The 1920s (pronounced "nineteen-twenties" often shortened to the "'20s" or the "Twenties") was a decade that began on January 1, 1920, and ended on December 31, 1929. In America, it is frequently referred to as the "Roaring Twenties" or the "Jazz Age", while in Europe the period is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Twenties"[1] because of the economic boom following World War I (1914–1918). French speakers refer to the period as the "Années folles" ("crazy years"),[2] emphasizing the era's social, artistic, and cultural dynamism.

Irish War of IndependenceProhibition in the United StatesWomen's suffrageBabe RuthSpirit of St. LouisChinese Civil WarMarch on Rome1929 stock market crash
From left, clockwise: Third Tipperary Brigade Flying Column No. 2 under Seán Hogan during the Irish War of Independence; Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol in accordance to the 18th amendment, which made alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States throughout the entire decade; In 1927, Charles Lindbergh embarks on the first solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris on the Spirit of St. Louis; A crowd gathering on Wall Street after the 1929 stock market crash, which led to the Great Depression; Benito Mussolini and fascist Blackshirts during the March on Rome in 1922; the People's Liberation Army attacking government defensive positions in Shandong, during the Chinese Civil War; The women's suffrage campaign leads to numerous countries granting women the right to vote and be elected; Babe Ruth becomes the most famous baseball player of the time.

The 1920s saw foreign oil companies begin operations in Venezuela, which became the world's second-largest oil-producing nation.[3] The devastating Wall Street Crash in October 1929 is generally viewed as a harbinger of the end of 1920s prosperity in North America and Europe. In the Soviet Union, the New Economic Policy was created by the Bolsheviks in 1921, to be replaced by the first five-year plan in 1928. The 1920s saw the rise of radical political movements, with the Red Army triumphing against White movement forces in the Russian Civil War, and the emergence of far-right political movements in Europe. In 1922, the fascist leader Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy. Other dictators that emerged included Józef Piłsudski in Poland, and Peter and Alexander Karađorđević in Yugoslavia. First-wave feminism made advances, with women gaining the right to vote in the United States (1920), Albania (1920), Ireland (1921), and with suffrage being expanded in Britain to all women over 21 years old (1928).

In Turkey, nationalist forces defeated Greece, France, Armenia and Britain in the Turkish War of Independence, leading to the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), a treaty more favorable to Turkey than the earlier proposed Treaty of Sèvres. The war also led to the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate. Nationalist revolts also occurred in Ireland (1919–1921) and Syria (1925–1927). Under Mussolini, Italy pursued a more aggressive domestic and foreign policy, leading to the nigh-eradication of the Sicilian Mafia and the Second Italo-Senussi War in Libya respectively. In 1927, China erupted into a civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Civil wars also occurred in Paraguay (1922–1923), Ireland (1922–1923), Honduras (1924), Nicaragua (1926–1927), and Afghanistan (1928–1929). Saudi forces conquered Jabal Shammar and subsequently, Hejaz.

A severe famine occurred in Russia (1921–1922) due to the combined effects of economic disturbance because of the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, exacerbated by rail systems that could not distribute food efficiently, leading to 5 million deaths. Another severe famine occurred in China (1928–1930), leading to 6 million deaths. The Spanish flu pandemic (1918–1920) and Russian typhus epidemic (1918–1922), which had begun in the previous decade, caused 25–50 million and 2–3 million deaths respectively. Major natural disasters of this decade include the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake (258,707~273,407 deaths), 1922 Shantou typhoon (50,000–100,000 deaths), 1923 Great Kantō earthquake (105,385–142,800 deaths), and 1927 Gulang earthquake (40,912 deaths).

Silent films were popular in this decade, with the highest-grossing film of this decade being either the American silent epic adventure-drama film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ or the American silent war drama film The Big Parade, depending on the metrics used. Sinclair Lewis was a popular author in the United States in the 1920s, with his books Main Street and Elmer Gantry becoming best-sellers. Best-selling books outside the US included the Czech book The Good Soldier Švejk, which sold 20 million copies. Songs of this decade included "Mack the Knife" and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips".

During the 1920s, the world population increased from 1.87 to 2.05 billion, with approximately 700 million births and 525 million deaths in total.

