1925: Arts and Entertainment

Visitors flock to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, France beginning in April, 1925. The art displayed at the show features bold coloring and geometric shapes, and it’s sometimes called Cubism domesticated. This “art deco” style persists in everything from architecture to fashion to dishes from 1925 into the early 1940’s.

An art deco building in Madrid:

'Cine Callao (Gran Via, Madrid)' photo (c) 2010, dalbera - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

French fashion designer Coco Chanel worked in the art deco style and exhited her fashions at the 1925 Exposition in Paris:

'Coco_Chanel' photo (c) 2011, chariserin - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Art deco stairway:

'Art deco stairway' photo (c) 2008, R/DV/RS - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Art deco cocktail set:

'Art Deco Cocktail Set' photo (c) 2011, Artdecodude - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Can you find your own example of art deco, which persists to this day, in your house or neighborhood?

1925: Events and Inventions

January 3, 1925. Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) announces he is taking dictatorial powers over Italy.

'General Chiang Kai Shek' photo (c) 2010, SDASM Archives - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/March, 1925. Chiang Kai-shek becomes leader of the Chinese nationalist Kuomintang (party), following the death of Chinese premier Sun Yat-sen. The picture is a young General Chiang Kai-shek.

April 25, 1925. Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg Is the victor in extremely close German elections. He becomes the first popularly elected president of Germany. Although von Hindenburg supports a return to the monarchy, he has promised to uphold the republican constitution.

June 29, 1925. A bill is passed in South Africa that bans black South Africans from doing skilled jobs in all industries. Afrikaaners (people of Dutch descent) and other white South Africans (mostly of British extraction) combine to make the already widely practiced color ban legal. Afrikaans, a Dutch-based dialect, is made the official language of South Africa.

July, 1925. While in prison, German leader Adolf Hitler publishes Mein Kampf, a book promoting himself, Nazism, and anti-Semitism.

August 8, 1925. The Ku Klux Klan demonstrate their popularity by holding a parade in Washington DC; as many as 40,000 male and female members of the Klan march down Pennsylvania Avenue. The ceremony the Klansmen had planned at the Washington Monument is rained out.

'Conference of the Big Three at Yalta' photo (c) 2008, Marion Doss - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/October 31, 1925. Reza Khan Pahlavi becomes Shah of Persia (Iran). He has been ruling Persia since 1921, but now that his rule is official, the Shah vows to modernize his country.

December, 1925. Josef Stalin uses the year 1925 and following years in the 20’s to consolidate more and more power in his hands, gradually putting down all opposition groups within the Soviet Communist party. In December, at the 14th Soviet Communist Party Congress, Stalin wins approval of a new policy called “socialism in one country.” The USSR will no longer pursue world socialist revolution as its first priority. Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s main rival for power in the Soviet Union, favors the idea of international permanent revolution, called by some people Trotskyism. The picture shows Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin in Yalta in 1945 at the end of World War II.

1925: Books and Literature

Among the bestsellers and critically acclaimed books of 1925:
Gene Stratton Porter, The Keeper of the Bees
Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
Anne Parrish, The Perennial Bachelor I assume this is the same Anne Parrish who had a Newbery Honor book in 1925 (see below). Her books won Newbery Honors twice more, in 1930 and in 1950. Yet, I’ve never seen anything by Ms. Parrish.

In the 1920s, Anne and her husband were browsing in a bookstore in Paris when she came upon a special children’s book. It was a well-worn edition of Jack Frost and Other Stories. She immediately showed it to her husband, remarking that the story had been one of her favorites as a little girl. Her husband opened the book and was stunned to read the inscription inside: “Anne Parrish, 209 N. Weber Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.”

Fannie Farmer, ed., The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. First published in 1896, Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook became an American classic. It eventually contained 1,849 recipes.

“It is my wish that it may not only be looked upon as a compilation of tried and tested recipes, but that it may awaken an interest through its condensed scientific knowledge which will lead to deeper thought and broader study of what to eat.”

