“One Summer: America 1927”

The following are highlights from “One Summer: America 1927” by Bill Bryson, as I think they would relate to contextual understanding of Annie’s diaries. Note that Location numbers refer to locations in Kindle version of the book.

“In the spring of ’27, something bright and alien flashed across the sky.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • “This was an age that didn’t like practical concerns to get in the way of its musings.” (Location 1093)
  • “Whatever the future held, everyone agreed that it would be technologically advanced, American-led, and thrilling. Curiously, it was the present that people weren’t so certain about.” (Location 1100)
  • “Moral decline was evident everywhere, even on the dance floor. The tango, shimmy, and Charleston, with their insistent beats and flapping of limbs, had a hint of sexual frenzy that many anxious elder found alarming.” (Location 1106)
  • “America now had the highest divorce rate in the world after the Soviet Union” (Location 1113)
  • “Concern was greatest for young women, who seemed everywhere to have abandoned themselves to sordid habits.” (Location 1115)
  • “Regulations of a moral nature were introduced all over the nation – and nearly everywhere were, like Prohibition itself, ignored. Among people of a conservative temperament, it was a time of despair.” (Location 1129)
  • “Plausibility, it seems, was not something that audiences insisted on in the 1920s” (Location 1397)
  • “Hypocrisy in the 1920s was not a condition many people recognized” (Location 3249)

  • “Boston by 1927 had 825,000 people a day coming into its downtown – or more than the entire population of the city” (Location 2377)

  • “The 1920s was a great time for reading altogether – very possibly the peak decade for reading in American life. Soon it would be overtaken by the passive distractions of radio, but for the moment reading remained most people’s principal method for filling idle time.” (Location 439)
  • “the big hit of the season was a steamy offering called Don Juan, in which Hollywood hearthrob John Barrymore managed to plant no fewer than 143 kisses on compliant females” (Location 2118)
  • radios – “Not everyone was captivated by the new technology. Many believed that all the invisible energy flying through the air must be dangerous. One widespread belief was that birds found dead on the ground were there because they had been struck by radio waves.” (Location 2342)
  • “tennis was a big attraction in 1927 and Bill Tilden was the greatest” (Location 1470)

  • “skyscrapers of the period began to sport pointed masts – so that airships could tie up to them.” (Location 1084)
  • “By 1927, the country boasted some five thousand tall building – most of the world’s stock.” (Location 2371)

  • “In 1927, when people traveled or shipped goods, it was still almost exclusively by rail. Paved highways in most places were a rarity.” (Location 1078)
  • “drove at high speed (which in 1927 was about 40 miles per hour)” (Location 1319)
  • “Over a thousand people were killed in traffic accidents in New York in 1927 – four times the number killed there annually in traffic accidents today.”( Location 1323)
  • “traffic lights had been introduced to Manhattan three years earlier, but so far they had little detectable effect” (Location 1325)

  • “Prohibition was in its eighth year and was a spectacular failure. It had turned ordinary citizens into criminals and created a world of gangsters and rattling tommy guns. New York has more saloons in 1927 than it had had before Prohibition, and drinking remained so transparently prevalent that the mayor of Berlin on a visit reportedly asked Mayor Jimmy Walks when Prohibition was to begin.” (Location 1102)
  • “Waverly Root and Richard de Rochemont in their authoritative book Eating in America report that 11,700 people died in 1927 alone from imbibing drink poisoned by the govermìnment.” (Location 2543)

  • “Forty-two percent of all that was produced in the world was produced in the United States. America made 80 percent of the world’s movies and 85 percent of its cars. Kansas alone had more cars than France.” (Location 1067)
  • “The stock market, already booming, would rise by a third in 1927 in what Herbert Hoover would later call ‘an orgy of mad speculation’, but in the spring and summer of 1927 neither he nor anyone else was worried yet.” (Location 1071)
  • “Borrowing funded not just a booming stock market but all of life”. The installment plan. “On such happy mathematics was a new world built.” (Location 3250)

