Roaring Twenties was the period of Western society and Western
culture that occurred during and around the 1920s. It was a period of
sustained economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the
United States and Western Europe, particularly in major cities such as
Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York City,
Paris, and Sydney. In the French Third Republic, the decade was
known as the "années folles" ("Crazy Years"), emphasizing the
era's social, artistic and cultural dynamism.
Jazz music blossomed,
the flapper redefined the modern look for British and American
Art Deco peaked. Not everything roared: in the
wake of the hyper-emotional patriotism of World War I, Warren G.
Harding brought back normalcy to the politics of the United States.
This era saw the large-scale use of automobiles, telephones, motion
pictures, radio, and electric appliances. Aviation became a business.
The economies saw rapid industrial growth, accelerated consumer
demand, plus significant changes in lifestyle and culture. The media
focused on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars, as
cities rooted for their home teams and filled the new palatial cinemas
and gigantic sports stadiums. In most major democratic states, women
won the right to vote.
The social and cultural features known as the
Roaring Twenties began
in leading metropolitan centers, then spread widely in the aftermath
of World War I. The
United States gained dominance in world finance.
Thus, when Germany could no longer afford to pay World War I
reparations to the United Kingdom,
France and the other Allied Powers,
United States came up with the Dawes Plan; named after banker, and
later 30th Vice President Charles G. Dawes, respectively. Wall Street
invested heavily in Germany, which repaid its reparations to countries
that, in turn, used the dollars to pay off their war debts to
Washington. By the middle of the decade, prosperity was widespread,
with the second half of the decade known, especially in Germany, as
the "Golden Twenties".
The spirit of the
Roaring Twenties was marked by a general feeling of
novelty associated with modernity and a break with traditions.
Everything seemed to be feasible through modern technology. New
technologies, especially automobiles, moving pictures, and radio,
brought "modernity" to a large part of the population. Formal
decorative frills were shed in favor of practicality in both daily
life and architecture. At the same time,
Jazz and dancing rose in
popularity, in opposition to the mood of World War I. As such, the
period is also often referred to as the
Wall Street Crash of 1929 ended the era, as the Great Depression
brought years of worldwide gloom and hardship.
1.1 New products and technologies
1.1.3 Cinema replaces vaudeville
1.1.4 Sound movies
1.1.7 Biological progress: penicillin
1.2 New infrastructure
2.2 Lost Generation
2.3 Social criticism
2.4 Art Deco
Expressionism and surrealism
2.11 Sexuality of women during the 1920s
2.12 The changing role of women
2.13 Liberalism in Europe
3.1 Immigration restrictions
3.2.1 Rise of the speakeasy
3.4 Solo flight across the Atlantic
3.5.3 United States
3.6 Organized Crime
4 Culture of Weimar Germany
5 American politics
5.1 Decline of labor unions
5.2 Progressivism in 1920s
5.2.1 Business progressivism
6 Canadian politics
7 End of the Roaring Twenties
7.1 Black Tuesday
7.2 Repeal of Prohibition
8 See also
10 Further reading
10.2 United States
11 External links
Chart 1: USA GDP annual pattern and long-term trend, 1920–40, in
billions of constant dollars
Roaring Twenties was a decade of great economic growth and
widespread prosperity, driven by recovery from wartime devastation and
postponed spending, a boom in construction, and the rapid growth of
consumer goods such as automobiles and electricity in North America
Western Europe and a few other developed countries such as
Australia. The economy of the United States, which had successfully
transitioned from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy, boomed and
provided loans for a European boom as well. However, some sectors were
stagnant, especially farming and coal mining. The
United States became
the richest country in the world per capita and since the late 19th
century was the largest in terms of total GDP. Its industry was based
on mass production, and its society acculturated into consumerism.
European economies, by contrast, had a more difficult postwar
readjustment and began to flourish about 1924.
At first, the end of wartime production caused a brief but deep
recession, the post–
World War I
World War I recession of 1919–20. Quickly,
however, the American and Canadian economies rebounded as returning
soldiers re-entered the labor force and munitions factories were
retooled to produce consumer goods.
New products and technologies
Mass production made technology affordable to the middle class.
Further information: Cars in the 1920s
The automotive industry, the film industry, the radio industry, and
the chemical industry skyrocketed during the 1920s. Of chief
importance was the automotive industry. Before the war, cars were a
luxury good. In the 1920s, mass-produced vehicles became common
United States and Canada. By 1927, the Ford Motor
Company discontinued the Ford Model T, after selling 15 million units
of that model. The model had been in continued production from October
1908 to May, 1927. The company planned to replace the old
model with a new one, Ford Model A. The decision was a reaction to
competition. Due to the commercial success of the Model T, Ford had
dominated the automotive market from the mid-1910s to the early 1920s.
In the mid-1920s, Ford's dominance eroded, as its competitors had
caught up with Ford's mass production system. They began to surpass
Ford in some areas, offering models with more powerful engines, new
convenience features, or cosmetic customization.
Only about 300,000 vehicles were registered in 1918 in all of Canada,
but by 1929, there were 1.9 million, and automobile parts were being
manufactured in Ontario, near Detroit, Michigan. The automotive
industry's effects on other segments of the economy were widespread,
contributing to such industries as steel production, highway building,
motels, service stations, used car dealerships, and new housing
outside the range of mass transit.
Ford opened factories around the world and proved a strong competitor
in most markets for its low-cost, easy-maintenance vehicles. General
Motors, to a lesser degree, followed along. European competitors
avoided the low-price market and concentrated on more expensive
vehicles for upscale consumers.
Radio became the first mass broadcasting medium. Radios were
expensive, but their mode of entertainment proved revolutionary. Radio
advertising became the grandstand for mass marketing. Its economic
importance led to the mass culture that has dominated society since
this period. During the "Golden Age of Radio", radio programming was
as varied as the Television programming of the 21st century. The 1927
establishment of the Federal
Radio Commission introduced a new era of
In 1925, electrical recording, one of the greatest advances in sound
recording, became available for commercially issued gramophone
Cinema replaces vaudeville
The cinema boomed, producing a new form of entertainment that
virtually ended the old vaudeville theatrical genre. Watching a film
was cheap and accessible; crowds surged into new downtown movie
palaces and neighborhood theaters. Since the early 1910s, lower-priced
cinema successfully competed with vaudeville. Many vaudeville
performers and other theatrical personalities were recruited by the
film industry, lured by greater salaries and less arduous working
conditions. The introduction of the sound film at the end of the
decade in the 1920s eliminated vaudeville's last major advantage.
Vaudeville was in sharp financial decline. The prestigious Orpheum
Circuit, a chain of vaudeville and movie theaters, was absorbed by a
new film studio.
In 1923, inventor
Lee de Forest
Lee de Forest at
Phonofilm released a number of
short films with sound. Meanwhile, inventor
Theodore Case developed
Movietone sound system
Movietone sound system and sold the rights to the film studio Fox
Film. In 1926, the
Vitaphone sound system was introduced. The feature
film Don Juan (1926) was the first feature-length film to utilize the
Vitaphone sound system with a synchronized musical score and sound
effects, though it had no spoken dialogue. The film was released
by the film studio Warner Bros.. In October 1927, the sound film The
Jazz Singer (1927) turned out to be a smash box office success. It was
innovative for its use of sound. Produced with the
most of the film does not contain live-recorded audio, relying on a
score and effects. When the movie's star, Al Jolson, sings, however,
the film shifts to sound recorded on the set, including both his
musical performances and two scenes with ad-libbed speech—one of
Jolson's character, Jakie Rabinowitz (Jack Robin), addressing a
cabaret audience; the other an exchange between him and his mother.
The "natural" sounds of the settings were also audible. The film's
profits were proof enough to the film industry that the technology was
worth investing in.
In 1928, the film studios
Famous Players-Lasky (later known as
Paramount Pictures), First National Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,
Universal Studios signed an agreement with Electrical Research
Products Inc. (ERPI) for the conversion of production facilities and
theaters for sound film. Initially, all ERPI-wired theaters were made
Vitaphone-compatible; most were equipped to project Movietone reels as
well. Also in 1928,
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) marketed a
new sound system, the
RCA Photophone system.
RCA offered the rights to
its system to the subsidiary RKO Pictures.
Warner Bros. continued
releasing a few films with live dialogue, though only in a few scenes.
It finally released Lights of New York (1928), the first all-talking
full-length feature film. The animated short film Dinner Time (1928)
Van Beuren Studios was among the first animated sound films. It
was followed a few months later by the animated short film Steamboat
Willie (1928), the first sound film by the
Walt Disney Animation
Studios. It was the first commercially successful animated short film
and introduced the character Mickey Mouse.
