America After WWI
1-2 class periods
10th Grade US History
Emergence of Modern America, 1890-1930
Common Core Standards Addressed:
Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
Ted Gilcrest (2004)
Words by Sam Lewis, & Joe Young with music by Walter Donaldson "How Ya’ Keep 'Em Down on the Farm" was written in 1919. The trio got their start in Tin Pan Alley creating songs to be sung on stage by people like Al Jolson and Fanny Brice. This song was reportedly inspired by Donaldson’s service in the camps as an entertainer during WWI. The song is in the form of the question & answer form using the old conversational duet story from the 1871 song “Rueben & Cynthia.”
"The Charleston Rag" is a song which became a popular dance tune created by Eubie Blake in 1926, which he claims got its roots from the African-American dance called the Black Bottom. Blake’s song is considered the theme song of the flappers of the day.
What were some of the cultural changes in the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century?
How did industrialization change the US economy?
Songs used in lesson:
“How Ya’ Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm ( after they’ve seen Paree)” Words by Sam Lewis & Joe Young, Music by Walter Donaldson, 1919.
“The Charleston Rag” Eubie Blake, 1926.
“She’s Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage” Harry Von Tilzer, 1908.
Introductory learning activities:
Play the song “How Ya’ Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)", listening for certain words and have them answer the following questions:
Song discussion questions and activities:
AP US History:
1. Compare and Contrast the song “She’s Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage” with “How ‘ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm."
2. Discuss with the students how the attitude towards women changed (if any) when the men returned home after WWI or as a result of the war.
3. Examine the role of dance, such as “The Charleston” and its effect on the culture.
Regular US History:
What is the main theme of this song?
How did women react to the return of the men from WWI? What changes in fashion started in the 1920’s?
How did music and dancing change culture in America in the 1920s?
How does this song work describe the lives of the soldiers of WWI?
Name some of the writers, artists and musicians of the 1920s.
Follow-up learning activities:
The student will answer the following questions (AP Class - Essay form):
For the Regular US History class, students will identify the following:
At Level 1, the student is able to
At Level 2, the student is able to
At Level 3, the student is able to
“How ‘Ya Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm?” available at
“She’s Only A Bird in a Gilded Cage” available at
Copyright 2011-2012 Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh Library System