“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual.”
– Ernest Hemingway
The Jazz Age of the 1920’s was a decade of dramatic change, both socially and politically. The number of Americans living in cities drastically increased as people moved out of the countryside and away from farm life. The huge economic boom of the twenties saw the nation’s total wealth more than double sweeping America rapidly into a consumer society. The advertising world exploded and chain stores opened in every state which led to people rushing to buy the latest products from coast to coast. Music found its way into every home with over 500 radio stations hitting the airwaves by 1923 and by 1929 there was a radio in over 12 million households.
However, the most important consumer product of the era was the automobile. At the beginning of the twenties low prices along with generous credit made purchasing a car an affordable luxury, in 1924 you could buy a Ford Model T for just $260. By the time 1929 rolled around the car had become a necessity and there was one vehicle on the road for every five Americans, giving life to the automobile economy and new businesses catering to drivers such as motels and service stations.
1920 brought with it a marked and symbolic change in the roles of women in America. On August 18th, the 19th Amendment was ratified, finally granting women the right to vote. Millions of women were employed in white collar jobs, and with the invention of time saving appliances like the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner and widespread access to the electricity which powered them, the “New Woman” was born. The term “flapper” became a household word and referred to a generation of young women who wore short skirts, cut their traditionally long hair into a bob, listened to jazz, danced, smoked in public, and flaunted their disdain for conventional socially acceptable behavior. Flappers became a symbol of the era, a reflection of the newfound freedoms women could enjoy.
Despite all this, perhaps the most outstanding thing about the 1920’s is prohibition. In 1919 the 18th amendment to the constitution banned the manufacture and sale of all “intoxicating liquor”, and at midnight on January 16th 1920 the ban went into effect and every bar, tavern, and saloon in the United States was closed down. The long fought battle to ban alcohol led by temperance groups had been won…. or so they thought.
The arise of prohibition failed to stop the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol. Instead, the liquor trade simply went underground. In place of ordinary bars, racketeers, bootleggers, and organised crime figures opened up “Speakeasies” and controlled the manufacture and sale of the country’s alcohol. One such crime figure was notorious gangster, Al Capone who reportedly had over 1000 gunmen and half of Chicago’s police force on his payroll.
“Some call it bootlegging, some call it racketeering. I call it a business.” – Al Capone
So, if you feel like stepping back into the golden age of the roaring twenties, just give us a call, we know of a great Speakeasy you can hang out in and as it happens we’re in need of a few good detectives to solve a mysterious murder. Now that sounds like berries to me!