Portal:1920s

The 1920s Portal


The 1920s (pronounced "nineteen-twenties" often shortened to the "'20s" or the "Twenties") was a decade that began on January 1, 1920, and ended on December 31, 1929. In America, it is frequently referred to as the "Roaring Twenties" or the "Jazz Age", while in Europe the period is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Twenties" because of the economic boom following World War I (1914–1918). French speakers refer to the period as the "Années folles" ("crazy years"), emphasizing the era's social, artistic, and cultural dynamism.


The 1920s saw foreign oil companies begin operations in Venezuela, which became the world's second-largest oil-producing nation. The devastating Wall Street Crash in October 1929 is generally viewed as a harbinger of the end of 1920s prosperity in North America and Europe. In the Soviet Union, the New Economic Policy was created by the Bolsheviks in 1921, to be replaced by the first five-year plan in 1928. The 1920s saw the rise of radical political movements, with the Red Army triumphing against White movement forces in the Russian Civil War, and the emergence of far-right political movements in Europe. In 1922, the fascist leader Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy. Other dictators that emerged included Józef Piłsudski in Poland, and Peter and Alexander Karađorđević in Yugoslavia. First-wave feminism made advances, with women gaining the right to vote in the United States (1920), Albania (1920), Ireland (1921), and with suffrage being expanded in Britain to all women over 21 years old (1928).


In Turkey, nationalist forces defeated Greece, France, Armenia and Britain in the Turkish War of Independence, leading to the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), a treaty more favorable to Turkey than the earlier proposed Treaty of Sèvres. The war also led to the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate. Nationalist revolts also occurred in Ireland (1919–1921) and Syria (1925–1927). Under Mussolini, Italy pursued a more aggressive domestic and foreign policy, leading to the nigh-eradication of the Sicilian Mafia and the Second Italo-Senussi War in Libya respectively. In 1927, China erupted into a civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Civil wars also occurred in Paraguay (1922–1923), Ireland (1922–1923), Honduras (1924), Nicaragua (1926–1927), and Afghanistan (1928–1929). Saudi forces conquered Jabal Shammar and subsequently, Hejaz.


A severe famine occurred in Russia (1921–1922) due to the combined effects of economic disturbance because of the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, exacerbated by rail systems that could not distribute food efficiently, leading to 5 million deaths. Another severe famine occurred in China (1928–1930), leading to 6 million deaths. The Spanish flu pandemic (1918–1920) and Russian typhus epidemic (1918–1922), which had begun in the previous decade, caused 25–50 million and 2–3 million deaths respectively. Major natural disasters of this decade include the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake (258,707~273,407 deaths), 1922 Shantou typhoon (50,000–100,000 deaths), 1923 Great Kantō earthquake (105,385–142,800 deaths), and 1927 Gulang earthquake (40,912 deaths).


Silent films were popular in this decade, with the highest-grossing film of this decade being either the American silent epic adventure-drama film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ or the American silent war drama film The Big Parade, depending on the metrics used. Sinclair Lewis was a popular author in the United States in the 1920s, with his books Main Street and Elmer Gantry becoming best-sellers. Best-selling books outside the US included the Czech book The Good Soldier Švejk, which sold 20 million copies. Songs of this decade included "Mack the Knife" and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips".

During the 1920s, the world population increased from 1.87 to 2.05 billion, with approximately 700 million births and 525 million deaths in total. (Full article...)

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A 1919 parade in Washington, D.C. for soldiers returning home after World War I. The upheaval associated with the transition from a wartime to peacetime economy contributed to a depression in 1920 and 1921.

The Depression of 1920–1921 was a sharp deflationary recession in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries, beginning 14 months after the end of World War I. It lasted from January 1920 to July 1921. The extent of the deflation was not only large, but large relative to the accompanying decline in real product.

There was a two-year post–World War I recession immediately following the end of the war, complicating the absorption of millions of veterans into the economy. The economy started to grow, but it had not yet completed all the adjustments in shifting from a wartime to a peacetime economy. Factors identified as contributing to the downturn include returning troops, which created a surge in the civilian labor force and problems in absorbing the veterans; Spanish flu; a decline in labor union strife; changes in fiscal and monetary policy; and changes in price expectations. (Full article...)
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Zishe Breitbart
Zishe Breitbart
Credit: National Photo Co.; Restoration: Michel Vuijlsteke

Siegmund "Zishe" Breitbart (1893–1925), shown here pulling a heavy weight using only his teeth, was a Polish strongman and circus performer who was known as the "Strongest Man in the World" during the 1920s. He was widely popular in both Europe and the U.S., but died at the age of 32 after an accident during a performance.

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Chanel in 1931

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (/ʃəˈnɛl/ shə-NEL, French: [ɡabʁijɛl bɔnœʁ kɔko ʃanɛl] ; 19 August 1883 – 10 January 1971) was a French fashion designer and businesswoman. The founder and namesake of the Chanel brand, she was credited in the post–World War I era with popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style. This replaced the "corseted silhouette" that had earlier been dominant with a style that was simpler, far less time-consuming to put on and remove, more comfortable, and less expensive, all without sacrificing elegance. She is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. A prolific fashion creator, Chanel extended her influence beyond couture clothing, realizing her aesthetic design in jewellery, handbags, and fragrance. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, has become an iconic product, and Chanel herself designed her famed interlocked-CC monogram, which has been in use since the 1920s.

Her couture house closed in 1939, with the outbreak of World War II. Chanel stayed in France and was criticized during the war for collaborating with the Nazi-German occupiers and the Vichy puppet regime to boost her professional career. One of Chanel's liaisons was with a German diplomat, Baron (Freiherr) Hans Günther von Dincklage [de]. After the war, Chanel was interrogated about her relationship with Dincklage, but she was not charged as a collaborator due to intervention by her friend -- British prime minister Winston Churchill. When the war ended, Chanel moved to Switzerland, returning to Paris in 1954 to revive her fashion house. In 2011, Hal Vaughan published a biography about Chanel based on newly declassified documents, revealing that she had collaborated directly with the Nazi intelligence service, the Sicherheitsdienst. One plan in late 1943 was for her to carry an SS peace overture to Churchill to end the war. (Full article...)

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More Did you know (auto generated)

  • ... that Cleo Damianakes's 1920s book dust jacket designs "made sex respectable", but Hemingway did not like the "large misplaced breasts" on A Farewell to Arms?
  • ... that in the 1920s, a guard was posted outside the New York City Subway's Clark Street station to prevent sailors from using it at night?
  • ... that Ruth M. Anderson recorded a "timeless" Spain in her photographs of the 1920s?
  • ... that the serial arsonist who started the fatal Nihon Shōgakkō fire confessed to starting at least 25 other California fires in the early 1920s?
  • ... that the League for Human Rights, established in Germany in the early 1920s, was the first mass organization for homosexuals?
  • ... that in the 1920s, Hickson Inc. had the "most elegant and expensive specialty shop" on New York's Fifth Avenue?

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