Social history edit

The Roaring Twenties brought about several novel and highly visible social and cultural trends. These trends, made possible by sustained economic prosperity, were most visible in major cities like New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin and London. "Normalcy" returned to politics in the wake of hyper-emotional patriotism during World War I, jazz blossomed, and Art Deco peaked. For women, knee-length skirts and dresses became socially acceptable, as did bobbed hair with a finger wave or marcel wave. The women who pioneered these trends were frequently referred to as flappers.[4]

The era saw the large-scale adoption of automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, radio and household electricity, as well as unprecedented industrial growth, accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, and significant changes in lifestyle and culture, mostly in the urbanized areas of the Western World. The media began to focus on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars. Large baseball stadiums were built in major U.S. cities, in addition to palatial cinemas.

Most independent countries passed women's suffrage after 1918, especially as a reward for women's support of the war effort and endurance of its deaths and hardships.[citation needed]

Politics and wars edit

Map of the world from 1920, two years after World War I

Wars edit

Spanish troops in San Sebastián, prior to their departure to the Rif War.

Internal conflicts edit

Major political changes edit

Adolf Hitler (standing) delivers a speech in February 1925
  • Rise of radical political movements such as communism led by the Soviet Union and fascism led by Italy.
  • League of Nations and associated bodies as experiment in international cooperation and prevention of wars

Decolonization and independence edit

Prominent political events edit

Peace and disarmament edit

Women's suffrage edit

  • Women's suffrage movement continues to make gains as women obtain full voting rights in the United Kingdom in 1918 (women over 30) and in 1928 (full enfranchisement), in the United States in 1920. Also : full or partial gains in Uruguay 1917; Canada, 1917–1925 except Quebec (1940); Czechoslovakia 1920; Irish Free State, 1922; Burma, 1922; Italy, 1925 (partial); Ecuador 1929.[5]

United States edit

Prohibition agents emptying barrels of alcohol.

Europe edit

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) is created in 1922.
Benito Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirts during the March on Rome in 1922.

Asia edit

Africa edit

Economics edit

Crowd gathering after the Wall Street Crash of 1929
Dow Jones Industrial, 1928–1930

Natural disasters edit

Assassinations and attempts edit

Prominent assassinations, targeted killings, and assassination attempts include:

Science and technology edit

Technology edit

Science edit

Popular culture edit

Film edit

Silent films were popular in this decade, with the highest-grossing film of this decade being either 1925 American silent epic adventure-drama film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ or the 1925 American silent war drama film The Big Parade, depending of metrics used: Ben-Hur grossed more during its initial release, but The Big Parade ultimately grossed more via re-releases.

High-grossing films by year of release[13][14][15]
Year Title Worldwide gross Budget Reference(s)
1920 Way Down East $5,000,000R ($4,000,000)R $800,000 [# 1][# 2]
1921 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse $5,000,000R ($4,000,000)R $600,000800,000 [# 3]
1922 Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood $2,500,000R $930,042.78 [# 4][# 5]
1923 The Covered Wagon $5,000,000R $800,000 [# 6][# 7]
1924 The Sea Hawk $3,000,000R $700,000 [# 6]
1925 The Big Parade $18,000,00022,000,000R


$382,000 [# 8][# 9][# 10]
Ben-Hur $10,738,000R ($9,386,000)R $3,967,000 [# 11][# 12]
1926 For Heaven's Sake $2,600,000R FH $150,000 [# 1][# 13]
1927 Wings $3,600,000R $2,000,000 [# 1][# 14][# 15]
1928 The Singing Fool $5,900,000R $388,000 [# 15][# 16]
1929 The Broadway Melody $4,400,0004,800,000R $379,000 [# 17][# 18]
Sunny Side Up $3,500,000*R SS $600,000 [# 19][# 20]
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (full movie displayed) was the highest-grossing movie of the 1920s by some metrics.

Fashion edit

The most memorable fashion trend of the Roaring Twenties was undoubtedly "the flapper" look.

The 1920s is the decade in which fashion entered the modern era. It was the decade in which women first abandoned the more restricting fashions of past years and began to wear more comfortable clothes (such as short skirts or trousers). Men also abandoned highly formal daily attire and even began to wear athletic clothing for the first time. The suits men wear today are still based, for the most part, on those worn in the late 1920s. The 1920s are characterized by two distinct periods of fashion. In the early part of the decade, change was slow, as many were reluctant to adopt new styles. From 1925, the public passionately embraced the styles associated with the Roaring Twenties. These styles continued to characterize fashion until the worldwide depression worsened in 1931.

