F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, 1925
THE PERIOD 1913 to 1933 was a time of great change in America. The early years were an extension of the staid Victorian era when culture and refinement were eagerly sought and jealously guarded. Tradition and respect were paramount and excess was something to be avoided … as were excitement, risk, and drama. Sons dutifully followed their fathers into business while daughters were taught that womanly fulfillment could only come through marriage and motherhood.
Things changed dramatically after 1918. Disillusioned by the dark, violent destruction of World War One, America's young people made a choice to forget the past, embrace the present and ignore the future. America lost her inhibitions in the 1920s and entered a period of raucous living. It was a time of Flappers, Jazz Babies and Flaming Youth; of ragtime, silent movies and vaudeville; of Scott & Zelda, Laurel & Hardy, Gin & Tonics. These were America's heady Days of Wonder when almost anything could happen – and very often did!
By the end of the 1920s, America was running on sheer momentum. When that energy gave out, the country entered an era known as the Great Depression. Although many blame the Depression on the New York Stock Market Crash of 1929, that event was merely one symptom of a worldwide economic instability that had been developing for years. Combined with the Great Plains drought (the “Dust Bowl”) and a host of other events, the economic downturn eventually impacted every segment of American society.
The Great Depression that gripped the nation in the 1930s marked the end of America's modern age of innocence. It would be many years before the country would again know a time of such youthful exuberance as that experienced between 1913 and 1933. Although no one suspected it at the time, the 1933 appointment of Adolph Hitler as Chancellor of Germany marked the beginning of one of the darkest periods in modern world history.
John Held in National Lampoon, 1927 (Kendrick Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 1999 - December 2001
Detail from movie poster, 1916 (Private Collection)
State Historic Site