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Roaring 20's

20th Century Series

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20th century series


The "Roaring Twenties", as the decade of 1920 is known, was one of the most optimistic, boisterous and influential periods of time for many Americans.

Song and Dance

Jazz was born in New Orleans about 100 years ago

It has been said that Jazz is the best music to represent America.

The Harlem Renaissance was a large social and cultural movement of the early 1900s -1930s.

This time gave rise to some of the greatest artists, poets, and musicians for decades to come.

1) Why was it so important and influential for so many artists?

What is Jazz music?

Jazz musicians use what is called Improvisation. What is improvisation? Give 3 examples of ways that you improvise in your everyday life.

The most important jazz originator and first truly great jazz soloist was trumpet player Louis Armstrong.

2) Together with your group listen to Dippermouth Blues by Louis Armstrong, Chameleon by Herbie Hancock, and How High the Moon by Ella Fitzgerald.

3) Did you enjoy the music? Why or why not? How did the music make you feel?

4) Name 3 other jazz musicians and share clips of one of their songs with your group.

The Foxtrot, The Charleston, and the Texas Tommy were 3 popular dance crazes of the 1920’s

Find a few videos of the dances being performed.

5) Can you find 2 more examples of dances people loved in the 1920s?

6) Host a dance contest. With your family, friends, or group, perform as many of the 1920s dances as you can. Who had the best dance moves?

Talk the Talk:

As with any era, the 1920's had time period specific slang.

Bee's Knees - An extraordinary person, thing, idea

Berries - is attractive or pleasing; similar to bee's knees, As in "It's the berries."

Big Cheese - The most important or influential person. Same as big shot

Carry a Torch - To have a crush on someone

Cat's Meow - Something splendid or stylish; similar to bee's knees; The best or greatest

Cat's Pajamas - Same as cat's meow

Cheaters - Eyeglasses

Crush - An infatuation

Dogs - feet

Fall Guy - victim of a frame

Frame - To give false evidence, to set up someone

Gams - A woman's legs

Hard Boiled - a tough, strong guy

Heebie-Jeebies - The jitters

Hoofer - Dancer

Hotsy-Totsy - Pleasing

Jalopy - Old car

Keen - Attractive or appealing

Kisser - Mouth

Moll - A gangster's girl

Neck - Kissing with passion

Pinch - To arrest

Pushover - A person easily convinced or seduced

Ritzy - Elegant (from the hotel)

Scram - Ask someone to leave immediately

Spiffy - An elegant appearance

Struggle Buggy - the backseat of a car. A parent's worst nightmare

Stuck On - Having a crush on

Swanky - Ritzy

Swell - Wonderful. Also: a rich man

Upchuck - To vomit

Whoopee - To have a good time

7) How many of these words or phrases have you seen or heard before? Are any of them still used today? Are they used in the same context?


With passage of the 1916 Federal Aid Road Act and the 1921 Federal Highway Act the 1920s saw a huge boom in the want and need for automobiles. Henry Ford invented mass-production techniques that became standard, and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” auto companies. By 1929, there were over 23 million automobiles on American roads. The automobile changed the face of America, both economically and socially. Industries like glass, steel, and rubber processing expanded to keep up with auto production. The now common use of the automobile the 1920s brought many inventions that we still use in modern times including road side service stations and fast food drive thru windows.

8) Who was Henry Ford?

9) Would you have wanted to work at Henry Ford's factory, manufacturing Model Ts? Why or why not?

10) What was the Federal Road act?

11) What was the Federal highways act?

12) Do you think the United States was destined to become a nation of car owners and highways? How might the country be different if cars weren't the usual mode of transportation?

13) Can you name 4 other products or services that were brought about by the wide spread use of automobiles?

The 1920s not only witnessed a transformation in ground transportation but also major changes in air travel. In 1927 Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, flying from New York to Paris in 33 hours. Following his success, the small airline industry began to blossom, fully coming into its own in the 1930s.

14) What made Lindbergh’s flight so important? What did it prove?


The Great War had come to an end, and due to the boom in the consumer-goods industry, new products were available to Americans. The period was also a time of inventions and discoveries, and many new gadgets and appliances came into being in this decade.

As access to electricity became more common, newly developed innovations like radios, phonographs, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and refrigerators emerged on the market. These items were costly, but with them came the invention of “Store credit” and installment plans making them more accessible to a larger portion of people.

