The Roaring 20's

BY Morgan, Deasjia, Melissa

1920's Culture

  • The Twenties witnessed the large scale use of automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, and electricity, accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, and marked significant changes in lifestyle and culture.

  • Popular culture in the 1920s was characterized by innovation in film, visual art and architecture, radio, music, dance, fashion, literature, and movements.

  • The movie industry skyrocketed in the 1920s with the growth of Hollywood and downtown movie theaters. Silent films gradually came to be replaced by "talkies" in the late '20s.

  • Jazz music and the dance clubs that played it became widely popular in the 1920s.

  • Some of the chief literary figures of the 1920s, such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway, wrote novels and short stories criticizing materialism and selfish individualism of the age. This was also the era of the Harlem Renaissance, the period of African-American literary and artistic growth.

  • The 1920s were a period of significant change for women. The 19th amendmentwas passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote, and women began to pursue both family life and careers of their own. Notions of modern womanhood and fashion were redefined by the flappers.

  • The Jazz Age

    The Jazz Age was the period roughly coinciding with the 1920s (ending with the Great Depression) when jazz music and dance became popular.

  • flapper

    A young woman, especially when unconventional or without decorum; particularly associated with the 1920s.

  • Harlem Renaissance

    The Harlem Renaissance was an African-American cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s.

Movies and Hollywood

The 1920’s was dominated by silent movies that were accompanied by live piano or organ that entertained the audiences. In 1923 they started introducing synchronized sound to movies. Movies were a source of entertainment and huge financial success. The first movie theaters were called Nickelodeons; they were very basic compared to the luxurious picture that followed. The 1920's represented the era of greatest output in the US movie market. An average of 800 films was produced annually. Although developments in color and sound were still in the experimental stage there was a large demand for movies; therefore, there was a potential for profit which encouraged production.

In the 1920’s Hollywood became the world’s film capital. It produced almost all of the films in the United States. During the 20’s Hollywood bolstered its position as world leader by recruiting many of Europe’s most talented actors and actresses. By the end of the decade Hollywood was claimed to be the nation’s fifth largest industry. It attracted 83 cents out of every dollar Americans spent on amusement.


  • Long elegant lines
  • Beaded and fringed dresses that create movement
  • Short hemlines - from above the knee to mid-calf or long length hems that sweep the floor.
  • Streamlined - tubular silhouette
  • Dome or bell-shaped hat called a cloche
  • Angular shapes and geometric designs
  • Drop-waist designs emphasizing slim hips
  • Accessories and decorations include feathers, beads, sequins and fringes, gold lamme and fur trims.
  • Evening wear typically had tight bodice, cinched waists, and flared out hem
  • In evening wear, the use of luxury fabrics like silk and satin, taffeta and chiffon.
  • Wide legged trousers for freedom of movement.
  • Monochromic color blocks
  • In day wear - the use of light-weight fabrics like jersey and cotton and for cooler days, wool and tweed.
  • Boyish shapes


The radio brought entertainment into people’s homes. The KDKA radio station had the first commercial radio broadcast. Radio stations broadcasted news, concerts, sporting events, and comedies. The radio station music consisted of opera, classical, country, and western, blues, and jazz. Businesses realized that many people listened to the radio, so they paid to have airspace to show advertisements.

The Charleston

A 1923 hit Broadway musical called Runnin’ Wild featured the song "Charleston." The song was written by composer James P. Johnson, Fats Waller’s jazz piano teacher and idol. The black revue featured the male chorus line singing and stepping the Charleston Dance. The 1920s' Jazz song became one of the biggest hits of the period. Evoking the high-spirited abandon of the times, the Charleston Dance was considered the cat’s pajamas.

The best accompaniment to the 1920s' Charleston Dance is Ragtime or New Orleans/Dixieland Jazz, written in 4/4 time with syncopated rhythms. The breakneck pace and rapidly shifting rhythms are challenging. Since it was considered too difficult for nonprofessionals, many thought it would only be performed for audiences in exhibition.


The flapper symbolized the new liberated woman of the if flapper’s carefree young women with short bobbed hair heavy makeup and short skirts appeared in magazines. Many people saw the bold and boyish behavior and look as a sign of changing morals. Though hardly typical of American women, the flapper image reinforced the idea that women now had more freedom. Prewar values have shifted, and many people were beginning to challenge traditional ways.


Jazz is the only true American style of music. Jazz began as work songs by African Americans in the South. It is a blend of ragtime and blues, which used dynamic rhythms and improvisation. Jazz spread through radio and phonograph records. Jazz helped create an African American recording industry. African American trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and pianist and composer Duke Ellington had the greatest influences on jazz. White jazz musicians Paul Whiteman and Bix Biederbecke helped bring Jazz to a wider audience.

Charles A. Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh (aviator) was the first man who flew across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris in 1927. His plane was known as the Spirit of St. Lewis. This is what stimulated the aviation industry. He became known as a new hero and even had cities host parades in his honor.

Babe Ruth

George Herman Ruth (known as Babe Ruth) became larger than life as he is known for his position as an outfielder, and hitting 60 home runs in 1927. This became a new world record which stood for 34 years. His career first started playing baseball for the Baltimore Orioles. He then moved on to the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. He became known as a major sports hero during the 1920’s. Among all of his other accomplishments, Babe Ruth was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1936.

Famous Writers

Famous writers during the Harlem Renaissance were disappointed with American values and were in search of inspiration. They went to Paris, where they became known as expatriates. A writer named Gertrude Stein had calls Americans what is known as the lost generation. A novelist named F. Scot Fitzgerald had written a Tender Is the Night. It was about emotionally damaged people from WWI. Novelist Ernest Hemingway reflected the mood of Americans in his two books The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. Sinclair Lewis wrote the books Main Street and Babbitt which he used to present American culture. Lastly, Sherwood Anderson had written about what life was like in the Midwest. Winesberg, Ohio.

Mass Media

Media became very popular during this time period. The invention of the radio in 1923 helped people to receive important news, advertise, and listen to music. The television was invented in 1926, combined sound and sight to rival radio. It was mainly capable of transmitting wireless transmission of moving picture or video.

Jazz journalism was mainly used for pure entertainment. This is the start of newspapers. Publications were entertainment articles taken from other magazines. Reader’s Digest was started by De Witt and Lila Wallace.