the story of what was later remade as "Letter From an Unknown Woman." A great movie, nonetheless. Although not quite as good as "Only Yesterday," Allen's study of the 1930s, called "Since Yesterday," is also worth reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lance Carney

    There’s politics, political scandals, the Big Red Scare, laxity of morals among the young and technology that altered the daily habits of Americans. Minus flappers, Prohibition and the market crash of the Great Depression (we hope), this could describe today’s America. But this is the 1920s of Warren Gamaliel Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. Young people were not staring at candlestick phones, wall phones or into phone booths, but were listening with fascination to the new technology There’s politics, political scandals, the Big Red Scare, laxity of morals among the young and technology that altered the daily habits of Americans. Minus flappers, Prohibition and the market crash of the Great Depression (we hope), this could describe today’s America. But this is the 1920s of Warren Gamaliel Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. Young people were not staring at candlestick phones, wall phones or into phone booths, but were listening with fascination to the new technology of radio. Only Yesterday is a wonderful book about the fashion, fads, music, sports of the 1920s, first published in 1931. I was looking for a book to get the feel and mindset of people living in the Roaring Twenties that didn’t read like a textbook and this book was more than I could have hoped for. Only Yesterday is the bee’s knees and highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I pulled this for a hold at my library a few weeks ago so when I saw it again on the shelf, I picked it up. Considered an historical non-fiction classic, the author also wrote Since Yesterday (about the 1930s), which I'd also like to read. Though under 300 pages, this is a tightly written and concise history of the madcap 1920s, covering everything from fads to fashion, murder to prohibition, to the inevitable stock market crash. There was a section highlighting the crazy real estate boom in Flo I pulled this for a hold at my library a few weeks ago so when I saw it again on the shelf, I picked it up. Considered an historical non-fiction classic, the author also wrote Since Yesterday (about the 1930s), which I'd also like to read. Though under 300 pages, this is a tightly written and concise history of the madcap 1920s, covering everything from fads to fashion, murder to prohibition, to the inevitable stock market crash. There was a section highlighting the crazy real estate boom in Florida during this time and, coincidentally, I just picked up a new book focusing on just that titled Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How it Brought on the Great Depression by Christopher Knowlton. I was struck by how many events have been repeated in this country (especially the 2008 housing bubble), with short memories and the same tragic results. But I suppose that's human nature and the infallibility of each generation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anas Saad

    Whenever we discuss the great depression, we only talk about the financial markets and the economical circumstances that led to the depression, but we rarely talk about the social changes in the US during that period, which played a significant role in causing the depression. This book describes the postwar period between 1918 until 1932 from a social point of view, and discusses the significant social changes that occurred during this period. It's a cool easy read with many interesting stories Whenever we discuss the great depression, we only talk about the financial markets and the economical circumstances that led to the depression, but we rarely talk about the social changes in the US during that period, which played a significant role in causing the depression. This book describes the postwar period between 1918 until 1932 from a social point of view, and discusses the significant social changes that occurred during this period. It's a cool easy read with many interesting stories and narratives that affected the US society.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    This classic of popular history is the best first place to go to wade into the decade of the 1920s. Breezily written and spiced with on-the-ground anecdotes that lend depth to the larger events and trends. I read this many years ago, but I'll never forget the story about the company sales dinner in which the salesmen were humiliated by exponentially decreased meal portions based on their sales performance. The sales winner who best exceeded his quota had a grand roast beef feast with all the fix This classic of popular history is the best first place to go to wade into the decade of the 1920s. Breezily written and spiced with on-the-ground anecdotes that lend depth to the larger events and trends. I read this many years ago, but I'll never forget the story about the company sales dinner in which the salesmen were humiliated by exponentially decreased meal portions based on their sales performance. The sales winner who best exceeded his quota had a grand roast beef feast with all the fixins and the loser was served something like a single pea with a sprig of parsley. That story somehow gets at the heart of darkness of the cutthroat side of the modern American Dream; a Republican wet dream of social Darwinism gone amok. One of the most memorably interesting things about the book is its wistful and distanced perspective, because even though this was published in 1931, it already regarded the 1920s as ancient history. ([email protected])

