What Happened In The 1920s? A Timeline of Major Historical Events

Last Updated: October 23rd, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Hello friends! Today, I want you to step into my time machine and journey back to the exhilarating era of the 1920s.

This vibrant decade was a captivating tapestry woven with cultural revolutions, political upheavals, and transformative innovations.

major events that happened in the 1920s

As we embark on this exciting voyage, we’ll traverse a landscape marked by the Jazz Age, the Prohibition era, women’s suffrage, and the dawn of the modern consumer culture.

The 1920s was an exciting time to be alive, when society dared to break free from the constraints of the past, embracing a spirit of rebellion and progress.

Through this comprehensive timeline, we will unravel the threads of history that shaped this iconic decade, exploring the people, events, and movements that defined the period and left an indelible mark on the world.

Join me and let’s dive headfirst into the whirlwind of the 1920s, where each moment was a page in the story of a transformative era.

What Big Events Happened in the 1920s?

The 1920s, often referred to as the “Roaring Twenties,” were a decade marked by significant events and cultural shifts that reshaped the world in various ways.

Timeline of Major Events in the 1920s

Check out this timeline for a quick glimpse into the past, 100 years back:

1920s TIMELINE of things that happened in the 1920s

Here’s a closer look into some of the big events that defined this iconic period:


The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, enacted in 1920, prohibited alcohol – its sale, production, and transportation – in the United States. This constitutional amendment led to the rise of illegal speakeasies and the notorious gangster era, with figures like Al Capone dominating the headlines.

Prohibition times - photo showing men holding bottles of liquor

Women’s Suffrage:

In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was enacted, giving women in the United States the right to vote, a major milestone in American history and women’s rights.

The Jazz Age:

This period, following the First World War, saw how Jazz music exploded onto the scene, with musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington becoming cultural icons. Jazz clubs and dance halls thrived, and the music reflected the spirit of the era. The term “Jazz Age” was first coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1922, when he came out with his “Tales of the Jazz Age”, his second collection of short stories.

The Great Gatsby Era:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925, captured the excesses and disillusionment of the Jazz Age, becoming a classic of American literature. While not popular in the 1920s, the Great Gatsby would go on to become one of the biggest-selling books of all time.

The Great Gatsby Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Wall Street Crash of 1929:

This event marked the end of the economic prosperity of the 1920s. The stock market crash led to the Great Depression, which had far-reaching consequences worldwide.

Art Deco and Modernism:

The 1920s witnessed the emergence of the Art Deco movement in art, design, and architecture, characterized by its bold, geometric shapes and luxurious materials. Modernist literature and art, exemplified by figures like Pablo Picasso and Virginia Woolf, challenged traditional norms.

The Chrysler Building exemplifies Art Deco architecture

The Harlem Renaissance:

A cultural explosion in Harlem, New York, saw the flourishing of African-American literature, music, and art. Figures like Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington played pivotal roles.

Aviation Milestones:

The first solo transatlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh in 1927 and the pioneering aviation achievements of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, captured the world’s imagination and pushed the boundaries of human flight.

The Scopes Monkey Trial (1925):

The Scopes Trial, also known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was a legal case in Tennessee that pitted modern science against traditional religious beliefs. John T. Scopes, a high school teacher, was charged with violating a state law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. The trial became a nationally publicized event and symbolized the clash between science and religious fundamentalism in America.

The Treaty of Locarno (1925):

The Treaty of Locarno was a series of agreements signed in 1925 between several European nations, including Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, and the United Kingdom. These agreements aimed to promote peace and stability in Europe after The Great War of the previous decade. One of the key provisions was the guarantee of Germany’s western borders, which helped ease tensions in the region. The Treaty of Locarno is often seen as a step toward the broader process of post-World War I reconciliation and the pursuit of diplomatic solutions to prevent future conflicts.

From left to right, Gustav Stresemann, Austen Chamberlain and Aristide Briand during the Locarno negotiations
From left to right, Gustav Stresemann, Austen Chamberlain and Aristide Briand during the Locarno negotiations by By Bundesarchiv

These major events encapsulate the dynamic and transformative nature of the 1920s, a decade that left an indelible mark on culture, society, and politics, setting the stage for the modern era.

