Culture of the 1920s

 
Charleston.jpg

Ascent: 1920

Decline: 1929

Cultural Hallmarks: Prohibition and speakeasies, radio, telephones, popular culture, Art Deco, Precisionism, Surrealism, jazz, country music, Lost Generation, talkie films, silent films, black-and-white films, color films, cartoon shorts, Mickey Mouse

As the world recovered from the Great War, its people experienced an economic prosperity ushering in what became known as the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Jazz Age” or the “Golden Age Twenties.” The era’s dynamic cultural, artistic and social aspects coupled with higher wages, shorter work hours and a population shift to cities allowed for the creation of an entertainment industry where sports and movie stars became celebrities. Popular culture was born.

In the United States, prohibition was the law of the land throughout the 1920s. Organized crime led by significant leaders such as Al Capone began bootlegging and smuggling liquor for illegal speakeasies.

At the same time in Europe, Ireland became an independent nation after the Irish War of Independence in 1921 which was followed by the Irish Civil War from 1922-23, Benito Mussolini became the Prime Minister of Italy and instituted the world’s first fascist government and Germany dealt with an economic crisis and hyperinflation. An unsuccessful coup against the Bavarian and German governments in 1923 by the National Socialist Workers’ Party led to its leader, Adolf Hitler, being imprisoned for one year. This is when Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.

Meanwhile, in Asia, the Reza Shah Pahlavi founded the Pahlavi Dynasty as the last Iranian monarchy and the Chinese Civil War began in 1927. It would last for a decade.

Technologically, the world saw unprecedented industrial growth and the beginning of aviation as an industry along with large-scale adoption of automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, household electricity and radio. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 but did not see significant usage as an antibiotic until the 1930s.

Artists in the 1920s expressed themselves in a manner of styles, some different from previous decades. Among those styles, Surrealism took root, lasting for about 40 years, as did Art Deco. Additionally, Precisionism thrived after its emergence following World War I.

Surrealism was known for such artists as Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguay, and Pierre Naville creating illogical scenes and strange creatures from everyday objects. Their works were known for elements of surprise, non-sequiturs and unexpected juxtapositions.

Art Deco building

Art Deco building

Art Deco combined multiple styles out of a desire to be modern, blending cubist forms and fauvist colors, the craftsmanship of 19th century French furniture and exotic styles. Creators like Marcel Janco, Herman Sachs, Louis Lozowick, Charles Catteau, and Pierre Brissaud left their legacies in the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, trains, theaters and everyday objects.

Precisionism was the first art movement native to the United States, celebrating its landscape of skyscrapers, bridges and factories. George Ault, Ralston Crawford, Joseph Stella, Miklos Suba, and Peter Bloom were a few notable Precisionist artists. Further, while she resisted ties to movements and though her best-known works are not precisionist, Georgia O’Keeffe created some precisionist paintings.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

The 1920s was known as the “Jazz Age” for a reason. Jazz as a genre and music inspired by it became extremely popular. It was the most popular form of musical expression for youth and had a dominant influence on America’s popular music scene in general. Performers and singers from the 1920s are numerous with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson, and Bing Crosby among their ranks.

Later in the decade saw the beginnings of country music pioneered by notable crooners including Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Charlie Poole.

The Great Gatsby  cover

The Great Gatsby cover

Literary creativity flourished in the 1920s and some of history’s most notable authors wrote works published during the decade. Many consider F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby to be the premiere symbolic meditation on the “Roaring Twenties.”

Young writers who survived World War I came to be known as the Lost Generation. Disillusioned and cynical, their novels and short stories expressed resentment of the excess materialism and individualism the decade was known for. Fitzgerald was one of the Lost Generation’s most famous writers as was Ernest Hemingway.

The Jazz Singer  poster

The Jazz Singer poster

Film developed from its formative years into maturity in the 1920s as movies completely replaced vaudeville. The decade started with all films having no color and no sound. This soon changed. Chester M. Franklin’s 1922 film, The Toll of the Sea, was the world’s first all-color feature film, Alan Crosland’s 1926 film, Don Juan, became the first film with sound effects and Crosland’s 1927 film, The Jazz Singer was the first sound feature film to employ some scenes with sound. The first all-talking feature film was Bryan Foy’s 1928 film, Lights of New York and the first all-talking, all-color feature film was Crosland’s 1929 film On with the Show.

