When we think of the 1920s our thoughts go right to flapper girls, speak easies, and gangsters. What the decade signifies is change. Fashion for women drastically changed from long dresses and tight fitting corsets to short loose dresses with underwear that produced a boyish figure. House dresses became popular as well as lounge wear. Women now had more of a voice in politics now that they had the right to vote. Women began thinking for themselves, with more of them attending college and looking at pursuing careers. Women were free to smoke, use cosmetics, and cut their hair.
Life was made easier by the use of electricity in most homes and that brought items like the electric toaster, vacuum cleaner and washing machine into many homes. More families had automobiles. Silent movies gave way to “Talkies” and by 1922 approximately 60,000 households had radios. Between the automobile and radio more people could connect with the “outside” world. The radio made Jazz a popular genre of music in the twenties as well as the phonograph helping to make the Jazz Age.
The country as a whole prospered in spite of political scandals. We began to see entertainment and sports figures entwined with politics. Baseball hero Babe Ruth openly backed liberal candidate Al Smith for President, adding to the new found excitement in politics. This led to the growing importance of sports in American culture. Industrial production in America climbed 50%. Education, religion, science, and medicine made progress. A new age was also ushered in with the aviation industry.
On the flip side were gangsters due to prohibition, which led to rampant crime. Farmers, Laborers, African Americans, and recent immigrants did not share in the prosperity with other Americans. Rural America still used outhouses and oil lamps. There was a rise of the Ku Klux Klan across America. The KKK as they were known, targeted African Americans, Catholics, Jewish Americans, and “foreigners.” This made life dangerous for many people in rural America and the cities. People were still recovering from the effects of WWI and the pandemic of 1918.
1920s, a period of change. It was also a period of change for the Fenton Mansion. The City purchased Walnut Grove from the Fenton Family and turned the long vacant mansion into a Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park. Veterans groups, such as the GAR, moved their meetings to the Mansion. There was life again in old Walnut Grove.