In the Fact and Fiction department at the Main Library we field a variety of questions. Every day brings new inquiries from people doing research and/or folks simply trying to gain a better understanding of a topic that interests them. We also love to provide readers’ advisory, so if you’re looking for book recommendations, keep the Library in mind.
”What was it like in…,” fill in a decade or time period, is a question we often field. Let’s use the 1920s as an example.
The year was 1920. The 1918 influenza pandemic and World War I had resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The impacts were still being felt at the start of 1920 from both the war and the pandemic.
At the start of 1920, Woodrow Wilson was president. Due to a recent stroke, in the fall of 1919, many speculated about the true state of his health. The economy in 1920 wasn’t exactly booming and many politicians didn’t agree with Wilson’s policies and actions in recent years. Change was definitely on the horizon.
Coined the Roaring Twenties, the nineteen twenties were “regarded as a boisterous era of prosperity, fast cars, jazz, speakeasies, and wild youth.” However, things were not the same for everyone. In 1920s America, some had wealth and privilege, but not all. Widespread income inequities were felt by a substantial portion of the population throughout the decade. “For many Americans, the 1920s was a decade of poverty. More than 60 per cent of Americans lived just below the poverty line.” – Bitesize guides, BBC
The 1920s are often referred to as the decade of great change. Women gained the right to vote, movies evolved from silent to talkies, there was an explosion of activity in arts and literature, assembly lines were in full swing, and the list goes on and on. One hundred years later, the decade remains a pivotal time in American history.
When researching 1920s America, people typically want general information or have a specific focus in mind. Frequently studied topics from the nineteen twenties include various industries, the economy, automobiles, aviation, the 18th Amendment (or National Prohibition Act), the 19th Amendment (or women’s right to vote), labor strikes (1919-1921), the Harlem Renaissance, fashion, flappers, jazz, literature, radio, sports, organized crime, movies, and the stock market crash of 1929.
If you would like assistance finding information on the topics featured in this blog post or another topic of interest, please contact the Fact & Fiction Department at the Main Library by calling 419.259.5311 or send an email to email@example.com – we’re always glad to help!
Finding Library Materials on the 1920s
To find library materials specifically related to life in 1920s America, we suggest using the Advanced search in the Library catalog. Bear in mind, the results may include materials that span multiple decades, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find helpful information. Look closely at the catalog description to judge whether a particular title will suit your needs.
Daily Life / History
- Nineteen twenties
- Roaring twenties
- United States history – 1919-1933
- United States – social conditions – 1918-1932
- United States – social life and customs – 1918-1945
- United States – civilization – 1918-1945
- Transatlantic flights – history – 20th century
- Aeronautics – United States – history – 20th century
Crime / Organized Crime
The 1920s are sometimes referred to as the prohibition era. Crime syndicates flourished during this time, because of the high demand for alcohol during a time when it was illegal to consume or sell it. Check out the resources below to learn more about organized crime, gangsters and more.
- Crime – United States – history – 20th century
- Organized crime – history – 20th century
- Biography – criminals & outlaws
- Forensic sciences – history – 20th century
- Prohibition – United States – history – 20th century
The Harlem Renaissance was a time period of cultural awakening for African Americans. During the 1910s through the mid-1930s, the Harlem neighborhood in New York City became known as a “black cultural mecca” sparking immense activity in literature, music and the performing arts. Check out the resources below to learn more about what some have termed a “golden age” in African American culture.
- Harlem Renaissance
- Harlem (New York, N.Y.) – Intellectual life
- African American arts – New York (State) – 20th century
- African Americans – New York (State) – Intellectual life – 20th century
The broad term popular culture encompasses areas like social life, art, fashion, literature, movies, music, sports, and so much more. Individuals interested in learning more about popular culture from the 1920s era will indeed find a plethora of interesting materials.
- Popular culture – United States – history – 20th century
- United States – Social life and customs – 1918-1945
- Fashion – United States – history – 20th century
- Clothing and dress – United States – history – 20th century