Actors became box-office draws, too. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, Al Jolson and many others enticed the moviegoing public.

Cartoon shorts became popular in movie theaters as well. In the late 1920s, Walt Disney would take up the pen to debut Mickey Mouse in the 1928 short Steamboat Willie. Mickey Mouse would star in more than 120 shorts.

Sociological Timeline

 

  • 1920 - HIV pandemic begins in the Belgian Congo
  • Jan. 1, 1920 - Babe Ruth traded by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees  for $125,000, largest amount paid for a player at that time
  • Jan. 9, 1920 - George Polley climbs the Woolworth Building in New York City
  • Jan.  10, 1920 - Treaty of Versailles takes effect
  • Jan. 16, 1920 - Prohibition begins in the United States
  • Jan. 19, 1920 - United States Senate votes against joining the League of Nations; American Civil Liberties Union founded
  • Jan. 30, 1920 - Joe Stecher defeats Earl Caddock in oldest surviving professional wrestling match on film
  • Feb. 19, 1920 - United States Senate refuses to ratify the Treaty of Versailles
  • Feb. 22, 1920 - the first dog racing track to use an imitation rabbit opens in Emeryville, California
  • Feb. 24, 1920 - Adolf Hitler presents Nationalist Socialist Program to German Workers Party, party renames itself the Nazi Party
  • March 19, 1920 - United States Congress refuses to ratify the Treaty of Versailles
  • April 20, 1920 - 1920 Summer Olympics opens in Antwerp, the Olympic symbols of five interlocking rings are first displayed
  • May 2, 1920 - The first game of Negro National League Baseball is played in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • June 13, 1920 - United States Post Office Department rules children may not be sent via parcel post
  • July 30-Aug. 8, 1920 - First World Scout Jamboree held at Olympia, London
  • Aug. 26, 1920 - 19th Amendment passed, guarantees women’s suffrage in the United States
  • Sept. 29, 1920 - First domestic radio sets come to stores in the United States; Adolf Hitler makes first public political speech
  • Oct. 12, 1920 - Cleveland Indians defeat Brooklyn Robins 3-0 in 1920 World Series
  • Nov. 2, 1920 - Warren G. Harding elected president
  • Nov. 14, 1920 - Edmonton Symphony Orchestra holds its first concert,
  • Nov. 21, 1920 - Bloody Sunday
  • Dec. 1, 1920 - Mexican Revolution ends, closing out the Old West
  • 1921 - Vibraphone invented; regular radio broadcasting services begin in Italy
  • Jan. 21, 1921 - Women’s suffrage attained in Sweden;
  • March 24, 1921 - 1921 Women’s Olympiad, the first international women’s sports event, begins in Monte Carlo
  • May 3, 1921 - Province of Northern Ireland created in the United Kingdom
  • May 31, 1921 - Tulsa Race Riot begins in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • July 11, 1921 - Irish War of Independence ends
  • July 27, 1921 - Frederick Banting and other University of Toronto researchers discover insulin
  • July 29, 1921 - Adolf Hitler becomes Fuhrer of the Nazi Party
  • Aug. 5, 1921 - First radio baseball game is broadcasted
  • Sept. 7, 1921 - First Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Sept. 13, 1921 - White Castle opens in Wichita, Kansas as the world’s first fast food chain
  • Oct. 8, 1921 - First Sweetest Day staged in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Oct. 13, 1921 - New York Giants defeat New York Yankees 1-0 in 1921 World Series
  • Nov. 9, 1921 - Albert Einstein awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for work with the photoelectric effect
  • Nov. 11, 1921 - Warren G. Harding dedicates the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • 1922 - Vegemite invented; Barbary Lion becomes extinct; California Grizzly Bear becomes extinct
  • January 1922 - British empire at its largest extent, covers one-fourth of the world and rules more than one in four people on earth
  • Jan. 11, 1922 - First successful insulin treatment of diabetes made
  • Jan. 24, 1922 - Christian K. Nelson patents the Eskimo Pie
  • Feb. 2, 1922 - James Joyce publishes Ulysses
  • Feb. 8, 1922 - Warren G. Harding introduces the first radio in the White House
  • March 10, 1922 - Mohandas Gandhi arrested in Bombay for sedition
