Forgotten Photos And Captured Jazz Age Moments from the Roaring '20s
By Sophia Maddox | October 11, 2023
Bathing Suits Were Basically Today's Outerwear
Step into a world of glitz, glamour, and exhilaration as we delve into the Roaring 20s, a dazzling decade that left an indelible mark on history. Known for its spirited parties, flapper fashion, and the intoxicating sound of jazz, the 1920s was a time of unprecedented social change, artistic innovation, and wild celebrations. From the allure of speakeasies during Prohibition to the rise of iconic figures like the Great Gatsby himself, this era was an extravagant blend of opulence and rebellion. So, whether you're a history enthusiast or simply curious about the decadence of this bygone age, join us as we take a step back in time. Let's explore the glimmering jewels, iconic dances, and fascinating stories that defined the Roaring 20s. Keep scrolling to uncover the secrets of this unforgettable decade!
Vaudeville, during the 1920s, was a vibrant and essential part of American entertainment. It was the era when this variety show format reached its zenith, offering a diverse array of acts that catered to all tastes. Audiences flocked to theaters across the country to witness the magic of vaudeville, where they could enjoy everything from comedic sketches and song-and-dance routines to acrobatics and novelty performances. Legendary performers like Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and Mae West honed their skills on vaudeville stages before becoming household names in Hollywood.
These Hungarian-American identical twins amazed their spectators with their elaborate attire and vaudeville routines. The two impressed royalty and the wealthy, and lived a glamorous lifestyle during their prime.
Babe Ruth, 1926
The 1920s were the glory years for George Herman "Babe" Ruth, one of the most iconic figures in the history of American sports. Ruth's baseball career reached its peak during this decade when he played for the New York Yankees. He was a legendary slugger who redefined the game with his prodigious home run-hitting ability, earning him the nickname "The Sultan of Swat." In 1920, Ruth famously hit a record-breaking 54 home runs, surpassing the total home runs of every other team in the league. His charismatic personality and incredible talent made him a larger-than-life figure and a symbol of the Roaring Twenties. Beyond his on-field prowess, Babe Ruth became a cultural icon, embodying the spirit of the era's excess, glamour, and fascination with celebrities. His legacy as one of the greatest baseball players of all time was firmly established in the 1920s, leaving an indelible mark on the sport and popular culture.
Speakeasies were clandestine bars or clubs that thrived during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. With the nationwide ban on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, these secret venues provided a place for people to enjoy illegal drinks, music, and entertainment. Speakeasies were often hidden behind unassuming facades and required a secret password or the knowledge of a trusted insider to gain entry. Inside, patrons reveled in the atmosphere of rebellion against Prohibition, with jazz music, dancing, and a sense of excitement prevailing. The famous "Roaring Twenties" atmosphere of excess and glamour was epitomized by these underground establishments, which became symbols of defiance and sophistication. The legacy of speakeasies lives on as a testament to the resilience of American culture during a time of restrictive laws and the enduring allure of a good time.
Charleston Champions, 1926
The Charleston dance of the 1920s was an iconic and lively dance that captured the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. Originating in African American communities in the early 20th century, the Charleston gained widespread popularity during the Jazz Age. It was a fast-paced dance characterized by energetic footwork, wild kicks, and a distinctive twisting of the knees and legs. Dancers often moved to the syncopated rhythms of jazz music, creating an infectious and carefree atmosphere on dance floors across the United States. The Charleston became synonymous with the youthful exuberance, rebellion, and freedom of the era, making it a symbol of the cultural shift that occurred during the 1920s. It continues to be celebrated as a defining dance of the Jazz Age, leaving a lasting impact on dance and popular culture.
Flagpole Sitting Was All The Rage
Flagpole sitting was a viral and bizarre trend that swept across America during the 1920s. The fad involved individuals, known as "flagpole sitters," perching themselves atop tall flagpoles for extended periods, sometimes even days or weeks at a time. This unusual phenomenon gained widespread attention and captivated the public's imagination, with newspapers covering the daring feats of these sitters extensively. The most famous flagpole sitter, Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly, set a world record by sitting atop a flagpole for an astonishing 49 days in 1929. The trend was seen as a testament to the endurance and spirit of the Jazz Age, a period marked by unconventional and attention-grabbing stunts. Flagpole sitting eventually faded from popularity, but it remains a quirky and memorable aspect of 1920s culture, showcasing the era's thirst for novelty and spectacle.
Norma Talmadge, 1922
Norma Talmadge was one of the most beloved and influential actresses of the silent film era. Her career spanned from the early 1910s to the late 1920s, and she earned a reputation as a versatile and talented performer. Talmadge was known for her dramatic range and her ability to convey deep emotions on screen. She starred in a wide range of films, from romantic comedies to intense dramas, and was celebrated for her beauty, grace, and charisma. Talmadge's success and popularity during the silent film era solidified her as one of the era's most iconic actresses, and her contributions to the early days of Hollywood cinema continue to be remembered and cherished by film enthusiasts today.