  15. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Fredrick Allen undertook this informal history of the twenties in 1930 to aide him in grieving the loss of his wife and daughter. This shows in how compassionately and understandingly he writes of a confusing and confounding time. His story begins with a look at how Mr and Mrs Smith lived in 1919 and reflects on what they do not know (radio, prize-fighting, Al Capone, normalcy for starters). Each successive chapter focuses on how one aspect of life changed dramatically. After finishing this book Fredrick Allen undertook this informal history of the twenties in 1930 to aide him in grieving the loss of his wife and daughter. This shows in how compassionately and understandingly he writes of a confusing and confounding time. His story begins with a look at how Mr and Mrs Smith lived in 1919 and reflects on what they do not know (radio, prize-fighting, Al Capone, normalcy for starters). Each successive chapter focuses on how one aspect of life changed dramatically. After finishing this book I felt intimately acquainted with Woodrow Wilson, the Labor Movement, Warren G. Harding and his scandals, Lindbergh, Coral Gables, and all that jazz of the twenties.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This probably isn't a fair rating. This was assigned reading in tenth grade history. I read it, completed the required exercises, got As on my papers ... and forgot everything. I just didn't identify with anything in the book ... it seemed like ancient history, and yet it truly was "only yesterday." I should read it again. This probably isn't a fair rating. This was assigned reading in tenth grade history. I read it, completed the required exercises, got As on my papers ... and forgot everything. I just didn't identify with anything in the book ... it seemed like ancient history, and yet it truly was "only yesterday." I should read it again.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I confess I didn't finish this. It was just too boring. If the 1920s had been as yawn-inducing as this book, I would have been throwing myself off a window ledge well before the stock market crash in '29. I confess I didn't finish this. It was just too boring. If the 1920s had been as yawn-inducing as this book, I would have been throwing myself off a window ledge well before the stock market crash in '29.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    Very well narrated by Grover Gardner, this was an enjoyable re-read of a history classic. Allen really brings the '20s into an exciting light. It seems like wedged between WW I and The Depression was a time of exuberance and exciting changes during a period of enlarging freedom (Women Granted the Right to Vote in U.S.) and improved quality of life (radio frenzy). This all jibes peculiarly with sociological pathology (crimes and trials "of the century" like Leopold and Loeb Murder a Neighbor Out Very well narrated by Grover Gardner, this was an enjoyable re-read of a history classic. Allen really brings the '20s into an exciting light. It seems like wedged between WW I and The Depression was a time of exuberance and exciting changes during a period of enlarging freedom (Women Granted the Right to Vote in U.S.) and improved quality of life (radio frenzy). This all jibes peculiarly with sociological pathology (crimes and trials "of the century" like Leopold and Loeb Murder a Neighbor Out of Boredom; "Fatty" Arbuckle Scandal) and loosening of sexual mores in flapper lifestyle and shortening skirts much documented by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The intensely interesting decade gave birth to fads and crazes: mah jongg, hobby radio, crossword puzzles, etc. That wireless invention was bringing in the world's exciting changes and discoveries: Tomb of King Tut, Not all knowledge was embraced and the radio made the nation ringside to The Scopes (Monkey) Trial and the imperiled

  19. 4 out of 5

    Reinhardt

