Prohibition. Al Capone. The President Harding scandals. The revolution of manners and morals, Black Teusday. 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 terrorwhen dizzying highs were quickly succeeded by heartbreaking lows.
Unlike that other famous and mythologized American decade of the 20th century, the '60s, much of which actually took place in the '70s, the '20s really were a self-contained decade. Yes, they began with the end of World War I in 1918 and the beginning of Prohibition in 1919, but these were preludes, just as the slide into nationwide Depression in 1930-31 was an afterword. Allen had the prescience to understand this immediately, and the skill to synthesize an immense amount of discrete material, to interpret it with intelligence and without sentimentality, and to write about it with grace, fluidity and wit.