What to Expect in Martha’s Vineyard in the Roaring Twenties: Radicals and Rascals
Author Talk Sponsored by Museums on the Green
Wednesday, May 24th, 2023
The 1920s was a unique era in American history. On Martha’s Vineyard, the 20s unfolded on a dual track: locals were influenced by national news, but still carried on in their own ways. The Spanish Flu was a worldwide pandemic. About 30 Vineyarders died from the vicious virus. On one day in December 1919, three young men died. It was devastating.
The First World War was over. Veterans returned to the Island, although three men died overseas from the flu. Trolley cars were taken out of service just as the first airplanes touched down in Oak Bluffs harbor. By the end of the 1920s, regular airplane passenger service operated between Boston and the Vineyard and newspapers were delivered daily at the Island’s only airport in Katama. A lot was going on in the 1920s. Alcohol was prohibited nation-wide. Vineyard fishermen were recruited to transport alcohol from supply ships, twelve miles off shore, to the Island, where bootleggers picked up the illegal liquor and distributed it.
Women won the right to vote, beginning with the 1920 election. Voting was taken seriously. The number of voters in 1916 doubled by 1920. The Island was a Republican enclave and supported Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge as Vice-President. Martha’s Vineyard Museum began in 1922 as the Dukes County Historical Society. Phillips Hardware opened its doors in 1928; the granddaughters of the founder run it today. Social clubs from the Odd Fellows to the Triad Club and the Want to Know Club were popular. Golf clubs and yacht clubs began in the 1920s.
A survey of the number of automobiles was conducted in the 1920s. Four new steamships were launched. Tourists discovered Martha’s Vineyard. Then it was Black Friday, 1929, and the Great Depression began. The Roaring 20s came to a screeching halt across the country and on Martha’s Vineyard.
To learn more about this exciting era from a century ago, Martha’s Vineyard in the Roaring Twenties: Radicals and Rascals, tells the story. In addition, the story sounds remarkably similar to many situations we are facing today.
About Martha’s Vineyard in the Roaring Twenties: Radicals and Rascals:
The Roaring Twenties were filled with a range of events, experiences, fears, laws and advances that impacted Martha's Vineyard. Island residents were involved in rumrunning. Dozens died of the Spanish Flu. Women voted on Island. Dorothy West joined the Harlem Renaissance. Immigration from the Azores slowed, and airplanes landed in Katama. Tourism blossomed and business boomed. Local author Thomas Dresser shares the back story and the import of this remarkable decade and how it has shaped Vineyarders.
About Thomas Dresser:
Thomas Dresser has written several books on the history of Martha’s Vineyard. Martha’s Vineyard in the Roaring 20s, Radicals and Rascals is one of his favorites. Why? It was exciting to find similarities between the 1920s and the 2020s, from the pandemic and prohibition to women’s right to vote and immigration restrictions. In addition, there is much, much more.
Tom grew up in central Massachusetts, taught third grade for a decade, and then spent 20 years in nursing home administration. Joyce, a high school classmate, invited Tom down to the Vineyard for a weekend visit, back in 1995. Tom and Joyce celebrate 25 years of marriage this spring.
Kutter, a Mexican rescue miniature Schnauzer, joined Tom and Joyce in 2022. He is much loved (and spoiled) by Tom and Joyce’s collective five children and nine grandchildren.
Learn more at thomasdresser.com.
$20 Non-Member/$10 Members includes light refreshments and option to purchase the book.
Eight Cousins will be on hand selling books.
Register for this event HERE.