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Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s 1st Perennial classics ed Edition

65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060956653
ISBN-10: 0060956658
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Editorial Reviews


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

From the Back Cover

Only Yesterday deals with that delightful decade from the Armistice in November 1918 to the panic and depression of 1929-30. Here is the story of Woodrow Wilson's defeat, the Harding scandals, the Coolidge prosperity, the revolution in manners and morals, the bull market and its smash-up. Allen's lively narrative brings back an endless variety of half-forgotten events, fashions, crazes, and absurdities. Deftly written, with a humorous touch, Only Yesterday traces, beneath the excitements of day-to-day life in the 20s, those currents in national life and thought which are the essence of true history.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1st Perennial classics ed edition (June 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060956658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060956653
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Rolland W. Amos on September 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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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By JazzFeathers on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
Written only at the beginning of the Thirties, this is probably the first book concerning the Twenties ever written, and probably one of the closest to the matter at hand.
Maybe this is why I had great expectation about it. This is certainly not the first social history book about the Twenties I've read, but because it was written so close to that period, I was expecting a different take at it.

Well, regarding the subject matter, it's not very different from other books about the Twenties I- and this is probably a merit to the author that was able to capture the most important aspects of a time he did live - but on the other hand, its flavour is maybe a bit amateurish, the analysis of causes and effects are sometimes questionable... in my opinion. This doesn't really sounds like a study of the period, but more like the remembrance of someone who lived it, and was also quite critical about it. The style is very colloquial and judgmental at times, which is, in my opinion, the weakness of the book as well as its strong point. We don't really get an objective treatment of the Twenties, but we do get the feeling of how people lived this period of incredible, sometimes shocking changes.

The author covers the political life of the country in details, although here too we don't really get a scholarly examination of facts and circumstances, but more an `inside view', the version of someone `who was there' and maybe isn't detached enough to really make an analysis of the matter. Some parts sounded even a bit gossipy to me.
A section in devoted to the changes in the lifestyle of people, with particular regard to young people. And honestly I did expected a bit more from here.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ryad "James" on May 21, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. It reminded me quite a bit of Howard's Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" because I read that first and I wonder if Professor Zinn took a hint from Mr. Allen's style because they are very similar.
I will remember events, people and places in this book long after I am done reading it (for a college class) simply because of the way the author seems to be talking directly to you.
It is as if you are just sitting down for dinner, or a chat, and he's laying out the 1920's to you because you asked.
I am throughly impressed with this book and I am glad my Professor exposed me to it. I recommend it to anyone who has ever wondered what the "Roaring 20's" were all about.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By R. Walker on July 31, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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