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 prosperous era began in about November 1918, when the First World War ended, and continued unabated until the stock market crashed in October 1929.1 This period of cultural transformation marked the birth of modern America. Everyday life was broadly transformed by automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, radio programs, and household electricity. However, the arrival of modernity also sparked 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. Fifty menus reveal facets of this vast, complicated story. Some of them recall forgotten events; others provide unwitting evidence of societal issues that are with us to this day.