    An opinionated history. Not an arms-length textbook history, it is rather a gut level look back at the roaring 20s. As it was written in 1931, the 20's were still a fresh memory. You can feel the visceral sense of the debates of the time. In that sense, it is dated. the attitude reminds me a bit of HL Mencken: snooty and dismissive, but not vitriolic. But this 'point of view' history does provide some benefits. It makes for a lively read. It also provides a lot of social history. the fads and cha An opinionated history. Not an arms-length textbook history, it is rather a gut level look back at the roaring 20s. As it was written in 1931, the 20's were still a fresh memory. You can feel the visceral sense of the debates of the time. In that sense, it is dated. the attitude reminds me a bit of HL Mencken: snooty and dismissive, but not vitriolic. But this 'point of view' history does provide some benefits. It makes for a lively read. It also provides a lot of social history. the fads and changes that occurred in the 20s are a big concern. It covers fashion, fads, mores, crime, prohibition, politics, scandals, and of course the economy. In many ways, a lot of the concerns of the book sound remarkably contemporary. Socialism and the capitalist, race, new technology (radio), science vs state, the rise of entertainment, weird fads, changing morality, obsession with sex, gender norms, immigration, Asian competition, political scandals, emptying churches, nihilism, antitrust concerns, prohibition, free speech, the markets. It's as if we are rewriting the 1920s a hundred years later. Overall, an enjoyable read to get a sense of what the 1920s felt like, at least what they felt like in the early 30s. It also shows how the time of writing has a big impact. This book says as much about 1931 as about the 1920s.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Autumn Kovach

    This book was SO interesting. I feel like I have a more well rounded view of New York (and America) in the 1920s. All I was really in love with was the flapper dresses and speakeasies. But with this book, the author explains how the change of technology (the radio), culture, the stock market, agriculture, magazines all affected each other. The contrast of city vs. country. Why people moved where. I wish I had taken better notes because there was so much to learn. He also wrote a book about the 3 This book was SO interesting. I feel like I have a more well rounded view of New York (and America) in the 1920s. All I was really in love with was the flapper dresses and speakeasies. But with this book, the author explains how the change of technology (the radio), culture, the stock market, agriculture, magazines all affected each other. The contrast of city vs. country. Why people moved where. I wish I had taken better notes because there was so much to learn. He also wrote a book about the 30s -- only a few years after both decades wrapped up so it feels very current. Many issues they faced as a society are not unlike those of today which brings a unique sort of comfort as well.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Woods

    I love reading history books. It's one of my favorite genres. This book was so interesting because it was written as modern history, that is, right after the events happened, Mr. Allen wrote about them. No worry about being tainted by 2020 thoughts or comparisons. Just full-on history. I loved it. I took my time reading it because I let each chapter soak in. I'm so glad that I did. And if there's anything I learn from history books, it's that as much as things change, they stay the same. I was c I love reading history books. It's one of my favorite genres. This book was so interesting because it was written as modern history, that is, right after the events happened, Mr. Allen wrote about them. No worry about being tainted by 2020 thoughts or comparisons. Just full-on history. I loved it. I took my time reading it because I let each chapter soak in. I'm so glad that I did. And if there's anything I learn from history books, it's that as much as things change, they stay the same. I was continually amazed by how similar things are, 100 years and loads of technology later. There were passages and passages of this book that could easily fit descriptions for today. Truly a great view in to the past. Highly recommend.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    There is something infinitely comforting about reading a book written about an era, contemporaneously with that era vs in deep restrospect with the benefit too much perspective, and finding: humans are recognizable. It’s sort of like “Celebrities, they’re just like us!” Except: “People in the 20s, they’re just like us!” Things I didn’t reallllyy know about the 20s before I read this book: * President Harding’s presidency was so filled with graft that some think his untimely death was bc his wife p There is something infinitely comforting about reading a book written about an era, contemporaneously with that era vs in deep restrospect with the benefit too much perspective, and finding: humans are recognizable. It’s sort of like “Celebrities, they’re just like us!” Except: “People in the 20s, they’re just like us!” Things I didn’t reallllyy know about the 20s before I read this book: * President Harding’s presidency was so filled with graft that some think his untimely death was bc his wife poisoned him to preserve his legacy before his term went completely off the rails * there was a sexual revolution!? * the religious term “Fundamentalists” appeared Among other revelations. Very readable, very relatable. I wish this guy wrote a retrospective of every decade.