The Revel of Luxury

The Roaring Twenties arguably started in 1919. WWI ended in November 1918, there was peace, times were good, and people of all classes spent like crazy:

If luxury and leisure have conspired to set a pace of money spending hitherto undreamed of, this dissipation hitherto ascribed so exclusively to New York society has become diffused and general. There is nothing sectional about the exuberance of today. Vacationists from the smaller cities of the South and West have vied with the man from Wall Street in the distribution of easily acquired wealth. There is nothing in it to rekindle class hatred, so effectually effaced during the period of war, for the reason that there is “class” now among the masses. Railroad wage-earners boasted a two-million-dollar relief fund before hinting of a strike. The man from the forge is buying diamonds; clerks bet a cool thousand on the races, and the farmer who has not already bought an automobile is planning to do so with the singing of the next harvest song.

It’s hard to believe what a 180º difference this had been from the war years, which had still been raging less than 365 days prior:

Pleasure, pleasure! Who can turn churlishly from all these contemplations of luxury and give heed to the cry about the high cost of living? Who can take seriously the wail of hard times when blacksmiths are joining the jeweled ranks?

Is this the America that stopped every wheel just one year ago when the Government needed gasoline?

Good times. And not too different from 2019, actually, with unemployment at or near 21st century its low and Americans spending tons of money. Including money they don’t have — see the record levels set in 2019 for student loan debt, auto loan debt, and mortgage debt.

The Revel of Luxury: Summer Season’s Record of Money-Spending by Americans Who Can Afford the High Cost of High Living (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

September 18th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life

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