Music edit

The period from the end of the First World War until the start of the Depression in 1929 is known as the "Jazz Age"

Radio edit

  • First commercial radio stations in the U.S., 8MK (WWJ) in Detroit and (KDKA 1020 AM) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, go on the air on August 27, 1920.
  • Both stations broadcast the election results between Harding and Cox in early November. The first station to receive a commercial license is WBZ, then in Springfield MA, in mid-September 1921. While there are only a few radio stations in 1920–21, by 1922 the radio craze is sweeping the country.
  • 1922: The BBC begins radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom as the British Broadcasting Company, a consortium between radio manufacturers and newspapers. It became a public broadcaster in 1926.
  • On August 27, 1920, regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in Argentina for the first time,[16] by a Buenos Aires group including Enrique Telémaco Susini. The station is soon called Radio Argentina. (See Radio in Argentina.)

Arts edit

Literature edit

The best-selling books of every year in the United States were as follows:[17]

Architecture edit

Sports highlights edit

1920 edit

1921 edit

1923 edit

1924 edit

1925 edit

  • May 28: French Open invites non-French tennis athletes for the first time
  • Germany and Belgium in first handball international tournament.

1926 edit

1927 edit

1928 edit

1929 edit

Miscellaneous trends edit

People edit

Science edit

Albert Einstein, 1921

Literature edit

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1929

Entertainers edit

Charlie Chaplin during the 1920s
Buster Keaton in the 1922 short film The Frozen North

Musicians edit

Irving Berlin (left) and Al Jolson, c. 1927

Film makers edit

D. W. Griffith at a rolltop desk, c. 1925

Artists edit

Georgia O'Keeffe in 1920, photographed by Alfred Stieglitz
George Grosz in 1921

Architects edit

Frank Lloyd Wright, 1926

Sports figures edit

Babe Ruth in 1920
Paavo Nurmi in 1924 Summer Olympics

See also edit

Timeline edit

The following articles contain brief timelines listing the most prominent events of the decade:


Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c "Biggest Money Pictures". Variety. June 21, 1932. p. 1. Cited in "Biggest Money Pictures". Cinemaweb. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
  2. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (2011). The Fox Film Corporation, 1915–1935: A History and Filmography. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-6286-5.
    • Way Down East: p. 52. "D.W. Griffith's Way Down East (1920) was projected to return rentals of $4,000,000 on an $800,000 negative. This figure was based on the amounts earned from its roadshow run, coupled with its playoff in the rest of the country's theaters. Griffith had originally placed the potential film rental at $3,000,000 but, because of the success of the various roadshows that were running the $4,000,000 total was expected. The film showed a profit of $615,736 after just 23 weeks of release on a gross of $2,179,613."
    • What Price Glory?: p. 112. "What Price Glory hit the jackpot with massive world rentals of $2,429,000, the highest figure in the history of the company. Since it was also the most expensive production of the year at $817,000 the profit was still a healthy $796,000..."
    • Cavalcade: p. 170. "The actual cost of Cavalcade was $1,116,000 and it was most definitely not guaranteed a success. In fact, if its foreign grosses followed the usual 40 percent of domestic returns, the film would have lost money. In a turnaround, the foreign gross was almost double the $1,000,000 domestic take to reach total world rentals of $3,000,000 and Fox's largest profit of the year at $664,000."
    • State Fair: p. 170. "State Fair did turn out to be a substantial hit with the help of Janet Gaynor boosting Will Rogers back to the level of money-making star. Its prestige engagements helped raked in a total $1,208,000 in domestic rentals. Surprisingly, in foreign countries unfamiliar with state fairs, it still earned a respectable $429,000. With its total rentals, the film ended up showing a $398,000 profit."
  3. ^ Hall & Neale 2010, p. 53. "The Four Forsemen of the Apocalypse was to become Metro's most expensive production and one of the decade's biggest box-office hits. Its production costs have been estimated at "something between $600,000 and $800,000." Variety estimated its worldwide gross at $4 million in 1925 and at $5 million in 1944; in 1991, it estimated its cumulative domestic rentals at $3,800,000."
  4. ^ Brownlow, Kevin (1968). The parade's gone by . University of California Press. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-520-03068-8. The negative cost was about $986,000, which did not include Fairbanks' own salary. Once the exploitation and release prints were taken into account, Robin Hood cost about $1,400,000—exceeding both Intolerance ($700,000) and the celebrated "million dollar movie" Foolish Wives. But it earned $2,500,000.
  5. ^ Vance, Jeffrey (2008). Douglas Fairbanks. University of California Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-520-25667-5. The film had a production cost of $930,042.78—more than the cost of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance and nearly as much as Erich von Stroheim's Foolish Wives (1922).
  6. ^ a b "Business: Film Exports". Time. July 6, 1925. Archived from the original on November 5, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  7. ^ Birchard, Robert S. (2009). Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-3829-9.
  8. ^ May, Richard P. (Fall 2005), "Restoring The Big Parade", The Moving Image, 5 (2): 140–146, doi:10.1353/mov.2005.0033, ISSN 1532-3978, S2CID 192076406, ...earning somewhere between $18 and $22 million, depending on the figures consulted
  9. ^ Robertson, Patrick (1991). Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats (4 ed.). Abbeville Publishing Group. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-55859-236-0. The top grossing silent film was King Vidor's The Big Parade (US 25), with worldwide rentals of $22 million.
  10. ^ Hall & Neale 2010, pp. 58–59. "Even then, at a time when the budget for a feature averaged at around $300,000, no more than $382,000 was spent on production...According to the Eddie Mannix Ledger at MGM, it grossed $4,990,000 domestically and $1,141,000 abroad."
  11. ^ "Ben-Hur (1925) – Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  12. ^ Hall & Neale 2010, p. 163. "MGM's silent Ben-Hur, which opened at the end of 1925, had out-grossed all the other pictures released by the company in 1926 combined. With worldwide rentals of $9,386,000 on first release it was, with the sole possible exception of The Birth of a Nation, the highest-earning film of the entire silent era. (At a negative cost of $3,967,000, it was also the most expensive.)"
  13. ^ Miller, Frank. "For Heaven's Sake (1926) – Articles". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  14. ^ Finler 2003, p. 188. "At a cost of $2 million Wings was the studio's most expensive movie of the decade, and though it did well it was not good enough to earn a profit."
  15. ^ a b The Jazz Singer and The Singing Fool
    • Block, Hayley Taylor (2010), The Jazz Singer, p. 113, The film brought in $2.6 million in worldwide rentals and made a net profit of $1,196,750. Jolson's follow-up Warner Bros. film, The Singing Fool (1928), brought in over two times as much, with $5.9 in worldwide rentals and a profit of $3,649,000, making them two of the most profitable films in the 1920s. In: Block & Wilson 2010.
  16. ^ Crafton, Donald (1999). The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926–1931. University of California Press. pp. 549–552. ISBN 978-0-520-22128-4. The Singing Fool: Negative Cost ($1000s): 388
  17. ^ Birchard, Robert S. (2010), The Broadway Melody, p. 121, It earned $4.4 million in worldwide rentals and was the first movie to spawn sequels (there were several until 1940). In: Block & Wilson 2010.
  18. ^ Bradley, Edwin M. (2004) [1st. pub. 1996]. The First Hollywood Musicals: A Critical Filmography of 171 Features, 1927 Through 1932. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-2029-2.
    • The Singing Fool: p. 12. "Ego aside, Jolson was at the top of his powers in The Singing Fool. The $150,000 Warner Bros. paid him to make it, and the $388,000 it took to produce the film, were drops in the hat next to the film's world gross of $5.9 million. Its $3.8-million gross in this country set a box-office record that would not be surpassed until Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)."
    • The Broadway Melody: p. 24. "The Broadway Melody with a negative cost of $379,000, grossed $2.8 million in the United States, $4.8 million worldwide, and made a recorded profit of $1.6 million for MGM."
    • Gold Diggers of Broadway: p. 58. "It grossed an impressive $2.5 million domestically and nearly $4 million worldwide."
  19. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (2002) [First published 1988]. Twentieth Century-Fox: a corporate and financial history. Filmmakers series. Vol. 20. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
    • Sunny Side Up: p. 10. "Sunny Side Up, a musical starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, showed domestic rentals of $3.5 million, a record for the company."
    • Forever Amber: p. 66. "On the surface, with world rentals of $8 million, Forever Amber was considered a hit at distribution level."
    • The French Connection
    p. 167. "The Planet of the Apes motion pictures were all moneymakers and Zanuck's record would have immediately improved had he stayed through the release of The French Connection, which took in rentals of approximately $75 million worldwide."
    p. 256. "$3,300,00".
  20. ^ Block & Wilson 2010, p. 46. "Production Cost: $0.6 (Unadjusted $s in Millions of $s)."

