The Roaring 20s - the great depression


 Intro (supply and demand)

The Roaring twenties

classical economics

Depression Causes (man is obsolete and the stockmarket crash)

the solution

New Deal


The great depression is the heart of this century.  

It greatly affects the minds of our senior citizens.  If your family members in their 60s and 70s seem really concerned about what your jobs will be or are going to be it may be do to the depression.

It gives rise to our great president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

He eventually leads us through WWII.


It lasts from 1930 to 1949.


The Roaring Twenties

The twenties are a time of excitement, but not the political kind.  It is a time when, in many ways, our own values are hammered out.  It is when america becomes a consumer.    America parties and takes a vacation. 


It may look a lot like today.  So you’d say “so what”.  But itsreally different from the puritanism, civil war and industry that come before it AND the depression that comes after it. 


five things happen in the Roaring twenties

 a) fun is embraced

A generation that had been at war was tired and just wanted to escape the world. 


Its interesting to look at your desires sociologically.


The mind has been cruelly wounded.  It doubts itself profoundly.  People thought man was good and progress would go on and on.  After the war  -man is a little bit of a nightmare and -people have had enough big campaigns.


Wilson, who led us through the war, was voted out.  People didn’t want moral battles anymore.


People were not into believing and work or a bright future.  They needed to live now and damn the consequences.


Youth were more brazen. As the meaning of life was totally disturbed, the vitality of the moment grew in allure.


The war wrought profound changes in such things as dress, social behaviour, attitutudes towards work and leisure, family relationships, the privileges of young people, religious faith and the relations between the sexes.  Don’t tell me not to smoke, not to have drinking parties.


To see the significance, you must remember that America before this time was a puritan working nation.  They had the ethic that to have fun or be lazy was negative.  It was a waste of time.  You whould be working on the perfection of yourself and this world.


Women got the right to vote and educational opportunities.  They got bigger in arts.


They started showing their bodies, showing unaccompanied in public places, using tobacco and liquor and having pre-marital sex.


New fads came at rapid fire, Jazz is first popularized.  charleston and arts and  jazz and dance.  Old and sane was bad new and crazy good.

b) jazz grows up

We’ve already discussed the roots of jazz in our country.  Those roots being Africa.

Remember we talked about the field workers and their songs. 


Jazz evolves in the following pattern


                From here we get drums in our music.  All music that has rythm in America is derived from africa. 

                In Africa they have talking drums with which folks can communicate.  Classical music has percussion, but that is not intended to be something that you can dance to.

                The idea of instruments sounding like voices is African. 

Slave songs

This  music has the call and response pattern, which is also African.  And this music happens in the south where slaves are.



Blues derives from this sad experience.  And all later day african derived music comes out of blues and the slave songs.




Civil War leftovers

After the civil war many blacks are displaced and many come to  the city (NEW ORLEANS) . Jazz proper has it’s roots in the South right after the civil war.  Lots of Southern military bands lost their instruments as the war was being lost.  And black people got a lot of those instruments.  So we have the combination of African rythms and scales with European instruments. This is characterized by everyone soloing at once.  The history of jazz simplified after this would go from early trumpet to sax after the forties.


Well after this experience alot of black people move north to NY and other big cities.  Here it grows.  We lose the everyone jamming at once sound of dixie land and eventually get jazz more refined.  The first big solo instrument is the trumpet.




c) film grows up

DISCUSSION: What do you think impact of movies has been on you.  How would your life be different if movies/TV didn’t exist?   Think of it then write 10 lines.


Camera and film

Film is first a camera. 

The history is sped up by a bet in 1872 by Stanford.  Leland stanford bet another man 20,000 dollars that the feet of a horse all come off of the ground when it runs. 


He hired a guy named Muybridge to figure it out. He set up lots of cameras along the fence of a race track.   Then he hit a mechanism to rapid fire them.  Then he put them on a circular glass with  a light inside. 


The next step was to incorporate the rapid picture taking mechanism one machine. Marey, in 1882, set up a rapid fire mechanism on a gun.  He was the first person to shoot a film.  Get it gun?!  Shoot a film.


Next, a man named Eastman invented a film that worked in cameras that wasn’t a hard plate.  The film spooled and would fit into a camera.