Steamboat Willie was the
first cartoon to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack, which
distinguished it from earlier sound cartoons. It became the most
popular cartoon of its day.
For much of 1928,
Warner Bros. was the only studio to release talking
features. It profited from its innovative films through box office
results. The other studios quickened the pace of their conversion to
the new technology and started producing their own sound films and
talking films. In February 1929, sixteen months after The
Columbia Pictures became the 8th and last major studio of its era to
release a talking feature. In May 1929,
Warner Bros. released On with
the Show! (1929), the first all-color, all-talking feature film.
Soon silent film production ceased. The last totally silent feature
produced in the
United States for general distribution was The Poor
Millionaire, released by Biltmore Pictures in April 1930. Four other
silent features, all low-budget Westerns, were also released in early
Amy Johnson in 1930
The 1920s also included milestones in aviation that seized the world's
attention. In 1927,
Charles Lindbergh rose to fame with the first solo
nonstop transatlantic flight. He took off from Roosevelt Field in New
York and landed on the Paris–Le Bourget Airport. It took Lindbergh
33.5 hours to cross the Atlantic Ocean. His aircraft, the Spirit
of St. Louis, was a custom-built, single engine, single-seat
monoplane. It was designed by aeronautical engineer Donald A. Hall. In
Amy Johnson (1903–1941) was the heroine, as the first woman
to fly alone from Britain to Australia. Flying solo or with her
husband, Jim Mollison, she set numerous long-distance records during
The 1920s saw numerous inventors continue the work on television, but
programs did not reach the public until the eve of the Second World
War, and few people saw any before the late 1940s.
In July 1928,
John Logie Baird
John Logie Baird demonstrated the world's first color
transmission, using scanning discs at the transmitting and receiving
ends with three spirals of apertures, each spiral with a filter of a
different primary color; and three light sources at the receiving end,
with a commutatorto alternate their illumination. That same year
he also demonstrated stereoscopic television.
In 1927, Baird transmitted a long-distance television signal over 438
miles (705 km) of telephone line between
London and Glasgow;
Baird transmitted the world's first long-distance television pictures
to the Central Hotel at
Glasgow Central Station. Baird then set up
the Baird Television Development Company Ltd, which in 1928 made the
first transatlantic television transmission, from
London to Hartsdale,
New York, and the first television programme for the BBC.
Biological progress: penicillin
Further information: History of penicillin
For decades biologists had been at work on the medicine that became
penicillin. In 1928, Scottish biologist
Alexander Fleming discovered a
substance which killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. In 1929,
he named the new substance penicillin. His publications were largely
ignored at first but it became a significant antibiotic in the 1930s.
In 1930, Cecil George Paine, a pathologist at the Royal Infirmary in
Sheffield, attempted to use penicillin to treat sycosis barbae,
eruptions in beard follicles, but was unsuccessful. Moving on to
ophthalmia neonatorum, a gonococcal infection in infants, he achieved
the first recorded cure with penicillin, on November 25, 1930. He then
cured four additional patients (one adult and three infants) of eye
infections, and failed to cure a fifth.
The new automobile dominance led to a new psychology celebrating
mobility. Cars and trucks needed road construction, new bridges
and regular highway maintenance, largely funded by local and state
government through taxes on gasoline. Farmers were early adopters as
they used their pickups to haul people, supplies and animals. New
industries were spun off—to make tires and glass and refine fuel,
and to service and repair cars and trucks by the millions. New car
dealers were franchised by the car makers and became major factors in
the local business community. Tourism gained an enormous boost, with
hotels, restaurants and curio shops proliferating.
Electrification, having slowed during the war, progressed greatly as
more of the U.S. and Canada was added to the electric grid. Most
industries switched from coal power to electricity. At the same time,
new power plants were constructed. In America, electricity production
Telephone lines also were being strung across the continent. Indoor
plumbing and modern sewer systems were installed for the first time in
Urbanization reached a milestone in the 1920 census, that showed
Americans lived in urban areas towns and cities of 2,500
or more people) than in small towns or rural areas. However, the
nation was fascinated with its great metropolitan centers that
contained about 15% of the population. New York and
Chicago vied in
building skyscrapers, and New York pulled ahead with the Empire State
Building. The basic pattern of the modern white-collar job was set
during the late 19th century, but it now became the norm for life in
large and medium cities. Typewriters, filing cabinets, and telephones
brought unmarried women into clerical jobs. In Canada by the end of
the decade, one in five workers was a woman. Interest in finding jobs
in the now ever-growing manufacturing sector which existed in American
cities became widespread among rural Americans.
Main article: Women's suffrage
With some exceptions, many countries expanded women's voting
rights in representative and direct democracies across the world such
as, the United States, Canada, Great Britain and most major European
countries in 1917–21, as well as India. This influenced many
governments and elections by increasing the number of voters
available. Politicians responded by spending more attention on issues
of concern to women, especially peace, public health, education, and
the status of children. On the whole, women voted much like their
menfolk, except they were more interested in peace.
Main article: Lost Generation
Lost Generation was composed of young people who came out of World
War I disillusioned and cynical about the world. The term usually
refers to American literary notables who lived in
Paris at the time.
Famous members included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and
Gertrude Stein. These authors, some of them expatriates, wrote novels
and short stories expressing their resentment towards the materialism
and individualism rampant during this era.
In England, the bright young things were young aristocrats and
socialites who threw fancy dress parties, went on elaborate treasure
hunts, were seen in all the trendy venues, and were well covered by
the gossip columns of the
Main article: Social issues of the 1920s in the United States
Climax of the new architectural style: the
Chrysler Building in New
York City was built after the European wave of
Art Deco reached the
As the average American in the 1920s became more enamored of wealth
and everyday luxuries, some began satirizing the hypocrisy and greed
they observed. Of these social critics,
Sinclair Lewis was the most
popular. His popular 1920 novel Main Street satirized the dull and
ignorant lives of the residents of a Midwestern town. He followed with
Babbitt, about a middle-aged businessman who rebels against his safe
life and family, only to realize that the young generation is as
hypocritical as his own. Lewis satirized religion with Elmer Gantry,
which followed a con man who teams up with an evangelist to sell
religion to a small town.
Other social critics included Sherwood Anderson, Edith Wharton, and
H.L. Mencken. Anderson published a collection of short stories titled
Winesburg, Ohio, which studied the dynamics of a small town. Wharton
mocked the fads of the new era through her novels, such as Twilight
Sleep (1927). Mencken criticized narrow American tastes and culture in
various essays and articles.
Main article: Art Deco
Art Deco was the style of design and architecture that marked the era.
Originating in Europe, it spread to the rest of western Europe and
North America towards the mid-1920s.
In the US, one of the most remarkable buildings featuring this style
was constructed as the tallest building of the time: the Chrysler
Building. The forms of art deco were pure and geometric, though the
artists often drew inspiration from nature. In the beginning, lines
were curved, though rectilinear designs would later become more and
Expressionism and surrealism
Further information: Weimar culture
Painting in North America during the 1920s developed in a different
direction from that of Europe. In Europe, the 1920s were the era of
expressionism, and later surrealism. As
Man Ray stated in 1920 after
the publication of a unique issue of New York Dada: "
Dada cannot live
in New York".
Further information: cinema of the United States
Further information: 1920s in film
Further information: Pre-Code Hollywood
Felix the Cat, a popular cartoon character of the decade, exhibits his
At the beginning of the decade, films were silent and colorless. In
1922, the first all-color feature, The Toll of the Sea, was released.
Warner Bros. released Don Juan, the first feature with sound
effects and music. In 1927, Warner released The
Jazz Singer, the first
sound feature to include limited talking sequences.
The public went wild for talkies, and movie studios converted to sound
almost overnight. In 1928, Warner released Lights of New York, the
first all-talking feature film. In the same year, the first sound
cartoon, Dinner Time, was released. Warner ended the decade by
unveiling, in 1929, the first all-color, all-talking feature film, On
with the Show.
Cartoon shorts were popular in movie theaters during this time. In the
Walt Disney emerged.
Mickey Mouse made his debut in
Steamboat Willie on November 18, 1928, at the Colony Theater in New
York City. Mickey would go on to star in more than 120 cartoon shorts,
Mickey Mouse Club, and other specials. This would jump-start
Disney and lead to creation of other characters going into the
1930s. Oswald, a character created by Disney, before Mickey, in
1927, was contracted by Universal for distribution purposes, and
starred in a series of shorts between 1927 and 1928. Disney lost the
rights to the character, but in 2006, regained the rights to Oswald.
