An exciting, vibrant decade that unfolded right after the end of the First World War, the 1920s marked a brilliant transition for culture and fashion all over the world. It was a decade in which new dance crazes were created, the seeds of popular music were first sown, and when the US in particular went through some enormous social changes that would change their make-up forever.
Did you know that it was illegal for people to drink alcohol in the US during the 1920s? Did you know that there are a handful of celebrities born in the decade still going strong today? You might also be fascinated to learn more about the motor racing records set in the decade – keep reading and we’ll fill you in on some of the most interesting facts about the 1920s, a truly pioneering era of human history.
The 1920s were known in some western countries, particularly England and the US, as the ‘roaring 20s’.
In France, this translated as ‘annees folles’, meaning ‘the crazy years’!
Art Deco was a new style of movement for art, architecture and fashion which arose in 1920s. This represented one of the first ‘modernist’ movements.
Bryant Park Hotel in NYC exhibiting an a rt deco style of architecture
The 1920s saw a huge shift in terms of architectural design as ornate flourishes became less and less common. Art Deco was ‘classic simplicity’ and focused on more angular designs!
This transferred to buildings, jewelry, furnishings, and pottery.
Coco Chanel was one of the most famous fashion designers of the age. She was influenced by the Art Deco movement, and her perfume bottles are still designed with the same angular styles to this day.
The 1920s also helped contribute to the ‘Jazz age’. The upbeat music of the time helped to reflect the exciting, post-war mood.
Louis Armstrong, possibly the most famous Jazz singer of all time, made his debut recording with his band in 1923. He’s still regarded as one of the giants of the genre to this day!
In the US, prohibition came into effect on January 17th, 1920. This meant it was forbidden to transport, sell or consume alcohol!
21 Club in NYC, a Prohibition-era speakeasy
‘Speakeasy’ bars were known to illicitly provide alcohol at this time and were therefore often raided.
The decade was also famous for the bloody 1929 ‘Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre’, during which seven people were killed as a result of gang rivalry and police intervention.
The 1920s was a fantastic decade for motorsport! In 1925 and for five successive years, Bugatti won the Monaco Grand Prix, each time with the world-famous Bugatti Type 35.
2,940 Rolls Royce cars were manufactured and sold between 1922 and 1929.
These cars were aimed at a market of ‘owner drivers’ instead of the more expensive, and bigger chauffeur-driven models.
However, the most popular car on sale in America in the 1920s was the Model T Ford.
In the 1920s, a Model T Ford cost just $850! Today, that would equate to $18,000.
Famous people born in the 1920s include Queen Elizabeth II (1926), Marvel Comics titan Stan Lee (1922 – 2018), politician Daniel Walker (1922 – 2015), ‘Charlie Brown and Snoopy’ creator Charles M Schulz (1922 – 2000), and Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005).
Another famous name born in the 1920s was Thomas Moore, known to many as ‘Captain Tom’. Moore became famous during the 2020 pandemic for raising millions for charity through a sponsored walk in his garden.
Moore would eventually be promoted to colonel and knighted for his fundraising efforts, turning 100 years old in 2020. He raised more than £32,700,000!
The second-deadliest earthquake of the 20th century took place in 1920. 275,000 lives were lost in the Haiyan Earthquake.
On May 29th, 1920, in Louth, England, a huge flood took 23 lives within 20 minutes. It was described as one of the worst disasters in Britain of the 20th century.
The Society for the Exploration of Interplanetary Travel was founded in 1924.
The first fuel-powered rocket was launched in the US in 1924.
In Germany, during 1927, the Society for Space Travel was formed. Several scientists from other countries joined the society to learn and work together.
On February 18th, 1920, the first recorded crossing of the Sahara Desert was completed by a French Military aircraft.
On February 28th, the same year, an American pilot set a record for flying at high altitude, reaching 33,133 feet. His oxygen system failed, and he lost consciousness, recovering just in time to land!
In November 1920, Qantas, the Australian Airline, was founded.
In December 1920, Amelia Earhart’s father bought her a $10 dollar for a 10 minute flight. This would be her first experience in an airplane – at a fairground in LA.
Just two years later, in 1922, Earhart was the first woman pilot to fly solo above 14,000 feet.
The ‘Jitterbug’ was the name given to what many consider the most famous dance of the 1920s. Its original name was the ‘Lindy Hop’ and it remained popular into the 1950s.
The ‘Charleston’ was a hugely popular piece of music named after its composer, Charles Johnston. The Charleston dance followed the upbeat rhythm of the music and became iconic in the west during this time.
A world-changing medicine was accidentally discovered when Alexander Fleming analyzed an antibiotic fungus in 1928. Penicillin is used worldwide today as one of the most effective forms of antibiotic.
Sir Frederick Banting, assisted by Charles Best, discovered insulin in 1922. Insulin is hugely important in helping people with diabetes to live healthy lives.
They discovered the substance while experimenting on canine pancreases!
Following the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, women in America got the right to vote on August 18th, 1920.
England had only given women the right to vote for the first time two years’ prior. This was a hugely important time for movements in gender equality!
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about the 1920s that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!