The Roaring '20s

Everything was Jazzy Until the Stock Market Crashed

The Establishment of the Sport of Football by Claire Gilmore

In 1920, the American Professional Football Association was founded. In its inaugural season, the league boasted 11 teams from the East and Midwest regions, all who paid $100 to compete. The National Football League (NFL) was created in 1923 and players played a game very different than that we see today. According to,

"Passes had to be thrown from 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage in 1920, and incompletions resulted in the loss of an extra down. Incompletions in the end zone resulted in a loss of possession."

While this was a very high stakes game with a an even higher injury risk, it provided enjoyment for the many fans, who paid $3 for season tickets. College football was an even bigger deal, as College Football was nationwide and the NFL was mainly in the East and Midwest. The development of professional and recreational football in the 1920s jumpstarted the "sports for entertainment" aspect of today's American culture.

The Mass Culture of Movies and Radio by Maria Burgee


During the 1920s, the movie industry mainly focused on the glamorous life of New York City. However, the majority of these films were done in Hollywood, where the movie industry had recently relocated. People came to Hollywood because of its cheap labor force, vast amount of land, and temperate climate, which allowed for filming to take place throughout the year. By the late 1920’s, the movie industry had captured a majority of both the French and British markets in their films and every year, the American movie industry released about 700 movies.

During this time a small group of production houses pulled together to control the film industry, and created the "studio system" that would control the majority of film production for the next three decades. These groups included, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and MGM. They kept the contracts of actors, directors, and screenwriters in order to keep them from working for other studios in order to maintain the wealth for their production companies.


The 1920s called for the need of a way in which to bring news of war efforts, sports, and entertainment to the American public. Thus, creating a need for the newest household object, the radio. Sales of radios soared as the war continued on as it provided information and distraction from the war. The first commercial radio station began broadcasting in 1919 and lead to a flood of musical variety shows, news. and comedies by 1920. The radio drew the nation together by bringing news, entertainment, and advertisements to millions of households.

Economic Status of the United States in the 1920s by David Lee and Claire Gilmore

The mass consumer culture of the 1920s developed the United States economy, and aided other countries through their economic recessions. The mass production of Ford’s Model-T automobile allowed most Americans to own a car, and lead to the creation of suburbs as commuting was now an option. Use of cars and trucks also accelerated the circulation of materials and the products.

Consumerism played a huge part in the further development of the middle class and credit took the place of cash. Credit was initially started by farmers who would take out loans on seed and pay it all back at the end of the season. As the need for heavy agriculture decreased with the end of World War I, farmers lost money rapidly. The immediate need for many household technologies demanded money that not all had immediately and credit allowed for consumerism to flourish. This in turn inspired an overflow of debt. People started to buy stocks from loans leading to the economic bubble burst on October 29, 1929, or Black Tuesday. As stocks plummeted, those who invested their life savings lost everything leading to a massive number of impoverished Americans and the start of the Great Depression.

The Cultural Civil War by Phillip Chen

With the passing of the 19th Amendment in Congress in 1920, women were finally given the right to vote. Consequently, this led to the increase in freedoms for women that culminated into the culture of the 1920’s. Millions of women began work in white-collar jobs and could afford to participate in the growing consumer economy. Moreover, this was the same time as the “Roaring Twenties” and the flapper style. Flappers were young women who were considered to be more “sexually free” and “unladylike” than in previous generations. However, most young ladies did not partake in these “immoral” actions but only dressed the part - in shorter dresses with a cropped bob haircut. Conclusively, the 19th Amendment and the flapper created a stimulus in the culture war of the 1920’s that was characterized by the emergence of feminist freedoms.

However, not all movements in the 1920’s positively affected the culture war of its time. For instance, the Great Migration of African Americans from the Southern countryside to Northern cities and the increased the visibility of black culture nationwide and discomforted some white Americans. Additionally, jazz, blues music, and the literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance contributed to the creation of a truly African American culture. As a result, millions of white Americans joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. To them, the Klan represented a return to all the traditional values that the Roaring Twenties was trampling. The creation of the Ku Klux Klan, as the aftermath of the Great Migration, accentuated the conflicting culture of the 1920’s. Thus, as evidenced above, the Great Migration ultimately led to the aspect of the Culture War of the 1920s that was characterized by racial tensions.

Final Response by Phillip Chen, Maria Burgee and Claire Gilmore

With the advent of modern communications and transportation technology, such as the commercialization of the radio station and the significant consumerism of the automobile, America experienced a stimulation of “mass culture” and avant-garde ideas, along with the growth of leisure, despite the increase of cultural conflicts such as The Great Migration and the Scopes Trial. The advent of the radio station led to an increase in the circulation of news across the country. This increase, as a result, led to a “mass culture” that effectively encompassed the majority of the American populus. The invention and commercialization of the automobile was the most significant consumer product of the 1920’s, as it greatly impacted the “mass culture” of America and lead to the growth of credit. Prior to Ford’s consumer model, automobiles were only enjoyed by a selective elite. Now, it was available to all. Consequently this lead to the development of suburbs and the growth of urban sprawl. The revolution of these modern technologies sparked the invigoration of new cultural ideas and the ultimate culmination of the iconic “mass culture” of the 1920’s.


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