The Roaring Twenties: A Time of Rapid Change


The Roaring Twenties was a time period in American history that was characterized by social change, turbulent political times, and economic growth that created a societal environment in which citizens could be financially successful. Although,there was an economic boon during this period, people were also disillusioned by religious controversies and racial strife. Therefore, the roar of the Twenties could not silence the progressive echoes of discord.

Cultural Change

During the Roaring Twenties, a phenomenon developed that embodied the new social spirit of the times. Flappers were young women with active lifestyles who were associated with Jazz and dance movements, such as the Charleston. These women came to symbolize the culture of the Twenties in that they were rebellious and modern. Their dress and their style offered this generation sophistication and glamor.

This generation was also typified by a growing religious controversy between conservatives (traditionalists) and liberals (modernists). During this era, people either turned faithfully to God or sought to negate the importance of religion in their lives. The concept of evolution soon began to challenge Creationism. Because of scientific discoveries and new inventions during this time, educational institutions promoted scientific learning and were labeled as “incubators of agnosticism”.

Although the Roaring Twenties had a reputation for the good life, there were many unsavory characters, including small town criminals and organized gangsters, who created disorder and mayhem for ordinary citizens. For instance, “(In 1926), one person in every ten thousand met a violent death in the 118 leading cities of the United States…”. Thus, advances in law and order systems became important societal changes during this era.

Political Change

In terms of political changes in the country, people began to worry about communism and other beliefs that did not support the American Dream. The Red Scare was a database created to store images of radical movements. The reason this database was so controversial is that it was a threat to “right-thinking men” who believed it caused anti-red hysteria. Many Americans began to be suspicious of the advancement of new technology.

Other political changes reflected social unrest due to racial strife. Most notably, the Twenties saw the strengthening of hate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan. Unlike the post-Civil War period, the Klan of the 1920s had a national following in many Northeastern and Midwestern states where there were labor tensions caused by ethnic divides. The Klan put Roman Catholics, Jews, and blacks in jeopardy of oppression through fear and intimidation tactics.

One of the most recognized political changes of this period was known as Prohibition. Due to the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the sale of alcohol became illegal. Many Americans refused to give up their beer and other alcoholic beverages, despite governmental restrictions. This caused a national uproar as many people broke the law rather than abstain from drinking.

Economic Change

The postwar era saw a big economic upswing in terms of the high availability of “easy money.” “The post-war recession was forgotten as everyone went on a spending spree”. Shoppers rushed to buy extravagant products, like houses and cars. This swell in the economy helped to create not only wealth, but also jobs.

Production profits became commonplace during these boom times. The discovery and implementation of new manufacturing methods caused factories to advance. Consequently, the working man noticed an increase in his wages. Department stores and service station chains helped in the profit-making business by lowering prices so that wages increased even more. These were definitely good times for the U.S. economy.

During this national boon, credit card processing was born. With this economic advancement, Americans were now able to make purchases and then pay for them at a later date. Thus, the economy prospered greatly because of increased consumer spending. People all across the country could maintain above average lifestyles on credit for the first time in American history.

The Roaring Twenties was a remarkable, yet formidable, period that produced many changes socially, politically, and economically. As people prospered financially, they began to ponder their worth spiritually. Along with mass society, there came a new generation of thoughtful and ambitious youth who challenged traditionalists to accept change. As a result, modernity in this country made progressive leaps and bounds that helped to shape the future of American society.