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    So good! A cracking history of the 1920s, bursting with style and verve, written in 1931. Some of it feels remarkably contemporary and in other spots it caught me off guard in good ways by educating me about how some things were not as I knew them. If editors would do a good job of finding period-written history like this, so much closer to the primary source, I think a lot of us would like to read it. But it might be hard to find books like this that aren't marred by some positions that would b So good! A cracking history of the 1920s, bursting with style and verve, written in 1931. Some of it feels remarkably contemporary and in other spots it caught me off guard in good ways by educating me about how some things were not as I knew them. If editors would do a good job of finding period-written history like this, so much closer to the primary source, I think a lot of us would like to read it. But it might be hard to find books like this that aren't marred by some positions that would be offensive to modern readers.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    This is an approachable, fascinating overview of the 1920s, covering everything from popular culture to hemlines to the Florida land boom to the stock market crash. The original edition was published in 1931 (and is available as a free legal download through the New York Public Library at archive.org).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I have read this book before, but I enjoyed revisiting this informal history of the 1920s in America. Frederick Allen has a very insightful account of the great party Americans had in the decade following the war that ended very suddenly in October 1929. He looks at several cultural aspects of the 20s including the new attitudes toward sex, religion, sports, economics, fashion and politics.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    Aw, the 1920's. As a history buff I of course have my favorite decades; the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. That list also includes the "roaring" 20's. For a while now I've been thinking of the 50's a bit more fondly. Especially considering that Eisenhower being one of my favorite presidents. In fact I always complain about the conformity, blandness, etc of the 1940's and 50's. As I always tell prudes. conservatives, etc "you want to take us back to the 1950's!!!!! BORING BORING f**king decade" yet Aw, the 1920's. As a history buff I of course have my favorite decades; the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. That list also includes the "roaring" 20's. For a while now I've been thinking of the 50's a bit more fondly. Especially considering that Eisenhower being one of my favorite presidents. In fact I always complain about the conformity, blandness, etc of the 1940's and 50's. As I always tell prudes. conservatives, etc "you want to take us back to the 1950's!!!!! BORING BORING f**king decade" yet the 40's and 50's had my favorite presidents; FDR and Eisenhower. Both of who did their fair share of uplifting America. Eisenhower created the highway system following in the footsteps of FDR's "new deal" which expanded and created new jobs and opportunities. When ever I now hear the "leftism is communism. Progressives/social democrats are communist" I just mock back "Oh, so America was a COMMUNIST STATE BACK IN THE 30's, 40's, and 50's RIGHT?! FDR was elected 4 times and died in office! He won in LANDSLIDE EVERY SINGLE TIME. In one election he lost to only one single state. In another he lost to two, and another he lost to 4. Americans LOVED FDR. So I guess America was just FULL OF COMMUNIST, RIGHT?!" Americans got a little taste of social democracy and they LOVED IT. Just like they loved Teddy, FDR's cousin. So actually....ya, I've actually come around and said "Ya I actually do want to go back to the 50's." Back when the mobility of the American citizen was far far more fair. Before the rise of extreme crony laissez-faire capitalism, better worker union force, etc. Back before the New deal was destroyed and forgotten. This of course provides further context into the whole "wanting to go back the 40's and 50's" what they REALLY MEAN is "before the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and counter culture" because they sure as f**k aint talking about FDR and Eisenhower who were progressives. I've thought about American presidents recently. While I detest a lot about Richard Nixon [especially the war on drugs]....he did get us out of Vietnam, he started the EPA, etc. So I don't think Nixon was one of the worse or bad presidents. When it comes to the WORSE presidents it would have to be - 1.George W. Bush. 2.Ronald Reagan. 