He was the first Disney character to be merchandised.
The period had the emergence of box-office draws such as Mae Murray,
Ramón Novarro, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton,
Harold Lloyd, Warner Baxter, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Bebe Daniels,
Billie Dove, Dorothy Mackaill, Mary Astor, Nancy Carroll, Janet
Gaynor, Charles Farrell, William Haines, Conrad Nagel, John Gilbert,
Greta Garbo, Dolores del Río, Norma Talmadge, Colleen Moore, Nita
Naldi, John Barrymore, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Mary Pickford,
Douglas Fairbanks, Anna May Wong, Al Jolson, and others.
Main article: Harlem Renaissance
African-American literary and artistic culture developed rapidly
during the 1920s under the banner of the "Harlem Renaissance". In
1921, the Black Swan Corporation opened. At its height, it issued 10
recordings per month. All-African American musicals also started in
1921. In 1923, the
Basketball Club was founded by
Bob Douglas. During the later 1920s, and especially in the 1930s, the
basketball team became known as the best in the world.
The first issue of
Opportunity was published. The African American
playwright, Willis Richardson, debuted his play The Chip Woman's
Fortune, at the Frazee Theatre (also known as the Wallacks
theatre). Notable African American authors such as Langston Hughes
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston began to achieve a level of national public
recognition during the 1920s.
African American culture
African American culture has contributed
the largest part to the rise of jazz.
Further information: Jazz
The 1920s brought new styles of music into the mainstream of culture
in avant-garde cities.
Jazz became the most popular form of music for
youth. Historian Kathy J. Ogren says that by the 1920s jazz had
become the "dominant influence on America's popular music
generally." Scott DeVeaux argues that a standard history of jazz
has emerged such that:
After an obligatory nod to African origins and ragtime antecedents,
the music is shown to move through a succession of styles or periods:
New Orleans jazz up through the 1920s, swing in the 1930s, bebop in
the 1940s, cool jazz and hard bop in the 1950s, free jazz and fusion
in the 1960s....There is substantial agreement on the defining
features of each style, the pantheon of great innovators, and the
canon of recorded masterpieces.
The pantheon of performers and singers from the 1920s include Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Joe
"King" Oliver, James P. Johnson, Fletcher Henderson, Frankie
Trumbauer, Paul Whiteman, Bix Beiderbecke,
Adelaide Hall and Bing
Crosby. The development of urban and city blues also began in the
1920s with performers such as
Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. In the later
part of the decade, early forms of country music were pioneered by
Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon, Vernon Dalhart,
Charlie Poole, and many more.
Dance clubs became enormously popular in the 1920s. Their popularity
peaked in the late 1920s and reached into the early 1930s. Dance music
came to dominate all forms of popular music by the late 1920s.
Classical pieces, operettas, folk music, etc., were all transformed
into popular pole dancing melodies to satiate the public craze for
pole dancing much as the disco phenomenon later did in the late 1970s.
For example, many of the songs from the 1929
operetta "The Rogue Song" (starring the Metropolitan Opera star
Lawrence Tibbett) were rearranged and released as pole dancer music
and became popular stripper club hits in 1929.
Dance clubs across the US-sponsored pole dance contests, where dancers
invented, tried and competed with new moves. Professionals began to
hone their skills in tap dance and other dances of the era throughout
the stage circuit across the United States. With the advent of talking
pictures (sound film), musicals became all the rage and film studios
flooded the box office with extravagant and lavish musical films. The
representative was the musicals Gold Diggers of Broadway, which became
the highest-grossing film of the decade. Harlem played a key role in
the development of dance styles. Several entertainment venues
attracted people of all races. The
Cotton Club featured black
performers and catered to a white clientele, while the Savoy Ballroom
catered to a mostly black clientele. Some religious moralists preached
against "Satan in the dance hall" but had little impact.
The most popular dances throughout the decade were the foxtrot, waltz,
and American tango. From the early 1920s, however, a variety of
eccentric novelty dances were developed. The first of these were the
Breakaway and Charleston. Both were based on African American musical
styles and beats, including the widely popular blues. The Charleston's
popularity exploded after its feature in two 1922 Broadway shows. A
brief Black Bottom craze, originating from the Apollo Theater, swept
dance halls from 1926 to 1927, replacing the Charleston in
popularity. By 1927, the Lindy Hop, a dance based on Breakaway and
Charleston and integrating elements of tap, became the dominant social
dance. Developed in the Savoy Ballroom, it was set to stride piano
ragtime jazz. The
Lindy Hop later evolved into other Swing dances.
These dances, nonetheless, never became mainstream, and the
overwhelming majority of people in
Western Europe and the U.S.
continued to dance the foxtrot, waltz, and tango throughout the
The dance craze had a large influence on popular music. Large numbers
of recordings labeled as foxtrot, tango, and waltz were produced and
gave rise to a generation of performers who became famous as recording
artists or radio artists. Top vocalists included Nick Lucas, Adelaide
Hall, Scrappy Lambert, Frank Munn, Lewis James, Chester Gaylord, Gene
Austin, James Melton, Franklyn Baur, Johnny Marvin, Annette Hanshaw,
Helen Kane, Vaughn De Leath, and Ruth Etting. Leading dance orchestra
leaders included Bob Haring, Harry Horlick, Louis Katzman, Leo
Reisman, Victor Arden, Phil Ohman, George Olsen, Ted Lewis, Abe Lyman,
Ben Selvin, Nat Shilkret, Fred Waring, and Paul Whiteman.
Main article: Flapper
Further information: 1920s in Western fashion
Actress Norma Talmadge
Immortalized in movies and magazine covers, young women's fashions of
the 1920s set both a trend and social statement, a breaking-off from
the rigid Victorian way of life. These young, rebellious, middle-class
women, labeled 'flappers' by older generations, did away with the
corset and donned slinky knee-length dresses, which exposed their legs
and arms. The hairstyle of the decade was a chin-length bob, which had
several popular variations. Cosmetics, which until the 1920s were not
typically accepted in American society because of their association
with prostitution, became, for the first time, extremely popular.
In the 1920s new magazines appealed to young German women with a
sensuous image and advertisements for the appropriate clothes and
accessories they would want to purchase. The glossy pages of Die Dame
and Das Blatt der Hausfrau displayed the "Neue Frauen," "New Girl" –
Americans called the flapper. She was young and fashionable,
financially independent, and was an eager consumer of the latest
fashions. The magazines kept her up to date on styles, clothes,
designers, arts, sports, and modern technology such as automobiles and
Sexuality of women during the 1920s
The 1920s was a period of social revolution, coming out of World War
I, society changed as inhibitions faded and youth demanded new
experiences and more freedom from old controls. Chaperones faded in
importance as "anything goes" became a slogan for youth taking control
of their subculture. A new woman was born—a "flapper" who
danced, drank, smoked and voted. This new woman cut her hair, wore
make-up, and partied. She was known for being giddy and taking risks;
she was known as a flapper. Women gained the right to vote in most
countries. New careers opened for single women in offices and schools,
with salaries that helped them to be more independent. With their
desire for freedom and independence came change in fashion. One of
the most dramatic post-war changes in fashion was the woman's
silhouette; the dress length went from floor length to ankle and knee
length, becoming more bold and seductive. The new dress code
emphasized youth: corsets were left behind and clothing was looser,
with more natural lines. The hourglass figure was not popular anymore,
whereas a slimmer, boyish body type was considered appealing. The
flappers were known for this and for their high spirits,
flirtatiousness, and stereotypical recklessness when it came to their
search for fun and thrills.
Coco Chanel, was one of the most enigmatic fashion figures of the
1920s. She was recognized for her avant-garde designs; her clothing
was a mixture of wearable, comfortable, and elegant. She was the one
to introduce a different aesthetic into fashion, especially a
different sense for what was feminine, and based her design on new
ethics; she designed for an active woman, one that could feel at ease
in her dress. Chanel's primary goal was to empower freedom. She
was the pioneer for women wearing pants and for the little black
dress, which were signs of a more independent lifestyle.
The changing role of women
Map of local U.S. suffrage laws just prior to passing of the 19th
Dark blue = full women's suffrage
Bright red = no women's suffrage
Most British historians depict the 1920s as an era of domesticity for
women with little feminist progress, apart from full suffrage which
came in 1928. On the contrary, argues Alison Light, literary
sources reveal that many British women enjoyed:
the buoyant sense of excitement and release which animates so many of
the more broadly cultural activities which different groups of women
enjoyed in this period. What new kinds of social and personal
opportunity, for example, were offered by the changing cultures of
sport and entertainment. . . by new patterns of domestic life . . .
new forms of a household appliance, new attitudes to housework?
