The Twenties

Thomas G. Alexander
Utah, the Right Place
Condensed by Brittany Nelson

The twenties were a period of extreme change, a decade of oxymoronic contradictions. Utahns began the decade disillusioned over the failure of the war to end all wars, but the economy had grown in depressed prosperity. Following the depression of 1919–22, mining and agriculture limped along while manufacturing, construction, trade, and transportation prospered at much superior levels. In the cities, people struggled to make beautiful, livable places while wallowing in garbage. Politicians offered both progressivism and conservatism. While legislators approved progressive measures such as the Sheppard-Towner Act, governmental efficiency, and the conservation movement, Utah women also suffered through defeat of an increase in the minimum wage, Asians lived under the burden of a restrictive land act, and the Ku Klux Klan spread racism and hatred. Ambivalence drew people into alternately supporting and opposing cigarette prohibition, horse racing, and liquor prohibition. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties harbored contradictory political and social opinion. Progressive George Dern and conservative William King were both Democrats, and social reformer Amy Brown Lyman and machine politician Ernest Bamberger both carried the Republican label. Thus, in many ways, the 1920s were marked by almost a decade of contradiction and indecision for Utah.