Speakeasy Minute

phactjazz4In preparation for the Speakeasy – Prohibition for a Cause event,

we present this Speakeasy Minute article to share with you what it was like to live in the 1920’s.


The 1920s era went by such names as the Jazz Age, the Age of Intolerance, the Roaring Twenties, and the Age of Wonderful Nonsense. This was the beginning of modern America.   It was a period of sustained economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge. Because, by the end of 1918, the country had not only survived a deadly worldwide influenza epidemic but World War I was over.  Most Americans felt hopeful and cheerful.  This was an age of dramatic social and political change.  For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929.  This economic growth swept many Americans into an affluent but unfamiliar “consumer society.”  Thanks to nationwide advertising and the spread of chain stores, people from coast to coast bought the same goods, listened to the same music, did the same dances and even used the same slang.  Many Americans were uncomfortable with this new, urban, sometimes racy “mass culture”; in fact, for many–even most–people in the United States, the 1920s brought more conflict than celebration. However, for a small handful of young people in the nation’s big cities, the 1920s were roaring indeed.

At the beginning of the roaring twenties, the United States was converting from a wartime to peacetime economy. When weapons for World War I were no longer needed, there was a temporary stall in the economy. After a few years, the country prospered. In this decade, America became the richest nation on Earth and a culture of consumerism was born. It was the time of the $5 workday, good worker pay for those days. People spent money for better roads, tourism, and holiday resorts. Real estate booms, most notably in Florida, sent land prices soaring.  Canned foods, ready-made clothing and household appliances liberated women from much household drudgery. The influence of Ford`s methods of mass production and efficiency enabled other industries to produce a huge variety of consumer appliances.

The roaring twenties ushered in a rich period of American writing, distinguished by the works of such authors as Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carl Sandburg and Ernest Hemingway.