References edit

  1. ^ Paul Sann, The Lawless Decade Retrieved 2009-09-03
  2. ^ Andrew Lamb (2000). 150 Years of Popular Musical Theatre. Yale U.P. p. 195. ISBN 0300075383.
  3. ^ Wilkins, Mira (1974). "Multinational Oil Companies in South America in the 1920s: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru". The Business History Review. 48 (3): 414–446. doi:10.2307/3112955. JSTOR 3112955. S2CID 154212799.
  4. ^ Price, Sean (1999). "What made the twenties roar?". Scholastic Update. 131 (10): 3–18.
  5. ^ June Hannam et al. International encyclopedia of women's suffrage (2000).
  6. ^ Baugh, L. Sue. "Osage murders". Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 Oct. 2023, Accessed 6 November 2023.
  7. ^ "The Ku Klux Klan, a brief biography". The African American Registry. Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved July 19, 2012. and Lay, Shawn. "Ku Klux Klan in the Twentieth Century". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Coker College. Archived from the original on 2005-10-25. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  8. ^ Famine in Russia: the hidden horrors of 1921. International Committee of the Red Cross.
  9. ^ "African History Timeline". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  10. ^ "Inflation and CPI Consumer Price Index 1920-1929". Inflation Data. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Lindbergh's Transatlantic Flight: New York to Paris Timeline". Archived from the original on November 13, 2022. Retrieved 2022-11-13.
  12. ^ "Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip, and John Macleod". Science History Institute. June 2016. Archived from the original on 1 December 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Yearly Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  14. ^ "Movie Index By Year". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. LLC. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  15. ^ Dirks, Tim. "All-Time Box-Office Hits By Decade and Year". American Movie Classics. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  16. ^ Altgelt, Carlos A. "EARLY HISTORY OF RADIO BROADCASTING IN ARGENTINA". The Broadcast Archive. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  17. ^ Hackett, Alice Payne; Burke, James Henry (1977). 80 Years of Bestsellers: 1895 - 1975. New York: R.R. Bowker Company. pp. 89–107. ISBN 0-8352-0908-3.
  18. ^ a b Moore, Lucy (2015-09-10). Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-78239-868-4.

Sources edit

Further reading edit

  • Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (1931), classic popular history of United States; online free
  • Currell, Susan. American Culture in the 1920s (Edinburgh University Press, 2009), a British perspective.
  • Dumenil, Lynn. The modern temper: American culture and society in the 1920s (Macmillan, 1995).
  • Grossman, Mark. Encyclopedia of the Interwar Years: From 1919 to 1939 (2000). 400pp.
  • Jacobson, Jon. "Is there a New International History of the 1920s?." American Historical Review 88.3 (1983): 617–645. online
  • Johnson, GAynor, and Michael Dockrill eds. Locarno Revisited: European Diplomacy 1920-1929 (2004)
  • McAuliffe, Mary. When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends (2016) excerpt
  • Maier, Charles S. Recasting bourgeois Europe: stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the decade after World War I (Princeton University Press, 2015), scholarly analysis
  • Mowat, Charles Loch. Britain Between the Wars, 1918–1940 (1955), 690pp; thorough scholarly coverage; emphasis on politics also online free to read, scholarly survey of the era.
  • Sobel, Robert The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920s. (1968)
  • Uldricks, Teddy J. "Russia and Europe: Diplomacy, Revolution, and Economic Development in the 1920s." International History Review 1.1 (1979): 55–83.
  • Walters, Ryan S. The Jazz Age President: Defending Warren G. Harding (2022) excerpt also online review