Decision 1920: A Return to “Normalcy” through an Embrace of Modernity

In 1920 voters in the United States responded to four years of profound change during which the country entered a worldwide conflict, survived a global pandemic, prohibited a common behavior, expanded the electorate, and experienced a summer of unrest connected to prejudice and inequities around race and class that had existed since before the nation’s founding. The campaigns of the two major parties offered voters a choice: forward into the new decade of the 1920s, or a return to the way the country was at the start of the 20th century. The means through which the campaigns got their messages across to voters were both old-fashioned and decidedly modern, making use of emerging mass media and communication technologies--and not always in ways one might expect. In this Newberry Teachers’ Consortium, offered in conjunction with the fall exhibition Decision 1920: A Return to “Normalcy,” we’ll explore the various strategies deployed by the Democratic and Republican campaigns, which set the pattern for national elections moving forward.

The Newberry’s exhibition Decision 1920: A Return to “Normalcy,” will run from September 15 to November 28, 2020.