What Life Was Like in the Roaring Twenties

Source: Paul Thompson/FPG / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Now that we’re firmly into the 2020s, it might be time to take a look back at what America was like a century ago, during the fabled decade known as the Roaring Twenties.

In America (and to a lesser extent other countries, mostly in Europe) the years between the end of World War I in late 1918 and the Wall Street crash that came in the summer of 1929 were golden in many ways. The epoch saw economic prosperity, the birth of vital social movements, the introduction of new products, and a flowering of the arts. (These are the world’s most important events every year since 1920.)

Fads swept the land (barnstorming, flagpole sitting), styles of hair and clothing changed, Girl Scout cookies were invented. It was an age in which such now everyday objects as the radio and the automobile became available to a large segment of the population for the first time, while jazz provided the soundtrack and movies learned to talk and women finally got the right to vote. (Compare the year women won the right to vote in 46 countries.)

But it was also a decade in which racism was rampant and white supremacy was on the rise. Child labor was common and there were few protections for workers of any age. Prohibition spurred the rise of organized crime and turned America into a nation of law-breakers.

In other words, the 1920s were like any other decade, even our own — part good and part bad. Here are 30 illustrations of what life in America was like in those years.

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