While prosperous Americans found much to celebrate about a new era of leisure and consumption, many Americans in rural areas disagreed on the meaning of a “good life” and how to achieve it. They rejected many of the rapid social changes of modern urban society

15) Find and share a few pictures of the first dishwashers, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines. Do they look like the ones that you have in your home today? How do they differ? How are they the same?

16) These inventions were advertised as making like easier, creating less work and more leisure time for the women of the home. Do you think the new devices actually saved women any time spent on household labor?

17) What is leisure time?

18) What were the pros and cons of buying on credit?

19) Why do you think there was a backlash against modernity in the 1920s?


For many middle-class Americans, the 1920s was a decade of unprecedented prosperity. Rising earnings generated more disposable income for the consumption of entertainment and leisure. This new wealth coincided with and fueled technological innovations, resulting in the booming popularity of entertainments like movies, sports, and radio programs.

20) What is the difference between a middle class family in the 1920s and a middle class family today?

21) What is “Disposable income”?

“Moving Pictures” or the silent movies of the early 1920s, gave rise to the first generation of movie stars. For a quarter, you could escape and lose yourself in another world.

22) Who was Charlie Chaplin? What made him so famous?

In 1927 came the release of the first “Talkie”-The Jazz singer.

23) What is the difference between a moving picture and a talkie?

After being introduced during World War I, radios became more common in American homes in the 1920s.

Syndicated radio programs entertained listeners around the country. With the radio, Americans from coast to coast could listen to exactly the same programming.

The introduction of play-by-play descriptions of sporting events broadcast over the radio brought sports entertainment right into homes.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck were known as “The Lost Generation” of writers.

24) What unifying themes linked the works of the Lost Generation writers?


The Eighteenth Amendment, which established the prohibition of "intoxicating liquors", was ratified on January 16, 1919, and went into effect one year later, on January 17, 1920.

The advocates of prohibition had argued that banning sales of alcohol would reduce criminal activity; it in fact directly contributed to the rise of organized crime. After the Eighteenth Amendment went into force, bootlegging, or the illegal distillation and sale of alcoholic beverages, became widespread.

25) What were the positive and negative consequences of prohibition?

The women’s suffrage movement

The women’s suffrage movement has its origins in the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the first women’s rights convention ever held in the United States. Approximately three hundred activists, female and male, gathered to discuss the condition of women and to devise strategies for achieving social and political rights for women

The first women’s suffrage organizations were created in 1869. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), while Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and Henry Blackwell founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

The National American Woman Suffrage Association launched a campaign to achieve victories at the state level, in the hopes that if enough states allowed women the right to vote, federal legislation would follow. These efforts were so successful that by the time of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, over half of all states had already granted limited voting rights to women.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920. It declares that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

26) Which strategies of the women’s rights movement were most effective? Why?

The Roaring Twenties screeched to a halt on October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, when the collapse of stock prices on Wall Street ushered in the period of US history known as the Great Depression.

The 1920’s was an incredibly busy decade for our country but not all happenings are appropriate as a lesson for all age levels. If you feel confident in the maturity level of your group some other discussion points of the 1920s can include




*The Scopes monkey trial

*Red Scare

* The Emergency Quota Act

* Lower Louisiana Floods in 1922

*League of Nations

*First lady Edith Wilson

*Terror Attack on Wall Street September 16, 1920

* Charles Ponzi

A student named Olivia was kind enough to share this link as another resource for information on the 1920's


1923: King Tutankhamun's Tomb is opened by Howard Carter

1924: The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is held on November 27th, 1924.

The very first Winter Olympics are held. They take place in Chamonix, France.

1925: The First Motel (Motorists Hotel) opens in San Luis Obispo, California.

1926: Route 66, a major U.S. road running from Chicago to Los Angeles, is opened.

The famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini dies from a burst appendix at the age of 52.

The first SAT college admissions test is given to high school students.

1927: Work begins on Mount Rushmore in the late 1920's carving the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It takes nearly 15 years to complete.

1928: Amelia Earhart flies across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger, becoming the first woman to do so successfully.

Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin in 1928 which changed the world of modern medicines by introducing the age of antibiotics.

Walt Disney's famous Mickey Mouse cartoon character appears for the first time in "Steamboat Willie."

*As always feel free to modify the points here any way you wish to suit your group*

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