American prosperity in the 1920s was real enough, but it was not nearly as pervasive as legend has portrayed.
The millions of immigrants who had swarmed into the nation’s teeming industrial cities in the preceding decades remained culturally parochial and economically precarious in gritty ethnic ghettoes.
Each embraced a pair of episodes with lastingly transformative impacts.
From 1776 to 1789 the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Constitution brought national independence and established the basic political framework within which the nation would be governed ever after.
From 1861 to 1877 the Civil War and Reconstruction affirmed the integrity of the Union, ended slavery, and generated three constitutional amendments that at least laid the foundation for honoring the Declaration’s promise that "all men are created equal." And between 19 the Great Depression and World War II utterly redefined the role of government in American society and catapulted the United States from an isolated, peripheral state into the world’s hegemonic superpower.
To understand the logic and the consequences of those three moments is to understand much about the essence and the trajectory of all of American history.
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Virtually none enjoyed such common urban amenities as electricity and indoor plumbing.
Other maladies began to appear, faintly at first, but with mounting urgency as the Depression began to unfold.