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Only Yesterday [Paperback]

Frederick Allen
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 13 2000

Prohibition.Al Capone. The President Harding scandals.The revolution of manners and morals,Black Teusday.These are only an inkling of the events and figures characterizing the wild, tumultuous era that was the Roaring Twentys.Origionaly published in 1931, Only Yesterday traces the rise if post-World War I prospecritly up tothe Wall Street crash of 1929 aganst the colorful backdropof flappers, speakeasies, the first radio, and the scandalous rise of skirt hemlines.Hailed as an instant classic, this is Frederick Lewis Allen's vivid and definitive account of one of the twentieth century's most fascinating decades, chronicling a time of both joy and terror--when dizzing highs were quickly succeeded by heartbreaking lows.


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Review

"A perfectly grand piece of historical record and synthetic journalism." -- -- Chicago Daily Tribune

From the Publisher

Originally published in 1931, soon after the era ended, this preprinted edition is still considered a classical account of the 1920s. Beginning with the end of World War I (November 11, 1918) on through to the stock market crash on November 12, 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, the author provides a well-written history of the times. Some of the events of the day included are: Al Capone and Prohibition, scandals surrounding then president Harding, growth of the automobile industry, the first radio, and the "scandalous" rise of skirt hemlines. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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If time were suddenly to turn back to the earliest days of the Post-war Decade, and you were to look about you, what would seem strange to you? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars During the 'Roaring 20's' they had it all! Sept. 24 2002
Format:Paperback
This is a wonderful little book (301 pages) about life in America in the decade between World War I (Armistice Day) and the Panic of October 29, 1929. Frederick Lewis Allen - a career writer-editor for various national publications (Atlantic Monthly, Century, Harper's, etc.) wrote this book in 1931. Thus, he provides a quick, fresh glance back upon this exciting period - the "Roaring 20's" - that he'd personally just experienced.
Allen touches briefly, but poignantly, on all the important political, economical and social aspects of American life in these years. He includes capsule biographies of the
presidents: of Woodrow Wilson and his failure to successfully promote his '14 Point-based peace treaty and a League of Nations; of Warren G. Harding - handsome, personable, decent, but unaware, apparently, of the scandals taking place around him; of 'silent' Calvin Coolidge and his era of prosperity; and of Herbert Hoover - well-meaning, but unable to find answers to the deteriorating economy and the approaching depression.
Allen also describes the people, events and activities that impacted the lives of Americans in those years, including the fear of communism and socialism ('The Red Scare'), women's emancipation, the growing proliferation and influence of radio, the impact of new magazines dealing with the movies, adventure, romance and true confessions, the importance of newly created newspaper empires and chains, beauty contests, changing fashions, cosmetics, advertising, and new automobiles (Ford's Model A).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Federal or Confederate? Feb. 10 2004
Format:Paperback
The author details the ephemera of the roaring twenties and in doing so seems to capture the geist of the times. The country is already divided between the forces of "decency" and the predators, who, at the most articulate levels, profess "laissez faire capitalism."
The object of this French term is the United States government. By 1918 it was a fast ship, roaring to the aid of the beleaguered peoples of Europe, tipping the balance in the "war to end wars" in favor of the right side. In this spirit also, prohibition was passed. The moment the war came to an end, the American people fled from the banners of decency just as fast as their legs could carry them. The government became a derelict hulk captained by token presidents.
Wilson drove himself to death trying in vain to bring about a "just and lasting peace." Harding, the great American "good guy", enmeshed himself in the "Teapot Dome Scandals" perpetrated by his friends, the Texas oil millionaires. The author speculates that his rather unexpected death was a concealed suicide. The oil intended for U.S. naval reserves went elsewhere at a large profit, much to Japan.
The south rose again in the form of the resurrected Klu Klux Klan (the book does not mention its previous disbanding by the actual confederate veterans). They ruled at the state and local levels (hence "states rights"). Justice was an open joke, but who cared about it? The American people were busy pursuing a sexual revolution and illicit booze. The satirist, H. L. Mencken, had a field day. Al Capone ruled Chicago. Hundreds of rackets sprang up everywhere and small businessmen paid taxes to the mob.
