US History - 1920s

  • Prohibition Begins

    Prohibition Begins
    Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the American Constitution made it illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport alcohol in, into, or from the United States. In January 1920, the Volstead Act (the act allowing states to actually inforce the parameters set in the 18th Amendment) was passed and the entire nation went "dry." Prohibition has had a lasting effect on America and Americans even into the 21st century.
  • Sinclair Lewis Publishes Main Street

    Sinclair Lewis Publishes Main Street
    Sinclair Lewis' highly satirical and critical ninth novel, Main Street, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, but the jury overturned the decision in favor of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Lewis has been called the best American satirist to write.
  • "The Sheik" Released

    "The Sheik" Released
    This 1921 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino, Agnes Ayres, and Adolphe Menjou was directed by George Melford. It was based on a bestselling romance novel by Edith Maude Hull. The movie was controversial for its "toned-down" rape scene. Men left the movie disgusted (as men usually do "chick flicks"), but women could not get enough of star Rudolph Valentino in his glory.
  • Einstein Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics

    Einstein Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics
    "For his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect," Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics. Einstein is known to this day as one of the greatest genii to exist, and his contributions to science are largely considered accurate to this day.
  • Hall-Mills Murder Discovered

    Hall-Mills Murder Discovered
    Pearl Bahmer, 15, and Raymond Schneider, 23, discovered the bodies of a man and woman along the side of the secluded De Russey's Lane on an otherwise cheerful September day. The bodies were Edward Wheeler Hall (an episcopal priest) and Eleanor Reinhardt (married to James E Mills.) The two had been killed and left by the side of the road, with no eyewitnesses. The trial became a zoo, with so many suspects and testimonies, and in the end went unsolved.
  • TS Eliot Publishes The Wasteland

    TS Eliot Publishes The Wasteland
    Eliot first published his most well-known poem, a mixture of scalding criticism of humanity and eerie prophecy, in the October edition of the literary magazine The Criterion. The poem reached Eliot's (native) America in the November 1922 issue of The Dial. The poem has become a cornerstone of both American and English Literature and is widely read and interpreted to this day.
  • Tomb of King Tut Discovered

    Tomb of King Tut Discovered
    Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. His tomb was discovered in 1922 near the tomb of Ramesses VI. The discovery of his tomb was not only one of the most significant events in the history of archaeology, but the start of an obsession with Egyptology. Throughout the 1920s people were obsessed with copying Egyptian style and decoration, as well as learning more about Egyptian culture.
  • Hitler Jailed After Failed Coup

    Hitler Jailed After Failed Coup
    Adolf Hitler and some followers entered a beer hall in 1923 in an attempt to force the three men governing Bavaria into joining his national revolution. These men, obviously, resisted and Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison (after a short trial.)
  • Lenin Dies

    Lenin Dies
    Vladmir Ilyich Lenin, Bolshevik leader, died at 6:50 PM (his local time.) Lenin remains known as a powerful writer and orator, and an important leader in the development of modern Marxism. He lead the 1917 revolution in Russia and held power over the communist country for 7 years from 1917–1924.
  • Leopold and Loeb Murder Their Neighbor

    Leopold and Loeb Murder Their Neighbor
    After planning for seven months, seemingly happy and perfectly normal University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb executed "the perfect murder." The two lured a 14-year-old neighbor, Bobby Franks, into a rental car and struck him with a chisel before stuffing a sock into his mouth. The thrill-killers dumped the boy in a gutter and used chemicals to eliminate evidence. The two were charged with 99 years plus life when it was discovered that Leopold left his glasses behind.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald Publishes The Great Gatsby

    F. Scott Fitzgerald Publishes The Great Gatsby
    Arguably his most well-known novel, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby portrayed the ambiguity of Prohibition-era America and the blatant disregard for Prohibition Law. The novel has become the best and only one used as a "nutshell" depiction of the 1920s and also explores the themes of friendship, personal standards, and personal limits. It is ranked the second best novel of the 20th century by Modern Library.
  • Scopes Charged With Teaching Evolution

    Scopes Charged With Teaching Evolution
    High School Biology Teacher John Scopes was charged with infringing on the boundaries of religion by teaching evolution to his class. Scopes had previously planned to do so in a challenge to the laws governing what can and cannot be taught; he and the others involved in the suit believed that the first amendment encompassed what he taught. The prosecution, William Jennings Brian, was essentially made to look a fool by the defense, Clarence Darrow.
  • Virginia Woolf Publishes Mrs. Dalloway

    Virginia Woolf Publishes Mrs. Dalloway
    Woolf's popular novel, written in her typical stream-of-consciousness style, details the story of one day in the life of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway. This is Woolf's best-known novel and is widely studied in the United States despite the fact that Woolf is an English author. In 2005, TIME Magazine declared this novel among the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.
  • Hitler Publishes Mein Kampf

    Hitler Publishes Mein Kampf
    Hitler published his novel, which discussed his own life and political ideology, after working on it for two years. He began dictating the original draft while in prison in 1923. When he was released in 1924, he began working devotedly and entirely on the novel. While Hitler was in power, the novel came in three separate editions: the people's edition (Volksaugabe), the wedding edition (Hoczeitsausgabe), and the anniversary issue (Jubiläumsausgabe).
  • Ernest Hemingway Publishes The Sun Also Rises

    Ernest Hemingway Publishes The Sun Also Rises
    Hemingway's first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, solidified his role in popular culture. Women went crazy over his character, Brett Ashley, who was a "liberated woman" of sorts. Ashely wore short hair, boyish clothes, and was strongly independent, bordering on standoffish. Hemingway's novel was among the first to examine the effects of war years later on all involved.
  • Ground Broken to Build the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning

    Ground Broken to Build the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning
    At the time of its construction the tallest building in Pittsburgh, the University's Cathedral of Learning is a 42-story marvel of Gothic architecture. No steel beams were used in the building of the common room on the main floor, making it a true Gothic room. Rooms on all 42 floors are decorated decadently in the style of rooms in varying countries around the world, and are actually used as classrooms on occasion. The building is currently the tallest educational building in the United States.
  • Woman Swims the English Channel

    Woman Swims the English Channel
    Gertrude Ederle, a former Olympic gold medalist in the 400 freestyle relay team, completed a swim across the English Channel in 14 hours and 30 minutes. She was the first woman to cross the English Channel and her record time stood until 1950.
  • Houdini Dies

    Houdini Dies
    Magician and escape artist Harry Houdini died on Halloween as the result of a ruptured appendix. He'd been suffering from appendicitis but refusing treatment for quite a few days, and his appendix would have burst on its own in due time. However, it is believed that art student J. Gordon Whitehead secured his fate when he punched him several times in the stomach, looking to confirm or dismiss the tale that Houdini could take any blow to the stomach.
  • St. Valentine's Day Massacre

    St. Valentine's Day Massacre
    Al Capone, mafioso extraordinaire, notoriously had seven members of a rival Irish North Side gang, headed by Bugs Moran, murdered. Capone's men lined Moran's men along a wall, dressed and acting like police officers, and Capone ordered the seven men to be shot. The men were shot to death with "Tommy Guns," and brutal images of the massacre shocked the public. This incident led to greater awareness of Mafia violence and a general sense of shock.
  • Stock Market Crashes

    Stock Market Crashes
    After years of building a false foundation under the Stock Market, stock brokers and investors were finally punished. In a whirl of selling, consumers dropped their stocks as quickly as they could; they heard the stocks were losing value and did not want to lose their money. Unfortunately, the massive sales caused the prices of stocks to plummet and companies and shareholders alike found their money missing. Banks lost all they had, as well.