The Roaring 20’s

An exerpt from “Delancey Place

In todays excerpt the Roaring 1920s brought a boom in cigarette smoking. U.S. cigarette production doubled during the decade as people hungered for sophistication, and as Prohibition, which had unintentionally increased alcohol consumption, increased cigarette smoking along with it:

“New issues of securities of industrial companies would increase from 690 [in 1924] to nearly 2,000 in 1929. Brokers’ loans to investors and share ownership would quadruple by 1929. The number of Americans who paid tax on income of a million dollars a year also would quadruple.

“The new optimism about the future led to a boom in consumer spending. Radio sales doubled in 1923, then tripled in 1924. On average, nearly every family had a car, and drivers were branching out from black Model Ts to an assortment of new makes in colors ranging from ‘Florentine cream’ to ‘Versailles violet.’ Average people bought items they hadn’t imagined spending money on just a few years earlier: from Listerine mouthwash and crossword puzzle books to vacuum cleaners and meat slicers to new golf clubs and even property in Florida.

“Prosperity changed the culture. Suddenly there were traffic lights, filling stations, and new concrete highways with chicken dinner restaurants and tourist rest stops. Giant broadcast radio stations with nationwide hookups brought Graham McNamee’s play-by-play or the Happiness Boys or reports on the Scopes Monkey Trial into more than one out of three homes. More Americans followed politics now, including the presidential nominating convention, which was covered live from Madison Square Garden. …

“Along with America’s new wealth came a hunger for sophistication. College applications spiked, as did international travel. The most popular nonfiction books included Outline of Science, The Story of Philosophy, Why We Behave Like Human Beings, and Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette (the top seller). The now-literary-minded masses read an astonishing rush of new novels during this period: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Newly minted intellectuals tried to parse James Joyce’s Ulysses or T S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. New fans of the arts listened to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and saw plays by Eugene O’Neill, who won three Pulitzer Prizes during the 1920s.

“One sure way for both men and women to appear sophisticated was to smoke cigarettes. Advertisers depicted pretty girls, cigarettes in hand, imploring men to blow smoke their way. Tobacco manufacturers announced that ‘now women may enjoy a companionable smoke with their husbands and brothers.’ Women had earned the vote and entered the work force, now millions of women of all ages exercised their right to take up smoking. Blue tobacco smoke wafted through theater lobbies, where Greta Garbo’s most important silent movies – Flesh and the Devil, The Temptress, The Torrent, and Love – appeared in 1926 and 1927, just as talking movies debuted. Sports fans smoked as they watched Babe Ruth, also a smoker, hit sixty home runs in 1927 for the New York Yankees; his teammates, known as ‘Murderers’ Row,’ easily smoked their way through the World Series that year. Prohibition also fueled smoking, just as it increased illegal alcohol consumption. The more people drank, the more they craved a smoke. …

“During the decade prior to 1929, U.S. cigarette production doubled.”

Frank Partnoy, The Match King, Public Affairs, Copyright 2009 by Frank Partnoy, pp. 91-93.

To visit our homepage or sign up for our daily email click here
To view previous daily emails click here.
daily@delanceyplace.com

Advertisements
Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://schreibe.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/the-roaring-20s/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: