Saturday, June 3, 2017

Echoes of the Jazz Age


“The Jazz Age is over,” declared novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1931, nine years after he coined the phrase. The era generally encompassed the years between November 1918, when World War I ended, and the stock market crash in October 1929.1 This period of economic prosperity and cultural transformation marked the birth of modern America. Lifestyles were impacted by automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, radio, and household electricity. For the first time, more than half of the people lived in towns and cities and women could vote. Although these trends had been evolving for decades, they accelerated in the 1920s, sparking a powerful backlash. The conservative counterassault manifested itself in the anti-radical hysteria of the Red Scare, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the ratification of National Prohibition, the passage of stricter immigration quotas, and the rise of Fundamentalism. Almost fifty menus reveal parts of this vast, complicated story. Some recall forgotten events; others provide unwitting evidence of societal issues that are with us to this day.