the 1920s - Bringing History Home

Created by Rebecca Benedix
The 1920's were a prosperous time
known as the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz
Age, and the Age of Wonderful
Nonsense. There were many different
and interesting things that occurred
during the 1920s in America.
Interesting Statistics
The population of the US was 106,521,537 people. In the year 2000 it was
281,421,906 people.
The average yearly income was $1,236. In the year 2000 it was $28,272.
The price of a gallon of milk was $.58. Today it is $2.25.
Men lived about 54 years. Women lived about 55 years. Today men live
about 74 years, and women live about 79 years
A public school teacher earned about $729 a year. Today the average salary
for a teacher is $42,898.
It took 13 days to reach California from New York driving on 2 lane roads.
Today it takes 4 hours by plane.
In 1919, the 18th Amendment passed the Act of
Prohibition, which made the making of, the transportation
of, and the selling of alcohol illegal. The intent of the
Amendment was to lower the crime rate and to improve
the general way of life, but the opposite happened.
Crime increased as people rebelled against not
being able to buy alcohol. People began making
homemade alcohol using equipment called stills.
This homemade alcohol was sometimes called
bathtub gin.
Numerous illegal bars called speakeasies
were created to provide drinks for the
people who wanted alcoholic beverages.
Gangsters profited
during this decade by
smuggling alcohol and
distributing it to different
illegal businesses. Al
Capone from Chicago
was one of these
gangsters. He made
$105 million a year
smuggling alcohol.
Women received the right to
vote by the 19th Amendment,
but they still had little interest in
politics. During the 1920s
women asked guys out. They
wore the new flapper style of
clothing and were more
assertive. They took the same
jobs as men, but still fought for
equality in the workplace.
Flappers were considered
reckless rebels. They had short
sleek hair. They wore a shorter
than average shapeless shift
dress. They wore make-up and
put it on in public. They
exposed their legs in public.
They put their cigarettes in long
holders to smoke them. They
enjoyed doing the new dances,
such as the Charleston, in the
jazz clubs.
Men took their fashion ideas from the sports or gangster
heroes of the day. Men wanted to appear “dapper.”
Baggy pants, polished shoes, and a handkerchief in the
pocket let others know that this man was someone to pay
attention to. The baggy zoot suit was worn for fancy
New Inventions
Henry Ford began mass production of the
"Model T" automobile, the first car priced so
the average man could afford one.
Other wellknown
inventions of
the decade
kleenex, and
New food products
introduced during
the 1920's included
Welch's Grape Jelly,
Wrigley's chewing
gum, and the
Eskimo ice cream
The main form of
entertainment was listening
to the radio. Entire families
would gather around the
radio and listen to the
popular shows. Popular
songs included “You’re the
Cream in My Coffee,” “LadyLuck Blues” by Bessie Smith,
“California, Here I Come!” by
Al Jolson, “Rhapsody in Blue”
by George Gershwin, “It Had
to Be You.” and “Yes, Sir!
That’s My Baby!” by Carlton
Coon and Joe Sanders.
Silent movies became
"talkies" when sound was
finally added. Charlie
Chaplin, the Little Tramp,
was one of the most famous
stars in motion-picture
history. He wrote and
directed nearly all of his
films, and composed the
music for all of his sound
The best movies of
the decade were
"Treasure Island" and
"Ben Hur." Favorite
actors were Rudolph
Valentino as the
Sheik, Clara Bow as
the "it" girl, Mary
Pickford, and Al
Jolson, the star of the
"Jazz Singer."
In 1924 Alvin Kelly, also known as
Shipwreck Kelly, decided to attempt to
sit on a flagpole in response to a dare
from a friend. He sat upon the pole
for 13 hours and 13 minutes. Within
weeks hundreds of people were trying
to become the “King of the Pole.”
One man sat for 12 days, another for
17, and another for 21 days. Huge
audiences would gather to watch the
sitter. In Atlantic City, New Jersey,
Kelly reclaimed the title by sitting atop
a flagpole for 49 days in front of
20,000 people.
The series of steps are thought
to have originated with the
African-Americans who were
living on a small island near
Charleston, South Carolina. In
1922/3, it was introduced to the
theater going public at the New
Amsterdam Theater in New York
In the 1920's, women who did
the Charleston were called
"Flappers" because of the way
they would flap their arms and
walk like birds while doing the
Charleston. Many men of the
period wore raccoon coats and
straw hats.
For Children Only
Favorite children's books were
"Winnie the Pooh," "Bambi," "Dr.
Doolittle," and "The Velveteen
Favorite toys included the new baby doll that
said, "mama," paper dolls, and teddy bears
for the girls. Boys played with metal trucks,
Tinker toys, and Erector sets.
Popular children's games were
marbles, jump rope, roller skating,
and Statues.
Mickey Mouse, Little Orphan
Annie, and Felix the Cat were
popular cartoon characters.
Slang Words
All wet
describes a wrong idea or person
He's all wet.
what you say when you are angry
"Oh, applesauce!"
The Big Cheese
the most important person
the boss
The Cat’s Meow
something splendid or wonderful
the best
Everything is Jake.
Giggle water
Heebie jeebies
A scary nervous feeling
An old car
A gangster’s girlfriend
Someone easily convinced
Have a good time
Important People
Amelia Earhart was the
first female aviator to
cross the Atlantic Ocean
and the first woman to fly
solo. She disappeared
in 1937 in an attempt to
be the first woman to fly
around the world. No
trace of Miss Earhart or
her plane have ever
been found.
Babe Ruth was the
greatest slugger in
baseball history. His
record of 714
home runs wasn't
broken until 1974 by
Hank Aaron. He
was named to the
Baseball Hall of
Fame in 1936.
Red Grange was one of the greatest
football players of all time. He became
known as the Galloping Ghost when he
scored five touchdowns on his first five
carries in one game.
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was one of the
great writers of the Jazz Age. F.Scott
Fitzgerald began his career as a writer of
stories for mass-circulation magazines. He
was one of the main writers for “The Saturday
Evening Post.” The publication of his novel,
This Side of Paradise, made him famous
Bessie Smith was the greatest
and most influential classic
blues singer of the
1920s. During her heyday, she
earned upwards of $2000 per
week, a queenly sum in the
20s. By the time the decade
had ended, Smith had become
the most respected black singer
in America and had recorded a
catalog of blues that still stands
as the yardstick by which all
other female blues singers are
King Oliver is a legend
in Jazz history. As a
trumpet player, he was
strongly influenced by
Buddy Bolden whom he
imitated, but Oliver soon
became a Jazz stylist in
his own right. In the end,
the designation of "king,"
which Bolden had long
assumed, became
after one memorable
night in Storyville.
In the early 1920s, Louis Armstrong joined King Oliver in
Chicago--playing solos with Fletcher Henderson at the
Roseland Ballroom in New York and making jazz history
with the Hot Five. It was in Chicago that he initiated his
"scat" singing -- singing nonsense syllables in place of
words and vocally simulating instrumental sound.
Herbert Hoover was
President of the United
States from 1928-1932.
He was a millionaire
businessman and a
successful public official.
Seven months after
becoming president the
stock market crashed
and the Great
Depression began.
Resource Page Photonumerique/P... pickfordtriv.htm archive/229.html
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2003, World Almanac
Books, 2003, pgs. 233, 898 comp/phd