3.Trump. Ronald Reagan especially for destroying union power in America, destroying the mental health system in America, and Reaganomics; laissez-fair capitalism on steroids. Undercutting and ruining the social safety net and economic prospects. In the intro into the 1920's the author of course has to put the decade in perspective in terms of what came before. Especially the end of the 1910's. Episode of the X files; Mulder: Christmas; 1917. It was a time of dark dark despair. American soldiers were dying in an ungodly raid in a war torn Europe. While at home a deadly strain of the flu virus attacked young and old alike. Tragedy was a visitor on every door step. While a creeping hopelessness set in with every man, women, and child. It was a time of dark dark despair. Scully: You said that. Mulder: But at here at 1501 Larkspur lane; for a pair of star crossed lovers tragedy did not come from war or pestilence. Not by the boot heel of the bombardier, but by their own innocent hand. World war 1 and the Spanish flu which was a perfect time for a pandemic to kill a very large percentage of the population. By the government especially the president the pandemic was largely ignored. We had anti maskers, the virus loved to kill the young and healthy, young and healthy American soldiers dying and fighting in a war overseas. Several instances of soldiers having to sleep like sardines. A perfect environment for the virus to kill 40 million people globally. It very reminds me of the 1970's and into the 1980's. Where the 1970's was a time of dark despair. Poverty and crime were exploding, the energy crisis, economic down turn, political assassinations, the rise of the serial killer. While a creeping hopelessness set in every adult; man and women. It was a time of dark dark despair. Author: The statistics were stupendous. I mean, violent crimes of all kinds was soaring. The spectacles that people were seeing on their TV screen was unlike anything they'd had ever seen before. 70's reporter: Today ordinary citizens who would not otherwise dream of owning a gun are buying one because they're scared out of their wits. #2 70's reporter: William Rubiak is a Ukrainian immigrant who owns a store outside Washington DC. He has been robbed at gun point 4 times in the past two years. Now Rubiak has bought a gun and he says next time he'll use it. Rubiak holds up gun at counter: I will shoot and I will shoot to kill. #3 70's reporter: Fear is the biggest seller of guns. Studies have shown that erach Urban crime wave has set off a new round of gun buying. Lawyer: When Gerald Ford became president within the space of one month were two attempts on his life. Squeaky Fromme and Jane Moore. Both tried to shoot him. It's like 'what's going on?!" #2 author: In the 70's New york was really in danger. The whole social fabric seemed to have been torn in half and crime was just one of the many indications that we were lost. New york cop who caught and interrogated Son of sam. Interview in the 70's: In the last 10 years I'd say the homicide rate has increased by leaps and bounds. We hit our peak probably in 1972 when the Bronx had 430 homicides. New york cop in recent interview: In the 70's the Bronx looked like Berlin...after WW2. Literally looked like Berlin. New york reporter: 1 and a half million people live in this borough. Once that smoke represented industry; progress, jobs. Now it means someone is burning down a building. It has become the arson capital of the world. It happens 30 times a day and the flames are a signal of a national disaster. Reporter interviewing firefighter: Is there anything that can change the situation? Firefighter after putting out another fire: The Bronx; my own estimation is doomed with a capital 'D'. Narrator in Jones town documentary: By the late 1960's and early 70's the streets of America erupted in violence and civil strife. The war in Vietnam, civil rights marches in the streets, and political assassinations played out on television. Out of this turmoil thousands of Americans flocked to hear the sermons of a charismatic preacher named Jim Jones. Sister of Jonestown member: I think the early 60's had been a great time of optimism. There was a belief that we could change the world through social movements. With various political assassinations; Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy. There was definitely a feeling of hopelessness. The message of People's temple [Jone's cult] was 'no, the dream is alive.'. Former cult member: The government was infiltrating and wire taping and trying to kill people or assassinate people. That was what was happening. Historian: It became an era where Americans began to expect the worse. A few days before reading this book I really screwed up my sleeping pattern. Staying up till 8 in the morning. Sometimes stay up till 11 AM. Waking up at 4 in the morning. Tossing and turning unable to go back to sleep. Part of it being the fact that I had to move and share a room. But over all I would get tired around the time I usually go to bed and read my book. I still did it, but less so. So I've been reading it while working out on my bike as well as bedtime to get through it faster and keep up with it. So I had a hard time getting "into" it and going with the author's writing style, but after a couple pages and first two chapters I began to really enjoy it. The book starts off with the end of the decade; 1919. Talking about the decade in general. Then it stays on 1919 into the 1920's. This book was written during The great depression 1930's...which is incredibly