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Roaring Twenties: Timeline

Prohibition Shaped the '20s

Philadelphia public safety director Butler destroying kegs of bootleg beer, the contents of which had been poured into the Schuylkill River. 1924.
PROHIBITION. - Philadelphia Public Safety Director Butler Destroying Kegs Of Bootleg Beer, The Contents Of Which Had Been Poured Into The Schuylkill River: Oil Over A Photograph, 1924.. Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 18 Dec 2011

The Roaring Twenties


British naturalist Charles Darwin publishes his influential work, On the Origin of the Species, in which he attempts to show that different animals could have descended from common ancestors and describes changes in species over millions of years as a process called “natural selection” (also known as survival of the fittest).


African American leader W.E.B. Du Bois illuminates black history, dreams, and concerns in The Souls of Black Folk.


The Prohibition Party is founded by Protestant ministers, former abolitionists, and some women.


Women’s Christian Temperance Union is founded by Members of the Women’s Crusades.


The Anti-Saloon League is founded in Ohio by advocates for nonpartisan politics.


The Anti-Saloon League becomes a national organization.


Auto manufacturer Henry Ford releases the Model T, fondly known as the Tin Lizzie, which will be much loved by the public for its reliability and low price tag.


Webb-Kenyon Act bars interstate shipments of liquor when so doing would violate laws of dry states.

November 1915

The Ku Klux Klan is revived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and expands north and west.

April 1917

The Harlem Renaissance begins.

December 18, 1917

The Eighteenth Amendment is proposed in Congress.

December 1918

The Wartime Prohibition Act bars sale of liquor to preserve national grain reserves.


An epidemic of influenza spreads across the globe. About four hundred thousand U.S. citizens die of the disease.

January 1919

Congress passes the Eighteenth Amendment, which makes the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal.

Summer 1919

During “Red Summer,” twenty-six U.S. cities experience race riots. The worst riots occur in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Elaine, Arkansas.

October 18, 1919

National Prohibition (Volstead) Act enforces the Eighteenth Amendment and defines category of “alcoholic drinks.”


W.E.B. Du Bois becomes director of publications and research at the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and soon founds the influential journal Crisis.


Sinclair Lewis’s best-selling novel Main Street is published.


For the first time, airplanes are used to deliver mail from New York to California.

January 1920

The Red Scare begins as Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer orders raids on several thousand individuals thought to hold radical political views.

January 3, 1920

Baseball great George Herman “Babe” Ruth signs with the New York Yankees. He hits fifty-four home runs his first season; in 1927, he hits a career high of sixty-two home runs and leads the Yankees to victory in the World Series.

January 16, 1920

The Eighteenth Amendment goes into effect.

March 1920

F. Scott Fitzgerald begins his ascent to fame with the publication of his novel This Side of Paradise.

May 1920

The Negro National League is formed, allowing African American baseball players and fans more structured opportunities to play and enjoy the sport.

May 5, 1920

Italian immigrants and labor activists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are arrested for the murder of two employees of a shoe factory in Massachusetts. On what many consider flimsy evidence, they are convicted and sentenced to death.

August 18, 1920

Congress passes the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

September 28, 1920

Eight players on the Chicago White Sox baseball team are charged with intentionally losing a game in exchange for money. As a result they are banned from the sport for life.

November 2, 1920

Having campaigned on the promise of a “return to normalcy,” Republican candidate Warren G. Harding is elected president by a wide margin. For the first time, the election results are broadcast over the new technology of radio.


Margaret Sanger founds the American Birth Control League (later named the Planned Parenthood Federation of America). Two years later, she opens the first physician-run birth control clinic in the United States.

September 8, 1921

The first Miss America pageant is held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.


Marcus Garvey, charismatic leader of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), is convicted of defrauding investors in his shipping company. He spends several years in prison.


Sinclair Lewis’s novel about a middle-class businessman, Babbitt, is published, and its title soon becomes a general term for a complacent conformist.


T.S. Eliot’s complex, book-length poem The Waste Land, published.


William Jennings Bryan begins a national campaign against the teaching of evolution in public schools.


Irish writer James Joyce’s influential modernist novel Ulysses is published.


A period of economic prosperity begins; it lasts until the U.S. stock market crash in 1929.

April 1922

Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases government-held oil reserves in the West (including one near Teapot Dome, Wyoming) to private oil companies.  Fall is later convicted and imprisoned for bribery.

October 28, 1922

Benito Mussolini leads a fascist (an extremely right wing, authoritarian form of government) march on Rome and takes control of Italy.


The Frigidaire Company introduces the first electric refrigerator. The electric shaver is also patented.


Sales of automobiles are booming. One of every two cars sold in the United States is a Ford.


“The Watery Blues,” written by poet Langston Hughes, is published.

January 3, 1923

The first issue of Time magazine appears on newsstands.

August 2, 1923

President Harding dies unexpectedly in San Francisco, California. Vice President Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as president the next day.

December 1923

The Equal Rights Amendment is introduced.