Thomas Edison

The man that put the camera and film together was none other than Mr. Thomas Edison.  As usual he didn’t do the work as much as dream it and assign others to do it.  He hired William Dickson to help him develop a motion picture camera for the new film.   This was called the kinetograph.  Meaning moving camera.   He got the shutter to open and close and advance the film in rapid succession.  Edison patented it


This device required that filming be done from a stationary position looking in one direction.  They, therefore, set up the Black Maria in New Jersey.  It was a big black mobile box and the camera was a big stationary thing.  They did all of their filming in it.   And movies are just that, movies; moving pictures. 


There is no narrative plot, they aren’t edited, they are documentations of some real life thing.  They’re like short home movies.    They were 16 seconds.  They filmed, parts of boxing matches, a woman dancing, a man flexing his muscles, trained bears, dancing girls, dentist scene, bucking broncos.   sometimes a comedy thing like a man getting a pie in the face and stuff like that. 


Edison had a “coin-operated/entertainment machine”  that would accompany his recorded sound device.  He tried to apply sound, but it didn’t work, and when projection came along, amplification hadn’t been invented so it was left for impossible.   In this he anticipated sound motion pictures by a long time  and he invented as a machine without an idea of art.  He created this and it was called a Kinetoscope.


Edison started selling the Kinetoscope and went into film production.  That is the the first movei studio. 


On April 14 1894, a Canadian entrepreneur naed Andrew Holland opened the first Kinetoscope parlor in a converted shoe store.  He charged 25 cents per person for access to a row of five edison peep shows.  Each had a single film.  He was the first person to make his living off of film.


Soon Kinetoscope parlors were opened across the country.  All were supplied with 50  (16 second) foot shorts produced for them exclusively by the Edison kinetoscope



The next problem was projection. 

Edison was not originally interested in projection.  He thought the future and money in movies was charging individual fees to look inside an individual box.


The  people that did this were in France, Auguste and Louis Lumiere (1864-1948)  Whose name means light in french.  After thoroughly studying the edison camera, they came up with a camera/projector. 


On December 28th, 1895 they rented a basement room in th eGrand Cafe , on the Boulevard des Capucines in paris, to project a program of about ten films for the first time to a paying audience. 


This was the first time anyone ever went to a movie theatre.


They showed a train arriving, a baby having lunch and The Sprinkler sprinkled  About a gardener who get squirted in the face after a boy steps on a hose.  The audience is said to have stampeded when the train arrived.  Learning what film was took time.  Business quickly got very good.


Their camera was lighter than Eisons, so it could be taken outside.  They send people all over the world to film what they call “actualites”.   But still, the camera never moved, there was no plot.  It was a motion picture.


When Edison heard of this he commissioned someone to start working on it.  He however, found someone who had done better work than he in America.   He pays the man for the right to make and sell them and says the man will get credit for design.  And he projects with his Vitascope 5 months after the lumieres on april 23rd 1896.



The type of entertainment that was big before moving pictures was vaudeville.   This was stage stuff.  There would be lots of little acts.  There were songs and little comedy routines and little dances.


Many early  stars came from vaudeville.  Also, early projected films were most often shown as parts of vaudeville shows.  And it wasn’t long before the little moving picture part got too boring.



The nest leap took place when an Edison projectionist decided that telling a little story might draw viewers back in. 


Edison had also incorporated another persons invention the Latham Loop which allows the film to not break due to inertia so quickly .  This means that films can go 16 minutes.  But still they never do anything but create scenes or document scenes.  The idea of telling a story had not yet appeared, but all of the technological stuff had.


Edwin Porter was the ex-projectionist and he decided to make a story.  In 1903 he made a famous film “the great train robbery”  It used parallel actions.  This is two things happening in different places at the same time and you keep cutting back from one to another. 


Porters film did more that any other film made before 1912 to convince investors that cinema was a money-making proposition, and it was directly instrumental in the spread o permanent movie theaters, “nickelodons” across the country.  By 1907 nickelodeons were drawing one million patrons per day.  The desire for story film got greater and greater.


They then advance to being a series of scenes, not shots.  Meaning that something happens while the camera is stationary filming a scene, then the camera moves to somewhere else and another scene is enacted.  Each scene followed the next and followed the central character about.  There were no leaps in time or space.  The camera was usually distant enough from the action that one could see the actors whole body.


These films had no sound.  So the cinematographher was more important (the director of photography).  Think of the importance of the director of photography.  They have to decide which images are important and important to see. 


Show the beginning of what do those old films mean anyways?