  • April 3, 1922 - Joseph Stalin appointed General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party
  • April 7, 1922 - Teapot Dome Scandal, United States Secretary of the Interior leases Teapot Dome oil reserves in Wyoming
  • April 13, 1922 - State of Massachusetts opens all public offices to women
  • May 5, 1922 - Construction begins on Yankee Stadium
  • May 30, 1922 - Lincoln Memorial dedicated
  • June 14, 1922 - Warren G. Harding makes first speech on the radio
  • June 28, 1922 - Irish Civil War begins
  • July 11, 1922 - The Hollywood Bowl opens
  • October, 1922 - Russian Civil War ends
  • Oct. 8, 1922 - New York Giants defeat New York Yankees 5-3 in 1922 World Series
  • Oct. 18, 1922 - British Broadcasting Company formed
  • Oct. 28, 1922 - Rose Bowl Stadium officially opens in Pasadena, California
  • Nov. 1, 1922 - Ottoman Empire abolished after 600 years
  • Nov. 14, 1922 - British Broadcasting Company begins radio service in the United Kingdom
  • Feb. 23, 1923 - American Law Institute incorporated
  • March 3, 1923 - Cover date of the first issue of Time Magazine
  • April 4, 1923 - Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. formally incorporated
  • April 6, 1923 - Louis Armstrong makes his first recording, “Chimes Blues” with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band
  • April 18, 1923 - Yankee Stadium opens
  • April 28, 1923 - Original Wembley Stadium opens its doors
  • May 24, 1923 - Irish Civil War ends
  • July 13, 1923 - Hollywood Sign inaugurated, reads Hollywoodland
  • Aug. 2, 1923 - Warren G. Harding dies of a heart attack in office, succeeded by Calvin Coolidge
  • Sept. 18-26, 1923 - Newspapers printers strike in New York City
  • Oct. 15, 1923 - New York Yankees defeat New York Giants 6-4 in 1923 World Series
  • Oct. 16, 1923 - Roy and Walt Disney found The Walt Disney Company
  • Nov. 8, 1923 - Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler leads Nazi Party in unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Bavarian Government
  • 1924 - National Hockey League expands to the United States, adds Boston Bruins
  • Jan. 21, 1924 - Death of Vladimir Lenin
  • Jan. 25, 1924 - 1924 Winter Olympics open in Chamonix
  • Feb. 12, 1924 - Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin premieres in New York City
  • Feb. 22, 1924 - Calvin Coolidge becomes the first President of the United States to deliver a radio broadcast from the White House
  • April 16, 1924 - Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer founded in Los Angeles, California
  • May 4, 1924 - 1924 Summer Olympics opens in France
  • May 10, 1924 - J. Edgar Hoover appointed head of the Bureau of Investigation
  • May 21, 1924 - Leopold and Loeb murder Bobby Franks
  • June 2, 1914 - Indian Citizenship Act grants citizenship to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States
  • Sept. 9, 1924 - Eight hour workday introduced in Belgium
  • Oct. 10, 1924 - Washington Senators defeat New York Giants 4-3 in 1924 World Series
  • Nov. 27, 1924 - First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held in New York City
  • 1925 - Thompson submachine gun sold for $175 in 1925 Sears, Roebuck and Company mail order catalog
  • Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 1925 - 1925 serum run to Nome, diphtheria antitoxin relayed to Alaska by dog sled
  • Feb. 15, 1925 - Alice Comedy Alice Solves the Puzzle introduces Bootleg Pete
  • Feb. 21, 1925 - First issue of The New Yorker
  • April 10, 1925 - F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes The Great Gatsby
  • May 25, 1925 - John T. Scopes indicted for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution
  • June 6, 1925 - Walter Percy Chrysler founds the Chrysler Corporation
  • July 18, 1925 - Adolf Hitler publishes first volume of Mein Kampf
  • Oct. 1, 1925 - Mount Rushmore dedicated
  • Oct. 15, 1925 - Pittsburgh Pirates defeat Washington Senators 9-7 in 1925 World Series
  • Nov. 14, 1925 - First Surrealist art exhibition opens in Paris
  • Nov. 28, 1925 - First broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry
  • March 6, 1926 - Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon destroyed by fire
  • March 16, 1926 - Robert Goddard launches first liquid-fuel rocket
