5 Return to Congress in the Age of "Prosperity"

THE riotous New Year celebrations that ushered in 1922 could barely be heard above the general din, for it was an era identified in terms of sound -- the "Roaring Twenties," the "Jazz Age." The noise was, all agreed, simply the joyful gurgle of prosperity.1 Employment was to reach an all-time high in the twenties, with the number of jobless persons declining from 4,270,000 in 1921 to 2,055,000 in 1927. Wages too reached record heights as the real earnings index of workers rose between 1919 and 1928 from 105 to 132. The number of prosperous farmers increased throughout the twenties, so that by 1929 approximately 25,000 farms had gross annual incomes over $20,000.2

When Professor Thomas Nixon Carver of Harvard University wrote in 1925 of an "economic revolution" diffusing wealth

____________________
1
Part of it, however, was undoubtedly the sound of violence, which seems to scar every age of high living. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: "A classmate killed his wife and himself on Long Island, another tumbled 'accidentally' from a skyscraper in New York. One was killed in a speakeasy in Chicago; another was beaten to death in a speakeasy in New York and crawled home to the Princeton Club to die; still another had his skull crushed by a maniac's axe in an insane asylum where he was confined. These are not catastrophes that I went out of my way to look for -- these were my friends; moreover, these things happened not during the depression but during the boom" ( Echoes of the Jazz Age, Scribners, XC [ Nov., 1931,], 459-465).
2
Recent Social Trends: Report of the President's Research Committee on Social Trends ( New York, 1933), II, 820; Fred A. Shannon, America's Economic Growth ( New York, 1940), 701.

-53-

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