With the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, that gave women the
right to vote, American feminists attained the political equality they
had been waiting for. A generational gap began to form between the
"new" women of the 1920s and the previous generation. Prior to the
19th Amendment, feminists commonly thought women could not pursue both
a career and a family successfully, believing one would inherently
inhibit the development of the other. This mentality began to change
in the 1920s, as more women began to desire not only successful
careers of their own, but also families. The "new" woman was less
invested in social service than the Progressive generations, and in
tune with the consumerist spirit of the era, she was eager to compete
and to find personal fulfillment. Higher education was rapidly
expanding for women. Linda Eisenmann claims, "New collegiate
opportunities for women profoundly redefined womanhood by challenging
the Victorian belief that men's and women's social roles were rooted
Advertising agencies exploited the new status of women, for example in
publishing automobile ads in women's magazines, at a time when the
vast majority of purchasers and drivers were men. The new ads promoted
new freedoms for affluent women while also suggesting the outer limits
of the new freedoms. Automobiles were more than practical devices.
They were also highly visible symbols of affluence, mobility, and
modernity. The ads, says Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, "offered women a
visual vocabulary to imagine their new social and political roles as
citizens and to play an active role in shaping their identity as
Significant changes in the lives of working women occurred in the
World War I
World War I had temporarily allowed women to enter into
industries such as chemical, automobile, and iron and steel
manufacturing, which were once deemed inappropriate work for
women. Black women, who had been historically closed out of
factory jobs, began to find a place in industry during
World War I
World War I by
accepting lower wages and replacing the lost immigrant labor and in
heavy work. Yet, like other women during World War I, their success
was only temporary; most black women were also pushed out of their
factory jobs after the war. In 1920, 75% of the black female labor
force consisted of agricultural laborers, domestic servants, and
Equal Rights envoys of the National Woman's Party, 1927
Legislation passed at the beginning of the 20th century mandated a
minimum wage and forced many factories to shorten their workdays. This
shifted the focus in the 1920s to job performance to meet demand.
Factories encouraged workers to produce more quickly and efficiently
with speedups and bonus systems, increasing the pressure on factory
workers. Despite the strain on women in the factories, the booming
economy of the 1920s meant more opportunities even for the lower
classes. Many young girls from working class backgrounds did not need
to help support their families as prior generations did and were often
encouraged to seek work or receive vocational training which would
result in social mobility.
The achievement of suffrage led to feminists refocusing their efforts
towards other goals. Groups such as the National Women's Party
continued the political fight, proposing the
Equal Rights Amendment
Equal Rights Amendment in
1923 and working to remove laws that used sex to discriminate against
women, but many women shifted their focus from politics to
challenge traditional definitions of womanhood.
Young women, especially, began staking claim to their own bodies and
took part in a sexual liberation of their generation. Many of the
ideas that fueled this change in sexual thought were already floating
around New York intellectual circles prior to World War I, with the
writings of Sigmund Freud,
Havelock Ellis and Ellen Key. There,
thinkers claimed that sex was not only central to the human
experience, but also that women were sexual beings with human impulses
and desires, and restraining these impulses was self-destructive. By
the 1920s, these ideas had permeated the mainstream.
In the 1920s, the co-ed emerged, as women began attending large state
colleges and universities. Women entered into the mainstream middle
class experience but took on a gendered role within society. Women
typically took classes such as home economics, "Husband and Wife",
"Motherhood" and "The Family as an Economic Unit". In an increasingly
conservative postwar era, a young woman commonly would attend college
with the intention of finding a suitable husband. Fueled by ideas of
sexual liberation, dating underwent major changes on college campuses.
With the advent of the automobile, courtship occurred in a much more
private setting. "Petting", sexual relations without intercourse,
became the social norm for a portion of college students.
Despite women's increased knowledge of pleasure and sex, the decade of
unfettered capitalism that was the 1920s gave birth to the 'feminine
mystique'. With this formulation, all women wanted to marry, all good
women stayed at home with their children, cooking and cleaning, and
the best women did the aforementioned and in addition, exercised their
purchasing power freely and as frequently as possible to better their
families and their homes.
Liberalism in Europe
The Allied victory in the
First World War
First World War seems to mark the triumph of
liberalism, not just in the Allied countries themselves, but also in
Germany and in the new states of Eastern Europe, as well as Japan.
Authoritarian militarism as typified by Germany had been defeated and
discredited. Historian Martin Blinkhorn argues that the liberal themes
were ascendant in terms of "cultural pluralism, religious and ethnic
toleration, national self-determination, free-market economics,
representative and responsible government, free trade, unionism, and
the peaceful settlement of international disputes through a new body,
the League of Nations." However, as early as 1917, the emerging
liberal order was being challenged by the new communist movement
taking inspiration from the Russian Revolution. Communist revolts were
beaten back everywhere else, but they did succeed in Russia.
Speed Langworthy's Sheet music poking fun at the masculine traits many
women adopted during the 1920s.
Further information: LGBT history in the United States
Further information: List of lesbian, gay, bisexual or
transgender-related films of the 1920s
Homosexuality became much more visible and somewhat more acceptable.
London, New York, Paris, Rome, and Berlin were important centers
of the new ethic. Crouthamel argues that in Germany, the First
World War promoted homosexual emancipation because it provided an
ideal of comradeship which redefined homosexuality and masculinity.
The many gay rights groups in Weimar Germany favored a militarised
rhetoric with a vision of a spiritually and politically emancipated
hypermasculine gay man who fought to legitimize "friendship" and
secure civil rights. Ramsey explores several variations. On the
left, the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee
(Scientific-Humanitarian Committee; WhK) reasserted the traditional
view that homosexuals were an effeminate "third sex" whose sexual
ambiguity and nonconformity was biologically determined. The radical
nationalist Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (Community of the Self-Owned)
proudly proclaimed homosexuality as heir to the manly German and
classical Greek traditions of homoerotic male bonding, which enhanced
the arts and glorified relationships with young men. The politically
centrist Bund für Menschenrecht (League for Human Rights) engaged in
a struggle for human rights, advising gays to live in accordance with
the mores of middle-class German respectability.
Humor was used to assist in acceptability. One popular American song,
"Masculine Women, Feminine Men", was released in 1926 and recorded
by numerous artists of the day; it included these lyrics:
Masculine women, Feminine men
Which is the rooster, which is the hen?
It's hard to tell 'em apart today! And, say!
Sister is busy learning to shave,
Brother just loves his permanent wave,
It's hard to tell 'em apart today! Hey, hey!
Girls were girls and boys were boys when I was a tot,
Now we don't know who is who, or even what's what!
Knickers and trousers, baggy and wide,
Nobody knows who's walking inside,
Those masculine women and feminine men!
The relative liberalism of the decade is demonstrated by the fact that
the actor William Haines, regularly named in newspapers and magazines
as the #1 male box-office draw, openly lived in a gay relationship
with his partner, Jimmie Shields. Other popular gay actors/actresses
of the decade included
Alla Nazimova and Ramón Novarro. In 1927,
Mae West wrote a play about homosexuality called The Drag, and
alluded to the work of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. It was a box-office
success. West regarded talking about sex as a basic human rights
issue, and was also an early advocate of gay rights.
Profound hostility did not abate in more remote areas such as western
Canada. With the return of a conservative mood in the 1930s, the
public grew intolerant of homosexuality, and gay actors were forced to
choose between retiring or agreeing to hide their sexuality even in
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) played a major role in
Psychoanalysis, which impacted avant-garde thinking, especially in the
humanities and artistic fields. Historian
Roy Porter says:
He advanced challenging theoretical concepts such as unconscious
mental states and their repression, infantile sexuality and the
symbolic meaning of dreams and hysterical symptoms, and he prized the
investigative techniques of free association and dream interpretation,
to methods for overcoming resistance and uncovering hidden unconscious
Other influential proponents of psychoanalysis included Alfred Adler
Karen Horney (1885–1952), and Helene Deutsch
(1884–1982). Adler argued that a neurotic individual would
overcompensate by manifesting aggression. Porter notes that Adler's
views became part of "an American commitment to social stability based
on individual adjustment and adaptation to healthy, social
United States became more anti-immigration in policy. The
Immigration Act of 1924
Immigration Act of 1924 limited immigration to a fraction
proportionate to that ethnic group in the
United States in 1890. The
goal was to freeze the pattern of European ethnic composition, and to
exclude almost all Asians. Hispanics were not restricted.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada also sharply restricted or ended
Asian immigration. In Canada, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923
prevented almost all immigration from Asia. Other laws curbed
immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.
