One Summer | Bill Bryson

Summary of: One Summer: America, 1927
By: Bill Bryson

Introduction

Get ready to explore America’s transformative year of 1927 in Bill Bryson’s engaging book, ‘One Summer: America, 1927’. This book summary uncovers the historic events and developments that shaped the United States during this pivotal year. Delve into Charles Lindbergh’s groundbreaking flight, the booming American film industry, the rise of Babe Ruth, and the excesses of the roaring twenties that eventually led to the Great Depression. Grasp America’s economic success, consumerism, and the increasing xenophobia and racism, as well as the curious approach of President Calvin Coolidge during his time in office.

The Sky Wasn’t Always Busy

Learn how Charles Lindbergh’s legacy changed Aviation in America.

The United States Air Force, red-eye flights crossings between coasts, and some of the largest airplane producers in the world are American. However, airplanes used to be unheard of in the US military before 1914. Post the First World War, civilian aviation increased in Europe, but America still lagged behind. Passenger air services didn’t even exist till the spring of 1927. But, all of this changed with Charles Lindbergh’s flight. Lindbergh, in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, traveled from New York to Paris, becoming the first person in history to be in the two cities on back-to-back days. Lindbergh’s extraordinary achievement captivated the world’s attention and imagination, spurring around $100 million in aviation investments in America. Within a year of this flight, the airplane manufacturer Boeing grew exponentially.

Lindbergh’s flight not only helped promote commercial air services but aviation in general. The legacy of Lindbergh continues to inspire developments in the aviation industry, and his story is a testament to the power of hard work and determination.

The Rise of American Culture

In 1927, the world witnessed a transformation of American culture that forever changed the country’s international influence. The year marked the rise of the American film industry, with Hollywood producing 80% of the world’s films, elevating it to the country’s fastest-growing and richest city per capita. This was all thanks to the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, which marked the beginning of the talkies era, popularizing American speech and attitudes on a global scale. Another cultural phenomenon was the baseball hero Babe Ruth, who became a symbol of American pride and celebrity. Ruth hit an unbelievable 60 home runs in a season, making him the greatest athlete of his time and one of the highest-earning celebrities with nearly a quarter of a million dollars from sponsorships and his film. Through film and sport, America’s influence grew to new heights in 1927, expanding the country’s cultural landscape beyond its borders.

The Dark Side of the Roaring Twenties

The 1920s may be known as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, but beneath the glitz and glamour, the decade was plagued by extreme nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in the United States. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 intensified anti-American sentiments, resulting in widespread xenophobia and suspicions of left-wing politics during the Red Scare. Italians, in particular, were viewed as fascists, Bolsheviks, anarchists, communists, or organized crime leaders. The theory of eugenics became popular, which aimed to sterilize the mentally and physically disabled, orphans, gays, and promiscuous women. Sadly, discrimination also existed in the entertainment industry, where black comedian Bert Williams had written proof of his wealth but still could not be allowed to enter his apartment through the front entrance. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists, were executed despite doubts whether they committed murder. The Dark Side of the Roaring Twenties exposes the uglier truth of this decade despite the popular cheerful image often associated with it.

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