Electric front strike typewriter
Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova, New York, 1922
Rudolph Valentino, often referred to as the "Great Lover" of silent cinema, was a magnetic and iconic figure during the silent film era. His smoldering looks, charisma, and undeniable on-screen presence made him a heartthrob and one of Hollywood's first true male sex symbols. Valentino's roles in films like "The Sheik" and "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" catapulted him to international stardom and left audiences swooning. He brought a level of sensuality and passion to the screen that was unprecedented at the time. Tragically, Valentino's life was cut short in 1926 at the age of 31, but his impact on the silent film era and popular culture endured, making him an enduring legend of early Hollywood cinema.
Union Square, 1924
Union Square in New York City during the 1920s was a bustling and vibrant hub of activity that reflected the energy and spirit of the Roaring Twenties. This iconic public square, located in the heart of Manhattan, was a gathering place for artists, intellectuals, activists, and everyday New Yorkers. It was known for its lively political rallies, where labor unions and suffragettes made their voices heard. The square was surrounded by theaters, restaurants, and shops, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Jazz music filled the air, and the square was alive with the rhythms of the era. The farmers' market at Union Square was a bustling affair, providing fresh produce to city dwellers. The 1920s marked a time of social change and cultural dynamism, and Union Square was at the center of it all, reflecting the spirit of the times.
New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) during the Roaring Twenties was a symbol of the era's financial exuberance and economic prosperity. The 1920s were characterized by a booming stock market, and the NYSE was at the epicenter of this frenzied activity. Investors flocked to Wall Street in pursuit of fortunes, and trading volumes soared. The introduction of new technologies, such as ticker tape machines, facilitated faster and more efficient trading. The NYSE became a place where fortunes were made and lost in the blink of an eye, and the allure of easy wealth drew both seasoned investors and novices alike. However, this era of excessive speculation and risky investment practices would eventually lead to the devastating crash of 1929, marking the end of the Roaring Twenties and ushering in the Great Depression.
42nd Street, Manhattan, 1928
In 1928, New York City had a distinct urban character that differed greatly from the bustling metropolis we know today. One notable feature of the city during that time was the scarcity of automobiles. Unlike the congested streets of present-day New York, where traffic jams are a common sight, the streets of 1928 were relatively free of cars. Most New Yorkers relied on public transportation, including trolleys and the iconic subway system, to get around the city. This absence of automobiles contributed to a different pace of life, where pedestrians, streetcars, and horse-drawn carriages dominated the roadways. It was an era when the city's skyline was still evolving, with the construction of iconic landmarks like the Empire State Building underway, and the city's neighborhoods had their own unique identities, reflecting the diverse communities that called New York home. The contrast with the modern cityscape underscores how much New York has transformed over the decades, both in terms of its transportation infrastructure and its overall character.
Louise Brooks, Paris, September 1929
The wedding day of Joan Whitney and Charles S. Payson Manhasset, Long Island, 1924
The wedding day of Joan Whitney and Charles S. Payson was a notable event in the social circles of their time. Joan Whitney, the daughter of wealthy financier and art collector William Payne Whitney, was a prominent figure in New York's high society. On June 15, 1932, she married Charles S. Payson, an accomplished businessman and art collector himself. The wedding was a lavish affair held at the Whitney family's impressive Greentree estate in Manhasset, Long Island. The ceremony was attended by notable figures, and the reception featured all the opulence expected of a society wedding, including exquisite floral arrangements and sumptuous decor. Joan and Charles's union represented the merging of two influential families and their shared passion for art and philanthropy. Their marriage would go on to become a significant part of their legacy, as they continued to support various cultural and charitable endeavors throughout their lives.
Maurice Chevalier and Yvonne Vallee, 1924
The 1920s marked a transformative period for the women's suffrage movement in the United States. After decades of tireless activism, protests, and advocacy, women achieved a significant milestone with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. This amendment granted women the right to vote, a monumental achievement in the fight for gender equality. The suffragettes of the early 20th century, including prominent figures like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul, had laid the groundwork for this momentous change. The Roaring Twenties saw women from all walks of life exercising their newfound political power, participating in elections, and engaging in civic life like never before. The women's suffrage movement of the 1920s paved the way for subsequent waves of feminist activism and was a crucial step towards achieving greater gender equality in the United States.
Gilda Gray, 1925
Andrée Spinelly, Paris, 1927
Andrée Spinelly was a captivating and influential figure in the vibrant world of the Moulin Rouge in Paris during the 1920s. As a celebrated dancer and entertainer, she graced the iconic cabaret's stage with her charisma and talent. The Moulin Rouge, renowned for its extravagant performances and bohemian atmosphere, was a hub for artistic innovation and hedonistic revelry during this era. Andrée Spinelly's performances added to the allure of the venue, drawing crowds of patrons eager to witness her mesmerizing acts. Her presence and contributions to the Moulin Rouge exemplify the cultural richness and artistic freedom that defined the Parisian nightlife scene of the 1920s. Spinelly's performances, alongside those of other renowned artists, helped cement the Moulin Rouge's status as an enduring symbol of creativity and extravagance in the city of light during this iconic decade.
