I saw a sig today that said something to the effect of "Bush is the Republicans' Jimmy Carter". I never thought I'd ever see a worse President than Carter, but Bush proved me wrong. But he's not Carter, he's Coolige.
I fear that whichever of the two candidates I'll be voting against this November wins, our next President will be Herbert Hoover, because those who refuse to study history are indeed destined to repeat it.
Our leaders haven't been paying attention. None of them. Not our political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, not any of them. We are led by the clueless.
That link is to an online copy of a history book I was assigned in an undergraduate general studies history class. As my late Grandmother, who was a young woman in the roaring twenties said, Hoover didn't cause the depression, Coolige did.
She also said that the roaring twenties didn't roar for anyone she know. The rich were doing fantastic, but the ordinary working class stiff did badly.
The nation at war had formed the habit of summary action, and it was not soon unlearned. The circumstances and available methods had changed, that was all. Employers who had watched with resentment the rising scale of wages paid to labor, under the encouragement of a government that wanted no disaffection in the ranks of the workers, now felt that their chance had come. The Germans were beaten; the next thing to do was to teach labor a lesson. Labor agitators were a
;; bunch of Bolsheviks, anyhow, and it was about time that a man had a chance to make a decent profit in his business.
Chapter III: Teh Terrorists. Oh wait, it's the "red menace", my bad.
Chapter IV talks about the new technologies everyone was going nuts over, which reminds me of today with the internet and P2P:
That winter, however-the winter of 1921-22-it came with a rush. Soon everybody was talking, not about wireless telephony, but about radio. A San Francisco paper described the discovery that millions were making: "There is radio music in the air, every night, everywhere. Anybody can hear it at home on a receiving set, which any boy can put up in an hour." In February President Harding had an outfit installed in his study, and the Dixmoor Golf Club announced that it would install a "telephone" to enable golfers to hear church services. In April, passengers on a Lackawanna train heard a radio concert, and Lieutenant Maynard broke all records for modernizing Christianity by broadcasting an Easter sermon from an airplane. Newspapers brought out radio sections and thousands of hitherto utterly unmechanical people puzzled over articles about regenerative circuits, sodion tubes, Grimes reflex circuits, crystal detectors, and neutrodynes. In the Ziegfeld "Follies of 1922" the popularity of "My Rambler Rose" was rivaled by that of a song about a man who hoped his love might hear him as she was "listening on the radio." And every other man you met on the street buttonholed you to tell you how he had sat up until two o'clock the night before, with earphones clamped to his head, and had actually heard Havana! How could one bother about the Red Menace if one was facing such momentous questions as how to construct a loop aerial?
Then, it seems, as now, nerds (although the term "nerd" was not to be coined for decades) were cool, even though "cool" wasn't to be coined for a long time either.
Then, unlike now, a "geek" was someone who swallowed live animals.
The book doesn't mention it (at least I don't remember the book mentioning it), but the recording labels were as scared of radio then as they are of the internet and P2P today.
Chapter V is "The Revolution in Manners and Morals", but it would paint the picture of any generation.
The dresses that the girls-and for that matter most of the older women-were wearing seemed alarming enough. 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 was now all of nine inches above the ground. It was freely predicted that skirts would come down again in the winter of 1920-21, but instead they climbed a few scandalous inches farther. The flappers wore thin dresses, short-sleeved and occasionally (in the evening) sleeveless; some of the wilder young things rolled their stockings below their knees, revealing to the shocked eyes of virtue a fleeting glance of shin-bones and knee-cap; and many of them were visibly using cosmetics. "The intoxication of rouge," earnestly explained Dorothy Speare in Dancers in the Dark, "is an insidious vintage known to more girls than mere man can ever believe." Useless for frantic parents to insist that no lady did such things; the answer was that the daughters of ladies were doing it, and even retouching their masterpieces in public. Some of them, furthermore, were abandoning their corsets. "The men won't dance with you if you wear a corset," they were quoted as saying.
My dad, who was born in 1931, informs me that in the twenties, as now, women (including his aunts) wore tattoos; the folks his parents' age all had them.