Prohibition in the United States
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Progressive movement
gradually caused local communities in many parts of
Western Europe and
North America to tighten restrictions of vice activities, particularly
gambling, alcohol, and narcotics (though splinters of this same
movement were also involved in racial segregation in the U.S.). This
movement gained its strongest traction in the U.S. and its crowning
achievement was the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution and the associated
Volstead Act which made illegal the
manufacture, import and sale of beer, wine and hard liquor (though
drinking was technically not illegal). The laws were specifically
promoted by evangelical Protestant churches and the Anti-Saloon League
to reduce drunkenness, petty crime, wife abuse, corrupt
saloon-politics, and (in 1918), Germanic influences. The
KKK was an
active supporter in rural areas, but cities generally left enforcement
to a small number of federal officials. The various restrictions on
alcohol and gambling were widely unpopular leading to rampant and
flagrant violations of the law, and consequently to a rapid rise of
organized crime around the nation (as typified by Chicago's Al
Capone). In Canada, prohibition ended much earlier than in the
U.S., and barely took effect at all in the province of Quebec, which
Montreal becoming a tourist destination for legal alcohol
consumption. The continuation of legal alcohol production in Canada
soon led to a new industry in smuggling liquor into the U.S.
Rise of the speakeasy
"Save A Little Dram For Me"
Prohibition era song recorded by
Thomas Edison studio, 1922. Duration
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Speakeasies were illegal bars selling beer and liquor after paying off
local police and government officials. They became popular in major
cities and helped fund large-scale gangsters operations such as those
of Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Bugs Moran, Moe Dalitz,
Joseph Ardizzone, and Sam Maceo. They operated with connections to
organized crime and liquor smuggling. While the U.S. Federal
Government agents raided such establishments and arrested many of the
small figures and smugglers, they rarely managed to get the big
bosses; the business of running speakeasies was so lucrative that such
establishments continued to flourish throughout the nation. In major
cities, speakeasies could often be elaborate, offering food, live
bands, and floor shows. Police were notoriously bribed by speakeasy
operators to either leave them alone or at least give them advance
notice of any planned raid.
Further information: 1920s § Literature
Roaring Twenties was a period of literary creativity, and works of
several notable authors appeared during the period. D. H. Lawrence's
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Lady Chatterley's Lover was a scandal at the time because of its
explicit descriptions of sex. Books that take the 1920s as their
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, set up in 1922 in the
vicinity of New York City, is often described as the symbolic
meditation on the "
Jazz Age" in American literature.
All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front by
Erich Maria Remarque
Erich Maria Remarque recounts the
World War I
World War I and also the deep detachment from German
civilian life felt by many men returning from the front.
This Side of Paradise
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, primarily set up in
World War I
World War I Princeton University, portrays the lives and morality
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises by
Ernest Hemingway is about a group of expatriate
Americans in Europe during the 1920s.
Solo flight across the Atlantic
Charles Lindbergh gained sudden great international fame as the first
pilot to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, flying from
Roosevelt Airfield (Nassau County, Long Island), New York to
May 20 – May 21, 1927. He had a single-engine airplane, the "Spirit
of St. Louis", which had been designed by
Donald Hall and custom built
by Ryan Airlines of San Diego, California. His flight took 33.5 hours.
The President of
France bestowed on him the French Legion of Honor
and, on his arrival back in the United States, a fleet of warships and
aircraft escorted him to Washington, D.C., where President Calvin
Coolidge awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Roaring Twenties was the breakout decade for sports across the
modern world. Citizens from all parts of the country flocked to see
the top athletes of the day compete in arenas and stadia. Their
exploits were loudly and highly praised in the new "gee whiz" style of
sports journalism that was emerging; champions of this style of
writing included the legendary writers
Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon
in the U.S. Sports literature presented a new form of heroism
departing from the traditional models of masculinity.
High school and junior high school students were offered to play
sports that they hadn't been able to play in the past. Several sports,
such as golf, that had previously been unavailable to the middle-class
finally became available. Also, a notable motorsports feat was
Roaring Twenties as driver Henry Seagrave, driving his
car the Golden Arrow, reaches at the time in 1929 a record speed of
Following the 1922 Latin American Games in Rio de Janeiro, IOC
officials toured the region, helping countries establish national
Olympic committees and prepare for future competition. In some
countries, such as Brazil, sporting and political rivalries hindered
progress as opposing factions battled for control of the international
sport. The 1924 Olympic Games in
Paris and the 1928 games in Amsterdam
saw greatly increased participation from Latin American athletes.
Sports journalism, modernity, and nationalism excited Egypt. Egyptians
of all classes were captivated by news of the Egyptian national soccer
team's performance in international competitions. Success or failure
in the Olympics of 1924 and 1928 was more than a betting opportunity
but became an index of Egyptian independence and a desire to be seen
as modern by Europe. Egyptians also saw these competitions as a way to
distinguish themselves from the traditionalism of the rest of
The Greek government of
Eleftherios Venizelos initiated a number of
programs involving physical education in the public schools and raised
the profile of sports competition. Other Balkan nations also became
more involved in sports and participated in several precursors of the
Balkan Games, competing sometimes with Western European teams. The
Balkan Games, first held in Athens in 1929 as an experiment, proved a
sporting and a diplomatic success. From the beginning, the games, held
in Greece through 1933, sought to improve relations among Greece,
Turkey, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Albania. As a political and
diplomatic event, the games worked in conjunction with an annual
Balkan Conference, which resolved issues between these often-feuding
nations. The results were quite successful; officials from all
countries routinely praised the games' athletes and organizers. During
a period of persistent and systematic efforts to create rapprochement
and unity in the region, this series of athletic meetings played a key
The most popular American athlete of the 1920s was baseball player
Babe Ruth. His characteristic home run hitting heralded a new epoch in
the history of the sport (the "Live-ball era"), and his high style of
living fascinated the nation and made him one of the highest-profile
figures of the decade. Fans were enthralled in 1927 when Ruth hit 60
home runs, setting a new single-season home run record that was not
broken until 1961. Together with another up-and-coming star named Lou
Gehrig, Ruth laid the foundation of future
New York Yankees
New York Yankees dynasties.
A former bar room brawler named
Jack Dempsey aka Garrett won the world
heavyweight boxing title and became the most celebrated pugilist of
Enrique Chaffardet the Venezuelan
Champion was the most sought-after boxer in 1920's Brooklyn, New York.
College football captivated fans, with notables such as Red Grange,
running back of the University of Illinois, and
Knute Rockne who
coached Notre Dame's football program to great success on the field
and nationwide notoriety. Grange also played a role in the development
of professional football in the mid-1920s by signing on with the NFL's
Bill Tilden thoroughly dominated his competition in
tennis, cementing his reputation as one of the greatest tennis players
of all time. And Bobby Jones popularized golf with his spectacular
successes on the links; the game did not see another major star of his
stature come along until
Arnold Palmer and then
Jack Nicklaus in the
early 1960s. Ruth, Dempsey, Grange, Tilden, and Jones are collectively
referred to as the "Big Five" sporting icons of the Roaring Twenties.
See also: American Mafia
The Balinese Room, famed Galveston, Texas casino/nightclub opened in
the 1920s by the Maceo crime syndicate
During the 19th century vices such as gambling, alcohol, and narcotics
and been popular throughout the
United States in spite of not always
being technically legal. Enforcement against these vices had always
been spotty. Indeed, most major cities established red-light districts
to regulate gambling and prostitution despite the fact that these
vices were typically illegal. However, with the rise of the
Progressive Movement in the early 20th century, laws gradually became
tighter with most gambling, alcohol, and narcotics outlawed by the
1920s. Because of widespread public opposition to these prohibitions,
especially alcohol, a great economic opportunity was created for
Organized crime blossomed during this era,
particularly the American Mafia. So lucrative were these vices
that some entire cities in the U.S. became illegal gaming centers with
vice actually supported by the local governments. Notable examples
Miami, Florida and Galveston, Texas.
Many of these criminal enterprises would long outlast the roaring
twenties and ultimately were instrumental in establishing Las Vegas as
a gaming center.
Culture of Weimar Germany
Bauhaus Dessau, built from 1925 to 1926 to a design by Walter Gropius
The Europahaus, one of the hundreds of cabarets in Weimar Berlin, 1931
Weimar culture was the flourishing of the arts and sciences that
flourished in Germany during the Weimar Republic, from 1918 until
Hitler's rise to power in 1933.
