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The 1920s Portal

The 1920s was a decade that began on January 1, 1920 and ended on December 31, 1929. It is sometimes referred to as the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age, when speaking about the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. In Europe the decade is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Twenties" because of the economic boom following World War I.

The twenties was a period of transformation culturally and technologically. Culturally, countries began to shed their Victorian ideals, enabling egalitarian ideas such as women's suffrage to significantly change the role of women and society. Modern artistic styles such as Surrealism, Art Deco, and Expressionism flourished, and the new music of Jazz was enormously popular. The movie industry skyrocketed in the 20s during the Golden Age of Silent Film and the birth of the Hollywood studio system. Technologically, the Twenties was an era of innovation not seen since the Second Industrial Revolution— the decade witnessed the first large scale use of automobiles and telephones, and saw the genesis of the public radio and talking pictures. The 1920s was a period of economic prosperity and rapid urbanization, marking the first time in the United States that the population in the cities surpassed the population of rural areas.

However, not all countries enjoyed this prosperity. The German Weimar Republic faced a severe economic downturn in the opening years of the decade due to the enormous debt caused by the war and its reparations, and other economic conditions which resulted from the Treaty of Versailles. Such a crisis would culminate with a devaluation of the Mark in 1923, eventually leading to severe hyperinflation, in the long term favoring the rise of the Nazi Party.

The 1920s were characterized by the rise of radical political movements, especially in regions that were once part of empires. Communism began attracting larger amounts of support following the success of the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks' determination to win the subsequent Russian Civil War. To move the backward economy of Russia towards a more developed economy in which socialism would become possible, the Bolsheviks adopted a policy of mixed economics, from 1921 to 1928, and also created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at the end of 1922. The 1920s also experienced the rise of the far right and fascism in Europe and elsewhere, being perceived as a solution to prevent the spread of Communism. The knotty economic problems also favoured the rise of dictators in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, such as Józef Piłsudski in the Second Polish Republic and Peter and Alexander Karađorđević in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The devastating Wall Street Crash in October 1929 drew a line under the prosperous 1920s.

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Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
Credit: American Colony, Jerusalem

Haile Selassie I was Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. The heir to a dynasty that traced its origins to the 13th century, and from there by tradition back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, he is a defining figure in both Ethiopian and African history. Selassie is revered as the religious symbol for God incarnate among the Rastafari movement, whose name comes from Ras (literally "Head," an Ethiopian title equivalent to Duke), and Tafari Makonnen, Selassie's pre-coronation name.

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Bix Beiderbecke
Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer. He was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. He helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. Beiderbecke taught himself to play cornet largely by ear, leading him to adopt a non-standard fingering that some critics have connected to his original sound. He first recorded with a Midwestern jazz ensemble The Wolverines in 1924, after which he played briefly for the Jean Goldkette Orchestra before joining Frankie Trumbauer for an extended gig at the Arcadia Ballroom in St. Louis, Missouri. Beiderbecke and Trumbauer both joined Goldkette in 1926. The band toured widely and famously played a set opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in October 1926. The following year, Trumbauer and Beiderbecke left Detroit to join the best-known and most prestigious dance orchestra in the country: the New York-based Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Beiderbecke's most influential recordings date from his time with Goldkette and Whiteman, although they were generally recorded under his own name or Trumbauer's. Beiderbecke left the Whiteman band in 1930 and the following summer died in his Queens apartment at the age of twenty-eight.


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