Edison and the few others who were making films controlled it very tightly.  He and the leaders of
Biograph created the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPCC) in 1908. 

They created a contract with Eastman kodak for the supply of raw film.  They sought to control everything from issuing licenses for camera use and film sales and they would only self films to licensed distributors,  And only licensed exhibitors could use MPPC projectors. 


And they did stabilize and standardize the industry and make it efficient, but their films were static and unimaginative (though technically competent).  Edison saw these films as cheap entertainment.  He figured people had a short attention span and not that intelligent.    When they released two or three reel films they did it serially.  One a week.



But the independent film makers and exhibitors struck back by making their own organization and the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP).  Paramount, Universal, MGM, Fox and Columbia  got their start  supplying these rebel theaters. 


 But a couple of multi reeler hits came from Europe.  Especially Quo vadis?  an italian film in 1913.  It ran more than two hours.  Had the war not have happened the Italians might have a respectable film industry.  And whereas the MPCC wouldn’t show these multi reelers, the independents would. 


It seemed counter intuitive that this would be successful.  These films took longer to show (so audience turnover was less) and they cost more to make and rent.  But they found people would pay more to see a multi reeler and they could give the film a longer run and publicize it easier than many short films.  These films were called features after the vaudville term for the headlining act.


the star system

Another thing the independents did was implement the star system.  Here again, the MPCC misjudged.  They had feared that if actors and directors names were known, they could demand higher salaries.  They wouldn’t permit their names to appear on films. 

The independents borrowed a strategy from theater and vaudeville.  They thought they could sell stars to their advantage. 


Carl Laemmle (1876-1939)  of IMP lured Florence Lawrence away from Biograph and reported her death in a car accident.  This revealed her real name to the public (previously she was the biograph Girl).    Then Laemmle denounced the press reports saying it was a “black lie” spread by MPCC to conceal the fact that she had come over to the IMP and as proof promised that IMPs leading man (whose name was also used publicl y for the first time in this stunt) would escort her to their next movie opening.  There was a near riot as what seemed to be half of St. Louis crowded into the train station to get a glimpse of the form er Biograph girls still earthly presence, and the star system was born.


Dream palaces

To accomodate the new prestigious long running high cost films, dream palaces were built.  These replaced the MPCCs converted store fronts with hard seats and sawdust floors.   Many of the dream palaces were huge and they held 5000 and orchestras of thirty and crystal chandeliers.

Also show some douglas fairbanks.  Show WC Fields.


Big Business Takes over

Just as the MPCC had done to the IMF, the IMF tried to control their exhibitors of their new feature films with stars. 


They made them do block booking.  The exhibitors couldn’t buy film by film.  They had to agree to buy 7 at a time.  Some would be desirable then they had to also buy some iffy ones. 

To rebel the new independent exhibitors decided to start making their own films as First National Exhibitors Circuit.  First National was able to get exclusive rights to Charlie Chaplin.  To retaliate, the IMP started to buy  up all the theaters.  This required huge funds.  So the companies went got backing from major banks and went on the NYSE for funds.


This gave financers the rights to approve, reject and look over film production.  Film had always been a business in the US. After this it was really big business.  This is American and it is the key to our success.  France makes art films.  Germany makes important nightmare films.  India makes religious films.  We make films to make money.  They seek  to be popular and unoffensive and they are.  They are the most popular films in the world (by design).


Hollywood takes over 

Before WWI US studios had competition. After WWI our competitors were decimated.  By 1918 we made almost all the worlds films.  We could make uplifting films, in the glamorous american setting.


Show the first 20 minutes of the peoples century 1927.   Show it until the hindu part as talkies come of age.

 d) Prohibition

Prohibition:  The prohibition of alchohol.


This is a puritan country.  We are very christian.  This is what made us great (calling, looking for signs of being saved, fear of idle hands).


As women people always react to change by trying to stabilize things the way they were, conserving the past.  Republicans are always now talking of family values and traditional families and the good old days.


Alchohol is illegalized and it is a disaster of sorts.


People don’t stop drinking.  THey go to illegal speakeasys.  Here the cops learn to take bribes.


Second there becomes lots of money in the illegal drug.  The mafia gets power.  The italian gangs start fighting for territory.  They start driving by and shooting at eachother over turf. 


Of course, since prohibition is over, that problem is solved.


Show the roaring twenties video


e) the scopes monkey trial