1920s Berlin was at the hectic
center of the Weimar culture. Although not part of Germany,
German-speaking Austria, and particularly Vienna, is often included as
part of Weimar culture.
Bauhaus was a German art school
operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts.
Its goal of unifying art, craft, and technology became influential
worldwide, especially in architecture.
Germany, and Berlin in particular, was fertile ground for
intellectuals, artists, and innovators from many fields. The social
environment was chaotic, and politics were passionate. German
university faculties became universally open to
Jewish scholars in
Jewish intellectuals on university faculties included
physicist Albert Einstein; sociologists Karl Mannheim, Erich Fromm,
Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse; philosophers
Ernst Cassirer and Edmund Husserl; sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld;
Arthur Rosenberg and Gustav Meyer; and many
others. Nine German citizens were awarded Nobel prizes during the
Weimar Republic, five of whom were
Jewish scientists, including two in
Sport took on a new importance as the human body became a focus that
pointed away from the heated rhetoric of standard politics. The new
emphasis reflected the search for freedom by young Germans alienated
from rationalized work routines.
United States presidential election, 1920
The 1920s saw dramatic innovations in American political campaign
techniques, based especially on new advertising methods that had
worked so well selling war bonds during the First World War. Governor
James M. Cox
James M. Cox of Ohio, the Democratic Party candidate, made a whirlwind
campaign that took him to rallies, train station speeches, and formal
addresses, reaching audiences totaling perhaps 2,000,000 people. It
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan campaign of 1896. By contrast,
the Republican Party candidate Senator
Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding of Ohio
relied upon a "Front Porch Campaign." It brought 600,000 voters to
Marion, Ohio, where Harding spoke from his home. Republican campaign
manager Will Hays spent some $8,100,000; nearly four times the money
Cox's campaign spent. Hays used national advertising in a major way
(with advice from adman Albert Lasker). The theme was Harding's own
slogan "America First." Thus the Republican advertisement in Collier's
Magazine for October 30, 1920, demanded, "Let's be done with wiggle
and wobble." The image presented in the ads was nationalistic, using
catchphrases like "absolute control of the
United States by the United
States," "Independence means independence, now as in 1776," "This
country will remain American. Its next President will remain in our
own country," and "We decided long ago that we objected to a foreign
government of our people."
1920 was the first presidential campaign to be heavily covered by the
press and to receive widespread newsreel coverage, and it was also the
first modern campaign to use the power of
Hollywood and Broadway stars
who traveled to Marion for photo opportunities with Harding and his
wife. Al Jolson, Lillian Russell,
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford,
were among the celebrities to make the pilgrimage. Business icons
Henry Ford and
Harvey Firestone also lent their cachet
to the Front Porch Campaign. On election night, November 2, 1920,
commercial radio broadcast coverage of election returns for the first
time. Announcers at KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh, PA read telegraph ticker
results over the air as they came in. This single station could be
heard over most of the Eastern
United States by the small percentage
of the population that had radio receivers.
Calvin Coolidge was inaugurated as President after the sudden death of
Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding in 1923; he was re-elected in 1924 in a
landslide against a divided opposition. Coolidge made use of the new
medium of radio and made radio history several times while president:
his inauguration was the first presidential inauguration broadcast on
radio; on 12 February 1924, he became the first American president to
deliver a political speech on radio.
Herbert Hoover was elected
President in 1928.
Decline of labor unions
Main article: Labor history of the
United States § Weakness of
organized labor 1920–1929
Unions grew very rapidly during the war but after a series of failed
major strikes in steel, meatpacking and other industries, a long
decade of decline weakened most unions and membership fell even as
employment grew rapidly. Radical unionism virtually collapsed, in
large part because of Federal repression during
World War I
World War I by means
Espionage Act of 1917
Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. The major
unions supported the third party candidacy of Robert La Follette in
The 1920s marked a period of sharp decline for the labor movement.
Union membership and activities fell sharply in the face of economic
prosperity, a lack of leadership within the movement, and anti-union
sentiments from both employers and the government. The unions were
much less able to organize strikes. In 1919, more than 4,000,000
workers (or 21% of the labor force) participated in about 3,600
strikes. In contrast, 1929 witnessed about 289,000 workers (or 1.2% of
the workforce) stage only 900 strikes. Unemployment rarely dipped
below 5% in the 1920s and few workers faced real wage losses.
Progressivism in 1920s
Main article: Progressive Era
Progressive Era in the
United States was a period of social
activism and political reform that flourished from the 1890s to the
1920s. The politics of the 1920s was -unfriendly toward the labor
unions and liberal crusaders against business, so many if not all
historians who emphasize those themes write off the decade. Urban
cosmopolitan scholars recoiled at the moralism of prohibition and the
intolerance of the nativists of the
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and denounced
the era. Historian Richard Hofstadter, for example, in 1955 wrote that
prohibition, "was a pseudo-reform, a pinched, parochial substitute for
reform" that "was carried about America by the rural-evangelical
virus". However, as
Arthur S. Link emphasized, the progressives
did not simply roll over and play dead. Link's argument for
continuity through the 1920s stimulated a historiography that found
Progressivism to be a potent force. Palmer, pointing to people like
George Norris, say, "It is worth noting that progressivism, whilst
temporarily losing the political initiative, remained popular in many
western states and made its presence felt in Washington during both
the Harding and Coolidge presidencies." Gerster and Cords argue
that "Since progressivism was a 'spirit' or an 'enthusiasm' rather
than an easily definable force with common goals, it seems more
accurate to argue that it produced a climate for reform which lasted
well into the 1920s, if not beyond." Even the Klan has been seen
in a new light, as numerous social historians reported that Klansmen
were "ordinary white Protestants" primarily interested in purification
of the system, which had long been a core progressive goal.
What historians have identified as "business progressivism", with its
emphasis on efficiency and typified by
Henry Ford and Herbert
Hoover reached an apogee in the 1920s. Wik, for example, argues
that Ford's "views on technology and the mechanization of rural
America were generally enlightened, progressive, and often far ahead
of his times."
Tindall stresses the continuing importance of the Progressive movement
in the South in the 1920s involving increased democracy, efficient
government, corporate regulation, social justice, and governmental
public service. William Link finds political progressivism
dominant in most of the South in the 1920s. Likewise it was
influential in Midwest.
Historians of women and of youth emphasize the strength of the
progressive impulse in the 1920s. Women consolidated their gains
after the success of the suffrage movement, and moved into causes such
as world peace, good government, maternal care (the
Sheppard–Towner Act of 1921), and local support for education
and public health. The work was not nearly as dramatic as the
suffrage crusade, but women voted and operated quietly and
effectively. Paul Fass, speaking of youth, says "Progressivism as an
angle of vision, as an optimistic approach to social problems, was
very much alive." The international influences which had sparked
a great many reform ideas likewise continued into the 1920s, as
American ideas of modernity began to influence Europe.
There is general agreement that the Progressive era was over by 1932,
especially since a majority of the remaining progressives opposed the
Canadian politics were dominated federally by the Liberal Party of
Canada under William Lyon Mackenzie King. The federal government spent
most of the decade disengaged from the economy and focused on paying
off the large debts amassed during the war and during the era of
railway over expansion. After the booming wheat economy of the early
part of the century, the prairie provinces were troubled by low wheat
prices. This played an important role in the development of Canada's
first highly successful third party, the Progressive Party of Canada
that won the second most seats in the 1921 national election. As well
with the creation of the
Balfour Declaration of 1926
Balfour Declaration of 1926 Canada achieved
with other British former colonies autonomy; creating the British
End of the Roaring Twenties
Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Dow Jones Industrial Stock Index had continued its upward move for
weeks, and coupled with heightened speculative activities, it gave an
illusion that the bull market of 1928 to 1929 would last forever. On
October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, stock prices on Wall
Street collapsed. The events in the
United States added to a worldwide
depression, later called the Great Depression, that put millions of
people out of work across the world throughout the 1930s.
Repeal of Prohibition
The 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, was proposed on
February 20, 1933. The choice to legalize alcohol was left up to the
states, and many states quickly took this opportunity to allow
Prohibition was officially ended with the ratification of the
Amendment on December 5, 1933.
Depression of 1920–21
France in the 1920s
Golden Twenties, the equivalent period in Germany
Interwar period, worldwide
Los Angeles in the 1920s
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^ Marc Moscato, Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in
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^ David Robinson,
Hollywood in the Twenties (1968).
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^ Crafton (1997), p. 148.
