- The 1920s were a decade of unheard-of wealth for many middle-class Americans. As incomes increased, there was more money available for recreation and amusement spending.
- This new prosperity accompanied and supported technical advancements, which led to a surge in the appeal of entertainments like movies, sports, and radio shows.
Leisure and consumption in the 1920s
Many Americans had more disposable money during the 1920s’ greater financial prosperity, allowing them to spend more on entertainment. This increase in wealth, combined with technological developments, produced new leisure and spending habits. (buying products). Movies and sports saw a rise in popularity during this time, while commercial radio and magazines elevated performers and sportsmen to the status of national heroes.
Cinema in the 1920s
Early in the decade, as “moving pictures” became more and more famous, large-scale cinema theaters with thousands of seats began to appear in urban areas. A 25 cent ticket was required for a live performance and a double feature. Americans could flee their troubles and lose themselves for a quarter in a different time or place. More people of all ages went to the theaters than do so now, frequently more than once per week. By the conclusion of the decade, 90 million individuals were regularly attending movies.
The first wave of cinema stars emerged from the early 1920s silent films. Charlie Chaplin was the star who most riveted the American watching audience. Chaplin, who had sad eyes, a beard, baggy trousers, and a cane, was the top box office draw of his era.
The Jazz Singer, the first “talkie,” was released in New York in 1927, signaling the end of the silent film era. This movie, in which Al Jolson featured, had a 1920s storyline that was distinctly American in nature. It tracks a Jewish man’s life from his formative years, when he was trained to serve as the cantor at the neighborhood synagogue, to his later years as a well-known and “Americanized” jazz vocalist. Audiences across the nation embraced both the narrative and the cutting-edge audio presentation used to deliver it. It soon became very popular.
However, Southern California had only lately emerged as the hub of the American film business by the 1920s. Thomas Edison introduced the kinetoscope in New York in 1893, and this is where most early films were made. However, this started to alter in the 1910s as well-known directors like D. W. Griffith sought ways to avoid paying for Edison’s camera patents. The tiny community north of Los Angeles was little more than a village when Griffith filmed In Old California, the first motion picture ever to be recorded in Hollywood, California, in 1910. Hollywood exploded with moviemaking activity as filmmakers flocked to southern California, not least due to its pleasant temperature and consistent sunlight. When Griffith shot In Old California, the first motion picture ever to be recorded in Hollywood, California, in 1910, the small town north of Los Angeles was barely more than a village. Filmmakers rushed to southern California, not least because of its pleasant climate and constant sunshine, and Hollywood erupted with activity as a result.
The formerly sleepy hamlet was the setting for a successful and cutting-edge US business by the 1920s.
The power of radio and the world of sports
Radios were first used in World War I and quickly spread to American households in the 1920s. Over the decade, hundreds of radio channels cropped up. News, serial tales, and political speeches were produced and transmitted by these channels. Similar to print media, there was amusement mixed in with the ads. However, unlike with magazines and newspapers, marketers could reach out to anyone nearby who was listening to the radio without needing their readers’ involvement. A larger audience, however, required marketers to be more restrained and cautious not to insult anyone. However, a bigger audience needed marketers to be more tactful and watchful not to offend anyone.
The spread of newspapers thanks to railways and telegraphs and the force of radio hastened the process of developing a common national culture. However, radio was much more efficient than these paper platforms. American culture was formed by radio and was broadcast onto the airwaves and into people’s houses across the nation. The telegraph and railroads’ ability to disseminate newspapers, combined with the power of radio, accelerated the emergence of a single national culture. Radio, on the other hand, was a lot more effective than these print tools. Radio shaped American culture and disseminated it across the airways and into homes across the country. Amos ‘n’ Andy, a syndicated radio show that debuted in the late 1920s, was one of many that kept audiences amused across the nation. In the case of the well-known Amos ‘n’ Andy, it did so using derogatory racial caricatures about African Americans that were comparable to those depicted in minstrel shows from the previous century. Americans from coast to coast could listen to the same shows thanks to the radio. As a result, regional variations in speech, language, music, and even customer preference were masked.
Radio changed how Americans watched athletics as well. Play-by-play commentary of athletic events that were aired on the radio was introduced, bringing sports amusement directly into the homes of millions of people. Radio also altered how Americans viewed sports. The introduction of play-by-play narration of sporting events that were broadcast on the radio brought sports entertainment right into the households of millions of people.Radio played a part in popularizing sports stars and their achievements. Jim Thorpe, who was born into the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma, was regarded as one of the greatest sportsmen in history. He participated in Major League Baseball, won medals at the 1912 Olympics, and was a founder member of the National Football League.
Soon, other athletic champions became well-known figures. Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel for the first time in 1926. In the late 1920s, Helen Wills ruled women’s tennis, winning Wimbledon eight times. From 1920 to 1925, “Big Bill” Tilden claimed the national doubles championship each year. Harold “Red” Grange represented the University of Illinois in football, averaging more than ten yards per run over the course of his collegiate tenure. The “Sultan of Swat,” Babe Ruth, who became America’s first baseball icon, was the biggest celebrity of them all.