Not content with example and reproof, legislators in several states introduced bills to reform feminine dress once and for all. The New York American reported in 1921 that a bill was pending in Utah providing fine and imprisonment for those who wore on the streets "skirts higher than three inches above the ankle."
Not unlike now, is it? BTW, when in history have we gotten our sense of style from prisoners?
VI. Harding and the Scandals
VII. Coolidge Prosperity
IX. The revolt of the highbrows: When, however, the middle-class majority turned from persecuting political radicals to regulating personal conduct, they met with bitter opposition not only from the bright young college graduate but from the whole of a newly class-conscious group. The intellectuals of the country -the "civilized minority," as the American Mercury liked to call them-rose in loud and bitter revolt.
X. The Drug Wars -- but then, the banned drug was alcohol, with the same high prices to society as the modern day prohibition.
XI. The Real Estate Boom
Steadily, during that feverish summer and autumn of 1925, the hatching of new plans for vast developments continued. A great many of them, apparently, were intended to be occupied by what the advertisers of Miami Beach called "America's wealthiest sportsmen, devotees of yachting and the other expensive sports," and the advertisers of Boca Raton called "the world of international wealth that dominates finance and industry . . . that sets fashions . . . the world of large affairs, smart society and leisured ease." Few of those in the land-rush seemed to question whether there would be enough devotees of yachting and men and women of leisured ease to go round.
Everywhere vast new hotels, apartment houses, casinos were being projected. At the height of the fury of building a visitor to West Palm Beach noticed a large vacant lot almost completely covered with bath- tubs. The tubs had apparently been there some time; the crates which surrounded them were well weathered. The lot, he was informed, was to be the site of "One of the most magnificent apartment buildings in the South"-but the freight embargo had held up the contractor's building material and only the bathtubs had arrived! Throughout Florida re- sounded the slogans and hyperboles of boundless confidence. The advertising columns shrieked with them, those swollen advertising columns which enabled the Miami Daily News, one day in the summer of 1925, to print an issue of 504 pages, the largest in newspaper history, and enabled the Miami Herald to carry a larger volume of advertising in 1925 than any paper anywhere had ever before carried in a year. Miami was not only "The Wonder City," it was also "The Fair White Goddess of Cities," "The World's Playground," and "The City Invincible." Fort Lauderdale became "The Tropical Wonderland," Orlando "The City Beautiful," and Sanford "The City Substantial."
By 1927, according to Homer B. Vanderblue, most of the elaborate real-estate offices on Flagler Street in Miami were either closed or practically empty; the Davis Islands project, "bankrupt and unfinished," had been taken over by a syndicate organized by Stone & Webster; and many Florida cities, including Miami, were having difficulty collecting their taxes. By 1928 Henry S. Villard, writing in The Nation, thus described the approach to Miami by road: "Dead subdivisions line the highway, their pompous names half-obliterated on crumbling stucco gates. Lonely white-way lights stand guard over miles of cement side- walks, where grass and palmetto take the place of homes that were to be
.... Whole sections of outlying subdivisions are composed of unoccupied houses, past which one speeds on broad thoroughfares as if traversing a city in the grip of death." In 1928 there were thirty-one bank failures in Florida; in 1929 there were fifty-seven; in both of these years the liabilities of the failed banks reached greater totals than were recorded for any other state in the Union
XII. The Big Bull Market
ONE DAY IN FEBRUARY, 1928, an investor asked an astute banker about the wisdom of buying common stocks. The banker shook his head. "Stocks look dangerously high to me," he said. "This bull market has been going on for a long time, and although prices have slipped a bit recently, they might easily slip a good deal more. Business is none too good. Of course if you buy the right stock you'll probably be all right in the long run and you may even make a profit. But if I were you I'd wait awhile and see what happens."
The book, as I said, is available completely online; just click the link at the beginning of this article, hosted by a university in Virginia. You can buy a dead tree version, too; Google tells me Amazon will sell you a copy. I still have the paperback copy I bought form the school bookstore in 1977.
This nonfiction history book is scarier than Stephen King's fiction.