  • “New York recorded 372 murders in 1927; in 115 of those cases no one was arrested. Where arrests were made, the conviction rate was less than 20 percent. Nationally, according to a survey made by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company – and it is notable that the best records were kept by insurers, not police authorities – two-thirds of America’s murders were unsolved 1927.” (Location 605)

  • “In no important are of technology has America ever fallen further behind the rest of the world than it did with aviation in the 1920s.” (Location679)
  • “In America as the spring of 1927 dawned, the number of scheduled passenger air services was… none.” (Location 684)
  • France had 9 airlines, British airlines flew a million miles a year, KLM started in 1919.
  • “In Hollywood, a young cartoonist named Walt Disney was inspired to create an animated short feature called “Plane Crazy” featuring a mouse who was also a pilot. The mouse was initially called Oswald but soon assumed a more lasting place in the nation’s hearts as Mickey.” (Location 1613)

  • “Most people couldn’t recall a time like it. For months on end, across much of the country, it rained steadily, sometimes in volumes not before seen.” (Location 822)
  • “Between the late summer of 1926 and the following spring, enough precipitation fell on the forty-eight United States, by one calculation, to make a cube of water 250 miles across on each side.” (Location 826)
  • “On Good Friday, April 15, 1927, a mighty storm system pounded the middle third of America with a rain of a duration and intensity that those who experienced it would not forget in a hurry.” (Location 828)
  • “The nation’s inattentiveness notwithstanding, the Mississippi flood of 1927 was the most epic natural disaster in American history in extent, duration, and number of lives affected.” (Location 852)

  • Herbert Hoover – “in the Spring of 1927 he was, and by a very wide margin, the world’s most trusted man. He was also, curiously, perhaps the least likable hero America has ever produced. The summer of 1927 would make him a little more of both.” (Location 858)
  • “In 1927, Americans were not terribly popular in Europe and not popular at all in France. America’s insistence on being repaid in full, with interest, the $10 billion it had lent to Europe during the war seemed a bit rich to the Europeans since all the money borrowed ad been spent on American goods, so repaying it would mean that America profited twice from the same loans… Many Americans failed to share this perspective.” (Location 1519)
  • “The result of all this was quite a lot of anti-American sentiment, especially in France, where the struggling natives had to watch American tourists – many of them young, noisy, and made obnoxious by wine and no doubt sometimes also by nature – living like princes and whooping it up on Europe’s debased currencies.” (Location 1527)
  • “By the time the summer [of 1927] was over, millions of French would hate America as they never had before, and it would actually be unsafe to be an American on French streets. The summer of 1927 would not only be the most joyous in years for America, but quite an ugly one too.” (1667)
  • The President’s Daughter came out in July 1927, Harding reputation had already reached what seemedto be its nadir, but now the reading public rushed to find out what an unprincipled rascal he was.” (Location 3085)

specific Events:
  • Spring 1927 – Niccola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were awaiting execution.
  • March 20, 1927: the night of the Snyder murder, which “received more coverage than the sinking of the Titanic (Location 565)
  • May 9, 1927: lawyers made closing arguments on Snyder case, all male jury deliberated for 1 hour 45 minutes; guilty verdict (Location 611)
  • May 12, 1927: Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis arrived at Curtiss Field, Long Island (Location 617)
  • May 16, 1927: Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray were transfered from Long Island to Death Row at Sing Sing.
  • May 19, 1927: “readers of the New York Times woke up to this headline: MANIAC BLOWS UP SCHOOL; KILLS 42, MOSTLY CHILDREN; HAD PROTESTED HIGH TAXES
  • May 20, 1927: Charles Lindbergh’s departure for his voyage across the Atlantic, school bombing stops being covered
  • Jun 11, 1927 – named Charles Lindbergh Day – first radio broadcast for NBC

One thought on ““One Summer: America 1927”

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