Life in America 100 Years Ago

Nena Arias | January 13, 2020

Most of us have heard the proverb that says “Hindsight is 20/20” that means it is easier to understand something after it has already happened. This expression is usually said when a person should have known something would happen, and a better decision was needed.

The one thing that generally hasn’t changed since the beginning of the fall of humans into sin—is the fallen human nature. Greed, lust, and the quest for power are embedded in each of us in every generation, with the exception of those who have had a genuine spiritual born-again experience and live daily in the light of that glorious transformation that we are offered through Jesus Christ, our Savior. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

That means that the victory of Christ over sin while in his human body, is also a possibility for us through his strength. In Christ we live in a newness of life.

In the life of a true child of God, we should be able to look at ourselves in retrospect and see great improvement and others should be able to see it too. That is the new and abundant life Jesus came to give us when he said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

What about life in the world? What is happening worldwide? What was life like 100 years ago? To be more specific, what was life in America a mere 100 years ago? It would be very interesting to look at this so we can know what to look forward to in the next 100 years.

Records show that in 1920, the U.S. had become an economic power. How can that be since just two years earlier we had just come off of a very bloody war?

The beginning of what became known as “the Roaring ’20s” brought new rights for women, including the right to vote, a change in the dress codes that pushed the “dare” envelope with new outfits, and cigarette smoking. It also brought great concern due to the consumption of alcohol and its effects on the family and society. This launched a cultural war and Prohibition was enacted. But as is the case with the unruly human spirit when something is prohibited it makes it more enticing. So, Prohibition led to the rise of Al Capone and the Mafia. This is a perfect example of the unruly sinful nature that is innate in all unregenerate humans. Fallen human nature is rebellious and must either be self-governed, with God’s help and firm individual decision to hold ourselves accountable to him or be governed by strict enforceable laws. Prohibition only lasted from 1920-1933.

In these trying times, we must turn to the greatest document in the history of the world to promise freedom and opportunity to its citizens for proper guidance—the Bible. 

Something that changed us beginning in 1920, was the impact of the Industrial Revolution that drove people to the big cities for the first time to work rather than on the farms. America’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929. That launched a “consumer society” like we had never seen before and that still drives our economy today.

The website history.com notes: “People from coast to coast bought the same goods, thanks to nationwide advertising and the spread of chain stores, listened to the same music, did the same dances, and even used the same slang.” 

Though many Americans were uncomfortable with this sharp change in culture, it came with such momentum that it took over. They were not called “the roaring 20’s” for nothing. Needless to say, this decade brought conflict and set a neck-break pace for erosion in our life value system.

It feels pretty much like today. Have we learned nothing? The tension between people with opposing political and social views and religious beliefs has increased these past 100 years. The modern-day social media and the 24/7 news cycle, have brought on a powerful revolution but not for the better in many ways.

The 20th century gave us cars, washing machines, new forms of birth control, and other creations that gave both men and women new freedoms. Radio united the nation because now news could spread so much faster,100 million were sold in 1927 alone, this created a common culture, even though some older people didn’t like the changes that were vulgar and spread depravity they couldn’t hold them back. But for the younger generation, it was a new world and they looked forward to the future with enthusiasm and excitement.

What will America be like in 2120? The saying that “the more things change, the more they remain the same” has never seemed more accurate except now instead of legalizing alcohol we are legalizing marijuana, and the merciless murder of babies inside and outside of their mother’s womb. Many men want to be women and some women want to be men. Same-sex marriage has been legalized and who knows what is next.

Will we also experience a Great Depression, or a Third World War? Worse yet, is a nuclear annihilation what awaits us?

This is a critical year in the history of our country. We have a very divided country on many existential issues, how will we best proceed into the future? May God help us to return America to a more solid footing of godly principles. This is what is needed if we expect to survive.