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Jazz in Ladies Home Journal
Scarcely a day passes that some mother does not appeal to us to exert whatever influence is in our power against the jazz tendency of the day. Some mothers refer to the brutality of their children, to a cruel selfishness that will brook no interference with their "modern pleasures and excitements."
Unspeakable Jazz Must Go!
General Research Division, The New York Public Library. "Unspeakable Jazz Must Go!", New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed December 25, 2020.
Jazz dancing is a worse evil than the saloon used to be. This statement fairly startled me because of its source. If it had been made by a zealot of any sort I should have discounted it heavily. If it had been ordered by an average clergyman or publicist one would make allowance for lack of exact information. But the statement was made by a man of the world, a person without prejudices or allusions, one who is familiar with every phase of terpsichorean theory and practice in the United States, an expert in the dance and a professional dancing master. His name is Fenton T. Bott. He lives in Dayton, Ohio.
And he knows more about the subject than most professionals by virtue of his position as "director of dance reform" in the American National Association Masters of Dancing. It is his business to keep in touch with dance activities throughout the country.
He is a big, broad-shouldered man of ruddy face that breaks into frequent smiles. There is nothing narrow about his make-up. He is an ideal witness in the case of the Commonwealth of Decency versus the Jazz.
"Jazz is worse than the saloon! Why?" I asked.
"Because it affects our young people especially," said Mr. Bott. "It is degrading. It lowers all the moral standards. Unlike liquor, a great deal of harm is direct and immediate. But it also leads to undesirable things. The jazz is too often followed by the joy-ride. The lower nature is stirred up as a prelude to unchaperoned adventure.
"This strikes especially at the youth of the nation, and the consequences are almost too obvious to be detailed. When the next generation starts on a low plane, what will its successes be?
"We have had more flagrent dancing since prohibition than before. This may be partly because people substitute one form of sense excitation for another, a dance spree instead of a boat with liquor. I believe this is done deliberately in many cases and that those who are sober often dance more reprehensibly than those who were somewhat in their caps.
"A person who is partly intoxicated knows it and is afraid to go too far. The sober one argues that he can take care of himself and may go as far as he likes."
"Is there anything bad about jazz music itself?" I asked.
"There certainly is! Those moaning saxophones and the rest of the instruments with their broken, jerky rhythm make a purely sensual appeal. They call out below and rowdy instinct. All of us dancing teachers know this to be a fact. We have seen the effect of jazz music on our young pupils. It makes them act in a reckless and rowdy manner. A class of children will behave that way as long as such music is played. They can be calmed down and restored to normal conduct only by playing good, legitimate music."
Centered in the middle of first page in its own box it starts with these sentences.
Experts tell in this article the nation-wide aspects of our jazz scourge. They say legal prohibition of all dancing may come.
A reform movement has been started by cities and volunteer groups. A committee of women is helping to regulate in Chicago.
It looks as if the common people are in reaction against "common" behavior. Decency is regaining popularity among those who work for a living.
Lower right corner of newspaper article with the heading "Dividends and Public Opinions"
"What is the attitude of music publishers?" I inquired.
"Not very helpful, unless they have had a recent change of heart," replied Mr. Bott. "The music written for jazz is the very foundation and essence of salacious dancing. The words also are often very sick just suggestive, thinly veiling immoral ideas. Now, at the 1920 convention of our association we appealed to the music publishers to eliminate jazz music. A representative of the publishers came before us and replied that personally he was against the indecent stuff, being himself a church elder or deacon, but the publishers had to give the public what they wanted and they also had to reckon with stockholders calling for dividends. That's a fine argument! Perhaps we dancing teachers are not less selfish, but I hope we are more intelligent. No body of men can afford to flaunt public opinion in the best interest of the community."