1920-1929 Decade of the 20th Century


The 1920's was a decade unlike any other. Sometimes referred to as the Jazz Age or the Roaring 20's, it was a time of economic strength following World War I. Laws prohibiting the sales of alcohol were pursued. Mobsters, like Al Capone, didn't have to worry about background checks and prospered from the illegal alcohol sales. Movies were a large form of entertainment and Warner Bros. released the first movie sound track from the movie Don Juan. There were also numerous historic events surrounding things like women's rights. The 1920's was a time of change. In the United States it was history in the making.

The Presidents of the 20's had a lot to handle. Following the war President, Warren G. Harding was elected. He promoted a "return to normalcy" and had a very laid back attitude when it came to running the government. His run as President included many scandals although many were not known until after his death in 1923. President Calvin Coolidge was Hardings Vice President and held the office after Harding's death in 1923. He imposed high tariffs and federal tax cuts that were approved of during his time in office. However, over the next decade they became extremely unpopular.

  • 1921: Warren G.Harding is elected President of the United States.
  • 1923: President Warren G. Harding dies from a massive stroke. Vice President Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as President.
  • 1924: President Coolidge swiftly worked to mend the public effects of the administration's scandals like the Teapot Dome Scandal. He was elected President beating out Democrat John W. Davis.
  • 1928: President Coolidge decides not to run for President and leaves politics altogether. Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, is elected President.


Prohibition was one of the major historic events of the progressive era. Prohibition made it illegal to make and sell alcoholic beverages. There were concerns about the amount of alcohol people were drinking and that it was growing as immigrants from Europe arrived. In 1918 the Ohio Dry Campaign was passed enforcing laws on the consumption of alcohol. People still drank in illegal bars, called speakeasies. Gangsters and members of organized crime benefited greatly from prohibition, however, the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed was still down over 30%.

  • 1918: The Ohio Dry Campaign was passed in favor of prohibition. The founders of the Anti-Saloon League believed they would educate the rest of the country to the benefits of prohibition.
  • 1919: Federal laws passed the 18th amendment to the Constitution. Prohibition made it illegal to make or sell alcohol. The goal was to rid the country of crime and lower the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • 1920: Speakeasies began running. They would provide a cover as a to law enforcement, allowing people to drink freely.
  • 1925: Al Capone controls the speakeasies in Chicago making a vast income from bootlegging.
  • 1933: Prohibition is banned and bootlegging ceases to exist.


While the signifigence of prohibition makes the 1920's one the most well known decades in the century, there were many other historical events as well. The Scope Monkey Trial in 1925 made headlines nationwide, women received the right to vote, the Klu Klux Klan was more prominent than ever, and the Palmer Raids were conducted. Struggles between organized crime and law enforcement officials ensued throughout the decade.

  • 1920: Womens suffering was documented for over a century. However, in 1920, the nineteenth amendment was revoked which guaranteed women the right to vote. This was a major step in the equality of men and women.
  • The Palmer Raids were conducted in over 30 US cities. They focused on detaining people believed to be terrorists. People were often times arrested without warrants and held without trial for months.
  • While the Klu Klux Klan had been active since after the civil war they were immensely popular in the 1920's. They claim to have controlled legislation in 24 of the nation's then 48 states and take claim they blocked the nomination of Democrat, Al Smith.
  • 1925: Snopes Monkey Trial made national headlines. The trial lasted only a week and tested the Butler Act. The Butler Act made it unlawful in any state funded school to teach theories that deny the story of Divine Creation.
  • The great migration saw many African Americans moving North. A great multitude of which chose to reside in Chicago.


Culture was another thing that defined the 1920's. Movies were a popular form of entertainment as well as music. Huge advancements in technology made it possible for people to hear radio broadcasts in their home. In Chicago, the Jazz Age was in full swing and it lead the way for the rest of the nation. Prosperity brought about more leisure time, allowing people to take up numerous sports and other leisure activities.

  • Moving pictures were immensely popular throughout the 20's. Some of the top films of the decade included Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, Way Down East, and the Gold Rush.
  • Flappers were a big part of culture in the 1920's. Women were rolling their hair, rolling down their stockings, and raising their hemlines. Their men were home from the war and they were out to celebrate.
  • Chicago's Bright Lights District set the stage for the rest of the nation. There were new shops, cinemas, restaurants, and cabarets that attracted large amounts of people.
  • People purchased stocks throughout the decade causing prices to climb. The stock market crashed in 1929 when large investors realized the prices of stocks inflated in price.
  • 1925: Survey Graphic magazine published Harlem, the Mecca of the New Negro. It was a special issue devoted to African American Renaissance.
  • The Harlem Renaissance brought forth, African American poets, like Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.