revealing and ironic. The author goes on about Woodrow Wilson and the Treaty of Versailles. As well as the League of nations which Wilson promoted. Which was a precursor to The united nations. According to the author Wilson never liked the treaty and apparently made the treaty more "fair" then it otherwise would of been. Wilson then went to the American people and tried to defend the treaty and the things he said about it are laughable and ironic as hell considering what the treaty lead to; Nazi Germany. The holocaust. WW2. WIlson literally tried to argue that the treaty would make the world safer and ensure peace. How? By undercutting and economically RUINING a nation?! *wink, wink* [America ruining the economy of Russia and several other countries] * In this way Woodrow Wilson kind of reminds me of Lydon Johnson who knew Vietnam was total b*llsh*t but kept on with the war anyway. After all Wilson apparently was the one who negotiated to make the treaty less bad, but of course it still lead to WW2. After talk about the fall out of the WW1 and the treaty, Wilson's stroke, etc. It then moves on to the Red scare. Even before the beginning of the Red scare, it mentions and talks about the "high cost of living" in the 1910's, the hatred of greedy landowners and renters, and union strikes. I couldn't help but hear Daria from the 90's show Daria say "Bolshevist cementaries" when ever the author used the term "Bolshevist" although he later uses the term "communist". I am anti communist but democratic socialist and I was very happy to see the author acknowledge the difference. What the f**k ever happened to "We both profit from each other. Worker and employer. MUTUAL RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER"????? I am not anti capitalist. I want there to be more BUSINESSES and FREE COMPETITION. Not crony capitalist made of nothing but just monopolies. I DESPISE monopolies. I've been known to go on anti monopoly tirades. I just want to scream "Ya, great for you BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?!" And these billionaire scumbags need to pay their fair share!!!!!! And we need to use that money to improve the MATERIAL CONDITIONS OF THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE. Not just let the #1 f**king HOG IT ALL. These mother f**kers want to talk about "patriotism" and accuse me of being anti American.....what the F**K IS AMERICAN ABOUT HOGGING ALL THE MONEY FOR YOUR SELF AND LETTING THE COUNTRY ROT?! These are the same a$$h(les who force women to give birth "for the baby. We are so much for the baby. That's a LIFE! Abortion is MURDER" and once the baby is actually born "GET THE F**K OUT OF HERE! YOU GET NOTHING FROM US! YOU CAN ROT for ALL WE CARE! YOU COST TOO MUCH!!! YOUR A PARASITE ON THE SYSTEM!!!!" So the author talks about the red scare in the 1910's during a rise of union strikes. The author points out this obvious point. Scumbags realized they can use the word "communist" as a scare tactic to paint on unions; worker's rights. A very good chapter and I kept going "Nothing new under the sun. Same sh*t. Different scumbags. Just parroting b*llsh*t from the 1910's!!!" One reason for so many of the strikes was the cost of living rising. I would of liked for the author to have explained why. I suspect it might of been due to WW1 and the pandemic. A very good chapter on the Red scare. Lots of similarities to the 1950's red scare and with Russia invading Ukraine. I couldn't help but think of the prejudice against Russians when the book talks about prejudice against "the slavs" and "amercanism"; xenophobia and American jingoism. As I said "nothing new under the sun" because part of the red scare was bashing colleges as beehives for communist and radicals. They even went so far as to promote "Americanism"; American nationalism where children are brainwashed with hypernationalism/jingoism....I was shocked when I read that. Literally nothing new under the sun!!! MAGA existed back in the 1910's, who f**king knew?! Anti maskers and all. note: The author doesn't talk about the pandemic other then mention it calling it an "epidemic" instead of a pandemic. Doesn't mention the anti maskers. To be clear....I do see an issue with colleges. I am very anti SJW and I do think SJW has infected the colleges and I don't think pseodo science and racism and sexism should be taught at a college...but to paint colleges like Fox news claims "oh colleges are just swamped with radicals and communist" is total fear mongering and total b*llsh*t. I don't believe SJWS are just swarming college campuses. The book then turns to the rise of the KKK in the 1910's which got bigger and bigger at the end of the decade and into the 1920's. As the author pointed out it was a perfect storm for the KKK to rise. Also got to love this quote from the author "Here was a chance to dress up the village bigot and let him be a Knight of the Invisible Empire." I highly appreciated that the 1910's was not cast aside. Giving context into the 1920's. At this point I also began to go along with the author's writing. The author mentions the radio coming out, food fads; eskimo pies, a