December 1923

New York State repeals its state prohibition-enforcement laws.

December 1923

T.T. Martin publishes Hell and the High Schools: Christ or Evolution – Which?

December 1923

Oklahoma and Florida pass antievolution legislation.


Congress passes the National Origins Act, which sets new limits on the number of immigrants allowed into the United States (especially those from southern and eastern Europe and Asia).


Following the death of Russian ruler Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin takes power. He will serve as Russia’s dictator until 1953.


The Florida land boom is underway. Many investors will lose large amounts of money on get-rich-quick land-buying schemes.

February 1924

McPherson launches a national radio broadcast.

February 3, 1924

Woodrow Wilson dies.

February 12, 1924

George Gershwin’s jazz symphony Rhapsody in Blue premieres at a concert led by bandleader Paul Whiteman at New York’s Aeolian Hall.

May 1924

Teenagers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb are convicted of murdering a fourteen-year old Bobby Franks. Defense attorney Clarence Darrow argues successfully that they be spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison.

November 1924

President Calvin Coolidge is reelected.


The New Negro anthology, edited by Howard University professor and Harlem Renaissance mentor Alain Locke, showcases the work of African American writers and artists.


The New Yorker magazine begins publication.


Charlie Chaplin delights moviegoers with his performance as the Little Tramp in the classic comedy film The Gold Rush.


In a speech to newspaper editors, President Coolidge declares that “the business of America is business.”


F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, a classic portrait of the Roaring Twenties, is published.

March 1925

Tennessee passes the Butler Act, prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the state’s public schools.

May 5, 1925

John T. Scopes is arrested in Dayton, Tennessee, for teaching evolution to high school students.

July 1925

The Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, attracts national press attention, as William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow square off in a debate over evolution, the Bible, and fundamentalism.

October 8, 1925

A Ku Klux Klan parade in Washington, D.C., draws approximately forty thousand participants.

November 1925

Gerald B. Winrod forms the Defenders of the Christian Faith to campaign against evolution and racial integration and support Prohibition.


Ernest Hemingway’s novel about U.S. and British expatriates in Europe, The Sun Also Rises, is published.

August 26, 1926

Swimmer Gertrude Ederle crosses the English Channel, beating the previous record by two hours.

October 1926

Mississippi passes a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools.


The Jazz Singer, the first motion picture to incorporate sound, stars Broadway performer Al Jolson.

April-May 1927

The ‘great flood’ of 1927 leads to an increased emigration of black Southerners from Mississippi.

April 4, 1927

The first scheduled passenger flight travels from Boston, Massachusetts, to New York City.

May 20, 1927

Flying in an airplane called The Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh takes off from Long Island, New York. Thirty-three and a half hours later, he becomes the first pilot to make a solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean when he lands in Paris, France.

October 1927

Dorothy Parker begins writing a weekly book review column, which she signs “Constant Reader,” for the New Yorker magazine.

December 2, 1927

Henry Ford introduces the eagerly awaited Model A. Spectators by the thousands line up at dealerships to catch a glimpse of the new automobile.


The influential book Coming of Age in Samoa, the result of anthropologist Margaret Mead’s field work among a group of adolescent girls in the Pacific Island nation of Samoa, is published.


Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin.

August 1928

Fifteen nations sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact, agreeing to use peaceful means to resolve conflicts and to resort to war only as a last measure. Eventually more than sixty other countries sign the agreement.

November 6, 1928

Republican candidate Herbert Hoover is elected president of the United States.

November 1928

Arkansas passes an antievolution law.


Artist Georgia O’Keeffe begins spending each summer in New Mexico, creating paintings of that environment, such as Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue (1931), for which she becomes well known.


Louis Armstrong appears on Broadway in the hit show Hot Chocolates, singing his famous song “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”


William Faulkner’s complex novel The Sound and the Fury is published.


Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown, a sociological study of an Indiana town, is published.


Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, a novel about World War I, is published.

February 14, 1929

In what comes to be known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, men from Al Capone’s gang enter a Chicago warehouse and kill seven members of the rival gang of George “Bugs” Moran.

March 1929

In his inaugural speech, President Hoover describes the future of the United States as “bright with hope.”

September 3, 1929

Prices on the stock exchange reach record highs.

October 1929

Charged with creating a task force to fight organized crime, Prohibition Bureau agent Eliot Ness hires the nine men who will become known as the Untouchables, due to their honesty and integrity.

October 24, 1929

On a day known as Black Thursday, a huge and alarming sell-off of stocks occurs.

October 29, 1929

The stock market crashes on Black Tuesday, heralding the beginning of the severe economic down-turn known as the Great Depression.

Howes, Kelly King. The Roaring Twenties: Almanac and Primary Sources. London: Gale Cengage Learning, 2006. Print.
Porter, Kimberly K. Conflicts in American History: The Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, and World War II, 1920-1945, Vol. VI. University of North Dakota: Brucocoli Clark Layman, Inc., 2010. Print.