At 11: 59 on December 31, 1919, Americans waited anxiously for the clock to turn, signaling the beginning of a new decade.
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They held their breath, prepared their streamers, and watched the second hand make its way to the 12. When it finally passed, families danced in joy while they celebrated the New Year. What these Americans didn’t know was what lay ahead. They weren’t aware of this uplifting, life-changing era that was their future. They didn’t anticipate the economic breakthrough that was to come, where their economy would rise 40% (World Book).
People broke out of their comfort zone during these altering years; these altering years called the Roaring Twenties. They explored new concepts of life with curiosity prevailing all. Unafraid, ambitious, and undaunted, the United States was ready to establish what being an American was really like. Through women’s movements, inventions, and accomplishments made throughout the country, the United States truly developed, and the Roaring Twenties shaped American destiny for the rest of the century. Women transformed into completely different people during the 1920’s. Extending out of the orderly, tight bubble their lives had always been, they became the base of the women we know today.
On August 18, 1920, the women’s suffrage proposition passed, granting women the right to vote (Kyvig 1). In November of that year, William Harding became the first president voted on by women (Stewart 9). In 1924, Miriam Ferguson was elected the first woman governor (Stewart 25). As a result of this newfound independence, women ventured out of the housewife role, and divorce rates rose from one in seventeen marriages to one in six (The Roaring Twenties). They began to wear shorter skirts and dresses, more make-up, and threw more parties. Women who fashioned themselves with this new style were known as flappers (World Book).
Independence led to confidence, which instigated discoveries and changes around the world. In 1921, the first American Beauty Pageant was held (Stewart 12). In 1926, Gertrude Ederie swam the French channel in record time (Stewart 32), and in 1928, Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic Ocean (Stewart 40). Women established new reputations for themselves in this decade. They became regarded as people prepared to take risks, not afraid to make a statement, and mostly as the people who introduced opportunity to the United States. In these roaring years, inventions changed life as Americans knew it and provided them with a life nobody had ever experienced before.
Movie theaters supplied Americans with entertainment and culture. In the late 1920’s, there were 15, 000 cinemas around the country where about 50 million people per week came to watch films. At one point, more Americans went to the theaters than went to church (Kyvig 79). In 1927, the first talking movie was shown, and in 1928, the first color movie aired (Stewart 40). Technology also advanced American life. In the span of the decade, the newly discovered car sold over 23 million models (World Book).
The radio reached the ears of many Americans, and in 1926, John Baird invented the television (Think Quest). Along with the nationwide use of electricity came the creation of the band-aid in 1920 (Stewart 8), the first traffic light in 1922, and the year 1924 brought the first shopping mall and the first national road atlas (Jennings 40). Disneysurfaced its popularity with Winnie the Pooh in 1926 (Think Quest) and Mickey Mouse in 1928 (The Roaring Twenties). These newfound inventions not only led the Americans to view their lives from different perspectives, but it also opened up the chance for discovery and achievements around the world.
As a result of this modern, inspiring lifestyle, Americans wanted to try new things. They yearned to create a life that America would remember forever. Sports made the biggest bang in the 1920’s. In 1924, the first Winter Olympics were held, and in 1920, William Tilden was the first American to win Wimbledon. Babe Ruth broke the home run record in 1927 with 60 homeruns (Think Quest).
Because of this and baseball’s sudden outburst of popularity and ability, baseball became the American pastime. Americans made accomplishments and discoveries around the world, too. In 1923, King Tut’s tomb was opened (The Roaring Twenties). This led to wonder and opportunity about Earth’s history. Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett flew over the North Pole in 1926. It took 16 hours to fly to the destination, turn around, and return to America (Stewart 31).
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris taking over 33 hours. It was 400 miles farther than anyone had ever flown before (Stewart 36). These adventures left America in awe and changed the way the United States viewed the world. Americans thrived during the Roaring Twenties. They ventured out of their comfort zones and created a world filled with entertainment, adventure, and most of all knowledge.
The Roaring Twenties was a revelation; a revelation that confirmed the definition of being an American. Being an American meant taking a stand to fight for what you believe in. It meant discovering technology that could potentially change life as everyone knew it. It meant making accomplishments around the world that represented the era. The Roaring Twenties set the tone for the rest of the century.
It was the base for all inventions and achievements made in the later decades. The excitement Americans would feel to try new things, the dedication and determination to change the world, and the amusing, always-changing lifestyle all originated from the loud, unforgettable decade at the beginning of the twentieth century known as the Roaring Twenties.