game I had never heard before. It then talks about the sexual revolution of the period. The fashion industry in terms of retail, the younger generation being open about sex. Going out to the cars with their dates and having premarital sex or "petting"; making out, probably some oral sex, who knows. Eventually it begins to talk more about the trends and revolution in terms not just sex but women's equality as well as men. Smoking cigarettes was considered very unmanly and smoking and drinking for women was considered unwomenly but within the 1920's men began smoking cigarettes and women began to drink alcohol and smoke. The author mentions several times that in the post WW1/Spanish flu era there was this great "disillusion"ment towards the 1910's. Towards the old "puritan" way or living. The author mentions the fact that it took a lot of people to find comfort in the "modern" zeitgeist of the decade because they didn't have anything else to replace the "old ways". Which made me of course think of Nietzsche. The author says if anything, at least have a few drinks and screw. Might as well have some fun.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kurtbg

    This book provides and high-level review of what happened in the 1920's. I believe this was written in the 1950's. Amazingly it shows how things really don't change - mainly the boundaries of extremes get pushed. Every generation goes through a generational Amnesia, as it doesn't know what came before, so the perception of reality is baselined at now... and not the 20-30 yrs prior in which their parents grew up. This is the importance in reading and knowing history. The below quote applies to eve This book provides and high-level review of what happened in the 1920's. I believe this was written in the 1950's. Amazingly it shows how things really don't change - mainly the boundaries of extremes get pushed. Every generation goes through a generational Amnesia, as it doesn't know what came before, so the perception of reality is baselined at now... and not the 20-30 yrs prior in which their parents grew up. This is the importance in reading and knowing history. The below quote applies to every decade up to today: "The older generation had certainly pretty well ruined this world before passing it on to us." Other chestnuts: - Preachers using bible verses saying god support you to be rich - The morality of elders imposed on participants returning from WWI and being forced to puritanical and pollyanna morals that world had destroyed for them (paraphrase by me) - the belief in uninhibited sex - Fundamentalists pushing through an amendment (prohibition) which nobody thought would pass, but did, and couldn't possibly be funded to enforce. It moved the public from grain (beer) to distilled (gin) alcohol consumption, created a lucrative black market (Capone) which pervaded racketeering into government at all levels, thereby training them on how to game the system. "Whats the use of trying to do anything about?" - The rise of sensationalism of sex, crazy stunts, Charles Lindbergh flying to Paris (though others did similar flights before him) as the press/media learned that leading with one top story is what draws the people in. Case in point: a guy gets stuck in a cave as he was worming his way through the underground to find natural resources for companies. He gets stuck and captures the headlines for weeks until he dies. A mine collapse during the same period gets scant coverage even though many people died. - The profits of heroism - Charles Lindbergh again, but today it's celebrities who make even less an impact and receive great compensation: CEO's, sports players, musicians. "A disillusioned nation fed on cheap heroics and scandal and crime was revolting against the low estimate of human nature..." - the consolidation of the press into less owners. Local reporters being replaced by access to agencies providing content nationally. - advertising from what a product does to selling a lifestyle - "hands off" approach to Business by the president/government (basically cash and carry and letting the public get swindled and then having them pay to clean-up the mess, see The Big Short) - The increase in industrial corporations mergers - financial instruments that had holdings of Company A, which invested in Company B, which owned pieces of Company C, and Company C invested in Company A... - securities being sold of investment trusts which held stock in holding companies which owned stocks of banks, which had affiliates which in turn controlled holding companies, etc - "The big bull market covered a multitude of sins."" The economic system had proved itself too complex... to continue unbridled" (ha ha!) - lost prestige of religion - Extreme PC-ism based on nothing "The red scare" (See Trumbo), where an actual government committee was funded to perform witch hunts by pointing a finger at someone and accusing someone of people a US-hating communist. - Political fund-raising and government contract scams where the whistle-blowers are treated as the bad guys, even by the press. The circle of life can be dizzying.