Roaring 20's

Gahwon Lee, Fatima Bhaiwala, Amanda Fry, Jack Belyeu

Fads/Heroes: Jack Dempsey

Dempsey was the world heavyweight champion and was considered a cultural icon in the 1920’s. He boxed around the world, showcasing the strength Americans had. Furthermore, he inspired Americans with his triumphant victory over Willard, the previous, much larger champion. This showed that the smaller man could come out on top. Dempsey became a folk legend after losing his title and responding with the humble remark to this wife, "I forgot to duck."

Birth of a Mass Culture: Movies and Automobiles

Movies served as one of the main sources of propaganda and entertainment during the 1920’s. Due to the popularity of movies, heroes like Charlie Chaplin and Gary Cooper gained fame. People were amazed by how realistic the films were; they visited theatres many times to relax and have fun. Films were also a large medium for the spread of propaganda. The most prominent example of this is during WWI when movies were released that romanticized the war in America to persuade young men to enlist in the army.


Ford’s mass production of Model T’s allowed automobiles to become cheap enough so that it was accessible to the entire working class. This widespread transportation allowed messages and people to more easily travel around towns and villages. The mass production of cars also allowed factory workers to commute more easily from their homes. It was used so much during this time period that, “the Model T... had become an American folkloric symbol."

Culture Civil War: Feminism and Prohibition

The new portrayal of women in media that arose in the 20th century redefined the woman’s identity domestically, economically, and socially. The ‘new woman’ image allowed women to escape their typical gender roles of staying at home and tending to the family, which altered the social dynamic across America. As the movement of feminism gained popularity, it was also met with resistance from the more traditional people in America, which led to a culture divide. Due to the progress of feminism and socialist ideals, tensions arose between these two groups, which led to a civil war. Conflicting philosophies were the epitome of the cultural schism during the 1920’s.


The Prohibition of the 20th century led to the flourishing establishments of speakeasies. Speakeasies were an example of the culture created by American society’s duality. On one side of culture, people sought for the end of alcohol sales to limit the nation’s problems in domesticity, however, counter-culture, which became ever more popular, felt as if their rights were challenged by the government. Hence the rebellious acts done by underground clubs, such as speakeasies. This further divided the political and social schism between the Prohibition sympathizers and those who were against it.

Economic Status

The economy prospered in the 1920’s because of other countries’ dependence of American manufacturing during the Great War. Mass culture influenced this prosperity by the glorification of war and soldiers. Despite the harsh reality of the conditions in Europe, America loved the romanticized idea of the loyal hero fighting for democracy. As this idea developed, America joined the war, leading to an increase of job opening for women and African Americans, because of the lack of white men to take the jobs. As well, the weaponry business boomed, because other countries borrowed money from America to invest in weapons that were from America.


One of the reasons that the economy downturned in the 1920s is because at one point many people pulled out all their money from the bank. As well, Germany went through an inflation since they were forced to atone for their war sins by the Treaty of Versailles. The price of bread rose exponentially that people couldn't eat. Both Europe and America no longer could support them because of the ever-increasing debt. In 1929, the stock markets crashed leading to the Great Depression. Also the return of soldiers led to the decrease in jobs available for minorities.

Final Response

Through the war people were more interconnected due the new accessibility of Ford's Model T, and their common interest in popular heroes such as Charlie Chaplin and Jack Dempsey. With this new connection, the spread of modern values such as Feminism and opposition to the 18th amendment became prominent. Through these elements in the 1920's, a new mass culture of unity was formed and spread around the world.