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Fun Facts - 1920s
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106,521,537 people in the United States
2,132,000 unemployed, Unemployment 5.2%
Life expectancy: Male 53.6, Female 54.6
343.000 in military (down from 1,172,601 in 1919)
Average annual earnings $1236; Teacher's salary $970
Dow Jones High 100 Low 67
Illiteracy rate reached a new low of 6% of the population.
Gangland crime included murder, swindles, racketeering
It took 13 days to reach California from New York There were 387,000 miles
of paved road.
Art and Architecture For The Decade
The turn of the century saw early modernism in art, design, and architecture,
which continued through to 1940 and the war.
Skyscrapers were erected and hundreds of architects competed for the work.
The first successful design was the Woolworth Building in New York. The Wrigley building,
in Chicago, was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and
White. The Chicago Tribune Tower was designed by Howells and Hood. The
Art Deco was exemplified by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings
(which were depression projects - the Empire State Building was completed early 1931.)
Frank Lloyd Wright was designing homes in
California and in Japan during this period. The term Art Deco (1925-1950)
came from the International Art Exposition in Paris in 1925. Art of
this style, in the 20s and 30s was referred to as modern. Designers included
and Eliel Saarinen.
Books and Literature For The Decade
Three important groups during this period were:
The Algonquin Round Table, also called THE ROUND TABLE. They were an informal group of
American literary men and women, and during the 1920s and '30s they met daily for lunch on weekdays at a
large round table in the Algonquin Hotel in New York City . Many of the best-known writers, journalists, and artists in New
York City were in this group. Among them: Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott (author of the quote "All the things I really like are immoral,
illegal, or fattening", Heywood Broun, Robert Benchley,Robert Sherwood,
George S. Kaufman, Franklin P. Adams, Marc Connelly, Harold Ross, Harpo
Marx, and Russell Crouse.
The first important movement of black artists and writers in the US was the
Harlem Renaissance. Centered in Harlem, NY, and other urban areas
during the 1920s, black writers published more than ever before. Black authors, artists, and musicians received their first
serious critical appraisal. Among this group: Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B.
DuBois, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Alain Locke , who was considered
the chief interpreter for the Harlem movement.
The Lost Generation, consisted of self-exiled expatriates who lived and wrote in
Paris between the wars. Looking for freedom of thought and
action, these writers changed the face of modern writing. Realistic and rebellious, they
wrote what they wanted and fought censorship for profanity and sexuality.
Incorporated in their writing were Freudian ideas into their characters and styles.
group: Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Henry
Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Other who were of importance during this decade include E. E. Cummings who
experimented with language (and punctuation!). An
important part of the Southern Renaissance was William Faulkner, and Edna St. Vincent Millay
expressed the defiance and desires of her generation from Greenwich Village. Eugene O'Neill drew attention to a serious American stage.
Also it was the beginning of the Golden Age of Mysteries - with such
American writers as Raymond Chandler and Dashielle Hammett paving the way
for many many years to come.
Fads and Fashion For The Decade
The Fads and slang of the day: slang used for "girls or women": a broad, a bunny, a
canary (one who could sing), a charity girl (one who was sexually
promiscuous), a dame, a doll, cat's meow, cat's whiskers .
Jazz age jargon: Joe College - better yet a Joe Yale - or a Joe
Zilch , jazzbo, jellybean, blind date, upchuck, jazz babies, pos-a-loot-ly,
and the real McCoy.
Games included mah-jngg, ouija boards, and crossword puzzles
Races of endurance of all sorts gained popularity and included Marathons and
In 1923 dance marathons really became the rage.
Harry Houdini was the great escape of the 1920s.
American Baseball and other sports were very popular. The
Miss America contest began in Atlantic City in 1921. Margaret Gorman (16
years old) was the first winner with measurements of 30-25-32.
Dance crazes included the Charleston, the Black Bottom, and the Shimmy.
Dining was done at Sardi's.
As for costumes and fashion: Clothing for men became a bit more conservative in the 1920s.
Trousers were wider, up to 24 inches in width at the bottoms. Knickers also
grew in width and length and were called 'plus fours'. Popular during the
Summer was white linen. For the winter, the raccoon coat, which was
considered an outstanding American coat and it was very popular. Very popular with the college men,
was the slouch
hat. It was made of felt and could be rolled up and packed into a suitcase. A
wool suit was only $15.85. Garters were 40 cents. All this and a 12" long
cigarette holder. Cigarettes were 10 cents a pack.