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is, as the title suggests, the history of the 1920s, chiefly in the USA. My first surprise with the book was that it wasn’t written recently but in 1930 and first published in 1931. This fact cannot be spotted immediately, thus it is a rare kind of the historical text that remains valid. It is true that the book omits or pays a little attention to some themes, which other more modern books on the period describe, most importantly life of African-Americans and jazz music. At the same time it This is, as the title suggests, the history of the 1920s, chiefly in the USA. My first surprise with the book was that it wasn’t written recently but in 1930 and first published in 1931. This fact cannot be spotted immediately, thus it is a rare kind of the historical text that remains valid. It is true that the book omits or pays a little attention to some themes, which other more modern books on the period describe, most importantly life of African-Americans and jazz music. At the same time it illuminates in detail such advances as a sexual revolution (not in the 60s), appearance of tabloids and sensational press – I’ve learnt a new word – ballyhoo from it :) It is astounding how the life drastically changed during the roaring 20s – out of my four decades on this Earth I cannot select one that shifted the world so drastically. Despite the fall of the USSR, rise of the internet and election of non-white as a president of the USA. It is interesting how open the author speaks about prohibition and Al Capone, I thought that a lot of details were open to general public much later. Other flashlights: the Red Scare of 1920, Lindbergh’s flight, Ford model A, boom and crash of the stock market, Harding and corruption, Wilson and the world peace. Recommended as a forgotten jewel of the early 1930s to anyone who has the basic knowledge of the period

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I originally read this during my college days, but enjoyed re-reading it just as much in recent months. Written just after the '20s ended, this is a lively, informative review of a tumultuous decade. Frederick Lewis Allen, who is a wonderful writer, takes his readers from the failed idealism of the crusade of the "war to end all wars," through the fearful reaction to "the Reds" and radical revolutionaries, through the escapist and hedonistic escapades of the rich and young, and through the sen I originally read this during my college days, but enjoyed re-reading it just as much in recent months. Written just after the '20s ended, this is a lively, informative review of a tumultuous decade. Frederick Lewis Allen, who is a wonderful writer, takes his readers from the failed idealism of the crusade of the "war to end all wars," through the fearful reaction to "the Reds" and radical revolutionaries, through the escapist and hedonistic escapades of the rich and young, and through the sensational adventures and criminal trials of the great gangs and their flamboyant leaders. One of the greatest virtues of this book is the "you are there" feeling that flows through his narrative. Slang, clothing styles, popular "isms" and fads of the day all feel fresh.'' For those especially who disdain "heavy history," this work displays well the wonder of remembering the recent past, and discovering once again that the people that lived then were hardly different from our own "modern" times.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Goodwin

    Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen starts out as an interesting book. Filled with specific details, Allen does an exemplary job of describing life before the 1920’s. After that chapter, everything goes crazy. This book is like a rich, delicious cake. The first few bites are amazing, and the reader doesn’t want to stop eating. The cake begins to get sweeter and harder to digest until the reader has to take a break before starting again. Only Yesterday is similar to this example. Although the Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen starts out as an interesting book. Filled with specific details, Allen does an exemplary job of describing life before the 1920’s. After that chapter, everything goes crazy. This book is like a rich, delicious cake. The first few bites are amazing, and the reader doesn’t want to stop eating. The cake begins to get sweeter and harder to digest until the reader has to take a break before starting again. Only Yesterday is similar to this example. Although the first chapters were captivating, the rest of the book only contained a few sentences that were worth reading. The book began to drag, and all of the facts were thrown in a non-chronological order, making the book confusing and dull. Even so, the beginning of the book was an insight into daily life for an ordinary family and was delightful to read. Overall, the book was a long, tiring journey whose end was boring and monotonous like the chapters preceding it. This book is recommended to readers who enjoy reading plain, stated facts and a more encyclopedia-like book on the 1920’s.

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