What Were Some of the Biggest Problems Facing America in the 1920s?

The 1920s, often known as the “Roaring Twenties,” were a time of great change and prosperity in the United States.

However, they were not without their challenges and problems. Here are some of the biggest issues facing America during that era:

Prohibition and Organized Crime:

The 18th Amendment, which enforced Prohibition (the ban on alcohol), led to the rise of illegal speakeasies and a booming underground liquor trade. Organized crime, led by figures like Al Capone, thrived during this period, causing violence and social unrest.

Image of the Famous Gangster Al Capone
Image of the Famous Gangster Al Capone by Belgeseli Fullizle

Racial Tensions and the Rise of the KKK:

The 1920s saw a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which targeted African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants. Racial tensions persisted, with the Great Migration of African-Americans to northern cities leading to clashes and discrimination.

Economic Inequality:

While the decade saw unprecedented economic growth and prosperity for many, a significant portion of the population did not share in the newfound wealth. Income inequality was a pressing issue for the entire country, with rural areas and agricultural sectors facing economic hardships.

Labor Strikes and Unrest:

Labor strikes and industrial unrest were common as workers demanded better wages and working conditions. The most notable was the Seattle General Strike in 1919 and the Steel Strike of 1919, which showcased the growing labor movement’s power. These events took place in the previous decade but swelled into the 1920s.

a queue of men looking for work during the great depression

Immigration Restrictions:

The 1920s marked a period of restrictive immigration policies, including the National Origins Act of 1924, which aimed to limit immigration from non-Western European countries. These policies fueled anti-immigrant sentiments and hindered cultural diversity.

Stock Market Speculation:

While the stock market boomed during the 1920s, it was also characterized by rampant speculation and risky investments. This and terrorist acts, such as the Wall Street bombing in September 1920 set the stage for the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

Bull Market in Stock Market

Cultural Clashes:

The clash between traditional values and modern attitudes, epitomized by the flapper culture and changing gender roles, created tensions within society. Conservative and religious groups opposed what they saw as moral decay.

You might look at this list and say that not much has changed in 100 years, and in some ways, you would be correct. However, many of the problems during The Jazz Age found solutions, such as regulations on the banking industry and the removal of Prohibition.

What Happened in the 1920s that Caused this Decade to Be Called The Roaring 20s?

The 1920s earned its moniker as the “Roaring Twenties” due to a combination of significant cultural, social, and economic factors.

This decade was a time of unprecedented change and exuberance. The end of World War I brought a sense of relief and optimism, and the United States experienced a booming economy.

a photo depicting 1920s exuberance with men and women dancing and partying

The introduction of assembly line production techniques, such as building Ford’s Model T cars, consumerism, and new technologies, like the automobile, made products more affordable and accessible to the masses. This, in turn, led to a surge in consumer spending and leisure activities, such as golf and baseball.

Cultural changes were also instrumental in defining the decade. Jazz music became wildly popular, and the era witnessed the emergence of the “flapper” culture, symbolizing newfound freedom for women with shorter dresses and changing social norms.

Prohibition, which banned the sale of alcohol, gave rise to speakeasies and the flourishing underground nightlife.

Many decades ended up with some type of moniker, but all these elements combined to create a sense of exhilaration and excess, making the 1920s a decade that roared with energy and cultural transformation, ultimately earning its distinctive nickname.

A List of the Top 25 1920s Major News Stories in History

I’ve started keeping a few newsworthy magazines and newspapers because these might become obsolete in the 22nd century.

Some of the more notable headlines of this era include:

Date Headline
 January 10th, 1920 From the United Press: Versailles Treaty signed by Germans, with more and more countries joining the League of Nations that was formed following the end of the Great War.
 February 14th, 1920 From the International News Service: Suffragists begin work of merging with women voters.
 January 3rd, 1920 Boston Red Sox sells Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.
 August 10th, 1920 From the United Press: Pancho Villa surrenders to Mexican Authorities.
 November 3rd, 1920 From the United Press: Harding elected as president.
 June 1st, 1921 From the United Press: 75 dead in Tulsa Race War.
 July 1921 Adolf Hitler leads Nazi Party but goes to jail two years later (see April 1st, 1924).
 October 5th, 1921 From the International News Service: Fans crowd polo grounds for World Series Game 1.
 August 23, 1922 Irish Free State leader Michael Collins killed.
 February 17th, 1923 From the United Press: Tut’s mummy cased in gold, revealed today, experts plan. British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter uncovers King Tutankhamun’s tomb.
 September 1st, 1923 From the United Press: Fear Many Dead in Japanese Fire, Quake.
  January 23rd, 1924 From the United Press: Silent Russian crowds mourn Lenin in the Soviet Union.
 April 1st, 1924 From the United Press: Nazi Party leader Hitler given 5 years, Ludendorf is freed.
 May 30th, 1924 From the United Press: Millionaires’ son held for kidnapping and murder of lad.
 November 5th, 1924 From the United Press: Coolidge overwhelmingly defeats Davis for the presidency.
 August 24th 1926 From the United Press: Fans break glass to see Valentino.
 May 21st, 1927 From the United Press: Lindbergh wins prize, First Solo Flight Across Atlantic.
 September 30th, 1927 From the United Press: Babe Ruth sets New Homer record.
 February 3rd, 1928 From the United Press: Grand Duchess Anastasia said to have been found.
 July 28th, 1928 From the International News Service: The 1928 Summer Olympics officially opened in Amsterdam
 September 1928 Microbiologist Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin.
 February 11th, 1929 From the United Press: Vatican and Mussolini sign Peace Agreement.
 February 14th, 1929 From the United Press: Gangsters butchered in Chicago in what was called the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, Capone and rival gangs figured in a bloody shootout and murder of 7 men.
 August 24th, 1929 From the United Press: Graf Zeppelin approaching U.S. West Coast, as the airship made its first round-the-world voyage
 October 29th, 1929 From the United Press: Stock Market crashes: billions lost

There are literally thousands of headlines to choose from!

It’s also worth noting that the British Broadcasting Company first went live on November 14, 2022, when it transmitted its first two news bulletins. Two years earlier, commercial radio stations broke new grounds by broadcasting live election results, and since then word spread and made radios popular.

Such an exciting time in history, a decade that witnessed cultural revolutions, legal battles, economic highs, and the seeds of future challenges.

What Were the 3 Biggest Events of the 1920s?

This is hard to pin down. I’m sure everyone has their opinion, but among the many notable occurrences, three of the biggest events were:

1. Prohibition and the Rise of Organized Crime:

The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which went into effect in 1920, banned the sale, production, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. This ushered in the era of Prohibition, leading to the rise of illegal speakeasies and the flourishing of organized crime. Figures like Al Capone became infamous for their involvement in bootlegging and the illegal alcohol trade.

Three men in retro gangster suits, drinking and smoking cigarettes

2. Women Suffrage:

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting American women the right to vote. This historic milestone was the culmination of decades of activism and struggle by suffragists and marked a major step forward for gender equality and civil rights.

a suffragist reading a newspaper

3. The Great Gatsby Era and Cultural Transformation:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925, captured the essence of the Jazz Age and the cultural shifts of the era. The 1920s were defined by the explosion of jazz music, the emergence of the flapper culture, and changing social norms, all of which represented a significant transformation in American society and culture.

A Look Into The Great Gatsby Novel: Is it Fact or Fiction?

Some might insist on the collapse of the stock market as a more significant event, but since that occurred at the end of 1929, I tend to think of that as more of a 1930s issue.

One Final Point to Note

Some decades tend to snooze their way through time, while others, such as the 1920s (also called the Decade of the Gregorian calendar), are jam-packed with events.

Starting with the aftermath of World War I, the 1920s timeline delves into the era of Prohibition and the rise of organized crime, the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, and the emergence of jazz music and the iconic flapper culture.

This era also saw unprecedented economic boom, stock market speculation, and the subsequent Wall Street Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression.

I hope you found this timeline of some of the biggest events of this decade interesting. Please feel free to share it with other history buffs who might enjoy this walk through time.

What Happened In The 1920s? A Timeline of Major Historical Events
What Happened In The 1920s? A Timeline of Major Historical Events
Explore the roaring twenties in this captivating timeline of major 1920s historical events. From flappers to Prohibition, witness a decade of change!
Gatsby Flapper Girl