cover image 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents

David Pietrusza, .\t\t . Carroll & Graf, $27.95 (533pp) ISBN 978-0-78671-622-7

Pietrusza's (Rothstein) chronicle \t\t of the presidential election of 1920 is absorbing, despite the subtitle's \t\t rather tangential claim that the election involved six men who had served or \t\t would serve as president: Harding, Wilson, Coolidge, Hoover and both Roosevelts \t\t (though Teddy had died in 1919). This book isn't really about them, nor is it \t\t merely the story of one electoral race. Rather, Pietrusza is telling a grander \t\t tale, of a country toppling into "modernity, or what passed for it." In 1920, \t\t the automobile had overtaken the horse, jazz and the fox-trot were replacing \t\t the camp meeting as popular entertainment, people were learning to buy on \t\t installment, and more and more of those fox-trotting shoppers lived in cities. \t\t Presidential candidates, for the first time, courted women voters. (Democrat \t\t Cox was divorced, which was expected to play badly with the fairer sex.) Both \t\t parties waffled on the so-called race question, seeking black votes while \t\t either tacitly or explicitly endorsing white supremacy. Given Harding's \t\t electoral victory and death during his term, Pietrusza could have devoted more \t\t space to the abiding importance of this election. All in all, Pietrusza has \t\t produced a broad, satisfying political and social history, in the style of \t\t Doris Kearns Goodwin. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Feb. \t\t 7)