  • July 1, 1926 - Mammoth Cave National Park authorized by United States Congress
  • July 26, 1926 - National Bar Association incorporated in the United States
  • Aug. 5, 1926 - Warner Brothers’ Vitaphone system premieres with Alan Crosland’s film Don Juan
  • Oct. 10, 1926 - St. Louis Cardinals defeat New York Yankees 3-2 in 1926 World Series
  • Oct. 14, 1926 - A. A. Milne publishes Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Oct. 31, 1926 - Death of Harry Houdini
  • Nov. 11, 1926 - United States Numbered Highway System established
  • Nov. 15, 1926 - NBC radio network opens
  • 1927 - World population reaches 2 billion
  • Jan. 7, 1927 - First transatlantic telephone call made from New York City to London
  • March 11, 1927 - Roxy Theatre opens in New York City
  • April 7, 1927 - First successful long distance demonstration of television
  • April 14, 1927 - First Volvo automobile produced
  • April 22-May 5, 1927 - Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 becomes the greatest natural disaster in American history
  • May, 1927 - Philo Farnsworth transmits experimental electronic television motion pictures
  • May 11, 1927 - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founded
  • May 20-21, 1927 - Charles Lindbergh makes first solo, nonstop transatlantic airplane flight from New York City to Paris
  • July 1, 1927 - Food, Drug and Insecticide Administration established
  • Oct. 6, 1927 - The Jazz Singer premieres as the first film to become a box office hit and popularizes “talkies”
  • Oct. 8, 1927 - New York Yankees defeat Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 in 1927 World Series
  • Oct. 18, 1927 - First flight of Pan American Airways
  • Dec. 2, 1927 - Ford Motor Company unveils Ford Model A
  • 1928 - Ford River Rouge Complex completed to be the world’s largest integrated factory, Eliot Ness begins leading prohibition unit in Chicago
  • Feb. 11, 1928 - 1928 Winter Olympics opens in St. Moritz, Switzerland
  • March 26, 1928 - The China Academy of Art founded
  • April 12-14, 1928 - First ever east-west transatlantic flight from Dublin to Greenly Island, Canada
  • April 19, 1928 - Last section of the original Oxford English Dictionary completed
  • July 3, 1928 - John Logie Baird demonstrates world’s first color television transmission
  • July 7, 1928 - first machine-sliced and machine-wrapped loaf of bread sold
  • July 28, 1928 - 1928 Summer Olympics opens in Amsterdam
  • Sept. 3, 1928 - Philo Farnsworth demonstrates the world’s first working all-electronic television system; Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin
  • Oct. 9, 1928 - New York Yankees defeat St. Louis Cardinals 7-3 in 1928 World Series
  • Oct. 12, 1928 - Iron Lung respirator first used
  • Nov. 6, 1928 - Herbert Hoover elected president
  • Nov. 10, 1928 - MGM lion roars for the first time at the beginning of the film White Shadows in the South Seas
  • Nov. 17, 1928 - Boston Garden opens
  • Nov. 18, 1928 - Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie
  • Nov. 22, 1928 - Maurice Ravel premieres one-movement ballet Boléro
  • Dec. 21, 1928 - United States Congress approves construction of the Boulder Dam
  • Jan. 17, 1929 - Popeye first appears as a comic strip character
  • Jan. 29, 1929 - Erich Maria Remarque publishes All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Feb. 14, 1929 - St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
  • Feb. 26, 1929 - Grand Teton National Park established
  • April 24, 1929 - Inaugural Monaco Grand Prix
  • May 16, 1929 - First Academy Awards, Wings wins Best Picture
  • June 27, 1929 - First public demonstration of color TV
  • Sept. 30, 1929 - Fritz von Opel pilots the first rocket-powered aircraft
  • Oct. 14, 1929 - Philadelphia Athletics defeat Chicago Cubs 3-2 in 1929 World Series
  • Oct. 24-29, 1929 - Black Tuesday Wall Street Crash of 1929, Great Depression begins
  • Oct. 25, 1929 - Former United States Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall convicted of bribery for his role in the Teapot Dome scandal, becomes first Presidential cabinet member to go to prison for actions in office
  • Nov. 7, 1929 - Museum of Modern Art opens in New York City