A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby My history and literature students are finishing up Mr. Fitzgerald’s story of the enigmatic Mr. Gatsby this week. Here’s a rather indicative conversation from the book:

Nick: “You’re a rotten driver. Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.”
Jordan: “I am careful.”
Nick: “No, you’re not.”
Jordan: “Well, other people are.”
Nick: “What’s that got to do with it?”
Jordan:”They’ll keep out of my way. It takes two to make an accident.”
Nick: “Suppose you meet someone just as careless as yourself?”
Jordan: “I hope I never will. I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.”

I wrote more about the deeply spiritual carelessness of Daisy and Tom and Jordan here.

Prosper Buranelli et al., The Cross Word Puzzle Books
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 went to playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Pulitzer Prize for the Novel: So Big by Edna Ferber.
I’ve read So Big, and it’s a decent story. But I’m not sure it’s Pulitzer Prize material, anymore than Ferber’s fun, but highly inaccurate, novel of Texas, Giant. Giant was made into a 1956 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson.

1925 Newbery Medal Winner:
Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger. (Doubleday, 1925) I’ve tried to read this book, but honestly the “tales” from South America are rather dry and not too exciting.
Honor Books: (I wish I could find copies of these two. It would be fun to see what librarians in 1925 thought were “honor books.”)
Nicholas: A Manhattan Christmas Story by Annie Carroll Moore (Putnam)
The Dream Coach by Anne Parrish (Macmillan)

Nonfiction set in 1925:
The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury. Recommended by Heather J. at Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books.

Fiction set in 1925:
Greenery Street by Denis Mckail. Re-published in 2002 by Persephone Books. Recommended by Dani Torres at A Work in Progress.

Christmas in Hankow, China, 1925

“What I liked best about Christmas was that for a whole day grown-ups seemed to agree to take time of from being grown-ups. At six-thirty sharp when I burst into my parents’ room, yelling, ‘Merry Christmas!,’ they both laughed and jumped right up as if six-thirty wasn’t an early hour at all. By the time we came downstairs, the servants were lined up in the hall dressed in their best. ‘Gung-shi.’ They bowed. ‘Gung-shi. Gung-shi.’ This was the way Chinese offered congratulations on special occasions, and the greeting, as it was repeated, sounded like little bells tinkling.

Lin Nai-Nai, however, didn’t ‘gung-shi.’ For months she had been waiting for this day. She stepped forward. ‘Merry Christmas,’ she said just as if she could have said anything in English that she wanted to. I was so proud. I took her hand as we trooped into the living room. My father lighted the tree and he distributed the first gifts of the day—red envelopes filled with money for the servants. After a flurry of more ‘gung-shis,’ the servants left and there were the three of us in front of a huge mound of packages. All mysteries.” ~Homesick by Jean Fritz


It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

I’ve finished re-reading The Great Gatsby for my American Literature discussion group, and my first thought is that some people lead very sad and empty lives. Hunter S. Thompson, inventor of “gonzo journalism,” shot himself on Sunday. Somehow, even though I don’t know too much about Thompson, this apparent suicide seems to fit in with Gatsby and Tom and Nick and Daisy and the lives of, not quiet, but rather loud desperation they all led.
Unfortunately, I see a lot of carelessness in our society. People carelessly have abortions or get divorces or hop from relationship to relationship leaving mayhem and confusion behind them. They carelessly retreat into drugs or alcohol or they commit suicide, leaving others to mop up their mess.
Of course, some people, like Gatsby, care tremendously. But they care about the wrong things. Gatsby thought he could find meaning in Daisy, but the green light at the end of her dock that became an object of worship for him was really a mirage. Daisy herself was a siren, not a goddess, and she had nothing to give except disilusionment and death.
The kicker is that we’re all desperate: we’re either desperately lost in sin and idolatry and ultimately despair, or we’re desperately dependent upon the Only One who can save us and mop up our messes and redeem our carelessness. And where our desperation finds an end matters not only to each of us but also to those whom our lives touch.