Roaring 20's Culture

The Roaring Twenties was a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States, particularly in major cities such as Chicago and New York City. New artistic and cultural dynamism blossomed along with new forms of art and music. African American jazz and blues exploded onto the scene and the flapper redefined the modern look for American women.

In the wake of the patriotism of World War I, President Warren G. Harding promoted a "return to normalcy". The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a general feeling of novelty associated with modernity and a break with tradition. Everything seemed to be feasible through modern technology. New technologies, especially automobiles, moving pictures, and radio, brought "modernity" to a large part of the population. Formal decorative frills were shed in favor of practicality in both daily life and architecture. At the same time, jazz and dancing rose in popularity, in opposition to the mood of World War I. As such, the period often is referred to as the Jazz Age.

Aviation soon became a business. Demand for new technology shot upward as many Americans took advantage of new credit cards to purchase items they never could before.  The media, funded by the new industry of mass-market advertising driving consumer demand, focused on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars, as cities rooted for their home teams and filled the new palatial cinemas and gigantic sports stadiums.

Among the most popular figures of the 20's were baseball's Babe Ruth, who broke every home run record in the sport. He came to transcend the sport and became a national icon, epitomizing the "rags-to-riches" American Dream. In boxing, it was Jack Dempsey who set financial and attendance records, including the first million-dollar gate.In football, "The Galloping Ghost" Red Grange helped legitimize the new National Football League. 

The 1920s brought new styles of music into the mainstream of culture but it was jazz that became the most popular form of music for youth. Primarily centered in the African American section of New York known as Harlem, major performers included  Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Jelly Roll Morton. New dances like the Charleston became the rage to go along with the music. The development of urban and city blues also began in the 1920s with performers such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.

The Roaring Twenties was a period of literary creativity as well. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is often described as the ultimate novel of America's Jazz Age.

At the beginning of the decade, movies were silent and colorless. In 1927, The Jazz Singer became the first movie with sound. Josephine Baker became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture in 1927, after starting her career as a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance. 

Baker was just one of many women who epitomized the new  "flapper" who danced, drank, smoked and voted. This new woman cut her hair, wore make-up, and partied. New careers opened for single women in offices and schools, with salaries that helped them to be more independent. With their desire for freedom and independence came change in fashion. One of the more dramatic post-war changes in fashion was the woman's silhouette; the dress length went from floor length to ankle and knee length.

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