For the women, by 1921 the longer skirt was back. Some long and uneven at the
bottom. The short skirt was popular by 1925. This period was called the
Flapper Age. The fashion statement was no bosom, no waistline, and hair nearly hidden under a cloche
hat. This decade also heralded the manufacturing of
cosmetics. Powder, lipstick, rouge, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, colored
nails. It was all there, and plus they had their pearls.
This period also heralded ready-to-wear fashion. More women were wage
earners and did not want to spent time on fittings. Class distinctions were
becoming blurred with fashion no longer being a way to distinguish between
the classes. Inexpensive fashion became available. America moved ahead of other
countries with the mass production of contemporary style clothing for women.
Historic Events and People For The Decade
Henry Ford and mass production, allowed one to buy a Ford for $290
(ah yes, those were the days). The Volstead Act which, became effective Jan 16, 1920, made the sale of a drink
containing as much as one half-ounce of alcohol unlawful. This one
act influenced the flavor of the Jazz Age or Roaring
Twenties. It was a period of prohibition and intolerance,
speakeasies, flappers, gangsters, and crime. Hootch was supplied by Dutch
Schultz and Al Capone.
The 19th amendment passed allowing women the right to vote in national elections.
The US was paralyzed at the beginning of the decade, by the grip of the red scare . Racial
tensions were high and quotas were set for immigrants coming into America.
The Klan was very active during this period.
As for arts and literature in America, the decade was a wonderful. Technology grew
during the decade. The popularity of automobiles, radios, and movies exploded.
You could now buy
on credit or installments, which were outcomes of the industrial age. In the fall
of 1929, the New York Stock Exchange was very active, more so that it had
been. The economists predicted a permanent high plateau. Unfortunately, by October 24, 1929, Black
Thursday, the stock market crashed and panic broke out. The banks closed,
nation stayed in this depression through the end of the twenties and most of
Our Presidents For The Decade
1913-1920 Woodrow Wilson
1921-1923 Warren G. Harding
1923-1928 Calvin Coolidge
1928-1932 Herbert Hoover
Important Historic and Cultural Events For The Decade
First Transatlantic flight: Charles Lindbergh , James Doolittle first
Mail was now transported by
Air flying companies as they outbid the railroads (1926).
Business travelers were able to do so on scheduled coast to coast flights.
Flappers, the Roaring Twenties, prohibition, speakeasies and bootleg whiskey
Gangland warfare, Sing Sing, sawed-off shotguns, and Al Capone.
Women vote for the first time in a national election (1920).
Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan debate evolution.
Ku Klux Klan is active in the south and Midwest. Burnings multiply.
Stock Market Crashed.
October 24, 1929, bank closed - panic on Wall Street.
Music For The Decade
Every mornin', every evenin'
Ain't we got fun?
Not much money, oh but honey'
Ain't we got fun?
"There's nothing surer; the rich get rich and the poor get poorer." was
considered the credo of the roaring 20s.
Harlem and Chicago were the places to be!
(The Cotton Club was open to both whites and blacks and packed nightly.)
Jazz was the music to listen to. Bessie Smith sang the Blues.
However, most of the best-selling pop
hits were sentimental ballads (I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time and
I'm Just Wild About Harry), old-fashioned waltzes (Three O'Clock in the
Morning and Deep in My Heart) , and nonsense songs (Yes, We Have No Bananas
and I Wish That I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate).
Fanny Brice sang Rose
of Washington Square and Second Hand Rose in the Ziegfeld Follies and
The Grand Ole Opry was transmitted on the radio from Nashville
Not only were people going places they were also singing about them.
The likes of Chicago; That Toddling
Town, Carolina in the Morning, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, California
Here I Come, Alabamy Bound, and Puttin' on the Ritz.
Theater, Film and Radio For The Decade
The Silent Screen stars of the decade were: Rudolph Valentino,
Bow. Rudy Vallee was known for singing through his megaphone.
Don Juan, the first talking picture, starring John Barrymore premiered on Broadway in 1926.
Movies became big business.
The first Oscars were given in 1927. the first Oscar movie
was a Paramount Picture, called Wings, and Emil Jennings and Janet Gaynor won best
Broadway reached an all time peak. Gershwin was smokin' with An American in
Paris, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein created Show Boat starring Helen
Morgan. Fred and Adele Astaire opened in Funny Face. There were 268 plays
offered in New York City in the year 1927.
Also getting a start in this decade were radio networks. David Sarnoff's NBC and William
Paley's CBS both went on the air.
Billboard Magazine published its first charts in 1928. Bing
Crosby and other crooner singing stars boosted their sales with their live
and recorded radio performances.
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