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Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s [Paperback]

Frederick Lewis Allen
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 29, 2010 0060956658 978-0060956653 1st Perennial classics ed
Prohibition. Al Capone. The President Harding scandals. The revolution of manners and morals. Black Tuesday. These are only an inkling of the events and figures characterizing the wild, tumultuous era that was the Roaring Twenties. Originally published in 1931, Only Yesterday traces the rise if post-World War I prosperity up to the Wall Street crash of 1929 against the colorful backdrop of 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 dizzying highs were quickly succeeded by heartbreaking lows.

Frequently Bought Together

Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s + Since Yesterday: The 1930's in America, September 3, 1929 to September 3, 1939 + Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans Lived Through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression
Price for all three: $39.23

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Editorial Reviews


"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.

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: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
This engaging account of the 1920's is an especially remarkable book given the year it was written: 1931. With remarkable detachment and prose which has stood up to the test of time, Frederick Lewis Allen wrote about the 1920's just after the decade had ended. Writing in a voice that is half that of a journalist and half that of a historian, Allen covers everything from presidents and presidential politics, to prohibition, the economy, sweeping social changes, the coming of mass media through radio, syndicated columnists, and increased attendance in movie houses; the red scare, the rise of business and science in popular esteem, religion, and a variety of other cultural and social events and trends. The modern era, it could be argued, began on Armistice Day, 11/11/1918.
The trends and issues of the post-World War I decade resound with amazing familiarity today, at the dawn of the 21st Century. Through reading Allen's account the reader is reminded that McCarthyism that oft referred to "ism," was hardly the invention of McCarthy, nor was it unique to the late 1940's and 1950's. A red scare based on hysteria and fear proceeded "McCarthyism" by a good thirty years. The red scare that was brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution was ferocious in its intensity. Fanned by the winds of a handful of true radicals, the red scare that came immediately after the war was characterized by labor unrest, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the trampling of any ideas or books that had a hint of "Bolshevism," mass deportations of Communists (or suspected Communists), and the waiving of due process under law with mass arrests.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars During the 'Roaring 20's' they had it all! September 24, 2002
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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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only Today? 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The more things change... December 22, 2000
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 stock market, a failing war on drugs, and oil company execs in to clean up the White House. This book would get five stars for the Prohibition poem alone: " doesn't prohibit worth a dime/Nevertheless, we're for it!" One of the most interesting parts was what Allen doesn't - and couldn't - write about. Only Yesterday was written in 1931, before the full effects of Versailles had been felt. Viewed in that light, Allen's portrait of Wilson, while romanticized, astutely outlines why Wilson's ideas for the peace treaty were wise, and why they were so unlikely to ever be realized. From hemlines to geopolitics, Allen pulls it all together in a fascinating book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Readable Account of the Roaring 20's
This is pop history of the highest order. It is highly readable, well researched, original, authentic, and in a quiet way, important. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Gary Z. Zacny
5.0 out of 5 stars I find a real use for this book.
I read it years ago and when I moved I lost track of it. But I have to have it back. Some books you just cant live without. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nancy B Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough and Enjoyable Overview of the 20's--Unique because it is a...
So much happened during the 1920's that have parallels to our time...that there are an endless stream of books on the era. I have read a few of them. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Popular history of the 1920s has breezy, gossipy tone
This was assigned in a history class on the U.S. 1920s-1930s quite some time ago. The one I have has a different cover than that used on Amazon's webpage, but it is still Harper... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mark K. Rempel
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting source
Written in 1931, this gives insight into political, economical, cultural and domestic life in the 1920s. I would have liked more on the everyday life part, though. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sugu79
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
One of the best, only missing a chapter on 78 rpm recording activities/trends of the post war decade! A fine and trustworthy author.
Published 6 months ago by Brody Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best General Social History of the Roaring Twenties
This is the standard for popular, survey histories of the Twenties. It's better than than Bryson's recent book, although Bryson goes into more depth on selected stories and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jim
5.0 out of 5 stars One of My favorite books.
This is one of my favorite books. I enjoy reading about this era and read this years ago in it's hardcover format and when I aquired my kindel it was one I eagerly added to it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by K. RAMSTAD
5.0 out of 5 stars Only Yesterday - ... 1920's
Outstanding trip down memory lane - revelations that nothing really changes just different packaging. Having parents who lived though this era made it especially fascinating.
Published 7 months ago by Mary P. Weidner
3.0 out of 5 stars Good insight to the life and thoughts of the common person.
There were some pure subjective comments by the author. Overall, I recommend reading if interested in the '20s . .
Published 7 months ago by KAREN WELLER
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