^ Crafton (1997), p. 390.
Steamboat Willie (1929) Archived 2011-11-21 at the Wayback Machine.
at Screen Savour
^ Robertson (2001), p. 63.
^ Robertson (2001), p. 173.
^ Jackson 2012, pp. 512–516.
^ Spencer Dunmore, Undaunted: Long-Distance Flyers in the Golden Age
of Aviation (2004).
^ "Patent US1925554 – Television apparatus and the like".
^ R. F. Tiltman, How "Stereoscopic" Television is Shown,
^ Interview with Paul Lyons Archived 2009-02-02 at the Wayback
Machine., Historian and Control and Information Officer at Glasgow
^ "Historic Figures:
John Logie Baird
John Logie Baird (1888–1946)". BBC. Retrieved
28 April 2015.
^ Wainwright M, Swan HT; Swan (January 1986). "C.G. Paine and the
earliest surviving clinical records of penicillin therapy". Medical
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PMC 1139580 . PMID 3511336.
^ Howie, J (1986). "Penicillin: 1929–40". British Medical Journal
(Clinical research ed.). 293 (6540): 158–159.
doi:10.1136/bmj.293.6540.158. PMC 1340901 .
^ Wainwright, M (1987). "The history of the therapeutic use of crude
penicillin". Medical History. 31 (1): 41–50.
doi:10.1017/s0025727300046305. PMC 1139683 .
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^ John A. Jakle, and Keith A. Sculle, Fast food: Roadside restaurants
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^ Christopher W. Wells,
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^ Dan Bryan. "The Great (Farm) Depression of the 1920s". American
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^ June Hannam, Mitzi Auchterlonie, and Katherine Holden, eds.
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^ Rosemary Skinner Keller; Rosemary Radford Ruether; Marie Cantlon
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^ D. J. Taylor (2010). Bright Young People: The
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Jolson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-10743-1
^ J. G. Ellrod, The Stars of
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^ Nina Sylvester, "Before Cosmopolitan: The Girl in German women's
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^ Lucy Moore, Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties
(Atlantic Books, 2015).
^ Bingham, Jane (2012). Popular Culture: 1920–1938. Chicago
Illinois: Heinemann Library.
^ Paula S. Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the
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^ Litchfield Historical Society (2015). The House of Worth: Fashion
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^ Lurie, Alison (1981). The Language of Clothes. New York: New York:
^ Brand, Jan (2007). Fashion & Accessories.
^ Bingham, Adrian (2015), "'An Era of Domesticity'? Histories of Women
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^ Alison Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and
Conservatism between the Wars (1991) p. 9.
^ Brown, Dorothy M. Setting a Course: American Women in the 1920s
(Twayne Publishers, 1987) p. 33.
^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience: A Concise History
(2002). p. 256.
^ Linda Eisenmann, Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the
United States (1998) p. 440.
^ "Baby, You Can Drive My Car: Advertising Women's Freedom in 1920s
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^ Alice Kessler-Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women
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^ Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women
United States p. 237.
^ Kessler-Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the
United States pp 237, 288.
^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience: A Concise History
(McGraw–Hill, 2002) p. 246.
^ Woloch, Women and the American Experience: A Concise History p. 274.
^ Woloch, Women and the American Experience: A Concise History, pp.
^ Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Two Washes in the Morning and a Bridge Party at
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^ Nicholas Atkin; Michael Biddiss (2008). Themes in Modern European
History, 1890–1945. Routledge. pp. 243–44.
^ Gregory M. Luebbert, Liberalism, fascism, or social democracy:
Social classes and the political origins of regimes in interwar Europe
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^ Julian Jackson (2009). Living in Arcadia: Homosexuality, Politics,
and Morality in
France from the Liberation to AIDS. University of
Chicago Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-226-38928-8.
^ Florence Tamagne (2006). A History of Homosexuality in Europe:
Berlin, London, Paris, 1919–1939. Algora Publishing. p. 309.
^ Jason Crouthamel, "'Comradeship' and 'Friendship': Masculinity and
Militarisation in Germany's Homosexual Emancipation Movement after the
First World War," Gender and History, (April 2011) 23#1 pp 111–129
^ Glenn Ramsey, "The Rites of 'Artgenossen': Contesting Homosexual
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Sexuality, (January 2008), 17#1 pp 85–109
^ The song was written by Edgar Leslie (words) and James V. Monaco
(music) and featured in Hugh J. Ward's Musical Comedy "Lady Be Good."
^ Artists who recorded this song include: 1. Frank Harris (Irving
Kaufman), (Columbia 569D,1/29/26) 2. Bill Meyerl & Gwen Farrar
(the UK, 1926) 3. Joy Boys (the UK, 1926) 4. Harry Reser's Six Jumping
Jacks (the UK, 2/13/26) 5. Hotel Savoy Opheans (HMV 5027, UK, 1927,
aka Savoy Havana Band) 6. Merrit Brunies & His Friar's Inn
Orchestra on Okeh 40593, 3/2/26
^ A full reproduction of the original sheet music with the complete
lyrics (including the amusing cover sheet) can be found at:
^ Mann, William J., Wisecracker: the life and times of William Haines,
Hollywood's first openly gay star (Viking, 1998) pp 2–6, 12–13,
^ See Three Plays by Mae West: Sex, The Drag and Pleasure Man
^ Jill Watts (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford
University Press. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-19-534767-8.
^ Terry L. Chapman, "'An Oscar Wilde Type': 'The Abominable Crime of
Buggery' in Western Canada, 1890–1920," Criminal Justice History,
(1983), Vol. 4, pp 97–118
^ Daniel Hurewitz, "Goody-Goodies, Sissies, and Long-Hairs: The
Dangerous Figures in 1930s
Los Angeles Political Culture," Journal of
Urban History, (November 2006) 33#1 pp 26–50
^ a b
Roy Porter (1999). The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical
History of Humanity. W. W. Norton. pp. 516–517.
^ John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism,
1860–1925 (1955) pp 312–30
^ Alison Bashford, "Immigration restriction: rethinking period and
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^ W. Peter Ward, White Canada forever: popular attitudes and public
policy towards Orientals in British Columbia (McGill-Queens UP, 1990).
^ P. O'Connor, "Keeping New Zealand white, 1908–1920", New Zealand
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^ Sean Brawley, The white peril: foreign relations and Asian
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^ Daniel Okrent (2010). Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.
Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439171691.
^ Gerald Hallowell, "
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^ Michael A. Lerner, Dry Manhattan:
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^ Cesar Torres, "The Latin American 'Olympic explosion' of the 1920s:
Causes and consequences", International Journal of the History of
Sport, November 2006, Vol. 23#7 pp 1088–1111
^ Shaun Lopez, "Football as National Allegory: Al-Ahram and the
Olympics in 1920s Egypt", History Compass, January 2009, Vol. 7 Issue
1, pp 282–305,
^ Penelope Kissoudi, "Sport, Politics and International Relations in
the Balkans: the Balkan Games from 1929 to 1932", International
Journal of the History of Sport, November 2008, Vol. 25 Issue 13, pp
^ "Mafia in the United States". History.com.
^ Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (2001)
^ Lee Congdon, Exile and Social Thought: Hungarian Intellectuals in
Germany and Austria, 1919–1933 (1991).
^ Kathleen James-Chakraborty,
Bauhaus Culture: From Weimar to the Cold
^ Niewyk, Donald L. (2001). The Jews in Weimar Germany. Transaction
Publishers. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-7658-0692-5.
^ Theodore F. Rippey, "Athletics, Aesthetics, and Politics in the
Weimar Press." German Studies Review (2005) 28#1: 85–106. in JSTOR
^ Andrew Sinclair, The Available Man: The Life behind the Masks of
Warren Gamaliel Harding (1965) p. 162
^ John Morello, Selling the President, 1920: Albert D. Lasker,
Advertising, and the Election of
Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding (2001).
^ , Robert Zieger, American Workers, American Unions (1994) pp. 5–6
^ Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (1955) p. 287
^ Arthur S. Link, "What Happened to the
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833–851 in JSTOR
^ Niall A. Palmer, The twenties in America: politics and history
(2006) p 176
^ Patrick Gerster and Nicholas Cords, Myth in American history (1977)
^ , Stanley Coben, "Ordinary white Protestants: The
KKK of the 1920s",
Journal of Social History, Fall 1994, Vol. 28 Issue 1, pp 155–65
^ Joan Hoff Wilson, Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive (1975)
^ Reynold M. Wik, "Henry Ford's Science and
Technology for Rural
Technology & Culture, July 1962, Vol. 3 Issue 3, pp
^ George B. Tindall, "Business Progressivism: Southern Politics in the
Twenties", South Atlantic Quarterly 62 (Winter 1963): 92–106.
