1919 was a year of great turmoil as men, and women, returned from the War, a War they’d thought would last ten times longer. Telephone operators serving with Army Signal Corps–read The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers by Elizabeth Cobbs–returned from Europe to find themselves denied by the Army and received no discharge papers, no benefits, no bonus checks. Black men, treated fairly in France, returned to face oppression all over again.

Labor strikes abounded. Union workers fought with owners’ representatives. People were killed on both sides. Race riots tore the country apart during the summer, injuring more than five hundred in Chicago over the course of one week in late July. The Reds, mostly Soviet,  were blamed for the strikes and the riots. Read Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America by Cameron McWhirter.

Women were still excluded from voting in most states, though the Nineteenth Amendment was on the rounds for ratification. Black workers were generally excluded from union memberships, though thousands were recruited from the South to work service jobs in places like Atlantic City. Read “A Plantation by the Sea” and The Northside: African Americans and the Creation of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson.

The federal government reluctantly gave back radio. It had taken control over wireless communication at the start of the War. Amateurs were allowed to listen to radio receivers beginning in April. The ban on amateur transmitters wasn’t lifted until October. Telegraph keys sent Morse code over radio waves in 1919.

The first telephone with a rotary dial was introduced in 1919. It was a candlestick model with its receiver on a hook. It would be eight years before a rotary phone with a handset incorporating both receiver and transmitter was introduced. The changeover from manual to electromagnetic switching began in 1919, though operator-assisted calling remained a staple of telephone service in the US until the 1960’s.

Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919

More Americans died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 than in WWI and WWII combined.

Spanish influenza first appeared in early spring 1918. It continued through 1920, but as a less virulent strain than in 1918 and 1919.

Around 550,000 people died in the US, but that may be a low estimate. 21 million people died in the whole world, but that is probably a “gross underestimation”.

Prohibition: 1920 to 1933

We all know how this turned out.

Love this from Ken Burns : “…what was supposed to be a dry nation had become the number one importer of cocktail shakers.” More here.  His documentary film here.

From teacher to writer, in 500 years or less.