Roaring 20's

Geena, Eddie, Rebecca

Dance Marathons

Dance Marathons came about after Alma Cummings danced for 27 hours straight. During the Great Depression, people were suffering, jobless, homeless, and hungry so dance marathons, which were contests that offered free food, shelter for a time, and even potential cash prizes became popular. These events typically only charged a quarter of a dollar to view for an unlimited amount of time, so many spectators appeared and were attracted to the benefits of these dance marathons. The event administrators offered twelve meals a day of filling foodstuffs such as oatmeal and oranges, so considering that three square meals a day was rough on a normal family, twelve was a huge hook towards amateur dancers. These dance marathons were significant in the 1920s because they attracted large numbers of participants and audience members while mirroring the desperation people felt during the Great Depression. Lines of people were waiting to try their hand at the gruelling, sometimes fatal endurance tests and humiliating acts simply for food and shelter. Eventually, the events got so nasty and brutish that the government put in ordinances prohibiting them. The main opposition to these types of events were other entertainers such as those in the film industry, churches and religious groups due to the thought that dancing wasn’t an acceptable social act, and women’s groups because they felt the humiliation brought about wasn’t proper.

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Movies and the Radio

Many of America’s defining features of modern culture emerged the 1920’s, Americans had more leisure time and extra money to spend, and they spent it on consumer goods such as attending movie theaters and automobiles.

The rise of the “talkies”, the first films that included audio and sounds, changed the entertainment industry forever. As live entertainment declined, movie theater attendance soared. In fact, historians state that three-fourths of the American population went to the movie theater every week. Hollywood dominated worldwide film production, catching the attention of the British and French market. The popularity of movies spiraled as they increasingly incorporated comedy, glamour, and sex appeal. Movies introduced a new popular culture with speech, dress, behaviors, stereotypes, and heroes.

Like movies, sales of radios soared and the nation's airwaves were filled with musical variety shows and comedies. Mass media such as newspapers had been around for years before the existence of radio, but while newspapers had the potential to reach a wide audience, radio had the potential to reach almost everyone. Neither illiteracy nor even a busy schedule impeded radio’s success. This unprecedented reach made radio an instrument of social cohesion as it brought together members of different classes and backgrounds to experience the world as a nation. Radio also allowed advertisers to sell products to a wider audience. This kind of mass marketing ushered in a new age of consumer culture.

Movies and radio in the 1920s made our country more homogeneous. Everyone in the country was listening to the same music, watching the same shows, identifying with the same icons. They laughed at the same jokes, sang the same songs, and heard the same news.

Economic Status

Mass culture stimulated economy in the 1920s because it produced a mass-consumer culture. New innovations such as the assembly line by Ford and the marketing techniques of Sloan made cars,automobiles, and other semi-luxury goods the social symbol of status. The spread of car manufacturing helped the economy boom by providing vast job openings in multiple industries, not only in the automobile industry, but also in related industries such as rubber and steel. The natural wish to be superior in normal people during this time period caused by mass culture is what allowed the merchandising skills of Sloan and people like him to thrive. Furthermore, the introduction of new technologies and manufacturing processes drastically lowered the price of necessities, and therefore middle-class families had more capital to spend on luxury goods. The accumulation of wealth very naturally led to the development of banking systems and stock markets. Greater interest developed in investing and banking as the idea quick cash grew in the minds of American dreamers. Unfortunately, these banks and stock investments would lead to the decline of American economy into the Great Depression.

Final Response

The emergence of new appliances in the American home such as the radio and television brought the nation together and blurred the differences in religion and lifestyle to a common “American” way of life. The development of tiered luxury goods also shows the emerging mass culture of specifically American social standings. The widespread advertising and marketing schemes of the two automobile titans promoted the working-class people’s wish to hold a prominent societal position by providing a direct material comparison between two people’s goods. The radio transformed celebrities overnight, broadcasting incredible feats to every family and giving each household a similar feeling of pride in America’s achievements.


Becker, Paula. "Dance Marathons of the 1920 and 1930s." 23 Aug. 2003. Web.

"Great Migration." A&E Television Networks. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.