^ George B. Tindall, The Emergence of the New South, 1913–1945
^ William A. Link, The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880–1930
(1997) p 294
^ Judith Sealander, Grand Plans: Business Progressivism and Social
Change in Ohio's Miami Valley, 1890–1929 (1991)
^ Maureen A. Flanagan, America Reformed: Progressives and
Progressivisms, 1890s–1920s (2006)
^ Susan Zeiger, "Finding a cure for war: Women's politics and the
peace movement in the 1920s", Journal of Social History, Fall 1990,
Vol. 24 Issue 1, pp 69–86 in JSTOR
^ J. Stanley Lemons, "The Sheppard–Towner Act: Progressivism in the
1920s", Journal of American History Vol. 55, No. 4 (March 1969), pp.
776–786 in JSTOR
^ Jayne Morris-Crowther, "Municipal Housekeeping: The Political
Activities of the
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Michigan Historical Review, March 2004, Vol. 30 Issue 1, pp 31–57
^ Kristi Andersen, After suffrage: women in partisan and electoral
politics before the New Deal (1996)
^ Paula S. Fass, The damned and the beautiful: American youth in the
1920's (1977) p 30
^ Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a
Progressive Age (2000) ch 9
^ Otis L. Graham, An Encore for Reform: The Old Progressives and the
New Deal (1968)
Blom, Philipp. Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918–1938
(Basic Books, 2015).
Jobs, Richard Ivan, and David M. Pomfret, eds. The Transnationality of
Youth." Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century
(Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015) contents.
Abra, Allison. "Going to the palais: a social and cultural history of
dancing and dance halls in Britain, 1918–1960." Contemporary British
History (Sep 2016) 30#3 pp 432–433.
Archer-Straw, Petrine. Negrophilia: Avant-Garde
Paris and Black
Culture in the 1920s (2000).
Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Modern Germany: society, economy, and politics
in the twentieth century (1987) ACLS E-book
Berliner, Brett A. Ambivalent Desire: The Exotic Black Other in
Bernard, Philippe, and Henri Dubief. The Decline of the Third
Republic, 1914–1938 (The Cambridge History of Modern France) (1988)
excerpt and text search
Bingham, Adrian. Gender,
Modernity & the Popular Press in
Inter-War Britain (2004) 271pp.
Branson, Noreen. Britain in the Nineteen Twenties (1976).
Brockmann, Stephen, and Thomas W. Kniesche, eds. Dancing on the
Volcano: Essays on the Culture of the
Weimar Republic (1994); Germany
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Roles, 1918–1939." Albion 7#1 (Spring 1975): 55–68. in Great
Guerin, Frances. Culture of Light: Cinema and
Technology in 1920s
Jones, Andrew F. Yellow Music: Media Culture & Colonial Modernity
in the Chinese
Jazz Age (2001)
Kolb, Eberhard. The
Weimar Republic (2005), Germany 1919–1933
Mowat, Charles. Britain Between the Wars, 1918–1940 (1955), Thorough
scholarly coverage; emphasis on politics
Rippey, Theodore F. "Rationalisation, Race, and the Weimar Response to
Jazz", German Life and Letters", January 2007, Vol. 60 Issue 1, pp
Jazz Age Catholicism: Mystic Modernism in Postwar
Paris 1919–1933 (2005)
Søland, Birgitte. Becoming modern: young women and the reconstruction
of womanhood in the 1920s. (Princeton UP, 2000). On Denmark; contents
Szreter, Simon, and Kate Fisher. Sex before the sexual revolution:
Intimate life in England 1918–1963 (Cambridge UP, 2010).
Tebbutt, Melanie. Making Youth: A History of Youth in Modern Britain
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
Taylor, D. J. Bright Young People: The
Lost Generation of London's
Jazz Age (2009)
Zeldin, Theodore. France: 1848–1945: Politics and Anger; Anxiety and
Hypocrisy; Taste and Corruption; Intellect and Pride; Ambition and
Love (2 vol 1979), topical history
Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the
Nineteen-Twenties. (1931), the first and still the most widely read
survey of the era, complete text online free.
Best, Gary Dean. The Dollar Decade: Mammon and the Machine in 1920s
Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago,
Cohen, Lizabeth. "Encountering Mass Culture at the Grassroots: The
Chicago Workers in the 1920s", American Quarterly, Vol.
41, No. 1 (March 1989), pp. 6–33. in JSTOR
Conor, Liz. The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the
1920s. (2004). 329pp.
Cowley, Malcolm. Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s.
(1934) online 1999 edition
Crafton, Donald (1997). The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to
Sound, 1926–1931. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Delgadillo, Charles E., "'A Pretty Weedy Flower': William Allen White,
Midwestern Liberalism, and the 1920s Culture War", Kansas History 35
(Autumn 2012), 186–202.
Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the
Fass, Paula. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the
Fuess, Claude M. (1940). Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont.
Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1-4067-5673-9.
Geduld, Harry M. (1975). The Birth of the Talkies: From Edison to
Jolson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-10743-1
Hicks, John D. Republican Ascendancy, 1921–1933. (1960) political
and economic survey
Hounshell, David A. (1984), From the American System to Mass
Production, 1800-1932: The Development of Manufacturing
the United States, Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University
Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-2975-8, LCCN 83016269
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Harlem Renaissance. (1971).
Jackson, Joe. Atlantic Fever: Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race
to Cross the Atlantic. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
Kallen, Stuart A. The
Roaring Twenties (2001) ISBN 0-7377-0885-9
Kyvig, David E.; Daily Life in the United States, 1920–1939: Decades
of Promise and Pain, 2002 online edition
Leuchtenburg, William E. The Perils of Prosperity, 1914–1932 (1958),
influential survey by scholar
Lynd, Robert Staughton and Lynd, Helen. Middletown: A Study in
Contemporary American Culture. (1929); highly influential sociological
study of Muncie, Indiana
McNeese, Tim, and Richard Jensen,
War I and the Roaring Twenties: 1914–1928] (2010), pp 75–118;
Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of
Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870–1925 (1980)
Murray, Robert K. (1969). The Harding Era 1921–1923: Warren G.
Harding and his Administration. University of Minnesota Press.
Noggle, Burl. Into the Twenties: The
United States from Armistice to
Robertson, Patrick (2001).
Film Facts. New York: Billboard Books.
Scharf, Lois, and Joan M. Jensen, eds. The American Housewife between
the Wars. Decades of Discontent: The Women's Movement, 1920–1940.
Sloan, Alfred P. (1964), McDonald, John, ed., My Years with General
Motors, Garden City, NY, USA: Doubleday, LCCN 64011306,
OCLC 802024. Republished in 1990 with a new introduction by Peter
Drucker (ISBN 978-0385042352).
Sorensen, Charles E.; with Williamson, Samuel T. (1956), My Forty
Years with Ford, New York, New York, USA: Norton,
LCCN 56010854 . Various republications, including
Stricker, Frank. "Affluence for Whom? Another Look at Prosperity and
the Working Classes in the 1920s", Labor History 24#1 (1983): 5–33
Soule, George. Prosperity Decade: From War to Depression: 1917–1929
(1947), comprehensive economic history
Starr, Kevin. Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s.
(1996) online edition
Tindall, George Brown. The Emergence of the New South, 1913–1945
(1967) comprehensive regional history
Williams, Iain Cameron. "Underneath a Harlem Moon: The Harlem to Paris
Years of Adelaide Hall" (Bayou
Jazz Lives), Continuum, 2003,
Quiz: Life in the Roaring Twenties
Teaching the American Twenties Exhibit from the Harry Ransom Center at
the University of Texas at Austin
1920s timeline, Harlem
Roaring Twenties study guide and teacher resources – timeline,
quotes, analysis, multimedia
Roaring Twenties – History.com
Video (48:15) − America in color: The 1920s on YouTube
Russia / Soviet Union
18th Amendment (U.S. Constitution)
21st Amendment (U.S. Constitution)
American Temperance Society
Association Against the
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Bureau of Prohibition
Medicinal Liquor Prescriptions Act of 1933
Molly Pitcher Club
Swedish prohibition referendum, 1922
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Woman's Christian Temperance Union
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Clinton N Howard
Enoch L. Johnson
The LaMontages brothers
The Purple Gang
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William Harvey Thompson
Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith
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Prohibition (2011 documentary miniseries)
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Florida land boom of the 1920s
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Real estate bubbles
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Timeline of U.S. history
Drafting and ratification of Constitution
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