Although much of what happened during the summer of 1927 is no longer prominent, it was an extraordinary summer filled with memorable events. The History Book Group, sponsored by the Hampton Historical Society, will discuss the amazing occurrences of that One Summer, the title of the featured book by Bill Bryson, at its April 9 meeting.
"So many important things happened in this one summer," said Barbara Tosiano, director of the Hampton Falls Library, who leads the discussions. "We've forgotten about some of these, but in 1927 they made headlines!"
At that time, America was the most affluent country, while the rest of the world was recovering from World War I. Forty-two percent of everything produced in the world was produced in America. We made 80 percent of the world's movies and 85 percent of the world's cars. American households had durable goods not common in the rest of the world - refrigerators, phonographs and telephones.
It was a great time for reading - very possibly the peak decade. American publishers published 110 million books and the Book-of-the-Month Club was founded. It was the golden age for newspapers, with 36 million copied printed daily. The tabloid was born - focusing on crime, sports and celebrities, becoming the best selling of the newspapers.
"The Jazz Singer," a movie with Al Jolson, became the first successful "talking picture." At the Cotton Club, Harlem's premier establishment, along with other Harlem speakeasies, patrons heard some of the best and most original music by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith and Count Basie.
Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean by airplane nonstop. A young cartoonist, Walt Disney, created an animated short featuring a movie with a mouse as a pilot.
Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run. Mt. Rushmore was dedicated. The cathode ray tube, which would become the TV, was invented. Buying on installment was introduced.
But there was also a dark side to the 1920s.
Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal liquor business with municipal corruption, terror and murder. In an attempt to stop Americans from consuming alcohol, the U.S. government poisoned it with strychnine and mercury. In 1927, 11,700 people were poisoned.
The Mississippi River flooded more than ever before, displacing rural African Americans who then migrated to cities and the north.
The KKK spread its activity from the South into the Midwest and the Northeast.
All are welcome to attend the book group discussion on Sunday, April 9, at 4 p.m., at the Tuck Museum, to discuss these and more events of the 1920s. Attendees are encouraged to bring and share historical items they have from the decade.
As always coffee and dessert will be served. Pineapple upside-down cake will be on the menu for April 9, since it was a popular dessert in the 1920s. This was the first time canned pineapple was available commercially, imported from Hawaii.
Bill Bryson is a bestselling author of numerous books. "He's a good non-fiction writer who people are familiar with and enjoy reading," said Tosiano. "One Summer should make for a fascinating and fun discussion."