ONLY YESTERDAY AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE NINETEEN-TWENTIES By
FREDERICK LEWIS ALLEN HARPER fc ROW, PUBLISHERS New York and
Evanston ONLY YESTERDAY Copyright 1931 by Frederick Lewis Allen
Copyright 1 957 by Harper Row, Publishers, Incorporated Printed in
the United States of America AH rights in this book are reserved No
part of the book may be m used or reproduced any manner whatsoever
without written per mission except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address
Harper Row, Publishers, Incorporated 49 East 33 rd Street, New York
16, N. Y. To the memory of D. P. A. CONTENTS INTRODUCTION by Roger
Butter field Ix PREFACE xill I. PRELUDE MAY, 1919 i II. BACK TO
NORMALCY 15 III. THE BIG RED SCARE 45 IV. AMERICA CONVALESCENT 76
V. THE REVOLUTION IN MANNERS AND MORALS 88 VI. HARDING AND THE
SCANDALS 123 VII. COOLIDGE PROSPERITY 159 VIII. THE BALLYHOO YEARS
186 IX. THE REVOLT OF THE HIGHBROWS 226 X. ALCOHOL AND AL CAPONE
245 XI. HOME, SWEET FLORIDA 270 XII. THE BIG BULL MARKET 290 XIII.
CRASH 3 XIV. AFTERMATH 1930-31 339 APPENDIX ON SOURCES 358 363 vii
INTRODUCTION IT is now twenty-five years since Only Yesterday was
first pub lished and it is time to say what has long been apparent
that this is an American classic. It is by far the best account of
all that happened in the United States during the wonderfully wacky
1920 5. It established a pattern for books of social history which
other writers have imitated but have not been able to improve. It
has been widely read and enjoyed more than half a million copies
have been issued in the United States, England, Italy, Japan and
Russia. The demand continues and no doubt it will continue, aslong
as Americans want to read wise and witty books about their past.
Frederick Lewis Allen, who wrote this book, was a Harvard trained
editor and connoisseur of human behavior who mixed the fascinating
little details of history with the deeds of famous men. In Only
Yesterday he wrote of Mah Jong and H. L. Mencken, of Couism and
Calvin Coolidge, of Listerines flights of advertising fancy and
Lindberghs flight to Paris. In his mod est preface to the original
edition Allen suggested that time might make some changes in his
judgments of major events. Yet one of the remarkable things about
this book is the way it stands up in the light of later research.
Since it was published we have had complete and scholarly accounts
of the Wall Street crash of 1929, of the Harding scandals, of
prohibition, o the politics and diplomacy of the period. Yet none
of these books has essentially changed the overall picture that
Allen gave us. And all of them have drawn on his facts and his
interpreta tion. Of course Only Yesterday is very fortunate in its
general sub ject. It deals with the most delightful decade that has
occurred ix x INTRODUCTION In the lifetime of anyone present. I am
prejudiced in this re spect, and so is anyone else who was lucky
enough to grow up in the twenties. If you compare the ten years
that followed World War I with the ten that came after World War
II, how can there be any choice Which menace would you rather have
Al Capone or Joe McCarthy Which oracle from Detroit-Henry Ford or
Charles E. Wilson Which homerun hitter the mighty Babe Ruth, or
Mickey Mantle, with his bubble gum, and cheeks of downy yellow
Which kind of national scandal do you prefer Teapot Dome with its
gushers ofoil and foun tains of dollars, or the one and a half mink
coats that got passed around in Harry Trumans Washington The
comparisons could go on forever, and they would all be in favor of
the twenties. Take the writers alone Scott Fitz gerald, and
Sinclair Lewis in his prime, and the young Hem ingway, and Thomas
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