Why did the government not act? Mammon was God and was being preached not only by the clergy from the pulpit but by its new apostles, the salesmen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Storyteller June 16 2003
Format:Paperback
Allen takes us back to the 1920s through the craft possessed only by skilled storytellers. He puts culture into its proper context by pointing out how rapidly things were changed by technological innovations of the time. For example, on page137 he notes "there was no such thing as radio broadcasting to the public until the autumn of 1920, but that by the spring of 1922 radio had become a craze."
The nation was in some ways, still in the remnants of an agrarian society, poised to enter the industrial, urban era, but not making the full plunge yet. Perhaps a transitional time would be a better label to put on the snapshot of this period. The reason I say that is due to the description he gives of the swearing in of Calvin Coolidge. "Business was booming when Warren Harding died, and in a primitive Vermont farmhouse, by the light of an old-fashioned kerosene lamp, Colonel John Coolidge administered to his son Calvin the oath of office as President of the United States" (p. 132).
The book is full of glimpses which fit together to provide a hoistic portrayal of the decade.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Only Today? July 31 2002
Format:Paperback
The summer of 2002 is a very interesting time to be thinking about the 1920s, and this book is the perfect way to do that. One of Allen's major themes is the Big Bull Market of that decade -- how it gradually, little by little, seduced many economic thinkers into believing that the business cycle had been permanently changed for the better, and how stocks turned into a nationwide spectator sport. Sound familiar? As with our more recent bull market, the end wasn't pretty. But one of the things the book suggests is that we haven't seen anywhere near the calamity that followed the crash of 1929. (Allen finished the book in 1931.) I don't know that the book offers much guidance about what will happen next for us in 2002, but it does teach a powerful lesson about the ways that history repeats. Allen covers other ground, too, like the Teapot Dome scandal and the rise of Al Capone, as well as some of the more frivolous "hot" stories of the time. Among the other déjà vu themes he hits is how easily distracted we are by trivial stories when the economy is good. Nicely written, still holds up remarkably well.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Im a 15 year old student and just finsished reading this book (and am writing a 10 page paper for in in A.P history :( )This was an excellant book. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2003 by "antiwb"
2.0 out of 5 stars Wow, this book is boring
From the view point of a sixteen year old who was assigned this book for school reading it is not very interesting. Read more
Published on July 18 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A throughly excellent historical reference
This is exactly the type of history book I like to read. The subject matter is brought to life in a way simply not found in other authors. Read more
Published on May 21 2002 by Ryad "James"
5.0 out of 5 stars Only Yesterday--Understanding A Forgotten Era
In my US History studies in school, I have focused on studying the Wars--Revolutionary, Civil,WWI, WWII, etc. I have learned so much less about other periods in US History. Read more
Published on May 28 2001 by "jestown"
5.0 out of 5 stars The more things change...
Allen does not limit himself to the "great man" school of history, but gives a wide-ranging and colorful view of a decade disquietingly like the 90s/00s - a careening... Read more
Published on Dec 22 2000 by "flyover"
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! Very entertaining, informative, and relevant
This engaging account of the 1920's is an especially remarkable book given the year it was written: 1931. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2000 by Jim Breitinger
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical account and more
Very good account of the historical events of America in the 1920's. The vivid description of the period enables the readers to "live" through that time again. Read more
Published on June 29 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and vibrant. Resonant with parallels for the 90s
Anyone of the dwindling band of stock market contrarians will find fresh ammunition here. A bull market ushered in by a President beset with sex scandals and allegation of... Read more
Published on Nov. 25 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable resource!
As a historical fiction writer looking for information on "real life" in the 1920's that goes beyond the well-known fads and foibles, I have found this book to be the... Read more
Published on Nov. 10 1998
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