The year 1920 marked several historical events important to the United States. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was started to prohibit the production and consumption of alcohol which later came to be known as Prohibition. Women were finally given the right to vote in 1920 following ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Wall Street was bombed by radicals killing thirty – eight people. The New York Yankees bought Babe Ruth. The population of the United States was estimated to be 107,823,000 (The People History, 2008, 1). These were all important events in United States history but the daily lives of average Americans were more important. The Chicago Tribune will be analyzed to show what daily life was like for Americans in 1920, particularly on July 26, 1920.
When Americans woke up on July 26, 1920 they were most concerned with issues related to the economy, war and racial issues. Several articles in the Chicago Tribune discuss the coal strike occurring in Chicago. Ninety percent of coal mines operating in Illinois were shut down due to the strike (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 6). The front page of the newspaper highlights the fuel crisis that is beginning to take hold across the country. The Northeast has been suffering from a fuel shortage for several days but the continuation of the strike is starting to affect the entire country (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 1). Citizens are urging the Federal government to take action in order to prevent a coal famine (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 1). Coal is important for heating homes and while it is summer now an ongoing strike may have serious consequences for Americans in the coming fall and winter months.
Another issue concerning Americans is the crime associated with racial tensions. This morning a report told of a judge’s son who was lynched (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 1). The lynching associated with racial issues is worrying many Americans, particularly those who live near and have relationships with African Americans. Racial issues are also present in other countries and wars happening overseas are also of great concern to Americans. The paper reported that the Soviets are seeking a peace negotiation with Allies (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 1). A labor party is meeting to discuss the situation in Ireland where many atrocities are occurring including the fact that troops are burning Irish homes (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 4). Another example of racial conflicts is happening between the Unionists and the Sein Fein factions whose recent fights are responsible for several deaths. Today’s paper reports that some window smashing happened recently as well (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 4). Americans are concerned with the violence that accompanies racial and ethnic wars and media focus provides more examples of why they should be concerned. However, there aren’t many things being done about this issue today. In fact, an Anglo – American pilgrim day is being planned that focuses on white Americans without inclusion of other races and ethnicities (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 9).
Agriculturally, Americans are experiencing good times. There is a crop overflow in Kansas and farmers and other workers are having a difficult time finding enough cars to get the crops from the farm to distributors (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 9). Wheat prices were at a high point in Kansas so farmers were seeing an increase in both production and income (Kansas State College, 1935, 11). The surplus of wheat was seen as a positive sign for farmers despite the fact that wheat prices were constantly fluctuating. The surplus allowed for open interest because new buyers were able to obtain their wheat from Kansas farmers (Kansas State College, 1935, 39). American consumers enjoyed decreased food costs due to the surplus as well.
Economically, Americans are living in a time of unbalanced prosperity. The standard of living in rural areas is falling behind that of urban areas (Global Oneness, 2008, 1). This is evident in Chicago in the increased production of low income housing in areas such as South Chicago. The Chicago Housing Association is in the process of building 175 new low income homes. This is a small step in the right direction to help lower income families improve their standard of living (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 6). Urban and housing planning is also continuing to improve which has led to dangerous levels of credit extensions but also to the record high levels of the stock market (Global Oneness, 2008, 1). Today, July 26, 1920, it is relatively easy to purchase a home given the easy access to credit approval. At the same time, people who enjoy higher paychecks are being urged to help those in need. An article in today’s paper discusses a free hospital and camp program available to low income families and asks for donations of ten dollars to help boys gain admission to the camp (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 12).
The entertainment industry is flourishing in the United States. Americans have access to movies, radio and theater. The Chicago Tribune includes reviews of many of these popular entertainment attractions. Today Mr. Howard Hall’s performance in “A Man of the People” was reviewed as being only mediocre (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 13). In addition, the automobile industry is booming but driving new cars doesn’t come without its consequences as Americans are beginning to realize. An article is included in today’s paper that proves to Americans how dangerous automobiles can be. A Ford blew up recently putting four passengers in the hospital. All four remain unconscious (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 1). Another article reports that two lives were crushed out in separate auto accidents (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 13). Americans enjoy the new found freedom that comes with the ability to drive but are not taking the safety of handling such automobiles as seriously as they should.
Americans are concerned with appearance as is evident by several articles in today’s paper. One article discusses various ways that Americans can stay well (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 6). Another focuses on beauty issues that women currently have and offers suggestions (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 14). A final example is an article that discusses current fashion (Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1920, 14). These articles show the shift in attitude from the recent war towards attitudes that were concerned with the fun parts of life. Americans were reveling in the end of the war and the boom in entertainment, automobile and cosmetic industries was one result.
The Chicago Tribune began reporting in June of 1847 and has had a critical impact on the reporting of the development of Chicago as well as reporting on events around the world. It was no different today, July 26, 1920. The Chicago Tribune reported the important issues concerning Americans around the country. There were many important events and changes occurring in the United States in the 1920’s and July 26, 1920 gives an accurate portrayal of what daily life was like for Americans on a normal day. There were no historical events that mark July 26, 1920 as any different from any other day during that time. The stories included in the paper today show the economic, agricultural, racial and entertainment concerns of the average American. The daily events in the lives of Americans are important today because they mark another day in the United States. Families worry about the availability of fuel in the coming months but most are able to enjoy owning their own home on borrowed credit. Americans are able to purchase and drive cars despite the fact that people are being seriously injured or dying as a result. The price of wheat is down so Americans are enjoying lower food costs which means a little extra money that can be used to help those in need. Lynching is frightening the American public but racial lines are still divided. These are the issues that Americans are thinking about today and the Chicago Tribune is instrumental in reporting the key facts. Americans can go to bed tonight assured that the paper will continue to enhance their daily lives tomorrow.
Chicago Tribune. 26 July 1920. 19 Nov 2008
Global Oneness. “The Roaring Twenties.” Encyclopedia II. 2008. 19 Nov 2008
Kansas State College. “Seasonal and Short-Term Fluctuations in Wheat Prices in Relation to the
Wheat Price Cycle.” Kansas State College of Agriculture. 1935. 19 Nov 2008
The People History. “The Year 1920.” The People History. 2008. 19 Nov 2008