Look back at the early 1920s

On this post, we take a rewind back a hundred years ago to see how life was during the early years of the Jazz Age (1920-1922).


This was a period of literary creativity during the American Modernism movement. Authors during the height of the modernism used themes of loss of one’s self and the need for self definition and self build. Authors were also heavily influenced by World War I and the experiences of people who served or lived around the battle areas. For example, Hemingway used the war to write about the invisible scars people have from traumatic experiences to other usages of psychological wounds in his characters.

Hemingway along with other writers of the time are now known as the Lost Generation. They are expatriates who primarily lived in Paris between the world wars. In Paris, they were able to write about realistic horrors of being in war and rebel towards the United States rhetoric of materialism and individualism.

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was a development of the neighborhood in New York City during the 1920s through the mid 1930 and was a culture phenomenon for African Americans. Some of the famous figures of the Harlem Renaissance include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Louis Armstrong, Marcus Garvey, Aaron Douglas, Countee Cullen and Bessie Smith.

Historic Events

The United States constitution was amended twice, the 18th amendment banned the consumption and selling of alcohol which began the prohibition age in the 20s and 30s. Prohibition created many hidden speakeasies and illegal nightclubs throughout the country and gave rise to crime and mob influence. Some of the famous gangster include Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Moe Dalitz, Joseph Ardizzone and Sam Maceo.

The second amendment to pass was the 19th amendment which gave the right to vote to women. Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Mathilde Franziska Anneke, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and Sojourner Truth are some notable suffragists.

Other historic events are:

  • The US saw three consecutive republican presidents – Harding, Coolidge and Hoover
  • Harding passed emergency tariffs for high unemployment rates
  • Flapper dress codes
  • The League of Nations is created after the end of World War I
  • Coco Chanel creates and releases her classic perfume Chanel No.5
  • The Irish revolution led to the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 creates the Free Irish State
  • Egypt declares Independence from the United Kingdom
  • After Woodrow Wilson had his stroke, First Lady Edith Wilson privately acted as the President of the United States
  • J. Edgar Hoover becomes the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Charles Ponzi creates his sale scheme


The Jazz Age began during the great migration of black musicians leaving the south to major cities of Chicago and New York. Jazz rose to mainstream popularity with the help of the radio. Radios during this time were now in many homes and throughout the 1920s we see more radio talk, drama and musical shows move away from the classical music of the 1910s to Jazz. The main jazz musicians are Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Mamie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Webb and Ma Rainy. Famous sites to see jazz perform was at the cotton club and the Apollo theater.


As Hollywood begins to gain more popularity due to the easier access and cheaper prices led to the demise of the vaudeville theaters. The silent era of film will transition to the talking pictures at the end of the 1920s. Popular actors of the day are Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore, Greta Garbo, Clara Bow and Charlie Chaplin.

Notable Movies between 1920-1922

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Way Down east

The Golden

Mask of Zorro

Phantom Carriage

The Kid

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse

The Sheik

Orphans of the Storm

Foolish Wives


Nanook of the North

Robin Hood

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