Snaxshot#57: The Euphoric 20s
era of new age escapism
Breaking free from the past, disassociating from the future, at least that’s what the 1920s heralded—a dramatic break between what was once rural, Victorian Americana, whilst ushering a more modern era, but in the rush to get there, those collectively being left behind became the friction point that led the US to its final halt at the beginning of the 30s, and the start of the Great Depression. Yet, prior to the roaring 20s, Americans had already embarked on crossing a major cultural chasm, propelled by industrialization, the end of World War I and the invention of things like the first commercial automobile thanks to Ford, urbanization and mass consumerism helping them collectively break free from a restrictive Victorian past —mainstream radio, movie palaces, dance halls, airplanes made their first flights, women began to challenge their outdated roles by entering the workforce and fighting for suffrogate, and like starting a car engine, the country began to roar forward.
What led to this era, was the convergence of many movements, the flappers loose and shorter dresses for example, where symbolic of liberation of represive victorian wear (think corsettes and over the top dresses that made mobility difficult) —outspoken women who became immortalized in stories and silent films (think F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work and notorious Jazz Baby, Clara Bow) these icons brought on by the growth of an urban, industrial economy that required a larger female labor force, which led to their yearning for more independence. As society modernized, so did the youth began to change, with young women and men taking advantage of the dawn of public spaces, automobiles, and the birth of “date” as a term —that freed the new generation from their parents and chaperone’s watchful eyes, finally free from adult supervision to indulge in a life experience of their own.
Sex talk, once considered taboo, accelerated post WWI, given that these historical events popularized younger women to engage in pre-marital sex, which allowed for this generation to begin more honest conversations around intercourse. However, sex did not equal more children, in fact as sex talks became more common, women stepped up birth control, that drove the number of children being born from American women from seven to three and the concept of sex for pleasure as opposed to a means of procreation, gained popularity.
The prosperity of the 1920s was almost a century in the making, stemming from industrialization, as factories and shops became more “mechanic” the work week of those who were urban blue collar workers fell by 20% while their wages increased by 25%—Americans had more time and money to be able to spend it on leisure, and thanks to modernized methods of production and distribution, they were also able to buy things at more competitive prices, further extending their wages. And lastly, as technology allowed for media to become more “mainstream” it also brought about the proliferation of advertising —music, film and publishing industries began their “golden eras” exposing citizens of all tiers to a new kind of gospel, entertainment. Dreams, illusions and longing would become the corner stones of the “American dream” and the commercialization of hope would launch America as the consumerist nation we know it to be today.