Metropolitan Opera, 1929
Josephine Baker, an American-born sensation, found her true stardom in the heart of Europe during the 1920s. With a career that transcended borders, Baker's electrifying performances and unique style made her an international icon. Her lavish shows, adorned with extravagant costumes, captivated audiences across the continent. However, it was her unforgettable banana skirt, a symbol of both sensuality and artistic innovation, that became her trademark and an enduring image of the era. Josephine Baker's rise to stardom in the 1920s not only marked a significant moment in entertainment history but also celebrated her as a trailblazer, challenging racial boundaries and redefining the possibilities of Black performers on the global stage.
Glen Cover, Long Island, 1924
In 1924, the then Prince of Wales, Edward, embarked on a highly anticipated visit to America, sparking immense excitement among the public. This trip was a continuation of his fascination with the United States, following earlier visits. During his vacation on Long Island, Edward found himself entangled in a passionate affair that would become a tantalizing story of its time. His paramour was none other than the stunning Hollywood star, Pinna Nesbit Cruger, who happened to be the wife of a wealthy New York millionaire. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a prominent writer of the era, famously described Pinna Cruger as a "damned attractive woman," adding an element of allure to this captivating chapter in Prince Edward's life that would forever be etched in history.
Jelly Roll Morton and The Red Hot Peppers, circa 1926
Al Capone, 1920
While Jazz music was the rhythm of the 1920’s, alcohol prohibition was another reality of the decade. Real-life gangster, Al Capone (or Scarface as he was aptly called) capitalized on prohibition and ran an underground alcohol production and supply network with that offered legal and political protection for the producers.
New York Yankees, 1924
The 1920s were a golden era for baseball in the United States. The sport had already been well-established, but it reached new heights of popularity during this decade. One of the key factors was the emergence of iconic players like Babe Ruth, whose incredible home run records and charismatic personality made him a larger-than-life figure and a household name. The era also witnessed the establishment of legendary teams such as the New York Yankees, who dominated the baseball scene. The introduction of radio broadcasts allowed fans from all corners of the country to follow the games, further fueling the sport's widespread appeal. Baseball became more than just a pastime; it became a cultural phenomenon, reflecting the spirit and optimism of the Roaring Twenties. The 1920s marked a transformative period for baseball, solidifying its position as America's national pastime and setting the stage for its enduring popularity in the decades to come.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, 1921
The 1920s were a tumultuous yet dazzling decade for the famed American author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his equally famous wife, Zelda Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's literary genius came to the forefront with his iconic novel "The Great Gatsby," a reflection of the extravagance, excess, and disillusionment of the Jazz Age. He was one of the leading figures of the "Lost Generation" of writers who explored the post-World War I disillusionment. Meanwhile, Zelda, known for her wit and beauty, became an emblematic figure of the era's flapper culture, known for her daring spirit and extravagant lifestyle. The couple's tumultuous relationship, marked by personal struggles, alcoholism, and mental health issues, also drew considerable attention. The 1920s were a period of both creative brilliance and personal challenges for the Fitzgeralds, leaving an indelible mark on American literature and cultural history.
Short Hair Was In For Gals
Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid," released in 1921, stands as one of the most iconic and enduring silent films of all time. Chaplin wrote, directed, and starred in this heartwarming comedy-drama that tells the story of a tramp who discovers and raises an abandoned baby he finds in a street. The film explores themes of poverty, redemption, and the bond between a parent and a child in a way that is both touching and humorous. "The Kid" was a groundbreaking work, showcasing Chaplin's remarkable talents in blending slapstick comedy with deep emotional resonance. It not only solidified his status as one of the greatest filmmakers of the era but also established him as a beloved figure in American cinema. Nearly a century after its release, "The Kid" continues to captivate audiences and remains a timeless classic in the history of film.
The Anti-Saloon League Helped Put Prohibition Into Effect
During the 1920s, several groups and movements fervently pushed for the implementation and maintenance of Prohibition in the United States. The most prominent among them was the Temperance Movement, which had been advocating for reduced alcohol consumption and eventual prohibition for decades. Organizations like the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League were instrumental in mobilizing public support for Prohibition. They argued that alcohol was the root cause of numerous societal issues, including domestic violence and poverty, and that its ban would lead to a more moral and prosperous society. Religious groups, particularly Protestant denominations, also played a significant role in advocating for Prohibition, believing it aligned with their values and principles. The combined efforts of these groups led to the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, which enforced nationwide Prohibition until its repeal in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.